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A refreshed Benedict XVI captivates students with homily

by Lisa Graas on August 28, 2014


Vatican City, Aug 26, 2014 / 12:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Participants in the annual Ratzinger “schulerkreis” study group were overjoyed at seeing the retired pontiff in good health, noting that they were deeply moved by his homily on the triumph of God’s love.

“The homily was very moving. It was the Gospel of the day about Cesarea of Philippi where Jesus asks the apostles, ‘Who do you say I am?’” Father Vincent Twomey recalled to CNA Aug. 25.

“Peter answered ‘you are Christ, son of the living God,’” to which Jesus responds: “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”

Fr. Twomey was one of the participants of this year’s Ratzinger “schuelerkreis,” or “students’ circle,” which has met annually to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church since 1978, when their professor Josef – later to become Pope Benedict XVI – was tapped to become a bishop.

This year’s encounter was held at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 21-24, with German theologian Karl-Heinz Menke serving as relator. During the main meetings he gave a presentation on the “Theology of the Cross.”

Following the normal discussions, Fr. Twomey explained that on Sunday the group traveled to the Campo Santo Teutonico chapel in the Vatican for Mass, where the main celebrant was retired pontiff Benedict XVI.

The main points of Benedict’s homily, the priest explained, were that “today people are always asking who is Jesus Christ.”

“They say he was a great man, a teacher, a revolutionary perhaps. People outside see him in different ways. And that’s not a bad thing; that means that Jesus image has spread throughout society and religions,” he went on, “But, to recognize him as the Son of God is a gift of faith.”

Noting how “Our Lord didn’t build his Church on a theory or a statement, but on a person, relationship with Jesus,” Fr. Twomey stated that Benedict’s words were “very moving because the Church where we celebrated was near the place where Peter himself gave his final witness.”

“Benedict XVI talked about how the gates of hell would never prevail. The Church is always the weak player, always under attack but the Church always survives because it is not a human, but a divine entity.”

“The cross is the way to the resurrection. The good news is God’s love triumphs over evil. Evil will never triumph over good,” the priest continued, explaining that after the Mass participants had a special reception with Fr. Stephan Horn, 80, who is the key organizer of the annual schuelerkreis.

“What struck us all is that despite being older each year,” Benedict XVI “looks much better, fresher. He’s very clear in his mind,” he noted, observing how the former pontiff stood for nearly an hour and a half during the mass even though a chair was provided for him.

“He was in good form. There was a good spirit about him.”

Echoing Fr. Twomey’s sentiments is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou, who also participated in the study circle.

“It was extraordinary. As always, it amazed us that in spite of age, and without a prepared text, the Pope (emeritus) gave a homily at a great level, with an extraordinary clarity of mind for his age.”

Composed of about 50 people who studied for their doctorates under Ratzinger, the schuelerkreis usually takes place with the 25 to 30 who are able to make it to any given year’s meeting.

The circle has enlarged in recent years, establishing a “youth branch” composed of academics who had not studied with Ratzinger, yet who are studying and developing upon his theological work.

The topic of the meeting varies each year; last year was the question of God amid secularism, and the year prior to that, ecumenism was the subject chosen.

Article Source: Catholic News Agency, published with permission.

Photo: “Pabstmaler” via Kathy Schiffer.

Polling shows Tea Party more hawkish than Republicans

by Lisa Graas on August 28, 2014

What I write here isn't worth much, but at least it's the truth.

What I write here isn’t worth much, but at least it’s the truth.

With Rand Paul courting anti-war voters, it’s important to point out that recent polling indicates that Tea Party voters are actually more hawkish than voters who identify as Republicans.

Tea Party Supporters Want A Tougher Foreign Policy

In late July, after Moscow-backed separatists shot down Flight MH-17, killing all 298 passengers on board, Fox asked whether the US should or should not be more involved in Ukraine. By a margin of 61-32 Americans said the US should NOT get more involved. Tea Partiers were split 48-48. No other demographic showed as much interest in a more active American role.

