Sed Contra


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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Heading North
Virtually every morning you can find them, a mile to two from my condominium, waiting near the place where the I-395's ramps meet the local streets. They are trabajadores, workers, the overwhelming majority of them from Central and South America, not Mexico. In the mornings every few minutes a jeep, a van, an SUV, a pickup, will pull up to the intersection sparking a mad rush through traffic to get to the car window to offer themselves, their time, their labor, their sweat for the day. Even if they get hired by someone who will, at the end of the day, refuse to pay them, or refuse to pay them what was negociated, or simply leave them somewhere stranded in the Northern Virginia area, they will still count themselves as luckier than the unfortunate ones who during the day will remain at the intersection, hoping for the late van or pickup or jeep.

National Public Radio has a series about the very trip these folks had to make to be able to wait at that intersection. It''s a short and worthy read, with some eye-opening photos.
Alabama Prison Health Deemed Risk
There is a disturbing story in an Alabama paper about the reality that prison health care in Alabama is poor enough that prisoners being released, and there will be 5000 of them soon because of budget cuts, may be released carrying things like disease resistant TB etc. Like I said before, prison policy in is country is becoming a significant issue that needs attention. Some excerpts:

Statewide, Alabama correctional facilities hold nearly 28,000 inmates, though they are designed to house about 13,000, according to state facility reports.

Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery -- where many sick inmates are sent to be treated at the on-campus hos pital unit -- had an average monthly population of nearly 1,300, about three times its designed capacity of 440.

Experts fear that the crowded conditions in Alabama prisons -- many hold two to three times the number of inmates they were designed for -- have made them a breeding ground for infectious diseases. And recent audits of the prison health care system suggest that dangerous infections have been poorly tracked and inadequately treated.

A lawsuit filed in March by the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta alleged that the Alabama prison system administered negligent health care, leading to the deaths of nearly 38 HIAIDS-infected inmates between 1999 and 2002.

NaphCare -- the state's Birmingham-based health care provider -- and Department of Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell are listed as defendants in the class action lawsuit

Monday, September 29, 2003

Complaint About Pell Being Named Cardinal
Pope John Paul II has named George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, a Cardinal. This has occasioned the expected round of complaining, some of which needs some unpacking:

Dr Pell has refused to administer communion to members of the gay Catholics collective Rainbow Sash. Its spokesman Michael Kelly said the appointment was the result of his skill in playing politics at the Vatican.

"Pell is a champion of all that sort of mentality that is about doctrinal checklists and excluding people," Mr Kelly said. "I think it is a very unfortunate day for the church. It is a very unfortunate appointment.

"A lot of people are going to become even more cynical about Rome and about the way the church is run. It is going to promote a very right-wing version of orthodoxy."

Dr Pell has been seen for several years as a rising star within the church. When the archbishopric of Sydney fell vacant in 2001, Pope John Paul II reportedly examined a list of prospects, before declaring: "I want Pell."

For the record, the Rainbow Sash folks are not merely self-identifying as gay; they are making a statement with the rainbow sashes to the effect that they either engage in homosexual sex or encourage or promote others in doing so. These are serious sins which may in fact be mortal and to not give communion in those circumstances both resists scandal and offers charity. If Mr. Kelly and the other Rainbow Sash supporters want to choose having sex over being Catholic, that is their affair. They have no right to demand the Church change her teaching to accommodate their desires.

For the record, as well, Archbishop Pell has offered communion to men and women from Courage who, though they live with same sex attraction and some of whom even self-identify as gay, nonetheless live lives committed to discipleship and seeking the Kingdom of God. Kelly et al. count on being able to conflate identity with behavior, but the issue has never been what tempts us, but how we live.
Grade School Kids in Scotland To Be Given "Lesbian Dolls"
Scottish pupils are set to learn about same sex relationships through controversial "lesbian dolls".

Schoolchildren will see the Persona Dolls in lessons that aim to teach respect and understanding of different relationships and family structures.

The project is headed by the Lesbians Mothers Scotland group and is partially funded by Lottery cash.

Ok, some things are so absurd they have to draw laughter. First, distributors of the these dolls say the dolls are not used for sex education or to promote gay relationshipsbut that's just specious. By definition, they have to be. How on earth do the kids tell a lesbian doll from a non-lesbian doll? And what will that difference mean to a kid in the absence of some sort of detail about what a self-identified is and wants/likes to do in bed?

Second, unless the dolls wear little tee-shirts that say "lesbian" on them, how do they avoid stereotyping? Do the "lesbian" dolls look more at home behind the wheels of semis? Are their accessories limited to hammers and tools and other stereotypes?

To their credit, the Catholics which appeared in the story expressed doubts.

