Monday, April 30, 2012
I was nearing the close of Pat Buchanan’s new book, "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" (Thomas Dunne Books, $27.99), when I read that MSNBC had fired him as a political commentator for expressing views offensive to political correctness as practiced at that left-leaning network. (“Left-leaning” as applied to MSNBC comes from the Los Angeles Times, which is well situated to know a left-leaning news operation when it sees one.)
The conservative Buchanan cited "Suicide of a Superpower" as the occasion for his heave-ho by MSNBC. If this book is actually what did him in, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised. It’s hard to imagine anybody agreeing with everything it says, and many will come away from it hopping mad. But a matter for firing? Only in a setting where thinking unpopular thoughts is not allowed.
Buchanan is blunt on topics where others tread lightly or not at all. But bluntness is the only honest approach to his central theme: America’s ideologically-driven craze for diversity has gotten out of hand and is well on its way to doing us in. (In a book I haven’t read, "Coming Apart," Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute makes a similar argument but, unlike Buchanan, deliberately omits race and immigration from his analysis.)
“Racially, culturally, ethnically, politically, America is disintegrating,” Buchanan writes. Ever since the cultural revolution of the 1960s, Americans have been losing their shared sense of identity as a nation. “Out of one we have become many,” he says.
In tackling tough issues like race, immigration, and the wisdom of continuing international commitments left over from cold war days, "Suicide of a Superpower" says plenty to raise hackles. Even more annoying, the author bolsters what he says with facts and coherent arguments. That includes making the case that unchecked immigration presents a grave national problem whose ducking by Congress and the White House reflects the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of political Washington.
But has he got the story straight about Hispanics? Recently-arrived Latinos may be at the same early stage of assimilation that groups like the Irish, the Jews, and the Italians occupied a long time ago. Entry into an alien culture is bound to be a bumpy road — for the Spanish-speakers as it was for them. Give the Latinos time. The results could turn out more happily than Buchanan imagines.
The author, a Catholic, devotes a chapter to the Church, saying no institution in America has been more “ravaged” by cultural changes of the last half-century. Now, he says, Catholicism in the United States must “necessarily [be] an adversary culture” in order to survive. The assimilation of American Catholics has already gone disastrously far. Much farther, and American Catholicism will be finished as a viable cultural force.
That, however, underlines another problem — in the real world and also in this book.
Buchanan seeks a solution to disruptive diversity in the seamless assimilation of diverse groups into a unitary American culture. In other words: Bring back the melting pot. Yet, as he’s well aware, American secular culture in its contemporary manifestation is far from being the basically healthy thing that it was back in melting pot days. On the contrary, it’s degraded and destructive, as a few hours spent watching television or reading The New York Times should persuade any sensible person.
What to do? Diversity or assimilation? Or some yet-to-be discovered third way that combines elements of counter-culturalism and new evangelization? That’s worth another book. Maybe, without MSNBC on his hands, Buchanan will have time to write it.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
From Archbishop Gomez's Washington Post op-ed piece:
In a friend of the court brief submitted in the case, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argues that the federal government is in the best position to balance competing goals of enforcing of immigration laws while upholding long-held American values such as family unity and human dignity. These values help define America as a nation. They should not be taken for granted.
State laws such as that in Arizona do not always honor these closely held values, long enshrined in immigration law. Indeed, these laws threaten to remove such humanitarian considerations from our immigration system altogether. This would be a tragedy for the individuals subject to these laws, but also for all Americans.
As a pastor, I am less inclined to speak to the legal principles involved in the case, but I am deeply concerned about the human consequences if Arizona’s law is upheld.
