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May 2008 Archives

May 1, 2008

Pope reminds us that Jesus wasn't political

The timing of the recent papal visit to the United States could not have been better. The bitter, divisive rhetoric of election year politics was, if only for a brief time, drowned out by the message of hope and peace offered by Pope Benedict XVI, a message void of politics and firmly centered on faith. Yet, it did not take long for those who seek a fusion of politics and faith to distort the Holy Father's message so as to serve the cause of justifying a theology that blends the kingdoms of this world (government, economic prosperity, military power) with the Kingdom promised to us in the next world.

History has shown us that politics and religion are a volatile mix. Pope Benedict XVI wrote of the dangers of integrating religion and politics in his compelling portrait of Jesus entitled Jesus of Nazareth. He warns that "the temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in varied forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suffocated in the embrace of power." He goes on to describe this hijacking of the faith by those seeking worldly power as a long term danger to the integrity of the Church and the message of Jesus: "The struggle for the freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus' Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century."

It is interesting that this description of the dangers of theocracy is a part of a larger work in which Pope Benedict XVI seeks to help us rediscover the historical Jesus by rescuing Him from the sanitized and repackaged modern version that has been thrust upon us by scholars, theologians and televangelists who are driven by an agenda that wrongly centers on power in this world. The Jesus who walked the earth among us at a particular place and time in human history, preaching a gospel of compassion, humility, peace and kindness to others, has been largely forgotten. The Jesus who ministered to the poor and marginalized, who challenged the hypocrisy of those in power, who rejected the political role that many of his followers desired Him to seize, has been expediently set aside in this culture that yearns for a more convenient Jesus, one who endorses our prosperity and our politics and condemns those who do not share our beliefs, culture or lifestyle.

How far removed is this modern version of Jesus from the true Jesus of Nazareth Pope Benedict XVI writes about? Go to the web site of the Christian Broadcasting Network and you will find Pat Robertson's Financial Success Booklet, which sums up the basic tenets of his theology of prosperity with the following: "It would be terrible to think that our loving heavenly Father gave the wealth and beauty of the world to estranged sinners and insisted His own people live impoverished and offensive lives." Or read the wide variety of literature offered by James Dobson and Focus on the Family that creates a Jesus who came to seek out, isolate and rehabilitate homosexuals, including The Bible and Homosexuality, Responding to Gay Theology and Coming Out of Homosexuality. Or read the works of the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder of the Coral Ridge Ministries, who, by turning the Prince of Peace into a politician, created an army of "vice regents of God" whose duty is to "reclaim America for Christ" and "exercise godly dominion...over every aspect of life."

So how do Catholics and other Christians in the United States rescue the real Jesus of Nazareth that Pope Benedict XVI writes about from those who have turned Him into a front man for their particular political, social or economic agendas? We can first and foremost heed the words of Pope Benedict XVI and reject the notion that the Kingdom of Jesus can be identified with any political enterprise found in this world. Secondly, we can reacquaint ourselves with the historical Jesus by reading and reflecting upon what the Gospels tell us about Him. We can pay particular attention to His message of compassion, humility, kindness, peace and unconditional love. We can also note how, despite the pleas of His followers, He left the politics to Caesar and instead focused His ministry on the poor and marginalized (think less Pat Robertson and more Mother Teresa). Finally, instead of wasting time and energy on proclaiming that we are a Christian nation, we should instead carry the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth with us into the voting booth and make sure we have a government that ensures we continually act like a Christian nation.

Dan D. Schinzel, Ed.D.
Founding member of Catholic Democrats of Nebraska.
Omaha World-Herald

May 3, 2008

Catholic League now invokes Hitler as it ignores war, torture, and hunger in going after Obama Catholics

Bill Donohue upped the ante in an emotionally disturbed rant belittling the Catholic Advisory Council for presidential candidate Barack Obama on May 8. The expanding Council had responded courteously to his previous critical press release of May 2. Citing the three most important Catholic issues as abortion, stem cell research, and school vouchers, Mr Donohue had tarred the members of the Council as being "dissidents" for not taking a Republican view on his three selected issues.

Mr Donohue's response focuses on abortion entirely, distilling his criticism down to a single misrepresentation of Senator Obama's role in dealing with the Republican sleight of hand on partial birth abortion in the Illinois Senate, and then labelling that misrepresentation as "a Hitlerian decision." It seems reasonable to assume that once someone resorts to a Hitler comparison, he has failed to make his argument in any credible way on its own terms.

