Thursday, October 30, 2008

Over 120 Bishops Clarify: Life is Primary Issue in Election

There is an exciting new phenomenon this election season: many, many bishops speaking out forcefully on the need to defend and protect the right to life of innocent human beings. It's not just the usual 2 or 3, but has grown to a veritable flood. And they have been amazingly clear that no other issue or combination of issue is an evil proportionate to the the evil of abortion, which has already claimed the lives of close to 50 million innocent children.

I started to compile a list of all the bishops who have spoken on the need to give priority to life issues -- but then found that Deal Hudson over at the Inside Catholic Blog had already done so.

Update: I have updated the links in this post to point to the latest list on Inside Catholic.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Abortion and the Economy

Lots of people have lately been claiming that improving the economy will have the result of reducing the number of abortions; it is implied (sometimes stated) that this will be more effective than laws. Not surprisingly, this has become a mainstay of those "pro-life" persons who advocate voting for a pro-abortion candidate.

While I've seen a lot of responses to such arguments, what I haven't seen is the actual data. So, a few weeks back, I decided to make the attempt myself.

I downloaded GDP stats from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis and the abortion stats from the Guttmacher Institute over the period 1973-2005. (2005 is the latest year for which national abortion figures are available.) I then plotted them and calculated the correlation.

Here's the graph showing the two rates plotted against time. Note that I've used two Y-axes; the left is the scale for the abortion rate data while the right is the scale for the GDP growth data. Just looking at it reveals that there's really no relation between the two.

Click for larger image
Nevertheless, in order to quantify the relationship, I calculated the correlation. What did I find? I find no correlation between real GDP growth and abortion rates.

Details: The calculted correlation coefficient ("r") is -0.02, practically zero. To be statistically significant, the correlation would have to be more than 0.344 (p=0.05).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rosary Novena begins TODAY

Please join us in a Rosary Novena to Our Lady of Victory (Our Lady of the Rosary) for the Triumph of the Gospel of Life, especially in the upcoming elections. The novena begins TODAY, Oct 27, and ends Nov 4.

The Novena prayers may be found here.

See previous post for more details.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Just Look," says Cardinal Egan

The picture on this page is an untouched photograph of a being that has been within its mother for 20 weeks. Please do me the favor of looking at it carefully.

Have you any doubt that it is a human being?

If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?

If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?

If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest—even insist—that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot—must not—be tolerated.

Thank you, Cardinal Egan, for an eloquent and powerful defense of life. Please read the whole thing at Catholic New York.

Hat-tip: Creative Minority Report

Friday, October 24, 2008

Not all issues are equal

As you form conscience, know not all issues are equal, writes Bishop Robert Vasa (Baker, OR) in the Catholic Sentinel, Oregon's Catholic newspaper.
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” ... does, in fact, provide very sound guidance. It is important, however, to properly discern what the document says and what it does not say. The document does not say, for instance, that it is just fine to vote for a pro-abortion candidate as long as one votes for that candidate only because of his or her stand on other important social issues.
I am quite confident that if a candidate made a bold proclamation that he or she would actively seek to institute in these United States a concerted program of genocide against any minority group every Catholic, without exception, would oppose that candidate. I am also confident that if a candidate swore that he or she, as the first act of the new Administration, would institute an aggressive program of torture to root out crime, violence and terrorism in this country there would be no doubt that such a candidate would be categorically unacceptable. Rightly so! Further, if any candidate would attest that he or she intended to prosecute the war on terror by the aggressive and random targeting of civilian non-combatants no one, of either party, would give even the slightest thought to wasting their vote on such a position even if the candidate had a marvelous record in the area of all the other social programs. Unfortunately, when candidates for office in these United States make bold assertions that they have every intention of working to assure that the alleged right of a woman to kill her pre-born child is either preserved or even expanded, many Catholics seem to think that it would be morally acceptable to vote for such a candidate as long as they somehow miraculously excised the candidate’s pro-abortion mindset out of the equation. A vote for such a candidate, like it or not, is likewise a vote for the firmly held abortion position; it is inseparable from the person. Just as a vote for a genocidal maniac is a vote for genocide and a vote for the avowed torturer is a vote for torture and a vote for the indiscriminant targeter of innocent women and children is a vote for such targeting so a vote for a promoter of abortion, when there is another less evil alternative available, is a vote for abortion.
[my emphasis]