Religious opposition has also been typically loud, with the Catholic Church in Scotland's Peter Kearney claiming the project is "precisely the sort of pro-homosexual brain-washing that Section 28 would have prevented".

"It seems to confirm all the fears we had about young children being exposed to inappropriate material if Section 28 was repealed," he added.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

UAW Backs Off Supporting Abortions
DETROIT -- Moments after the news broke this summer, petitions started circulating in the plants, the phones started ringing at Solidarity House in Detroit, and abortion protestors sprang into action.

Thursday, as United Auto Workers members continue voting on their new contract, the controversial proposal that shocked many union members into action -- health care coverage for abortions -- has been quashed.

Missed Opportunity
Well, anyone who imagined the Bishop of Riverside California might have taken the opportunity of addressing the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries about, say, the gospel, the need for discipleship, the need to present the whole of the Church's teaching on same sex attraction and behavior would have been sorely mistaken.

Instead, according to this press report, he affirmed their approach and apologized for the problems they have faced baptizing gay sex.

PALM SPRINGS - Bishop Gerald Barnes thanked more than 130 Roman Catholics at a national conference for gay and lesbian ministries and apologized for the strife they have endured.

OK, I am open to the notion that the message might have been more nuanced that it appeared to be and that the reporter might not have recognized the nuance, but from this article at least it seemed that even the mildest part of firm love, much less "tough love" was not on the bishop's agenda.

The bishop apologized for what society and the church have done to punish good ministries," said the Rev. Rich Lewandowski of Worcester, Mass. "It was a very powerful thing."

Olivia Dorman of La Mesa, in San Diego County, cried during the service. Dorman said she was moved when she saw a young woman she believed was a lesbian crying herself.

"People have been suffering so much," Dorman said. "They really need that assurance. Everyone wants to be loved. That's all we want."

Yes. That's what everyone wants. But the issue at hand is what genuine love is and means. Almost every parent out there knows that genuinely loving their kids does not mean simply endorsing every one of their behaviors - particularly not the ones that the parents believes or hazardous to their bodies and souls.

A genuinely loving message from the bishop would have welcomed the conferees and would have reassured them as to their worth before God, and would have called them, on account of that very worth, to join the millions of other Christians on the road to heaven. Teaching the Cross does not seek to exclude anyone, it seeks to include everyone in doing the work it really takes to grow into sainthood, into being the men and women God meant us to be.

And the Church needs and, please God will soon have, more men who will preach that truth and offer genuine bread instead of stones.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Happy Birthday Jesuits
In Rome, the Society of Jesus--a Roman Catholic missionary organization--receives its charter from Pope Paul III. The Jesuit order played an important role in the Counter-Reformation and eventually succeeded in converting millions around the world to Catholicism.

The Jesuit movement was founded by Ignatius de Loyola, a Spanish soldier turned priest, in August 1534. The first Jesuits--Ignatius and six of his students--took vows of poverty and chastity and made plans to work for the conversion of Muslims.

Article Chronicles One Aspect of DC's Gay Drug Trade
Drug use among self-defined, sexually active gays and lesbians has long been documented, but rarely discussed from the users perspective. Until now. Interesting article about one aspect of Washington DC's gay drug trade, from a gay paper as well. Significantly, and refreshingly, I don't think the words "internalized homophobia" appear once in the piece as a justification for the activity....

The market for crystal in Washington, D.C., is limited — relegated primarily to the gay club scene — and most of the methamphetamine in D.C. comes from sources in California, via overnight or regular mail delivery services, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.... .

Corbin, who still uses crystal, said that as his life becomes “more stable and grounded,” his need for crystal has abated. But he admitted that tina is still very much a part of his identity and laments his once prominent notoriety and VIP status in the D.C. drug world.

He blames himself to some extent for selling drugs, especially to 18-year-olds, and added at times he would cut clients off if he felt they were doing too much crystal.

“I would say sometimes to people, ‘You’ve done too much, you must detox,’” Corbin said. “And they would still continue to use. I would say, ‘Look, you are not going to die in my house. If you are going to be stupid enough to kill yourself, do it on your own time.’”

Corbin described crystal abuse in D.C. as an “outrageous epidemic” and noted that it is “sad.”

“People will sell their soul for a fix. I’ve had boys offer to do any sex act with me, many were willing to physically hurt people to prove how loyal they were.”
But he scoffed at the notion of being addicted to crystal saying, “All addiction is mind over matter.”

“There are those out there who can do a gram a day without a problem,” Corbin said. “I’m doing shit that makes you feel like you’ve walked through the gates of heaven.”

Corbin said his regrets are few, justifying his business as an effort merely to provide pleasurable experiences for gay men.

