Category Archives: Politics

Thoughts on the Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage

A few weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court heard two cases regarding state and federal laws pertaining to marriage as an institution of one man and one woman. In United States v. Windsor, the Court will decide whether section 3 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits the provision of federal benefits to same-sex couples, violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

The case surrounds the story of Edith Windsor, an elderly New York resident who married her late partner, Thea Spyer, in Toronto in 2007. When Thea Spyer passed away in 2009, Windsor inherited a considerable estate, triggering taxes of some $363,000 for Edith Windsor on the estate. Because the state of New York legally recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, Windsor requested a refund of the estate taxes from the IRS. Citing section 3 of DOMA, the IRS declined.

In a related case, Hollingsworth v. Perry seeks to invalidate California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage in California as a relationship between a man and a woman for legal purposes. After the California Supreme Court invalidated Proposition 22 and granted gays and lesbians the right to marry, citizens responded by passing Proposition 8, invalidating some 18,000 same-sex marriages.

In February 2011, the Obama Justice Department released a statement saying it had determined that sexual classifications ought to be subject to heightened scrutiny rather than rational basis review, and announced it would no longer defend DOMA, which passed in 1996 with strong bipartisan support after a court ruling in which the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state must have a compelling interest in prohibiting same-sex marriage. The announcement marked the first time an administration declined to defend a federal law duly enacted by Congress. Such action may be a violation of the President’s oath to uphold and defend the laws of the Constitution, but that is a separate issue. With the DoJ declining to defend a federal law, Congress formed the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, appointing Paul Clement to defend the Constitutionality of section 3.

Proceeding from the administration’s established position on DOMA, in the Obama administration’s brief in United States v. Windsor, the Solicitor General writes,

“Tradition, no matter how long established, cannot by itself justify a discriminatory law under equal protection principles.”

However, in the same brief, Justice acknowledges that DOMA could pass rational basis test review that the Court has historically applied to laws that do not make legal distinctions pertaining to “suspect classes” such as race, gender, or alienage. Thus, the proponents of same-sex marriage are urging the Court to utilize heightened scrutiny in reviewing both Windsor and Hollingsworth, making sexual orientation a suspect class for the purposes of judicial review.

Suspect classes, historically, are those groups with an “obvious, immutable or distinguishing trait.” (City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432 (1985)). The respondent, Edith Windsor, declines in her petition to “distinguish between status and conduct.” While most of society agrees that homosexuality is not a choice, to date, science has been unable to point to any biological cause of homosexual orientation. As such, courts have declined to make sexual orientation a suspect class, inasmuch as it involves a type of conduct. “Homosexuality…differs fundamentally from those [traits] defining any of the recognized suspect or quasi-suspect classes. Members of suspect or quasi-suspect classes, e.g., blacks or women, exhibit immutable characteristics, whereas homosexuality is primarily behavioral in nature.” (Woodward, 871 F.2d)

In other words, same-sex marriage advocates, joined by the Obama administration, is seeking to invalidate the state and federal laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples on the basis that such laws violate the equal protection clause by discriminating against an entire class of people, and as such, the state has no compelling interest, or “rational basis” in limiting marriage. Furthermore, proponents point to several prior decisions by the Court that hold marriage as a fundamental right, namely, “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival” Zablocki v Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 383 (1978) and Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967) (same); “marriage is ‘fundamental to the existence and survival of the race’” Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 5412 (1942). While Lawrence v. Texas 539 U.S. 578 (2003) invalidated anti–sodomy laws, it did so on the basis that such laws were not applied equally to homosexual and heterosexual conduct, therefore failing to meet the “rational basis” test in violation of the equal protection clause, the Court in Lawrence made a point to say that Lawrence did not establish a right to marry a person of the same sex.

