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One human heart: Wordsworth’s old Cumberland beggar and the sweetness of being human

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By Anthony Esolen
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June 5, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - I am persuaded that the movement to demand that physicians corrupt themselves at the heart by assisting in the suicides of the superannuated is but a reaction of terror before a perceived inhumanity. We who have become the tools of our tools shudder at the last insult to our human nature, that we should be invaded by all the complicated paraphernalia of delay, to breathe our last in a dull white room, with the pitted panels of the drop-ceiling overhead (reckon up the chaos, O man, and count how many marks there are in one square), while the calls to the nurses come and go, and a television blares out the last few minutes of an inane comedy that was never once touched by youth or mirth or the milk of human kindness.

If I, old and dying, mean nothing at all, then let me mean nothing on my own terms. If I am to be swept out of consciousness, then let me ply the broom! But this is no argument. It is a cry of despair.

Such despair is inevitable, if we accept the notion that our humanity depends upon what we can do, rather than upon what we are. For the knees will creak, and the hands tremble, and the mind wander; and, whether for but a moment or for a year, we will be as helpless (though not as beautiful) as a newborn child, that most useless of creatures, who can do nothing but search for nourishment and love.

Then let us not try to fight unmeaning with unmeaning. Let us look again at the special beauty of being human, a beauty that is especially poignant in the child, the elderly, the unborn, and the dying.

One day the young poet William Wordsworth looked out upon the road and saw a figure from his childhood, a certain old man who trudged along the Cumberland roads, to beg from the villagers in their modest cottages. He stopped at a ledge at the bottom of a steep hill, placed there to help men remount their horses, and, taking his treasures from his bag,

He sat, and ate his food in solitude:
And ever, scattered from his palsied hand,
That, still attempting to prevent the waste,
Was baffled still, the crumbs in little showers
Fell on the ground; and the small mountain birds,
Not venturing yet to peck their destined meal,
Approached within the length of half his staff.

Such is the drama of the old man’s day. Wordsworth grants himself a gentle smile at the fellow, who doesn’t want to lose any of the bread he eats, but loses a little bit anyway, and who is so harmless that the small and timid birds manage to come within two feet of him, this mysterious creature, this man. We don’t know what is going on in the man’s mind. Wordsworth doesn’t allow himself that sentimentality. Whatever it may be, he is a part of both the natural world and the human village. There is a communion of sorts between him and the sparrows, he the more precious of that breed, and a communion between him and his fellow men.

For people are moved by him. Again, Wordsworth is not appealing to easy sentiment, but to action—the action of human souls. The sauntering horseman does not toss the beggar a coin, but stops, to make sure the alms are lodged safely in the man’s hat, and then, upon leaving him, “watches the aged Beggar with a look / Sidelong, and half reverted.” The exchange is not financial but human. The woman at the turnpike, when she sees him coming, leaves her booth and lifts up the latch for him to pass. The post-boy, harried with business, shouts to him from behind, but if the old man doesn’t hear, the boy slows down his horses and passes him on the roadside, “without a curse / Upon his lips, or anger at his heart.”

If the old man cannot earn his keep, can he at least behold with a full heart the beauty of the world around him? If we should insist upon it, then that, too, would reduce him to an object of utility. No, the man is so stooped, his eyes travel the ground at the same slow pace of his walk. He seems, quite literally, to make no mark on the world, as the world seems to make no mark on him:

His staff trails with him; scarcely do his feet
Disturb the summer dust; he is so still
In look and motion, that the cottage curs,
Ere he has passed the door, will turn away,
Weary of barking at him. Boys and girls,
The vacant and the busy, maids and youths,
And urchins newly breeched—all pass him by:
Him even the slow-paced wagon leaves behind.

What good is such a life?

Here Wordsworth turns with a glare at those who reduce “good” to utility, and utility to those economic speckles that can be counted up:

But deem not this Man useless.—Statesmen! Ye
Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye
Who have a broom still ready in your hands
To rid the world of nuisances; ye proud,
Heart-swoln, while in your pride ye contemplate
Your talents, power, or wisdom, deem him not
A burthen of the earth!

What nuisances, one might ask? The poor, whose souls we kill, while keeping their bodies well fed and at a comfortable distance? The simple, who shatter our dreams of Harvard, and whose habits embarrass us? The dying, who remind us of our mortality? The unborn, for whose little lives we are personally responsible? What good are these? But the goodness of being, the poet affirms, is absolute. All things partake of it, even the meanest creatures that creep on the earth; far more, then, does man, no matter how lowly. We cannot scorn that Beggar, unaccommodated Man, “without offence to God.”

