Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Freedom, Burma / Myanmar / Myanma, and Getting a Grip

A Catholic - concerned about freedom - in a country on the other side of the world - Where 89% of the folks are Buddhists, 4% Muslims, 3% Baptists, and only 1% Roman Catholic?1

Part of that is concern for the 1% who share my beliefs. But mostly it's because I'm Catholic, and I have to be concerned about freedom.

A Catholic - Supporting Freedom?!

I've run into some interesting ideas about what religious people are like: and I've known folks whose religious beliefs were downright odd, at best.2 Religious crazies encouraged me - unintentionally, I think - to take a long, hard look at Christianity. Which eventually led to my conversion to Catholicism.

Considering that the Catholic Church doesn't tell people to go and do anything they want - no matter how self-destructive - the idea that Catholics also value freedom may seem self-contradictory. I don't see it that way, but I've read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about freedom. (Catechism, 1730-1742, for starters)

We can't help but support freedom - humanity is designed with free will. It's part of what we are. Where Catholic teaching was - and is - very ungroovy is our saying that freedom comes with responsibility.3 (Catechism, 1731-1738) I've posted about this before. (March 5, 2011)

By the way - remember that I speak with the full authority of "some guy with a blog." Those citations and links are 'for further reading.'

So, does the Catholic Church support freedom - religious freedom - for everybody? Yes. (Catechism, 2104-2109)

That's a part of Catholic teaching I had no problem accepting. (April 7, 2011)

Good Citizenship - It's a Catholic Thing

I don't have much choice about being a good citizen, and getting involved with community and national concerns. I'm a Catholic, and it's in the rules. (Catechism: 1915, 2199, 2238-43, and more)
"It is the duty of citizens to work with civil authority for building up society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom."
(Catechism, 2255)

'God is an American?!' Get a Grip

As far as I can tell, there isn't one system of government that's 'right.' Not according to the Catholic Church, anyway. We're told that we need some sort of government, and that whatever we cobble together is supposed to follow some rules. Principles, really. (Catechism, 1897-1917) Part of the summary for that section reads:
"Authority is exercised legitimately if it is committed to the common good of society. To attain this it must employ morally acceptable means. The diversity of political regimes is legitimate, provided they contribute to the good of the community. Political authority must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and must guarantee the conditions for the exercise of freedom."
(Catechism, 1921-1923)

"...But God's First"

Just before he was executed for not obeying his ruler, Thomas More said, "The King's good servant, but God's first."4 That's Saint Thomas More now: and that's another topic. Sort of.

Catholics have to obey the laws of whatever ruler we're under. Unless doing so brings us into conflict with God's law. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2242)

That 'but God's first' thing isn't as dicey as it may seem. The Catholic Church is emphatically not much like the goofy end-times-are-nigh outfits that make the headlines now and then. (June 14, 2011) And, although we're allowed to use force to swap out oppressive rulers: we may do so only under quite specific circumstances. (Catechism, 2243)

Being a Good Citizen, When the Rulers Aren't

Here's what got me started today:
"Aung San Suu Kyi 'must end political activity' "
BBC News Asia-Pacific (June 29, 2011)

"Burma's government has warned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to halt all political activities, state media report.

"The interior ministry told the Nobel peace prize laureate her party was breaking the law by keeping its offices open and holding meetings....

"...The NLD was officially dissolved for refusing to register for the poll...."

"...The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the party should apply to register as a social organisation if it wanted to 'engage in social affairs'...."
I remember the 'good old days' when more Latin American countries really were 'banana republics.' Phrases like "pro-democracy" do not fill me with confidence.

That said, the folks currently controlling the territory between Thailand and India don't seem to be doing much good for their subjects. I've opined about that before - mostly in another blog.

As far as I can tell, Aung San Suu Kyi's primary offense is not being one of the rulers - and having the unmitigated gall to say that election results should reflect what voters want. Her party's refusal to submit the usual paperwork doesn't appear to mean what it might in, say, America. (See Related posts, below; and Another War-on-Terror Blog (June 9, 2009))

As for what a Catholic thinks about a woman being active in national affairs? See Judges 4:8-9 - and that's another topic. Topics.

What to do? Prayer Couldn't Hurt

My hat's off to Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, for apparently trying to sort out the mess in Burma / Myanmar / Myanma through political channels. They may even be successful. Eventually.

Here in central Minnesota, there isn't a whole lot I can do about what happens in Burma. Not in 'practical' terms.

I can, and have, prayed: asking that the folks in that territory get rulers who do a better job of leading their people. It'd be nice if the current bosses started being nice - who knows? It could, in principle, happen.

Ranting and raving like the M*A*S*H resident nitwit, Frank Burns, is simply unacceptable. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (November 15, 2009)) Which is yet again another set of topics.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 source: "Burma," CIA Word Factbook (last updated June 14, 2011)

2 The Catholic Church teaches that life is sacred, which puts us in conflict with the dominant culture in some parts of the world, like America. I suppose it's only natural to assume that 'those Catholics' are to blame when bad things happen:
"Pro-Life? You May be a Dangerous Domestic Terrorist! MIAC Says So"
(March 23, 2009), comment by Anonymous:

"I only know what we have experienced as a family and that my son has been a target of domestic terrorism we believe backed by th Catholic church...."
(June 28, 2011 7:40 p.m.)

3 There's a pretty good summary at the end of the Catechism's section on freedom:
" 'God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him' (GS 17 § 1).

"Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one's own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good.

"Freedom characterizes properly human acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. His deliberate acts properly belong to him.

"The imputability or responsibility for an action can be diminished or nullified by ignorance, duress, fear, and other psychological or social factors.

"The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything.

" 'For freedom Christ has set us free' (Gal 5:1)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1743-1748)
4 source: "History," The Lawyer's Guild of St. Thomas More Minnesota

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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.