Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Immoral Abuse of Morality

This is in response to Jim Wallis, his confused "God's Politics" blog, and this post in particular. It presumes at least a familiarity with the Model of Catholic Social Teaching, which can learn about here.

First, I absolutely agree that a budget, be it a family's, a parish's, diocesan, state, or national or any other, is a moral document. There, however, ends my agreement with him.

Catholic social teaching offers us a beautiful and challenging understanding of what human dignity is, our call to always uphold it, and even some understanding of what is required to uphold it. What follows is my personal response to Jim Wallis' radio statement and blog, based on my understanding of Catholic social teaching.

From a moral perspective I utterly disagree with Jim Wallis' statement (and underlying assumptions) when he speaks about our nation's current budget: "[Obama's 2009 budget is] a budget aimed at redressing the imbalances." He goes on to say this is a very good thing: "The new budget proposed by the White House is a dramatic step in the direction of the common good, with strong support for the middle of America, real help for the poorest among us, and the proposition that the wealthiest pay their fare share."

Let's start with the underlying presumptions in his moral analysis. He presumes that inequality is a bad thing. Poverty (of any kind, defined as anything that prevents us from becoming who God created us to be), is a bad thing. Barriers which prevent people from having equal opportunity are a bad thing. But inequality in results is part of what motivates us to take ownership of who we are and what we do. Inequality in results is part of what compels us to co-create with God. Imposed equal results is not a moral principle that upholds human dignity. Imposition of equal results undermines natural law, demotivates people from responsibility, ownership, risk, and reward. It undermines human dignity and is sinful.

A second, and equally sinful presumption under Wallis' statement is that it is the right and proper role of government to address the issues that need addressing, particularly by taking from those who are successful and giving to those who aren't as successful. This inherently undermines subsidiarity, one of the three required pillars upholding human dignity. From a moral perspective we have to stop presuming government is required to address moral issues simply because we've ignorantly forgotten that we are supposed to do that ourselves.

The solutions Wallis advocates as "moral" are, in fact, immoral because they are highly socialist. They redistribute wealth and undermine the right of the people to freely enter into contracts, keep the fruit of their labor. Catholicism has long recognized the right to own property, and keep the fruit of one's labor is a fundamental individual, God-given right (going back to Aquinas and even earlier -- long before Socialism existed as we know it).

Socialist answers to the poverties of our world are wrong and immoral and deepen the poverty of the world. From a Catholic moral standpoint, Socialism and socialist answers (which this budget is) are irredeemable because they inherently undermine human dignity.

What of the free market? That can hardly be a moral system, Wallis and friends will claim. Ahhh, but they are wrong. Free will is just as immoral as the free market it. Put another way, both free will and the free market are neutral -- their morality depends on the choices made by those exercising or within them.

Here's the hard truth about our current economic situation. Part of it is our fault as a Church. What? To to extent that we have failed to speak with the moral teaching authority of the Church in the areas of faith and morals, we are responsible for failing to invite and challenge the people of the free market system to be moral in their business practices, use of debt, the rightful role of government to protect and defend the inherent rights of her citizens instead of entering into the markets as a power hungry, greedy participant who no longer is capable of regulating the free market playground because it is a horse in the race. Quite simply, we've failed to teach human dignity and the three pillars required to uphold it. We've failed to teach our faithful and society morality. We've failed to compel our faithful to answer their God given mandate of faith to reach out to our neighbor and help them become the fullness of who God created them to be (yes, that's our responsibility, not government's!).

As a Church we have advocated for specific solutions and ignored our own moral teaching. It's one thing to advocate against the mortal sin of abortion (it is an inherently grave mortal sin), quite another to advocate specific economic solutions such as farm subsidies, universal healthcare, minimum wage, when there are other solutions which aren't inherently morally grave.

The reality is that it's poor theological and moral understanding like what Wallis touts that leads to the type of irresponsibility and lack of ownership on many moral issues required to uphold human dignity, abortion included. There is a reason that abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and other inherent evils are part of the platform of our current administration. It fundamentally does not understand human dignity or how to uphold it.

Are we compelled by our faith in Jesus our Christ to respond to the needs of our poor? Absolutely. But let's not make the mistake of foolishly falling for the argument that the government is the only or even the best way to accomplish what we are called to do as individuals, and which we as a Church have poorly taught.