In July, Fox also asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just as the war in Gaza was heating up. By a margin of 56-29, Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue. The split for Tea Partiers is 89-10, again leaving other demographics in the dust.

In theory, one could say that Tea Partiers disapprove of Obama for being too pro-Israel. Yet the results as a whole show that disapproval of Obama on this issue tracks closely with support for Israel.
On Iraq, 52% disapprove of Obama’s efforts, versus 32% who approve. For Tea Partiers, the margin is 78-13. Again, in theory, one could say this represents disapproval of Obama being too aggressive, rather than too passive, but the answers provided by other demographics suggest that disapproval reflects concern about weakness, not excessive intervention.

Tea Partiers vs. Republicans

In all of the cases cited above, one can compare the response of Tea Party supporters to those of all conservatives or all Republicans. Not surprisingly, conservatives are consistently more hawkish than liberals or independents. But on all the questions mentioned above, they tend to be around 10 points less hawkish than Tea Party supporters.


This was a Fox News poll, by the way, but it was not a Fox News headline.

As a Kentucky conservative (not libertarian) who got a good personal dose (plenty to last me a lifetime) of the 2010 primary here in the Bluegrass State, I continue to maintain that Bill Johnson was the Tea Party candidate, not Rand Paul. Unfortunately, I don’t have as many readers as Fox News has viewers. It’s crystal clear to me that folks at Fox News wanted people to believe that Paul was the Tea Party candidate whether he was or he wasn’t. Only one prominent Tea Party activist endorsed Rand Paul (Mica Sims) while several endorsed Bill Johnson including Kimberly Moore (Mica’s colleague and equal in the Lexington Tea Party), Sue Jaycox (the first to organize a Tea Party rally in Frankfort), Erica Coyle,  et al. Nevertheless, Paul was touted as the Tea Party candidate by Fox News while Bill Johnson was not mentioned. Fox News saying he was “Tea Party,” while ignoring Bill Johnson, was enough to convince Kentucky voters (and probably you, too?) that he really was “the Tea Party candidate,” hence he won the primary. A lot of my friends threw up their hands and quit politics after that, which is why NOW many of the Kentucky Tea Party groups are dominated by libertarians who have no use for people like me who love Ronald Reagan and Rick Santorum. I hope Fox News is proud. Lies can win elections, but only if people allow it to happen. Lies, I have found, can win elections sometimes even if a lot of hard-working, noble, sincere people are doing their best but do not have powerful friends….such as friends at Fox News, for example.

Rand Paul is Barack Obama on foreign policy and the Tea Party is not. The Tea Party is hawkish. Don’t expect Fox News to tell you that, though. They want either Rand Paul or Mitt Romney for president. Why? Because DOLLARS.

Also, don’t expect people to ignore Fox News during Republican primary time. Most folks don’t have time to do research. They only have time to spend an hour or so watching television news…like Fox News. If you want things to get better, stop listening to powerful pundits on cable tv and start listening to your heart. Eventually, it will lead you to do a bit of research. If you don’t do research, you may as well be watching MSNBC, which is little more than political entertainment for the radical Left. Fox News isn’t quite so bad about lacking research, but they have an agenda. I’ve seen it in action. After you do the research, vote with your heart. Otherwise, “We the People” will continue to be “We the Sheeple.”

The College Board’s Politicization of U.S. History

by Lisa Graas on August 27, 2014


Stanley Kurtz writes at NRO that The College Board is politicizing U.S. History from a left-wing perspective. Powerline agrees. Talking Points Memo, a left-wing blog, tends to disagree, of course.

One need look no farther than the very first “Theme” which is “IDENTITY.” Identity politics is a hallmark of radical left-wing activism. For example, in leftist ideology, “blacks” ostensibly have a different viewpoint than “whites” simply because they are “black.” It is an inherently racist concept, but to a radical left-winger, your “identity” is key to how you view history. We see this ideology reflected in left-wing attacks on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative who seeks to preserve the United States’ Natural Law foundation in our jurisprudence.

