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.

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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!

The Real Story Behind the Battle to Defund Planned Parenthood

Watching the apocalyptic debate over the averted government shutdown last week, one would rightly think that one party was crying wolf over our fiscal mess so they could relegate the poor and the undesirable to the dark alleys of the streets and the other party was saying, “what mess? This is just about abortion!  You evil, women-hating pro-lifers, you!”

The media narrative was that Republicans had come to town not to change Washington’s course (assuming that’s even plausible), but to “kill women,” as Representative Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) put it.  Republicans campaigned on the issue of a need to rein in a government that had become to expensive and unmanageable.  Pledging to cut $61 Billion in discretionary spending out of a nearly $4 trillion budget, Republicans tried to cut funding for the nation’s largest provider of abortions, Planned Parenthood, a non-profit that manages to post profits, donate to political candidates, and avoid paying taxes.  Try doing that as a church.

Lila Rose, a young, pro-life activist who went undercover to expose the illicit practices of Planned Parenthood clinics around the country, caused a stir in January when her organization, Live Action, exposed video of Planned Parenthood advising a man posing as a pimp on how to obtain abortions for teen prostitutes while avoiding the suspicion or involvement of law enforcement.  When the “pimp” offered that the girl was 15, the Planned Parenthood employee responded that she didn’t need to know how old the girl was.

Naturally, Fox News, being the only “agenda-driven” news outlet in the country, was the only network that covered the expose.   The mainstream media largely ignored the fact that the videos were only the latest evidence of Planned Parenthood’s long history of law-evading practices when it comes to minors.  Emboldened by their recent electoral gains, pro-life members of Congress seized the latest evidence to remove all federal support for Planned Parenthood, first in a stand-alone bill, H.R. 3, and then as a rider to the budget proposal for FY 2011, which should’ve been passed in August 2010 by the prior Congress.  Abortion proponents pounced, saying that the elimination of funds for Planned Parenthood would pose health risks for poor women, citing that in addition to contraception and abortions, Planned Parenthood provides affordable preventive care such as mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, pap smears, and breast exams.    Not missing a chance to criticize the “misogynist” U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, the abortion rights movement threw the book at the Church for supporting the elimination of federal funds for the nation’s largest abortion provider.

With budget negotiations down to the wire, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) accused Speaker John Boehner and his GOP majority of being willing to shut down the federal government for the first time since 1995 in order to “throw women under the bus.”  The media naturally ran with the tired old “Conservatives and pro-lifers are anti-woman” narrative, which won the day.   Late Friday evening, Boehner and Reid announced a last-minute budget deal  that would cut $38.5 billion from the current FY budget, which we are 6 months into, in exchange for dropping the social policy riders.  The media celebrated the victory, praising Boehner for dropping his “crusade against women” to keep the lights on in Washington.

Just when you think the story is over, the Wall Street Journal‘s William McGurn reported Tuesday that according to anonymous sources present at last week’s meeting between the President and Messrs. Boehner and Reid, Obama was the man who refused to negotiate on funding for Planned Parenthood, saying, “Nope. Zero. This is it, John.”   Perhaps instead of the media narrative characterizing the Republicans as willing to shut the government down in order to “throw women under the bus,” there’s an alternate narrative: President Obama and his supporters in Congress were willing to shut the government down rather than cut Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.  Maybe the President is the ideologue here.  In Obama’s effort to appear “above the fray,” his past statements as Senator and presidential candidate show that he is unequivocally supportive of government funding for abortions, as is evident by his party’s refusal to attach the long-standing Hyde Amendment, prohibiting government funding of abortions, to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

McGurn further noted that while Planned Parenthood asserts that abortion constitutes a small part of the services they offer, their own data shows that over 97% of pregnant women they treat receive abortions from Planned Parenthood, meaning that less than 3% of women that go to Planned Parenthood’s clinics are there for prenatal care or preventive services.  Did I mention Planned Parenthood and founder Margaret Sanger’s historic support of abortion to advance eugenics, which is the systematic elimination of populations society deems “undesirable,” including the disabled, racial minorities, and the poor women whose services they claim to provide?  Or that Planned Parenthood’s Political Action Fund spent more than $443,000 in support pro-choice candidates in the 2010 election cycle?   And yet, no one is threatening to take away their tax-exempt status.  Conversely, abortion and gay rights supporters have been trying to strip the Catholic Church of their non-profit status for years, yet, unlike Planned Parenthood, they do not receive federal funds or make monetary contributions to political candidates; they’re simply telling the congregation what the Church teaches on these issues. 

