Incapable of Justice

Incapable of Justice

I’m an attorney. I have a law degree and I’m admitting to practice law in the State of Alabama. As an officer of the Court, the law imparts responsibilities on me. When representing my clients, I have to abide by the Court’s orders, enforce the Court’s orders, cooperate in the administration of justice as described by the law. My education, my bar admission, my entire career is precipitated on the assumption that the law actually is just.

The fact is that the law is not always just. The law is limited and often allows people to act with imminent injustice. Our very best friends have been going through something really difficult, really painful right now. We can’t help them. They can’t help themselves. It’s an awful situation. And it’s one that the law allows. The law in their situation—and in many situations—can never be perfect. But for them and their situation, the law as it is allows them to be hurt by a stranger. I’m undecided on the morality of the stranger’s choice, but it has nonetheless been harmful to these very dear friends of mine.

The law is orderly and meaningful and necessary. I’m a defense attorney. When I’m researching case precedent or statutes and find the perfect point of law, I feel like I’m putting up a shield in front of my clients, or drawing a line in the sand. I get to use the law to say “this far and no further.”

I spend a lot of time defending and promoting the law to the people around me. I tell a person “the law can protect you from that” and “the law doesn’t allow that” or “a lawyer can help you” or “You really need a lawyer for that.” But sometimes the law can’t protect a person, and then I feel truly limited. Because the law is indeed limited. It has only general rules and only general priorities. It cannot account for the intricacies and fallenness of the world we live in. It is so often not capable of justice.

This is why a man (or a woman) cannot live by the law alone. Every person, to be moral, must act justly. But the law is not always just. If you live only by the law, you never give to charity, or forgive transgressions, or protect the youngest of the young. To live morally, or justly, one must enforce on oneself a great number of prohibitions and responsibilities that the law does not.

Legality is not morality. Of course, this is not a new idea. Saint Thomas Aquinas recognized many centuries ago that “an unjust law is not a law,” arguing that any purported law which requires unjust actions has no imperative force. The Twentieth Century saw plenty of homicidal regimes who wrote their own laws and never broke them while they killed en masse. The world knew that these were immoral acts, regardless of the laws involved.

But our society, our culture does not seem recognize the same immorality involving only a single person. When the law has ever considered an act and not outlawed it (or removed a prohibition against it), society finds it acceptable. This is true of abortion; contraception; drinking yourself into oblivion in your own home regardless of the effect on your family. The law allows all kinds of terrible actions, and so often our culture does not grasp that morality goes beyond the scant prohibitions of the law.

In any case, I’m hurting for my friends right now, and they’re hurting a lot more than me. I feel helpless, which is not how I usually feel when the law is involved. This time the law is no help, and that’s unbelievably disappointing to me. I want the law to work for people, and not against them; to protect people, not leave them exposed. This time that wasn’t the case. Nothing about my friends caused them to earn the treatment they’ve received. There’s nothing they could have done differently or better to change the situation. The law just favored someone else, and favored them regardless of how it affected these friends. That’s not fair, or just. But the law is often incapable of justice. It’s incapable of righting all the wrongs in the world because we’re in it and we’re human, and humans make wrongs.

Only God can fix us or our broken world, and he is a perfect lawgiver, a perfect legislator for every perfectly human circumstance. His laws are difficult, but they are knowable and wise. They do not prioritize as the laws of this world do, but only prioritize for our good. Where my friends are concerned, I don’t think those laws were perfectly honored, and deep pain follows. Please say a prayer for them in a difficult time, that God may see them clear to healing.

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Nope, Nope, That’s Child Abuse

Nope, Nope, That’s Child Abuse

If you haven’t heard, there’s an absolutely crazy thing happening in British Columbia right now. You can read more here, but the long story short is this: Kori Doty had a baby “outside the medical system,” and named her baby “Searyl Atli Doty,” and she will not tell the government whether her baby is a boy or a girl. She wants to avoid assigning gender to her child, and won’t let anyone else acknowledge here child’s sex either. The Canadian government has so far not issued a birth certificate for this child without ascertaining what the child’s sex is. However, the British Columbia Ministry of Health recently mailed the child a health card with the designation “U” for sex, instead of the “M” or “F” on every other health card.

So far, the news item has been the health card arriving from the Ministry of Health. Of course, there are a number of groups who feel that this health card is some sort of government recognition of not assigning sex at birth. But that part of the story isn’t really newsworthy at all. Because of the parent’s decision, no one knows the sex of this child. But the child still needs healthcare. And a just government doesn’t deny an important healthcare tool to a baby because of a parent’s left-field decision.

