Archive for church

Dumping the Social Issues

We hear it again. After a Republican loses the election, moderates (with every encouragement from the left-wing Old Establishment Media (OEM)–wonder whose side they’re on) tell us that the problem is the social issues.

Read More →

Conscience, Law, and the Buffalo Hunt (Part Two)

1 March 2012

From Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, the second of three excerpts from pages 219-228.

Copyright © 2007 by P. A. Ritzer

And to whom or what were the lawful and the lawless passing on their responsibility and freedom when they passed them on to the state? Well, at least in the United States of America, a republic, they were passing on their freedom and attendant responsibility to a seemingly innocuous form of government, a representative government, a government of elected peers. But those peers, too, were human. They, too, only ruled as well as they were willing to form their consciences to the rule of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” and to act in accordance with those consciences. Besides, once a matter like the slaughter of the buffalo was referred to the state, the state, in regard for all its citizens, was required to rule at a higher degree of generality than that of the individual conscience with its single subject, so that the general law of the state would be less adaptable than the more immediate and specific law of the individual conscience. Ergo, the individual lost freedom. For at that point, even if circumstances presented a situation in which the individual could act in a certain way in good conscience according to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” he might no longer be able to do so according to the laws of the state, because he had relinquished his responsibility and freedom to the state and was the more subjected to it.

Tom considered a simple hypothetical case in this matter of the buffalo. In that case, those hunting the buffalo, lawful and lawless alike, would continue the slaughter despite the obvious signs of it being wrong, if in nothing else than the prodigious waste of meat. Elected representatives of the people, outraged at the waste and the precipitous reductions in the numbers of the animal, would eventually pass a law to forbid the killing of the buffalo. Given that scenario, the following case unfolds. A man out on the prairie comes upon a lame buffalo bull that has been left behind by its herd and is obviously going to die. The man has a family who, though they have some food and are not starving, could make good use of the meat from the bull. Now, however, according to the new law, the man with the family must not kill the bull, and so the lame buffalo moves on to die in some remote place where the meat will go to waste. Before the law, the man could have legally killed and butchered the bull and fed his family with the meat, and he could have done so in good conscience. Now, after the law, his only legal option is to not kill the bull. His conscience must now weigh the law against the hunger of his family and the waste of the meat. If the man decides in good conscience, after weighing the matter, that it is better to kill the bull to feed his hungry family rather than to let the meat rot, he has decided, in good conscience, to break the law. This is no small matter, because in a free society laws should exist to protect the unalienable rights of the citizens; therefore, the conscientious person, in good conscience, should normally obey the law.

In such a case, then, the law, the conscience, or both have been compromised. This conflict between conscience and law comes about as a result of the refusal of earlier hunters to form or obey their consciences. It is a result of those earlier hunters’ failure to rule themselves, a result of their having handed over responsibility to the state, which, by its nature, must rule in a more general way than the conscience. That the man in the hypothetical case is not a hunter illustrates another point: when citizens turn over responsibility to the state, not only do they turn over, with it, their own freedom, but also that of every other citizen, even the most conscientious.

Tom reflected on how his hypothetical case also illustrated the communal nature of man, the latent sacramentalism awaiting men’s acceptance of and cooperation with grace. “No man is an island,” wrote John Donne. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” If one is diminished, all are diminished. So John Donne let the world know in poetry, some two and a half centuries before, what the Church had been teaching for some sixteen centuries before that, having been taught it by Christ. Neither man nor a man lives in a vacuum. The act of a single man changes the world, the universe, regardless of how private or public the act. A good act has the capacity to yield good consequences far beyond the immediate effect; so does an evil act have a similar capacity to yield evil consequences. Therefore, for man (the creature in whom matter and spirit are combined in one nature, created with free will, in the very image of God), all his actions entail responsibility. Responsibility is a natural concomitant to human actions. To shirk responsibility is but an illusion, as the shirker is responsible for that shirking. And because human actions entail responsibility, each human action deserves its due consideration. When humans fail to accept the responsibility for their actions; when they refuse to give those actions due consideration; when, after such consideration, they refuse to act on the conclusions of an informed conscience, then events like the slaughter of the buffalo result.

Thus, Tom considered three broad categories of men: the conscientious, those who formed their consciences and acted according to them; the lawful, those who waited for the state to pass laws to legislate their behavior and thereby relinquished their freedom and its attendant responsibility to the state; and the lawless, those who had no respect for the law and would defy the law as they saw fit, until they were prevented by the state from doing so, thereby passing on all of their freedom and its attendant responsibility to the state. Consideration of these led Tom’s mind onto consideration of another category of man, call them the semi-lawful.

