Euthanasia in Academia

Gentile_da_Fabriano_052

 

In the assisted living center
my mother’s sweater

which was soft and woolen and
made with her own nimble fingers
over the course of many hours

is now shrunken and small
from being thrown in the dryer
by caregivers who don’t know at all
what heat does to wool.

In the halls of academe
Greek and Latin
and poetry
and philosophy et al–
the work of many centuries

is being swept out with the dust mites
from under heavy wooden desks that, too, must go,

replaced by spare, modern frames
for computers, ergonomically arranged

and quite utilitarian and entirely material

with no room for the soul

which, on the whole,
has not been missed

since the
beginning of the Enlightenment.

 

Marianne Bovée

(photo: Gentile de Fabriano’s “St Thomas Aquinas”
from Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Presidential Candidates Viewed Through a Catholic Filter: I. John Kasich

Kasich

This is the first in a series of articles on the 2016 American presidential candidates.

None of the 2016 presidential candidates are in total agreement with Catholic social teachings on all of the issues.  From the perspective of the whole broad range of issues, John Kasich is in accord with Catholic values on some issues but not on other issues.

John R. Kasich is the Republican governor of Ohio, having served since 2011.  Besides this executive experience, he also has extensive legislative experience at the national level, having served 18 years in the House of Representatives (1983-2001), including service on the Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Budget Committee.  During his chairmanship of the Budget Committee, the federal budget was balanced and the national debt reduced for one of the few times in modern American history.

Kasich was born a Catholic (of Czech and Croatian ancestry); however, he drifted away from his Catholic faith and now worships at an Anglican church.  Judging from his positions, he still seems to retain many of the Catholic values of his upbringing.

Kasich is generally considered a mainstream conservative Republican, though in the 2016 field of Republican candidates, he is considered one of the most moderate ones.

Kasich is pro-life, though not to the full extent of being in complete accord with Catholic teachings.  He opposes abortion in most cases, but supports exceptions for rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother.  He recently signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio.  In Ohio, Kasich has started programs to provide help to pregnant mothers and streamline the adoption process to make it easier to adopt children.  He has signed 16 bills in Ohio that make it more difficult to obtain an abortion.  It is said that under Kasich’s administration abortions have been reduced to a historic low point in Ohio.

Although Kasich is in general opposed to same-sex marriage, he received a great amount of attention by attending a same-sex marriage ceremony last year.  He defended his attendance at the ceremony at a Republican presidential debate, stating that “[b]ecause somebody doesn’t think the way I do doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them.”  Kasich has said he supports “traditional marriage” and while in Congress voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (1995).  However, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage, Kasich said that the ruling was “the law of the land and we’ll abide by it” and that it was “time to move on” to other issues.  He said that he is not in favor of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.  So although Kasich’s sentiments are in favor of traditional marriage as held by the Catholic Church, in practice he been for allowing the trend toward same sex marriage to go unchallenged.

As governor of Ohio, Kasich accepted Medicaid expansion under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Since most Republicans oppose Obamacare, this took a great deal of courage.  It shows Kasich’s commitment to health care for all, putting it above partisan politics.  Since in Catholic teaching, health care (part of the basic right to life) is a basic human right, this action puts Kasich alone in this area, separate from the other Republican candidates.  In general, however, Kasich, like most of the Republican candidates, has said that if elected president, he would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.  In Ohio, he has reduced health care expenses under the Medicaid expansion he accepted, and he has said that he would use the same formula in replacing the Affordable Care Act.  This involves working with insurance companies and providers to provide higher quality and lower priced care.  In a CNN town hall, Kasich described a vague formula that would give a “financial reward” to providers who provide higher quality care at costs below a “midpoint.”  “Quality” would be defined by measures such as readmission rates and infection rates.  This sounds difficult to manage objectively.  At any rate, Kasich said he would leave it up to each state to decide how to manage its own health care         system.  All of this gets quite complicated, and from the point of view of Catholic social justice, it is hard to determine whether this is an especially good plan or not.

On immigration, Kasich favors “building a wall” to secure the border, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the United States, and a guest worker program.  He has said it would be “silly” to ship the 11 million illegal immigrants back across the border.  The path to citizenship is in accord with the position of the United States bishops and the statements of Pope Francis favoring compassion for immigrants in their attempt to achieve a better life in the United States.  Kasich’s position has evolved and is not very clear, but it seems more in accord with positions expressed by the Catholic hierarchy than those of most Republican candidates.

