Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bill Donohue Castigates Chris Matthews For Not Playing Slow Pitch Soft Ball With Bishop Tobin

'Hardball' host gives 'insulting lecture' during interview with Bishop Tobin, Catholic League charges
Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2009 / 03:06 pm (CNA).-

On Monday Bishop Thomas Tobin tangled with television pundit Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” about the relation between religion and politics as well as the legal status of abortion. Matthews’ comments, which charged that the bishop has overstepped his authority, were criticized as a “rant” and an “extended lecture.”
Bishop Tobin, of the Diocese of Providence has been critical of Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s attacks on the Church for opposing abortion. Rep. Kennedy recently revealed that the bishop had asked him to refrain from receiving Holy Communion in 2007 because of his public contradiction of Catholic teaching.

Chris Matthews began the Monday evening “Hardball” segment with a clip of remarks by Rep. Kennedy’s uncle President John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic U.S. president. In his political campaign President Kennedy had said that a politician should not accept “instruction on public policy” from the Pope or any other ecclesiastical source.

In response, Bishop Tobin emphasized that all religious believers, including Catholic politicians, should put their faith before their career. (He did say this, but first Tobin tried to say that Jack Kennedy didn't mean what Jack Kennedy actually said. The statement quoted here was Tobin's fall back position after Matthews wondered if Tobin was trying to twist the meaning of what Kennedy actually said.)

“Nothing can become more important than your relationship with God,” he told Matthews, who is Catholic.
Bishop Tobin endorsed a return to U.S. law before the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Matthews pressed him on this point, asking what laws he would write if he were a member of Congress.

“I am not a member of Congress, but if I were, I would never be in a position of supporting any abortion legislation that encourages abortion,” the bishop replied.

“What law would you pass?” Matthews pressed. “You’re coming down on Congressman Kennedy and other public officials. …Would you outlaw abortion?”

“That’s the direction our nation ought to move,” the prelate responded.

Asked to tell Catholics how they should vote as members of Congress, he said Catholics should vote for laws that “preserve and protect human life.” (Then get out there and tell congress to quit authorizing the production of more nuclear weapons.)

Matthews asked Bishop Tobin to be specific, asking whether women who procure abortions should be thrown in jail.
“I have no idea what the penalty would be,” the bishop replied.

Matthews professed agreement with the bishop’s moral views, but then claimed Bishop Tobin had “transgressed” into the area of lawmaking. He characterized the bishop’s reluctance to name specific penalties for a woman who procures abortion as an expression of “hesitancy” from the clergy.

“Words like ‘murder’ and ‘killing’ are used in the case of abortion but they do not seem to apply in terms of writing the law,” Matthews commented. “And I would urge you to consider the possibility of error here, because in getting into telling public officials how to set public policy, you’re stepping beyond moral teaching, and you’re basically assuming a moral authority which I don’t think is yours.

“As you admitted tonight four or five times, you don’t know how to write law, and writing law is very tricky in our secular society,” Matthews’ comments concluded.
“I will reflect on that if you reflect on the teachings of the Church,” Bishop Tobin responded. (This is the kind of response which so demonstrates the maturity level of our bishops. The fact Matthews was trying to point out is that while Americans may agree abortion is immoral, they do not agree it should be criminal in secular law. This is the very point Tobin refused to address, and then reduced himself to the above statement.)

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights characterized Matthews as having “spun out of control.” (Takes one to know one.)

“Matthews proceeded with an extended and quite insulting lecture,” Donohue charged in a Tuesday press release. “He had absolutely no interest in a discussion on the question of the morality and legality of abortion—all he wanted to do was to make the bishop sit there and listen to his rant. Indeed, his tirade was simply over-the-top.” (No Bill, Mathews was trying to get the Tobin to answer his question as the whether the good bishop saw criminal prosecution as part of his anti abortion platform for secular America. Does following Catholic teaching on abortion mean advocating for the incarceration of women and doctors? Tobin wouldn't answer.)

Donohue claimed that no non-Catholic would treat a bishop in such a way.
“But too many liberal Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, think they are exempt from the same standards of civility that apply to others.” (Ooooh, more projection.)

Pro-life advocate Jill Stanek wrote on her blog that she thought the Matthews interview should have focused on the question “Are preborns human or not?”
“If they are, then we need laws to protect them, just as we do all other innocent human life. If we're not sure - if the answer is above one's pay grade - then we should err on the side of life,” she wrote. (Jill doesn't answer Matthew's question either. If abortion is really murder, who goes to jail and for how long?)

The question of criminal penalties for women who seek abortions is a common talking point among supporters of permissive abortion laws. The issue was considered in an August, 2007 symposium titled “One Untrue Thing” on the conservative web site National Review Online.

In that symposium, Villanova University law professor Joseph Dellapenna said “none of the anti-abortion laws overturned by Roe v. Wade… treated the woman as a criminal.”

