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Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > September 2012 > Conventional Bloviations
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Conventional Bloviations

By Very Rev. Robert Barron

I have to confess that I don’t care much for the speeches delivered at national political conventions. Even the most modest attempts at eloquence produce moistened eyes, and even the most banal observations are invariably met with thunderous applause. I think that Bill Clinton’s speech at this year’s Democratic gathering was interrupted by rapturous ovations approximately every twenty seconds, making it fifteen minutes longer than the former President’s notoriously lengthy address at the 1988 convention. Also, the television reporters unfailingly characterize the bloviations of any nominee as “the speech of his life.” We’re an awfully long way from the Gettysburg Address, which was delivered in the course of a few minutes and met mostly with puzzlement, but managed to simultaneously be deeply rational and truly poetic. But what bothers me most about convention speakers is how they appeal to their uncritically partisan audiences precisely by caricaturing their opponents’ positions.

I will give just two examples, one from each of the conventions. Time and again, Mitt Romney painted Barack Obama as a “big government” man, an advocate of “European-style socialism,” and someone inimical to “small business.” True enough, the Democratic philosophy—and Obama is one of the most ideologically pure Democrats to emerge in national politics since George McGovern—tends to favor statist solutions to economic problems. Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” are particularly clear cases in point. But if the Catholic principle of subsidiarity is right, then sometimes “big” government is “right” government. In other words, if an economic or political problem cannot be solved at lower and more local levels of organization, then it ought to be referred to the highest and most federalized level, for in that case it would be unjust to do otherwise.

Catholic social teaching speaks of distributive justice, which means the right or balanced relation between the government and the social whole. The goods of a society need to be distributed rightly or fairly, and the monitoring of this process is one of the principle responsibilities of government. Thus, to cite simply the most obvious example, the federal authority has the right to tax citizens and to use those funds for the achievement of a common good that could never be otherwise realized. Does anyone think that civil defense, the construction of a national highway system, the maintaining of programs of social welfare, Medicare and Medicaid, etc., could be brought about and maintained at a level lower than the federal? And does anyone, apart from the most extreme Tea Party advocates, really think that the economic disaster of four years ago could have been addressed without any intervention on the part of Washington? To be sure, people of good will might disagree about the details, but I think it is hard to argue that some measure of “big” government was required to ameliorate that situation.

So the relevant question is not “big” versus “small” government; it is “just” vs. “unjust” or “effective” vs. “ineffective” government. Which is better, big or small, federal or local? The only valid answer—and the one corresponding to Catholic social teaching—is “it depends.”

Now there was at least an equal amount of caricaturing and simplifying on the Democratic side as well. In the course of his stem-winding address, Bill Clinton, over and again, laid out a stark either/or. The Republicans, he maintained, held to a dog-eat-dog, “you’re-on-your-own” individualism, whereby the economically advantaged become stronger and the marginalized become weaker. But the Democrats, he contended, are the party of social cohesion, togetherness, cooperation and compassion. Whereas Republicans subscribed to a Hobbesian (even Ayn Randian) vision of ruthless competition, Democrats opted for the beautiful community of love and mutual support. The philosophical assumption behind Clinton’s speech, which was mirrored exactly in a documentary film that the Democrats produced for the convention, is that government is the privileged instrument of social cohesion, the principal means by which we find community. As I suggested above, Catholic social teaching does indeed hold that, sometimes and in some ways, government plays an indispensible role in achieving social justice. But it also insists that there are a myriad of mediating institutions that play a far more important role in producing real social cohesion. Churches, schools, social organizations, clubs, unions, societies, neighborhood groups, and above all, families, contribute mightily to the shaping of the beautiful community. People learn, for example, that “dog-eat-dog” is an incorrect attitude, not so much from federal legislation, but from pulpits, conversations around the family table, encounters with fellow citizens, the gentle correction of friends and neighbors, the daily fulfilling of professional obligations, etc. When these institutions have broken down or are ignored, then we are left with the unhappy binary option of “the individual” vs. “the government.”

I know that many people find convention speeches inspiring and uplifting, but I would recommend that you don’t pay a lot of attention to them. Your time would be much better spent reading the documents of the Catholic social teaching tradition. In those texts, you will find a balanced expression of what is actually best in both the Democratic and Republican philosophies—without the attendant distortions.

Posted: 9/14/2012 12:00:00 AM by Word On Fire | with 30 comments

Ron Alexander
I'm a great admirer of yours and listen regularly to your web sermons, talks, and I have the Catholicism series, as well as the Eucharist DVD. But I disagree with you on politics. You betray your hand with "bloviations."

