Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Real Sexual Revolution

The release this past weekend of the latest letter from the Vatican entitled, On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, presents us with another opportunity to explore the Holy Father’s understanding of the human person. In particular, we could focus on his thoughts regarding man and woman and their relationship to one another, otherwise known as the theology of the body. I’m hardly an expert on the theology of the body, but I am at least a little bit aware of its potential impact on the world. I believe it was George Weigel who said that the theology of the body is a “theological time bomb”. It is widely believed within Catholic circles that at some point down the road, not too far away, this rich collection of reflections on the meaning of human sexuality will be embraced by a culture desperate for meaning. There are still a surprising number of people who are unaware of the Pope’s contribution to the understanding of human sexuality and marriage. Fortunately, individuals like Christopher West have begun unpacking this complex yet monumental vision. He has a great website with salient, thought provoking articles perfect for those interested in exploring the Holy Father’s vision in-depth.

In a beautiful way, the Holy Father ties together the marital act of a husband and wife to the mystery of Christ’s relationship to the Church. By discovering the connection between marriage and Christ’s betrothal to his Church, the meaning of our entire life is illuminated and enriched. The “gift” of husband to wife is physically embodied within the sex act. In giving oneself completely to the other, each finds fulfillment. The union is so perfect that it is life giving. Man and women become co-creators with the Almighty in the creation of new life. The union of bodies within the marital act is meant to parallel Christ’s eternal union to the Church. The life giving union of marriage is also a reflection of the most perfect union found within the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the reciprocal love between the Father and the Son. The beauty of the theology of the body is in its “incarnational” character. The Divine life of God is brought down to earth in Jesus Christ. In the Person of Christ, God and humanity are intimately and eternally united. Thus the most intimate and beautiful of human acts, the gift of self between husband and wife, can be directly linked to the mystery of God.

Time will tell what impact the theology of the body will have on our culture. More likely than not, after the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s, men and women will be hungry for an understanding of sexuality worthy of their dignity as created in the image of God. As the Church has predicted, sex outside the framework of marital love or perverted via contraceptives will only lead to self-alienation and conflict between the sexes. The alternative, sex understood as a self-giving and unrestricted free act leads to self-fulfillment and a deepening of love between husband and wife.

The Creation Posted by Hello

Friday, July 23, 2004

The 9/11 Report and What's Next?

The recently released, bipartisan 9/11 report confirms much of what the president has been saying since the immediate aftermath of the attacks. The report confirms that we are engaged in an epic battle against the forces of radical Islamic terrorism. Despite the relentless criticism being unleashed on President Bush by Michael Moore’s "documentary" Fahrenheit 9/11 and other "expert" media talking heads, Bush has once again been vindicated, this time by the very commission that was supposed to convict him. Many of Moore’s accusations are refuted in the report, for example, that there existed a Bush-Saudi connection prior to 9/11. It’s simply a remarkable fact that we have not been struck by an attack since the events of 9/11, and that is a success story. Clearly, the steps this administration has undertaken since 9/11 have prevented further attacks. The Patriot Act, much scorned by the Left as a step toward Big Brotherism, has been remarkably effective in identifying potential terrorists and terrorist cells within our borders. Despite cries of civil rights violations, not one case of abuse has been proven accurate. The commission report says, "Although we are safer, we are still not safe". The report does levy some criticism of both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. The fact remains that Clinton was in office for eight years while Bush was only in for 8 months. Nonetheless, we must look forward and act to ensure we do all we can to prevent another 9/11.

The policies of this administration have shown terrorists that their actions will not go unnoticed or unpunished. While some claim that the Iraq war has actually increased terrorism, or the likelihood of a terrorist act, I believe the opposite is true. According to the president, the former regime in Iraq was a gathering threat to the United States. President Bush never used the term "immediate". His goal was to address the threat before it became an imminent one. This is a vital component of his doctrine of preemption. We can no longer wait to see a threat gather, because then it may be too late. The alternative, to wait while rouge nations build illegal arsenals all the while lying to the world, or while terrorist cells organize under the watchful eye of such nations would be dangerously irresponsible. The fact that Libya has since voluntarily opened up to the world and no longer seeks illegal weapons can be seen as a positive effect of the war in Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have also stepped up their efforts at rooting out al-Qaeda cells within their borders. Certainly, there remains much to be desired, in terms of major societal reform deep within the hearts of many Muslim countries, but I believe that important first steps have been taken. These countries know that the United States is serious when it pressures them to seek out terrorists in their countries. In addition to rooting out terrorists through force, Muslim leaders must reform their education system, which regularly indoctrinates young, poor males to hate Christians and Jews. This is a serious and particular problem in Wahhibi-dominated Saudi Arabia and in the poor, rural areas of Pakistan. The war against terrorism is a multi-pronged effort, which will inevitably involve dangerous battles as seen in Iraq. We need strong leaders like President Bush who will make the difficult and sometimes unpopular decision to go to war if necessary when the security of our people is at stake. Preemption is a vital element of the Bush Doctrine in 21st century warfare. As important as the physical battle is the evolution of Islam itself to face modernity and Western civilization. Muslim nations must do an examination of conscience and realize that if it is to remaim a relevant religion in the 21st century, it must face down those within its fold who seek to turn it into a religion of terror. This will involve religious leaders uniting to condemn, without qualification, violence in the name of religion.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Christian's Call to Justice

