KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Have you heard of Spokeo?

My daughter-in-law sent me information about the web site Spokeo.com. It is so frightening. This web site is a personal information aggregator. All you do is type in someone's name, email, or phone number and you are treated to this person's age, address, phone number, email, picture of their home, financial worth, and who lives in their home. You can remove your profile from the public search (which I did), but folks can still pay $35 and get all of this information and more.

I know all of this information is gained from the public domain. However, it takes some effort to dig it all up. Compiling it and selling it as a product is akin to someone taking my picture then selling it. It is illegal to sell my image without my permission. It should also be illegal to sell an "image" of my personal data. I sent the following letter to my legislators encouraging them to address this issue. It would be nice to see them do something that actually contributes to the common good.
Dear ________________

I am very concerned about internet sites like Spokeo.com. All I have to do is type in a name and I am given the person's address, phone number, email, how many people live in the house, ages of the house's occupants, etc. This site then offers to sell an even more detailed aggregate of personal information for a fee.

I have not released any of this information for commercial use. It is a misuse of my personal information to sell it. It seems to me that this is comparable to selling an unauthorized photograph. If someone takes my picture, he is not allowed to sell my image without my permission. I would like to see legislation that requires my permission before a commercial entity can sell an aggregate of my personal information.

Spokeo and similar personal data aggregators pose several dangers to the community. When I checked my parents' profiles, Spokeo revealed that two affluent, elderly adults lived alone. This sets them up as a target for con artists and thieves.

Also, it could have a chilling effect on free speech. We saw with the Prop 8 vote in California that those who disagreed with Prop 8 supporters launched personal attacks that included harassment and threats of violence. It is very intimidating to know that if I sign my name to a political, social, or religious position, at the click of a mouse, opponents will have my address complete with a map to my house and a photo of my house. Even if I remove my name from the free search, for a mere $35.00 anyone who wants a summary of my personal information can get it. If this company wants to profit from selling my personal information, it should have to get my permission as well as compensate me for using my information as a commodity.

I would appreciate your attention to this matter.
By the way, blogging buddies, I checked several of your names. You are listed in their data base!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A new word in the Washington lexicon

Stupaking: read more here.

Still Faithful

With the passage of the health care bill Sunday night and the expected signing today, some may ask if I am sad, angry, discouraged, frustrated, etc. My answer is that I am faithful. As Mother Teresa says, we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful. What I believe and what I do has not changed.

Yes, we have suffered a legislative defeat. But the battle rages on. There are always more legislative byways and alleys to pursue. Even more importantly, there are hearts and minds to be won. This is not about abortion. This is about understanding that every human being is created in the image of God. Every human being has a purpose in God's great plan of salvation. If more people understood this, the legislative issues would resolve themselves.

Last Wednesday evening our parish RCIA program invited me to give a talk on the "Sanctity of Life". Consider it a ninety-minute whirlwind tour of Catholic bioethics. I took the phrase "life is sacred from conception to natural death" and outlined the Church teachings on issues from conception to death. The ninety minutes included plenty of time for questions and discussion. I think the evening went very well.

My goal is to bring this teaching to cradle Catholics as well as converts. I do this through my blog, through my Examiner.com columns, and through live presentations. On my Examiner.com column I have a frequent commenter who constantly attacks me for being too politically partisan. He writes under various pseudonyms but it is clear that is is one person. He tries to make similar ad hominem attacks on this blog, but I have more control over the comments here and can screen his venomous screeds more effectively. The principle of the sanctity of life is not a partisan issue. I will not shy away from writing on politics when politics and legislative issues bring these fundamental moral principles to the forefront.

That said, the focus can never be purely political. Am I disappointed in many politicians? Absolutely. But my trust is not in either Bart Stupak or Chris Smith. Mere mortals will always disappoint. My trust is in Christ and His Church. He will never disappoint me.

Several politicians defined themselves with their vote on Sunday. Several religious sisters defined themselves as faithful to the Magisterium or faithful to the Democratic party with their statements regarding health care. (also see this post) The bishops did very well at keeping the moral issues in the forefront for the last year, but their decades of allowing these moral issues to be equivocated by Catholic politicians is coming home to roost. So what now?