There's a certain irony in Mr Donohue's invoking the name of Hitler while himself diminishing the significance of war, torture and world hunger as moral issues.

Neither Catholic League press release makes any mention about the ongoing killing in the Middle East, Administration sponsorship of torture, the current worldwide threat of starvation due to spiraling food prices, or the global warming crisis that threatens the poorest people all over the world. Pope Benedict has been outspoken on all these injustices, but they do not make Mr Donohue's list of the "three major public policy issues."

His Catholic League is supposed to be a 501c3 non-profit organization, but it has a well known Republican bias. Although the group's charter states that it exists to defend Catholics in public life, it attacked Catholic Senator John Kerry in 14 press releases during the presidential race in 2004. Senator Obama appears to be the new object of Mr Donohue's fury.

His efforts begin with picking and choosing what kind of person qualifies as a faithful Catholic, in the criticism of the 26 current or former Catholic office holders who publicly endorsed Senator Obama in April, excluding both chairs of the Council and all the academic members. Unspoken by the Catholic League was any criticism of the Catholics for McCain, which broadcast a similar list in an effort to calm the waters amidst the John Hagee anti-Catholicism controversy in March. The Catholics for McCain is led by Senator Sam Brownback, a major backer of the immoral war in Iraq, and Governor Frank Keating, one of the nation's most egregious enforcers of state-sponsored killing (as governor of Oklahoma he oversaw 54 executions). Apparently Mr Donohue considers neither to be a Catholic "dissident."

The other members of the McCain Catholic leadership team were nearly all involved in the Catholic outreach efforts that elected Mr Bush in 2000 and reelected him in 2004. Each worked to blur Catholic opposition to unilateral war and state-sponsored killing, not to mention their indifference to the slowing of progress against abortion under the Bush Presidency. Abortion rates fell more than twice as fast under the Clinton Administration as they have under Mr Bush, who also vetoed Democratic abortion reduction legislation in October 2007. The McCain Catholic team may be the single most important group that enabled a war that continues killing scores of people every day and has caused massive dislocation of millions in Iraq.

Mr Donohue seems to be unaware that the 'partial birth abortion' legislation upheld last year by the Supreme Court has not been shown to have stopped even a single abortion anywhere in the US. This law, similar to ones considered in 28 state legislatures, was an admitted attempt by Republicans to label Democrats as 'pro-abortion,' rather than something intended to actually have any effect on abortion in the US. In other words, partial birth abortion has everything to do with politics and virtually nothing to do with abortion.

Although Mr Donohue will plead that he is an equal-opportunity critic, with his recent harsh comments about Pastor Hagee, his emotional name-calling and lack of respect have significantly spared Senator McCain personally and been leveled almost exclusively at Senator Obama. Mr Donohue himself, who has no publicly-expressed guilt feelings about the massive killing in Iraq that was facilitated by his own support for Mr Bush in 2000 and 2004, can be expected to continue maligning any Catholic who steps forward to support either Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Obama.

The Catholic League is Catholic in name only, and should be widely viewed as nothing more than another corrupt niche mouthpiece for the Republican establishment.

May 5, 2008

CNN: Food Riots in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (CNN) -- Thousands of people rioted in the streets of the Somali capital on Monday to protest rising food prices and shops' refusal to accept Somali currency.

Demonstrators run through a Mogadishu street on Monday after grocers sought dollars for purchases.

Witnesses said two protesters were shot dead by Somali soldiers who were guarding buildings that were attacked by demonstrators.

Abdi Ud, a journalist with Somalia's Shabelle Media Network, said the protesters were angry because Mogadishu shopkeepers refused to accept Somali shillings and instead demanded payment in U.S. dollars.

Read the entire story here:


Boston Globe: Catholics reflect schism in Democratic base

Bloc splitting along age, class, and gender lines

By Brian C. Mooney, Globe Staff | May 5, 2008
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Taking a break from studying for final exams, three dozen Catholic students gathered for a barbecue on a grassy area of an apartment complex near the University of Notre Dame, their cellphones dialed in to a conference call with Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Read the article here:


May 6, 2008

HuffPo: McCain's Catholic Committee Full Of Controversial Figures

Religious affiliations have proven, in the course of this campaign, to be a tricky business for politicians -- none more so than Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the controversial former pastor of Sen. Barack Obama.