(continued in Part Three)

Obamacare, the Church, and the Stupak Amendment

15 February 2012

Copyright © 2012 by P. A. Ritzer

In light of the Obama Administration’s recent attack on the Church, religious liberty, and freedom of conscience, I think back to the unseemly process by which Obamacare passed the Congress and how the Stupak Amendment conciliated Church leadership. On Sunday, November 8, 2009, we received an “Urgent Action” insert in our church bulletin directing us to contact our representatives and let them know that we wanted them to support the Stupak Amendment to the Obamacare Bill, an amendment that would prohibit funds “authorized or appropriated by” Obamacare to be used for abortion except in cases of life of the mother, rape, and incest. Rarely have I felt such a rush of shock and righteous indignation in a church. I knew the Stupak Amendment for what it was, a ruse to give cover to so-called pro-life Democrats to secure the passage of Obamacare. Thus I was infuriated that some Church leaders were taking the bait and getting reeled in to set up the Church for the assault that President Obama, his administration, and the Democratic Party would naturally–given their commitment to big government and the culture of death–unleash upon her through the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Obamacare. (Of course, Bart Stupak, and his cohorts, eventually knuckled under to pressure and dropped support for his own amendment after being given the cover of a meaningless executive order from the President.) I immediately wrote the following to a Church leader. I have here omitted the leader’s name and responses and other identifying portions out of respect and have omitted greetings and closings and have otherwise lightly edited these communications.

Copyright © 2009 by P. A. Ritzer

With all due respect, I feel conscience bound to let you know how deeply upset I was by the “Urgent Action Parish Bulletin Insert” we received at Mass this morning. I will be blunt in unburdening my mind, heart, conscience: These Democratic bills cannot be fixed; they must be stopped! There is no fix for them.

The Democratic Party has proven over nearly thirty years that it is committed to the culture of death! They “Borked” judicial nominees who would have been strict constructionists unlikely to find a “right” to abortion in the Constitution, and placed on the Supreme Court and any federal court (and Obama is trying to create more federal courts to stack) judges whose one requirement was to be pro-abortion. They used taxpayer money to promote and coerce abortion and contraception around the world, imposing them, with the help of the United Nations, on the poorest of peoples, except when Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush could stop them by executive order, which they circumvented nonetheless. Most opposed an attempt by Republicans to ban partial-birth abortion, a ban which Bill Clinton vetoed. They promote the destruction of the Sacrament of Matrimony. And more and more, they support euthanasia and assisted suicide. And now comes Mr. Obama, whose tedious obfuscation cannot hide his radical commitment to abortion in the great tradition of such notable Democrats, and Catholics, as Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius–it is scandalous! Why on earth would we ever want to hand over more control of healthcare to government, when we see what these people will do with the power we have already handed over to them in contradiction of the distrust of government enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

On the other hand, the party that has had a pro-life platform for the last thirty years, the Republican Party, does offer real healthcare reform that would make it more affordable and available without handing over more control of it to government. We hear about Stupak: what about the party that has maintained a pro-life platform, at great cost to itself, for decades? Why aren’t we working with them to oppose this monstrosity. So what if the Democrats have the votes. We should oppose them regardless!

What more does the Democratic party need to do to prove to us all that it is the Party of Death? Why on earth would we as rational people think we can work with a party so radically committed to the exploitation of women and girls and the slaughter of unborn children, and, more and more, the destruction of the Sacrament of Matrimony, and euthanasia. Those of us who have never been Democrats do not understand this accommodation of the Party of Death. We find it hard to see the great virtue in the party that was pro-choice on slavery: the party of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, and the internment of Japanese-Americans. We do not see the virtue in the party that launched the attacks on personal property and the reduction of free human beings to impoverished dependency called the New Deal and the Great Society. We see, instead, how such attacks and reductions could create a dependent class robbed of initiative and responsibility ever dependent on the Democratic Party which would thereafter depend on their votes. And now they want to take over healthcare–God forbid! Have we not seen enough in the bankrupt programs of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and all the problems they have wrought.

We all are free (though less and less so under Democratic governance, especially if Obama gets his way about ending charitable deductions) to give to the charities of our choice. The churches, other private institutions, and localities, in the spirit of the doctrine of subsidiarity, used to provide medical and other services with the freedom to do so according to their moral codes. But the more we support the big-government Party of Death, and its programs, the less freedom we have to support the charities of our choice according to our values, and we give up that freedom to a party that embraces and promotes the culture of death, which is absolutely consistent with its big-government tradition.

Years ago, I met the priest who was the godfather of Avery Dulles when he entered the Church. He gave me an article he had written about his own conversion to Catholicism. In it he recounted how he would visit different churches in Germany during the Third Reich. As I remember it, he said that the Anglican churches did not say much so as not to rock the boat. The Lutheran churches spoke out about their right to religious freedom. But the Catholic churches preached that Hitler, Himmler, Goering, and Goebbels were wrong because Jesus Christ was right.

