Saturday, October 09, 2004

ABC has ordered its reporters to hound Bush and give Kerry a pass.

The debate last night had two questions from the audience that are key principles for Catholics: embryonic stem cell research and federal funding of abortion. If Bush didn't knock them out of the park, it was close, and Kerry handled them about as poorly as he could have.

1. Embryonic Stem Cells

GIBSON: Senator Kerry, the next question is for you, and it comes from Elizabeth Long.

LONG: Senator Kerry, thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical cord stem cells. However, no one has been cured by using embryonic stem cells.

Wouldn't it be wise to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo?

KERRY: You know, Elizabeth, I really respect your -- the feeling that's in your question. I understand it. I know the morality that's prompting that question, and I respect it enormously.

But like Nancy Reagan, and so many other people -- you know, I was at a forum with Michael J. Fox the other day in New Hampshire, who's suffering from Parkinson's, and he wants us to do stem cell, embryonic stem cell.

And this fellow stood up, and he was quivering. His whole body was shaking from the nerve disease, the muscular disease that he had.

KERRY: And he said to me and to the whole hall, he said, "You know, don't take away my hope, because my hope is what keeps me going."

Chris Reeve is a friend of mine. Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again, and I want him to walk again.

I think we can save lives.

Now, I think we can do ethically guided embryonic stem-cell research.

We have 100,000 to 200,000 embryos that are frozen in nitrogen today from fertility clinics. These weren't taken from abortion or something like that. They're from a fertility clinic. And they're either going to be destroyed or left frozen.

And I believe if we have the option, which scientists tell us we do, of curing Parkinson's, curing diabetes, curing, you know, some kind of a, you know, paraplegic or quadriplegic or, you know, a spinal cord injury, anything, that's the nature of the human spirit.

KERRY: I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure. I think it is respecting life to do it in an ethical way.

And the president has chosen a policy that makes it impossible for our scientists to do that. I want the future, and I think we have to grab it.

GIBSON: Mr. President, a minute and a half.

BUSH: Embryonic stem-cell research requires the destruction of life to create a stem cell. I'm the first president ever to allow funding -- federal funding -- for embryonic stem-cell research. I did so because I too hope that we'll discover cures from the stem cells and from the research derived.

But I think we've got to be very careful in balancing the ethics and the science.

BUSH: And so I made the decision we wouldn't spend any more money beyond the 70 lines, 22 of which are now in action, because science is important, but so is ethics, so is balancing life. To destroy life to save life is -- it's one of the real ethical dilemmas that we face.

There is going to be hundreds of experiments off the 22 lines that now exist that are active, and hopefully we find a cure. But as well, we need to continue to pursue adult stem-cell research.

I helped double the NIH budget to $28 billion a year to find cures. And the approach I took is one that I think is a balanced and necessary approach, to balance science and the concerns for life.

GIBSON: Senator, 30 seconds, less extent.

KERRY: Well, you talk about walking a waffle line -- he says he's allowed it, which means he's going to allow the destruction of life up to a certain amount and then he isn't going to allow it.

KERRY: I don't know how you draw that line.

But let me tell you, point blank, the lines of stem cells that he's made available, every scientist in the country will tell you, "Not adequate," because they're contaminated by mouse cells, and because there aren't 60 or 70 -- they're are only about 11 to 20 now -- and there aren't enough to be able to do the research because they're contaminated.

We've got to open up the possibilities of this research. And when I am president, I'm going to do it because we have to.

GIBSON: Mr. President?

BUSH: Let me make sure you understand my decision. Those stem- cells lines already existed. The embryo had already been destroyed prior to my decision.

I had to make the decision to destroy more life, so we continue to destroy life -- I made the decision to balance science and ethics.

2. Federal Funding of Abortion

GIBSON: Going to go to the final two questions now, and the first one will be for Senator Kerry. And this comes from Sarah Degenhart.

DEGENHART: Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion, what would you say to that person?

KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now.

First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today.

