Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reflections on The Catholic Holocaust in Poland

A recent  issue of the New York Times carried a story about  the Jews who were killed by the Nazis in Eastern Europe outside the infamous concentration camps--Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, etc. . The article points out that about one third of the 6 million Jews who were killed by the Nazis during World War II did not die in the mass execution factories. Rather they died at so -called "killing sites"--in forests, villages and open fields; and in quarries, homes, and streets.

11 Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth
Image credit: Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth


This is true of course, but it would be a mistake to believe that the Nazi mass killings in Eastern Europe were aimed solely at the Jews. According to Robert Royal's The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, about 3 million Polish Catholics were exterminated by the Nazis.  St. Maximilian Kolbe is probably the most famous Polish Catholic to die at the hands of the Nazis. He gave himself up to the starvation bunkers at Auschwitz to save the life of a young father who had been selected for execution.  Kolbe is one of 108 Catholic Poles from the World War II era who have been officially recognized as Catholic saints and martyrs by the Vatican.

Not so famous are the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek, eleven Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth who were executed by the Nazis on July 31, 1943. The sisters complied with an order to report to a Nazi command post, and they were taken to a field and shot on the evening of that same day.

In addition to the Polish martyrs we know about, thousands and thousands of Polish Catholics were killed by the Nazis whose names have been forgotten. Others were killed by the Soviets, including 20,000 Polish Catholics who were executed by the Russians in the Katyn Forest in the spring of 1940.

American children are commonly taught the Jewish Holocaust in the nation's public schools, but it takes nothing away from the Jewish experience to acknowledge that millions of Catholics were also exterminated during World War II--killed because of their faith. Certainly Catholic children should know that millions of their co-believers suffered persecution and death during World War II, just as the Jews did.

Today, American Catholics experience petty indignities that are nothing compared to what the Polish Catholics suffered during the Second World War.  In Colorado, for example, the Little Sisters of the Poor are being harassed by the Obama administration. In Illinois, Catholic Charities is forced to give up adoption services because it refuses to place children with same-sex couples.  In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, himself a Catholic, stated publicly that people who oppose abortion have no place in the state of New York.

All of this is part of a growing hostility in the United States toward Christianity and Catholicism in particular. Increasingly, Americans believe that religion has no place in public life, that religion is something that should be practiced only in private.

Perhaps Catholics think these little irritations will pass.  But I don't think so. As American Catholics, I think we should prepare ourselves for the day when we will be called to suffer for our faith.

And as we prepare ourselves, I highly recommend Robert Royal's excellent book on the 20th century Catholic martyrs.  One element that returns again and again in these martyrs' stories, Royal tells us, "is how people undergoing unjust suffering and degradation frequently found their faith and their very lives becoming purer, more meaningful, more ardent" (p. 3).

Some day soon some American Catholics will have the opportunity to find out if Robert Royal was right.

References

Robert Royal. The Catholic Martyrs of the 20th Century. New York: Crossroads Books, 2000.

Alison Smale. Shedding Light on a Vast Toll of Jews Killed Away from the Death Camps. New York Times, January 28, 2014, p. A10.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Governor Cuomo says right-to-lifers are not welcome in New York. Should New York Catholics move to Texas?

No place for right-to-lifers in NY
The State of New York airs television advertisements outside the state, urging businesses to relocate to New York.    But  last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said publicly that right-to-lifers are not welcome in New York. Apparently, the Empire State only wants you if you are politically correct.

How is that strategy working out?  According to the latest Census report, New York  gained almost no new citizens in 2013 and maybe even lost a few. Within a year or so, Florida will overtake New York as the nation's third most-populous state. 

Texas, on the other hand, gained more new residents last year than any other state. In the last decade, literally millions of people have moved to Texas. That's why Texas gained four congressional seats after the 2010 census, while New York lost two.

Of course there are many reasons why New York's population remains stagnant while Texas is booming.  Better climate for one.  Better food for another.

But I like to think people are moving to Texas because of its tolerant and neighborly culture.  The nation's academic and media elites often portray Texas as an intolerant, violent, and racist place; but that's not true. Texas has cheerfully absorbed millions of immigrants from Latin America--both legal and undocumented. Houston is a truly international city--with entire suburban districts made up of people from China, Pakistan, India, and Vietnam.  These people came to Texas because they can build a life there; they can get jobs, buy homes, and educate their children.

