Regulating How Churches Govern Themselves

The Connecticut legislature, for the moment at least, throws in the towel on trying to restructure Roman Catholicism:

State legislators have tabled for the rest of the session a controversial bill that would have mandated changes in the corporate structure of parishes and institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church…

The proposed bill raised by the Judiciary Committee would have required Catholic parishes and other organizations to restructure much of the existing corporate management structure, replacing a system dominated by clergy and church hierarchical officials with boards of directors made up of lay members of their respective congregations. The changes, sought by members of several state parishes that have been rocked by financial scandal in recent years, would have shifted responsibility for financial and administrative management to the boards of directors and away from parish and diocesan officials, who they charge have been inattentive to their calls for reform.

Such a restructuring, if it passed constitutional muster (and that’s as dependent upon the idea of the judge as much as anything else,) could be applied to any centrally governed church, such as the Episcopal Church or–note this, Pentecostal friends–the Church of God.

Roman Catholicism and Mark Foley: Maybe It Is Better to Wait to Convert

One of our more viewed pieces is Think Before You Convert, an overview of the pros and cons of Anglicans who are thinking about “swimming the Tiber” and becoming Roman Catholics.

It looks like we have yet another reason to think about it, because now we see that Rep. Mark Foley’s Maltese priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth did some things with the future Member of Congress that he can’t remember because of the drug-induced stupor he was in. He also did some things that he does remember, like teaching Foley some things “wrong about sex” and undoing the fly of another boy in the parish.

From a personal standpoint, such problems are too close to home because the two Catholic parishes I regularly attended in South Florida–St. Edward’s in Palm Beach and St. Thomas More in Boynton Beach–flank Sacred Heart in Lake Worth. (Click here for my reminiscence about my time at St. Thomas More.) I will say that I never had any bad experiences of this kind in either parish. But I was seventeen when I converted, and since my parish priests all looked up to me, that puts things in a different perspective. Perhaps that delay was the best thing of all.
It is the sacred duty of any man or woman who is called priest or minister to behave in a way that is reflective of the call from God that he or she has on her life. I have become hard to shock in my old age, but I find this kind of thing impossible to stomach, especially when it happened so close to home and during the time I lived “where the animals are tame and the people run wild.”

Electing the Unelected

One of the enduring fixtures of American politics is that elections are largely decided by a relatively small group of “independent” voters in the centre. Or at least that’s where we think they are. One of the great principles that such voters will enunciate is that they “vote for the man (and when called upon the woman) and not the party.”

On paper, this is admirable. The personal qualities of an individual in public office are crucial to their success. Some of these transcend party and ideology, although many do not. But this thinking in practice has too many pitfalls to be relied on for superior results in government.

To start with, most independent voters rely on the media for their ideas more heavily than, say, those ideologues on the left or right. This is scary in and of itself. No matter what you think of the bias of the media, the basic problem is that more often than not the mass media frequently does not understand what it is looking at when analysing a given situation, let alone a candidate for office. We discussed this problem in the aftermath of the Israel-Hezbollah war earlier this year and it applies to just about everything the media touches.

Beyond this, however, it assumes that everything in government happens because of the direct orders of the elected officials. If we don’t like what our government is doing, we change its officials and they will in turn change the government to do things the way we like it. That’s the idea behind representative democracy, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, things in reality are a little more complicated than that.

To start with, our legislatures–state and federal–are divided along partisan lines. It isn’t the belief of the senators and representatives that gives control of the agenda to a certain leadership, but party affiliation. A good example of how an entire group of people can be sidelined by their party’s position is that of pro-life Democrats. They can be pro-life all they want but their party has hung its fate on abortion and they have no effective voice as a result, either in their party’s internal system or in the legislatures they control.

Beyond that, we have the spectacle of congressional staffers, who control a lot more of the course of legislators than the legislators care to admit. If the staffers are drawn from the pool of party activists who helped get the legislator elected–or somewhere else–the legislator’s votes will be affected by those staffers, because no legislator is able to understand each and every vote that he or she makes.

