Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bull feathers

I came upon that expression while reading Bishop Thomas J. Tobin's recent column on gay marriage.
Let me first quote what Bishop Tobin enumerates as the "principal reasons why we are opposed to gay marriage".
First is our firm belief – based on the natural law, the Bible and consistent religious tradition – that homosexual activity is unnatural and gravely immoral. It’s offensive to Almighty God. It can never be condoned, under any circumstances. Gay marriage, or civil unions, would mean that our state is in the business of ratifying, approving such immoral activity. And as I’ve written previously: “The state shouldn’t be placed in that position, and as a citizen of the state I don’t want that imposed on me and my conscience. Neither should you.”

Second is the fact that gay marriage seeks to radically redefine the most fundamental institution of the human race, the building block of every society and culture. From the beginning, marriage has been defined as the stable union of man and woman, designed by God to continue the human race through the procreation of children. Homosexual relationships are not marriage – never have been, never will be.

Here let me explain the “champagne principle.” Not every wine is champagne. Champagne has certain very specific, universally recognized characteristics. If someone were to take a bottle of Chianti, label and sell it as champagne, they’d be arrested for fraud. In the same way, those who seek to redefine marriage – with its specific characteristics – and to usurp the title “marriage” for their morally bankrupt relationships, are committing an act of fraud. It’s insulting to those who have entered the authentic, sacred and time-honored institution of marriage over the years.
The third way in which gay marriage will affect you is its impact on religious freedom, including that of the Catholic Church.

A recent headline in the Washington Post demonstrates the problem: “Faith groups losing gay rights fights.” It goes on to give some examples of how the gay agenda is imposing itself on religious beliefs: a Christian photographer in New Mexico was fined because she refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony; Christian doctors in California were obliged to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient; A Christian student group was punished because it denied membership to anyone involved in sex outside of marriage...
On others observation that: “The Church is losing its influence...and there’s nothing we can do”, Bishop Tobin replies: "Bull feathers". This is the first time I've heard of such an expression, and I am both amused and puzzled by it. For one thing, bulls don't have feathers, do they?

Ok, got it.

Read the full article here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Same, same old RH tale, redux

Let me do a fisk ala Fr. Z on this fresh feature article from the Philippine Star

Breaking News (FEATURE)
Contraceptives remain hard-to-come-by for impoverished Filipino women
Updated April 27, 2009 06:35 PM
MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua)

Ask 46-year-old Erlinda Cristobal (real name concealed by request) how many children she has.

"Ten," she said.

"But I was supposed to have only six," she snapped in a breath.

After the sixth pregnancy, Cristobal decided that she and her husband, a casual laborer who earns an average of four dollars a day, should not have any more children. [Four dollars a day? The minimum wage is twice that much, and minimum wage earners are not subject to income tax. Something stinks here.]

"My husband doesn't have a stable job. There are days when we don't eat so that our children can," she told Xinhua in an interview near her residence in Manila. [In other words, the government cannot stimulate enough jobs]

Cristobal said she asked for birth control pills from a local health clinic but was denied, because the clinic was "pro-life" and advocated only natural family planning methods, toeing the line of the Catholic Church, which counts 80 percent of Filipinos as followers. [No free, unlimited, take-all-you-need, anytime, on-demand, no-questions-asked, birth-control pills from this particular clinic. So did she try NFP? If not, why not?]

"Sometimes I would ask my husband to sleep in another room just so nothing would happen," Cristobal shared her own prescription of birth control approach, which obviously failed and resulted in four more babies. [So I see, let me check my notes on the methodology of problem identification]

But Cristobal's case of unintended pregnancy is not uncommon in today's Philippines. [ok, lets hear it]

The Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization that conducts global research for the advancement of reproductive health, said their survey last year showed that about 10.2 million Filipino women are at risk from unintended pregnancy. Most of them are married. [A brilliant research finding from Guttmacher. I suppose their survey questionnaire asked: "Are you married? If you answered yes to the above, can you predict your future?"]

