Catholic Church

What Does Pope Francis Have to Hide?

Pope Francis

As troubling as it is to have leadership in the White House insisting it’s so above the fray that it must learn from the news (just like you and me, kids!) when serious allegations of improper behavior by government entities is occurring, this latest “mea culpa because I just didn’t know” is kind of fun. For Catholics, anyway:

In light of a recent report, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) fears the National Security Agency may be spying on President Barack Obama. “They could well be spying on the president, for all I know,” Paul says, in an interview with National Review Online. “He has a cell phone, and, in fact, my guess is that they have collected data on the president’s phone.”

Religious doctrine is NOT a basis for law

Despite having no faith of my own, I am fine with those who do.  If you want to live your life according to the teachings of a holy book or religious leader, I’m fine as long as you cause me no harm. I honestly could not care less if you believe in no god or twenty, given none of those gods are telling you to hurt people. But it is a different issue entirely when you try to suggest that our laws should reflect the doctrines of your particular church.

The conservative argument against marriage equality has long been couched in talk about “harm to children” and “destroying traditional marriage”, but in reality it has always been based on a simple idea - my religion doesn’t approve of homosexuality, therefore our laws cannot condone it.  As it has become more and more apparent that same-sex marriage causes no harm whatsoever, anti-equality forces have gotten more desperate.

Take this post at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog.  Ostensibly about a new marriage equality law in Illinois, the author mentions the actual law only in passing before launching in a defense of marriage buttressed only by the words of a Catholic priest (who, incidentally, had some interesting things to say when a gay pride parade was moved to pass by his church).  Does this priest have any special knowledge on the subject of marriage?  It doesn’t appear so.  His expertise clearly lies in one thing - the teachings and doctrine of his church.

Missing the point on the contraception mandate

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion of the Obama Administration’s decision to mandate that even organizations associated with the Catholic Church cover contraception.  This has raised the ire of many on the right, who view this mandate as an assault on religious freedom.  Since the Catholic Church does not believe in using contraception, they argue, forcing them to cover it means they must violate their consciences.  Leaving aside the details, one thing is clear to me - the critics of the mandate are almost without exception missing the larger point.

The contraception mandate is awful, for sure, but not because it is an “assault on religion.” It is wrong because the government has no business telling ANYONE what they must cover.  The mandate would be wrong whether it was inflicted on a Catholic group, or a secular one.  And to be honest, I don’t think that religion is even a major factor in the decision to establish the mandate.  It is born out of a belief that there is some imaginary “right” to free health care, including contraception.  That is the true abomination.

Furthermore, why is there outrage only now?  Is it somehow okay to force non-Catholics to pay for other’s health care?  I understand this involves an issue of great moral importance to Catholics.  But is a federal mandate more wrong because it goes against a religious teaching?  I say this because many, including myself, do not subscribe to a religion, or belong to one without much political clout.  It is disturbing that somehow my liberty is not worth as much because I am in a minority and I don’t have groups lobbying on my behalf.

Pontificating on a New Global Economic Authority

Recently, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (a branch of the Roman Curia established to promote justice, peace and human rights in the world from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church) released a treatise on the global monetary system entitled “Note on Financial Reform”, which examines what it believes to be the root cause of global suffering and inequality, and proposed solutions to remedy that suffering. Normally a religious pronouncement of this nature would elicit little more than a few raised eyebrows, but coming from on official body of a church whose adherents account for nearly one quarter of the global population, one must give weight to the commentary regardless of concurrence in the conclusions.

Weighing in at just under 6500 words, a detailed analysis in this space is impossible, so some general summarizations are necessary. In short, the Pontifical Council seems to believe that the root of global suffering lies in an unequal distribution of resources, growth of credit markets that far outpaced real markets (agriculture, manufacturing, etc.), a world too enamored with capitalism, a lack of regulation and control on national and supranational financial transactions and markets, and the need for governing authorities to submit acquisition of material wealth and national sovereignty to the needs of the global “common good.”

With all due respect to the august body of the leadership of the Catholic Church, while they make a valid point regarding the physical suffering of many, the assessment of the root causes is, in my opinion, deeply in error, and as a result the Council’s conclusions and proposals are also in error.

Pope Francis no Prophet on Profit

Pope Francis

Last month, Pope Francis, worldwide leader of the Catholic Church, in an address to a United Nations conference on nutrition, declared that food is a basic human right that should not be driven by profit concerns and market manipulations.