The issue here is the mother’s decision and it is a HUGE issue. There A few disclaimers though:

  • I use the words “sex” and “gender” interchangeably. Because whether you are a man or a woman does not change depending on your opinion of that fact. We’ll talk about why down below.
  • Kori Doty identifies as “non-binary trans” and has a stated preference for the pronoun “they.” But she’s only one person, so “they” is factually incorrect. And of course there’s the fact that she’s a woman.
  • We don’t know the sex of Searyl Atli Doty. That’s the whole point. I’m calling him a him. But if that turns out to be incorrect, don’t read anything into my use of “he.”

Sex is not a construct. It is a metaphysical reality. “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 and 5:2 and Matthew 19:4). It is not your body which is male or female. You are male or female. Human beings don’t spring out of the universe by on accident. God creates human beings. He doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t accidentally make “women” with male bodies. He makes women. He doesn’t make “men” with female bodies. He makes men. And he doesn’t make people who aren’t men or women. He makes that clear. You are male or female.

Sex though isn’t merely a religious belief. It is a scientific fact. It can be ascertained whether a person is a man or a woman, and that fact doesn’t change. There are primary and secondary sex characteristics that tell any competent medical professional whether a mammal is male or female. This is true even of medically “intersex” individuals, for whom one or more primary or secondary sex characteristics are ambiguous. The reality of sexual dimorphism is the consistent finding of medical and biological science and is the consistent teaching of the Church.

What is so striking, and so very sad, about the situation in Canada is that this fact is being hidden about a very little child. Who a child is should be celebrated. The first thing you know about a child is that he’s a human, made in the image and likeness of God. The very next thing you know about your child is whether you have a boy or a girl. The world wants to celebrate who this child is, but no one knows it.

But the arch-sadness here is what effect this decision will have on the child. This parent has essentially decided to ignore that her child has a sex. A child gets to see their mother or their father and realize “I look like him” or “I look like her.” When this child asks himself “who do I look like?” this parent wants to the answer to be “That doesn’t really matter.” But the answer so obviously does matter. This parent expects her child to divine an identity out of thin air, while he is still a child. But she won’t tell her child about the world he inhabits, or the body that’s his.

She expects him to author his own self. But that’s not what humans are. Humans are made. And even if you don’t believe in a Creator, you must acknowledge that humans are a part of the world we live in. The world we live in is factual. The person who doesn’t acknowledge those facts has a hard time living in our world. But this woman refuses to acknowledge the facts for her child, and thereby makes life extremely difficult for him. This is an abuse of one’s power as a parent, to harm a child unnecessarily simply by ignoring the obvious. Send up a prayer for the Doty family. They need all the prayers they can get.

What Do I Want For My Daughters?

What Do I Want For My Daughters?

This past weekend, my wife and I got out to see Wonder Woman, our first time going to a theater since our younger daughter was born (Today is her first birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LITTLE BUDDY!!). It was a fantastic film that I highly recommend and it’s about time that we get to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. This past weekend was also Father’s Day. The happenstance juxtaposition of those two things has me reflecting for the hundredth time: What Do I Want For My Daughters?

I want to tell them that they can be a superhero, that they really can do anything they want to. But I also want them to know that just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should or that they have to. It may not be what you are called to, and it may not be what the people around you need. Do I want my girls to get an education? Yes. Do I want them to go to war? No. Do I want them to have a successful career? I don’t know.

We’re working on the education right now, and will be as long we can. I’ve been blessed with a stellar education. My wife and my mother and my sister all have fancy degrees to show how much they’ve learned, and I want the same thing for my daughters. I want my daughters to learn how to think, because that will prepare them for anything that God calls them to, whether it be motherhood or religious life or a certain career path.

That said, there are certain things that my daughters are capable of that I don’t want them to do. One of them is go to war. Watching a superhero film like Wonder Woman necessarily makes you think of physical fights, and that’s one thing I don’t want for them. One day they’ll be capable. If they find themselves needing to protect their families, they’ll do it, and I’ll be proud of them. But I don’t want them to seek out that fight. A civilized society acknowledges that women and children are deserving of protection, even when women are able to protect themselves.

A career? Do I want my girls to grow up to have big powerful careers? If they have small children, no. No, I don’t. Children need their mothers, and small children need their mothers in a big way. My wife cares for our girls full-time, not because she doesn’t have other desires, but because she recognizes that it’s the best way to serve them right now. I know that daycare is an economic reality for many families. But the idea of my girls being cared for by strangers makes my heart itch. And if my babies have babies, I want my girls to know that being a mother is a calling in itself. It’s something to be celebrated, not derided as less than a career. Our Blessed Mother wasn’t known for a career, and my daughters don’t have to be either.