First, Bill Clinton gave the best political speech since William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and the Cross of Gold speech. The reason: Clinton spoke about complex issues in a way that captured their essence, explained the problem with the Romney/Ryan positions, and summed up why the Obama position was specific and defensible, whereas Romney / Ryan was vague and evasive.

Second, the Romney / Ryan platform is, basically, duplicitous. They hide behind vagueness and an absence of details. Their intent, as reflective of Tea Party policies, is to dismantle the social contract of the New Deal, necessitated by the collapse of capitalism in the 1930s. So, "subsidiarity" is not the issue. Rather, the issue is caring for the elderly, the poor, the young, the sick and disabled. In addition, Romney/Ryan will endanger social security and medicare. These issues all require a nationwide solution. This is what Obama proposes and what Romney / Ryan are evading.

Unfortunately, Christian charity and love of neighbor is to be found only in the Democratic party. We need the Republicans to practice what they preach about Christian values.
9/26/2012 5:31:11 PM
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John Melton
I think that Ron Alexander did an excellent job of making Father Barron's point about bloviating.
9/26/2012 9:33:31 PM
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Ron Alexander
Well, that advances the conversation.
9/27/2012 12:05:58 AM
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Ron Alexander
A few additional observations, if I may: In the context of political Party conventions, my reference to “Republicans” and “Democrats”, in each case, was qua Party, as represented by their candidates’ policies, positions, and pronouncements. “General statements” have their place in trying to convey a point of view while consuming a minimum of words, especially on blogs. They are “bloviations” only if they are empty of supportive facts. I am happy to discuss specifics if you like. But then you need to be specific in your objections. Father Barron is correct that in party conventions there often is too much vapid generality. I can think of an offensive speech to an empty chair by an aging actor, totally disrespectful of the office of the president of the United States. Father Barron is correct that problems that are local in nature should be handled at the local level (“subsidiarity”). The issues at stake in this election (medicare, social security, programs for the poor, the “social contract” we have had as a people for the past 80 years) are not local issues but rather are properly addressed at the national level. Finally, whether Republican or Democrat, I presume we are all Christians here – on Father Barron’s blog. We must be mindful of Christ’s imperatives. I refer you to Matthew 25:37 (“Lord when was it …”) and John 21:15 (“Feed my lambs...”). These commands are absolute. Twice Romney has said he “doesn’t worry about the poor” or the “47% percent.” Ryan’s plan has been called “not possible mathematically.” These, to my ears, should be seriously troubling to any Christian. Finally, I refer you to Proverbs 1:20 and the words of “Wisdom [crying] out in the street” (…“how long will scoffers delight in their scoffing”), which, you may recall, we heard read in church on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
9/27/2012 7:13:44 AM
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Chris Hurtubise
The elephant in the room is that all of the talk of the Democrats being the party of solidarity is nonsense while they continue to be radical advocates of abortion. Solidarity in its most basic form is standing up for the unquestionably most vulnerable amongst us. As our bishops have pointed out, voting for candidates that support and seek to advance intrinsic evils (e.g. abortion, euthanasia, so-called 'gay marriage', etc.) places our own salvation in peril.

Catholics who support the Democrats on the other issues face a difficult situation, but one thing is clear: we must not vote for pro-choice politicians.
10/4/2012 2:24:49 PM
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Ron Alexander
Agreeing that abortion is a sin, it does not follow, at least to me, that one must vote solely on the basis of that issue. There are other sins as well.

Suppose candidate A opposed abortion but supported “unjust, aggressive war” (as defined by the Catholic Church); while candidate B believed abortion should be “legal, safe, and rare,” but opposed “unjust, aggressive war.” Millions die in abortion; and millions die in unjust war. What is the Catholic choice?

Candidate B does not force anyone to get an abortion. The Church is free to evangelize against it. No abortion need necessarily occur.

While, Candidate A, in my hypothetical, will, it is assumed, start an “unjust, aggressive war” and millions will die.

In this hypothetical, I believe one is morally bound to vote for Candidate B, and, indeed, to continue to lobby, etc, against abortion at any level.

There are many sins. An electoral choice, informed by a Catholic faith, must, I believe, be well reasoned and balanced. I’m not a theologian, and I wonder if the Catholic church agrees. Christ did not preach specifically against abortion (at least that I know of; yes, murder is a sin, but I’m talking about the specific case of an unborn child), while he did command against other sins, specifically, neglecting the poor and needy, for which many are damned.

