Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten Reasons For Hope

In the Bible, the book 1 Peter, the author writes to the often-suffering Christian converts in Asia Minor with advice and counsel.
Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.
CatholicVote.Org has done that with their year-end list, Top Ten Reasons for Hope. I've selected just these few highlights from CatholicVote's list, leaving readers to peruse the full list at leisure.

Their number 1 is Bishops with Backbone. I learned in 7th grade that it was the monasteries that kept the 'light of learning alive' during the Middle Ages. I'm convinced it is the Catholic Church that will again prevail over our dissolute and materialistic culture, and it will help if the leaders of the Church act like leaders. New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan looks to be such a bishop. He's holding a mass for members of the diocese in Washington DC during the March for Life, and he's apparently been outspoken that parish priests should expand upon the Church's teachings on the dignity of life regularly during homilies. Dolan has taken on the NY Times, as already noted on this blog on November 30th, and he goes about his work with the 'gentleness and respect' that 1 Peter also speaks of.

CatholicVote's number 5 would be my number 2, Religious Leaders Unite to Sign Manhattan Declaration, already covered on this blog (December 9).

My own number 3 is CatholicVote's number 6, Maine Delivers for Marriage. Despite appearances--and that's all they are-- to the contrary, Americans do not support homosexual marriage. As CatholicVote says,

In November, the voters struck back at the ballot box and overruled their Legislature by returning marriage to the traditional definition of one man and one woman. This means that marriage has won 31 out of 31 times when put before the people for a vote!
CatholicVote puts at number 7 what I choose as number 4, Priests, Religious and More Priests. Yes, it's good to have more priests, but it's even more encouraging to see that the new young priests are dedicated to the Magisterium of the Church.

Number 4 on CatholicVote's roster is Bart Stupak and the Rise of Pro-Life Democrats. Here I would have to disagree. Perhaps cynicism is rearing its ugly head, but I feel a certain impatience with our congressmen and women at the moment. Where have these pro-life Democrats been all along? What sort of conviction do they really have?

Better to close out the year on a high note, however. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans 12:12,
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pregnant Female Soldiers

The subject of pregnancy in the military arose earlier in the week when Major General Anthony Cucolo announced that he would punish female soldiers who become pregnant in the combat zone as well as the male soldiers involved. While court martial would be a possible punishment under Cucolo’s decision, it sounds as if he did not necessarily intend that this most drastic of punishments be implemented. Rather, he must have intended to underscore and control the seriously debilitating effects of pregnancy on troop and unit strength and was pointing out that pregnant soldiers are unable to carry out their responsibilities and so are a liability.

Kind of obvious, isn’t it? The Major General's stance was, of course, unpopular because it makes so much sense. That is, it is politically incorrect for a military commander to come out and state the truth. Cucolo's decision was also an uncomfortable reminder to our rights-crazed culture that, while men and women are equally entitled to the rights due all of us as human beings, men and women are not entitled to act the same because, quite simply, they are not the same.

Cucolo’s policy was over-ruled by higher authorities and a new policy will begin on January 1st which will prevent commanders in the field from implementing sensible policies like Cucolo's . Although the reporting on this subject consists mostly of snippets, Blackfive went into a bit more detail and mentioned a paper written back in 1999 on the subject of how pregnancy affects U.S. Army readiness. I’ve only read about 10 pages of this 36 page paper, and I’m not quite sure which side of the issue the author ends up on, but so far I remain wedded to my position that while women can and should find appropriate ways to serve their country, they should not deploy in company with men and they should not expect to serve in the military in the same capacity as men.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

LGBTI and the United Nations

Last week I paid a visit to the United Nations on behalf of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), a group that monitors social policy at the UN, especially with respect to family and the dignity of life.

Attending a UN meeting is preceded by a flurry of official hubbub. One must be identified, cleared, photographed and given a pass to enter the halls of this strange insitutiton. After stopping in at three different offices close to but not inside the UN, I got my clip-on affiliate ID for the day and proceeded to the UN proper,through security screening and into the cafeteria to eat a sandwich and breathe in the air of the multicultural and peace-loving UN movers and shakers.

This particular meeting, a panel discussion entitled 'Opposing Grave Human Rights Violations on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,' aimed to bring attention to acts of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people as part of celebrating the 61st Anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Notice that's LGBT with an 'I.' For the uninitiated, you have L for lesbian, G for gay, B for bi-sexual, T for transgender or transsexual and I for intersex. The five panelists from India, Honduras, the Philippines, Uganda and Zambia gave what essentially amounted to personal testimonials about the injustices and hurts they've endured as members of one or another sexual orientation group.

All five panelists were free in citing religion as the cause of oppression of LGBTI persons. The Rev. Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia specifically charged "conservative Christians" from the United States as being responsible for the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda. The Honduran panelist declared that (Catholic) Opus Dei must cease and desist in its anti-homosexual actions. Religion should not be 'motivation to hate.'

Sass Rogando Sasot, a founding member of Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines and apparently something of a heroine in her particular sexual orientation community in the Philippines, told us that the root of LGBTI oppression is believing that 'there's only one way to be male or female'. She explained that we are duped into thinking that gender is defined by 'what's between our legs.' According to Ms. Sasot, gender can't be based on biology because there are people who don't conform to gender norms!

I wonder if she would also argue that lying, cheating, stealing and murder must all be moral and licit acts because there are people who engage in these activities. The problem with what Ms. Sasot and other panel members had to say is that they've turned the natural world upside down. Our biology does matter. In Prof. Robert George's words, our body is not a 'mere instrument of the person, the body is intrinsically part of the personal reality of the human being.' We are not, says George, "consciousnesses, or minds, or spirits inhabiting and using nonpersonal bodies. A human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit."

The LGBTI group relies heavily on the language of human rights to plead their case. But being a homosexual or a transsexual or an intersex person isn't any more of a human right than being a hypochondriac or a baseball fan or a traveling salesman. Despite their trying, the world was not created by five LGBTI panelists and their supporters. God created the natural order of the world with two sexes, male and female. There are many kinds of people in the world with a range of talents, personalities, but there are not many ways to be male or female that are moral, normal and that contribute to the general good of society. There is one way to be male and another different way to be female, and, contrary to our culture's almost manic belief in the supremacy of the individual, we are not free to do or be whatever we want. (The LGBT community themselves make that quite clear--we are not free to disagree with them, we're not free to prevent them from marrying, etc., etc. )

I, along with all rational people of good will, including the Roman Catholic Church, deplore violence against gays (and all the other letters) in much the same way we deplore violence and despicable acts of torture and repression against any people.  Yet, it is a challenge at times to believe that panel discussions like this one are for real. But this discussion varied only a bit from the side-events I attended last spring at the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) conference. The LGBTI activists I heard speak there have co-opted the language of both the feminist and the civil rights movements of the 60s. They speak of 'bodily autonomy,' and the right to control 'decision-making around our bodies.' They freely toss around the phrases 'sexual rights ' and 'reproductive rights.' They see themselves as the invisible and dismissed members of society who suffer ostracism at the hands of their families and are persecuted with forced pregnancy, 'curative rape' (?), beatings, murders, imprisonment and torture at the hands of their respective governments. But, as they describe it, with courageous resistance and activism they are on a 'trajectory toward justice.' They even use an occasional phrase with a pro-life ring to it as in 'being free from getting killed is a fundamental right' and the 'right to life of LGBT people'.

