April 28, 2005

The 95-10 Challenge

As I mentioned before on my other blog, the Democrats for Life of America have introduced a new proposal that they say will reduce the number of abortions by 95% over the next ten years. They're calling this the 95-10 Initiative. We haven't heard much yet about the 95-10 Initiative, but several Democratic congressmen and senators have endorsed the plan, and Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) has said that he will introduce the 95-10 Initiative into Congress soon.

My prediction is that the 95-10 Initiative will meet with some resistance, not so much from pro-choice Democrats, but from allegedly pro-life Republicans. I also have little doubt that there will be a massive failure among pro-life organizations to endorse the 95-10 Initiative. Why? Well, there are two reasons:

- The Reason That Will Be Given: Congressional Republicans and conservative pro-life lobbyists will reject the 95-1o Initiative for a number of stated reasons, although I don't think any of these reasons will have anything to do with their real reason for rejecting the proposal (more on that in a minute). They will reject the proposal on the grounds that it would give grants to school districts in order for them to "administer effective, age-appropriate pregnancy prevention education" (most congressional Republicans and conservative pro-life lobbyists have long opposed sexual education in schools); they will reject the proposal on the grounds that it would require insurance coverage of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration (congressional Republicans and conservative pro-life lobbyists are currently fighting for the "right" of pharmacists not to provide this contraception, so it would be counterproductive for them to require that insurance coverage include contraception); and I have little doubt that congressional Republicans will oppose this bill on the grounds that it contains too much new domestic spending. President Bush's proposed budget has dramatically cut our domestic spending.

- The Real Reason: While the above three reasons will no doubt be the ones offered to the American people, make no mistake -- the real reason that congressional Republicans and conservative pro-life lobbyists won't go for the 95-10 Initiative is because it won't be politically good for them. Congressional Republicans like having a monopoly on the "pro-life appeal" that they make during every election, and they're not going to want to concede even a little bit of that to the Democratic Party, which is exactly what they'd be doing if they joined with Democrats to support the 95-10 Initiative. Neither are their friends in the pro-life lobby, who have for years been in bed politically and financially with the Republican Party. While a pro-life victory for any political party is a victory for unborn babies, a pro-life victory for the Democrats is political danger for the Republican Party and ultimately for the conservative pro-life lobbyists. Therefore, you can be sure that they'll find some reason not to support this proposal.

If you think I'm being melodramatic, consider that none of the major pro-life organizations have said a word about the 95-10 Initiative, and that there hasn't been any Republican response whatsoever to this proposal. Why aren't we hearing from the National Right to Life Committee on this? Why hasn't Fr. Frank Pavone, the director of the Priests for Life, been all over TV like he is when the Republicans are doing something for the pro-life cause? Where is Judie Brown and her American Life League? Where are James Dobson, Chuck Colson, and the rest of those wonderful bastions of the pro-life and pro-family cause? Not a word from any of them, because ultimately this is not good for them.

With this in mind, I'm issuing a challenge that I'm calling the 95-10 Challenge to all Catholic bloggers. It's meant for both progressive and conservative Catholics, but it's especially meant for those Catholics who identify as conservative and who may have supported President Bush and his Republican Party during the last election. The 95-10 Challenge is a challenge to be bipartisan, or nonpartisan if you will, about this proposal. Simple, right? We'll see. I challenge Fr. Rob Johansen, Christopher Blosser, David Schrader, Jeff Miller, Earl Appleby, Oswald Sobrino, Alexandra and Bryan Baldwin, Richard Chonak, Eric Johnson, Sal Ravilla, John Schultz, Pete Vere, and all other Catholic bloggers to treat this proposal as common ground with pro-life Democrats and to work with us on this instead of being partisanly opposed to this proposal and to us. I challenge them to do this even if the leaders of their pro-life movement, like Fr. Pavone and Judie Brown, aren't following suit. If our leaders will not put aside partisanship for the sake of unborn children, then we must be the new leaders of the pro-life cause and say unambiguously that the lives of the unborn are more important to us than political gain.

For my part, I will continue to blog about the 95-10 Initiative here at Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, and I hope that our other three bloggers, two Republicans and an Independent, will do the same. You can be sure that I will also be pointing the finger at any Catholic blogger who puts up a partisan fight against this proposal.

April 26, 2005

Republicans Won't Compromise

In the most public display yet that the executive branch of government has taken total control of the legislative branch, Deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove said today that there will be no compromise with Senate Democrats on judicial nominees. This is also yet another contradiction of President Bush's promise to the Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). According to Sen. Reid, President Bush promised him that he would not become involved in the filibuster controversy, but this marks the second time since Bush made that promise that the White House has thrust itself into the debate. The first time President Bush's promise to Sen. Reid was broken came when Vice President Cheney promised that he would vote to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees if the vote came to a tie.

