Wisconsin Take Aim at Confession
Earlier this year, Wi State Representative Melissa Sargent of Madison, explained to a pastor what it REALLY meant to listen to Jesus. Now together with Reps. Chris Taylor and Sen. Lena Taylor, Sargent is presuming to intrude on the relationship between priest and penitent by requiring priests report allegations of child abuse that are heard in confession (see below).
There are a number of potential problems with the proposed legislation (which I haven’t read and can’t find on the Wisconsin statehouse website).
First, it’s an intrusion into the internal life of a religious community. The legislation re-defines for its own purposes the nature of confession.
Second, and following from this, the loss of confidentiality has a potential chilling effect on the priest/penitent relationship. In a global sense, if people think that the priest might reveal the content of their confessions to law enforcement they will likely be guarded in what they say to him.
Undermining priest/penitent can also harm the very people the bill seeks to protects: victims of sexual abuse. Requiring clergy to report what we hear in confession means that we would be legally obligated to violate the confidentiality of victims. Under these circumstances, it would not be unreasonable for a person who has been abuse to forgo speaking to his or her parish priest because of the credible fear that the priest would report the conversation to the State.
Third and finally, the bill seeks to punish clergy who have not violated our pastoral and moral responsibilities. Worse, innocent clergy AND penitents (including victims of sexual abuse) would have their rights curtailed because of the actions of others.
You can read more about the latest swipe at religious liberty here.
Rainbow pride flag flies over WI state Capitol
It’s going to be a long June for me here in Mad City. Why you ask, do I say this?
Because for the next month, people will talk about an issue of immense moral, social and political importance as if it were a professional sporting event. Really and truly, what of substance is accomplished by putting up a rainbow flag? This kind of virtue signaling is indicative of the immaturity of the activists.
Want to win the respect of your neighbor? Then doing something worthy of respect.
Here’s a hint. That ain’t putting up a flag advertising your allegiance to a cause most everyone in town supports or at least won’t publicly criticize.
You can read about the flag at the link under my signature.
The flag will be flown over the Capitol’s East Wing through June 30, which is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month.
Source: Rainbow pride flag flies over state Capitol for 1st time in Wisconsin history | Politics and Elections | madison.com
Icons of Human Creativity
At AIER, the economist Donald J. Boudreaux writes that
The reality about innovation uncovered by [recent Noble Prize winner] William Nordhaus alone is sufficient proof that capitalism works magnificently. Of course, to say that capitalism works magnificently isn’t to say that it works without identifiable hitches, hiccups, and costs. But it is to say that those who today call for socialism to replace capitalism are ignorant not only of socialism’s well-documented history of failure and tyranny, but also of the enormous benefits that capitalism inspires in creative entrepreneurs to deliver.
Based on Nordhaus’s work, Boudreaux points out that all of us are better off because of entrepreneurs and innovators such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Why? Because
…producers, on average, capture a mere 2.2 percent of the total benefits of their successful introduction into markets of technological advances. A whopping 97.8 percent of those benefits are enjoyed by people each of whom as a consumer did nothing other than exercise his right to spend his money on those options that he judges best for himself.
From: Business Today.in
To be sure, “each innovator would surely like to capture a much larger share than 2.2 percent.” But because of “the robust forces of market competition … even the most successful of innovators” will necessarily “give the bulk of the benefits of their innovations to strangers in the form of price cuts, expanded outputs, and improved quality.”
As a practical matter, this means that
If the social benefits of the typical successful innovation were a pie divided into 45 equally sized slices, those who creatively figure out how to innovate, and who bear the risks of doing so in competitive markets, are content to allow those who play no role in the entrepreneurial-innovative process to grab 44 of the 45 slices. The persons responsible for making the pie in the first place ultimately receive as payment for their efforts only one slice.
Christians and others of good will concerned with caring for the poor would do well to take a more serious–and sympathetic–look at the wealth-producing potential of the free market.
But this doesn’t mean, as Boudreaux observes, ignoring the practical and moral failures of the market.
However, we need to see these failures against the twin horizons of the market’s ability to create wealth AND the universal human tendency to misuse use (intentionally or not) our freedom.
The failures of the free market, or if you prefer, capitalism, are not unique to the market. They reflect rather our situation as fallen creatures living in a world marred by sin.
The Church’s role here is not to condemn wealth creation as if creating wealth is in and of itself is sinful.
Instead, I think the Church must continually call market actors (but especially innovators and entrepreneurs) to faithful uphold in all their economic activities the real moral goodness of their efforts as not only stewards of human wealth but icons of human creativity.