To the contrary, Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972) dismissed an appeal based on the merits of the case of the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in which they held that the plaintiffs, two men who had filed for a marriage license in Minneapolis, failed in their reliance on the recent Loving v. Virginia decision to find a parallel, writing that “in commonsense and in a constitutional sense, there is a clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex.” On October 10, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one sentence ruling on the appeal motion, stating, “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.” While in most cases presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court’s refusal to hear the case is not an endorsement of the decision below, Baker came to the Court through mandatory appellate review, and thus the summary dismissal is a decision on the merits of the case. As binding precedent, the Baker decision prevents lower courts from coming to a contrary conclusion when presented with the precise issue the Court necessarily adjudicated in dismissing the case. You could say that the Supreme Court has set a precedent as regards same-sex marriage.

There goes the claim that opposing the marriage of two men or two women is the same as supporting miscegenation statutes. The sexual difference is a fact rooted in biology, and no amount of obfuscation can change science.

weddong rings

Going back to the administration’s claim that marriage is a fundamental right, inasmuch as “prejudice may not be the basis of differential treatment under the law,” the Court may disagree. For Constitutional purposes, a right is “fundamental” only if two conditions are met: the asserted right is (a) “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and (b) “implicit in the context of ordered liberty”, such that “neither liberty nor justice” would exist if sacrificed (see Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 720-21 (1997)). No one could well argue that marriage of two men or two women is deeply rooted in the history or tradition of any known civilization, let alone our Nation’s. The Obama administration’s claim that “Tradition, no matter how long established, cannot by itself justify a discriminatory law under equal protection principles,” also faces a tough battle before the Court, inasmuch as the Court has used tradition as a basis for rulings as recently as their unanimous 1997 ruling in Washington v. Glucksberg, wherein the Court rejected a “fundamental right” to commit suicide, assisted or otherwise. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Rehnquist expounded upon moral and legal traditions, stating,

Indeed, opposition to and condemnation of suicide–and, therefore, of assisting suicide–are consistent and enduring themes of our
philosophical, legal, and cultural heritages.

More specifically, for over 700 years, the Anglo American common law tradition has punished or otherwise disapproved of both suicide and
assisting suicide. In the 13th century, Henry de Bracton, one of the first legal treatise writers, observed that “[j]ust as a man may commit
felony by slaying another so may he do so by slaying himself.” The real and personal property of one who killed himself to avoid conviction and
punishment for a crime were forfeit to the king; however, thought Bracton, “if a man slays himself in weariness of life or because he is
unwilling to endure further bodily pain . . . [only] his movable goods [were] confiscated.” Thus, “[t]he principle that suicide of a sane
person, for whatever reason, was a punishable felony was…introduced into English common law.”

Clearly, there is no precedent that bars “tradition” from entering into legal reasoning. If the fact that 700 years of Anglo-American common law tradition bases suicide bans on moral approbation of society is applicable in rejecting a right to assisted suicide, surely millennia of traditional marriage is a compelling basis for continuing to legally define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. The institution of marriage is a priori to the existence of the State; in other words marriage is first and foremost a natural law institution that dates back to the earliest civilizations of man. The State extended protections to marriage in the interest of children. Inasmuch as same–sex unions are not capable of being consummated or producing offspring, it is sound legal reasoning to argue that the state has no interest in recognizing such unions as marriages.

The case of Ms. Windsor is not without merit, however. Rather than being a question of marriage, it ought to call into question the justice of arbitrary tax laws. As a rule, individuals ought to be able to bequeath property to whomever they wish without the recipient incurring taxes on the inheritance. Estate taxes are the equivalent of me knocking on my neighbor’s door shortly after the death of his mother and saying, “I know I don’t know you or your deceased mother, but I am taking half of your inheritance.” Most people not hell-bent on wealth redistribution would sympathize with Ms. Windsor, but the case of Ms. Windsor need not redefine marriage.

