View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama = Apostasy

(With thanks to Orthometer -

St Jerome

Sometimes we are drawn to saints in whom we see (or hope to see?) something of ourselves. They then give us hope, and provide models for our own Christian journey. If he can make it ...

St. Francis, St. Joseph and St. Thomas More are particular favorites of mine. I see bits of myself in them, and they provide wonderful role models.

I've also always had warm feelings for St. Jerome. Not for his intellectual, linguistic or scholastic prowess (much as I wish I had similar gifts), but rather for his tendencies toward bluntness, sarcasm and offending others.

I am good at those things as well - if "good" is the right word.

Even as I struggle with them, his life gives me hope. If he made it, maybe an old curmudgeon like me might have a chance if I keep at it.

And the story of him helping the lion with a thorny problem is one I've always appreciated. My students know well that I try to avoid hurting even the occasional bees, spiders and ants that wander into class, preferring to capture the critters (the insects, not the students) and let them back out a window. My dictum is that I try never to kill one of god's creatures unnecessarily.

Despite my ministrations, however, no bee, spider or ant has become devoted to me as that lion did to Jerome. Maybe I need to help out larger beasts. I could start with my middle schoolers!


After a random conversation with Daughter Bridget Saturday, I searched online for the address of Ken Osborn.

Ken and I were friends in college many years ago. I remember conversations about faith and St. Francis, and one night spent talking about Brother Sun, Sister Moon after viewing it. He had considered a vocation to the Franciscans, but discovered that his vocation lay more with the Secular Franciscans and marriage. He is my oldest daughter's godfather, and he used to stop by the house to visit. The girls knew him as "Uncle Cheese Doodle" because he always seemed to bring a bag with him.

Alas, we had not talked in 20 years or so, and he lives in another city. But our Secular Franciscan group is going to read Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. When I dug out my old copy, I discovered Ken had given it to us back when Clare was baptized.

I called the number I had found, and sure enough it was the right Ken.

He is still a Secular Franciscan, and was pleased to hear that I was exploring the order.

We talked about family, including spiritual concerns we both share. It was a good conversation.

Oh, and he's a Bills fan, too. 4-0!

Monday, September 29, 2008

McCain can't win!

McCain halts his campaign to try to help get a deal on the economic crisis - and gets mocked for it and told it's all grandstanding.

He shows up for a foreign policy debate at which he might excel, and half the debate is about the economy.

He helps to get some of the House Republicans to craft a compromise bail-out deal, but is quiet about it and is told he needs to speak up. He finally does, and the deal falls through making him look clueless and like a loser.

Did McCain mess with Karma or something??!

Watch, on Thursday Palin will get a sneezing fit or trip over a carpet in the middle of the debate.

It could be worse: The Mets could be eliminated from the playoffs.

Oh, right.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bigoted comment about Palin

Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings, in trying to rally Jewish people to Obama's cause: "If Sarah Palin isn’t enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention. Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through."



I watched or heard the bulk of the debate (I missed the earliest part because I was finishing up at a Secular Franciscan meeting).

I had mixed feelings about what I did see and hear. I think McCain won it on points, but barely. And given the supposed "edge" he had on foreign policy, it may not have been enough.

Both had gaffes and made factual errors.

Obama was vague and seemed shallow - and as a former radio announcer, his pauses and "ands" are starting to drive me nuts! - but for many people watching, he may have seemed okay enough for them to imagine him as President. Not good.

One bit jumped out at me though. When McCain mentioned the bracelet he was wearing, Obama jumped in and said he had a bracelet too - then couldn't remember the name of the person!

Southern Appeal posed this response to the Obama stumble, which I think is perfect:

Palin had better do better in her debate than she has been doing in interviews lately, and McCain really needs to hit stride in the next debate. A settlement of the Wall Street crisis this weekend - with McCain getting some credit (HEY Republicans - if you want your guy to win, you might want to pull out something fast!) would really help boost his chances.

40 Days for Life: First shifts

My old friend Carol Crossed and I served our first shifts at Planned Parenthood this morning as part of the 40 Days for Life campaign.

7 - 9 a.m. Just in time to greet some of the Planned Parenthood staff as they arrived. It drizzled a bit - but not bad. Even my car "assisted."