Obama, Biden, Pelosi, and Reid are wrong because Jesus Christ is right. We must oppose them because we must embrace Him.

The following is my response to the recipient’s response.

I remain blunt, as anything less seems to me a waste of time. I do not understand how the bills [Obamacare] can be fixed by amendments when the ideology behind the giant power grab, which is the basis for Democratic healthcare reform, is the same that has promoted, guaranteed, and funded the most aggressive and far-reaching attack on the culture of life in this country.

Yes, I am partisan. I make no apology for it. (Nevertheless, where the Republican party is wrong, I will oppose it.) One party, the Republican, is flawed, as are all human institutions; the other, the Democratic, has long been committed to evil, to the culture of death. I believe that the Democratic Party’s ongoing drive to expand government and control more and more aspects of our lives are part and parcel of their evil commitment to every aspect of the culture of death. Are there some Democratic leaders who are pro-life? Well sure, but less and less so when their party requires a vote. I make no judgment on their souls (I pray for them daily) but do judge their party, its actions, and the real consequences, intended and otherwise, of their actions. I would be irresponsible and a bad citizen to do less.

Today we Americans will countenance the cutting and tearing apart of another 4000-some children in the sanctity of their mothers’ wombs, and we will leave their mothers and fathers with the baggage. And the great Democratic Party will have had as much, if not more, to do with making sure this takes place than any other institution in the country. And we are still talking about it! The Republican Party has taken the principled stand on slavery, human rights, and abortion when it was difficult to do so. In each case, it was opposed by the Democratic party. When the Democratic Party believes that a pro-life position will get it power, it will convert. Until then, it must be defeated.

As for what the Republicans have and have not done. They did pass some healthcare reforms, like health savings accounts. Should they have done more, like tort reform and enabling competition between insurance companies across state lines, probably. (But among their priorities were two wars, and the Democrats–not to mention the press–were opposing every healthcare reform they attempted.) But many of us believe that the current “crisis” in healthcare has been manufactured by the Democratic Party to set up this enormous power grab, and that much, if not most, of the problems in healthcare have been created by other government meddling in the form of the likes of Medicare and Medicaid. As I was growing up, my family was anything but wealthy, but my mother was able to give birth to seven children in the hospital, and my parents were able to pay the bill. This was pretty much the norm among the families I grew up around in Wisconsin. Today, after forty years of government healthcare solutions like Medicaid and Medicare, a family could go bankrupt doing the same.

The following is my response to the recipient’s response.

I fear the blindness of partisanship that has a majority of Catholics helping to put the Party of Death in power.

I wrote the above over two years ago anticipating the recent attacks on the Church, and worse to come, if we did not stop this anti-Constitutional takeover of healthcare by Obama and the Democrats. We have got to deal with reality here. This is tyranny as only the Democratic Party can serve it up. And the Democratic Party is the Party of Death. This is not about well-groomed, well-dressed, well-fed, fat-cat Democratic politicians throwing around the antiseptic word “abortion.” This is about the truth of what that word represents: a horrific reality of human savagery and carnage; of exploitation of girls and women, mothers; of emasculation of boys and men, fathers. The Democrats have tried too long to keep this issue at bay by playing it as if it ought not be on the table, just as they did with slavery in the founding years of the Democratic Party with the Richmond-Albany axis. Just keep it off the table and let it fester and let people suffer and pretend there is nothing worth considering about it. They managed to some extent to do it with slavery until the Republican Party rose up in reaction to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and defeated slavery and fought for full recognition of the rights of African Americans–the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, and the Civil Rights Acts, etc.–despite the Democratic tyranny of the Ku Klux Klan, and lynchings, and Black Codes, and Jim Crow, etc. The unborn and their mothers and fathers need the Republican Party to be their champion as it was for slaves and freedmen. And we all need the Republican Party to reverse this anti-Constitutional, dictatorial power grab by President Obama and the Democrats. And we need to regain a love for life and freedom that welcomes the baby and stands up against government oppression.  

Value and Outcomes of a Catholic Education

Copyright © 2011 by P. A. Ritzer

17 October 2011

Recently I was asked to comment on the value and some outcomes of a Catholic education.

Value: Basically, for me it just comes down to learning truth within the reality of God’s creation and Church: truth within reality.

Outcomes: One hopes that a person comes out of a Catholic education with a committed sacramental relationship with God and neighbor and all creation and the knowledge and understanding to live that to fulfillment.

Solved: High College Costs and Illegal Immigration (Part One)

Copyright © 2011 by P. A. Ritzer

7 September 2011

I have been itching to write this piece for years.

The solution: End federal student loan programs!

And I have been hoping to see that solution enacted since the end of my college education so many years ago.

