Cascadia Catholics

A left-leaning Catholic discussion forum.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Voting For the Common Good

A Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics

You can get your own guide by clicking on this Catholic Alliance link.

This is a well written guide that outlines Catholic Social Teachings, so that voters can make informed decisions about today's pressing issues.

And when your relatives start in with their right-wing "Catholic Answers" routine, you can whip this handy little volume out and give them a good education.

Download for free at the above link, or buy hundreds of booklets for your congregations at $1.00 each. Might be a step in the right... er, left direction! (Not really, it's a pretty measured, sober review of the Church's teachings on social matters.)

Amnesty International on the Evil of Torture, American Style

"...what we do to those who suffer, we do to the Last Judge of our life..."

Pope Benedict XVI

Rubber stamping violations in the "war on terror": Congress fails human rights

By passing the Military Commissions Act, the United States Congress has, in effect, given its stamp of approval to human rights violations committed by the USA in the "war on terror". This legislation leaves the USA squarely on the wrong side of international law, and has turned bad executive policy into bad domestic law.

On 27 September, the House of Representatives passed the Military Commissions Act by 253 votes to 168. On 28 September, the Senate passed the Act by 65 votes to 34. After any discrepancies between the Senate and House bills are reconciled, the legislation will go to President Bush for signing into law. If President Bush signs the bill, as expected, Amnesty International will campaign for repeal of the Act. The constitutionality of the legislation is also likely to be challenged in the courts.

In the "war on terror", the US administration has resorted to secret detention, enforced disappearance, prolonged incommunicado detention, indefinite detention without charge, arbitrary detention, and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Thousands of detainees remain in indefinite military detention in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Congress has failed these detainees and their families. President Bush has defended the CIA’s use of secret detention and in the debates over the Military Commissions Act, members of Congress have done the same. Yet this is a policy in clear violation of international law.

Accountability among higher officials for human rights violations authorized or committed by US personnel in the "war on terror" has been absent, as has been reparation for such abuses. Investigations into alleged war crimes and human rights violations have lacked independence and have not gone up the chain of command. Not a single US agent has been charged with war crimes under the USA’s War Crimes Act or torture under the extraterritorial anti-torture statute, despite compelling evidence that such offences have occurred.

Meanwhile, the Military Commissions Act provides for trials of the "enemy" in front of military commissions using lower standards of evidence than apply to US personnel, and with the power to hand down death sentences. Whether charged for trial or not, those detained by the USA as "enemy combatants" will not be able to challenge the lawfulness or conditions of their detention in habeas corpus appeals. Habeas corpus is a fundamental safeguard against enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

There appears to be little doubt that President Bush will sign the bill. He had sent a version of it to Congress on 6 September at the same time that he had announced the transfer of 14 "high value" detainees from years in secret CIA custody to detention in Guantánamo. He said that these detainees could be tried if Congress authorized military commissions acceptable to the administration.

Amnesty International deeply regrets that Congress failed to resist this executive pressure and instead has given a green light for violations of the USA’s international obligations.

Why Believe?

This is cross posted from StreetProphets (a Kos Community), since things have been very hectic with me lately.

"So," a diarist asks, "Why believe in God?"

I answer that:

As for me, I am a Christian Roman Catholic and a dabbler in doubt. God does not speak to me. I'm living with His silence. (Usually in a huff). But here are some things that move me to believe:

I love the truth. I respect all truth. I really dispise dishonesty and lies. Jesus said: "Everyone who loves the truth hears my voice." [Isn't it interesting that he did not say "Everyone who loves me hears the truth."] I think anyone who seeks the truth, honestly, will find God. Everything that exists is true, and what is true is of God.

For me, existence itself is the kingpin. Existence is so radical and impossible, and so wild a thing, that the very act of recognizing my own existence forces me to look for an Other. Why is there something instead of nothing? Why is there me? Logically, it looks like this: I know only two things with absolute certainty. 1. I exist. 2. I came into being. [I had nothing to do with my own existence.] Everything else for me is a matter of belief (even you). And yet these two things that I do know for certain force me to seek God, maybe even name Him.