The full text is well worth the read.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rosary Novena for the Election

From Fr. Corapi:
Among the most important titles we have in the Catholic Church for the Blessed Virgin Mary are Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of the Rosary. These titles can be traced back to one of the most decisive times in the history of the world and Christendom. The Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, (date of feast of Our Lady of Rosary) 1571. This proved to be the most crucial battle for the Christian forces against the radical Muslim navy of Turkey. Pope Pius V led a procession around St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City praying the Rosary. He showed true pastoral leadership in recognizing the danger posed to Christendom by the radical Muslim forces, and in using the means necessary to defeat it. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons, and this more than anything was a battle that had its origins in the spiritual order – a true battle between good and evil.

Today we have a similar spiritual battle in progress – a battle between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies, life and death. If we do not soon stop the genocide of abortion in the United States, we shall run the course of all those that prove by their actions that they are enemies of God – total collapse, economic, social, and national. The moral demise of a nation results in the ultimate demise of a nation. God is not a disinterested spectator to the affairs of man. Life begins at conception. This is an unalterable formal teaching of the Catholic Church. If you do not accept this you are a heretic in plain English. A single abortion is homicide. The more than 48,000,000 abortions since Roe v. Wade in the United States constitute genocide by definition. The group singled out for death – unwanted, unborn children.

No other issue, not all other issues taken together, can constitute a proportionate reason for voting for candidates that intend to preserve and defend this holocaust of innocent human life that is abortion.

I strongly urge every one of you to make a Novena and pray the Rosary to our Lady of Victory between October 27th and Election Day, November 4th. Pray that God’s will be done and the most innocent and utterly vulnerable of our brothers and sisters will be protected from this barbaric and grossly sinful blight on society that is abortion. No woman, and no man, has the right to choose to murder an innocent human being.

May God grant us the wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and counsel to form our conscience in accordance with authentic Catholic teaching, and then vote that well-formed Catholic conscience.

God Bless You, Fr. John Corapi

Monday, October 20, 2008

Are journalists even getting basic stuff right?

Apparently not, at least when it comes to Sarah Palin. According to this piece in GetReligion:
Let’s just get right to it. This Los Angeles Times piece about the religious views of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is pretty much worthless.

Considering that I am a journalist, I’m somewhat sad to report that I believe nothing I read or watch when it comes to coverage of Palin. I have seen way too high an error rate, way too much in the way of unsourced allegations presented as fact, way too much seething anger, even about issues that have nothing to do with religion.

But let’s look at this Los Angeles Times piece, one of the many recent examples of this phenomenon. Here’s the headline:

Palin treads carefully between fundamentalist beliefs and public policy

Which would be a fine headline. If PALIN WERE A FUNDAMENTALIST. She’s not.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Save our children!

Bishop Robert Hermann, Administrator of the St. Louis Archdiocese, makes a poignant plea in his diocesan newspaper:
Save our children! More than anything else, this election is about saving our children or killing our children. This life issue is the overriding issue facing each of us in this coming election. All other issues, including the economy, have to take second place to the issue of life.

Save our children! Many people in Germany supported Hitler for economic reasons even though, as his programs advanced, he put to death millions of Jewish people. He ended up wrecking the economy together with the country of Germany.

How are we different if we vote for proabortion candidates for office? How can we help change our political and legal situation to protect innocent children and support a culture of life?
Save our children! I have used this terminology again and again penetrate the defenses of anyone who in the past may have put personal, economic or political interests above the issue of saving our children. The right to life is our most fundamental right, and to defend this right on behalf of the most vulnerable is a great privilege and is worth giving one’s life for. Policemen and firemen always risk their lives to save human life. Why should we not risk our own reputation to save our children?

Save our children!You can see by now that I do not believe that this column by itself will change hearts. The issue of abortion involves serious sin, and to overcome serious patterns of sin requires grace. If you are still with me, may I suggest that you join me and many others in praying the daily Rosary from now until election day for the sake of life. Why not pray the family Rosary every night between now and the general election. The Rosary brought down the Iron Curtain. It can also help us turn around the culture of death to a culture of life.