This is one of those times when a document like the Manhattan Declaration helps to articulate the difference between the two sides of the culture chasm. As the Manhattan Declaration states,
there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity. . . We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and we have only five days more of waiting for the joyous event marking the beginning of the celebration of Christmas. As Fr. Rutler here in NYC at the Church of Our Saviour puts it, on this Sunday "the Church contemplates the fact of Hell in defiance of the pumped-up jollity of early Christmas parties."

In addition to the early Christmas parties, there is also the premature jollity of early Christmas music. If there was anything to be learned while a Presbyterian at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, it was that Christmas carols--Joy to the World, Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Once in Royal David's City and all the rest--are not to be sung until Christmas Day. While there's no hope for department stores and school concerts featuring Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus, WQXR has, lamentably, been offering Christmas carols all week including Handel's Messiah.

During Advent we are watching and waiting and doing penance in preparation for the birth of the Lord. During Advent we are to sing Advent hymns--On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, Watchman Tell Us of the Night, Jesus Comes with Clouds Descending and O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And we are to contemplate not only Hell but Death, Judgment and Heaven as well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

A friend of mine, let's call her Friend No. 1, maintains that when all is said and done, the major divisions in our modern day society eventually boil down to abortion. Which side are you on. On the other hand, another friend, let's call her Friend No. 2, dismisses as folly the notion that anyone cares about abortion, and she scoffs at the suggestion that presidential elections would ever be won or lost over the rights of the pre-born.

I think Friend No. 1 is daily being proven true. If there is to be a showdown, it's not the war in Afghanistan, the economy or Climategate that may ultimately cause a rift between friends and family. Rather, what divides our society are the culture wars as defined by the three issues identified in the Manhattan Declaration: the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as between one man and one woman and the matter of conscience rights and religious liberty. In fact, I'd go yet a step further than Friend No. 1 and say that, ultimately, everything boils down to whether or not you are a relativist. Do you believe in objective truth, God's Truth, as opposed to the shifting flights of fancy that masquerade as truth in our post-modern American culture.

The Manhattan Declaration comes out boldly and identifies Truth as " Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life." It is, needless to say, a Christian document, its full title being the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience. It is a manifesto of sorts, a position paper by Christians and for Christians, regardless of denomination, to "proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good." It is a "call to discipleship" and action if necessary. Its drafters are Professor Robert George of Princeton University, Professor Timothy George of Samford University and Chuck Colson, former Nixon administration Special Counsel who now heads the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. To date the declaration has 275,792 signers, and among the list of religious and public leaders who have signed on is our own Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

The Manhattan Declaration is a kind of mission statement and, if a mission statement defines who you are and who you aren't, it also separates you from others and sets your boundaries as well as your reach. The Manhattan Declaration could be said to draw a line in the sand between them and us, between a culture of death and a culture of life or between a culture of secularism and a culture of faith, or, a culture of materialism and a culture that upholds Man as created by God in God's image. The declaration clearly lays out and supports (with meaty analysis) a position about the unborn, marriage and religious liberty, making it easy, if not necessary, to read the document and be either wholly for or wholly against. No politically correct nuance or tolerant agree-to-disagree discussion. No PC hiding behind cheap slogans and throw-away jargon about meeting half-way and finding common ground when there really is none. While this may seem unnecessarily bold and harsh, it is actually to society's benefit to clarify what separates us even if it isn't immediately possible to bridge the rift.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

West Point As Stage for Obama, III

The fallout from Obama's speech at West Point continues. I refer not to the tactical military analysis; I leave that to the military blogs and other commentators. I refer rather to the spin and interpretation of the various media and other interested parties. As told to me by a reliable source, the cadets had to report to Eisenhower Hall, in dress gray, three and a half hours prior to Obama's speech. They could bring one book and one notebook, no cell phones, no computers and no food. Bathroom breaks were scheduled by group. All this was for security purposes.

As for cadets sleeping, there's some rumor that the camera was panning the cadet audience prior to the speech. The fact that a cadet may have dozed during the speech wasn't particularly flattering to the Academy, but it had little to do with Obama or his speech and more to do with sitting in an auditorium for hours and maybe also the media's camermen searching for an interesting tidbit.

Chris Matthews' remark about the "enemy camp" I found to be quite accurate, thinking he meant that Obama sees anything military as, if not the enemy camp, then at least as a foreign and undesirable force that Obama can neither identify with nor understand. I think there's evidence for that, as I tried to show in my article of two days ago at American Thinker, which is why Obama's choosing to deliver his speech at West Point was so hypocritically abrasive in my view.

Apparently, though, Matthews did toss off his "enemy camp" characterization in the spirit of unkindly bigotry toward the military. His apology states clearly that he embraces the stereotypical notion of the soldier (or cadet) as being a hawk who can't wait to go out and shoot 'em up, and that, naturally, such a person would be skeptical of Obama and his plan. There is almost no other word to waste on Chris Matthews than 'jerk.'

On the other hand, West Point English professor Elizabeth Samet had an article that probed more deeply. She is the author of Soldier's Heart, a book that discusses her experience as a civilian teaching Shakespeare and poetry to cadets who are also studying for the Profession of Arms. In the article, Samet opines that outside speakers often pander to the cadets rather than offer them "questions, difficulties and specifics." She seems to be suggesting that Obama overcame this tendency. Samet points out that cadets, who are "accustomed to being exhorted,become adept at responding with an automatic enthusiasm." Being exhorted during a briefing may indeed bring out an automatic response, but her suggestion, that Obama gave them something serious to think about and so they responded with genuine interest, is misleading.

From my second-hand observation, it appears that cadets constantly deal with difficulties and specifics and are routinely confronted with things to think about that elicit genuine interest. West Point is a bustling, interesting place where the range of individuals and opinions represented defies stereotyping, and where professors are involved with their students (as Samet is), and visitors of note engage close up and personal with the cadets in a variety of venues. And that's only a fraction of what's going on. Perhaps Samet only wants to cast the Corps of Cadets in the best possible light or maybe it's Obama whom she wants to prop up.

In contrast to Samet's view that Obama's presence at West Point was "an act of honesty," here is another article that begins ,"Never before has a speech by Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address. . . "

Finally, it always makes sense to hear what a cadet has to say.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

West Point As Stage for Obama, II

As the adage goes, when you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. During his speech at West Point last night, Barack Obama tried to put on a gritty, wartime president face, but would then switch it for his we-are-the-world-hands-across-the-peacetable, global president face. The changing faces of Barack Obama become tiresome.

He didn't indulge as heavily as I expected in hand-wringing over the pain of military service, but he did work it in.
Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you — a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I've traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.
The number of "I"s in the paragraph above is apparently an indicator of his admiration and thanks for how his fellow Americans serve their (and Obama's) country. When, exactly, does he see the 'terrible wages of war'? During date-night with Michelle? Lobbying for the Olympics? Behind closed doors since August working out how he can fight his 'war of necessity' and still get re-elected for a second term?