Do we privilege the avoidance of one sin and look with tolerance upon the perpetuation of all the others?

My world is not simple as that.
10/4/2012 10:12:33 PM
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Chris Hurtubise
Ron - the church specifically posits a hierarchy of issues. My comment was largely based on a letter written by Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wis. stating that the best means of defending and taking care of the poor is open to debate and that the Republican and Democrats positions both lie with in an acceptable spectrum of possible methods. He goes on to say, however, that voting for candidates that openly support intrinsic evils like abortion, euthanasia, so-called 'gay marriage' is an unacceptable.

Your hypothetical worse evil which would justify voting for pro-choice candidates is hypothetically possible, but certainly isn't present in the upcoming election.

I would recommending listening to what the bishops are saying:

Here is Bishop Morlino's letter:

Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. also has a very helpful video essay along the same lines:
10/6/2012 10:49:06 AM
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Ron Alexander
Thank you for your kind comment. I am grateful for your civility. Quite rare on blogs. As you may gather from my comments, these are issues I struggle with. I will now read the links. But I wanted to thank you first, so that regardless of my reaction to the specifics, you will know that I appreciate your generosity of spirit.
10/6/2012 3:51:13 PM
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Ron Alexander
I have listened to Bishop Parocki’s talk and will comment on that. Putting aside that he is a bishop of the church, it is evident that he is a kind and loving Christian. May God bless him. Would that the grace of God radiated from each of us as it does from his countenance.

My reaction, I fear, may meet with your disapproval, but here they are. I will frame my reactions around three questions: First, what is the role of religion in politics? Second, when are voters complicit in “positive evil” in voting for a particular candidate? Third, when do “prudential judgments about the most effective means” belie an underlying negation of “morally desirable ends?”

[Before I start, please forgive me if I speak with some generality. I do not mean to engage in “bloviations” but neither can I write a lengthy tome, although I seem to be taking up a lot of space on his blog entry, and this entry just adds to it.]

First, our Constitution prohibits “religious tests”. See Article VI, para. 3, which states “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I am a Christian and the most important aspect of my life is my relationship with God in the hope of my eternal salvation. I believe candidates for the presidency must be moral and virtuous people. I believe a candidate’s fidelity to a God-based religion is a prime evidentiary basis for that determination. I use “God-based religion” because I include not only Christians, but also Jews, Mormons, and perhaps, someday, other religions as well. But beyond insuring qualities of morality and virtue, there is a line where the prohibition of religious tests kicks in if we entangle religion and politics too much. I believe, from his comments, the good bishop agrees with this.

Second, a voter who votes for a candidate who espouses “positive evil” is indeed, complicit, as Bishop Parocki says, in that evil. And each voter must look to a multitude of sources for a determination of what is “positive evil,” including their lifetime of learning, their life’s experiences, and, indeed, their religious beliefs, including religious tenets announced by their church authorities.

With respect to the question of “positive evil,” I distinguish two situations: 1. where “positive evil” will be done directly by the candidate; versus 2. where a “positive evil” may be done by others but not prohibited by policies supported by a candidate. For example, abortion is “positive evil.” But no Democrat says that anyone must get an abortion. So, this is a #2 situation, rather than a #1 situation. Why I am making this distinction will become clear (I hope) in my response to my third question.

Third, in his talk, Bishop Paprocki says (at minute 5:11 – 5:25) “One might argue for different methods in the [Republican] platform to address the needs of the poor, to feed the hungry, and to solve the challenges of immigration, but these are prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils."

This is the heart of the matter for me. Here again, I distinguish two situations: 1. Republicans wanting to “address the needs of the poor, to feed the hungry” etc. and sincerely advocating a set of solutions that are genuinely intended to accomplish those ends; versus [now bear with me for a second, I’m about to “bloviate” …] 2. Republicans wanting no such thing, but making political pronouncements that may appear to address those ends, but in reality do not. I know that last phrase is a bold and broad statement. But, based on all I’ve read, I believe the neoliberal policies from Reagan to Bush II, to Ryan and Romney are, indeed intended to only widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor in this country. This is the core upon which all my commentary on this blog is based. You may disagree, and I suspect you do. But, just for a minute further, accept my premise for purposes of this discussion.