Preventive care for poor women is a laudable cause.  However, Planned Parenthood’s claim that none of their federal funds go to abortions is not credible, given the fungible nature of money.  Plenty of crisis pregnancy centers provide prenatal and preventive gynecological care, and yet the pro-choicers would have a fit if these organizations received federal funds.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg just signed an ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centers in New York to post multiple signs alerting patients that as crisis pregnancy centers, they do not provide or refer patients for abortions or contraception.  Bloomberg invited opponents to challenge the law in court, indicating that the ordinance may well be unconstitutional, but that by signing it, he was doing what he “thinks is right.”  There goes the argument that pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion.  Why else would you require these organizations to post such signs, other than to discourage women from hearing about pro-life options?

Abortion rights is one of the most divisive issues in our nation, drawing passionate feelings from both sides of the debate.  When an organization has declared its mission to be the protection of a woman’s “right to choose” or, more bluntly, to kill her child, no matter what the reason behind the choice, that organization has no place receiving public funds, especially when money is tight and the country is headed for fiscal disaster.  If we want to be supportive of poor women and help them raise their children, why not pay a living wage and provide federal dollars to crisis pregnancy centers?

Back to the World after a hiatus

What an interesting year it has been!  A move to Maine, a job at Maine Med, a failed relationship-and out of all of it, personal growth and maturation.  Though I am unexpectedly back in NC, it appears it is for some greater purpose yet unbeknownst to me.  Time will tell.

Now that I have time on my hands and a renewed desire to comment on events occurring in the world, in life, and in the Church, I hope to use this space to contribute to a more informed debate about a myriad of issues.

The Media and the Church-for the Media, its not about the abuse

 Throughout the past several weeks, the media has worked itself into a frenzy, trying to use shoddy, “gotcha” journalism to turn the screws on public enemy #1 for the journalistic and political elite; the Church.

Issues of sexual abuse are not problems exclusive to the Catholic Church.  Statistics show that the majority of abuse occurs in families, social settings, and schools.  However, up until the 1980s, common beliefs that pedophiles could be treated with psychotherapy, coupled with an aura of secrecy and the likelihood of disbelief among a society that held clergy and religious in the highest esteem, prevented bad priests from being exposed.  Bishops, such as Bernard Cardinal Law, former archbishop of Boston, swore priests and victims to secrecy for years leading up to the revelation of widespread abuse and a cover-up thereof in the Archdiocese of Boston dating back several decades.  Make no mistake-any priest who engages in pedophilia must be quickly handed over to the authorities and punished to the full extent the law allows.

Almost a decade after a scandal that rocked Boston, revelations of abuse in Ireland and Germany have begun surfacing in recent months.  Some involved solicitation of minors in the confessional, others involved pedophilia on trips, in schools or in rectories.   Fr. Hullermann of Germany was transferred to then-Bishop Joseph Ratzinger’s diocese for treatment and returned to pastoral ministry, only to be convicted of pedophilia a short time later.  The press attempted to tie the Pope to Hullermann, only to discover that a subordinate handled the case.  The archdiocese of Milwaukee had on its hands a manipulative, unremorseful priest by the name of Fr. Murphy, who allegedly molested some 200 deaf boys over several decades. 

