Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Reflection

"What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; Jesus is the everlasting "today" of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive!

"Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do."

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quote of the Day

"We have heard many names, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, some Pharisees, some teachers of the Law, who have decided to kill him. They waited for the opportunity to seize him. Am I like one of them?...

"Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and not know how to accept my responsibility and let people be condemned, or condemn them myself?

"Am I like that crowd that did not know whether it was in a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and chooses Barabbas? For them it was the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

"Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit upon him, insult him, have fun humiliating him?

"Am I like the Cyrenian who was returning from work, tired, but who had the good will to help the Lord carry the cross?

"Am I like those who passed in front of the cross and joked about Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him! Joking about Jesus...

"Am I like those courageous women, and like Jesus’ Mother, who were there, suffering in silence?

"Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who carried Jesus’ body with love, to put him in the tomb?

"Am I like the 2 Marys who remain at the tomb crying, praying?

"Am I like those leaders who on the following day went to Pilate to say: “Look, he said that he would be raised. Make sure that more deception does not happen!” and hold back life, block the tomb to defend doctrine, so that life does not come out?

"Where is my heart? Which of these people am I like? May this question accompany us this whole week."

--Pope Francis

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reflection for Palm Sunday

"Jesus is indeed making a royal claim. He wants his path and his actions to be understood in terms of Old Testament promises that are fulfilled in his person [cf. Gen. 49:10-11; Zech. 9:9]. The Old Testament speaks of him--and vice versa: he acts and lives within the Word of God, not according to projects and wishes of his own. His claim is based on obedience to the mission received from his Father. His path is a path into the heart of God's word. At the same time, through this anchoring of the text in Zechariah 9:9, a "Zealot" exegesis of the kingdom is excluded: Jesus is not building on violence; he is not instigating a military revolt against Rome. His power is of another kind: it is in God's poverty, God's peace, that he identifies the only power that can redeem."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth--Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), p. 5

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quote of the Day

“I fervently implore all to join in my prayer for peace in Syria and throughout the region, and make a heartfelt appeal to the Syrian authorities and to the international community: set down your weapons and bring an end to the violence! No more war! No more destruction! Respect human rights, take care of your people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, and pursue the longed-for peace through dialogue and reconciliation."

--Pope Francis

Monday, April 7, 2014

Article Heritage Series #3: Revisiting the Twenty-Second Amendment

It's time for another installment of the quarterly (or so) "Article Heritage" Series here on my blog, which features selections from my early days as a writer. This time I present an article I wrote back in late 2007 entitled, "Revisiting the Twenty-Second Amendment." On one level, this essay was driven by my nostalgia for the fact that the Bush administration would soon be ending, and by my apprehension that our country would be governed by a worse president once Bush left office. (Turned out to be true.) But on a deeper level, the prospect of the end of a presidential administration led me to reflect on the whole concept of legal term limits for American public office and whether such constitutionally imposed term limits are necessary, desireable, or even beneficial for the good functioning of our federal government.

Our nation's Founders counseled against setting term limits on any public office, arguing that it should be left up to the voters to decide whether a given public official should be re-elected for another term. If an official has served well and won the people's approval, so goes the argument, they will naturally re-elect him; if, on the other hand, he has served badly and won public disapproval, he will be voted out of office. Also, eschewing term limits leaves public officials free to decide whether to run for another term or not. For almost 150 years, following the example of George Washington, U.S. presidents voluntarily restricted themselves to a maximum of two terms in office. There was nothing wrong with that; on the contrary, this praiseworthy practice reflected the character and nobility of our nation's earlier leaders, who were selfless public servants rather than opportunistic politicians. Leaders were free to decide whether to run for another term or not, and the people were free to decide whether to re-elect them or not. The thinking was that term limits should be voluntary, not imposed by law. The Founders' rejection of constitutionally mandated term limits was thus a sign of their respect for the freedom of both leaders and people.

I have taken the Founders' position on this matter in this article. I contend that the Twenty-Second Amendment to our Constitution, adopted in the early 1950s following the lengthy administration of FDR, should be repealed. Supporters of term limits on federal public offices claim that such limits provide a healthy and necessary check on corruption, careerism, and excessive centralization of power in the hands of a few leaders. However, the two-term limit imposed on the presidency by the Twenty-Second Amendment has not resulted in a less corrupt presidency since the days of FDR; on the contrary, we are now living under the most corrupt president in American history. Legally imposed term limits simply force corrupt and unscrupulous leaders to confine their corruption to a shorter time period, while preventing the voters from re-electing a good leader who deserves more than two terms. Moreover, power-hungry tyrants never allow legally imposed term limits to thwart their ambitions; they simply abrogate them, changing the laws to suit their agenda.

