Monday, December 22, 2003

Here it is

Thanks to a link from Mark Brumley, tonight I discovered the website Godspy, which is one of the best Catholic sites I've seen on the web.

I arrive at that judgment in large part because of the Mission Statement, which I highly recommend viewing via the flash-based visual version linked above the text version, which reads as follows:
    Blowing the Dynamite

    Catholic scholars have taken the dynamite of the Church,
    have wrapped it up in nice phraseology,
    placed it in an hermetic container
    and sat on the lid.
    It is about time to blow the lid off.
    - Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

    What We Believe

    We've created Godspy because we believe that Catholic faith is beautiful and mysterious, often exhilarating, and sometimes infuriating.

    We believe that the person of Jesus Christ is the answer to the deepest desires of the human heart, and that the Catholic Church is his mystical body. And that we Catholics, despite our best intentions, do a good job of obscuring that fact.

    We believe that the Church is not a lifeboat off a shipwrecked world, but that it exists "for the life of the world" [John 6:51] - our world. And because this world matters so much to the Church, Catholics need to do more to engage modern culture, and the people who shape it.

    When asked why he became a Catholic, the novelist Walker Percy answered, "What else is there?" We feel the same way. But we know this answer seems absurd to many people.

    It seems absurd to those who have been hurt by representatives of the Church. It seems absurd to those who only know the Church from newspaper headlines when things go wrong, or from biased, outdated history books. And it seems absurd to those puzzled by the Church's teachings, or turned off by half-hearted worship and preaching. These people need to know and experience the invisible reality that is the real Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, who is "the answer to the question that is Man." But how will that happen, unless committed Catholics reach out directly to them?

    Why Godspy?

    Love it or hate it, everyone can agree: the Church can't be ignored. "Catholic" means universal, and the Church is that in every sense. It's one billion members large, and it's spread across the globe. But it's universal in a more important sense. Nothing human or cosmic is beyond its reach.

    "The Catholic person is truly universal: he is interested in everything and afraid of nothing," says the Catholic philosopher Adrian Walker.

    That's why we believe there needs to be a fearless, intelligent forum for Catholics that's as universal as their faith, where non-Catholics and those in-between are invited to join the conversation. Not to "change" the Church, but to give witness to their lives.

    We believe that Catholics and other seekers are looking for an intelligent magazine about real Catholic faith - without apologies - that doesn't avert its eyes from real life. A magazine that speaks with a voice that's authentic, honest, and generous. A magazine that's written for the average person, rather than for theologians or religious insiders.

    Who Inspires Us

    Much of our inspiration comes from the great Catholic fiction writers of the last century: Georges Bernanos. Graham Greene. Walker Percy. Flannery O'Connor. They were believing, often times anguished, Catholics who used their faith to reveal the truth about human existence. And from their vantage points, they challenged the preconceptions of both believers and non-believers.

    Flannery O'Connor, in answer to a critic who said devout Catholics were "brainwashed," and lacking in the freedom necessary to be first-rate creative writers, said "there is no reason why fixed dogma should fix anything that the writer sees in the world. On the contrary, dogma is an instrument for penetrating reality. Christian dogma is about the only thing left in the world that surely guards and respects mystery." She challenged non-believers to consider the unseen reality, the eternal truths, within and beyond the visible world.

    O'Connor was equally direct when addressing fellow Catholics and other believers. She criticized those who try to "tidy up reality," letting spiritual pride blind them to the realities of our fallen, broken existence. "We lost our innocence in the Fall," she said, "and our turn to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ's death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite."

    In their art, all of these writers looked upon reality without illusions. Their honesty touched the hearts of non-believers. We believe this sort of "Christian Realism" can touch the hearts of non-believers today, and help mend the rift between the Church and the world. That's why we explicitly invite all "seekers" to read Godspy.

    We fully expect the graces to flow the other way, too. "Unbelieving searchers," observed O'Connor, "have their effect even upon those of us who do believe. We begin to examine our own religious notions, to sound them for genuineness, to purify them in the heat of our unbelieving neighbor's anguish."

    Godspy's mission is to be a place where such encounters can take place. A place where Catholics and others searching for the face of God can together ponder "the mystery of things, as if we were God's spies" [King Lear].

    Patron Saints

    We entrust Godspy to Mary of Nazareth, the New Eve, the Virgin Mother of God.