Two of the coordinators joined us for prayers, including the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Frank, one of the coordinators, reported that in addition to the woman in Rochester who changed her mind about getting an abortion the other day thanks to the campaign, a woman in Buffalo had also done so.

At least two lives saved in our two cities. More on the way? How many nationally?

We got a few honks and thumbs up from passing motorists. Otherwise, quiet - but it was early on a Saturday.

Interesting conversations between prayers - including life histories (Frank telling us about the abortion he'd been involved in decades ago and now deeply regrets, for example). And even though two of us had been involved with Democrats for Life, we wondered how any Catholic can vote for Obama with a clean conscience. We also thought that it would be great to buy a building for sale across from Planned Parenthood and open a pro-life coffee house to keep a presence there.

I think after two hours in the intermittent drizzle we had coffee on our minds!

(And life, of course!)

Bob George was smart, bringing a bar stool and some coffee of his own as he and Paul Duprey relieved us at 9.


Friday, September 26, 2008

40 Days stops an abortion

The local 40 Days for Life blog already reports a success - an abortion prevented:

Anne and Sue were quietly praying, After seeing several ladies going into PP, Sue felt it would be better to hold up the 40 Days for Life sign. A lady walked by and asked about the verse on the sign ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" Jeremiah 1:5). It turns out, this lady was on her way to PP to have an abortion! The lady felt that Anne and Sue were a sign to her not to have an abortion. She didn't go into PP and Sue drove her home!!! Praise be to God!!!

A life saved. Think of how many lives are being saved through this campaign.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

40 Days for Life in Rochester (2)

On this Feast of St. Padre Pio, I attended the kickoff rally for 40 Days for Life in Rochester. I think the good Capuchin would have approved.

The nationwide prayer campaign begins at midnight tonight and runs until November 2. The local effort will take place outside the Planned Parenthood Killing Center at 114 University Avenue here in Rochester.

The campaign has two goals, said local coordinator Joe Rivera: "To bring an end to abortion, but also to bring healing."

The Knight of Columbus cited national and local statistics, noting that it's important for people to realize how many babies die here. In our county, Monroe County, in 2006 (the latest figures available) there were 3,468 abortions. Planned Parenthood, the billion-dollar abortion business, accounted for more than 2,600 of those County deaths.

"This is a problem that will continue to grow unless we do something about it," he said.

The rally and prayer service featured prayers, a talk by a deacon on Margaret Sanger (Planned Parenthood's founder), and two women from Silent No More who talked movingly about their own abortions and the emotional/psychological/physical scars they left.

There was also a fiery talk by Father Joe Catanise (who's parish I'll be visiting for a Secular Franciscan Mass October 3).
"I truly believe you can't be Christian if you believe in abortion," Father declared.

He noted that we've heard many homilies on such topics as the death penalty and war - and rightly so - but not enough on abortion. "We've been silent too long."

He also offered encouragement.

"Remember: Believe in your heart that you are doing God's work."

I signed up for an hour shift this weekend (work gets in the way!). A friend saw that I had signed up and signed on with me. Then she asked if I would be willing to do a second hour with her. I happily agreed to do so.

Hey, it's doing God's work!

I'll be taking on additional shifts in the coming weeks.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

40 Days for Life in Rochester

Jose E. Rivera, the Campaign Coordinator for the 40 Days for Life in Rochester, left a comment on a previous post.

He wanted to make sure that any Rochester area readers know the kick-off rally for 40 Days for Life here in Rochester is 5:30 p.m. this Tuesday, September 23, at Our Lady of the Americas Church on Main Street. (The church used to be called Corpus Christi.)

The peaceful prayer vigils start on the 24th and will run through November 2 at the Planned Parenthood Killing Center on University Avenue.

I hope to make the rally, and plan to take part in the vigils.

One side note: Rivera is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, has written an open letter to Democratic VP Candidate Joe Biden, a pro-choice Catholic, urging him to reconsider his views on the issue.

I liked one part in particular: "You have a choice: you can listen to your conscience and work to secure the rights of the unborn to share in the fruits of our hard-won liberty, or you can choose to turn your back on them."

Let' see, more than a million K of C members. With spouses, well over a million potential voters.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interesting Timothy verse

While listening to Catholic radio this morning, I overheard a conversation with a Protestant pastor who converted. One of the verses he said that helped in the process was one that he said he had not "seen" before back when he believed that "the pillar and bulwark of truth" is the Bible.

