Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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Rick Santorum, The Most Dangerous Man in America

March 30, 2012

As rational beings (I realize I am being overly gracious) we look for the reasons behind events; we look for the cause.  In theory, that is a good thing; in practice, we fail miserably.   Our history shows we have a tendency to apply magical thinking and fear to situations we don’t understand or worse yet, we blatantly chalk things up to God or some other manifestation for events we, as humans, should be fully invested.  Simply put, our rationalization is flawed.  This flaw may be the reason a buffoon like Rick Santorum is able to make a serious run for the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States.  It is why he just may be the most dangerous man in America today.

Let me explain, some among us place everything, good and bad, beyond the control of man.  For instance, a woman walking across the street may trip as she steps onto the curb, fall and break a toe, then think it’s the will of God!  My thinking is God simply wanted her to watch where she was going but her refusal to take such responsibility set the events in motion.  In her thinking, she is not responsible, it was God’s will.  Another example is kneeling in the end zone of a football field and thanking God for a score.  Now, I do not claim some special knowledge or to know God’s mind, but I am pretty sure God does not give one a single damn about touchdowns.

In fact, I find giving thanks to God for such trivial matters offensive.  I mean to invoke God for granting six measly points, all the while homeless people starve right outside a packed football stadium where over a ton of food will be thrown into the trash, has more to do with my understanding of evil than good.  If a football player wishes to be thankful in a useful way, he would be better off thanking the 300 pound linemen that kept the defense from crushing him.  The simple fact is Christianity, and more importantly to this discussion – the Christianity Rick Santorum promotes, warns against such public displays, as Mathew puts it, “… they have their reward.[i]”  In a football player’s case, he gives credit to God for Touchdowns, in Santorum’s case; God gets credit for his campaign[ii].  Both employ a sort magical thinking that removes from them responsibility.  If they do not take responsibility for the good, they cannot be held accountable for the bad.

I get the feeling that some people see praying to God in the same way a child see sitting on Santa’s lap and asking for a toy.  Good little girls and boys get what they ask for and bad ones do not.  So, if Santorum does not prevail in his bid for the presidency, does that mean God thinks he’s been a bad little boy?  The logic is there, but Santorum has his out.  In his diluted mind he simply will apply more magical thinking and rationalize it somehow.  Trust me, he will not accept he simply ran a lousy campaign nor had a message no one wanted to support.

As magical thinkers see it, they just need to believe and pray hard enough and they will get what they want.  All the while, never questioning just what is it they want in the first place.  This sort of thinking leads to seeing others as deserving the bad things that happen to them, but coming up with new magical justification when it is they that do not get what they want.

I really do not intend to get too preachy or discourage anyone’s belief system.  If someone needs to thank God for that tango-mango smoothie they just enjoyed, who am I to question it?  On the other hand, if that person wishes to apply their magical thinking to issues that directly affect others, I will voice my concern.  In Santorum’s case, the latter applies.

I realize prayer and well wishes do not hurt, the research is inconclusive if they help[iii], so prayer, in itself is not the issue.  Moreover, I think it wise to inwardly reflect before making major decisions.  The issue is people claiming God to be on their side, so they cannot possibly be wrong.  Going further, the issue is someone who intends on using his religion to lead the country, rather than our laws. It is someone who does not believe separation of church and state is absolute and that the 1960 speech on the matter by John F Kennedy makes him “throw up.[iv]”  Pray for guidance all you want, but don’t expect me to accept being led by a guy that is willing to place his own sanctimonious views on God and religion above the views of others and above the Constitution of the United States he wants to swear to defend.

Just in case I was not being clear – the man is a religious zealot that wishes to push his perverted view of how life should be on the rest of us.   He is a theological fascist that employs the same political tactics used by Hitler and Goebbels, the Big Lie[v], to achieve his ends.  The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) wrote of Hitler in World War II:

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.[vi]

While I do not believe Santorum is necessarily evil, like Hitler, I do believe he is misguided and dangerous and he employs the same evil tactics.  Specifically,

  • He flames emotional responses to political issues.
  • He never admits his mistakes.
  • He never admits others have something to contribute.
  • He presents his view as righteous, therefore the only one that matters.
  • Nothing is his fault.
  • Makes his opponents the scapegoat for everything that is wrong.

