The Firing of Ken Howell

Professor Ken Howell was an adjunct professor teaching a class on Catholicism for the University of Illinois. In an email explaining certain concepts, Howell used the Church’s stance on homosexuality as contrary to utilitarianism and natural moral law. An as-yet unidentified student took exception to this email and complained. As a result of an anonymous complaint, Howell was fired.

The Citizen is outraged – but far from surprised. For the past several years, the Catholic church and it’s teachings have been aggressively attacked by a secular Left that is growing in political and cultural power in the United States. For decades, Statists have sought to inculcate their beliefs in schools and colleges. They control Hollywood and many of the newspapers, newsmagazines, and television news networks. Talk radio and the internet, the only sources of information not wholly controlled by the Statists, is under attack by the Obama administration. Howell is simply the first of many people of faith who will find themselves targeted – if we don’t stop this campaign of tyranny by the minority.

Socialism is a doctrine that is inimical to Catholicism. It will not – it cannot – tolerate Catholics openly practicing in their midst. De Tocqueville once stated:

Now, the first characteristic of all socialist ideologies is, I believe, an incessant, vigorous and extreme appeal to the material passions of man.

Why? Well, because the State can easily control the appetites of the flesh. It can regulate, legalize, and tax alcohol, tobacco, gambling, prostitution, sexual activities (access to abortions and birth control), conspicuous consumption…even fast food. The state  – through the institution of Johnson’s ‘Great” Society – provides shelter, food, and a modicum of care for those unable or unwilling to provide for themselves. You see, decades of quiet socialist machinations has created the very state de Tocqueville described. Now that they have realized power – anyone who argues that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are not ardent believers in the power of a strong socialized government is being disingenuous – they have emerged from the shadows and have begun to flex the iron fist. Need an example? How about Donald Berwick, who openly admitted to be an ardent supporter of socialist institutions – and rationing care, but that’s an argument for another day.

To illustrate my charge, the Citizen offers another passage from De Tocqueville’s Criticism of Socialism:

Now, a third and final trait, one which, in my eyes, best describes socialists of all schools and shades, is a profound opposition to personal liberty and scorn for individual reason, a complete contempt for the individual. They unceasingly attempt to mutilate, to curtail, to obstruct personal freedom in any and all ways. They hold that the State must not only act as the director of society, but must further be master of each man, and not only master, but keeper and trainer. For fear of allowing him to err, the State must place itself forever by his side, above him, around him, better to guide him, to maintain him, in a word, to confine him. They call, in fact, for the forfeiture, to a greater or less degree, of human liberty, to the point where, were I to attempt to sum up what socialism is, I would say that it was simply a new system of serfdom.

TARP is an example of government interference. The Citizen is quite aware that Bush instituted TARP, but no one can argue that the Obama administration took it to new and unplanned levels of intervention.  The stimulus plan – which many economists claim had little, no, or adverse effect – is another example of government tampering. The Patient Care and Affordable Health Care Act is yet another. These are all examples of the State causing elements of society to dance to the tune of the government. Think about it – the auto industry, investment banking, the health care industry, and millions of poor….all subservient under this ‘new system of serfdom.’

How can I link the firing of a professor with this socialist revolution? Catholic theology and practice calls us to be focused on the life of the spirit. It is critical of “the material passions” of man. The Church believes in the direct responsibility of all Catholics to tend to the needy. Socialism abrogates and dehumanizes the process of helping the needy. Personal service is replaced by paid bureaucrats, administrators, and service providers, paid through the collection of taxes. Catholics – and all citizens – can ignore their obligations with a shrug and a belief that ‘the government will take care of those people.’ Why support Catholic Charities? The government has programs. Why support the soup kitchens, shelters, crisis pregnancy centers, and Catholic hospitals? Let the government do it – that’s why we pay taxes, right?

