Monday, February 27, 2012

The March for Life, evangelicals, and the pro-life cause

Last summer, my wife and I both got airline vouchers while traveling to see family, and I got the idea to use mine to travel to Washington DC and take part in the annual March for Life. It was very inspiring and only further convinced me that I need to do more for the pro-life cause (notice my new Pro-Life tab and that five of my six posts related to abortion so far on this blog, including this one, have been published since the march).

There's a lot that I could say about what the March for Life was like, but there was one thing that was very, very striking: everyone there was Catholic.

I don't mean among the speakers: among those that spoke at the rallies/events there were Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews, in addition to many who didn't identify their religion. In fact, probably the most rousing, passionate speaker at the rally immediately before the march was an african-american protestant preacher.

But in the crowd - which was several hundred thousand people - it appeared as though almost every single person there was Catholic, and I'm not exaggerating. Every single thing (with one exception, explained below) that I saw that identified a group or a person's religion was Catholic: Knights of Columbus signs, hats or sweatshirts with the name of a diocese or parish, buses with the names of Catholic schools on the side, banners representing Catholic universities; people holding rosaries, crucifixes, or images of our Blessed Mother; more priests in collars and monks and religious sisters in habits than I've ever seen before in my life. And it's not like there weren't many things around that identified a person's religion; the crowd was saturated with these things.

Among the tables in the March for Life exhibit hall, most of the organizations were overtly Catholic, with some of the tables being manned by monks or religious sisters, and some selling icons, rosaries, and other Catholic things; and many of the people working at the tables that I spoke to were Catholic (some of whom were converts to Catholicism like myself). None were overtly identifiable as being related to another Christian denomination or religion that I can remember.

The rally before the march; one can see signs
for Knights of Columbus, St Jude Catholic
School, Holy Sepulcher Parish,
and the Archdiocese of Hartford, et al.
In addition, because I traveled there by myself, I talked to a lot of random people that weekend who were also in Washington DC for the march: in my youth hostel, in museums, and at various events connected to the march, even on my plane ride home. Every single person I spoke to who was there for the march was Catholic. In my youth hostel, I spoke to a few people who were there with a big group from the Catholic ministry at the University of Kansas, and one of them mentioned that, while the trip was organized by the Catholic ministry, a couple protestants had come with them. That's the closest I got to any indication that there were any protestants in the crowd at the march at all.

Am I exaggerating when I say that every single mark of religion was Catholic? Ok, I admit it, there was one exception: I saw one person holding a Jewish pro-life sign in the crowd at the march. But that's it (and I'm not exaggerating here).

And I looked, too. Since I was there by myself, I could move freely throughout the crowd to get a bigger perspective of who was there. When it became obvious that every hat, sweatshirt, bus, sign, and banner that I had seen so far was Catholic, I spent the rest of the rally and march actively looking for any marker of other religions or Christian denominations. The one Jewish sign is the only thing I could find (this of course does not prove no other signs existed).

As I've been slowly delving further into the pro-life movement in the last year or so, it has certainly come to appear as though the majority of the people in involved are Catholic (please feel free to correct me on this in the comments).

The main pro-life activist organization in the Twin Cities near where I live is run by a Catholic, and once when I heard him describe the organization, he indicated that, although the organization is non-denominational, something like 75% of the people involved are Catholic. The big ecumenical prayer service in the Twin Cities held on the anniversary of Roe v Wade every year is held in the Cathedral of St Paul (granted, it's a big space and just down the street from the state capital where they do a march afterwards).

A local ecumenical prayer service (for those who can't drive down to the Twin Cities) on the same day is run by one of our parishioners. Our local Life Chain event is also run by one of our parishioners. My wife recently started volunteering at a local Birthright office after being encouraged to get involved by one of our parishioners, and she has often commented at how many of the volunteers are from our parish.