In similar form, here is the very first “Learning Objective” from the curriculum.

Analyze how competing conceptions of national identity were expressed in the development of political institutions and cultural values from the late colonial through the antebellum periods.

To the conservative, we are all “Americans.” To the radical left-winger, however, we are all in competition with each other politically based on various identities. They ostensibly champion “blacks” against “whites,” “poor” against “rich,” “gays” against the Church, and “women” against men. In practice, they are dividing America. It is essentially Marxist class warfare ideology thrust like a dagger into the wounds in American society. Far from healing division in America, they create it.

Mark Twain once wrote:

The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice. 

This is certainly true. History is inherently seen through prejudiced eyes. We have a choice, therefore, to teach U.S. History by showing what has been good about America (as if this is what represents America) or by showing what’s bad in America (as if this is what represents America.) It seems the new curriculum has chucked the first idea in favor of the second. Good should win over evil. Therefore, any curriculum that highlights what divides us instead of what unites us should be rejected.

We are One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All.

Please pray for the SAS, Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

by Lisa Graas on August 25, 2014


I’m not sure this information should have been publicized, but it has, and so I ask for prayers for the SAS, Delta Force and SEAL Team 6.


Elite British and US special forces troops are forming a hunter killer unit called Task Force Black – its orders: “Smash the Islamic State.”

The undercover warriors will aim to “cut the head off the snake” by hitting the command structure of the Islamist terror group responsible for a trail of atrocities across Iraq and Syria, reports the Sunday People.

PM David Cameron has told the SAS and UK spy agencies to direct all their ­resources at defeating IS after a video of US journalist James Foley being beheaded shocked the world.

British special forces will work with America’s Delta Force and Seal Team 6. The move sees a rebirth of top secret Task Force Black, which helped defeat al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq .

This time the counter-terrorist ­experts will be targeting Abu Bakr ­al-Baghdadi, leader of IS and now the world’s most wanted terrorist.

A source said: “We need to go into Syria and Iraq and kill as many IS members as we can. You can’t ­negotiate with these people.

“This is not a war of choice. They are cash rich and have a plentiful ­supply of arms. If we don’t go after them, they will soon come after us.

Read more…


Priests for Life to continue lawsuit against HHS mandate

by Lisa Graas on August 25, 2014

Fr. Frank Pavone

Fr. Frank Pavone

NEW YORK, NY – Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, this morning released a statement regarding the new “accommodation” to the HHS mandate announced last week.

Father Pavone said: “On Friday afternoon, it was announced that the Obama Administration has come up with an alternate procedure for religious non-profit groups like Priests for Life, who object to the HHS mandate, to register their objection so that their employees can receive insurance coverage for immoral practices by other means.

“Despite this new announcement, we are proceeding full speed ahead with our lawsuit, which already had oral arguments on May 8 in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and which is therefore likely to be the first of the religious non-profit cases against the mandate to be decided at the appellate level.

“We are proceeding first of all because the regulation that burdens our religious freedom is still in effect, and secondly, because what we understand right now of the new rule still burdens our religious freedom.

“Many will ask, Why do you object to an action by which you register your objection?

“Let’s use a simple example. The government comes up with a plan to arbitrarily imprison children between 2 and 4 years old, and imposes on businesses the obligation to inform them of such children among the families of their employees.

“Any employer with a conscience is going to say, “I want nothing to do with this. If you’re going to imprison these children, you’re going to have to find them yourself. I won’t be sending you any information.”

“In the current case, we are being asked to be part of a process in which employees, if they want, can have coverage for abortion-inducing drugs (among others) precisely because they are our employees. Having someone else pay for it, and registering our objection to it, are not enough. We do not want to have any involvement in the process. We are not going to, in effect, tell the government, ‘Here are some of the people who aren’t covered! Be sure you don’t miss them, or the children they may want to kill.’