Let me explain.
Because we are social creatures, much of what we do, we do in imitation of others. Through their creativity actions in the market, innovators and entrepreneurs demonstrate concretely the human potential not simply to create wealth for themselves but for others.
And this wealth is not simply material. It is also culture and even spiritual.
While wealth can be used selfishly, it can just as easily be used to build schools, hospitals, churches and any number of social institutions that lift the human spirit and reveal our dignity as creatures created in the image of God.
King’s Wine, King’s Tune
Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal (Russia Wages a Religious War Against Ukraine), Loyola University Chicago is history professor (and author of “Russia’s 20th Century: A Journey in 100 Histories,” forthcoming from Bloomsbury), Michael Khodarkovsky writes about the conflict between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Throne over the latter’s establishment of an autocephalous (self-governing) Church in Ukraine.
Khodarkovsky briefly sketches out the history of the conflict. What is, I think of most interest, however, is his observation about the close relationship between the Russian State and the Moscow Patriarchate.
The ties between the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate are as old as Russia itself. Throughout its history, the Russian Orthodox Church had been subservient to the state and an unshakable supporter of autocracy. Since the late 15th century, the church provided Moscow’s rulers with a political theology of manifest destiny, asserting that Moscow had become the Second Jerusalem and the Third Rome (Constantinople being the second).
While the relationship is more complex than what the author suggests (or can reasonably address in an editorial), his fundamental point is sound.
The close relationship between Church and State in Russia has worked to the harm of the former. This was never more the case than with the rise of Communism at the beginning of the 20th century.
The emergence of the atheist Soviet state in 1922 dealt a severe blow to the church. The state confiscated most ecclesiastical property. It destroyed many churches while turning others into storage places. Steeples that rose high enough became jamming stations to prevent Voice of America or the BBC from reaching Soviet citizens. Few seminaries survived. Those that did, trained a small number of priests. The KGB infiltrated the priesthood, informing on clergy and promoting Soviet interests abroad.
Writing in the comments section, two readers made points especially important to those of us concerned with the evangelical work of the Church as well as to the overall health of the Church in America and worldwide.
Don Dewitt writes, “This is exactly what happens in nations without a tradition of separation of church and state.” He goes on to say that “Evangelicals and VP Pence” should “take note–partnering with government turns a church into a tool of the state, not the other way around.”
Another comment by David Holmes makes the point that the struggles of the MP in Russia parallel those of the Catholic Church in China (for example, here).
Bottom line, the Church does well to keep a distance from the State since, to borrow from the Acton Institute’s Fr Robert Sirico, “to drink the King’s wine” means “to dance to the King’s tune.”
Doing Wrong by Doing Good
It today’s Wall Street Journal an interesting there’s an interesting article (The Stealth Pension Mortgage on Your House) on how sometimes even when well-intended policies can have unintended, unjust consequences. The specific issue is how government pensions hurt homeowners:
On average nationwide, unfunded state and local pension burdens represent 20% of real-estate values. This ratio can rival or exceed an owner’s home equity, depending on the size of his mortgage. If real-estate prices adjust to reflect unfunded pension obligations, many homeowners’ equity could be at risk. As we’ve seen in Detroit, the public pension stealth mortgage can ultimately devastate the housing market.
The essayists, Rob Arnott and Lisa Meulbroek, don’t argue that local and state pensions are in and of themselves unjust. Rather they highlight the hidden real estate costs to homeowners and renters:
It doesn’t matter if we own or rent; landlords pass higher taxes on to tenants. Nor does it matter if properties are mortgaged to the hilt or owned outright. In time, unfunded pension obligations will be reflected in real-estate prices, if they aren’t already. A state’s unfunded liabilities are effectively a stealth mortgage on private property. Think you can pass your property on to your heirs? Only net of the unfunded pension obligations.
For most Christians, one of the hardest concepts to grasp in the ethical analysis of economic issues is the unintended negative consequences of otherwise just policies. Sometimes along with the good we intend, we end up doing harm we don’t intend but nevertheless do.
Sexual Orientation, Religious Faith and Personal Identity
David French at National Review Online draws our attention to what he calls the “mistaken belief” that while “sexual orientation is absolutely core to a person’s identity,” religious faith
…is something else entirely — so superficial that any given person is one Vox explainer or Bill Maher monologue away from enlightenment. Yet only a few millennia of human history demonstrates that religion is core to human identity that countless people have been willing to burn rather than recant their deepest beliefs.