Kasich supports a typical Republican approach to the economy: lower income and business taxes, less government regulation, and freeing up private enterprise to produce more jobs and a more prosperous economy.  In Ohio under Kasich, the estate tax was eliminated, income taxes were cut, and the state moved from a $6-8 billion shortfall to a $2 billion “rainy day fund.”  In 2011, Governor Kasich signed a bill that would take away collective bargaining rights from public employee unions in Ohio, but Ohio voters repealed the bill in a referendum and he was forced to admit defeat.  This attempt to weaken unions was not in accord with Catholic teachings supporting the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.  In the gap between his service in Congress and as governor, Kasich was employed in the Columbus, Ohio, office of the Wall Street investment firm Lehman Brothers, which went bankrupt in the crash of 2008.  On the campaign trail, Kasich joked that he didn’t think his service in the two-person Columbus office of Lehman Brothers was a significant factor in the company’s collapse.  From a Catholic perspective, working for a Wall Street investment firm is may be morally acceptable, but it does not necessarily demonstrate a particular commitment to the Catholic value of a preferential option to help the poor.  Overall, Kasich’s economic positions and practice, however successful from a purely economic standpoint, do not demonstrate a particularly strong commitment to Catholic values.

On the environment, Kasich has said he believes climate change is real and a problem, but he is unsure what causes it.  In Ohio, he froze implementation of a law that called for increasing the state’s reliance on renewable energy.  Kasich supports oil fracking in Ohio state parks and forests, though he did support an increase in the tax on fracking. As a presidential candidate, Kasich supports using energy from a wide variety of sources, but does not favor any particular encouragement to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.  He favors completing the Keystone XL pipeline.  Catholic teaching has supported care for the environment and Pope Francis has made care for the environment an especial emphasis of his papacy.  Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato Si has explicitly said that climate change is human-caused and has called for vigorous measures to combat it.  Kasich’s positions are not in close accord to these Catholic positions.

National security is normally the most bipartisan of issues in American politics. Americans generally unite all the more against foreign threats to our safety the more dangerous the threat is.  Still, there are often differences of approach, as there are today.  Kasich has experience in national defense, and a quite impressive record and positions.  On the House Armed Services Committee in the 1980s, Kasich fought to cut certain weapons systems, such as the B-2 and A-12 bombers, that he considered unnecessary in the interest of reducing government spending.  In the Republican presidential debates, he favored a multi-lateral approach of obtaining the support of Sunni Arabs and Arab states to build a wide coalition to oppose ISIS (the Islamic State).  This seems to be a wise policy more in accord with President George H. W. Bush’s policy in the 1991 Gulf War than the unilateral policy of President George W. Bush in the 2003 Iraq War.  However, he in general supports more aggressive foreign policies than President Obama, such as sending American ground troops to fight ISIS and sending an American carrier group to confront China in the disputed regions of the South China Sea. Catholic teachings regarding national security revolve around just war theory, in which government uses of force must meet the criteria of a “just war” (the action must be for a just cause, it must be a last resort, it must result in more good than harm, and there must be a reasonable chance of success).  Whether these criteria are met in particular circumstances is difficult to determine, so it is hard to say whether Kasich’s policies abide by Catholic teachings.

Kasich’s personality seems to contain some characteristics that would be positive in a president.  Throughout the campaign, he has refrained from personal attacks on the other Republican candidates.  His manner of speaking is temperate and reasonable, avoiding the extreme, emotional rhetoric of many of the other candidates.  Probably more than any other candidate, Democratic or Republican, he has demonstrated compassion toward marginalized or less fortunate people.  In Ohio his budgets have increased funding for treating the mentally ill and addicts.  On the campaign trail, Kasich was perhaps the only candidate to speak out in the debates in favor of increased help for the mentally ill.  He has had some remarkable encounters at some of the many town hall meetings he has held, such as when he walked over and embraced a young man who described the personal struggles he had gone through.

