Friday, January 27, 2006 — Today I played a game of kickball, something I haven’t done for, well, many years. Do you remember kickball? It’s like baseball, but the pitcher rolls the ball to home plate (we used a soccer ball), and you kick it rather than bat it. Growing up, I always thought kickball fell into the category of a really “uncool,” a cheap substitute for a real sport, but today we had a great time. I am not sure what I enjoyed most — beaming the runners with the ball as they ran the bases (that’s fair in kickball!) or just being out in the fresh air of the Italian countryside. Either way, I needed it, am grateful for it, and if you haven’t done something similar recently, give it a try. It has a way of putting things back into perspective.
Some housekeeping items — I’ve been thinking that, out of respect for your time, I should offer some regularity in the timing and content of these blog entries. How about a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday schedule? I’m not sure I can keep up with it, but I can try. We could dedicate Monday and Wednesday to treating current issues in a similar fashion as my last two entries. Friday could be a bit more informal and interactive, posting and answering some of your feedback and questions. Let me know if this is a format that you would find helpful.
Today’s Friday, so we’ll try the informal and interactive.
My inbox filled up quickly after my most recent entry on the Alito confirmation vote. I did a little count for you and the responses came in the ratio of 13 positive to every one negative — proof that there are a lot of gracious people out there! Below is a sampling, starting with the negative.
It's amazing how you can read the minds of the individual Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee. You must be having conversations with God, in which he tells you what their specific intent is. It's unbelievable that you dismiss all the other issues that are of concern to Americans who want to see a balance of power between the three branches of government. I suppose that having a judge who will vote to allow the president to continue to go above the law is OK with you.
RESPONSE: Tony, fortunately I don’t read minds. That would be a drag! But I do try to converse with God. I ask him to enlighten my intelligence, not to judge people’s intentions, but to understand their actions. But you’re right, I have to be careful.
I noticed your new column on the FOX News website, and my cynical side immediately assumed that the objective would be to further the co-optation of Christians with the Republican party for political purposes, so that Americans will believe that Christian=Republican and Democrat=Anti-Christian. As a strong Democrat and Christian, that is a tragedy to me, not only for America, but even more so for the Christian faith.
I will be open-minded, but it is not encouraging to see that it did not take long to get straight to the wedge issues in this regard, with the Judge Alito nomination breaking along political lines according to the issue of abortion.
If your column objective is to observe issues of our time from your perspective as a priest, then please consider including columns about the inequities presented by our have and have-not society, the moral disgrace of our healthcare and social support system, and the greed and corruption flourishing in our country. If, on the other hand, the objective is to further the idea that Republicans alone possess religious values, then I will pray for you.
RESPONSE: Dan, thanks for promising to be open-minded. Your topic suggestions are good, and I'll get there. But why are wedge issues out of bounds? Please pray for me, even though my intention is not what you fear.
Last I read, God (according to the scriptures) gives us FREE CHOICE. It is a basic precept of our belief in God, a basic tenet of religion and God having some real value. We as his children have a choice; we have the right to make our own decisions.
Bad things happen to good people, and many have asked their clergy why God allows such horrid things to happen. The response invariably is that it would be wrong for God to interfere in anyone's choices, right or wrong, and they will have to atone for bad decisions come that final day of judgment. Yet, on the issue of abortion, the church seems to want it both ways because it is convenient to their beliefs and makes them feel good. Sorry, it does not work that way, and the issue here is not about being for or against abortion, but an issue of a person's right to CHOOSE: a right that God granted us.
You may find it harsh, but if you are truly A MAN OF GOD, then you should be doing every thing humanly possible to preserve the freedom of choice that God gave us.
RESPONSE: Dear Sherwood, absolutizing relative rights, as you have done in this e-mail, is bad philosophy and very dangerous. To suggest that the state should never interfere with “free choice” is to advocate for anarchy. I would never have a right to kill you, even if it were my choice (don’t worry, it’s not).
And just for good measure, I should probably show a few positive responses, selected because I think they add something to our discussion.
Greetings from Oregon: Thank you for your thoughtful, and I expect, totally accurate commentary. I am a reformation Protestant, which means we would disagree on a number of things theologically. However, I believe we are certainly in the same camp on the abortion issue.
I noticed something, that you probably are well aware of, but that I expect slipped by most. The point that has not been mentioned, and that I am most curious about your thoughts on, is this:
It is my understanding that all three of the most conservative justices currently on the bench, as well as Judge Alito, are Roman Catholics. I admire and appreciate every one and am so thankful they are there. Three of Judge Alito’s most vehement detractors on the Senate Judiciary Committee also claim to be Roman Catholics. I am perplexed. How can that be?
Dick & Shirley
RESPONSE: Dick and Shirley, you are right. The senators that you are referring to have stated publicly views that directly contradict traditional Christian and Catholic morality. I wish I could defend them, but I can’t. Here again, we can’t judge their intentions, but we have a responsibility to evaluate their actions.
I very much enjoyed your blog, particularly the emphasis you placed on the abortion issue being key to the partisan vote. There was a point made in the confirmation hearings that I could not help finding ironic and somewhat comical. While questioning Judge Alito, Senator Kennedy made the accusation that anyone who associates him or herself with an organization, such as the one Judge Alito belonged to at Princeton University, obviously believes as the organization in which they are a member does. If memory serves me correctly, Senator Kennedy claims to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church. You will have to help me here — I am a Baptist — but I believe the Roman Catholic Church has taken a very strong stand against abortion, making it a pro-life "organization." Therefore, by the standard to which Senator Kennedy is holding Judge Alito, the senator himself must be pro-life!
RESPONSE: Ed, brilliant!
I have a new thought-provoker at FOX News! As a stay-at-home mom, I relish reading — and hearing — insightful, balanced, intelligent dialogues on the issues out there, since I so often feel isolated in my little world. I am a big O'Reilly fan for that reason (he makes me think hard about what I think!), and I'm going to stay tuned for your commentaries — insightful, balanced and intelligent!
Thanks for having the courage to be unapologetically pro-life. Looking forward to your next blog.
Lynn in Nebraska
RESPONSE: Lynn, thanks for being a mom. We need you.
Thanks for your time. God bless, Father Jonathan
Write to Father Jonathan Morris at email@example.com.