No. The Constitution provided a framework for limited government. A framework abused by decades of ‘progressive reforms’. Socialist institutions have been championed as necessary and issues of social justice. The current leadership is blatant in it’s socialist ideals when they insist that their job is to make sure that the rich are forced to ‘share the wealth’. This isn’t in the Constitution. And coercing money from those who earned it to distribute to those people government sees fit to receive their largesse is not what America is supposed to stand for.

The reason Professor Howell was fired was on the basis of one student’s anonymous complaint to the University. The charge? The commission of a ‘hate crime.’ The concept of the Hate Crime as a violation of federal law has changed over the years. Originally it was designed to provide a means of ensuring that violent crimes committed on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin would carry a federal penalty. In short, it was a counterbalance to permissive Jim Crow states.  The new act allows for punishment for ‘verbal abuse’ against a variety of classes of people – gay, lesbian, and transgender people among them.

HR 1913, a bill that the leadership knew was going to die, was passed by appending it to the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, includes the terms “Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” – ambiguous terms that the authors of the bill have refused to define.  It places those descriptions on par with race, color, religion and nationality. Professor Howell criticized what could be a ‘protected’ class under this law. In doing so, he has opened himself up to state and federal penalties that could include fines and possibly a prison sentence. While this is unlikely, the wording of this law is so vague as to allow these possibilities. Certainly, the University considered this a violation of their sensibilities and barred Professor Howell from teaching classes for the University’s Religion Department.

Howell’s ‘hate crime’? This email, explaining the concepts of natural moral law and utilitarianism, was enough to ensure his dismissal. While he is critical of homosexuality, he is doing so in the context of Catholic teaching and in a manner consistent with the theories he illustrated. One would think that he would be protected under the time-honored concept of Academic Freedom. This concept protects instructors by providing them the freedom to teach controversial subjects as they pertain to their subject matter. I challenge anyone to justify dismissing Howell if the shield of academic freedom is fairly employed.

Good luck. The concept of Academic Freedom is detailed in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Professor Howell responded to the dismissal in this letter. It’s interesting that he notes that this semester, he had students demonstrate  the most “…vociferous reaction that I have ever had. It
seemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far.” The Citizen has been in classes where students signed up to ‘bait’ the professor for a variety of reasons. One history professor I knew confided that his perspectives on several historical issues has resulted in frequent complaints. As a person who shared some of his views, I was frequently vilified and abused by militant students who confused the concept of dialog and dissent with carte blanche to impose the will of the minority on the majority. As a professional teacher, I often find that my conservative values and religious beliefs make me the butt of jokes and ridicule from others.

It’s perfectly acceptable under the law to abuse Catholics and people who promote their values – we’re not protected under the Shepard Act. By that, the Citizen means that legitimate criticism of behaviors contrary to our beliefs is not exempt from the ‘hate speech’ provisions of this law. This act is yet another tool in the socialist’s bag of tricks. They cannot afford to let us flourish among them. They must use the laws they have twisted to seek us out and remove us from positions of authority and responsibility.

Perhaps the most disconcerting element of this sordid tale is that the accuser remained anonymous. A professor with some ten years standing at the University – ten years without blemish – is dismissed on the weight of one complaint. One anonymous complaint. One coward in the dark who has taken a man’s job and sought to besmirch his reputation. The concept of anonymity is designed to protect people from future repercussions. Is this a legitimate use of this doctrine – or like the Shepard Act – twisting of a good law into something quite different?

In the end, I believe that Professor Howell will find a position teaching Catholicism in some other institution. In fact, this event may even advance his career. I am sure that there are Catholic colleges and universities that want a man with the level of scholarship, devotion to the Magisterium, and courage that Kenneth Howell has demonstrated.

The Khaled AlFadala Story

The Citizen does not often delve into international affairs, save when it concerns American and/or Catholic interests. The recent arrest of a Kuwaiti political reformer is a story that most media outlets will not bother to cover –  but it is in many ways, a story important to all Americans.

