Third Millennium Antics

The two Pewsitter polls seem to have crested days ago. Indeed, the news outlet that bills itself as “Your Online Catholic Newspaper For The 3rd Millennium” isn’t even posting numbers on the “withhold Communion” petition anymore. One or the other of these polls have been headlining the site for weeks now. Is this what we have to look forward to in online media in the 3rd millennium: polls? Or is it a weird twist of another news outlet of the previous millennium: You interpret the news; we make it?

I was reading somewhere that the president supposedly has manipulated Notre Dame into this spectacle as proof, somehow, that conservative Catholic politics have been swamped by a baby-killing industry. If only life were so easily spun.

The president and his advisors seem smart enough to realize that the attacks from conservative Catholics have been mostly emotional. The discussion on inviting a person to give a speech in a Catholic context remains a matter of prudential judgment. Yet even in the commentariat here, people casually toss off terms like “babykiller” and “apostate,” as if the strong words substitute for some kind of logic. I know people are upset. I feel for you, but it is getting anything accomplished?

Oh wait: I know. This is about generating cash flow from the “base.” Stay angry, your leaders tell you, and keep the economic stimulus coming. While I can understand the reticence about jumping on the president’s 66% approval bandwagon (ND seniors are polling 97% approval on the invite, I read) I would think it’s important to stay on the same highway system, if, that is, change is really the point of this engagement.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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26 Responses to Third Millennium Antics

  1. Kevin in Texas says:

    Hi Todd,

    If I never see another poll on Catholic issues or teachings until I die, it will be too soon! Why do we worry about what majorities/minorities think about specific issues if they are very likely to be uninformed about the issue? For that matter, most polls of these sorts have a strong selection bias, meaning only very strong feelings on any issue are represented.

    In that vein, I’m not sure why it matters that 97% of ND seniors support the President’s speech! ;-)

  2. “Yet even in the commentariat here, people casually toss off terms like “babykiller” and “apostate,” as if the strong words substitute for some kind of logic. I know people are upset. I feel for you, but it is getting anything accomplished?”

    I sent an email to one of you at 8:07am yesterday giving a quick explanation why the use of both of those terms were fitting used. I suppose you could object to my arguments, but to say were “casually tossed” strikes me as just a bit off the mark.

    The email is a follows:

    “Dear Todd,

    I didn’t expect your readers to appreciate my comment on Notre Dame and Obama, most people don’t appreciate having their ox gored, even when it’s well deserving of it.

    Likewise, those on the ‘conservative’ sites never appreciated my telling them that their president was war criminal and that he should be turned over to a international tribunal for prosecution and those who knowingly follow his orders to commit those war crimes deserve what they get. But just because someone doesn’t appreciate it, doesn’t make it any the less true. Which by the way is why I use a nom de plume, being called unAmerican and a sponsor of terrorism were the typical responses from the war party cheerleaders.

    Ex Corde Ecclesiae was in direct reaction to schools like Notre Dame and their Land O’ Lakes Statement where they declared themselves independent from the Church. That is what apostates do, they declare themselves independent from the Church.

    And Obama is a baby killer, that is what his law to allow the killing of babies outside the womb is intended to do. Babies born via hysterotomy are born alive, (it’s the same procedure as a caesarian section), and then killed, his law made sure that doctors could practice that killing without fear of legal consequence. Obama knowing intends the murder of babies because that is specifically what his law intends.”

  3. Todd says:

    Usually “killer” is applied when a person commits a direct act of murder. One question for people eager to make the jump from pro-choice to baby-killer is why you don’t target those who actually perform the abortion procedure.

    As you (I presume) and I pay US taxes, we are also tainted by the indirect policies of government (abortion) as well as the direct acts of killing (the military, and outsourced torturers). Are we killers too? Some would say by your definition of the president, we would be.

    I recall (and disagreed with) those labelling returning Vietnam vets as baby killers. The link is more direct, as these unfortunate men occasionally were directly responsible for ending the life of children.

    But … not everything factually true is appropriate fodder for public mention. I know some things about you, for instance, that are true, and that you choose to shield. I continue to call you LTG out of respect for a decision that, while I disagree with, I can appreciate.

