Church Politics

Catholic Politics

This is just a quick response to a story that I heard last week on NPR regarding how political and activist the Catholic Bishops were with the health care bill and the Stupak Amendment.

Many Americans have an extremely hard time understanding, or at least accepting, the role that the United States Bishops played in the health care reform debate. The question of the separation of church and state is thrown into the conversation and the amount of shock is incredible when people found out that bishops were talking with the Speaker of the House about the bill.

There’s a fundamental point that I think many people don’t think about in regards to this topic. Yes, religion and spiritual life are matters of the individual; however, there are not held exclusively by the individual. The article seemed to imply that the Catholic Bishops were lobbying on behalf of Catholics and that since many Catholics, so they claim, are not as pro-life as the USCCB, the Bishops are lobbying without actually having any followers.

First, our faith compels us to make things right in the world. From the Catholic perspective, life begins at the moment of conception–with all rights of personhood from that moment. The Catholic faith also proclaims the dignity of the human person and the fundamental right to natural life. Life should not be taken away whether it be by abortion, by murder, by suicide, by capital punishment, by denying food or water.

Making things right in the world includes ensuring access to reasonable health care to all people. Truly, it doesn’t matter your age, income level, employement status, immigration status. Everyone should have access to and ability to receive reasonable health care. (It also includes rights of workers, environmental stewardship, respect for natural law, etc, but those are different posts).

That being said, what about the point of the bishops speaking without followers. I think more Catholics are more pro-life than what the NPR article implied. I’ll digress by asking why quote someone from “Catholics for Choice” without any other Catholic opinion? Ignoring the internal church question regarding folks who are advocating for access to abortion, how many people belong to that organization compared to the number of Catholics involved in pro-life organizations? I do not have numbers to back me up, but I don’t think the Choice organizations are as big as implied.

But, okay, let’s give NPR the benefit of the doubt. BIshops are speaking to politicians without a single member of the faithful agreeing with their position. (Not the case in reality, but let’s go to the extreme). Even if that was the case, bishops have the duty to be teachers. They are not democratically-elected leaders paid to represent their flocks. Bishops are shepherds charged with the duty of leading their flock toward Christ through the faith handed down to us from Scripture and Tradition. Bishops are human; some do this better than others, but their mission is not to represent anyone besides Christ.

I think that’s what non-Catholic America can’t quite grasp about Catholicism. We’re Americans who love the democratic governance of our great land, but our bishops are here both to challenge and lead Catholics toward a deeper understanding of God–and how to live that out in our lives–and to live out that faith themselves, which leads them to doing whatever they can, individually and with their fellow bishops, to make this world a better place for the common good of all.


Is the President a Nerd?

Watch this to find out:

Personally, based on this, I think he is nerd enough for me.

Church Politics

President Obama Nominates Vatican Ambassador

From the White House:
Dr. Miguel Díaz is a Professor of Theology at St. John’s University and
the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota. He is the co-editor of the
book “From the Heart of Our People: Explorations in Catholic Systematic
Theology” and author of “On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian
Perspectives”, named “Best Book of the Year” by the Hispanic
Theological Initiative at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Díaz
taught Religious Studies and Theology at Barry University, the
University of Dayton and the University of Notre Dame. From 2001 to
2003, he taught and served as Academic Dean at St. Vincent de Paul
Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. He is a Board Member of
the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) and Past President
of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States
(ACHTUS). Dr. Díaz holds a B.A. from St. Thomas University and a M.A.
and PhD in Theology from the University of Notre Dame.
Austin Politics

Buy Liquor on Sundays (in TX)?

The Statesman has a story today about three bills proposed this year that would allow the sale of liquor on Sundays in Texas. Currently, liquor can be sold in stores to consumers Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It can not be sold on Sundays, New Year’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving or the Mondays that follow those holidays if they fall on a Sunday.

First, HB 863 proposed by Rep. Gutierrez would allow two new times to sell liquor: Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. and the Mondays following the prohibited holidays when they fall on a Sunday. This is the simplest bill proposed.
Second, HB 815 proposed by Rep. Gonzales and the identical SB 557 proposed by Sen. Hinojosa would add an exemption to the current law by allowing the counties that border MexicoPDF Icon to sell liquor between noon and 9 p.m.
The two House Bills were considered in a public hearing on March 25, 2009 in the Licensing and Administrative Procedures committee and awaits action. The Senate Bill was referred to the Business and Commerce committee awaiting any action.
Personally, I have no dog in this fight beyond curiosity. I’ve always lived in Texas so not being able to buy liquor on Sunday is the equivalent of not being able to sit down with a banker at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning–never known the world to be any different so it doesn’t bother me. I would, however, suggest that it should be statewide or nothing. Why should Mexican border counties get all of the fun?
Under the reasoning that folks will pass up stores in Texas for Mexico, then shouldn’t counties that border Louisiana be exempted as well as that state allows liquor sells 24-hours a day in supermarkets without the ability for a local parish (i.e. county) to restrict further or New Mexico as it allows Sunday sales when approved locally. North Texas would be out of luck as Oklahoma, in their state constitution, is much more restrictive than Texas and of the two counties in Arkansas that border Texas, one (Little River) is dry and the other (Miller) doesn’t allow liquor to be sold on Sundays.
I have a feeling that neither set of bills will gain much traction.