"I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of the God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth." - I Timothy 2: 14-15

He realized that Paul is talking about the Church as the pillar and bulwark, and not the Bible. That helped to undermine his Protestant beliefs in the Bible alone and eventually to lead him to the Church.

It took a Bible-knowing Protestant turned Catholic to help open his eyes. How many of us cradle Catholics know our Bible well enough to point to the right verses in such discussions? I certainly am humbled when I encounter such knowledge.

I must reread Colossians for the SFO meeting to see what I missed!

Obama in your face

“I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face.” - Barack Obama

Hmm. Politics of Change? Or Politics of Change - Or Else?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Obama's Sex ed for kids

The Illinois Review looked at the controversial sex education bill that Barack Obam supported. The Obama claims that it was only about inappropriate touching - thus to prevent sex abuse.

But the Review alleges that the bill used the SEICUS standards and so went far beyond what Obama's campagin claims.

Here are a few parts of those standards:

Developmental Messages: Level 1 (ages 5-8)
• Each body part has a correct name and a specific function.
• A person’s genitals, reproductive organs, and genes determine whether the person is male or female.
• A boy/man has nipples, a penis, a scrotum, and testicles.
• A girl/woman has breasts, nipples, a vulva, a clitoris, a vagina, a uterus, and ovaries.
• Some sexual or reproductive organs, such as penises and vulvas, are external or on the outside of the body while others, such as ovaries and testicles, are internal or inside the body.
• Both boys and girls have body parts that feel good when touched.
• Vaginal intercourse – when a penis is placed inside a vagina – is the most common way for a sperm and egg to join.(Page 26)

Developmental Messages, Level 1 (ages 5-8)
• Most children are curious about their bodies.
• Bodies can feel good when touched.
(Page 51.)

Topic 2:Masturbation
Subconcept: Masturbation is one way human beings express their sexuality.
Developmental Messages:Level 1
• Touching and rubbing one’s own genitals to feel good is called masturbation.
• Some boys and girls masturbate and others do not.
• Masturbation should be done in a private place.(Pages 51-52)

Topic 3:Shared Sexual Behavior
Subconcept: Individuals express their sexuality with a partner in diverse ways.
Developmental Messages:Level 1
• People often kiss, hug, touch, and engage in other sexual behaviors with one another to show caring and to feel good.
(Page 52)
Topic 5:Human Sexual Response
Subconcept: Female and male bodies respond both similarly and differently to sexual stimulation.
Developmental Messages:Level 1
• Both girls and boys may discover that their bodies feel good when touched.
(Page 54)

Sounds like a bit more than what the Obama campaign is claiming.

See the article and links to SEICUS at

Kitty Litter Cake

Yes, you read that right - Kitty Litter Cake.

From the spiritual to, well, middle school.

The first recipe we tackled in food and nutrition class was this unique concoction consisting white cake, chocolate cake, crumbled cookies, pudding, green food coloring, and softened shaped Tootsie rolls.


My middle schoolers loved it.

Secular Franciscans and Colossians

While waiting for the official book to be tackled in formation to come in (Francis and Clare: The Complete Works), we are reading Paul's Letter to the Colossians.

The St. Paul connection is there in this Pauline year, so perhaps that is the reason for reading one of his letters. But is there a particular Franciscan connection to Colossians? I plead ignorance.

The issues of false teachers, questionable spiritual beliefs (placating spirits) and ascetical practices have resonance today.

The verse, "Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry." (3, 5) certainly touches on issues with which I struggle.

The next meeting is next Friday - the night before the Rochester Chesterton conference. A full weekend indeed!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Abortion - Obama

Check out this ad by Gianna Jessen - whom I once interviewed - who was aborted, but lived. Obama opposed a bill that, if it had been in place when Jessen was born, would have meant her death.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lay Preacher = No Contributions

I have always been a faithful financial supporter of my parish. No more - for now.

The issue is over preaching.

The guidelines from the U.S. Bishops are clear: the Homily is reserved for the priest or deacon, not lay people.

