Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bench the Democrats

I couldn't agree with anything more. From Congressman Eric Cantor via my dear friend and spiritual mentor Father John Putka, SM.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Day of Infamy

The last time a President did that which the Constitution prescribes before waging war.

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The "religious issue"

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney made a speech at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas yesterday that can only be seen as a critical and defining moment in both his campaign and perhaps his faith as well. In the address, Romney sought to allay concerns from evangelicals and others about the idea of having a Mormon in office as President of the United States. It is easy for some to dismiss the issue as irrelevant until one recalls that Mormons do not have a history of a pleasant relationship with the federal government, with various State governments, or with mainline Christendom. Some of this was due to persecution on the part of former entities, but as much or more was the fault of Mormon leaders as well-one of Romney's ancestors (a member of the Quorum of the "Twelve Apostles") was part of the reason for anti-Mormon tensions in Arkansas. His death occurred there after he engaged in a polygamous marriage to another man's wife. When the Mormons fled to Utah, they did so not to settle the Salt Lake Valley, but to flee the United States.

It is impossible for many Christians (including myself) to see Mormons as Christian. Romney tackled this head-on:

"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his
church's distinctive doctrines," Romney said. "To do so would enable the very
religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should
become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president, he will need
the prayers of the people of all faiths."

Romney is quite correct that the federal Constitution prohibits a religious test for federal office. This means that no man or woman can be denied the right to hold office at the federal level because of his or her religious faith or lack thereof. There is nothing in the Constitution that forbids the electorate from having a religious test of their own, however-and they are free to exercise that test in the voting booth at their choosing.

I understand Romney's religious dilemma because there are certain Protestant fundamentalists who do not see Catholics as Christian and there are doubtless those who would choose not to vote for me because I am Catholic. I find that truly saddening, but that is their privilege. I say that because I have a religious test of my own-I absolutely refuse to vote for a professed atheist or agnostic to hold office in any level of government at any time. I have never knowingly voted for an atheist, and (by the Grace of God) I never will. I choose to exercise that religious test on candidates as a voter, and it is my right to do so. Other voters have that same right during an election.

I have no problem whatsoever casting a vote for a Mormon, and Romney's Mormon faith plays no factor in my choice whether or not to vote for him. Whether he has been true to certain basic principles of his faith does play a part in that decision. On this point I agree with Mike Huckabee:

"I think it's a matter of what his views are - whether they are consistent,
whether they are authentic, just like mine are," Huckabee told NBC's "Today."
"If I had actions that were completely opposite of my Christian faith, then I
would think people would have reason to doubt if this part of my life, which is
supposed to be so important, doesn't influence me. Then they would have to
question whether or not there are other areas of my life that lack that
authenticity as well.

"It has nothing to do with what faith a person has - it's whether or
not that person's life is consistent with how he lives it."

The difficulties I have had with Mitt Romney have nothing to do with the fact that he is a Mormon, but that he favored abortion before he suddenly became opposed to it when he decided to run for President. He is now speaking in a conservative language that makes him sound like the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan. I want to believe what the man is saying-he needs to explain the inconsistencies in his record more thoroughly.

When John F. Kennedy ran for President, his solution for tackling the "religious issue" was to completely disavow the moral authority of Church leadership. This is also extremely dangerous, for Kennedy was effectively saying "I will only be Catholic on Sunday as President." I want leaders who have faith and who exercise it every day of the week, not just when they aren't doing public business. Romney, Huckabee, or any other candidate needs to prayerfully consider how they can live their faith while doing their job effectively.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Phil's accessible party pad

Our illustrious Governor and the wife who refuses to use her husband's name told the people of Tennessee that the money for the renovations to the Governor's Mansion were going to come from private sources. Then they changed their tune and said that they needed $10 million from the public coffers to make the mansion accessable to people with disabilities (As a person with disability, I have great trouble grasping how that would cost 10 million dollars. I could see $100,000-and in today's climate the number could legitimately go as high as $250,000.) Now the tune is changing yet again:

Initially, renovating the Governor's Mansion and bringing the house into
compliance with provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act was to cost
less than $10 million. Today, the price tag has ballooned to $19.2 million, over
20 times the $900,100 appraised value of the house.