In other words, legally imposed term limits can never guarantee honest, responsible, and limited government. Only honest and responsible leaders of good moral and religious character can provide that. The core issue here is personal responsibility vs. legal and political structures. As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope), man is always free and must always make his decisions anew; therefore, good structures alone cannot guarantee good government. That depends on the personal character of those who govern. Many Tea Party activists are attempting to compensate for the increasing corruption of our federal government by legally restricting the number of terms senators and representatives may serve. By so doing, they are applying a political and legal solution to a moral and personal problem. A government is only as good as the people who run it. As long as we have corrupt, irresponsible, and tyrannical leaders, we will have corrupt, irresponsible, and tyrannical government regardless of what the Constitution says or of what term limits may be on the books. The Tea Party activists who favor imposing new term limits on Congress should listen to the wisdom of the Founders in this regard and attack the problem of corruption at its root by focusing on personal responsibility rather than espousing a top-down solution that won't fix the problem and will further restrict the liberties of the American people.

Okay, enough said--here's the article.

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REVISITING THE TWENTY-SECOND AMENDMENT: A THIRD TERM FOR PRESIDENT BUSH

by Justin Soutar
December 21, 2007

I am not particularly a fan of President Bush. As an American Catholic, I certainly applaud our president’s sustained defense of the right to life of all innocent human beings from conception to natural death, and I generally approve of the measures he has taken to help eradicate the curses of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research involving abortion, and euthanasia in the United States and around the world. President Bush’s continued defense of traditional marriage against the enormous pressure of a few misguided social activists is similarly refreshing. I have been proud to hear this president mention God in his speeches without fear of retaliation by anti-Christian groups such as the ACLU. Moreover, I also generally approve of the USA PATRIOT Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation which he signed in 2001 to facilitate governmental action against terrorism. I have steadily supported the war in Afghanistan from 2001 until 2007. Bush’s appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court met with my satisfaction. In addition, I was pleased with Bush for signing the Broadcast Decency Bill into law in 2006, which raised by ten times the FCC fine for instances of indecent pictures and language in the media. Finally, I agree with the president’s principles on taxes, affirmative action, and gun ownership.

However, beyond these important areas I have tended to disagree strongly with President Bush’s policies. I find myself at odds with our current chief executive over federal spending levels, global laissez-faire economics (so-called “free” trade), energy policy, Social Security, the minimum wage, immigration policy, certain sections of the PATRIOT Act, the “War on Terrorism,” the Iraq war, torture of prisoners, America’s nuclear weapons program, our relationship with the UN, foreign aid, and environmental policy.

Yet despite all of my momentous differences with President George W. Bush, for some time now I have been considering the idea that he should be able to run for a third consecutive term. Why? Why would someone who so strenuously opposes the neoconservative ideology favor granting President Bush another four years in office? Perhaps I have gone crazy? If our highest public servant has violated the Constitution and wreaked significant havoc to our country both domestically and overseas as I believe he has, why wouldn’t I be in favor of impeachment instead?

All of these good questions depend upon and point to a broader issue: Why revisit the Twenty-Second Amendment to our Constitution, which stipulates that “no person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice”? Nearly everyone knows the reason for the passage of this amendment in 1951. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected to four consecutive terms in office stretching from the midst of the Great Depression in 1933 to the end of World War II in 1945. Many Americans felt that in this twelve-year-long tenure, a single president accumulated an undue amount of power and influence over the federal government. Indeed, the United States had distinguished itself from other nations in the late 1700s by deciding to check government power through the holding of periodic elections for all members of the legislative and executive branches of government.

Since the mid-twentieth century, Americans have generally come to understand democracy as a system in which no single public servant holds very much power for very much time. They point to the example of founders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who voluntarily departed office after serving two terms, as evidence that no president should ever be allowed to remain in office longer than that. By and large, Americans support the Twenty-Second Amendment without question as a beneficial curtailment of executive authority and an accurate reflection of the intent of our nation’s founders that we maintain a limited government, that we be “a nation of laws and not of men.”

However, I have come to believe that this amendment, far from being beneficial and traditional, is harmful to our country and represents a serious misunderstanding of what our nation’s founders actually intended. In a series of articles which advocated ratification of the Constitution and which were printed in several New York newspapers in 1787 and 1788 entitled The Federalist Papers, founding father Alexander Hamilton argued convincingly against setting any sort of term limit on the “office of the chief magistrate” (the presidency). In this argument, which is several thousands words long, Hamilton offers five distinct reasons to support his position. We will review this rationale briefly and then focus mainly on the one overarching reason I find most compelling. The Federalist No. 72 (ed. Garry Wills, Bantam Books, New York, 1982, pp. 367-370) reads as follows:

Nothing appears more plausible upon first sight, nor more ill founded upon close inspection, than a scheme, which in relation to the present point has had some respectable advances—I mean that of continuing the chief magistrate in office for a certain time, and then excluding him from it, either for a limited period, or for ever after….

