Sunday, October 30, 2016

Stand on one leg and GO ...

Can you stand on one leg and list Trump’s disqualifying problems?

Maybe if you’re a gymnast. I can’t.

1.       He’s a liar. No matter what he says today, if it doesn’t make money and win applause today, he won’t say it again tomorrow.
2.       He’s pro-abortion. Even when he was pro-life for a few days – even then! – he was pro-Planned Parenthood and ready to appoint pro-abortion judges.
3.       He treats women like cattle. I like cattle. But women aren’t cattle. When you check out his wife collection, it’s glaringly obvious what he wants from women.
4.       He despises the military. Yeah, I know he has put a lot of money into buying vets’ votes. But he thinks that having the guts to die for your country is a clear sign of a loser. My brother died for his country, and I cannot find it in me to understand anyone – anyone! – who tolerates Trump’s remarks about CAPT McCain. CAPT McCain isn’t a hero because he got captured; he’s a hero because he risked it all, 23 times. What’s wrong with the guy who can’t understand this?
5.       Trump has no idea how the military works. We have the world’s best military, partly because we have money for weapons and R&D, but mostly because we still have people Trump will never understand. People who will risk and lose their lives for others. What makes them great is the guts to risk. And what makes it clear that the risk is real are the casualties. Sorry, you can’t separate our heroes from our casualties. They aren’t heroes because they got killed; they are heroes because they took real risks. Look, try this: here’s a story about the losers Trump wants to order around:
6.       He is ready to demand that loser-soldiers commit war crimes. Killing civilians deliberately is a war crime. Torturing people is a war crime. But Trump says that loser-soldiers will do what the Alpha-Male tells them to do. That’s demeaning, but also ignorant. What’s he got to say about the CIA agent, Sabrina de Sousa, facing trial in Italy now for war crimes – because she cooperated with evils that her bosses said were okay? When you commit war crimes, the tribunals that might go after you include: international law, other nations with laws that we used to support, the contempt of colleagues, and God himself. That’s a lot of exposure that Trump would demand that his loser-soldiers risk. (See
7.       After the war in Vietnam was over, the USA was divided. Veterans came home and were called baby-killers. Trump didn’t fight in that war; he dodged duty repeatedly. (I was a conscientious objector, and did a couple of years of alternative service. I opposed the war, but I honor the men who fought there. I oppose war, but I honor men and women with the guts and generosity to put it all on the line.) The nation pulled itself back together somehow, but Trump is still contemptuous of the military, ready to re-open old wounds. I am so ashamed of the people who think this draft-dodger is tough, because he asks other people to rough up protesters.
8.       After Putin grabbed Crimea, and while Putin held the eastern part of Ukraine, Trump said that Putin wasn’t in Ukraine yet. He didn’t know what was going on. He wasn’t imposing a weird interpretation on the facts; he didn’t know what was happening. That degree of ignorance is no okay for a President.
9.       Did you hear him talking about nukes? Maybe all those free-loaders who depend on us to defend them should go get their own nukes? Did you now he wanted an explanation, over and over, about why we shouldn’t use them?
10.   Trump should be horse-whipped for what he did to Heidi Cruz. I don’t understand the gun culture at all. But sometimes, weapons make people polite. If you insult a guy with a gun, you might die, so you’re polite. But this guy insults Ted Cruz’s wife, carefully, after thinking it over for a few days. Where’s Aaron Burr when you need him? But let’s not go there; if you can’t give life back after a mistake, don’t ever take life. Still, I think Trump should be whipped. I simply cannot imagine how anyone with a grain of self-respect can still defend him after he attacked Heidi Cruz.