A similar local study showed [what study, aber?] that more than half of the 3.4 million pregnancies per year in the Philippines were unintended and 92 percent occurred to women who either used no contraceptive method or an inappropriate one. [Ahem, the study was not substantiated, but let's just accept it hook line and sinker, shall we? What was it that Mark Twain said about statistics?]

Despite the health benefits of contraception, the use of it is far below the apparent demand, especially for women from impoverished families who could not afford it. [Hmm, they make it sound like contraceptives are vitamins. And by the way, what about the health benefits of the unborn?]

The Guttmacher study said the low ratio of contraceptive usage among Filipinos has a major impact on maternal health and mortality. [Ah, let us see that contraceptives are the one and ONLY, mandatory, major solution to maternal health]

National health surveys conducted by the Philippine government in 2006 showed that maternal mortality measured 162 deaths per 100,000 live births. The study said that 12 percent of maternal deaths were caused by unsafe abortions. [Let's have "safe" abortions then?]

In the Philippines, where 90 million people are predominantly Catholic, the Church has a significant influence on government policy. And with no national government-backed reproductive health policy in place, except the natural family planning advocacy, local government units are left to implement their own individual polices to meet contraceptive needs.
[You mean local governments are left to sneak policies through the back door].

The city of Manila, where Cristobal is a resident, is a staunch advocate of natural family planning methods. In 2000, the city mayor even issued an executive order banning government clinics from handing out modern contraceptives. [Just to be clear, Atienza did not approve of city subsidies for contraceptives, he didn't ban them in the city]

Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, said the current global economic slowdown might further delay the appropriate government approach towards family planning. [Ah, the CEO of Guttmacher is 100% sure of the "appropriate government approach " eh? The Philippines must be crazy not to follow her recommendations. But in Thailand...oh, never mind]

"Governments, when faced with budget constraints, may cut budgets for family planning, but investing in contraceptive services not only enables women and their families to plan their births and avoid serious health complication often accompanied by unintended pregnancy, it also saves money," she said during the study's launch in Manila. [Bv#l Sh*t!]

Camp said the costs associated with unintended pregnancies, including treating the consequences of unsafe abortion, are much higher. [Again]

A Reproductive Health Bill providing universal access to contraceptive methods and devices has been sitting in the Congress for the last 20 years. Pressure from the Church has been a major factor in hindering the passage of this bill. [Sure, but at the end of the day, it is the legislators who vote for or against bills]

Part of the controversy that surrounds the passage of the bill is that it will condone and even allow abortion, as Church critics count the obstruction of forming an embryo as guilty of abortion. [A barefaced lie, the Church never said that. The Church is against abortion, abortifacient means, and d*mn lies]

In the Philippines, abortion is an illegal and punishable act, with no exceptions even on the grounds of endangering a woman's life, rape, or fetal impairment.[False again, the Constitution as it is, EQUALLY protects the mother and the unborn from conception. Figure that out]

Edcel Lagman, the main author of the bill, however said the reproductive bill won't legalize abortion. [Really? He is on record as saying that the bill intends to protect the unborn from IMPLANTATION, not from CONCEPTION, as the constitution clearly mandates]

One of its pillars simply mandates that women suffering from complications of abortion be attended to and treated in a compassionate and non-judgmental manner, he explained. [Sure. But whoever disagrees with this? Certainly not the Church. Red herring eh?]

"The bill can, in fact, be said to be anti-abortion because it offers access to reproductive health care information and devices," Lagman said. [And pigs flew out of his ears]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Looking through the eyes

April 26, 2009
Third Sunday of Easter

..."Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet"...
(Luke 24:35-48)
Two stories:

There was this sixty-year-old woman who was finally prevailed upon by her family to see the eye doctor. The doctor gave her a thorough test and after three days, fitted her with a new set of eyeglasses.

As the old lady looked out the window, she exclaimed: "Why, I can clearly see the steeple of our church, and it's over three blocks away!". The eye expert replied: "That is only a short distance. You just didn't realize you've been going around for many years half-blind.".