Finally we must turn to the most important group of the unelected–the myriads of appointments to federal and state positions. In addition to having a larger than average number of elected officials vs. appointed ones, American government has a large number of appointed positions which are filled at the will of the ruling party. Most of these are filled either because the person is a reliable activist or more commonly for patronage reasons. This insures that people appointed tend to reflect the controlling ideology of the party rather than the diversity of opinions that might exist amongst the majority legislators. This is especially true in the Baby Boomer era, with its deadly combination of political polarisation and control freak methodologies.

The blunt truth is that we don’t vote for just people: we vote for all of the officials that they can appoint. And those appointments are generally reflective of the ideological bent of their party.

Today many conservatives are disheartened by what the Republicans have been doing the last twelve years. Liberals are energised by that prospect. But it’s one thing to have a party that suffers from patronage issues; it’s quite another to have a party that not only lives for them but wants to expand the role of government (and thus the patronage) to more and more aspects of human life. That’s one thing to remember as we go to the polls not only to elect our executives and legislators, but all of the unelected people that go with them. Your vote counts a lot more than you think; use it wisely.

Marriage in Massachusetts: We Knew It Would Be Like This

Somehow we’re getting a bad case of “deja vu all over again” in the proposal to restrict Episcopal churches to simply bless people rather than actually marry them.

This, of coure, is the usual practice in Europe. We still think that the long-term objective of many gay rights activists–inside and outside of the Episcopal Church–is to end the church’s privilege of performing civilly valid marriages in the U.S. This is one way to get around having to have a religious exemption for those clergy who cannot, in good conscience, perform gay marriages. That is, of course, if they can get gay civil marriage to stick in the U.S…

South Korea and their Neighbour: Calling Their Bluff

Although the press covers it as if it’s a total shock, North Korea’s nuclear test is anticlimactic. Everybody–well, almost–knew they were working on nuclear weaponry. Now it’s official.

The main loser in this blast is South Korea, and not just for the obvious reason. They have been obsessed with reconciling themselves with their northern bretheren for a long time, not only for reasons of kinship but because they wanted to eliminate and dependency upon the U.S.–whose troops in the present they resent–and Japan, whose troops in the past they resent. Now their idea that this would be attainable in the forseeable future has gone up in radioactive smoke.

Cold wars with really intrasigent communists (the Chinese are too practical to fall into that category) are endurance matches, one the U.S. won in in the 1980’s. South Korea needs to understand that. They need to get away from doing what we almost did in the Cold War and realise that they need to stay the course until the North’s economy implodes.

Turning to another debacle, we know that Henry Kissinger has been telling President Bush that he needs to do the same in Iraq. But Bush is dealing with an entirely different dynamic in the Islamicists he faces in the Middle East. As we have pointed out time after time, the Arab world tends to be centrifugal, and Bush needs to exploit this and quit fighting the last war.  But for those who still are, the rules are still the same.

The Democrats and National Security: Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma

At long last, we are entering the season where most Americans who do take interest in the November election actually take that interest. I find this botheresome but inevitable. Back in the spring I sat on a school Superintendent Selection Advisory Committee, and even with all of the rancour we had experiened over the years on the subject of public education, things didn’t really blow up until we had made our decision, and by then it was too late.

There’s a lot more on the table now than one school superintendent. Our political system is so polarised now–and has been since the late 1960’s–that a significant shift in control in Washington can change the complexion of the nation. Unfortunately most Americans have not grasped this truth, and the result of this is our low voter turnout and the virtual control of the system by a relatively small group of “independents” in the middle, who all to often rely on our news media for their ideas (a dangerous thing at best.)

We’ve said before that we are surprised that the Democrats didn’t bag this political system a long time ago. Now they are within striking distance of taking control of one or more houses of Congress (which would really make it the opposite of progress) and take a major step forward towards recapturing the White House in 2008. But why is there doubt about the outcome? The inequities in our wealth distribution become more pronounced. The level of debt grows as the housing market–which collateralised that debt–softens. The Republicans have fudged on the principles which gave them that control in 1994. All of this should make this election a cakewalk for the Democrats.