One point in Kasich’s favor is that he is the Republican candidate that stands the best chance of defeating pro-choice Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the November general election.  According to RealClearPolitics.com, on an average of the most recent polls, Kasich beats Clinton by 7.4 percentage points, Marco Rubio by 4.7, Ted Cruz by 0.8, Ben Carson loses to Clinton by 1.3, and Donald Trump loses by 2.8.  By an analogy with one of the criteria of Catholic just war theory, if all of the acceptable candidates are imperfect (which I would argue they are), then one can make an argument that the acceptable candidate who has the best chance of success against an unacceptable candidate (which from the Catholic perspective the pro-choice Clinton is) should be supported.

Overall, then, like all of the 2016 presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, John Kasich has a mixed record when compared to Catholic teachings.  Like most Republicans, Kasich has a relatively strong record on social issues, but as a relative moderate, he has some positions on other issues that are closer to Democratic positions and more in accord with Catholic teachings than most of his Republican rivals.

 

David Bovée

 

 

Scalia’s Funeral

Scalia's funeral

The priest at Scalia’s funeral

spoke

dry-eyed

of a man

who had died—

a man who was

both loved

and scorned—

and people expected him to say—

that man was his father, Antonin Scalia—

but he looked past his father,

beyond his father,

to another,

Jesus of Nazareth—

through whom we pass

to eternal life after death.

 

With bishops, archbishops, a cardinal,

clerks, attorneys, judges, politicians,

friends and family by the thousands

in attendance,

gathered in remembrance,

Paul Scalia

pointed people

beyond the Supreme Court Justice

beyond the pomp and circumstance

beyond fame and fortune

to transcendence.

 

“We look to Jesus forever, into eternity,”

he said,

and with those words

blessed with meaning

all his hearers—

both the living and the dead.

 

Marianne Bovée

 

(photo from npr.org)

 

 

 

Historical Background for a Catholic Third Party

Lincoln_debating_douglas

Historically, third parties have not done well in the United States. Would a Catholic party be any different? And just because it might be difficult to start one, does that mean we should not try?

The last third party to become successful in the United States was the Republican Party, which grew to become one of the two major political parties today. The Republican Party was formed in 1854. At that time, in the period before the Civil War, the Democratic and Whig parties refused to take a definite position for or against slavery. The Republican Party was formed in oppostion to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had the effect of overturning the Missouri Compromise and allowing slavery into federal territories in the west north of 36˚ 30ˊ.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was supported by the Democratic Party, in particular by Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, the chairman of the committee on territories. Douglas’s position, referred to at that time as “popular sovereignty,” held that each state or territory should have the right to decide for itself whether to allow slavery within that state or territory or not. Thus, in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Kansas and Nebraska were each allowed to vote on whether to accept slavery or not. Douglas viewed this as a compromise between those Americans who believed that slavery should be allowed throughout the United States, and those who wanted it abolished throughout the nation. Douglas said he did not care whether slavery was voted up or voted down and said that it should be left up to the people in the democratic, American way. Douglas’s “popular sovereignty” position was similar to the “pro-choice” position on abortion today, which asserts that a woman should have the right to choose whether she has an abortion or not. “Pro-choice” supporters, similar to Douglas, claim that this is the American way–that a woman should have the right to choose whether she aborts an unborn child or not.

Lincoln and the Republicans opposed Douglas and “popular sovereignty,” saying that slavery should not be left up to a popular vote but was a moral matter of right and wrong. Similar to Lincoln and the Republicans in 1854, pro-life people today oppose the “pro-choice” position that holds that the moral issue of abortion should be up to an individual’s choice. They hold that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life, and whether the child can live should not left up to individual choice. Abortion today is a fundamental moral issue similar to slavery in the nineteenth century.

The Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973 was intended to settle the issue of abortion. It has not. Forty-three years later, abortion is still a moral issue that divides the United States. This is similar to slavery in the nineteenth century—a divisive moral issue that had existed since at least the founding of this country and refused to go away even when Congress (in the Kansas-Nebraska Act) or the Supreme Court (in the Dred Scott Decision [1857]) tried to “solve” it. The issue of slavery in the United States was only settled by the Civil War. The issue of abortion has not yet been settled.

One important step in opposing the evil of abortion would be to take a stand on this moral issue the way Lincoln and the Republicans did on slavery in 1854. The modern-day Republican Party has done this by opposing abortion. In this, it is in the place of the old Republicans and Lincoln at the time of slavery. But in my view, the Republicans are compromised by their positions on other issues, which are less in accordance with Catholic social teachings (such as care for the poor and respect for the environment) than Democratic ones. Therefore, in my view, a new political party that fully adheres to Catholic Christian values is needed to represent the true Catholic position.

