Scripture Quote of the Week
"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him."
-John 3:16-17 from Sunday's Gospel reading
kencraw on 05.25.05 @ 08:15 AM PST [link] [No Comments
Monday, July 11th
Finally saw Star Wars Episode III
OK, I finally saw the last of the Star Wars movies. I went in not knowing what to think. Most had thought it was good, but I was concerned there was an overly low set of expectations after the first two. Also, Hayden Christiansen (or however you spell it, I'm not giving him the respect of looking it up) did a poor job acting again, according to most accounts. They said that didn't hamper the movie too much but for me his bad acting was a primary enjoyment killer for the first two. Yet amongst all of that I couldn't ignore that so many people said it was good. So, as I said, I wasn't sure what to think.
After the first half hour I thought to myself, "Geez, this is going to suck. It's just as bad as the last two!" But then it got into the plot and I was very impressed. First of all, I can actually see why Hayden Christiansen was chosen for this role now that I've seen him play the evil guy. He was actually pretty good at that. In the end I think he has the same acting problem (although to a FAR greater magnitude) that Samuel L. Jackson had as a Jedi. Mr. Jackson can only be one type of character, the type that he played in Pulp Fiction. He doesn't know how to play a calm, rational individual. He can only be a B.A.M.F.. When he tries to be calm and composed, it just comes off flat. Same thing for Mr. Christiansen although he seems to be only able to play diobolically evil immature vilans. He seems to be pretty good at that.
Anyway, that's not what I wanted to write about.
I think this movie actually was the best of the six, in one regard: It had the best story. By story I don't mean script or plot or acting or dialogue or anything else but story. As far as story telling goes, it was an epic. Better than Episode V. It is VERY difficult to have a believable identifiable story of a good character becoming an evil character. I challenged my brother to think of another movie that did it effectively. He only came up with one real example: The Godfather movies. I agree with him that those movies did a better job than Lucus did but I think it proves my point. It's an exceedingly difficult task and a movie that does it well (which of course requires more than just the story) is going to be lauded as an excellent one, just like the Godfather movies.
So what does it take to turn your back on all you pledge your alliegance to? Something that runs deeper than one's alliegances. In the case of Anakin Skywalker it was his love (lust?) for his wife. Particularly the fear of her death. It was something that a person could understand why it would trouble him.
Which brings me to my final point: Priests. (Hey, this is a blog about the Catholic Faith, what else do you expect?) I had heard a person do some comparison of the movie to the Catholic Faith and he was WAY off in the weeds somewhere trying to make everyone symbolize some aspect of the Church, so let me be clear that I do not think Lucas was making any point about the Catholic Church in the movie but the themes that he touched on relate to a currently discussed issue in the Church: Priestly celibacy.
Many talk about priests who abandon thier celebate obligations in a way that suggest that it is unfair to ask that of them. They suggest that it creates a false conflict between their priestly life and thier sexual desires. But when we look at what happened to Anakin Skywalker we see that it had nothing to do with the fact that he was asked to be celebate. Had he respected his vow, he would not have had the temptation that eventually turned him to evil.
In the end, this is what priestly celebacy is trying to avoid: temptations and split alliegances. There are valid arguments as to why avoiding these things aren't necessary and those arguments have merit. That's for a different discussion. My point in this post is to say that Episode III gives a very compelling argument as to why avoiding temptation and split alliegances is a potentially if not consistently important goal for priests.
I believe we must keep this in our mind when discussing whether now is the time to end priestly celebacy and allow married men into the priesthood.
kencraw on 07.11.05 @ 04:11 PM PST [link] [2 Comments
Wednesday, July 6th
Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson are the same?
A few weeks ago I told myself that I was never going to read Mark Morford's columns again. The particular column that put me over the edge was titled "Porn Stars in my Underwear" and was a disgustingly vile piece of perversion.