Preaching the Word of God is among the principal duties of those who have received the sacrament of orders (can. 762-764). The lay faithful can be called to cooperate in the exercise of the Ministry of the Word (can. 759). In accord with canon 766 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops hereby decrees that the lay faithful may be permitted to exercise this ministry in churches and oratories, with due regard for the following provisions:

If necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems useful in particular cases, the diocesan bishop can admit lay faithful to preach, to offer spiritual conferences or give instructions in churches, oratories or other sacred places within his diocese, when he judges it to be to the spiritual advantage of the faithful.

In order to assist the diocesan bishop in making an appropriate pastoral decision (Interdicasterial Instruction, Ecclesiae de Mysterio, Article 2 §3), the following circumstances and cases are illustrative: the absence or shortage of clergy, particular language requirements, or the demonstrated expertise or experience of the lay faithful concerned.

The lay faithful who are to be admitted to preach in a church or oratory must be orthodox in faith, and well-qualified, both by the witness of their lives as Christians and by a preparation for preaching appropriate to the circumstances.

The diocesan bishop will determine the appropriate situations in accord with canon 772 §1. In providing for preaching by the lay faithful the diocesan bishop may never dispense from the norm which reserves the homily to the sacred ministers (can. 767 §1; cf. Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, 26 May 1987, in AAS 79 [1987], 1249). Preaching by the lay faithful may not take place within the Celebration of the Eucharist at the moment reserved for the homily.

Lay people can preach under special circumstances, but only with prior permission of the Bishop, and not at the time of the Homily.

At my parish, unfortunately, the pastor has decided to permit a lay person to preach in place of the Homily on a regular basis. (She's actually a better preacher than any of the priests are!)

Now granted, he is the only priest assigned to the parish - there are two retired priests in residence, but they are often at other parishes substituting. On the other hand, he is not entirely alone when it comes to preaching duties: There is also a deacon assigned to the parish.

I do feel bad for the pastor, who seems at times almost overwhelmed. He is loaded up with administrative duties, a slew of funerals, the loss of a school in the recent Diocesan closings, and decreasing attendance - so he's go a lot on his mind.

But preaching is a major duty that should not just be divested by a priest on his own volition.

I have seen services in which both the priest and deacon are present sitting on the altar, and still the lay preacher preaches in the spot reserved for the homily.

I approached the pastor about this, and asked if she had been approved by the bishop or gone through the diocesan process. He said no. I then pointed out the regulations. His response was a frustrated, "Do you expect me to preach every week?"

Well, yeah, that is part of your job description. I hate grading papers, but that's part of my job as a teacher, so I do it.

When she preached again, I spoke to another staff member. I was told it was what the pastor decided.

The next time the lay person preached, I pocketed my weekly envelope. I then wrote out a donation for the same amount to a Church-related charity.

It happened again this past Sunday. Another pocketed check. Another donation going out elsewhere.

I have decided that until this situation changes, I will be continue sending my contributions elsewhere whenever she preaches. Catholic Family Center. Women's Place. Andrew's Center. Mt Carmel House. The American Chesterton Society. I will also help out individual parish programs. I'm sure they will be happy.

I will, of course, let the pastor know what I am doing and why. I will also contact the parish council, and I will also let him know that I plan to contact the diocese.

I could just leave the parish, but I don't want to. I am heavily involved in the music ministry there in a way I have not been able to be elsewhere. Maybe that's selfish. But I also like the people at the parish, and so much else going on there. And given the way things are in other area parishes, I'm going to run into issues elsewhere as well.

Sometimes being an orthodox Catholic is not easy. But then, Jesus kind of warned us about that.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Strong boys

My Uncle Jack and Cousin Don came to visit my father at the nursing home over the last couple of days.

Don lost his wife, Sunny, after a long battle with cancer, and is visiting relatives around the country. I haven't seen him in decades, and had only met Sunny once. I found a couple of pictures of Don and Sunny among the photos I'd retrieved from Mom and Dad's house. I gave them to Don today.

I met with Jack and Don for breakfast, then we went to see Dad and played euchre. Dad and Jack beat Don and me. Grr.

Above, from left, Jack, Dad, Don, me. With Uncle Bob, Cousin Jimmy and my brother John all dead, we are the last surviving Strong men of our respective generations. There are no male children that I'm aware of bearing the Strong name, so we four are in all likelihood the end of the Strong line in our family tree.
I think Dad was in heaven having so many relatives about. Winning at cards probably helped too!