So, if you will allow me my premise, then I have a choice: In my view, the Democrats do not perform acts of “positive evil” (in terms of abortion etc.), i.e., situation #2 in the “evil” category, but the Democrats perform acts designed sincerely to help the poor and hungry etc. While, in my view, the Republicans oppose “positive evil” in the categories of abortion, etc., … all to the good …, but, in my view, the Republicans abandon, effectively, the poor, the hungry, the needy. Why I believe that would be the subject of a separate and lengthy blog entry in itself, and I’ve already written too much.

So, I believe the moral choice is to balance less than optimal situations. I balance these for the Democrats. Would that we lived in a world where we all reflected the grace of God and radiated to one another his love, which he gives us and we return to him and to each other. I fear that place is called heaven, and we are left, here on earth, with moral compromises among suboptimal situations.

Of course, if the Republicans continued to oppose abortion but sincerely advocated helping the poor and needy, rather than the rich and powerful, then they’d have my vote in an instant. But neoliberalism prohibits that… for it implies a “big government” (another topic for another blog entry).

As Fr. Barron says after each sermon: “may God bless you.” ... Amen.

[My apologies to the webmaster for my ramblings.]
10/6/2012 5:18:30 PM
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Could not agree with Ron more. I am not an American citizen (although have spent some time there) but cannot imagine myself voting for Romney or, hypothetically, for the Republican party in general. I think you have to look at a party in the context of the last few decades, and the Republican behaviour both domestically and abroad have been drastically anti-Christian. I can't say to many positive words about the Democrats, and I guess in politics it is always a choice between two evils, but Obama clearly seem the lesser one. If the abortion issue necessarily had to be the decisive one (although we all know Romney has not been consistent here and is not going to do anything about it), well, than I guess the lesser evil would be not to vote at all.
10/8/2012 9:37:47 AM
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Could not agree with Ron more. I am not an American citizen (although have spent some time there) but cannot imagine myself voting for Romney or, hypothetically, for the Republican party in general. I think you have to look at a party in the context of the last few decades, and the Republican behaviour both domestically and abroad have been drastically anti-Christian. I can't say to many positive words about the Democrats, and I guess in politics it is always a choice between two evils, but Obama clearly seem the lesser one. If the abortion issue necessarily had to be the decisive one (although we all know Romney has not been consistent here and is not going to do anything about it), well, than I guess the lesser evil would be not to vote at all.
10/8/2012 9:40:13 AM
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Chris Hurtubise
Ron - Civility is essential for a reasoned discourse, just as it is essential for a lived-out Catholic faith. :)

Our common ground seems to be rather limited, so I proceed with some hesitation.

Nevertheless, I think we have gotten to the heart of the issue here. You appear to be comfortable setting aside the fact that the Democrats advocate and legislate intrinsic evils such as:

1. Ever-expanding abortion and euthanasia 'rights'
2. Attacks on religious freedom and conscience, which force intrinsic evils upon the citizenry (contrary to your position)
3. So-called 'gay marriage'

...since you believe the Republican's platform (purposefully) denigrates the poor and seeks to increase the poverty gap.

You are correct in assuming that I disagree (heartily) with your position about conservative economic theory. But I don't think this is the place to hash out that economic question (which the two bishops mentioned above quite rightly leave to the laity and their domain in the secular sciences).

As your position stands in defiance of the bishops defense of Catholic teaching, I am afraid our conversation is more or less at an end. If you could point to authoritative Church teaching that can defend your position, I would be eager to see it.

All of that being said, I do appreciate your civility as well -- it is, indeed, far too rare, even amongst brothers in Christ.

God bless you as well!
10/9/2012 3:31:14 PM
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Ron Alexander
I note in todays' (11 Oct) Washington Post, there is an article ("Rommney tacking closer to the center") which states that on Tuesday Romney told the Des Moines Register editorial board that "there's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda." I suppose Romney could write some legislation as president, but the implication is that Romney isn't going to make a big deal over abortion. So, where are we? Where are the Republicans? And where is the Catholic church on complicity with evil? For what are we to abandon the poor, the 47% (I know he apologized ...)? And finally what is the Catholic church's position on truth telling? And don't say they all do it.
10/11/2012 6:46:17 AM
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Chris Hurtubise
Ron -

There is no question which candidate will do more to advance abortion, euthanasia, attacks on conscience rights, and so-called gay marriage.

President Obama is one of the most radically pro-choice politicians the national stage has ever seen. His record and those of his cabinet are clear.

I don't have high hopes that Mitt Romney will be a crusader for life, staking his political career on pro-life issues -- would that he would! Nevertheless, as the bishops have pointed out, he does not support intrinsic evil.