But John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, also has religious figures associated with his campaign that could pose problems for his electoral hopes. And they extend beyond the two infamous endorsers who have received the most attention: Pastor John Hagee -- who once called the Catholic Church the "great whore" -- and Reverend Rod Parsley -- who accused the government of enabling "black genocide" through legalizing abortion.

McCain's own "Catholics For McCain National Steering Committee" includes several figures that, while not personally connected to the senator (a la Wright to Obama), nevertheless create thorny issues for his candidacy. Read the entire article here.

May 7, 2008

It's NC for Obama and Indiana for Clinton, as new voter ID laws turn away nuns and other elderly voters

Another chapter was written yesterday in the tight nomination race between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who added an additional 143 delegates between them in their quest for the 2025 delegates needed to win. Senator Obama won the North Carolina Primary convincingly, 56-to-42%. With only 8% self-identified Catholics, exit polling was not able to discern a preference among NC Catholics. But voters at every level of church attendance in North Carolina went in the majority for Senator Obama.

Indiana was a closer race, with CNN declaring a win for Senator Clinton at 1:15am Eastern Time. She outpolled Senator Obama by about 12,500 votes, with roughly 51% of the total. The difference appeared to come primarily because women were substantially overrepresented among voters, 56-to-44%, and each candidate picked up about 51% of their own gender's votes. Catholics broke about 3:2 for Senator Clinton, slightly lower than in previous contests in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Interestingly, 1-in-7 polled Indiana voters said that neither Senators Clinton nor Obama were trustworthy, and these people voted substantially for Senator Clinton. This may have significantly included the 1-in-10 who were crossover Republicans, many of whom responded to Rush Limbaugh's encouragement to vote crossover in an attempt to skew the election toward Senator Clinton.

Virtually a quarter of Republican voters in both North Carolina and Indiana opted to vote against Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

In related news, the Supreme Court ruled last week that Indiana's voter ID law was Constitutional, and the Associated Press reported that the law had led a Catholic nun working at the polls to turn away 12 of her fellow sisters. They lacked state or federal identification bearing their photograph. Not a single case of voter misrepresentation had ever been prosecuted in Indiana, but state Republicans succeeded in passing a law that required a currently valid form of identification. The measure appears to have succeeded in doing what the authors intended, namely preventing voting without identification and thus turning away in the process a group of voters who might have been more likely to vote Democratic (ie. nuns).

"Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow members of Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote. The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one but came to the precinct anyway," reported the AP.

May 12, 2008




Boston, MA -- The Catholic Democrats today responded to the pro-Republican Catholic League's May 8th attack on Senator Barrack Obama's National Catholic Advisory Council, in which its president likened Senator Obama to Hitler. Bill Donohue has launched a series of highly partisan attacks on Senator Obama over the past month, and most recently chose to condemn Obama's long list of Catholic supporters as a group of "dissidents" because they believe that Catholics should be concerned about a broader range of issues than just school vouchers, stem cell research and abortion.

"Mr. Donohue is obsessed with abortion, misrepresenting Senator Obama's stance on this issue and then labeling that misrepresentation as "a Hitlerian decision," said Dr Patrick Whelan, President of Catholic Democrats. "Once someone resorts to a Hitler comparison, he has failed to make his argument in any credible way on its own terms."

Donohue's statements ignore the US Bishops' new "Faithful Citizenship" document, which for the first time stated unequivocally that the kind of prevention measures Senator Obama has advocated are as essential as any efforts to criminalize abortion. The document also calls Catholics to heed seven key themes from Catholic social teaching, including: the right of line and the dignity of the human person; call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; preferential option for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and, caring for God's creation. Donohue's statements also ignore the recent call for hope and unity by Pope Benedict XVI, still fresh in the minds of Catholics and people of good will.

"People such as Bill Donohue damage our Church when they use this kind of hateful language condemning fellow Catholics, particularly when their intent is to promote the Republican presidential candidate," said Bill Roth, Communications Director for Catholic Democrats. "Donohue's association with the Heritage Foundation, his central role as a Catholic surrogate for the Bush Campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and now his condemnation of Catholics with a fuller view of public morality make him a poor spokesman for an alleged non-partisan, non-profit organization that is supposed to defend Catholics in public life."

About Catholic Democrats

Catholic Democrats is an association of state based groups representing a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advancing a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans. Catholic Democrats have not endorsed any Democratic Party candidate at this time.



