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.'