The framework laid forth by the bishops about voting for candidates who support intrinsic evils still stands as my guidelines. Your conscience is free and you can certainly reject the our shepherds' position.

Thank you for the amicable and charitable conversation. God bless!
10/11/2012 2:05:25 PM
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Mary Christison
Besides the evil of abortion, the morality of our growing debt needs to be front and center as Catholics consider their political choices. According to the US Treasury Dept we spend a billion dollars per day to service our national debt. Granted some of this interest goes to U.S. bond holders, it also goes to the governments of other countries. Not only could this billion a day be spent on programs here, these are real dollars paid by tax payers, through hours toiled.

Where is Christian charity and love in supporting an ever growing national debt, with respect to the human and natural resources required to be taken to pay just even the daily interest on our debt? It becomes a moral issue.
10/14/2012 4:19:43 PM
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friend of the Virgin-Mary
Ron: In my church it is mostly republicans who give to the poor, that are true social justice champions by helping ALL including those most vulnerble(sic: the unborn) and the democrats who sit back, whine, and expect help. So we need to only look at your back yard, and see the truth, not all that bloviating about the how bad others are, and how great your party is.
10/18/2012 9:51:42 AM
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Ron Alexander
You raised an excellent point. My wife and I discuss this point all the time: individual help v. government help (not so much along party lines, but "subsidiarity", if you will). My wife's position is that we should individually take responsibility for helping our friends and neighbors; it shouldn't be a "big government" responsibility. We give in our small way; Romney gives millions through his church. I believe this is consistent with the best aspects of the "American Myth" (i.e., legend) of "frontier self-reliance."

My struggle with that approach is the following: First, yes we all should help each other. It is good for our soul to do so. Christ commands it. But, second, we are a nation of 300+ million people, scattered across a continent. Does the "frontier self-reliance/help your neighbor" really work? It's great as an aspirational goal, but our society has gotten too complex to rely on a "village" / "frontier self-reliance - help your neighbor" model.

So, while I certainly agree that we each have an individual moral imperative that we must meet (certainly as Christians we do), we, nonetheless, as a society of 300+ million people must devise solutions that comport with the complexity of modern life.

It would be nice not to close this post with a reference to whether Democrats do more or Republicans do more. I guess it pretty obvious what I think along that score.
10/18/2012 10:42:47 AM
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Ron Alexander
One element of our on-going discussion is “subsidiarity”, one form of which is sending money to the states to handle their problems locally.

So, I’m at the Corner Bakery today, thinking about the post I made earlier this morning. I'm eating lunch (a chopped salad, hold the bacon, hold the cheese, extra avocado, no bread, just water to drink … I’m trying to be good) and I’m reading the Wall Street Journal (18 Oct). There’s an article entitled “States Shift Foreclosure-Suit Funds” (here’s the link:

Seven months ago, March, 5 big banks reached a $25B settlement to help distressed homeowners facing foreclosure. $2.5B of that settlement went to 49 states for the states to help distressed homeowners and help relieve the foreclosure crisis many Americans are facing. So, what did the states (an example of “subsidiarity”) do with the money?

Of the $2B, $1B is going to help distress homeowners, but $1B is going into the general funds to help close budget deficits, and $500M is still undecided. Of the 49 states, only 14 are using all of the funds and 9 are using most of the funds (23 out of 49, about 50%) for the intended purposes.

Now, I assume that funds diverted to the general funds of a state are indeed being used for laudable public purposes: I’m not at all suggesting diversion of fraud or waster. But seven months into this, only 40% of the funds are being used for their intended purposes: helping distressed homeowners facing foreclosure.

I hope the $22.5B in settlement money being disbursed by the 5 banks will be used for their intended purposes. I strongly suspect they will be, pursuant to the settlement agreement.

But my point is that when we talk about “subsidiarity” (as another example, block grants in Medicare back to the states, with vouchers for people), we are quite possibly walking straight into the type of state-level issues that today’s WSJ article exemplifies. Is the federal government any better? Are private banks any better? All good questions. But “small government,” leave it to the states (still government), “subsidiarity” is no panacea either.
10/18/2012 12:06:57 PM
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Chris Cloutier
I believe that government is force, and government seeks mostly to increase it's power and hegemony. Government can only give to someone that which it has taken from another who has earned it first. The institutions of civil society Ie churches, charitable orgs, strong families etc, are best able to handle the immediate needs of those less fortunate. There is too much corruption, abuse, and waste at the federal level. Programs like Social Security, and Medicare would be more efficient and better serve the needs of people if handled in the private sector, instead of a government monopoly. These programs are all in serious financial trouble as our politicians have promised more and more to the people in order to get their vote. This idea of government as a benefactor is insidious. What government gives, it can take away.