Rather, he explained, the laws treated the woman as a victim in part because of the dangers of abortion and in part because of the need for her testimony to convict the abortionist. (Targeting solely the doctor, while leaving the woman/man free of culpability, would most likely not pass constitutional muster. Both users and dealers go to jail in the war on drugs.)

In the same symposium Clarke D. Forsythe of Americans United for Life pointed out that before Roe the abortionist, not the prosecutor, tried to argue that an abortion-seeking woman should be treated as an accomplice. This was done “for the obvious purpose of undermining the state’s criminal case against the abortionist,” he wrote. (Sharing the responsibility is also morally consistent. The double standard served to make society feel less guilty about prosecuting abortion at all. Many men also found this system personally very beneficial, as they too weren't culpable as accomplices.)


Chris Matthews did get preachy, but then he always does. Half the time MSNBC can't do a decent transcription of his show because Matthews is always talking over his guests. What made this time different is that Bishop Tobin really helped bring it on himself by not coming close to answering any of Matthew's questions or points.

Matthews obviously hit a nerve if CNA feels compelled to attempt to answer the question Matthew's asked about criminalizing abortion. Tobin certainly didn't come close to any answer.

Bill Donohue calling out Matthews for his Irish Catholic incivility is a hoot. The responses of these men to Mathew's arguments is like watching play ground bullies compare the relative merits of their daddy's biceps. I'm kind of thinking this is because these pro life stalwarts have given very little thought to what criminalizing abortion really means. Maybe the idea of prisons full of America's teen age daughters isn't a pretty picture. It certainly appears that the idea of holding the male aspect of the abortion equation accountable isn't even in the picture.

This has been an interesting couple of weeks. Lots of backlash starting to appear, and I put this interview with Bishop Tobin in that category. For years and years the Catholic pro life movement has been allowed to function in a universe free from practical accountability. Not any more. It does appear that transparency and accountability are the buzz words around which the Catholic backlash is coalescing and finally, the pro life movement is starting to feel it. America really does want to know how far they are going to take the 'murder' 'killing' death language when it comes to abortion. That's the issue on which this debate will finally be decided.

Hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving. I will do what I've done since my dad worked for the Detroit Lions--watch them lose to the Packers on Thanksgiving. Those Thanksgivings do not involve too many fond memories. Most of the time the turkey got butchered rather than carved as dad would wax eloquently on and on about the parentage of Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr. Mom would just roll her eyes and pass the gravy. When it came to the Packers, Dad did have more than a smidgen of Bill Donohue even if he wasn't Irish--so did Vince Lombardi for that matter. Maybe it's a Catholic thing.


  1. The Bishops want it both ways. They want to INTRUDE on the public sphere. Into politics. But they do not want to debate. They want access to the media as if they were in a pulpit. The media and the politicians and the whole of America should LISTEN UP! Learn. And obey.

    No questions. No debate. Or you're anti-Catholic, you see. The ad hominum. Or you're ranting. As if the Catholic puppets were not ranting.

    The more the Vatican and its minions intrude on the public sphere and into politics, the more they will be scrutinized, debated, and mocked. It may not be Christian to mock. It's certainly not Biblical (see Psalm 1). Then again God mocks the nations in Psalm 2. (And the Vatican IS a nation.)

    I'll use a Hindu term: KARMA!

  2. It does appear as if dissenting Catholics can be treated like dirt while the dirt throwers expect to be treated like fine crystal. Nice set up if you can get away with it.

  3. The caste system at work!

    But the more I think about what the nuns have done, the more convinced I am that some kind of tipping point is at hand here. Once people start scrutinizing and stepping forward to claim their freedom of conscience, even efforts to stamp that out will backfire as more and more people step forward. Ghandi's principles are based on overwhelming a legal system. With so many people willing to be "punished" that any "punishment" becomes both meaningless as well as more than the system can handle.

    To me the key is the nuns' standing up! And the outpouring of support. The Bishops really possess very little ability to enforce their views, on the one hand, or defend them adequately, on the other.

    Even "fallen-away" Catholics will likely join in "standing up" - I see that already.

  4. I have a lot of family treasured memories at the holiday dinner table with the Irish, English & Polish Catholic conservatives & ex-Catholic turned Protestant who desire not to listen to anyone's point of view, but insist on stuffing their views down your throat and totally misconstruing what you are trying to say or develop.

    I can imagine a lot of stuffing being thrown around at "fully Catholic" dinner tables so everyone knows who the "authority" is in the house. The battle lines are similar, the same in the fully self-righteous bigot's home in which religious understanding is based on a "christian" radio station for the illiterate and lazy who don't bother reading the New Testament, but claim they can interpret Revelations and know God. Both types do not understand the meaning of the Living Word.

    During the Holidays anymore, and most days, I would prefer to be a monastic hermit. It is a test of faith to visit relatives.