...Most disturbing, upholding Arizona’s law would change our American identity as a welcoming nation, which has served us well since our inception. The goals of Arizona-type laws are to discourage immigrants from coming and to encourage those who are here to leave. We must carefully consider whether that is the signal we want to send to the world, given that immigrants and their ancestors—all of us—built this country and will continue to renew it.Read the full article HERE.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Check out this clip from the Rachael Ray Show, featuring the work of Father Young, who has been a priest of the Albany Diocese for 54 years. People who come to his program don't simply get drug treatment or a place to sleep, they get the tools they need to regain their dignity and become self-sufficient. Father Young's holistic approach treats the disease of addiction while also providing house, and job training, specifically culinary training, so participants have marketable skills when the walk out the door. It's not just a nice theory; it really works, which you'll see if you watch the clip by clicking HERE.
And HERE is a related story from the Times Union, which explains that the TV interview came at the prompting of Ray's mother, who knew of Father Young's work and urged her daughter to invite him on the show.
Monday, April 23, 2012
The first and last paragraphs of this Sports Illustrated story are too good to miss (and refreshing to find in a secular publication):
On a Saturday morning in the spring of 1987, Pamela McGee sat on the shore at Dockweiler State Beach in Los Angeles, 72 hours from a scheduled abortion. "Do you want to be pregnant?" the counselor at the clinic had asked her. "No," McGee replied. She was a single, 24-year-old professional basketball player, and she could not take maternity leave. And even if she could, she couldn't imagine hauling an infant to Italy and parking the stroller next to the bench. But as McGee looked out over the Pacific, she began to reconsider. "I prayed and prayed and prayed and felt like I heard a voice from God," McGee says. "He was telling me, 'This is your gift.' " The next day she went to Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, and the pastor delivered a sermon about not aborting one's blessings. O.K., God, McGee thought. You don't have to beat it into my head. She called the clinic to cancel, and on Jan. 19, 1988, gave birth to a boy with physical abilities that would border on the supernatural.
JaVale McGee is 7 feet, with a 7'6½" wingspan and a 31½-inch vertical leap, unfathomable for a man his size. At 24, he can tap the front of the rim with his forehead. He can slap the top of the square with his palm. He can dunk a cookie in a bowl of milk 11 feet off the ground. When McGee was at the University of Nevada, an opposing player once explained to his coach why he couldn't guard him: "He jumped over me." The JaValevator, as he is known, names jams to keep track of them. The alley-oop he throws himself off the backboard, for example, is the Super Hi-Fi Superphonic Supersonic Ultra Intercontinental Bring It Around the World Throw It Off the Back Dunk...Continue reading HERE.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
From Tony's post:
A lot will be written over the next few days about Dick Clark’s legacy because of TV shows like “American Bandstand,” “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” and others. But from a simple, human perspective, I think one of Dick Clark’s most important legacies is more recent.
After his stroke in December 2004, many people – myself included – assumed this would be the end of Clark’s on-camera career. When he said he was returning to “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” in 2005, I thought that either the stroke hadn’t been as bad as the public was led to believe or that “America’s oldest teen” had a remarkable recovery. It turned out neither prediction was true. Clark returned to TV visibly and audibly affected by his stroke. His speech was slurred and he wasn’t able to move like he used to. Yet underneath the debilitation, there was a spark of determination. Clark was down, but he wasn’t out. I admired him for that.
In a TV landscape that often presents us with unattainable images of physical perfection, here was a man showing us that life could still be lived with purpose even after something bad has happened to us. Human dignity was still there, and would continue to be there even if Clark had never been able to return to television. In a way, his presence on TV after the stroke was a gift to viewers – a reminder that life goes on even when things are not perfect, even when people are not perfect – and that’s okay...Continue reading HERE.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
From Jon Meacham at TIME:
With his crimson cassock, wide grin and rotund good cheer, Timothy Dolan, 62, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, seems a figure out of the age of the old movies Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's — a warm prelate who leads his flock more by charm than fiat.
Yet in 2012, this priest with a mien dating back half a century did something few other American Roman Catholic leaders have managed in recent times: he put himself and his church back in the center of the national political conversation, a public square long dominated by Protestant evangelicals.
