30 July 2011

Illegal Immigration in America


There is no denying the illegal immigration problem in America today. The US government certainly does not make it easy to enter the country legally. With few exceptions, the process is lengthy and involves a bit of luck, as there are lotteries run by the government for green card issuance. Also, that people want  to come to America is no surprise. It is a country blessed with abundance of natural resources and opportunity. And, people do indeed enter legally each year, many of them becoming proud new American citizens. Some of our greatest Americans have been immigrants. However, many enter illegally each year as well. This not only causes an array of problems for the country, it has sparked an intense debate.

A country so blessed as America has an obligation to help others, just as wealthy people have an extra obligation to help the poor. And, as the record shows, America is perhaps the most generous nation in history in terms of financial and other assistance given to other countries. However, there is no obligation to bankrupt the country to help others, for then the nation not only loses its ability to help other nations, but its ability to take care of its own people. Following Saint Thomas Aquinas, the American government has an obligation to see to the needs of its own people first. So, just how far should the American government go in permitting immigrants currently considered illegal to enter openly, and what are the ethics relating to illegal immigrants themselves?

First, there is the category of immigrant that is really a refugee from some horrible set of conditions or circumstances. We do have, as much as we are able, an obligation to help those who are legitimately refugees. It would also be irresponsible for us knowingly to send back persons to another nation where we know they will face persecution, torture, execution, etc. These are not the immigrants I am discussing. Rather, I am discussing those who do not come from such conditions, but seek to enter the United States for the understandable goal of a better life.

Legal issues aside, illegal immigrants create a tremendous burden on the infrastructure. While in small numbers it might not be so bad, in the large numbers we are seeing, the burden is great. It has been argued that some pay taxes. While that is true, this applies only to those with illegitimate documents used to get into the tax system and work openly, or to those who entered legally on a work visa and stayed after the visa expired. Many are paid under the table and send most of their money back to their home country. Yet, they reap the benefits of the nation in terms of medical care, schooling for their children, and more. The payment burden falls to the citizens, permanent residents, and those here legally on work visas. Furthermore, the mere presence of too many people taxes the system greatly, removing opportunities for those here legally, increasing financial burden, and generally causing strain. For example, a town in New England took in thousands of Somali refugees (who came legally) some years ago, but eventually had to say that they could take no more. While they were bullied in the press for this, they simply did not have the resources to continue taking care of more and more people. It is too much growth too fast.

Another argument that is made is that the illegals do the jobs the rest of us do not want to do. Anyone who has seen Mike Rowe's television show, "Dirty Jobs," knows that there are plenty of hard-working Americans who are willing to do jobs most people find disgusting. The massive influx of illegals are paid less by greedy corporations who would rather have the jobs done for less by an illegal. That might make the cost to the corporation lower, and it might even make the retail price on the shelf lower, but it comes at a great cost in terms of lost jobs and the unemployment burden that causes, as well as the strain to infrastructure caused by the massive presence of illegals. As our recent financial crisis shows, the nation simply cannot continue paying out entitlements and giving handouts at such a massive rate if it is to survive financially. The government has a moral obligation to its people, as well as to the people who immigrate here, to be financially responsible. This involves not allowing illegal immigrants to contribute to bankrupting the nation.

And what of the ethics of the illegals themselves? If they are simply leaving their country and coming here for a better life, that is understandable. However, there is a process set up for this to help ensure that the US takes in only as many people as it can handle. Those we are discussing who choose to enter illegally have chosen to violate the laws of another country in order to get more money or have more opportunities. This reasonably can be considered the sin of pride and is highly unethical. They seem to think nothing of asking the citizenry of another country (which they have entered illegally) to give them benefits, even if it means that hospitals have to close down because of the unpaid overload, schools have problems as a result, and so on. It is selfish and dishonest. Coveting their neighbors goods, they conspire to take what they want anyway when it is denied them. There is a process in place to help ensure that there will be an America capable of providing the wealth of opportunities that it does now for the future generations of current citizens and immigrants.

This no doubt seems harsh to the liberals and socialists in America, and even to many Christians. However, help must be rendered to the poor and less fortunate in a rational manner. There is a obligation of Christian duty to render humanitarian assistance to all, even illegal immigrants, but it should be notes that this refers to humanitarian concerns, not ongoing use of facilities. We in the United States have an obligation to help others, but must do so in a responsible way that allows our nation to continue to flourish and continue to be able to help people.