But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can't do that.

But I can counsel people. I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices, and about abstinence, and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society.

KERRY: But as a president, I have to represent all the people in the nation. And I have to make that judgment.

Now, I believe that you can take that position and not be pro- abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don't deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the constitution affords them if they can't afford it otherwise.

That's why I think it's important. That's why I think it's important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning.

You'll help prevent AIDS.

KERRY: You'll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies.

You'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it.

GIBSON: Mr. President, minute and a half.

BUSH: I'm trying to decipher that.

My answer is, we're not going to spend taxpayers' money on abortion.

This is an issue that divides America, but certainly reasonable people can agree on how to reduce abortions in America.

I signed the partial-birth -- the ban on partial-birth abortion. It's a brutal practice. It's one way to help reduce abortions. My opponent voted against the ban.

I think there ought to be parental notification laws. He's against them.

I signed a bill called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

BUSH: In other words, if you're a mom and you're pregnant and you get killed, the murderer gets tried for two cases, not just one. My opponent was against that.

These are reasonable ways to help promote a culture of life in America. I think it is a worthy goal in America to have every child protected by law and welcomed in life.

I also think we ought to continue to have good adoption law as an alternative to abortion.

And we need to promote maternity group homes, which my administration has done.

Culture of life is really important for a country to have if it's going to be a hospitable society.

Thank you.

GIBSON: Senator, do you want to follow up? Thirty seconds.

KERRY: Well, again, the president just said, categorically, my opponent is against this, my opponent is against that. You know, it's just not that simple. No, I'm not.

I'm against the partial-birth abortion, but you've got to have an exception for the life of the mother and the health of the mother under the strictest test of bodily injury to the mother.

KERRY: Secondly, with respect to parental notification, I'm not going to require a 16-or 17-year-old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father. So you got to have a judicial intervention. And because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help, I voted against it. It's never quite as simple as the president wants you to believe.

GIBSON: And 30 seconds, Mr. President.

KERRY: Well, it's pretty simple when they say: Are you for a ban on partial birth abortion? Yes or no?

And he was given a chance to vote, and he voted no. And that's just the way it is. That's a vote. It came right up. It's clear for everybody to see. And as I said: You can run but you can't hide the reality.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Great Pumpkin 

My RCIA lesson for Monday is Chapter 7 ("People of God: The Christian Community") in "This is our Faith" by Michael Francis Pennock. The book is a re-telling of the Catechism of the Catholic Faith, so at times it goes too deeply into detail. In this chapter, for example, the book discusses "sacramentum," a Latin word which translates into the Greek word, "mysterion." The chapter talks about "efficacious symbols" (a symbol that embodies the reality it represents), it talks about "diakonia" (Service) and "leitourgia" (the work of the public), etc. These tidbits of what ancient words mean in relation to the modern church might be interesting, but the detail is a distraction for me. I won't remember any of this and am sure that many fantastic Catholics don't know that the Greek word for "people" is "laos" from which we get the word "laity." Should I struggle to care?

The most interesting topic seemed, to me, to be "Can non-Christians be saved" Here is what paragraph 847 in the Catholic Catechism says:

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
Which reminds me of "The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown:"

Linus: . . . and then on Halloween night the "Great Pumpkin" rises up out of the pumpkin patch. . . and he brings toys to all the good little children in the world!

Charlie Brown: You're crazy!

Linus: All right, so you believe in Santa Claus and I'll believe in the "Great Pumpkin". . . the way I see it, it doesn't matter what you believe just so you're sincere!

But it does answer that coffee house question everyone asked in college: what about all the people who died who never had a chance to know Christ?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A state judge tossed the Louisiana constitutional amendment against gay marriage that was passed 79% to 21% awhile back. I have some thoughts on gay marriage below that have no links because it's all my own opinion, for what it's worth.