11.   He despises Mexicans and other Latinos. That’s my family. Especially my Latina grand-daughter – but really, all the children of Guadalupe. That’s my family whom he despises. I take it personally. I want the wall down, so Americans north and south can visit easily.
12.   He despises Muslims. That’s 1.5 billion children of God. That’s an attack on my students. That’s about my neighbors and friends, whom I love and respect. How does he do that horrible thing? I understand that he does: he is the voice of fear and hatred. I see it, but I can’t understand it.
13.   He despises the Pope. The Pope wasn’t bamboozled in Mexico; he’s been talking about immigrants for years, decades. The Pope planned for months to walk up to that wall and feel the shame and pain of the hateful division. Trump dismissed his teaching, just brushed it off contemptuously. What a blind fool!
14.   He despises Christians. He can smarm with the best, and some folks are gullible enough to fall for it. But “little cup of grape juice” and “little cracker”? That’s contempt. How do you not see it? I don’t get it.
15.   I cannot imagine what goes on inside the head of a guy who makes fun of people with disabilities. I understand brats who do it; they’re ignorant, and they will grow up. But Trump is over 12. He’s been around a while. How do you do that? Where has he been? Why doesn’t he have a lot of friends who live with disabilities, friends he loves, friends with disabilities who inspire and teach him? How do you live 60 years and still do this juvenile stuff? I think he should work in hospitals for a couple of years.
16.   He thinks NATO is optional, and that our allies are cheapskates. He’s okay tossing aside serious efforts to maintain global stability. I don’t understand how anyone can be taken in by this fool.
17.   He admires Putin, because the guy is decisive. Where did this guy go to school? Has he ever read anything?
18.   The KKK act was so hokey. He couldn’t figure out how to keep the KKK vote but not lose the whole anti-KKK vote. Hm, hm, lemme think, who’s this Duke guy. Hey, I’m willing to listen: can anyone explain how Trump can waffle on the KKK and not be a racist? I think he’s a racist, like his father, and I wonder how anyone can support a racist for president and not be a racist. I’m listening, if anyone wants to explain.
19.   He does NOT get things done. He inherited a lot of money from his slum-landlord dad, who got a hand up from his pimp father. If he had invested his inheritance in the stock market, he would have been better off than he is. Four bankruptcies? (Six, but three get lumped together.) This guy is an expert deal-maker? Are you serious? Have you heard the stories from people he cheated? He said he might want to try to re-negotiate America’s debt, same way he chaeted people with his bankruptcies. If the President of the USA suggested that the USA might not want to pay its debts in full, and the dollar was suddenly not secure, would that cause a global depression?  
20.   One of the great evils in immigration abuses – the one that makes so many Americans hate illegal immigration – is that unscrupulous employers bring in illegals and pay them dirt wages, undercutting the local workers who need a living wage. Trump the anti-immigrant uses cheap illegal labor all the time. Even his most evil stance – keep out refugees – is based on fraud. He can’t even do evil without cheating his co-evilists.
21.   He’s a fraud. Trump University? Who benefited from that? How can a thoughtful person want that rip-off artist touching our nation’s money?

