The Morning After: An Important Lesson

I’ve always been a quick learner.  I was the kid in elementary school who could read the spelling words through twice and ace the test.  Throughout high school and college, I was the student who managed to get high marks without studying for a test.  I wrote lengthy papers at the last minute, with no editing or proofreading and pulled an A.  I’m not proud of these things – mostly because I did nothing to deserve my good grades.  Good memory genes – fluke of nature, gift from God – nothing I can take credit for.

That awkward moment when you ruin the grading curve.

Also because I ruined a few grading curves…never a good moment for a nerdy kid.

Married life has increased the learning curve for me a little bit.  For example, it took me all of 3 years of marriage to learn that “Love” is not a feeling that you fall into.  No, Love is a choice.  It’s the choice to act kind, loving and intimate all the time – on the days when I like my husband, the days when he’s being romantic, and the days when he remembers to take out the garbage…but even more importantly, it’s choosing to love him on the days when I really don’t like him, when he’s being a doofus, and when he’s eating chips two inches from my ear and I want to punch him in the face through the bag.

Take another handful of those chips, I dare you!

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Veep Debate: Snapshot of Political Discourse

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I’m interested in American politics – duh, as most of us are. I’m not super interested, but I do care, and I pay attention out of the corner of my eye. I regularly vote, and I try to read up on issues and make sound decisions backed up by the (hopefully) well formed conscience that has grown through my Catholic education and my ongoing prayer life and learning. I’ve been enjoying, in a matter of speaking, the debate funness going on. The Vice Presidential debate, in particular, caught my attention. I wasn’t overly excited to watch it, I didn’t catch the entire thing – about 2/3rds of it, but I thought it sort of gave us a snapshot of a typical political discussion in ‘Merica these days.

There is a reason barbers and restaurant servers try not to talk about religion or politics – you very well may upset someone, and you want a good tip from your customer. That’s our state – we’re afraid to talk about what we think are incredibly important things, because we may offend someone or we may get caught having to defend our position with facts we’re not all entirely sure of. And too often these facts are from various news channels that all seem to have different agendas and don’t usually represent issues (especially religious issues) with any thoroughness or real accuracy.

So I think this debate was all too typical, but not necessarily at debates, more like at bars and coffee shops and gatherings of friends and family. I think no matter what political party you affiliate yourself with, you have to admit that VP Joe Biden was less than polite. He interrupted regularly (82 times, according to a count by Republicans- I didn’t see another count anywhere), he laughed dismissively when Ryan was speaking, and he generally gave the impression that Paul Ryan had no idea what he was talking about. During a discussion about nuclear weapons in Iran, Biden thought it appropriate to laugh. My point isn’t to pick on Joe Biden, it is more to point out the dismissive, “I’m right and you’re a fool if you really believe what you’re saying” sort of attitude.

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I have no doubt that Biden was presenting what he would like us to believe are facts. The problem is that I honestly don’t remember the words the candidates said during the debate this many days later. I watched the entire first Presidential debate and paid a great deal of attention to it, and I can only remember a little of what was said – instead, I remember the overall emotions and reactions I had to what they said. In watching parts of the subsequent debates, generally the same thing – snapshots, and in my muddled brain basic perceptions I left watching the debate holding of each candidate. My point is that Mr. Vice President Joe Biden did not make a positive impression on me with the attitude he took.

Candidate Paul Ryan was clearly nervous, was definitely a man thrown into an unfamiliar situation, but he also came in armed with information that he claims can be backed up by fact and by various studies – information that he hopes we take at face value. He took deep breaths, he drank lots of water, and he came across as thoughtful. He seemed to want to be accurate in his responses, and he kept his emotions in check throughout, even though it was obvious from the get go that maintaining his calm was going to be difficult and crucial through the interruptions and laughing and dismissive behavior. He tried to display a respect for when Biden was speaking, though he clearly disagreed.

How often, when we’re in a political or religious discussion do we become the Biden? How often do we dismissively shake our head, and laugh derisively at the person we are disagreeing with? Are we authentically listening to the ongoing discussion, or are we too busy preparing our response? Do we get angry, interrupt, get louder and more vehement in our reactions? I am 100% positive that I have had the exact same demeanor as our Vice President in arguments with people over politics or theology, and probably lots dumber things – and now I see that I totally failed as a Christian in these situations.

I’m not convinced that either Joe Biden or Paul Ryan really listened and thought through what the other was saying – and maybe that isn’t really what can ever happen at a debate at this level. Rather, while their “opponent” was speaking, it is almost sure that each was preparing his own response.

My grandmother used to have a saying: “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” The arguing, the getting louder, the repetition, the disrespect for the person we are talking with will not truly change any minds or hearts.

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We are definitely called to be discussing serious issues in our world today – be they religious or political. It is not something to just shy away from. But we are not called to win arguments. Because honestly, who ever really wins an argument? Rather, lets enter into real discussions about these serious issues that are close to our hearts. Lets have information that we have researched for ourselves instead of relying on tidbits from Fox News or CNN.

Above even the information and the party lines, let us approach political and religious discussions with love and respect for who we are talking with. Because that person you are talking with has Christ within them. And respecting and loving that Christ is far more important than winning any argument.

Post note: this is not an attempt to direct your voting decisions, or even a way to approach these crucial decisions. For more on that, see the write up by my much smarter blog-mate, Kristin.

