Archive for October, 2012

The Aftermath

Well they weren’t exaggerating; Superstorm Sandy has wreaked unprecedented havoc across much of the eastern United States. Thankfully, there seems to be relatively few human casualties, and thankfully we haven’t heard of the sort of compete breakdown of the civil infrastructure that marked the wake of Katrina. And so far the federal response does not appear as incompetent as that fiasco.

The President has suspended his campaign to attend to the disaster. If he continues to appear presidential and doesn’t screw up this will no doubt be a boost to his campaign.

Mitt Romney turned two days of campaigning into a food drive to help the victims. Which is fine; any help is welcome. But he is on record as recently as 2011 as saying that disaster relief should be left to the states, rather than the federal government. Odd, Governor Christie is not telling the feds to get out of New Jersey. Nor did Governor Jindal when Katrina hit Louisiana. Nor, to my recollection, has any Republican governor turned down federal aid when facing such devastation. If Mr Romney intends his fundraisers to be a model of what he envisions he is foolish indeed.

I am a small-is-beautiful kind of guy, a decentralist and a localist. But in a disaster of this magnitude solidarity trumps subsidiarity every time. A federal response is as inevitable as it is necessary.

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Sandy, Barach, and Mitt

I am writing this early. I have been listening to NPR since I woke at 5. At this point details are sketchy and  are likely to remain so until sunrise, but evidently, from what we know, Sandy did indeed evolve into a megastorm. Lower Manhattan is dark and the subways are flooded, there are reports of widespread destruction, and there is a foot of snow in the mountains, with more to come. The sheer extent of this storm is breathtaking; it is a thousand miles wide.

Here in Ohio, yesterday was anticlimactic. We were expecting high winds and hard rain, and what we got was pretty much an ordinary rainy Autumn day. There were gusts of wind- I narrowly missed being hit by a falling tree limb- but for the most part, little of the drama we were preparing for. Today the forecast is much like yesterday’s, and schools are closed.

Although at this early point it doesn’t look like Sandy is going to rival Katrina in terms of human lives lost, she may well outdo her in terms of total devastation.

Either way, this is Obama’s Katrina.

And it is also Mr Romney’s Katrina.

He has switched campaign stops into fundraising drives for the victims of the storm. One would think that the fact that he not so long ago said that federal disaster relief was a waste of money might come back to haunt him, but that would be an underestimation of his powers of recreating himself. The man has held irreconcilable positions on any number of issues; his principles, if any, are pliant. He has, it appears, no principles, only drives: drives for money and for power.

Indeed, it has recently occurred to me that this may not be all bad. If elected he will govern not ideologically but pragmatically, which may well mitigate the damage he will do, and may even lead to some good.

Lord have mercy, on our nation and on our sorry leaders.

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In the Path of the Storm

The weather report said that today my part of Ohio is facing driving rain, high winds- up to 70 miles an hour-  and a high temperature of 45 degrees.

Fortunately for me, given my occupation as a letter carrier, I like most weather, even a lot that other people consider inclement. The exceptions are really hot and humid weather…and cold rain matched with wind. I haven’t carried mail on a day like the one I am facing for a very long time, and my memory is not pleasant.

Fortunately I have much better gear now than I had then. Letter carriers receive a uniform allowance which seems like a lot of money, until you see how expensive the uniforms are. It takes years to be able to afford things like Gortex outer wear. But I have been doing this so long that my rain gear is state of the art. I should be okay. Certainly in better shape than my fellow letter carriers on the Atlantic coast.

This cold front, as you know, is on a collision course with the thousand-mile-wide megastorm that is bearing down on the East Coast. They are speaking of a eight foot storm surge in New York City, three feet of snow in the mountains, havoc everywhere from the coast to the Great Lakes. Reporters are sounding apocalyptic, and while we may hope that this is just another overreaction, it is very possible that we are in for an unprecedented disaster.

It is hard not to see this storm as allegorical, coming as it does so close to what has turned out to be a very close election. This may be Obama’s Katrina, and how he leads, or fails to lead, may well determine who is to be president.

I’m sure I am not alone in praying for mercy on our nation.

No, we do not deserve it.

But that is the nature of mercy.

Lord Have Mercy. Kyrie Eleison. Hospodi Pomilui.

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Mosaic of Christ enthroned surrounded by angels in Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, c.500 AD.

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I think it a waste of time to fight the institutionalization of homosexual unions. That is the clear direction that this society is moving in, and while in many ways that is tragic, and a mark of how far our culture has strayed from its Christian heritage, in other ways it is not all bad. Surely it is better for both the individuals involved and for the common good for same-sex couples to live in some sort of recognized, faithful and loving relationship than for them to live their lives in secrecy, furtively pursuing promiscuous encounters. And I don’t have a problem with legal rights attending these unions, even ones similar or identical to spousal rights. One need not admit the morality of their acts to recognize that certain rights adhere in humans, merely as humans. Nor to recognize, as the Church does, that even in an objectively disordered relationship there can exist human goods: affection, mutual support, fidelity.

Just don’t call it marriage.

Marriage is by nature a life-giving sacramental union between one man and one woman. There can never be such a thing as “gay marriage”.

But that is what civil society is going to call it, no matter how we protest. That can be traced to the Protestant roots of the United States: Protestantism views marriage not as a sacrament, a spiritual mystery, but as a contract. If it is a merely human construct, why limit it to heterosexuals?

So what to do?

It is time for the Christian Churches and other faith communities to disengage from civil society. The Churches should cease requiring civil marriage licenses for Church weddings. This would emphatically communicate that the State has no authority concerning marriage with the Churches. Marriage would be clearly seen as an ecclesial reality, not a civil one. There would clearly exist two kinds of “marriage”, civil and religious, and never the twain shall meet.

And really, isn’t it time for the Churches to disengage in other ways from civil society? I think of that photo recently of Cardinal Dolan, yukking it up with Obama and Romney at the Alfred Smith Dinner, and it just seemed so…wrong.

It is really time to disengage.

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Click image for greater clarity…

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Almost Over

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