It is his hope that the more he shouts his extremist view, the more it is believed.  Sadly, he is not the first American politician to employ such tactics.  He simply couches his version of the Big Lie in a passive-aggressive nature making it harder to see we are getting played.   What makes Santorum truly different is his shrouding his views in religion.  Santorum seeks and receives all the right religious based photo-ops and support he can.  He speaks in religious “us against them” terms going so far as to accept blessings and endorsements from a pastors that suggest non-Christians have no place in America[vii].

Does Rick Santorum believe his own rhetoric?  I do not know, but I do see it as his crossing the line between him valuing his personal belief and pressing that belief on others.  I believe he is willing to use dangerous tactics, regardless of the cost to our individual freedom, to achieve his goals.  Moreover, I believe if this guy is elected President, he will attempt to remake the United States into the Christian-fundamentalist nation that his mind already believes it to be.  His magical thinking, irrational belief that he cannot be wrong, and willingness to subvert the freedoms protected by the US Constitution, all wrapped in his slick, high-glossed, religious based presentation show why Rick Santorum very well may be the most dangerous man in America today.


[i] Matthew 6:5. BibleGateway.com. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew 6:5>.

[ii] Badash, David. “Santorum Makes It Official: He’s Running For President On God’s Platform.” The New Civil Rights Movement. 6 June 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.
<http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/santorum-makes-it-official-hes-running-for-president-on-gods-platform/politics/2011/06/06/21438>.

[iii] Brandeis University. “The Healing Power Of Prayer?.” ScienceDaily, 17 Jun. 2009. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.
<http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/06/090617154401.htm>

[iv] Walshe, Shushannah. “In the Battle for Michigan, Santorum Says Separation of Church and State Has Been “Turned on Its Head”.” Www.abcnews.com. ABC.com, 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/02/in-the-battle-for-michigan-santorum-says-separation-of-church-and-state-has-been-turned-on-its-head/>.

[v] “Big Lie.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Lie>.

[vi] “OSS Psychological Profile of Hitler, Part Three.” Holocaust Educational Resource. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/h/hitler-adolf/oss-papers/text/oss-profile-03-02.html>.

[vii] Michaelson, Jay. “”Get Out!” Says Christian-Supremacist Pastor. Does Rick Santorum Agree?” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/20/get-out-says-ethnic-cleansing-pastor-does-rick-santorum-agree.html>.

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Killing for God

February 23, 2012

Abrahamic Religious Symbols

If you believe in the Abrahamic view of God and Satan, then surly killing in the name of God only serves Satan. You cannot kill and serve God. Society may see killing as a necessary punishment, but that only serves society, not God.

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Thought for the day

February 16, 2012

So very often we go through our day and fail to realize our own words and actions determine its outcome.  Buddhism focuses on the realism of self and an individual’s power over destiny.  It is up to us to determine if that destiny will add or diminish grace.  It is up to us to determine if we give or take from the world.

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Islam’s Real Problem

December 4, 2010

Since the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in 2001, various groups have put in effort showing the terrorist followed an invalid and flawed version of Islam.  It is an easy argument to make.  Islam is a huge religion and all the Islamic terrorists in the world, put together, make up an extremely small portion of its followers.  Defining Islam by terroristic acts is much the same as defining Christianity by the sermons of Appalachian snake handlers.  In the end, the argument misses Islam’s real problem – intolerance.

Recent news coverage highlights cases demonstrating the extent Islamic society institutionalizes intolerance.  In Pakistan, for instance, a non-Muslim (she is a Christian) mother of five faced death for insulting Muhammad.  She stood accused of violating Pakistan’s laws against blasphemy[1].  The penalty for defaming Muhammad is death.  In general terms, the Pakistani blasphemy laws protect all religious figures from irreverence, but it specifically defines the protections of the Muslim prophet Mohammad[2].  In other words, they discourage talking down Jesus Christ or Buddha, they may even put you in jail for a time, but they will cut your head off for defaming Muhammad.  In fairness to Pakistan, in the woman’s case, they planned to hang her rather than cutting her head off.

Ultimately, the woman was found innocent of the charges but she is still in jail (over eighteen months now) awaiting either a presidential pardon or the legal appeals process to run its course[3].  While the government of Pakistan understands the international nightmare they avoided, they seem to lack the will to overcome the national demand for this woman’s punishment and let her return to her family.  For the government, it is a political issue with a razor’s edge.

Pakistan is not a handful of rogue Muslims with a perverse agenda.  It is a country that is home to approximately 11% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims[4].  It is a country that established a national religion and demands its citizens promote that religion.  While it does not prohibit other religions outright, it has established Islam as the basis for many of its laws, essentially suppressing religious freedom for millions of non-Muslim Pakistanis.  In the end, it is an Islamic country willing to put a person to death simply for making a derogatory statement.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but for me, that makes the Islamic Republic of Pakistan the definition of intolerance.