“Bottom line: The government is on its own in this scheme to expand access to abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives. We want a full exemption from this mandate, so that we have nothing to do with this scheme. If people want these drugs and the government wants to provide them, then the government will have to find a way to connect with them without our help. Our religion requires no less.”

Rand Paul’s Pope Problem

by Lisa Graas on August 24, 2014

#WeAreNazarene - an image of the sign of Christian genocide in Iraq, is trending among traditional Catholics, a demographic that has made up Rand Paul's Catholic base in the past.

#WeAreNazarene – an image of the sign of Christian genocide in Iraq, is trending among traditional Catholics, a demographic that has made up Rand Paul’s Catholic base in the past.

While there is debate about Pope Francis’ recent remarks on the use of force to stop the advance of ISIS, one thing is clear. His remarks went far enough that, by attrition, he has taken the wind out of Rand Paul’s sails with Catholic voters, including many of the traditionalists who have made up his personal Catholic base.

Pope Francis:

“In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means. With what means can they be stopped? These have to be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit,” he said, according to a transcript by America magazine.

That is clear Catholic teaching. It is “licit” (not a sin) to stop war with the use of force. Aggression is not always “unjust aggression.”

Vatican reporter John Allen, Jr., offers (via NPR) important context in regard to the Vatican’s past and present positions on Iraq:

[W]hen the Vatican has opposed a Western use of force in the Middle East in the past, it’s primarily because they’d been worried about the aftermath. I mean, the reason that they were opposed to trying to bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, for example, or Bashar al-Assad in Syria was the fear that what would follow would be the rise of an Islamic theocracy in which religious minorities and Christians, in particular, would have bull’s-eyes on their backs.


Well, there’s no longer any need to be worried about the aftermath because that is the present reality. In northern Iraq, you have an estimated 100,000 Christians that have been driven from their homes and are now living as refugees – hundreds, at least, have been killed. For the first time in more than 1,200 years, there is no Catholic Mass being celebrated in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. And that’s because all the Christians are in exile. I think the Vatican is no longer primarily concerned about some theoretical future scenario that might follow a military intervention. They’re much more concerned with trying to stop the carnage in the here and now and, of course, not just for the Christians. They want to make the point that it’s all minority groups that are at risk.

Allen is on target here. In short, Rand Paul’s supporters cannot accuse candidates of being “pro-war” or in opposition to Pope Francis if those candidates seek to use force to stop unjust aggression in other countries, especially in the context of radical Islamism in the Middle East.

Rand Paul continues with the same anti-war rhetoric that his father has used in the past, however.

In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Paul predicted a “transformational election” if the Democrats nominate “a war hawk like Hillary Clinton.”


“I think that’s what scares the Democrats the most, is that in a general election, were I to run, there’s gonna be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, ‘You know what? We are tired of war,’” Paul said. “We’re worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she’s so gung-ho.”

The truth is that Democrats are not as “scared” of using military means to stop Islamists as they were in the Bush era because they, like the Vatican, understand that we are living in a new reality with the rise of ISIS and the “Islamic Caliphate.”

Rand Paul shows that he is more like Code Pink, the radical left’s anti-war movement, than he is like the average Democratic voter. Further, even Hillary Clinton — a radical pro-abortion feminist — is now closer to the Catholic Church on the issue of ISIS than Rand Paul is. On the subject of stopping Christian genocide (and the slaughter of other minorities), it should be clear that we, the Catholic faithful, have much reason to hope that Hillary Clinton would be closer to the average Catholic’s heart in regard to addressing the crisis in the Middle East than Rand Paul is. A Clinton-Paul match-up in the general election would result in millions of voters either staying home on election day or casting write-in votes. The hopelessness of such a situation tears at my heart. How can a Christian choose between saving unborn babies and saving our brothers and sisters from genocide? We cannot. This means that we need to act now to ensure that the Republican Party nominates someone who will act to save both. Rick Santorum comes to mind.