Perhaps the greatest question that would stem from a Supreme Court ruling finding a right to same-sex marriage is where you would consequently draw the line on what constitutes a marriage? The respondents in both Hollingsworth and Windsor base their argument on the premise that marriage exist to unite consenting adults in a committed relationship. If the state, as the Obama administration argues, has no compelling interest in preserving an institution rooted in “prejudice” and tradition (traditional marriage), how does one rationally argue for the continuation of the prohibition on marriage of more than two people? As the USCCB writes in their amicus, “One could substitute “polygamists” for “homosexuals” as that term is used in the Windsor decision and arrive at the same conclusion for the former as the Second Circuit did with respect to the latter. “In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny: A) [polygamists] as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination, B) [polygamy] has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society, C) [polygamists] are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter [polygamous relationships; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.” (Windsor v. United States, 699 F.3d 169 181-82 (2d Cir. 2012)).

Now I am not arguing that polygamy and same-sex marriage are the same thing, but that the logic of the Second Circuit leads to the absurd. Or is it absurd at all? Many polygamists base their practice in deeply-held religious beliefs, but Congress deemed that the prohibition of polygamy trumped the free exercise rights of fundamentalists Mormons. If the federal government has no interest in limiting marriage to a man and a woman out of mere tradition, they likewise cannot discriminate against groups of three or more consenting adults. You cannot have a compelling interest in protecting one part of traditional marriage (monogamy) and not the other part (one man, one woman), especially if your case for dispensing with the latter rests on terms like “consenting adults” and “emotional fulfillment.” As recently as 2011, the Supreme Court of British Columbia uphold Canada’s ban on polygamy, writing that “the law seeks to advance the institution of monogamous marriage, a fundamental value in Western society from the earliest of times. It seeks to protect against the many harms which are reasonably apprehended to arise out of the practice of polygamy.” Referring to reports of polygamous marriage, British Columbia’s chief justice wrote further that “there is no evidence that it is a widespread or mainstream phenomenon.” Ditto same-sex marriage.

The redefinition of marriage will have widespread impact on all segments of society, including the constitutional right to religious freedom and free exercise thereof. Colorado recently skirted its ban on same-sex marriage, enacting a civil unions bill that did not include language protecting religious institutions from recognizing such unions in the operation of adoption agencies or charitable organizations. The Colorado Catholic Conference, in pushing for conscience protections, was berated by the bill’s sponsor, homosexual Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), saying,

“What to say to those who claim their religion requires them to discriminate? I’d tell you what I’d say: ‘Get thee to a nunnery, and live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equal to yourself”

Steadman told the Denver CBS affiliate that “acceptance of homosexuality by all” is why he ran for public office. In other words, we’re dispensing with freedom of religion and the first amendment. My 20-year old notion of two members of the same-sex getting legally married renders millennia of tradition obsolete and bigoted. So, folks, it’s not about marriage. The real objective is to rid society of all moral objections to it, which is why groups such as the Human Rights Campaign are pushing for laws that do not exempt religious institutions from recognizing same-sex marriages. While the Church teaches that homosexuals must be treated with the same dignity afforded to all, it does not recognize two men as a marriage. Try telling that to those who equate dissent with bigotry. When the law seeks to compel religious participation in a state-created definition of marriage, the courts will be very busy adjudicating challenges to such laws on the basis of First Amendment rights.

The basis of the argument put forth by opponents of same-sex marriage is not to deny same-sex couples the right to set up a household, share property and responsibilities, accumulate assets or care for each other. In fact, where there are obstacles to these things, the law should be changed to accommodate such arrangements. Federal law should designate domestic partners as legal claimants of their partner’s remains upon death, for instance. Nevertheless, marriage has a long and storied history as the fundamental building block of society, and ought to remain so.

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Obama Launches Attack on Catholic Church: “Comply or pay a fine,” DHHS rules.

