Analysis by Oswald Sobrino, J.D., M.A., who has published in New Blackfriars (U.K.), Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Answer, New Oxford Review, CatholicExchange.com, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. He is a lay graduate student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. © 2002-06 Oswald Sobrino.
"There is much in Christianity which can be subjected to exact analysis. But the ultimate things are shrouded in the silent mysteries of God." --Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
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Saturday, October 16, 2004Next Update: Sunday, October 17, 2004
Friday, October 15, 2004Dr. Charles Krauthammer Skewers Kerry/Edwards
As I have watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer on cable's Fox News, especially on Brit Hume's excellent 6 p.m. Special Report on weekdays, I have grown more and more to respect and admire him. He is, by far, the most articulate, substantive commentator on the Fox panel of pundits--and his fellow Fox pundits are pretty good to begin with. When you listen to Krauthammer, you see and hear depth and character.
In his column today in the Washington Post, the good doctor--by the way, a real doctor, a physician--exposes the lack of character of both Kerry and Edwards. Krauthammer takes apart the bogus, Elmer Gantry snake oil promises of Edwards that, if the Democrats are elected, people like the recently deceased Christopher Reeve will get up from their wheelchairs and walk. Krauthammer skewers Kerry for the same pattern of lying about stem cell research when Kerry repeatedly and falsely refers to a ban on stem cell research. The column is, as they say, a "must read."
Here is a brief excerpt:
Source: Charles Krauthammer, "An Edwards Outrage," Washington Post, 10/15/04.
Dr. Krauthammer is himself physically disabled; one report stated that he was a paraplegic. But, my friends, he is far from "disabled" at all. In my view, he is a flourishing human being with character and a first-rate mind and the ability to articulate truth effectively.
At bottom, the Kerry/Edwards Democratic anti-life view is that life is only worth living if you are defect-free and are not a burden on anyone. That's why abortion is so sacred to them. For them, it is unthinkable that a woman should have to put up with carrying to term a child that she rejects--just too burdensome. For them, it is unthinkable that you put respect for life before one's own needs.
For Kerry/Edwards, respecting human life is optional when another human life becomes an obstacle to your own comfort. So, abort at will and destroy embryos at will because we will not be burdened or constrained in our personal quest for comfort.
This Democratic party and ticket are truly the Democrats made in Clinton's amoral image. The absolute lack of character is astounding. Kerry confirmed this mentality of self-prostitution for political power by gratuitously and irrelevantly going out of his way to emphasize the sexual orientation of one of the Vice-President's daughters in the final debate. For Kerry/Edwards, there is no boundary worthy of respect in the quest for power. But this sleazy invasion of privacy should be no surprise. After all, they are willing to invade and defile the sacred boundaries of life at will, whenever convenient.
The Kerry/Edwards ticket has demonstrated for all to see that it is a morally disordered ticket with not an ounce of character in sight. Let us vote them out of our future. Let them depart from us to stew in their moral confusion far from us. They are not worthy of this nation or any nation.
Thursday, October 14, 2004Bush Won the Country
I heard most of the debate on the radio and saw a snippet or two shown on late TV. I heard enough on the radio to fearlessly conclude that Bush won hands down. Bush had the heart and sense. Bush was a leader. Kerry was a windbag with a twenty-year Senate record of nonaccomplishment. Even worse, Kerry came across as an unimaginative leftist.
The Fox News panelists--who had previously engaged in strong criticism of Bush after the first debate--gave Bush the win this time. One of the pundits even went so far to say that Bush "slaughtered" Kerry.
Then I saw CNN where their pundits were, marvelous to relate, calling Kerry the winner. And on MSNBC, the very odd looking Ron Reagan Jr., of course, primly insisted on a Kerry win. All of these fantastical declarations of a Kerry win remind me of the wisdom of a writer at the Powerlineblog.com who said that the media is doing everything possible to elect Kerry. Yes, they are doing everything possible, including deluding themselves, as CBS did with the obviously forged National Guard memos.
But the truth remains that Bush won the country in this last debate and had the sense to close by explicitly asking for the viewers' votes. The aloof leftist windbag does not ask for votes. Bush will win this election. If I am wrong and Kerry wins, then it will be a sign of a nation embracing defeatism and its own decline. Few national figures inspire less confidence as a leader--especially as a wartime leader--than John Kerry.
Kerry's tired platitudes, nuance, and ambiguities are a recipe for national drift. The only thing Kerry believes with conviction is that he is specially entitled to the presidency. A nation that falls for this con is a nation that has lost its nerve, as other now defunct civilizations at one time lost their nerve and their will to survive.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004The Problem with American Unions
Early in his pontificate, John Paul II issued the Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens ("Exerting Labor") on human work in which he discussed the appropriate role of labor unions:
[U]nion activity undoubtedly enters the field of politics, understood as prudent concern for the common good. However, the role of unions is not to "play politics" in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or have too close links with them. In fact, in such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes.