He put the military on notice that he may not be able to do much about their budget because the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have already taken too much money.
We've failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills. Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.
Our president lets us know he has better things to do than worry about national defense, and, not coincidentally, Obama quotes a Republican president to bolster his point.
I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. I don't have the luxury of committing to just one. Indeed, I'm mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who — in discussing our national security — said, "Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs."
Obama is on more familiar turf when he mentions a return to national unity. He can be comfortable and straightforward on this topic because he doesn't need to be substantive. Criticism, albeit subtle, will do. His posturing at this point in the speech is particularly offensive. It is Barack Obama's party that created the national schism over the Iraq war. After members of Congress voted along non-partisan lines to support the Authorization for the Use of Force bill in 2003, it was the Democrats, with Al Gore in the lead and a complicit liberal press close behind, who proceeded to harangue the American public day in and day out that 'Bush lied.' Neither the Democrats, the liberal media or Barack Obama have let up since.

Barack Obama's speech last night showed that our feminized president is an embarrassment as a leader of our military. Obama managed to mention terrorism twice, once to refer to terrorism against the Pakistani people and a second time to refer to our country's "debate" over terrorism. He certainly didn't mention victory. He didn't characterize our military as brave or strong. He used the word 'courage' once to refer to the Iraqis and the word 'courageous' once to characterize wounded soldiers.

The closest our cowardly-lion president came to a call to arms was to declare that the military must "end wars and prevent conflict." Our military must apply "growing pressure." God help us. What sort of leader protects his country with such timidity? The answer is a non-leader who is neither manly nor principled and that, shamefully and unfortunately, is who we have elected as president.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

West Point As Stage for Obama

When it was announced that Obama had chosen the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as the venue for unveiling his plans for Afghanistan, my formerly bright day grew cloudy. Obama has already been confirmed as the Academy's graduation speaker in May of 2010. How much Obama can one military academy stand? Obama has chosen to address the country from West Point rather than from the Oval Office for opportunistic and selfish reasons. I wrote about it in this article which appeared at American Thinker.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Defending the Faith

Patrick Buchanan asks if the Church Militant is back. Judging from Bishop Tobin's parting remarks to Catholic-detractor Patrick Kennedy as well as other Catholic news, the answer is yes. As mentioned in my previous blog, Tobin dispatched Kennedy much as one would cut off an obstreperous, sulking teen, saying, "I have no desire to continue the discussion of Congressman Kennedy's spiritual life in public." But, the bishop added, "At the same time, I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the Church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry. " Bishop Tobin then agreed to appear on a couple TV shows.

A word about the Tobin-Chris Matthews and Tobin-O'Reilly interviews. Not having owned a TV for the last 20 years, I suppose this is always what these shows are like? Or were Matthews and O'Reilly just especially gruff and shallow because they were interviewing a bishop? The interviews are remarkable only for the extent to which they showcase Matthews and O'Reilly as empty-headed loud-mouths who pass off their own grand-standing as hard-hitting journalism. These guys are jerks! There is just nothing between the ears.

Media types are so enamored of nuance and reflection when it's their own cause they are trumpeting, but when trying to wrestle with a weighty issue that in fact does require some thought, all they want is a quick-fix-type answer. The reason these interviews are so bad is that issues such as the sin of scandal, the matter of denying communion or the Church's position on the death penalty aren't five-second issues, no matter how loud and fast O'Reilly talks and no matter how many times Matthews tries to bulldoze the Bishop. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is not comparable to a cloud of spun sugar that melts in your mouth.

Bishop Tobin has already spoken eloquently, and, if nothing else, he was clear in these interviews as to where a Catholic politician's first allegiance must lie--to his faith and to God.

Speaking further of defending the faith, it is noteworthy that our own Archbishop Timothy Dolan also took to the fray a few weeks ago when the New York Times indulged in a wave of anti-Catholic reporting and opinion. Since the New York Times wouldn't publish Dolan's piece, the archbishop has posted it on his blog. (Scroll down to 'Anti-Catholicism' on October 29th, 2009.)

Dolan responds to the Times bias in its coverge of child sex abuse in an orthodox Jewish community. He (finally) mentions the way the Times and other media shamelessly drop the ball in covering the sexual abuse of minors in the public school system, yet the same media never fail to revive coverage of the priest-abuse scandals. Dolan points out the predictability of the Times coverage of a Franciscan priest who fathered a child saying only a Catholic "ever seems to merit such attention." Dolan noted that Maureen Dowd's "intemperate and scurrilous" piece would never have seen the light of day in the Times were she denigrating anyone other than Catholics.

Another redoubtable defender of Catholicism, Father George Rutler, of the Church of Our Saviour here in New York City, often has an apt word or two for the Times. He had this to say about the Times's anti-Catholic reporting. As a matter of fact, his words apply to the O'Reilly/Matthews syndrome as well:

Hostility raised to such a pitch that journalistic standards are abandoned, is provoked by an awareness that the Catholic Church continues to be the substantial voice for classical moral standards and supernatural confidence amid the noise of a disintegrating behaviorist culture. A tabloid is still a tabloid even if its editors dress in tweeds. Churchill said, “No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism.” Not to worry. Christ promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fort Hood and the Compassionate Mainstream Media

One of the things I still remember from my fifth grade Quaker Sunday School class is our teacher, Mrs. Taylor, telling us sternly never to pity anybody. After all, she said, it may make you feel better, but it doesn't help anybody else!

Follow along with me for a moment.

The liberal media are crafty as they bend over backwards not to call an Islamic terrorist an Islamic terrorist. First they invite us to pity poor Hasan, not because he's a Muslim or a terrorist, but because he serves in the U.S. military! Thus, we are asked to believe that Muslim shooter Hasan murdered American soldiers, not because he was killing Americans for Allah, but because
he was stressed and pained! Now, having taken the focus off of the murderer, the mainstream media is free to go where it feels most comfortable, namely, engaging in a hand-wringing session, a pity party over the sadsack life of military service.

Under the guise of compassionate concern, the concerned, peace-loving media
pule and moan about the hardships of war and indulge in photos of battle-scarred troops to show the misery of a soldier's existence. The liberal media may mouth the words 'honor' and 'support the troops' but it is a stretch to believe they even know what those words mean. Sara Albrycht's article below is a soldier's response to such sophistry, particularly around the middle of the article when she declares: 'We are not your sons and daughters, whom you must protect and defend. We are your sword and your shield.'

West Point on the East Side

Three years ago today, an article that I wrote was published in the now-defunct New York Sun. The article describes our family's first close encounter with the U.S. military, plus a bit of personal reflection on the liberal baby-boomer's take on the military. I beg the reader's indulgence as I reprint it here in its entirety. The readers who responded to the article provide the necessary second half to what I wrote. You can read those responses on the link which is still up.

West Point on East Side
By AMY DE ROSA November 15, 2006

With the resignation of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, a possible new direction for the war in Iraq, and John Kerry's recent "botched joke" about our enlisted personnel, I've been reminded that skepticism toward the military is not uncommon in our country. New York City is no exception to that sentiment as I've noticed lately while thinking about the military a bit more than usual.