Coming on the heels of the Obama administration’s  arguing against the constitutional precedent of the ministerial exception in the recent Hosana-Tabor case, in which the Court unanimously upheld the right of religious institutions to decide for themselves who qualifies as a minister, a new mandate requires religious institutions to provide its employees with all FDA-approved methods of contraceptives, including birth control, abortifacients such as the morning-after pill, abortions and sterilizations.  The New York Times and other members of the secularist movement have cheered these hostile encroachments by the government on the consciences and rights of religious institutions and individuals at every opportunity.

The  new contraceptive mandate and the administration’s argument against the ministerial exception are but two examples of continued affronts to religious liberty, however.  Prior to Hosana-Tabor, top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services overruled DHHS recommendations to renew a grant to Catholic Charities USA to aid sex-trafficking victims over issues with the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and contraception.  Career employees at DHHS tried to preserve the grant, telling Obama appointees that the program was one of the most effective in the world, but were overruled due to the political considerations of the administration.

Soon after the administration lost its battle to strip religious institutions of autonomy in hiring decisions, on January 20, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new rules mandating coverage of contraception, abortions, and sterilization free of charge under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as ObamaCare.

Since releasing the preliminary rule last year, religious leaders around the country have expressed concern and pleaded with the administration to expand the rule’s narrow religious exemption.  Timothy Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, attended a reportedly less-than-cordial meeting with President Obama, in which he expressed fear that the new rules would violate Catholic conscience rights and more broadly, the freedom of religion clause of the first amendment.   Dolan pleaded with the president to no avail.  Announcing the new rule, Secretary Sebelius said,

“I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good. And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health-care providers.”

While the administration fully intends to violate the religious rights of the masses, the administration did give nonprofit religious institutions until 2013 to accommodate the new rule.  To this Dolan replied, “so what you’re saying is that we have a year to figure out how to violate our conscience?”  Evidently, yes.

While Sebelius expressed confidence that existing conscience laws would not be impacted, the criteria for qualifying for an exemption as a “religious employer for the new mandate are as follows:

1. The “inculcation of religious values” is “its purpose.”

2. It “primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets.”

3. “It primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.”

4. It is a non-profit organization under sections of the code that “refer to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”

Despite the administrations flimsy assurances that the mandate is not intrusive, the USCCB-as well as many other religious institutions who serve people from all backgrounds- say the new rules force them to violate core teachings in order to satisfy the whims of the administration’s secularist base.  For instance, an order of nuns would not be required to provide insurance covering contraception and abortion, but a school, university or hospital run by the Order in question would be compelled to violate their religious beliefs, as Raleigh Bishop Michael Burbidge  and many other Bishops have stated.  Catholic Charities, one of the largest social services providers in the world,  running soup kitchens, shelters, and providing numerous other human services in cities all across the country, would be forced to pay for procedures to which they are opposed as well.  Those found in violation of the mandate could be subject to a fine of $100 per day, per employee.   In fact, according to the National Catholic Reporter, the University of Notre Dame faces a decision over whether to comply with the new mandate or face a $10 million fine.

After President Obama campaigned as a figure of unity and spoke of the values of religious freedom both at Notre Dame and on several other occasions, it is clear that despite overtures towards religious liberty, his real allegiance lies with the radical pro-choice activists who make up the base of his supporters.  Secretary Sebelius may claim the mandate has no bearing on “freedom of worship”,  but the “freedom of worship” and freedom of religion are not the same thing.  As Wesley J. Smith writes at National Review,

“The former means that one may believe whatever one wants and worship privately without interference, whereas the latter allows one freedom to live in the world at large consistent with one’s faith tenets, even if they are not endorsed by the state.”

Not only does the administration plan to regulate which religious beliefs are acceptable, they also plan to make religious institutions speak for the pro-choice agenda of  government.  As Secretary Sebelius states,

“We intend to require employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”

In other words, the mandate would require those who qualify for the narrowly-tailored exception to refer employees to contraceptive services in the community.  The new HHS rules are clearly unconstitutional, and the USCCB, joining dozens of colleges, dioceses and businesses in a suit against Secretary Sebelius have precedent on their side, embodied in precedent upholding the religious liberties of individuals and associations against the encroachments of the government, such as West Virginia v. Barnette (1943).  But what does the Constitution matter anyway?  Clearly it was not being followed in the drafting of this mandate.

