Political Campaign for USSC?

What’s in a Name?
by Holly Bailey (reprinted from Newsweek, July 13th, Periscope)

June 13 issue – Ted Jackson is ready. The Kentucky Republican operative who designed and sold President George W. Bush’s official campaign gear in 2004 is already sketching out the bumper stickers, hats and T shirts that will advertise Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court—whoever that may be. Amid speculation that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist may soon retire, Jackson and his company, the Spaulding Group, are laying the groundwork for what will be an unprecedented public campaign in favor of a high-court nominee. Following the model of Bush’s online campaign store, Jackson plans to sell yard signs, buttons and other items once exclusive to political campaigns and use them to promote Bush’s candidate to replace Rehnquist as chief justice. The only difference, Jackson says: instead of vote for or elect, signs will say confirm.

Could a Scalia for chief justice sign pop up in a yard near you? Jackson says there’s already been “considerable demand” for court items from customers who stocked up on Bush memorabilia in 2004. (He plans to sell the goods on the same site: georgewbushstore.com.) “People are a lot more open with their politics than they used to be,” Jackson says. “In this case, they not only want to show their support for President Bush, but they also want to show their support for his agenda and his nominees.” While there is rampant speculation about potential candidates, Jackson says his group hasn’t drawn up any designs with certain individuals in mind—nor has he gotten any hints from his friends at the White House. Like everyone else, he’s waiting and wondering. “All we need is a name,” he says. “Once we have a name, we can turn around something within 48 hours.”


Mission Aviation Fellowship is an Evangelical airline, dedicated to “delivering missionaries and the Gospel to remote parts of the world.” It additionally provides a valuable transportation service to remote parts Haiti, allowing access for medical professionals and the like, and for that its owners are to be commended. However, I disagree with their argument that Haiti is “dedicated to Satan” due to Voodoo.

Haiti is on the Western half of the island first conquered by Columbus, and was ruled by the French for over two centuries until the Haitian Revolution, in 1800.On the eve of the Revolution, the colony consisted of 40,000 whites, 30,000 mulattos, and 400,000 black slaves, many scourged and beaten, or treated as concubines.

Voodoo is the result of the marriage of African tribals faiths to Catholic Christianity. Many slaves in Haiti learned Christianity from the Jesuits, who offered sanctuary to runaway slaves, and encouraged blacks to fully participate in Church life. “All are equal before God”, the Jesuits declared. For such “heresy,” the Jesuits were expelled.

The subsequent Slaveowner-controlled, “purified” Catholicism was callous in its treatment of slaves. Many began to merge their older African faiths with their newer Catholic Christianity—– easy because of shared ideas about humility before God, a pantheon of saints and spirits (the Haitian lwa), and respect for heritage. Practiced mostly in secret, and ritualistic, Voodoo is passed on from oungan (priest) to disciple, in each generation, a process open to women and men. Voodoo often has been persecuted by elite in Haitian society,though during the Duvalier regime (1956-1986), Voodoo priests loyal to the dictatorship were used to help control the population, much like Slaveowner Catholicism. The “Dark Voodoo” often seen in the movies is a small cult within Voodoo. It is to Voodooism what Satanism is to Christianity.

Many Voodooists firmly believe that Catholicism supplements their faith, and see no contradiction in acculturating the African and the Catholic traditions as one. Some Catholics do take issue with this amalgamation and at various points in Haitian history have acted as they deemed accordingly, including forbidding the speaking of Creole, the Haitian native language, in parochial schools, to restrict linguistic access to the traditions. Yet it is remarkably simplistic to ignore the historical context, and the genuine spiritual yearnings, which lead to the development of Voodoo. Regardless, do your own research, than decide whether this island nation, with a long history of internal struggle and outside exploitation, is married to Lucifer.

Personal Conscience over Ecclesiastical Authority

‘Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.’

This is from a commentary by the future Pope. The commentary was on how the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on conscience was in the same line of thought as John Henry Newman. (Commentary on the Doctrine of Vatican II, vol v, p.134, edited by Herbert Vormgrimler)

Do you think he wishes he could take back those words? No, intellectually, he probably still believes it…he just is probably incapable of seeing the issue in the real world.