Woops. I can’t stand on one leg any longer. But I wasn’t done. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Will my kids be safe if we help refugees?

My good friend John Ryan asked what the USA can and should do to protect American citizens from terrorists and other violent immigrants. Is it safe to reach out and help the one million pregnant refugees on the roads of this heaven-cherished world of ours? Will my children be safe?

Several things.

First: Here’s what the process looks like for refugees. We have a process, and it will protect us. I suspect that if there are a million people going through, somebody somewhere might do something bad; if you want complete and perfect safety, join your local cemetery. But if you live in the real world, look at this process:

Second: what happens to a dream deferred? A quick reflection on American history:

Third, some stats on the Syrian crisis – Syria alone:

Fourth, some global stats:

Fifth, my comment:
If four million people flee from barrel bombs and poison gas in Syria, and the USA and Europe do nothing for three years, and most of those refugees end up in dead-end camps in Turkey & Lebanon & and Jordan, then those people are likely to become desperate and break through all barriers to run for freedom. That’s what happened in Europe last year. Refugees will run, and the question is not WHETHER they will arrive in Europe (now) and the USA (later), but only HOW. If you ignore a festering problem, there will be a disorderly explosion. So we solve the problem in an orderly fashion, or reap the whirlwind.

Sixth, my experience in local masjids (mosques):
John, when a crazy person screams Allah is great, and then does something terrible, it’s disturbing. But almost certainly, it won’t touch me in Damascus MD, nor you in St Louis. The people in real danger after such an incident are our Muslim neighbors, who face the backlash. One of the things that impressed me deeply when I visited the three masjids (mosques) near me was that they were dealing with new fears in a way that you and I are not. They were calm and warm and hospitable people, but there was a caution about how to dress and how to respond to bigots that is not a part of my life. They are far more worried about terrorists than you and I.

John, the masjid in Germantown is helping a dozen Syrian families who live in Baltimore. The families have food and clothing and shelter: God is good and so are some Americans. But they deal with: loss of homeland, loss of family members, disorientation, homesickness, bureaucracies for every little thing, sirens all night, violent and hateful neighbors (a tiny minority but still tough on kids), unemployment and all that that curse entails, complex systems for medical care. They are all in inexpensive housing, which means poor neighborhoods, which means needles and condoms in the gutters and gunfire at night. They want to go home, and that won’t happen. Their eyes shine with friendship and simple joys, but I wept. John, the Potato Famine is now, and we have become those English who didn’t quite notice the desperation and death across the channel, who fed their horses on our food while our families starved.

I didn’t shift the topic. There are terrorists and bad people out there, for sure. But the refugees in our midst are not the threat. Our new neighbors suffer from the terrorists far more than we do.

Seventh, what does it look like if we pitch in and help? A few months ago, I tried to get a picture of what that might look like:

John, friend – I think I heard your question, your concern. I didn’t know how to respond quickly or briefly. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Pro-lifers!  This video is a must-see!

I am not kidding when I ask pro-lifers to check out this pro-abortion propaganda. It’s slick and convincing. And I get it on my FB feed every time one of my good solid pro-life friends approves and passes it on: it’s all over the place.

Check it out! Commentary attached below.

It’s from Numbers USA, founded by John Tanton. He’s much more dangerous than Margaret Sanger. Sanger devoted her life to making the feminist movement subservient to the eugenics movement. Tanton has given his life to recruiting conservatives including pro-lifers to support population control. It was weird enough when mothers were recruited to the abortion movement; this guy successfully recruits avowed pro-life activists! Watch how it works!

He says he’s talking about immigration. That’s true, but it’s a detail, not the whole story.

Step 1: KISS: keep it simple, stupid! Don’t personalize poverty; use statistics. One gumball = a million people. That’s a good round number, and it’s about the number of documented (“legal”) immigrants into the USA each year.

Step 2: make the connection: immigration is about poor people. Make a smudgy claim: immigration is to alleviate poverty. I’ve never heard anyone say it that way, ever; but it sounds plausible.

Step 3: stack ‘em up! The numbers are overwhelming, and unstable!

Step 4: There are three billion poor people, and we aim to alleviate poverty to helping one gumball. Ah! That’s why he said immigration is about poverty. So it’s one gumball out of 3,000 rolling around in the pretty musical wineglass! There are 65 gumballs on the road, looking for a new and safe home. 65: we can handle that, but 3,000 is just nutty!

Step 5: But then, we double the gumballs in their stacks! The immigrants aren’t the really poor; we have already given up on them! It’s the middle bunch, another 2,600 Mexican gumballs! (Sorta Mexican, Mexican and folks like that – but keep saying Mexican, because we don’t like Mexicans, do we? Mexican, Mexican.)

Step 6: Who wants to let 2,600 Mexican gumballs in? The “elites”! We hate them too, right? But the elites are stupid people. Take a gumball from the crazy stacks, and put it in the musical wineglass, and you can’t see any difference at all in the crazy stacks! 5,600 gumballs, minus 2-3, looks a lot like 5,600 gumballs! So we destroy America, for nothing! The audience groans in frustration.

Step 7: Suppose we take TWO gumballs annually. That would really destroy America! But you still can’t see the difference in the world of 5,600 gumballs! Aren’t those elites stupid?

Step 8: And you know who emigrates from poor countries? The strong and able (and eugenic) types. So we’re draining the gene pool of the world. Those gumballs should stay home and help their neighbors!