John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens, Para. 20.5, Sept. 14, 1981, available at this link (original emphasis).
For the Pope, the purpose of union participation in politics is "prudent concern for the common good." He also decries too close an association between unions and political parties which endangers this moral purpose.
Anyone familiar with American unions can see how far our unions are from the Pope's aspirations. The largest union federation, the AFL-CIO, is for all practical purposes an arm of the Democratic Party. The links could not be closer. Most other unions also automatically toe the Democratic party line. You will see all of these links in living color in the closing weeks of this election. Thus, most American unions have already compromised their true mission.
Even worse, the party that they have chosen to support and labor for is the party that denies the foundational right to life. So we have the spectacle of the overwhelming majority of unions in lockstep with a party whose anti-life stands make it utterly hostile to the common good. American unions are not advancing the common good in this election. They are attacking the common good. That is the harsh reality.
Where I live, union sentiment is still strong. The auto unions vociferously want consumers to buy their American-made cars. But can't a Catholic consumer retort with a logical and perfectly appropriate challenge? The Catholic consumer can say that when the automobile worker unions stop their puppet-like endorsements of pro-abortion candidates, then and only then will he go out of his way to give extra consideration to the union-made product.
It's a fair and common sense challenge, and it shows how much goodwill unions have lost by abandoning the common good. A union that rejects the common good makes itself a morally irrelevant enterprise. Loyalty to the common good breeds good will. Unions that attack the common good by laboring for the anti-life agenda earn indifference, if not outright hostility. Let them exert their labor in a better cause.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004Beware of Zogby Tracking Poll
I am certainly not a polling expert; but, when I see the Zogby tracking poll, I assume it underpolls Bush support. So when the latest Zogby tracking poll shows the two major candidates tied, I assume Bush has at least a two to three point lead.
But don't take my word for it. A pollster with Democratic connections has a blog on the intricacies of polling called the "Mystery Pollster," and he also believes that Zogby underpolls Bush support. One interesting piece of information found in this blog is that Zogby weighs his samples by party as follows: 39% Democrat, 35% Republican, and 26% Independent.
To me, the 39% figure for Democrats seems too high based on other polling data I have seen. The "Mystery Pollster" writer has reservations about Zogby's practice of weighing all his current samples by these party percentages which are taken from exit polls dating from the 2000 election.
In sum, take Zogby with a grain of salt. But, on the other hand, if Zogby shows Bush leading, you can probably take it to the bank.
Catholics Take Center Stage
Blogging gets easier when you have loyal readers who regularly keep you apprised of noteworthy articles. A frequent helper in this regard, who hails from Rhode Island, sent me these two links to N.Y. Times stories from Oct. 11th on Catholics and the election. The first link is a pro-Kerry op-ed by the dean of liberal arts at Notre Dame University, a university that has outlived its graceful name and should be accurately known today as "Notre Traître"-- Our Betrayer.
The second link is to a great article on the efforts of bishops like Archbishop Chaput of Denver to make clear to Catholics that a vote for Kerry is totally inconsistent with the Catholic faith. A vote for Kerry may be consistent with being left-wing or liberal, but it is not consistent with being Catholic. One blogger at National Review.com and my Rhode Island news source focused on this great line by Archbishop Chaput responding to those who falsely accuse him and other like-minded bishops of being in thrall to the Republicans:
N.Y. Times, Oct. 11, 2004, available at this link (emphasis added).
The false accusation against Chaput is typical of the obtuse liberal mentality, made even more obtuse by the irrational demonization of President Bush. The fallacy is always to evade the fundamental moral issue and absurdly claim that you can't oppose evil because the Republican Party is also opposing the same evil.
This knuckle head argument is what passes for liberal outreach to Catholics. The old logic textbooks label such an illogical argument a non sequitur, meaning "it does not follow." It appears that Notre Dame no longer emphasizes such clear-cut logical analysis and prefers smoke and mirrors.
But many Catholics outside politically correct ivory towers will exercise their common sense on Nov. 2nd and welcome all allies--Republican, Muslim, Jewish, evangelical Protestants, even enlightened pro-life liberals--in the fight for life. One major party chooses to be pro-life. We are delighted to have the chance to support that party, the party of Lincoln, as long as it remains pro-life.