One ill effect of the exclusion would be diminution of the inducements to good behavior. There are few men who would not feel much less zeal in the discharge of a duty, when they were conscious that the advantages of the station, with which it was connected, must be relinquished at a determinate period, than when they were permitting to entertain a hope of obtaining by meriting a continuance of them….

Would it promote the peace of the community, or the stability of the government, to have half a dozen men who had had credit enough to be raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people like discontented ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess?....

A fourth ill effect of the exclusion would be the banishing men from stations, in which in certain emergencies of the state their presence might be of the greatest moment to the public interest or safety. There is no nation which has not at one period or another experienced an absolute necessity of the services of particular men, in particular situations…How unwise therefore must be every such self-denying ordinance, as serves to prohibit a nation from making use of its own citizens, in the manner best suited to its exigencies and circumstances!....

A fifth ill effect of the exclusion would be, that it would operate as a constitutional interdiction of stability in the administration. By necessitating a change of men, in the first office in the nation, it would necessitate a mutability of measures…And we need not be apprehensive there will be too much stability, while there is even the option of changing; nor need we desire to prohibit the people from continuing their confidence, where they think it may be safely placed, and where by constancy on their part they may obviate the fatal inconveniences of fluctuating councils and a variable policy….

There is an excess of refinement in the idea of disabling the people to continue in office men, who had entitled themselves, in their opinion, to approbation and confidence…

Often our perception of what our nation’s founders intended is distorted by our own contemporary ways of thinking. Hence the importance of returning to the actual writings which those esteemed men have left us. The text above may be somewhat difficult reading for a twenty-first-century American, but even the casual reader can tell that Hamilton was definitely not in favor of a term-limited presidency.

The first reason Hamilton gives is based on the principle of positive incentive. When a person knows that he will be forced to leave office within eight years whether the people approve of him or not, he will tend to not care so much about performing his job well. On the other hand, if a president’s continuance in office depends entirely on popular satisfaction with his administration, he will be motivated to fulfill his duties well in order to gain and retain that satisfaction. This is the same rationale on which a free market economy exists: incentives to productivity, efficiency, quality, and frugality are built into the system. No one would suggest compelling a successful, popular and respected CEO to step down simply because he has spent a certain amount of time in the same post.

Hamilton warned that a term limit on the chief executive office of the nation would encourage unscrupulous men to take advantage of the short-lived tenure for their own personal benefit. With a two-term limit that effectively renders the president a lame duck (unaccountable to the public) for half of his administration, we would expect corrupt, unethical or immoral behavior to surface mainly during those latter four years. Unfortunately, this has proven true in the cases of Richard Nixon (Watergate in 1973), Ronald Reagan (Iran-contra scandal in 1986), Bill Clinton (Lewinsky scandal revealed in 1997), and the younger George Bush (role of Vice President Cheney’s petroleum firm Halliburton in Iraq war; the continuing New Orleans disaster; Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals in 2005; Scooter Libby indictment, Karl Rove scandals, and warrant-less wiretapping revealed in 2006). Corruption has infested the presidency with increasing vigor since the Twenty-Second Amendment came into force almost sixty years ago. Presidential approval ratings during a second term have routinely plummeted for almost every two-term president since Lyndon Johnson, as well as for many single-term presidents, usually because their concern for the good of the people became distorted or overshadowed by personal and corporate interests.

Another reason Hamilton put forward against a term limit is that our nation may desperately need the continued services of one particular executive during a time of war or other national crisis. The long presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt was a fruit of such circumstances; Americans chose to reelect him three times because they were passing though the wrenching experiences of economic depression and world war. Voters intuitively understand that the nation needs continuous leadership during such a challenging period. For this reason, every American president who served during an officially declared war was reelected. The people should not be barred from keeping in office for upwards of eight years a single individual whom they believe will guide their country safely though a difficult time.

The final reason Hamilton advances against “exclusion” is that a term limit harms the stability of the nation by ordering a change in presidents after every few years. A president who knows that he will be in office for no more than eight years will not be too inclined to pursue policies that require more than a decade to develop, or that will benefit the nation twenty or thirty years from now, as he knows that the next president can soon undo whatever he tries to accomplish. This compulsory turnover of chief executives, Hamilton observed, would result in “fluctuating councils and a variable policy,” which he terms “fatal inconveniences” to the country. There is no doubt that occasionally a particular president might pursue some detrimental measures which need to be corrected by a future president. But Hamilton was not discussing that; rather, he was warning of the threat to American stability posed by recurrent, massive, radical paradigm shifts in government policy in general, such as from isolationism to interventionism, from overregulation to laissez-faire economics, from a weak central government to a federal police state, and from insufficient national defense to large and permanent standing armies. Continuity should be the norm, while change should be the exception. The Twenty-Second Amendment represents a rejection of this wise counsel.