In leading the opposition to a proposed Obama Administration rule that would have required Catholic organizations like hospitals to pay for contraceptive services for female employees, Dolan successfully argued that such a policy violated the nation's principles of religious liberty.
From his headquarters in New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dolan, who arrived there after serving as Archbishop of Milwaukee, offers a nuanced Christian witness, reaching out to Jews and Muslims and urging his own faith to re-evangelize itself before assuming that the rest of the world will open its head and heart to the Catholic message.
"The public square in the United States is always enriched whenever people approach it when they're inspired by their deepest-held convictions," he told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation on Easter Sunday. "And on the other hand... I think the public square is impoverished when people might be coerced to put a piece of duct tape over their mouth, keeping them from bringing their deepest-held convictions to the conversation." That's not a problem Cardinal Dolan seems to have.
From Mark via Shirt of Flame:
Picking up trash has allowed me to understand that you don’t start with serenity, you end with it. You have to really examine your life, and ask yourself what you are accepting that you can change; and what you are trying to change that you need to accept. You would be surprised at how much misfiling is going on -- with all of us.
I realized that if I can be kind to an inanimate object--the street--I can certainly to be kinder to real live people. There’s Louise, from the Congo, to whom I give all of the cans and bottles I collect. She practically supports a household back in Brazzaville. There was Chris Z., a heroin addict who lived on a mattress on the corner. I helped him get a license and find his long-lost half-brother. I make an effort to say hello to all the homeless, and often ask their names, because its’ a terribly thing to be invisible. Everyone needs to be seen.
It would be nice to go back to Europe, to travel the world. But it’s amazing how far you can go within a mile of your house, just by paying attention.
I love picking up trash because it’s taught me that living along spiritual lines doesn’t have to happen in a church or a synagogue or a monastery. I don’t have to be in the lotus position or on my knees. There needn’t be any daylight between having a relationship with God and all the day-to-day practical choices we make.
God isn’t over there, God is right here. God is now.
Go read the whole story at Heather's blog by clicking HERE. Mark also has his own blog, The Trash Whisperer, click HERE to visit him.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
If you want more info, here's a post from Kathryn Jean Lopez over at her blog, K-Lo @ Large:
An announcement about a developing project I have some involvement in and would encourage those eligible (45 and younger, New Yorkers in particular) who feel called by this ad to put in an application for:
Do you find yourself at home arguing with TV news anchors, radio hosts, and print columnists, wishing someone would defend your Catholic faith?
Are you a practicing Catholic who prays for clear voices on news programs who actually believes what the Church teaches?
Do you feel called to be one of those defenders?
Catholic voices offers training to “ordinary” Catholics who want to publicly make the case for the Church in truth and love. Based on a successful British program, Catholic Voices do not speak officially for the Church but answer the call for laypeople to publicly witness to their faith as an apostolic project of the New Evangelization.
Catholic Voices is sponsoring a training session May 19-21 for Catholics from the New York and Washington, D.C. areas, who want to succinctly, compellingly, and reasonably express what it means to be truly Catholic. Candidates must be baptized Catholics under age 45 willing to make a time commitment to be available for regular briefings, media training, and spiritual development. The application deadline is April 20.
Continue reading HERE.
Monday, April 16, 2012
|Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 11. (CNS photo)|
In case you missed it, here’s what happened.
Preaching at the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday, Benedict spoke with regret of “a group of priests from a European country” who had issued “a summons to disobedience” even to “definitive” Church teaching. That was a reference to a highly publicized group of several hundred Austrian priests who’ve given their dissent the provocative name “Call To Disobedience.”
Benedict said he wanted to believe these men desire Church renewal. But, he asked, is this how to get it “or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?”
Contacted for reaction by the Associated Press, a leader of the group greeted the papal remarks dismissively. While “listening with interest” to the pope, said Msgr. Helmut Schueller, he took Benedict’s words merely as questions, not an invitation to halt and desist.