UnPlanned, by Abby Johnson
Many prominent pro-life leaders are Catholic: Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life; Lila Rose, founder of Live Action (convert to Catholicism); Abby Johnson, pro-life speaker and author of UnPlanned (convert to Catholicism); Bryan Kemper, founder of Stand True Ministries (convert to Catholicism); Joseph Scheidler, the national director of Pro-Life Action League; Fr Frank Pavone, national director of Gospel of Life MinistriesTheresa Karminski Burke, founder of Rachel's Vineyard; Mary Ann Kuharski, director of Pro-Life Across America: "The Billboard People"; John-Henry Weston, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Life Site News; and the late Bernard Nathanson (convert to Catholicism); and many, many more.

Were there Christians of other denominations, people of other religions, and even people of no religion at all at the march? I'm sure there were (it was a big crowd). And there are of course many evangelicals, and other non-Catholics, who have fought the evil of abortion courageously, and I do not mean to diminish their work and sacrifice. Neither do I mean to imply that because the pro-life movement seems to consist primarily of Catholics that therefore Catholicism is the one true religion.

But I do mean to offer a challenge to my evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ: where were you? It was my first time at the march, and so I could be asking myself a similar question: where was I before?

I can honestly say that becoming Catholic has brought the pro-life cause much more into my view. At the baptist church I went to with my family in high school and at the evangelical school Wheaton College that I attended for undergrad, many people I knew would have said that they were pro-life, and I knew a few people who were very passionately pro-life and involved in pro-life activities. But frankly, compared to how often abortion has been brought up to me since being in Catholic circles, there wasn't much going on.

And when it's brought up in Catholic circles, it's different too, since the belief that abortion is a very grave moral evil that must be stopped has been a very prominent, clear, authoritative teaching of the Church. In other words, if one wants to take being Catholic seriously, one has to take abortion seriously.

The Holy Family
Of course, it's a great scandal that there are many Catholics that don't take abortion seriously (or even fight for abortion), but in my experience such people tend to not take Church teaching seriously in general (e.g. contraception, womenpriests, homosexual acts, true ecumenism, evangelism, etc), practicing instead a form of cafeteria Catholicism. If a person actually believes Catholic teaching, it's impossible for abortion not to be a very big problem for them.

And so I encourage my evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ to more fully mobilize their great passion, creativity, and resources for the pro-life cause, and I thank those evangelicals who have long been in the trenches. I also exhort my fellow Catholics, that more of us would join in the pro-life cause and that we would better keep our fellow Catholics accountable. Together, we can finally abolish abortion and build a culture of life.

---------------------------------
Below is a great video of young people at the March for Life 2012 explaining why they are pro-life; produced by the BadCatholic Marc Barnes

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The US Catholic Bishops were the real enemy - in 1968

Bernard Nathanson
So I just started reading Bernard Nathanson's famous 1979 book Aborting America. I admit I'm not done reading it yet, but I've already come across some passages regarding how the pro-abortion movement viewed the Catholic Church that are so interesting (though unsurprising) I thought I'd share them right away.

First, if you are unfamiliar with the amazing story of Bernard Nathanson (1926-2011), you'll need some background:

In the 1969, Bernard Nathanson, an OB/GYN doctor, helped co-found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America) with Larry Lader. They organized lobbying and demonstrations for the repeal of all restrictions on abortions, as well as worked to exploit loopholes in the current laws to expand access to abortion. Bernard Nathanson himself performed abortions and even developed new abortion techniques and, from 1971-1972, was the director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health in New York, which at the time was the largest abortion clinic in the world.

In the early 1970s, however, with the advancement of ultrasound technology, Bernard Nathanson's pro-abortion thinking was challenged. In 1974, he wrote a piece for the New England Journal of Medicine called "Deeper into Abortion" in which he explained: "I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths"

In 1975, Bernard Nathanson resigned from NARAL and became a leading pro-life advocate. And in 1979, he published Aborting America, in which he explained the pro-abortion movement from the inside and why he changed his mind.