First Secular Franciscan Order meeting

I attended my first meeting of one of the Secular Franciscan Order groups last night.

This group - the Glory of Yahweh - meets twice a month at Mt. Carmel House, a hospice. One meeting is a prayer meeting, the other is devoted to ongoing formation. Last night's meeting was the monthly prayer meeting.

It began with music and singing, with each song followed by spontaneous prayer that reminded me of Charismatic Renewal services I used to attend years ago. After the meeting I asked some of the members, and sure enough a number of the people had been Charismatics, and the group had grown out of that movement.

The meeting continued with some readings from the Bible or Franciscan documents, and shared reflections.

It concluded with prayers.

There was much that was familiar. The Charismatic style of prayer, for example. And most of the people seemed to be in my age range or older, so there's a shared Church history and experience.

And it's ironic that the group meets at Mt. Carmel, a place I have supported financially for years. I learned that they used to meet at St. Theodore's, but left during a time of change at the parish - a time when the Good-Looking-One and I also left the parish for a while because we were not happy with some of the things going on (we have returned).

Interesting. I have much to think about. I may attend a few more meetings as a visitor before deciding whether to commit. If I do commit, the formation process would take about two years - 2010. And it would involve a real commitment of time. But then, it is a vocation.

Is it a vocation for me? With the priesthood and the diaconate closed to me it is certainly a possible one for me as a layman. And I've always had a devotion to St. Francis, whom I consider my patron saint (I am Lee Francis, after all). I do need spiritual growth, and this is one path to help with that.

I have some praying to do.


Obama - mocks McCain for disability

The Obama campaign unveiled a campaign ad mocking John McCain for being computer illiterate.

One problem with the computer dig - McCain CAN'T use keyboards - or tie his own shoes or comb his own hair - for a physical reason: His war injuries.

So it's not a matter of being out of touch. It's a matter of physical disability. Are the Democrats making fun of him for that??? That's pretty low.

McCain actually does know computer technology. He gets around his physical limitations in various ways, including reading e-mails with an aid or his wife and dictating responses for them to type.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

On this day, let us pray for those who died on September 11 - both victims and perpetrators.

And let us pray for healing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin should have aborted, eh?

From Politico:

-- South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler sharply attacked Sarah Palin today, saying John McCain had chosen a running mate " whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”

Say what?? If she'd had an abortion would she be better qualified?

Don't the Obama supporters see that they are self-destructing? Obama keeps blowing opportunities, Biden misstates Catholic teachings and draws the bishops' rebuke, then says Obama might have been better off with Hillary Clinton?
Wow. I've never seen a campaign like this.

Bishops respond to Biden

I figured something like this was coming after Senator Joe Biden did a Pelosi and distorted Church teachings about abortion:

WASHINGTON-Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:

Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press”. On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.

Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.

However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect Catholic teaching. The Church teaches that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.

The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception. The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.

The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. Even this is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into the moral “haves” and “have-nots,” and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.

While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.


I bolded a couple of sections.

I notice that Biden did not show up for the installation of his new Bishop, perhaps recognizing that it would be awkward given the situation.

Meanwhile, Biden has also stepped over Church teachings to support stem cell research, even attempting to use it as a weapon against the Governor Sarah Palin.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Biden - insert foot

Reacting to Republican discussion of assistance for special needs children and their families - in the context of the Palin's child with Down syndrome - Joe Biden said:

“I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have … the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability. Well guess what folks? If you care about it, why don’t you support stem cell research?”

Um, first, stem cell will not help to treat Down syndrome.

Second, embryonic stem cell research is against the teachings of the Catholic Church, a Church he claims to belong to. A Church that operates programs around the world to help children, the poor, the neglected, the rejected. During a church-group visit to Haiti, for example, I spent time in a children's center run by Mother Teresa's order. Is he saying she did not care?

So again, Biden is going against Church teachings.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Biden - one of the reasons why ...

On Meet the Press Sunday, Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden followed the lead of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in misrepresenting what a "Catholic" politician is supposed to do about abortion.