I confess that I am totally enamored of Hamilton’s logic concerning this issue. Yet for me the most compelling argument against term limits is implicitly present in all the reasons which Hamilton listed. It is this: The people should be free to decide whether to keep a particular president in office or to elect a new president. They should not be forced to automatically elect a new head of government either every four or eight years.

The threat of a corrupt, power-hungry demagogue, which the Twenty-Second Amendment was passed to protect us from, can be dealt with just as easily by having the people vote him out of office in the next election. Some people might remind me that Adolf Hitler was democratically elected by an unsuspecting German populace, that he legally enacted a constitutional amendment allowing himself to serve as chancellor for life, and that he became the infamous genocidal warmongering egomaniac we remember today. They might point out that with a term-limiting amendment at least we are insuring ourselves against such a dangerous dictator. However, this line of reasoning is flawed in one important respect: determined absolute dictators do not allow constitutions, amendments, or laws to stand in their way. Hitler suspended the constitution of Germany altogether and imposed martial law as soon as he wished. If the American people ever become gullible enough to elect a Hitler-like president, he would laugh at the Twenty-Second Amendment and proceed to ignore it for his own purposes. In other words, the main reason why most Americans like the amendment turns out to be completely insubstantial upon closer examination.

And while each American president can choose not to seek reelection, as our leaders for the first one hundred fifty years were accustomed to do after serving two terms, this in no way demands that such custom become the unchanging law of the land. The Twenty-Second Amendment unnecessarily restricts the freedom of both electors and the elected. Hamilton notes that any perceived benefit from a law which can expel bad presidents from office is far outweighed by the disadvantage that the same law will also force from office excellent and much needed presidents. Many Americans think that the two-term limit is among the guardians of our democracy, when in fact it is the opposite—it prevents the people from maintaining in office a wise and capable president whom they admire and trust.

It is remarkable how all the “ill effects” of a term limit on the presidency have manifested themselves just as Hamilton predicted more than two centuries ago: instability, insecurity, and corruption. The latter deserves a little more attention.

Evidently, the CEOs of mega-corporations love the current presidential system because it gives them enormous opportunity for profit and allows them to routinely select new presidential candidates who will further their own narrow selfish interests. The cost of bribing even several dozen candidates is trivial compared with the financial rewards to be reaped when one of those candidates reaches the highest office in the land. Under pretext of national security, or free-market economics, or freedom and democracy, or some combination of these excuses, the president allows the mega-corporations a broader sphere of influence and then, by the time the people figure out what has happened, he is a lame duck anyway. The Clinton and Bush administrations have been excellent examples of this corporate corruption of the presidency. The abortion industry thrived under the care of President Bill Clinton, and it’s no coincidence that he and Wal-Mart both came from Arkansas. Under President Bush we have witnessed a war in Iraq for the defense manufacturers and oil tycoons, low foreign trade barriers and amnesty for illegal immigrants for all the transnational corporations, neglect of New Orleans levees and Minnesota bridges, inattention to the Sudanese genocide, the birth of a new nuclear weaponry program (Complex 2030), compulsory voting machines with deliberate design flaws—the list goes on and on.

So now that I have explained the disadvantages of the Twenty-Second Amendment to our Constitution in general, I turn to the question of why I favor permitting President Bush to run for a third term in particular. Several factors have combined to lead me to adopt this opinion.

For one thing, this president is sincere. In stark contrast to President Bill Clinton, a habitual TV liar who knew he was deceiving, President Bush believes what he says whether it is true or not. This sincerity remains refreshing for me despite all of the damage Bush has done. I would rather have a sincere president who knows what he believes than an insincere president who deliberately deceives the public.

A second major factor in my opinion is the sorry state of the 2008 presidential campaign. The high-profile candidates being fawned upon by the corporate-owned media range from mediocre to appalling at a time when the need for a truly great president has never been more painfully felt.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on the issue of abortion and plans to increase American defense spending above already ridiculous levels. The dangerous, power-hungry former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani adamantly supports the unrestricted legalization of abortion and sodomy and would have no qualms about starting a nuclear war in the Middle East. Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is a practiced lobbyist and wealthy trial lawyer who opposes everything I stand for. California Representative Duncan Hunter and Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo do not represent me on most of the issues either. Texas Representative Ron Paul would make a truly great president, but it is highly unlikely he will win the Republican nomination. Arizona Senator John McCain and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee hold praiseworthy moral values, but the odds are against both men. On the Democratic side, all of the candidates support abortion, and the currently leading contender—-New York Senator Hillary Clinton—-makes me sick to my stomach.

