Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Not Just Bigoted, but Insane — That’s Me

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

As a defender of the authentic definition of marriage — one man, one woman — I’m used to being called a “bigot” by advocates of same-sex “marriage”. After all, calling someone a “bigot” is easy. It reduces the debate to the schoolyard level of name-calling, and frees one of the need to actually engage in rational debate about real issues. Given the ease with which the term “bigot” is thrown around these days, it also has virtually no meaning whatsoever. It basically now means “someone whom I disagree with and dislike so much that I won’t even dignify their arguments with a response, so there”.

I’m also used to same-sex “marriage” advocates calling the defenders of authentic marriage “irrational”. Because, don’t you know, no reasonable, rational human being could possibly believe that marriage has the meaning that every human society has ever undertood it to have, and that nobody ever doubted until about twenty years ago. And forget about the fact that several high courts — including the New York State Court of Appeals — has held that there was a rational basis for holding to the real definition of marriage. In the lexicon of the same-sex “marriage” advocates, “irrational” now means “an argument that I disagree with so much that I won’t dignify it with a response, so there”.

Well, now a new phase of the “debate” has been reached, in which defenders of authentic marriage are suspected of being insane. People have suspected that of me for years, but now it is being confirmed.

It started with a profile in the Style section of the Washington Post of a man named Brian Brown, who is the executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, the leading advocacy group that defends authentic marriage. Mr. Brown was given a reasonably fair treatment by the WaPo, including this back-handed compliment: “The reason Brian Brown is so effective is that he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane.” The headline of the piece follows the same theme: “Opposing Gay Unions with Sanity & a Smile”.

Well, then all hell broke loose from the forces of “tolerance”. The WaPo was deluged with outraged letters from same-sex “marriage” advocates, who were enraged that the paper could possibly portray such a “bigot” in a positive light. Finally, the “ombudsman” of the paper (the man with the thankless job of reviewing the fairness and professionalism of the journal’s stories) published a response. The details are not worth talking about, but here’s the most important line:

Finally, the headline: “Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile.” To many readers, The Post was saying Brown’s views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.

So, one of the leading newspapers of the mainstream media thinks that it should be neutral about whether or not defenders of authentic marriage are insane. Read that again — they’re not sure that we’re sane to insist that “marriage” means a man and a woman, joined in a union that is dedicated not just to their well-being but to the procreation and education of children. They think it’s entirely possible that all of us — Pope Benedict and every Catholic bishop, President Obama, the great majority of public officials in our country, the vast majority of other religious communities, solid majorities of citizens, and every human being until twenty years ago — are bonkers, loony-tunes, loopy, crazy, wacko. An entire nation and world of insane people.

What a state of affairs that we can no longer have a rational discussion of this issue, but must instead deal with slurs on our sanity and integrity. This bodes ill for what will happen if same-sex “marriage” advocates get what they want. We will be attacked by discrimination cases, our licenses to practice our professions and operate institutions like schools and charity agencies will be endangered, and we will all be stigmatized as “bigots”.

When the entire world goes insane, sanity will be re-defined as insanity. I guess the final step will be for them to go to court and have us all involuntarily committed.

The Tragedy and Poverty of Abortion

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

If only this message had gotten through to the readers of the New York Times.

There has been an unbearably sad series of articles in the Times recently — an online discussion (in, of all places, the parenting blog) of a woman who is in the process of deciding to have an abortion because her masters degree program was too inflexible to accommodate her pregnancy.

Leave aside for a moment that discrimination against a student on grounds of pregnancy is illegal under federal and state civil rights laws. What’s so troubling about these articles is that a person is missing from the discussion – the unborn child.

The mother writes eloquently about her life, her dreams, her desires for the graduate program of her dreams, the good she can do if she can complete her degree. But precious little eloquence for what the child might be able to do, or the love that they will bring to others, if she is just allowed to live. She does acknowledges that she’s carrying a child — although she calls her a “zygote” and nicknames her “Ziggy”. But she’s planning on the abortion anyway.

Two lines in particular jumped off the screen to me and drove right into my heart:

The people I thought I could rely on are absent and it’s heartbreaking.

How sad that an expectant mother is brought to a point where she can say this. I sometimes think that every abortion is an indictment of our failure to support the pregnant mother. What did we fail to do that led this woman to this conclusion?

