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David Nickol
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On the First Thoughts blog at First Things, Robert George has A Question for the President: Thank you for taking time to share with us, more than once now, your reflections on the Zimmerman case, just as you took time to share your thoughts on the case involving Professor Gates of Harvard. But Mr. President, if you could spare just another moment, I respectfully request that you tell us, the American people, when you learned that the murders of our ambassador and three other of our fellow citizens in Benghazi, Libya was not the work of a spontaneously formed mob enflamed by a movie, but was rather the work of a terrorist organization that executed a planned attack on the anniversary of 9/11/2001? I think anyone who saw Obama speak or has read a transcript or a summary of the president's remarks might reasonably ask if they are best described... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2013 at
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has issued a document titled Life at Risk: How the Obama Health Care Plan Will Ration Your Family’s Medical Treatment—A Factsheet. It gets its very first "fact" seriously wrong. From the NRLC document: HOW THE OBAMA HEALTH CARE LAW WILL LIMIT WHAT HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS CAN DO TO SAVE THE LIVES OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS A Powerful Rationing Commission: An 18-member “Independent Payment Advisory Board” is given the duty, on January 15, 2015 and every two years thereafter, with regard to private (not just governmentally funded) health care, to make “recommendations to slow the growth in national health expenditures” below the rate of medical inflation. NRLC has it wrong. If you go to the link and look at the chart on page 3 of their document, you will find that NRLC is claiming for 2015, for example, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2012 at
Robert George has a post on Mirror of Justice that reads, in its entirety, as follows: Jesuitry From the New York Times, 17 March 2012: In a letter to the president of Georgetown University, John J. DeGioia, 66 members of the law school faculty said Friday that the University should address Ms. Fluke's concerns and consider providing contraceptive coverage in the student health plan. "The current policy puts student health at risk," said M. Gregg Bloche, a professor at the law school, "and with our Jesuit tradition, we should be concerned about that." Res ipsa loquitur. Professor George certainly has the right to speak his mind, and perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but to me titling the piece Jesuitry seems to be using language often associated with anti-Catholicism to criticize fellow Catholics. The title, and indeed the entire post, make me uncomfortable. Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2012 at
Robert George has posted on both First Things and Mirror of Justice an open letter to the Florida Family Association (FFA) on the topic of their campaign against The Learning Channel's reality show All-American Muslim. On their web site, the Florida Family Association says: The Learning Channel's new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish. In the open letter, George and his co-author, Dr. Jennifer Bryson, Director of the Witherspoon Institute's Research Project on Islam and Civil Society, say: All-American Muslim is a reality television show featuring five families; it does not purport to be a documentary about... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2012 at
George Weigel makes some recommendations for Christmas books today on First Things, and here's one of them: Portrait of a Spy, by Daniel Silva (Harper): It’s hard not to get addicted to Silva’s Gabriel Allon novels of international skullduggery. James Bond and his supporting cast were cardboard cartoons compared to the fictional characters Dan Silva, a man with a well-calibrated moral compass, has created. Now, of course we shouldn't confuse the author Daniel Sliva with the fictional character Gabriel Allon, but if Silva actually approves of the things he has his character do, it's very disturbing that a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (Weigel) thinks Silva has a "well-calibrated moral compass." In the last Silva novel I read (and I confess I find them great thrillers), Allon invents his own "enhanced interrogation technique," which he calls "fire boarding." He has people tied to chairs and... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2011 at
George Weigel has a piece on First Things today about Thomas Merton titled Among the 'Progressed' in which he says: I’ve often had the sneaking suspicion that, had he lived beyond his untimely death in 1968, Merton might—just might—have become one of the first Catholic neoconservatives. As I say in a comment on the site, one ought to have enough respect for the memory of Thomas Merton to refrain from using him to attempt to promote neoconservatism. That Merton would have become one of the first Catholic neoconservatives had he lived is pure fantasy. If there is an alternate universe in which an alternate Thomas Merton is alive and well at the age of 97, an alternate George Weigel is free to try to recruit him as a neoconservative, a Republican, a Tea Party member, or whatever he chooses. But in this universe, Merton is long dead, and no matter... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2011 at
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in a recent statement pleading with New York lawmakers to reject same-sex marriage, said: Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people. The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like. [Emphasis added] Did the position of the Catholic Church change? Here is a paragraph from Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Including "homosexual orientation" among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices. This is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2011 at
A story by Adam Liptak in the New York Times raises the question of whether the backing out by King & Spalding from their representation of the House of Representatives in the defense of DOMA marks a turning point—"the moment at which opposition to same-sex marriage came to look like bigotry, similar to racial discrimination and the subordination of women." Viewing Lawrence v. Texas (2003) as the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) of gay rights, the gay-rights equivalent of Loving v. Virginia (1967), which followed Brown by 13 years, is due in ______. (1967 - 1954) + 2003 = 2016 Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2011 at
Taryn, I think it is a mistake to look at the great men and women in the Old Testament, or even to God Himself as depicted there, as role models. Abraham married his half sister. Lot's daughters got him drunk and conceived by him (an act which many commentators believe was being presented as heroic). God lies to Abraham when he tells him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham lies to Isaac to keep him in the dark about what he plans to do. Jacob lies to Isaac and steals Esau's birthright. God tells Saul (through Samuel) to kill all the Amalekite men, women, and children—and cattle, too! Are we really prepared to say the Old Testament justifies incest, lying, and genocide?
