Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stories to watch in 2010

A few of the stories that are going to be big in 2010:

1. The Health Care Bill: Will the Democrats succeed in pushing through this legislation despite the wishes of the vast majority of the American people? Will the Stupak language remain in, or become a bone of contention that makes the whole bill fall apart? How many more sweetheart deals will be put in to entice any legislators that might be wavering? My prediction: the Dems pass the bill, committing political harikari in doing so.

2. The Midterm Elections: Will the discontent showcased in the Tea Party Movement translate into votes on Election Day? Will the Democrats maintain their leads in the House and Senate, or are we witnessing a repeat of 1994? My prediction: Republicans gain control of the House, narrow the gap in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi sacrifices the Blue Dogs as both parties reject moderates.

3. Iran: Will civil unrest lead to change, or more government crackdown? Will the US or Israel take action against the regime? My prediction: Obama is unwilling to support Iranian dissidents, which only serves to embolden Khameni. Israel decides it must take action on its own.

4. Government Spending: Will Congress put the brakes on its reckless spending? Prediction: Not anytime soon.

5. Economy: Will we finally see a recovery? Will the unemployment rate go down? Prediction: Any recovery is likely to be short-lived, as the government continues to pursue disastrous policies.

6. Afghanistan: Will the troop surge be as effective as the one in Iraq? Or is Afghanistan beyond saving? My prediction: Never underestimate our troops. Unfortunately, the rules of engagement are such that they can't effectively do their jobs, so either those need to change or we're going to have big problems.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what lies ahead in the new year, but it's a pretty safe bet that these issues will loom large. Let's hope 2010 turns out better than any of us expect.

What issues do you think will be important in the new year?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I Want This Veterans Day

Note: This article comes from fellow CM contributor Chris Nelson, aka Right Field.

I have made a list, similar to a Christmas list,of things that I would like this Veterans Day. I do not expect to get these, but a man can dream.

1) First, I would like for politicians to stop making military decisions in Congress. One politician is prescribed by the Constitution to make decisions for the US military, and that is the Commander in Chief. When we end the war, how many troops are deployed, what equipment they have, and how we fight is at the discretion of the President and his generals exclusively. We live in a republic as far as legislation is concerned, but no war was ever won by committee.

2) The same as above goes for editorialists and authors, who are journalists not veterans. When the country goes to war, the time for debate over its mission is over. If you oppose a war, contact your representative or make your editorial statement before war is declared.

3) When you say something like "I support the troops, but I do not support the war" or "Support the troops, bring them home" drop the last part. Or if you must, make it two separate statements. With no other profession would someone, in a single statement, express an admiration for the professional and then disparage his mission. "I support lawyers, but I hate lawsuits." "I support our police, but I don't support enforcing the law." The statements may not be entirely illogical, but it is at least disingenuous.

4) Reform voting processes so that military turnout is encouraged, and their votes are counted. I have never been out of the United States and I have been unable to vote at least twice because of confusion over my status as a voter (Absentee vs. In person), or a misdirected absentee ballot. I cannot imagine how our soldiers vote in war zones. Well, I don’t have to imagine, I know that the Federal Election Commission has stated that deployed soldiers don't vote. The completed received ballots from the 2006 election totaled 5.5% of the overseas military electorate. Congress has not made any serious effort to address this problem.

5) I want everyone who has ever bought a meal for me or my brethren in uniform to know what a deeply moving gift they have given. It is the epitome of human kindness to give such a gift to military member. I would like to thank all of YOU for this service to our country.

6) I would like to see the men and women who have been mentally or physically scarred in the service to our country to be taken care of by the selfsame nation. The veterans hospital system is entirely inadequate and I would like to see the public and private healthcare system band together to ensure that the best possible care, both mental and physical, is given to wounded soldiers.

7) I want everyone who is considering military service to be able to do so. I do not enjoy how politicized certain issues have become in regards to recruitment. Public universities should not be able to refuse military recruiters nor should they allow the harassment of recruiters. I know much of the anger directed at the military by certain groups is over the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. But the decision on this policy is entirely the domain president and congress. Direct the anger there.