Despite the First Lady's pledge that she would "raise 60 percent to
80 percent of the total cost privately," state taxpayers are on the hook for
$12.8 million, according to the State Building Commission document. Only a third
of the cost of the project has been raised privately.

"The First Lady has turned the Governor's Mansion into a house of horrors
for taxpayers," said Drew Johnson, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy
Research. "Tennesseans have already been tapped for nearly $13 million to
renovate the Mansion and I have a feeling that the First Lady isn't finished
raiding our pockets."
Now we understand why the Governor and some of his Democratic minions in the General Assembly have declared that the Tennessee Center for Policy Research is "not a legitimate group"-TCPR is on to Freaky Phil and his desire to spend public money for the amusement of himself and his wife. Entire towns can go without water, but the Bredesens need to have their party bunker.

As for the Mansion, it is just falling down around the Governor and his family-they don't even live there (and never have). You know things are bad in Nashville when myself, Donna Locke, Sharon Cobb, Drew Johnson, Bill Hobbs and a bipartisan cast of characters all say that the Governor's priorities are terribly misplaced. Are there not better things to do with taxpayer funds than build a basement addition under a residence where the Governor doesn't even live?


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Primaries and a convention

Social Studies teacher Bill Schulke joins the program to discuss the 2008 presidential campaign and the current political stage. Fabian Story calls in with some interesting poll numbers at the precinct level in early Primary States that indicate good news for Fred Thompson. We all discuss the possibility of a "real" Republican National Convention in 2008.

Oatney On the Air-December 5, 2007


The Church and the care of the people

My good friend Sharon Cobb believes as I do that our churches, synagogues, temples, and other houses of worship hold the answer to the welfare state. Churches should make it their priority to care for the poor and needy of our society because that is really the prime mission of the Church in the world aside from saving souls. Sharon would like to insure that churches fulfill that mission by requiring churches and houses of worship to give a certain percentage of their income to those in need or risk losing their tax-exempt status.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what Sharon is trying to get at, and she isn't the first person to make such a proposal. While I agree with the idea in principle that churches ought to give much of their money away in service to others, there is a key component to the equation that can cause the ecclesiastical safety net to unravel if it isn't doing its part-the people in the pews.

Before a church can begin to extend its reach to benefit the entire community, it has to take care of its internal affairs. Priests or ministers can't be expected to work for nothing-not when the layfolk expect them to be there when they are most needed. After paying the pastor, a church then must pay its secretarial staff and other full-time employees. Unfortunately, the local utility companies are not going to extend free electric, water, and gas service to churches-and at my parish the utility bills run into the thousands of dollars a month.

Then there are the needs and desires of the laity, nearly all of which are worthwhile and part of the Church's mission. In addition to holding Sunday Mass, at my church daily Mass is offered at 8:30am all other days of the week except Wednesday, when Mass is said at 7pm. At most Protestant churches there are at least three services a week (Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening). The services that the Church offers the laity are many and wide-ranging (I will speak from a Catholic perspective because of firsthand experience, but those of you who attend other churches will doubtless be able to identify with at least some of these programs or similar activities in your ecclesial community).

For most of the year, the Church offers classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA)-instruction for those who are seeking to be baptized into the Catholic faith, or who are joining the Catholic Church from another Christian community. At my parish, Nicole and I assist with teaching RCIA on most Mondays. There are a few weeks where we can't make it, but most of the time we are there to help. The coffee is always hot and there are always goodies on which to munch. The Church provides videos as well as teaching and learning materials for these important classes.

The parish goes to great pains to insure that in the absence of a Catholic school in Morristown, young children are suitably educated in the faith through the Parish School of Religion. Through PSR/CCD classes, kids are prepared for their First Communion, First Confession, and their Confirmation. Beyond that, the Parish School of Religion serves as a place where children can come for religious education throughout their developing years. When we lived in Cincinnati, Nicole and I taught in the PSR for third and fourth graders for a year at St. Catharine of Siena Church. This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but also among the most frustrating. Why? I quickly became exasperated at the number of parents who dropped their children off for us to teach them, but I never saw them at Mass on Sunday or at Vespers during the week. It didn't take long for us to figure out that we were a babysitting service for some of these parents, but we were doing an important work nonetheless-we might have been the only Christian example some of the kids were getting all week. We don't teach in the School of Religion at St. Patrick, our current parish, but I have no doubt that there are parents who use religious instruction as a babysitter there (Note to heathen parents: Y'all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!).