On the other hand, when compared with any one of the Republican or Democratic hopefuls, I find President Bush to be the lesser of two evils. No, Bush may not be the “truly great” leader America desperately needs at this time. But I believe that having George Bush continue in office would be far superior to having Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards, or Barack Obama, or Dennis Kucinich, or Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani, or Fred Thompson take over the presidency and make an even bigger mess of it.

Thank goodness Mrs. Clinton cannot muster much more than a 30 percent public approval rating despite glossy coverage in the media. Of course, this highlights the point that moving from President Bush to President Hillary Clinton would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. As much as Americans are disenchanted with President George Bush, I believe that they are even less enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton. In fact, the approval ratings of presidential candidate Mrs. Clinton and the incumbent President Bush in late 2007 were statistically tied at 30 percent.

Of course this startling result is a reflection of America’s disapproval of Bush and its disconnection from Hillary, but it also should give pause to those who claim that Bush is finished. Isn’t it remarkable that, after seven long years of Bush administration, an experienced, first-ever female candidate from the opposite political party with money to burn and media attention that won’t quit cannot rank any better than the incumbent in the public mind? If a presidential contest between Bush and Mrs. Clinton were held at the time of these poll results, a third Bush victory would have been a distinct possibility. So a third factor in my belief that George Bush should be eligible to run for a third term is that, contrary to general perception, he actually would be a viable repeat candidate.

Finally, my last significant reason for advocating a third Bush run is to comfort the president and to give him a third chance. In recent years, I have become dismayed and disturbed to witness such a flood of vile, rude, offensive and obscene personal attacks unleashed against President Bush. It’s one thing to disagree with and even to firmly oppose various domestic and foreign policies of an administration; it’s another to throw hateful insults and pointless abuse. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be the most attacked, ridiculed, disparaged, and insulted president in American history, not just in America but around the world. Certainly President Bush has been responsible for numerous illegal actions that provide ample grounds for impeachment, as his critics declare. Yet I do not favor impeachment because President Bush has a good heart and he has accomplished the commendable things I mentioned at the beginning of this article. The next president may very well bring neither a good heart nor good actions. By proposing to allow George Bush another campaign, I am making a little statement that I am appalled at the deterioration of our public discourse; that I desire to retain a leader who is committed to the pro-life philosophy; and that I wish the president well.

Realistically, I do not expect the Twenty-Second Amendment to our Constitution to be repealed anytime soon. Nevertheless, it is interesting and healthy to ponder the hypothetical possibility of a third Bush term, just as it is instructive to discuss the merits and demerits of a term-limited presidency in general. I believe that in this chaotic and uncertain period of our nation’s history which began with the 9/11 attacks, the need for a chief executive office unrestrained by term limits is greater than when Alexander Hamilton espoused it at the dawn of our history. A term-unlimited presidency would be a better, more accountable, more responsive and more democratic institution for the United States.

Copyright © 2007 by Justin Soutar. All rights reserved.

Quote of the Day

"Christ has not resigned himself to the tombs that we have created with our choices of evil and death, with our mistakes, with our sins. He does not resign himself to this! He invites us, he almost commands us, to come out of the tombs in which our sins have buried us. He insistently calls us out of the darkness of the prison in which we have shut ourselves, contenting ourselves with a false, egoistic and mediocre life. “Come out!” he tells us, “Come out!” It is a beautiful invitation to true freedom, to let ourselves be seized by these words of Jesus that he repeats to each one of us today. It is an invitation to remove the “burial shroud,” the burial shroud of pride. Pride makes us slaves, slaves to ourselves, slaves of many idols, of many things. Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey this command of Jesus, going out into the light, into life; when the masks fall from our face – often we are masked by sin, the masks must fall! – and we rediscover the courage of our true face, created in the image and likeness of God."

--Pope Francis

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Quote of the Day

"'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.'"

--St. John 11:25--26

Thursday, April 3, 2014

An Unnecessary Disaster: The Federal Anti-Life Earthquake Is Upon Us

The United States of America is now being shaken to its foundations by a devastating earthquake of unprecedented magnitude and proportions. The powerful shock waves of this tremendous seismic event are unleashing a flood of damage and destruction unlike anything the United States has ever experienced in its 238-year history. Never before have the timing, magnitude, cause, casualties, and effects of such a massive national emergency been predicted with such certainty and precision. Our elected officials were duly informed of the date this quake would occur, the severity of the event, what would trigger it, what it would destroy, and the consequences that would ensue. And the certainty of this foreknowledge conferred a corresponding obligation on our elected representatives, who are responsible for protecting the common good of all American citizens. But since appropriate action has not yet been taken by those in authority to halt this catastrophe, our nation is now beginning to suffer traumatic and incalculable loss.