Felapton, I'm trying not to take sides. I think Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen are presenting what I take to be the official Catholic position: lying is always wrong, and telling an untruth with the intention to deceive someone—whether or not that person has a "right to know"—is lying. As for the people who lied in a selfless attempt to save innocent lives from evildoers, I would have to say I hope I would have the courage to do the same thing under the circumstances. I do think we have a right in many of the hypothetical scenarios involving Nazis and Jews to assume people were acting under duress. The Catechism says, "1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors." Many of the arguments against Robert George amount to asking if you really want to tell people who lied to save lives that they did something wrong. Of course no one does. The answer may be that they did nothing for which they are culpable, but had they not been under duress, they would have been guilty of lying. It is difficult for me to imagine LiveAction or the physicians who handed out false medical excuses could claim to be under duress.
Robert George, in a post on Mirror of Justice titled The Left's Turn to Condemn Lying "in a Good Cause," has a challenge for those on the left who have congratulated George and others for declaring that lying is an intrinsic evil, and hence always impermissible, even when used by LiveAction in their Planned Parenthood stings. George says those on the left, especially Catholics, can earn some congratulations themselves by condemning Madison, Wisconsin, doctors who are in some cases are "falsely attesting that protestors have legitimate medical excuses for failing to report for work." George says, "This is out and out lying." I completely agree. Physicians should not be providing false medical statements for protestors. This is also the position of The Wisconsin Medical Society and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Ford Vox makes a particularly strong case against the practice in a piece in The Atlantic: They've... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2011 at
From The New York Times A week from Tuesday, when the Supreme Court returns from its midwinter break and hears arguments in two criminal cases, it will have been five years since Justice Clarence Thomas has spoken during a court argument. If he is true to form, Justice Thomas will spend the arguments as he always does: leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling, rubbing his eyes, whispering to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, consulting papers and looking a little irritated and a little bored. He will ask no questions. Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2011 at
Joe Carter has what seems to me an offensive post over on First Things titled Guess Who Thinks We Should Legislate Morality? consisting mainly of a quote from a post by Anthony Esolen. The answer to "guess who" is "male homosexuals arguing for the right to marry." As I said in a comment: What a bizarre and offensive piece. Since neither Joe Carter nor Anthony Esolen apparently believes there would be anything moral about same-sex unions, or that legalizing and encouraging same-sex unions would have the effect of making anyone more virtuous, how can they claim advocates of same-sex unions are tacitly endorsing the idea that you can “legislate morality”? What morality are they talking about? From Carter and Esolen’s point of view, legislation favoring same-sex unions would simply be official authorization of immoral behavior in a new, state-sanctioned form, and would not have any effect in encouraging virtue. This... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2010 at
Dr. Janet E. Smith has an interesting and, I think, helpful article on The Catholic World Report web site titled What Does the Holy Father Really Say About Condoms in the New Book? I will not attempt to summarize it here, since I recommend reading the whole piece. However, she makes this interesting observation: We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus. Since the questions were very specifically about the use of condoms, Dr. Smith's observation suggests to me that the pope did not answer the question he was asked. I think that may be the case, and it would explain why so many people are trying to figure out what the answer actually is. Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2010 at
From the National Catholic Reporter: VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders said it was the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay. Access to adequate medical attention, the pope said in a written message Nov. 18, was one of the "inalienable rights" of man. Full story here. Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2010 at
According to a report from the Associated Press, a GAO study found that "raising the retirement age for Social Security would disproportionately hurt low-income workers and minorities, and increase disability claims by older people unable to work." Further, while raising the age at which a worker receives full benefits would reduce costs, "raising the age when workers can get early benefits would hurt the program's finances because of the expected increase in disability claims." In a recent column, Paul Kruggman pointed out that "working until you’re 69, which may sound doable for people with desk jobs, is a lot harder for the many Americans who still do physical labor." He also notes the following: [W]hile average life expectancy is indeed rising, it’s doing so mainly for high earners, precisely the people who need Social Security least. Life expectancy in the bottom half of the income distribution has barely inched up... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2010 at
The New York City Council is on the verge of passing legislation that would require pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs on their premises and include in their advertising statements that they do "not provide abortion or FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices" and they do not "provide referrals to individuals or organizations that provide abortion or FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices." Penalties are a $250-to-$1000 fine for the first violation and $500-to-$2500 fines for succeeding violations. Facilities with three violations in a two-year period could be sealed for five days, and noncompliance after orders to seal a facility could incur additional fines and imprisonment. The American Center for Law and Justice is opposing the legislation on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment, and NYCLU Director Donna Lieberman, while supporting the purpose of the bill, "urged the Council to revise the draft legislation so centers weren't targeted solely because... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2010 at
Nine years ago in the small town of Sloan, Texas, Donté Drumm, a black high school football star, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of a white cheerleader –- a crime he confessed to but did not commit. The victim's body was never found, the jury was all white, the confession was coerced, the judge was having an extramarital affair with the prosecutor, the victim's boyfriend and a jailhouse snitch both provided perjured testimony against the defendant, and one of the key witnesses for the prosecution was a dog. Despite all this, and the tireless efforts of Drumm's crusading defense attorney Robbie Flak, the execution is only days away. There appears to be no hope. But meanwhile, in Topeka, Kansas, a just-paroled convict named Travis Boyette, dying (or so he says) of a brain tumor and not wanting to see the innocent Drumm die, confesses to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2010 at
The proposed "personhood amendment" to the Colorado constitution was rejected by nearly a 3 to 1 margin yesterday. The amendment stated that "the term person shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being" for the following sections of the constitution, all from Article II: Section 3. Inalienable rights. All persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness. Section 6. Equality of justice. Courts of justice shall be open to every person, and a speedy remedy afforded for every injury to person, property or character; and right and justice should be administered without sale, denial or delay. Section 25. Due process of law. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2010 at
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Nov 1, 2010