Patrick Whelan's full response to Catholic League

Faithful Citizenship

Catholic League's Statement

Catholic Democrats Home Page

May 14, 2008

Conservatives gear up again to use Communion as a political weapon, no matter the cost to American Catholicism

Governor Kathleen Sebelius has been widely applauded in Democratic circles as a leading vice-presidential candidate, in part because of her potential appeal to the Catholic voters that all three remaining presidential candidates have recognized as critical to their victory in November. As a state legislator and Insurance Commissioner, Gov Sebelius had worked closely for years with the bishops of Kansas on a wide array of issues of great concern to Catholics, including affordable housing, opposing the death penalty, and filling gaps in managed care. Her public service has been recognized by Governing Magazine in 2001, which named her one of its public officials of the year, and by Time Magazine in 2005, which labeled her one of America's five best governors.

So, with the Democratic governor's political star rising, the registered Republican Archbishop of Kansas City revived the use of Holy Communion as a political weapon to take her down. He publicly called on her to stop taking Communion with her Catholic community, because of her widely-known opposition to the use of criminal law in dealing with abortion. In a Catholic newspaper column, Archbishop Joseph Naumann indicated that he had made the request because he had been angered by her vetoes of several Republican bills restricting abortion in Kansas. In her most recent veto message, Gov Sebelius offered a detailed description of the lengths to which she had gone to address the abortion issue constructively, and lauded the success her administration had achieved in decreasing its incidence.

Coincidentally, a California law school professor and Constitutional scholar, Douglas Kmiec, who is one of the country's most outspoken opponents of abortion, found himself denied Communion because of his public support for Senator Obama. Prof Kmiec was attending a Mass prior to giving a speech to a group of Catholic businessmen, and reported on the website CatholicOnline that he was singled out because of his prominence as an Obama supporter. By this standard, anyone who expressed public support for President Bush could be excluded at Communion, given Mr Bush's support for torture and the Bishops' recent inclusion of torture (along with abortion) in their Faithful Citizenship document as "an intrinsically evil act."

The common thread in these two stories is that individual Catholic authorities took it upon themselves to judge that an association with a Democratic presidential candidate was sufficient cause for a subtle form of excommunication from the Catholic community.

Archbishop Naumann is no stranger to Republican political circles. He opened the National Right to Life Convention in June 2007, at which four of the Republican presidential candidates appeared (with speeches by Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback). He was a keynote speaker at a Denver conference in the fall of 2007, his remarks reprinted in the conservative journal First Things, where he belittled efforts on the part of progressive office holders to address abortion constructively rather than through criminal law, writing, "Why do so many of the pro-choice politicians even say that they want to make abortion rare? Why want to make something rare if it is truly a valid choice?" In 1996, as an official of the St Louis Archdiocese, then-Msgr Naumann tried to discourage attendance by Catholic school children at an event featuring President Bill Clinton because he disagreed with President Clinton's veto of a Republican abortion bill.

One Catholic theologian was outraged by the Archbishop's decision to use Communion for his political purposes: "Gov Sebelius made clear that she is opposed to abortion and that she is pursuing steps to reduce them. She vetoed the bill because of her judgement that it was unconstitutional. This makes the debate between her and the Bishop one of prudential judgement of policy. This is outside of the competence of the Magisterium, thus he has no episcopal basis to discourage her from receiving the Eucharist. His statement clearly portrays his going public with his 'request' as a response to her veto. The bishop has overstepped the bounds of doctrine and is now using a church sanction to punish a Catholic with whom he has a political disagreement."

The Archbishop is part of a small circle of conservatives that includes the bishop of the neighboring diocese of Kansas City MO, Robert Finn, who was the keynote speaker for an annual Republican political event last month in Washington DC called the "National Catholic Prayer Breakfast," organized largely by the leadership of Catholics for McCain. Archbishop Charles Chaput, another champion of using Communion for political purposes, wrote in the Denver Catholic Register in January, "So can a Catholic in good conscience support a 'pro-choice' candidate? The answer is: I can't and I won't." But are these pro-Republican bishops on firm ground theologically with their arguments that criminalization of abortion is the sine qua non of morality on this issue?

There is a good reason why so many nobly motivated public servants have opposed the criminalization of abortion, while fighting for the Church's stances on many other issues. The dirty little secret is that advocacy of criminalization for abortion has no basis in Catholic ethics, particularly since criminal measures have never been shown to be an effective means of decreasing abortions.