From the start, it’s often been that way for Benedict XVI. Almost his first act after becoming pope was to meet with Father Hans Küng, the Church’s most prominent dissenter and a bitter personal critic of the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Benedict was his customary gentle, cordial self. Father Küng apparently was friendly, but he hasn’t budged an inch since then.
A Catholic woman I know sums up what others feel about this pope: “Back when he was in charge of CDF, all we heard was what an ogre he was. Then he’s elected pope, and he turns out to be a kindly, loving man. Instead of an ogre, he’s a universal grandfather.”
That has several explanations. The difference between the job descriptions of pope and CDF prefect undoubtedly accounts for part of the perceived transformation, from the Ratzinger that was to the Benedict that is. Part of it also lies in the discrediting of the Ratzinger name during his CDF years by his enemies’ smear campaign.
But something else also is operative. As pope, Benedict is highly sensitive to the pastoral dimensions of his ministry. Crackdowns are few and far between. Like the professor he is at heart, he speaks the truth of the gospel as he sees it — clearly, persuasively, with entire sincerity — hoping that those who hear it will respond in like manner.
It’s an enormously attractive approach, but how practical is another question. So far, the results aren’t highly encouraging, whether it’s dissident priests in Austria or an ultra-traditionalist group like the Lefebvrist Society of St. Pius X, which Benedict has been attempting for years, without much success, to coax back into full communion with the Church.
For a man of lesser faith, the disappointments and rebuffs from left and right would be discouraging. But Pope Benedict at age 85 plainly has his eye on the future. The projects he’s pushing these days — the New Evangelization, the Year of Faith — are aimed at the long-term renewal of the Church, and it’s hardly likely he’ll be around to see it happen. But so what? In God’s providence, everything will work out in the end. Doubt it? Universal grandfathers know better.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
A premature baby was declared dead at birth when she had no vital signs and was put into the refrigerated morgue. Ten hours later, when her mother insisted on seeing her baby one more time, the coffin lid was pried off and the 1 pound 12 ounce girl was found alive. The mother and father named their baby Luz Milagro, which means "light miracle." Doctors and workers at the hospital can't explain the turn of events. Check out the video.
For the record, #1 on his list is the comment I hear most frequently, usually in reference to anything that has to do with yoga or centering prayer. Although, I'd have to say that between blogging, Facebook, Twitter, email, and face-to-face conversations, I've heard variations on all of these responses in one form or another over the years, even the one about obedience, and I'm not even a vowed religious.
From Father Martin's post over at In All Things, the blog of America magazine:
I wonder if you can say anything about the Catholic faith without people taking offense. No matter how benign, no comment on the web about Catholicism goes unchallenged. That goes for blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and pretty much everything else. Moreover, the idea of trying to understand a person by reading carefully what they're actually saying, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, is fading quickly from Catholic discourse. No matter what you write, there are Catholics ready to take immediate offense, to explode in righteous anger, to threaten to report you to the proper authorities or, most of all, to correct. The most common responses are these five: 1.) Your soul is in mortal danger. 2.) You’re uneducated and need to be schooled. 3.) I hate the church and so I hate you. 4.) You’re an unthinking tool of the Vatican. 5.) You’re disobedient and must be reported.
Here is a not-so-farfetched exchange, based on some very, very real experiences. Believe me, it would be hard to make this stuff up.
Me: I love Jesus.
