Avarice: Pampering Pets while People Suffer in Poverty

Here is a picture of one of a million dwellings in Guatemala, where people actually live (and entire family, in fact):


On the day that I visited this family last summer, they were receiving a new stove (a non-electric, wood-burning, made from cinder blocks, cement and dirt kind of stove). The mother had almost nothing to offer us as a welcome, but showed us hospitality by sharing the family’s bananas growing on a small tree in the yard. Here’s a peek at their bathroom, in the corner of their tiny lot:


People live in such places. Millions and millions of people. I’ve never spent one day of my life in such squalor. I’ve never even camped in a place with reasonably comparable facilities. Almost ANY American campground has better infrastructure than this.

Meanwhile, a manufacturer of gadgets and electronics develops a $31,000 kennel for affluent pets:


This is avaricious idolatry. It’s another sign of the sickness of our culture.


Colbert and Fr. Martin: Disappointingly “Mainstream Catholicism”

I’ve watched maybe 2% of the total number of Colbert Report episodes that aired during the run of the show on Comedy Central. I saw enough to get the idea. Stephen Colbert creates an “alter ego” for the show, pretending to be a “conservative talking head”, while folding in aspects of his real life, like the fact that Colbert professes to be Catholic.

A number of Catholic bloggers, over the years, made mention of Colbert’s Catholicism, arguing that his presence in the mainstream media landscape was a potentially hopeful example of the way that a celebrity can be a good witness for Catholicism in public.

Although Colbert mentioned “Catholic things” on his show (otherwise ignored by the unflavored MSM) from time to time, his bits always left me a bit chagrined, because they were rarely edifying at all, and even when there were “good parts”, they required a fragile calculus to determine whether the problematic elements eclipsed the good.

The “chaplain” to the Colbert Report was Fr. James Martin, SJ, the editor at large of the Jesuit “America”. On the show, Fr. Martin was the backstop against which Colbert lobbed his Catholic bouncy balls of fun — Martin never really said or did anything funny; his contribution could be reduced to the significance of a Roman collar on national television. Martin’s serial appearances always seemed (to me) to be unseemly attempts at expanding his own notoriety.

Although the show ended a while ago, now everyone’s all agog over this insipid video:

What happened to those 403 seconds, right? And maybe it’s nitpicky on my part, but I think it’s really irreverent and poor form to hear a priest say “What the hell” twice in six minutes.

So yeah, I’m that guy who thinks Colbert is occasionally funny, but doesn’t do Catholicism any favors. In Colbert’s world, “Catholics” might be the people who walk into a bar and aren’t teetotalers but might still feel guilty about it. Sadly, they’re never too guilty to stop identifying themselves as Catholics.

Fr. Rosica v. Vox Cantoris: Foretelling or Totally Random?

I have no idea. But I think you should know about it.

A Canadian Catholic blogger who operates the blog Vox Cantoris has been a rather outspoken critic of Vatican spokesman and fellow Canadian Fr. Thomas Rosica. In particular, VC hasn’t pulled any punches in connection with Rosica’s comments concerning the Synod on the Family. VC’s rhetoric is somewhat, er, strident. Fr. Rosica retained counsel who wrote a threatening letter. Read the letter here. In one word: “Wow.” Not just any (parish) priest, but a rather powerful one, threatening litigation against a Catholic layman for criticizing the priest’s public statements. I’m not a Canadian lawyer, but I think there are some (legal) problems with the positions taken in the letter. I also think (not entirely knowing the merits of Rosica’s claims) that regardless of whether Fr. Rosica has the sanction of Fr. Lombardi (and Pope Francis), this was a truly unwise tactical move that is going to backfire. I smell fish. Once the light hits it, the stink will be incredible.

Terrible Advice…..

….. from Crux’s “ethical dilemma” columnist. Catholic mom wants to know if she should be concerned that her teenaged daughter is dabbling in the occult. Ouija, seances, etc. Columnist starts off by comparing such an interest to escaping into the writings of Tolkien and Lewis, and treats the whole thing lightly, concluding that “sooner or later” the daughter will have to “grow up”.

Either you believe in the Devil, demons and Hell (i.e., take the authentic Catholic view), or you don’t. But if you do believe in those things, then you don’t wait patiently by while a kid in your house invites Satan’s minions to have a chat.

You should be afraid. And I would let my kid know that’s why it’s not permitted in my house. Because it’s seriously real.

St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us! All the angels and saints of God, pray for us!