This great earthquake was triggered by the collision of two massive tectonic plates on which our country rests—the Constitution and our federal government. The resulting shock wave is destroying our religious liberties and moral conscience rights. And the long-lasting moral, social, economic, and environmental effects of the quake will include millions upon millions of innocent unborn children slaughtered in their mother’s wombs; millions of families torn apart by immorality and love of pleasure; low birth rates and population decline; social chaos; record poverty rates; pollution of our rivers and farm soil by large quantities of toxic artificial chemicals; tens of thousands of hospitals, dispensaries, orphanages, nursing homes, soup kitchens, and crisis pregnancy centers, as well as thousands of businesses and scores of colleges and universities, shut down; thousands of lawsuits; financial instability; economic collapse; and a nationwide healthcare crisis that is already impacting every corner of America, leaving not a single community unharmed.

The worst part of this tragic ordeal is its unnecessary and preventable nature. Rather than a natural disaster, this horrendous and destructive earthquake is an unnatural disaster—-an entirely artificial event, deliberately inflicted upon our country by the godless, immoral, corrupt, irresponsible, and arrogant administration of President Barack Obama. That administration has decreed that ALL employers (except narrowly defined “religious employers”) MUST purchase health insurance coverage for their employees that includes abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilizations (pills and surgical operations that murder the unborn child or prevent parents from conceiving children); furthermore, ALL charitable agencies MUST provide these filthy anti-life drugs and procedures or referrals for such drugs and procedures to their clients. The massive law enforcement apparatus of our federal government will soon be slapping huge tax penalties on all American employers and charitable directors who fail to comply with this outrageous and draconian new law known as the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate.

This abominable law flagrantly violates the law of God, the Constitution of the United States, our fundamental rights and liberties as American citizens, and our dignity as human persons. It violates the Fifth Commandment by ordering employers and charity workers to help their employees and clients murder their unborn children; it also violates the Sixth Commandment by requiring the purchase and distribution of drugs that prevent married couples from conceiving new children. It violates the First Amendment by forcing religious believers and organizations to act contrary to their sacred beliefs. It violates our fundamental God-given rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. And it violates our dignity as human persons created in the image and likeness of God by reducing us to mere objects whose sexuality and fertility are arbitrarily controlled by our government for its own benefit.

Besides being immoral, unconstitutional, coercive, and anti-human, the HHS mandate is also impractical and downright foolish. Abortion has done irreparable harm to the physical and mental health of more than 56 million American women over the past forty-plus years. To keep it legal and make it even more widespread is irresponsible in the extreme. To encourage Americans to kill their own children and refrain from conceiving them is a recipe for national suicide. Furthermore, artificial contraceptives are destructive to our environment; they pollute our nation’s waterways and eventually work their way into our farm soil and our food supply. To make them a product that all insurance carriers must supply is to invite further degradation of our natural resources. In addition, the mandate will deal a fatal blow to our fragile economy (still struggling to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression) by imposing unsustainable tax burdens on thousands of business owners and charity leaders; discouraging the establishment of new businesses and charities; further reducing the available spending money of the average working American individual and family; and adding to an already grossly hyperinflated national debt.

The Obama administration has been patently dishonest and deceptive in its cleverly sanitized presentation of the “healthcare” mandate to the American public. For one thing, abortion, artificial contraception, and sterilization have nothing whatsoever to do with “health care.” Killing unborn children in their mother’s wombs is not health care; on the contrary, abundant research testifies that abortion is dangerous to female health. Preventing women and married couples from having children is not health care either. Abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations are designed to kill developing human life in the embryonic and fetal stages or to prevent its originating altogether. They are methods of population control entirely devoid of any health benefits. Were the Obama administration to more accurately designate its cherished decree the “life kill mandate”; the evil nature of this law would be clearer to the American people, who already oppose it by a substantial majority.

The Obama administration is also being dishonest about why it is forcing coverage of abortifacient drugs, birth control pills, and sterilization surgeries by all health insurance providers. The official reason for the compulsion is that the public health interest requires unlimited access to such anti-life drugs and procedures. This is ludicrous. Inexpensive artificial contraceptives are already widely available and purchased by millions. The real reason why the Obama administration is forcing coverage of immoral population control items by nearly all insurance providers is that it is aggressively pursuing a radically anti-life agenda driven by the money-hungry abortion, pharmaceutical and insurance industries that back it. In particular, the deceptively titled Affordable Care Act is the brainchild of Planned Parenthood and its loyal allies in the White House and the Senate, designed chiefly to subsidize the abortion cartel in the face of declining public demand for that horrific practice.