When I stood face to face with the debt I had accumulated during four years of college–which is nothing compared to what students face today–all I could think was: What a racket! Did they ever see us coming. The school has got the money; we students owe the money; the deep-pocket lender–either the government or the government-backed lender, ultimately the taxpayers–is owed the money. It was all just a matter of course. If you wanted to go to college, even if you were paying your own way, your parents filled out the financial-aid papers, and then you got your package of scholarships, grants, and loans. Take those loans out of the picture, and how much less expensive might college be.

Consider a hypothetical case. Say Vernon owns a shoe store. It has been in his family for generations in the same neighborhood. He sells his shoes for $30 a pair. Considering supply and demand, it is a fair price. Shoemakers get a reasonable profit from making and selling their shoes. Customers get a reasonable price for a quality pair of shoes. Vernon makes a reasonable profit, and he and his employees make a fair living.

Now liberal politicians–who are never more liberal than when spending other people’s money–decide that everyone should have a pair of shoes; so they pass the Federal Shoe Loan Program. Everyone who qualifies can borrow up to $30 for a pair of shoes, the loan backed by (or owed to) the federal government. Up to this point, people had shoes according to what they could afford. They budgeted and saved for them. Some had better quality or more expensive name brands, but people had shoes. For those few really destitute people who could not afford shoes, the churches, synagogues, and other local organizations–to which Vernon and his fellow citizens freely contributed–helped them out.

The day the Shoe Loan Program was passed, Vernon knew one thing: the price of his shoes had just rocketed up to as much as double what it had been. The day before he was making a living selling his shoes at $30 a pair, now loans for shoes are available for up to $30. The person who could afford $30 yesterday, now has another $30 available to him. It may be that the price does not double overnight, as it will take some time for the effects of the loans to make their way all through the market, but Vernon’s price will begin to rise immediately, and more over time, to catch up with the artificial inflation the loans brought to the market.

Of course, to liberal politicians, generous as they are with other people’s money, Vernon is a cruel, selfish capitalist. But wait. He has costs too. And once the market detects the inflation, artificial though it may be, his costs are also going to rise. Why? Because now that people have $30 more to spend on shoes, until the price of shoes sops up all of that extra $30, they will have whatever of that $30 that does not go to shoes to spend on other goods and services, and prices will respond by going up. And they will be going up for Vernon too. The shoemakers will know there is more money to spend on their products, and so they will raise their prices. So will Vernon’s grocer and dentist and podiatrist.

Ultimately, the borrowers will owe the money, the lenders will be owed the money, and the government will be backing those lenders, which will add another cost in the form of taxes to cover for those who will default on their loans. So the taxpayers are rewarded with one more opportunity to pick up the tab. Are not the liberal politicians who love to spend other people’s money wonderful. What a slick way to play the savior while facilitating the steep rise in the price of a product and passing on the costs to the citizens who keep voting for them because they are so generous, loving, and good. And keep in mind, with the increase in the price of shoes caused by the artificial inflation, the $30 will no longer buy a pair of Vernon’s shoes. So, those who vote for liberal politicians will demand higher loans, and the liberal politicians will supply them, which will cause more inflation, which will require higher loans, and on and on and on.

Now apply it to college. With all that easy student-loan money, is it any wonder that between 1982 and 2010 college tuition and fees rose more than 4 times the growth rate of inflation (439% to 106% [consumer price index])? Or look back even further. When my mother received her full-tuition scholarship to a private women’s college in the Midwest for the years 1946-1950, tuition there was $150 a year. Today, tuition at that same school is $31,360 per year or higher, over 200 times what my mother paid 60 some years ago. To put that in perspective, compare it to a book I found on my shelf. It was published in 1952 and sold for $4. If a comparable book sold today at the same rate of inflation as the tuition at my mother’s alma mater, a new copy would cost over $800. Instead, a comparable book can be purchased today for less than $30.

And with students graduating (or not graduating) from college with so much debt, there is another cost that redounds to the liberals’ advantage. That cost is the loss of entrepreneurship. At a time when a person might be best situated to take a considerable risk, when he is most likely to be unmarried without dependents, when he might be most willing to live hand to mouth out of his car so that he might apply his singular talents to the realization of an idea or dream, he will now be saddled with so much debt that he cannot even consider pursuing such a venture. Instead he will need to take his place as a cog in the system that the liberals are forever constructing of faux-compassion components like government student loans, the system that facilitates liberals’ control over other people that is their motivating principle. And by placing young people in such a position, liberals neutralize the most independent, those who pose the greatest threat to their control. And liberals also neutralize the threat of the talents and aspirations of those who may be more talented and aspiring than themselves.

Now apply the same reasoning to other faux-compassion programs that liberals have foisted upon us, programs that enhance their power and control and increase our taxes and debt.

Where does illegal immigration fit in? Bear with me.

(to be continued in Part Two)