Truth can not contradict truth. In that same vein, human dignity is not upheld if one of it's three required pillars is undermined. It is an error to uphold "common good" as if it is a stand alone principle. It's not. Human dignity is, and it requires all three pillars of common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity to be upheld. A social action which takes power and rights which rightfully belong to families and individuals and churches and the free market undermines subsidiarity and fails to uphold human dignity. The government ought not be in the business of forcing us to do with our money what they think we ought to do, making it so we have less to do what Christ calls us to do.

Christ's challenge to all of us is to find a way to address society's poverties that actually upholds human dignity. Our current path does nothing of the kind.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Human Dignity in One Lesson

Our nation is facing challenging economic times. Such times often cause tremendous change in roles of government, private sector, and family. It is the purview of the faithful and all in our society to assess how to best meet our moral obligations. As hierarchy in the Catholic Church, it is our responsibility to remind both our faithful and all people in our society of what these moral responsibilities are.

Always and everywhere it is the responsibility of every individual, and all grouping of society, including government, to serve and uphold the dignity of every human being. To accomplish this, it is necessary to understand what is meant by human dignity, and what is required to uphold it.

Human Dignity
Human dignity is the innate and unalienable quality bestowed on every human at conception. We each have a value beyond reckoning and a God-given potential that only we can fulfill. Our nation's Declaration of Independence is founded on this most fundamental natural law.

Three principles must be fully, mutually, and equally met in order to uphold human dignity: the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity. If any of these three is absent or slightly lacking, then, human dignity is not uphold, and is in fact undermined -- a three legged stool with a missing or shortened leg can not uphold the person sitting on it.

The Common Good
The common good is the mutually shared responsibility of all individual people to corporately realize our full human potential as individuals.

Subsidiarity is the responsibility of individuals to realize the fullest potential of the smallest groupings, down to the family and individual, by placing ownership at the smallest feasible and practical level. Indeed, not only is it the responsibility of smaller groupings to claim and act upon their local authority, but it is the responsibility of larger groupings to encourage and support ownership at smaller levels as required.

Solidarity is the responsibility of individuals to realize that what happens to one effects all and thus to stand together, with our strongest helping support our weakest, that we might realize our fullest human potential.

The Most Common Error in Trying to Uphold Human Dignity
Any well intentioned act by an individual, group, society or government which fails to uphold human dignity does so for one or both of two very simply reasons:

It examines the impact of its cause and effect for too short a time and/or on too small a group.

Abortion is the perfect example of this grave error. Examining the rights of the woman only at the time of her pregnancy and anticipated motherhood, her right to not be bothered by anything she doesn't want to be falsely makes abortion seem a moral option. However, doing so fails to consider the effect of the abortion on her unborn child (death), on the mother's life-long mental, spiritual, and physical well being (tremendously harmful effects in all areas), on the father (who has a right to know he's a father and who suffers mental, spiritual, and physical effects as well), and on society at large, which fails to value human life and dignity leading to the harming or killing of millions because of being blind to evil.

To the extent that government, corporations, and other larger groups usurp actions, rights and ownership which rightfully belong at an individual, family, or smaller group level, human dignity is undermined.

To the extent that we as a society fail to reach out and help our brothers and sisters overcome their poverties to the point they have equal opportunity, human dignity is undermined.

To the extent that individuals turn to others for what they themselves can provide, even through struggle, human dignity is undermined.

To the extent that government takes the fruit of individual's labor beyond what is essential to fulfill government's rightful role to protect its people's fundamental, God give, unalienable rights, human dignity is undermined.

Our Call to Uphold Human Dignity:
Christ's challenging invitation to each of us: making decisions effecting the dignity of ourselves and others, to examine the full effect of our actions and laws, and ensure our actions uphold human dignity as fully as possible. Doing so is essential for our nation to continue to be a vibrant, free beacon of democracy, and to us to live our faith.

Ask yourself two simple questions: What is the effect of this action if I consider it's full impact over a long period of time? Does it fully, equally, and mutually uphold the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity, and thus human dignity?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Why We Prefer Victimhood to Responsibility

Here's the article that triggered this blog. The headline reads: "Phelps needs less idle time, no more."


As a nation, do we no longer realize that it is not government's (or governing bodies of sports) role to take responsibility for our choices -- it's ours?