Some say that to be against gay marriage is to be prejudiced. Others say that to call being gay a sin, or to be otherwise against gay marriage, is bigoted. 'Predudice' can mean several things. It can mean your opinion is not informed by the true facts, it can mean your opinion is unfounded and based on emotion rather than on reality. It really means that you are prejudging something before you know everything there is to know. 'Bigoted' doesn't have a lot of meanings. It means you hold a strong opinion about something or someone or some group and you're unwilling to accept any other views in disagreement with your own.

1. Is the Catholic Church prejudiced against gays? Does the Catholic Church prejudge 'gayness' as 'sinful' before knowing the facts? Those who say, "yes," believe being gay causes no harm to society or to the individuals involved. They believe it's better for society to have loving couples, no matter their gender, accepted and supported. But what fact has the Catholic Church missed? What fact does the Church ignore that shows gayness is not sinful? In what way is 'sin,' which is 'estrangement from God,' defined as what is accepted by society? It is just that method of defining 'sin' as whatever fits with modern society's norms that is driving people away, that is driving me away, from the Protestant churches. The Catholic Church is not prejudiced against gays because prejudice means opinion based on insufficient knowledge, irrational feelings or inaccurate stereotypes. The Catholic Church teaches that gay actions are a sin because the Bible says so and no teaching since the beginning has contradicted that. Psychiatry does not define sin, God defines sin. Politicians don't define sin, God does. The Supreme Court of the United States cannot define sin, only the Word can.

2. Is the Catholic Church bigoted against gays? 'Bigoted' means you hold a strong opinion about something or someone and you're not willing to accept any other views on the matter. Is the Catholic Church willing to accept other views on gayness and gay marriage? Bigots do not even listen to the arguments, and how can anyone say that the Catholic Church has not been listening to the gay argument? The Church is full of statements and teachings on this matter. The acceptance of gay activity in the church is under constant discussion and always, always the sinfulness of gay marriage is taught with scripture and with logic. Bigots? Who among those accepting gay as normal, accepting gay marriage as unsinful, are not holding a strong opinion they are unwilling to change? Where the Catholic Church listens, thinks, and then opposes, those who call the Church bigoted are unwilling to even consider any other view on the matter. To them, it is settled. It is, as Archie Bunker used to say, "Case Closed."

Only thirty years ago, psychiatrists held that homosexuality was deviant and society as a whole considered gay activity sinful. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a psychiatric paper that tries to study what acceptance has done to society in general and to children in particular. In other words, those who believe gayness is not bad for the world have few or no facts, few or no studies and few or no clues as to whether their belief holds water. This is the very definition of 'Prejudice,' and being unwilling to listen to others is the very definition of 'Bigoted.' Catholics, on the other hand, faced with constant questions on the matter, study and hold onto the belief that homosexual activity is a sin based on the teachings and considerations of theologians. This is the opposite of prejudice and bigotry.

There is another notion that modern society has that the church as always fought: birth control. Birth control and acceptance of gays both broke onto the scene around the same time. Birth control has made much broader inroads into the Catholic Church. Look at the world today, thirty years later. The populations of Japan and Europe are falling like a rock. The population of the United States, if immigration is removed, is also falling. Who among you didn't believe, thirty years ago, in the population explosion? But God was steadfast and now the truth is becoming clear that societies are massively hurt by birth control and abortion... and will be even worse off in the years to come. Some believe that Japan and other countries may not even be able to sustain itself as a country in another generation. Some believe that the Muslim population will completely overtake Europe in another generation.

Just how bad will gay marriage appear to us all when more and more teenagers see nothing wrong in living that life? Just how bad off will society be after another generation of limited and selected children?

I find it hard to even write, and I wonder if her comments have some cultural basis that escapes me, but Teresa Heinz Kerry, asked about miscarriages during her marriage to Senator John Heinz, said she called the miscarried babies, "piggies." This is a Catholic woman?

Disturbed, I return to work.