The case involving the mother of five is one of many in Pakistan.  While it appears the court and government does follow the basic principles of jurist prudence, the Muslim population is not so incline.  Individuals acquitted or simply accused of blasphemy were later murdered or simply vanished[5], so much for the Pakistani flavor of Islam being peaceful.

Of course, even with over 10% of the worlds Muslims, Pakistan is only one country.  It is wrong to judge Muslims, worldwide, by Pakistan’s actions alone.  While the vast majority of Islamic people are peaceful, we, non-Muslims, know them by the actions of the few that follow a path of horrific violence.  After all, it is the rarest of individuals that makes news by following the way of piety.  The silent majority allows the specter of terrorism to usurp true Islamic good will.

We, non-Muslims, only hear the negative fatãwã making the news.  Things like the Iranian cleric’s fatwa calling for author Salman Rushdie’s death,[6] the two Iranian clerics calling for the death of anyone that burns a Quran[7], or the Indian Muslim scholars’ fatwã calling for the death (specifically the beheading) of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen and offered a 500,000 Rupee (about $11,000) bounty[8].

While it is true that a majority of fatãwã are positive or deal with localized issues, it is the ones with a call to violence, being an act of reverence to God, which shocks the sensibilities of non-Muslims.  It truly is a case of guilt by association.  If individuals do not renounce a fatwã calling for violence, silence grants it their tacit approval.  Such fatwã issuing people use violence like pigs use mud.  They bathe in it.  Even the smallest of association with them will taint you with that same mud, that same violence.  Silence makes their acts of depravity Islam’s acts of depravity.  Effectively, they insult both Islam and Muhammad beyond anything we mere infidels are capable.  Such insults go way beyond a cartoon depicting a profit.  Where is the outrage and where are the riots in the streets over that?

My days of indifference toward Islam are over.  I have waited long enough for peace-loving Muslims to stand up to the hate mongers perverting their religion.  If Muslims are unwilling to reign in the idiots that pervert their religion, I will at least point them out.

This latest case in Pakistan proves to me that the moral high ground is lost to radical elements, elements that will never take a “live and let live” attitude with the world.  The voice of Islam is its radical elements who wish to restrict freedom of religion and freedom of expression for their own designs.  In an effort to appease these radicals, the government of Pakistan has even gone as far as proposing to the United Nations making blasphemy a crime worldwide,[9] all the while failing to recognize there is no greater form of blasphemy than killing in the name of God.


[1] “Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860).” Welcome to Pakistani.org. Web. 04 Dec. 2010.
Chapter XV, § 295  <http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/1860/actXLVof1860.html>.

[2] Ibid, Chapter XV, § 295-C

[3] Johnson, By Kay. “Official: Pakistan Christian Innocent of Blasphemy.” Washington Post – Politics, National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – Washingtonpost.com. 22 Nov. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2010.
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/11/22/AR2010112202000.html>

[4] “List of Countries by Muslim Population.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Dec. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Muslim_population&gt;.

[5] “Pakistan | Amnesty International.” Amnesty International | Working to Protect Human Rights. Web. 04 Dec. 2010. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/pakistan>.

[6] Mackey, Robert. “Fatwa on Rushdie Turns 20, Still in Force – NYTimes.com.” NYTimes.com. 14 Feb. 2009. Web. 04 Dec. 2010.
<http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/14/fatwa-on-rushdie-turns-20-still-in-force/>.

[7] Sheikholeslami, Ali. “Iran Ayatollahs Issue Fatwas Against Koran-Burners – BusinessWeek.” BusinessWeek – Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. 13 Sept. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2010. <http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-09-13/iran-ayatollahs-issue-fatwas-against-koran-burners.html>.

[8] Women’s Freedom Front. “Islam Watch – “Save Taslima Nasrin From Islamic Death Fatwa in India”” Islam-Watch. 27 Mar. 2007. Web. 04 Dec. 2010.
<http://islam-watch.org/TaslimaNasrin/Taslima-Nasrin-Islamic-Death-Fatwa.htm>.

[9] “Defamation of Religions and the United Nations.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Dec. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_and_the_United_Nations>.

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France’s 1271 Year Battle With Islam

October 16, 2010

Hardly a week goes by without an article appearing in a newspaper telling of further conflict between a European nation and its Muslim population.  Population is the correct term, as issues are broad and deal with citizens, immigrants, and individuals there illegally.  This week, it is Frances turn.