    Your label of the president as a baby killer illustratesa the poverty of your argument, which is why I’ve allowed the post to stand unedited. Your frustration and that of the political pro-life movement leaks out in inaccurate and sometimes hypocritical ways. That damages the cause.

    While I would be doing the movement a short-term favor by deleting posts like that, I try to avoid codependency. If I knew an alcoholic who was trying to lie about being late for work, I wouldn’t cover up: I would know she or he would need to hit bottom before a real change in behavior happened.

    I think you’ll find much of the commentariat here unimpressed with your posts, on the whole. A few people have told me so privately.

    So by all means, continue on this tack if your purpose is to let off steam and tarnish the pro-life effort.

  4. John Heavrin says:

    If Obama were just being invited to “give a speech” at Notre Dame, Todd, I would have no objection, especially if he were to be challenged on his policies which are so fundamentally opposed to Catholic teaching and if it were to be pointed out to him why he is so wrong.

    But, of course, he’s not being invited to Notre Dame merely to “give a speech.” He’s being honored.


    For what is he being honored? one might ask. Perhaps Fr. Jenkins has a good answer for that.

    Yes, honorary degrees are a formality and nothing more, really. Nevertheless, honoring a person creates an atmosphere which all but guarantees that he won’t be challenged or questioned in any way by those doing the honoring. So it’ll be smiles, backslaps and “Isn’t this guy great” all around, nothing more.

    Don’t like “babykiller” or “apostate”? Neither do I. How about “head of state in possession of enormous power, who is using that enormous power to implement immoral policies which are fundamentally opposed to the magisterium of the Catholic Church, to which the University of Notre Dame has historically submitted and presumably still intends to submit.” A little wordier, less shock value, but basically expresses the same reality. Why honor such a man?

    In my view, such a man has no place being honored by a Catholic institution, regardless of the office he holds. I only hope that Fr. Jenkins and others who are responsible for his presence and for giving him honor will use the occasion to point out the error of his thinking. Given the atmosphere that will obtain, and given the apparent support of the student body for Obama, I doubt very much that will happen. I doubt if Fr. Jenkins will be able to do that. I hope he proves me wrong and that some good will come of this unfortunate situation.

    What I fear is that the honor extended to Obama by Notre Dame will be interpreted as the “Catholic Church” giving a stamp of approval to his views on abortion rights, escr, etc.

    But again, Todd, the problem is not that he’s going up there to “give a speech” but that he’s being honored.

  5. Liam says:

    Actually, that prolix wording is a lot better, pace Strunk & White. It is also more effective because it does beg the question as much as the more pungent short version.

    As I’ve noted before here, honorary degrees are unworthy of serious academic institutions. Leave them to Harvard. It’s time to retire them elsewhere. And for good. They have absolutely nothing to commend them, except perhaps for alumni who missed a few credits and provided signal public service in the course of life, et cet.

  6. Tony says:

    (ND seniors are polling 97% approval on the invite, I read)

    This says a lot about the training these young men and women are getting at this supposedly “Catholic” university.

  7. Tony says:

    Usually “killer” is applied when a person commits a direct act of murder. One question for people eager to make the jump from pro-choice to baby-killer is why you don’t target those who actually perform the abortion procedure.

    So Todd, was King Herod a “baby killer” or do you only target the soldiers who did the actual killing?

  8. Todd says:

    Surely, Tony, you can do better than this. Herod’s massacre was forced upon families. While it can be argued many abortions are the result of pressure, pro-choice Americans would agree that the choice was that of the women involved, certainly not of the government.

    No, with examples like this, it’s no wonder the political pro-life movement has suffered a near-total marginalization. Good arguments go to waste because shrill dominates the conversation.

  9. John Heavrin says:

    Why don’t you address Tony’s question, Todd? Do you have to physically perform a killing to be a killer? Or could a mastermind of genocide, Eichmann for example, be considered a killer? Even if never personally “killed” anybody? It’s a truism that all Germans were in a sense complicit in the Holocaust, were killers, simply because they acquiesced in it. Acquiescence was support, claimed or even real ignorance no excuse.

