Monday, March 22, 2010

Jeremiah times

Reading the prophet Jeremiah from front to back has been a good lenten exercise. Jeremiah was a very penitential man who saw and spoke to conditions as they were, not as people wished them to be.

Jeremiah was not a happy man. There were many happy people in Israel at the time, many upbeat, optimistic and pleasant folks, including a number of other "prophets". As a rule, these people did not like Jeremiah, because they did not like his unpleasant message.

The pleasant prophets spoke encouraging words to the people. They affirmed the people. They assured the people that the Lord was with them, and that they would soon see the mighty hand of God working things out for the best. I guess you could say that these pleasant religious leaders were kindly and pastoral.

Jeremiah, on the other hand, told the people and the leaders that they would soon become slaves to the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar. Moreover, he told them that this was God's will, that the decision had been made, and there was no longer any other way. There had been a day when repentance and prayer would have turned things around, but that time was in the past. They might as well get used to the idea of serving the pagan king, because that was to be their lot for the next 70 years.

The pleasant prophets said, "Not so!", that there was always hope, that if the people would just put their trust in the Lord, the Lord would surely deliver them. With few exceptions, the people heeded the pleasant prophets, because they were attracted to the optimistic, affirming message of hope.

It would seem that we live in Jeremiah times.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The bishops on health care

So far, no one has answered my question about federal health care legislation. Thus, my puzzlement and confusion continues and deepens.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have issued more statements on the issue since I last wrote about it, and their message remains pretty much the same. In their most recent statement, for example, which coincided with Obama's "bipartisan" summit, the bishops pled, "It is time to set aside partisan divisions and special interest pressures to find ways to enact genuine reform. We encourage the administration and Congress to work in a bipartisan manner...". Calling it a "moral imperative and urgent national priority", the bishops "...hope and pray that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform..."

There is the requisite insistence that "...genuine health care reform must protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death...", and that " care legislation must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, purchasers of insurance and others...". But the intensity and frequency of these public statements is obviously driven by the fact that pro-abortion Obama and pro-abortion Democrats on Capital Hill have made this legislation a priority. The bishops have apparently adopted this urgency and are clearly scolding those recalcitrant Republicans for being such partisan obstructionists. Such, at least, is the evident tone of their messages.

Meanwhile, here's Jerry, wondering what gives. I am no great fan of the Republican party, but I thank God for their "obstructionist" stance, and also for the bickering and infighting within the ranks of the Democrats that has delayed passage of this outrage and may, please God, derail it altogether. I'm sorry, your Excellencies, but I cannot view the prospect of federal health care mandates, especially from the current office-holders, as anything but evil and tyrannical.

Prior to any religious dogma to which I may assent, prior to any fraternal loyalty I may feel toward the Catholic Church or any other ecclesial body, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the wholesale slaughter of innocent and helpless human beings is a wicked crime. The stakes are enormous, perhaps apocryphal. I had thought this sentiment to be in solid conformity with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Moreover, I have not undergone a frontal lobotomy, and so entertain no tender delusions that "progressives" such as Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et. al. can ever be trusted to do what is right in this regard.

As stated in a previous post, it was through the wisdom of better Catholics than myself that I learned to mistrust the promises of Socialism, that godlessness is inherent to the positive law tenets thereof. I remember 16 or 17 years ago: the U.S. bishops boldly proclaimed with one voice that, were "Hillary Care" enacted, they would close the doors of every Catholic hospital in the nation. The clear, prophetic vigor of that action moved me profoundly, and was instrumental in making me appreciate the Catholic Faith in its unswerving and uncompromising strength. While other denominations were wilting and caving to various cultural pressures, the Catholic Church stood like a rock, a testament to its divine ordination.

That's what is so disturbing about the current situation. I have heard nothing about closing Catholic hospitals if this current thing passes. Quite the opposite: the bishops sound like they would heartily welcome the current proposals, albeit with some mild reservations. What has changed in 16 years? How has Socialism now come to be so favored by the U.S. clergy, and abortion mandates merely a "defective" detail? After centuries of teaching Christians to care for the sick and the weak, today's bishops plead for government-run health care. Jerry continues to pray for the opposite. Are the bishops apostate? Have they ceased to teach, sanctify and govern, preferring instead to unify, pacify, and affirm? Or has Jerry suddenly lost his Catholic identity? At least, there seems to be no common ground here.