Then there is the second law of thermodynamics (entropy, things fall apart). This law is violated by life, evolution, and intelligence; and yet I participate in all three of these things. I am running contrary to a very universal physical law (and I believe you are, too). Isn't that odd?

Also, and finally I suppose, I realize that the universe is not perfect. That nature, which we all so much enjoy, is really quite hideous underneath. The universe is flawed. (I recommend you read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard). And people are horribly flawed. Even children can recognize injustice. And so I believe that evil truly does exist. If I did not believe in God, I could not call it evil. I'd have to say it's just another way of being. Maybe I'm so colored by my own culture that I can only call it evil, but I don't think so. It seems universally true. Absolutely evil. And it would be quite a trick indeed to discover God by coming to the realization that first of all, evil exists. And since I recognize it and can name it, I have to wonder what it is that allows me to see it, if not an absolute good that I cannot see.

These are only some ideas. I still live with fear and trembling, but our mutual existence cheers me some. We participate in being. I know I do and trust that you do as well. That Being, that Other, that Unmoved Mover that brought me into this participation, I name God. The rest, you know, is easy.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Killing in the name of God

Too often I hear people condemn religion, because too many wars are fought in the name of God. How can people kill in the name of God?

Well, you can kill in the name of anything. Or at least, people do. People kill in the name of justice, for example, when often it's really just revenge or some warped sense of vindication. People also kill for the sheer thrill of it. So it's really a lame question to ask how one can kill in the name of "X".

The real question is, can one rightly kill another person. And if so, when?

If you want to start a war, and you need a lot of good people to kill other good people, you have to have a cause that will move them. People need a good reason to kill other people. The highest good is God, by most people's cultural standings, therefore, if you tweak their religion a bit, you can get people excited enough about "God" to kill other people who have (presumably) slandered that god.

But don't stop there. Wars aren't really started by religion so much as the lust for power and domination and greed. God is just the twisted excuse.

Wars can be fought in the name of "Democracy" or "Liberty" or "Freedom", too, as we've often seen. These are all good things in themselves, as I believe religion is a good thing in itself. We don't condemn true liberty or true freedom or true democracy because people have gone to war over these ideals, or because these ideals have been perverted by evil men who get rich on the wars they start. I don't think we should condemn religion any more than we would condemn democracy.

Let's blame the real culprits. Blame the love of power and unbridled greed; and the ignorance of people who allow themselves to be swayed by the powerful and greedy. Because at a certain point, ignorance is culpable. And when we're done blaming, we have to get back to work to overcome ignorance.

But this dividing of unbelievers against believers (or the other way around) only divides the unified voice we need to overcome the oppressive powers that are rising up like Titans all around us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

New Bumper Sticker (or window sign)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Path to 9/11 - ABC's Propaganda Machine in Mouse Ears

Or ... How To Make a Mickey Mouse Administration Look Competent
HINT: Hire Actors

Disney/ABC is planning to air "Path to 9/11' this week, a mini-series that is wrought with inaccuracies (can I say lies?) and inuendo - and which manages to shift the blame for 9/11 onto the tail-chasing shoulders of the Clinton Administration. The blogosphere is alive with criticism of this propagandistic attempt to rewrite history.

People need to see through the official justification "hey, it's a dramatization." People need to smell the rat of propaganda. If you haven't contacted ABC and Disney, I urge you to drop them a line and voice your displeasure. Here's a link to the Democratic Party page. One hundred and twenty thousand petitions have been sent so far! That's 120,000!

And to get you going, I thought this letter to ABC's Robert Iger was most impressive:
Dear Robert Iger:

We write as professional historians, who are deeply concerned by the continuing reports about ABC's scheduled broadcast of "The Path to 9/11." These reports document that this drama contains numerous flagrant falsehoods about critical events in recent American history. The key participants and eyewitnesses to these events state that the script distorts and even fabricates evidence in order to mislead viewers about the responsibility of numerous American officials for allegedly ignoring the terrorist threat before 2000.