Though he eventually joined the Catholic Church at the age of 70 in 1996, Bernard Nathanson was a self-identified atheist when he published Aborting America in 1979, which he explains towards the beginning of the book:
I have never entered a synagogue again since [my Bar Mitzvah], nor, may I add, any other house of worship. My father undermined religiosity in me so continually and so artfully that I was left with nothing to believe in. Consequently, I am not only a convinced atheist but have never been particularly interested in organized religion. It is fair to say that my opinions about abortion - or anything else - have never been influenced in the slightest by the empires of faith (pg. 6)
Now for the part about the Catholic Church; I'll let the passages speak for themselves.

Before co-founding NARAL together, Bernard Nathanson and Larry Lader spent months meeting together to discuss ideas of how to repeal abortion laws. In this excerpt from his book Aborting America (published 1979), Nathanson describes one conversation they had in 1968 while driving home from a short trip with their two families:
Then Larry brought out his favorite whipping-boy. 
"...and the other thing we've got to do is bring the Catholic hierarchy out where we can fight them. That's the real enemy. The biggest single obstacle to peace and decency throughout all of history." 
He held forth on that theme through most of the drive home. It was a comprehensive and chilling indictment of the poisonous influence of Catholicism in secular affairs from its inception until the day before yesterday. I was far from an admirer of the church's role in the world chronicle, but his insistent, uncompromising recitation brought to mind the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It passed through my mind that if one had substituted "Jewish" for "Catholic," it would have been the most vicious anti-Semitic tirade imaginable. I attempted a mild remonstrance. 
"But, Larry, the Catholic Church isn't all bad. Don't forget that among other things they did more or less keep the intellectual world together in the Dark Ages." 
Even his wife, Joan, a diminutive Scotswoman with a sense of humor and booming laugh, joined me in temperate dissent, and this distaff resistance seemed to annoy him unreasonably: 
"Now honey, please. Let's not regress. I think you and I have covered that subject pretty thoroughly before, so no backsliding if you don't mind." She subsided, but I was still alive. 
"Well, Larry, what do you think? Is the Catholic hierarchy identical with the anti-abortion forces? Aren't there any others opposed to abortion?" As I nosed the car into the Lincoln Tunnel traffic, he set the intellectual tone for the next eight years with a single word. 
"No." (pg. 33)
Nathanson describes another conservation that he and Lader had early on in the strategic planning for the newly formed NARAL:
...Larry read me my last basic lesson in the political primer. 
"Historically," he said after the usual throat-clearing ceremony, "every revolution has to have its villain. It doesn't really matter whether it's a king, a dictator, or a tsar, but it has to be someone, a person, to rebel against. It's easier for the people we want to persuade to perceive it this way." I conceded that. It was good tactical strategy. "Now, in our case, it makes little sense to lead a campaign only against unjust laws, even though that's what we really are doing. We have to narrow the focus, identify those unjust laws with a person or a group of people. A single person isn't quite what we want, since that might excite sympathy for him. Rather, a small group of shadowy, powerful people. Too large a group would diffuse the focus, don't you see?" 
I nodded. Where was he going? 
"There's always been one group of people in this country associated with reactionary politics, behind-the-scenes manipulation, socially backward ideas. You know who I mean, Bernie." 
Not the Catholics again? 
"Well, yes and no." Throat-clearing again. A heavy thought coming. And I wasn't wrong. It was his devil theory. 
"Not just all Catholics. First of all, that's too large a group, and for us to vilify them all would diffuse our focus. Secondly, we have to convince liberal Catholics to join us, a popular front as it were, and if we tar them all with the same brush, we'll just antagonize a few who might otherwise have joined us and be valuable show-pieces for us. No, it's got to be the Catholic hierarchy. That's a small enough group to cone [sic] down on, and anonymous enough so that no names ever have to be mentioned, but everybody will have a fairly good idea whom we are talking about." 
His syntax was as careful and as surgical as his daily shave. It was irrefutable. The only thing that was a little jarring, even to my untutored mind, was that the original nineteenth-century laws in New York and elsewhere had been placed on the books mostly by doctors when there were few Catholic around. I raised that question, hesitantly. 
"Bernie, we're talking politics now. Watch and see how respectful of facts the opposition will be once our campaign gets going. Just listen to the opposition." 
[...]  For their part, of course, the Catholic bishops were to play right into our hands, by their heavy-handed politicking, making abortion appear to be purely a "Catholic issue" rather than an interreligious one. They also weakened the credibility of the anti-abortion forces because of their unflinching opposition to the major alternatives to abortion: artificial birth control and voluntary sterilization. (pg. 51-52)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