Texas Lege preparing to declare “Texas Is Sovereign!”

under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, of course.

In February, a House Concurrent Resolution was filed (HCR 50) to declare that the federal government has acted unconstitutionally by impeding Texas’ right to sovereignty under all things not otherwise covered in the Constitution.

Bill text, as originally introduced:

By: Creighton H.C.R. No. 50

WHEREAS, The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the
United States reads as follows: “The powers not delegated to the
United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”;

WHEREAS, The Tenth Amendment defines the total scope of
federal power as being that specifically granted by the
Constitution of the United States and no more; and

WHEREAS, The scope of power defined by the Tenth Amendment
means that the federal government was created by the states
specifically to be an agent of the states; and

WHEREAS, Today, in 2009, the states are demonstrably treated
as agents of the federal government; and

WHEREAS, Many federal laws are directly in violation of the
Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, The Tenth Amendment assures that we, the people of
the United States of America and each sovereign state in the Union
of States, now have, and have always had, rights the federal
government may not usurp; and

WHEREAS, Section 4, Article IV, of the Constitution says,
“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a
Republican Form of Government,” and the Ninth Amendment states that
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not
be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”;

WHEREAS, The United States Supreme Court has ruled in New
York v. United States, 112 S. Ct. 2408 (1992), that congress may not
simply commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the
states; and

WHEREAS, A number of proposals from previous administrations
and some now pending from the present administration and from
congress may further violate the Constitution of the United States;
now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 81st Legislature of the State of Texas
hereby claim sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise
enumerated and granted to the federal government by the
Constitution of the United States; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That this serve as notice and demand to the federal
government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective
immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these
constitutionally delegated powers; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That all compulsory federal legislation that
directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal
penalties or sanctions or that requires states to pass legislation
or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed; and, be it

RESOLVED, That the Texas secretary of state forward official
copies of this resolution to the president of the United States, to
the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the
senate of the United States Congress, and to all the members of the
Texas delegation to the congress with the request that this
resolution be officially entered in the Congressional Record as a
memorial to the Congress of the United States of America.

This measure, in as far as it says, I’m personally fine with it. The 10th Amendment of the Constitution is important and if any one or more of the States feel that their rights under the 10th are not being respected, they should speak up about it.

But, why is this all of the sudden news? The bill was filed in February and nothing has happened with it since that date, except a public hearing is scheduled on April 21st. Governor Rick Perry made a big announcement to the press, in support of the bill. Fine, let him do it.

This has, however, led to talk of seceding from the Union. Seriously? I’m truly more pro-Texan than the next guy. I love our Texas history. I celebrate Texas Independent Day. But, leaving the United States? Are things really that bad?

Of course not.

I’m glad that we’re not in the middle of our constitutionally-limited 140-day-every-other-year legislative session when there’s a million-and-one things to discuss and decide. Oh wait, yeah, we are.

What the hell? Seriously? We’re in the worst economic time of my young little life. We have large problems locally, with everything from traffic to drugs to immigration to school finance to job creation to medical coverage for youth and old and more to develop solutions, discuss, agree and decide to do–all of which must be finished in a month and a half–so we’re instead going to dedicate ink and thought to leaving the United States?

I suppose we won’t have to worry about Governor Perry running for President of the United States in 2012 since he may end up not being a citizen by the time that day comes.

Church Politics

Congrats New Mexico!

Last week, Vanessa and I were in Santa Fe on vacation. A couple of the headline’s mention that all eyes were on Governor Bill Richardson as he decided whether or not to sign a bill that would end the death penalty in the state.

New Mexico House Bill 285 (PDF Icon full-text, pdf) was signed, making New Mexico a death-penalty-free state. Well, rather, there will be no future sentences of death. According to The New York Times, only one person has been executed in New Mexico since 1960. The two men currently on death row are not impacted by this law; although, if the political climate allowed for the penalty to abolished, there is a realistic chance of neither reaching the injection table.

Via Whispers in the Loggia, according to the St. Louis Beacon, the Catholic bishops of the State had a great deal to do with discussing the situation with the Governor and helping him discern his choice. Without much public fanfare, the bishops conversed with the Governor and allowed him to make the decision for himself. I think this is a great example of the role our bishops can play in the political sphere. It’s up to each politician to vote their conscience, but up to the bishops to help inform that conscience.