    We pray for the intercession of our patron saints: St. Catherine of Siena, St. Phillip Neri, St. Edith Stein, and St. Maximillian Kolbe, as well as three possible future saints: Dorothy Day, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They were all radical: in their faith, in their love, and in their lives.

    Of course, our greatest living, human, inspiration is Pope John Paul II. Mere words can't convey our debt to him.

    Thanks for your interest in our mission. Welcome to Godspy, and may the peace and mercy of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father be with you always.
As articulated here and as exemplified in their articles, Godspy appears to answer a deep need: presenting the full beauty and truth of the Catholic faith (as opposed to watering it down in the face of external pressures) in an attractive and stimulating manner.

Make sure and check this site out.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


I saw Lord of the Rings: Return of the King this past week. Actually, I saw it twice: once on Wednesday, once on Saturday (that should suffice for what I thought of the film).

Tonight I watched part of Titanic on NBC, and the actor who played the captain of the ship reminded me of Bernard Hill, the actor who did an excellent job (imho) potraying King Theoden of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. So I got online, checked Titantic at Internet Movie Database, and what do you know! They are the same guy!


Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Read this NYTimes article and the blasting which the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, gave the Security Council over its actions toward Iraq. Some choice quotes:

"Settling scores with the United States-led coalition should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people."

"Squabbling over political differences takes a back seat to the daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms and all the rights the U.N. is chartered to uphold."

"One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable. The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure."

"The U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again."

And extended passage:
    He also took on countries like France that have expressed doubts about the current governing group. "As Iraqis," he said, "we strongly disagree with those of you that question the legitimacy of the present Iraqi authorities."

    He continued: "I'd like to remind you that the governing council is the most representative and democratic governing body in the region."

    He said, "The members of the Security Council should be reaching out and encouraging this nascent democracy in a region well known for its authoritarian rule."
For being so stupid, he sure has fooled a lot of people

Go here and read The Right Christian's author Allen Brill complain about how bad a president George Bush is, so much worse than Nixon.

I think Allen needed to let off some steam, because this kind of post isn't typical of him.

And while you're there, read various commenters' theories about how Bush can possibly be polling above single digits.

I'm sure I'll read things like this from the conservative side of blogland if we ever have another Democrat president (let's hope not, at least without major policy changes), but until then, I can only wonder if I'd ever write something like this.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Philip Bartlett responds

Back at the beginning of the month I briefly posted on sedevacantist Philip Bartlett. He responded in the comments of that post and by email; here's his take (in the email, with the subject line: Private Interpretation?- Response To A VERY Confused Man which will be posted on our website):
    Mr. B (full name omitted to keep people from going to his website to be corrupted by heresy),

    Your entire notion of private interpretation is skewed and faulty. We are indeed allowed to read the texts of the magisterium and also understand what they say. We also have the ability to understand what they say. We also have the ability to understand what the statements of the word of God, the scriptures say. As His Holiness Pope Leo XIII makes extremely clear, the approved method of interpretation of the scriptures is the literal and obvious sense.

    "But he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine-not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires;(40) a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate. " PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS (Leo XIII)

    The fact is that not only do I believe that I must interpret the documents of the magisterium, SO DO YOU! For example, you interpret the catechism. You interpret the documents of the present day magisterium. You interpret Pope John Paul II's encyclicals. When I say interpret, I mean you read the words and accept what they are saying. The words themselves have meaning. If we were to adopt your false principle, that we may never interpret anything written to us, there would be no way whatsoever to prove that the Catholic faith is the true one.

    Now you might say to me that you interpret something a certain way unless there is an indication from the Vatican that you can no longer interpret it that way. THIS IS LIKEWISE FAULTY. Because you are indicating by that notion that you believe that the Vatican is clear in its foribidding a certain interpretation, and that its statements forbidding such are clear.

    Well then.... I submit to you, that the statements of the original councils are likewise clear for us. If they were not clear, there would be no point in having the scripture, tradition, or councils.

    If you accept that those who seek God with sincerity can be saved outside of the Catholic religion, and that they will never enter the Catholic Faith or religion, you will be damned, because you deny and contradict the clear words of Gregory XVI, that submitting to the Catholic faith is necessary for salvation for every man. It has been defined by council, that in order to be saved you must hold to the Athanasian creed. IF you do not hold the concepts stated in the Athansian creed, you are completely damned. To understand that you should best read the implicit faith heresy article.