The Citizen has enclosed a PDF document detailing this young man’s story. In short, he is a Kuwaiti national who studied political science and international affairs at the University of Hartford. He then took his expertise and education home, to become a rising leader in a reform organization known as the National Democratic Alliance. Last November, he spoke critically of the Prime Minister over questionable expenses, lack of accountability, and possible misuse of public funds. The government charged and convicted him with the crime of offending the Prime Minister. His sentence is three months.

Three months. For demanding accountability in government. Some 234 years ago last week, a group of reformers risked everything –  their wealth, their station, their freedom, their very lives. The result was the United States . Khaled is one of many people fighting for some of the same basic rights we take for granted in this nation. Accountability. Woman suffrage – a fight that was won in 2005 in Kuwait. Election reform. Transparent government. Elimination of systems that foster corruption. This is a crime? It is in Kuwait .

From an article in the Kuwaiti Times, Khaled is not standing alone. It seems that his actions has drawn widespread support from a number of parties representing a spectrum of ideologies. This bodes well for democratic principles in Kuwait .

What can we do?  Write a letter to the Editor. More importantly, call your congressional delegation. Demand that they contact the State Department. It wasn’t that long ago that the United States led a coalition in a war to free Kuwait from Iraq . While the Citizen understands that not every nation is going to operate the same way the United States works –  this is why we are unique among all the nations of the world –  Kuwait claims to be a constitutional monarchy. A nation that operates under the rule of law and not the fiat of a prince, king, or emir. I guess the Prime Minister is another story.

As citizens of a constitutional republic that espouses democratic principles of justice, liberty, and the rule of law, we must support those who seek to bring these virtues to their own nations. This gentleman is fighting for principles that we have long taken for granted. Let us remember the sacrifices that our forefathers made to win us liberty and honor them by supporting those who have taken up the torch of liberty in their own nations.

May God watch over this young man and his nation.

The Sixteen Million Dollar Nun…oops, Religious Sister

Carol Keehan, the director of Catholic Health Association, is said to earn a fairly substantial salary – up to seven figures by some reports. As a ‘religious sister’, her vows are to conduct ‘good works’ and not to accept a life of poverty. The Citizen doesn’t have a problem with paying for talent. Running a multi-million dollar business is something that should not be left to amateurs; sometimes you save money when you pay for talent. I am not sure of Keehan’s business, political, and medical bona fides. Unfortunately, her lack of religious bona fides is a problem that the Citizen can not overlook.

The Catholic Health Association is a trade association – a lobbying organization – that represents Catholic hospitals. According to their IRS statements, they had $16 million in annual revenues, spent some $800,000 in lobbying, and more then $4 million on ‘advocacy’ activities. Lobbying is strictly controlled by government watchdogs, advocacy is more nebulous. Mailing annual reports, editorial letter-writing campaigns, open houses, meeting with Congressional officials, feature articles in magazines and newspapers, websites….all of these are advocacy activities that are designed to promote the organization and create support among politicians and citizens.  Again, there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Even lobbying – used wisely, ethically, and legally – has it’s purpose in the political process. Advocacy and grassroots activities inform and motivate the public  – how can this be a bad thing?

When the message is contrary to the Magisterium.

Under Keehan, the CHA Board has become a platform for liberal Catholics, many demonstrating pro-abortion tendencies as evidenced by their political support. A Newsmax article reported that several members of the CHA Board supported openly pro-abortion politicians. Some people will argue that politicians – even Catholic politicians – need to be accountable to the needs of all of their constituents. The Citizen thinks this is nonsense. How can people trust an elected representative who will betray a basic tenet of their faith? The Board – as appointed members of a Catholic association of Catholic hospitals – are not answerable to non-Catholic constituents. They are answerable to the millions of Catholics who entrust the CHA with the dollars they give in church and during annual Bishop Appeals. One member of the Board donated $10,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in 2008.

This is the team that Keehan put together.