The claim by the show's producers, broadcaster, and defenders, that these falsehoods are permissible because the show is merely a dramatization, is disingenuous and dangerous given their assertions that the show is also based on authoritative historical evidence. Whatever ABC's motivations might be, broadcasting these falsehoods, connected to the most traumatic historical event of our times, would be a gross disservice to the public. A responsible broadcast network should have nothing to do with the falsification of history, except to expose it. We strongly urge you to halt the show's broadcast and prevent misinforming Americans about their history.

Arthur Schlesinger
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
Lizbeth Cohen, Harvard University,
Nicholas Salvatore, Cornell University;
Ted Widmer, Washington College;
Rick Perlstein, Independent Scholar;
David Blight, Yale University;
Eric Alterman, City University of New York.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bumper Sticker of the Month


Days of Obligation

I have been reading Richard Rodriguez's "Days of Obligation - An Argument with My Mexican Father." It seems to be one of those books that one either loves or hates; or so I gather from browsing through the reader reviews. Still, I'm enjoying it. It's written by a practicing Catholic, a Mexican/American, a gay man, and a San Franciscan. (Some of you may remember him being interviewed by Bill Moyers on his PBS series: Faith and Reason, which I blogged about back in August.) So I thought I'd see what it was about.

It's a hodgepodge collection, loosely bound by themes which are consciously sacramental, surrounding his life and experiences. On how Mexico differs from America, even though Mexico is in his parents' memory, not his, since he was born in San Francisco. The way Mexicans worship, embrace death, tie themselves like Indians to the land. And how America lives, looks forward to some grand, invisible ideal; but then, where are all the Indians? Or the way San Francisco's Victorian homes were built around the "nuclear family" - and how these homes are lived in now, ironically, by gay and childless couples. Vacant mirrors, gilded with cherubs.

About San Francisco and the AIDS crisis, he wrote this moving passage, which I'll quote and leave with you:

And if gays took care of their own, they were not alone. AIDS was a disease of the entire city. Nor were Charity and Mercy only male, only gay. Others came. There were nurses and nuns and the couple from next door, co-workers, strangers, teenagers, corporations, pensioners. A community was forming over the city...

And the saints of this city have names listed in the phone book, names I heard called through a microphone one cold Sunday in Advent as I sat in Most Holy Redeemer Church. It might have been any of the churches or community centers in the Castro district, but it happened at Most Holy Redeemer at a time in the history of the world when the Roman Catholic Church pronounced the homosexual a sinner.

A woman at the microphone called upon volunteers from the AIDS Support Group to come forward. Throughout the church, people stood up, young men and women, and middle-aged and old, straight, gay and all of them shy at being called. Yet they came forward and assembled in the sanctuary, facing the congregation, grinning self-consciously at one another, their hands hidden behind them.

I am preoccupied by the fussing of a man sitting in the pew directly in front of me - in his seventies, frail, his iodine-colored hair combed forward and pasted upon his forehead. Fingers of porcelain clutch the pearly beads of what must have been his mother's rosary. He is not the sort of man any gay man would have chosen to become in the 1970's. He is probably not what he himself expected to become. Something of the old dear about him, wizened butterfly, powdered old pouf. Certainly he is what I fear becoming. And then he rises, this old monkey, with the most beatific dignity, in answer to the microphone, and he strides into the sanctuary to take his place in the company of the Blessed.

So this is it - this, what looks like a Christmas party in an insurance office, and not as in Renaissance paintings, and not as we had always thought, not some flower-strewn, some sequined curtain call of greasepainted heroes gesturing to the stalls. A lady with a plastic candy cane pinned to her lapel. A Castro clone with a red bandana exploding from his hip pocket. A perfume-counter lady with an Hermes scarf mantled upon her shoulder. A black man in a checkered sports coat. The pink-haired punkess with a jewel in her nose. Here, too, is the gay couple in middle-age; interchangeable plaid shirts and corduroy pants. Blood and shit and Mr. Happy Face. These know the weight of bodies.

Bill died... Passed on to heaven... Turning over in his bed one night and then gone.

These learned to love what is corruptible, while I, barren skeptic, reader of St. Augustine, curator of the earthly paradise, inheritor of the empty mirror, I shift my tailbone upon the cold, hard pew.