The New York Times, not exactly a friend of the Church, ran an “expose” that charged that then-Cardinal Ratzinger-now Pope Benedict XVI-ended a canonical trial conducted by the diocese of Superior in the late 1990s in response to a letter from the offending priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who asked Ratzinger to suspend the investigation and trial because he was dying.  Ratzinger was then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had jurisdiction over the Murphy case because some of the charges against Murphy had to do with violating the confessional.  Secretary of the CDF, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, now the Vatican Secretary of State, responded in early 1997 to Archbishop Weakland, who had begun preparations for a trial against Murphy and allowed the trial to proceed.  Murphy had written to Bertone after he learned of Weakland’s plans to investigate, try, and defrock him, saying that according to the 1962 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect at the time Murphy committed the abuse, the statute of limitations had passed and an investigation/trial could not proceed.  He also noted he was dying, and requested to “live out my remaining days in the dignity of my priesthood.”  Bertone denied Murphy’s request in 1997, telling Weakland in his response that the canonical statute of limitations were to be waived and the judicial actions could proceed.  For clarity, Bertone denied Murphy’s request to drop the proceedings, and instructed Weakland to go around judicial proceedings in order to expedite Murphy’s defrocking.  A short time later, Weakland met in Rome for a meeting on the case chaired, again, by Bertone and not Ratzinger, as the New York Times insinuated.  Bertone reiterated that Weakland should proceed to defrock him. Murphy died a few weeks after this meeting.

The New York Times, however, went about reporting the story in such a way that fit their preconceived version of events-ultimately, that Pope Benedict had dismissed accusations of abuse as a Cardinal in charge of the CDF, by not responding to Weakland’s request for assistance in how to go about defrocking Murphy.  Weakland DID receive a response from Bertone, Ratzinger’s Secretary for CDF.  But because the response was not signed by Benedict himself, the Times ran with the notion that Pope Benedict XVI, as Prefect, sheltered pedophiles and protected the Church at the expense of justice.  The grievance is a red herring akin to the “scandal” of getting a letter written by a staffer instead of a Congressman in response to a letter supporting some legislative action.  In actuality, both as prefect of CDF and as Pope, Benedict has led the charge in rooting out abusive priests and ending the culture of secrecy.  More detailed debunking of the New York Times’ story can be read here and here.

In order to give equal fault where fault is due, members of the Church hierarchy made damaging, inappropriate, and in some cases, even criminal decisions about the way in which pedophile priests were dealt with.  Bishops, such as Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston and Bishop Brady of Ireland refused to resign after it came to light their complicit actions in covering up scandal, including using the sacrament of confession, in the case of Law, to swear a victim of Fr. Birmingham to silence and secrecy after he came to Law with the allegations.  In the heat of the Boston scandal, Law was whisked away from the crime scene and given a position in Rome by an aging Pope John Paul II, who I believe was losing his faculties in the waning days of his pontificate, and was being ill-advised by subordinates with an interest in protecting Law. 

Clerics wanting to attribute the scandal solely to vicious, hate-driven media attacks on the Church only serve to create an image and air of the clergy being beyond reproach.  Sermons, such as one given by the Pope’s personal preacher on Good Friday that compared the attacks on the Church to anti-Semitism merely throw gas on a fire that the media has worked into a blaze.

However, despite grave and damnable mistakes by some in the handling of the scandal, the mainstream press has had it in for the Church for decades.  The American press, led by such “venerable” organs as the  New York Times, Newsweek, and the prime-time lineup of hysterics at MSNBC have moved from reporting on the problem of criminal priests to finding fault in the Church doctrines of priestly celibacy, male hierarchy, and a perceived “oppression of women, their “rights” (abortion), and dissent.  The scandal of sexual abuse is not about the children or rooting out criminals for the press-it is simply another weapon to use in a 45-year effort by secular liberals to dismantle the last standing obstacle to the implementation of their vision moral relativism and utopia.

When Pope John Paul II passed away in the spring of 2005, the mainstream press was hysterical about the prospects of the Church “finally catching up to the times,” as Lisa Miller of Newsweek has put it in so many articles of late.  Proposing that the Church could’ve avoided scandal if women were at the decision-making table, Miller writes that the Church “has willfully ignored the integration of women in the workforce and public life.”  Miller engages in wild leaps of logic in her article, stating that “In a world where the whole really matters more than individual parts, a rigid—sometimes brilliant, sometimes mean-spirited—morality reins. This elevation of the church above all things explains how an institution dedicated to serving the sick and the poor might also refuse condoms to those at risk for AIDS. It explains how an organization committed to families could deny birth-control pills to mothers. And it explains, sadly, how a bishop faced with a pedophile in a parish might decide not to call the cops.” 

