UPDATE: Anti-Catholicism (OK, It was Satire) on Full Display

This is what passes for comedy at the Huffington Post. It’s not exactly original or creative, either. People have been making similar blasphemous attacks on Catholicism and Jesus Christ Himself for almost 2,000 years.

It’s nothing short of amazing how an openly-Catholic politician running for President brings out the lunatics among those who preach compassion and tolerance but exercise so little of it.

If the Huffington Post decides to keep in on their site, that’s their decision and it’s protected by the First Amendment. I won’t include excerpts from it here because it is extremely offensive to my faith and that of over 1 billion people. I will, however, openly wonder whether the editors at that site, or even Arianna Huffington herself, would allow an article ridiculing Islam on that site.

BTW: Larry Doyle, the author, just published a follow-up piece which goes out of its way to NOT apologize and blames his motivation to write the offending piece on the left’s latest bogeyman, Rick Santorum.

UPDATE: OK…just re-read Doyle’s follow-up and he points out the article was satire. Apparently, Doyle is lashing out at traditional Christians who deride or mock the beliefs of “progressive Christians, Mormons and Muslims”.  Still unacceptable even if he didn’t mean it literally. Poor guy is angry. Seems like his feelings were hurt and he picked an awful way to make his point.

The Problem with Rick Santorum

It hasn’t been a good week for Rick Santorum. Starting with the debate last Wednesday and continuing this weekend, he’s struggled to deal with the media onslaught. Interesting, because his GOP opponents have done very little to hurt him.

Santorum is an  honest, straight-up man who speaks his convictions and answers the hard questions thrown at him. Those are admirable traits, when applied correctly. The problem with Santorum is that in his honesty, he sometimes goes overboard and lacks tact. He believes in all the right things, but he has trouble channeling his righteous indignation in a way that isn’t condescending or overblown.

I feel for him, because that’s a flaw a lot of us have.

For example; he totally flubbed the issue of encouraging people to go to college, making it sound like he thinks college is a bad thing when neither he nor anyone else really believes that. Of course college isn’t for everyone. That’s perfectly fine. And, yes, there are TONS of liberal professors at colleges and a lot of discrimination against conservatives and religious people occurs on college campuses, but he could have framed this whole thing in a much more motivating light.

He also mishandled the JFK Houston speech issue by speaking from emotion first and then trying to tone down the rhetoric in his ABC This Week interview this past Sunday. I also have problems with parts of JFK’s speech, probably many of the same ones Santorum has, but to say on national TV in the middle of a campaign that the speech made him throw up? The last part of his explanation was better, but too late. Damage done.

You can probably say that he’s often not “Presidential”, for what it’s worth (the sitting president is worse, but that’s not exactly a standard to set).

In front of a media that’s predisposed to look at every word Santorum says in order to stir up controversy, he ought to be a lot more careful with his tone and choice of words than he’s been. I have a feeling this is going to end up hurting him tomorrow and next week. We’ll see.

Judge in U.S. Dismisses Assault on Free Speech

Imagine the reactions of outrage if Christians who smashed a picture of Piss Christ in a French museum last year would have been given a pass by authorities. Imagine the reactions of outrage if Christians in New York City who smeared paint over the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung would have been excused for their actions because they were “protecting their culture”. Imagine the outrage if an indignant Catholic would have attempted to assault Nicki Minaj in the wake of her stupid Grammy performance and gotten off scott-free.

The outrage at a lack of action by authority would be totally understandable. As offensive as Piss Christ, the Virgin Mary dung painting, Nicki Minaj’s performance and many other expressions of hate and disrespect toward Christianity are, they are protected in this country by the First Amendment. It certainly hurts Christians to see these pieces of “art”, but vandalism and threats against the works and the artists themselves are considered unlawful acts and in a free, civil society are normally and expected to be rightfully punished.

So then, what happens when a pair of atheist nut-cases parade down a street in Pennsylvania; one guy mocking the Pope and the other dressed as a zombie Mohammad, and one of the guys is attacked by an offended Muslim? Certainly, we should expect that the attacker at least get some kind of punishment, right?