But there is more. The old man is not only an object of charity. He is a living memorial to that kindness. He endows it with a human face—what no detachedly benign philanthropic system can do; and so connects his benefactors with their own better selves long past, and with one another:

While from door to door,
This old Man creeps, the villagers in him
Behold a record which together binds
Past deeds and offices of charity,
Else unremembered, and so keeps alive
The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years,
And that half-wisdom half-experience gives,
Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign
To selfishness and cold oblivious cares.

For some few, for the sublime and saintly among us, that beggar may bring them their first glimpse into a world of their own kindred amid sorrow and want; so it is that a Mother Teresa, that most unsentimental of women, will say that the poor, when they are loved, give more than they receive.

One thing they give us is the rare chance to break those fetters that can bind us tighter than sin: the fetters of right living. The Poor Woman of Leon Bloy’s novel, as she lies dying, will say with a heart filled with gratitude that the only tragedy is not to have been a saint. It is no tragedy to have missed out at a partnership in a law firm, or to have let slip one’s “dreams,” whatever those fantasies of power and glory may be. Wordsworth puts the point bluntly: what is there in the “cold abstinence from evil deeds” that can “satisfy the human soul”? A man pays his taxes, does not violate the law in any flagrant way, keeps well away from the marches of evil as mapped out by the latest scientists of ethics, votes for the correct candidates, and sends a check now and again to a distant charity. Does that satisfy the human soul? No more, I say, than a speckled ceiling or the drone of a television, or the false paternity of a government, or any other measure that keeps us conveniently apart from one another and from the good creatures with which we share this world.

For we need to love as well as to be loved:

Man is dear to man; the poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been,
Themselves, the fathers and the dealers-out
Of some small blessings; have been kind to such
As needed kindness, for this single cause,
That we have all of us one human heart.

That last line says all that I have been struggling to say here. The medicine for our inhumanity cannot be compounded of inhumanity. We must learn to love again—even to know our neighbors would be a good and toddling beginning. We must learn to love those incomparably useless and precious beings, the child, the elderly, the unborn, and the dying, because they and we are one.

Anthony Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Ironies of Faith. He has translated Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com.

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Jeb Bush has already ‘evolved’ on marriage, and his advisers are at war with social conservatives: analysts

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The fact that Jeb Bush has surrounded himself with campaign advisers who have been hostile to social conservatives is just one sign that the former Florida governor has secretly “evolved” in his views of gay “marriage,” according to several figures who have spoken with him privately.

Bush, a leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has been hiring national staffers who have actively campaigned for the GOP to capitulate and embrace the redefinition of marriage or at least capitulate to judicial rulings that overturn the will of voters.

“When Bush officially launches his presidential bid later this year, he will likely do so with a campaign manager who has urged the Republican Party to adopt a pro-gay agenda; a chief strategist who signed a Supreme Court amicus brief arguing for marriage equality in California; a longtime adviser who once encouraged her minister to stick to his guns in preaching [marriage redefinition] for same-sex couples; and a communications director who is openly gay,” writes McKay Coppins in BuzzFeed.

The Bush 2016 campaign staffers include:

“In a word, if personnel is policy, Jeb is telling the pro-family community to drop dead,” said Bryan Fischer, host of Focal Point on AFR Talk.

Campbell told Buzzfeed that the staffing decisions reflected Jeb Bush's ideas of who would be best for the position, and “Gov. Bush’s position on gay marriage is clear. If he pursues a run, it will be premised on his agenda and views, not anyone else’s.”

But insiders say it is not merely his closest advisers and operatives who embrace a redefinition of marriage; several people who have spoken with Jeb say he secretly supports gay “marriage” or, at least, will offer no opposition to it.

One such donor, namely David Aufhauser, who signed the amicus and has co-hosted a fundraiser for Bush in Virginia, said, “His thinking [on marriage equality] appears to have evolved.” Other donors, who preferred to remain anonymous, agreed.

Bush's public stance has certainly shifted. As a conservative candidate running for governor of Florida in 1994, Jeb Bush wrote that he opposed conferring special rights on homosexuals: “[S]hould sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is No.”

But according to the New York Times, Sally Bradshaw “helped recalibrate Mr. Bush as a more moderate candidate” in 1998. Today, donors who have spoken with Bush tell Buzzfeed they have walked away convinced that he quietly supports same-sex “marriage” or is ambivalent on the subject. They hope he will announce his support for redefining marriage after the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the subject this summer.

