Saturday, May 28, 2011

News, Assumptions, and Getting a Grip

I've done a 'Memorial Day' post of sorts in another blog:
This post isn't so much about the American holiday we're observing, as it is a ramble about being a citizen in this country.

The 2012 presidential election is more than a year away, but campaigning has already started. I'm not looking forward to slogging through candidates' platforms and backgrounds. I can't loftily say "I take no interest in politics," either. Voting is part of the system in America, being an informed voter seems to be a basic civic duty, and being a good citizen is required by Catholic teaching. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2239-2242, for starters)

Issues will be on the ballot, too. Like the odd measure that San Francisco voters will be deciding this year:
I suppose choosing the best - or least-bad - way to vote is easy, sometimes. More often, it seems, things are a trifle complicated.

Take some of the news I've read, for example - - -

"Discrimination" is Always Bad: Right?

For most of my adult life, we've been told that "discrimination" is a bad thing. Sometimes, objectively, it is. Other times, discrimination can save your life:
  • Discrimination:
    1. Unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice
    2. The cognitive process whereby two or more stimuli are distinguished)
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Discrimination, the definition #1 sort, is not, I think, a good idea.

Definition #2? Someone who can't discriminate between a red and a green light at an intersection won't last long in most American communities.

One reason I think that discrimination (definition #1) is a bad idea is that I was raised in America. Another reason is that I'm a practicing Catholic. And, cherished assumptions of this country's dominant culture notwithstanding, the Catholic Church insists that I not treat others unfairly.
Here's what got me started on "discrimination:"
"Proposed bill would effectively ban US Catholic adoption agencies"
Kevin J. Jones, EWTN News (May 28, 2011)

"A proposal in Congress would ban Catholic adoption agencies and undercut the needs of children by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation, two legislative experts say.

" 'This legislation would prohibit adoption agencies and foster care agencies, including religious adoption agencies and foster care agencies, from providing services in many cases,' warned Lori Windham, Senior Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. 'They would have to choose between following their religious beliefs and shutting down.'..."
Yes, I know about pedophile priests. Moving on.

"Something For Life" Means a Group is Okay, Right?

There's much more going on in the following situation than simply one group being bad and another good. In my opinion, of course.

John Boehner is a Republican, representing Ohio, by the way.
"Critic Of Boehner's Catholic Credibility Faces Tough Questions Of His Own"
CNA (Catholic News Agency), via EWTN News (May 27, 2011)

"The lead author of a letter criticizing House Speaker John Boehner on 'matters of faith and morals' says the letter was a bid for dialogue, not a political stunt. But Dr. Stephen Schneck's own critics say he promotes a distorted version of Catholic social teaching.

"Professor Schneck, who directs the Catholic University of America's Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, was the top signer of a letter protesting Boehner's May 14 commencement speech at the institution where Schneck works as a political scientist.

"Schneck told CNA on May 23 that he did not intend to cause the 'crazy media frenzy' that arose when the letter was made public three days before Boehner's address....

"...The signers charged the House Speaker, himself a Roman Catholic, with ignoring 'the teachings of your Church on matters of faith and morals as they relate to governance.' They said the speaker's voting record was 'at variance from one of the Church's most ancient moral teachings,' regarding the obligations of 'those in power' toward the poor and vulnerable...."
Applying various biases to the article so far, I could assume:
  • Boehner is bad, because
    • Politicians are bad
      • 'Everybody knows' that
    • Republicans hate poor people
      • 'Everybody knows' that, too
  • Schneck is bad, because
    • Professors are all
      • Liberal
      • Amoral
      • Anti-life
      • Anti-American
        • 'Everybody knows' that
Who the 'everybody' is wouldn't be the same for all those views - but I think I've come close to caricaturing what some vocal Americans believe.

Back to the article:
"...But this form of faith-based protest has opened up Schneck to criticism over his own approach to the Church's social teaching.

Professor Schneck is a member of the board of directors at Democrats for Life, an organization he describes as 'fundamentally and wholly concerned with trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.'

"He is also a board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. That organization has received funding from George Soros' Open Society Institute, which promotes abortion as a 'reproductive right.'

"Catholics in Alliance typically backs Democratic policies, presenting abortion as an issue that should be addressed by ending poverty. In 2009, Schneck joined a 'Catholics for Sebelius' initiative, supporting an Obama nominee whose bishop told her not to receive Communion over her abortion record...."
(CNA) [emphasis mine]
I've put more of the CNA article at the end of this post.1

My guess, based on years spent in American academia, that Schneck is sincere. And that he means well.

That doesn't mean that I think he's right.

Conservative? Liberal? Democrat? Republican? No, I'm Catholic

I've run into folks who seem convinced that "conservative" and "Catholic" mean the same thing. My guess is that there are some who sincerely believe that a 'good Catholic' must vote a straight Republican - or Democrat - ticket. Or at least be solidly conservative - or liberal. I don't agree. (November 3, 2008)

I'm also unlikely to describe myself as a "traditional" Catholic. And that's another topic. (July 31, 2010)

Back to that article, again. It's a longer-than-usual excerpt, but I think professor Krason made some important points.
"...Pelosi's 2007 commencement address at the Catholic University of San Francisco was not accompanied by a public protest akin to the Boehner letter.