27 July 2011

Misperceptions of Catholicism


Only a few people likely truly hate Catholicism, but there are many who hate what they perceive to be Catholicism. Centuries of misinformation inside and outside the Church have left Catholics and especially non-Catholics wondering just what is Catholicism. Even many Anglo-Catholics remain confused, preferring to focus on their differences, real or perceived, from the Roman Church. Misperceptions cause and perpetuate so many divisions within the Church.

The anti-catholics might even be Catholics themselves if they would get over their stubbornness and make a sincere effort to understand just what is Catholicism. Their pride is usually too strong, though, and this pride is ultimately an admission of the weakness of their beliefs. They cannot risk any challenge to their position, for they know in a fair competition their position will not stand.

Eventually, though, some who were even vehemently anti-catholic experience a true conversion of heart. God opens their mind, and they see that logic points to only one thing, and that is Catholicism.

18 July 2011

Bible Rejection in the Modern Era


A recent article in the Huffington Post by Jeffrey Small, author of the Breath of God, captures many of the modernist errors of today regarding the Bible and the Faith. I cannot say his position and its many errors are entirely his fault, though. The Church has gotten progressively weaker and weaker for a variety of reasons, allowing the Faith as it is presented to be watered down so much that people become complacent in their own faith and indeed do not even know their own faith well. This leads to erroneous conclusions such as those drawn in the aforementioned article, which I shall discuss in more detail later.

Now, the author's conclusions may perhaps, though not necessarily be formed through excellent logic, and the article as written certainly appears not be the product of overt anti-religious sentiment or propaganda as such. Yet, even flawless logic applied to an incorrect set of data or assumptions will nevertheless yield an erroneous result. The starting point always matters. If you throw a dart perfectly straight, but you are not positioned correctly in front of the dartboard, you will miss. If you see only part of an object, you are possibly likely to deduce its purpose incorrectly. Data and assumptions always matter.

As to the arguments Mr. Small makes, they begin with an assertion that the Bible ought to be treated as mythology. In fact, he suggests that he got even more out of the Bible reading it that was than when he read it "literally" as a child from a more stringent religious perspective. Yet, we know that the Bible is not to be read literally, but must be correctly interpreted. (See Saint Augustine’s discourse on Biblical interpretation.) The author continues with a series of points as to why scholars tend to reject the Bible as historical or literal. I will now address these individually in brief.

1. In his first argument, the author states that science and technology make the Bible largely unbelievable. He cited that the Bible claims the earth is 6000 years old, while physics says it is 13.7 billion years ago. These are flawed arguments ab initio, as they assume science and religion are incompatible or separate, or that religion is correct only in so far as it does not come into conflict with our present understanding of science. The numbers in the Bible need not be taken literally. When the creation of the world was taking place, it was said in Genesis that certain things were created on certain days. How long is a "day" in the context of the Supreme Being who created the vastness of the universe? How long is a "year"? The writings of the early Hebrew people further need not be taken absolutely literally in our understanding of the language, and they cannot be. Observe how much time and experience separates us from them. Our understanding of the world is vastly different from theirs, but it does not at all change the fact that we are talking about precisely the same great act: God's creation of the world.

Refer to Cardinal Newman's writings on the interrelationship between science and religion. Theology is the queen of all sciences, and all other sciences therefore must in some way agree with theology. The statement that science makes it difficult to believe the tenets of the faith is arrogant in the extreme in that it assumes that we can know all. Are we so convinced that our science today completely explains everything, and that therefore the Bible is wrong and not to be listened to? Perhaps most people today are indeed so convinced. However, even science has evolved. Science has even proven that its own understanding of the world previously was wrong or at least incomplete. Yet, the Bible, properly interpreted (again, see Saint Augustine), has never been proven to be wrong or incompatible with science. Science is nothing more than the explanation of God's world and the way he made it to work given in human terms.

2. The author claims that the Bible contains many "impossible" feats. The author states, "[many] of the stories are also scientifically impossible, like the tale of Joshua stopping the sun moving across the sky. This story assumes (as was the thinking then) that the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe."  There are two points worth mentioning. One is that the events in the Bible, again, must be interpreted properly and according to the context and experiences of the people writing them. Two people separated by thousands of years may explain the same event completely differently. The second point is that the Faith is indeed based on accepting that God can do as he wishes and is not bound by the laws of physics. Does physics permit the resurrection of the dead? Yet, Christ did it. Does physics permit an immaculate conception? Yet, God did this for Mary. Does physics permit a virgin birth? Yet, it happened. If you say you do not believe any of these occurrences because of science, then you are no longer a Christian and you have chosen to follow a "religion of science". It ultimately is a matter of faith. We must believe that there are things that we cannot understand, yet believe them anyway. The belief that we can understand everything is arrogant and impossible. The belief that we should only believe those things that we can understand demonstrates a weak faith rather than the child-like faith that Christ wants us all to have.