With all due respect to His Holiness, he has it exactly backward. The more important something is to basic human existence, the wiser we are to allow it to be provided by the free market. Because, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once noted, if you put the government in charge of the desert, within five years there would be a shortage of sand.

This is not an abstract, philosophical position. Just look at the nations that have followed the Pope’s advice, where governments have taken control of food production in the name of administering the precious commodity equitably. Russia, under the governance of the former Soviet Union, saw millions of its citizens either malnourished or dying of starvation, despite having land which contained among the world’s richest natural resources.

Catholic priest murdered by Syrian rebels Obama wants to fund

The most well-organized Syrian rebel group — al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda — attacked a monestary and brutally murdered a Catholic priest late last month, the Vatican has confirmed:

A Catholic priest has been killed in Syria, it has been confirmed by the official Vatican news agency.

Franciscan Father Francois Murad died after fighters linked to the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra attacked the monastery he was staying at, local sources say.

Catholic Online links to amateur footage purporting to show the 49-year-old’s horrific death and claims: “The Vatican is confirming the death by beheading of Franciscan Father, Francois Murad, who was martyred by Syrian jihadists on June 23.”

This group is among the Syrian rebels that President Barack Obama and many members of Congress want to fund in hopes that they will be able to topple the regime of Bashar Assad. It’s also not the only incident like this that has occured. Back in May, it was reported that the Free Syrian Army, another rebel group, massacred a Christian village.

Pelosi: “I do my religion on Sundays”

Responding to a question about her Catholic faith during a press conference yesterday, ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) weighed in on her church’s lawsuit against the ObamaCare’s contraception mandate (emphasis mine):

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a Roman Catholic, refused to say whether she supported her church’s teaching that contraception is immoral.

I do my religion on Sundays, in church, and I try to go other days of the week; I don’t do it at this press conference,” Pelosi said curtly as a reporter asked about her view of the church position on contraception.

Pelosi brushed off the organizations and church dioceses that filed suing the Obama administration over the contraception mandate. “I don’t think that’s the entire Catholic Church,” she said. “Those people have a right to sue, but I dont think they’re speaking ex cathedra for the Catholic Church.”

In February, Pelosi accused the bishops of falsely using religious liberty arguments to impose their ideology on the country. “It wasn’t about church and state, it was about an ideological point of view that flies in the face, again, of the respect that we need to  have to have for women, the God-given free will that we have to have responsibility for the role that women’s health plays in the lives of their families and in our country, and the strength of women,” she said.

Obama backs down on contraception rule

The White House announced today that there will be an exemption on the controversial contraceptive rule for religious organizations:

With the White House under fire for its new rule requiring employers including religious organizations to offer health insurance that fully covers birth control coverage, at 12:15 p.m. ET, President Obama will announce an attempt to accommodate these religious groups.

The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders since it will preserve the goal of women employees having their birth control fully covered by health insurance.

Sources say it will be respectful of religious beliefs but will not back off from that goal, which many religious leaders oppose since birth control is in violation of their religious beliefs.

One source familiar with the decision described the accommodation as “Hawaii-plus,” insisting that it’s better than the Hawaii plan — for both sides.

ObamaCare is now a religious liberty issue?

The latest wrinkle in ObamaCare that is turning off many people from both sides of the aisle is mandate set by the Department of Health and Human Services that would force Catholic chuches and organizations to cover birth control, despite the religion’s teachings against contraception. Republicans are urging the Obama Administration to curtail the requirement and working up legislative fixes to repeal it:

Congressional Republicans, seizing on the type of social issue that motivates and unifies their base, stepped forcefully Wednesday into the battle over an Obama administration rule requiring health insurance plans provided by Catholic universities and charities to offer free birth control to women, vowing to fight back with legislation to unravel the new policy.

“This is not a women’s rights issue,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire. “This is a religious liberty issue.”

Racing to defend the administration, five Democratic senators returned from their party’s retreat south of the Capitol to hold a news conference to push back on that notion. “We stand here ready to oppose any attack that is being launched against women’s rights and women’s health,” said Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York.
On Wednesday, Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska said that he would revive his Respect for Rights of Conscience bill, introduced last March. “In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forth by the Obama administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country,” Mr. Boehner said before a group of roughly 25 members in the chamber to give their own one-minute morning speeches.

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