On the other hand, there was this atheist who had a very powerful telescope. For hours on end, he delighted in looking at the moon in its phases and at the planets and star clusters. He said: "It is a fantastic sight with all those bodies moving about so orderly. With this telescope, I can see so many fine points in the heavens. I have yet to find God, and if there was one, I have yet to see him."

It is interesting that one does not have glasses and the other has a powerful telescope, and yet one is half-blind, and the other, totally blind. The biggest paradigm shift is that of putting on the lens of faith, and seeing the world as God sees it. From this new vantage point, a lot of things fall into place.

Now there is this other story I remembered from a homily that our bishop delivered sometime in the past.

There was this journalist-atheist who was covering a disaster-relief operation somewhere in southern Philippines after a particularly devastating typhoon. As the story goes, there was this little girl who lined up to receive food relief goods. There was a lot of shoving and jostling, and the poor little girl found herself at the end of the very long line. When her turn finally came, there was only one piece of banana left. The little girl gratefully took the banana and proceeded quickly towards two other smaller children huddled in a far corner. It turned out she had two other siblings patiently waiting for her to get food for all of them. She then peeled the banana, broke it in half, and gave one each to her two little siblings. As for herself, she just proceeded to lick the insides of the banana peelings.

The journalist-atheist was able to witness the entire incident, and it was a stunning paradigm shift for him. A most powerful lens was set upon his eyes. Right then and there he was converted, as he said: "I have seen the face of Christ".

Friday, April 24, 2009

On (in)Tolerance

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I".
"Go, and from now on sin no more".
(John 8:11-12)

One simply cannot be tolerant if one is not grounded in religious or moral beliefs.

Tolerance means to put up with a burden, a disposition to endure other people's beliefs and practices that one finds either false or immoral. Tolerance is morally worthwhile precisely because, although the beliefs of the other are devalued, the tolerant person values the person who holds those beliefs. The tolerant person wills to treat the other as intrinsically valuable in spite of his rejection of the others fundamental human concerns. The tolerant person will not allow the disrespect he accords those beliefs to correspond to devaluing of the persons who hold them. If the person would devalue the persons involved, tolerance would give way to intolerance and the inclination would be to treat the holders of opposing beliefs as subhuman.

It is easy to see why we human beings seem so inclined to intolerance. We invest ourselves in the things we care about. Those who disagree with us are claiming that what we care about is unworthy of care and, in so doing, they denigrate our investment (even as we denigrate theirs). Within the limits of the no-harm principle, tolerance is key to human interaction, yet ultimately the tolerant person must be moved by the higher order of truth and charity.

The problem for the secularist, however, is that such people hold strongly adamant beliefs, and are often loath in tolerating contending beliefs. Likewise a moral relativist cannot coherently exercise tolerance toward moral or religious absolutism because of a lack of commitment to a concept of the objective good and true. It is always uncomfortable to be continually challenged by the truth. The relativistic ethos of our modern society tends to frown upon statements of objective truth because it assumes that growth in intellectual maturity runs with growth in skepticism. The "modern" mind appears to be beholden to an air of sophistication associated with systematic doubt, without committing to any one point of view. That is why a dyed-in-the-wool secularist is bound to disparage religious and moral commitments. They simply cannot bear the beliefs and practices of people with strong and deep religious and moral convictions. Thus, they will work for the elimination of such beliefs and practices from the public, and eventually, private arena. This, it seems, is the not-so-covert intention of some secular liberals.

And that is why after the recent Miss USA tilt, gay pageant judge Perez Hilton calls Miss Carolina a "dumb bi@7#".

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Miss California fumbles?

Hilton, Miss California take sides on `Today'
Tue Apr 21, 8:30 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – Miss California says she stands by her anti-gay-marriage comments, even if they may have cost her the Miss USA crown.

Carrie Prejean defended her views Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, telling host Matt Lauer that she spoke from the heart during Sunday's pageant when she said that "marriage should be between a man and a woman."

The beauty queen's response to a question from openly gay pageant judge and celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has received more attention than the winner, Miss North Carolina Kristen Dalton. During the pageant, Hilton asked Prejean if every state should follow Vermont in legalizing same sex marriage.