Her other tragic comment:

I firmly believe that there’s nothing to regret here and we didn’t do anything wrong. Birth control fails. People get scared. They underestimate themselves and each other. Everything will be okay.

Well, perhaps she thinks so now. But someday, it won’t seem that way, and she’ll have to face the reality of what she did. Fortunately, for those who have experienced abortion there is always hope, at the Sisters of Life, Abortion Changes You or Lumina. We should pray that she avails herself of the hope and healing they offer.

Let me close by getting personal for a second. I have two graduate degrees, one of which is about as fancy as you can get — a law degree from Harvard. That’s very nice, and my life has definitely been enriched by it. But Peggy and I lost three babies before birth. And I have to tell you — I would trade any of my degrees, and anything else I have ever owned or will ever own, for even one of those babies to have survived just long enough for me to hold them in my arms.

How sad it is that someone can judge that a college degree is worth ending someone’s life. And even sadder is that people encourage that way of thinking.

That is poverty, and it is tragedy, and it is all too common in our world today.

An Exchange of Correspondence

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

This morning, I read a piece online that aggravated me, and in my daily email circular I said the following:

Fr. James Martin, SJ, editor of America magazine, completely flubbed what it means to be pro-life on national TV the other day. He hasn’t gotten the memo about the uniqueness and centrality of abortion as a social justice issue, and the way he speaks about pro-lifers makes me wonder what kind of pro-lifers he knows (“for a lot of people in the pro-life movement, life begins at conception, but seems to end there” — does this describe anyone any of us knows?). Perhaps he might find the time to re-read “Living the Gospel of Life” by the US Bishops, or visit the Sisters of Life to see what real pro-lifers are like. Or he might check into what Bishop Finn (you remember him, a strong critic of NDU) is up to — leading a prayer vigil as Missouri resumes executions.

I apologize to Fr. Martin for being so snarky in the email, which is a perfect illustration of one of my primary spiritual faults — lack of charity in thought and speech. Anyway, one of the people I sent this to was Mary DeTurris Poust, who posted about it on her blog on Our Sunday Visitor’s website, and gave credit to me for the tip.

This afternoon, I received an email from Fr. Martin, and I thought it would be interesting to share his email and my response:

Dear Mr. Mechmann,
Peace be with you! I had an email from a reader who said that Ms. Poust from OSV had linked to your blog in which you had concerns about some of my comments on CNN the other day.
By way of a friendly response, here is the response I sent to Ms. Poust. Feel free to post it, if you feel it would help.
Yours in Christ,
James Martin, SJ

Many thanks for your frank comments, which certainly calls for a friendly response. And I hope you don’t mind if I take a few paragraphs to do this. I think it’s always healthy when, to paraphrase St. Paul, we can call another Christian to give an explanation for himself and his faith, so that’s what I’ll do.

First of all, I am unabashedly pro-life. And in case people think I’m being artfully evasive I mean this: I believe in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

However, as you could see from the CNN show, I also believe that some in the pro-life movement (defined broadly) sometimes downplay the non-abortion parts of the pro-life tradition: that is, the death penalty, war, feeding the hungry, euthanasia, and so on. These are also important “life” issues. Moreover, I believe that you can be firmly pro-life, as I am, and not agree with the precise strategies, noble as they are, of every quarter of the pro-life movement in reaching our common goals.

That is, you don’t have to violently disagree with the Notre Dame decision in order to be pro-life. Nor do you have to speak the use the same language, pursue the same political goals or, in general, do the same things, in order to sincerely and ardently work for an end to abortion.

Overall, what I was trying to call for–and perhaps I could have done this more articulately–was what we called for in our America magazine editorial of a few weeks back, which was: charity towards not simply those who are not in the pro-life camp, but perhaps more importantly, charity and fellowship with our fellow pro-lifers who disagree on how to reach our common goal. Only in this way will we all reach that goal, with God’s help.

In any event, I hope you take this friendly comment as a sign of our common reverence for the sanctity of all life that God has created.

Please do keep me in your prayers.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. James Martin, SJ

Here is the rather lengthy email I sent back to him:

Dear Fr. Martin –

Thank you very much for your email, and your very generous comments. I certainly understand the points you are raising, and I agree with what you say. I have no doubt whatsoever that you are unabashedly pro-life. I also have no doubt that the pro-life movement should speak more about other important issues, such as torture and the ways in which the war is being conducted.