HHS Mandates Rhetoric: Wading Through the Nonsense

The recent (and continuing) HHS mandate controversy has generated a great deal of nonsense, some to which I've felt compelled to respond, either due to its inaccuracy or lack of respect for the Catholic Church:

NY Times Gets It Wrong

Following Obama's offer for an accommodation for religious objections to the new HHS mandates on February 10th, the NY Times editor wrote that the whole uproar over the HHS mandates was "a phony crisis over 'religious liberty' engendered by the right".

No doubt, many Republican lawmakers who otherwise couldn't care less about the religious liberty of Catholics have, in just the last few weeks, picked up the cause only as a weapon to attack Obama. (And frankly, I've been very disappointed to see that something as fundamental as protecting religious liberty has fallen along partisan lines among politicians.)

But to say that the US bishops, along with many leaders of other religions, many of whom have come from across the political spectrum, who have been fighting the HHS mandates for the last six months (yes, the rules were first issued in August of last year, and were opposed immediately) are really just a part of some Republican conspiracy is so absurd that it would be comical if it wasn't so insulting. Because these claims are obviously false, the NY Times has shown itself to be either embarrassingly ignorant of the most basic details of one of the biggest stories of the year or to be purposefully misleading people.

In addition, the phrase "religious liberty" is in scare quotes, as though it is a euphemism invented and used only by those who were against the HHS mandates. Such mocking of the first and most important right in our Bill of Rights from supposedly one of what our country's foremost newspapers is itself greatly disconcerting.

The NY Times editor also wrote:
[I]t was dismaying to see the president lend any credence to the misbegotten notion that providing access to contraceptives violated the freedom of any religious institution. Churches are given complete freedom by the Constitution to preach that birth control is immoral, but they have not been given the right to laws that would deprive their followers or employees of the right to disagree with that teaching.
The controversy is not about access to contraception but about who will be paying for it. Also, no one has asked for "laws that would deprive their followers or employees of the right to disagree with that teaching" - so not only is this a red herring, but it implies that someone has asked for such laws, which is false and therefore misleading.

But what's most disturbing here is that the editor has decided to collapse religious freedom into the freedom of speech. While the two freedoms are of course linked, they are distinct in our Bill of Rights and certainly very distinct in application. The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech..." The free exercise of religion is far more than being able to say what your religion teaches; it also includes being able to actually do what your religion teaches - which includes being able to do something as basic as run an organization with employees without being forced to violate your religion.

Playing Divide & Conquer Against the Church

In a headline on its website, CNN referred to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a "Catholic group". I'm afraid the USCCB is not just some Catholic group but is the conference of the US bishops.

Quick lesson about the largest religion in the US and in the world: In the Catholic Church, bishops are successors of the Apostles, represent Jesus Himself to their flock, and are the teaching, sacramental, and governing head of their diocese. The Catholic Church isn't like an ethnic or cultural group that only has unofficial leaders insofar as they represent the beliefs or values of the group; the Catholic Church is a real institution with legitimate, ordained leaders who rightfully teach, guide, and govern their flock. To use an example, Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, may be an influential Catholic layperson, but the bishops are the rightful leaders and representatives of the Catholic religion.