And a lot of these immigrants are Catholic.  About one Texan in four is now a Catholic.  Many of the new Texas Catholics are Latin American immigrants, but a lot of them are Anglos who moved down from the rust belt--places like Governor Cuomo's New York.

Apparently people want to live in a politically tolerant atmosphere.  The northern media elites like to portray Texas Governor Rick Perry as an intolerant bigot, but Governor Perry would never say anything as bigoted as Governor Cuomo's recent remarks.  Governor Cuomo likes to think of his state as a progressive place to live, but it is Texas that has shown a decent respect for the unborn by passing legislation to put some reasonable restraints on abortion.

Americans should be grateful to Governor Cuomo for blurting out what he really believes--that people who support the right to life should not live in New York.  He may think he is a liberal-minded progressive politician, but he is not. Andrew Cuomo is a bigot.

References

Danny Hakim. An Effort Selling State as a Business Haven is Criticzed. New York Times, May 3, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/04/nyregion/new-york-states-ads-to-attract-business-also-draw-complaints.html?_r=0


Tyler Rudick. Say howdy to your new neighbor: New census figures rank Texas No. 1 in population growth. Culture Map Houston, December 31, 2013. Retrieved from: http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city-life/12-30-13-texas-no-1-for-population-growth-according-to-the-us-census-trend-continues-toward-warmer-states/

Charlie Spiering. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Pro-life people not welcome in New York. Washington Examiner, January 20, 2014. Retrieved from: http://washingtonexaminer.com/new-york-gov.-andrew-cuomo-pro-life-people-not-welcome-in-new-york/article/2542475

Robert David Sulivan. Census: Americans fleeing New York State, packing up for Texas.  America Magazine. January 24, 2014. Retrieved from: http://americamagazine.org/content/unconventional-wisdom/census-americans-fleeing-new-york-state-packing-texas

Governor Andrew Cuomo says right-to-lifers are not welcome in New York. Here's another pro-abortion Catholic politician who should be denied communion

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said people who oppose abortion are not welcome in New York.  Here's exactly what he said:
 Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are "right to life," "pro-assault weapon," "anti-gay"? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that's not who New Yorkers are.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

We live in strange times: America's president harasses the Little Sisters of the Poor while Russia's president attends religious services

Vladimir Putin
Bill Keller recently wrote an op-ed essay for the New York Times expressing strong disapproval of the
way President Vladimir Putin is running Russia.  Keller accused Putin of bullying neighboring Ukraine and other illiberal acts. According to Keller, Putin's recent activities "fit into a pattern of behavior that deliberately distances Russia from the socially and culturally liberal West."

Keller gives several examples of supposedly retrograde Russian behavior, including the jailing of two punk rock protesters for profane behavior in a Russian Orthodox cathedral.  (Putin recently announced that the protesters will soon be given amnesty and freed.)

But let me ask you this, Mr. Keller. How would you react if  punk rock protesters disrupted a New York Times editorial board meeting or perhaps the meeting of your favorite charity?  It wouldn't be five seconds before you were on your smart phone dialing 911 to summon the New York City police.

Keller obviously believes that the Western developed nations are a model for a superior way of life--a way of life Russia should emulate. Unfortunately, in Keller's view, Putin seems bent on returning Russia to the Cold War era, "attempting to turn back 25 years of history." Keller cites a Harvard expert who described Putin as "a common European home wrecker."

Keller implies that Russia should jettison its Orthodox Christian heritage--a heritage that survived Stalinism--and join the hip and edgy postmodern culture of the West. But let's take a look at ourselves before we hector other nations to become more like us.

Today almost half of all American babies are born to unwed mothers.  In California, almost one in four pregnancies ends in abortion. We have 47 million people on food stamps, growing inequality between the rich and the poor, and an open disdain for religious values.  If you were President Putin, would you want Russia to become like the United States?