Tangentially, if a member of your family decides to join the military please support them in their decision.

I may not get everything on my list this Veterans day, but making you aware is really my only goal today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Can We Learn From The Fort Hood Massacre?

All the warning signs were there, clear as day. It was obvious that Nidal Malik Hasan was dangerous. This man openly stated his support for murder in the name of Islam. He referred to himself as a "soldier of Allah." He even attempted to contact Al-Qaeda. It's not as if he were some evil mastermind hatching his plot in the shadows. It was all out there in the open. People knew about it. And did nothing.
The obvious question is, "why?" Was it the fear of being labeled a hatemonger? Was it fear of being accused of profiling? Fear of an ACLU lawsuit? Whatever the Army and the FBI's reasons for inaction, it seems to me to have been based in fear.
One of the things we pride ourselves on in this country is our openness. We want to believe the American dream is open to everybody, regardless of their religion or ancestry. We want to believe the best about our fellow Americans. It is one of the strengths of our country. However, it is exploited by terrorists as a weakness. They will use our assumptions of human decency against us. In Hasan's case, there wasn't much more he could have done to make us aware of his intentions. But no action was taken.
So what are we to do, then? Should our basic trust in humanity give way to paranoia or suspicion? No. But neither should we allow ourselves to be naive. We fear to be thought of as prejudiced, biased, and judgmental, and rightly so, because ideally we are none of these things. But when we are confronted with an unpleasant truth, we must act upon that truth rather than pretending it isn't real. To paraphrase Fulton Sheen, let's not be so open minded that we let our brains fall out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"A Bridge Across the Tiber"

It was announced this week that there will soon be a way for Anglicans who so desire to achieve full communion with the Catholic Church. They would be able to preserve many of their traditions and operate in "Personal Ordinariates". This is welcome news for many faithful Anglicans who have grown disillusioned with the denomination's acceptance of homosexual marriage, contraception, and the like. It is welcome news to Catholics who will be enriched by the reverence, zeal, and traditions of former Anglicans. This is one of the most significant events in the quest for Christian unity since the Reformation. It forces no one to leave, but gives a home to those who have long felt estranged. As a Catholic, I wish to joyfully welcome home those brothers and sisters of mine who will come into the Church.
It is estimated that 12 bishops and 1,000 priests will enter the Church. It is hard to guess just how many lay people will join them, but the number is sure to be significant. The Church already has many former Anglican priests who now serve as married Catholic priests. I have known some of these priests and they are simply amazing. If all of the priests that will join the Church are like them, we are in for an incredible period in the Church.
The press will focus on the question of what this will do about the Church's rules on priestly celibacy. Indeed, a sudden influx of married priests will be significant, but I don't think that celibacy is likely to go anytime soon; the Church has long recognized the great benefits of priestly celibacy. Anyway, to focus on that issue is really missing the point of a reunion longed for for a very long time.
As for the future of the Anglican Communion, that remains to be seen. I would think that there will be two camps- traditionalists who are wary of a reunion with Rome, and liberals such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. The extreme liberals among the Anglicans seem to be steering away from everything for which the Church of England once stood. In my view, they are building on pillars of sand, and they will not be vital for very long. The others, I believe, will eventually join the Church when they see a mass movement towards it, or continue in a significantly smaller Anglican Communion. That's just my view.
The great hope, of course, is that this will facilitate unity with other denominations. I believe that some degree of reunion with the Orthodox churches is possible within our lifetimes, and although there is still a wide gap between Catholics and Protestants in terms of belief, those gaps are much more narrow as we have come to understand each other more and work together in the cultural battles of our day.
Converting to the Catholic Church is often referred to as "crossing the Tiber." Thanks to Pope Benedict, there is no longer a need to swim, because as Fr. Dwight Longecker puts it, the Holy Father has "built a bridge".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Founder of Life Teen Excommunicated

The founder of Life Teen, a youth "movement" within the Church, Fr. Dale Fushek was excommunicated. This may seem like old news to many of us, but as is the existence of my life I'm hearing this for the first time. This arouses in my mind many of the objections I have to the Life Teen program.