Washington Post columnist E.J.Dionne, a self identified "liberal Catholic", made the same error in a recent column: "Some conservative Catholics still insist that the relief from regulation that Obama offered is not enough." Left out, or at least not given any sort of special mention among those who have rejected Obama's offer, are the ones whose judgement matters most in the matter, the bishops - who, given that their teaching on a wide range of issues that does not comport fully with either the Democratic or Republican party, cannot be seriously boxed in as politically conservative.

Referring to the USCCB as just another Catholic group attempts to undermine the authority of the bishops in the Church and thereby divide the Catholic bishops from the Catholic faithful.

Another attempt to divide Catholic faithful from their bishops was evident in the frequent use by the White House and the news media of a statistic that claimed that 98% of Catholic women use contraception. Aside from the fact that the statistic is bogus (although it's undeniable that many Catholics do break this particular teaching of the Church), and aside from the fact that most of the Church's moral teachings are broken at some point or another by most people (e.g. how many Catholics have lied before or have not seriously put into practice the Church's teaching concerning the poor?), and aside from the fact that the whole purpose of moral teaching is to make us better people - not to give affirmation that however we happen to be living already is just fine - its rhetorical use is clear: since so many laypeople don't listen to the bishops, the bishops can be sidelined.

Archbishop of NY Timothy Dolan,
also President of the USCCB
It was also apparent that such a political strategy was behind the fact that Obama secured support for his proposed accommodation from Catholic laypeople like Sister Carol Keehan and columnist E.J. Dionne before his announcement, while he only called Archbishop Timothy Dolan (president of the USCCB) the morning of the announcement to tell him that the announcement of an "accommodation" was coming, along with a little description of what the "accommodation" would be. The US Catholic bishops were given so few details before what was supposed to be an accommodation of their own Church was publicly announced that the initial press release of the USCCB after the announcement quoted Archbishop Timothy Dolan as saying: "While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them." Several hours later, the USCCB issued a more thorough press release that rejected Obama's proposed accommodation, but it still noted: "We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral." It's clear that Obama was not intending to engage with the bishops.

Phil Lawler over at CatholicCulture.org also came to the same conclusion:
Now that Sister Keehan has endorsed the Obama “compromise” (along with Father Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities USA), the Obama administration can claim that many Catholics, including some who had originally opposed the plan, now see the wisdom of his ways. President Obama does not intend to persuade the American bishops to support his proposal; he intends to siphon off support for the bishops among American Catholic voters, driving a political wedge further into the country’s Catholic community.
No doubt, many Catholic faithful in the US openly and regularly dissent from their bishops as well as from the Pope - a sad testament to the state of the Church here in the US. But to exploit internal divisions in the Church for political gain is low.

The Rhetoric of Confusion

Also notice below the CNN headline that Obama's offer is referred to as "Obama's compromise", not as the "offer" that it really was. Many other news agencies reported Obama's offer in a similar fashion (e.g. Reuters: "Obama's compromise sought to accommodate religious organizations") Calling it a "compromise" implies that the parties with whom Obama had the disagreement have accepted it, even though the very article in which the phrase is being used is about how the US bishops have rejected it.

In other words, a compromise is a compromise only if both sides accept it as such. One side cannot declare something to be a compromise if the other side hasn't responded, much less if the other side has rejected the deal. To say that the deal is a compromise in such circumstances is a rhetorical tool to get the public to think that the controversy is over and that therefore any continued protest is unreasonable. It's like a politician publicly declaring victory in an election before the results are conclusive: it serves only to confuse and manipulate for one's own political advantage, not to accurately describe the situation. Of course, Obama used the word "accommodation", but the same problem remains: an accommodation is an accommodation only if the other side considers it to be an accommodation.

Although the bishops had led the charge against the HHS mandates and are the rightful leaders and representatives of the Catholic Church, Obama's offer was labeled a "compromise" and an "accommodation" before the bishops even had the details of what the offer was.