Further Hippocratic Oath-Breaking, this time by American Academy of Pediatricians…..

Last week I posted an article concerning one appraisal from the medical community regarding what constitutes “responsibility” on the part of a “man” in a casual sexual relationship.

The latest iteration is this article, which discusses the latest recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics concerning sexually-active teenaged girls.

In a nutshell, the Academy recommends that girls who are sexually active should receive a hormonal implant, or IUD. One of the great problems with “The Pill” is that a girl or woman must take it every day at the same time. Otherwise, it doesn’t do a very good job at preventing pregnancy.

An implant is effective from the time of implantation for up to ten years or until removed. The lead author of the updated recommendation is quoted as saying that “All methods of hormonal birth control are safer than pregnancy.” The words “safe” and “safer” are used euphemistically here. Pre-marital sex is not safe. Hormonal birth control is not safe.

Sure, not being pregnant is safer than being pregnant. Fewer women experience complications from taking hormonal birth control than from the natural process involving the development and safe delivery of a healthy newborn person. That’s like saying that keeping your Ferrari in the garage is safer than driving it. But pre-marital sexual activity for a teenager is driving underage without a license, which no department of motor vehicles would ever condone. Safer does not mean that an implant delivering chemicals so as to artificially regulate one’s reproductive cycle is actually safe. 

Potentially, and ideally, pregnancy is one effect of sexual activity for which there is consequence to both woman and man in the sexual relationship. The natural law makes severe demands on both parties. Even the civil law (as it presently stands) exacts a duty to one’s offspring to provide some minimal support.

Meanwhile, in the case of the use of a hormonal implant or IUD, any of the other effects from sexual activity experienced by a woman (or girl) do not bind the man in any way. Her other injuries are not his concern.

This recommendation is another signal that something even more insidious is afoot. Secular culture continues to find more perverse ways to objectify women, all while calling it empowerment. We are supposed to believe that 50 Shades of Grey and female performers gyrating on stage are good things for feminism. These cultural movements are coupled to recommendations from the medical communities legitimizing sexual activity among the young and unmarried. Pope Francis says that Satan presents things as though they are good, but his intention is destruction.

The age of majority as necessary for consent is being forcefully brought to its terminus, and this new recommendation is more dredge along the way. Younger and younger objects are demanded to sate cultural appetites. The only thing made safer by these new recommendations is how much safer (easier, with fewer external consequences) it will be to objectify and prey on the young.

Another Reason to Homeschool:

From the Pacific Justice Institute (one of the purported “Hate Groups” identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center) comes this Press Release regarding the month of October, commemorated as “LGBT History Month” and a warning to parents about what may be taught in schools:

The organizers of LGBT History Month annually select 31 “icons” of LGBT history that they urge schools and students to learn about and celebrate, one for each day in October.  The list is posted at [NOPE, not linking there]…..

Perhaps most concerning to parents this year will be the inclusion of CeCe McDonald, who was released from prison earlier this year after serving time in the killing of a man who had insulted her.  CeCe was charged with second-degree murder and accepted a plea of second degree manslaughter after fatally stabbing the man with scissors.  CeCe is presented in LGBT History Month as a “prison reformer” who brought attention to the plight of transgender inmates.

Works by several of the other individuals included on this year’s list would not otherwise be allowed in schools, or most homes.  For example, a music video of “icon” John Cameron Mitchell has been deemed too explicit to be shown on MTV Europe.  Comedienne “icon” Margaret Cho’s routines are replete with vulgarity not permitted in school.  And kids who want to learn more about “icon” Natalie Barney will read that she decried fidelity and instead advocated for adultery.

Last year, the number of school districts officially celebrating LGBT History Month grew to include Los Angeles, Fresno, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and two counties in Florida.  In most districsts around the country, LGBT History Month is promoted with posters and other materials by the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) student clubs, and by individual teachers, without advance notice to parents.  In 2011, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested that a teacher should be fired for criticizing LGBT History Month on her personal Facebook page.

Whatever “good” they’ve done for the LGBT movement and regardless of sexual orientation, the idea that killers, potty-mouths, and advocates of marital infidelity are being elevated as “icons” or heroes for students to learn about in school is repugnant, and sad.

There is No Legitimate “Right to Privacy” in making “Personal” Pornography

Recently computer hackers managed to break into the personal iCloud accounts of various female celebrities. These hackers stole digital photographs, including pictures of the celebrities naked.

The hackers committed a crime. Thou shall not steal.