"Professor Stephen Krason, a political scientist at Franciscan University of Steubenville and President of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, disagrees with Schneck's stand against Boehner.

"Krason personally identifies himself politically as 'neither left, nor right, but Catholic.' He told CNA on May 24 that Schneck's letter to Boehner mistakenly identified Catholic teaching with leftist politics.

" 'I look at that letter and see them taking political positions, and trying to put them forth as the teaching of the Church - things which are in the realm of prudential judgment,' Krason said. 'They seem to identify these policies with Catholic social teaching.'...

"...Krason also questions whether the policies preferred by Schneck and his allies have actually worked to create their intended effects.

" 'They seem to identify these policies that are out there as policies which are good for the poor and disadvantaged,' he observed. 'I'm not sure that is historically and evidentially accurate.'...

"...Krason observed that by appearing to equate budget cuts with abortion, Schneck and the other signers were confusing what are essentially different issues.

" 'Things like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, same-sex "marriage" - these things can never be permitted,' he explained. 'They're in opposition to natural law.'

"Krason offered advice to those who treat abortion as one issue among many, not as an assault on the foundation of all human rights. He suggested they consult Blessed John Paul II's social encyclical 'Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.'

" 'There's a hierarchy of rights that John Paul II talked about,' he said. 'Right there at the top of the hierarchy is the right to life.'...
(CNA) [emphasis mine]
I've posted about Pelosi, faith, feelings, and being Catholic, before:There's more in the article on the Boehner letter and the ideas behind it. I recommend reading it, for anyone planning to vote in this country.


Unless something major has happened to American culture recently, in some circles 'everybody knows' about the Catholic Church and AIDS. 'Everybody' is wrong:
"Cardinal Bertone: Church on the front lines in fight against AIDS"
CNA (Catholic News Agency) (May 28, 2011)

"Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the Catholic Church is on the front lines in the fight against AIDS. He explained that the Church not only has a health care network of 117,000 centers, but also generates 'invisible capital' by recognizing the fundamental dignity of every person.

"During a Vatican conference on AIDS prevention organized by the Good Samaritan Foundation..."
"Church operating 117,000 centers for AIDS patients worldwide"
CNA (Catholic News Agency) (May 27, 2011)

"The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care reported that the Catholic Church is currently running 117,000 centers to care for AIDS patients throughout the world...."
I think one reason that so many folks seem convinced that the Vatican hates homosexuals and doesn't care about AIDS is that the Church won't approve of their preferences. There's also, I think, a tendency to confuse "love" and "approval" - and that's yet another topic.

I also think that it's easy to assume that Fred "God hates fags" Phelps, and other vocal preachers represent all Christian thought. I'm about as sure as I can be that Phelps, and others of his ilk, aren't representative of American Protestant belief. Let alone the Catholic Church.

And I've written about that before.

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:Background:
1 Excerpt from "Critic Of Boehner's Catholic Credibility Faces Tough Questions Of His Own," CNA (Catholic News Agency), via EWTN News (May 27, 2011)
"...In his interview with CNA, Schneck said he saw the work of Democrats for Life and Catholics in Alliance as complimentary.

" 'I feel like it's both/and,' he said. 'I belong to an organization whose primary focus is advancing Catholic social thought, as well as an organization whose primary focus is to end abortion on demand. I don't see these, somehow, as really separate.'...

"...Schneck opposes the Democratic Party's commitment to legal abortion, a principle made explicit in the party platform. 'That's not where I am,' he said, 'and surprisingly, many other Democrats are with me.'...

"...Schneck pointed out that Democrats for Life had spoken out 'many times' against the party's abortion commitment. But he acknowedged[!] that 'Catholics in Alliance hasn't, so much.'

"That's because, Schneck said, 'it is more concerned with what are generally thought of as Catholic social thought issues - more concerned with issues like poverty and a living wage, and collective bargaining, those sorts of things.'

" 'I think that it would be nice if all of our groups embraced the whole range of Catholic social teaching, especially as it relates to the dignity of the human person,' he said.

"But 'for reasons of practicality,' he says it 'makes sense for some groups to focus primarily on the issue of ending abortion on demand, and other groups to focus on the environment or anti-poverty programs.'..."

"...[Franciscan University of Steubenville Professor Stephen] Krason said Schneck and the other signers were 'convoluting certain basic teachings of the Church, especially subsidiarity.'

"That principle of Catholic teaching, which the Boehner protesters invoke against budget cuts, favors smaller-scale action through local communities unless a problem demands a central solution.

" 'They're wanting to continue a kind of policy-from-the-center, policy from the highest level of government,' Krason pointed out. 'You only go to the highest level if there's a genuine need to do that. I don't know that they've made that case.'..."
(CNA) [emphasis mine]

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.