Underming the Courts

Brilliant. Let’s put a man on the United States Supreme Court who encourages violence toward federal judges. [http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/04/breaking-gop-senator-john-cornyn-r-tx.html]

Senators Mentioned As Possible Justices
By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 19 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – If there is a Supreme Court vacancy this summer, President Bush may look no farther than the Capitol for a member of Congress who can be confirmed quickly. Past presidents have done it, more than two dozen times.

While admittedly long shots, GOP Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas are being talked up by some conservatives as possible nominees for the high court.

Seen as most likely to step down is Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who at 80 is fighting cancer. Retirement also might be attractive option for Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, 75, and John Paul Stevens, 85.

Kyl is a stalwart pro-business conservative and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Cornyn is a former Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general. Both men have been at the forefront in fighting Democratic filibusters against Bush’s federal appeals court nominees.

Like all potential Supreme Court nominees — most lists of would-be candidates have at least 10 judges, lawyers or lawmakers — the senators played down their chances.

“If I was on the president’s short list, I think I would have heard about it by now,” Kyl said with a laugh.

Cornyn said, “It’s flattering, but I like my current job and I’m not looking for another one.”

Twenty-six men who served in Congress — 10 only in the Senate, 12 only in the House and four in both chambers — later joined the Supreme Court. The revolving door has turned the other way only once: David Davis resigned from the court in 1877 to represent Illinois in the Senate as an independent.

Bush has looked to Congress when filling federal court vacancies.
He picked Rep. Christopher Cox
, R-Calif., for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Cox withdrew after California’s two Democratic senators opposed him. He is now awaiting confirmation to head the Securities and Exchange Commission

Outsiders agree that Kyl and Cornyn are less likely to be selected by Bush for a Supreme Court vacancy if Rehnquist is the first to retire.

“I would be very surprised to see a Republican senator nominated to replace Rehnquist,” said Sean Rushton of the conservative Committee for Justice. “It would make more sense to nominate a Republican senator like Cornyn to replace Sandra Day O’Connor or John Paul Stevens.”

The president would be expected to replace Rehnquist with a non-Washington conservative because senators know that pick will not change the court’s ideological balance, Rushton said. But if O’Connor or Stevens leaves, Bush could swing the court further to the right by picking either Kyl or Cornyn. Both senators are considered more conservative than O’Connor and Stevens.

They both also have the advantage of being members of “the club.” The Senate has never rejected one of its own for the high court. Senators have just emerged from a partisan deadlock over Bush’s picks for appeals courts. Choosing a conservative senator might be attractive because of “senatorial courtesy” — the idea that senators will not be overly harsh to one of their own during the confirmation process.

The downside is that, for a time, the Republicans’ 55-vote majority could shrink if Kyl is a nominee. Arizona’s Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, probably would appoint a Democrat to replace him until the 2006 election. Of course, senatorial courtesy is never a guarantee.
Cornyn, for example, might find himself having to explain comments he made after several violent attacks on judges this year. He said he wondered whether frustration against perceived political decisions by judges “builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence, certainly without any justification.” Critics said his comments could incite violence against judges and the remarks could come back to haunt Cornyn.

Several years ago, former GOP Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina tried his best to scuttle former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley Braun’ s nomination as ambassador to New Zealand, until Republican leaders made it clear they would not let him.

Former Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., had a hard time getting past Democratic senators to become Bush’s first attorney general. The Senate voted to confirm him 58-42, the narrowest margin ever for an attorney general.

Secretary ignores Pope’s Will

Secretary Ignores Pope’s Will

Warwsaw, Poland (AP)
Pope John Pauls II’s longtime private secretary said yesterday on Polish state radio that he did not turn the late pontiff’s papers, as his [the Pope’s] will demanded. Archbishiop Stanislaw Dwiwisz, who worked with the Pope from 1966 until his death earlier this year, argued that the papers contain “great riches” [yes, Dziwisz’s own riches] and should be instead presevered . He suggested that the papers, and his own notes [naturally, of course] might prove useful in the late pontiff’s beatification – the last formal step before the church declares someone a saint.

How can a Church, run by people who expect explicate obedience, turn around and flaunt the last will and testament of a man that they believe is so close to God that they are expediting his canonization? Perhaps the Church is not the primary interest of those who are charged with maintaining it? The entire situation is eerily similar to that of Mother Theresa’s confessor’s decision to publish the notes from Mother Theresa’s personal confessions…a decision that was made separate from both canonical law and the priest’s own interests of fame no doubt.