As I said at the beginning, what Catholics believe has not changed. What Catholics are called to do has not changed. We are called to defend and support the principle of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. We must not despair that this legislation which has the capacity to be a second Roe v. Wade will receive the President's signature today. Look at all the machinations that were required to get it passed in spite of the President having a huge majority in both houses of Congress. Look at the fact that even though Roe v. Wade is the "settled law of the land" more and more people are becoming pro-life. Look at the fact that the youth of our country are more pro-life than their parents.

We must keep fighting the legislative battles whenever and wherever they occur. But we must also redouble our efforts to offer mercy to women who think abortion is their only answer. We must be the voice, the hands , and the feet, for all those who are vulnerable and marginalized--the unborn, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled. We must charitably teach everyone we encounter that life is sacred. As St. Francis said, we should use words when necessary.

To that end, I encourage each of you to consider what forums you have available to teach about the sanctity of human life. It is great when we hear this from the pulpit, and I know many priests and deacons do offer this teaching. But it is the duty of the laity to take this message out of the sanctuary and into the world. Does your Catholic school PTO offer a pro-life presentation to its members? What about your parish men's club, women's club, mom's club, youth group, RCIA etc? Is it part of preparation for Confirmation? After all, these students who are about to complete their initiation into the Catholic Church need to know what it means to be Catholic.

For those who live near the D.C. Metro area, I am happy to offer my presentation to your group. You can contact me at the email on the sidebar.

Finally, none of our efforts, however well intentioned, can be properly focused if they are not supported by prayer. We accomplish nothing alone, but with God, everything is possible.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Are you the Prodigal Son or the Older Brother?

Today's Gospel is one of the most moving in Scripture. The parable of the Prodigal Son embodies parental love. Knowing that the unbounded and unconditional love of an earthly father for his son is only a pale shadow of the love of our Eternal Father for each of us is overwhelming.

But here is a bit of a provocative question: With whom do you identify more--the Prodigal Son or the Older Brother? I know there are many times that I have read this passage and said, "I really understand how the Older Brother feels. It just doesn't seem fair. Where is the justice?"

Yet every time I get that Older Brother sense of righteousness, something pops up to let me know that I am really the Prodigal Son. How many times have I failed to appreciate and wisely use the time, talent, and treasure God has given me? How many kind words have I left unsaid? How many alms have stayed in my pocket when they should have been offered to my neighbor in need? How often have I judged a person rather than his actions? How often have I refused to forgive? The list goes on and on.

It is the virtue of humility that keeps us cognizant of our need for God's mercy and forgiveness. Like all virtues, it must be practiced in order to be strengthened. One way to practice this virtue is to recognize the authority of the Church. The Prodigal Son came home with no demands of his own. He threw himself on the mercy of his father and was willing to obey whatever he said--to the point of living as his father's hired laborer or even being told to leave.

We reflect the arrogance of the Older Brother when we approach the Church and say, "I am good. I have no need of your mercy. I will set my own rules and standards." It is only when we recognize and acknowledge our own fallen nature that we can say "I am a sinner. I trust in your mercy. Show me the way."

Frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is an important way to keep ourselves humble and open to God's mercy and forgiveness. For those in the DC Metro area, don't forget The (confessional) Light is on for you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Picture is worth...

When my family opens the cupboard to get plates to set the table for dinner, they see these lists of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I hope it reminds them that while we are blessed with abundant food, there are others who are not so comfortable and need our prayers and material support.


And when they open this cupboard to get a glass I hope they take note of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

However, now when they open this cupboard where I keep my casserole and baking dishes, they now see...

this photograph.

You see, my youngest has grown nearly eight inches in the last six months. That means, that all those who still live in our home full time are at least six inches taller than I am. All of my frequently used dishes were migrating to the top shelves where I cannot easily reach them. When I tried to correct my kitchen helpers I got the response, "We can't memorize where everything goes!" Voila! No memorization is needed. Here is a photo that depicts a place for everything and everything in its place. Easy--don't you think?