A senior Republican fundraiser said fleeing any opposition to homosexual “marriage” is a necessity to get any funding from the party's donor class. Although support for redefining marriage “hasn’t become a litmus test yet,” a senior Republican fundraiser said prospective candidates “have to be approaching the LGBT issue with a new mindset in order to be taken seriously” by the party's megadonors.

Sen. Rob Portman, as vice chairman of finance for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, announced his newfound support for gay “marriage” shortly after holding a dozen meetings with major campaign donors in New York who were unhappy with the party's pro-family platform.

Bush, who hopes to raise as much as $100 million before he formally enters the presidential contest, is the elite contributors' favorite now that Mitt Romney has declined a third presidential bid and Chris Christie stumbled during a meeting with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

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Billionaire Paul Singer, who has devoted more than $13 million of his own money to promote homosexual "marriage" in the GOP, is said to view Bush in a positive light.

Bush has also attracted the support of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a pro-abortion Republican who ripped pro-life and pro-family conservatives as “narcissists and ideologues” imbued with an “unacceptable rigidity and self-righteousness on social issues” and who secretly promote “tyranny.”

The split between the Republican Establishment and its grassroots conservative base foreshadows a harder than expected fight for Jeb Bush in the primaries. “Endorsing gay marriage would make it difficult to win Iowa, even with Kochel on board,” conservative political analyst Jim Antle writes at The Week, “and would probably prevent Bush from emulating his brother's 2000 nomination strategy: combining establishment and evangelical support to prevent the emergence of a viable conservative alternative.”

But others warn it forebodes something more serious – yet another Republican presidential loss in 2016. Mike Huckabee and Gary Bauer, among others, have threatened to leave the Republican Party if it abandons its support of traditional marriage – one of two reasons the GOP was founded in the 1850s.

“Not all social [conservatives] will feel that way but a few hundred thousand spread across swing states are potentially the difference between winning and losing,” the blogger Allahpundit wrote at HotAir.com. “The right’s perennial fear of 'moderate' Republicans is that they campaign as conservatives and govern as independents. Jeb’s not even campaigning as a conservative.”

Fischer foresees another Bush candidacy depressing voter turnout and handing the election to a Democrat like Hillary Clinton.

“If conservatives want to save their party, and more importantly save America, step one is stopping Jeb Bush dead in his tracks,” he said. 

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When he began shooting a film on a pastor saving disabled babies, he had no idea God was planning to save him

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By Pete Baklinski
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Babies Pastor Lee has brought into his home through the drop box. Arbella Studios

March 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Brian Ivie, 25, grew up in California dreaming about making movies. He loved making homemade movies with his friends and eventually went to school to learn how to make them professionally. He was always on the lookout for that one story that he would turn into a movie that would be his ticket to the Sundance Film Festival and rocket him to fame and fortune.

While flipping through the L.A. Times one morning in June 2011, Brian came across the story of a man in Korea who saved unwanted babies by having a baby box installed on the side of his home where parents could drop them off anonymously.

“That alone was compelling to me, the fact that this existed at all,” he told LifeSiteNews in a telephone interview.

Brian immediately saw the story’s potential. Here was the golden opportunity he had been looking for. He contacted the reporter who put him in touch with Pastor Lee Jong-Rak of Seoul, South Korea, the man behind the drop box.

Six months later he was flying to Korea with a team of friends to film a documentary.

“I went to Korea, planning to use this family to be my golden ticket to Sundance,” he said.

Before leaving, Brian picked up a cheap cross necklace so he could wear it to create “some sort of trust between me and this Pastor.”

“I didn’t really know what the cross meant. I just knew that it was this rallying cry for Christendom,” he said.

Brian had grown up thinking he was basically Christian, but having a real relationship with God was something that he had never factored into his life.

“I honestly thought I was a Christian, because I wasn’t a Muslim. I thought I was a Christian because, you know, it’s like you’re American, you’re a Christian, like apple pie and the Bible.”

“I just figured I was a Christian because I didn’t smoke cigarettes, and I watched Fox News with my mom. It was a very cultural label for me. It was a very decorative thing, like a decorative cross you put in the house, but you have no understanding of what it is.”

“My understanding of God, because of the media, was very warped,” he said.

When Brian arrived at Pastor Lee’s home in Seoul, what he experienced made him rethink his entire life. In Pastor Lee, Brian encountered a man who had been rescued out of the gutters of alcoholism and rage to do a work that most people would recognize as utterly selfless and heroic.

“He was not a natural born hero. This is an ordinary man who made a lot of mistakes and needed forgiveness, and once he received that and was saved from his own sin and from hell, then he went out and saved and rescued other kids,” Brian said.

