Shopping for Outrage

There are many things I find wearying about political races, but few are more so than candidates looking for issues they can exploit for their own gain.

The latest here is the ongoing debate about President Obama and his Affordable Care Act: he proposes that beginning this September most insurers will be required to provide contraceptives. Some of the companies that will now need to provide that are certain Catholic institutions. Not surprisingly, some Catholic institutions oppose this: you can see the US Catholic Bishop’s response here.

The Catholic Church has had a longstanding view that artificial birth control is immoral. Almost nobody has done this, but you can read two encyclicals on this: Casti Connubii (1931) and Humanae Vitae (1968).

Interestingly enough, Catholics couples use artificial birth control at about the same rate as everyone else. Many liberal and faithful Catholics (like me) think this line in the sand by the Church is a mistake. It makes us look silly, out of touch, and anachronistic. It’s time for Rome to admit Paul VI made a mistake with Humanae Vitae.

What’s frustrating for us is that the Republican candidates have grabbed this silly issue and run with it: they have found a place to declare outrage. They are turning this into a religious freedom issue and making it sound like President Obama is waging war on us. He isn’t.

The president is simply making the point that we all do better when couples have the tools they need to make a better life for themselves and their children. It’s easy for (Catholics) Rick and Karen Santorum to have 7 children: Rick earned nearly a million dollars last year. For other couples who dearly love each other but aren’t blessed to be former congressmen, who are making their livings as cops, teachers, or construction workers, it’s not so easy.

We should hear their voices too.

Thank You Colonel Glenn

Fifty years ago today, February 20, 1962, a 40 year old Marine Colonel climbed into a space capsule and spent 5 hours in space. John Glenn, a member of the original Mecury 7 astronauts, was the first American to orbit the earth.

In 2012 it’s easy to think this was no big thing, but it was. The Soviet Union was ahead of us in the “space race” and there was real fear that they would conquer space and gain higher ground. We believed (and may have been right) that we were locked in a struggle over which country would own the last half of the 20th century and beyond. The space race was a race for survival.

In the middle of that were the 7 Mercury astronauts. They were chosen because it was believed that they were the best of the best: the front line in this war. They were.

Colonel Glenn’s flight was not as simple as it looks. On re-entry there was fear that his heat shield was compromised; had it been true he would have been the first American killed in the space race. He is here today because his spacecraft “built by the lowest bidder” was good enough to be perfect. He is here today because today’s iPhone has 1000% the computing power of the IBM computers in 1962, but the human genius covered the rest.

We made it to the moon first, we defeated the USSR, and we’re still here.

Thank you Colonel Glenn.

PS: Of the original 7, only John Glenn and Scott Carpenter are still alive. The other five are: Gordon Cooper, Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom , Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.