Father Martin, with all due respect, I don’t mean to be critical, particularly to a priest, but I am compelled to point out that in your most recent post, you didn’t say “Jesus Christ.” As you know, Christ, from the Greek word Christos, meaning the Anointed One (years ago, all Jesuits understood Greek, but perhaps no longer), is the nomenclature that Holy Mother Church uses to signify Our Lord’s divinity. Father, do you somehow not believe in the divinity of Our Blessed Lord? I am terrified to conclude that you are also denying the Resurrection here. Father, I will fervently pray that you are not dwelling in error, as I have feared for you since I read this post and reread the definition of “heresy” in a theology reference book that I always keep handy. I pray every evening for gravely misled people like you, Father, and I must say this: my conscience obliges me to correct your errors. Do you fear for your soul? ...Continue reading HERE.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Please pray for the people of Indonesia, where an 8.6 magnitude earthquake has triggered fears of another tsunami.
From news reports:
A massive earthquake off Indonesia’s western coast triggered tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean on Wednesday, sending residents in coastal cities fleeing to high ground in cars and on the backs of motorcycles.
A strong aftershock nearly three hours later sparked a new wave of panic. Indonesia’s government responded by issuing a fresh tsunami warning.
Some residents were crying in Aceh, where memories of a 2004 tsunami that killed 170,000 people in the province alone, are still raw. Others screamed “God is great” as they poured from their homes or searched frantically for separated family members.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the first 8.6-magnitude quake was centered about 30 km beneath the ocean floor around 430 km from Aceh province.
For the full story, click HERE.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Father forgive them, they know not what they do...
We see Jesus on the cross today and hear him forgiving his persecutors, forgiving us. It is a powerful scene, but it is more than just a scene out of our faith history. Jesus’ way is supposed to be our way. Forgive, forgive, forgive, even in the face of the most unreasonable suffering and injustice. Are we willing to forgive as Jesus did?
The “good thief” has always been a favorite of mine. Imagine in your last dying moment that you utter a few kind words and are assured by Jesus himself that you will be in heaven with him that day. It would be nice to assume that in that situation I would have taken the path of belief, like the good thief, but there is a much bigger part of me that probably would have been like the unrepentant thief, expecting mercy and miracles despite faithlessness.
Woman, behold your son...
Despair, despair. If Jesus can feel despair, what hope is there for me? Then again, Jesus’ moment of despair reminds me of his humanness and that gives me hope even in this dark moment. God became man, walked on earth, suffered torture and death beyond our comprehension. Our God is fully human and fully divine. Our God knows what it means to live this earthly life, and so our God knows our small sufferings and heartaches and will not turn His back on us.
Jesus has completed his mission of redemption. Darkness descends, the earth shakes, the temple curtain tears in two. We see Jesus’ anguish near its end. We should be reduced to trembling at the enormity of his suffering, his gift to us. Unlike his followers who were plunged into fear and despair at this moment, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know what is coming. We know that his Crucifixion was cause for our salvation. His death a victory. His earthly end our eternal beginning.
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Jesus is going back to the Father, back to where he started before time began, but he will not leave us orphans. We patiently wait to celebrate his Resurrection, to rejoice in our unearned windfall. We wait, pray, watch, listen -- hopeful, trusting, faithful. We begin our vigil now, waiting for the darkness to turn to light.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
From a story in today's New York Times:
Last year, before the film’s commercial release, it received test screenings in Alabama and Mississippi, just as Mississippi was considering a “personhood” ballot initiative that would have outlawed abortions. Though that amendment was defeated, the screenings, which scored well with audiences, were promoted by the American Family Association, a Christian-values group that has been active in the presidential race.
Given the links to these groups, the abortion rights organization Naral Pro-Choice America contends that the film is tied to an extreme anti-abortion message. A spokesman, Ted Miller, added that his group was “concerned that some proceeds from this film could be going to organizations that may intentionally mislead women about their health-care options.” The film’s credits include a list of anti-abortion Web sites, some in the guise of therapeutic resources, Naral said.
The Erwin brothers said they had earmarked 10 percent of the movie’s profits for a charity they founded, Every Life Is Beautiful, which supports adoption and so-called crisis pregnancy centers.