Pastor Lee created the baby box because of the number of babies being abandoned on the streets, many of them dying from exposure before help arrived. The baby box would be a safe harbor to welcome and care for these babies. More than 600 babies have now come through the baby box.

“They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them here for a purpose,” Pastor Lee says in the film.

Brian returned to California with his footage, but he was constantly haunted by what he had witnessed in Pastor Lee. He felt like something was missing from his own life, but he could not put his finger on it. Then one day while listening to a podcast about why Jesus died, he suddenly realized what that was.

“This podcast was all about how Jesus Christ took our place. When I heard that, it was like a movie through my own head.”

Brian started imagining Jesus suffering in his place for the six years he had been addicted to pornography, for his abusive relationships with girls, and for his loud and violent outbursts of anger toward his friends, girlfriends, and co-workers. He saw Jesus take it all upon himself and suffer for it all on the cross.

“So, I broke down. I started crying. All I could say was: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ Even for a guy who didn’t lead some extreme life — I wasn’t the leader of some Mexican cartel, I didn’t almost overdose on heroine, I didn’t murder anybody in cold blood — but I needed to be forgiven, because I had done some shameful things, especially towards God. I realized all that, and knew that I needed to be saved too.”

“I hated myself for a while. But what changed all that was the Father’s love which said ‘I still want you, and in fact, I want you so much that I sent my Son because I’m willing to give everything for you, even though you don’t deserve it.”

Brian began connecting the dots between his filming in Korea about the drop box for babies and his own need to be saved.

“The drop box is the place we all belong. It’s the place we find ourselves when we go: ‘You know, gosh, I need to be saved. I need to be rescued from sin and from this place I’m running to which is called hell, which is the place where I am separated from God. I’m running there and Jesus can save me.”

“The drop box symbolized that to me because it’s the place where you are bound up in the dark, totally helpless and incapable of doing anything about it, and you need a father to come pull you out through the laundry room and into the light,” he said.

With his new spiritual insight, Brian traveled back to Korea in August 2012 to retell the story, this time from the perspective of love.

“The goal was to tell the story that I had experienced of the Father’s love as shown through this man, Pastor Lee.”

Brian’s film The Drop Box, released through Focus on the Family and Pine Creek Entertainment, has already won numerous awards at film festivals. It is opening this week in 800 theaters across North America.

Brian now realizes that his biggest mistake in life is thinking he was too good to need God’s forgiveness.

“My hope is that people realize that they need to be saved and that they would see themselves in these kids and God as Pastor Lee. Because to me, he's living proof of a loving God, and God is putting himself on display through this man.”

“What I see in this film is a man who has given up everything in his life for these children who have been lost on the street. I hope what people see is a picture of something much higher than that, which is really God giving everything on the cross for all of us lost people,” he said.

The Drop Box opens in U.S. cinemas today and in Canada tomorrow. Find a list of U.S. theaters here. Find a list of Canadian theaters here

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Lisa Bourne

San Francisco archbishop under attack: critics of Catholic school reforms hire high-profile PR guru

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By Lisa Bourne
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Public relations specialist Sam Singer

SAN FRANCISCO, March 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Critics of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone have raised the stakes in their opposition to improving the Catholic identity of the city’s Catholic high schools by hiring a high-profile PR strategist.

“Concerned parents are footing the bill” to hire “media relations heavyweight” Sam Singer, reports SF Weekly.

Singer specializes in crisis communication for high-profile figures and describes himself as The Fixer and Top Gun for Hire on his website. He’s also been called The Master of Disaster for his public relations work, which includes representing the San Francisco Zoo in the 2007 killing of a young man by the zoo’s Siberian tiger, and where, according to the news outlet, Singer “shaped hearts and minds to sympathize with the tiger.”

While media reports are not clear about who specifically is behind hiring Singer, the move shows the broad nature and depth of the battle against the archbishop’s efforts to uphold Church teaching.

At the same time Singer told SF Weekly, “he hopes the archbishop sees that the ‘loyalty oath’ he's asking of teachers does 'not keep with Catholic values'," he also said he didn’t accept the job of countering the archbishop’s efforts to maintain Catholic identity because “he himself is religious, necessarily.”

"I'm half Catholic, half Jewish," Singer said. "I like to say I'm the most guilty, most worried man alive." 

The archdiocese announced February 3 that they would add statements on morality to faculty handbooks, as well as three new clauses to teacher contracts, all derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Cordileone explained at the outset that the intent was not to target anyone, but rather to clarify Church teaching and the long-established expectation of Catholic school employees to not publicly contradict the faith.