Step 9: It’s worse! While we take one gumball, those other gumballs are breeding like rabbits (or guppies, or fruit flies – or marble factories!) We take one out each year, and they “added, births over deaths,” 80. “Added”: that’s a funny way to talk about giving birth. But somehow he’s got to get the birth idea across. So he wraps it up: those poor people “added, births over deaths.”

Step 10: And then, look! The marbles don’t fit in the tall glass columns anymore! Next year, when we take one marble, the marble will breed another 80, and those marbles pour all over the table and floor!

And the climax: “Don’t you see, immigration can never be an effective or significant way to deal with the suffering people of the world. They have to be helped where they live. … Let’s help them there.”

So what did he do?

1.       The marbles are out of control! He’s a nice guy, so he didn’t say we gotta make the marbles stop breeding, but that’s the only solution, right?

2.       He didn’t address population control. He said he was talking about immigration. His action item was about the marbles that want to come here. Keep them out!

3.       If you accept the marble image, you accept his picture of a population explosion.

4.       And if you accept that there’s an uncontrolled population explosion, you can’t fix it, but you can avoid it! Don’t pour marbles in my wineglass! NIMBY!

What would make the presentation more honest?

1.       First: use six bowls for six continents. We can squabble about how full to make the bowls. But however full you make them – half full, or quarter full, or just a layer of marbles at the bottom of each bowl – the North American bowl has to be far emptier than the other bowls!

2.       Second: Most people are staying where they were born. Today, about one percent of the people of the world (65 marbles) are on the road. That’s unprecedented! But there’s a difference between 65 marbles and 6,500 marbles.

3.       Third: It would be more honest to point out that the people who defend the immigrant marbles are also helping the stay-at-home marbles overseas.

Re-building a pro-life movement after Trump

Post-Trump, pro-lifers will be struggling to rebuild a movement that was either (1) just smashed, or (2) just shown to be smashed.

In 2000, I wrote two books, one about the pro-life movement and one about the pro-abortion movement. I have thought since 1975 that the pro-life movement was focused on a pipedream, and should be re-shaped. And I have thought since 1985 that pro-lifers had little or no ideas where the abortion movement came from, and needed a new perspective – specifically, about eugenics. I tried to offer some ideas about both the pro-life movement, and about our opponents.

The pro-life book is: “Emmanuel, Solidarity: God Act, Our Response.”  The effort to analyze our opponents is “The Roots of Racism: an Exploration of Eugenics.”

Both are available through Amazon or Kindle.

The book on eugenics had a chapter that I knew was weak, on immigration. I have written about immigrations since then.

In short, I argue:

The slaughter of children is a massive and deeply entrenched social evil. Such evils have never in recorded human history been ended by the central strategy of the pro-life movement: education leading to a change in the law (by legislation or litigation). It’s common to bring evils in gradually by propaganda followed by a change in the law, but it’s impossible to go back up the same road. There are only two options for revitalizing a culture: war or a campaign of nonviolence (or martyrdom).

Wilberforce is the quick response of people with an eye on a little history who want to defend the movement’s 40-year fixation. I argue that Wilberforce did a great thing indeed, but the British citizens who voted to end slavery were ending someone else’s evil, elsewhere in the empire. The British who ended slavery were not themselves deeply entangled in it. I deny that this is a counter-example, and repeat: there are two options to end massive and deeply entrenched social evils, and the pro-life movement has been wedded to a chimera for 40 years.

A strategy of nonviolence is common sense, is supported by history, and is grounded firmly in the teaching of the Church.

Nonviolence requires preparation, study, and discipline. We have a long way to go, and should get at it.

With regard to our opponents, I argue that the background, the drive, and the funding of the abortion movement are all found in eugenics. Until we understand our opposition, we can and will be led astray easily. In fact, the immigration debate has many horrors, including (down the list of horrors, but still noteworthy) that it has undermined the credibility of pro-life leaders for decades to come. Pro-life leaders and activists have been recruited in shockingly large numbers to support global population control – not actively killing refugees, but shutting off their escape.