Prior to Rove's pronouncement, there was talk that the Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), was working on a compromise with Sen. Reid to settle the problem of President Bush's seven judicial nominees. According to anonymous sources in the Senate, Reid was willing to allow the confirmation of Richard Griffin and David McKeague to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. As part of the compromise, Sen. Reid wanted Henry Saad to be replaced by a nominee more favorable to the Democrats, and Sen. Reid insisted that President Bush's most extreme nominees -- Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William G. Myers III, and William Pryor -- could not go through. Unfortunately, Karl Rove's pronouncement has ended any hopes for compromise.

In other news, Rove announced that, despite the fact that a clear majority of Americans oppose President Bush's interference in Social Security, the President still insists on going ahead with it anyway. He also expects the House Majority Leader, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), to keep his job. Why? The whole matter would "be quickly resolved" and his name would be cleared if only the House Ethics Committee could take up an investigation. For once, Democrats agree with Rove. Democrats are saying that, in fact, Rep. DeLay's name will be cleared because the Republicans have altered the rules of the committee to protect him. That's why the Democrats are not allowing the House Ethics Committee to proceed with its non-investigation "investigation."

Finally, Rove announced that he was confident that John Bolton's confirmation would go forward. Rove even went so far as to say that Bolton's critics oppose United Nations reform, even though one of those critics has been Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), the Republican senator from Ohio and a close ally of President Bush.

This is our new majority government, complete with its "mandate" from the 2004 election, in action. There will be no compromise with Democrats on judicial nominees, even though a majority of Americans don't think the Senate rules should be changed to put Bush's extremist nominees through. There will be no change in President Bush's rhetoric regarding Social Security, even though a clear majority of Americans don't think the President should "reform" (read: destroy) Social Security. There will be no penalty for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), even though the allegations of impropriety are mounting. And there will be a confirmation for John Bolton, even though the allegations of impropriety and employee abuse have reached a pinnacle, and even though both Democrats and Republicans have begun to oppose his confirmation.

What's to be done? Well, for starters, I'd write to my senators, Democrat or Republican, and express my support for a Senate compromise on judicial nominees, my lack of support for President Bush's Social Security plans, my support for an actual investigation of Rep. DeLay, and my lack of support for John Bolton. But more importantly, I'd get out and vote in 2006 so that perhaps there will be a different majority in the Congress -- so that perhaps it will be a bit more difficult for the White House to dictate to the legistlative branch of government and injure the nation's balance of power.

April 15, 2005

Where's the Beef?

When the Republican Party collectively begins having a nervous breakdown over the Democrats' filibuster of President Bush's judicial nominees, and when they start threatening to use their "nuclear option" (which is the elimination of the filibuster for judicial nominees), many informed progressives are left thinking about that old fast food commercial. The old lady in the commercial humorously asks: "Where's the beef?" It's become a slogan for basically asking why we're making such a big deal out of nothing.

You see, what many people may not know when the Republicans start threatening to "go nuclear" is that, according to the White House itself, we're talking about only twenty-five pending nominees, only eleven of which are waiting to fill vacancies. Now, President Bush has made 225 judicial nominations -- having only twenty-five of these nominees delayed doesn't seem like such a big deal to me. Does he expect to be able to put whoever he wants in the court system without any opposition at all from the Senate? That's just not the way democracy works. The executive branch doesn't get to pack the judicial branch with ideological extremists without the legislative branch having any role in the process.

The question for the Republicans truly is: "Where's the beef?" Two hundred of President Bush's nominees have gone through. Twenty-five are pending. Only eleven of these are waiting to fill vacancies. Are we really supposed to be convinced that we should do away with the filibuster, a timeless tool in the American political system, because President Bush hasn't gotten his way on twenty-five of his nominations? If President Bush and his Republican Party are really so concerned about the eleven vacancies, and if the President really wants to be a "uniter, not a divider" (his words, not mine) -- then maybe he should consider withdrawing those eleven nominees and nominating men and women who are not ideological extremists. Until then, all of this frenzy over judicial nominees and "nuclear options" is just a lot of bread with nothing in the middle. Where's the beef, guys?

April 11, 2005

Three U.S. Presidents Discuss John Paul's View of War

I originally posted these thoughts to In Today's News on April 8.

Amy Wellborn posted that day to a Newsweek article describing three U.S. president's discussing the late Holy Father's position on war and peace.

Actually, Clinton comes closest to understanding the late Holy Father's position, but still misses the mark somewhat.

I think he favored defensive wars, if you will, or wars in defense of innocent people being slaughtered. I think he thought that you shouldn't initiate war, even against oppressive people, unless there was some immediate human tragedy pending. That was the feeling I had in dealing with him.
Clinton is absolutely right that John Paul held the position that a nation should not initiate war, but that rule was absolute for John Paul and did not allow the exceptions Clinton implied.