"So-called" crisis pregnancy centers? That's the Times editorializing, not the Naral spokesman doing his spin, by the way. But we aren't really surprised by that, are we? Just look at the headline: "Anti-Abortion Film Is Pro-Profit." Not sure why that's headline-making news, unless they're trying to imply something. Perhaps Naral Pro-Choice America (the organization formerly known as the National Abortion Rights Action League) isn't the only group that's worried about the pro-life message. But I digress...
UPDATE: The New York Times has since updated its headline. The new headline reads: "Film Inspired by 'Abortion Survivor' Is Quiet Hit."
Here's what CNS had to say about the film, which will open in more than 500 theaters on April 13:
"Every life is beautiful." That's the tagline -- as well as the underlying theme -- of the thoroughly honorable, if not always fully effective, drama "October Baby" (Provident/Samuel Goldwyn).
In their feature debut, brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin helm a strongly pro-life message movie whose import viewers dedicated to the dignity of all human beings will welcome unanimously. Opinions about the aesthetic package in which they wrap their point, however, may be more divided.
Read the full CNS review HERE.
Monday, April 2, 2012
“Social issues.” It’s a squishy, equivocal term suitable to the mentality that’s ill at ease with the hard-edged implications of “moral issues” and “morality.” What implications? That there are moral truths making some things always and everywhere wrong and deserving of condemnation. Not exactly what the “social issues” mindset wants to hear.
There’s some helpful thinking on this subject in a new book by an archbishop that I want to recommend. But before getting to that, let me do a little scene-setting first.
Much of the debate about social issues, moral truth, and the like has focused up to now in this election year on Rick Santorum and his run for the Republican presidential nomination. Think what you will about Santorum’s candidacy, he’s stirred up a hornets’ nest. A typical reaction from the secular left comes from a Washington Post columnist named Lisa Wheeler, who, in a state of extreme exasperation, delivered this wisdom:
"You can’t go home again," Thomas Wolfe said. Modernity is here, with all its progress and imperfections, and no matter how hard they pray, Santorum and his flock will never be able to turn back time.
Leaving aside the appositeness of choosing the title of a novel published 72 years ago to argue that there’s no looking back, Ms. Wheeler has a point. It’s the point typically made by liberal pundits who wish to tell us their particular take on modernity is the only correct one — and if you don’t like it, lump it.
But there’s a different way of thinking. Herman Melville, author of "Moby Dick," gave it an ironic twist when he said, “Truth is like a threshing-machine; tender sensibilities must keep out of the way.” Note that bothersome word: truth.
The quote is the lead-in to "A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America," a new e-book by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. (Published by Image Books, it’s available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.) This is a feisty manifesto by an admired leader of the Church.
One its surprises is the recovery of largely forgotten essay by Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray, “The Construction of a Christian Culture,” based on lectures delivered in 1940. Father Murray is usually recalled a kind of precursor of progressive Catholicism for his advocacy of religious liberty against Church conservatives. Here, though, he’s saying something very different: “American culture … is actually the quintessence of all that is decadent in the culture of the Western Christian world.”
“It’s most striking characteristic,” he writes, “is its profound materialism. … It has gained a continent and lost its own soul.”
And this, Archbishop Chaput pointedly remarks, is the “American mainstream” of which all too many American Catholics have rushed to become part in the decades since John Courtney Murray wrote.
During this time, the dominant American culture has turned from secular to secularist, while efficiently secularizing its adherents, Catholics included. “Instead of Catholics converting the culture, the culture too often bleached out the apostolic zeal in Catholics while leaving the brand label intact.” This is the triumph of Ms. Wheeler’s “modernity … with all its progress and imperfections” that writers like her tell us to accept, no questions allowed.
Archbishop Chaput doesn’t buy it. But, he warns, if American Catholics do buy it — as very many have — then Catholicism is finished as a significant cultural factor in the debate on moral values and much else.
We Catholics have important choices to make about the future of the Church. "A Heart on Fire" can help us make them.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.