Sunday, January 27, 2013


A Catholic friend recently shared how proud she was of a niece who had agreed to be a surrogate mother for a couple who was unable to conceive. She saw her niece’s willingness to carry a child for another as an act of charity and selflessness. 

Like many Catholics, she either has no clue that her niece’s act is “gravely immoral” (CCC 2376) or believes, as do many Catholics, that she is free, as regards Catholic teaching, to “take it or leave it”, and yet remain a Catholic in good standing.

While dissent from the church’s position on contraception is well known, dissent from its opposition to non-natural conception, though similarly pervasive, is not well known. In fact, because, human life is a good, and human life is what is sought, the laboratory construction of life outside the marital act is even more readily accepted than is contraception.

Until recently, access to reproductive technologies was expensive and thus rare, so it didn’t stir as much controversy as did the debate over contraception. However, cheap sperm can now be ordered off Craigslist and disposable artificial insemination kits picked up at a drug store.

In fact, this is what a lesbian couple in Kansas did recently. The couple had already adopted several children but wanted to have a child of “their” own. They placed an ad on Craigslist for sperm, found a donor, did the “do-it-yourself” insemination, and soon gave birth to a child. 

The couple also did a “do-it-yourself” agreement with the sperm-donor which relieved him of any parental responsibilities. All was well until the couple split and the woman who bore the child became a “single mother”. 

Upon losing her job, the mother sought state aid for the child. However, the state chose to sue the father for child support. Of course the father - or sperm donor (you see the problem) produced the document which he believed relieved him of any responsibilities. However, Kansas declared the the agreement invalid and the sperm donor is now on the hook for child support.

Of course, the donor is contesting this, and lawyers, judges, state officials, the media, and gay-rights folks have all hopped on to a finger-pointing merry-go-round which is reminiscent of the “much ado” in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, except that it’s NOT about “nothing”, it’s about a child.

This mess allows us to see the wisdom of the church, which centers its teaching NOT on the happiness and rights of adults, but on the well-being and rights of the CHILD who has a RIGHT to be “begotten”, not “made”; and “to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up by his own parents.” (Donum Vitae)

In its insistence on the rights of the child, the church has a curious ally. Not known for aligning its views with Catholic teaching, the United Nations in its Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) declares in Article 6 that the child “shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents.”  In 1959, the laboratory generation of human life was yet science fiction, so by “parents” the U.N. meant the obvious. 

The Declaration further echoes Church teaching on the rights of parents to educate their child: “The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents.” (Article 7)

And Article 2 speaks directly to the Kansas situation: “The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.”

Recently, our nation has demonstrated an infatuation with U.N directives on everything from climate protocols to gun control. Thus, our complete lapse as regards the U.N’s call for the “paramount consideration” of the “interests of the child” is telling. 

In our wholesale stampede to claim a right TO a child, we have vacuously trampled on the rights OF a child, most especially the right OF a child to be treated as “gift”, and not a product.

And speaking of science fiction, the ability to forecast a person’s medical future, and even life-span, through the observance of genetic markers, was probably not even imagined in 1959, but is almost standard science today. 

Such medical progress makes it all the more critical to protect the child’s right, “wherever possible”, to be “begotten” not “made”, “to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up by his own parents”, AND NOT assembled with parts purchased off Craigslist.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


The first two groups of humans to see the Christ Child - at least according to the scriptural account - couldn’t have been more opposite. 

 Shepherds, in Jesus’ day, were a despised class. Only slaves and prisoners were lower.    
 The Magi, though their occupation and origin isn’t clear, were certainly from an upper-class crowd, given the expensive gifts they bore, the distance they travelled, and their apparent advanced learning.

The presence of two ends of the social spectrum in the Christmas narrative is commonly accepted to demonstrate, as Peter would later say, that God “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), and as Paul would elaborate, all are equal before him: “neither Gentile nor Jew, slave nor free, woman nor man. (Gal 3:28)

Fast forward, and today, at least in this nation, those roles appear to be reversing. The “poor” are an increasingly courted class and the wealthy (excluding movie stars, sports stars, and wealthy liberals) are an increasingly despised class. By “courted”, I mean the consolidation of political power through the cultivation of a dependent class which will act as a reliable stable of voters.

Historically, this has been most easily accomplished by vilifying the “haves” and inflaming the envy of the “have-nots”.

Seeding envy between the classes for the purposes of social division and the concentration of power is nothing new. Marx made a science of it. And 20th century tyrants soon employed it to fertilize the earth with human blood. Earlier, it served the French Revolution - justifying the unending basketful’s of severed aristocratic heads. 

Hitler’s use of it is perhaps history’s most profound demonstration of class war as a weapon of propaganda. Recall that Hitler’s “final solution” did not begin with boxcars and gas chambers, but with the objectification of the Jews as the cause of Germany’s economic woes. 

Hitler’s class war gradually conditioned ordinary Germans to no longer see the Jewish people as “the Jewish people” but “the Jewish problem.” Thus were the boxcars able to rumble undisturbed through idyllic German villages, and Dachau’s neighbors, nonplussed as they hoed the steady rain of human ash into their tidy gardens.

The 20th century death toll of class war is a thought we should keep in mind as our nation is further goaded into it through the persistent demagoguery of “the wealthiest Americans”, a campaign Christians sometimes unwittingly join because it looks and feels like social justice. 

No, we need not fear the prospect of box cars and gas chambers. In contemporary America, the ends of concentrated political power can be more neatly accomplished through the direct cultivation of a dependent class, which in 2012 , is now “mission accomplished.” According to the Senate budget office, welfare spending is now at $168 per day, outpacing median “worker” income which is lagging at only $137 per day.  In other words, the dependent class is now larger, fiscally speaking, than the class upon which it depends. 

The problem is that increased dependence wounds human dignity and foments its own revolution. Knowing this, the architects of class war, with the help of the media and much of academia, have, for decades, successfully oriented this foment towards the “haves”, or in today’s class war parlance, “the wealthiest Americans.”

However, even the most liberal experts admit that the president’s proposed increased tax on “the rich” won’t run our bloated government - which is borrowing at the rate of 188 million dollars per hour - for more than eleven days. Thus, we are left to assume that the rhetoric of fairness is a ruse, and “the rich” are simply convenient whipping boys.

But beyond that, and to the Christian point, the much overlooked fact is that class war is rooted in Envy, a capital sin. And as Christians, especially as preachers and teachers, we must be wary of the political machinery crafted to conscript our “preferential option for the poor” in the service of political ends, which, as the once-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) has said, will end up “betraying the very poor we mean to help “(Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation”, 1984).

The rhetoric of justice, equality, and fairness, in their current political concoction, may meld well with a Christian ethos, particularly a sentimentalized one. However, in the service of envy, they mask sin, a mortal one, and help no one.

It is clear from Luke’s account that the shepherds and magi probably didn’t run into each other at the manger. The magi are thought to have arrived a year or two later. However, the presence of both in every nativity scene and story speaks to the absence of caste and class in the presence of Christ. Like the Magi, let us not return the way we came.