Well, I got sucker punched into reading one of his columns again because it was listed on the main page (not the opinion section) and had an eye catching title: "The Great Tom Cruise Backlash. Will this annoying phase pass, or will Tom become the next super-rich, Mel Gibson-like nutball?" You can read it here.
I wrote him a letter that upon reflection I'm not so sure I should send. Is it the Christian thing to do? Well, you guys tell me! What do you think? Here is my letter to Mark Morford not yet sent:
Dear Mr. Morford,
I am writing in regards to your column printed July 6th titled "The Great Tom Cruise Backlash. Will this annoying phase pass, or will Tom become the next super-rich, Mel Gibson-like nutball?"
Let me start off by saying, what I find amazing about your columns is that you have an amazing amount of insight for a complete moron. To be clear, I'm not using the phrase moron lightly or just to put you down. I've been reading your columns for at least a year now and during that time I believe I've had enough exposure to you to make a reasonably accurate judgment of your intellectual ability. You are a moron.
At first I thought you were just misguided. Sometimes you'd come up with a good thought buried in a column or even an entire column that focused on a good thought. So I figured there must be a man behind the curtain.
Then I believed that a great deal of your odd antics could be the result of showmanship. This is common enough in the media because it catches people's attention and gets the public riled up. You see it in the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Howard Dean. To get attention they both exaggerate and make unreasonable and overly biased comparisons. As different as these two people are, they share this type of showmanship. So, for a while, I figured that you were cut from that mold.
But eventually my desire to be charitable couldn't escape the hard truth. You are a moron and for two reasons:
1. You have no ability to compare things
2. You have no sense of subtly or magnitude
Case in point, your most recent column. I completely agree that Tom Cruise has turned a corner in his life and is headed for a cliff that'll take him a long way down. Good insight! So in what way does that make him like Mel Gibson?
OK, so you didn't like the Passion of the Christ. But does someone making a movie that reflects their faith automatically make them a "creepy religious nuthead"? It seems pretty ludicrous to me to call him that when he is man who is still married to his first wife, cares for his family, gives bundles of money to the poor without proselytizing them and is generally a humble, quiet and well liked person by just about all accounts. From what I can tell, he doesn't seem to go out of his way to force his faith on anyone nor flaunt it in the face of the public. Even the Passion of the Christ reflects this mind set. It wasn't heavily advertised nor did he go out of his way to garner big studio support that would ensure that it got in lots of theaters. He was willing to accept that it might be a short running, small crowd movie. That it wasn't was a surprise to even him.
So, back to my original question, in what way is Tom Cruise like him? Is is it the fact that Tom is working on wife number 3? Is it the fact that he stuck two adopted children in the middle of a nasty divorce? Is it the fact that Cruise is heavily publicizing both his romantic life (which he seems to have always done to some degree) and now more aggressively his religion? What is it that makes these two people similar? In truth, Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise are remarkably different people, two that should never be compared. You inability to see that is a pretty strong indicator that you are indeed a moron.
As another example, OK, so you don't like the President. But does that mean you have to bring him up in EVERY single column (and I do mean 100% of them) you write no matter how distant to the subject of politics it is? Is he really the source and summit of all that is evil? I'm sure you'd answer yes to that question. While there is much to dislike about the President and it is reasonable to be very against his policies, he is not evil nor the source of it. Your inability to see ANY redeeming qualities (and I really do mean ANY) in him is further evidence that you are a moron.
So it's official: you're a moron. Without the ability to have any sense of scale or any ability to compare one thing to another you're going to be completely unable to have a logical thought.
Good luck with that.
Online reader in Roseville, CA
kencraw on 07.06.05 @ 01:50 PM PST [link] [4 Comments
Tuesday, June 28th
Is your son going to be a priest?
The subject of the shortage of priests has been on my mind a lot lately. We talk frequently in American Catholic circles and we point to all kinds of reasons for why there is a shortage of priests these days. Some say it is because "they" can't get married. Others say that "they" are turned off by the lack of moral clarity and the excess of liberalism that infects the Church today. Another group suggests that "they" have been turned off by the priestly abuse scandal. Still another says "they" don't want to be part of a repressive hierarchy.