He asks us to consider whether or not it isn’t “also bigoted to believe that a person is incapable of expressing disagreement with a person while also treating them with dignity and respect?”
French understands that “some Christians are bigots” who
…actually do hate others and harbor malice in their hearts. But actual Christian orthodoxy — including orthodox Christian sexual morality — is anything but hateful. It expresses the beauty and intent of creation, it honors both the marriage vow and the single life, and it creates a framework for having and raising children in loving, stable homes. It recognizes that each and every person must put a restraint on their desires, orienting their lives towards the true “chief end” of man — glorifying God and enjoying him forever.
After summarizing the Golden Rule, he asks
All across America LGBT Americans live and work alongside Christians who disagree with their actions and beliefs and also treat them with dignity and respect. It’s not hard to do when you love people and seek to imitate Christ. Should these Christians be muzzled while contrary views be given free rein? Or can we actually be tolerant and realize that disagreement is not mistreatment, and love is not hate?
For at least a small, vocal minority of Americans, the answer to French’s question is clear. Yes, those who disagree with the LGBT agenda most remain silent. Ideally, they should do so voluntarily but if not they should be compelled by social pressure. If need be, they should be compelled by the force of law.
But is it really true that sexual orientation or gender identity is absolutely central to a person’s identity while a person’s religion is merely a superficial add-on?
Thinking about French’s argument, I am reminded of conversations with people about why someone might reasonably (and charitably) refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. What French has helped me understand is that many of those who found such a refusal bigoted likely thought that religious faith was superficial–something that could be put on and taken off as easily as an overcoat with the changing of the weather.
But is religious identity really like this? For some people, no doubt. For others though, religious identity is the core of who they are.
I’ve had several conversations (most notably with psychologists or other mental health professionals) who assumed my Christian faith and/or my priestly vocation were roles I played. Sincerely held roles to be sure but roles nevertheless.
Conversations with these individuals quickly turn abusive as they seek to strip away my Christian “veneer” or my clerical “role.” Or, as one clinician put it “Who is the real you behind your religion?”
What’s noteworthy for me is that these clinicians would never dare assume–much less say–about sexual orientation or gender identity what they assume about me: That Christian faith or vocational commitment obscured my identity.
Just as there are bigoted Christians, there are Christians who use the Gospel as a way to hide from others. Likewise, there are clergy who hide behind their office. For the majority, however, religious faith and vocation are at least as important as sexual orientation or gender identity are for other men and women. It would be good of both sides remembered this.
The other question raised by French’s analysis is important for our life of civil engagement. If disagreement is tantamount to hatred, then LGBTQ advocates are themselves guilty of hating Christians who hold to that tradition’s historical moral teaching.
Such mutual accusations of hatred don’t foster civil discourse or peace between different segments of the population. What it does do is encourage strife as we see our life together increasingly as a zero sum game in which one side can only win to the degree that the other side loses.
Our Two Freedoms
Monday, April 02 (O.S., March 20), 2018: Great Monday; Venerable Fathers slain at the Monastery of Saint Sabbas: John, Sergius, Patrick and others († 796); New Hieromartyr Deacon Basil († 1938); Martyr Photina (Svetlana), the Samaritan Woman, her sons, and those with her († c. 66); Holy Virgin Martyrs Alexandra, Claudia, Euphrasia, Matrona, Juliania, Euthymia and Theodosia († 310); St. Nicetas the Confessor the Archbishop of Apollonias in Bithynia (9th C); Hieromartyr Euphrosynus of Blue Jay Lake, Novgorod († 1612); New Martyr Miron of Crete; St. Cuthbert, Wonderworker of Britain († 687).
Matins: Matthew 21:18-43
Sixth Hour: Ezekiel 1.1-20
Vespers: Exodus 1.1-20;
Vespers: Job 1.1-12
Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: Matthew 24.3-35
At Matins for today we hear the following hymn:
Today let us add lamentation to lamentation!
Let our tears flow with those of Jacob, who weeps for
his celebrated and sober-minded son;
for though bodily Joseph was indeed a slave,
he preserved the freedom of his soul and was lord over
Hearing this I might be tempted to think any number of things that are, at best, morally confused. At worse, I might end up of saying something that is truly evil.
The confusion is this: Because inner freedom–what the text refers to as the ‘freedom of soul’–is what matters, I might wrongly think that political or soul freedom is unimportant. “After all,” I might think (or worse, say), “even though Joseph was a slave, he ‘preserved the freedom of his soul’ and even became ‘lord over all Egypt.’”
