Friday, June 29, 2012

Keep Hope Alive

There have been some insights on the ruling yesterday that allow us to keep hope alive that conscience rights,  unborn children, and their parents can still protected:

  1. Since the Individual Mandate penalty was deemed a "tax" by Chief Justice Roberts, its repeal is filibuster proof, because tax repeals cannot be filibustered.  This seems to be very uncommonly known as those commentators involved with yesterday's whirlwind news cycle were not able to pick up on this.  They were saying that Romney and Bachman and Cantor can talk about repealing as much as they want but it only takes a Democratic filibuster to prevent that.  Turns out Roberts interpretation would actually make the repeal easier.
  2. There are still law suits in progress by EWTN, University of Notre Dame, and other Catholic institutions on the religious freedom issue that could still come before the Supreme Court.  Does anyone know a good site to track what all law suits against the Affordable Care Act are out there and where they are in terms of making it to the the case docket of the Supreme Court of the United States?  These too could result in a ruling that would make the act in its entirety unconstitutional.
  3. George at Convert Journal does an excellent job pulling together cogent points on the war on Religious Freedom.  To save yourself endless hours of Google searches and reading many articles not worth your time I recommend his latest post, as well as his whole series on the war on religion.  He has some excellent videos in that series.

Here is key quote from George's latest post:

November 6th is now a REFERENDUM on ObamaCare
The decision to accept this controversial freedom crushing, pro-abortion healthcare law now goes to the voters. YOU decide. Cast your vote for president Obama and his party if you support this deeply flawed law. If you oppose the law and recognize that improving healthcare access does not have to be at the cost of religious liberty and innocent life, vote against President Obama and his enabling party. It really is that simple.

There is going to be real moral dilemma for immigrants that are personally impacted or have friends and family personally impacted by the Republicans tough talk on immigration.  If we take our Lord's teaching on mercy to heart, we also need to have open minds and hearts to finding way of treating those who are here compassionately.  I haven't studied this enough, but there are those who have and we have to put compassion above the economic me-first (characteristic of the KKK in the south, and those in Europe that cheered when the Jewish families were kicked out of their homes herded toward their deaths), while at same time we do need to make it harder for immigrants to come in completely under the radar.

Many of the voting, and even-non-voting but opinion-leading Hispanics, have anger at Republicans that show so little care for their, their families', their friends' struggle to make a better life for themselves.  Will they take a short-term view or a long one?  Do they care more or less about the attack on religious freedom or the inherent evil of an administration and party whose clear agenda is to ensure abortion is treated as a right, 100% subsidized by society at large regardless of what they think of the destruction of human life in the womb?

I don't know how Romney can win unless he gets someone on his ticket that is able to work with the religious leaders of voting Hispanics to make this argument as well as to represent them in getting promises from Romney and others running for federal office that will treat those that are here illegally with compassion and mercy, while at same time reforming the process by which they may enter here, so that our border states do not have burden that cannot be carried in terms of healthcare, education, and law enforcement.

How also do we treat immigrants desire to improve the quality of life of their families with the injustice that has been done to families in this country by policies that have not protected manufacturing jobs and non-enforcement of immigration laws and work visa rules that have handed US citizens jobs to foreign companies that will supply lower cost labor.

Similarly the seemingly stone hearted Republicans that talk so obliviously about the replacement of the Affordable Care Act with talking points and policies that only resonate with those who have kept their employment throughout this past recession, and do not have medical conditions among their family and friends that they lack the funds or insurance to treat their diseases or injuries, need to be woken up by a compassionate leader who gets it.

Just as Senator Rubio has ideas similar and better to the proclamation the President made on the lawn to ensure there are more campaign workers from the Hispanic community, Romney needs to find someone or he and Rubio need to say how their replacement of the unconstitutional act will provide the safety net that does more to help temporarily unemployed persons and their families, and provides financial or other solution for those deciding between debt leading to personal bankruptcy or medical treatment.