Other Nonsense

In a piece entitled "Catholic church demanding yet another financial advantage", Mario Salazar over at the Washington Times trotted out the old stereotype that the Catholic Church is really just in it for the money, and that in this case the Catholic Church is just trying to save a few bucks by not covering abortifacient drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraception.

Amanda Marcotte over at Slate's "XX Factor" section, a section that has the subtitle "What Women Really Think", wrote that the controversy has simply been "two solid weeks of Republicans rapidly escalating attacks on contraception access" that's been "all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty". Again, as with the NY Times, she's either woefully ignorant or being intentionally deceitful of who has been fighting the HHS mandates (primarily religious leaders, led mostly by the US bishops - not Republican lawmakers), what the real concerns have been (yes, religious freedom is the primary concern), and how long it's been going on (6 months not 2 weeks).

The Bishops' Response

The USCCB explains why they have rejected Obama's proposed accommodation, in their press release responding to Obama's announcement of his proposed accommodation

The USCCB's Conscience Protection webpage

Currently, there is a great video on the homepage of the USCCB website of Archbishop Timothy Dolan responding to the White House

Other Responses

A letter rejecting Obama's proposed accommodation that's being circulated and signed by university professors, university presidents, and journalists (signed by 118 at my last count)

Obama to Face Lawsuit From Attorneys General Over Mandate

Several evangelical leaders reject Obama's "accommodation" as still not enough

An analysis of Obama's proposed accommodation: "President Obama, the Right Not to Do Wrong, and the Politics of Ruse and Delay"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The mealtime prayer to end abortion that's going to take over the world

I just wanted to share something small that our family has been doing for a little while now.

Before every meal, after thanking God for the food, we add this short prayer:
We pray for an end to all threats to human life and dignity, especially abortion.
That's it. Pretty simple. This has been a great habit for us for a few reasons:

First, it keeps us praying for an end to abortion, and all other attacks to human life and dignity, every day, several times a day.

Second, in our every day life we do not actually see these injustices occurring, so the prayer serves as a reminder to us that these injustices exist.

Third, it encourages us to do something to correct these injustices.

If you think it's a good idea, start doing it yourself, and then pass it on to your friends. Just imagine what could happen if every Christian in the country added this to their mealtime prayers...

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm 24 today & I'm an abortion survivor (with my baby pictures!)

"The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." - Margaret Sanger, founder of the American Birth Control League which is now known as Planned Parenthood, in her 1922 book Woman and the New Race [Source]
My parents never considered it, not even for a second.

But our family's pediatrician recommended it, "You're almost forty and already have four kids, maybe you should terminate this one."

My mother, a devout protestant Christian from her childhood, was shocked and upset, but thankfully unfazed: "Umm no, I plan on keeping him." When she recounted the story back at home, my 13 year old brother echoed my mother's sentiment, "Don't kill our baby."

I'm the baby there, with my parents
Lloyd and Karen, and my siblings
Lisa, Eric, Jeff, and Colleen
My mom was 39 soon to be 40, my dad was 44, they already had four children - one of which was starting her senior year of high school and wanting to go to college soon after that - and they hadn't had a new baby for six years.

In addition, it was 1987, the stock market had plummeted, and since my father was a financial adviser, my family's income had plummeted with it. My mother also worked part-time as a nurse at our local hospital, and I've been told that, on our way out of the hospital after I had been born, my mother picked up her paycheck and deposited it in the bank on the drive home - and that it was all the money my parents had in their bank account at that time.

But I wasn't an accident. Though my parents were protestant and were never taught to have any reservations about contraception, my mother's conscience had told her early on in her marriage that it wasn't right. And though she tried the Pill for the first six months of her marriage to my dad (and stopped because of the way that it affected her emotionally), from then on she felt compelled to be open to as many children as God gave her. She's since told me, "I felt it was wrong to waste the Millegan seed".

The pediatrician had been a great doctor for our family, but my parents didn't know if he could be my doctor since he had recommended that I be killed. My mother mentioned her concern to another doctor in his office, who relayed her concern to him. The pediatrician, who was an otherwise very nice man, met with my mother and apologized, and my parents decided to stay with him.