Edward Cody, a staff writer for the Washington Post’s Foreign Service, penned an article covering the controversy in France dealing with mundane subject of hamburgers[1].  While, at first glance, it might appear humorous, the subject simply highlights how Christians and Muslims lack an understanding of each other, a problem we, here in the United State, share.  In the end, both camps must face the problem, and overcome it, if they intend to live together.

While most people understand the conflict between the two religions goes back centuries, they may not realize it started before the Crusades.  Over 350 years before the first Crusade, Muslims invaded Europe forcing European Christians to defend their homeland.  After securing the Iberian Peninsula, the Muslim leader Abd ar-Rahman I, set his sights on territory held by the Franks.

Europe, at the time, was a fragmented and had little chance of standing up against the organized invaders.  That is, until one man stepped back, formed a plan and convinced various groups to set aside their differences and work for the common goal of self-preservation.

With a nickname more akin to a Mickey Spillane character than the tony, aristocratic names of later French rulers, Charles “the hammer” Martel understood how to fight a battle.  Without question, from the standpoint of defense, he was the right man at the right time. Under his guidance, the Franks developed a standing army capable of not only defending themselves, but able to push the invaders back across the Pyrenees Mountains.  His efforts effectively ended the Muslim advance into Europe and lead to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire with his grandson Charlemagne.

Of course, then came the Crusades and all the carnage that came with them.  Given the history between European Christians and Muslims in general, is it any wonder there is mistrust today?  On the one hand, Muslims simply want to enjoy a hamburger that has been prepared in accordance with their religious tradition.  On the other hand, secularist and Christians see it as forcing them to accept the Muslim tenet of halal, as prescribed by Islamic law.  The businesses concerned do not care, they simply want to increases profits and market share.

Devout Muslims are only allowed to consume food prepared in the halal tradition, much like devout Jews restrict themselves to kosher foods[2].  Both traditions are similar but differ in the particular religious aspect and various restrictions.  In the case of halal, it is less restrictive on process but does require a set of particular prayers.  Still, it is a religious practice and many that do not follow the Islamic religion may take offence at some point.  In the end, businesses will decide if they need to adopt the practice based on profit and loss, nothing wrong with that.

The practice of halal only becomes an issue if the government forces or bans it.  In the end, the marketplace should determine the extent “halal only” restaurants and stores are accepted.  Muslims in France voted with their money, as sales in halal stores increased.  The French citizens in opposition are just getting started in applying pressure of their own.  They see this as another step in Muslims finally taking control of the territory the Muslim army failed to conquer all those years ago.

That is the point; it is not halal, as an isolated practice, which is at issue.  The issue is whether France is becoming an Islamic state.  By law, France does not officially use a census to determine its population demographics racially or ethnically.  As far back as 2004, various demographers estimated the Muslim population of France, under the age of twenty-five, as high as thirty percent[3].  As the Muslim population increases, it is natural for business to cater to the needs of that population.  The question in France, as well as other European countries, is what to do when that population grows large enough to demand a change in government.  In other words, the fear is France will become an Islamic state and lose its secular form of government.

In the end, France must find a way to deal with its growing Muslim population.  As citizens, they enjoy the same religious freedom as other citizens.  At least they enjoy the aspects of religious freedom that have not been legislated away, such as the ban on headscarves.[4] While something like how to create a hamburger highlights one of the many issues currently debated, that issue cannot be taken at face value.  As the little, seemingly insignificant issues grow in number, France, as other countries, will be forced to reconcile its secular government with a religion that includes its own unique political system that defines what constitutes a legitimate government[5].


[1] Cody, Edward. “Letter From France: Hamburger Chain’s Decision Sparks Tensions over Islam.” Washington Post – Politics, National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – Washingtonpost.com. 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/13/AR2010101305943.html >.

[2] “Kosher vs Halal.” Ultimate Guide to the World of Halal Food. Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <http://www.ehalal.org/kosher.html>.

[3] Amiel, Barbara. “Is France on the Way to Becoming an Islamic State? – Telegraph.” Telegraph.co.uk – Telegraph Online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph – Telegraph. 26 Jan. 2004. Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3601901/Is-France-on-the-way-to-becoming-an-Islamic-state.html>.

[4] Pg 13, United States. The Law Library of Congress. WORLD LAW BULLETIN. Ed. Constance A. Johnson and Wendy Zeldin. W.L.B. ed. Vol. 4. 2004. Print. Ser. 2004.