While laws are necessary and often effective in accomplishing certain laudable civil aims, the ultimate authority of law rests on the threat of bodily harm or other punishment if a citizen fails to obey the law. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus ever advocate the use of the coercive power of the state in attaining the moral life, or otherwise rely on the prudential judgement of Rome to help individuals attain salvation. At best, the use of criminal law is always the lesser of two evils, and never preferable to the free consent of the governed to engage in a particular kind of moral behavior, from a Christian point of view.

Is Gov Sebelius in compliance with the directives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops with regard to abortion? To their great credit, the Bishops' recent Faithful Citizenship document states emphatically that constructive measures such as those she has advocated (eg. encouraging adoption, supporting mothers) are not only important, but on an equal footing with efforts to criminalize abortion. The document goes as far as to cite the writings of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, stating, "Both opposing evil and doing good are essential obligations." With regard to criminalization, the Bishops specifically advocate passage of an amendment to the US Constitution outlawing all abortion, a measure which has not drawn the support of either the remaining Republican or Democratic presidential candidates.

More than just a philosophical issue, one can make the case that efforts to criminalize abortion are counterproductive. The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that nearly three times as many illegal abortions take place in the world every year (~18 million, mostly in the developing world) as in all the developed countries (6.6 million). The illegality of abortion in most countries across Africa and Latin America is generally recognized as a major cause of the continued astronomical maternal death rate worldwide (about 13% of the half million maternal deaths every year, according to Guttmacher). The 2007 international abortion survey found that abortion rates were no different overall in countries where abortion is illegal compared to where it is legal.

Here in the US, the contrast between the current Bush Administration and the preceding Clinton Administration is important. During the first term for Mr Bush, abortion rates fell by 1.6%. This compares to 7.9% during Mr Clinton's first term (CDC data), or about 21,600 fewer abortions per year if the rates had continued to decline after 2000 as rapidly as they did during the early Clinton Administration. The difference is even more pronounced using data from the Guttmacher Institute. Several factors appear to be responsible over the past 8 years, including decreased disposable income, increased teenage pregnancy rates, rising poverty rates, and decreasing rates of medical insurance and under-insurance.

Tellingly, the Bush Administration appears to have appreciated early that it was unlikely to match the Clintons' success in dealing with abortion. On entering office, the Bush Department of Health and Human Services moved the CDC's annual abortion reporting date to the Friday after Thanksgiving, the slowest news day of the year. In other words, though an Administration may talk a good game about abortion, its actions may count for significantly more.

Why do certain bishops and other religious conservatives cling to the notion that the only acceptable moral approach to abortion is criminalizing it, when the evidence suggests this is both alienating to a large section of the population (including Catholics) and ineffective? It appears to be purely an ideological issue, with a host of policy sins (such as Iraq, villanization of immigrants, environmental despoilment, and inaction on the escalating medical uninsurance crisis) hidden behind a veneer of morality on this one issue.

Conservatives love to point a finger of blame at the Democrats for the 42 million abortions since 1973, but they never talk about the 42 million abortions that came before Roe-v-Wade. Curiously, Archbishop Naumann concluded his address in Denver with the words, "I prefer to be a disciple of Jesus rather than of Pontius Pilate." But the irony is that the Republican approach to abortion is strictly in Pontius Pilate's domain of law and punishment, rather than the Christic domain of creativity and nurturing invitation to the moral life.

The actions of Archbishop Naumann, and other pro-Republican religious conservatives, will bring them considerable praise in right-wing political circles. But the reopening of an ugly chapter from the 2004 presidential campaign, in which Holy Communion was used as a political weapon against a Catholic candidate, is another sad defilement of American Catholicism. More than just their acquiescence to the manipulation of the Church in support of one party, the willingness of these men to use the Sacrament of Peace to help prolong all the Bush policies on war and poverty will serve to further separate all American Christians from Jesus' message of reconciliation while doing nothing to address the crying moral concerns related to abortion.

May 16, 2008

Catholic Democrats Condemn Exploiting the Eucharist for Republican Political Gain in Presidential Politics

Boston, MA -- The Catholic Democrats today condemned the politicization of the Eucharist that emerged this week in an attack by one bishop on the governor of his state, and in the denial of Communion to a Republican Constitutional law scholar because of his support for presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is a Catholic advisor to Senator Obama, and a leading candidate for his vice-presidential nomination. She has been in the forefront of all state executives in advocating constructive measures to decrease the number of abortions, which have indeed fallen at a rate twice the national average (3.6% her first 4-yrs in office, compared to 1.6% for the Bush first term, according to CDC data).