Last year, our son applied and was offered admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Such a choice was not expected in our family, and it was all but unheard of at our private New York City high school. However, with the help of the college counselor, and, actually, the enthusiastic support of our son's peers, he submitted his application.

Throughout the process, my husband and I heard a range of reactions from our own friends. To be sure, there were those who expressed heartfelt support. But we were also met with confused looks and annoyed tones that seemed to belie attempts to figure out whether we were misguided or just crazy.

It was assumed that, as his mother, I did not approve of the idea, and both my husband and I were sternly warned to avoid all things related to the military. We heard congratulatory words immediately followed by lectures about the evils of war. Mere mention of the words "military academy" brought forth criticism of American involvement in Iraq and the hate-Bush rhetoric that is so predictable in Manhattan. We received reminders that now is not the time to attend a military academy because (as if we didn't know) there is a war going on. Indignant parents reacted as if my husband and I had crossed a forbidden line by allowing our son to apply and go to West Point. Several adamantly declared that if their son or daughter ever got the idea to apply to a military academy, it would be, in these parents' own words, "over my dead body." And, one parent added angrily, only 17-year-olds are "stupid" enough to consider the military as an option.

Antipathy toward the military is often found among people who claim to support our troops but not the war in Iraq. They are sometimes the same people who believe that it is possible to negotiate with terrorists. They are grown adults, friends, and neighbors of mine, who for the past six years have felt entitled to engage in schoolyard name-calling because President Bush challenges the ideology they espouse. They are the "enlightened" baby boomers, the ones who know better and more than anyone else. Along with my baby-boomer peers, I,too, protested the Vietnam War, frowned on patriotism, and scorned the military. But with age, experience, and children, I am beginning to learn that I have been miserably mistaken about some of my long-held beliefs, including my ideas about the military.

As a still-uninitiated parent of a West Point plebe, I am more than a little in awe of what the U.S. Army has done with over a thousand 18-year-olds fresh out of high school. In six weeks of basic training, our son, along with other new cadets, was challenged in ways I could never have foreseen. He learned how to salute, stand at attention, and march in step with his company. He learned how to be on time. He was introduced to M-16s, hand grenades, tactical marches, and long days that began at 5 a.m. He continues to learn what it is to follow orders down to the most seemingly inconsequential detail.

I had imagined the Army to be little more than a machine churning out fighters, but I'm now more inclined to think of the Army as the final word on team building, a think tank devoted to training our country's soldiers and officers. I imagined military academies to be filled with dull cookie-cutter types in uniform but instead have found dynamic, articulate, and thoughtful individuals. At West Point, these individuals are energized about educating young men and women, our sons and daughters, to be "leaders of character." Increasingly, I see military life as for neither the faint-hearted nor the weak. It is a life of sacrifice, service, and commitment.

Selfless commitment, the willingness to sacrifice, and the decision to serve are not popular notions in our culture today, nor are they ideas that we baby-boomer parents instill in our children. For the most part, my generation grew up in a culture filled with cynical disregard for such lofty concepts as duty, valor, and steadfastness. Yet these are qualities that our military must embrace in order to prevail. They are ideals that as a country we must support if our military is to be successful. We may pay lip service to supporting the troops, but how much do we respect them, and how well do we understand their job, especially now during a time of war?

Questions about our country's military will most likely continue to figure in our future as America confronts terrorism. All of us, fellow New Yorkers and baby boomers included, could use a fresh perspective and take an objective look at what our military actually does and who our servicemen really are. The approaching Thanksgiving season also presents us with a good opportunity to respectfully recognize and thank our military personnel, especially those men and women who are fighting in the war on terror, for their commitment, their sacrifice, and their service to each of us and to our country.

Mrs. De Rosa lives in Manhattan with her family and is a West Point parent, class of 2010.

'. . .because we serve. .. none of us dies in vain. . '

I'd like to continue to honor veterans and Veteran's Day for a while longer. Below, reproduced in its entirety, is an article I came across back in the spring on Blackfive's website. The author, Sara Albrycht, gives a straightforward account of patriotism and military service and why some people, like herself, choose military service. All those who want to save our soldiers from themselves should take her words to heart. She's apparently responding to an article written in her hometown newspaper.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task
remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to
that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
~ Abraham
Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

A few nights ago, I walked a quiet mile
with hundreds of other service members. It was a clear night in Bagram,
Afghanistan. Although it was late, the birds were singing, perhaps roused by the
unusual occurrence of people walking under their trees at the late hour. Soft
voices broke the solemnity, but no words were discernible. Suddenly, as if on
cue, soldiers, airmen, seamen, marines, broke off the sidewalk and lined the
road, spacing themselves regularly and assuming a position of silent
watchfulness. The honor cordon had formed.

Heads began to turn right as
flashing blue lights appeared far down the road. As the vehicles neared, one by
one, service members assumed the position of attention and rendered the hand
salute. In the back of an open truck sat eight military members, and between
them, at their feet, was a flag draped casket.

As I rendered my salute,
I thought about the fallen soldier. I did not know his name, his unit or his
home. I never saw his face or spoke to his family. I did not know why he
volunteered for the Army or what he was doing when he was killed. But there was
much I did know. I knew he had fought and died in an honorable cause, a cause
that had little to do with our policy on Afghanistan. This soldier had
volunteered to put his very life on the line in service to his nation and his
brothers-in-arms. I see no more honorable cause that that.

In a column,
Mr. Putney has again raised the debate about the sacrifice of America's "sons
and daughters" in uniform. Some have argued that we must continue the fight to
honor their memory "so that they have not died in vain." Others argue we must
stop the wars to save soldiers from this fate. I think an essential
understanding of what motivates those of us in uniform is missing in this

We are not your sons and daughters, whom you must protect and
defend. We are your sword and your shield. We are men and women who volunteer to
place our lives on the line so you do not have to. We do not decide when or
where we will be sent. We go. You are our advocates, not our parents.

trust you to care for our families, to hold our jobs, pay for our equipment,
salary and medical care and yes, to honor our sacrifice. We trust you to vote
for good political leadership, to speak out against bad policy decisions and to
demand public accountability. However, we do not count on you to explain the
honorable character of our service. We are ennobled by the very fact we serve.

Our "high moral cause" is one of service to a nation whose principles we
believe in. We miss the point of political debate when we distill it down to
numbers of service member deaths. Debate should be about the policy that leads
us in or pulls us out of war. I, as a soldier, am personally insulted when
debate about war becomes not about policy, but about deaths, because it implies
that my service is at best uninformed or ill-conceived, and at worst valueless.

I know my life is in the hands of others because I choose for it to be
that way. I am not your daughter, a child who must be guided. I have made my
choice and pledge my honor to it. I will thank you to remember that because we
serve our nation, none of us dies in vain, regardless of the cause; end of

Every day a new Marine enlists or an airman puts on her uniform
is a reminder that our defenders come from people who still believe in our
nation and the values it aspires to, as flawed as we sometimes are. War does not
make our sacrifice honorable, death does not make our service honorable; service
itself is our honor.