However, John Paul did believe that an international body could initiate war if there "was some immediate human tragedy". Yet, even in this case, it could not be a "pending" tragedy.

Even in the cause of a humanitarian mission, an international body is bound by just war criteria not to act as an initiator of war until after non-violent resistance within the oppressed nation has been tried and failed, and all other diplomatic means have failed.

Here are the late Holy Father's own words from his January 2000 adress on the celebration of World Peace Day:
Clearly, when a civilian population risks being overcome by the attacks of an unjust aggressor and political efforts and non-violent defense prove to be of no avail, it is legitimate and even obligatory to take concrete measures to disarm the aggressor. These measures however must be limited in time and precise in their aims. They must be carried out in full respect for international law, guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized and, in any event, never left to the outcome of armed intervention alone.
The Pope would never have approved of the United States acting alone against Milosovich, as Clinton implies.

If he approved of our actions against Milosovich, it was because it met the criteria of being a defense of innocent persons, was an absolute last resort, and was authorized by an international body.

Nor would the Pope ever approve of pre-emptive action to "destroy a threat before it materializes" as G.W. Bush advocates.

According to John Paul's catechism, just war is always in defense against agression, minimally understood as an "imminent threat" that is "certain, lasting, and grave".

There are many other references to the late Holy Father's teaching on war as well as references to many of the bishops conferences and the Catechims and Scriptures in my article, Church Teaching on the War in Iraq.

In John Paul's doctrine of war, the intitiator of killing is by definition the agressor, and by definition, morally wrong. Such a notion as pre-emption is an offense against the dignity of human persons revealed in the incarnation event.

Under no circumstances whatsover could one nation inititate war against another nation in John Paul's collective statements on war.

It is never justified to be the first party to initiate war. Without using the term "intrinsically evil", the Pope made his position known through abundant statements that he meant always and everywhere.

Indeed, the "proportionalist" or "consequentialists" moral theologians who were criticized by John Paul because they did not believe anything could ever be called "intrinsically evil" did hold the position that torture and wars of aggressions were two evils that could be considered "virtually intrinsic evils".

You know you must be doing something wrong when John Paul, Ratzinger and the conservatives in the Vatican are condemning your actions, and the liberals on the farthest end of the theological spectrum away from the Vatican are also claiming that you are wrong.

By the way, if any Roman Catholic fighting in Iraq is conflicted in conscience over what I am writing, you do have a moral obligation to consider seriosuly and prayerfully laying down your arms!

I would support any soldier who did this.

If nothing the Pope or I say causes you a conflict in conscience, I hold no hard feelings against you and pray for your safety and quick return. We all must follow our own conscience. I can support the troops without supporting the war.

We must always and everywhere obey conscience over anything anyone else tells us to do.

Obedience to conscience is more important than obedience to the Pope or any military commander or civil law. The Church teaches that God speaks directly to us in the depths of consience!

If you feel a moral obligation to fight in Iraq in the deepest parts of your conscience, I respect that you must obey your conscience.

But when one person's conscience is saying one thing, and another person's is saying something contrary about the exact same issue, if it is one and the same God who is speaking in the depth of conscience, one of the two people is making a mistake in what they hear God saying.

It seems obvious to me in my own conscience that a well formed Roman Catholic conscience, prayerfully guided by natural law reasoning, the Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, and the authority of the ordinary and universal magisterium examining these teachings objectively should be very deeply troubled in conscience if fighting in Iraq.

April 10, 2005

Habitat for Humanity tidbits

A new Habitat for Humanity home is finished every 26 minutes, and more than 1 million people are living in homes built through Habitat.

If you live in Michigan, you might want to participate in Habitat's Jimmy Carter Work Project this summer, from June 19-24 in Benton Harbor and Detroit.

I volunteered for the local Habitat affiliate for more than five years and never came across a person I didn't like. So, if you are looking for a way to get to know folks, or to do something good and have fun while doing it, you might consider Habitat for Humanity. Even if you are not into building things, there are many other opportunities there that don't take you anywhere near a hammer - legal work, fundraising, feeding the on-site Habitat crew, being advocates for the Habitat families, public relations, web-site construction & management, and so on.

Building homes with Habitat fits nicely into a few Catholic social justice themes - Dignity of the human person (everyone deserves decent shelter/housing), Common Good and Community (home ownership is good for people and communities), Option for the poor (Habitat helps poor people own homes), and Economic justice (Habitat homes have no down payment and no-interest loans).

A while ago a friend dug-up some research on how Habitat for Humanity homes have affected their owners. The most surprising one to me was that someone was able to quantify the savings: $34,000. That is how much was saved in public expenditures related to juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, etc.