Professor Douglas Kmiec is a former counsel to President Ronald Reagan and law professor who has been an ardent opponent of abortion. Both have been singled out for a subtle form of excommunication because they are highly visible supporters of a Democratic presidential candidate.

In Governor Sebelius' case, she vetoed a law that imposed new criminal dimensions on the abortion process in Kansas, and would have significantly expanded the role of courts and trial lawyers. Over her five years in office, she has carefully and repeatedly articulated the reasons why she found criminalization measures counterproductive, and inferior to more supportive approaches to decreasing abortions. In other words, like most of her fellow Catholics and all the US Bishops, she is dedicated to seeing the number of abortions significantly reduced. Nonetheless, her prudential judgment in that matter incurred the wrath of Archbishop Joseph Naumann, a registered Republican. He publicly called for her "to refrain from receiving the Eucharist" because of her stance on abortion, even though both of them are fundamentally opposed to abortion.

Despite the ardor of certain conservatives to deny Communion to Democrats and other Obama supporters, this practice is not legitimized in Church law. According to Rev. John Beal JCD, professor of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America, "...a necessarily strict interpretation of Canon 915 serves as a brake on the temptation to politicize the Eucharist by allowing the sacrament that signifies and effects the union of love between Christ and the church to become a sacrament that signifies and brings about disunity. Zeal to protect the Eucharist from profanation by sinners can unwittingly lead to an even greater profanation by transforming the Eucharistic celebration into a continuation of politics by liturgical means."

Bill Roth, an official with Catholic Democrats, commented, "At a time when the Church is so much in need of healing, using Communion to attack a heroic public official like Governor Sebelius, because you differ with her approach to solving the abortion problem, is pastorally divisive beyond belief. And pitting Republican Catholics against Democratic Catholics cannot possibly be consistent with our Gospel values as Christians."

Additional significant background can be found at www.CatholicDemocrats.org.

About Catholic Democrats
Catholic Democrats is an association of state based groups representing a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advancing a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans.

May 28, 2008

Senator McCain falls far short in speech on nuclear threat

Senator John McCain spoke Tuesday (May 27) at the University of Denver in what was billed as a major policy speech on nuclear security. He essentially condemned the Bush Administration approach to unilateralism, repeatedly invoking the importance of collective action in dealing with the acquisition of nuclear technology by developing countries and by transnational anti-American organizations. To his great credit, he called for dramatic further reductions in nuclear missiles, and for a new arms limitation agreement with Russia to accomplish it. Catholic Social Teaching has dictated action of this nature for nearly 50 years, and a wide variety of Catholic voices addressing these issues had fallen on virtually deaf ears during the eight Bush years in the White House.

But Senator McCain fell far short of meeting what most Catholic thinkers would call the moral imperative on these issues. He called for continuing the militarization of the North Pacific, a move condemned last week in a joint statement by the Russian and Chinese governments as the beginning of a new arms race. He also reinforced the highly destructive unilateral Bush move to place a network of missiles in Central Europe on the pretense that the US needs to protect Europe from Iran, even though most European countries have condemned this costly escalation in hostilities.

Senator McCain failed to even mention the most urgent need regarding nuclear forces, namely Pentagon planning under the Bush Administration for the militarization of space. Mr Bush is requesting $10 million in funding in fiscal year 2009 for a "Space Test Bed" as part of a space-based missile defense system. The program would begin the process of putting weapons in space for the first time and would therefore have dangerous long-term consequences.

Last year, Congress rejected funding for the Space Test Bed. But this year, the Union for Concerned Scientists has warned that several influential senators have expressed a willingness to fund space weapons and anti-satellite programs on the mistaken assumption that the US can effectively "defend" its satellites in the face of China's threat to deploy space weapons. Not only would the program break the international taboo against weapons in space, the interceptors have no chance of providing an effective defense despite the enormous cost of their deployment.

Senator McCain also reinforced his determination to continue the killing, and the dying, and the unfathomable spending, in Iraq. While any student of foreign affairs must applaud his general sentiment of increased engagement with US allies, the commitment to heightened militarism in the face of so much economic need at home and abroad can only be described as grossly incompatible with the central imperative of Christianity--devotion to and imitation of a Savior who sacrificed his own life for the wellbeing of every human being.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama

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