Well, no.

Jonathon Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, reports on a disturbing case in which a state judge in Pennsylvania threw out an assault case involving a Muslim attacking an atheist for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Judge Mark Martin, an Iraq war veteran and a convert to Islam, threw the case out in what appears to be an invocation of Sharia law.

The incident occurred at the Mechanicsburg, Pa., Halloween parade where Ernie Perce, an atheist activist, marched as a zombie Muhammad. Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim, attacked Perce, and he was arrested by police.

Judge Martin threw the case out on the grounds that Elbayomy was obligated to attack Perce because of his culture and religion. Judge Martin stated that the First Amendment of the Constitution does not permit people to provoke other people. He also called Perce, the plaintiff in the case, a “doofus.” In effect, Perce was the perpetrator of the assault, in Judge Martin’s view, and Elbayomy the innocent. The Sharia law that the Muslim attacker followed trumped the First Amendment.

From Jonathon Turley’s piece linked in the above quote, check out some of what Judge Mark Martin, a Muslim convert, said in the court hearing in which he excused the attacker (emphasis Turley’s):

Here in our society, we have a Constitution that gives us many rights, specifically First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers intended. I think our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures – which is what you did.

I don’t think you’re aware, Sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – I understand you’re an atheist – but see Islam is not just a religion. It’s their culture, their culture, their very essence, their very being. They pray five times a day toward Mecca. To be a good Muslim before you die, you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, unless you’re otherwise told you cannot because you’re too ill, too elderly, whatever, but you must make the attempt. Their greeting is ‘Salam alaikum, wa-laikum as-Salam,’ uh, ‘May God be with you.’

Whenever it is very common, their language, when they’re speaking to each other, it’s very common for them to say, uh, Allah willing, this will happen. It’s, they’re so immersed in it. And what you’ve done is, you’ve completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very, very, very offensive. I’m a Muslim. I find it offensive. I find what’s on the other side of this [sign] very offensive. But you have that right, but you are way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights. …

Beyond ridiculous.

Where’s the outrage at Judge Martin’s ruling and statement? Some might say that he simply didn’t have enough evidence to charge the alleged attacker with harassment or assault. Perhaps, perhaps not. But it’s interesting and revealing, IMO, that the judge’s preamble to his final ruling was a clear defense of an attempt to intimidate, harass and attack another person simply because they were offended.

I’m not going to go as far as to say that this signals some sort of creeping Sharia law in this country, but what are Americans supposed to think when a judge makes these kind of statements and rulings which go clearly against the First Amendment?

Again, I repeat: Where’s the outrage???

President Obama’s “Secularist Totalitarianism”

Father Robert Barron is one of my favorite Catholic preachers and evangelists. He’s a theologian, author and scholar of the highest degree (he received his Doctorate of Sacred Theology in 1992), not to mention the founder of  the multimedia organization Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Most recently, he completed the magnificent 10-part Catholicism series, parts of which aired on PBS last fall. His periodic videos available on his website and on YouTube cover a wide range of topics from secular movies to deeply religious topics and usually delivered with a blend of intellectualism and accessibility to the average lay person.

One of his more recent video clips is a reaction to the HHS contraception mandate recently approved by the Obama Administration. Fr. Barron begins by illustrating how secularism has slowly but steadily crept into Catholic institutions such as hospitals and universities over the past few decades,  more recently given a “strong push” into secularism by the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate. Then Fr. Barron delivers the following excerpt, starting at 3:36 and ending at 6:00, which in my opinion perfectly describes the state of liberalism today (transcription and emphasis mine):

(The HHS mandate) is an example of what I would call secularist totalitarianism:  the desire of the secular state to control of everything, to be utterly in command and to force religious institutions into a sort of marginal position. Keep in mind now the same Barack Obama who is pressing this requirement stood up at Notre Dame a few years ago when he controversially was given an honorary degree of law, something I was very much against, and he publically and vociferously said “I am for conscience protection”, meaning that religious institutions would have the ability to back of out certain things they find objectionable.  Well, see, what this represents, and why it’s so troubling, is he’s utterly gone back on that word. There is no room for a conscience compromise, there’s no room to back away from this.