In another sad turn of events, students at Fordham University, a Catholic university, are protesting against its policy of not dispensing birth control on campus.   Students at Fordham are demanding “affordable” (i.e. subsidized) contraceptives as well, and staged an off-campus clinic where students could get contraceptives and other reproductive services not offered on campus.   Fordham, again a Catholic institution, may be changing it’s policy in light of the new HHS rules.

The new mandate represents the continuation of an assault on religious institutions, which has been ongoing by members of the secular elite for decades.  For example, since the cause of gay marriage has arrived on the scene in recent years, faith-based adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities, a longstanding provider of care for children, have been forced to comply with state rulings directing them to place children with same-sex couples, or cease all adoption operations.  Catholic Charities has stopped its adoption operations in Illinois, Massachusetts, and is likely to do so in New York.  Regardless of one’s stand on same-sex “marriage,” forcing religious institutions to comply with secular rules is a violation of the constitutionally-guaranteed free exercise of religion.  All individual rights must be respected, but our secularist politicians fail to balance the scale so that the rights of institutions with opposing, faith-based viewpoints are respected as well.

Inasmuch as the Catholic Church is an institution, extending beyond the sanctuary in service to mankind through education, health care, and charity, it has been the target of attacks in recent years by those who seek to silence truth, faith and reason.  While the Obama administration may think it is scoring a victory, it has picked a fight with one of the oldest institution in the world, and has united conservative and progressive Catholics alike in opposition to government overstepping its bounds.  Therefore, as First Things editor R. R. Reno writes, Catholics and all believers must stand strong for our first, most cherished freedom of religion, up to and including civil disobedience.

Many pick fights with Rome…none have won.

Fright Month on Wall Street

The 1960s are back in vogue.  Banana Republic and J. Crew are pushing slim wool “Mad Men” suits, skinny ties, pencil skirts and cardigans.  Even television networks are pushing the era of Camelot with hit series such as Pan Am, which depicts the glamorous age of commercial air travel.  The common thread here is that these emerging trends seek to highlight the early 1960s, when culture valued work, men strived for success, and women enjoyed the excitement of work while also enjoying the attention of stable, ambitious men that didn’t play video games in Mom’s basment all day.

Contrast this with the  hippie wannabe members of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement which, instead of seeking that which our Baby Boomer generation parents denied us-that is, intact families, realistic expectations for life (despite popular belief, everyone doesn’t go home with a trophy), work ethic, and patriotism, they are seeking to reenact the disastrous policy and fashion protests of the late 1960s against a yet-unspecified enemy; they have gone from targeting Bank of America’s $5 fee, which arose out of the Dodd-Frank effort to redistribute pennies for electronic transaction fees from banks to retailers, to targeting all people not collecting food stamps.  Rather than dressing for success and seeking knowledge from those who lived the American dream and achieved wealth, the “Occupy” protestors are seeking to-well, no one quite knows.

OWS protester tackles NYPD Officer

The American media has sought a concise description of the movement for over a month now.  Protestors have destroyed Zuccotti Park and turned it into a public health risk.  Tents have been lived in for weeks, protesters have avoided showers throughout the duration, and of course, they have been successful only insofar as assaulting police officers who sought to clear the park so the city (aka the taxpayers of New York) could clean the cesspool of filth they had created.  Brilliant.  When journalists seek grievances or solutions from protestors, they receive a ranting, discombobulated drivel that sounds something like,

We’re here to protest um, uh, global warm-greed, uh, wealthy individuals that have stolen from the 9-wait… Steve! Hey Steve! Did your mom send us more cash for pizza?!-free college, F*&@ the yacht owners; um, George Bush…wait, Obama’s cabinet is full of Goldman Sachs employees?! Well, I mean, the Israelis…free sex-change operations…mom HEY-MORE DRUMS! WE NEED MORE DRUMS, AMY!”