I won’t even begin to address Miller’s illogical hysteria.  Miller’s incoherence speaks for itself.  Miller is trying to cite failure to adopt to the prevailing mores of pop-culture as the root of sex abuse by priests and the ensuing cover-up.  Miller goes on to say that priestly celibacy is the main cause of the culture of secrecy which allowed this abuse to occur.  To wit, Miller is right about an unhealthy culture of secrecy within Church hierarchy.  The Vatican has, in recent days, clarified and made public procedures for dealing with criminal allegations, stressing the need for immediate, willing and open cooperation with civil authorities.  However, Miller’s insinuation that pedophilia is somehow linked to celibacy is outrageous.  I guess in Miller’s world, married men have never engaged in sexual assault of minors.  While there is room for a debate on the issue of celibacy, which was instituted to prevent priests and bishops from leaving Church property to their children, it has no bearing on whether or not one is a pedophile. 

Simply put, those whom the mainstream media is turning to for “expertise” and opinion on the Church are “Faithful” who have substituted political liberalism and a “If it feels good, do it” ideology for the Catechism.  As if Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and Sinead O’Connor represented the lay faithful and allegiance to any social teaching of the Church other than care for the poor, the media is desperately trying to make liberal celebrity “Catholics” who disagree with every other tenet of the Faith the face of the global Church.  Unable to separate the atrocious sins of men from the timeless truths of God and natural law, individuals like Miller, Keith Olbermann and Maureen Dowd turn to criticizing the Church for no longer marching in lockstep with mores of Liberalism, and, to an extent, the Democratic Party.   Before the scandal in Germany and Wisconsin came to light, it was health care reform that was used to attack the Church for it’s opposition to abortion.  Now the sex abuse scandal has become the latest excuse to argue for changes, not only in how the Church deals with pedophile priests, but in all the social teachings of the Church.

Witness the duplicity of the media on matters of social mores.  Soon after Benedict became Pope and the “Pope Benedict XVI is a Nazi!” hysteria died down, the Vatican issued a decree reiterating the ban on homosexuals in the priesthood.  The New York Times howled, charging that the decree was mean-spirited and an exceptionally harsh measure against “wayward priests.”  As of late, some reporters have tried to make a distinction between pedophilia-abuse of pre-pubescent children, and ephebophilia, which indicates a sexual interest in sexually mature young men.  Regardless of the age of victims, these acts are criminal and must be met with swift civil and canonical punishment.  However, some psychiatrists have linked some of the acts to admitted homosexual tendencies among priests.  The New York Times is now outraged that this connection is even made.  This comes after scores of seminarians have complained of a “homosexually charged” atmosphere at American seminaries.  No surprise, the New York Times edit board wrote in support of an ACLU-backed 1st amendment defense of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which maintains a forum on which pedophilia and how to get away with it is discussed.   NAMBLA is represented in gay pride parades around the U.S.  Surely even Lisa Miller could acknowledge a connection between some instances of abuse of teen boys and homosexuality.   Leave it to the media to deny any isolated-case correlation between homosexual activity and pedophilia while also defending the 1st amendment rights of a group of homosexual men that “simply discuss” pedophilia.  One can judge for himself whether the Church has some issues with its moral credibility, but in any event, the New York Times is hardly in a position to pontificate on moral failures of others.

 Moral teachings do not and should not, change with the fads, and yet the liberal elite in America seems to think the day is coming in which homosexual “marriages” are sanctified by the Church, sexual morality is left to self-interpretation, and abortion becomes morally permissible.  In essence, Liberals have made religion about validation of and reconciliation with their beliefs, which the counterculture of the 1960s has ingrained in the societal fabric of America.  The Church has survived countless crises, and as long as Benedict, who drew criticism from the clergy for condemning the “filth in the priesthood”, remains vigilant in rooting out the past practices of secrecy and complacency, the Church will emerge stronger than ever.  The actions of men, including priests and bishops, and even popes, are fallible.  The moral teachings of the Church are not.  Attacking the Church for standing up more life and the traditional family, suggesting fundamental changes in timeless moral teachings will rid the Church or any other institution of the mental sickness and moral depravity of pedophilia only shows the true feelings of the media.  For them it is not about the victims or justice or purification of the Church.  It is about the war of secular liberalism on institutions that question or oppose their actions, and for that reason, and that reason only, they are trying to make the abuse not about a handful of criminal men, but about the entire Catholic Faith.

