Friday, January 30, 2009

Stimulating an important debate

Well, we have a "stimulus" plan that has passed through the House. We can only hope that the Senate shows some restraint and eliminates everything in the bill that is not stimulus, but funding for new programs that will exist in perpetuity. A stimulus package should not be used as an end run around the normal appropriations process. The rhetoric and immediacy of getting Congress to act too quickly, without an opportunity to exercise their due diligence, is far too reminiscent of Hank Paulson's Chicken Little tactics to get the TARP passed. My hat is off to those members of the House who voted against this Trojan Horse crammed full of pork, which includes all House Republican representatives, plus 11 Democrats.

At least President Obama nixed an insane part of the stimulus, talked up so technocratically by Speaker Pelosi on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos last Sunday, that would have allocated some $200 million for contraception. I particularly like Pelosi's attempt to answer the question put to her by Stephanopoulos as to how this ties into economic stimulus:

"Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

So, do the economy and the government exist for the human person, or vice-versa? It seems that for people who think like Speaker Pelosi, it is the latter. The state is not in the business of dictating whether we have children, or how many we might have. Therefore, it has no business asking us to fund $200 million for something that goes under what can only described as the Orwellian moniker "family planning services". I do credit Speaker Pelosi for not employing newspeak, but calling it contraception. I do not want to leap to dramatic conclusions, but this kind of thinking frightens me. Nonetheless, we must begin from a positive hypothesis. In Is It Possible to Live This Way?: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, Vol. 2 Hope, Giussani talks about going to a meeting of some women, who were also mothers, with a friend. Upon leaving the small gathering, his friend said of the women: "They have the responsibility of bringing to the world the reason that makes it worthwhile having children." Don Gius adds: "Those people are people called to cry out to the world the why of working, of living and of dying...." (pg 55). I think that a nice summary of our royal, priestly, and prophetic calling given us in Baptism and strengthened, that is, confirmed in Confirmation, that for which the Eucharist and Penance empower us.

Faith and hope are not something added on to life, that extra little something that gives us a pragmatic basis for being nice. Rather, faith shows us our destiny, the very reason for which we exist, for Whom we exist, in Whom we live, move, and have our being. Hope is the certainty about our future that arises from faith, which is faith in Jesus Christ, in his on-going and all-pervasive Presence, by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is why we pray- Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Indeed, as His Excellency, Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez, wrote some years ago now, "the Eucharist is the only place of resistance to annihilation of the human subject." If not already, it is a state-of-affairs that we are rapidly approaching. A state not brought about by the current political regime, but a road we have been on for awhile now, the same road that led to us getting so disastrously off-course economically. It is the path of not putting first things first, of relegating first things to the margins in the sorely mistaken belief, indicative of hubris, that human beings are sufficient unto ourselves. This view of things in the secular West also explains the gap.

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