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Catholic in America: Decency and honesty … not too shabby

The Michigan Catholic

September 5, 2014

Al Kresta

Too often, it seems that the common decency and intellectual honesty that earlier generations expected from adults is no longer valued in our world more concerned with entertainment, consumerism, self-presentation and impression management. So three incidents of decency and honesty pleased me last week. Maybe they will correct some widely, if carelessly held assumptions.

First, do you often hear complaints from friends, co-workers, talk show hosts, and politicians that Muslims will not denounce the brutal, inhumane actions of their jihadist brethren? Apparently, we are supposed to conclude that Muslims secretly savor these beheadings and admire the courage and piety of these ISIS warriors but are just too religiously indifferent or politically correct to publicly admit it.

Now, keep in mind that very few of us read any of the many foreign-language Muslim newspapers. Also bear in mind that a billion Muslims from dozens of different countries holding various degrees of education, piety, and political sympathies can give even Gallup and Pew Research Center headaches. This question is certainly far more complex than my simple presentation conveys.

But in truth, as your own sense of decency probably suggests, many Muslims are revolted by ISIS. For instance, Egyptian sociologist Sa’d Al-Din Ibrahim wrote in the Egyptian daily, Al Masri Al-Yawm, that the Islamic State’s barbaric, racist and murderous treatment of Christians is reminiscent of the Nazis and Tatars, and does great harm to Islam. He called upon the, sadly silent, Arab League to condemn ISIS’s actions. A scathing July 24 editorial in the London-based Qatari daily, Al Quds Al-Arabi, called on fellow Muslims to condemn ISIS’s ethnic and religious cleansing as “cancerous” and “terrorist.” Those who won’t denounce these barbaric practices are complicit in crimes against humanity.

These editorials of common decency were highlighted in a “Special Dispatch” from the Middle East Media Research Institute. MEMRI, often accused of being uncritically pro-Israel, is certainly no apologist for Islam or Muslims. But basic decency, fairness and objectivity compelled them to challenge the common presumption that ISIS has universal Muslim support. Thank you, MEMRI.

Following the logic

Recently, another incident of public intellectual honesty pleased me. Last week, a federal judge declared a portion of Utah’s ban on polygamy unconstitutional, essentially decriminalizing polygamy in the state. It’s about time. I’m pleased. Not because I support polygamy, but because I hate the refusal of many of my fellow citizens to acknowledge the logic of our recent public decisions about the civil definition of marriage. Many states have recently rejected the traditional view of marriage. No longer can we assume that our civil authorities define marriage as a loving, intimate commitment between a man and a woman who vow to spend their lives together in the hope of becoming parents.

Advocates of so-called marriage equality have insisted that gender distinctions, male and female, are irrelevant for the definition of marriage. For years I’ve asked, however, that if gender doesn’t matter, then why does number? Even though societies have always recognized romance and affection in the lives of homosexuals, they have never accepted homosexual couples as candidates for marriage. Polygamy, on the other hand, has been with us through the patriarchs and monarchs of the Bible. Mohammad modeled polygamy, as did the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.

So if America is approving “marriage equality” for homosexual couples, then why not follow the logic and approve “marriage equality for homosexual and heterosexual polygamists? I’m glad a federal judge is pushing the logic along. The sooner we abandon the illusion that our culture has a rational foundation for marriage that will reinforce the moral norms held by Catholics, the better off we are. Perhaps, abandoned by American culture, Catholics will be forced to embrace Christ’s vision for marriage and human marital flourishing. Thank you, federal judge, for forcing us to remember to build the Church and, in time, we will bless the nation.

Refreshing response

Lastly, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise money for ALS research went viral. Early on, however, Catholics realized that the primary research institutions working on ALS used embryonic stem cells in their research. Almost reflexively, some Catholic voices felt it was necessary to scold these thoughtless bucketheads for being duped into supporting the destruction of embryos. A few ugly pieces were published. Almost immediately, wiser Catholics joined in playfully tweaking the challenge and channeling donations to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which only uses adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood stem cells in their research.

With very little effort, the Catholic response moved from prohibition and rebuke to frolic and gentle direction, from grousing on the sidelines to joining in the fun and bearing witness to the great work of Catholic medical researchers laboring within the moral law to end the suffering of more than 30,000 ALS patients.

Thank you, John Paul II Medical Research Institute, for faithfully laboring away unheralded by the larger medical community. Also, sorry that the response of fellow Catholics crashed your computers that first day. But not a bad problem to have.

All in all, a pretty decent week — honestly.

Al Kresta is president and CEO of Ave Maria Communications in Ann Arbor. His radio program, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” can be heard from 4-6 p.m. daily on 990 AM-WDEO and EWTN.



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