3. The author of the article claims in his third point that there are explanations for many of the Biblical divine events. Yes, indeed there are. Physics may have an excellent potential explanation for the parting of the Red Sea, for example, but that nevertheless does not prove that God did not do it. It merely offers an explanation as to the physical means by which it was done. In fact, such explanations serve merely to prove that certain events in the Bible did indeed happen, hopefully strengthening the faith of those who needed, like Thomas, more proof.

4. The author claims the Bible draws from "other myths." He states "...[the] Epic of Gilgamesh -- Sumerian poem detailing the creation of the universe that predates the writings of Genesis by many centuries -- contains a flood story whose plot points are almost identical to the story of Noah. "  Does this mean that the Bible account of the flood was incorrect? If the Sumerians were present at the flood, which covered the entire earth, then it stands to reason that they would also write about it. Here the author is merely trying to see what he wants to see. If physics and chemistry both explain the same natural phenomenon, does that mean that chemistry is wrong because it is talking about something in physics? Of course not.

5. The author, discussing that other religions have myths and miracles, states "On what basis can we Christians claim that our miracle stories are legitimate, yet theirs are flights of fancy?" Here again, it comes down to a matter of faith. If you seek hard proof, then I pray one day that you will receive a miraculous conversion of heart like Paul on the road to Damascus. Here also it is worth referring again to the writings of Cardinal Newman on the proof of God's existence. However, those who wish to doubt will nevertheless continue to doubt.

6. The author bemoans the Biblical inconsistencies. Here again, it is a matter of understanding the Bible in its proper context and interpreting it properly. This underscores the importance of Sacred Tradition. The knowledge of the Bible has evolved as humans have evolved.

7. The author states: "Reading the Bible as a literal historical account of events from the past limits the power of these stories. Rather than expressing universal truths, a literal interpretation limits the actions of God to certain events in history. God's actions in the world become finite, confined to certain historical events: like the chess master making individual moves on a chessboard frozen in time two thousand years ago. Reading these same stories mythologically, however, can bring forth their universal qualities."  Here he might be said to make somewhat of a rational point overall in terms of the universal qualities of the Bible. Yet, his argument is flawed. The Bible indeed is not a work confined in meaning to one time and place. It is universal. Its difficulty comes from the fact it was written by people through Divine inspiration in one particular time. Yet, the meaning of everything contained in the Bible is for everyone everywhere and at all times. This is, again, where the interpretation becomes so important. And, it is up to the Church to determine this, not science or "scholars." The answer is not to downgrade the Bible to a collection of myths. If you do so, then you can no longer claim Christianity as your religion.

8. The author claims that the "...literal reading of the Bible alienates much of our society." It claims that the Bible is discriminatory. This is perhaps the most offensive accusation of this article. Christ came for everyone. Christianity is very much inclusive. Christianity is for everyone. In fact, in the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, we have adopted a slogan that makes this point clear, i.e., "The Church for Everyone." (TM)   Yet, welcoming everyone does not mean that we should change the tenets of the Faith. We do not alter the Divine Truth to suit the ever-changing whims of society. To do so would be the sin of modernism, as condemned by Pope St. Pius X, among many others of the Church’s leadership over the years. It would be to allow the Faith to be governed by the ways of the world rather than by the ways of God.

The author claims this alleged “discriminatory nature” of the Bible exists because the Bible was written "...an age in which slavery was legitimate, an age when discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation was the norm." I will address these five accusations one at a time. First, it is true that slavery was the norm at the time. However, Christ came to free all men. Slavery itself is not a part of Christianity or a divine precept, except that we, especially in the clergy, should be slaves to Christ. Therefore, that slavery exists in historical context in the Bible and in the history of the Church is irrelevant. This was a societal aspect being discussed, not a religious tenet. The Church today is very clear that slavery is not consistent with Christianity.