“On one hand, certainly one would say that [gay men] complicated our lives but just think of where we would be [without drugs] … creating an absence of pleasure. Sometimes it is important to walk on the edge. I’m not comfortable with mediocrity. Can’t exist in the norm. I’ve learned to, but I’m not comfortable with it.”

Small Town Seeking To Become Miami of The Carolinas
SENECA, S.C. - Town leaders no longer are counting on factories and mills to fuel the economy of Seneca, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians.

Instead, they are targeting retirees, hoping an ad campaign will lure them to play golf and build million-dollar homes on the shores of Lake Keowee.

Just curious, what would this do to the community;'s profile re: health insurance and health costs. I thought things like insurance rates were calculated according to statistical averages for a given area or community. Won't having a population of mostly elderly, with presumably higher medical costs, skew the figures?
Excellent Column Against the Latest Anti-Catholic Screed
The novel is part of a genre to present a hate-filled stereotype of Roman Catholicism as a villain. ''Almost as troubling as the sheer abundance of anti-Catholic rhetoric is the failure to acknowledge it as a serious social problem,'' writes Jenkins, distinguished professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. ''In the media, Catholicism is regarded as a perfectly legitimate target. . . . What sometimes seems to be limitless social tolerance in modern America has strict limits where the Catholic Church is concerned.''

The Da Vinci Code is only the latest crude assault, as frightening in its own way as were recent demonstrations by mobs at Catholic cathedrals in New York City and Montreal (no ''hate crime'' sanctions were invoked there). That this erratic tale will soon fade away will be fitting justification for a church whose founder died, out of love, for man's redemption and prophesied its unending persecution -- but also that will endure to the end of time.

Friday, September 26, 2003

And A Smoking Gun?
Ok, here might be some sort of smoking gun. Some of this weblog's readers may recall the scandal of the St. Sebastian's Angels website, a site with a membership of "gay priests" which also had pictures of naked young men and boys and featured negative comment about Church officials as well as somewhat lascivious comments about young men around the posters.

Well, a story in the Portland Press Herald has revealed that the St. Sebastian's creator has stepped down from his ministry while being investigated for swimming nude with young male campers in the 1980's.

The Rev. John Harris, who is on a voluntary leave of absence from his parish in Rangeley, could face expulsion based on an investigation into reports that he was seen nude swimming and boating with boys at a private youth camp in the early 1980s....

Voice of the Faithful members did not know about the reports of Harris at the camp, but had been pressing the diocese to investigate Harris because he was the creator of St. Sebastian's Angels, a defunct Web site for gay clergy that included pornography, sexually explicit discussions and some references to boys. Harris had already been investigated and punished for creating the website in 2000, and the diocese uncovered no evidence at the time of misconduct with minors, Bernard said.

So is it that much of a surprise that men who had been part of a site which favored pictures of naked young men and boys might have been involved in inappropriate behavior with the young men around them?
Smoke Screens Rising
An article in the Press Enterprise, a local paper serving Palm Springs, California, previewed the upcoming National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries conference in Palm Springs (registration required).

I can't make up my mind whether the article merely represents uninformed reporting or a deliberate misrepresentation. While the reporter interviewed critics of the NACDGLM conference, he let the organization off without any particularly hard questions and let the diocese of San Bernardino make this remarkable statement:

But the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the million-member San Bernardino Diocese, said the church always teaches that one must be chaste and refrain from sexual contact outside of marriage.

"God loves homosexuals as much as heterosexuals and those with a homosexual orientation deserve and have the right to ministry from our church," Lincoln said by phone. "Our diocese stands firmly behind the teachings of the church in all areas including those pertaining to the gay and lesbian community."

Well, that's great and to be commended. But if that is the case what the heck is the diocese doing welcoming NACDLGM? Unless they shifted their positions, I don't believe visitors to the organization's website will see one reference to living chastely. The website's resources are marked by the familiar rainbow triangles of the gay and lesbian rights movement the whole site makes it clear that, whatever NACDLGM is about, it is not about helping men and women living with same sex attraction make it to heaven.

And yet, a Catholic bishop recommends the sheep of his flock attend this thing?

Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Silly Season
Now will the autumn of my political discontent be transformed into the sweet spring of political satisfaction? Looking over this field of candidates, including General Clark, I have to say not bloody likely.

I got started in politics, liberal politics, early. I believe I turned the tender age of six when I first held a political sign at a rally. At age nine, in the heat of the 1972 Nixon v. McGovern campaign, I and some of my fellow urchins got hold of some Nixon/Agnew bumper stickers and spent the bulk of a Saturday afternoon making sure neighborhood signs read "no Nixon/Agnew Anytime" instead of no parking anytime. When Marion S. Barry ran for the first time for Mayor of DC, I worked like a dog for almost a whole summer to help him get elected, as the "outsider" to a moribund DC political establishment. (I have never regretted any of my political decisions quite as much as that one.)