I don't know that it will be Rubio as VP, or is there someone that can find the sweet spot of moral, merciful and fair for healthcare and immigration?  Is it Huckabee?

What about other problems with our economy?  The need for reforms that undo the harm that unions' overcorrections did to force American companies to take their manufacturing out of the U.S. whereas foreign companies will build plants here and do well, because they are non-union?

What about property taxes increasing on homeowners even as their property values decrease and many left "upside down"?  I am not sure, but it seems like the same root cause to that one and local and state governments going bankrupt has to do with the inequity between the great deals public unions, teacher unions have secured for their members and what happened a decade ago in industry.  Remember when Sears and other companies cancelled company pensions?  We have in this country those who are non-public union workers, non-teachers that need to fund their own retirement and partially fund their own healthcare that are being taxed to give early retirement aged co-citizens awesome pensions and healthcare benefits.

This is the reason our local and state governments have shortfalls.  This is why property taxes must continue to go up even as overreaching federal government leaders seek to do more of taking from those that don't buy into the entitlement culture to give and provide for those who do.

What about the need to raise revenues during the interim period of passing reforms?  Is there a way to close loop holes with some sort of flat tax coupled with a national sales tax that gets those in the underground economy contributing fairly to those that provide for their civil rights and protections?  If you look at the high level view of our current federal budget, we are not far behind the European nations like Greece, Spain, Italy.  How do we continue to provide foreign aid and provide military defenses for countries like Germany and Japan when we are borrowing and running up debt that the Federal Reserve can neither lower interest rates or print enough money to keep us solvent?
I'll do my best to return this blog to more spiritual topics beginning with my next post.

Can't Believe It

Finding that I'm wee bit obsessed with the ruling on the Healthcare Act.  Need to get this out since the poor folks I am around in the real world did not read the dissenting opinion.  Somehow writing thoughts out here might help me finally concentrate on the work I should have gotten done today.

What I am starting to realize is there are "ends justify the means" people that identify as liberals, progressives, and some that identify as conservative, Republicans.

We've seen politicians "message", one way while working an agenda that differs from the message.  We've seen judges rule against written law to bring about their view of justice.  We have a President that believes it is right for them to do so.

Today was baffling because the dissenting opinion was very clear and logical.  Lawyers and judges are talented verbally.  They cite definitions of words, as you'll remember Clinton doing, and as the dissenting opinion did, referencing several different dictionaries, one written in 1779.

My opinion and criticism is that we have seen liberal judges and justices make whatever argument they need to rationalize activism.  It was expected that the 4 liberal judges would vote the way they did.  It was not expected that the chief justice would replace the word penalty with tax in order to avoid overturning the act as unconstitutional.

I just did a search of the actual final text of the law.  There are 685 mentions of the word tax.  Tax credits come up quite a bit.  There is a section IX as the dissenting opinion mentions that does call out some taxes and tax increases.  These are not related to the individual mandate, however, just as the dissenting opinion called out.

There are 132 mentions of the word penalty.  Roberts decided to accept the weak argument to the court that even if you don't rule it is constitutional because of the authority to regulate commerce then we'll also offer that it is constitutional on the authority to tax.

Why did Roberts accept that if the statute itself calls it a penalty and not a tax and if it was a tax it would have been mentioned with the other taxes in Section IX?

I don't know.  His opinion cited that there is legal precedent for avoiding overturning passed law as unconstitutional, if possible.  That is the reason he gave for interpreting the penalty as a tax.  This seems like having a bias in favor of legislation that might be valid if the legislative process behind this law had some sort of integrity and resemblance to what it resembled during prior periods in our history.  But his role is to protect the Constitution and the limits on federal powers enumerated there so as to preserve the freedoms and rights that our forefathers fought and worked to provide the citizens of the United States of America.

Some are giving him credit as one who calculated the "lose the battle win the war" using some form of political and legal quantum mechanics.  This would put him in the end justifies the means camp, because I can't see him changing the wording of the statute, including putting what doesn't appear in Section IX squarely in the middle of Section IX by his ruling.  This is judicial activism, legislation from the bench.  That is wrong.  It is against the 1990 oath of office:

"I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States.  So help me God."