Update: I see the Weekly Standard has corrected their copy to read "Pinkies" and not "Piggies"... equally strange to me. Here's the correction:

* Correction appended, 10/7/2004:The article originally reported that Teresa Heinz referred to her miscarriages as "piggies," not "pinkies." The audio on the interview was unclear, but the partial transcript on Dr. Phil's website says "pinkies," and the Washington Post concurs. Of course, whatever name she uses for her miscarried children isn't so revealing as the fact that she has a name for these would-have-been offspring which she uses to discuss them in public.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Straw Mass and Feast of St. Francis of Assisi 

Our priest was in good humor at the RCIA straw mass last evening. It occurred to me that he must have been going on fourteen hours or so of work since weekday mass is at 7:30am and the straw mass ended around 9:00pm. Yesterday was also the blessing of the animals for St. Francis of Assisi's feast day. I will try to remember his example the next time I have a fourteen hour day. At times, our priest dove too deeply into the technical terms for different aspects of the mass, including discussion of the Latin phrases behind different items. In retrospect, perhaps that's OK since different people at the straw mass were obviously at different skill and knowledge levels in the Roman Catholic faith.

The main thrust of Father's straw mass is to emphasize thought about what we are doing. Why go through the motions of crossing yourself if you don't do it with thought and with care? Why go through the motions of genuflection if you aren't facing the Tabernacle where the host is stored, if you're not thinking about the presence of Jesus? Why come to church if you only intend to stand silent in the pews while the community around you sings and prays? Remember, your children, all children, are watching your example. If you give no thought or feeling to mass, why should they?

Father said that when we dip our finger in the font and cross ourselves upon entry to church, we are not only remembering our baptism, but we are also dying and being reborn for the next hour as the bride of Christ. The priest is the Groom, is Christ, speaking to his Bride, the Church, the Body. Prayers and responses are scripted to emphasize that we are one body, one bride, responding to her groom. Our priest is a stickler for the rules and said repeatedly that if he doesn't care enough to follow the rules of the church, why should we. On several issues, from the location of the Tabernacle to intinction (dipping the bread into the wine) to the scripted responses during mass to kneeling during service he repeated that too many priests in America take it upon themselves to make their own rules and how wrong that is.

Attendence wasn't outstanding, but it was mostly different people than were present at the last straw mass six months ago.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Cybercast News Service is reporting that they have in hand 42 pages of documents which detail Iraq's ties with Terrorists, including the purchase of Anthrax, the training of Terrorists and a command to go out an Kill Americans:

One of the Iraqi memos contains an order from Saddam for his intelligence service to support terrorist attacks against Americans in Somalia. The memo was written nine months before U.S. Army Rangers were ambushed in Mogadishu by forces loyal to a warlord with alleged ties to al Qaeda.

Other memos provide a list of terrorist groups with whom Iraq had relationships and considered available for terror operations against the United States.

Among the organizations mentioned are those affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, two of the world's most wanted terrorists. Zarqawi is believed responsible for the kidnapping and beheading of several American civilians in Iraq and claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings in Iraq Sept. 30. Al-Zawahiri is the top lieutenant of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, allegedly helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes on the U.S., and is believed to be the voice on an audio tape broadcast by Al-Jazeera television Oct. 1, calling for attacks on U.S. and British interests everywhere.

Apparently, a US government official sent the documents to CNS News so that we could get beyond the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in Terrorism and just get on with the war on Terror. The source said he (or she) released the documents for "strictly national security and helping with the war on terrorism by focusing this country's attention on facts and away from political posturing. This is too important to let it get caught up in the political process."

The first thing that comes to mind is that this, if true, is more evidence that the CIA and other Clinton holdovers do not want President Bush to be reelected. The fact that these documents had to find another route to the American Public shows that the Intelligence Community is doing as little as is humanly possible to help President Bush.

Praise should go to this government official who (I hope) has done the right thing.

Tonight's RCIA meeting will be a "Straw Mass" where our priest will walk all comers through the steps of the Mass and answer questions along the way. He did this earlier in the year, also, and plans to perform Staw Masses twice each year.

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