But time has passed and while I cannot in good conscience support a liberal democratic candidate I also cannot wholeheartedly support a conservative Republican one (or the President for that matter). To paraphrase, I think, Woodie Gutherie: I can't belong to any organized U.S. political party in 2003. I'm a Catholic.

Each of the parties has a lot wrong with it. I can't support the Democrats (a.k.a. The Party of Lust) in good conscience because the core of that party has apparently convinced itself that a woman is not a woman unless she has the right, at will, to abort her children and appears on its way to signing on to the gay agenda hook, line and sinker.

Likewise, I cannot support the Republicans (a.ka. the Party of Greed) in good conscience because they cannot seem to understand that human beings and human labor are not just another one of the wheels of production to be used and spat out or traded for wheels around the world just because their labor can be had more cheaply. Nor do I believe, as many Republicans seem to, in the Market Uber Alles. I think there are considerations in economic activity at least as, if not more so, important than getting the stockholders that extra .25 cents on quarterly earnings.

Actually, there is a good deal or irony afoot this year. The Republicans in Congress and the White House have begun to understand that the flight of capital and jobs in search of the cheaper wage hour will probably mean that this year's economic recovery remains jobless - and their is precious little they can do about it.

The trickle down theory of tax cuts only works if the folks whose taxes are being cut can be counted upon to invest their money here, and not in this year's most popular sweatshop country. I heard on the radio the other day that Mexico, home of the Maquiliadora and Ross Perot's Great Sucking Sound has begun to lose jobs to China. Welcome to the global economy, Senores.

This is ironic because Free Trade, which brought us to this point, has long been a predominantly Republican sacred cow. Even Free Trade's most devoted supporters acknowledge that while it might deliver benefits long term, it often does so after causing a lot of short term pain. The Republicans happen to be the party in power when the pigeons of Free Trade come home to roost, so they are likely to garner the rewards that roosting pigeons often leave.

Anyway, there are some political issues I wish more people were talking about.

First, prison policy reform. Folks, the system we have now is not working. The U.S. has 1.2 million people in prison this year, and by and large is doing nothing to prepare them for when they eventually leave prison. I mean they will eventually come home, and when they do they will need to have skills and support and some sort of chance at making it - or they commit more crime, hurt more people, and head back into prison.

Second, immigration reform. My grandmother reminded me a couple of times that if I decide not to decide something, I have still made a decision. By deciding not to make a coherent immigration policy we are in effect opting for an incoherent one.

Do the rafts of illegal (undocumented) aliens here really suppress the wages of Americans in the industries they take up, as some groups maintain? Does the fact that a factory owner can get someone to work at a dangerous or inefficient job more cheaply because they are undocumented forestall the factory from adopting safer or more efficient technology? How are we complicit in the the problem, relying on cheap undocumented labor to provide the elbow grease this economy needs?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I wish a candidate would raise them and not in the simplistic "los trabajadores son buenos!" formula which many seem ready to adopt.

Third, health care. It needs fixing. My buddy went into the hospital this year and it would have cost him $30,000 if he had not had insurance. Why, if the drug companies are having yet another year of record profits, is nobody questioning whether society is served by their charging hundreds of dollars per month for some medications?

I mean as far as I can tell the problem is that the market simply cannot currently make inroads into health care as it does other places. For example, a new computer technology comes out and for the early adopters its very expensive. But there is a lot of incentive and competition for manufacturers to bring down the cost and, sure enough, we get to a point where I can buy a better printer than many offices had a few years ago for less money.

But that model cannot, or is not being allowed to, work in a similar way for medical technology. Magnetic Resonance Imaging has been around for a while, why aren't we seeing stories about how more small hospitals are being able to get basic MRI machines because they have dropped so much in price?

Four Lessons Gay Men Should Learn From Straight Guys
Some of you might be familiar with the NBC program "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" that has been generating media buzz and, in my opinion at least, exploiting SSA and men living with some SSA but that is another issue. The program furthers the myth that men with SSA have an inherently better sense of style etc than men without SSA and sends a team of men with SSA to make over the style of some hapless goof in need of a makeover to attain some goal, whether personal or career.

Anyway, in the speculation about the show a number of folks brought up how politically incorrect a show called, for example, "Straight Eye For the Queer Guy" would be, in which a team of men without any SSA would offer to teach some self-defined gay man about things in the so-called hetero man's world. Such a show, many agreed, would never fly in today's media age.