    Imagine for a moment, Jesus Christ, at a Thanksgiving Day Last Supper at your table, under your roof. As for some Catholics and Christians, the turkey stuffing slinging of supposed "truth" becomes a Thanksgiving Day Last Supper for many of us, torn by the divisiveness and ignorance of rants by the "authority" in the house to which one is a member of the same family, but with no voice.

    I hope that Bishop Tobin and his ilk enjoy their Thanksgiving and the stuffing as they reflect on the millions of people who are starving in the world and wish they had a roof over their head, but which they thought it more important to spend money to deny gay persons their own civil rights.

    I hope that Bishop Tobin and Donahue will reflect on how the Catholic Church hierarchy and politics waged genocide on the American Indians ignorantly and indiscriminately.

    I hope they will reflect on the stockpiles of nuclear weapons and the culture of death that supports. I would hope too that as they reflect they consider the hypocrisy of supporting Republicans who have long been against "too much government." Their stance on the issue making abortion illegal seems to create a lot more government, and really it has nothing to do with bringing the light of Christ into the world. A true Christian Catholic does not put politics first, but puts Jesus Christ's teachings first.

    The larger threat is the nuclear threat that is right here in the USA. Could be one's last turkey dinner with the flick of a switch from some lunatic fundamentalists of any religion.

    Cheers everyone!!!!

  5. The interview with Tobin was a riot. "I will reflect on that if you reflect on the teachings of the Church." What a child.

    I'm kind of thinking this is because these pro life stalwarts have given very little thought to what criminalizing abortion really means.

    I think you have it exactly right. They think the world is so simple.

  6. For tomorrow:

    A tingling, misty marvel
    Blew hither in the night,
    And now the little peach-trees
    Are clasped in frozen light.

    Upon the apple branches
    An icy film is caught,
    With trailing threads of gossamer
    In pearly patterns wrought.

    The autumn sun, in wonder,
    Is gayly peering through
    This silver tissued network
    Across the frosty blue.

    The weather vane is fire tipped,
    The honeysuckle shows
    A dazzling icy splendor,
    And crystal is the rose.

    Around the eaves are fringes
    Of icicles that seem
    To mock the summer rainbows
    With many colored gleam.

    Along the walk, the pebbles
    Are each a precious stone;
    The grass is tasseled hoarfrost,
    The clover jewel sown.

    Such sparkle, sparkle, sparkle
    Fills all the frosty air,
    Oh, can it be that darkness
    Is ever anywhere!

    November Morning
    by Evaleen Stein

  7. Bishop Tobin and Bill Donohue have more homework to do before dining at the Thanksgiving table in the land of plenty and food and beverages provided by the hard work and labor of those in the secular world and from the sweat of all kinds of different people from many nations and religions.

    "Matthews asked Bishop Tobin to be specific, asking whether women who procure abortions should be thrown in jail.
    “I have no idea what the penalty would be,” the bishop replied.

    This is a total cop out by Bishop Tobin. Who was he intending to leave the penalty up to? Should it be stoning her?

    Should we have her stoned to death?

    Tell us Bishops.... what is the penalty?

  8. Bill Donohue is himself divorced. So should our politicians outlaw divorce? What will the penalty be for that infraction? Bill Donohue is a fan of Mel Gibson; now separated from his wife, a dipsomaniac, and anti semitic. Donohue also loved "The Passion of the Christ”. You are supposed to be able to judge someone by his or her friends. That’s how I’ll judge his comments about Chris Matthews.

    Bill Donahue is always out looking for an anti-Catholic attitude or slant. He tries to construe Chris Matthews' interview with Bishop Tobin as somehow being anti-Catholic. Bill Donahue needs to be welcomed into the world of grown up Catholicism. Yes, Bishop Tobin lost the debate with Chris Matthews. The bishop was there, I think, for the free publicity and grandstanding while trying to cow a Catholic politician on the abortion issue using the Holy Eucharist as a battering ram. Matthews beat him and beat him bad. Tobin deserved to lose the debate. It says something if Tobin needs Bill Donahue to defend him.

    Chris Matthews was deferential to the bishop always referring to him as: “your excellency.” Yes, I loved the irony. Matthews could never get the bishop to answer his questions. Finally at the end of the interview, Matthews left the good bishop a large segment of time to rant!

  9. butterfly, now that is upping the ante!

    The more I think about it, the better I like the tack that Matthews took. Because he really refused to stand on the "ground" the Bishops want to argue over. Instead he forced the Bishop (his "excellency") onto political ground - the very political territory they blundered into, of course ... but without even realizing the consequences. The repeated us of "excellency" was so ironic in the face of such a blatant FAIL!

    Yes... should they be stoned? That is so good, butterfly!

    Really, this is exactly the medicine they must be administered. And if they want any public voice, let them face the music at the same time. They simply fail to see that people will no longer drink the kool-aid. Which is what Matthews was trying to get at. Trying to ask the Bishop: If your words no longer matter, then how will you try to beat them into submission via the law?