I disagree with Fr Barrons comment that what can't be solved at a more local level of government should then be moved up to the highest and most federalized level. It should then go to the next highest level of government, and only as a last resort should it go to the feds. And what is wrong with seeking solutions in the pvt sector first. If government solutions are so great, why are we 16 trillion dollars in debt. That is a truly obscene burden on all of us. A trillion seconds was 32,000 years ago. This can't be repayed with sound money, so the gov't will devalue the dollar to inflate away the debt. How does this help the less fortunate? And what about personal responsibility-that gets left out in many discussions regarding the social contract.

One last comment is about Romneys 47% comment. He made that comment to a group of supporters in the context that 47% of the voters would vote for Obama no matter what he did or said. I think it is preposterous to portray it as many do, that Romney cares not a whit for 47% of the people in this country. Lets have a little bit of intellectual honesty here. A lie repeated often enough becomes believable. This is a man who donated every penny of his inheritance to charity, and served as a missionary for 21/2 years. Certainly not the mark of a man who doesn't care.

Fr Barrons sermons and writings are always thought provoking, and he is truly a gift from God.
10/24/2012 7:29:49 AM
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Gloria Knapp
I am tonight, and all day today, praying. I'm praying that Almighty God shall somehow lessen His hand upon the earth and it's people, I spent most of my life studying Nursing in College. Not once did they mention the evils of Abortion, but being Catholic, I knew, Obama has shredded my medical profession. He's mutilated it. And before 2 weeks is up, I shall make a video telling Obama that he can wait till the end of the world but he shall not Make me participate in Euthenasia, Abortion, RU 486.

America, The supreme Court has won. Roe Wade has been accepted as OK. It's OK in the minds of most Americans to abort little babies, alive and well in their mother's wombs. Believe me, I have seen the results of brainwashing. Today is the day when Catholic women no longer doubt whether this is wrong or right. They don't even think about it. They walk into these clinics as though going to get their nails done.
Conscience? Don't's all ok...You're OK
I'm OK...that's how it all began.
Kennedy and his speech on the Senate floor, goes something like this, "It's NOT a baby! It's just Tissue! I shall never forget his words, never.
Jesus, Help us....
10/24/2012 11:05:38 PM
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Gloria Knapp
Abortion is the killing of a living baby in the womb of it's mother. We as doctors and nurses cannot participate, nor can we institute the procedure. The only time we can think of delivering a fetus before it has been born would be to try and deliver the baby without harming the baby and/or the mother. A mother can die delivering a child rather easily without anyone's assistance. She can hemorrhage, go into shock (as my daughter did due to a fractured leg) during anesthesia induction.
But we have no right to kill the baby to save the mother nor visa versa. Save both if you can and God shall take care of the one He wants to save.
10/24/2012 11:15:03 PM
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Jean Tarlton
Americans and Catholics will get what they deserve -- and what they voted for.
11/8/2012 10:57:55 AM
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Ron Alexander
According to the Pew Research Center, 50% of Catholics voted for Obama and 48% for Romney, notwithstanding the clear preference among Catholic prelates (wink wink, nod nod) for Romney/Ryan. Why?

Let’s put aside the abortion issue and the same-sex marriage issue. These have been much debated.

Let’s put aside Catholic approach to solidarity versus subsidiarity, also much debated, and shown not to work in a modern, continent-wide economy of over 300 million people.

Some months ago, on this blog, one responder directed me to Bishop Morlino’s letter entitled “Subsidiarity, solidarity, and the lay mission.” Bishop Morlino states that “violations of [the following] involve intrinsic evil – that is, an evil which cannot be justified by any circumstances whatsoever.

Before getting to that those “intrinsic evils” are let’s consider what this anathema means. Any “evil” within Bishop Morlino’s list of evils is, well, “intrinsically evil” and, by implication may not, upon penalty of eternal damnation, be countenanced by Catholics “under any circumstances.”

Among those “intrinsic evils” are “freedom of conscience” and “right to private property.” Further on in his letter, Bishop Morlino adds “socialism” to the list.

Let’s consider Bishop Morlino’s position, and ponder, perhaps, whether such positions led 50% of Catholics to vote for “intrinsic evil” aka the Democrats and President Obama.

First, “freedom of conscience,” presumably is only for Catholic consciousness. Contrary “consciousness” is, presumably, “intrinsic evil.”