"I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other," Prejean responded. "But in my country, and in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."

Hilton, who also appeared on the "Today" show Tuesday, said his question was relevant and that Prejean should have "left her politics and her religion out because Miss USA represents all Americans."

Prejean, who was named first runner-up at the pageant, told Lauer that she knew "at that moment after I'd answered the question, I knew that I was not going to win because of my answer." Still, she stands by her statements.

"I don't take back what I said," she told Lauer, adding that she "had spoken from my heart, from my beliefs and for my God."

"It's not about being politically correct," she said. "For me, it's about being biblically correct."

She answers: "...marriage should be between a man and a woman.", and it elicits angry (to put it mildly) comments from the pageant judge (Perez Hilton later calls her "a dumb bit#$" in his blog), and generates a whole lot of fuss. How dare she speak the truth.

I suppose she should have answered: "Duh...duh...thank you." and she just might have won.


Brisbane's Catholic 'community in exile' walks out of church

After celebrating Mass for the last time at St. Mary’s parish in South Brisbane, Australia, on April 19, Father Peter Kennedy led 1,000 people from his congregation out of the church to their “Catholic community in exile” in a nearby union hall. The parish community-- which had been warned by Archbishop John Bathersby that it was imperiling its tie to the Catholic Church, continued its service in the new building. Father Kennedy promised the crowd that the new rebellious group would give greater roles to women-- who have already been invited to “concelebrate” the liturgy.
As a short backgrounder, Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby has terminated Father Peter Kennedy as administrator of St Mary's Church on Saturday 21st February 2009.

St Mary's has challenged traditional Catholic Church practices by changing rituals, allowing women to preach, and blessing gay couples.

The text of Archbishop Bathersby's letter is posted here, quoted partly:

"Peter, making these decisions gives me no satisfaction whatsoever. The separation of Christians is contrary to all that Christ prayed for. Nor does such division promote the Kingdom of God. You have had ample time to make a considered decision. Please God the division that exists at the present time will be healed in the future, probably not in my time. I ask the priests, deacons, religious and people of the Archdiocese of Brisbane to pray for me and for all who belong to the Archdiocese, especially the community of St Mary's in its present situation. In this matter I pray also that Mary the mother of Jesus will be our inspiration and guide as we seek her prayerful support for the healing of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, and St Mary’s Parish."

Monday, April 20, 2009

How do you solve a problem like...

Vatican probes nuns' heterodoxy

Vatican conducting 'doctrinal investigation' of US nuns' leadership group

Influential nun calls for 'non-violent resistance' against Vatican apostolic visitation

some jaw-dropping tidbits...
[Dominican] Sister Brink seemed to endorse universalism, speaking of the need to go "beyond Jesus."
"Jesus is not the only son of God," she added. "Salvation is not limited to Christians."
...the LCWR made headlines on Oct. 7, 1979, when its president, Sister Theresa Kane, publicly begged Pope John Paul II to consider ordaining women.
On both Oct. 7, 1984, and March 2, 1986, the LCWR took out full-page New York Times ads saying there is more than one legitimate Catholic position on abortion.
Sr. Mary Ann Zollmann at LCWR National Assembly Presidential Address
August 22, 2003: "I thought of men and women whose passion for wholeness in relationship is lived in deep commitment to life-long same-sex partners..."
Aisha Taylor, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference: "They are working for justice, against poverty, sexism and racism; these women are doing the work of the Catholic Church. So now there are two investigations of women religious. Did they put that much work into investigating pedophile priests? I don't think so."
Sister Schneiders: "We cannot, of course, keep them from investigating. But we can receive them, politely and kindly, for what they are, uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house. When people ask questions they shouldn't ask, the questions should be answered accordingly..."
A tough assignment for the CDF, but a word of caution: some of these sisters have claws.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Seeing with real eyes

April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday
(John 20:19-31)

"On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord..."

I am struck by three points in this Sunday's Gospel.