Keehan supported Tom Daschle for Secretary of HHS. Daschle has a 50% approval rating from NARAL, so that’s not too bad, right? Not really.While he voted against partial-birth abortions, he has voted to support abortion on military bases, voted to support abortions performed by military health care providers overseas, and voted to expand the ‘lines’ available for embryonic stem cell research.  Embryonic stem cells come from aborted fetuses. Why did Daschle get a 50%? NARAL doesn’t like people to say ‘no’ – ever. His stance against partial-birth abortion is the only position he takes that is contrary to their agenda. And Keehan, a ‘religious sister’ of the Catholic Church, supported this man.

Keehan supported the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act’ – often referred to as Obamacare. Her support was remembered by a grateful regime who rewarded Catholic Charities with a $100 million federal grant. That’s substantially more than 30 pieces of silver – I wonder if it was worth the price? Well, she also got one of the 21 pens that Obama used to sign the bill into law.

One can argue that this is her job – to advocate for her association. Earning markers for throwing the significant weight of the Catholic hospitals to promote a political agenda. To win over the support of thousands of Catholics who see a Catholic health organization supporting this legislation – despite the protests of a handful of grassroots activists and some bloggers. One can make that argument – and be wrong.

Catholic social teaching is not a balance scale. We cannot as a religion support legislation that advances some worthwhile goals at the expense of actions that are inimical to the Magisterium. Catholic Bishops speaking individually and as a body through the USCCB, categorically stated that this bill as it was passed was contrary to the teachings of the Church and cannot be endorsed by the Catholic Church. As the body of Catholic bishops in America, the USCCB spoke not simply as a collection of Bishops but for all Catholic organizations and agencies that fall under their purview. Carol Keehan chose to ignore this injunction, joining a large number of Catholics lay and religious who are disobedient to the teachings of the Church.

Keehan was recently asked to resign her position on the board of a Catholic hospital run by the Knights of Malta, provoking a spate of controversy and bringing her in spotlight. Perhaps this is the beginning of the movement to reclaim the Catholic in Catholic health care.

One can only hope.

Deliver us from Liberation Theology…

The Citizen has mentioned liberation theology on many occasions, but has recently considered that this heresy has not been discussed in depth – and it is indeed a heresy. Unfortunately, many faithful Catholics, good and honest believers, have embraced this doctrine through indoctrination, error, poor catechesis, or through the ethical error known as the ‘appeal to tolerance (sometimes known as liberalism). Other, better informed Catholics, continue to espouse this doctrine as a means of ‘reforming’ the Catholic Church. And – I fear – there are those who hate the Church and seek to destroy it by using this method to divide the community. Liberation theology has been described as

“…an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor’s suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor”. – Phillip Barryman

It is an almost exclusively Catholic heresy, though elements of this doctrine have been – and are being – adopted by other Christian denominations. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian Dominican, is considered to be the founder of liberation theology. In 1971, he wrote A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation. In this book, he articulated that the Church had a responsibility to the poor, that poverty was a condition that was unjust. There are few people who will argue these points. Furthermore, he asserts that poverty is the fault of ‘unjust and sinful’ social structures – that society is to blame for poverty and that Christians have an obligation to change these structures. This is where Gutierrez sets the groundwork for heresy.

Christ speaks of the poor quite often in the Gospels – a fact that liberation theology adherents are quick to mention. They neglect to mention that Christ often used metaphors and analogies – in fact, these tools are the basis of using parables as a teaching tool. To the liberation theologian, the ‘Sword’ Christ brings is ‘social unrest’ and not the flame that will cleanse us all of Original Sin. Christ’s ministry becomes a crusade of class action – the poor against the wealthy, the outcast over the conformist. To Gutierrez and his followers, Christ is a progenitor of Marx, a great hero whose greatest contribution to Mankind was not his Passion but preaching the holiness of class warfare. This latter philosophical ‘construct’ placed the concept of Liberation theology beyond the acceptable teachings of the Church. Pope John Paul II argued that there is great need to address the concerns of poverty and to seek to redress economic injustices when he criticized “…the ever increasing wealth of the rich at the expense of the ever increasing poverty of the poor.” He argued the need for the principle of economic and political reform to allow for “…a more just and equitable distribution of goods.” He also condemned liberation theology as a system that seeks to recast our Savior as “…a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth.” This is a great sin of this heresy. Christ came from Heaven as a man to save us from original sin. Atonement theology discusses the biblical clues given us in Mark 10:45:

For the Son of man also is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.