Imagine my shock, therefore, when in the October issue of Men's Health, as a sidebar to an article about things men without SSA could learn from self-defined gay guys about women, there appeared the following four points under the headline:

Four Lessons Gay Men Should Learn From Straight Guys

1. BE HAPPY WITH YOUR THREE PACK. My straight friends are proud of their bodies despite growing guts and love handles aplenty; those things never stop them from feeling attractive. I, on the other hand, won't consider having sex unless (a) I am wearing my special boxer briefs that make my butt look like stone and (b) I'm backlit. Body obsession is one lesson from women I would have been better off not learning.

2. GOOD FRIENDS DON'T HOLD GRUDGES. I could rehash for you, probably word for word, virtually every argument I've had with a gay friend over the past decade. But I won't, because it's still too upsetting. Straight guys forgive within minutes and forget by the next morning. And, like a biceps after a curl, each battle makes their friendships grow stronger.

3. MAKE YOUR OWN SCENE. Gay men go out in groups, but always with the ulterior motive if scamming dates. Straight guys understand the virtue of going out with friends just to enjoy their company. Sure, they'll take advantage of a hook up opportunity if it suddenly presents itself, but that's not the main motivation to leave the house in the first place.

4. REAL RELATIONSHIPS TAKE TIME. There was a time when I thought getting a call from a guy meant we were headed to Pottery Barn to buy china together. Straight guys understand that true connections are built over many rounds of ups and downs, not three rounds of martinis.

Now, leaving aside the obvious moral problems with some of these points, I found them interesting. First of all, I wonder how many of the things the author would like to correct are inherently part of male experience of SSA and how many are cultural, part of self-defining as gay etc.

Second, I think its interesting in that these are all things that I have learned as my own degree of SSA has diminished. I wonder if my learning them was part of the SSA diminishing, or whether learning them (and/or lessons like them) came about because the degree of SSA I experience diminished.

Putting Money Where Faith Is
The Archdiocese of Vancouver has ended a program in four of its schools designed to help students learn financial management skills after the program's co sponsor, Canada's largest credit union, took an open stand in favor of self-defined gay rights and put that stand in advertising, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The credit union, VanCity, is running ads which feature two men sitting cheek-to-cheek, saying, "I want to bank with people who value all partnerships," a reference to support for actively homosexual relationships in the ongoing controversy over public approval for same sex marriage.

In a press release, the credit union pointed out that it has a long history of supporting self-defined gays and lesbians. The difference now appears to the be the public stance of the advertising. The Archdiocese pointed out that its policy is consistent with previous actions it had taken in regard to the United Way, which supports Planned Parenthood.

"To be consistent," Exner said, "how can the archdiocese now tolerate cooperation with an organization [the United Way] that by policy supports an agenda seriously in conflict with the teaching of the church?"

I say good for the Archbishop for drawing a line in the sand. Since credit unionism has deep roots in the Catholic world (the first credit union in the U.S. was begun in a Catholic parish, I expect there will be a number of institutions who would like to pick parts of the financial education program.
Calling Chutzpa
This morning I heard some scabrous shill for the direct marketing association simpering over my radio waves that the association 'just thought consumers should be allowed to have a choice about which telemarketing calls they want.'

Bunk and nonsense! I want NO products that are sold to me over the phone. None. Zilch. Nada. And guess what, vile little pimps for the consumer world, I MADE my choice (and so did 50 million other Americans) about which calls I wanted when I added my phone number to the Do Not Call List.

If these little pinheaded sandfleas of modern life succeed in keeping the list from being implemented, I think all 50 million of us should commit to making one call to the direct marketers association. I think we should find out what products these firms sell over the phone and boycott them. I would like to be able to pick up my phone past five o'clock with a reasonable assurance that the voice on the other end will not be trying to sell me something I really don't want!

Their freedom of speech does not mean that they have a right to disturb my evenings seeking to peddle their crap, any more than it would mean I had to accept a vending cart setting up shop in my front yard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Mea Culpa
I know, I know. I haven't been blogging a lot, or at all. Between work responsibilities, the hurricane and other things I just have found it hard to get back into rhythm, but I will be back at it soon. One advantage now though is that I have a new computer to work with so that will make blogging more efficient, I hope.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Episopal Bishop In Atlanta Takes Heat For Robinson Approval
Full story can be found here:

Alexander told the crowd that they had decided to confront the issue of homosexuality head-on after 30 years of debate. Other denominations have either put off the issue or pretend that they didn't have homosexuals in leadership positions, he said.

"What's killing our sister churches is that they refuse to tell the truth," Alexander said.

Alexander said that while there are Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, those Scriptures don't refer to faithful, homosexual relationships -- just pagan homosexual practices involving older men and boys in the ancient world.

Many people in the crowd didn't accept Alexander's argument. The mood in the audience of 150 to 200 often seemed tense and angry. Groups of elderly Episcopalians, their worn leather Bibles resting in the laps, sat frowning in their seats with their arms folded as they listened to Alexander...."I'm willing to say that there are neither straight nor gay in the kingdom of God," he said as members of the crowd broke out into applause.

