Current Comment

O Holy Not

One does not have to be a curmudgeon to pine over the loss of the Christmas season to Madison Avenue, a loss that is now more or less wholesale (pun intended). Set aside the Black Friday insanity that follows Thanksgiving Day, accompanied by now-annual reports of shopping-related injuries of stressed-out consumers. Set aside the fact that this year many department stores tacked up their Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. Set aside even the fact that attendance at Christmas Day Masses has fallen off sharply; one reason is that more Catholics want to “get it over with” the night before so that on the 25th they can concentrate on the main event: presents.

More irksome is the increasing number of stores that use imagery specific to Christmas to flog their wares, while at the same time expunging any explicit mention of the religious holiday they have hijacked. It makes for some bizarre marketing. “Believe” is once again Macy’s “holiday” slogan. Believe in what? Jewelry? Appliances? J. Crew’s online store this year offers a “Very Merry Gift Guide.” Merry what? The guide features evergreen trees, glass ornaments and plenty of red-and-green outfits to entice. What holiday might they be referring to? If you click long enough, you will finally get an answer: Happy Shopping. One way to get around all of this, however, is the approach taken by Loft, a division of Ann Taylor, the women’s clothing store. Their 2010 motto: “Create your own holiday.” Pace Don Draper of “Mad Men,” God has done that already.


Don’t Assassinate

As a candidate, Barack Obama claimed the president had no power to detain U.S. citizens without charges as enemy combatants. Now, without announcing a policy, he in practice claims presidential power to assassinate U. S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants. This policy of assassination includes a series of drone attacks or Joint Special Operations Command raids to kill a short list of U.S. citizens in Yemen, the best known of whom is Anwar al-Awlaki.

Born in 1971 in New Mexico and educated at three American universities, al-Awlaki moved to Yemen in 2004 as an Al Qaeda religious propagandist who hates America and says that killing Americans is like fighting Satan. Not an Al Qaeda boss, he is allegedly linked to the Fort Hood shooter, the would-be underwear bomber, the failed Times Square car bomber and the explosives shipped in laser printers on cargo planes from Yemen.

The Administration has offered no evidence that al-Awlaki is so extraordinary a threat that all the limitations of international and moral law can be brushed aside. Yet a U.S. citizen is to be killed by order of his government.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights asked a federal court on Nov. 8 to rule that the U.S. Constitution and international law forbid targeted killings outside of armed conflicts except as a last resort. To rule otherwise, says the A.C.L.U., gives the president “unreviewable authority to order the assassination of any U.S. citizen.” In short, to assume the power to kill a citizen at will makes the United States no more moral than the average dictatorship or terrorist. The administration’s lawyers have not disowned the assassination policy.

Illegal Organ-Trading

The recent breakup of an international organ-trafficking ring in Kosovo sheds light on a dark human rights problem. The ring was selling human kidneys and other body parts removed from poor people trafficked into Kosovo from Russia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Turkey with promises of payments—though many received nothing. The organs were then sold to wealthy patients—“transplant tourists”—from Israel and Canada for up to $200,000 per organ. The ring’s leader was a surgeon and professor at the Pristina University Hospital, Dr. Lufti Dervishi. His son performed the surgery in a local clinic. An official in Kosovo’s health ministry was also implicated, revealing upper-level government corruption.

The ring was already suspected two years ago, when police found a young Turkish man at the Pristina airport in a weakened state awaiting a return flight to Turkey. Visiting the clinic, they found an elderly Israeli who had received the man’s kidney. Police believe the Kosovo ring may itself be part of a larger Israel-based criminal syndicate that exploited poor Romanians, whose kidneys were removed and sold to wealthy Israelis.

The World Health Organization estimates that a fifth of kidney transplants worldwide come through the black market. Some countries, like India, have laws banning the sale of organs, but an underground market persists. Because of extreme poverty, desperate people in developing nations remain at risk of exploitation. Police vigilance is needed now to end the trafficking that continues. This could be reduced if people in wealthy countries became more willing to donate organs at their death.