Many of my peers weren't so lucky. The same year I was born, 1988, 26% of pregnancies in the US ended in abortion: 1,371,285 of my future classmates were killed by their parents instead of lovingly accepted as I was (the 4th highest number of abortions in one year in US history, surpassed only in 1989, 1990, & 1991; 1990 had the highest number). [Sources: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991]

Me, my next older sibling
Colleen, and my younger
brother Patrick
Not only did my parents lovingly and generously accept me, they went on to give me a younger brother two and half years later!

Needless to say, the pediatrician didn't bring up abortion this time (though one of our relatives reacted negatively, "Now that's too many"). He continued to be our family doctor for the rest of my childhood and was a very caring, patient, and warm person (and helped me personally through some serious problems in middle and high school).

So today, on my 24th birthday, I thank my parents. In our culture of death where the most weak and vulnerable human life is disposable, children are a liability and an inconvenience, and where a quick fix is safe, legal, but sadly very common, I thank my parents for their generosity, open arms, and ceaseless love to me and all of my siblings. I thank my parents for trusting God and always putting the needs of their children ahead of their own. I thank my parents for giving me the gift of life.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Friday, February 3, 2012

I'm tired of religious people serving the poor

Regarding all of the HHS mandates hub-bub, Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones had this to say:
I'm just a big ol' secular lefty, so I guess it's natural that I'd disagree [with the Catholic Church]. And I do. I guess I'm tired of religious groups operating secular enterprises (hospitals, schools), hiring people of multiple faiths, serving the general public, taking taxpayer dollars — and then claiming that deeply held religious beliefs should exempt them from public policy.
So Kevin Drum is upset - in fact he says he's tired of it - that Catholics have opened hospitals and schools to serve all people regardless of religion and that they have been willing to work with people of all faiths. (He also mentions "taking taxpayer dollars", but he's wrong: the HHS mandates apply to all organizations whether they accept federal money or not. For more, see my NOTE at the end.)

...I guess I'm looking for the bad part there. Isn't it an incredibly good thing that Catholics have been voluntarily serving our communities, and that they will join with people of all faiths?

Dorothy Day meets Mother Teresa;
Kevin Drum is tired of people like them
How many times have I heard non-Christians complain that Christians don't practice what they preach, or that they're too close-minded, or need to recognize that non-Christians can be good too, etc? The Catholic Church for centuries has been voluntarily setting up privately operated hospitals, schools, and charitable organizations that will serve anyone, has been voluntarily willing to hire and work with non-Catholics who wish to join in the Catholic organization's mission and who voluntarily choose to work for them, and has been serving anyone in the community who wants to benefit from their services.

And Kevin Drum is tired of it!

When I was growing up, even though we were not Catholic (we were Protestant), and even though they had to pay private school tuition on top of the taxes they pay for public schools, my parents determined that it was better for me (and eventually my younger brother) to go to the local private Catholic schools rather than to what they saw as deteriorating public schools. I went to Catholic schools 1st through 12th grade, received a great education, and was very involved in lots of school activities - without the fact that I wasn't Catholic ever being a problem at all.

My family was not "tired" of the Catholic Church giving us a private alternative, we were grateful. And instead of complaining that the Catholics schools that my parents voluntarily sent me to were Catholic, we understood and were respectful of the fact that the schools were Catholic. Instead of expecting that the Catholic schools - to which my parents were, with full knowledge, voluntarily sending me and my younger brother - to change their beliefs, we were grateful that they were willing to accept and accommodate non-Catholics, which they did graciously and thoughtfully. Of course, I always had religion class, prayed before meals, and went to school Masses, but we knew that going in, the school was aware and respectful of the fact that there were non-Catholic students, and I was never forced to believe or do anything that that went against my family's religion ever.