What can I add to that but my prayers?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What kind of America do we want?

Robert George has written a superb article that clearly exposes Obama's Abortion Extremism. He then asks the important question:
What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation inwhich some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: ''that question is above my pay grade.'' It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator's pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy - and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.
Everyone should read the full article before voting this November.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Racism, racism everywhere

On an email list I'm on, someone accused conservative arguments against Obama of being all about race instead of about the issues.

Needless to say, I disagree vehemently.

Those of you know me "in person" know that I am not white. I have lived in several countries: in Asia & Europe as well as here in the US. My siblings have lived in several more. I have experienced real racism from the subtle to the overt -- as in being called names and having stones thrown at me because of my race. I can honestly say that the US is far less racist than any other country / culture my siblings and I have lived in.

From where I sit, all these cries of "Racism!" from the Obama camp are sounding a lot like the boy who cried "Wolf!"

As a culture we are so afraid of being racist that far too many of us allow ourselves to be cowed even by the totally unsubstantiated charge of racism.

The reality is that most of the racism in America today comes not from the "right" but from the "left", in the form of Affirmative Action and even generally in welfare policy. Not to mention the Rev. Wright and his numerous ideological compatriots.

The cry of "racism" is just getting ridiculous. For example, all of the following have been denounced as racist:
  • President Bush saying that a person's race should not be a factor in college admissions.
  • Sarah Palin saying that Obama palled around with terrorists -- an obvious reference to Bill "Weatherman" Ayers -- who is white. (Democrat strategist Jenny Backus calling Palin "the fluffy bunny" in her response is not to be construed as sexism, however.)
  • Republican attempts to regulate and clean up the Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac "irregularities" back in ~2005. This is how Democrats shut down the cleanup that might have prevented the present royal mess.
  • Bill Clinton saying that Obama is like a "fairy tale".
  • Basically anyone questioning anything in Obama's background, like his non-participation in reform in Chicago politics, his 20 year friendship with Rev. Wright and Rev. Pfleger, his alliances with Ayers, ACORN, the Joyce Foundation ....

I am not sure what other people have been reading / watching, but I have yet to come across a conservative argument against Obama that has anything to do with race. They have uniformly focused on the issues. May I suggest National Review Online as a resource for those who want to consider the merits of the arguments on the issues and not simply assume that racism is behind them.

To me it seems that yelling "racism!" has simply become and easy way to AVOID debate on the real issues.

Issues like the protection of innocent life, which the Church reminds us are "preeminent" and where we must "begin". Issues like marriage, which as our Church reminds us, is the foundation of society. Issues like freedom of conscience, which would be denied by FOCA. Issues like parental rights, which would be usurped by a UN committee if the "Convention on the Rights of the Child" were to be ratified.

Obama's race is irrelevant -- as is McCain's. That Todd Palin is part Y'upik is interesting, but likewise irrelevant. I neither know nor know of anyone who plans to vote against Obama because of his race. However, the opposite does seem to be a reality -- i.e. people voting for him wanting to "make history" because of his race or because "it's about time" for a black person to be President. Excuse me for saying so, but that's racist, too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"We cannot allow this to happen" - Cardinal Rigali

As part of the USCCB's 2008-09 Respect Life Program, Cardinal Rigali has written a superb statement for Respect Life Sunday. I encourage you to read it all, but here is a portion of it that I found especially powerful:
Today, however, we face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket. The "Freedom of Choice Act" ("FOCA") has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly to help enact this proposed legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.

FOCA establishes abortion as a "fundamental right" throughout nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could "interfere" with that right or "discriminate" against it in public funding and programs. If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated. Gone would be laws providing for informed consent, and parental consent or notification in the case of minors. Laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and from abortion practitioners who are not physicians would be overridden. Restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of nurses, doctors, and hospitals with moral objections to abortion, and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States.

We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortive grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America.

[my emphasis]
WOW. God bless Cardinal Rigali and our other faithful and zealous bishops. (Of course you know that Obama has pledged to sign FOCA "first thing". So connect the dots.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Burke: Democratic Party risks becoming "Party of Death"

In this ZENIT interview, Archbishop Burke says:

At this point, the Democratic Party risks transforming itself definitively into a 'party of death' due to its choices on bioethical issues, as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book 'The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts and the Disregard for Human Life.'