Second, Bishop Morlino elevates the “right to private property” to a sacred right, the curtailment of which is, by implication, “intrinsic evil.”

Unfortunately for Bishop Morlino and Catholic doctrine, there is no absolute right to private property under the Constitution of the United States. The English common law, the American common law, the US Constitutional Law under the 5th and 14th Amendments regarding “takings” issues has, from time immemorial, acknowledged that private property is held subject to reasonable state regulation. Private property has always been subject to the state’s police power to prevent unsafe and other uses considered not in the public interest. So Bishop Morlino’s position on private property is strange in the extreme.

Third, what about “socialism?” What is “socialism?” Most people who condemn it probably can’t define it and don't understand it. All they know is that "socialism" is "intrinsically evil." Like all those evil people in Europe. (Not too many Catholics there, by the way. Wonder why?)

Are the following evidence of socialism: food stamps for the hungry; welfare (subject to time limitations and the imperative to find work) for mothers with children? If you answer yes, then I refer to the Bible and Jesus Christ on the subject of caring for the needy.

But let’s go further. Is unemployment insurance for those without a job socialism? By the same token, what of social security and medicare, are they socialism. If these are “socialism,” then any recipient of unemployment insurance, social security, and medicare are participating in “intrinsic evil” and are condemned to eternal damnation. There goes the entire Catholic flock in the United States.

What about FEMA and emergency public aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy?

What about tax policy that is called “public expenditures” like deductions for charitable contributions. Why should the federal government grant relief from federal taxation for someone giving a pledge to the Catholic church, or any other religious institution. Isn’t that socialism … the support of the state for individuals in pursuit of private purposes. So every Catholic who takes a charitable deduction on their federal income tax returns is participating in “socialism” and participating with “intrinsic evi.”

What about the Small Business Administration that aids small business start up their businesses? What about Pell Grants that aids poor students get an education so that they too can start up businesses?

All socialism. The point is that all these types of policies were considered “socialism” and worse 125 years ago in the United States. Go back to the 1890s and early 1900s and the progressives. They were condemned as socialists. Yet their policies have been adopted and become interwoven in the American social order. Not only in this country but around the world.

So perhaps seminaries should require a little US history before ordination?

Is it not clear that the position the Catholic Church on “intrinsic evil” is not only absurd but probably a pretty good indication of why 50% of Catholics voted for the other guy … you know the intrinsically evil Democrat, Barack Obama. By making these “evils” anathema, the Catholic church not only loses votes but loses parishioners as well.

Is it not time for the princes of the Catholic church to undergo an examination of conscience.
11/11/2012 3:19:40 PM
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Tiffany Fischer

You make it seem like you had to choose between a great sin (the killing of innocent babies) and a greater sin. So, what is the greater sin than the killing of babies that you voted against Mr Romney? You used the example of babies vs war but Mr. Romney was not waging a war as his campaign, right? Could you trust any man who calls himself a follower of Christ and supports the killing of babies? I was glad that President Obama ended the war in Iraq and now I had the choice of choosing someone who could end the war against babies. I liked the concept of changing health insurance in America but as needed, in baby steps to try to preserve free market and freedom of choice. Regulation or a competitive option would have been the most rational decision to get insurance under control. I don't see how any good American could reasonably argue with that.

As far as the unjust remark about the Catholic Church supporting unjust aggressive wars I think that you are mistaken. I am Catholic and fallow Jesus and there is nothing in the New Testament or Catechism that I have read that supports unjust aggressive war as a doctrine of the Catholic Church. If you can find otherwise in Catholic doctrine, please let us know. There is mention in the Catechism of taking defense against an aggressor but that is the opposite of an unjust aggressive war. Do I believe in war no, never, that is not Jesus' way. I think the war as a defensive measure is due to a lack of faith across the world and if people will unite the body of Christ then war will be obsolete. The body of Christ will be more powerful than any weapon that man can make.

11/27/2012 8:37:41 AM
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You did not address my post by answering my questions but only continued to defend your own beliefs with out regard for a reasonable comment and questions. Please directly answer my questions or consider yourself a non-listener...which would explain a lot about why 50% of "Catholic"'s who voted, voted Obama...btw you forgot the "who voted" part which is an important part of the practice of reasoning in the question of "why". Also, you forgot to mention the statistics that those Christians voting for Obama were "Christians". Again, an important aspect of reasoning is to know your statistics. Which brings up another good question Ron, how often do you go to Church, pray, read the Bible??? Please try to address questions in order asked to make the conversation more fluid.