We, your American service members, do not see the
cause for which we may give our last full measure of devotion, as our nation's
goals in Iraq or Afghanistan, and perhaps that is the difference. Our cause is
our nation, in all her beautiful, imperfect glory.

So on a dark night in
Afghanistan we stood under a velvet sky of a million stars to honor one man who
lay under 50. We never doubted what he died for. Pfc. Patrick A. Devoe II died
for you, the United States of America. That, Mr. Putney, is no goof.

Sarah Albrycht is a Bennington native serving in the Army in

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

'Grieve with us, don’t grieve for us.'

Army Chief of Staff , George Casey, is out of favor with some for his remarks on diversity in connection with Muslims in the U.S. Army. However, his remarks at the Fort Hood Memorial yesterday were fitting and well-delivered in my opinion.

It's fashionable these days to support the troops and to thank a soldier, especially today, on Veteran's Day. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that here in the liberal, blue country of New York City, such thanks sometimes seems perfunctory, said more for effect than out of a genuine respect for military service. Casey spoke to that point, I think, by reminding all of us that the Army is not those people out there, to be pitied when the chips are down. Rather, soldiers are drawn from the same neighborhoods, churches and schools that all of us inhabit, and they bury their dead in much the same way that we do. As Casey put it:

'So as we grieve as an Army family, as we wrap our arms around the families of our fallen comrades, I would say to you all: Grieve with us, don’t grieve for us.'

Friday, October 23, 2009

Timid Catholic?

Family Research Council continues to report on the hate crimes legislation attached to the Defense Authorization bill. Note the 9 Republicans who went along with the crowd (red highlights are mine), particularly one Anh Cao.

Get out your pen, Mr. President. Back on August 17 you made this promise to our veterans: "[I]f Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with... waste, I will veto it." Seven hundred seventy-eight earmarks later, the Defense Authorization bill is still standing. Why? Because House and Senate leaders aren't above playing politics with national security.
In a slap to the face of our servicemen and women, they attached "hate crimes" legislation to the final defense bill, forcing Congress to choose between expanding hate crimes or making our military go without. Unfortunately, House liberals had plenty of help from the GOP in sabotaging the bill. When it was put to a vote, nine Republicans refused to remove hate crimes from the Defense Authorization bill: Bill Cassidy (La.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Todd Platts (Penn.), Charles Dent (Penn.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Judy Biggert (Ill.), Anh Cao (La.), Michael Castle (Del.), and Dave Reichert (Wash.). These Republicans are serving as the enablers for a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality.
A note about 'enabler' Joseph Anh Cao from Louisiana. He is a Catholic who was hailed by Inside Catholic as representing 'a new generation of Catholics in politics -- a generation with the courage of Dostoevsky’s Alexei who will not follow in the way of the majority of Catholics presently serving in the U. S. Congress.'

Perhaps Cao doesn't understand how the hate crimes legislation can potentially be used to restrict the free speech of his fellow Catholics who believe in defending their Catholic values in the public square as Cao professes that he will do. What happened to his courage in this case?

Not 'a test lab'

Center for Military Readiness president, Elaine Donnelly, has an article at American Thinker called 'Roadmap for Railroading the Military.' A gay activist group in California called the Michael D. Palm Center knows that their goal of repealing the so-called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law (actual name of which is Section 65, Title 10) has little chance of being reversed if gay activists were to be principled enough to allow the democratic process to run its course. They know there aren't enough votes in Congress to repeal the law.

But, seeming to believe themselves above the law, the Palm Center is suggesting to the Obama administration a strategy 'that would short circuit the political system.'

Donnelly points out that the president's highest priority should be the protection of the American people 'not political payoffs or the demands of the LGBT Left.'

Monday, October 19, 2009

Our Military ' . . .should not be a test lab.'

Columnist Cal Thomas puts it well concerning gays in the military. Here is an excerpt from his column:

"I am sympathetic to the story told by Joseph Rocha, who claims in a Washington Post opinion column that he was discharged from the Navy because he is gay, though he says he never told anyone. Rocha says his male colleagues concluded he was gay when he wouldn't laugh at their dirty jokes about women or visit prostitutes with them. Gay service members have a point when they claim a double standard exists for heterosexuals and homosexuals regarding sexual behavior. ... But we are beginning in the wrong place. The place to start is whether citizens of this country, through their elected representatives and the military leaders named by them, have a right to determine what type of service members best serve the interests, safety and security of the United States. I contend we do. The military should not be a test lab. Pressure is building to put female sailors on submarines, along with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people presumably. That many heterosexuals find homosexual behavior immoral and not conducive to unit cohesion is of no concern to the social wrecking crew. What gay activists apparently don't care about is the effect reshaping the military in their image would have on our ability to fight and defend the country, which, after all, is the purpose of a military. ... The gays in the military and gay marriage issues are part of a broader attempt by liberals to restructure society. Social activists despise biblical morality (which heterosexuals could use a little more of, too), traditional values that have been proven to work when tried and numerous other cultural mores. This is not an opinion. It is also not a secret."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Have You No Shame?

Blackfive asks U.S. Senators 'Have you no shame?' as Blackfive comments today on this story in the Washington Times about the $2.6 billion the U.S. Senate transferred from Pentagon operations funds to cover some of our Senators' pet projects in their home states as well as other projects the military doesn't want.

Have you no shame?

. . . they take away the money from the O&M Budget that buys the tools and the sustenance that we need to win against what is now, thanks to President Obama's Chamberlainesque dithering and waffling, a growing insurgency that is becoming virulent and strong and doing to us what we were once doing to it.

. . . we have politicians and a President who are plundering the Treasury and dithering while trying to impress the Eurotrash deciding on how many more Nobel Peace Prizes to award to him. And he can't seem to fit any strategy meetings into his busy TV Speech schedule.

I am growing weary of explaining that there is a difference between fighting to win and fighting to not lose to the government class that feels as if they rule . . . When the money starts to go away, the question becomes whether or not it is worth it to fight at all for someone who will disrespect your sacrifices, insult your efforts and deny you the tools to win; and then blame you for not doing the best job you could with resources they never provided.

I pray for the safety of my comrades who carry our fight to enemies of freedom far away from home and comfort and for the United States of America, because we truly now need divine inspiration and the help of the hand of the Almighty...

Amen to that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More About College

If you're the parent of a high school senior, and you're still filling out college applications, there's always Oberlin out in Ohio. For $50,000 a year we parents can send our kids to what I'm always told is a wonderful school with an excellent music conservatory. What well-meaning friends and the college counselor don't mention is the added perk for our kids of 'Safer Sex Night' complete with porn movies, a 'Tent of Consent' and alcohol. We parents needn't be alarmed--it's all in the name of sex education.

Oberlin is one of those Mid-Western schools favored by Northeasterners, but in the last five years or so, I keep running into New Yorkers, real dyed-in-the-wool-liberal blue-staters, who don't like the place. Even their teenaged kids don't like the place. One parent described Oberlin as sort of dark with nobody looking very happy. Too much safer sex perhaps.