Where I went for grades
1st through 8th
We all - people of all faiths or no faith at all - should be incredibly grateful to the Catholic Church for all the ways that she serves our country, and has for years! Catholic leaders should be receiving awards, not ultimatums.

The federal government, particularly a presidential administration run by Democrats who claim to care so much about the poor and who supposedly hold tolerance so highly, should be doing everything it can to accommodate all of these Catholic institutions that are voluntarily serving our communities (and often times in ways that are much more effective and efficient than government programs, i.e. why my parents sent me to private Catholic schools instead of public schools)! I'm not saying that the government needs to be sending dump trucks full of taxpayer money to them, but they should in the very least not be making policies that force these institutions to violate their religion - the same religion that has inspired them to do so much for our country, far more than any other religious or secular group.

Really, the irrationality displayed here is so astounding and the bigotry so obvious - what could make people be so blind? Kevin Drum gave his own explanation: "I'm just a big ol' secular lefty".

It would be too easy to to take this as an opportunity to attack secular liberalism. No doubt, Christians have been blinded sometimes too. I just hope that the trumpeters of tolerance and pluralism soon realize that they are being wildly inconsistent and correct the situation - that's all we ask.

If you believe in religious tolerance and freedom:

Please sign the official online White House petition asking for the HHS mandate policy to be changed.

Please contact the President directly as well.

Please contact your representative in the House of Representatives.

Please contact your Senators.

Lastly, here's a page on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website with a lot of information regarding the whole situation.

*NOTE: Kevin Drum also mentioned "taking taxpayer dollars", but he's wrong: the mandates apply to your organization whether or not you accept any federal money, so the "taking taxpayer dollars" is a red herring. But for cases in which some of these organizations do accept federal money, and I am no expert in these matters, at least one commentator has said that that would include Catholic hospitals accepting patients who are on Medicare. So a Catholic hospital will help a poor person whose medical care is paid for by the government. That's a good thing, and hardly counts as "funding" in any normal sense of the term. But honestly, I do not know the ins and outs of these types of things, so if anyone does know more, please explain in the comments.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What the Catholic Church Does (and what the HHS mandates seek to thwart)

Below are some quick stats on what the Catholic Church does to serve people in the US. The services of these organizations are open to the public and serve whoever is in need regardless of their religious beliefs (I myself went to Catholic school for 12 years as Protestant). Depending on the organization and its specific mission, most will hire and employ a person of any religious beliefs who wants to serve the mission of the organization.

The federal government will soon be requiring almost all* of these organizations (excepting parishes) to violate their religious beliefs to continue functioning. Anyone who cares about tolerance, religious liberty, or even simply cares about the poor should be very concerned and should contact their representative in the House and their representatives in the Senate. There is also an official online petition on the White House website that is taking signatures.

  • 5774 elementary schools serving 1,467,694 students (current) [Source]
  • 1206 secondary schools serving 598,178 students (current) [Source]
  • 244 colleges and universities (current) [Source]
  • 3301 local Catholic Charities offices provided services to 10,270,292 people in 2010 [Source]
    • services include food pantries, soup kitchens, home delivered meals, counseling, housing, clothing, assistance with utilities, assistance with prescription drugs, services related to addiction, pregnancy, adoption, immigration, refugees, education, at-risk populations, and other services
  • 629 hospitals (as of 2010) [Source]
    • represents 12.6% of community hospitals
    • received 15.6% of all hospital admissions
    • 5,512,632 admissions
  • 235 residential homes for children (orphanages) serving 50,264 young people (in 2005) [Source]
  • 135 other national Catholic lay organizations serve the Church and their local communities [Source]
  • Hundreds of other local Catholic lay organizations serve the Church and their local communities [Source]
  • 18,992 parishes (as of 2006) also serve their local communities in incalculable ways [Source]

*While it seems to be pretty clear that parishes would be exempted from the new rules, it's not entirely clear how all other Catholic organizations would fare. It would depend on the organization, who they employ, what their mission is exactly. However, it is clear that it would effect most of the organizations listed here.