It is my hope that pro-lifers who undertake the effort to rebuild the shattered and discredited movement will take the time to read these two books.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The third Trump-Hillary debate

Gut: conscience or touchy-feely?

I want to explain my reactions to the words of Trump and Hillary about abortion at the third debate. Let me get at it crabwise, off to the side, scrabbling toward an unaccustomed angle, not too hopeful about being heard.

Scrabbling to the side: I got a Master’s in education after college, planning to teach. I didn’t use the degree for decades, but I got one, investing perhaps 600 to 1,000 hours in it. In that time, I learned a single significant lesson, but I think it was probably worthwhile. The lesson: there is often some relationship between what a teacher teaches, and what a student learns, but the relationship is fragile and uncertain; and what matters is only – only! – only! – what the student learns. I remember watching a student once, while I was talking about the way Shakespeare moves us from one level of human experience to another, and realizing that this poor kid was struggling with a deep embarrassment. She found herself sexually attracted to a guy with white hair, and had no idea what to do about it. I don’t think she heard a thing I said about Shakespeare. What we say, and what people hear: the relationship is fragile and tenuous at best, and often simply nonexistent.

Trump and Hillary talked about abortion. What did people hear? I suspect that anyone who tries to answer that question has about once chance in 7,000 of getting it right. But let me try. Here’s gut level response: is this conscience or silly emotion? You can speculate; I have to decide.

Trump first. He said things that are from my side of the debate, I guess. He’s gonna try to reverse RvW, blah blah. And I was disgusted. Why?

I have taken bloody photos of dead babies. When you see people out on the streets with horrific red displays, some of those photos might be mine. But most of the time, I am in no way pleased about the way my photos are used. I know what the photo-flashers are trying to say. But I also know a lot about what people hear, and the two are very far apart. The photos come in the middle of a package, and what photo-flasher says and does to frame the photo is not unimportant. It’s absolutely critical. And usually, the caption for the photo is a total disaster. “Caption”: I don’t mean the words written at the bottom, I mean the words and expressions and actions that accompany the photo.

The first reaction of many people to the bloody photos is, “You are calling my sister a murderer. She’s not. Don’t say that about her, or I’ll punch your goddam face.” (Sister, mother, cousin, close friend, self … ) If the photo-flasher doesn’t deal with that perception right away, communication ceases. What follows is mutual contempt, mutual indignation, mutual anger, maybe some scatology and blasphemy – at best, two simultaneous monologues. No communication. Zero.

And what does the photo-flasher say? Oftentimes, something about hell or something. And they laugh and joke with each other. The flashers demand that the viewers feel a feeling that the flashers obviously don’t feel. Maybe they did feel something at one time, but not now. They aren’t broken-hearted, grieving, horrified. They’re talking politics. In fact, they are often talking rightwing politics, oftentimes demanding that the viewer support someone that the viewer knows is a brutal son of a bitch. Feel MY horror, they say (without any real horror), and forget about YOUR horror, because YOUR horror (about racism, about misogyny, about dead whales …) is STUPID. That conversation fails.

I took some of those photos. And I think it was appropriate to use them to explain why I went to jail for blocking access to abortion clinics. But if the photo-flasher wants a vote or something, the photo is not appropriate; the flasher’s flimsy response is totally out of synch with the gore. The flasher’s message is incoherent.

And that was my reaction to Trump’s words. I’m sorry he spoke for us. He’s a liar, and so when he says things that resemble what I want to say, my words are mangled to mush. “Protect babies like a loving and gentle person, and build a wall to keep out the rapist Mexicans and the raghead terrorists.” Who can accept that message? No one. So the first part of the message is lost. It’s transparently a salesman’s pitch: whatever you want, in your wildest dreams, I’ll give you, but vote for me now, because this offer can last forever. What a crock! And in that crock, mixed with the hatred, is my message.

O God. Dear Lord. Now what?