This is an article that I recently finished as part of my CCHD internship and will be part of a regional push for the CCHD fund drive. I thought that perhaps it could elicit some thoughts, as real justice is unfortunately hard to find these days. It is very a popular catch phrase and has been commecialized more than any other virtue, except Love.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) works to foster justice throughout America.

Justice is based upon the uninfringeable dignity of the human person, made in God's image and likeness and destined for eternal bliss forever in heaven. When we consider the respect every individual deserves "from the standpoint of divine revelation, inevitably our estimate of it is incomparably increased. Men have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace has made them children and friends of God, and heirs to eternal glory."

A thorough regard for the rights of all men begins with the just ordering of civil law, "to the upholding of which we Christians have to contribute with all our strength as exemplary citizens." This begins with the laws that defend the right to life, that principle right, from the moment of conception.

However, this vital contribution, which we must make wholeheartedly, is not enough.

We are constantly confronted with opportunities to be vessels of justice in our interactions with each other. We must strive to be honest in our dealings with others, avoiding rash judgments based on calumny or hearsay, and also gossip that needlessly embarrasses others among their friends or society at large. Ultimately, just actions propel us to give to each person what is his due. Can we really be living as God asks if we are not considerate in thought, word, and deed towards our brothers and sisters for whom Christ was crucified?

"Acting justly towards our neighbor is not simply a question of avoiding doing him or her any harm. Nor is it simply a matter of denouncing unjust situations as they crop up." Lamenting the evils in our world is useless if it does not motivate us to do something to remedy the situations that cause us to grieve. All Christians must ask themselves how they can put the virtue of justice into practice in their everyday lives. This naturally begins with prayer.

We all need one another; we can all help one another. We must keep the needs of others in mind, we must be capable of saying: cor meum vigilat, my heart is awake.

CCHD provides one avenue to assist those who need our attention, and help form a more just, a more human world. During my time at CCHD I have had the opportunity to meet many people in need in our diocese, good people who, often times due to circumstances out of their control, are now forced to humbly ask for help to live with the amenities that most of us take for granted.

I have tried to tell their stories and laud the efforts of our current grant recipients who have been working to improve the lives of the poor in our diocese in the following pages. I encourage you to be generous in the CCHD collection on November 21st. Your donations ensure that CCHD will continue to work diligently for justice on a local level.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Yet Another Reason to the Blame the United States

The Aids conference currently under way in Bangkok, Thailand has once again turned into a forum for the world to criticize the United States. Despite the fact that the US has spent twice as much as other donor nations combined (we have pledged $15 billion), world leaders, actors like Richard Gere and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan have stepped up the criticism. They are accusing the United States of ignoring the plight of Aids victims while focusing too much attention on the war on terrorism. Addressing the conference, Richard Gere said “There is a vicious terrorist out there and it’s not Osama bin Laden, it’s Aids.” He went on to say that Aids is the most fundamental threat to our happiness and livelihood. His comments are so absurd that they need no further elaboration. Kofi Annan, in a veiled criticism of the United States implied that our enthusiasm in fighting the war against terrorism is disproportionate to our desire to fight Aids and suggested we could do more. Convinced that the United States’ policy is driven by “neo-conservative” ideologues, few at the conference seem willing to even consider the effectiveness of an abstinence program.