And I say this with a heavy heart, because we all know that the Democrats were the party that helped our Catholic immigrant parents and grandparents to better integrate into and prosper in American society. But it's not the same anymore.

Nonetheless, there are among Democrats some pro-lifers, but they are, unfortunately, rare.

God bless Archbishop Burke for his forthright comment, which I do consider another "sign of hope". My only issue with it is that he says the Democratic Party "risks" becoming the party of death while I think their current platform is already the platform of the Culture of Death -- that which offers the death of innocents as solutions to life's problems.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What can a President do about abortion?

I've had several people bring up the concern that they (or someone they know) don't believe a president can do much about abortion.

Priests for Life has a wonderful resource for all those who are wondering about this question:
Elections Have Consequences: Does it Matter if the President is Pro-life? [htm] or [pdf]

In particular, we have good records of what our current President has done:
The Pro-Life Record of the George W. Bush Administration (Catholic Exchange: Bush's first term only)
President George W. Bush's Record on Life (NRLC: less detailed but covers both terms)
I think his Blanket Pro-Life Veto Warning was also very helpful in stopping anti-life legislation and in protecting pro-life "riders" such as the Hyde Amendment.

Abortions have dropped 25% from their peak of nearly 1.6 million in 1990; in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, there were about 1.2 million abortions. That's nearly 400,000 fewer babies killed each year! Major reasons for this significant drop are:
1) State level pro-life legislation such as parental notification or consent, informed consent (women's right to know), waiting period, etc.
2) An improved Supreme Court that upheld these types of regulations.
3) A significant increase in support of pro-life views by Americans, due to education by pro-life churches and groups. The campaign against partial-birth abortion is thought to be a significant part of this. This extends also to doctors: an increasing fraction of OB-GYNs is avoiding the abortion business.

The drop was definitely not due to primarily economic reasons (I will post my analysis on this soon), nor to increased availability of contraception (USCCB Pro-Life secretariat's Fact Sheet: Greater Access to Contraception Does Not Reduce Abortions).

Now this is all relevant because, as I mentioned earlier, Obama has promised to sign FOCA: "Well, the first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." - from PPAF address cited above

As the USCCB Pro-Life media campaign notes: "You Can't Reduce Abortions by Promoting Abortions"
Radical abortion rights groups and their allies in Congress are promoting the extreme pro-abortion agenda of the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA). If they have their way, reasonable, widely supported and constitutionally sound abortion regulations will be knocked down nationwide. Unlimited abortion-on-demand will become our national policy.
And the abortion rate will go up, not down.
Also see our post on Cardinal Rigali's recent statements about FOCA.

If we're going to ask what a President can do to reduce abortions, we should also ask what he can do to increase them. And Obama has already committed to promoting abortion through FOCA, which will surely increase them.

Update (10/15): The USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat's Richard Doerflinger offers more insight into abortion increases under FOCA.

What about the Iraq War?

According to the Catechism (CCC 2309, after explaining the conditions for a just war): "The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good." In other words, while the conditions are absolute, there is some leeway in their application, moreover, it is those in government who have to make the prudential judgment on whether a particular situation meets the criteria for a just war. This is because they are the only ones with all the necessary information. An analogy would be that parents are the only ones empowered to make the prudential judgment on what type of education their kids get: homeschooled, public school, or private / parochial school. Others may feel that they made the wrong decision, but because it is a prudential judgment, we can never be certain of that.

Thus, whether a particular war is just is something Catholics can disagree on in good conscience. As Pope Benedict wrote to the American Bishops when he was head of the CDF:
"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
(Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles, June 2004)
Importantly, this instruction came after the Iraq war began and in response to requests by American bishops -- thus, clearly, the "war" referred to here includes the Iraq war. So even a Catholic can be "at odds" with the Holy Father on "the decision to wage war" in Iraq and remain in good standing with the Church, while one who supports abortion or euthanasia cannot.

IOW, a politician's position on war is "negotiable" in a way that his position on abortion is not. It simply does not have the moral weight of an intrinsic evil. The USCCB acknowledges the same point when it says in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (FC) 33 that although their guidance on prudential issues (including the war in Iraq) are an "essential resource," they "do not carry the same moral authority as statements of universal moral teachings."