I don’t know anything good about Trump. I admit freely that this is a confession of failure on my part. I am supposed to see the good in him, and embrace it, and watch for opportunities to fan it into flame. I’m supposed to pray that the good in him will grow. But I can’t; I don’t know what I’m talking about when I try to see what’s good in him, what should be encouraged. I want to see him crushed, so we can see what good arises from the pain. In my life, to the best of my recollection, he’s the second person I didn’t know how to pray for. This is my failure. I can do the catch-all stuff: dear Lord, we’re all in need of your mercy, including me, including him. But beyond that, I’m empty.

I know with tranquil certainty, like a line of fire across my heart, that Mary (from Nazareth, that one) prays for Trump. And she’s got good things to say, and sees what needs to be fanned into flame. I am ashamed that I don’t. But I don’t.

If I had to give the eulogy at his funeral, what would I say? “Just gimme the shovel, man; let’s get this over with.”

Yeah, yeah. I heard him go all pro-life. I didn’t trust it, not for a single happy split second.


Every pro-lifer in the country who heard her at last night’s debate noticed that she talked about protecting children and family life, and then defended Roe v Wade. I don’t have to check on whether every pro-lifer heard it; every single one did. Reactions range: what a liar, that’s demonic, sputter sputter, how can she, gotta stop her, sputter some more.

How can she? Look, if you’re still in the sputter-sputter stage, I can’t help you much. But if you are in a place where you can hear anything, I can answer that question, with confidence. (Crabwise again.)

Years ago, I was arrested in Baltimore, blocking a door. There was a cop there who was completely out of control. He was looking for an excuse to beat the hell out of one of us. Why? Same question, almost, and definitely the same answer. His perception was, we were condemning someone he knew and loved. Maybe his wife, maybe his girlfriend, maybe his daughter, maybe just someone in a movie: I don’t know who. But he was ready to kill to protect someone he loved. He was ready to kill US to protect someone he loved from our words.

Good for him. Loyalty is a good thing. Untangling the complexities when a dear friend is doing something destructive is tough. But that’s actually just a detail. It’s an important detail, but a detail, attached to something bigger. Loyalty is a good thing.

I don’t know whether Hillary ever had an abortion herself. She would have to be nuts to tell the story now, if she did have an abortion. Friends would defend her fiercely, but millions of people would come down on her with fiery condemnations the likes of which you haven’t ever seen (except at the last time pro-lifers were talking about her). But she knows thousands and thousands of people who have had abortions.

So do you, unless you’ve been a hermit for the past 40 years. If you don’t know their stories, it’s not because the stories aren’t there to tell; it’s because they don’t trust you. They know your reaction, or think they know it (and are probably right); and they don’t want to deal with it.

How can she talk about defending children, and not see that abortion kills children? That’s totally illogical.

Loyalty isn’t logical. It’s precious; it’s beautiful; it can be strengthened with clear thought. But it isn’t logical. So she’s got some kind of wall in her mind somewhere that draws a line between the born and the unborn. It’s not a logical wall, and you can’t reach it by arguing. That wall is built of love. Maybe it’s misguided love. Skip the maybe. But that wall is built of love, for friends from high school, and college, and law school, and every job and campaign she’s ever been in. That wall is completely covered with faces of beloved friends.

I believe every word she says about how she wants to defend children. I believe it. I believe she will indeed fight with everything she’s got to defend children. But she’s got this wall in her mind, separating the children she sees and understands from … from what? From something else. In a sense, it’s just a tiny detail: those kids over there are ours too. Oh, right, of course.

And when she sees it, there are few people on earth who will fight harder to protect children.

But to get to the other side of that wall, she needs to go with people she trusts. The wall was built with love, but getting over it and through it will be painful, a journey of scorching wrenching remorse.

Did you ever go to a Project Rachel presentation without weeping? CS Lewis: Edmund and the dragonskin. Purgatorio.

If you don’t know how Hillary can talk about defending children, and then defend RvW, please shut up and go away. You don’t know diddly-squat, and you’re in the way. The question that matters isn’t how that wall got there; it’s how to get over or under or through it.