Others were suggesting he was bullied into it, as the dissenting opinion had a tone of being the majority opinion in parts indicating he switched late to preserve the law by reading into penalty the word "tax".  Prior versions of the oath include the words,

"I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic".  

That means standing up to political and personal bullies if that were the case.

It is done now.  Some are taking encouragement that donations to Romney's campaign are up.

I am not encouraged that the Republicans talking on TV talk about doing things at no cost to the tax payer but then ignore that something is broken when "pre-existing conditions" bankrupt individuals and families or shorten lives, or decrease quality of life.  What are the good ideas for solving that?

Here's one crazy one in a presidential election year when both campaigns will raise between $700 Million and $1 Billion.  Tax the campaigns unless they donate money to cover high priced premiums or directly cover healthcare costs for those individuals with pre-existing conditions that have been refused coverage.

Another less flippant idea:  Fine employers that do not subsidize health insurance for non-citizen workers, and sue them for the full cost of any healthcare costs incurred by non-covered, non-citizen workers that they most recently employed or are currently employing.

Have a national foundation that raises funds for those with "pre-existent conditions" or write this into Medicaid law while at the same time writing reforms into other entitlements like the disability coverage that has continued to increase providing disincentive to work and overcome disabilities for those whose disabilities are overcome-able.

Having worked for 7 years with a completely blind man who was an outstanding Unix Admin and DBA working with his monitor off, listening to the characters on headphones, and benefiting from the satisfaction that comes from work and fellowship with co-workers, we are not being compassionate by making it easy to collect disability.

What about those that are still able to retire at 50 with pension and healthcare that is funded by others who can't retire at 50 and do not have any retirement that they did not pay into themselves, and do not have healthcare unless they work or are old enough to qualify for Medicare?

This is my attempt to be rational and logical.

Where my emotion comes from is this law is the vehicle for executing on Obama's promises to NARAL, Planned Parenthood and others when he said he would get the Freedom of Choice Act passed.  In the upholding of this law we will have abortion not just accessible on demand, but free, paid for whether it is against our conscience or not because all insurance providers will be required to provide it. No law has ever been voted on making abortion legal and free, but here it is legal and free.

Just as our original Constitution legislated the immorality of 3/5ths of a person for those immorally captured, and sold into slavery, we now have the strength of upheld law behind unelected cabinet secretaries passing regulation to ensure that the unborn child is continued to be treated and viewed as 0/5ths of a person and can be aborted readily at no cost at all.

It would be a full-time undertaking to ensure one was not buying products, services from companies that support Planned Parenthood or politicians that have a pro-abortion voting record and agenda.  This just makes it harder to avoid providing funding used to kill the unborn.  The immorality is angering.  The missed opportunity to easily overturn the law that had our Congress acting as corruptly as in a Fascist or Communist state. . . . not allowing time for the people's representatives to read the bill, passing it through a reconciliation rather than an actual vote when it will put trillions more onto our national debt . . . it is just a day that will end just like it began,

"I can't believe it!"

Doesn't it seem just a little more like the quote from Robert Bolt's play, Man for All Seasons,

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? ... just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Congressional procedures were flat and changeable under Pelosi and Reid.  Roberts gave liberal interpretation to "penalty" to make it a "tax" and eroded the limits intended by the Constitution and the original Amendment providing for the House of Representatives to initiate taxes.

Still we are the children of an all-powerful God who does work things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).  We are told to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)!  It happened, through God's permissive will, it happened.  We were in his hands before and we'll be in his hands and maybe a little more prayerful now that this decision and balloon bursting has happened.

Please could we at least have Obama defeated in the November election?  Please?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No greater glory than to give your life for Christ

This is the inspirational line, the last words spoken by Father Christopher, before he is martyred, to a young altar boy named José Luis Sánchez del Rio.
I had planned on taking my older two children, 15 and 13, to the movie with me today.  Then at the last minute I decided my younger daughter, 10.5, could also come.  She has no sensitivity to blood and I have hope of her one day being a surgeon.

