Friday, September 26, 2008

South Dakotans against Abortion

As you may- or may not- know, South Dakota is again attempting a sweeping ban on abortions. In 2006, Referred Law 6, which would have banned all abortions and prosecuted doctors not women, was defeated after a careful campaign by the pro-abortion lobby that maximized on South Dakotan's libertarian tendencies.

The current attempt, Initiated Measure 11, includes careful exceptions for rape, incest, and health. This is a careful response to Referred Law 6, as the opposition's main claim was against the lack of exceptions. They ran scare tactics of rape and incest pregnancies and there was little engagement of the actual issue: when does life begin and deserve protection?

Last time, we were mostly in the inter-regnum, between bishops. While our bishop-administrator, Bishop Samuel Aquila, is a good and holy man, he was very busy and we were without a shepherd in the crucial weeks before hand. Now we have our own shepherd and Bishop Swain is leading and feeding us:

[My comments in red]

September 26, 2008
Statement Regarding Initiated Measure 11
The Most Rev. Paul J. Swain

Initiated Measure 11 will be on the election ballot on November 4. It seeks to enact into state law a prohibition on abortions except for those that are the result of rape or incest or certain dangers to the life or health of the mother. After prayerful discernment and consultation[This is not horse-hockey, Bishop Swain utters no unconsidered words!], I will vote yes on Initiated Measure 11 and encourage others to do so as well.

The proposed law does not include the fullness of Church teaching [Clear Church teaching, breathe it in!]. Many of us remain deeply disappointed with the defeat of the Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act, known as Referred Law 6, in the 2006 state election. That would have been the boldest and most powerful statement for life possible. It remains what we must continue to work toward: respect for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death, including caring about all mothers and all children. That electoral defeat, however, creates the environment in which Initiated Measure 11 is offered. [This is most important, Bishop Swain is making a prudential judgment and offering prudent advice: Prudence- the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.] It is the judgment of those who have proposed this law that a total ban on abortions is not politically possible based on that result. It is not for me to not make judgments about political realities. [Be clear on what he says, he did not judge the political reality that predicated a compromise, but he will support the compromise offered as better than the current law.] We must, however, respond to what is before us.

Earlier in the year when the circulation in parishes of petitions to place this proposed law on the election ballot was authorized, I commented on the principle of gradualism or incrementalism in moral theology. The Bishops of the United States in the document adopted last November titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” discussed this principle: “Sometimes morally flawed laws already exist. In this situation, the process of framing legislation to protect life is subject to prudential judgment and ‘the art of the possible’. At times this process may restore
justice only partially or gradually. [As in Initiated Measure 11] For example, Pope John Paul II taught that when a government official who fully opposes abortion cannot succeed in completely overturning a pro-abortion law, he or she may work to improve protection for unborn human life, ‘limiting the harm done by such a law’, and lessening its negative impact as much as possible (Evangelium Vitae, no. 73). Such incremental improvements in the law are acceptable as steps toward the full restoration of justice. However, Catholics must never abandon the moral requirement to seek full protection for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death”. (32)

I have concluded that this is such a case. Current law essentially allows abortion on demand. We have an opportunity to do what we can to “limit the harm done by such a law.” If this law is enacted, over 95 [!!! And I think this is a conservative estimate] percent of abortions currently performed in South Dakota would be prohibited. And it would send a clear message to abortion providers that their culture of death is not the will of the people of South Dakota.

Abortion advocates oppose this law because they say that it allows government into the private decision-making of individuals. If that were the standard there would be few laws. Law by its definition intrudes into the lives of individuals for the common good. What can be more significant for the common good than the right to be born? The unborn have no private decision making freedom.

Some who have worked hard in the pro-life movement oppose this law because they do not accept the principle of gradualism and therefore cannot vote for any law with exceptions. I honor their work and respect their position. [Though I disagree with them. Nobody asked me, though...]

Others oppose this law because of disagreements with the political or legal strategies that have been advanced for it, or the likelihood that courts will prevent it from taking effect. Still others oppose the law because in some states the health of the mother exception has been used as a loophole to continue to allow abortion on demand. The language in Initiated Measure 11 has been reviewed by noted moral theologians and experts in bioethics. I have been assured that the language in this law is carefully worded and closes this loophole. None of us can predict future
decisions by those in the political or legal system. [Prudence!] We can and must address what is before us.