My Experiences As A Participant

During my high school years I attended a Life Teen group at a local parish. At the time I was more or less agnostic and mostly attended for the free food they offered after Mass. The Mass itself I must admit was not attractive to me at all. I was agnostic and even then thought it was ridiculous that at a sacred event, such as Holy Mass, there was rock style music played.

It was only thanks to another participant in the group befriending me that I regained my faith and began to grow in faith. Believe it or not the topics at the youth group were presented with such watered down quality that I found that the only reason I was there was to make friends.

My Experiences As A "Core Team" Member

After graduating from high school I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life so while attending the local junior college I assisted with the Life Teen program at the same parish as a member of the "core team." I was still growing in my faith and every now and then was granted the opportunity to share my faith with the teens.

Then came the day I attended Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I as a Roman Catholic saw no harm in what I was doing. I attended a Mass that was not only valid but was in Latin (well, except for the Homily) and not only did I attend but I thoroughly enjoyed it! My fellow "core team" members were not thrilled and banned me from speaking at "Life Nites." At the time I was scheduled to talk about the Mass and it was conveyed that my new found interest in the tradional Mass was a threat to the teens faith. After a while I had to resign my position on the "core team" because of the constant harrassment I was receiving regarding my occasional visit to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I was also labeled as a "traditionalist" and a possible threat to the teens.

The straw the ultimately broke the camel's back was when I was told in these words: "We shouldn't teach [the teens] about all this reverence and devotion because they won't get it. That and it's not that important."

In regards to Fr. Dale Fushek we must all pray for his soul. It is a shame that Life Teen as it exists does not cultivate any long lasting spiritual formation but only satisfies the emotions and passions and leaves the teens faith lives virtually empty and dry. However terrible it is I must say that the program is salvagable and we must pray for all who are involved and I think we ought to be especially cautious of it.

Related article:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book: Hell's Toilet

I'd like to encourage everybody to read my cousin Tom's new book, Hell's Toilet. (Only he could call it that!) It describes his incredible battle with ulcerative colitis. Our family witnessed Tom's health decline rapidly to the point where his only option was to have his colon removed. Tom did not allow his illness to hold him back and only a few months after his surgery was able to run in a half marathon. Tom's story will inspire you! Check it out today!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

After the March

So this year's March for Life has come and gone. Thankfully, I was able to attend this year- I knew this would be an important March and I didn't want to miss it. I have to express my great pride in my fellow pro-lifers. Despite all that was working against us, we actually ended up with one of the largest turnouts in the history of the March!
What was more impressive was the prayerful atmosphere of the marchers. Many prayed Rosaries, others sang songs; it was all done in the awareness that only God will be able to get us out of this, only God can stir the hearts of those in power to protect life rather than to destroy it. There was an atmosphere of joy that couldn't be shaken even by the most unspeakable evil. Kathryn Jean Lopez has a great article on the March that you should check out.
Despite the positive witness and the wonderful experience of the March, however, I was struck by a couple of sobering thoughts. The first was before Mass at the Basilica. I looked at the music handout and glanced at the front where it said "36th March for Life". That just really struck me, how it's been so long since Roe vs. Wade, and how most of this year's marchers, myself included, have never known a world without Roe. Then my mind went to Psalm 95:10-11: "Forty years I endured that generation. I said 'they are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways', so I swore in my anger 'they shall not enter into my rest.'" If the Lord endured that generation for forty years, how much longer can he endure this generation, which slaughters its young and disrepects human dignity so much?
Then after the March, I read the words of our new President to mark the occasion of the 36th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. He almost seemed to think that his stance on abortion was protecting families! I couldn't understand how he could be so blind, so callous, so cold.
But in the midst of these thoughts, I was reminded again of how God is merciful. For all of those people to be out there at the March, God had to have done something powerful in their lives to lead them to witness as they did. And if God can work in our hearts, he can work in the heart of our new President. There is no need for despair, because God desires to save His people. An evil like abortion cannot stand forever. The victory may not come quickly, but it will come.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On the Eve of the March for Life

