Archive for December, 2012

NEWTOWN – SAME STORY

Monday, December 17th, 2012

I had hoped and prayed that I would never again have to write one of these blogs. Never again reflect on how one deranged person could almost instantly bring about the death of innocent people, innocent children. But Friday’s devastation of human life in Newtown, Connecticut brought me once again back to the reality. Let me say this in the first paragraph. I have in this space on four occasions before argued strongly that the government (federal, state or local) must do something about assault weapons of mass destruction. What our nation was not able to find in Iraq we overlook on our own streets and in our own communities. A war against weapons of mass destruction was fought overseas but has thus far been ignored in our neighborhoods. The founding fathers (and mothers) could never have dreamed of AK-47s and Glocks. When they thought of the right to bear arms, they only knew single load rifles and pistols – necessary in some instances to protect oneself or to hunt for food. To this day, with some restrictions like registration and concealment laws, I think the second amendment was and remains sound but not, in the name of God, anything which would allow a killer to wipe out or to almost wipe out the first grade of an elementary school, or a high school like Columbine, or at a mall in Portland, Oregon. As President Obama said, it is time for the nation to address this issue. We rank the highest in the civilized world for armed aggression against innocent people and part of the reason has to be the ease with which one can procure these “weapons of mass destruction.”

When I have broached this subject in the past I have been “favored” with some of the angriest comments I ever receive. Most of the time, in language far too colorful to repeat here, I am told to “preach the Gospel and stay out of politics.” During the last three months, three of my most severe critics on the matter of gun control also sent comments asking when I was going to condemn the President for his so-called anti-life positions. Go figure! To be in favor of limits on assault weapons is to be pro-life.

I and I bet most Catholics are so proud today of the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Monsignor Robert Weiss, for his heroic presence to the families who lost children or their adult parents in this latest outrage. He represented the Lord to these grieving people in the only way he could, by being present, listening, not responding with pious platitudes. He was a good shepherd, a great pastor. That he wept on occasion is exactly what I would have done in similar circumstances. It is all so sad, so surreal, so tragic. Thou shall not kill, the unborn, the dying elderly, children, innocent people. What is happening to this nation?

Sunday’s readings were of some consolation. Thematically they were filled with the notion of “rejoicing.” Paul wrote Sunday’s reading from prison. Zephaniah wrote Sunday’s reading to an unfaithful people whom God still loved and John the Baptist humbly preached a message of conversion and redemption also not in the best of times. In eight days we will celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace and we would do well to remember what Monsignor Weiss said in Newtown – God did not do this, a human being did. We still have the opportunity in the time left to us on earth to work for peace – not just globally, but on the streets where we live. Elected leaders, right this wrong.

My heart and prayers go out to the families whose lives were tragically touched by the losses they endured on Friday. May the twenty-seven plus the mother of the shooter not have died in vain.

+RNL

ABE AND INTRINSICALLY EVIL

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. Photo found via Google Image search.

Over the Thanksgiving break I had an opportunity to view the new Stephen Spielberg movie entitled LINCOLN. I recommend the movie highly and consider it one of the best films I have seen in my lifetime. However, that is not the point which I wish to address in this brief blog. The entire movie is about the effort of the 16th President of the United States to rid this new nation of slavery by gaining passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution during the final days of the Civil War. Lincoln’s hatred of slavery was so visceral that he sent our youngest to war over it and to ultimately unite a nation. He understood slavery as an intrinsic evil, never permissible and against God’s law.

In our society, the notion that anything is intrinsically evil is growing more and more foreign with each generation. In our Catholic tradition, we hold that aborting a child in a mother’s womb is intrinsically evil, although in classic moral theology it even admits of one exception (the case of an ectopic pregnancy). One would think that killing or murder would be an intrinsic evil, yet one may defend oneself against an aggressor attempting to take a life and there is also the matter of the “just war theory.” In the Catholic moral tradition, “things” are not intrinsically evil but actions are.

President Lincoln understood long before others that a successful outcome of the civil war and the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy would not wipe slavery from the face of these United States at that time. Rather, it would take a law which, if enacted, would be extremely divisive but ultimately would be accepted, implemented and obeyed. Sensing victory over the Confederate army to be near, he had to wage a different kind of “war” with politicians, some even of his own party but mostly with the opposition to gain the two-thirds vote to send a constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. Bold, courageous, insightful, the sixteenth President of the United States worked to secure those votes because he knew in his gut that slavery was wrong. Indeed, his leadership on the war and the issue of slavery ultimately cost him his life that night in Ford’s Theatre at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. The amazing thing about the movie LINCOLN is that there is little that is unknown to the viewer at the beginning of the film but one remains glued to one’s theatre seat watching the morality play unfold.

In our national debate surrounding life, be it abortion, euthanasia or the death penalty, the education of the citizenry is paramount. Lincoln made his case with considerable patience for those who did not agree, considerable cunning in the search for the few additional votes he needed, and the fundamental belief that America by the very nature of its founding documents could not abide the intrinsic evil of slavery. In our history as we know, it took more than a constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery, it took a reversal of a subsequent Supreme Court decision, and one might argue the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s to bring us to where we are today as a nation on this issue. Where is the Lincoln of today?

Treat yourself to a superbly written and acted movie.

+RNL