    Free will: Bishops don't believe in it anymore! (well, themselves accepted)

  10. Bishop Tobin precisely closed the debate when he reminded viewers that Catholics "voluntarily" join the Catholic Church, and, Catholic Church doctrine views human abortion as not being "moral", therefor, members of the church challenging church doctrine must be questioned ...

    R. L. Albanys
    Boston, MA

  11. Robert, Church doctrine may be correct in saying that abortion is immoral, but it is not always immoral in all situations, just as the Church doctrine says that killing is immoral, but not all killing, such as to defend oneself from harm. There are situations in which a woman needs to defend herself.

    Since I am a cradle Catholic I could not have volunteered to be baptized and indoctrinated into the Catholic Church and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion and Confirmation. I do, however, voluntarily unite myself - body, mind, soul to Jesus Christ.

    If certain leaders in the Catholic Church espouse to be teachers of the Gospels of Jesus Christ, but go against His teachings, we are obliged as Christians and Catholics to speak up. Hiding pedophiles and sending them to other parishes to sexually molest young children is one example of speaking up and questioning authority that is abusing their power. Jesus makes that possible for us to do so. He spoke out against the Scribes & Pharisees. That's all we're doing.

    To question is to indicate one is using their God given intellect. Use it wisely and in unity with Jesus Christ.

  12. Might I add God-given free will. Which God entrusts us with. Unlike the Bishops!

  13. Yes, and with our Free Will, TheraP.

    God-given Free Will.

    The Bishops do not really believe that we have God-given Free Will. So right TheraP. In the hierarchy's caste way of perception or seeing, such pompous & puffed-up one's relegate others as substandard human beings, and to them we would have no right to God-given anything.

  14. "God-given obedience" - they long for it! But it's free will they have to appeal to. And, apparently, that's not working out too well, is it? To appeal to free will is to accept one's common humanity first. Something the upper caste seems to have forgotten.

    Like all dictators, the only way they can survive is to have a large group of very dependent, fearful adherents. But when fear and intimidation no longer work (Remember the nuns!) their power will dwindle. When the press smells dwindling power... watch out! This is likely only the beginning.

  15. I would also like to point out the utter disregard for science that the Episcopacy has when it discusses abortion. There has never been a definitive definition of when life begins by the Church. This is probably wise but there have been many attempts. Several of the early fathers and Popes thought that life began with quickening or sometime after 12 weeks gestation. Even the great Aquinas gave some credence to the beliefs of Aristotle that there were two types of soul. That not until there was some form of development far beyond the early months could a fetus be thought of as fully human.

    Recently the Church claims that because after the unification of two gametes, when all the DNA is present that a structure is fully human. This is not a good definition for several reasons. all the DNA is present in even a simple skin cell or a liver cell or a brain cell, yet each cell is not fully human. We know that the cloning of a large animal like Dolly the sheep can occur when a simple non gamete cell is placed in an evacuated ovum. We further have found that somewhere between 50 and 80% of all blastocysts (multicellular structures that present themselves to the female uterus) are never embedded in the Uterus. Yet the Bishops call these structures fully human and possessing a soul. The simple question that they will not attempt to answer is why would God allow such a high natural abortion rate?

    I think the answer is easy, the very fundamentalists in the curia during the 1960’s where outraged with the two Vatican commissions findings that the Birth Control Pill should be allowed in the Catholic Church. So much so that they have looked for any excuse to prove that the BC pill is sinful. They now say that it is the cause of abortion because in some circumstances some of these pills cause the uterus to be less likely to accept a blastocyst. By the way this same phenomena of the uterus being less likely to accept a blastocyst occurs with very athletic women, women who are under severe emotional stress and women taking certain other medications.

    In making these false definitions, Bishops certainly are not holding the findings of science accountable at all. They are even holding back scientific growth and development by refusing to see the science behind stem cells. They also are condemning the unfortunate couples who chose to have their own stem cells (blastocysts) re-implanted allowing an otherwise sterile woman to get pregnant. What do the Bishops tell the children of these procedures. Your parents were sinning mortally just to participate in your creation?

    The mind set of these fellows who so want to be respected and called excellency is that “we know what is right just because we know.” They learned nothing from the scandals of the Church’s making about Copernicus and Galileo. This is a mind set of authoritarianism and it will not work for any thinking Catholic or non Catholic. It will not work for anyone seeking truth!

    I need not continue this rant as to the magnitude of the Episcopacies social failures as you may just look back to earlier pages for these.

    May we accept the understanding given to us by the Spirit! dennis

    R. Dennis Porch, MD

  16. Elastico, thanks for the sparkly frosty poem for tomorrow. Goes, sort of, with the hot fruit compote I made for tomorrow.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Bill Donohue is quite right, Chris Matthews gave Bishop Tobin scarcely any chance to speak and road right over the top of the good points he was making.

    Catholic teaching is clear - any Catholic who supports abortion in any manner is excommunicated from the Church. Hence Kennedy can no longer call himself a Catholic, nor Chris Matthews.