First, I've often wondered why the disciples did not recognize Jesus outright.
He even had to show them his hands and his side for good measure, then they saw the Lord. The same phenomenon happened to Mary of Magdala, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. How could they not immediately recognize anyone whom they had been closely in touch for years? The only explanation I can think of is that they had been too much preoccupied with their own worries so much that it put blinders upon their perceptions.

Secondly, the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
With this I remember the Psalmist words: "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,"
It must be a tremendous feeling that no words can even describe. Such is when one really sees the Lord.

Finally Jesus says: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed". It could be that one can only see and believe when not relying on the the eyes alone.

Let us pray to the Divine Mercy for the grace in seeing Him, his handiwork, and the joy that follows.

Judging a book

Parish Choir Singer Becomes Overnight Sensation

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Crazy (for) Justice

There he goes again...

Acosta fires off counter-memo to Gonzalez

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Public Attorney Persida Acosta has refused to accept a reprimand from Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez for involving herself in ABS-CBN news anchor Ted Failon's brush with police for the shooting of his wife on April 15.

Gonzalez, whose office has supervision over the Public Attorney's Office, had described Acosta as “crazy” for insisting on interfering in the case when Failon hardly counted as an indigent accused in court, PAO's clientele.

“With all due respect, to the mind of the undersigned, the PAO has not violated any rule when it rendered provisional and limited assistance in favor of Mr. Failon and his driver,” Acosta wrote Gonzalez in a counter-memo dated April 16.

She reasoned that Failon's case fell under the exceptions laid down by Memorandum Circular 18 that she issued in 2002 (amending the standard office procedures in extending legal assistance), when PAO lawyers might “provisionally” accept cases pending verification of the applicant's indigence and merit of his case.
Meanwhile, in a related news item...
MANILA, Philippines – Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta on Friday scored Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez for calling her “crazy," saying the remark was libelous.
She also stressed that although her office is under the DOJ, the PAO still gets to enjoy independence from other agencies.
Acosta said she wondered why she was being called “crazy" when she has been teaching law at the Ateneo de Manila Law School and the Bulacan State University.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter 2009

Behold the risen Savior who gives us life.

Happy Easter !

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Surprised by sin

To capture the breadth, depth, and pervasiveness of sin, I propose that sin is simply the failure to bother to love".
- James F. Keenan, SJ

In his book "Moral Wisdom - Lessons and texts from the Catholic tradition", Jesuit theologian Fr James Keenan has the above interesting proposition.
He cites biblical support as he further expounds.
As the medieval theologians understood well, every narrative in the Gospel is not about sinners sinning out of their weaknesses, but out of their strengths.
When the publican and the Pharisee are praying in the temple, the sin of the Pharisee is in his strength (Luke 18:9-14). He specifically considers what he has. When the rich man steps over Lazarus and ignores Lazarus at the gate and in need, the rich man's sin is not in his weakness, but in his strength (Luke 16:19-31). He could have done something, he did not - he sinned, precisely out of his strength. The steward who asked forgiveness for his debt is forgiven, but he is punished because he does not forgive the minor debt by his own employee. Out of his strength, the steward is convicted (Mat 18:21-35). Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan: Where is the sin? Even the robbers who committed the crime of beating the poor man on the road to Jericho are ignored: the focus is on the Levite and the priest: they could have acted but they did not (Luke 10:25-37). They sinned precisely out of their strength. Or think of the Last Judgment. Note that the sheep and the goats are separated by what they could have done, and whether they did it. The goats ask: "but when did we not feed you? when did we not visit you?" (Mat 25:31-46)...

Our sin is usually not in what we did, not in what we could not avoid, not in what we tried not to do. Our sin is usually where you and I are comfortable, where we do not feel the need to bother, where, like the Pharisee...we have found complacency, a complacency not where we rest in being loved but where we rest in our delusional understanding of how much better we are than others. It is at that point of self-satisfaction that - like Speer, the Pharisee, the prodigal's older brother, or the rich man - we usually do not bother to love.
Some food for thought in this period of Lent.