Of the adults in the homes:

  • 88% felt it made their families more stable
  • 90% felt more safe & secure

Of the children in those homes:

  • 25% more likely to graduate from high school
  • 116% more likely to go to college
  • 20% less likely to become teenage mothers
  • 10% more likely to attend church
  • 16% more likely to be involved in their schools & community

By the way, you can support Habitat for Humanity right here, or find your local Habitat group here.

April 01, 2005

Open Letter to Focus on the Family

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this open letter to Focus on the Family are solely the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Sollicitudo Rei Socialis or the opinions of any of the other contributing writers.

Dear Dr. Earll and Focus on the Family Staff:

I am writing to you regarding a troubling statement I read in an MSNBC news report. In that report, MSNBC said that Dr. Carrie Gordon Earll made the statement that Focus on the Family would continue to push for President Bush's judicial nominees. Apparently, this is offered to us as a remedy to the kind of euthanasia by omission that occurred recently in the case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. I take exception to Dr. Earll's implicit assertion that President Bush's judicial nominees will do any good in reversing the dangerous precedent which has been set for legal euthanasia in our nation, and I'll tell you why.

Put very simply, the majority of judges who ruled against the reinsertion of Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube were either elected Republicans, as was the case with Judge George Greer, or they were appointees of Republican Presidents. One of these Republican appointees who ruled against the reinsertion of Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube was Judge William Pryor, given a recess appointment to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by none other than President George W. Bush.

I offer the following facts for your review:

- That Judge George Greer is a conservative Republican, and former member of a Southern Baptist congregation;

- That the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which initially ruled against the reinsertion of Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube was made up of two judges appointed by President William Clinton and one judge appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and that one of the Clinton appointees ruled in favor of reinserting Schiavo's feeding tube while the other Clinton appointee and the Bush appointee ruled together that her feeding tube should not be reinserted;

- That when the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled not to reinsert Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube, those who ruled not to reinsert her feeding tube included six judges appointed by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush and four appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, and the two judges who ruled to reinsert Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube were appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford and Democratic President Bill Clinton;

- That when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold the appellate court's decision, seven of those justices were appointed by Republican Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, and two of those justices were appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton;

- And that two of these Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices were Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, whom President George W. Bush has proposed as the models for his judicial appointments.

While it is true that Judge James Whittemore of the Middle District Court of Florida was a Clinton appointee, and while it is also true that there are Clinton appointees throughout the history of this case, there are some basic facts which cannot be denied by Focus on the Family or by anyone else.

For instance, it cannot be denied that the judge responsible for it all, Judge George Greer, is not only a Republican, but also one of your own in that he was until very recently a member of a Southern Baptist congregation. It cannot be denied that if President George H.W. Bush's appointee to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled with Judge Wilson, a Clinton appointee, during the three-judge panel review of this case, Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube would have been reinserted at that time. It cannot be denied that if all of the judges appointed by Republican Presidents at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled to reinsert Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube, it would have been done. It cannot be denied that if all of the justices appointed by Republican Presidents at the Supreme Court had ruled to reinsert Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube, it would have been done.

And it cannot be denied that one of President George W. Bush's recess appointments to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was included in the majority which ruled not to reinsert Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube, that he merrily went along with the rest of his Republican colleagues at the appellate court in sentencing Terri Schindler-Schiavo to death by starvation and dehydration.

Yes, some of these judges and justices were appointed by Democratic Presidents. No, scratch that -- they were appointed by one Democratic President. But the majority of these judges and justices were appointed by a total of four different Republican Presidents, including our current President, George W. Bush. At least three of these Republican Presidents -- Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush -- have told us that they are unabashedly pro-life. Why, then, have the judges and justices they appointed been responsible for the execution of Terri Schindler-Schiavo? It's a question that needs to be immediately answered by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), President Bush, and the rest of the Republican leadership. Wouldn't you say?

While we anxiously await an answer from the Republican Party, my suggestion to Focus on the Family would be to consider support for President Bush's judicial nominees a little more carefully in light of Judge Pryor's actions. Along with many other appointees of Republican Presidents, Judge Pryor has issued the response of Pontius Pilate: "I am innocent of this woman's blood. See to her yourselves." Focus on the Family may not wish to associate itself with such a response.

Thank You and God Bless,
Nathan Nelson
Editor - Fides, Spes, Caritas
Contributing Writer - Sollicitudo Rei Socialis

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Note: David Schrader from Catholics for Bush has pointed out that we cannot discern, from the court order alone, the number of judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled against the Schindlers and the number who dissented. Thus, from the court order taken by itself, we cannot discern whether or not Judge Pryor voted with the majority against the Schindlers or with the minority of dissenting judges. Although I have raised the possibility of other sources of information contributing to the 10-2 vote tally, in the absence of any such information, I must admit the possibility that Judge Pryor dissented from the majority opinion -- even though I still maintain that the available evidence works in favor of my original assertion.