At the core of the mandate lies a twisted logic of injustice and selfishness. The duty of our federal government is to promote the common good of all Americans based on fundamental principles of justice and charity that come from God—principles that form the very foundations of human society, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in Caritas in Veritate. The HHS mandate is a direct violation of those fundamental principles: unjust because it encourages the murder of innocent unborn children and forces individuals and institutions to violate God’s law; and uncharitable because it leaves tens of millions of low-income Americans without health insurance and is forcing the closure of thousands of charitable institutions upon which millions of people depend for basic necessities of life. By issuing its pro-death mandate, the Obama administration has criminally abused its rightful authority, turned the power of government against the people, and sacrificed the common good to the “wealth care” interests of giant abortion, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies.

As unbelievable as it sounds, here in a Christian nation whose official motto is “In God We Trust,” in a “nation under God…with liberty and justice for all,” those employers and agencies who refuse to purchase and distribute gravely immoral products and services are being punished by their own elected representatives for obeying God’s law, their moral consciences, and their religious beliefs. The longer the HHS directive is allowed to remain in force, the more widespread, severe, and lasting chaos, distress, and human misery this artificial earthquake will unleash, dwarfing previous national crises such as the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Watergate, and even the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

No government has the right to compel anyone to act contrary to the moral law, to their moral consciences, or to their religious beliefs. We the citizens of the United States have the right and the sacred duty to work hard for the full repeal of the HHS mandate as soon as possible. Not only for our own sake but for that of our children and our grandchildren, we must hold our elected representatives responsible for this unjust law accountable for the mischief they are unleashing in violation of the law of God, the Constitution of the United States, and our fundamental rights and liberties as human persons and as American citizens.

Unlike any other law in our nation’s history, the HHS decree is inherently destabilizing for our country because it officially prescribes immorality as the law of the land. It turns the moral order established by the Creator upside down by punishing good and rewarding evil. As Father John Corapi used to remind us, “Immorality is un-American and a threat to national security!” The HHS mandate is a direct assault on religion and morality, the very foundations and “indispensable supports” of our nation’s liberty. It remains to be seen whether these twin foundations will prove strong enough to withstand the enormous assault now being unleashed upon them by the Obama administration.

Looking beyond the tragic events currently unfolding across our nation to a less than encouraging future, two glimmers of hope beckon on the horizon. The first is that the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently hearing a case brought by Christian and Amish business owners against the HHS mandate, may rule it unconstitutional this coming June. Let us pray that our justices on the High Court will do their duty to strike down this flagrantly unconstitutional law and protect our religious liberties and moral conscience rights. However, given recent seriously flawed decisions by the Court such as its wholesale upholding of the Affordable Care Act in 2012, we should not be overly hopeful that this will happen; corruption has clearly infiltrated the High Court and is now influencing its major decisions.

The second glimmer of hope is that with the Congressional and gubernatorial elections this coming November, we the people will be given an important opportunity to bring a halt to the havoc being wrought by this great earthquake and to restore our cherished freedoms of religion and conscience. We must seize this opportunity to rescue our nation from the appalling crisis into which it has been so needlessly and recklessly thrown by the Obama administration. We will have both the opportunity and the responsibility to choose our governors, senators, and representatives. We must exercise that responsibility properly by voting only for true defenders of freedom who pledge to repeal the mandate, and by voting out of office every single elected official responsible for enacting and enforcing it. No enemies of liberty are fit to govern a free people.

As this great earthquake rocks our country, I find myself trembling for its security and survival. As I write this, a black curtain is being drawn across our Constitution and our cherished freedoms of religion and conscience for which our nation’s Founders laid down their lives are being crushed under the heavy boots of a tyrannical and totalitarian government. By arbitrary federal fiat, the United States of America is being transformed into a different country from what it was prior to the mandate. We are moving from being “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” to being one nation under Obama, indivisible, with tyranny and injustice for all enemies of the state. I shudder to think what it would be like to live under this regime of evil, frighteningly reminiscent of Communist China or the Soviet Union, for any length of time.

Although our elected representatives in the White House and the Senate have the duty and the power to halt this tremendous catastrophe, they are leaving our country exposed to dreadful ruin because they are corrupt and have little or no concern for the national well-being. Before laws and policies can change, hearts must change. Our Lady of Fatima said that many souls go to Hell because there is no one to pray and sacrifice on their behalf. We must continue to pray and fast for the conversion of those in the abortion, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries and in our government who are responsible for the HHS mandate and its damaging consequences. In the meantime, may God have mercy on our nation—-and may the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States of America, pray for us.

Copyright © 2014 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Quote of the Day

“Imitating Christ, he was, for the world, a tireless preacher of the word of God, of truth, and of goodness. He did good even with his suffering. This was the teaching of his life in which God’s people responded with great love and esteem.”