  18. TheraP it makes no difference who stands up - the ultimate Judge is God and He said "Thou shalt not kill", so anyone who supports the murder of babies unless they repent is going to hell for all eternity and that's bottom line - doesn't matter how many people step forward - if they step forward to support abortion they're standing on the brink of hell, politicians, women, men, liberals, whatever. They're making their choice to go to heaven or to go to hell. Simple as that.

  19. Butterfly, just remember Jesus Christ kicked the money changers out of the temple - so what would he do to those who kill their babies - he told the woman at the well to, "Go and sin no more". He said he came to do the will of the Father and the Father gave the ten commandments which say, "Thou shalt not kill" not meaning NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCED. Also, if you're so upset about the poor what are you doing with a computer - you should sell it and give the proceeds to the needy. Also I imagine you won't be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner as you will be the first to give your dinner out to the poor. Yeah butterfly I believe you, thousands, millions wouldn't.

  20. rdp, Thank you for your post. The RC church rejects the human sciences while claiming theology and philosophy are superior sciences. This is not new as you point out. It goes back to the time of Copernicus and Galileo. Read any official church document from the Vatican and the document will never cite a study from the sciences like biology, physics, sociology, or psychology to support the case it is making. I am always struck by how those church documents argue in an endless circle only quoting other church documents.

    Bishop Tobin got called out by Chris Matthews because he strayed into the area of making law while trying to argue only from his “superior” knowledge from theology and philosophy. It doesn’t work. Truth is greater than that. In the same way it is regrettable that churchmen like Bishop Tobin try to argue in the same way when confronting the question of the beginning of life. Churchmen like Tobin might advance their argument more if they tried to grapple with some of those questions you pose from your medical perspective. I doubt that Bishop Tobin will.

    This story keeps repeating itself on the abortion debate. It is like Cardinal Bellermine refusing to accept Galileo’s invitation to look through his telescope while saying: “Then you will believe.” I don’t think Bishop Tobin will accept Chris Matthew’s invitation to think about Matthew’s arguments.

  21. Tobin didn't come off well in this whole thing. I am not always a fan of Chris "Tweety" Matthews, but I think he was right here and Tobin was wrong. We Catholics need to remind the bishops their days of our unquestioning compliance are over.

  22. "You can safely assume you have created God in your own image if God hates the same people you do."-Anne Lamott
    Happy Thanksgiving to all and I am ever so grateful for the hope this blog and others gives me that I am not alone in my hopes and dreams!

  23. Anyone who supports killing is excommunicated according to anonymous. Do you support the War in Iraq or Afghanistan? Gee, seems to me a lot of people in the armed services are excommunicated now too.

    That's quite the plan if I were to sell my computer and give the proceeds to the poor. If it would make a significant dent and doing so would truly help the poor, I would do it. But I doubt if doing so is the solution to a very large problem that is created by economic systems of greed and enabled by governments and people with money who call the shots when it comes to investments.

    Anonymous, I am still a baptized Catholic and so is Kennedy and so is Chris Matthews, even if we don't believe in criminalizing abortion and disagree Bishop Tobin and Bill Donahue's style of governing. That is not supporting abortion. It is supporting not to criminalize it. No one in the Church or outside the Church can take our relationship with God away, in case you didn't realize that. Being excommunicated means that the Church hierarchy has become very hard hearted and stiff necked which is very un-Christ-like.

    What should the penalty be, anonymous, for abortion?

  24. Happy Thanksgiving one and all. There are some very good comments here, but I am going to make one observation.

    Anon, when your entire argument consists of the threat of hell for those who don't fully subscribe to the Vatican song and dance, I am reminded of a theologian who served on the pontifial theological commission during the late seventies and early eighties. Benedict was also a member of this board. They were discussing the relaxing of the no meat on Friday discipline and the theologian half jokingly said, what do we do about all the people we previously sent to hell in telling them eating meat on Friday was a mortal sin?

    Cardinal Ratzinger did not think this was at all funny. Another theologian said, again, half in jest: "Maybe we should just pray God doesn't listen to everything we proclaim." Cardinal Ratzinger didn't think that was funny either.

    The problem this demonstrates is that threatening an absolute like hell for disobedience of doctrine is a very iffy proposition. Especially if we truly believe that the papacy has the right to dictate God's judgement for people whose souls and lives we know nothing about. I personally am much more inclined to leave such things up to God.

  25. butterfly just gave my response - re "killing".

    We are told over and over in the Bible that God wants mercy, not sacrifice. I'm throwing in my lot with God.

    I do agree with one statement of the Bishop - that our relationship with God comes first. That means before the pope, before any institution. God looks into our hearts. And only God - in His great Mercy - is our judge.