My husband insists we check out Focus on the Family's Plugged in Movie Reviews before we take the kids to the show.  There was a time when we went on a whim without checking and he wasn't happy with the quality of film we ended up sitting through.

When he pulled up this review he found right away that it was rated R.  For some reason I thought it was PG-13.  Immediately my 10.5 year old was not coming.  When he read through the violent content, and read in particular about the torture and murder of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio, then he was sure I was going to see this movie alone.  I said, yes, there are some martyrs.  He compromised by letting them read the summary for themselves.  My daughter, the 15 year old, a very fast reader, quickly opted out.  She came out  to the van to retrieve her belongings.  If she wasn't going, then neither was my 13 year old son.  I did go alone.

The movie was good, and I've spent the past hour or so reading up on the criticism of it.  I thought maybe Plugged In had perhaps overdone it, since it a Protestant site, and it was a Catholic themed film. It was actually a very accurate and fair review.

Martyrs are part of church history, and I've read and heard about the martyrs and also those who weren't martyred but suffered mutilations and enslavement for their faith.  I ache inside when I hear about the tortures that have been suffered by men, women, and children at the hands of their fellow human beings throughout the ages.  I am someone that sees St. Bartholomew as saint of the day on Universalis and then begins an hour or so research into the history of flaying someone alive.

I also hit the internet to learn about the pogroms suffered by the Jews in Russia, the atrocities committed during Hindu-Muslim violence in India, the horrific violence in The Congo, Darfur, Rwanda.  It seems important to me, not in a morbid way, but in a way to know what is going on, and what could or might be done to stop it.

I don't think we do want to land our soldiers everywhere there is injustice in the world.  But, could we at least air lift in medical supplies and food?  Maybe we don't attack, but maybe we could have a volunteer special force set up whose job it was to build and protect refugee places in countries like Sudan, so the camps are not raided at night by machete and gun wielding rapists.  Why aren't we at least dropping food and medical supplies into Syria right now?  We have satellites to know where to drop the supplies, and can't we do something to those drones to have them scout a drop site and not just use them to kill people?

I hate horror movies, and I never saw, nor took my very disappointed son to see the Star Wars Episode 3 where Anakin takes out the young Jedi, because it is wrong for Hollywood to portray children being killed.

Now I am fresh off of Hunger Games when I sobbed like crazy during a child death scene, but I am wanting to take at least two of my children to see what I know is going to be portrayed.

I've read about the martyrdom of children before, from the three young daughters of St. Sophia, St. Faith, St. Hope, and St. Love (Agape) (the three of them are the patron saints of our religious school), to the children in Japan that were crucified with their parents, including the martyrdom of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio, that I read about from a link posted by Ignatius Press on Facebook.  We have a banner of St. Sophia, St. Faith, St. Hope, and St. Agape in our church.  It is a handmade/homemade looking banner, but my heart burns with love when I remember their witness.  I could paste a link here, but it is such a heart-rending account I'll leave it to you to do your own google, if you want to.

My human mind, with its fear of suffering, not unlike Peter trying to stop the Lord from going to Jerusalem, also can't help crying with questions, "Did you give them help through their suffering, Lord?  Did you pull them close to you in their spirit so that your love was truly sustaining them and helping them endure such great cost to testify of their love and belief in you?"  The icon in our church shows Jesus in the corner looking down on them.  I hope it was more than that.  I hope he was speaking to them at the time.  I hope that by his abandonment on the cross that he won the victory to not let his beloved martrys suffer from any sense of abandonment during their passion and deaths.

This is real, this is history, this is still occurring in parts of the world today.  As portrayed in the first 30 minutes of the film, there are armed men breaking into churches in other parts of the world and killing those inside.  

I thought it would help my children, well teens, to see this reality.  To think about it. To grapple with the questions and the fear.  To pray through the fear that if it came to it, that they would have that gift of perfect love that casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:18).