Cutting through the B.S.: A Catholic Voting Guide

I am so fed up with this election (is it November 7th yet?). I have been stubbornly attempting to ignore anything even remotely connected to it.  I have refused to watch any debate, I have “hidden” my political advocate Facebook friends, and I have been flat out avoiding Twitter.

Then, almost by accident, I stumbled upon a blog post that outlined the moral implications of this election.  In it, the author asserted that the way in which I vote has eternal implications – not just for our country, but for my soul.

He quoted Bishop Lori:

“The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.”

Lori certainly is not the only one to point out the dangers to salvation that can be found at the voting booth on November 6th.  Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois recently commented:

“A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

I’ve spent many hours in prayer and consideration since reading these words.   I realized that while I knew where I stood on most of the hot-button issues of this election and had (along with most of the country) already made up my mind about who I was going to vote for, I hadn’t truly considered the weight of these issues – nor had I really considered the many important issues that no one was talking about.  If my soul is on the line, perhaps a little more due diligence was in order.

So, I took to the magical interwebs to find out what the Church really teaches in regard to voting and my soul.

Here is a short compilation of what various Catholic/Christian bloggers and theologians are saying:

…discover they all were over the age of 18 during the 2012 Presidential Election.

Well, that’s it – I suppose we can all just jump in the hand basket and get ready for Hell…

I decided not to give up hope just yet.  I imagined that perhaps this collection of would-be political theologians was missing some essential Truth – some nugget of salvation that would save my immortal soul from the imminent damnation of the 2012 Presidential Election.

The core of the “you’re going to hell if you vote for (insert candidate name here)” argument is based around the Church teaching that we cannot condone intrinsic evils with our votes.  As the Bishop’s document Faithful Citizenship states:

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. (22)

I figured this idea of intrinsic evil seemed to be a good place to start informing my conscience on who should get my vote (if anyone).

Catholic Voter’s Guide: First Draft

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Cardinal Dolan, President Obama, The Dinner, and A Lesson

So, for the most part, we here at The Catholic Realist have stayed away from discussions about politics – even Catholic politics.  I can’t speak for my fellow realists, but I often find that political discussions, no matter how well-intentioned – end up divisive and destructive.  However, every so often a story grabs my attention and I feel like it’s worth a comment.

Indulge me for a moment, won’t you?

According to reports, Dolan has extended an invitation to President Obama to the annual Al Smith dinner in New York City. The president, reportedly, has accepted.  The dinner is one of the most prestigious political events in New York City particularly during a presidential election year and candidates from both parties usually attend.

Known for its lighthearted political speeches, the major speakers deliver a series of self-deprecating jokes while ribbing their opponent at the same time. In October 2008, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama both attended the dinner, accepting an invitation by Cardinal Egan of New York. During the dinner, Cardinal Eagan expressed his “delight” that Obama and McCain had attended, called them “outstanding exemplary Americans.”

But this year, some Catholics are surprised to hear that Archbishop Dolan had invited Obama, now that he is president. Should the Archbishop associate a fundraiser for Catholic Charities with a leader whose administration remains defiantly opposed to Church moral teachings?

It’s not unprecedented in a presidential election year for a candidate not to be invited. In 1996, Cardinal O’Connor did not invite President Clinton or Senator Dole to the dinner and, in 2004, neither Sen. John Kerry nor President Bush were invited.

Obama’s attendance at the dinner this year could be awkward, particularly since the Catholic Church’s relationship with Obama has been severely tested in the battle over his administration’s contraception coverage mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Dolan, Obama assured that his administration would not “impede” the work of the Catholic Church. But once the mandate was issued, Catholic bishops publicly denounced the move, calling it a threat to religious freedom.  What’s worse, administration officials who met with the bishops about the mandate refused to compromise in any meaningful way.

– From Crisis Magazine

“Obama’s attendance at the dinner this year could be awkward…” Awkward?  Talk about an understatement!  The invitation itself has inflamed the ire of Catholics across the country.

Jason Jones, Catholic film producer and advocate for the dignity of human life around the globe had this to say:

Man-up Catholics! We should be plotting a coup d’etat not inviting the enemy of the Church to our parties!

Michael Hichborn of the American Life League said:

Regardless of what they’ve done in the past, it is unthinkable for a Catholic charity to invite the man [President Obama] seeking the destruction of religious freedom in America to a fundraising event. This sends the wrong message to pew-sitting Catholics, who are anxiously looking to our bishops to stand up and fight against this clear enemy of the Church who will be joining them for dinner.”

Even Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life got in on the anti-Obama action saying,

“I’m all in favor of protocol and understand the difference between respecting the president’s policies vs. respecting his office,” he said in a statement. “But there comes a time when the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal.”

There’s a whole group of Catholics who have started an online petition begging Cardinal Dolan to rescind his invitation to the President.

We find it to be an outrage and a scandal that in light of ongoing court litigation due to President Obama’s HHS Mandate forcing Catholic organizations to violate conscience, shut down ministries, or pay an excessive tax to continue operations, that one of the most recognizable Cardinals in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama at an election year event that the world will be sure to receive as you giving him your tacit blessing.

We the undersigned prayerfully implore you to halt this travesty immediately and call on you to uphold the sacred mission of your Catholic Diocese. May God grant you the courage and wisdom to do what is right.

Matthew 5:22 my friends…Jesus had something to say about anger that is destructive and unnecessarily demeaning.

Those of you who know my tendency toward argument and my proclivity for contradiction won’t be surprised to find that I respectfully disagree with these fellow Catholics. Read More