The Coup in the Oval Office

In his Sunday op-ed piece “Life Lessons from Watergate,” David Brooks seems determined to give a commencement address he apparently wasn’t invited to give. If Mr. Brooks thinks that the major life lesson from Watergate is about shoring up the fragile egos of young Turks, he has strained the gnat and swallowed the camel. The primary lesson from Watergate was about stopping a coup d’etat by a criminal in the Oval Office.

Little Gray Cells by James J. DiGiacomo, S.J.

Reprinted from America (americamagazine.org), Vol. 192 No. 19, May 30, 2005
Little Gray Cells

The inclusion of this article does not imply, in any way, Fr. DiGiacomo’s agreement with any other posting on this website.

By James J. DiGiacomo, S.J.
In the sacristy after Mass, a woman told me that she was very disturbed by something I had said during my brief homily. I was commenting on the Gospel reading in which Jesus says that the fields are white for the harvest and that we should pray that the Lord sends workers into the fields. I observed that there were two possible reasons for the alarming shortage of priests: 1) God is calling people, but they are not responding, or 2) there are people who feel called but are not accepted, such as women and married men. I then asked: “Are such people called? Only God knows for sure. So let’s pray that we listen to the Spirit.”

The parishioner (I’ll call her Virginia) objected to my bringing up the possibility of women being called to the priesthood, because Rome has pronounced any discussion of the issue as out of bounds. I replied that I was aware of this; but since I have yet to hear any personally convincing arguments against women’s ordination, I continue to wonder. And it was this very wondering that offended her! How could I, a priest, have any reservations when authority has spoken? And worse still, how could I even intimate such reservations from the altar?

Any attempt to explain my thinking was, of course, futile. Such a conversation was doomed from the outset and destined to go downhill, which it did. For this dispute was not just about women’s ordination but about something much more basic. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be a Catholic, and it sheds light on the divisions that presently trouble the church and threaten to tear it apart. Virginia and I are like two ships passing in the night, and we both have millions of companions on our respective vessels that seem to be drifting farther and farther apart.
It would be well to point out, at the outset, that we are not disagreeing about some article of the Creed or other basic dogma. As in other derivative issues, like artificial birth control, capital punishment and end-of-life care, the substance of the faith is not at stake. These questions are important but must be kept in perspective. And there should be room for serious adult Catholics to reflect, question and debate such issues without reading one another out of the church. This is not to say that one opinion is as good as another, or that sincerity is all that matters. We’re talking here about a search for truth. The question is, how should we search for the truth?
For Virginia, the answer is simple. Listen to those in authority, especially the pope and those around him, whose judgments are final and not subject to review. The reasons they give for their decisions are irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the source. Her attitude is based on genuine faith in the vicar of Christ, confident that any pronouncement emanating from the Vatican comes from God. Any attempt to question its validity is tantamount to a rejection of the faith. But for me, and others like me, there is a problem. We have these little gray cells that persist in working even after respected authority speaks. We can’t seem to turn these cells off, and we tend to wonder, to question, to speculate, to evaluate, to criticize. In short, we can’t help thinking; and if those of us who are priests think out loud, Virginia and her friends are scandalized. She thinks our job is to tell people when to stop thinking, instead of giving bad example and continuing to speak when we have all presumably heard the last word.
In the final analysis, it’s all about loyalty. How can you refuse to give unquestioning assent and still call yourself a loyal member of the church? Isn’t the very notion of loyal opposition a contradiction in terms? It depends. I question the wisdom of some church policies and disagree with some decisions, but I do not leave the church. I work within the community of believers, accepting and obeying regulations and procedures even as I try to do my little bit, preaching and teaching and writing, to change them by appealing to minds and hearts. I know enough church history to realize that down the centuries, fallible church leaders have made mistakes and pursued misguided policies, many of which have in time been corrected with the help of the Holy Spirit. I am often annoyed, sometimes disappointed and occasionally angry, but I try not to lose patience and I keep the faith. And there are millions more like me.