    Therefore, if you condemn me on the basis of "private interpretation", I condemn you on the basis of the same, seeing that you seek to interpret the words of the New Magisterium in an effort to understand that I am wrong. You are privately interpreting what they are saying. But, even as you do that, you deny that me that very same right. If I were living in 1400, I would interpret the words of the olde councils in the exact same way you are interpreting the words of the present magisterium of Antipope John Paul 2- in their literal and obvious sense, the sense that God requires. The fact is, you are denying the words of the olde councils in their literal and obvious sense, in order to accomodate the heresies of Vatican 2.

    Just as you deny the words of Christ Himself, who states that unless a man is born of water (in baptism) he can not enter the kingdom of heaven. By denying all of these clear words, you become a heretic.
Here's my response, by email and here:
    Mr. Bartlett,

    1. I'm not afraid to link your site, because I know that truth is more powerful than error, and that the people who read my blog are sufficiently formed in their faith not to be led astray by your own comments.

    2. I contend that your intepretation is similar to that practiced by some Protestants for this reason: as you say, everyone interprets, and I agree. However, what distinguishes us is a recognition of the authority of the Catholic magisterium, or more precisely a recognition of the fact that it is the magisterium which has been given the gift of infallibility, not my own interpretation. In other words, I recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome and the other bishops in union with him (today and throughout history), and I interpret texts according to their authoritative teaching. You on the other hand still employ a methodology which exalts the individual's interpretation over that of the magisterium, while calling yourself a Catholic.

    3. Your argument hinges on the idea that the bishop of Rome and his fellow bishops can together teach error, even in an ecumenical council. If that is correct, why accept any of the prior magisterial texts? Your conclusion of error at V2 depends on your own understanding of prior magisterial texts, rather than the understanding of the body which promulgated them: the Church's magisterium.

    I'm not confused, sir. As a Catholic, I acknowledge the authority of the magisterium... I do not reject it and raise my own intellectual judgment in its place.

    Have a blessed Advent & Christmas.

Give me a break

While perusing this comments thread at Howard Dean's website, I found a post (do a find for "degrift", part of the author's name) which states,
    The damage caused by the Bush administration to our society is unaffected by Saddam's capture:

    --Our environment continues to deteriorate.
    --We still need a health care system.
    --International relations remain damaged.
    --The rich continue to get richer at the expense of everyone else.
    --Unemployment remains way too high.
    --Wages for an honest day's work remain inadequate to own a home for too many Americans.
    --Our civil liberties remain under attack.
    --Our policies continue to provide incentive for terrorist recruitment.
    --K-12 education remains weak.
    --College education is still becoming less affordable.
    --Ownership of mass media continues to become concentrated.
    --We continue to undermine our children's future by wasting energy and natural resources.
    --There are still large numbers of people (like Alert, today's troll-du-jour) who don't understand the values upon which the country was founded.
    --Church and State are being merged.
    --Human rights for many Americans are still not respected.

    Capturing Saddam Hussein doesn't solve these problems although many Americans may forget this for a few days.

    Only this great campaign of hope led by Howard Dean will lead to resolving these real problems.
Come on. Apart from erroneous assertions, Mr. Van Degrift apparently believes that presidents possess the ability to solve all our nation's problems. I wonder, for instance, what exactly Howard Dean would do to solve the problem that "Wages for an honest day's work remain inadequate to own a home for too many Americans." Maybe we could enact a $40,000 per year minimum wage... I'd support that! Sign me up!

As you all know, Saddam was caught by US forces last night near Tikrit. There's no point linking news stories, since it's visible at any media outlet.

What interests me is the reaction of the left, both secular and progressive. Some are clearly happy about the events (Allen Brill, for instance), but others acknowledge the importance in a sentence or two (or less) and then talk about how this isn't really any big deal, how it's not going to have that much of an effect, etc. etc. (see Atrios and progressive Catholic Melanie, for instance). They aren't exactly excited about what is clearly good news, even if it doesn't mean that Iraq is going to be completely peaceful by tomorrow.

Relatedly, on Meet the Press this morning, Joe Lieberman said, "if Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would be in power today."