The fact is that when we enter the voting both on November 4, the question will be presented to us [Dt 30:15-20, "I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom."]: yes or no, do you wish to replace the current law which allows abortion on demand with a law that would eliminate almost all abortions? My answer is yes. This law can be an important step forward in protecting the lives of the unborn and their mothers.

As we do so, we reaffirm the fullness of the Church’s teaching, that all life is sacred, that the taking of life in abortion is a grave evil, and that no exceptions can be endorsed as a good in themselves.

Whatever the outcome on Election Day, let us also recommit ourselves to defending all life from conception to natural death, always with civility and charity, but always.

I would ask pastors to make this letter available to the faithful.

Please pray for Bishop Swain and Bishop Cupich.
Our Lady and St. Joseph- patrons of the Church in South Dakota, pray for us!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Homily for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Back in the 1990’s there was a television show, humbly entitled, “Hercules: the Legendary Journeys!” It featured the dashing Hercules, who went from town to town, protecting innocent villagers from monsters, thieves, or the whims of the gods. Now, don’t feel bad if you don’t remember it, because my homily won’t hinge on any plot lines. You don’t need to remember Hercules’s hulking muscles and flowing hair or any cheesy monsters, you just need to remember this: the Greek gods are portrayed as whimsical and detached beings who care little about men and women below.

The vision of gods in the Greek world was one where they floated above the world on Mt. Olympus. This vision of god is probably not to far removed from what many of us still carry today—god is in some far away heaven and occasionally, like some distant, rich uncle, he gives us a taste of the good life. Into this vision of god—remote, distant, and separated, comes the God of Jesus Christ and the image of the Holy Cross.

We celebrate today the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. To the ancient Greco-Roman world, the Catholic claim of the cross was complete foolishness. If you are familiar with Greek mythology, you remember that Zeus might take on human appearance to chase after women, causing more harm than help. Catholics believe that God—all-powerful, all knowing, ever living—assumed a human body and soul, not to find pleasure but to enter into our pain. This is the mystery and the glory of the Holy Cross.

What is the meaning of the cross? The sign of the cross is often reduced to a good-luck charm- around our necks or over our body when we begin a test. The Cross of Jesus Christ does not promise us success, health, or pleasure. The Cross only promises us that Jesus will be with us, no matter how badly we suffer, no matter how badly we fail, and no matter how horribly we feel. Jesus said, “Behold I am with you always until the end of the age.” It is through His Cross that Jesus is with us- that is the meaning of the Cross and that is the meaning of our Christian faith.

God enters into the depth, the pit of human experience through Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We are not alone. We wish that the Holy Cross meant that we don’t have to suffer, but it means that God chose to suffer with us. God’s ways are not our ways. The lesson of the Holy Cross is still very hard for us. That is why the Holy Cross became THE sign of the Catholic faith. Even in our Churches, known for stained glass, statues, and stations- the only image that is explicitly required is a cross, depicting Christ crucified. How often do we struggle to believe in God when things are going well? How much more do we need to remember that God is with us, even in our sufferings?

The Holy Cross becomes a sign of hope. When we look on the Holy Cross, we can believe that there is hope beyond our suffering, our failures, and our loss. We can believe that there is hope for the single pregnant mother, hope for the terminally ill, and hope for the poor. There is hope because God will not abandon us in our sufferings.

We must always exalt and lift up the Cross of Jesus Christ. The God of Jesus Christ did not fail the city of Houston in the path of hurricane Ike. The God of Jesus Christ did not fail the faithful parishioner afflicted with cancer. The God of Jesus Christ did not fail Coach Meyer in his accident and diagnosis. The God of Jesus Christ suffers with them. The God of Jesus Christ suffers with us. The God of Jesus Christ is with us.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

No homily from last Sunday

Our Deacon preached last weekend- and quite brilliantly- so I didn't prepare a homily.


Here is something equally stimulating

You can see more from John Cleese here, though remember it is John Cleese so it might not always be appropriate!