But during all of this talking we forget to talk to "them" about it. You see, "they" are our sons. What we're really saying when we say why "they" don't want to be priest is what WE don't like about the priesthood all the while bemoaning the fact that no one is becoming a priest any more.
But there is great news to share! The reality is that it doesn't matter what we think of the priesthood or whether we'd be willing to make that commitment. In fact, I have a simple solution to the problem that I promise as God as my witness will work despite our reservations:
TALK TO YOUR SONS ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING A PRIEST!
You see despite the fact that we may be unwilling to live the life of a priest, there is a excellent chance that if your son is called to the priesthood, HE won't have the same problems. So we can even be honest about our reservations and about the things that worry us. We can do these things because it probably won't matter to him if he is called to the priesthood. All you have to do is bring it up and explain to him that it is very important to pray about whether he is called to the priesthood. It really is that simple.
We as parents are responsible for raising our children and a big part of that responsibility is introducing them to the world so that they can decide where to engage in it. If we don't introduce and seriously talk to them about the possibility of becoming a priest, they're going to have to think it up on their own. And while there are many young men who manage to hear the calling without any help from their parents I think there are a great number of men who are called to the priesthood but because they have been given no guidance as how to listen for that calling have been unable to respond to it. Unlike being a lawyer or a engineer, no one is going to ask them or encourage them for us. It's up to us to talk to them about it.
What is most amazing to me is how much I get a look of "deer in the headlights" epiphany from just about everyone I mention this to. It is disgustingly amazing. If I had a dime for every time I've heard "Gee, I never thought to talk to him about becoming a priest!?!" I'd buy Microsoft lock, stock and barrel (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating, but I'm confident that I could at least super size it tonight with the money!)
So parents out there who read this blog... ugh, are there any parents out there who read this blog?... take the next chance you have to talk to your son between the age of confirmation and just got engaged (or even earlier) about becoming a priest. Ask them, "Have you thought about this?" Tell them "The married life is not a placebo." Let them know that if they are called to the priesthood, there life will be far more meaningful and enjoyable following God's call than to turn your back on that call. Tell them "Following Gods call, whether that is to be a priest or otherwise, is VERY important". Tell them that they NEED to ask God if this is their calling and that this is a SERIOUS question so they'd better ask it when they have some time for some quiet, meaningful prayer. Because if they don't, they may never be happy and never understand why. After a week or two ask about whether they've prayed about it. If it is clear that they haven't, encourage them to do so. Re-explain why it is important. Do this every month until it is clear that they REALLY have prayed about it.
And make sure you do it because the Church is counting on you to do so.
kencraw on 06.28.05 @ 05:11 PM PST [link] [No Comments
Sorry for my absence
I couldn't let my brother down in making sure every other post was a "sorry" post. Another post is coming soon!
kencraw on 06.28.05 @ 04:32 PM PST [link] [No Comments
Wednesday, June 22nd
Mario Cuomo exemplifies poor Catechesis... again.
Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York (1983-1995) and self proclaimed Catholic, is one of the most poorly formed Catholics in the public sphere. He is generally credited with conceiving the notion that a Catholic politician can in good conscience support laws legalizing abortion because he or she represents a pluralistic society, a logic that was emphasized by John Kerry. The logic is a false one, but I won't go into why here.
No, today I want to respond to a column by Mario Cuomo written just a few days ago in regards to Stem Cell research where he continues his life-long ignorance of the Catholic faith he professes. It can be found here. Here is my letter to him:
Dear Mr. Cuomo,
I was very disappointed by your column published in the New York Times on June 20th. It has been your opinion over your political career that politicians should not impose their faith on others. I believe there is much truth in this statement although one must be careful to realize that natural law needs to be enforced in civil law and that for a person of faith this is inextricably linked to one's belief in God.