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Almost forgot

Much to my surprise, last Saturday I found an email from Wisconsin state legislator Marlin Schneider, responding to the most recent letter I'd written (he'd indicated that he wouldn't be continuing the discussion, but I guess he changed his mind). You can find it under "Third Update" in the original post.

I've yet to respond, and frankly, I don't know if I will.
New additions to the blogroll

Lutheran Confessions


Revealed truth and philosophy

Using the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as a case study, Mark of Minute Particulars shows how the philosopher can take advantage of revealed truth in his own discipline. The key quote:
    While it's true that any discipline which purports to work exclusively in the light of reason cannot come to conclusions that depend on revealed truths, such disciplines can use the light of faith to point them in the right direction and eliminate some avenues of speculation.
Precisely. The philosopher -- knowing that x is true -- can eliminate certain solutions to a particular problem in light of x, thus aiding him in solving the problem at hand.

This reminds me of the discussion in the mid to late 80's between a number of theologians: David Schindler one one side, George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Fr. Richard Neuhaus on the other. While I think highly of the second bunch, and appreciate and agree with much of their work, I think Schindler was in the right. The discussion is to wide ranging to attempt to summarize, but in a nutshell (which will probably be less than helpful to anyone who isn't familiar with the debate) it concerns the relationship between nature & grace and faith & reason, democracy, and public policy.

Why am I reminded of this discussion? Because what Mark is saying reminds me of part of Schindler's argument: IIRC, he argues that we should use the meaning of person as indicated by revelation (i.e. its communitarian dimension as seen in the Trinity) to a greater extent, rather than relying on a purely philosophical concept. That's not to say that public policy discussions should include references to Scripture or Nicea I, but that those concepts should be utilized when "person" is being discussed in the public square.

Monday, December 08, 2003

A theological thumbs-up for The Passion of Christ

Fr. Gus Di Noia, OP, whom I quoted the other day viz. nominalism and morality, did an interview with Zenit, the Rome-based Catholic news organization. Fr. Di Noia -- currently the undersecretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and member of the International Theological Council -- recently saw Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, and had positive things to say about it, as you can see in the interview.

Check it out.
Two Churches?

In his latest commentary, Bob Sungenis contrasts "the old church," "the church of the past," and "the church of tradition" with "the church of today." However, what he is really contrasting in most cases is the views of individuals, both in the past and today. He is not comparing (let alone contrasting) "the old magisterium" with "the new magisterium," but rather what individuals in the past and today have respectively said.

In addition, he claims that adherents of "today's church" cannot claim that the "old church" erred (this claim is debatable in itself), because to do so would leave them open to the "future church" claiming that today's church erred. He says,
    Therefore, if those of us on the Traditional side of the fence choose to accuse the modern church of being wrong, there is nothing they can say against us, for they have already opened Pandora’s box by claiming that the Traditional church was wrong. If the Traditional church can be wrong, then the post-conciliar church can be wrong, and we are at a stand-off.
Mr. Sungenis evidently does not see that he is opening himself to the same problem which proponents of "today's church" allegedly face: as soon as he says that today's church can err, then he is saying that yesterday's church can err, because they are one and the same.

That is the crucial point: yesterday's church and today's church are identical, not separate entities as Mr. Sungenis says when he claims that "the old church survived intact for 1965 years." As soon as he claims that the church in the post-conciliar era can err, he's asserting that the church prior to Vatican II can err.

In any case, I think that Mr. Sungenis misstates the proposal of Vatican II and the post-conciliar Magisterium... the point isn't to condemn the past, nor to say that the Church was wrong in the past, but rather to propose that the unchanging doctrines of Catholicism need to be presented in a new manner for the modern mind. One can argue that the modern mind doesn't hold a candle to the medieval mind (in many ways, that's true), but it's beside the point: the purpose of the Church is to bring the Gospel to people where they are at, not where we would like them to be. The goal of the Church is the same as it was fifty years ago: to bring the Gospel of salvation to as many people as possible. The difference is that the Church believes that this can best be accomplished in means different from those employed in the past. One can argue as to whether or not these new means are effective or how effective they are, but the fact remains that the goal is the same.

Has the pope asked forgiveness for certain actions of Church members of the past? Of course. Does that mean that he's said that "the church of the past is wrong"? No.

