Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"Just Rice Versus Wheat"

A recent AP story chronicles the sad story of Haley Waldman, an 8 year old New Jersey girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder that prevents her from eating wheat. Haley’s first Holy Communion was declared invalid by Trenton Bishop John M. Smith because the wafer used contained no wheat, and this has motivated Haley’s mother, Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman, to begin a crusade to have the doctrine changed.

Mrs. Pelly-Waldman is pushing the Diocese of Trenton and the Vatican to make an exception, stating that the girl’s condition should not prevent her from receiving the sacrament:

“It’s just not a viable option. How does it corrupt the tradition of the Last Supper? It’s just rice versus wheat.”

Just rice versus wheat.

Mrs. Pelly-Waldman’s attitude is unfortunately typical. Among many Catholics there is a tragic lack of understanding of, and reverence for, the seven sacraments. Pelly-Waldman demands that the Church find a way for Haley to receive Communion; she’ll take rice, potatoes—whatever, as long as she receives.

The author of the story, John Curran, when briefly discussing the matter and form of Communion notes that, “Church leaders are reluctant to change anything about the sacrament.” Mr. Curran, who would jump at the chance to change a part of Catholic teaching established by Christ at the Last Supper?

Knowing that the chief effect of Holy Communion is an intrinsic, interior union of the recipient with Christ, this is not an issue that can be eliminated by simply patting little Haley on the back, giving her a rice wafer, and wishing her well. That, as the Diocese of Trenton has stated, would be an instance of liturgical abuse and rightfully declared invalid. There are extreme circumstances when the matter may be altered, and Haley’s situation might fit into this category, but it is for Church officials to decide. Mrs. Pelly-Waldman has already rejected the possibility of using a low gluten wafer, or just receiving Communion in the form of wine, claiming that Haley could be harmed by even a small amount of gluten.

The general tone of this AP story seems to be that the Roman Catholic Church is virulently against this young girl receiving Holy Communion or at least bent upon her risking a possibly deadly reaction to do so; and this is nonsense. It seems that it Pelly-Waldman who is unwilling to change her position, after all, our Lord is present in every particle, however minute, of consecrated bread and wine.

Why should we criticize the Church for prudently considering every available avenue open to Haley to validly receive the communion?

The AP story ends by with a quote from the 8-year-old saying that she might die if she eats wheat, and this is heart wrenching, but to juxtapose this with statements implying that Church leaders are forcing Haley and her family to risk her life if she wants to practice her faith is ridiculous.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Alan Keyes and Original Intent

Recently, Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes expressed a favorable view toward repealing the 17th Amendment. That amendment resulted in the direct election of senators and, according to Keyes, tipped the balance of power heavily in favor of the federal government. According to Keyes, “the balance is utterly destroyed when the senators are directly elected because the state government as such no longer plays any role in the deliberations at the federal level.” Previously, and as intended by the founders, state legislatures had elected senators. The rationale was that those chosen by the legislatures would be far more aware of the particular interests and needs of the state than even many of its citizens. The preservation of dual-federalism, whereby the state government shared power with the central, was considered a vital protection against the encroachment of the central government. As a result of the 17th amendment, state governments have gradually become so impotent that they have been reduced to mere satellite units of the omnipotent centralized government.

According to the founders, the most certain means to guard against an overreaching government was to ensure that the states played a central role in the deliberations at the national level. James Madison, often called the “Father of the Constitution”, in Federalist 345 describes the role of the senate and expounds upon the senate’s relationship to the central government. “It is recommended by the double advantage of a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.” He goes on to highlight the unique role the senate has in serving as a check to the federal government. “In this point of view, a senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly distinct from and dividing the power with a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government.” It was seen as vital to the survival of the Republic that the states be able not only pursue their local interests, but to also defend them from external encroachment. The senate was intended to be the more deliberative of the two houses of Congress. As such, it would avoid the more ruckus and emotive-driven policy making of the House, which was elected directly by the people. Madison also touches on this point. “The necessity of the Senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.” To many people today, the idea of senators who not elected by the people may seem anathema, bordering on political heresy. It reveals how far this nation has come from its original cynicism of direct elections.