Pope Francis has helped to clarify that:

(1) we have a duty to stop war, and that sometimes we have to use force to stop war. Catholicism is not Quakerism. Catholicism is averse to war, but it is also averse to the idea of sitting by and watching the slaughter of innocents, whether in the womb or in the monastery in Mosul;

(2) the appropriate response to war is an international one. The United States is part of the international community and has the power to stop what must be stopped. In other words, isolationism is not even close to being a Catholic concept. To the contrary, working with other countries is a Catholic concept, and the United States is bound to work with other countries for world peace.

Though many conservatives in America are rightly distrustful of a United Nations that can be dominated by a coalition of Marxist and Islamist countries voting as a bloc, and are also rightly distrustful of efforts at the U.N. to take away U.S. sovereignty, the anti-U.N. ideology goes too far at times. When the poop hits the fan, countries have to play with the cards that we’ve all been dealt with, just as the Vatican does despite the reality that the current United Nations has not been a friend to the Vatican.

The Republican Party failed in 2012 to nominate a candidate who championed human dignity on social issues. Romney’s record on those issues was abysmal. If the Republican Party fails in 2016 to champion human dignity in regard to radical Islam in the Middle East, we can expect to see the rise of a hawk, whether Hillary Clinton or someone else, who will take the presidency away from Republicans once again. What’s a Catholic to do? The best thing to do is to give early support to virtually any Republican other than Rand Paul. My pick, of course, is Rick Santorum.

A tweet from Rick Santorum during his recent trip to Israel.

November 11, 2007 – Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn) speaking about “The Gathering Storm of the 21st Century: America’s War Against Islamic Fascism”.

Today’s Gospel Reading: Obey those who sit in Moses’ chair

by Lisa Graas on August 23, 2014


In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus commands that the people obey those who sit on the chair of Moses, even though they will do bad things themselves. The whole Bible is Catholic, but this passage especially shows Catholic belief in obedience to Church authorities. God has given a share of Himself with humanity, and that includes a share in His authority. Because man is inherently flawed, all of us will sin at times, but He wills that we obey Him through obedience to the human beings He has placed in religious authority over us. Jesus harshly scolds these authorities for the bad they will inevitably do, due to human failure, but at the same time commands that we obey them. Further, His phrase “chair of Moses” is an appeal to extra-biblical, sacred Tradition. “Chair of Moses” does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament but it was, and remains, doctrinal, nevertheless, and is consistent with the Old Testament even though it explicitly appears nowhere in the text.

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

We are able to see right and wrong for ourselves on some level, but in regard to doctrine, God has willed that we learn it through those who sit in authority. You have heard the saying, “Easier said than done.” So it is with the Chair of Moses and with human frailty. It is easier to preach the Gospel than it is to live the Gospel, but without a share in God’s authority through human leaders, the Church would be split into thousands of denominations. In fact, it did split….via protestantism. God wills unity for us in the Gospel, hence God wills that we obey those He has put in authority in the Church, despite their human flaws in their actions, which He also condemns.
See more about Scripture and Tradition at

Unity is awesome, by the way.

Holy God, we praise Thy Name” hymn from “Faith of our Fathers” collection performed by Irish Philharmonic Chorus on Late Late Show, RTE Television, Ireland on 18th Oct. 1996

Pray for Pierce Brosnan

by Lisa Graas on August 23, 2014


Reading Pierce Brosnan’s GQ interview makes me scratch my head and want to ask for prayer.

My life started on the banks of the Boyne in County Meath. Navan is the name of the town; only me, Mom, Dad. Dad ran to the hills; never saw him ’til I was thirty-one. Mother looked after me and took off to London to be a nurse, to get out of the repression of Catholic-shaming and upbringing. She went to the new land to start a life for me, and consequently there was a separation there.

“Repression of Catholic-shaming and upbringing?” Can he please be more specific? I can’t seem to find that in the catechism.

Here’s a real head-scratcher of a comment.