If you haven't seen it yet, the link to the Plugged In movie review above will tell you what you are in for.  This was not a gory representation, but you know what was happening.  I became desensitized to the sight of hanging bodies during the movie.  It seemed more unreal than the imaginary Hunger Games, although it was actually the opposite . . . this was a time, in this past century, in this hemisphere, of terrible barbarity.

Because I had read the account of the martyrdom of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio, I was not one of the women in the audience that let out a cry of horror when he is violently stabbed in the back after telling his parents he loves them, and says again, "Viva Christo Rey!"  There were some women in the audience who were not prepared for that, and they were shocked.  They didn't show it on camera, but you know exactly what happened.

I read the Hunger Games, but I cried more during that one super sad scene than I did during the whole For Greater Glory movie.  It isn't just that I knew what was coming for this young martyr.  It is that I understood and believed as he did, that he was going home.  Not only would he see his beloved Father Christopher, but he would also see his beloved Christ the King, and Our Lady.  The actor playing the role made both the pain, and the faith very believable.

The movie won't be out much longer in theaters.  I had to travel a bit to find it.  It was only in the place with 30 movies, and was only there for 3 showings today.  It is good to see on the big screen, but you won't miss much once it goes to DVD, other than the chance to register in the box office totals a movie that wakes us up to the reality of what some have sacrificed for our faith.

It was ironic that the movie was criticized that the heroes seemed to have very good shooting skills relative to the bad guy Federal soldiers.  I guess it makes it too Clint Eastwood, John Wayne like for them, and reduces its integrity as historically accurate.    I also found a review on a socialist site, it looked like a news article review but it wasn't.  It was a socialist review.  It said how the church was also conspiring to keep land from being redistributed to the peasants.  

Really shows you the difference a point of view can make, doesn't it?  If you are someone whose heart is being filled with the light and love of Christ the King, then seeing your priests shot, and your church's religious treasures destroyed, and those attending prohibited masses, whether men, women, child, or elderly killed, is enough to take up arms.  (Although the movie also showed the life of a martyr, Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, that pursued non-violent means, an economic boycott.)  If you think the Church isn't seeding enough of its lands to be redistributed to those that have been oppressed, then you think the peasants were ignorant, and the church took advantage of their ignorance to get the peasants to fight for them.

The socialist site did make one criticism I agreed with though.  They pointed out that the movie didn't show what life was like for the peasants before they took up arms.  I thought this was fair.  We probably could have learned more about that.

Ruben Blades, the actor that played the Mexican President, was very good and believable in his role.  His eloquence and "swag" will remind you of a certain current president!  There is another parallel that isn't as easy to deduce.  President Calle said the church was evil and wanted to promote a secular society raising the peasants through secular, scientific education.  He managed to legislate this policy into law.  His enforcement measures, killing priests and those attending services after they were banned was clearly and dramatically evil.

In this country we have a President, Human Health Services Secretary, and former Speaker of the House proclaiming that the evil of abortion, killing the child within the womb of the mother, is not just "reproductive rights", but "reproductive health".  Death <> health!  There is no difference between the illogicity and lies of Presidente Calle's speeches and those we hear from the current party in power on this issue.

I am not saying it is time to take up arms either!  Just saying, remember elections do mean something!  Hope like crazy that the Supreme Court calls the whole Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.  It was Obama's way of getting the Free Choice Act passed without passing it in Congress.  Maybe you saw his speech to Planned Parenthood while he was campaigning the first time around?  He promised them this was on his priority list.  Instead he has unelected HHS secretary consulting with "reproductive health" experts to covertly regulate the intents of the Free Choice Act into law through the back door.

Bruce Greenwood as Ambassador Morrow shows how "US Interests" aren't always on the side of righteousness.  In the movie Morrow sells Presidente Calle machine guns, cannons to help end the war sooner, so as to get more generous treatment toward American Oil Companies operating in Mexico.  Later in the movie he sees the many bodies hanging from electric poles during negotiations with the church on behalf of the Mexican president.  He has to leave them, and the view, as he finally realizes the cost of his callousness.