It's not only Oberlin that goes in for free and generous sex education for the benefit of its students. This article mentions Williams which has a 'Queer Bash' complete with pornography and Vassar which formerly hosted a 'Homo Hop.' Columbia University students report that they have a more sedate Health Fair in the spring. And then there was the
XXX-rated porn movie to be shown last spring--with administrative approval--at the University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University and UCLA.

We parents sit like puppies and listen to admissions counselors prattle on about the year abroad and the diversity of the student population, yet we don't bother to ask about the moral climate of the school where our kids will spend--largely unsupervised--four very formative years of their young adult lives.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Michael Yon on Afghanistan

Here's a short message from Michael Yon, the former Green Beret, self-employed war correspondent/photo-journalist who has been covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can follow his on-line 'magazine', read his book, Moment of Truth in Iraq, and support his mission. He has been warning about Afghanistan for the past several years. By the way, Yon's 2005 photo at right shows U.S.soldier Major Mark Bieger carrying a little Iraqi girl named Farah. American soldiers got Farah to the hospital where she died, but it was Al Qaeda terrorists who killed her when a suicide-car-bomber drove into a Stryker while about twenty Iraqi children crowded around. And Obama travels the world apologizing for our country?
This supposed "low intensity" war is high intensity for the handful on the burning end. While London and Washington waffle over troop levels, Afghanistan is on course to surpass anything we ever saw in Iraq. We can still turn this war around but at the current rate surely the war will be lost. Indecision on a troop increase is a decision to lose the war. The required information has been presented to leaders in Washington and London. They have all the information needed to make a decision on troop levels. Weak civilian leadership is sabotaging the war effort.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Democrats and their 'Hate Crime' Legislation

This is from Family Research Council (FRC) on the so-called 'Hate Crimes' legislation and how House Democrats are using the military to further the Democrats' social agenda. FRC points out why this legislation is unnecessary and why it is really 'thought crime' legislation.
The American military is trying to win two conflicts abroad, so the last thing it needs is to be deployed in a culture war to legitimize homosexuality. Unfortunately, that didn't stop House leaders from piggybacking on a military funding bill to pass their pet project: "hate crimes." Yesterday, the House voted 281 to 146 in favor of extending special federal protection to homosexuals as part of the $680 billion Defense Authorization bill, a maneuver that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) called a "disgrace." The Democratic majority "should be ashamed at the way it has used the needs of our men and women in uniform as a platform for a partisan agenda," he said. Republicans tried to stop Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from hijacking the bill on Wednesday but failed by 56 votes from stripping hate crimes from H.R. 2647.
Under the charge of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), 131 Republicans and 15 Democrats opposed the bill, but in the end it wasn't enough to stop Nancy Pelosi. After the vote, Rep. Boehner was frank in his disappointment--not only because hate crimes passed, but because liberals used an otherwise popular military bill to infringe on the very freedom our soldiers are fighting for." This is radical social policy that ... is being put on the defense authorization bill, on the backs of our soldiers, because they probably can't pass it on its own," he told reporters. The first prize on a very long wish list for homosexuals, "hate crimes" now heads to the Senate for approval. Contact your Senators today and ask them to stop the real crime: leaders who abuse their power to advance irrelevant special interests.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fr. Jenkins Concerned about Sanctity of Life?

Back in the spring of 2009, University of Notre Dame president Fr. Jenkins ignored the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their 2004 document, “Catholics in Political Life,” (which stated that Catholic institutions should not honor or give awards to those who support abortion), and he and Notre Dame awarded President Obama an honorary law degree. Last week, Fr. Jenkins announced to the Notre Dame campus via e-mail that he has appointed a university task force to research ways that the Notre Dame community can support the sanctity of life. Not content with just a task force and apparently now a crusader for life, Fr. Jenkins also announced that he will be attending the upcoming March for Life in Washington D.C. in January of 2010, writing that 'we must seek steps to witness to the sanctity of life.’

Fr. Jenkins must know very well what a Catholic university can and should be doing to uphold the sanctity of life. And rather than re-invent the wheel, he need only direct his task force to take a lesson from all the authentically Catholic colleges and universities that are upholding the church's teaching on life. For starters, Notre Dame could follow the example of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia where they shut down the campus for the day, and all students, faculty and administration attend the March.

It's only fair to believe it possible that Fr. Jenkins now genuinely desires to support a culture of life and wants the Notre Dame community to follow his example. But how is the fall of 2009 different from the spring of 2009? What happened? Instead of explaining, Fr. Jenkins seems to be manipulating his Catholic faith in order to satisfy the particular interest group of the moment. To whom is he directing this present show of concern? The more than 350,000 signatories to the petition protesting the Obama award will not much care that Fr. Jenkins is going to the March for Life. Neither pro-life Catholics nor pro-lifers in general will care that much either.

With his award to Obama, Fr. Jenkins has already ingratiated himself with the current power elite in Washington and the many CINOs (Catholic In Name Only) who serve there. He must already have the support of that 54% of American Catholics who either ignored or are ignorant of the Church's teaching on the matter of abortion and voted for Obama. He is certainly right in step with the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, Kathleen Kennedy, and others who might share
her view that the Pope has a thing or two to learn from Barack Obama. Ms. Kennedy asserts that President Obama represents American Catholics better than does the Holy Father. Kennedy manages to construe the decision to award Obama an honorary degree as Notre Dame’s ‘need to highlight the best of Catholic teaching as applied to politics.’

By linking the University of Notre Dame in the minds of the American public with the pro-abortion, not Catholic, not-very-religious, and questionably Christian Obama, Fr. Jenkins has already done an awful lot to help along the secularization and evisceration of American Catholicism and to secure more on-the-fence and poorly-catechized Catholic-voter support for Obama. Who is left for him to impress?

While navigating my own journey from Protestantism to Catholicism I read somewhere along the way (I'm now hazy as to the author) about looking for the perfect church, the one not ruined by human error and pride. The author wrote that if you ever find the perfect church, join it, and the day you join is the day that church will cease to be perfect. Having found the Catholic Church and converted, I take some tiny amount of comfort knowing that Fr. Jenkins (and Kathleen Kennedy) got there before me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let Us Eat Cake

Two articles among the very many on health care happened to catch my attention.

Dr. David Gratzer, a frequent and outspoken critic of Obama's plan to socialize our health care system, always offers a perspective that makes a lot of sense to me except for
this article in which he berates us for eating too much junk food, smoking too much, fueling a diabetes epidemic, being obese and generally acting like fools when it comes to our health. Now even the good Dr. Gratzer has stooped to lecturing and finger-wagging!

Dr. Gratzer enjoins us to promote the sort of health insurance reform that the Safeway supermarket chain has initiated where healthy choices are rewarded. Not really a bad idea, but why the need to denigrate Americans and their health habits. You will most likely remember the hubbub over Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's article on health care. If you'd like, you can read his

original and unexpurgated version direct from his blog. But, even he proffers advice on how we should all be eating.