Asked about what he'd tell Senator Obama about when life begins, he said:

SEN. BIDEN: I'd say, "Look, I know when it begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths--Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others--who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life--I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society. And I know you get the push back, "Well, what about fascism?" Everybody, you know, you going to say fascism's all right? Fascism isn't a matter of faith. No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea.

MR. BROKAW: But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you've also voted for abortion rights...

SEN. BIDEN: No, what a voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it's a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in "Summa Theologia," when Thomas Aquinas wrote "Summa Theologia," he said there was no--it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception. How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that's the reason I haven't. But then again, I also don't support a lot of other things. I don't support public, public funding. I don't, because that flips the burden. That's then telling me I have to accept a different view. This is a matter between a person's God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves in what is always a--and what we're going to be spending our time doing is making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children.

--- So basically he admits that he believes a child is there - a human being - but in the interest of getting along, he can accept killing the child? Wow.

He's ignoring the fact that the Church teaching against abortion has been consistent, and that the Aquinas comment is avoiding the real issue. He is in violation of Church teachings. Period. So he can't claim Catholic in good standing.

I wonder if he'd have used the same argument to not do the right thing about slavery in the 1850s, about discrimination against Blacks in the 1950s, against Nazi persecution of the Jewish people?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Francis and the larks: Haiku

Assisi sunset -
an exaltation of larks
welcome Francis home

(St. Francis died at sunset. Witnesses say that a flock - an exaltation - of larks gathered where he was dying and sang, even though larks are normally not about at that time of day. One of the most famous stories about his is his preaching to the birds.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Wanting to get away from hurricanes and politics, the Good-Looking-One and I decided to watch a movie last night. I had recently found a copy of Brother Sun, Sister Moon at the local Catholic shop - a movie I had not seen in years, and which she had never seen.

Ah yes, the hippie saint - at least as he appears in this 1973 Franco Zeffirelli film. (He had previously done Romeo and Juliet, and would later do Jesus of Nazareth; you'll see some familiar faces and techniques in this film if you've seen those two movies.)

But there were some "hippie" aspects to St. Francis - the innocence, the idealism, the joy, the love of nature - and this film captures that. The cinematography is beautiful (typical of Zeffirelli), and as it was filmed near Assisi you get a sense of some of the beautiful landscape - all those flowers! - Francis would have seen.

Sure, the movie is incomplete. It only focuses on the early days, leaving out the illnesses, the failures, the struggles in the order, the stigmata. It only goes up to the point when Francis and his followers go to Rome to meet with Pope Innocent III (played by Alec Guinness).
One could also argue, however, that The Passion of the Christ only focused on one horrific but magnificent period in Jesus' life. The purpose of the film - as was true of Passion - was to focus on one part of the story, not the whole story.

Brother Sun also takes some liberties with the facts - as do most such biopics. (I've heard that 1989's Francesco is fairly accurate, but I haven't seen that one yet.)

As seemingly "light" as it is, BSSM does allude to deeper issues: The bloated, materialistic parts of the Church that Francis would help to reform, the dangers of trying to live the Gospel message (with the church Francis and his followers were rebuilding being attacked and one of his followers being killed), the love of material wealth built by exploiting and abusing workers, the neglect of the poor.

But the point of the movie was capturing the spirit of Francis, "The Joyful Beggar."

It succeeded. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. It might especially appeal to teens (if they haven't been too jaded by television and so-called "realistic" teen fare).


Pro-abortion gangs target Palin

I hadn't planned to write about Palin, but spotted this little news item:

"... Three major advocates of abortion rights are planning to spend nearly $30 million to defeat John McCain's run for president, citing his new running mate as the core reason, The Hill reports.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood and EMILY's List plan to spend $30 million, combined, to defeat McCain's presidential run, citing his anti-abortion running mate as the main reason. ..."

They really are scared!

Meanwhile, various networks - such as the Obama Fan Club at MSNBC - have been fighting back trying to counter charges that they have been biased in their coverage of Palin. It's been fun watching them get flustered and angry, and caught again and again. The Buchanan/Matthews exchange was priceless. But my favorite moment was when Chris Matthews was questioning a Democratic operative and his convoluted and lengthy question was such an obvious attempt to frame the response that even Matthews recognized it and quipped that he was doing the Democratic operative's job! Yes Chris, you were, and you have been.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Palin Speech: Good, but ...