[5] Abul Ala Maududi. “Political System.” Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <http://www.islam101.com/politics/politicalsystem.htm>.

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The Prejudice of Theory

July 30, 2010

In life, we all must battle personal prejudice.  While obvious targets of prejudice, such as race and gender, dominate the debate, other more subtle ones influence everyone daily.  Moreover, as they affect deeply held beliefs, accepted as unquestionably true, most do not recognize them as prejudice at all.

Debates on subjects like evolution vs. intelligent design (or creationism) highlight the problems with subtle prejudices.  The belief closes the mind to ideas, facts, and theories that contradict the belief’s conclusion. People on the evolutionary side see the fossil record as definitive proof supporting Darwin’s conclusions in Origins of Species[i].  Others on the creationism side dismiss every bit of science that does not support their preconceived notion.  Produce a discovery that challenges Darwin and a supporter will automatically bombard you with numerous other discoveries to support him.  Dare to lay out the case for natural selection and a creationist will declare, “You might have evolved from monkeys, but I did not!”

While one side enjoys the support of a majority of scientists, the other side has the evangelical tradition firmly behind it.  This is a very public debate and passions are high among people from both camps.  What both sides fail to realize is they are prejudice against information and discoveries that go against their theory’s conclusions.  In other words, they only accept, as true, new information that supports their particular belief.

Galileo’s observations that Earth is not the center of the universe illustrates the danger of only accepting supporting information and excluding contradicting information.  Building on the works of Copernicus and Kepler, Galileo’s telescopic observations caused the Catholic Church to try him for heresy[ii].  The Church closed its mind to any information that contradicted its long-held belief that Earth was the center of the universe.

Even within the scientific community, prejudice exists.  A popular theory among archeologists in North America is the “Clovis First” theory.  The predominant hypothesis states that the people associated with the Clovis culture[iii] (around 11,000 B.C.E.) were the first inhabitants of the Americas.  The discovery of sites that predate the Clovis period were dismissed outright or thought to be misdated.  Sites that predate the Clovis period include Topper in South Carolina, the Paisley Caves complex in Oregon, the Monte Verde site in Chile, South America, and Channel Islands of California.  A discussion among archaeologists could soon come to blows over the topic.

Now, it seems one of the most popular theories of the 20th Century stands challenged, the Big Bang Theory. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, professor of physics and astronomy at the Catholic University of Louvain, first put the theory forward.  As observations supporting the theory have multiplied, the scientific community has generally accepted it.  Still, problems with the theory do exist.  Recently, an associate professor at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, Wun-Yi Shu put forward a new model that has no bang at all[iv].  Time will surely tell if Professor Shu is right but at the very least, his work does deserve to be explored without the prejudice received by the scientists that disputed Clovis.

Regardless of its source, an irrational belief that suppresses observations, discoveries, or rational thinking is dangerous to the progress of humanity.  It is arrogant to place limits on subjects not understood.  We do it anyway.  In religion, we place restrictions on God based on our feeble ability to understand God.  In science, we restrict possibilities to well-defined parameters and dismiss data that does not fall within.  It is only when a genius, like Galileo, dares to contradict, our preconceived notions change.  Even then, that change can take years, even centuries.

It is best to accept that the knowledge we have not discovered is infinite and our understanding is limited to the small bits we think we know.  We are better off understanding that new information does not diminish the truth; it only changes our perception of it.  It is not an insult to God to place our planet within a solar system and not at the center of the universe, nor is it an insult to understand the method by which our existence took place.  In the end, everything we know, understand, or believe is simply a theory based on the best information available.  Always keep an open-mind and put aside prejudice in all forms.  This way you will improve your personal theories.


[i] Darwin, Charles, and Gillian Beer. On the Origin of Species. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

[ii] “Galileo Affair.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 July 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair&gt;.

[iii] Hirst, K. Kris. “Clovis – The History of Clovis.” About Archaeology – The Study of Human History. Web. 30 July 2010. <http://archaeology.about.com/od/clovispreclovis/qt/clovis_people.htm&gt;.

[iv] Shu, Wun-Yi. “Cosmological Models with No Big Bang.” National Tsing Hua University. Web. 30 July 2010. .

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The Good Sister’s Hard Choice

May 21, 2010

Saint Mary’s Basilica, Phoenix, AZ.

Arizona is having a bad time of things in the public relations department lately.  Even if you agree with the draconian laws recently passed (the one dealing with people here illegally[i] and the one dealing with ethnic studies in school[ii], for instance) the negative effect on the state cannot be over stated.  As if that was not bad enough, now the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has added its two cents to the states negative standing.