Secular media (prompted by some of the celebrities themselves) states that “empathy” for victims is required because the “Right to Privacy” was violated, and that this violation is tantamount to sexual assault.

I object.

I don’t empathize with stupid. I pray for it. I ask for God’s mercy in connection with it. But I don’t empathize with it. The notion that I must have empathy is repellent to me, especially when many of these celebrities have already put themselves in the gutter by being filmed or photographed immodestly, earning a considerable amount of money and notoriety doing so.

To “empathize” in this instance is really euphemism: what’s demanded is that we condone and affirm poor choices and terrible conduct.

In Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II states that in our secular culture, the human body is no longer perceived as “…a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world.” Rather, “it is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited…. it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts.” (para. 23).

The penetrating influence of the media results in “…..an extremely serious and mortal danger: that of confusion between good and evil, precisely in relation to the fundamental right to life. A large part of contemporary society looks sadly like that humanity which Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans. It is composed ‘of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth’ (1:18)…. when conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt 6:22-23), calls ‘evil good and good evil’ (Is 5:20), it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.” (para. 24).

Citing to a fundamental “Right of Privacy” as the basis to generate “personal” pornography places society in an extremely serious and mortal danger that confuses good and evil. But since we’ve developed such a tolerance (and perhaps even appetite for) public pornography, the point is almost lost on us.

Creating pornography is not an exercise of freedom. JPII cites St. Augustine who writes, “the beginning of freedom is to be free from crimes… like murder, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, sacrilege and so forth. Only when one stops committing these crimes (and no Christian should commit them), one begins to lift up one’s head towards freedom. But this is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom”. (para. 75).

Practically speaking (from the standpoint of this curmudgeonly Catholic), none of the images stolen by the hackers should exist. There should have been nothing to steal. Taking naked pictures for the purpose of depicting oneself as a sexual object is a sin. It denies the human dignity of the one objectified in the image, and it creates an occasion for sin in the one who sees it. Neither the viewer nor the producer is doing anything that advances them toward salvation.

We are called to live, dress, and act modestly, and this calling does not magically disappear as soon as we find ourselves behind closed doors.

The Catholic Church respects and supports the notion that individuals enjoy an expectation of privacy that must be respected by all. The Church teaches that “In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person… such as “the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard… privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion.” (CCC 1907).

But the purported “Right to Privacy” assumed to exist in culture today was not explicitly set down as one of the enumerated constitutional rights in our American jurisprudence. Rather, the Right to Privacy is a manufactured legal fiction adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court to provide a basis for legalized abortion. It is the product of a carving out of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was originally intended only to secure one’s privacy against state action.

This is not to say that privacy rights don’t exist; a right to privacy does exist, and under the section of the Catechism that discusses the Eighth Commandment, the Church teaches that “Everyone should observe an appropriate reserve concerning persons’ private lives. Those in charge of communications should maintain a fair balance between the requirements of the common good and respect for individual rights. Interference by the media in the private lives of persons engaged in political or public activity is to be condemned to the extent that it infringes upon their privacy and freedom.” (CCC 2492).

However, it is an abuse of the Right to Privacy to legitimize immoral and illicit behavior, including a variety of forms of deviant sexual activity (like the creation of pornography) or the products of such behavior, including abortion, contraception use, and so on. The Right to Privacy, properly articulated, does not mean that there exists a right to do things which violate the natural law simply because they are done in private.

There is a nuance here that is frequently missed by most, especially those in secular culture: freedom and rights are not synonymous. I may well have freedom, because God gives me freedom so that I might choose the good, but that does not mean that since I also possess the freedom to choose the bad, I also have the right to do so.

The exercise of a right presumes that the right exists, and we as moral actors do not ever possess the right to do evil, even when the law does not criminalize the evil in question. God may permit such actions, but he does not accept them or agree that they are a just use of our freedom. Legality — in civil terms — has the disastrous quality of eventually being equated with morality, which is why Catholics are called to participate in legislative activity and resist the creation or execution of unjust laws.

The Right to Privacy does not give license to behave however one likes so long as one does so privately. In Evangelium Vitae, St. Pope John Paul II cites to Aquinas on the question of the natural law and its relationship to the civil law: “human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence”. And again: “Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law“. (para. 72).

Inasmuch as no person may permissibly make use of pornography under the natural law, likewise, no person – even the one depicted – enjoys a privacy right in its creation. Both the viewing and production of images for the purposes of sexual gratification are morally reprehensible acts. Any “Right to Privacy” that protects something which otherwise violates the natural law is not an authentic right, but a corruption of it.