I actually stayed up to hear Governor Sarah Palin's speech (my normal school night bedtime is about 9:30).

I think she dispelled fears that she was lightweight, or would cave under the anti-Palin onslaught (MSNBC - the Obama network - leading the way).

She was funny and articulate, and began to address issues (such as energy policy, about which she has knowledge) and foreign affairs. Yes, I know she had help writing the speech, but that's a common practice so I don't hold that against her. Moreover, no matter how well-written, a speech needs to be well-delivered for it to work - and she certainly did a great job. Her accent - Midwest? -and folksy style played well. If she campaigns a lot in Western states and places like Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, she may help to give those states to McCain. I think she will really appeal to moderates, conservatives, and small town folks.

My quibbles:

It went a bit long. It was as if she was trying to pack too many different things in.

There are some issues she could have addressed to counter some of the attacks. For example, she used the Bridge to Nowhere story again, but she could have addressed the flip-flop charge by saying something like, "Yes, when I was campaigning for governor, I supported the project. But once elected, once I saw the overall budget and the needs across the state, I realized that bridge was not the best way to use to money, so I decided against it. That's not a flip flop - that's showing judgment and leadership."

She only indirectly alluded to abortion when she talked about the birth of her fifth child, who has Down syndrome. It was nice to see her reach out to families with special needs children. Still, I would have liked to have seen something more direct.

My biggest problem, though, is she got too sarcastic and sometimes unfair in her attacks on Obama. Her tone didn't cross the line into outright nastiness, but it came close. It made me wonder what's going to happen on the campaign trail as voters and reporters challenge her. How will she respond?

Still, overall it was a good, solid, even inspiring speech. She gave herself and the campaign a real boost. Two weeks ago, I would have said the odds were in Obama's favor. Now, I think McCain might just have an edge. And if the energy he's shown since picking her continues, if the enthusiasm among his supporters continues to grow, and if she performs on the road the way she has so far, I think we may just have our first woman Vice President.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Obama - Abortion

Politico is reporting this is an ad shipped by the Obama campaign:

OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, candidate for president, and I approved this message.

VAL BARON: As a nurse practitioner with Planned Parenthood, I know abortion is one of the most difficult decisions a woman will ever make. I'm Val Baron. Let me tell you: If Roe v Wade is overturned, the lives and health of women will be put at risk. That's why this election is so important. John McCain's out of touch with women today. McCain wants to take away our right to choose. That's what women need to understand. That's how high the stakes are.

ANNCR: As president, John McCain will make abortion illegal. McCain says quote, "I do not support Roe v. Wade. It should be overturned." And listen to McCain's answer on Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: "A constitutional amendment to ban all abortions. You're for that?"
McCAIN: "Yes, sir."

VAL BARON: We can't let John McCain take away our right to choose. We can't let him take us back.

ANNCR: Paid for by Obama for America.

( - "Obama's abortion attack")

Now I have not heard the ad - NY is not a swing state and airplay here is unlikely. But if the Politico reporting is accurate, it's just another instance of Obama's ties to abortion and Planned Parenthood. Think back to his "punish with a baby" comment when supporting abortion, his "above my pay grade" comment at Saddleback, and his opposition to a bill to provide medical assistance to aborted children born alive and his lies about his vote on that issue.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day - back to work (almost)

There's a certain irony that Labor Day is the last day of summer vacation for teachers in New York state. Tomorrow, back to school starting off with middle schoolers at 8 a.m.

Today, I did some lesson plans, then the Good-Looking-One and I went up to Lake Ontario for a end-of-summer walk on the pier and along the beach.

Lots of people. Lots of boats.

Lots of birds.
One of the things we talked about was my going back to teach at a Catholic high school eventually (as opposed to staying for the 13-17 years until retirement at the Christian school where I teach). The Christian school pays better than the Catholic schools (sad), so it would be a pay cut. And the people there have been very fair and supportive.
On the other hand, I am Catholic, and it would be nice to be in a Catholic environment.
It's something to think about.
But not tonight. Students tomorrow!

St. Francis and light

Francis embraced all things with an unheard of love and devotion, speaking to them of the Lord and exhorting them to praise Him. He spared lights, lamps, and candles, refusing to be responsible for extinguishing their light which he saw as a symbol of the eternal Light.
- from Celano's second life of St. Francis.