As stated in the beginning, third parties have not been very successful in American politics. None has been successful since the Republicans in 1854. To note only some of the more prominent examples, the Liberal Republican Party of Horace Greeley failed in 1872, the Populist Party of William Jennings Bryan failed in 1896, the Progressive Party of Theodore Roosevelt and Robert LaFollette failed in 1912 and 1924, the Union Party of William Lemke failed in 1936, the American Independent Party of George Wallace failed in 1968, the Reform Party of Ross Perot failed in 1992 and 1996, and the Green Party of Ralph Nader failed in 2000. The odds would certainly seem to be against a third Catholic political party. One can only say that this is no reason not to do the right thing. If one believes that the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth, and that Catholic Christian values are not sufficiently embodied in the two major existing political parties, and that there at least at the moment seems little likelihood of influencing these two parties to modify their positions into greater conformity to Catholic values, then the formation of a new third Catholic party would seem to be the right thing to do.

The Republican Party formed over a fundamental moral issue, and a Catholic Party would also be formed on moral issues. That is a promising basis for success. There may be a group of voters that would be the basis of this proposed party. Catholics who adhere to the full teachings of the Church would, of course, be the nucleus. But there are many other Christians who also hold “conservative” social views and “liberal” economic views who would find a natural home in such a party. (The “middle” Catholic position on these issues brings to mind the Catholic Center Party of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Germany.) There are likely non-Christians such as Muslims, Jews, and other people of good will who also hold views similar to those of the proposed party. This is still probably not close to a majority of the American people. For the rest, we must leave it up to evangelization. Pope John Paul II spoke of the “new evangelization.” This third party would be a branch of that, applying the broader religious new evangelization to the political realm. The evangelization of so many people needed to form a critical mass for this new political party will not be done in a short period of time. It would probably take decades if not longer, if it can take place at all. But Christ will not abandon His Church. Nor will He abandon the values that His Church expresses and that apply to the political realm. Christ does not promise us victory in this earthly realm of the City of Man. But, again, that is not a reason not to try to the fullness of our ability to fulfill His will in this way as in every way.

David Bovée

 

Philosophy, beheaded

Richard-strauss-satire-on-his-opera-salome

After her dance,
the executioner brought her
the Principle of Contradiction on a silver platter:
She said, thank you,
he said, de nada,
She said, no matter.

Earth and sky
are no longer
held asunder—

what’s bad
is good
and the good
do nought
but blunder—

I turned aside
and thought:

Bold Atlas –myTitan—arise—

I see your ghost in the night

and
your visage makes me wonder:

what great burden you bore
to keep the hither from

the yonder.

 

Marianne Bovée

Coming home from work

 

sunset

I saw pale blues and glorious gold

in serrated stripes
and puffs of pulled cotton

irregularly perfect
patterns

etched onto the evening sky

in such a captivating way

I thought I might get distracted
and die

while driving into the sky–

deeper and deeper

as if venturing
further and further

into the Mandelbrot set–

said to be the fingerprint

of God.

 

Marianne Bovée

Why Not a Catholic Political Party?

On the American political spectrum, the Catholic position fits neatly neither the views of the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party. Although there are many issues that could be discussed, this incompatibility comes across most clearly in contrasting the two parties’ positions on economic and social issues.  On the economy, Republicans tend to favor free-market capitalism with minimal government involvement in the economy.  They favor less government regulation of business, lower taxes, and less government spending on social welfare programs. Democrats tend to favor more government involvement in the economy to help the economically disadvantaged.  They usually favor more government regulation of business, more progressive income taxes, universal healthcare, and more government spending on welfare programs.  Catholic social teaching, which supports substantial government action to aid the poor, in this leans more to the Democratic Party’s position.  But the Catholic Church fundamentally disagrees with the Democrats’ positions on many social issues such as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and same sex marriage.  On these issues, it is closer to most Republicans’ positions.  Thus, in its position regarding the American political spectrum Catholic social teaching is substantially incompatible with both parties and expresses the Catholic Church’s middle or third way.  By being pro-life while economically dedicated foremost to the welfare of the poor, Catholic social teaching occupies a hitherto neglected middle position that calls for the establishment of a Catholic political party.

David Bovée