I served Mass; I loved serving Mass. It was probably my first encounter in giving performance. There was a beautiful church where I lived in Navan, taught by the Christian brothers: fierce, angry men, repressed. And yet, I had a good life.

Again with the “repressed?” Fierce? Angry? Where is that in the catechism? I’m glad that he loved serving at Mass and had a good life, but where is he getting this “repressed” stuff? Pray for him. He says that he has faith in something but he’s not clear what.


When you look back at that time in your life, what are the lessons you learned about yourself then that you still carry?


That I’m a survivor. That I can dream well. That I can work hard. That I have some kind of faith that keeps me in check, keeps me grounded in life. And just really good fortune to have traveled through the fair and still be at the table, so to speak.

Faith in God would be better than “some kind of faith.” Please do pray for Pierce Brosnan.

Maybe he could use a pep talk from fellow Catholic actor Jim Caviezel.

Photo: Gordon Correll.


How liberal arguments re: Islam cast Muslims as sub-human

by Lisa Graas on August 22, 2014


I’m really glad Raymond Ibrahim wrote this piece on the difference between a shark and a Muslim. I’ve been meaning to write something similar for quite some time.

When Western liberals hold Muslims to a lower standard than the rest of humanity—ignoring the beheadings, massacres, rapes, enslavements, and church burnings habitually committed by the likes of the Islamic State, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, et al.—are they not, in essence, placing such Muslims on a “subhuman” level?

Are they not placing them on the level of wild animals—sharks for instance—that are not responsible for their actions?

This is not to suggest that all liberals are bigots. Neither is it to suggest that no conservatives are bigots. It is, however, a bigoted thing to conclude what liberals frequently imply or profess, and that is the idea that we should not apply the same standard to a Muslim, even a violent one, as we do to anyone else. The truth is that Muslims are rational human beings who are, for whatever reason, following a religion that ultimately rejects human reason and, ultimately, calls for violence.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his Regensburg address:

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

“Islam” is not a race. “Muslim” is also not a race. (Most Muslims in the world are non-Arabs, by the way.) Muslims are rational because they are human beings created in the image of God and have been given the gift of reason as such. Islam, however, is a belief system that rejects reason just as surely as Mein Kampf rejects Judaism. This rejection of reason, as Benedict noted, prompts the “true believer” to a willingness to commit violence and to force conversions through that violence.

Is it rational to murder someone? No. What prompts Muslims to murder? Islam does. Do all Muslims believe everything Islam teaches? No. Only those willing to forfeit their human reason for the sake of Islam will murder people. Anyone can forfeit human reason for the sake of murder. That choice is not limited to Muslims. Just as we don’t ban Mein Kampf from libraries, neither should we ban the Qur’an, nor the study of Islam. Just as we don’t accuse everyone who studies Mein Kampf of being a Nazi, we should not accuse every Muslim of being a potential murderer. It takes an irrational person to commit murder, no matter which books he is reading and no matter who he considers to be a prophet.

In short, Muslims should be treated with dignity and respect. Islam should not be banned. Irrational ideas about violence should be addressed in the same manner that we addressed Nazism when we were faced with it. It is a particular ideology, radical Islam, that should be called out, not Muslims who live rationally despite what Islam teaches. Remember that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was forced into the Nazi youth as a child. He and his family moved frequently in order that their anti-Nazi sentiments not be found out. It was a tough row to hoe in Germany, but they managed to do it without sacrificing their belief in human dignity. Benedict was no more a Nazi than FDR was. We should be able to understand Muslims living as Muslims do not necessarily accept violence just as Benedict and his family lived as Nazis but did not accept the fascist, murderous ideology.

By the way, the line of reasoning regarding casting others as sub-human is not only done toward Muslims. As someone with Bipolar Disorder, I find it both amusing and hurtful when I hear people say that it is “mean” to suggest someone has a mental illness. By attrition, they are saying that there is something shameful about having a mental illness. If you think it is “mean” to suggest that someone may have a mental illness, then you must not think very highly of people with mental illness.