That said, what you are supporting in this recent column is exactly what you claim to be against. You make it clear in your column President Bush is imposing no limitations on embryonic stem cell research, only on federal funding of it. In fact you chastise him for the position as being an inconsistent one because "he refuses to demand legislation to stop commercial interests that are busily destroying embryos in order to obtain stem cells." In other words the President refuses to impose his faith on others. He allows them to continue to doing what he considers immoral. All he refuses to do is pay for it. He is not acting on "Faith Alone" as the title of your column suggests but is letting the principles of religious freedom guide his actions
In fact I would go further to say that his policies in regards to ESCR do as much to protect religious freedom as any policy on the subject could. You see, I am a tax payer just like you and like the vast majority of Americans. I find embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) morally unacceptable just as you should as a believing Catholic. Whenever the government spends money, they are spending our money. I would never pay for any ESCR and being forced to do so violates my religious beliefs. As an example of this, as a pretty average California resident (average as defined by my income level and property ownership) I will be paying about $40 every year for ESCR through legislation that was passed by the voters last November. This is $40 that not only would I never dream of paying, it is $40 that I find morally sinful. When government funds get spent on something that is morally unacceptable to a significant portion of Americans, the religion (or call it faith or belief) of the majority is being forced on the minority. Isn't this exactly what the principle of religious freedom is supposed to prevent?
You address this concern by saying that we, through the government, pay for what some of us find morally objectionable all the time. In saying this you reference 4 examples: the death penalty, contraceptives, abortion and war. I suspect you pick these 4 because they fall on "both sides of the isle". In doing so you seem to make a compelling argument that we must accept it because as you say it "is part of the price we pay for this uniquely successful democracy." But there is a significant difference between the "two sides of the isle" in this case. Abortion and contraception funding are not part of what is traditionally considered the responsibility of the government. In fact, traditionally, caring for the poor (which is the closest traditional role of society that these could be put under) has been the responsibility of the Church. On the other hand, punishing criminals and defending the people from outside forces are much more clearly the responsibility of the government.
Do I object to the use of the death penalty? Yes I do. I often lobby for the end of it. But I do accept that the government must punish criminals. As such a consensus MUST be reached and the government must act upon that consensus. I similarly object to the war in Iraq (although I believe we must now finish what we started) as I believe that we had Saddam Hussein reasonably contained and as such was not an evil that could justify the evil that a war entails. In short it did not meet the just war criteria. So, as the buildup to the war was occurring, I lobbied my senators to say no to the war. But just as is the case with the punishing criminals, I accept that fighting wars (or defending the country) is the responsibility of the government and as such a consensus MUST be reached. For both of these case I'm willing to accept paying for these objectionable actions as "part of the price we pay for this uniquely successful democracy."
Paying for abortions and contraceptives on the other hand is not necessarily the responsibility of the government. There need not be consensus! There is no "price" that needs to be paid. I wholeheartedly reject that someone should accept these non-essential parts of government as part of the price of having a government. In these scenarios, scenarios in which the government need not be involved, it is best to fall back to a position in which we do not force the consensus opinion on anyone. In this way we can do our best to respect the religious freedom of all people by preventing the government from funding these activities.
This same principle applies to ESCR. Medical research is not the responsibility of the government particularly in a society with privatized medicine. There is no need for consensus on this subject and because of this, I full expect that my tax dollars will not be spent on what I find morally unacceptable.
In summary, it would seem to me that you would be a whole-hearted supporter of the President's current position on ESCR. Not only are the beliefs of those who have no moral objections to ESCR being respected so too are the beliefs of those who would be required to pay for it if it was funded by the government.
Why aren't you?
Online reader of the New York Times
kencraw on 06.22.05 @ 09:12 AM PST [link] [No Comments
Friday, June 10th
NARAL: "Get government out of the family" to "safe, legal, and rare" to "be responsible"?