Well, yes, that's true, but it also (rather clumsily for a Right Reverend) sidesteps the point. The issue is not whether Bishop-elect Robinson lives with a degree of Same Sex Attraction. The issue that he has chosen to be sexually active with at least one man and that he has sought to justify that decision as in accord with 2000 years of Christian tradition and morality. That, and not merely what tempts him, is the question.

This is another instance of the way backers of active homosexality can blur the distinctions between inclinations and actions - and an example of where, too often, Christians fall into the trap of that thinking themselves.

A Train Wreck At The Corcoran"
OK, when I first heard about a collection of classic impressionist painting that had been made three diminsional through sculpture, I thought, "wow, that sounds quirky" and planned to take it in. Well, little did I know that it would generate the sort of rare paragraph in the Washington Post that one might see once every dozen years or so:

In fact, thinking back over my years as an art historian and critic, and cross-checking those memories against my notes and archives, I can assert with a fair degree of certainty: This is the worst museum exhibition I've ever seen.

The rest of the review can be found here.

I suppose I am still going to see the show, albeit with a bit more...awareness than I had before. Any of my few readers who might be in the DC area seen it yet? If so, what did you think.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Prominent Gay Parent Says He Wants Son To Grow Up Without SSA
One of two Australian men who contracted with women in the U.S. to have a boy, whom they have taken back to Australia to raise, has told an Australian paper that he doesn't want the boy with two dads to grow up to be gay.

The Melbourne couple brought Alexander back to Australia and now plan to raise the boy, who Mr Matthews said he hoped would grow up "straight" rather than gay, in a two-father family.

Ok, I find this story really quite disturbing and there are a couple of things I think should be said about it.

First, I don't think its an accident that human beings need a male and a female parent when growing up. Yes, in the case of accidents, tragedies, abuses etc. we can somehow still turn out ok with only one parent, but I nonetheless believe the chances for doing so diminish by the loss. To me this seems as uncontroversial as noting the sky is blue and I don't see how a claim to love a child could be made if one if willfully bringing them into existence intending that they are not going to have someone in their life that they need. This smacks of not wanting a child, but a pet.

Second, what about the rights of the kid? How can it be sound or just that someone can just decide for someone else, before they are born, that they have no right to a mother? These two gentlemen have been quite up front with the fact that they don't consider the woman who carried the boy to be the child's mother. What will they tell him later when he confesses to always wishing to have had a mom? That he doesn't have a mom not because of some horrible accident carried her away but because they decided he didn't need one? Pardon me, but could you be more selfish...and almost monstrous?

Listen to these words: "Mr Wood said they went through with it "because we love kids and thought we'd get a lot out of it ourselves and . . . hasn't it turned out better than you could have imagined".

"We have the perfect child. Every parent probably says that.

"He's an absolute delight, just amazing and he's got the most wonderful nature."

Note there is not a whole lot about the kid's needs, except perhaps to meet the minimum standard, but an awful lot about their having a child. One of the people in the article made a comment about the commodification of children, and I think that is right on. I think the comment about not wanting the kid to grow up gay speaks volumes about the suggestion that having SSA is a "blessing" or somehow a good that society needs to celebrate. If it were unabashedly a good I think that these men would be eager to make sure their son shared, something which at least one of them is not.

Finally, there is this: But Dr Justin Oakley, director of Monash University's Centre for Human Bioethics, said: "I don't see there's any particular problem with it and I think it's a shame [Mr Matthews and Mr Wood] have had to resort to such means in order to become parents or to become fathers."

Sorry, Dr. Oakley, these two gentlemen did not have to go this route to have children. There are very many men and women who live with a degree of SSA but who choose not to define themselves by it and who are great husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. But you know, that requires self-sacrifice, genuine love and being willing to see yourself as something more than just a sexual entity.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

September 11, 1973
Here in the U.S our attention is rooted in the event of September 11, 2001, of course. But for Chileans, the date September 11 is more likely to carry an association to September 11, 1973, a day when, to our shame, the U.S. government was intimately involved in a military coup that overturned a democratically elected government. You can find out more about the whole unfortunate affair here.

The comparisons are almost a little creepy. Not only was it on September 11 when the military moved against the government, a move that in the end brought about the death of Salvador Allende Gossens, the elected president of Chile, but the coup inaugurated a wave of arrests and "disappearances" across the country that wound up killing over 3000 people.