What Steve King got wrong about Ferguson

by Lisa Graas on August 22, 2014

Mike Brown, Rest in Peace

Mike Brown, Rest in Peace

It is disappointing to me to see conservatives like Steve King ignoring an important conservative principle in discussing the situation in Ferguson. In fact, Heritage Foundation lists it as the very first conservative principle among ten.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of o rder: the inner order of the soul and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but-even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. The problem of order has been a principal concern of conserva tives ever since conservative became a term of politics.

Our twentieth century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an oldfangled moral order.

It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society–whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society–no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be. For confirmation of the latter argument, we have merely to glance about us in the District of Columbia.

The moral order is “enduring.” Human nature is “constant.” Moral truths are “permanent.” This is why limited government works best.

Steve King said, among other things:

But I will say this: he is innocent until proven guilty. But what’s happening is the community, the people that are doing the looting down in Ferguson, Missouri have concluded that he is guilty or else they concluded that it’s a good excuse to do what they’re doing.

King sees no moral order whatsoever in rioting and looting. Neither do I. Steve King sees no moral truths expressed in rioting and looting. Again, neither do I. But human nature is still constant, and I do see human nature at work in the rioting and looting. Why would people riot and loot? King thinks he knows.

But they’re burning the community, they’re looting the businesses in the community and they’re rioting, they’re punishing their own community for something that they think, or at least allege, that a police officer did inside their community. That is irrational and it should not happen in this country and it doesn’t happen with rational people.

It is certainly irrational to riot and loot, but is it their intent to “punish their own community?” No. Is it excusable to riot and loot? No. Is it understandable that people would riot and loot? Yes. The reason it is understandable is something we learn about in another conservative principle listed by Heritage:

Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent–or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerable ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk.

The restlessness and rebelliousness of the human person is exacerbated when civil authorities become lawless, and the people of Ferguson believe civil authorities have become lawless, hence some (not most) have rioted and looted. Whether you agree that the civil authorities in Ferguson have acted lawlessly, the citizens believe they have, and that is enough to cause a reaction of lawlessness. It’s not exusable, but it is understandable. It is desperation more than it is hatred. Human nature tells us this. It is not “black nature.” It is human nature. Human nature also prompted Cliven Bundy to react as he did. It is not excusable, but it is definitely understandable for anyone who has an ounce of compassion for people who are frustrated and hurting by the actions of civil authorities.

King is right to be critical of what he calls “race hustlers,” but is it practical? Will it change anyone’s mind to do that? I don’t think so. What has to be done is to understand that there is a certain moral basis for the frustrations felt in the community where it is becoming more and more common for young black men to be gunned down by police. You see, the rules of engagement on the streets have changed over time. The law allows deadly force to be used when a policeman believes he is under threat of attack, and it seems that policemen are using deadly force even when it is not necessary to kill in order to protect themselves from the threat. Take a look at the video of the shooting of Kajieme Powell by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He was murdered. In fact, it appears that he committed “suicide by cop.” When policemen are using deadly force simply because the law says they can, even when it is not necessary, young black men are murdered. Yes, murdered. Too often, it seems they kill not because they must, but because they can.

Read Killed By Cops:

This summer ColorLines and The Chicago Reporter conducted a joint national investigation of fatal police shootings in America’s 10 largest cities, each of which had more than 1 million people in 2000. Several striking findings emerged.

To begin, African Americans were overrepresented among police shooting victims in every city the publications investigated.

The contrast was particularly noticeable in New York, San Diego and Las Vegas. In each of these cities, the percentage of black people killed by police was at least double that of their share of the city’s total population.