It is something he has continued to emphasize, along with the need for Catholic schools to be clear in imparting Catholic principles.

“We’re not on a witch hunt; we’re not looking to terminate teachers,” Archbishop Cordileone told the New York Times this week.

He said he was introducing the new language because “young people are under intense pressure today to conform to certain standards that are contrary to what we believe,” and he had focused on “hot-button issues” to clear up “the confusion.”

The archbishop also told the newspaper that he knew that not all teachers at the schools were Catholic, and he affirmed again that a teacher’s private life would remain private. He said his concern was that in their public lives faculty “don’t do anything to compromise the mission of our schools.”

Eight Democrat California lawmakers wrote a letter February 17 pressuring the archbishop to back down on the efforts. But the archbishop responded, “Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general?” 

“My point is: I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission,” he said. “I simply ask the same respect from you.”

Two of the lawmakers then called for an investigation of working conditions at high schools administered by the archdiocese by the state’s Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committee.

“California cannot become a laboratory for discrimination under the guise of religion,” the two Democrats told CBS San Francisco.

They said the archbishop’s measures to uphold Church teaching “set a dangerous precedent for workers’ rights through manipulations of law that deprive employees of civil rights guaranteed to all Californians.”

After a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board on February 24, the paper reported that Cordileone was backtracking, but the archdiocese denied it in a follow-up statement.

The archbishop did agree, however, that they would not classify teachers as “ministers,” which teachers feared would remove them from federally-recognized civil rights protection.

“The Archbishop has not repealed anything,” Father John Piderit SJ, Vicar for Administration for the archdiocese and Moderator of the Curia said in the statement. “He is adding explanations, clarifications, and material on Catholic social teaching, via a committee of religion teachers he is establishing.” 

“The committee is to expand some areas of the material to be included in the faculty handbook, and clarify other areas by adding material,” said Father Piderit, who was also present at the meeting. “Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.”

The archdiocese stated the word “ministers” is no longer being considered to classify faculty, however the word “ministry” remained part of the language, and the archbishop was working to identify language that satisfies two needs, one to protect teachers’ rights and the other the right of the archdiocese to run Catholic schools that are faithful to its mission.

“Even if a substitute for ‘ministry’ is found,” Father Piderit said, “the substitute must guarantee that the teachers in the Catholic archdiocesan high schools promote the Catholic mission of the institutions."

Singer persisted in the apparent push for the archbishop to back down after the meeting.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Singer told the online magazine Crux. “So we’ll have to take a look at what the archbishop comes back with. But this is certainly a step in the right direction, and is welcomed by many of the parents, teachers and alumni. But there is still much work to be done.”

The Chronicle subsequently made a video of the meeting available, which was published by the archdiocese.

“The point I want to emphasize most of all though, is that everything that we do is for our students,” Archbishop Cordileone said in the meeting with the newspaper. “My primary concern and the most important thing, and that of everyone involved in the educational ministry of our archdiocese, is for the good of our students.”

Media reports also continue to highlight resistance to the archbishop’s efforts, and misunderstanding of Church doctrine in the moral issues the Church statements concern, such as homosexuality.

The Church teaches that while all people are deserving of respect as children of God, homosexual acts immoral and can never be accepted.

“We pray for the archbishop that his heart is changed,” Gus O’Sullivan told the New York Times. The openly gay senior at one of the schools spoke at a candlelight protest, reportedly part of the Singer campaign.

Michael Vezzali, a teacher at one of the schools and a union official, said the archbishop was “a very wise man,” but “we feel our schools are places where we’re supposed to share the gospel of Jesus and love, no matter what.”

“Our community is in pain; our teachers are scared,” said Jessica Hyman, another senior at one of the archdiocesan high schools.

“We sent our kids to these schools because they uphold the fundamental principles of our faith of love, acceptance and respect,” said Kathy Curran, a mother of freshman. “This language says some people are not O.K. — and that’s not O.K.”

Archbishop Cordileone’s language “is very, very hurtful,” but “he is representing exactly the Roman Catholic sexual doctrine,” Santa Clara University Associate Professor of Moral Theology Lisa Fullam told the New York Times. “Bishops do have a lot of authority in their own diocese.”

Michele Dillon, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, and co-author of the book American Catholics in Transition, which chronicled changes in Catholics’ attitudes and behavior from 1987-2011, said what’s happening in San Francisco reflects the attitudinal wavering among Catholics.

“The church wants people to be aware of official church teachings because they think there is confusion in the culture,” Dillon told the New York Times. “A lot of Catholics aren’t confused. They simply ignore the church’s teachings.”

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