Huh?

Despite the hysteria and utter disorganization of the “OWS” mob, the media has been tripping over each other to present the movement as the equivalent of the Tea Party movement.  In contrast to the photographs of protesters waving obscene signs and gripping cops in headlocks amidst a sea of Anarchy symbols gracing the front page of national newspapers, the Tea Party was largely made up of educated, hard-working, middle class taxpayers who wanted less government, not more.  They also went home to shower each night, I might add.  Whereas Nancy Pelosi quickly condemned the genuinely-organic Tea Party movement as “Astro-turf…well dressed in Brooks Brothers…and un-American,” she couldn’t wait to congratulate the mob that gets more violent and deranged with each passing day by saying “God bless them for their spontaneity!”

I suppose spontaneity is the only fitting word for the Occupy Wall Street hysteria.  Just when Obama started tanking among independents, young people and the middle class, when his own party failed to get behind his “American Jobs Act” tax bill, a bunch of spoiled, unkempt 20-somethings armed with iPhones and iPads came out to protest “Wall Street” while expecting their parents to keep making deposits for food, “OFF THE PIGS” buttons (as featured at “Occupy Raleigh”),  iTunes downloads, and bail payments. 

Having failed to turn around the economy with an $857 billion stimulus, a government takeover of health care, and a $535 million loan to “green energy” company Solyndra, even Democrats were reluctant to take up a bill loaded with the redistributionist policies Obama failed to win passage of even when his party controlled both houses of Congress.  So, to distract the nation’s attention from the flailing president, a bunch of kids started an unruly mob to protect their Messiah, funded and supported by the unions and their Messiah himself.  Ironically, the labor unions have been the biggest beneficiaries of the Obama administration’s divide and conquer class warfare policies.

Obama’s presidency, specifically in regards to his economic policies, has been a disaster.  His goal is not to, as he claims, create jobs, but to “spread the wealth” by imposing an ever-growing weight of government regulations and taxes on entrepreneurs, savers and investors, whose capital is needed to grow the economy through market forces.  Acknowledging that raising taxes correspond to decreases in federal revenue in a 2008 debate moderated by ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Obama said, “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”  Forget that this policy benefits no one, least of all the federal treasury; at least liberals have that warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing those “rich bastards” are losing money.

Clinton pollster Douglas Schoen released the results of a poll of 200 “OWS” protesters in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.  Far from representing millions of unemployed Americans, Schoen reported that “in interviews, protesters show that they are leftists out of step with most American voters.  Yet Democrats are embracing them anyway.”  Specifically, Schoen found that among the protesters, most had jobs.  What binds the protesters together is not the lack of jobs, but “…a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.”  As little as twenty years ago, the above agenda had a name: Communism.

What protesters refuse to talk about is reality. 

The reality that failed liberal social policy embodied in the Community Reinvestment Act that mandated banks to lower lending standards and underwrite subprime mortgages to low-income borrowers to increase homeownership led to the global financial mess we’re in. 

 The reality that we live in a world in which entitlement programs in their current form are woefully outdated. 

The reality that free-market capitalism is what led to the invention of the technology aiding the “Occupy” mobs, such as iPhones and iPads. 

 The reality that most wealthy Americans started at the bottom and earned their way to the top.

 The reality that the top 1% pays 20% of the taxes. 

 The reality that the bottom 50% of earners pay zero federal income taxes. 

The reality that the social welfare state has created generations of broken homes, poverty and despair among ethnic groups for the sole purpose of maintaining political power.

The reality is most Americans want to succeed, to become entrepreneurs, and to create their American dreams.  The bad news for the protesters who are yet again trying to institute the radical, un-American policies of utopianism will only drive the American majority further into the Conservative fold, just as their parents’ hysteria drove Middle America into the arms of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. 