    Then address my question: do you think it’s a good idea for Notre Dame to honor Obama? Do you think it’s possible to honor a man for some of his positions while ignoring his other, dishonorable positions, and maintain any semblance of institutional integrity?

    A better question: as an admitted Catholic supporter of Obama, you’re loud and clear in your denunciations of the “politcal pro-life movement” in your phrase. But that’s easy, especially now that they have no political power at all, no leverage; their marginalization is not “near-total,” it’s total, as is the Republican Party’s. It’s harder to give an alternative course of action for ending the legality of abortion in our country. Can you give one? Or do you consider that to be impossible, so it’s better to “stay on the same highway system” as a polled majority of the American people and concede that such that the legality of such killing is rightful (because it has majority support), and confine your efforts to attempt to reduce the numbers of the killings?

    Just curious as to how self-described pro-lifers like yourself, who because of their support of Obama are not now marginalized, plan to approach the problem of legal abortion. Or if they plan to.

  10. Tony says:


    You don’t believe someone who not only supports abortion ideologically and legislatively, but with a stroke of his own pen funds the abortions is not culpable?

    If I pay an abortionist, am I culpable in the abortion?

  11. Todd says:

    Okay, John. Sure, going up a chain of command, one can be considered a killer for ordering others to kill. And yes, one can, as a non-protesting bystander, be somewhat complicit in killing. So I would agree with you: President Obama is somewhat closer to Pope Benedict than he is to Herod.

    I don’t think an honorary degree is much of an honor. It’s duplicated hundreds if not a few thousand times each Spring. So pro-choice Condi Rice gets a pass a few years ago at BC, and someone admittedly more in the crosshairs doesn’t today? That seems more about knee-jerk politics. It was also predictable, so I’m sure ND and the president had both eyes open going into this.

    As for an alternative track, I would suggest pulling back all lobbying money and diverting it to local efforts to assist women make sound choices on avoiding abortion. The actions of hard line political types have done nothing to further the pro-life cause, and it’s time to admit that we have a far better chance working in a way that communicates the ministry of Christ rather than get caught up in lies and deceptions.

    In the tight economy, pro-choice radicals will soon see their lobbyists have no purpose either and they’ll be pink-slipped to do something else. Maybe then we’ll see who’s the most compassionate.

  12. John Heavrin says:

    “So I would agree with you: President Obama is somewhat closer to Pope Benedict than he is to Herod.”

    I’m afraid I’m too dense to understand this statement of yours. Could you tell me, first, what it means, and second, how it expresses agreement with anything that I’ve said (perhaps somehow it does, I just don’t understand what you’re talking about).

  13. John Heavrin says:

    “I don’t think an honorary degree is much of an honor.”

    But Notre Dame does, apparently. They are honoring him. Are you saying that Notre Dame is not really honoring Obama, even though they claim to be honoring him?

    I think my question stands, if you care to answer it: do you think it’s a good idea, or a bad idea, for Notre Dame to honor Obama?

  14. Bill Kurtz says:

    I have a question for some of these shrill posters, and the James Dobsonish bishops they egg on. If voting for a pro-abortion candidate (albeit for other reasons) makes one as bad as someone who has or performs an abortion, how far does this stretch?
    For example, take a newspaper that publishes classified ads for abortion clinics. Am I a sinner if I deliver that newspaper, or sell it in a store, or if I buy it?

  15. Kevin in Texas says:

    Hi Bill,

    To quote you twice:

    1) “I have a question for some of these shrill posters…”

    From the Catholic Thing blog comments section on a Bishop Burke editorial:

    2) Comment
    at Friday, 27 March 2009 12:45by Bill Kurtz
    Pardon me, but does the L. in Raymond L. Burke possibly stand for Limbaugh? (Another self-promoting blowhard from Missouri)

    By all means, Bill, please share your thoughts on Obama’s deeply anti-life and anti-Catholic actions and proposals since he was sworn in. How would you recommend that we react to them as pro-life Catholics?