In a different vein,
'The Pharmaceutical Umbrella,' explains how good health care around the world depends on American innovation and research in the pharmaceutical field. Two quotes should give an idea of the theme:
One reason for America’s drug dominance (though far from the only one) is America’s unsocialized medicine. Here, with the exception of a few programs like Medicaid and the VA system, the government doesn’t regulate the price of drugs, so when a company invents something big—the latest miracle cancer drug, say—it strikes it rich, making its executives hunger for more. Take away the profit motive, as government-run medicine often does by forcing drug companies to sell at discounted prices, and innovation will dry up.
But the lesson here isn’t that America should be stingy about subsidizing French health care. If American consumers and drug companies play a disproportionate role in protecting the world from dangerous microbes—just as America did in protecting it from Soviet missiles—we should be proud. (It would be too much to hope that this good deed will go unpunished among European elites.) No, the lesson is to be skeptical of reports speaking glowingly of socialized health-care systems, because those systems wouldn’t work nearly as well as they do without unsocialized American medicine.
In short, a 'nay' to Obamacare (and a request to leave us all alone to eat what we want).

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th


Daily news reports abound about the spread of the H1N1 virus, and I've just read another insipid article reporting that college students who are 'uninfected' are spending time thinking about whether or not they should go to football games, frat parties and other social venues where they might--horror of horrors--actually get sick! During the summer, I received an e-mail from the White House signed by Kathleen Sebelius, Janet Napolitano and Arne Duncan reminding me of the perils of this virus and telling me to wash my hands. And the media instructs us as to how we should sneeze. This is the kind of talking-to that parents give their pre-schoolers.

Americans, get a grip! Green-movement progressives aside, we are still a first world country and it is the 21st century. We have clean, potable water, sewage systems, medicines, highly-trained doctors and an extensive health care system (for the nonce). We have multi-vitamins and Purell.

It seems the media and the White House are on a campaign to convince as many of us as possible that a big, bad wolf is at our door, and, unless we listen to Mom and Dad in Washington, we just might not be able to handle this nasty virus on our own. If the spread of the H1N1 virus does manifest as a national flu epidemic, our concern should rightly be with the youngest and oldest and weakest among us who will be most susceptible to serious complications from the virus, not a healthy college student who might catch a bug because he shares a glass during his mid-week beer bash.

If only our president and our Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano were as concerned about terrorism and national defense as they pretend to be about protecting us from a virus. If only the president and Secretary Sebelius showed similar concern for protecting the weakest and most vulnerable in our society—the unborn, the elderly and the disabled--by denouncing practices such as abortion and euthanasia that exploit and destroy human lives. If Washington and its right-hand-man, the media, are successful in convincing the country to fear a virus, what other scapegoats will they dangle before us to to incite fear? Hope, indeed.

Hopefully, though, we will not mistake Washington's feigned concern about the nation's health for an Obama government that is ever more openly intent on controlling every aspect of our lives, right down to how we blow our nose.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ahead To College

The latest college guide from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), Choosing the Right College 2010-2011, is out and happily in my hands.

This guide is biased. It has an agenda. It's not exhaustive and it gives a highly subjective rating to the colleges and universities it does review. What a relief! With this guide it is possible to evaluate American colleges against a specific set of guiding principles as opposed to the 'objective' rankings of, say, a U.S. News and World Report. It is the most reliable and informative of the guides I've used in our family's two previous college searches, and I'm glad to have this most recent up-dated edition in time for our family's third college go-round.

The guide takes 80 selective institutions of higher learning (as defined by U.S. News & World Report), adds in a few more and then evaluates each school according to, first of all, the school's adherence to a prescribed and required core curriculum that embraces the canon of Western civilization. There is a discussion of academic instruction with a nod to those departments in which a school is strongest, a look at popular majors as well as a list of professors who excel as teachers and deliver instruction without politicizing their subject. In addition to the fairly in-depth discussion of academic life, the guide discusses student life--dorm living, sports, student clubs, the political atmosphere on campus, a student’s ability to speak out freely on campus and in the classroom, and the student's comfort level on campus regardless of political or religious identity. Statistics such as enrollment, test scores, tuition and retention rate are summarized for each institution, and, finally, each school is given a red, green or yellow light which is intended to indicate the 'state of civic liberty' at each school.

I was glad to see that two family favorites, Catholic University of America and the United States Military Academy received the green. I was not at all surprised that my alma mater, Barnard College, received a red. Schools that cleave toward the traditional notion of what a university education should be and are a pleasure to read about include Christendom College, Grove City, Hillsdale, Hampden-Sydney, University of Chicago and Brooklyn College among others. A surprise college, right here in New York City is The King's College, a school 'rooted in the Christian liberal arts tradition,' housed in the Empire State Building of all places.

Then there's that endless list of once perfectly fine liberal arts college, many of them having begun with strong religious affiliations, steeped in tradition and devoted to the classical notion of what a university should be, which have sacrificed their heritage and sold-out to the modern notion of what a university now is, largely a place where truth is relative and the inmates rule the asylum. Not surprisingly, many in this category are in the Northeast: Lafayette College, Williams, the Ivies (though Columbia University, alone among the Ivies, maintains its core curriculum), Amherst, Bucknell, Swarthmore, Haverford and Middlebury just to name a few. Speaking of Williams, a friend reports that during her recent visit to the campus, she and her son learned how incoming freshmen are sorted into living communities based on their race, ethnicity and religion. While these living communities have a long-standing tradition at Williams, it sounds like they are now being used for diversity training at the formerly all-male, mostly white Williams. I thought the ISI guide might have mentioned this case of diversity engineering, but perhaps the authors used up all their energy to arm readers with sufficient warning about Williams' s New England neighbor, Wesleyan University. This originally-Methodist college is so far gone on the progressive spectrum that ISI felt even a red light was not enough to ward off potential applicants.

So, if you'd like your English major to actually be required to read Shakespeare, if you prefer that your student emerge four years and $200,000 later with a grounding in classical literature, Judeo-Christian thought, American history, modern political theory and European intellectual history, if you'd like the college your son or daughter attends to reflect your values and priorities, then you will find this 1,000-page guide, along with introductory essays, to be engrossing, entertaining and informative reading. There’s a link to the ISI sight here on my blog, too!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


This is the second week of the 44th session of the Committee on CEDAW at the United Nations headquarters here in our fair city. What, you may ask, is CEDAW? The acronym stands for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and in UN parlance a 'convention' is a treaty. The Committee that is currently meeting consists of 23 'experts' who check up on whether or not countries that have signed or ratified this treaty are operating in compliance with it.

As with so much that the United Nations does, an international treaty offered in the spirit of affirming human rights and denouncing discrimination sounds like a treaty that no one could object to. Indeed, the CEDAW articles affirm women's rights to equal treatment under the law, in education and in the workplace. CEDAW denounces female prostitution and trafficking in women. But, just as the treaty defines equality and lays out the problems, it also spells out the solution. Or, in the treaty's own words, it provides an 'agenda for action' that countries should follow in order to achieve the equality that CEDAW defines for the international community.