The good news for the protesters is that they’re already frightening, which saves them from taking precious time from their “Flea Party,” as Coulter so fittingly coined them, to shop for a Halloween costume.  Now, I just need to find a fedora to complete my Don Draper costume.

On Truth and Pope John Paul II

This weekend marks a historical event, the beatification of Pope John Paul II in Rome.  The event is historic in the remarkably short period of time in which it is taking place, a mere six years after his death in spring 2005.  It also marks the first time that a Pope (Benedict XVI) has overseen the cause for his immediate predecessor’s sainthood.

John Paul II was a truly transformational figure in that he humanized the papacy.  His charisma, his energy and zest for Christ and the Church inspired millions, and his message of the hope and freedom found in Christ Jesus left an indelible mark on the world by contributing to the break-up of the tyrannical Soviet empire and the reviving of the Church, which had fallen into decay after the tumultuous cultural clashes of the 1960s and 1970s, which saw some 45,000 priests leave the priesthood and saw Europe divorce itself, culturally and politically, from its Christian roots.

John Paul II’s death was met with cries of “Santo Subito!” (Sainthood now!) from the thousands of mourners in St. Peter’s Square and from millions of the faithful around the world whose lives he had so touched.  John Paul inspired thousands of youth to enter religious life and to defend their faith by living it out in their daily lives.  Even non-Catholics recognized this man as a leader, a peacemaker, and a man who sought to change the world for the better.

On the eve of his beatification, the media has predictably begun its assault on John Paul II’s legacy as Pope, attempting to dismiss his achievements while focusing on his mistakes, principally in regards to his handling of the sexual abuse crisis and his friendship with the founder of the Legion of Christ, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, now disgraced as a criminal for his abuse of seminarians and fathering of illegitimate children.  The media of course, wants to paint John Paul II as a perpetrator of the cover-up and culture of secrecy within the Church hierarchy, when in fact he was a leader in reforming the priesthood, investigating seminaries around the world for heretical practices, unfit candidates, and general dissent from the moral and theological teachings of the Church amongst priests, bishops, and religious.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, had a scathing column regarding the push for John Paul’s sainthood entitled “Hold the Halo,” published in Sunday’s edition of the Old Grey Lady, America’s “Newspaper of Record.”  Dowd claims that JPII “forfeited his right to beatification when he failed to establish a legal standard to remove pedophiles from the priesthood.”  In fact, it was under John Paul that a thorough investigation of the priesthood was conducted and canonical statutes of limitations were done away with.

While the sexual abuse scandal has left a stain on the Church hierarchy, Dowd and her crowd fail to acknowledge that the actions of those in the Church do not define the Church; rather, the Church is defined by its teachings and its existence as the Body of Christ, not the criminal actions of a few wayward members of the episcopacy.  As Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York recently wrote on his blog, “it’s especially tragic when someone leaves Jesus and His Church because of a sin, scandal, or slight from a priest or bishop.  If your faith depended on us, it was misplaced to begin with.  We priests and bishops might represent Jesus and shepherd His Church, however awkwardly — but we are not Jesus and His Church.” 

Perhaps Dowd’s biggest dislike for Pope John Paul II rests not in his efficacy in handling the abuse crisis, but his adherence to the timeless teachings of the Church, which are Truth.  While praising his stands against the evils of Communism, Dowd writes, “as progressive as he was on those issues, he was disturbingly regressive on social issues- contraception, women’s ordination, divorce and remarriage.”  Dowd’s use of the word “regressive” to describe efficacious defense of Truth is misplaced.  “Regressive” implies that we had “made progress” as a Church on these moral issues, and that John Paul somehow returned us to the Middle Ages.  She posits that John Paul protected the Legion of Christ and Opus Dei because they acted as “the shock troops in John Paul’s war against Jesuits and other progressive theologians.” 