  16. Todd says:

    “It’s a truism that all Germans were in a sense complicit in the Holocaust, were killers, simply because they acquiesced in it. Acquiescence was support, claimed or even real ignorance no excuse.”

    Were you not referring to Joseph Ratzinger here?

  17. Kevin in Texas says:

    Todd, your counterpoint on Joseph Ratzinger’s complicity in Nazi Holocaust actions is necessarily counterbalanced by the obvious, explicit differences in the spiritual views that the two men (Ratzinger and Obama) hold on the matters at hand:

    1) Obama not only supports abortion on demand and for most circumstances, but he holds that it is a basic right that should not be denied to women in this country. It’s easy to make the logical assumption that this is not something that spiritually troubles him, nor that he views as inherently evil or sinful. He is unrepentant and absolute in his support of the right to abortion for nearly any reason someone can come up with.

    2) Ratzinger, while forced to join the “Hitler Jugend” in his youth, has publicly denounced that association, as well as the atrocities committed by the Nazis and in their name. It’s also easy to logically assume that any guilt he may have had in the matter, spiritually speaking, has been confessed and erased. Moreover, Ratzinger has not persisted in giving witness to the need for evil acts to be considered “fundamental rights”, as has Obama.

  18. Todd says:

    “Todd, your counterpoint on Joseph Ratzinger’s complicity in Nazi Holocaust actions …”

    That wasn’t my point. I assume it was John’s. I agreed with the sense that one has to have one’s hands bloody to be guilty on the level of being called a “baby killer” and that it is important to make a distinction between relative levels of involvement and complicity.

    My sense is that the president needs to be convinced on the science of pregnancy. If you don’t believe a fetus is a baby or a person, there is no “killer.” One cannot logically say the president is unrepentant is one doesn’t know him, but we can suspect he is ignorant on these points.

  19. Kevin in Texas says:

    President Obama is a very intelligent man. I don’t agree with much of his politics, but I don’t deny that he is very bright. I’m not as sure as you seem to be, Todd, that it’s a simple matter of “educating” him on pregnancy and life issues, as if he were genuinely unaware of the basic concepts therein.

    I would point to his twisted anti-logic on the ESCR issue; his statement upon signing it into law (or was it an exce. order? I don’t recall) was a masterwork of doublespeak that directly contradicts well-publicized and very recent scientific findings on embryonic vs. adult stem cells. Heck, even Oprah’s medical guru, Dr. Oz, mentioned on her show last week (when Michael J. Fox was there, too–he has fought hard for ESCR support by the gov’t) that the stem cell debate is “dead”! ESCs can provoke cancer in human cells, whereas adult stem cells have not done so, at least so far. This is fairly common knowledge among even lay people who follow science a bit. I really don’t buy at all the possibility that Obama hasn’t heard about this.

    Instead, I believe Pres. Obama’s heart is closed to the possibility of the Church’s teachings on life issues now, and that only prayer and the work of the Holy Spirity can change him internally. Much of this is also directly related to his desire to support his political allies, most of whom are strongly anti-life issues vis-a-vis Church teachings on abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and ESCR. He can’t be seen by them to be “caving in” to pro-lifers on an issue as fundamental as ESCR, or that would jeopardize their standing on the abortion rights issue.

  20. Todd says:

    Kevin, you and I are in agreement scientifically and morally on ESCR. My daughter’s pediatric cardiologist does research in adult stem cell research and is very hopeful of an ability in 15-20 years to regrow a healthy heart for her. ESCR can only delay more promising research.

    Unfortunately, the president is a major party politician, and like John McCain, and most everyone else, is hooked in with the whole industry of medicine, pharmaceuticals, and research. ESCR is about money for corporations. And while it’s not quite dead yet, I expect it will be within a decade.

    Being hooked on the extremes of the issues, war, abortion, ESCR aren’t so much about intelligence as they are about emotions. It’s not about logic, reason. At best it’s a lack of wisdom.