Mind you, the statistics might say the same about Christians. Maybe the percentage of Christians killed by police was “at least double that of their share of the city’s total population.” We don’t know if no one studies it, but what matters is the perceptions of people in these communities. They believe they are being targeted disproportionately, and they have statistics to back it up. You may come up with “reasons” for it to be so, but expressing that you don’t even care about what they very seriously care about is not going to win anyone over to your point of view. The conservative response is the pro-life response: that no one should be killed who does not have to be killed as a matter of self-defense in response to an attack. Unfortunately, I am not seeing outrage from conservatives about the killing of Kajieme Powell which was clearly videotaped and which was clearly a case of murder, morally speaking.

Many in Ferguson believe that Mike Brown was murdered because they have good reasons to believe so. Namely, there are eyewitness accounts. You may not believe the eyewitness accounts, and it is your right to disbelieve them, but many people do believe those accounts. They see the autopsy reports and see something consistent with those reports. Again, you may believe them or not believe them, but the idea that they are frustrated because they are anti-cop or are anti-white is not reasonable. Yes, one might say it is irrational to think that protesters in Ferguson are just hateful people. They are anti-murder. At least give them that much. They are moral people in the sense that they are anti-murder, whether or not you personally believe a murder was committed. Give them props for being opposed to what they view as a murder.

Another conservative principle is that the law teaches (seat belt laws result in people wearing seat belts, for example), and this principle itself explains why people rioted and looted. Just as the law teaches, so do civil authorities teach through their behaviors while on duty. When civil authorities are lawless, the people will react with lawlessness out of frustration. There is no moral order if people are rioting and looting….but it must also be said that there is no moral order if cops are murdering people. If you are generally a law-abiding person, you might be tempted to stop being law-abiding when a representative of the law (a police officer) murders someone on your street, especially if you believe he murdered someone who looked like you and that he did so specifically because he looked like you. Again, you may disagree that this was a murder. You may disagree that the officer used excessive force. You may disagree that the actions of the officer were racist, but if that is what they believe, you need to respect that they are operating from a moral position of being anti-racism and anti-murder. They have been frustrated by the example they believe has been set by the police department. When the police come out in full riot gear, that only adds to that same perception of lawlessness on the part of civil authorities. It really is like throwing gasoline onto a fire. The example that should be shown is not one of force but of a desire to understand the legitimate concerns people have and to work toward regaining their trust. They need to know that the police are looking out for them because the police respect their basic human dignity and desire to protect them for that reason. This does not occur by militarizing the police force. In fact, the opposite occurs. Having said that, it is not evil for the police to militarize. It’s just stupid and counter-productive.

I have a great deal of respect for Steve King. I do not believe his remarks were “wrong,” per se, but they were lacking in an understanding of the proper way to handle these situations. I believe with all my heart that people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are operating at least partly from a desire to do good for people for the sake of human dignity. I believe the very same about Steve King. Both sides, however, are saying some very unhelpful things that do not really solve the problem. The way to solve this problem is to be more understanding of the people who are rightfully frustrated by what they see (rightly or wrongly) as a culture of police brutality against people of color. Accusing the protesters of bad motivations is no different than a “gay rights” activist calling a pro-marriage supporter a “bigot.” Accusing them of bad motivations is the very same as accusing the cop of being a “racist” for shooting Mike Brown. The accusations are the same thing. And yes, they are marks of irrational discourse.

One final note. I have lost friends because I have opined that I believe the officer used excessive force and is likely guilty of second-degree murder. I stand by that, no matter how many friends I lose. I will not get caught up in being told what to believe by people who generally agree with me simply on the basis that they generally agree with me. My mind is free in seeking God’s will regardless of what anyone else may think. It’s my conscience and I have to be able to sleep at night. One can’t sleep well at night if one is following the crowd rather than one’s own heart and mind. My heart is truly with the people of Ferguson. I see people in pain and that gets to me. Anyone caught rioting or looting should be prosecuted, but peaceful protesters have my heart in this and I pray they will find a sliver of peace in knowing that. The law should treat everyone as innocent until proven guilty. I have heard conservatives (rightly) say this about Darren Wilson, but not about Mike Brown, who is dead, and that breaks my heart even more.