The Pursuit of Happyness

I had the pleasure of watching the Academy-Award winning “The Pursuit of Happyness” tonight.  If you’ve never seen it, it is about a hard-working man determined to make a better life for himself and his son.  It’s about opportunity, yes, but it is also about the hard work required to make the most of our opportunities.  Hard work pays off with success.  The main character, Chris, struggles to get an internship at a local investment firm and competes with 20 other interns for a shot at a full-time brokerage position.  He works hard and after weeks of spending nights in homeless shelters and subway bathrooms with his son, he earns a job as a broker and later sells his own brokerage firm for millions.

What the movie reminded me of is the promise of America.  The promise that if you work hard enough, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to-a higher degree, a promotion, a vacation home, a family, whatever it may be, its all determined by your willingness to work for it.  But part of getting there is having the educational wherewithal to recognize that everyone deserves opportunity to show society what they can contribute, whether its a talent, service, a product, their time or even prayer-all of us have something unique to contribute regardless of our race, class, abilities or whatever other trait of difference we might possess.  Sadly, there is a lot of ignorance in the world-Chris experiences this in his quest for the broker position.  

Aside from the economic conditions,  a lot of people face discrimination every day beccause of their race, gender, sexuality, disability, or other difference.  Employers often don’t look at people’s talents or abilities, but rather people’s appearances or differences.  Sadly, this often leads employers to miss out on a wealth of talent.  I have had my share of experiences too.  Yes, they can be disheartening, but I believe they are signs from God saying he has another position or vocation in store for me, and perhaps it is to educate students and employers about the abilities of all kinds of different people.  The fact is everyone is different in some way.  Some have visible “disabilities,” some may be dyslexic or have ADD.  Some may be a racial minority facing discrimination from bigots.  The beauty of all of our differences is that they are what make each of us unique.  They are what makes the world so full of wonder!

I am thinking of how I can help educate others and defend people’s rights to contribute to society.  Perhaps one way is as a lawyer.  I will figure it out in due time.  In the meantime, I have written a column about these issues which I have posted below. I sent it to some newspapers, but I never heard back, so I have posted it here.  I’ll keep you guys posted-I am thinking of how to maybe start a resource center of some sort to educate people about the importance of valuing diversity, and how to let people know that the promise of America, that all men are created equal, endowed with the right to go in the pursuit of happyness.

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America’s people have made remarkable progress in learning to accept differences among themselves.  America is the only country founded on the premise that “all men are created equal” and Americans embrace many unique cultures, making us the envy of the world.  Over the last five decades, numerous laws have been enacted to advance the cause of civil rights for all.   However, perception is very different from reality.

Growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a town known for its prestigious institutions of higher education and progressive atmosphere, I learned the value of embracing diversity.  I myself represent a diverse population-I have Cerebral Palsy, which affects my speech, hearing and fine motor skills.  Nonetheless, because of the excellent schools in my area, and as well as the hard work of statesmen and disability rights advocates like former Senator Bob Dole and the late Senator Edward Kennedy, I received a top-notch education just like every other child.  Of course, growing up does not come without bumps in the road-I was the target of the occasional bully, but those incidents simply test our ability to remain strong in the face of ignorance.

In 2005, I went off to college at a small private university in Washington, DC.  During this time, I was blessed with the opportunity to intern both on Capitol Hill and with advocacy and media organizations, including the office of former Senator Elizabeth Dole.  I was given those opportunities based on my ability to contribute to those organizations, and never felt discriminated against because of my “disability.”  In fact, most were so wildly impressed with my ability to effectively advance a cause through written word that I had to turn down offers for internships. 

After two years in Washington, I decided to transfer to the University of North Carolina to major in public health.  As a Tar Heel, I served as a member of the Daily Tar Heel editorial board and was on the men’s crew team.