I’d like to get through that wall with her. Before God, I think I could take the pain, and keep going. But I don’t think I’m the right person: I’m a guy with a big mouth.

So: back to the skin-deep surface. There was a debate. We gotta decide how to vote. I’ve made up my mind, and what I heard last night didn’t wobble-bobble my decision even slightly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Isaac Jogues

Today the Catholic Church recalls some American martyrs, including St. Isaac Jogues, my patron saint when I was confirmed.

One of the startling details about hospitality in Scripture is that there’s not much difference between the guest and the host. When Mary visited Elizabeth, who was guest and who was host? Today, we would promptly say that Mary was the guest, and Elizabeth was the host, because they got together at Elizabeth’s house. Our view makes sense; it’s not nutty or confusing or anything. But I think that Mary was as much host as Elizabeth.

Look at the six precepts in Matthew 25. Jesus said, welcome strangers – and also said take care of specific needs. It’s plausible that oftentimes people who need food and water and clothes are strangers. It’s plausible that the commands to care for the hungry and thirsty and badly dressed are details of a more general command, to take care of strangers. But more, the six precepts include visiting the sick and the imprisoned. I think that’s pro-active hospitality; if they can’t come to your house, you go to where they are.

The daily morning prayer of the Church includes the Benedictus, the Canticle of Zechariah. In it, the prophet cries out that the Lord has “come to his people and set them free.”  Often, we fly past the detail that the Lord has “come,” and get right to the salvation bit. But the Greek word for “come” there shows up again at the end of the Canticle. “The dawn from on high has broken upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide out feet into the way of peace.”  The word for what the dawn does is the same word as above: “come” to us and “break upon” us. I think that these too are details of hospitality. The Lord comes to us, gently, like a guest; but in truth, this is his world, and we are the guests. We can call him a visitor, but he’s in charge of the visit, and owns the house.

It’s like Jesus and the woman at the well: who’s host and who’s guest? You can say she’s host at the beginning, and he’s host at the end, and that makes sense; but I think it’s easier if both are both. A visit is a visit; an encounter is an encounter.

One more: at Mass, the priest says we are blessed to be invited to this banquet, and we respond that we are not ready to be good hosts. Come as a guest, says the priest; I’m not worthy to be a host, we respond. That makes perfect sense if hosts and guests are usually or often (or always?) interchangeable roles.

I think that the host/guest relationship is almost as central to the Gospel, and as revealing of the life of the Trinity, as marriage. Two become one, in the Spirit that binds us together.

Anyway, I think that today is a feast of hospitality. In his life and in his death, Isaac Jogues showered gifts on the people he met. Was he host or guest? Yup.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pro-life friends, this rally is not about the Lord

Pro-life friends, this rally is not about the Lord

Franklin Graham is visiting state capitals to argue that the Lord wants you to support an ignorant, racist, misogynist fraud for President, because the alternative is worse.
From my perspective, the most important detail in today’s very strange presentation is the claim that Trump will push back against abortion. About 1.2 million children die from surgical abortion annually in the USA, and their moms are deceived and exploited, and Hillary Clinton supports this violence.
But abortion is not on the ballot. Trump is. He wants your vote, and has made promises. But a bankruptcy is a list of broken promises! Sometimes you can’t help it; you can’t keep a promise; you have to ask creditors for patience and understanding. But six times? And now he’s rich but still doesn’t pay the people he stiffed? If he lies to people wholesale, not retail, why do you trust his promise to you?
But what does Trump offer? Let’s skip all the other issues, except to the extent that they affect abortion. Skip Russia, misogyny, racism, ignorance, the economy, the military, everything. With regard to abortion, what does he offer? Let’s just suppose he is elected, and keeps his word, and appoints three pro-life Supreme Court justices. Great! What happens?
Abortion goes back to the states, stops promptly some, is regulated in some, and stays in place in some. Net effect: any woman who wants an abortion in America can get it, but might have to drive several hours more. How many live will that save? We are not talking about saving 1.2 million annually; we’re talking about saving thousands. Maybe tens of thousands.
I’m all in favor of saving thousands. But if we get to that with Trump, what else do we get – sticking to abortion? Well, he encourages at least three significant causes of abortion.