  21. Bill Kurtz says:

    Kevin in Texas asked for a response. I will offer some comments previously published elsewhere a few months ago, that “Cardinal George’s statement at the bishops’ conference set exactly the tone bishops SHOULD offer.
    He was forthrightly, unapologetically against abortion. Yet he pointed out that Barack Obama was elected because of the economy, not his stand on abortion.
    (None of the condescending references to concerns about the economy or the war that some of our wouldbe Dobsons offered.)
    If, the cardinal added, Obama misread his election as a mandate to push the Freedom of Choice Act, or move to require Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, the church would fight him every step of the way, as it should.”
    I might only add that the last I heard, FOCA hadn’t even been introduced in Congress, and (can we agree on this) the president has his hands more than full with the economy and other issues.

  22. John Heavrin says:

    ““It’s a truism that all Germans were in a sense complicit in the Holocaust, were killers, simply because they acquiesced in it. Acquiescence was support, claimed or even real ignorance no excuse.”

    Were you not referring to Joseph Ratzinger here?”

    The original quote was mine and I think it’s been misconstrued so I’d like to clarify my point. I wasn’t referring to the Holy Father in particular nor trying to imply anything about him or for that matter any individual German. I was merely making the point that with regard to the Holocaust not only the actual murderers but also the planners, etc., and in a sense all Germans are considered to have been complicit in the killings, because they occurred in their midst and they did nothing to stop them. Many would argue there was nothing most Germans could have done, others would answer it doesn’t matter, there is collective guilt. And I think the situation in this way and others is analogous to legal abortion in this country, which has by the way gone on far longer and has a far higher body count than the Holocaust of the 1930s/40s.

    But I really wasn’t trying to argue any of that with my perhaps ill-chosen analogy (since it allowed Todd to infer I was making some point about the Holy Father). I was simply taking issue with Todd’s point in post #3 that “Usually “killer” is applied when a person commits a direct act of murder.” There are many ways to be a killer, and to be considered a killer, than by actually shedding the blood with your own hands. Not only the law but common sense tells us so.

    “Babykilling” is what abortion is, period. He who enables it through the use of his lawful power invites the description, however inflammatory. You could argue that Obama, or any other supporter of legal abortion is or is not a “babykiller,” but you couldn’t argue against the point merely by pointing out that Obama has never actually, physically performed an abortion.

    Again, I was not trying to make a point about the Holy Father, but merely about how you can be called a “killer” without actually “committing a direct act of murder,” in Todd’s phrase.

    I will say that to attempt to draw any comparison between the teenaged Joseph Ratzinger’s “role,” as a German, in the Holocaust and President’s Obama’s role, as the most powerful man on earth, in the holocaust of legal abortion in our country is manifestly absurd. I didn’t intend to draw such a comparison.

  23. Todd says:

    Thanks for the clarification, John.

    I would agree, then, that the comparison is an unequal one, given that the German example is one of a state-sponsored attempt not only to kill but to wipe out an entire people.

    The body count issue is often raised, but it’s a questionable one for moral people to be arguing over what’s more heinous many millions or many more millions, especially given abortion has been a practice for thousands of years of human history.

    The comparison is unequal in the sense that abortion on demand as practiced anywhere but China perhaps, is a choice left to individual mothers. An individual may opt for an abortion, and perhaps some more than once, but those individual choices each pale in comparison with mass murder and genocide. The fact is that President Obama, like you and I, and like most people, have never had an abortion and have not directly helped someone to have one.

    As a political figure, sure, he influences the ease with which people can procure an abortion. It has yet to be shown he is responsible for an increase in the numbers of abortion. But the simple truth is that if women stopped aborting unborn children, the pro-choice effort in this nation would become as irrelevant as King Herod.

  24. John Heavrin says:

    “…not directly helped someone to have one…”

    Respectfully, Todd, Obama and every politician who helps to uphold the legality of abortion has absolutely and, yes, directly helped women to have abortions. Without the efforts of pro-choice politicians, past and present, abortions would be far harder to obtain. In many cases, impossible to obtain. You or I, maybe, can step back knowing that we’ve had no direct involvement in abortion. But a politician who’s worked and voted and expended all kinds of effort to make sure abortion is available can’t then turn around and say “Don’t look at me, I’m not responsible for abortion, I’ve never had one, I think it’s morally wrong.” And in turn, voting for such a person, in my view, is enabling such efforts and thus begins to become complicity in, acquiescence in, the structure of legal abortion. No way around that, it seems to me. Not trying to fling accusations at any particular voter, just trying to see the thing clearly and call it for what it is.