One area of concern for some is CEDAW's persistent inclusion of abortion as part of the action agenda it promotes for countries that have ratified CEDAW. Though the word 'abortion' never appears in the treaty, the UN code words for abortion--'reproductive rights,' 'reproductive health'-- do. (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed this code language in April, 2009 when she spoke before a U.S. House committee and said that the Obama administration thinks 'reproductive health includes access to abortion.') The treaty puts it this way: '. . . the Convention also devotes major attention to a most vital concern of women, namely their reproductive rights.' And '. . . .the Convention is also concerned with the dimension of human reproduction as well as with the impact of cultural factors on gender relations.'
Thus, when the CEDAW Committee meets, as they are doing now, countries up for compliance review are, among other things, examined as to whether or not their laws provide access to the supposed 'right' to abortion, even though CEDAW never mentions abortion. An organization that follows all UN activities on abortion and other sanctity of life issues is C-Fam, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. I had the privilege of learning a bit about how CEDAW and treaties like it function while volunteering at C-Fam this past year.

Today and tomorrow, the CEDAW Committee will be reviewing two tiny countries that legally and culturally oppose abortion. They are Tuvalu and Timor-Leste. Tuvalu, in case you haven't heard of it, is the world's fourth smallest country located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia. Tuvalu's 8 or so islands comprise about 25 square km of land with a population of roughly 10,000 people. The Committee is most likely having a field day with tiny Tuvalu because not only does the country consider abortion a crime, but the Tuvaluan constitution does not explicitly guarantee equality between the sexes. (Perish the thought!) From the research I did while at C-Fam, I learned that the Committee has already questioned Tuvalu as to how and when the country plans to amend its constitution on the matter of equality between the sexes. The Committee also wants to know how little Tuvalu plans to change its culture (yes!) regarding some of its deep-seated traditions which don't exactly square with CEDAW's notion of how the world should run. It's fascinating how little tolerance the UN has for multi-culturalism when it interferes with their 'agenda.'

The case of Timor-Leste and CEDAW is also interesting. While at C-Fam, I wrote a piece about the country which I invite you to read here:


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Caritas In Veritate

It would be delinquent to continue blogging without mentioning the venerable and very wise Pope Benedict XVI. It's not only his visit with Obama but also the publication two weeks ago of his first social encyclical, Caritas In Veritate or Charity in Truth.

I do not claim to understand Pope Benedict's writings and I've only read at and about the encyclical. Two passages cited as central to the Pope's message in this encyclical are numbers 15 and 28. In No. 15, he cites the 'strong links between life ethics and social ethics. . . .' Pope Benedict goes on to quote from Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae and writes that,

“a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.”
In No. 28, the Pope discusses respect for life. He writes:

When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good.
Benedict was elected pope just three weeks after I was confirmed in the Catholic faith and just a few days after he, still Cardinal Ratzinger at that time, delivered a homily in which he minced no words in speaking of,

'a dictatorship of relativism . . that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the "I" and its whims as the ultimate measure.'
He went on to point out the flaw in modern relativist thought which labels faithfulness to the Church as fundamentalism but sees its own relativistic caroming about from one idea to the next as 'fashionable.'
Having received instruction in the faith in a liberal Catholic church, I despaired as a new Catholic about whether or not the Catholicism of the 21st century had any spine left to it. I was, then, joyfully reassured of the Church's truth and vitality when the same Cardinal Ratzinger who had named relativism for the fakery that it is, was elected pope only a day or so after that homily.

There are a few passages from my own first reading of Caritas in Veritate that I would like to cite. Here in number 52, Pope Benedict explains that truth doesn't come from men but only from God.

Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be, mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love. . . . That which is prior to us and constitutes us — subsistent Love and Truth — shows us what goodness is, and in what our true happiness consists. It shows us the road to true development.
And in number 75, the Pope writes about the hypocrisy of present-day society towards issues of life and human dignity.

To the tragic and widespread scourge of abortion we may well have to add . . .the systematic eugenic programming of births. At the other end of the spectrum, a pro-euthanasia mindset is making inroads as an equally damaging assertion of control over life that under certain circumstances is deemed no longer worth living. . . . .How can we be surprised by the indifference shown towards situations of human degradation, when such indifference extends even to our attitude towards what is and is not human?

And again, the Pope leaves no stone unturned when he writes in number 51 about our current obsession with the environment while we simultaneously wave away concern for human life.

If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves.
The Pope presented Obama with a copy of Caritas In Veritate along with a copy of Dignitas Personae, a Vatican publication on bioethics. Obama commented that he'd have plenty of reading to do on his way to Ghana, but one has to wonder whether the prosaic and earth-bound Obama will take much away from his meeting with the learned and holy Pope, other than to extract all the political capital he can from the visit.

It's hard to believe that just a little over a year ago, President Bush (a great friend of the Pope according to our own Father Rutler, himself a frequent White House visitor during the Bush years) was greeting Benedict on the tarmac in Washington, D.C., hosting him in the nation's capital and genuinely endorsing the Pope's message to American Catholics. Obama is not much of a friend to faith of any kind let alone Catholicism, but despite his tenure in the White House there is hope. Not the sentimental, flaccid hope of Obama's sloganeering, but real hope, Christ Our Hope, the theme of Pope Benedict's visit to the United States, as you will most certainly recall.

The text of Caritas In Veritate:

The text of Cardinal Ratzinger's homily of April, 2005:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Common Ground on Life Issues?

There may be, among the readers of this humble blog, if indeed you readers are out there, those who think that during his recent commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, Barack Obama posed a genuine invitation to dialogue about differences of opinion on the right to life. During the address, Obama suggested that the two sides work through differences with open hearts and minds and fair-minded words. Well, here is a video link to just such a discussion between two Catholic pro-lifers-- Professor Doug Kmiec, who is an Obama supporter and Professor Robert George, who is not an Obama supporter. Their topic is 'The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life; Is There Common Ground on Life Issues?'

Doug Kmiec, a Catholic, is Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Kmiec managed to wrest from Catholic teaching a justification for Catholics to abandon one of the central tenets of their faith in order to vote for Obama and his record of anti-life policies.

Robert George, also a pro-life Catholic, is Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and is the director of Princeton's James Madison Program for American Ideals and Institutions. He was also a member of George Bush's Council on Bioethics.

The discussion runs for about an hour and a twenty minutes, but the time flies, particularly when Professor George takes the podium. Kmiec and George each speak for about twenty minutes (with Kmiec going first) and then follows a question and answer period moderated by Mary Ann Glendon, law professor at Harvard and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

I think that 'casuistry' might be the right word to describe Kmiec's approach to the matter of Obama and abortion. Kmiec first describes Obama as everything he isn't, then comments on the importance of 'intent' and then talks about Obama's committment to limit, not abortion itself, but the conditions which might lead to abortion.

Professor George begins his remarks by noting that while speaking so judiciously at Notre Dame of open hearts and minds, Obama also said that 'the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.' (So much for dialoguing with President Obama!) Professor George points out that for Obama, abortion is no more objectionable than knee surgery, that is, our president is not even 'personally opposed' to killing the unborn and in fact finds it an acceptable alternative to the 'punishment' of having a baby.

But, my notes are a poor substitute for the real thing. So, watch, listen and comment, if you will.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sarah Palin

Here is a great article about Sarah Palin by Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and editor of The New Atlantis.