From the perspective of 2003, after the collapse of centralized economies around the world, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc, it's hard to read of the moves that led to the U.S. inspired coup without sensing the irony of the moment. Left to its own economic policies, knowing what we know now, it seems likely that the Chilean people would have ended up voting the Allende government out of power eventually anyway. A coup inspired by and assisted by the U.S. was never probably necessary.
Today is 9/11
And I wonder if folks in the rest of the country experience today like people do here, those of us who live in the shadow of the Pentagon and in New York. Today is...mostly quiet. I find I am a little down, emotionally. One of my former editors, a man who gave me some important and timely guidance in my early career, died at Ground Zero. On that morning, for the first time in several years he had actually managed to have been on time for a weekly editorial meeting for which he was notoriously late.

The weather is beautiful here though. Out on my balcony my small hibiscus is positively crowned with yellow blooms the size of dessert plates, the sky is almost a Caribbean blue and even my normally pathetic geraniums look better. But even as I sat outside during a small lunch break and tried to enjoy the sunshine, I really couldn't. Every beautiful day now, particularly this one, remains stained with my memories. Maybe it will remain so for my entire life.

My best friend has had trouble sleeping for while now, coming up onto today. On the morning of 9/11 2001 he sat in his car, stuck in traffic, on the stretch of highway that runs right behind the Pentagon. He and hundreds, thousands, of other drivers and some passengers in the traffic jam looked up in horror as a jet flew lower than they had ever seen one fly, right over their cars, to plunge into the building. The fireball, he told me later, was like looking at the sun. In the immediate aftermath he told me that he and others got out of their cars, on instinct, wanting to help everyone injured - only there wasn't anyone to help, no one laying on the ground, no one to be seen, only the building, burning sharply against the blue sky.

He can talk about it now, and it doesn't appear to affect his life. Until, like this year, in the weeks before the days comes round, he starts dreaming it again, and suddenly our house flees back into solemnity.

I have put off writing about this because I have been hoping to be able to have something profound to say. But I don't. Here there is only blue sky and hibiscus blooming and my own memories of the lone person I knew, one name out of 3000 names, my one small, person, chain of memory to these 24 hours of sorrow we call 9/11.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Mustering The Opposition
Episcopalians upset with their communion's voting to approve the ordination of a homosexually active bishop can sign a petition to the Primates of their communion and find information on other measures they can take, for example withholding funds, here.

Here is the petition:

Appeal to the Primates

The recent actions of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in The United States of America have triggered the reactions and responses promised by those Anglican leaders from Provinces around the world comprising a majority of the world's 75 million Anglicans who signed the Truro Statement of July, 2003.

By giving consent to the election a non-celibate homosexual as a bishop of this Communion and by making a local option the blessing of relationships outside of marriage will hereby declare and affirm that:

" Those in ECUSA who voted for and support the actions of General Convention have agreed to a position that is contrary to the historic Christian faith and order of our church,

" These same have alienated themselves from the fellowship and accountability of the worldwide Anglican Communion and,

" They have undermined and subverted the witness of the Church to the love, joy and vocation of Christian marriage.

In response to this crisis, we, bishops, clergy, lay members, and parishes loyal to the historic faith and order of the Anglican Communion and living in opposition and resistance to the recent actions of our General Convention, reaffirm our commitment to:

" The teaching of the historic Christian Church,

" Our fellowship with sisters and brothers in the global Anglican Communion, and

" The joyful proclamation of Christ's love for the Church as reflected in the sacrament of marriage.

As we forewarned in the Truro statement:

we do hereby declare the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America to be unconstitutional and illegitimate in its violation of the historic faith and order of the Anglican Communion;

we further appeal to Primates of the Anglican Communion to intervene in these extraordinary circumstances and to restore to our church the historic faith and order of the worldwide Anglican Communion as set forth in the preamble to our own constitution and canons and affirmed at many Lambeth Conferences;

we finally and desperately plead with you the Primates of our Communion for your protection from repressive principalities and powers, bishops and standing committees, who are already beginning to threaten and move against those who oppose their innovations and alterations of the faith once delivered.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

More on the Marriage Question
The New York Times, on August 30, offered this story about the ambiguity many in the self-defined gay community feel about the notion of same sex marriage.

A couple of folks in my comment boxes have taken me to task for allegedly sensationalizing the libertine side of self-defined gay culture, but really all I have done has been to point out that the libertine side exists and that a good number of the practicioners and promoters of homosexual activity take part in the overall debauch.

Well, this article makes it clear that, spin doctors notwithstanding, a good number of self-defined gays in at least Canada, don't particularly want to marry and, frankly, border on being hostile to the idea. Some quotes, but feel free to read the whole piece. (The New York Times used to require registration in order to read articles but, unless maybe my prior registration has been recognized, they didn't ask me any more questions before letting me read the story):

When he moved in with David Warren, a 41-year-old software company project officer, he wrote up a set of vows that remains above their bed, seven years later. They promise "a confidant, playmate, partner in crime, biggest fan and protector." But they stop short of monogamy, which is something Mr. Andrew also says he does not believe in.