Please join the Diocese of Arlington in fasting and prayer for health care legislation

Bishop Loverde has designated Monday, March 15 as a day of prayer and fasting for health care legislation that respects the sanctity of human life. Please join us in this spiritual effort.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Standing up for the Gospel

Today I reported on the brouhaha in Boulder, Colorado over the refusal of a Catholic school to admit the children of a lesbian couple. The Archdiocese of Denver has a very clear policy:

Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment. To allow children in these circumstances to continue in our school would be a cause of confusion for the student in that what they are being taught in school conflicts with what they experience in the home.

Naturally, homosexual activists are crying "Foul!" I find this so curious. This is a private Catholic school. The policy of the Archdiocese of Denver is nothing new. The Church teaching on homosexual activity has been clear for centuries. Why on earth would these women even want to send their children to a Catholic school? It is reprehensible to use their children as pawns to make a political statement and to attack the Church.

Forgive me as I repeat myself, but if we are going to be call ourselves Catholic, we need to be Catholic. Whether it is us as individuals, families, or institutions, if we claim the identity of Catholic we must be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church to the best of our ability. Fr. Breslin, the pastor at the center of the current dust up needs our prayers and support. His bishop, Archbishop Chaput, has given him unequivocal backing.

Yes, we are all sinners and, yes, Christ dined with the tax collectors and the prostitutes. But Christ did not affirm their sinfulness. Rather he called them to repentance and conversion. I should not embrace my sinfulness and say, "Oh well, that is how God made me." On the contrary, as is stated in the Act of Contrition, I detest my sinfulness and strive, with God's Grace, to do better.

There is an interesting discussion of this case in several posts at the Mirror of Justice blog. Professor Perry, with whom I often disagree, implies that there is an injustice in this case because there does not seem to be a similar rejection of parents who are in an irregular marriage or who are contracepting. Of course he also states there is a significant difference between the teachings of the Magisterium and the teachings of Christ. Professor Robert George offers a strong rebuttal of this assertion.

I would like to address Professor Perry's sense of injustice. Parents send their children to a Catholic school because they want an environment that supports the development of their children's Catholic faith. There must be an unequivocal support of Catholic teaching. If not, the school ceases to be Catholic and becomes just another private educational academy. The school and the family form a partnership to support the faith. If either the school or the family undermine the faith, the Catholic education is compromised. When parents are contracepting or living in an irregular heterosexual marital situation it is not necessarily apparent to the casual observer. Therefore, while their action is sinful, it may not be scandalous to the rest of the Catholic school community. If a mother has a live-in boyfriend but does not advertise the fact, her action is sinful, but it does not necessarily impact the Catholic school community at large. If her child brings the situation to the attention of others at the school, there may be a need for pastoral intervention and an evaluation of whether or not the child should continue at the Catholic school. If the mother wants to chaperone an out-of-town school field trip and share a hotel room with her boyfriend, then the school has an obligation to be more actively involved to protect its Catholic identity.

Similarly, if I have a friend or family member who is co-habitating with his girlfriend, I will be happy to have him and his girlfriend visit us. I will not allow them to share a bedroom in my home. It is not charity to enable sin. It is not that I stand in judgment of them. Rather, I must be honest about the sinfulness of their actions. I cannot condone their actions both for their sakes and for the sake of my own children.

I believe Fr. Breslin made a very strong defense of his actions when he said:

The core issue for us Catholics on this question is our freedom and our obligation to teach about marriage and family life as our Faith teaches. If parents see the cultural interpretation of what tolerance has become as more important than the teachings of Jesus, then we become unfaithful to the Lord and we lose the meaning of the beatitude, “Blessed are you when they insult you for My sake, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.” Many of Jesus’ teachings were not popular. In fact, He was crucified for His teachings.


Lent is a good time to reflect on this. Have I been willing to withstand the insults, curses, loss of prestige, etc for the sake of the Christ and his Gospel?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Safe and Sound

Our travelers are home safe and sound. Thanks to all who offered prayers for my in-laws who found themselves in Santiago during the recent earthquake. We are all very grateful for their safe return.