An Example to Us All

Friday, April 16, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.


Hattip to Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons.  I have long thought that the way we will win the battle against abortion is by simple persistence.  Pro-lifers will never give up until we prevail and abortion is banned.  Tommy Behan is an example to us all:

T. ANDREW DEANERY — The White House staffers who open President Barrack Obama’s mail are likely well aware of Tommy Behan’s pro-life stance.

Behan, a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish and a sophomore at Lakota East High School, has written the president every day since Obama’s inauguration asking him to change his position on abortion. The 16-year-old has handwritten and mailed more than 430 letters.

“His stance is the most radical pro-choice one for a president who has ever held office,” said Behan. “In the first letter I made a vow to never stop writing until he changed it or he’s out of office.”

The teen usually writes in the evenings. He avoids email, preferring to show his passion with the extra effort a handwritten letter requires. His parents supply the pens, paper and stamps. If Behan gets pressed for time and misses a day, he’ll write additional letters until he is caught up. The letters are sometimes mailed in batches.

Behan begins each letter by telling Obama how many times he has written before. Then the teen argues the constitutionality of abortion, talks about justice for the unborn and tells of the lives that have been lost. His stance is straightforward: Life begins at conception and comes before liberty, he said.

“I keep building on my argument,” Behan said. “It really upsets me how some people choose to have an abortion when others really want to have children.”

One of six children, Behan has seen his sister and her husband suffer miscarriages. That experience has made him more passionate and given him more resolve to try to get Obama to publicly change his position.

After about three months of writing Behan received a form letter from the White House. There have been about 17 more since. The generic replies thank him for writing and sometimes acknowledge the topic.

The teen also debated the issue in an editorial in Spark, a well-known student magazine at Lakota East.

“He’s always had a deep respect for life,” said Behan’s mother, Jude Behan. “We’re very proud of him. This was not initiated by us.”

She said her son is dedicated to the letter-writing campaign and is self-motivated. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday Holy Father!

Friday, April 16, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

Today, Pope Benedict XVI, four days removed from the anniversary of his election, turns 83. Happy Birthday Pope Benedict XVI!

Pray for our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.

Looking Back on Justice Stevens: Kelo

Friday, April 16, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

From a Catholic point of view, retiring Supreme Court Justice Stevens’ extreme commitment to supporting unlimited abortion in our country is clearly one of his worst legacies as a justice, and one most likely to be mirrored by whoever is chosen to replace him by President Obama.

There are other reasons to look back with a critical eye on Stevens’ tenure on the court, however, and blogger Lexington at The Economist highlights what he regards as the worst opinion that Stevens’ authored: the majority opinion in Kelo v New London, in which Stevens and the liberal majority of the court held that the constitutional powers of “eminent domain” can be used by local government not only to secure land for true “public use” such as building roads or public buildings, but to secure land for private development. In simply terms: Kelo means your city can force you to sell your home to make room for a new shopping center.

Kelo is certainly one of the worst decisions of recent years (giving far more real room for abuse of power by large corporations than the Citizens United decision, which Obama demagogued in his state of the union address) and underscores in an important way how the “progressives protect the little guy while conservative protect big business” narrative fundamentally misses the real and more complicated dynamics at play in our polity.

Using Religion To Defend Slavery

Friday, April 16, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute.  As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World  and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just.   Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position.  For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire?   If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white?  Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.

Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822.  A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755.  A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19.  An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.

A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies.  With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.

Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil.  By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”. 

It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster.  However, such is not the case.  He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike.  The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible.  The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter.  Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina:  Read the rest of this entry »

In Defense of Catholic Romanticism

Friday, April 16, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

The presentation of a mediocre image of Jesus is especially dangerous today because the world as a whole has become much more mediocre than it was, say, 150 years ago. The sense for greatness and depth has completely receded, even on a purely natural level. In the industrialized world which is viewed by Tellihard de Chardin as “progress”, in which the machine has replaced the tool and the computer ideal has captivated many people, in which education increases its breadth and loses its depth; in such an age, the presentation of a mediocre image of the personality of Christ is harder to recognize for what it is because it fits in so well with our mediocre world. The more our age becomes one in which not only the air is poisoned by chemical elements, but the spiritual and intellectual atmosphere is poisoned by the mass media, the more one brings mediocrity into religion for pastoral reasons – Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard (1973)

I am opening this essay with a lengthy quote from Dietrich von Hildebrand, whom Pius XII called a 20th century Doctor of the Church, in order to make an important point at the very outset; that I am a Catholic romanticist, as I believe Hildebrand was.

To bring these two concepts together may be controversial in some ways, and in others, it may make perfect sense. I could say that I am a “Catholic traditionalist”, or that I am a “Catholic reactionary”, or even a “Catholic conservative”, but none of these words – traditionalist, reactionary, or conservative – fully and accurately portrays what I feel or what I think. I warn you in advance: prepare to be offended or delighted, and to either way be roused from complacency.

Romanticism is a word that has fallen into disrepute among most intellectual types that I know and read. Part of this disrepute comes from the assumption that romanticism is irrationalism. The word “romanticism” has come to describe, moreover, views of historical episodes or even entire epochs that elevate certain desirable qualities and events while disregarding or downplaying episodes that are no longer considered politically correct.  Finally, romanticism is often confused with genuine reaction, a desire to somehow forcefully turn back the clock to earlier conditions.

I will address each of these claims in this essay, though the journey I propose to take you on will cover much more ground than these nagging objections.

I will do so because a healthy romanticism is of infinitely greater value to society and to the Catholic Church than any degree of mediocrity – the greatest enemy of romanticism in every field, be it morality, liturgy, aesthetics, politics, and many others. I believe Papal wisdom, which is often balanced and measured, has been misconstrued by mediocrities and re-cast in their own image, whereas in reality the Papacy has always maintained a healthy romanticism: that is, a view of the past that elevates and glorifies what was good and just, a view of the present that finds room for those good and just things, and a view of the future in which the past has not been exterminated in the name of “progress”, which often turns out to be nothing more than the soul-crushing mediocrity denounced by Hildebrand.

Let me be clear on what my definition of Catholic Romanticism is: it is an appeal, a passion you might even say, for the greatest aesthetic trends in the history of the Catholic Church, and a rejection, for the most part, of the modern aesthetic of the typical Novus Ordo church house. It is not limited to, or even mostly found in, the era typically considered “Romantic”, though there were amazing and beautiful spiritual works produced during that time (Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Schubert’s Ave Maria, etc). My use of the word “romantic” may well be idiosyncratic and that may rub certain people the wrong way. Fair enough. I distinguish Catholic Romanticism from Catholic traditionalism only by the degree of passion for the aesthetic spiritual experience, and in no doctrinal or philosophical or theological or moral sense.

Because I am a passionate romanticist, I am a passionate Catholic as well. And I believe I have become more “conservative” over the years precisely because of romanticism, though no one should take that to mean I am some kind of rigid political conservative. This was the essence of my earlier essay on my conversion (re-entry, if one wishes to be technical) to Catholicism through music. This was, if I may say so now, an aesthetic romantic conversion. That isn’t to say that facts and logic (reason) played no role. There are truths, however, conveyed through aesthetics that are barely comprehensible to the human intellect, but which are a useful, even necessary compliment to that intellect.

Read the rest of this entry »