Monday, October 11, 2004Stoking the Base
Given that I have written today on the importance of voter turnout, I feel compelled to share this e-mail forwarded by Frank Joseph, M.D. I have edited only the breaks between paragraphs. The story matches what others have observed about President Bush. This story is the type of thing that increases turnout and gets the base excited about voting:
Subject: GOD BLESS OUR PRESIDENT...AMEN! A MUST READ! Date: 10/9/2004 3:03:22 PM Pacific Standard Time From: PEACELADYDV2
This is not meant to be political and if Presidents' Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Johnson, or Kennedy did what this president did, then I would appreciate someone for letting me know.The full story can be found at:http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/v/vincent.htm but I will give you the part that made me feel good about living in the United States of America----Your friend--Sam Dodge
Story by: Bruce Vincent
Stepping into the Oval Office, each of us was introduced to the President and Mrs. Bush. We shook hands and participated in small talk. When the President was told that we were from Libby, Montana, I reminded him that Marc Racicot is our native son and the President offered his warm thoughts about Governor Racicot.
I have to tell you, I was blown away by two things upon entering the office. First, the Oval Office sense of 'place' is unreal. The President later shared a story of Russian President Putin entering the room prepared to tackle the President in a tough negotiation and upon entering the atheist muttered his first words to the President and they were "Oh, my God."
I could feel the history in my bones. Second, the man that inhabits the office engaged me with a firm handshake and a look that can only be described as penetrating. Warm, alive, fully engaged, disarmingly penetrating. I was admittedly concerned about meeting the man I think all of us have an inner hope that the most powerful man in our country is worthy of the responsibility and authority that we bestow upon them through our vote. I admit that part of me was afraid that I would be let down by the moment -- that the person and the place could not meet the lofty expectations of my fantasy world. This says nothing about my esteem for President Bush but just my practical realization that reality may not match my 'dream.'
Once inside the office, President Bush got right down to business and, standing in front of his desk, handed out the awards one at a time while posing for photos with the winners and Mrs. Bush. With the mission accomplished, the President and Mrs. Bush relaxed and initiated a lengthy, informal conversation about a number of things withour entire small group. He and the First Lady talked about such things as the rug in the office. It is traditionally designed by the First Lady to make a statement about the President, and Mrs. Bush chose a brilliant yellow sunburst pattern to reflect 'hope.'
President Bush talked about the absolute need to believe that with hard work and faith in God there is every reason to start each day in the Oval Office with hope. He and the First Lady were asked about the impact of the Presidency on their marriage and, with an arm casually wrapped around Laura, he said that he thought the place may be hard on weak marriages but that it had the ability to make strong marriages even stronger and that he wasblessed with a strong one.
After about 30 or 35 minutes, it was time to go. By then we were all relaxed and I felt as if I had just had an excellent visit with a friend.The President and First Lady made one more pass down the line of awardees, shaking hands and offering congratulations. When the President shook my hand I said, "Thank you Mr. President and God bless you and your family." He was already in motion to the next person in line, but he stopped abruptly, turned fully back to me, gave me a piercing look, renewed the vigor of his handshake and said, "Thank you and God bless you and yours as well."
On our way out of the office we were to leave by the glass doors on the west side of the office. I was the last person in the exit line. As I shook his hand one final time, President Bush said, "I'll be sure to tell Marc hello and give him your regards." I then did something that surprised even me. I said to him, "Mr. President, I know you are a busy man and your time is precious. I also know you to be a man of strong faith and have a favor to ask you." As he shook my hand he looked me in the eye and said, "Just name it." I told him that my step-Mom was at that moment in a hospital in Kalispell, Montana, having a tumor removed from her skull and it would mean a great deal to me if he would consider adding her to his prayers that day.
He grabbed me by the arm and took me back toward his desk as he said, "So that's it. I could tell that something is weighing heavy on your heart today. I could see it in your eyes. This explains it." From the top drawer of his desk he retrieved a pen and a note card with his seal on it and asked, "How do you spell her name?" He then jotted a note to her while discussing the importance of family and the strength of prayer. When he handed me the card, he asked about the surgery and the prognosis. I told him we were hoping that it is not a recurrence of an earlier cancer and that if it is they can get it all with this surgery. He said, "If it's okay with you, we'll take care of the prayer right now. Would you pray with me?"I told him yes and he turned to the staff that remained in the office and hand motioned the folks to step back or leave. He said, "Bruce and I would like some private time for a prayer."