Two days after a massive crowd of people gathered for the inauguration of Barack Obama, another large group will take to the streets of Washington for a different reason. The March for Life takes place tomorrow, January 22nd, the 36th anniversary of the catastrophic Roe vs. Wade decision. The March generally draws large crowds of pro-lifers from all across the country, but tomorrow's will have a new significance. This year's marchers will not receive a message of support from their President, as they have for the past eight years. In fact, they will be marching largely to protest the proposed policies of the new President. This year's march takes place at the beginning of the term of a President who seemingly spells the defeat of the pro-life movement. Never has there been a President as extreme on abortion as Barack Obama, who even voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Obama came to office on the themes of hope and change, but what hope is there for the pro-life movement? With our government so firmly in the grasp of those who want abortion to remain legal, what possibility is there of change?
Now is not the time to despair. The pro-life movement has made tremendous strides over the last several decades. Legislatively, yes, we will suffer setbacks; much of the progress made over the last 8 years will soon be lost. However, we must remember that the pro-life movement is not as dependent on the changing of laws than on the changing of hearts. Millions of Americans have come over to the pro-life side, and we must continue to speak to those who are willing to hear. An evil such as abortion cannot stand forever, and eventually the consciences of Americans will be stirred to rise above the evil of abortion just as we rose above the evil of slavery. How pro-lifers conduct themselves, especially at the March tomorrow, will provide a glimpse to others of what we have to offer. If we are angry about our situation and disrespectful of those who disagree with us, we will never win them over. If we behave as we have in Marches past, with love and joy in our hearts despite the darkness of the situation, we will prevail.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Barack Obama

Barack Obama was sworn in today as the 44th President of the United States. He comes into office with high expectations as well as great challenges. In the coming days, he will be making decisions that will affect this nation greatly, and some of the things he has promised to do should be of concern, particularly to pro-lifers. In the meantime, however, let us pray for our new President and our great nation. The fact that this nation has been able to progress morally from slavery to electing a black president should give us hope that other challenges, such as abortion, will eventually be overcome as well.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ad Orientem Or Not Ad Orientem

As a Catholic with a rather traditional leaning I cannot help but pose six reasons traditionalists say facing "ad orientem," or "to the east," is better than the more recent and modern "ad populus," or "to the people." I see the benefits of both but for arguement sake I post the six reasons why facing ad orientem is better in my opinion.

I. It binds the priest and people together. The priest is doing as the people do. Both priest and people face the same direction. Seeing ranks of priests confronting the people over an altar can create the image of a two class system.

II. It recalls Mosaic and Old Testmanent typology. The priest leads the poeple to the place of meeting at the altar where he offers the sacrifice. From there the priest returns to the people with the body and blood of Christ.

III. It also recalls typlogoy of the resurrection.The early Church Fathers likened the rising sun in the east with the Rising Son of the Father at the resurrection. The east was the source of new light, as Christ is the source of light to the workd Thus creation itself witnesses to the life of Christ.

IV. The priest is the mediator. By leading the people to God, the priest also brings God to the people. This emphasizes the ontological nature of the priesthood.

V. Christ completes the Eucharistic Community. When priest and people face the same way, there reamins something of an incomplete circle in the worship. However, after Christ becomes present on the altar, He completes that circle and, as such, the Eucharistic community, which is His mystical body. If the priest is already behind the altar, this valuable image is destroyed.

VI. The Mass does not rely on the priest's personality and whims. By turing to the altar, the priest has fewer opportunities of showing off. Too often, masses become the Father.... show. While this can be fun and seemingly more people friendly, it can also distract the faithful. The priest is not the leading part; Christ is!

So, your opinion?