I haven't been writing many letters to the editor lately, mostly because I've been too busy to read the various newspapers and magazines. At the same time, it seems like there hasn't been a lot worth writing in response to. It was either the same old story or not meaningful enough to get worked up about.
That changed today with this article in Slate by William Saletan. Read the article first, then read my letter to him:
Dear Mr. Saletan,
I would hope that you're familiar with the saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". Or maybe it would be wiser for me to hope you'd remember "A wolf in sheep's clothing". The reason I have this hope is that you seem completely unaware of these concepts in your article titled "Bearing Right, Again" regarding NARAL's new strategy for winning the abortion conflict.
I'll be quite clear that I am Pro-Life and that of course colors my opinion of NARAL, but that said I think there are some objective truths we can all agree on:
-Pro-life activists believe that an embryo is a human being and as such has the rights of all human beings and this includes not getting murdered.
-Conversely, Pro-Choice activists do not believe that an embryo is a human being, at least yet, and as such do not see anything immoral about aborting it during pregnancy, the process by which they eventually becomes a human being.
I hope that we can agree on these two opposed perspectives being accurate. I made sure that I wrote them using language that the proponent of the perspective could agree to. In any case, these two statements are obviously diametrically opposed. More to the point, the reason the abortion issue has continued to capture the attention of the American public is because of these two perspectives are diametrically opposed. There is no middle ground in them.
It seemed that from the first portion of your article, that you appreciated this point. Your review of the history of NARAL's PR campaigns and the reasons they failed was very insightful. Your review showed that no matter how they tried to couch the situation, those that they had falsely convinced into thinking that NARAL actually reflected their views were bound to eventually realize that NARAL was not what they had thought.
This new campaign is no different and it is very easy to show why by asking a question: What actual policy changes does NARAL plan to push forward because of this campaign?
None is the obvious answer. NARAL has always been a fan of easy access to family planning services. NARAL has always been a fan of easy and free access to all forms of birth control. NARAL has always been a fan of early and frequent sex education. This new strategy changes nothing. In fact, the president of NARAL told you as much when you asked her "What's the difference between making an abortion decision responsibly and making it irresponsibly?" What was her answer? Instead of addressing the question you asked, she told you "Women make all of their decisions responsibly." Is there any more clear way she could tell you that NARAL has no plans to make any actual policy changes? I don't think so. She believes that the problem is already solved, that women already make their abortion decisions responsibly and consequently, there is nothing that needs to change.
That's the final truth that can not be sidestepped. Any PR campaign that does not reflect an underlying truth, particularly in politics, is guaranteed to fail eventually. You can pull the wool over the country's eyes for 10 or even 20 years, but at some point down the road, when things aren't turning out as promised, the people will eventually abandon those organizations that failed to deliver on their promises.
You seem to hope for real change in NARAL. You, at least from your article, seem to be interested in keeping abortion legal not so much because you think it is always a moral choice but because of a libertarian mind set regarding government. NARAL will disappoint you. They have no interest in your mind set. They firmly believe that there is nothing immoral about an abortion in any instance. They have no concerns about the number of people choosing to abort today (after all, they're already making their decisions responsibly.) The only reason they think abortion should be avoided is because it is more invasive and risky to stop a pregnancy that has already started than to prevent it from forming in the first place. This minor concession does not change the fact that they have no moral objections to abortion. This has been their belief and policy from the beginning and it is quite clear, even in their unveiling of this new campaign, that they have no intention of changing their mind set.