11/27/2012 10:35:39 AM
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Ron Alexander
When the Catholic church (and Fr. Barron) preach the Eucharist and Christ Risen, they (and he) stand on holy ground. But when the Catholic church (including Fr. Barron) preach partisan politics (thinly veiled as Catholic Social Theology), they (and he) enter a contentious arena that puts at risk they very sanctity of their ministry.

When the Catholic church advocates on behalf of the poor, the needy, the forgotten, the forsaken, they do Christ’s work, and should be lauded. But, when the Catholic church advocates on behalf of the “sanctity” of private property and labels any “attack” thereon as “socialism” and “intrinsically evil,” then the Catholic church advocates on behalf of the very philistines whom Christ anathematized. The Catholic church then stands in peril of abandoning its own holy calling to serve in Christ’s name. And the Catholic church, in turn, is abandoned by a majority of its own (voting) flock.
11/27/2012 12:21:28 PM
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Ron Alexander
In the 1980s, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great admonished liberal/Marxist priests of Latin America who were advocating Catholic Liberation Theology because, … although preaching on behalf of the sick, the poor, the forsaken (which he supported), … they politicized the church. I am bold enough to speculate that were the Great Pope with us today he would admonish conservative/Tea Party prelates advocating Catholic Social Theology precisely because they politicize the church … putting aside the question of the "inviolable sanctity" of capitalism (which I doubt he would support).

The church is the body of Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world; the Catholic church should never be a lobbyist for the conservative Republican Party.
11/28/2012 8:53:26 AM
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With all due respect your thinking is backward and your understanding of exactly what conservatism espouses is extremely ignorant and upside down. You are a partisan who worships at the altar of the Democrats and you clearly despise conservatives and have no compunction in smearing and spreading outright fabrications about what they stand for and believe. To compare conservative/Tea Party people to the liberal marxist theology that was taught by priests in Latin America and is currently being taught and pushed by priests in America is beyond ludicrous but is especially downright scary.
Why are Christians and especially Catholics voting for Obama in such large numbers? Easy. They are poorly catechized and do not really believe the faith they claim to practice. You keep screaming about "unjust wars", exactly what is Obama doing in Afghanistan and with those Drones he seems to love so much? I mean when he's not selling guns to Mexican gangs which are used to slaughter civilians. You are rife with hypocrisy and I can only pray that God will lead you in the direction to turn your mind right side up for there exists order and understanding in such a mind.

Father Baron,
I enjoy listening to you but I find your understanding of government to be lacking. The Big society is nothing short of a Ponzi scheme and it has helped to bankrupt this nation and hook people on a dependency culture which looks to government as their "god" and has created nothing but a fragmented entitled throw God out the door society. In regards to the financial crisis 4 years ago, the crisis that was started because of government policies and their crony capitalists was "solved" by the same government who made said policy and was to the benefit of the same crony capitalists. Meaning money was stolen from the little people you want to protect. When or where was it preached to take from one to give to another? Aren't we supposed to make the choice to subjugate ourselves to Christ not be forced by government into subjugation? Is that really charity? When your forced?
You are such a smart man but I'm not sure you've ever read any of our founders or basic economics.
12/6/2012 9:37:30 PM
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Fr. Baron,
You can learn much from Alan Keyes at his blog Loyal to Liberty regarding how God has his hand in founding this country. Alan Keyes is a very good Catholic man and his understanding of these matters are vastly superior to yours at this point. I say this not in disrespect but out of respect.
12/6/2012 9:58:28 PM
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Deacon Dave
Just a few words to this string of comments. Most of what I have read in this blog string has little to do with the "truth" and more to do with worldly politics. Frankly I am sure Jesus would find a great deal of both good and evil in BOTH parties and their platforms. Each party has only a measure of Catholic Social thought in it but yet at the same time both ignore intrinsically evil positions as well. So as to not sound partisan neither party is immune to this blind eye mentality. Often we the electorate chooses to ignore or close our eyes to the evils in our own party while we point the finger at the evil in the other as I read in this blog. This is to argue that one evil can make another good. We must not forget that we are a people of faith not a people of party and if we elect people of one party or the other WE should hold them accountable to the whole of the truth and actively denounce any evil they may profess because to do otherwise is to denounce the truth and to deny Christ. Jesus Christ would not be a Democrat or a Republican because he was the TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH. Please put your faith ahead of your politics because that is where Christ is.
12/29/2012 8:16:16 PM
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