However, I have to say that several things you said in your comments on CNN were disturbing to me, and I wish you hadn’t said them.

I though that your comment that “for a lot of people in the pro-life movement, life begins at conception, but seems to end there” was unjust. I have been very active in the pro-life movement for many years, and I don’t believe that there is a single person — much less “a lot of people” — I know to whom that description would apply. I find it hard to believe that you know any person who fits that description. Even the most tiresome and offensive pro-lifers I have encountered would not fit that description. I thought that this comment was especially disappointing from a man of such obvious charity as yourself. You are certainly aware that pro-lifers are routinely denigrated in the popular media, and our arguments — and even our good faith — are not shown much respect. While I am absolutely certain that you do not share those views, I thought that comment was an unfair caricature of pro-life people, and I wish it hadn’t been said on national television.

I also think that you should recognize that there actually are some people who are “pro-abortion”, including public officials who consider abortion to be a specially-protected right that is to be defended and advanced at all costs. I am sure you are familiar with the parallels between the current situation and the debate between Lincoln and Douglass. I do not think — and Lincoln certainly did not think — that it is unfair in any way to say that Senator Douglass was functionally “pro-slavery” — he opposed all efforts to restrict it legally, he supported the Dred Scot decision, he supported the right of the people to expand slavery into new territories, and he favored the Fugitive Slave laws. How can it be said that a man with those positions was not in favor of the practice of slavery, at least as a matter of public policy? In the same way I think it is perfectly fair to say that people who unconditionally favor and promote the unlimited abortion license of Roe v. Wade, and wish to spread that regime to all countries are functionally “pro-abortion”. Honestly, you should read some of the President’s expansive statements on his commitment to “a woman’s right to choose”, or consider his comment that he would not want his daughter “punished” by an unwanted child. Whatever may be his private judgments about abortion, the reality is that functionally, as a matter of public policy, he is in favor of the unlimited right to abortion — he is “pro-abortion”. Or, if you prefer to take it out of the realm of politics, consider such people as the Episcopal clergywoman — and head of a seminary — who has called abortion a “blessing”. She’s “pro-abortion” not just as a matter of public policy — she believes it’s a positive good. It’s nice to believe that nobody is actually committed to such an evil as abortion, and it says a lot about your good will that you think so. But sadly, there are such people, and we do ourselves no favors by pretending that they do not favor what they manifestly do favor.

I also believe that the Notre Dame situation was not the time or the place or the context to talk about the seamless garment approach to issues. The President actually does very poorly on more strands of that garment than just abortion — he favors the death penalty; he favors cloning and destructive embryo research; he favors the targeted executions being conducted via unmanned drone, which cause considerable civilian casualties; he favors aggressive programs to encourage the use of contraceptives, including so-called “emergency contraception”, which can have an abortifacient effect; his anti-war positions have undergone considerable “evolution” since his election; his comments on health care make me very worried about where he will come out on rationing, which is the equivalent of passive euthanasia. Even if one were to concede that all his other policies are “pro-life” in a broader seamless garment sense, they cannot overcome the iniquity of his deplorable stance on abortion and other life issues. Surely you are familiar with the US Bishops’ document “Living the Gospel of Life”, which said “Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care… But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.” Certainly Cardinal Bernadin would have agreed with that, but I think your comments failed to present it clearly enough.

On a personal note, Father, I hope that you do not take my disagreement with your comments in any way other than as a fraternal disagreement over tactics and modes of presentation. I also hope that I have expressed myself in a way that does not offend against charity. I am very, very loathe to publicly criticize a priest, especially one whom I hold in great respect, as I do hold you.

I think your suggestion to post these emails is a good idea, and I’ll do that this afternoon.

Please be assured that you are in my prayers, as I hope to be in yours.

Here’s his reply back to me:

Dear Mr. Mechmann,

Many thanks for your very kind response, and I do hope you are able to post my note to you. Also, I have to apologize for a shorter response, but, believe it or not, I have carpal tunnel syndrome so may not be able to respond as fully as I would like.

First, yes, you are probably right about my offhand remark. If I had to say it over again, I wouldn’t have characterized the people in the pro-life movement as such. Perhaps it would be better to say that sometimes the views of my friends in the pro-life movement seem solely focused on abortion to the exclusion of other life issues, which can, unfortunately, give the impression of a “one issue” church. And I also think that while abortion is the pre-eminent life issue of our day, it is not the only one. But, if I had had the opportunity, I would also have said that some in the social justice arena, are insufficiently vocal about abortion. So it is not just the failure of one side or another. But one rarely has that much time on television.