I think I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Now that's presidential

In an with Rolling Stone magazine, Massachusetts Senator and Democrat Presidential nominee John Kerry use the f-bomb to describe President Bush's Iraq policy.

Classy. Real classy.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

PP Holiday cards, 2003

Last year I blogged about Planned Parenthood's holiday cards, one of which read, "Let There Be Choice On Earth".

They're at it again this year. You can see the latest at Jeff Miller's blog here, along with his own version... ;-)
Fr. Sibley on The Matrix

Fr. Bryce Sibley's thoughts on The Matrix Trilogy and its philosophy can be found here. In short, Fr. sees a definite philosophy underlying the films, rather than a hodgepodge of philosophies. What is that philosophy? Nietzscheanism. Here's Father's conclusion:
    Presuming that this analysis is at least sound, it creates an amazing irony in the films. Neo is the Superman whose "will to power" helps his to rise above the machines, yet it is the same Nietzschean ideals that presumably lead to the rise of the machines in the first place. The will to power force the exponential increase of technology and creating the ethic of "it is possible, do it." So, with Neo’s death, have the humans finally been freed from the Matrix or simply become more inexorably intertwined with it?
Radical agenda?

Josh Claybourn responds to NY senator Hillary Clinton's assertion that President Bush has turned from his campaigning as a compassionate conservative to an "extremist agenda" in which he seeks to reverse Roosevelt's New Deal by noting the extraordinary growth of the federal government under Bush, something which many conservatives have been noting and complaining about for some time.
The bane of morality: Nominalism

There's a good discussion going on here at Disputations concerning the impact of the late medieval philosophy of nominalism on morality. Tom offered a quote from U.S. Dominican and current undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr. Augustine Di Noia as found in John Allen's latest Word from Rome:
    Nominalism, [Under-Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Fr. Augustine] Di Noia[, OP,] argued, "let loose a catastrophe on the human race" by separating morality from anthropology... Imagine, he said, a mother cooking dinner who spots her child eating cookies. The mother could say, "eating cookies is forbidden in this house," appealing to her authority. Or she could say, "if you eat those cookies, you'll spoil your appetite," appealing to a truth about human nature. Nominalism proposes the first kind of morality, Di Noia said, while Thomism proposes the second.

    Speaking of nominalism, Di Noia said: "The prevalence of this kind of moral theology gave rise to the intolerable tensions experienced by many Catholics in the face of the moral teaching of Humanae Vitae -- and eventually the entirety of Christian teaching about human sexuality -- which seemed to impose an outdated moral obligation whose connection with the human good was either denied or dismissed, or more commonly, simply not apparent." ...

    Di Noia said the aim of John Paul II's 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor was to resuscitate a natural law approach to morality, one that sees obedience of moral commands "not as the suppression of the human person, but its perfection."
As I indicate in my comments, I agree completely Fr. Di Noia. For those interested in this discussion, I'd highly recommend The Sources of Christian Ethics by Di Noia's Dominican confrere, Fr. Servais Pinckaers.
Rep. Schneider responds

Wisconsin state representative Marlin Schneider has responded to my most recent letter to him regarding his comments on the letter Bishop Burke sent to three Catholic politicians in Wisconsin who support abortion rights.

There's no more substance in this response than in the previous one. You can find it just below in the post, "Chilly thinking from Wisconsin" under "second update."

Thursday, December 04, 2003

New link

I'm blogrolling Certus Veritas, a blog which offers "Commentary and Opinion on Christianity, Politics, and Religion in the Public Square".

Check it out!
Chilly thinking from Wisconsin

This morning The Mighty Barrister linked a story in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal on letters which La Crosse Catholic bishop Burke wrote to some of the state's Catholic legislators who vote for abortion rights. The Journal obtained a copy of one of the letters, written to state senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point). After explaining the letter's contents, the article relates the senator's comments: "I'm concerned that the bishop would pressure legislators to vote according to the dictates of the church instead of the wishes of their constituents because that is not consistent with our Democratic ideals [...] When I was elected, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and that means I have to represent all the people of all faiths in my district."


It gets worse... state representative Marlin Schneider (D-Stevens Point), "called the letter outrageous." Him comments: "Churches ought not use the pulpit for blatant political purposes [...] When they start telling legislators how to vote, they've crossed the line." Schneider, mind you, is a Lutheran.