1.       Trump gives license to abuse women. If there is a rise in abuse of women, how many more abortions will that cause? How many tens of thousands?

2.       Trump encourages eugenic attitudes. How many more abortions will that cause? How many thousands, or even tens of thousands?

3.       Trump will close borders. Immigration restrictions here support population control elsewhere. How many MILLIONS more abortions will that cause?

I do not agree that a Trump presidency will lower the number of abortions at all. I could be wrong, but it is my view that a Trump presidency would INCREASE ABORTION DRAMATICALLY. In the name of Jesus, I ask you to consider carefully! Don’t vote for a violent man who abuses women hoping that he will save lives. He won’t deliver on his promise.
John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe

Friday, October 7, 2016

Lepanto, October 7

   ---   open letter   ---

To my Muslim friends on a complex anniversary


On October 7, Catholics celebrate the feastday of Our Lady of the Rosary. It marks the day in 1571 when Catholics beat the crap out of Muslims in a naval battle for control of the Mediterranean. Two years after the battle, the pope established October 7 as a feastday in honor of Mary, attributing the victory at Lepanto to praying the Rosary.

If you want to remember fights between Christians and Muslims, it’s easy; there have been a lot of them. The Spanish national epic, “El Cid,” is about fighting Muslims. The French national epic, “Le Chanson de Roland,” is about fighting Muslims. Lepanto, oddly, is often a British celebration. A truly great Catholic writer, G.K. Chesterton, wrote a powerful English poem about the battle; 1,357 words, and I can recite it for you from memory if you would like; please provide a solid surface to pound my fist on at critical moments. The English weren’t at the battle, and in fact they are deeply proud that they witnessed the destruction (by God) of the Spanish armada that had fought and won at Lepanto. So it’s odd that the British (British Catholics) celebrate this feastday, but such is the power of poetry.

It’s easy to remember the fights. And fun! But maybe we can do better.

Here’s another oddity that may help. Shakespeare’s fans really love Henry V, about a young king who shook off his youthful habits of debauchery, and became a proud king – “proud” meaning, he was a warrior. Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 version of the play is gorgeous. One scene is right after the Battle of Agincourt, when the English had established themselves as rulers of France. Henry insists that God provided the victory, and everyone sings “Not to us, Lord, but to your name, give glory” (in Latin). BUT: every single person I know who loves that scene (historical fiction) also loves the story of Joan of Arc (history). Joan of Arc was a teenage peasant girl who said she had visions of various saints, who told her to throw the English out and put the Dauphin back on his rightful throne, reversing the work of Henry V. So she did (did I say she was a peasant teenage girl?), and then got burned at the stake, and then got canonized. (The book that Mark Twain considered his best was historical fiction – his re-telling of the story of Joan of Arc.) So: God gave victory to the English over the French, and then gave victory to the French over the English. And both stories are thrilling! Humans are weird!

So I can pound my fist and recite “Lepanto,” and then turn around and sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” about a peaceful town protected under Ottoman rule.

There are people who think the Rosary is – in part, in history – about defeating a dreaded enemy, Muslims. But in the 20th century, two of the greatest nonviolent movements – Solidarity in Poland and the Filipino Revolution – were also products of the Rosary. The Rosary is tied to war in the past: inescapable historical fact. It’s tied to nonviolence in the present: inescapable sociological fact.

Fifty years ago, the pope and bishops of the Catholic Church finished up a Council, the Second Vatican Council. It had lasted three years, and transformed the Church – not changing any fundamental teaching, but transforming the way we interact with others. One of the documents of that Council was “Nostra Aetate,” and it expresses – among other things – our determination to put the wars of the past behind, and to work for mutual understanding. I understand that there are a lot of Catholics who didn’t get the memo; it’s only been 50 years.  But let me quote the thing, because it has changed the way faithful Catholics (I can’t answer for the troglodytes) view Islam:

“The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”

It continues: “Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”  (Nostra Aetate, #3)