Since the cultural revolutions of a generation ago, the “shock troops” in the war for moral relativism and secularized culture devoid of any religious expression have been trying to apply political labels to an institution founded on the teachings of an eternal being, Jesus Christ, not the temporal desires of mere mortals.  It is in this distinction that these so-called “progressive Catholics” miss the boat. 

When Jesus asked us to take up our cross and follow Him, he didn’t say we were going to be skipping through a meadow having a picnic.  Jesus himself was controversial; his actions and teachings went against convention and political correctness, which is the reason he was crucified.

I am always amazed by people who call themselves “recovering Catholics.”  Many of these individuals are Baby Boomers raised on the Baltimore Catechism and taught to fear God as an angry being by nuns who never should’ve been nuns.  This goes back to Archbishop Dolan’s saying that if your faith is allowed to be formed by priests, bishops, or nuns, who are mere sinners like all of Christ’s body, your faith is misplaced.  Coincidentally, these “recovering Catholics” also tend to be obsessed with a Church they claim to want nothing to do with, claiming that the Church is “repressive” and needs to “modernize.”  I had the opportunity to sit in on two meetings of a graduate course on oppression at UNC’s School of Social Work, and was struck by the professor and the student’s fixation with the Catholic Church as a source of “oppression”, stemming from its teachings on the sanctity of life and marriage. 

Two Catholic friends of mine attend the School, and view their interest in helping the less fortunate as a calling from God and a way in which to live out their faith.  Both have told me that Christians are viewed as suspect within the School of Social Work, and that most have an anti-religious bent.  I would venture to say that these “recovering Catholics” have lots of regrets and remorse about their past, which serves as the source of their animus toward not just the Church, but to God.  We all have Truth written on our hearts, as Aquinas said.  Perhaps when we yearn for the Church to change to fit our views, we are trying to avoid admitting that we have made mistakes?  It seems, then, that we must remember that God yearns to forgive; indeed He already has forgiven us.

I am reminded that to follow Christ is not easy.  I myself struggle with the teachings of the Church often.  How do I reconcile the Church’s teaching on marriage with my friendships with individuals who are gay or lesbian?  If I accept Church teaching, do I betray my friendship and love for my friends who happen to be gay?  Can I stand for life, even when that life is a result of a crime, such as rape or incest, despite the fear of being painted as unreasonable, or anti-woman?  I, like many Catholics, I suspect, constantly juggle the temporal and the eternal, the faith and the tainted culture in which we live.  It’s a journey, full of ups and downs, triumphs and failures, revisions and more revisions.  I am comforted in knowing that though these teachings may sometimes be hard to swallow, it is Truth-with a 2011 year history.  I am constantly evolving and asking how best to follow the example of Christ.

What keeps me going is the knowledge that while we are all sinners and we all experience periods of uncertainty, sadness, and feelings of failure, the Church is a rock, an anchor, a constant on which we can always depend on to remain the same as we navigate a world of change.  It is comforting to know that though my children will grow up in a world radically different from the world I grew up in, I will be able to impart to them the same Truth my parents taught me and their parents before them.  Truth is not politically correct, it is not malleable, and it is not handed down on the whims of men.  As such, defense of Truth, as in John Paul’s case, is not a cause for ridicule, but for admiration.

If the Church were dependent on the actions of men, it would’ve been dead on arrival.  St. Peter, the first Pope, denied Jesus three times!  And yet he went on to shepherd Christ’s Church!  While John Paul might have done more to combat the “filth in the priesthood,” as Benedict XVI so rightly coined it, to make his shortcomings cloud his contributions to the world is to diminish a man who arguably changed the course of history, and most definitely inspired an entire generation.  Lay faithful, religious, priests, bishops, popes, and even saints are sinners.  Only Jesus was without blemish.  So while those who wish to turn the world into a relativistic cesspool will spend the weekend fuming over John Paul’s beatification, I will be watching the ceremony, and praying that I, a sinner, might be granted mercy and the grace to follow Christ, like John Paul did so well.  Santo Subito!