Here’s the thing: there are two types of liberalism. There’s a more inclusive, tolerant form of liberalism that isn’t trying to push religion off the stage aggressively, but rather recognizes the legitimate role…in fact more than legitimate, necessary role that religion plays in a civil society. I would argue that most of our founding fathers were liberals in that sense. Think of someone like (Alexis) de Tocqueville in the early 19th century recognizing how important religion is precisely within a democratic framework.

But there’s also another form of liberalism which I think is sadly on display in this recent Obama decision. This is a type of ideological, secularist agenda, secularista liberalism that IS aggressive toward religion.  And that’s why I used that, I admit it, loaded term…totalitarian. It wants a complete control of all aspects of society, and so it pushes religion qua religion off the public stage.  It will tolerate, for example, a privatized religiosity which is why you’ll hear this in the rhetoric too of the Obama Administration:  freedom of worship. “OK, privately you can do what you want, you can worship”, but not really freedom of religion which means a robust presence of religion and religious values in the public conversation. I would argue that’s what we’re witnessing now in this move.

Fr. Barron may be an intellectual, but he doesn’t mince words.

The final 2 minutes that follow deal with the natural temptation of government to tend toward totalitarianism. Please take the time to watch the entire 8-minute video. If you’ve ever wondered if there are any present-day Catholic leaders who can clearly and fearlessly articulate government and religion’s proper roles in civic society, look no further than Fr. Robert Barron and this video.

(For additional commentary by Fr. Barron on this topic, click here).

(L)insanity and Marco Rubio’s Faith

Eventful day in Miami today, with both IN-sanity (Pres. Obama’s UM visit) and LIN-sanity (Jeremy Lin) going on at the same time.

Something else caught my eye today…a BuzzFeed story picked up by the Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog on Marco Rubio’s Mormon past. Not as much the story itself, which I find somewhat interesting but a non-issue, but the coverage the story is getting in several MSM outlets, including CNN and ABC.

I don’t really know what to make of the attention this is getting…there’s no “gotcha” material unless you consider someone converting from Catholicism to Mormonism in his childhood, then reverting to Catholicism as a teen, then attending a non-denominational church while still practicing Catholicism something to be skeptical about. I don’t, but I wonder if that’s at least a small part of it, not to mention the ties to Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.

I thought we weren’t supposed to make a big deal of someone’s personal religious faith, right?

Just wait until Marco Rubio gets picked to be the GOP’s #2 on the ticket this fall and see what kind of personal stuff the MSM decides to turn into big stories. Univision’s attacks on Rubio will seem like child’s play.

Ash Wednesday and Subtraction by Addition

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Here’s a good explanation of why Catholics wear ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday.

I have to admit I struggled a little in coming up with things to “give up” for Lent. In past years I have given up sweets, coffee…pretty much the typical stuff most people give up during the 40 days of Lent. Fortunately I can’t say I’m too dependent on these things and can usually enjoy them in moderation. I’m also fortunate in that I don’t have any real bad vices or habits.

Nevertheless, there’s always something I can improve on. Those who know me and are close to me know this all too well. I can always be more giving of my time for God, family, friends and community, more patient and supportive and more understanding and accepting of others’ opinions.

This is just the beginning. Yes, I will still abstain from sweets and that extra cup of coffee…but for Lent 2012 I have decided to subtract by addition, so to speak. Reduce my selfishness by focusing on others.

May your Lent be filled with much blessings.

Cuba, Reconciliation, Faith and Works

Staying on the topic of the Pope’s March visit to Cuba, the Herald’s Ana Veciana-Suarez shifts the focus from dissidents in Cuba to Cuban-Americans in Miami who are planning to travel to Cuba for the Pope’s visit.

The article’s profile of several people reveals that the driving desire behind their pilgrimage is the hope for unity and reconciliation and the belief that through faith and hope, everything is possible.