The other very important fact to face is that although we may disagree with the decision to have gone to war in Iraq, that decision is now past, and right now our choices are really only:
1) stay until conditions in Iraq are stabilized (McCain), or
2) leave on a fixed schedule regardless of consequences (Obama)

Although the Holy See warned against going to war in Iraq (which I completely agreed with even at the time, btw), later pronouncements which got a lot less press here in America have warned against the second option of a rapid pull-out after Saddam was removed from power. Rather, the Holy See and our Bishops have wanted the coalition forces to bring stability to the country before leaving and to help with the reconstruction. (For example see here and here.) There are hopeful signs that this is happening, such as recently in Anbar province. The stability in the region is much, much greater than it was before the troop surge. I personally feel it would be irresponsible to simply leave -- that would leave a power vacuum which could easily result in anarchy or in another tyrannical regime like Saddam Hussein's. Either way, there would be even greater suffering for the Iraqi people. The Bishops' official position is very similar:
The war in Iraq confronts us with urgent moral choices. We support a “responsible transition” that ends the war in a way that recognizes the continuing threat of fanatical extremism and global terror, minimizes the loss of life, and addresses the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the refugee crisis in the region, and the need to protect human rights, especially religious freedom. This transition should reallocate resources from war to the urgent needs of the poor. (FC 68)
McCain's Iraq strategy is option 1: stay long enough to stabilize conditions in Iraq and ensure the Iraqi government and troops are strong enough to maintain that stability before withdrawing troops. He supported the troop surge, which is now acknowledged even by his opponents as having been effective. Indeed, because of the reduction in violence, President Bush has withdrawn five brigades from Iraq this year. The Iraqi government also supports the McCain plan.

Obama has called for an "immediate withdrawal" with a hard deadline of 16 months, i.e. option 2, which seems at odds with the requirements of a "responsible transition" outlined above. In contrast, a June 2008 article in the Washington Post reported on a telephone conversation Obama had with the Iraqi foreign minister, who "said he was reassured by the candidate's response, which caused him to think that Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain." However, this July article says that Obama has decided to stick with his 16 month timetable. The fact that he sticks to the schedule irrespective of the actual situation on the ground troubles me -- it seems that the consequences to Iraq are not as important to his plan as the mere keeping of a schedule.

In short, it appears that McCain's Iraq strategy is entirely compatible with what the US Bishops and the Holy See are calling for, and Obama's might be also. But the immediate withdrawal / fixed deadline position is not.

Update: Joe Biden indicated in the recent VP debate that Obama is back to the 16 month arbitrary deadline.

What's at stake in this election, in Barack Obama's own words

"With one more vacancy on the Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a woman's fundamental right to choose [abortion] for the first time since Roe v. Wade and that is what is at stake in this election." [my underlining]

"we fought together in the Illinois State Senate against restrictive choice legislation—laws just like the federal abortion laws, the federal abortion bans that are cropping up. I’ve stood up for the freedom of choice in the United States Senate and I stand by my votes against the confirmation of Judge Roberts and Samuel Alito.

So, you know where I stand. But this more is than just about standing our ground. It must be about more than protecting the gains of the past. We’re at a crossroads right now in America—and we have to move this country forward. This election is not just about playing defense, it’s also about playing offense. It’s not just about defending what is, it’s about creating what might be in this country. And that’s what we’ve got to work together on.

There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield."

- Barack Obama, address to Planned Parenthood Action Fund, July 17, 2007
(from transcript by Laura Echevarria, video available at "One Million for Planned Parenthood")

When Obama refers in this speech to the "federal abortion laws" and "federal abortion bans" he is talking about laws such as the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, the federal ban on Partial-Birth Abortions, and the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" (Laci and Conner's Law). When he speaks of "playing offense" he is referring to overturning limitations on abortion that currently exist, taxpayer funding of abortion, and other features of the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA).

Also see: Obama pledged to Planned Parenthood: “I will not yield” to pro-life concerns

Update 10/20/08: Video clips of Obama and McCain - including the above quotes

Or go to America's Choice Now.