Russia obviously has enormous problems, and almost anyone would rather live in the U.S. than Russia if given a choice. But I suspect Keller's real beef with President Putin is Putin's refusal to embrace American postmodernism's view of sexual morality-- the cheery belief that there should be no standard for sexual behavior whatsoever.  As Keller rightly pointed out, Putin sees "Europe as decadent and alien to the Orthodox Eastern Slav world to which both Russia and the Ukraine belong."

Indeed, the United States and Russia are moving in different directions. America was founded on the idea of religious liberty, and yet we have a president who is anti-religious and who harasses the Little Sisters of the Poor. Russia persecuted Christianity throughout the Communist era, yet President Putin has reopened Russian churches, and he himself attends Orthodox religious services.  America's president urged the Irish to close their religious schools, while Russia's president asks Russians to hold fast to their religious values.

 Time will tell whether Russia will eventually embrace Western social values as Bill Keller believes it should. Personally, I don't think that is going to happen.

References

Neil Buckley. Putin urges Russians to return to the values of religion. FT.com, September 19, 2013. Available at:
 http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cdedfd64-214f-11e3-a92a-00144feab7de.html#axzz2rQYgRsUv

Bill Keller. Russia v. Europe. New York Times, December 16, 2013, p. A23.

Robert Royal. The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. New York: Crossroad Books, 2000.

Kathy Schiffer. Obama calls for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland. June 17, 2013. Patheos,com. [Kathy Schiffer's blog]. Accessible at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2013/06/obama-calls-for-end-to-catholic-education-in-northern-ireland/

Paul Scicchitano. June 19, 2013. Obama Offends Catholics in UK: Says Religious Schools Divisive. Newsmax.com.  Accessible at:
http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/obama-offends-catholics-UK/2013/06/19/id/510847?s=al

Ben Wolfgang. Obama's remarks about Catholic schools sparks new fight with the Church. Washington Times, June 20, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/20/obama-remarks-about-catholic-schools-spark-new-fig/?page=all

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We live on different planets: The World of the New York Times is not the world of the average American

I live in fly-over country and can't get home delivery of the New York Times. Nevertheless, I get the Sunday Times  delivered to my home; and I can pick up a copy of the weekday issues at Benny's Car Wash on Perkins Road. I try to read it every day as part of my effort to stay informed about world events.

Lately, however, I have begun to suspect that the New York Times writers and I don't live on the same planet.  And today's issue heightened by suspicion.  Here are some stories that make me shake my head.

First, I read Frank Bruni's op ed essay excoriating the state of Texas for keeping an unborn baby alive even though its mother is brain dead, the victim of a pulmonary embolism.  The woman's husband and parents want the pregnancy terminated, but doctors say they are bound by law to bring the pregnancy to term.

As Bruni himself said, there are no happy outcomes to this sad scenario, but Bruni says Texas is devaluing the lives of the baby's father and it grandparents by not snuffing out the baby's life.

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. I think most husbands would want the baby to live in this situation and so would most grandparents.  I think it is unfortunate that they apparently find the baby inconvenient.  But to say that the state of Texas and the doctors in charge of this unborn baby's care are cruel is nonsense.

Let's move on.  Today's Sunday Review section contained two--count-em two--positive articles about legalized gambling.  Moises Velasquez-Manoff  wrote a piece on Indian casinos in which she compared casino distributions for Native American families to a mother nurturing her child  Yeah, right.  Ms. Velasquez-Manoff should spend some time strolling around the nation's casinos. She will see a lot of stressed-out, chain smoking elderly people pumping cash into slot machines--cash that most of them don't have to spare. Do those people looked nurtured?

And then there is an article by Greg Grandin, a professor at the New York University (where students graduate with the highest average student-loan debt in the country).  Grandin analyzed an obscure Melville novel that Barack Obama once read and somehow linked it with contemporary American racism, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and the Tea Party.  Wonder what it costs NYU students to take a course from this guy?

Then we have an essay by Sam Polk, a wealthy former financier who claims to have been addicted to making money.  He was dissatisfied, he confessed when he only got a  bonus of $3.6 million.  Hey, fellah. Dorothy Day's got a cure for that addiction. Read Matthew 25.

