Dear Catholic Church…

Papal Seal

My aploogies to Elizabeth Warren for editing her words ever-so-slightly to fit the argument at hand.

You built a faith-based hospital out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your services to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your hospital because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your hospital, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a hospital and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

In the latest dust-up between the mean, godless, tribal Obama administration and God, leaders of the Catholic Church, right-wing pundits and every God-fearing Republican is unleashing a torrent of vitriol against the policy that requires faith-based organizations to provide for birth control in its employee-based health insurance. As the argument gets heated beyond reason, pundits are hauling out the separation of Church and State arguments as well as

In the United States of America, I value my freedom FROM religion much more than I value my freedom OF religion.

Before you go off on a puppy, I was raised Catholic. I was in as deep as anyone could be. If you want to kick me in the ribs, you’d better be prepared for a knock-out, drag-out that you will lose.

The Catholic Church has a right to set its own agenda and preach what it wants to preach. That right is guaranteed in the US Constitution. But when it dips into the resources of the secular parts of the United States for its survival and growth, it becomes beholding to the State. Jesus even said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21) The Church is not allowed to dip into the resources of the State without just compensation. If in the end, it wants to only hire Catholics, service Catholics and give back any tax-abatements it has ever received, then by all means, allow it to set its own agenda.

The United States of America is not a theocracy and the Catholic Church need not operate within its boundaries. If the secular laws are intolerable, it can decide to abandon the flock here. But before leaving, it may want to take a look at the flock, learn a bit of balance and tolerance from it and recognize its existence is symbiotic with the State.

WWJD. Do that.

How this financial disaster is like Catholicism

The Papal Seal of the Roman Catholic Church
The Papal Seal of the Roman Catholic Church
I grew up Catholic.

One of the things you learn very early on is this earthly life is a test of your faith for a reward of either heaven and eternal life or hell and eternal damnation. Life here is supposed to be hard, we are supposed to feel pain because these trials are what helps God determine what kind of person who are and what our reward should be. Yes, I know I am grossly over-simplifying this and I have a large contingent of theologian friends with whom I can argue all day long, so if you don’t agree, please just take that on face value. It will help the analogy move along much quicker.

So you go to Church every Sunday, you help the poor, you don’t commit mortal sins, you do all the things that make you a good Catholic and that in turn will make you a good person. Now, here is where faith wears thin. As you get older, temptations become stronger, specifically, wine, women and song. These things are really, really fun and they make the promise of heaven or hell — while eternal — not believable.

If there is no heaven or hell, if this life is all there is, you sure will have wasted a whole lot of good fun. But, if there is a heaven and hell, and you succumbed to the sins of the flesh, you are in deep do-do.

Moving over to your secular life, as a good citizen, you do good things as well. You live within your means by not buying a house you can’t afford, save money in a retirement plan, don’t put a 58″ plasma TV on a credit card at 28% interest, don’t buy a cherry red Hummer which is really, really yummy looking…. oh, you’re still there… forgive me reader, for I have sinned….

If you are living within your means (good Catholic) and all your neighbors who went out and got drunk on over-priced homes, televisions, cars and stocks get bailed out by the Federal Government (God) what was the point of you living within your means? What if you living within your means actually means that your house is now worth 70% of what it was, you have to spend down your savings because you lose your job and you have no TV to watch to wile away your days of unemployment? Does a great FICO score get you into heaven or is it a worthless ticket?

Are the fiscally responsible who have not been living the high-life of comfort and excess going to now be forced to live with even less because of the sins of their neighbors? Doesn’t God just punish the sinners? How is this fair?

Well it isn’t and it makes one question the value of being a “good citizen.” If I knew with absolute certainty that there is no God, no heaven and no hell, I would be having more fun in this earthly life. I would be sinning and I would care less about the other puppies on this planet. After all, this would be the only go-around I would get and to not grab all I can out of the deal would just be silly.

If I knew with absolute certainty that no matter how fiscally irresponsible I was that eventually the Federal Government would bail me out, that they would force my bank to give me a better interest rate and that I could get a new Hummer every year and a big screen TV for every room of my house, I would not care about excessive credit card debt or paying any part of the principle on my home loan. Saving for a rainy day would be just silly.

But, I am not a gambler and the odds of there actually being a God are a little higher than there not being a God. At any rate, the possibility of spending an eternity frying my tail off just doesn’t sound all that much fun. Why risk it. And, being Catholic, I can always go to confession after sinning (don’t tell God about the loophole.)

I believe that the lack of mental anxiety that comes with living within your means is worth it. Like the Vatican, I don’t believe the government cares about me personally other than I behave myself and don’t make too many waves. By keeping me in a house, family and self-inflicted poverty, they is accomplishing their goal.

I will come out of this recession more intact than my drunken neighbors. I just hope the government can figure out a way to reward the responsible citizen while also making the sinners pay.

But I know our government also believes there is a God and they are leaving the sorting of the sinners to him (or her.) That vote is just way, way too risky and there are no confessionals in Congress.

We didn’t start the fire either

A couple weeks ago, Ryan Healy wrote a blog post about how Baby Boomers screwed up the world and how GenY is going to “fix” it. After turning it over in my 40+ brain a bit (Boomers like to think things through before yapping off; part of our charm) here are some observations about the article and the point of view GenY has of us.

The world we inherited was screwed up too
The country was scared of the Godless communists who were going to ravage the countryside, stealing our resources, forcing Americans to bend to the will of Stalin and Khrushchev. If you grew up Catholic, the world was even worse because you had the US Government scaring you as well as the Vatican. We had fall-out shelter drills, we were shown films of nuclear holocaust and crazy Khrushchev beating his shoe on the desk at the UN. It was scary.

And, it was REAL because a greater percentage of our parents fought in WWII and Korea. They saw evil up close and were determined not to let us see that much evil that close up. But, many of the Boomers did see evil in Vietnam that was more savage than WWI and revolted in the only way they knew how; protest and civil disobedience.

Most GenYers don’t have parents who did active duty in any war. Most GenYers did not know rationing or very high unemployment or home mortgages that were 20% or higher. While you may know high debt, the debt as a ratio of income and assets is about the same as the Boomers cause we didn’t have as much “stuff” (iPods, laptops, DVD collections…..)

Technology did not exist
I find it ironic that GenYers are complaining about the mess that Boomers left for them to clean up using WiFi networks, laptop computers and open source software that was carved out of nothing by a Boomer generation. Interesting.

To find out how Boomers used to learn, rent The Paper Chase. It’s ok. You can Google it and then rent it on NetFlix.com. We Boomers won’t care that much that you don’t have it on VHS.

I don’t want this post to spiral into a “we used to walk three miles uphill in the snow” article, but for GenY to say they are inheriting a mess they need to clean up to to admit to not having a sense of history and perspective. Most things that GenY complains about are consequences of the human condition, not a product of what Boomers did to them.

Boomers were crapped on just as badly back in the day. Just different crap.