Secondly, that’s a very helpful insight you made about someone being “pro abortion.” I suppose you’re right that someone could be in favor of extending so-called “abortion rights” laws, and so therefore they could be said to be “pro abortion” What I meant was that I don’t think there is anyone who would say, “Yes, I think it is a good thing for a woman to have an abortion.” But maybe I’m just naive about that. In general, though, when Obama says that he wants to “reduce abortions” I think it’s good for the church to take him at his word. At least this is a place of common ground–the desire to reduce abortions. It’s a start for both sides to come together to work towards the reduction of abortions.

Finally, though, I have to politely disagree about the “consistent ethic” issue being not timely at Notre Dame. Actually, I think that the heatedness of the controversy and the focus, from many quarters, on abortion, could in fact give non-Catholics the impression that we are a “one issue” church. Also, it baffled me that many were talking about not giving an honorary degree to someone who doesn’t agree with Catholic teaching, when we frequently do so to those who aren’t even Catholics: that is, Protestants who don’t accept the papacy, Jews who don’t accept Christ. Recall the honor that Pope John Paul II gave to his Jewish friend, the conductor Gilbert Levine, a member of the Order of St. Gregory. Mr. Levine of course doesn’t agree with something like the Resurrection and yet was honored. In any event, I think, personally, that those kinds of restrictions (on honors) should be focused on Catholics, rather than non-Catholics. Our recent editorial in America made something of the same point in a more articulate fashion.

Let me end once again by saying that one can be pro-life and not agree with others in the pro-life community about how to go about achieving those goals.

Anyway, please do feel free to post any and all of these emails.

It’s best for all of us in the church to dialogue with one another–and not simply with those outside the church!

Yours in Christ,

James Martin, SJ

I take two things away from this. One is that this kind of fraternal debate is very important and valuable, because it helps us refine out positions and forge a better sense of unity. The second, though, is that we need more unity. The culture will always seek to pit us against each other, regardless of whether there are any significant differences between us. Our Lord prayed that we will all be one, and we all need to take that more seriously, and work to avoid anything that would prevent that from happening.

Our Daily Paper

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

There’s something amusingly predictable about The Newspaper of Record, the New York Times, especially when it comes to stories about the Catholic Church. Here are two recent examples.

Over the weekend, the Times published a piece about the revitalization of a parish in Stamford, CT. It’s a fascinating story, because the new pastor’s efforts center on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. People were now coming to Confession with great relish, even those who had fallen away from the practice of their faith for years. What a great story. There was even a great metaphor in the story, as the pastor reclaimed the confessional itself, which was previously being used as a utility closet. My favorite line is the comment by the reporter on how real Confession separates us from our popular Oprah-fied culture, which is “relentlessly confessional and rarely contrite”. Precisely.

Of course, the Times approaches the whole situation with the tone of mild incredulity that you would associate with viewing the quaint customs of a lost tribe in a distant continent. They also follow the inevitable journalistic ritual of communing with the spirit of Richard McBrien, who informs us, from the great beyond of revisionist “Catholicism” where flexidoxy is always fresh and new, that Confession is a “dead letter” for Catholics nowadays. It certainly is, for those with deadened souls.

Then we have the flurry of stories about our new Archbishop, Timothy Dolan. Now you would think that this is a story with nothing but good angles — Midwesterner coming to the Big Apple, and all that. Instead, what is the Times’ headline? They call our new pastor “a genial enforcer of Rome’s doctrine”. (They’ve changed the headline now to “genial conservative”, by the way — nice how the Internet allows you to cover your tracks).

Heh, heh. The Times apparently thinks that it’s criticism to say that about Archbishop Dolan. They don’t even realize that for faithful Catholics, it is utterly unsurprising — indeed, it’s highly desirable — that the Holy Father would appoint a man who actually is a believing, practicing Catholic, who wants to share his faith with others. They obviously don’t get that about Archbishop Dolan (nor did they ever really get it about Cardinal Egan or Cardinal O’Connor). Just to seal the deal, they didn’t quote the best line from his news conference,the one where Archbishop Dolan cited Jesus as his hero, and said that he spoke to him and listened to him every day, and wore His cross next to his heart.

