Thursday, October 21, 2004

John Kerry Right for Catholics on USCCB Voting Guide

John Kerry Right for Catholics on USCCB Voting Guide

Yes, these are Catholics for Kerry, but once again I believe they are making an important and vital point in this election, that it is the total teaching of the church catholic, not individual positions, that should inform who we vote for in this election.

Friday, October 15, 2004

There is no other sin than that of being scornful

Roberta Bondi has a helpful reflection on the gospel lesson for Oct. 24th where she quotes a desert Abba who says, "There is no other sin than that of being scornful." Certainly at issue in this Lukan text is the issue of sin and judgment, but the state of being good, or being a sinner, is the over-preached outcome of this pericope. More profound for me today is scorn. Sometimes I think I'm full of it. Full of what feels like futility and frustration at a world run amok; full of the ability to heap so much scorn on those things and people taking our community, their families, our country, our world, in the wrong direction, that I can find no good in them, they, those. Scorn is sin turned outward, so the judgment can be passed by us rather than on us.

It is right and good to give thanks for the good things God accomplishes in our lives. It is an act of faith to confess the sin, the very sin, that we are and do apart from Christ. It is deepest sin to scorn others when, and this is always a profound possibility, the thing we scorn is the very good wrought in them by God. Scorn is, in the end, the complete lack of love.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Op-Ed Piece: Voting Our Conscience, Not Our Religion

At least one reader has reminded me, regarding this piece, that hierarchies do usually exist, and there are various legitimate ways to shuffle the deck. I still believe it is worth calling us back from too much weighting of one social issue over all others.

October 11, 2004
Voting Our Conscience, Not Our Religion

South Bend, Ind. * For more than a century, from the wave of
immigrants in the 19th century to the election of the first Catholic
president in 1960, American Catholics overwhelmingly identified with the
Democratic Party. In the past few decades, however, that allegiance has
largely faded. Now Catholics are prototypical "swing voters": in 2000,
they split almost evenly between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and recent
polls show Mr. Bush ahead of Senator John Kerry, himself a Catholic,
among white Catholics.

There are compelling reasons - cultural, socioeconomic and political -
for this shift. But if Catholic voters honestly examine the issues of
consequence in this election, they may find themselves returning to
their Democratic roots in 2004.

The parties appeal to Catholics in different ways. The Republican Party
opposes abortion and the destruction of embryos for stem-cell research,
both positions in accord with Catholic doctrine. Also, Republican
support of various faith-based initiatives, including school vouchers,
tends to resonate with Catholic voters.

Members of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, are more likely to
criticize the handling of the war in Iraq, to oppose capital punishment
and to support universal heath care, environmental stewardship, a just
welfare state and more equitable taxes. These stances are also in
harmony with Catholic teachings, even if they may be less popular among
individual Catholics.

When values come into conflict, it is useful to develop principles that
help place those values in a hierarchy. One reasonable principle is that
issues of life and death are more important than other issues. This
seems to be the strategy of some Catholic and church leaders, who
directly or indirectly support the Republican Party because of its
unambiguous critique of abortion. Indeed, many Catholics seem to think
that if they are truly religious, they must cast their ballots for

This position has two problems. First, abortion is not the only
life-and-death issue in this election. While the Republicans line up
with the Catholic stance on abortion and stem-cell research, the
Democrats are closer to the Catholic position on the death penalty,
universal health care and environmental protection.

More important, given the most distinctive issue of the current
election, Catholics who support President Bush must reckon with the
Catholic doctrine of "just war." This doctrine stipulates that a war is
just only if all possible alternative strategies have been pursued to
their ultimate conclusion; the war is conducted in accordance with moral
principles (for example, the avoidance of unnecessary civilian
casualties and the treatment of prisoners with dignity); and the war
leads to a more moral state of affairs than existed before it began.
While Mr. Kerry, like many other Democrats, voted for the war, he has
since objected to the way it was planned and waged.

Second, politics is the art of the possible. During the eight years of
the Reagan presidency, the number of legal abortions increased by more
than 5 percent; during the eight years of the Clinton presidency, the
number dropped by 36 percent. The overall abortion rate (calculated as
the number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44)
was more or less stable during the Reagan years, but during the Clinton
presidency it dropped by 11 percent.

There are many reasons for this shift. Yet surely the traditional
Democratic concern with the social safety net makes it easier for
pregnant women to make responsible decisions and for young life to
flourish; among the most economically disadvantaged, abortion rates have
always been and remain the highest. The world's lowest abortion rates
are in Belgium and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal but where
the welfare state is strong. Latin America, where almost all abortions
are illegal, has one of the highest rates in the world.