    When the bishops put the institution above the welfare of children, in my book, they didn't do what the Bishop says comes first. In doing that they forfeit their moral authority. There is yet time for all of them, including the pope, to repent. And that would include begging the forgiveness of all those harmed on their watch. Men, women, and children. It is way past time for finger pointing from those who have harmed the least among us. That would include welcoming ALL to the wedding feast, affirming the priesthood of all baptized persons, a priesthood whose fullness should also be available to all.

    To narrow this to an argument over abortion is to miss the point. No woman ever deliberately gets pregnant because she's longing for an abortion. No man should be the first one to caste a stone at her. And as a woman, I have mercy upon the circumstances which bring any woman to that choice. Free Will is not a euphemism for abortion. It relates to one's the exercise of one's conscience across a lifetime. And one's relationship with God is not controlled by bishops - even if they try to assert that.

  26. In all fairness, I think the US-led war in Iraq is immoral and illegal but I don't necessarily think foot soldiers need to go to jail, even if they volunteered for the war.

    Just because people don't think that women who have had abortions should go to jail doesn't necessarily take away from the pro-life stance on abortion.

  27. Elastico: I really appreciated the poem since it was 75 here yesterday. It did remind me of Montana, and the Lions kept up their end of the bargain which reminded me of my youth in Detroit.

    It is entirely possible to see the immorality in abortion and still be against it's criminalization. The bishops are going to have to come up with a better argument or a much more consistent pro life stance. As it is now they say virtually nothing about our arsenals of Mass Destruction or our two wars, which as Frank points out, are both immoral and probably illegal.

    As Therap points out, the idea of Tobin telling Matthews to put God before employment rang very very hollow, given the bishops left God out of the abuse crisis in favor of themselves. They are also putting the priesthood above the laity's right to the Eucharist.

    I don't see that stance as much different from Wall Street putting their right to obscene bonuses ahead of the recovery of their own industry. The industry which is supposed to be the foundation of our the economy.

    Finally I am really tired of the pro life movement acting as if men are not a part of the abortion issue, as if God got all women pregnant by gifting them with children and men had nothing to do with it. Guess what, that only happened once, and Mary was given a choice.

  28. With regard to "free will" and "obedience" to authority, martyrs didn't obey orders. They obeyed their consciences. Things are never black and white. The church, for example, would probably tell all minors to obey their parents. But this post reminded me that on at least two occasions I've had mothers bring me a pregnant adolescent, whom they were trying to convince to get an abortion. Well, I, of course, was not going to do anything but listen to my patient. To help her explore and articulate all the issues involved. In both cases the young women were adamant about keeping the baby. Which they did! Even though the grandmothers, initially, were totally opposed. The interesting thing here is that neither young woman had a religious background!

    But we don't call women "homicidal" if they seek an abortion. And no therapist would ever be prosecuted for failure to warn and protect if a patient pursues an abortion.

    Ethics and morality involve constant vigilance and thinking things through. It's not as black and white as some people believe or preach. God gave us minds and the ability to make choices. If he'd wanted robots, I'm sure that could have been arranged. But I doubt a robot would be adaptive enough to survive as our species has.

    Could we please focus on the things Jesus encouraged above all? The things which apply to all of us? Not to groups like women or gay people? Let's think about loving our enemy. Let's put that one into practice. I guarantee it would take up all our time and much nonsense would fall by the wayside!

    But if we're going to think about groups, then I'm going to think about how bishops need to repent!

  29. Just in case anonymous comes back, he/she might want to spend more time reading the Gospels because "he told the woman at the well to, "Go and sin no more". Actually, Jesus did not tell the woman at the well to go and sin no more.

    Anonymous has managed to mix up two different important events in the Bible and they are two important readings one should really take the time to think about so it really reaches your heart and you get a real idea of who Jesus truly is and who the women were and imagining you are in their shoes and witnessing Jesus in action.

    Jesus and the woman at the well is a great example of the compassion, love and understanding Jesus had for women and He in no way was condescending toward women, treated them as equal to men, was neither judgmental of her high amount of husbands or marital status or living arrangements as a prerequisite to her ability to share in the joy of His teachings and priesthood.

  30. Something else to add: And it is not as important to imagine what we think Jesus would do, but to know what He did already.

  31. I don't get the clamoring for a bishop or bishops to itemize punishment for abortions. They obviously believe that stealing goes against one of the 10 commandments, but they don't, appropriately so, say whether the perpetrator should get 30 days or 5 years—the specifics are up to Caesar. The closet they get is maybe being against the death penalty, but that is not so much a punitive prescription on their part as a moral offshoot of not killing human life. After all, Cain was spared.

    The bishops even make moral statements about certain aspects of economic justice, but I don’t recollect nuts and bolts opinions. Why should abortion be any different?

    A non-related point. Regarding free will: Is Truth just an individual’s conscience? Then there is no such thing as Truth. The truth (small t) for the Catholic on the left is not the same as the truth for the Catholic on the right. Ultimately, one ends up as Pontius Pilate asking what is truth. Or a variation of PP’s question: how do you know what is the Truth or not? These are hard questions for your side of the argument that are never addressed beyond the almost clichéd anti-authority stance and name-calling. The Catholic Church has its doctrine and faith and moral claims, which many on this blog disagree with. But I can’t decipher from your argument, how you would determine Truth. Is it personal conjecture of WWJD?