If these divisions among Catholics were found only in the pews, it would be bad enough. But they go all the way up through the clergy and the episcopacy. Everyone knows that there are litmus tests to be passed before priests can become bishops or bishops become cardinals. And there is a disturbing development going on in the seminaries and among the priests themselves. Many of the younger clergy find their identity in professing unquestioning assent to authority, and they explicitly differentiate themselves from those older priests who have failed to purge themselves of the disease of critical thinking.

There have always been careerists and climbers among the clergy who were willing to stifle individuality for the sake of advancement, but now there is a rising generation of priests who are moved not just by ambition but by a disturbing collectivism that narrows options for service and styles of leadership. These men are interested not in asking questions but in giving answers. Questions make trouble; answers provide assurance. Inquiring minds are not only annoying; they are superfluous. All the answers we need are ready at hand, supplied by documents and pronouncements that are self-justifying and need no validation.

This movement comes at a time when many Catholics are suffering from a loss of nerve. Empty convents and rectories, half-empty churches, closing schools, contracting parishes and sexual abuse scandals eat away at our confidence. There is an understandable hunger for stability, for certainty. Unity is sought through uniformity. Catechetical materials are vigorously scanned and blue-penciled. Stimulating topics and speakers are no longer welcome in parish halls. Adventuresome theologians are not just criticized; they must be silenced. All this amounts to a kind of intellectual circling of the wagons—a skill at which the clergy have often excelled.
All popular movements have their buzzwords, and this one is no exception. The patrons of mental somnolence have a favorite: serene. Sometimes serenity is a good thing, a mark of emotional health, as when Pope John Paul II, in his last hours, was described as serene in the face of approaching death. That was admirable, even inspiring. At other times the word is used to manipulate and to offer false comfort. Time and again during the last several years, when pronouncements from the Vatican provoked consternation and disbelief on the part of thoughtful Catholics, the papal spokesman advised one and all to welcome the latest bad news “in a spirit of serene acceptance,” or words to that effect.

This is not the kind of serenity that comes from inner strength or conviction, but rather that of Alfred E. Newman, the resident dunce of Mad magazine: “What, me worry?” Cheer up, everyone; cool it. If no one gets excited, then everything must be all right. But in the church today, everything is not all right. There are pressing needs to be addressed, policies to be reviewed, problems to be faced, dogmatisms to be challenged, issues to be taken off back burners and closed questions to be reopened. At such a time, being serene is just another way of being in denial.

At this moment in the life of the church, those who refuse to close their eyes, turn off their minds, and settle for slack-jawed certainty are in for some bad times. They look more and more like blue staters in a red-state church, as the true believers move into positions of power and influence and set out to silence the voices of reason.

We have been down this road before. A hundred years ago, Catholic biblical scholars were being harassed, threatened and discredited for questioning outdated, untenable interpretations of Sacred Scripture. Sixty years later, during the Second Vatican Council, they were vindicated, and their best work was endorsed as official Catholic teaching in the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), the French Jesuit paleontologist and religious thinker, never got to see his impressive body of work in print. He had to die first, so that friends and admirers might see to its publication. John Courtney Murray, S.J. (1904-67), the U.S. theologian, fared somewhat better. He lived to see his teaching on religious liberty vindicated by the council, but only after enduring years of enforced silence imposed by mediocre minds. In all these cases the operative force was fear—fear of confusing or disturbing the faithful. Such concern is not improper. What is mistaken is the attempt to maintain clarity by silencing voices and closing minds. In so doing, those who use these tactics create a desert and call it peace.

Today the Catholic Church stands at a crossroads. This is a time fraught with peril and possibility. There is a place for caution and prudence, but also a need for creativity and courage. A jumble of conflicting voices frightens the guardians of order, but we have more to fear from a false impression of unanimity achieved at the price of stifling the most active minds among us. It is a characteristic of many dysfunctional families that their members are unable to bring their differences to the surface and deal with them. Many noisy, quarrelsome households, on the other hand, are actually healthier.

Yes, Virginia, there is another opinion out there, and it’s all right. You do not have to agree with it, but try not to be shocked at its expression. It means you belong to a church that is not dead but alive, and where the little gray cells continue to grow and flourish in freedom.

James J. DiGiacomo, S.J., is the author of many books on religious education and youth ministry.
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