News flash to the numbskullian George Vecsey who wrote the article: If Phelps has taken genuine ownership of his poor choices, he will realize what he needs to do to move forward and he will do it. If that means 16 hours in the pool practicing, fine. If that's more down time, fine.

How often do we inadvertently fall to false victimhood, simply because it's a HUGE blind spot in our culture? 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What's Missing from the Gay Marriage/transgender Dialogue

I just saw an episode of Eli Stone, in which a transgendered priest (Lutheran, I believe) put forth his/her arguments for why a sex change operation is morally justified.
-- She was in the wrong body for 30 years and needed a new one.
Of course everyone in the show who "had a heart" melted at the expressions of compassion and acceptance by the end of the episode. Unsurprisingly, completely missing is a single concept:
Natural Law.
It is natural law that God makes each of us exactly the way we are. Our eternal essence, who we are fundamentally, is not just our soul. When we find ourselves in heaven we will be the fulfillment of the same mind, same body, same soul (the belief that souls are superior/separate from our body and thus where our essence must reside, is rooted in a heresy from St. Augustine's day, Gnosticism/ Manichaeism).
So, a personal drawn to being transgendered must address that question. Did God truly make them wrong? Or do they have a heavy cross to bear for some reason we can not see? Transgender surgery is not a repair, it is a controlling change. I don't know the answers, but our public dialogue is far from complete without these questions being included.
Gay marriage. The Church teaches that marriage is only between a man and a woman, for a life time. Why? Simply biology. Puzzle pieces. Love and pro-creation are part of every marriage.
I can not begin to understand the cross gay people carry. Or transgendered folk bear.  I do know the burden of carrying my own cross of life disabled with TBI. I trust that God has gift in this cross and that when it is God's will for this cross to be removed (on either side of death's veil), I will gladly accept healing. And I'll look forward to discovering just exactly who God created me to be, and how these things that I don't understand will have imminent clarity.
Church teaching in these matters is clear. How people who are born with them are to bear their cross is an entirely poorly explored area.

What would Jesus Do?
Jesus warmly embraced and accepted people who were clearly sinners and then challenged them to "go forth and sin no more." (The woman at the well). This remains the Church's action as well, except that we sometimes overemphasize the "sin no more" part, and don't see (and or having it dismissed by the media and political agendas) the "embrace, accept" precursors inherent to individual ministry. Why? Because they happen individually, privately, pastorally. As they should.

Why the Heavy Pessimism about 2008?

As I glance through the headlines that pop up in my browser's home page a common thought has struck me: the world (or at least it's journalists) have yet to hear and embrace true hope -- hope in Jesus Christ. 
To read the headlines, 2008 was a dismal year. Too long. Full of war. Full of financial doom. All fretting over things that really only matter in light of Jesus Christ. And in that light, we have to ask ourselves how well we're doing upholding the dignity God gave us.
Jesus our Christ came to reveal to us our own God-given potential, our beauty, our dignity. And regardless of how well we're doing in that regard, the weight of any burdens we bear into 2009 is infinitesimal compared with the uplifting that running toward Christ brings us.
Come on, folks! Life is a pilgrim's journey. We are, at best, lodgers at inn beside the road toward our true home -- Jesus our Christ.
For this coming year, let's seek to find and serve Jesus in each person we meet. Then we will be like the wise men -- traveling far, sacrificing much, gaining eternal life.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolution: Lexio Divina

Yup. It's that time. Obligatory promises to self. The secular version of Lent. My challenge to myself each Lent, and thus round New Years as well, is to find a new way to Run Toward Christ.

I've made the commitment to create Lexio Divina video's in preparation for each Sunday's Mass. It's one way I try to run toward Christ. Whether you join me via video or do Lexio Divina with others or on your own -- it's a powerful way to Run Toward Christ!

My Lexio Divinas are posted here each week (feel free to follow the RSS).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What if HM used an iPhone?

Here's an article about yours truely exploring faith (a bit invisibly), technology, and overcoming brain injury. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Where Hope is Found

Eucharist plants seeds,
Christ's Mass Grows within,
Prepare ye the way!

Eucharist plants the seeds of Christmas in our mind, our heart, our soul. How do we nurture the seed of Christ? What fruit will we eventually bring forth?

Eucharist plants seeds,
Christ's Mass Grows within,
Prepare ye the way!