Rerum Novarum Revisited

Friday, July 10, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

Rerum Novarum Revisited

With the publication of Caritas in Veritate, I think it is timely to take a look back on the encyclical that gave birth to Catholic social teaching nearly 120 years ago, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. Part of the reason I believe it is timely is that Benedict himself noted a tendency among certain commentators on the Church’s social doctrine to divide it up into “pre” and “post” Vatican II ways of thinking, and rejected this analysis. He stressed instead the consistency of the Church’s social teaching over time.

Another reason is that the publication of Rerum Novarum forces us to make one of two conclusions about the history of “capitalism” (an ever dubious phrase that I am reluctant to use at all) and that of the Church: either capitalism was deformed to the point where only a serious moral correction would render it acceptable to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, or the Papacy was either the victim or the perpetrator of a great hoax. This has direct implications for the debates we continue to have today amongst ourselves. Is this thing called “capitalism” self-correcting? Or does it require an external moral critique to advance the correction?

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Pope and President

Friday, July 10, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

VATICAN OBAMA

During the 30 minute meet and greet audience today at the Vatican, the Pope pressed Obama on abortion and embryonic stem cells.  The Pope gave Obama a copy of Dignitatis Personae, which I hope he will read.  He indicated that he would.

“Oh, what we discussed earlier,” said Obama, referring to their closed-door discussions. “I will have some reading to do on the plane.”

Here is the statement of the Vatican on the meeting, hattip to Catholic Key Blog.

“This afternoon, Friday 10 July 2009, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received in Audience the President of the United States of America, His Excellency Mr. Barack H. Obama. Prior to the Audience, the President met His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, and also His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

In the course of their cordial exchanges the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all and which constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defence and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience.

Reference was also made to immigration with particular attention to the matter of reuniting families.

The meeting focused as well upon matters of international politics, especially in light of the outcome of the G8 Summit. The conversation also dealt with the peace process in the Middle East, on which there was general agreement, and with other regional situations. Certain current issues were then considered, such as dialogue between cultures and religions, the global economic crisis and its ethical implications, food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, and the problem of drug trafficking. Finally, the importance of educating young people everywhere in the value of tolerance was highlighted.”


A Few Thoughts on NFP

Friday, July 10, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

Sometimes you run across an argument which strikes you as wrong in such a way as to crystallize and clarify your thinking on a topic. Such a case, for me, was running into this debate from last week at InsideCatholic on the topic, “Is NFP Misogynous?”

The “yes it is” argument contained the following key elements:

Assuming any methodized sexual intercourse devised to avoid pregnancy by an otherwise open-to-life-marital-couple can actually “work,” who bears responsibility for the method? I seriously question whether NFP, for many, isn’t a misogynous practice — imposing upon women an undue share of the physical and emotional burden of the theologically questionable quest of planning pregnancy.

First, we must be real. Modern NFP practices demand daily bodily measurements of women, not men…. A woman most desires sexual intimacy when she is at her most fertile…. This is also the moment when we are most likely to conceive a child. It’s the moment NFP-practicing women measure and chart and predict as “fertility awareness,” a “maybe-child” zone. For NFP-practicing women avoiding pregnancy, it is the moment they must say “no” to both themselves and their spouses….

I don’t buy it. It sounds like a scheme to impose on women who wish to time pregnancies an almost penal practice of self-measurement, self-control, and self-denial, while requiring, at a minimum, a sort of suffering acquiescence from a spouse whose interest in the chart becomes rather strategic….

NFP needs to go the same way as the rhythm method — which did not “work” and was, more importantly, female unfriendly. In its place, perhaps we all need to suck it up and admit what the theology asks of us: Have sex whenever you both want to… and expect a baby every time. Otherwise, don’t copulate. That’s a fair burden on both spouses.

The woman presenting the “no it isn’t” view did a perfectly decent job of presenting the standard arguments for NFP, but I’d like to dig into one aspect in particular, especially given that by the sixth comment on the article we already see a theology student trying to argue that the “planning” involved in Natural Family Planning is really no different than the use of barrier methods of contraception since it involves “the intention of having sex without baby” and is thus “using one’s intellect to create a tool which limits the possibility of procreation”.
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I’m Down, But We Can Still Dance!

Friday, July 10, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

It’s been a rough time going for me these past few weeks financially, but I’m still in good spirits thanks only to God.  In the meantime it is Friday and I’m in the mood to dance!

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“Guatemala: Never Again!”at

Friday, July 10, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

There has been an interesting discussion going on that began with a little mockery of Obama’s propensity for offering collective apologies around the world for various things out of the American past or present. I am a big proponent of apologies- but they must be prudent and truly repentant- not some mixed-motive posturing like former President Clinton seemed inclined. A great Catholic example of what I am seeking is found in a great book  entitled “Guatemala Never Again!”. This is no Leftist diatribe, this is (REMHI) the Recovery of Historical Memory Project. This is the Official Report of the Human Rights Office, Archdiocese of Guatemala. Let me quote from the back cover:

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Education Reform

Friday, July 10, 2009 \AM\.\Fri\.

Here is another proposal I set forth in my previous campaign for Florida State House- this was published as a guest column by Florida Today Newspaper. This was also the straw that broke the camel’s back in my bid to run again- as the Unions refused to endorse me- and liberal Democratic activists could not stomach a candidate who was pro-life and pro-private school options. I was especially disappointed with the teacher union reps since my proposal is one that is so totally win-win from a teacher perspective, and it is obviously something in the interests of parents and their children. Pope Benedict has recently commented that Catholic schools should receive some state funding given the benefit these schools offer society. Here is the text of my proposal: Read the rest of this entry »


It Could Happen to Anyone

Friday, July 10, 2009 \AM\.\Fri\.

Here’s something light for your Friday. We all knew what sort of guy French president Nicholas Sarkozy is, but few realized that our own president has similar aesthetic sensibilities.

Some are loudly mocking Obama for this. I’d say give the guy a break.

The king is but a man, as I am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me: the element shows to him as it doth to me; all his senses have but human conditions:

Presidents are a lower species than kings, but the principle applies. And we must recall that the wisdom of the American people has given us a president who hasn’t yet had years of practice in checking out passing babes without allowing it to be obvious to the camera. Give it some time and when his senses kick in with human conditions as the element shows to him, he’ll gaze upon it with the same cool aplomb as Sarkozy.