Protesters in Thailand Demonstrate Against Bush Posted by Hello

The policy of President Bush has been to promote abstinence programs throughout the world, rather than relying solely on “safe-sex” and condoms. Interestingly enough, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has supported the Bush policy, and as a result has become a target of criticism. His country is a rare example of a success story in Africa, a continent ravaged by Aids. By enforcing abstinence programs, his country has seen a drop in Aids infections. Those supporting condoms as the only way to prevent Aids seem to think that abstinence is cruel and unusual punishment. Asking people to wait until marriage before having sex is unrealistic, according to the critics of the Bush policy. This reaction ought not be surprising. In our sex-absorbed culture, it seems inconceivable for some to even contemplate abstinence. But the question must be asked; what is really going to solve the Aids problem? The only way to ensure that Aids will not be transmitted is by not having sex and not taking drugs. It seems so obvious, so why all the confusion? As usual, the Left has a quick fix for a serious, deep seeded moral problem that they refuse to recognize. Their message is the equivalent of saying; “play with this loaded gun, just be safe”. Refusing to address the root cause of the Aids epidemic, they look for simplistic solutions to a moral crisis. Since their understanding of sex is not rooted within any moral context of procreation, love, family and responsibility, they cannot be expected to see the moral roots of the Aids crisis. Abstinence programs, on the contrary, encourage a responsible and humane understanding of sex; that is, sex within the context of the married life is the only authentic purpose for human sexuality. Abstinence attacks the root of the problem, addressing the moral implications of sexuality. The source of the anger toward the president results from President Bush's refusal to use the bully pulpit as a spring board for the homosexual agenda. While Bush certainly wants to find a cure for Aids, he will not use his office as a propaganda machine for the homosexual movement in this country. I’m afraid that the criticism of the United States in Thailand is yet another example of the “blame America first” movement and has more to do with ideology that with fact.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Operation Iraqi Freedom

In my opinion, the situation in Iraq is going well. Despite the constant barrage of negative news, magnified and dwelled on by the liberal media, the fact is that we’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time with a surprisingly low number of casualties. In a little over a year, we’ve toppled a dictatorial regime, captured the former leader and most of his henchmen, and installed a new government. All of this comes with less than 700 American combat losses (some 200 have died in non-combat, accident related incidents). Of course every loss is a tragedy, but we must maintain a sense of perspective when dealing with the enormity of the mission. For example, before the D-Day invasion of France during WWII, the US lost over 700 troops in a training exercise alone! Remember before the war, so-called experts were predicting tens of thousands of US losses and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths. Pessimists are bemoaning that this is another Vietnam-quagmire; “Bring the troops home!” “How long will our troops stay in Iraq?” The answer is, as long as it takes to get the job done. Would we be honoring the sacrifices of those who paid the greatest price buy cutting and running prematurely? US soldiers remained in Germany and Japan for years after the conclusion of WWII to assist with reconstruction. We’ve been in Iraq little over a year and already, some are getting shaky and calling for a withdrawal. What ever happened to our resolve and appreciation for history? The great potential of a free and democratic Muslim state in the Middle East threatens the very existence of terrorism. Terrorists thrive under corrupt governments that refuse to root them out of their society. They operate shrouded in secrecy and darkness. A free and open society, with leaders who are held accountable to the rule of law, naturally deters terrorism. It’s no wonder the terrorists in Iraq are engaged in an all-out battle to the finish to undermine and destroy the new Iraqi government. It seems like they realize what’s at stake more than the American left.

American Resolve Posted by Hello

The insurgency remains a problem, and a case can be made that planners underestimated their resolve going into the war and failed to come up with a definitive plan for reconstruction after major major combat operations had concluded. However, this does not mean that America has lost control of the situation. The media gives the impression that Iraq is on the verge of all out chaos. This conflicts with the reports of numerous soldiers who have returned from Iraq and have commented that the situation is not nearly as dire as reported by the American media. One soldier commented that he was more worried about the situation as a result of watching media coverage here than when he was actually fighting in Iraq! The fact is the attacks in Iraq are committed by a relatively small group of terrorists and insurgents. Recently, insurgents threatened to kill foreign terrorists who have been responsible for the murdering of innocent Iraqis. This indicates that Iraqis are uniting in their efforts to rid their land of terrorists. Iraqis understandably don’t want to be occupied by a foreign army, even less do they want to be plagued by car bombs, which result in hundreds of dead innocents. As much as they oppose US occupation, they realize that the real enemy is the terrorist, not the United States. The goal of the terrorists was to unite with the insurgency to force an American withdrawal and they have failed. As Iraqi security forces are taking an increasingly visibly presence in Iraq, the everyday Iraqi will unite behind their security forces and the terrorists will be on the run. We need to view operation Iraqi Freedom in perspective and realize how much we have accomplished in such a short time. We also need to remember that the best way, the only way, to honor the fallen is to get the job done.