What I want most for my girls, is for them to do what God calls them to do. In this life, there’s absolutely no decision more important. God has a plan for each of my wonderful girls, one that he will guide them on, and which will bring them immense fulfillment, just as my marriage and my fatherhood fulfills God’s plan for me. In order for them to do that, they need a good Dad. I think a good Dad in this case has to acknowledge, with the Church and with post-1960s America, that women can contribute in every sphere. Also, a good Dad has to balance this acknowledgement with the practical application of Christianity: we can all do a lot, but there’s something real and specific God wants us to do. Pray that I can be a good Dad for my little girls.

Setting the Table

Setting the Table

I don’t really know who Paul Angone is, but this sentiment really gets me. Success in your twenties is more about setting the table than enjoying the feast. The worldly person might respond to this statement by saying that life is all about the present. Even the Christian might say that “sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

But doing God’s will now and laying the foundations for future success aren’t mutually exclusive. They usually are one and the same. God cannot use us for greater things later if we do not take up the small things –St Therese’s little way– right now with love and work and great joy. I completely agree with the picture’s statement. A tall building–a great life as measured by the hand of God–requires a monumental foundation. As my wife says, “It’s amazing how far back success begins.” This my favorite piece of wisdom from Maria. I’m at a point where I’m reaping rewards like a great job and home ownership and my amazing kids, while still laying the foundation for things later in my life. But I wouldn’t have the life I do if I hadn’t started laying the foundation for this life–according to God’s plan–when I was 18.

I wasn’t laying the foundation at those ages because I’m particularly good or because I had a plan. I did it because of God’s grace. But it’s important to recognize that success builds on success. Maria and I got somewhere at 18 (like college and a serious relationship) because of things each of us did at 16 (like good grades and thinking hard about what we wanted in a relationship). We got somewhere at 21 (marriage and law school) because of things we did when we were 18. And at 24, and now at 27 it’s the same thing. And one day I’ll get somewhere because of the work experience I’m building now. Every success builds on the next. I didn’t make any of the decisions about where I would go to school and what jobs I would have or what house we would buy or what our kids would be like. God made those decisions and we just worked at it. It was not always fun. Setting the table isn’t always fun. But we did the work.

In the next year, a lot of our friends are going to be preparing for and going to ten-year high school reunions. A lot of people who get to this point dread the reunion because they are comparing themselves (probably too harshly) to others. But many people dreading haven’t built something. When your success now is a product of what you did years ago, and your level of success later is what you do right now, you have to start building a long while back. It can’t all be about the right now. A good life is like a good house. Jesus, you’ll recall, is a carpenter. He’s helping us build something. The house of your life is going to start looking good about 10 years after you start building it. And if you think it’s always going to look that good, then it’ll fall apart in about 10 years too.

Your twenties are as good a time as any to start caring and start building that house. Life is short. Your twenties are when you have the energy for preparation and work. When you’re not yet too set in your ways. It’d be a tremendous waste to not use it to set the table, and build the house of your life. If you’re 28 or 32 or 65, it’s not too late to start setting the table. But if you’re 18, please don’t party til you’re 30.

Why A Fight?

You may wonder why I’ve chosen to call this page “Marked for the Fight”. It’s because I’ve always wanted to be a knight. Obviously.

No, I’m not talking about a physical fight. Anyway, “real” knights these days make films or write songs or discover elements. They don’t ride into battle. The name of this page refers to a spiritual fight.

When I was growing up, there was a framed piece above my bed. It said “Mark: A Mighty Warrior” above 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the Good Fight of Faith and lay hold on Eternal Life, to which thou art also called.” Now, this was Saint Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, not to the evangelist John Mark. But I think this fighting verse was used to describe my name because the Roman name “Mark” comes from Mars, the god of war, and refers to one who is warlike.

Christianity is a struggle. It is an internal fight against concupiscence, against our vices, against addiction to sin. It is an external fight for the truth and for a culture that is safe for our children. Each of us must work each day to conquer our own demons, grow closer to God, love others. Each of us is fighting something and fighting for something.

Is the struggle worth it? Yes. The verse promises that if we persevere in the struggle, we will gain Eternal Life. We will spend eternity in heaven with God. Thus we are each called to fight for the faith and that’s my focus in writing here. Why did I say “marked” for the fight instead of “called”? Because I’m a Dad; I’m not allowed to say no to a good pun.