  32. here's a powerful piece about one catholic couple coming to terms with abortion. I usually think that I'm opposed to late term abortions, but the medical dilemma described here makes me think that I ought to consider exceptions like this. We need to engage stories like these more often when debating abortion:

  33. Lest we forget:

    “By clericalism, I mean an elitist mindset, together with structures and patterns of behavior corresponding to it, which takes it for granted that clerics—in the Catholic context, mainly bishops and priests—are intrinsically superior to the other members of the Church and deserve automatic deference. Passivity and dependence are the laity’s lot. By no means is clericalism confined to clerics themselves. The clericalist mindset is widely shared by Catholic lay people.”

    Russell Shaw, “Nothing to Hide. Secrecy, Communication and Communion in the Catholic Church”, pg 57.

    Jim McCrea

  34. Orlando--when I hear or read that people are making an abortion decision based on "quality of life" reasoning, I become darn near cynical. Killing an innocent human, whether a fetus, or 5 or 55 and irrespetive of size, location, or circumstance, is an immoral act. How about a decision that incorporates "Jesus, I trust in You." (St. Faustina).

  35. Clericalism has existed, exists and will exist forever. I proceed with caution when I hear the word clericalism--sometimes has a very broad and agenda driven usage. When a cleric says no, it doesn't necesarily follow that he can be accused of clericalism. He may just be shepherding the flock. It is prudent to examine the particulars.

  36. Elastico,
    The 'quality of life' issue in that essay refers to the fact that the child would not have lived 12 months after birth (and would not have survived natural childbirth, so a C section would have been required). Those few months would have been lived in constant pain as the ill-formed heart and lungs struggled to function.
    I get cynical about those cynics who don't trust people to make the best decision for themselves and their children. They present a description of decadent women casually strolling into an abortion clinic, hoping to get everything done in time for their 2pm tanning appointment. I believe much of the anti-abortion rhetoric revolves around an inability to trust women.

  37. Elastico, your comments on truth are pertinent. One thing can be certain, God is Truth. We finite beings will always struggle to find more of truth. Even in God's revelation to finite beings through the use of Scripture or the Spirit can not be complete as we are miniscule in our understanding of the mind of God. We also often misunderstand what God is saying to us! I as a scientist that once studied theology can only struggle to find more of God's truth. This is part of both personal and societal growth and development. To think that we ever know The truth because of deductive arguments from knowledge of what finite men thought in the past, is ridiculous. It is megalomanic. Only the mind of God knows The truth!

    The more I study and learn, I understand how little I and other finite beings know!

    Peace and a little more humble and l understanding.

    R. Dennis Porch, MD

  38. Dennis, I really appreciate your response and Elastico's question. Truth for me now, is not the truth as I saw it thirty years ago.

    Back then I saw truth in very black and white terms. I saw a fully developed conscience as perfectly in line with Church teaching. And yet, when given the opportunity to obtain a Phd in moral theology, I said no because some little voice deep down in side told me I didn't really know anything because I had yet to live much more than a protected somewhat idyllic existence. That was my inner muse telling me in rational and, for me, believable terms, that I knew zilch about true compassion. At that point I reserved compassion for animals, not people.

    In the intervening years life has given me many opportunities to learn compassion, both for myself and others. Truth for me begins with compassion.

    I'll freely admit I have had a really really difficult time accessing compassion when it comes to the clerical system and some of it's hierarchy. They hypocrisy, deceit, denial, and cover ups push my anger button way beyond my still limited ability to exercise compassion.

    I know part of that problem is I still do not feel equal with those who exercise spiritual authority and that's even knowing the dynamic which says that's exactly the way I am to feel. Compassion is most authentic when it's exchanged between two people who share equal ground.

    That's the truth that I take from the life of Jesus. It's incredible if you think about it. He truly did not see Himself as above or beyond the humanity He interacted with and that, more than anything, is what made Him such a powerful spiritual leader.

    And Dennis you are so right about advances in science humbling me about the truths I was so certain about previously. It does seem to be true that the more information you take in the more it becomes readily apparent that you know much less than you think you do.

    In the meantime, I will continue to criticise institutions and systems which display little or no compassion, and the individuals who too closely align themselves with the worst parts of those systems. It's me in my 'throw the money changers out' mode.

  39. Elastico, in defense of Orlando's position, I encourage you to read the personal testimonies written to Andrew Sullivan about their experiences with late term abortions. Most of them were written by Catholic women. These are heart wrenching stories about families in real moral dilemnas. It was sad that too many of them said the only person who understood what they were experiencing were the people at Dr. Tiller's clinic.