It hasn’t. Bush’s popularity levels, starting in the cellar, are rising. So are the polls for the Republicans in general. Why is this? Along with falling petrol prices, the answer is simple: in spite of difficulties with the Iraq war, people as a whole believe that the Republicans are stronger on national security. The Democrats have passed up many opportunities to change people’s minds on this with everything from stalling the Patriot Act to constantly attacking just about every administration effort to deal with terrorists, from Gitmo onward.

Shifting one’s position to improve public standing is a part of political success. Bill Clinton proved that; his party should have gotten the message. But Clinton–who is very defensive on this issue–finds it easier to throw a fit on Fox News rather than to have dealt with it effectively when he was in office. He found it easier to eventually throw an important Democrat constituency to the wolves in welfare reform rather than to implement effective national security through a combination of police, military, and diplomatic action. Democrats waiting in the wings to pick up where he left off are, if anything, “softer” on this issue. Why?

To understand this, we must first realise that the Democrat party today is the party of the 60’s radical. That includes just about every major player in the party. At the heart of sixties radicalism is rebellion against authority, especially the military and the police. When they’re not worried about what authority can do to them at the present, they worry what it might do to them in the future. That’s why the ACLU constantly attempts to undermine anti-terror efforts by the government.

As a practical matter, one would think that they would realise that, if they ever did gain power, the police and military would be essential elements in their ability to maintain it. And sometimes they do know this; the Clintons have never been shy about using the power of law to protect them personally and to advance their own proper interests. But in general the Democrats are reflexively unable to empower the military and police to protect us out of a fear they will repress us, even in the face of Islamicists who would wipe out their way of life more surely than anything else.

To draw a contrast, consider another revolution, namely the Russian. Lenin had no illusions about what he was aiming for: the dictatorship of the proletariat. Left-wing communism was an “infantile disorder,” to be set aside for the good of the cause. Moreover Lenin didn’t have the luxury of a legal system such as ours: he had armed resistance to his revolution, and so, although a major objective was to get out of World War I (which he did through capitulation,) he had no qualms about forming a military and brutally defeating his “White” enemies.

His handling of police matters was no different; he had the Pole Feliks Dzerzhinskii to head up the NKVD, which became the KGB, to take care of internal dissidents through imprisonment and execution. His strategy worked; by the time he died the Communist Party was in control of what became the Soviet Union and would remain so for the next sixty-five years.

Unfortunately the security apparatus that he had set up turned on many of its creators. Under Stalin, many of Lenin’s comrades (Leon Trotsky being the most famous) ended up perishing in the purges, and the likes of Lysenko took centre stage. This is a historical memory not even the left can shake; it is one more reason why the flower children that dominate the Democrat party have an aversion to strenghtening the military and intelligence apparatus of the government. They know better than anyone that, in a modern society, today’s norms are tomorrow’s crimes.

So the Democrats are stuck. They simply cannot bring themselves to allow our military and intelligence services to do what they have to do. So the vote to keep them weak in the face of public opinion to the contrary. The Democrat Party and the American left is trapped in Dzershinskii’s Dilemma, where if they neglect national security we lose and if they beef it up they get wiped out. They never will find a way out. We vote for such people at our own peril.

When the Herald Sits on a Story, Something is Wrong

The Mark Foley thing–which, of course, does touch South Florida, as one would expect–seems to get deeper. Now we know that the Miami Herald of all papers sat on emails from Foley to the pages. Why? They weren’t explicit enough, and since he was a known homosexual…

Traditionally, the Herald isn’t known to duck a liberal cause when it sees one. Getting rid of Republican representatives is a liberal cause par excellence. It seems to me that their sitting on this is either poor journalism, esprit de corps with a man who is a member of a traditional liberal constituency, or just plain timing (wait until the election when your party is in striking distance, then hit them hard.) Or a combination of one or more of these.
As far as Foley being a homosexual is concerned, the Herald’s editor stated the following:

Given the potentially devastating impact that a false suggestion of pedophilia could have on anyone, not to mention a congressman known to be gay, and lacking any corroborating information, we chose not to do a story.

Homosexuals generally resent their way of life being linked to paedophilia, but that’s implicit in the editor’s statement.

Where the animals are tame and the people run wild…