Here's the letter I wrote to him:
    Dear Rep. Schneider,

    Today I read the article in the Journal-Sentinel, "Bishop appeals to Catholic lawmakers".

    I hope that the paper misstated your comments, because I found them to be outrageous. Perhaps you were not appraised of all the information, perhaps you reacted out of anger... I do not know. What I do know is that your comments do not indicate serious consideration of the issue.

    For instance, the paper quotes you saying, "Churches ought not use the pulpit for blatant political purposes." Bishop Burke did not use the pulpit, Mr. Schneider. He wrote a private letter to Rep. Lassa which he did not publicize. And from the bishop's perspective, the issue is one of human rights, not "blatant political purposes."

    The article also offers this quote from you: "When they [churches] start telling legislators how to vote, they've crossed the line." The Catholic Church has not told Rep. Lassa how to vote; the bishop informed Rep. Lassa that her votes did not accord with the faith that she professes, and that she needs to bring one into line with the other.

    Mr. Schneider, what if a Catholic legislator had consistently voted in favor of racist legislation? Would you be outraged if one of the state's Catholic bishops wrote that legislator a private letter explaining that that person had to reconcile their voting with their faith? I doubt it.

    I expect better from the state's representatives.

    Chris Burgwald
What's going on in Cheesehead Land? Too much beer drinking, maybe.


Rep. Schneider promptly replied to my email; here it is:
    Wrong. The day my church tells me how to vote and threatens me with salvation or membership is the day I leave. I have to represent all the faiths in my district not give preference to one over the other. I am sorry you do not understand that. This is just the kind of stuff that leads to Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Chechnya, and on and on. And they do use the pulpit and the church bulletins for blatant partisan political purposes. I walked out of my church one Sunday just three weeks ago when they passed out campaign materials in the bulletin. Obviously you agree with the Church's position on the issue not the principle involved in separation. This Doctrine of the Dual Swords goes back a long ways but our forefathers had the foresight to provide mechanisms that forbid us from favoring one religion over another. As a Lutheran do I favor my church's position on issues or that of the Constitution or my district's voters or just what? If I favor my church's position on aid to parochial schools, for example, (they were against it) as the basis of my judgment what do I tell Catholic voters who favored it? As a representative of people of all persuasions the principle must be followed of both the State and Federal Constitutions not my personal religious beliefs. I am sorry you are outraged but I will not favor one religion over another as a policy maker nor will I allow people who espouse the "truth" as only that coming from their particular denomination as the basis upon which I must make a judgement on public policy. To do so would make me a liar to my oath of office and I would bear false witness to my constituents. If you ever want to see this country tear apart at the seams just allow religion to become the basis for public policy with one becoming dominant over the others.

Here's my response:
    Dear Rep. Schneider,

    Thank you for your reply to my earlier email.

    Do you think that opposition to something by the Catholic Church makes that issue a "Catholic issue" which then shouldn't be incorporated into public law? That seems to be implied in your response. In fact, abortion is not a "Catholic issue," Mr. Schneider... it is as a human rights issue. The human embryo is biologically a human being, and as such, deserves to be protected by the law like every other human being.

    What if Bishop Burke came out tomorrow with a letter against racism? Would you say that his stance is a religious view, but that you have to respect the views of all your constituents, including racists? Would you invoke the principle of separation then? I'm sure you know that many abolitionists in the last century were fervent Christians; would you support slavery because opposition to it is a "religious belief," and public policy shouldn't be founded on religion?

    If Bishop Burke had written Sen. Lassa and required her to support legislation affirming that there are seven sacraments, then I would agree with your position. But the issue at hand is a human rights issue and not merely nor exclusively a Catholic issue.

    Thank you for your time.

    Chris Burgwald
We'll see if he responds again.

Second Update

He did.

Here's Rep. Schneider's response:
    I am not going to continue a running debate with you. I believe in separation as provided in our Constitution. I believe that churches have a right to speak out on moral issues. I do not believe they have a right to threaten lawmakers to violate their oath of office or to represent their theological views exclusively above all others. Most Americans agree with my position, not yours. Do you think if I were a Mormon lawmaker that the Mormon Church should be allowed to dictate public policy on race as it did for so many decades? I would refer you to the historic statements of my hero President, now much maligned by the right, a Catholic President named John Kennedy, whose picture hangs in my office, about the relationship between Catholic office holders and the Church. End of discussion.
Normally I'd give an interlocutor the last word in a case like this. But I couldn't this time. Rep. Schneider completely failed to respond to any of my points, and I needed to make that clear. Here's the final letter in this little discussion:
    Dear Rep. Schneider,

    I know that I will not receive a response to this email; I understand your decision not to continue this discussion, and I respect that.