It is an important film.  Never heard anything about the Cristeros in American History, World History at either the high school nor college level, and I would have thought since I attended a high school named after Pope John Paul II and a university named after Our Lady that this would have come up.  God bless those that funded and made this film.  God bless and reward those that died for the freedom to worship Christ the King, as he asked, by attending the Mass in memory of his sacrifice for us to the Father.

The final thing to remember from the movie is the moral dilemma: is it right to take up arms and kill for the sake of righteousness.  We see in history that the Church recognizes the heroic martyrdom of those that have taken up arms or led those who did.  We see them portrayed in movies, but we don't see the blessed and saints killing.  St. Joan of Arc carries her banner, but we don't see her use her sword.  Blessed Jose is shown doing similar thing, holding the banner of the Sacred Heart.  Yet when I did a Google Image search there is a picture of Blessed José carrying rifle and wearing an ammunition belt across his chest.

I grappled with this slightly when I joined Army ROTC to help pay for attending Notre Dame.  It wasn't going to go well with my application for scholarship if I indicated that I might be a future conscientious objector.  That wasn't what dropped me out of the program, it was a sergeant putting his boot on my back and pushing me to the floor.  Didn't want to put myself in that kind of helpless position to some unscrupulous and stronger person again.

It makes you think though.  If ever you would want to know the will and heart of God it is if you have to kill for a righteous cause, or if you are dying for the glory of his name!  We are fairly secure that the priests forgiving their assassins, and the boy being killed because he will not deny Christ are Saints with a capital S.  

We are left with the impression that those that killed hundreds, thousands for Christ's cause would not be saved if they didn't receive absolution before dying.  The General, and athiest/agnostic in the beginning, confesses immediately before his last battle because of a dream of Blessed José.  The priest that carries the guilt of accidentally setting fire to a train with civilians still inside, is rushed wounded to a priest so that he can make a last confession.  

If we conclude they needed to confess because they had killed, I think that would be a wrong conclusion.  Not only because it is wrong to judge, as Jesus told us not to, but because there were other things that they needed to confess, which I bring up for discussion based on their character development in the movie.    The General had non-belief and pride that put him ahead of God.  The priest was fighting with a revengeful heart.

If one thinks they needed to confess because they had killed, this would result in a misunderstanding of church teaching since both men would certainly kill again if they lived.  Absolution is only valid if there is contrition and firm purpose of amendment.  Contrition can be either perfect (sorrow for offending Christ and contributing to his suffering and death) or imperfect (fear of punishment in this life and the next).  But either way the resolution to not commit the confessed sins again needs to be present.  

The 5th Commandment (6th if you are Protestant) says Thou Shalt Not Kill.  I heard a Rabbi once say that the correct interpretation from the original Hebrew is Thou Shalt Not Murder the Innocent.  Those that are killing priests, children are not innocent, although one would have to judge them in order to decide that they were killable, right?  So are those who are killing those who are evil and cannot otherwise be stopped, breaking the 5th Commandment?  I am not the judge, Jesus Christ is but I think the answer is no. 

The Old Testament has many battles that could be aptly described as blood baths, and God still loves David even though he shed much blood.  He does say that his son should build the Temple rather than him because he has shed blood (1 Chronicles 22:8).  Jesus says those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword (Matt 26:52) , but then in another verse he says to sell your cloak to get a sword (Luke 22:36).  

We see in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola what happens when a soldier is converted!  His work on discerning the spirits is probably the most useful study someone that feels called to the military could make.  Since serving Christ is primary, one would want to ensure that calling was in line with serving Christ.

Prayer of Intercession for our servicemen and for all of us in the Church Militant
O Blessed José, littlest soldier of Christ, whose last bloody steps brought you to the arms of Our Lady and our Lord, keep healthy and strong the steps of our Lord's soldiers who remain here on earth, such that they may have your strength to endure and persevere to the end.  Amen.