While it is hard to criticize a religious organization for its beliefs, it is not so hard to criticize such an organization for its hypocrisy.  In this case, the hypocrisy of excommunicating a nun who faced a horrible choice while allowing pedophile priests to remain in the diocese.  Perhaps the spiritual leader of the diocese, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted believes priests that abuse children are a better example to follow than Sister Margaret McBride’s choice between two bad options.

In fairness to Bishop Olmsted, the abuse in the Phoenix Diocese occurred before he took over as Bishop and no cases of abuse were reported from his prior position as Bishop of the Wichita Diocese[iii].  Still, given the Catholic Church’s shortcomings in protecting children from abuse by priests; it is hard to understand the heavy-handed approach in dealing with a nun that only tried to do what was best for all concerned.

An article on National Public Radio’s (NPR) website by Barbara Hagerty covers the story in detail[iv].  Specifically, a 27-year old mother of four was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix last November.  She was eleven weeks pregnant with her fifth child but something was drastically wrong.  There was virtually no chance of her remaining alive as the pregnancy put too much strain on her heart.  It was determined to save her life the best course of action was to terminate the pregnancy, in other words, to have an abortion.  It was not something the young mother wanted or desired but was deemed a medical necessity to save her life.

As the hospital is a Catholic institution, the doctors sought permission from the hospital administrator, Sister Margaret.  In reviewing relevant church doctrine, she determined the procedure was allowed for this exceptional circumstance.  The procedure went forward and the mother’s life was saved.  No one involved with this case wanted to take this action but the choice was to save the mother or let both the mother and unborn child die.

Upon learning of the sad situation, Bishop Olmsted declared Sister Margaret excommunicated herself from the church.  In fact, rather than have any compassion the diocese position, as stated by Reverend John Ehrich, the medical ethics director for the diocese is “She consented in the murder of an unborn child.  There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child.  But — and this is the Catholic perspective — you can’t do evil to bring about good.  The end does not justify the means.[v]

They key, as Reverend Ehrich put it, is the “Catholic perspective.”  To extend his thinking, it is the Catholic perspective to excommunicate a nun faced with a horrible choice but allow pedophile priests to remain priests and protect them from prosecution by transferring them and allowing them to abuse children all over again.  That is taking the moral low ground to say the least.  To have the ability to save a life and do nothing is tantamount to murder. It’s like saying “sorry, I can save your wife’s life but I choose not to.”  To put rules in place that force good people into impossible situations is cowardly.  Is it really the Catholic perspective to tell a pregnant woman with a heart condition her only option is to die with her unborn child?

Courts across the globe are dealing with the Church’s inaction regarding the pedophiles it protects.  On the other issue at hand, the church has every right to take its action against the good sister; after all, it’s their club – their rules, but it does reflect poorly upon the diocese.  Furthermore, it reflects poorly upon the church as a whole, the state of Arizona, the United States of America, and humanity itself.  While Catholics must decide the matter for themselves within the church, it is for the remainder of humankind to judge its actions by the standards of basic humanity.  On that score, Bishop Olmsted fails.  While he may personally be OK with that, the end result is the further erosion of the Catholic Church as a preferred choice of religion.

It is unfortunate that hard choices like the ones in this situation are part of life.  Thankfully, there are people like Sister Margaret willing to put others before herself.  As sad as the loss of a child is, the loss of a child and mother is much worse.  It is much worse for the husband, the four children, and the rest of her family.  Rather than stick her head in the sand and hope for the best, this brave woman made a choice to save a life, not end one.  While the Diocese of Phoenix may shun her for it, humanity is better for having Sister Margaret as part of it.  In the end, it is the Catholic Church that will pay for such small-minded thinking.


[i] Archibald, Randal C. “Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 23 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 May 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/us/politics/24immig.html>.

[ii] Associated Press. “Governor Signs Bill Targeting Ethnic Studies.” Arizona Local News – Phoenix Arizona News – Breaking News – Az central.com.  11 May 2010. Web. 21 May 2010. <http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2010/05/11/20100511arizona-ethnic-studies-bill.html>.

[iii] “Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Cases by Country.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 21 May 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_sex_abuse_cases_by_country#United_States>.

[iv] Hagerty, Barbara B. “Nun Excommunicated For Allowing Abortion : NPR.” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. 19 May 2010. Web. 21 May 2010.
<http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126985072>.

[v] Ibid

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