The Church also has programs to benefit seniors, and the sick and shut-ins of the parish, and always has great activities for teens. There is a place and a program for just about everyone to participate in. All paid for by the huge money tree growing in the front yard of the parish church...uh, right.

Everything the Church does takes money, and there is very little that doesn't cost quite a bit at that. What amazes me is just how much the Church does to care for its members that those members take for granted as things the Church does-no one seems to realize the time, effort, and money that goes into these services. People assume that these things are "free" because the Church does them. If the flock partakes, the flock needs to pony up.

I hear you now, you're saying "David, I don't have lots of money-our family has modest means, we are barely getting by." When I was in college I had no spare money. I gave to the Church when I could afford to, which wasn't often (I was always sure to give my Peter's Pence every year-I still do), but I knew that I was utilizing the Church for both my spiritual as well as temporal well-being. I also understood that I needed to give back for what I had been given. My solution was to find an organization within the Church who made it their mission to give back to the Church and to the community, and one that I didn't need to have lots of money to join. My thinking was that if there were a group that pooled their resources and focused on fundraising as well as giving, I would be able to participate and to give through that group. I ended up joining the Knights of Columbus because I made a commitment to find a way to give no matter how little I might have personally, and I remain an active Knight to this day.

I would recommend the Knights to any Catholic man, but there are many groups and organizations within the Church for people of all ages, genders, and conditions that allow them to give back to the best of their ability and which pool their resources to allow for maximum giving. If you don't have a lot of the green stuff, joining such a group or society is a way that you can give to the Church's greater work without feeling like you have to break the bank to do it.

That brings us back to the larger point of whether churches should be penalized if they don't give to those who need it. Ideally, this would be doable because churches would be rolling in money. I have a feeling if churches were rolling in money (not just a few churches) they would give a lot more to those in need than so many of them already do. For churches to be able to do their job in caring for the poor, the laity have to care for the Church. In our day and age, the laity don't give because they think the Church runs for nothing and the government will feed the poor.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cooper's "retirement"

State Senator Jerry Cooper is appealing the $120,000 civil penalty imposed upon him by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance for diverting $95,000 of campaign funds for personal use. He is also (mercifully) going to resign his Senate seat:

“Simply put, after Sen. Cooper’s well-publicized problems over the last
several years, his medical, legal and other bills make it impossible to pay this
penalty,” attorney Michael D. Galligan of McMinnville wrote in a letter to
Registry Director Drew Rawlins.

“Sen. Cooper would represent to the Registry that he intends to retire
prior to the next election upon completion of several ongoing projects he feels
strongly will benefit the citizens of the 14th Senatorial District,” Galligan

“Sen. Cooper was a sponsor of the bill creating the Registry of Election
Finance and has the utmost respect for the Registry and its goals. While not
challenging the findings made by the Registry, he would respectfully request a
reconsideration of the penalties and ask that they be reduced to an amount more
commensurate with previous penalties assessed by the Registry and Sen. Cooper’s
limited ability to pay,” the letter says.

I wonder if Senator Cooper was thinking of his "limited ability to pay" when he diverted that money from his campaign account? He had to know very well that what he was doing violated the very law that he helped to draft. Apparently it was perfectly fine for Cooper to do what he did, but was not fine for other legislators. Since he drafted the bill that created the Registry of Election Finance, we are forced to assume that this was a case of "do as I say, not as I do."

Now Jerry Cooper-whose embarrassment of the Tennessee Senate as an institution has not previously known any bounds-tells the press through his legal intermediaries that he intends to retire from the Senate "prior to the next election." In other words, Cooper is leaving the Senate to spare himself further negative attention. Clearly, the Senate Democratic Caucus doesn't care about the problems Cooper has caused them, they've gone out of their way to defend Cooper as his drunken, disorderly, and illegal behavior has served as an example to Tennesseans of the continued abuses of Democratic power.