Echoing Aristotle, the founders were weary of placing too much power directly in the hands of the populace. Certainly, the vox populi is important, but the founders did not necessarily believe in vox populi, vox dei. That’s why they founded a republic, not a democracy. Alan Keyes has breathed life into an important issue that for many years has fallen out of the realm of even speculation. Although even he realizes that the likelihood of returning to the original intent is not great, he has certainly opened the political door of possibility. Illinois is fortunate to boast a viable candidate whose political philosophy mirrors the Founding Founders more than any other candidate in the country.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A Wall of Separation

We’re all aware of this memorable phrase by Thomas Jefferson. We hear it repeatedly from the ACLU and other opponents of Church “interference” in state matters. Although the words “separation of church and state” never appear in the first amendment, they might as well be there now. So engrained is this idea on our national conscience that even the pledge of allegiance has come under attack, in addition, prayer at high school football games and within the classroom. Religion, in a certain sense has become enemy number one of activist judges. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that religion has come under attack in America. Even though the majority of Americans consider themselves religious, the elite of this country, once again proving that they know better than we do, are attempting to erase the important role religion played in our nation’s founding. Quote after quote can be pulled from the dialogues of the founding era affirming the benefits, even necessity, of religion and morality in public life. Washington himself went so far in his Farewell Address to say that these two pillars are fundamental components of a successful republic. Even Jefferson, probably the least “religious” of the founding generation, doubted that a state could function without Christianity. De Tocqueville marveled at the religiosity of the American citizen. Not being able to deny the prominent role religion occupied in the founding, attempts are now being made to dismiss religion in the founding era as “cultural” or “historical” conditioning. “That was then, this is now.”

The idea that religious-inspired values and morals ought to remain outside the public debate would have sounded completely foreign to the founders. While they affirmed reason’s ability to reach certain truths, they were doubtful that over time, reason alone would prove sufficient in guiding man along the path of moral truth. As we all know, the only intent of the first amendment was to prohibit Congress from establishing a national religion and to ensure the freedom to worship as one pleases. Today however, we have what Father Neuhaus calls the “naked public square.” President Bush is accused of being a zealot, leading this country on his religious convictions rather than national interest. The courts, which were intended by the founders to be the weakest branch of government, have arguably become the most powerful.

As we have discussed, politicians opposed to abortion are accused of “imposing” their religion on the electorate. Bishops who speak out against abortion and warn politicians who support it are likewise criticized. The important social issues of the day such as life, marriage and the family, etc., are influenced more by the secular creed than any religious one. What is the remedy for such hostility toward religion in public life? How can we reclaim our nation’s appreciation for religion in the public square?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Balancing Act: The Catholic Voter's Situation

As the arguments over whether it is permissible to vote for a pro-abortion candidate rages on, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been quoted by the U.S. Bishops in a way that seems to allow for Catholics to have more voting freedom.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has said that Ratzinger feels that,

"A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considerred remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

Many liberal mouthpieces, such as Andrew Greeley, have run with this statement claiming that this implies that Catholics are free to vote for whomever they choose, including John Kerry, if they find other reasons to do so.

In his July 16 article in the Chicago Sun-Times Greeley shows his true colors by making a cheap stab at the Bishops who have defended the Eucharist by stating that, "The few bishops who excluded Catholics from communion if they voted for Kerry didn't know much traditional moral theology."

Individuals like Greeley are entirely political and have no desire to educate the laity. In the same article Greeley then suggests that the bishops could better act as beacons of light if they would "more noisily oppose the Iraq war and suggest that Catholic politicians who support the death penalty are not following the teachings of the Church."

By simple consideration of the numbers anyone can see that abortion is taking more lives than capitol punishment and while we cannot forget about capitol punishment, abortion is clearly the dominant issue of our day.

However, it's worth analyzing whether Ratzingter's alleged point is truly applicable, or just ammunition for more useless palaver. The question is: What are "proportionate reasons?" How often do they exist? Are we really faced with such a situation now? Despite Kerry's liberal positions on life issues are his other beliefs enough to render Catholic support of his campaign "indirect material cooperation?"

Allow me to quicky opine . . . I virulently reply "No!" Simply research his incomprehensible voting record. I could continue but would rather leave it to everyone else to discuss.

What are "proportionate reasons?" Many American Catholics are now using this arguement to support a number of questionable politicians.

Could they be right?