    Also, I don’t argue that our current abortion situation is “more heinous” than Hitler’s holocaust. Only that when you come down to it, it’s not less heinous. Often the comparison evokes eye-rolling and the like, because, for all too many, Hitler’s holocaust involved the murder of human beings and abortion does not. But we believe otherwise, so I think the comparison fits. 40 million, give or take, just in the U.S., never allowed to live, is incomprehensibly evil, just as Hitler’s 6 million was.

    But I don’t base that on comparing the numbers per se. For me, as for you, “millions dead” is “millions dead.”

  25. Jimmy Mac says:

    “Obama’s deeply anti-life and anti-Catholic actions and proposals”

    Does this mean that one who is against abortion is anti-Protestant, Jewish, etc.?

    Anti-Catholic is a strong charge to make about someone who does not agree with you on how and when life begins, or who should be involved in that decision.

  26. Kevin in Texas says:

    “Does this mean that one who is against abortion is anti-Protestant, Jewish, etc.?

    Anti-Catholic is a strong charge to make about someone who does not agree with you on how and when life begins, or who should be involved in that decision.”

    Thank you, Jimmy Mac and Bill Kurtz, for dialoguing on these issues as you have in these last couple of posts. It’s much easier to do this than to name-call or insult, eh?

    Bill Kurtz, you and I agree, then, that the Church is right in fighting any political moves to further abortion “rights”, ESCR, euthanasia, FOCA, or the removal of cosncience clauses. Good! That’s some common ground, at least! Now we may disagree over tactics, but I would argue that for any pro-life Christian (Catholics or otherwise) to ignore the rumblings of many on the pro-choice side to push FOCA and to rescind conscience clause protections for pro-life hospitals and medical personnel would be political suicide. Witness the recent vote (last week, or was it today?) in the Senate where 16 Catholic Senators voted to rescind conscience clauses (notably all were Democrats, a party with a deep connection to pro-choice values in the abortion debate), while only 9 Catholic Senators voted against it. Scary stuff.

    Jimmy Mac, note that I don’t call Obama anti-Catholic, but rather, I refer to actions he has promoted or even signed into law that are directly anti-Catholic philosophically. You make a valid point that these same actions and political moves are more generally anathema to pro-life views overall, not only to Catholics who hold them.

    It should be noted that not a single one of the Catholic members of the Obama administration (including his choices for possible Ambassador to the Holy See) is in agreement with clear Church teaching on abortion, as well as on some other life issues like ESCR, in some cases. To me it’s notable that Obama has not made even any overtures to pro-life Catholic politicians, nor even to groups like Democrats for Life, in his search for people to fill posts in his administration.

    Finally, Obama’s profoundly intellectually dishonest (and scientifically 100% incorrect!) rationale for his signing of legislation supporting Federal funding of ESCR was very much a direct swipe at Catholic efforts on this matter, as the Church and Catholic pro-life groups have been by far the most vocal opponents of ESCR at both state and Federal levels in the past 5 years or so. For Obama to claim that “this move will take remove the politics from scientific research” was not only patently absurd (pro-choicers politicize science, de facto, when they claim that it’s necessary to destroy human embryos in a nebulous grasp for potential future advances in health care–the medical debate on that issue is essentially over, and they lost), but a direct slap in the face to pro-life groups who have fought against ESCR funding.

    As far as the notion that Obama doesn’t agree with me, Kevin, personally on how and when life begins, I would reply that I am not giving a personal opinion on the matter, as I am not a doctor or medical scientist. Embryology as a field has long taught medical students everywhere that a new, unique human being exists when an ovum is fertilized by a sperm. I’ll let Obama take up the “when life begins” debate with doctors who know better than either he or I!

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