I guarantee you that this campaign will have the same result as their "Get government out of the family" campaign of 1989. You will be disappointed by them just like everyone else that is convinced by them that they actually intend to change, because they have no such intention. While it may tip the scales for some short period of time, the end result will bring us right back to where we are. As such, there is nothing in this campaign that anyone, not even Pro-Choice activists, should be excited about.
kencraw on 06.10.05 @ 02:11 PM PST [link] [No Comments
Wednesday, June 1st
Sorry for my absence
The new job is still very busy. I've got a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. I will still be blogging to the best of my ability without impacting that very valuable time I spend with my family.
kencraw on 06.01.05 @ 03:12 PM PST [link] [No Comments
HP's real problem? No longer guided by Catholics
Not many people know this but Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the founders of the computer/printer company HP, were both Catholic. Most everyone knows that what made the company successful for so long was their guiding principles, dubbed The HP Way. What is less known is that the HP Way principles are firmly grounded in Catholic theology because the founders, Bill and Dave, were committed Catholics. The basic principles of the HP Way including treating every employee with dignity, including the value of their family. The concept of the work/life balance, is a core principle of the HP Way. Valuing the honest input of each employee and being willing to be honest in return about the needs/direction of the company was another key aspect of the HP Way. HP had never done a layoff until Carly was hired as the CEO. Bill and Dave did everything in their power, including turning down unsustainable lucrative contracts, to avoid the bloat and purge cycles that plagued other companies. They felt that telling a good employee that they were no longer wanted was a failure of the company. Long term success and integrity was more important to them than short term greed. In short, they were good Catholic men, ran their company as a good Catholic company and treated every employee like family. Just like their employees had a responsibility to them, they had a responsibility to their employees and the community.
The reason I bring this up is because I had a conversation today about Bill and Dave's Catholicism. As I was buying a crucifix at the local Catholic store to put in my cubicle, I was talking with the owner. I told her that I was buying it to put in my cubicle. She asked where I worked (with this worried look on her face) and I told her HP. She responded that it should be OK there and "You know that both Bill and Dave were Catholic, right?"
We then proceeded to talk about how the company has been failing. Although I had many times put together that the failures of the company have everything to do with abandoning the HP Way, I had never connected the reality that at its core what that meant was that the company had abandoned Catholic teaching (even though I had in the past put together the HP Way and Catholic teaching).
We often think of the restrictions the Church puts on us as limiting and frustrating. I think it is important to remember that just like the frustration that a child feels when being disciplined and guided, most of the restrictions put on us are for our own good. The reality is that by following Church teaching (and hence following God) we are freeing ourselves and helping ourselves to grow and prosper. HP prospered over the long term because it followed God's commands for us. It started failing when it failed to do so. The "best" part (if one can ever refer to a failure with the term best) is that it didn't take any visible divine intervention for God's will to be clear. HP made it happen all on its own.
Today my prayers are for HP and its executives, that they may be guided by the principles of the Catholic Church so that they may help this once proud company regain its integrity and its prosperity.
kencraw on 06.01.05 @ 03:10 PM PST [link] [1 Comment
Wednesday, May 25th
Reflections on Sunday's readings: Andrew was baptized!
My 2nd child and son was baptized on Sunday. What a joyous occasion!
What strikes me most about the baptism and the reception was my toast. I'm now 2 for 2 at getting choked up before I've even begun to speak thereby losing everything I intended to say and just letting my feelings at the moment dictate the toast.
The feeling that wells up inside me is an odd combination of pride of my wonderful son and humility in the small role I've played in making him wonderful. To quote from the movie Braveheart: "God makes men what they are." By God's will, Andrew is now a formal member of the Catholic Church. I feel blessed that God has brought my wife, Andrew and myself to this crossroad and am humbled that he is asking me of all people, a horendous sinner, to take the monumentally important task of raising Andrew in the faith.
May God give me the strength to do His will!
kencraw on 05.25.05 @ 08:38 AM PST [link] [No Comments
Sorry for my absence
I've taken a new job inside of HP starting last week and the move as well as coming up to speed in a new group combined with the rush they have to get a product out the door has thoroughly sucked down my time (I've been working 10-12 hour days).
As a result, blogging will be light for the next week or so.
kencraw on 05.25.05 @ 08:13 AM PST [link] [No Comments