As St Paul points out to the Church of Rome, I can’t do evil that “good may come” (3:8). The fact that, as the Apostle says a bit later, that God is able to bring good out of evil (Romans 8:28), doesn’t mean evil isn’t evil.
At the very least, evil is something I should avoid. If I can–or better, as much as I can–I should oppose evil. I should oppose evil not only in my own heart but in the world around me.
I must be faithful to the example of Jesus. When after suffering temptation in the desert, how does He begin His own ministry? Going to the synagogue he reads from the prophecy of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Isaiah 61:1, 2)
Jesus begins His own ministry by opposing–and so ending–the hold that moral evil and physical suffering have on us (Luke 4:16-21).
While moral freedom is more important than political freedom, the two freedoms are not opposed. While I can have the moral freedom without political freedom, I can’t have the latter without the former.
Ideally, though, a society should have both. And, in any case, Christians are called to work for both moral and political freedom. What we can never do, is sacrifice one for the sake of the other.
“Love is love is love” isn’t True
Didn’t realize this moment was being filmed yesterday but I’m so happy that it was. My childhood self would never have dreamed of seeing a gay kiss on TV at the Olympics but for the first time ever a kid watching at home CAN! Love is love is love.
To say, as Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy does, that “love is love is love” is at best morally trivial. What it actually is is wrong.
Kenworthy doesn’t mean “love” he means romantic attraction. While this is one form of love, it doesn’t exhaust, dare I say it, the diversity of love.
A mother’s love for her child is not the same as that same woman’s love for her husband. Nor is the love between siblings the same as the love between friends.
We can love our co-workers and our enemies. But, here again, this love is not the same.
That love takes different forms doesn’t degrade or minimize different loving relationship. To suggest however that love is fungible (as Kenworthy suggests) does.
To believe, as Kenworthy seems to do, that “love is love is love” is a sign of emotionally and morally immaturity.
Property Rights & Religious Freedom
The Hon. B. Theodore Bozonelis, a retired State Chief Judge, and Secretary of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has an essay on Public Orthodoxy that illustrates the connection between religious freedom and property rights. He writes that
Despite the world-wide recognition of the status of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as the spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians, the government of Turkey will give no legal standing and status to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the historical Holy Center of Orthodox Christianity at the Phanar, in Istanbul. The lack of legal standing and status in essence nullifies property and other fundamental civil rights in Turkey for the Ecumenical Patriarchate which precludes its full exercise of religious freedom. The Ecumenical Patriarchate cannot own in its name the churches to serve the faithful or the cemeteries to provide for their repose. Since it lacks a legal standing, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is powerless to pursue legal remedies to assert property rights or even seek to repair deteriorating property without government approval. (Read the rest here).
As events in Turkey illustrate, the absence of legally enforceable property rights is detrimental to religious freedom. Important as they are, property rights alone are not sufficient.
Economic rights more broadly, such as, the ability to engage in free economic exchange and to make a profit, are also in the service of religious freedom as well as the individual’s freedom of conscience as well as a community’s freedom to assemble and act as a community.
Sometimes in our zeal to defend the poor and oppressed and to include those on the margins of society, we overlook the importance of property right and economic liberty. We don’t help the poor by curtailing the rights of the middle class or wealthy.
Instead, and let’s return to the situation of the Ecumenical Throne in Turkey, the first step in helping the poor and marginalized is to defend their economic liberty. What we should be aiming at is, as Hernando de Soto argues in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else is to make the legal–and as importantly, cultural, changes need to secure the economic liberty and property rights of all but especially the poor.
Physicians’ Liberty at Risk?
In a recent forum for Democrats running for Wisconsin governor, the current Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers offered this solution to providing health care for those in urban areas; mandatory physician residencies.
“I believe the state of Wisconsin, and we can do this relatively easily, we should provide subsidies to any physician when they go into their residency that they have to serve time in an urban hospital. We need to subsidize and, in some cases, compel and direct residencies and have people in residencies for physicians.”
While I don’t want to minimize the health care needs of those in urban areas (or rural areas for that matter), compelling physicians to practice in underserved areas is simply wrong.
It also opens the door to the state compelling physicians to offer (or not offer) medical care against their best medical judgment. We’ve seen in Canada, the UK and other places that health care providers are obligated to assist in abortion or euthanasia or other services in violation of their conscience and/or best professional judgment.