  40. Would you accept a parent killing their teenage son who caused heart wrenching circumstances and dilemmas for his family? How about grandma? We all love Jesus's examples of compassion and understanding. Tend, though, to overlook or downplay the gibbet, i.e., redemptive suffering. Must be too old school. If you were offered 12 months of terminal suffering as a tradeoff for eternal life in heaven, would you take it? The world is chock full of the terminal, who are in agony and are a hardship for the family. By the extension of your logic, we should be able to kill them out of compassion. I have confidence in God that from moral and physical evil (Yes, even the suffering of little ones), good will arise in the here or hereafter (Passion, Death, Resurrection). That is the message of Hope and the reason to celebrate at Easter.

  41. Colleen,

    I know that you understand that you really are equal to those in the hierarchy, but why would you feel some how that you are not? I certainly do not feel that you are in a position of inferiority to them. In fact I see your integrity far exceeds so many clerics.

    I think however that compassion and truth are different. Life is always painful, when we except and work through our pain, we grow as a person and as a society. I further think that the examples elastico gives you are again a little too concrete. What would I do with a capsized boat in which I could save only one of 2 or 3 of my family members? I would somehow, someway make a choice and then I would need to work through the sadness and (false) guilt for my decision. Then I would live with my choice. It is hard to know in an abstract example as elastico makes what choice I would or could in fact make when push comes to shove. It is hard to take an abstract example and end up with a concrete answer, and that is a big mistake of many moralists.

    The real important part of all of this, we all make choices that come from knowledge, personal (many times unconscious) feelings and necessity. Only God can knows all our stress and our hearts, and only God can judge. I find this idea of some idea or or principle as always wrong and we must always select one moral issue over another as immature and certainly lacking in compassion but also in plain common sense!

    Peace and understanding,


  42. Elastico, I actually know how I would answer your hypothetical question about the teen ager. The last time my daughter was in intensive care she asked me if I knew everything about her, that her type I diabetes would cause this many problems, would I have had her anyway. The answer was an unequivocal yes.

    The harder answer was when she asked me when she was 10 why God let this happen to her. What was wrong with God? I could have told her that she should offer up her suffering in the hopes of heaven because that was God's gift of suffering for her. I could have said, you're in good company, look what God did to his own son. Be a trooper for Jesus, carry this cross and revel in it.

    I didn't though. I can't believe in a God that 'gifts' children or families with this kind of suffering. God gifts children and families with the grace to deal with this kind of suffering if families look for it, that gives us the Grace to work through and live with our decisions.

    Oh and by the way Elastico, pregnancy is a death sentence for her. For that reason neither abortion nor birth control are abstract concepts for me. If I want a living daughter I will have no grand children.

    That's not God punishing me, offering me a 'gift' for my eternal salvation. That's life in a fragile and random world.

  43. Very good discussion about Truth and an "answer" that God is Truth. Thanks Dennis. Makes a lot of sense "One thing can be certain, God is Truth. We finite beings will always struggle to find more of truth. Even in God's revelation to finite beings through the use of Scripture or the Spirit can not be complete as we are miniscule in our understanding of the mind of God."

    Last night I was reading the Gospel of John and I got to the section about Jesus healing the blind man. As I read further I wondered what Jesus was saying when the Pharisees asked Jesus - Are we also blind?

    I believe Jesus' answer to them is about the Truth, God the Father as Truth, that God as I AM, who truly exists. Jesus says to them - because you say you can see - you are blind. And Jesus would often call them "blind guides" who knew not His Father.

    If one believes that they know or see all the Truth, Jesus says that you are blind.

    But, if you admit that you cannot see or know all the Truth, you are no longer blind.

    It is by Faith that we come to know anything about God. It is not by sight or by judging by appearances only. The Scribes and Pharisees demonstrated they had no real Faith in God, but only Faith in the law and were willing to condemn Jesus for healing the blind man on the Sabbath.

    Jesus was of course right in saying the Scribes and Pharisees were blind guides who knew not His Father, or that Jesus was sent by His Father so that the blind might see and those who could see would become blind.

    I think this only can make sense within the context of God is Truth.

  44. Yes Butterfly, the more we study, the more we know by experience, the more we understand how miniscule our understanding of the mind of God. The more we understand that for us finite beings, truth is always a difficult question. Let he or she without sin or he or she that believes they know The Truth cast the first stone. As Mark Twin once said, "show me a man that says he never lies and I will show you a lier!" I would add to that show me a person that believes he or she Knows Gods mind or Gods Truth (THE TRUTH) and you will see a very foolish person. dennis

  45. So true Dennis. I've been doing research and study into the Earth's Evolution, since I was asked to compose some music for an album on it. I realize from that study how little we know of our Creator, as well, the very Earth we live in and are still discovering, and how wise it is to contemplate what we have learned, and to use what we have learned for the good and benefit of all.

    Each day I find another reason for conversion to Christ, and in discovering something new I had not seen or known before of Jesus.