And finally we have an op ed essay by Thomas Friedman, who urges President Obama to tell Americans in his next State of the Union speech that American kids are not doing as well in school as kids in other countries because American parents aren't demanding that their children be challenged more in the classroom.  OK, we get it.  The American education crisis is the parents' fault.

After pondering all this, I felt like I was reading news from a parallel universe--a world in which I do not live.  Some people might point out that the New York Times is not meant to be read by people like me and that I should stick to reading the Farmer's Almanac.  And they may be right. Certainly, all the advertisements for luxury goods that appear in the Times' supplements are not aimed at people like me.

But here is the problem.  The  New York Times, the people who read the Times and the politicians that the Times adores (Barack Obama) are contemptuous of the people who live in fly-over country; but they want to dictate how these people live. They express outrage when state legislatures try to put reasonable restrictions on abortion or try to maintain marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  They imply that politicians who speak for some of us are white supremacists. They show disdain for American values but they want people who hold those values to fight and die in foreign wars the Obama administration doesn't even believe in.

I do not write this from a partisan political perspective. I am no red-stater.  I have no more regard for Sarah Palin than the New York Times editorial board.  I write from the perspective of a person who believes that traditional American culture--what we might call middle-class culture or Judeo-Christian culture--is basically benign and healthy. And I am alarmed to see powerful political forces  show disdain for the traditional values that served this nation pretty well for over 200 years.

References

Thomas Friedman. Obama's Homework Assignment. New York Times, Sunday Review section p. 1.

Greg Grandin. Obama, Melville and the Tea Party. New York Times, Sunday Review section p. 6.

Sam Polk. For the Love of Money. New York Times, Sunday Review section p. 1.

Monica Velasquez-Manoff. When the Poor Get Cash. New York Times, Sunday Review section, p. 12.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hurrah for the Texas Legislature and Three Fifth Circuit Judges: For Now at Least, a Texas Law Putting Reasonable Restrictions on Abortions Is Still Valid

I decline to debate the substantive issues surrounding abortion.  If appeals to compassion and age-old moral principles had any persuasive power over the Culture of Death--led by Barack Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Pelosi and a lot of other pro-abortion politicians--Roe v. Wade would have been overturned long ago.

Instead I will comment briefly on the recent decision in Planned Parenthood v. Abbot, in which a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an injunction on a Texas law that put reasonable restrictions on abortions in the Lone Star State. The law has two main features: one requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and the other sets quality standards on abortion clinics.

Judge Lee Yeakel enjoined enforcement of the law in late October, but a three-judge panel set Yeakel's injunction aside a few days later.  Planned Parenthood then appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to overturn the Fifth Circuit ruling by a 5 to 4 vote.

Naturally, the New York Times is upset by these developments.  It continues to describe laws restricting abortion as an infringement on "women's reproductive rights."  Texas is one of 22 stats that adopted laws restricting abortions last year.  The Times pointed out that most of these laws were passed in Republican-controlled states, implying that Republicans are hell-bent on restricting the civil rights of women.

I don't know what the ultimate fate of the Texas law will be. The Fifth Circuit will have to issue a final ruling; and this ruling, whatever it is, will certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court.

But isn't it heartening--40 years after the Roe v. Wade opinion, to see state legislatures continue trying to put some reasonable restraints on abortion?  The Culture of Death may believe that abortion on demand (or with very little restrictions) will one day be accepted by the American people.  But millions of Americans--young and old, men and women, and people of every race and color--still have grave moral reservations about taking the life of an unborn child. Remarkably, all three Fifth Circuit judges who voted to overturn the injunction against the Texas law are women.

Judge Edith Jones
So let us say thanks to all the people who fight on--year after year--to turn back the tide of death.  Let us give thanks to the Texas Legislature; to Fifth Circuit Judges Jennifer Elrod, Catharina Haynes, and Edith Jones; and to all Americans who do their part to restrict abortion in this country.

There will be victories and there will be defeats, but the Right-to-Life movement will never die so long as there is one decent person who lives and breaths on American soil.  And--thank God--there are still millions of decent Americans.