    However, I do need to state that this was not a debate. In a debate there is an engagement of the ideas offered by the two sides. You have never engaged the points I've made, but continue to refer to this as a case of Catholic "theological views" being exclusively represented instead of acknowledging it as a human rights issue. You failed to respond to my example of racism as well.

    I often tell people how real political discourse is absent in America because it's rare to find two opposing sides on an issue engage in a real meeting of the minds, in which the issues and respective positions are addressed directly, without talking past one another. Unfortunately, you have done nothing to reverse my opinion on that matter.

    Wishing you a joyous Christmas Season, and

    Chris Burgwald
As Kevin Miller noted in my comments, Rep. Schneider is known in Wisconsin as "Snarlin' Marlin," and I can see why.

Third Update

Here's the letter Rep. Schneider sent to me in response to the above:
    And NOTHING I could ever say will reverse or impact your view. I refer you to John F. Kennedy's speech to the Texas Ministerial Association. Your argument is based on abortion not separation and your views will not change. I respect your belief on that I just don't believe that it is as simple as some would make it. The Church teaches all abortion is wrong. I believe there are instances where it is necessary. You won't accept that and I will not change my mind either. But that is not the issue. Let me ask you just
    one question. If Senators Feingold and Kohl were dictated to or threatened on some issue by a Rabbi, since they are both Jewish, let's say on foreign policy as it relates to Israel, would you argue that they should represent the views on Wisconsin's people or that of their religion? When churches attempt to dictate public policy it crosses over the line. I have not argued that they have no right to state their views. To impose those views by church doctrine on the rest of us is what leads to the conflicts we have seen throughout history. It is why the Pilgrims came here in the first place. I want my representatives to represent me as best as they can using their best judgment on the issues before them. If they allow one set of religious dogma to dictate their policy decisions then I object. When Bishops sit in on committee hearings with thumbs up and thumbs down directing policy makers to vote a certain way I object. And that does
    happen. When my church "leaders" said it was sinful for a Lutheran minister to participate in an ecumenical service with people of other faiths in New York after 9-11 and threatened him with excommunication I objected strenously at my church. It is that kind of narrow minded thinking among Lutherans that is quite distasteful to me. And when a Bishop threatens my friends and colleagues I will also object because his faith is not mine. I would object just as much if it were a pastor of another religion. Those who want to impose their religious views on the rest of us through public policy, sometimes without even reading bills or knowing what they mean, just a title, do a disservice to both their religion and public policy debate.
He doesn't seem to grasp my point... I'm not sure yet if I'll try again.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

In one door, out the other

Sadly, some people enter the Catholic Church through one door (often evangelicalism) and within a few years, leave it through another (schism or worse).

One example of this is sedevacantist Philip Bartlett, whose website Roman Catholicism (sic) offers "Undeniable Proof that John Paul 2 Cannot Be Pope", recently told Robert Sungenis how Sungenis' writings had led him from Protestantism to Catholicism.

It appears that Mr. Bartlett continues to believe in private interpretation... now not of Scripture, but of Tradition.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Principle, please

In the past couple of weeks I've engaged in some interesting discussions with progressive Christians (including Catholics) on the topic of same-sex marriage and the morality of homosexual acts, one discussion occurring in the comments of this post at The Right Christians, the other in the comments of this post at Matt Zemek's Wellstone Cornerstone.

Beside making positive rational and non-religious arguments defending the notion that same sex marriages should not be legalized and that homosexual acts are immoral (on the former see especially this article by Princeton political philosopher Robert George), I think it's also beneficial to ask Christians (and others) who support the legalization of same sex marriages (sic) to articulate the principle by which they view homosexuality as moral while rejecting (any) other form of consensual sexual behavior as immoral. I pushed Matt especially on this point (in the second of the links above). Basically, I don't think that such a principle exists... if homosexual acts are moral, what moral or ethical principle prohibits any other form of consensual sexual behavior, regardless of the gender or number of the participants?