It may be true that Jerry Cooper is unable to pay the fine imposed on him. He really should have given that some consideration before he diverted all that money.


Monday, December 03, 2007

A great tribute to Hyde

W. James Antle III writes an outstanding memorial to Henry Hyde in The American Spectator. Of particular importance is Hyde's part in swinging a huge chunk of the Irish Catholic vote in a Republican direction, and helping for form the coalition between Southern evangelicals and Catholics within the GOP so vital to electing and re-electing Ronald Reagan.

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The welfare state

At a community center in Laguna Woods, California over the weekend, Fred Thompson sounded the alarm that America is headed for a socialist welfare state if any of the major Democratic contenders are elected next year:

"We know that the most liberal element of the Democratic Party has taken control of the Democratic Party, and if they win this next election we're going to go down the road of a welfare state," he said.

After warning of a government that gets "bigger and bigger," he said "I don't think the American people are going to turn the keys to this country over to the most left-wing part of a left-wing party next year."

"We've got to make sure that doesn't happen," he said.

Of course there isn't a thing Fred says in those quotes that I disagree with, only I would take his argument even further. We embarked on the road to a welfare state in this country a very long time ago. All of the elements of the welfare state (and not just the Social Security system) have since become the third rail of American politics. We aren't headed for a welfare state, we arrived there completely around 1965. Fred Thompson is absolutely right to take the welfare state on, though (from a politically realistic point of view) we aren't going to see the dismantling of the welfare state in the near future. Before we can ever hope to tackle the monstrosity that is the welfare state, we have to tackle the culture of dependency that the welfare state has created and that the Democratic Party expands with each election when their candidates for office at every level promise its increase.

The welfare state has become so pervasive that Republicans are now campaigning not on a platform of fighting the welfare state, but in reducing its increase. They are doing so for fear that if they propose the things that really need to be done, they will likely lose in nearly every election cycle. The sad truth, of course, is that this assumption is probably correct. Even Fred Thompson will not admit that we are in the firm grips of the welfare state-he must say we are headed there when he knows that we as a nation are already in its grip.

Thompson was absolutely right in the most recent Republican debate when he said that tackling the entitlement monster and rescuing America from being eaten by debt was going to take much more than just dealing with Social Security.

I know that many of my friends on the Left are well-meaning when they say they want universal health care, or a wide-ranging government-funded system of social services. They sincerely believe that it is the primary responsibility of government to take care of its citizens from cradle to grave. Some of these same folks are justifiably angry with the current administration for infringements on civil liberties such as government wiretaps of citizens without warrants and the PATRIOT Act. What they must remember is that a government that is big enough to "take care" of its people is also big enough to take away the freedoms that all Americans have come to take for granted.

We as a people cannot merely make the assumption that our political formation will "do the right thing" with the welfare state. Liberals and social welfare advocates sincerely believe that their political formation will "take care" of the people and yet preserve the freedoms of Americans. It didn't happen that way in the Soviet Union. The Soviet welfare state "took care" of its people to the point of taking their freedom away. Some conservatives (usually of the neoconservative variety) sincerely believe that they can best deal with the enemies of the nation by stripping them of what has come to be viewed as basic human rights and of constitutional protections, and that they can do this without threatening the freedoms of law-abiding Americans. It didn't work out that way in Nazi Germany in the 1930's and it isn't working in Communist China or in Venezuela today.

Americans need to re-examine the meaning of freedom. If freedom for Americans still means the ability to live your life with a minimum of government interference, then the American people will have to make the collective decision to undo the welfare state. That massive and ugly beast will never die unless the American people decide that the price of freedom is worth killing it.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent

Matthew 24:27-44

And as in the days of Noah, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noah entered into the ark, And they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be. Then two shall be in the field: one shall be taken, and one shall be left.

Two women shall be grinding at the mill: one shall be taken, and one shall be left. Watch ye therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come. But know this ye, that if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come.


First Sunday of Advent

Each Sunday at Mass we say in the modern version of the Memorial Acclamation "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. It is easy to forget that the Second Coming, the Second Advent of Christ is real and will occur. As we prepare to celebrate His first coming, let us pray for His Coming in Glory.


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