This was the reason He came. To pay the price for the sin that drove us from Paradise. His teachings were another gift – a ‘roadmap’ to ensure that we would be ready to re-enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church was his gift to the faithful, a gift that has been handed down from one steward to the next for some two thousand years. Unfortunately, elements of Christ’s message could  – and would – be manipulated and subverted for baser causes. The Pope realized that socialism could easily supplant the Catholic Church – and in some places in Latin America, liberation theology has created a ‘shadow church’ that pays token lip service to the Holy See. Even in the United States, liberation theologians like Michael Pfleger have created turmoil, unrest, dissent, and confusion. Liberation theology has muddied the Catechism with its reliance on ‘the greater good’ principle. Liberation theology as applied to the illegal immigration debate in the United States violates not only Catholic doctrine but the laws of the United States.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church compels political authorities to

… to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him. (CCC 2241)

The liberation theologian will argue that this makes any laws limiting or abrogating immigration is contrary to the Magisterium. They often use this passage to amplify what they believe to be the Gospel’s clear doctrine of the ‘preferential option for the poor’.  This doctrine holds that God will place the poor over all others in the next world. Again, this is an oversimplification at best. The liberation theologian forgets that the Beatitudes read “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Or they would like you to forget that last bit. Wealthy nations do indeed have an obligation to aid those in need. And the United States has a long history of doing so. the USAID website provides a wealth of data showing American charity. An immediate example is the half-billion dollars that the US sent to aid Haiti in the wake of their earthquake. Other wealthy nations were close behind in their generosity. What Fr Gutierrez and his ilk fail to admit is that much of the money donated goes to corrupt governments. A number of stories have emerged sharing how hundreds of millions of dollars donated to Haiti were consumed by administrative ‘overhead’ – much of the money squandered by the UN. By now, there are some who are looking for evidence to show that in ‘real’ dollars or as a percentage of GNP, the United States isn’t the most generous of nations – and they would be right. Constitutionally speaking, the United States as a government should be limited in how it spends money domestically and abroad. America’s generosity lies not in our government but in its citizens. Consistently, Americans top the list of charitable giving. And – in most cases – Catholics top the list of charitable givers. For reasons of law and political authority, the United States is a nation that provides it’s citizens to be generous with the money they have earned. Speaking as an historian, the federal government violates the spirit – if not the letter – of its constitutional authority with social welfare programs. One can argue that corruption and abuse of power rationalized the liberation theology support of political ‘reform’ in the form of adopting Marxist forms of government. This is a serious flaw of liberation theology, and the core of it’s heresy. Gutierrez and others actually borrow Marxist terms in defining their theology. Praxis is a term used to describe human action. Liberation theology argues that praxis is more important than doctrine.

“But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.” – Gustavo Gutierrez

This is not just a call for change, but a clarion cry for the overthrow of existing governments. It is a call for the socialist utopia, the classless society. Like Marxist thinkers, Gutierrez expounds at length on the value of history as a call for social praxis. The Captivity of Jews in Egypt – a call for reform. The itinerant ministry of Christ – a call to raise up the poor and bring low the wealthy, the selfish, and the landed. The abuse of people in Latin America – by their own governments – a charge against wealth and capitalism. From Exodus to the Eucharist – all are politicized by liberation theology. The community of believers is replaced by the ‘class struggle’. The social order Gutierrez calls for is the social order of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez. If Liberation Theologians are willing to embrace the article 2241 of the Catholic Catechism, they like to ignore the next article:

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. 2242

This is where Gutierrez – and more significantly – those who followed him – fall into grave error. In the case of illegal immigration – the ‘hot button’ issue among Catholics  -this article expressly defines that states have the absolute and proper right to write and enforce laws that promote the common good of all of their citizens. It furthermore places obligations upon the guest to respect the laws and customs of the host nation. Liberation Theologians will argue that the needs of the poor and the social praxis of poverty outweigh the selfish laws of a wealthy nation. This article contradicts this position authoritatively. This willingness to ignore authority is perhaps the most dangerous flaw in this heresy. Liberation theology places it’s reliance on orthopraxis. Orthopraxy means ‘correct action’ and emphasizes the importance of doing what is expected over faith or grace. Family, social and cultural traditions, and other humanist values are foremost in a orthopraxy. Orthodoxy means ‘correct belief’ and is the basis of the Catholic Church. Liberation theology by its very nature is contrary to the practices and philosophy of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, articulated this issue at great length and with great authority in “Liberation Theology: Preliminary Notes“; instead of trying to redact his work here, I simply state the précis of the argument. Liberation theology is like liberal politics – both are  popular because they relieve for their followers the onus of having to think for themselves. To have to take personal responsibility. The burden of public aid lies on the back of the State, not the Citizen. They don’t have to weigh the possible good of an action against the possible harm the action could engender. They don’t have to make any judgment calls, and everyone is welcome under the ‘big tent.’ They confuse tolerance with good judgment. Even more importantly, under these systems, followers don’t have to get their own hands dirty. Liberals like a state that tends to the needs of all – that means they don’t have to do it themselves. Let the government run soup kitchens, provide housing, healthcare, the necessities. The Citizen is a strong believer in using the tenets of the Faith to influence my civic life. My faith compels me to openly and actively oppose abortion and the death penalty as they are inimical evils and cannot be countenanced. Locally, I support our soup kitchens, shelters, and other institutions that address poverty. My political, social, charitable, and economic activities reflect my belief that it is our Christian duty to aid those in need, and I use my votes and influence to effect public policy to reflect those values. Note that all of these activities are conducted using my money and my individual vote. Perhaps more important, my political activities are legal. Unfortunately for the liberation theologians and liberals, the Beatitudes call upon us as individuals to practice works of charity and mercy. And I – like many Catholics – do give of my time, talent, and treasure. I am also a strong believer in the rule of law. In the case of illegal immigration, it is not just a social issue, it is an issue of laws being violated, a nation’s sovereignty violated, and uninvited guests placing burdens on a society that has problems tending to its own. Christ told us ‘…the poor you have always with you.’ Gutierrez and his followers missed a chance to do something wonderful. Some of them understood the need to aid those in need, to fulfill our Christian duties to help our brothers and sisters as we would help our Lord. All of these could be done – are being done – without resorting to heretical practices.

A Prayer for Our Nation

As we approach the Fourth of July, one of the most significant holidays in the United States, the Citizen would like to share a prayer I  composed for a lecture on Citizenship last Fall. I decided that this was an appropriate moment to share this prayer with you all.

Lord, in your Infinite Wisdom, you have inspired men and women to forge this great nation. If ever a state was founded upon the principles of the Bible, it is truly the United States. No other nation has given it’s people the power – and the privilege – to effect and influence the lives of so many. Please help us to be aware of the gift and the responsibilities that this power grants us all.  We beseech You to stretch Your hand over those serving our nation, our soldiers and our leaders.  Fill them with Your Presence that they may see what is Right.

O Jesus, You gathered men and women to do Your work for the time when You returned to the Father in Heaven.  Grant us the wisdom and the courage to be Your disciples, the strength to work Your will in exercising our civic duties.

Blessed Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Patron of this nation, please fill our hearts with love and reverence. Please intercede for us, that we may be enkindled by the Holy Spirit with the grace to know what is right and the conviction to ensure that God’s will be done.

For Your Many Blessings, we thank You, O Lord. For Your Glory, not ours, let us go forth.

We ask these things through the Lord Jesus Christ and our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

Amen.

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