I received my degree in May, 2009.  I finally had a piece of paper that proved my ability.  Unfortunately, the assumption that having a degree would largely eliminate misconceptions about my ability to contribute to the workplace has sometimes proved to be unfounded.  Economic troubles aside, during the past year I have experienced discrimination by potential employers, including one local firm that refused to hire me because of my speech impediment, which they thought would hinder my ability to communicate with clients, the majority of which are medical practices, despite having no difficulty understanding me during the interview.  However, they assured me that they would keep me in mind for jobs that required mostly computer work.  I was told I had a great skill set, but rather than giving me the chance to show them my capabilities, I was told I wasn’t fit to interact with clients.  My resume did not matter-my speech impediment did.  After growing up in a community that preached tolerance, I was disappointed to find that some of the very people who preach tolerance and understanding are not willing to look past some things, such as a disability.

Other prospective employers would call to offer me an interview, only to say “we just wanted to thank you for applying” after hearing my speech impediment, which some incorrectly associate with cognitive impairment.  I may wear hearing aids, but I am no fool-employers do not call job applicants simply to thank them for applying.

The irony is that I have successfully interacted with medical professionals and their staff my entire life, both out of medical necessity and out of a desire to give back to a community from which I have received much.  As a middle and high school student, I led efforts to raise money for TelAbility, a telemedicine program at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.   As a public health student, I served as an intern for the American College of Preventive Medicine, where I met with members of Congress in an effort to build support for the “Preventive Medicine and Public Health Training Act,” which is now being reviewed by committees in both houses of Congress.  In short, my Cerebral Palsy does not have any bearing on my ability to be a productive member of the workforce and society as a whole, nor does it hinder my ability to communicate with professionals, business clients or members of Congress, for that matter.

What I have learned is that our courts and legislatures can write laws and administer justice all day long.  Laws are pointless in the absence of an educated public.  My experiences have had a positive effect, however, inasmuch as they have inspired me to apply to law school in hopes of being an advocate and policymaker so that others might not face discrimination in the future.

Minorities, especially the disabled community, face discrimination in all areas, including employment, romance, and the state budget-making process.  People stare.  Individuals make false or hurtful assumptions, or use people with disabilities as the butt of jokes, as Family Guy recently did in a distasteful attempt to poke fun at a polarizing political figure.  While we cannot change the past, we can change the future.  While understanding my speech may require a little extra effort for some, those who take the time to listen to me or get educated about other people with all sorts of disabilities will learn that despite a speech impediment, or impaired physical or cognitive ability, we are capable of contributing great things to the workplace and to society.  So take the time.  Look beyond first impressions, and get educated!

The Progressive War against the First Amendment

Just this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R., Calif.) told the press corps “But we have to pass the bill so that we can see what’s in it.”  Aside from the alarming, and most likely true, fact that no one really knows what is in the health reform bill, Pelosi, at the request of the President, as agreed to use an arcane parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation and intended only for budgetary matters, to pass a bill whose support only declines as Obama revamps efforts to build support for it.  Both houses of Congress have passed a health care bill, though the two bills differ radically in their substance. 

Two weeks ago, Obama unveiled his own plan for reform, which closely mirrors legislation passed by the Senate.  The President’s plan would make half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid, not to shore  up Medicaid’s  insolvency, but to fund an expansion of the entitlement state by means of heavy insurance subsidies.  Like the Senate bill, Obama’s plan also places massive tax increases on the American people, mandates “preventive care” free of charge-in other words, patient co-payments for regular check ups or preventive tests would be prohibited- and leaves out language prohibiting taxpayer funded abortions.

The House leadership is determined to pass a bill roundly criticized and opposed by a majority of voters.  The plan is to vote on Obama’s version, after which the Senate will then “fix” using reconciliation, which requires a simple 51-vote majority for passage, rather than the standard 60 votes needed under normal Senate rules.  The problem is, Obama’s proposal isn’t even in bill form yet.  To add insult to injury, members who voted “yes” in November have now switched to “no” votes, one member has died and a handful have resigned.  This makes reform extremely difficult to pass through the House.  In a quiet admission of the fact that Pelosi lacks the votes to pass the President’s signature initiative, she has directed Rules Committee Chair Rep. Louis Slaughter (D., N.Y.) to manipulate House rules so that the bill proposed by the president will be considered “passed” without ever having voted on it.  How this is constitutional is anyone’s guess.