Likewise, any demand for empathy toward the victims whose Right to Privacy has been violated is a corruption of the law as well, for one simple reason: no one should make oneself a pornographic object, even a “personal” or “private” one. Empathy — as much as creating a pornographic image, viewing it, or stealing it — makes one just another participant in the sin.

Supporting Secular Charities and the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

Right now, the Internet is atwitter over the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. I’ve enjoyed the video clips posted by a few friends in which they “take the challenge” (get a bucket of ice water over the head) and then call out three other friends to follow suit.

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: slgckgc

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: slgckgc

It’s a digital-viral-multi-level-pyramid-charity-marketing-scheme, and in a way, it’s brilliant. A bucket of ice water is cheap and (apart from here in California) plentiful, it can’t harm anyone, but it’s still fun to watch people get soaked. It’s a virtual “dunking booth” experience that everyone can “feel good about” because it’s harmless, and “for a good cause”. 

And, all of this is true, except that while we are “raising awareness” for a particular concern that needs more medical funding, we are also turning a blind eye to the problems with many of our secular charitable organizations. Despite our good intentions, and no matter how laudable the cause is, we cannot fall into consequentialism by supporting organizations that ultimately fail to respect the dignity of all human life. 

The moral dilemma is that many of these organizations support research involving embryonic stem cells. This is bad because (a) embryonic stem cells come from embryosi.e., individual members of the human race whose lives are extinguished in the name of (or secondary to) scientific research, (b) embryonic stem cells have yet to deliver on any promise (that a treatment or cure will come about from them) and (c) even if (when) such a treatment or cure is discovered from research on human embryos, it would not be licit to benefit from such treatment or cure.

Strychnos nuxvomica, a poisonous tree. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Lalithamba

Strychnos nuxvomica, a poisonous tree. Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Lalithamba

This is not mere “remote possibility”, but rather through our funding and support, the research that results (to use a legal term) is the “fruit of the poisonous tree”: something that would not exist but for the illicit means that brought it about. 

In the Instruction Dignitas Personaethe CDF introduces the concept: “The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great ‘yes’ to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today’s world.” Regarding the use of embryos for creation of cell lines, the Church states:

The obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo… invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit: “research, in such cases, irrespective of efficacious therapeutic results, is not truly at the service of humanity. In fact, this research advances through the suppression of human lives that are equal in dignity to the lives of other human individuals and to the lives of the researchers themselves. History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God but also because it lacks humanity”.

The use of embryonic stem cells or differentiated cells derived from them – even when these are provided by other researchers through the destruction of embryos or when such cells are commercially available – presents serious problems from the standpoint of cooperation in evil and scandal.

It isn’t easy being the one who “breaks the chain” and declines to take part in something that, by initial appearances, seems a worthy cause. But as Catholics, we should be aware of many of the pitfalls of the secular world, including climbing on the bandwagon no matter how good the music. In the case of the ALS Association, participation (not the ice bucket part, but the donation to ALS Association) conflicts with Catholic teaching: not only does the ALS fund research on embryonic stem cells, but it also advocates for such funding and research. 

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has offered an alternate approach: participate in the ice bucket challenge, but make the monetary donation to a group other than (in this case) the ALS Association: the Archdiocese suggests donating to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. I’m all for this, and should I be “challenged”, my video will carry the message that the JPII Institute will receive my donation, and in “challenging” three more friends, I’m asking them to do the same. 

Ignorance (the saying goes) is bliss. However, making a monetary contribution is, in a way, something akin to voting: we empower organizations and individuals that we support financially, and we ratify their messages and goals. If you are the type of voter who doesn’t choose candidates and initiatives based upon soundbites and banners, then you shouldn’t be that type of giver either. The American Life League provides a handy reference to help you navigate the waters, whether warm or iced and in a bucket. And, just to give you an idea of how serious this is, here’s just a sample of the organizations (widely viewed as worthy causes) that carry warnings:

ALS Association
Alzheimer’s Association
American Cancer Society
American Diabetes Association
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
American Red Cross
Live Strong
March of Dimes
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Susan G. Komen for the Cure

While the aims (curing disease, ending suffering) of these organizations are laudable, the means by which they would achieve their aims are not. Caution: tread lightly, and avoid hopping on the bandwagon until you know where your money (and time) is going. 

Because eating poisonous fruit has consequences, for body and soul.