Second is the accusation of so-called gender bias. Nowhere in the tenets of Christianity does it state that there may be or should be discrimination or abuse of women. Yet, the Faith has a clear order of nature. This has been upheld as a theological truism for more than 2000 years. Men have their role in the Church and family, and women have theirs. Unfortunately the modern feminist society claims that Catholicism is biased because it refuses to permit the ordination of women. They have been successful in forcing ordination in the Episcopal Church, for example, and most if not all mainline protestant denominations also ordain women. This is another example of modern society's social viewpoints being used to claim the Church is wrong and demand change. That the Church upholds her principles does not make her biased. The Church simply states that each person was created special and for a special purpose. We each have our role and should fulfill. Upholding the Faith over modern social viewpoints is simply not gender discrimination. It is being a good and faithful Christian. It is better to be right in the eyes of God than to follow the ways of the world, even though society may condemn you for it.

Third and fourth are the accusations pertaining to race and ethnicity. It is quite absurd. Christ, once again, came for everyone, regardless of race or ethnic background. The Catholic Church is just that...Catholic. Universal. For everyone. 

Lastly is the argument regarding sexual orientation. Homosexuals are welcome in the Church. Yet, we will not and cannot say that homosexuality is acceptable. Sinners are welcome in the Church in general, for we are all sinners. We do not claim that the sin is acceptable, though. We are here to save souls, not pander to the myriad of social movements over the years. We do not approve of or advocate abuse of sinners. We seek their conversion. Love the sinner, but hate the sin.

In conclusion, the author of the referenced article, Jeffrey Small, claims in effect that the Church must get with the times in order to survive and be relevant. O Jeffrey of Small Faith! So long as there is even one person in the Church, the Church will continue. The Church does not need to adopt every perversion as acceptable in order to survive. We know that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. We know that there will be many attempts by the world to change and destroy the Church, even from within, for the world hates the Church, as the Church is not of this world. Yet, the Church will survive. The Church has always survived. One should not advocate watering down the Sacred Truth of the Christian Faith, or relegating it to mere mythology like that of the Pagan Greeks. One harms the souls of many through doing this. And, remember that a flawed data set or flawed set of assumptions will lead to wrong conclusions, no matter how good the logic. We have 2000 years of the collective wisdom of the Church on our side, which thoroughly embraces the totality of true science. Those who embraced the modernist theories against the Church have only what is in the present. Their approach lacks any foundation to make a real argument.

Want to know more? Read Card. Johnson's book An Incidental Priest. Click here to find out about it

01 July 2011

The World Turned Upside Down


The World Turned Upside Down is the title of a tune popular in the Revolutionary period in America. It seems equally applicable to the present time. 

In the wake of the New York decision to legalize gay marriage and the Church's vigorous opposition to it, a  recent article in the Huffington Post by college professor Lee Jefferson sought to detail what the Bible "actually says." Unfortunately Jefferson adopts the approach of claiming that the Bible is just a bunch of stories and was written long ago, so therefore has no relevance today. He specifically says "Simply put, the Bible is a complicated collection of documents that was never meant to "speak" to our contemporary situation, but groups often speak through the lens of the Bible and lob textual grenades on issues like same-sex marriage." Ironically, while criticizing the opponents of gay marriage for citing the Bible as a source, he falls into the trap of prooftexting to further his own point. In fact, much of what he says actually proves the point of opponents of gay marriage. Scripture must be taken in the context of the entirety of Scripture, as well as the tradition in which it was written. Doctrine is the interpretation of the Scripture. The Doctrine regarding homosexuality is well-established and has been quite consistent throughout the history of the Church. It is well grounded in Scripture. It applies equally to the issue of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is, by the Doctrine of the Church, thoroughly in conflict with Christian Doctrine, as well as the Scripture from which it is drawn. Anyone with even the slightest bit of proper catechesis should know this.

Now, add to this the stunning plans of California to include so-called "gay history" in school textbooks. Does any decent Christian person want his child writing a term paper on the struggle of homosexuals to mainstream their deviant behavior?

Further add to this a government that largely seems determined to make decisions that at best are a bandage for a major problem while doing nothing substantial to end the economic crisis. The government has long past the point where its primary goal is to serve itself. The President and his wife seem to be taking quite a number of trips of questionable need in this time of financial trouble, despite the cost to the government. People are suffering in the country, and the government pays it lip service. This is not, of course, a political statement, but one of ethics and the moral duty of a government towards its people.

The world certainly seems upside down at the moment. Let us all pray for a return to a Christ-centered life in America.