--Pope Francis

Friday, March 28, 2014

Quote of the Day

"In her Canticle, Mary does not say she is happy because God was looking to her virginity, to her kindness or to her sweetness – all of them virtues that she possessed. No, because the Lord was looking to her humility, the humility of His servant, her smallness. This is what the Lord looks for. And we must take heed of this wisdom and put ourselves on the margins so that the Lord may find us. He will not find us at the center of our certainties. That is not where the Lord looks. He will find us on the margins, in our sins, in our mistakes, in our need for spiritual healing, for salvation; that is where the Lord will find us...

“But there is another truth: God saves us. He saves us when we are on the margins; He does not save us in our certainties. Let us ask for the grace of having the wisdom to put ourselves on the margins, for the grace of humility, so that we may receive the Lord’s Salvation.”

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord


Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Annunciation (1655)
 Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord, one of the greatest feasts on the Catholic liturgical calendar. (In some countries today is a holy day of obligation.) Today we celebrate the awesome and stupendous mystery of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son of God in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the sake of our salvation from sin. This great mystery, the fact that God freely chose to become one of us, is the foundation of our Christian faith. A mystery indeed worth pondering. In his infinite wisdom, God does not usually manifest his power in our history through "shock and awe," but rather He acts in silence and hiddenness. Here are two quotes from Pope Francis, reflecting on the mystery of the Annunciation and of Mary's divine maternity:

“The Lord has always taken care of the mystery and has covered the mystery. He did not advertise the mystery. A mystery that advertises itself is not Christian, it is not the mystery of God: it is a fake mystery! And this is what happened to Our Lady here, when she receives her Son: the mystery of Her virginal maternity is concealed. It is concealed for Her whole life! This shadow of God, in our life, helps us to discover our mystery, our mystery of the meeting with the Lord, our mystery of the path of life with the Lord.”

"The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God."

May we strive, with the help of God's grace, to imitate Mary's humility and obedience to God's Will, which leads to true freedom.

Speaking of freedom, today the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing the case brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood against the Obama administration's HHS mandate, which forces business leaders to provide their employees with health insurance coverage that includes abortifacients, artificial contraception and sterilization procedures under penalty of gigantic fines. I am proud to stand with David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, and with the owners of Conestoga Wood in their refusal to comply with this unjust and immoral law. Business owners must have the freedom to act in accordance with the natural moral law when making healthcare decisions for their employees. Refusing to provide abortion-inducing drugs, artificial contraceptives, and sterilizations will not endanger anyone's health. Forcing businesses to provide these items under the mantle of "health insurance" represents a direct attack on the natural law and on the human right to act in accordance with that law. Furthermore, the HHS mandate violates our Constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom to refuse to purchase unwanted or unnecessary products.

So much is at stake here. Let us pray to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of these United States, that the Supreme Court will render a just decision on behalf of the plaintiffs--a decision that will uphold God's law, our Constitution, and our inalienable rights.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thought for the Day

"Jesus’ thirst was not so much for water but to meet a parched soul. Jesus needed to meet the Samaritan woman to open her heart. He asks her for a drink of water to bring to light the thirst that was in her. The woman is moved by this encounter: she asks Jesus those profound questions that all of us have but that we often ignore. We too have many questions to ask, but we cannot find the courage to pose them to Jesus! Lent, dear brothers and sisters, is the opportune time to look inside ourselves, to allow our most genuine spiritual needs to emerge, and to ask the Lord’s help in prayer. The example of the Samaritan woman invites us to express ourselves in this way: “Jesus, give me that water that will eternally quench my thirst.”"

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quote of the Day

"What is important for all people, what makes their life significant, is the knowledge they are loved. The person in a difficult situation will hold on if he knows, Someone is waiting for me, someone wants me and needs me. God is there first and loves me. And that is the trustworthy ground on which my life is standing and on which I myself can construct it."

--Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), God and the World (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), pp. 26-27

Friday, March 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

"God never wearies of forgiving us, never! ...He never tires of forgiving, but we, at times, we tire of asking forgiveness. Let us never tire, let us never tire! He is the loving Father, who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us. And we too learn to be merciful with everyone."

--Pope Francis

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Congratulations, Pope Francis

I congratulate Pope Francis on the first anniversary of his election to the papacy. He has done so much good for the Church and the world just in this past year. He has touched the hearts of billions of people of goodwill because he fearlessly preaches and lives the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an authentic and radical way. May his example of simplicity of life, humble service, deep faith and constant charity continue to inspire and motivate us in our commitment to follow Christ faithfully in this modern world. May God continue to bless him with good health and strength and the graces he needs to continue his mission of service to the Church and to humanity. And may Our Lady and the Angels watch over him and protect him from all harm.