As they left he turned back to me and took my hands in his.I was prepared to do a traditional prayer stance -- standing with each other with heads bowed. Instead, he reached for my head with his right hand and pulling gently forward, he placed my head on his shoulder. With his left arm on my mid back, he pulled me to him in a prayerful embrace. He started to pray softly. I started to cry. He continued his prayer for Loretta and for God's perfect will to be done. I cried some more. My body shook a bit as I cried and he just held tighter. He closed by asking God's blessing on Loretta and the family during the coming months. I stepped away from our embrace, wiped my eyes, swiped at the tears I'd left on his shoulder, and looked into the eyes of our President. I thanked him as best I could and told him that me and my family would continue praying for he and his.As I write this account down and reflect upon what it means, I have to tell you that all I really know is that his simple act left me humbled and believing.
I so hoped that the man I thought him to be was the man that he is. I know that our nation needs a man such as this in the Oval Office. George W. Bush is the real deal. I've read Internet stories about the President praying with troops in hospitals and other such uplifting accounts. Each time I read them I hope them to be true and not a Internet perpetuated myth. This one, I know to be true. I was there. He is real. He has a pile of incredible stuff on his plate each day -- and yet he is tuned in so well to the here and now that he 'sensed' something heavy on my heart. He took time out of his life to care, to share, and to seek God's blessing for my family in a simple man-to-man, father-to-father, son-to-son, husband-to-husband, Christian-to-Christian prayerful embrace.
He's not what I had hoped he would be. He is, in fact, so very, very much more.
Turnout, Turnout, Turnout
Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report has an article arguing that the outcome of the election will depend on which side does a better job of turning out its voters. Barone has good credibility. He is principal co-author of the Almanac of American Politics and thus has deep knowledge of the political scene. He is not like MSNBC's Ron Reagan Jr. who obviously has precious little knowledge about what he compulsively editorializes about on TV.
If Barone is right, then the efforts of individuals really do matter. Encouraging a relative or friend to go to the polls, passing out a brochure at church emphasizing the importance of life issues, putting up a lawn sign are all things that can make the difference. Remember how close it was last time. The Florida margin was 537 votes. Several other states also had very close margins in 2000.
The media has a predictable tendency to underestimate the resonance of the stands of those who are pro-life, who oppose embryonic stem cell research, and who oppose gay marriage. The mainstream media underestimates the popularity of these positions because for most of the media these issues are settled. For the liberal media, it is self-evident that, of course, abortion must remain legal, that, of course, stem cell research should have no limits, and that, of course, gay marriage is long overdue.
But as we saw in the last debate, not all voters follow that line. A lot of us care deeply about those issues, more than we care about disputes concerning taxes or healthcare or even Iraq. The shape of the country we inhabit is more at stake on these social issues than on the other issues discussed in the election. Only the terror war issue comes close because it is a matter of physical survival. But on the terror war issue, it is crystal clear to most voters that only Bush has the strength of character to protect us.
On Election Day, voters have to have a reason to turnout. We have plenty. The progress of a Culture of Life is at stake. The privileged cultural role of true marriage is at stake. The very survival of the nation in the face of terrorists is at stake. So don't be shy about taking that extra step to encourage someone to vote. This is not a time for hesitation or inhibition.
Sunday, October 10, 200428th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19
Do we realize when we are healed? That is a startling question to ask, but it is one of many questions raised by today's Gospel. Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one, a foreigner at that, returns to thank him. Jesus then performs a second sign: he declares the thankful Samaritan saved by declaring "your faith has saved you." The Samaritan leper's return to the source of his healing leads to his salvation by faith.
In 2 Kings, another foreigner, Naaman, is healed of leprosy, and he too shows gratitude to God with his pledge to honor only the Lord and not other gods. Naaman's flesh "became again like the flesh of a little child."
The transformation of Naaman's flesh brings to mind the resurrection of the body. In 2nd Timothy, Paul preaches Jesus Christ "raised from the dead" and declares that those who die with Christ and persevere in following Christ will "also live with him" and "also reign with him." Paul closes with a puzzling sentence: "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."
But the sentence is not so puzzling if we focus on the grateful Samaritan leper. Even the ungrateful or "unfaithful" nine other lepers were healed of the living death of leprosy--Christ remained faithful to his healing. But Christ was also ready to declare them saved just as he declared the Samaritan saved. Christ was faithful, but the other nine lepers were not. The other nine lepers did not acknowledge the source of their healing. They went on their own way.
We are like those nine other lepers. We in fact receive blessings and healings from Jesus on a frequent basis. But we may attribute those healings or blessings to our own efforts, planning, or calculation. Some, even in this skeptical age, still attribute them to their horoscopes! Some may attribute their blessings to performing some religious ritual without focusing on the free gifts given by Christ. We miss the boat on many occasions and get our real situation all wrong.
If we realize the real source of our healings and blessings, we can come back to the real source for even greater healing and blessing, just as the grateful Samaritan did. Otherwise, our healing, however real, misses the opportunity and invitation of greater healing.