The part I loved best about the article is that they even exhumed the spectre of Daniel McGuire from its uneasy resting place in the “theology department” at Marquette University to grind his usual axe at the Archbishop. As if Prof. McGuire were qualified to speak of anything Catholic, considering his track record of heterodoxy. The Times somehow failed to mention that Prof. McGuire was hardly a disinterested academic observer — a few years ago he was directly rebuked by Archbishop Dolan for pamphlets the Professor wrote proclaiming his support for abortion, contraception, and all the usual revisionist favorites.

The Times, along with the rest of the culture, never seems to grasp that Christians actually believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, that we want to enter into a communion of love with Him, and that our preferred way to spend Sunday morning is not with the Weekend section but in worshiping God.

The pastor and parishioners of that Church in Stamford get it. Archbishop Dolan gets it. Let’s pray that someday our Daily Paper will get it.

Junk Journalism from Time Magazine

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Just in case anyone on Earth still thinks that Time magazine is unbiased in its news coverage, they have published a “news” story that puts any such doubts to rest permanently.

The story is titled “The Catholic Crusade Against a Mythical Abortion Bill” (why is it always a “crusade” when we do something that the cultural mandarins don’t like?). It’s written by Time’s “National Editor” (so you know it must be a big deal), and purports to be a news story/analysis of the Catholic bishops’ national postcard campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and related pro-abortion legislation.

In reality, it is a propaganda hit piece that holds tight to the pro-abortion party line that FOCA is a mirage of our own creation, pushed just to raise money for the bishops and pro-lifers. The story is so chock full of howling factual errors that wouldn’t pass muster in a Journalism 101 class. For example, it claims that FOCA was first introduced in 2003, when it was actually placed before Congress as far back as 1989. It claims that FOCA would merely write the provisions of Roe v. Wade into law, when in fact everyone who has analyzed the bill — including its proponents — realizes that it goes far beyond Roe, Casey, or any of the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion. It claims that the USCCB started its postcard campaign only after the President’s inauguration, and in response to an anonymous chain email. That’s preposterous — the bishops approved this campaign back in November, and it’s been spoken about publicly by USCCB and other pro-lifers since then. The article even claim that the President has given pro-lifers “little evidence” that he’s the most pro-abortion president ever — so I guess we’re just supposed to forget about the overturning of the Mexico City Policy, all of his appointments of ardent pro-abortion people to key positions, the imminent reversal of the stem cell policy, and the fact that he and the First Lady recently met with the leader of Planned Parenthood (and other “progressive” interest groups) and told them that they would be essential in promoting his agenda.

The article even got an elementary cultural reference wrong. It referred to the bill as “the dog that didn’t bark”, meaning that there’s no threat there. Well, that’s a completely off-based reference to a Sherlock Holmes story (“Silver Blaze”), in which the dog’s failure to bark is a critically important clue that leads to the identification of a murderer — he didn’t bark because he recognized the killer. It was not evidence that nothing was happening. (I only make a big deal out of this because I’m a Holmes buff, but if you’re a National Editor, and you’re going to make a cultural reference in a story, you should get it right, no?)

The article also alleges that there’s nothing to worry about because the bill hasn’t even been introduced in Congress yet. Leave aside for a second the fact that it’s only a month into the latest term. Was the author not paying attention while the huge and complex “stimulus” bill was introduced, amended, passed, negotiated between House and Senate, passed again and signed into law, all in a matter of a couple of weeks? Are we supposed to wait until the President is ready to sign the bill before we come out against it? Remember, last year Candidate Obama told Planned Parenthood that signing FOCA would the the first thing he did as President. If it’s such a “mythical bill”, then why does the Cult of Moloch — NARAL and Planned Parenthood — support it?

Even by basic journalistic standards, the article fails. They somehow lost their Washington phone book so they couldn’t figure out how to reach anyone at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — an organization that is not that hard to find — or any other pro-lifer to talk about the postcard initiative or the bill itself. But they did manage to find some spokesman for a “Catholic” pro-Moloch, er, I mean “pro-choice”, group to say all the expected nonsense.

Look, we’re used to this kind of stuff by now. The mainstream media looks upon pro-lifers — especially faithful, orthodox Catholic pro-lifers — as dangerous and weird specimens with a variety of lingering mental illnesses.

That’s fine. But don’t insult our intelligence with junk journalism like this.