Ralph Gazitua, has led the prison ministry for the Archdiocese of Miami for more than two decades and sees some similarities between his work in those institutions and efforts to spread the gospel in Cuba. “I’ve seen amazing things happen through the force of prayer,” says Gazitua, who has visited the Vatican several times. “Our message as a group of pilgrims should be clear. Through strong faith, everything is possible.

I couldn’t agree more. Another thing that struck me about this article and in other stories involving the Catholic Church in Cuba is that there is a focus (at least from this side of the Straits) on Cuban-Americans opening up to Cubans on the island, putting all the hurt behind them and seeking reconciliation. Again, I agree.

What’s often missing or obscured from this message, however, is that reconciliation is a two-way street. Also and most importantly, reconciliation can only come after an honest and sincere admission of wrong-doing and a professed commitment to correct those wrongs. For us on this side, it means putting the hurt and enmity behind us and reach out to our brothers and sisters in Cuba.

What does it mean for those on the island, especially those who have either directly or indirectly caused so much pain?

Unfortunately, Ms. Veciana-Suarez’s profile of the pilgrims doesn’t address this part of the question. Perhaps they don’t want to reveal their true feelings in public, especially to a journalist. Understandable. But I’m afraid what we might be seeing is a timidity in approach, one that has all the right intentions but doesn’t want to risk ruffling the feathers that need to be ruffled.

The following section involving Carlos Saladrigas, one of the pilgrims, best reflects this supposed timidity:

…the sight of enthusiastic throngs greeting Pope John Paul 14 years ago proved to be an eye-opening experience for some exiles — those who were there to witness it and those who refused to go but watched from Miami.

Businessman Carlos Saladrigas was one of them. He spearheaded the opposition to the church-sponsored cruise in 1998. But “after I saw the images on television and I heard what was being said, it was clear to me that I had made a mistake. I realized I wanted to be there,” he says.

Those powerful images got him thinking — and talking. He spoke at length with Father Jose Conrado Rodriguez, an outspoken priest from a parish in Santiago de Cuba. Father Rodriguez is best known for the 2009 open letter he sent Raul Castro condemning the restrictions on freedoms and the harassment of his parishioners. “He convinced me it was necessary to seek a neutral process,” Saladrigas said — a process the Catholic church could facilitate.

Saladrigas and wife Olga, practicing Catholics who met as teenagers teaching catechism classes in Miami, will be in Cuba for Benedict’s visit. He defends the church’s position against those who claim that a religious institution should not play into Castro’s hands. “The church is doing what it always does,” he adds. “It provides moral guidance (emphasis mine). It spreads the gospel. This is about evangelization, about hope.”

If the church’s “moral guidance” doesn’t include defending the basic human rights of all; if it doesn’t make clear that those in power in Cuba are wrong; if we are going to meekly accept that the church should cave in to the authority of man despite all injustices, then how in the world can true reconciliation take place?  Either we believe that the regime is justified in denying basic human rights or we demand that the regime do their part in the process.
The following passage in the Letter of St. James (one of my favorite letters of the Bible) may not be totally applicable but expresses the need to put faith into action:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

St. James’ words of wisdom are lived daily by those in Cuba who literally fight for their lives every day in the name of freedom. People like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and the Ladies in White, to name but a few. It would be easy for them to accept their fate and only strive to  “keep warm and well fed”. But faith demands more from them and from all of us.

I can think of no better message of hope and love that the pilgrims can deliver than to make it clear to our brothers and sisters on the island, without fear and with full confidence in the grace of God, that they speak for all the people of God in support their God-given right to live in freedom, the same freedom they enjoy in their country of exile and adoption.  Yes, we need faith and hope. But we need to turn it into concrete actions of love, including those that may cause us to suffer. On a daily basis, Cuba’s brave dissidents show us this by example.

I hope and pray that when these people hit the ground in Cuba, the pain and suffering they will surely see will remind them that true reconciliation will never take place until good and decent people have the courage and the faith to stand up and demand that all of us be treated with the dignity and love we were created in.

Full article follows.

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