None of this is to argue that abortion should be acceptable. History
will judge our society's support of abortion in much the same way we
view earlier generations' support of torture and slavery - it will be
universally condemned. The moral condemnation of abortion, however, need
not lead to the conclusion that criminal prosecution is the best way to
limit the number of abortions. Those who view abortion as the most
significant issue in this campaign may well want to supplement their
abstract desire for moral rectitude with a more realistic focus on how
best to ensure that fewer abortions take place.

In many ways, Catholic voters' growing political independence has led
to a profusion of moral dilemmas: they often feel they must abandon one
good for the sake of another. But while they may be dismayed at John
Kerry's position on abortion and stem-cell research, they should be no
less troubled by George W. Bush's stance on the death penalty, health
care, the environment and just war. Given the recent history of higher
rates of abortion with Republicans in the White House, along with the
tradition of Democratic support of equitable taxes and greater
integration into the world community, more Catholics may want to
reaffirm their tradition of allegiance to the Democratic Party in 2004.

Mark W. Roche is dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the
University of Notre Dame.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Center for Rural Church Leadership - Articles

This list of on-line articles from the Center for Rural Church Leadership is my newest discovery as I begin the transition from being an associate pastor at a bedroom community/small-town congregation to being the solo pastor of a good-sized rural congregation.

I am sad to say goodbye to a wonderful community in Christ, but glad for the opportunity to continue pastoral ministry in this new setting. All references re: rural church ministry are welcome!

The DartBall Homepage

Last night we had a dedication of St. John's new dartball board. The board I blogged below is identical to the ones used here in Wisconsin. The web link I'm providing here lets you know the rules, etc., but the board is substantially different. 'Tis a fun game, but I'm still trying to learn the origins of the game historically.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Letter to the Editor, 2nd Debate (Another Version)

In the second presidential debate the audience did an excellent job of asking questions that I hear people talk about every day but that haven't been covered in the previous presidential and vice presidential debates. As the evening went on, it became clear that John Kerry was listening to the questions and could articulate his positions clearly. His responses showed that he shares the concerns of Americans and that he has thought at length about the issues. He was never at a loss for words, but knew the issues inside and out. His expertise and sincerity were evident in all of his answers.

By now, anyone who has been paying attention can see that the Bush administration has sound bites, but not substantive answers to the questions Americans are asking. Of the two candidates, only John Kerry articulated a plan for Iraq; only John Kerry has a fiscally responsible plan to reduce the deficit; only John Kerry has a health care plan that puts patients first (and is not government run, despite Bush's claims).

The best choice for America is clear: John Kerry is a leader with a plan to help real Americans. George Bush can't fix our problems because he doesn't see them. America needs a change. It's time to elect John Kerry.

Letter to the Editor, 2nd Debate

Perhaps the last question of this second debate was the most telling. A key mark of true leadership is the ability to identify, and then learn from, mistakes. Bush has been criticized repeatedly, and rightly, for being unable to identify and learn from mistakes in order to make better decisions in the future.

When asked a direct question from one of the audience members concerning three mistakes he has made in the last four years, Bush once again avoided responding to the question, and talked abstractly about being willing to take responsibility, some time in the future, for mistakes that future historians identify in his presidency.

We need a leader who listens, learns, and grows, who responds correctly to events as they arise, and adjusts course when he sees the necessity. Once again we've seen why Kerry is the president for 2004.

Need Some Wood? (notes from the debate)

I've just learned that George W. Bush owns a timber company and wants to sell some wood, but doesn't know how. I'll begin taking orders immediately on this blog, and offer to be his distributor!

Roll 20 - 68

Roll 20 - 68

Friday, October 01, 2004

My Letter to the Editor, Presidential Debate

If oversimplified soundbites and the mannerisms of a cartoon character are the marks of who "wins" a presidential debate, then hands down the ballots are in- George W. Bush won this last debate, smirks and repetitions and all that.

But if the marks of a president include: strong, clear and convincing skills of argumentation; mastery of the issues; an ability to think quickly on his feet; and a non-reckless and stubborn foreign policy; then kudos to Kerry. He did it. He won the presidential debate Thursday night.

Kerry explained quite clearly how the war in Iraq was an enormous diversion from the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In spite of Bush's relentless repetition of "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time", Kerry showed how new information, in a new time, and in the hands of a new president, could help us more quickly win the peace in Iraq.

George W. Bush may be the president of spin. But John Kerry is going to be our president of substance in a time that sorely needs it.

Reno Reviews Hart, woohoo!

It's really just too much!

Pro-Life Democrat is NOT an Oxy-Moron

Although I would call myself a qualified pro-lifer, this article points to a kind of general political zone in which I live which is not well-represented by either political party, Republican or Democrat. Mark Noll lays out a similar position in The Christian Century of two weeks ago.