"Ambiguity is a good word for the feeling among gays about marriage," said Mitchel Raphael, editor in chief of Fab, a popular gay magazine in Toronto. "I'd be for marriage if I thought gay people would challenge and change the institution and not buy into the traditional meaning of `till death do us part' and monogamy forever. We should be Oscar Wildes and not like everyone else watching the play."

So, this would be the "let us marry so we can undermine the institution" school?

And some mourn the loss of the possible loss of the libertine side of gay life that marriage might bring. Rinaldo Walcott, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, warned that marriage could be an agent of homogenization:

"I can already hear folks saying things like: `Why are bathhouses needed? Straights don't have them,' " he wrote. "Will queers now have to live with the heterosexual forms of guilt associated with something called cheating?"

Of course, I can't be sure based on one quote. But unless there are nuances not immediately apparent in Mr. Rinaldo's position, it seems reasonable to wonder whether Mr. Rinaldo's bed partner(s) (if any) can have any confidence at all as to other beds he has visited and what he might have done there.

The article also has a quote from a same sex marriage supporter, who called such thoughts retrograde and part of the culture of victimization, but significantly, in the wake of the article, a couple of letters backed up the opponents of marriage, with one stating that society can keep marriage what couples wanted was the goodies they said marriage could bring.

Jonah Golberg has also weighed in with some observations on the article.

Significantly, the article pointed out that the ambivalence about marriage is not just among self-defined gays or lesbians:

The ambivalence toward marriage is not confined to gays and lesbians, on either side of the border. Common-law arrangements represent 14 percent of all households in Canada, according to the 2001 census, considerably more than the figure for unmarried households in the United States, which the census of 2000 put at 9.1 percent. All told 1,158,410 couples live in common-law arrangements throughout Canada, according to the 2001 census, which found 34,200 self-identified same-sex couples.

This, it seems to me, to be crux of the matter. Just as many of the Church's central creeds, the Divinity of Christ, for example, or the notion that Christ is truly God and truly man, came about after someone stepped forward and questioned them, the debate over same sex marriage is making our society think about what it means to be married, both from a cultural and personal perspective. Does society have a stake in an institution which remains the primary institution for raising kids? Is marriage really nothing more than an economic arrangement? Does society have to redefine the rules for people who see it as little more than a friendship with sexual rights attached? There is a difference between accepting certain behavior, for example homosexual activity, that might take place privately in someone's home and arguing that society should sanction that behavior as a good.

Monday, September 01, 2003

The Church Desiring Human Happiness
A little bit ago in one or two of my comment boxes some of the correspondents raised questions about the notion of the Church teaching what she does about the morality of same sex sexual acts out of a desire to further the happiness of all people, including those who live with same sex attraction. Well, by coincidence one of the Cardinals addressed this topic in a speech before a meeting of the Catholic group Communion and Liberation. The full text can be found here. But here are some excerpts from the report of Cardinal Schonborn's presentation:

The Austrian cardinal revealed that story from his past as he began his reflection on the topic "Christian Vocation: Call to Happiness." He addressed more than 2,000 participants at the weeklong "Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples," organized by the Communion and Liberation movement.

"The desire for happiness is given to us by the Creator and it is written in the heart of every man. It represents an end to which the Creator has destined us," the cardinal explained.

For many "the search for happiness is deceptive and is manifested in such things as drugs, fame, success or sex," he said. "All are actions that can give momentary pleasure and satisfaction, but they do not guarantee happiness."

Instead, "the 'little happiness' -- little gestures that give a bit of light to daily life -- is the way to come closer to the great happiness," Cardinal Schönborn said. "One depends on the other, they belong to one another."

Yet, "little happinesses" have been unjustly condemned by ideologues and philosophers, he added. "This disdain for little happinesses is, in fact, profoundly inhuman and finds tragic applications in history where the political power arrogates to itself the task of creating the great happinesses on earth."

In fact, "whoever is unable to appreciate little joys, mentioned even in the biblical book of Qoheleth [Ecclesiastes], will not be aware of the great happinesses either," he noted.

"The real search for happiness in the Christian sense is translated in the magisterium of the Catholic Church in topics such as peace, the defense of life, respect for human rights," the cardinal said.

These topics are summarized in the safeguarding of the common good, as expressed in the Second Vatican Council's pastoral constitution, "Gaudium et Spes." Without these topics "there is no room for the happy life," the cardinal said.

"The little happinesses, which we often are aware of only when they are lacking, are nourished by a source, by a promise of good, justice and truth which Socrates" appreciated "and which the Christian event reveals completely to man," he continued.

The "little" and "great happiness" have their roots in the gift of self, he said; in fact, "the key to happiness lies in giving oneself for the good."