Pro-life leader Rep. Bart Stupak, architect of language in the House bill that prohibits any direct or indirect taxpayer funding of abortion, has vowed to stop reform if the Senate does not adopt more restrictive language in regards to abortion funding.  In an effort to con centrist Democrats into voting for the Senate bill as proposed by Obama, Senate leaders have assured Stupak and his allies that the abortion language would be “fixed” during the reconciliation process.  However, as of Saturday, the House leadership has suspended negotiations with Stupak and his cadre of pro-life Democrats.

To further complicate matters, constitutional law and parliamentary experts say that the Senate cannot use the reconciliation process until the President signs the House-passed Senate bill into law.  Assuming these experts are correct, for anyone who believes that the Senate is going to add an amendment restricting funding to abortion to an existing law, I’ve got swamp land to sell you.

Alas, it is no accident that the Obama/Senate proposal does not expressly prohibit publicly-funded abortions, nor does it protect the religious conscience rights of health care providers.  This is telling inasmuch as the President and Henry Waxman have spoken in favor of publicly funded abortions.  In fact, last summer Obama delivered a weekly radio address in which he declared that “any health reform bill must cover basic care, including reproductive services…”  If this is clearly the will of those calling the shots, including the President and Rep. Waxman, who told Rep. Stupak this week that the Democrats’ aim was to end federal prohibition on abortion funding, which has been in place since 1976.  This follows a quiet negligence by the Democratic leadership to attach the Hyde Amendment to last year’s budget. 

Furthermore,  this dose of intellectual honesty from Waxman is consistent with quiet maneuvers such as ending the Mexico City policy and attempting to overturn federal conscience clause protections for health care workers.  Always wanting to have their cake and eat it too, these are often the same people that vehemently oppose laws that require women to view an ultrasound image of their child before aborting it.  Go figure.

The progressive movement has its heart set on ramming their agenda down the nation’s throat, no matter what the objections of the people they claim to represent.  Their efforts to eliminate conscience clause protections for health workers, publicly fund abortions, and dictate the views and mores of the public know no bounds.  On March 1, the District of Columbia started granting same-sex couples the right to marry.  Aside from the merits in favor or against allowing same-sex couples to wed, the law passed by the DC City Council provided no exemptions for religious organizations, requiring all employers, churches included, to abide by “non-discrimination rules” and recognize same-sex couples in providing benefits, etc.

While the DC law was being debated, the Archdiocese of Washington came under fire for saying that this law, barring the addition of a conscience clause, would hinder the Catholic Church’s ability to provide services to the underprivileged community in Washington while remaining faithful to the Catholic faith.  The Archdiocese and Catholic Charities, who provide a large proportion of services to the DC community, including soup kitchens, shelters, schools and adoption services, came under fire for throwing the poor under the bus in order to continue their “anti-gay bigotry,” with the supporters of the law saying that the Archdiocese would not be required to perform gay marriages.

 The argument has nothing to do with being “anti-gay” or sanctifying same-sex marriages, and everything to do with the ability to fulfill their social mission without compromising core religious beliefs, namely that marriage is between a man and a woman, a tenet central to Roman Catholicism.   The bill may not require the Archdiocese to perform same-sex marriages, but it does require the Archdiocese to recognize these marriages by prohibiting them from declining to provide health benefits to same-sex couples, thus constituting a forced, de-facto recognition and approval of same-sex marriage by the Catholic Church.  Archbishop Donald Wuerl has asked Congress to intervene and amend the DC law, but he has not been successful.  As a result of this flawed law, the Archdiocese of Diocese has ceased providing adoption services and benefits to all spouses.

These incidences are indicative of a clear bias against religion by the progressive movement and an effort to silence opposition to their social agenda.  More objectively, the negligence of the Congress to include conscience clause protections in the health bill, coupled with DC’s refusal to provide conscience clause protections to religious individuals and institutions mark a dangerous trend of running roughshod over the first amendment, which explicitly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”