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Mike Evans
8 years 4 months ago
We should not be too quick to condemn our national and local merchants for piggybacking on the Christmas season. They are not trying to supplant the good news of Hannukah and the birth of Jesus. But they are attempting to connect thoughtful and unselfish giving with that good news, a nation-wide effort at cheering up a despondent population. It is to the consumer to judge whether they are too immersed in material concerns. Many families use this buying season and the attractive prices to fulfill needs postponed all year and to stand in for other Christmas presents. Remember getting underwear and pajamas? How about slippers and robes? With the current political climate we could use some Christmas lights and community cheer.
David Smith
8 years 4 months ago
This objection to "targeted killings" of US citizens seems legalistic.  I'm sorry the ACLU doesn't choose less politically correct ways to spend the limited funds it receives from its members. 

Every battlefield killing is targeted, and presumably this person is considered to be an enemy combatant, outside the legal jurisdiction of the US government.  They can't neutralize him by arresting him, so they do the next best thing.  That sounds cold and amoral, but war is an impartial killer.
Michael Brelsford
8 years 4 months ago
I'm intrigued by all of these articles, but wondering why they are included together...what I mean to say is, I don't equate consumerism with rights to assassination, or black market kidney sales.  Or do I?
8 years 4 months ago

Since Mike in comment 3 did not use an emoticon, we don't know for sure if his comment is tongue-in-cheek.


But I think Deacon Mike in comment 1 has a good line of reasoning. Christmas is the gold standard for giving. God gave the Son - the only-begotten-one - to humankind. Christians have celebrated it for two millennia in whatever way they could, wherever they are, and integrated it into their culture.


Hannukah was a minor Jewish holiday. You may argue about the reason it is celebrated the way it is and was elevated to a greater celebration. But were my brother (who is Jewish) were to invite me to celebrate it with his family, as we have already done with our extended families at Thanksgiving numerous times, I would take it to be an honor and privilege to celebrate a time when our God caused the light not to be lost somewhere in the world. And I would not be rude and churlish to comment on the relationship to Christmas


I think it would be a better evangelical tactic, rather than condemning the commercialization and secularization of our holy day, than to remind one and all that it is a holy day in a holy season not just a holiday. And that we are called to keep the season holy. If we are calling our sisters and brothers who were once called themselves Catholic back to our community with programs such as "Catholics come home", good marketing technique would indicate that "home" should be different than "away". Is it?


And what is the season if not always? The season of celebration is explicitly around the end of the secular year, but implicitly each day, each week, each year we are granted by God. To remind myself of that, I never remove the “Keep Christ in Christmas” from my car. The Knights of Columbus should produce a companion piece that says “Keep Christ in your heart at all times”.

Marie Rehbein
8 years 4 months ago

Al-Awlaki's father engaged the ACLU to bring the suit against the government in an effort to protect his son.  It would be interesting to know what, if anything, he tells his son in order to protect us from him. 

The judge who dismissed the case filed on behalf of al-Awlaki said that the father did not have standing to bring the case.  Judge Bates asked, "Can a U.S. citizen – himself or through another – use the U.S. judicial system to vindicate his constitutional rights while simultaneously evading U.S. law enforcement authorities, calling for 'jihad against the West,' and engaging in operational planning for an organization that has already carried out numerous terrorist attacks against the United States?".  (Read more at:

"Richard Samp, chief counsel of the Washington Legal Foundation, praised the ruling.  'It is wholly proper for the American military to be making plans to defeat Al Qaeda by eliminating its military leaders,' Mr. Samp said. 'Anwar al-Awlaki is a leader of an Al Qaeda affiliate. His US citizenship does not entitle him to an exemption from the normal rules of war.'"  (from The Chrisitan Science Monitor)

The fact of the matter is that al-Awlaki is a US citizen because his father happened to be doing his graduate studies in the US when he was born.  He lived in this country for his first seven years and then again for four years when he attended Colorado State University.  He hates us.

President Obama was not pursuing a personal vendetta in allowing al-Awlaki to be put on a "kill list", so it is doubtful that this can be equated with the behavior of dictators or terrorists.


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