References

Editorial. Abortion Restrictions in Texas and Beyond. New York Times, January 9, 2014, p. A20.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services v. Abbot, No. 13-51008 (5th Cir. Oct. 31, 2013).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Is Barack Obama an anti-Catholic bigot? The Obama Administration harasses the Little Sisters of the Poor

Barack Obama apparently likes some of the things Pope Francis has said recently. The President even quoted Pope Francis in one of his recent speeches.  But President Obama's real views about religion and the Catholic faith can be seen from his actions--not his words.

Today we see President Obama's administration in litigation with the Little Sisters of the Poor, who refuse to sign a form authorizing a health-care insurer to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.  Obama's lawyers say the form is a mere formality and is virtually meaningless; but the Sisters contend they would be cooperating in grave sin if they sign the form.

St. Jeanne Jugan & Little Sisters of the Poor
Who should we believe? First of all, we should remember that the Little Sisters are serious people. They have dedicated their lives to serving the poor and the elderly. They do not have time or resources to engage in frivolous litigation. They would not be in court if this dispute was one of mere semantics, which is what Obama's attorneys imply.

I see the Sisters in much the same position as St. Thomas More, who refused to sign an oath affirming that Henry VIII was supreme ruler of the English Church. "Hey, its just a formality," I'm sure Henry's toadies told More.  Just sign it and go on with your life.

But St. Thomas More refused to sign Henry's oath, and eventually he was executed.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, like St. Thomas More, are people for all seasons.

Since the venerable case of West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett, decided in 1943, it has been an axiom of First Amendment law that Americans cannot be compelled to affirm what they do not believe.  And this is exactly what the Obama administration and his lawyers are trying to get the Little Sisters to do.

President Obama's treatment of the Little Sisters of the Poor is consistent with other words and deeds that show his disdain for the Catholic Church.  Last year, the President urged the Irish to close their religious schools, showing a shocking insensitivity toward Irish heritage as well as disregard for the American constitutional principle that people have a constitutional right to choose religious schools for their children.

Last November, he made the sign of the cross while pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey, a mocking gesture toward the Catholic Church.

And of course his inner circle of advisers is packed with apostate Catholics who claim to be members of the Catholic Church while supporting abortion on demand.  Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, was told by her bishop not to appear for communion after she vetoed a bill putting restrictions on abortion in Kansas while she was governor of that state.

Apparently, Sebelius didn't listen to the bishop's admonishment because he had to tell her twice not to go to communion. Some Catholic!

So let's say a prayer for the Little Sisters of the Poor.  And let us hope the Supreme Court, which includes six Catholic Justices, will uphold the Little Sister's constitutional right to freedom of religion.

But if the Justices support the Obama administration in this litigation, you can be sure the Little Sisters of the Poor will never sign the Obama administration's damnable form.  Like St. Thomas More, the Sisters are people for all seasons. I feel certain that the Sisters' resolve is every bit as strong as the resolve of Saint Thomas More--who went to the scaffold rather than betray his faith.

References

Tom Howell, Jr. Obamacare release form stokes uproard in nuns' contraception fight. Washington Times, January 5, 2014. Accessible at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/5/obamacare-release-form-stokes-uproar-in-nuns-contr/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS

Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).

President Obama quotes Pope Francis in Speech About Income Inequality. Huffington Post, December 4, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/04/obama-quotes-pope-francis_n_4386622.html

West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).




Friday, January 3, 2014

More than 450 years after Catholicism was introduced to New Mexico, the state supreme court upholds same-sex marriage

Most American intellectuals understand American history as the gradual process of secularization. The pilgrim dissenters of the seventeenth century gradually evolved into eighteenth-century Congregationalists, who evolved into nineteenth-century Unitarians, who morphed into twenty-first-century postmodernists who are essentially atheists.

There is much to be said for this point of view. Without a doubt, Protestant America is gradually becoming more and more secular and less and less spiritual in its outlook.  Same-sex marriage advances as a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut, sweeping away traditional Christian doctrine on family and sexual morality and is now legal in 17 states.

But Catholics see American history from a different perspective. Unlike most Americans they do not date the settlement of America with the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1620 and they do not understand American history as the story of western expansion across the North American continent.

Catholics understand that American history is best understood not as a sweep from east to west but