Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

(Time) The Affordable Care Act is being exploited to allow people to prey on Opiod addicts

As so often happens, a frantic mother called us about her 19-year-old daughter, who I’ll call Jen. A heroin addict, Jen had been shuttled between multiple treatment centers and sober homes by greedy marketers looking to cash in on the teenager’s insurance benefits by keeping her perpetually in recovery, but never sober. As our investigator searched Palm Beach County for Jen, her mother finally reached her by phone. She pleaded with her daughter to leave Florida, to which Jen replied, “Why would I come home? I have all I need here.” In the ensuing months, Jen has become a victim of a vicious cycle known as “the Florida shuffle.” She has continued in and out of treatment, repeatedly relapsed and overdosed, been on the brink of death, was revived and all the while trafficked by marketers offering free rent and other gifts — as she ignores her mother’s desperate pleas to come home.

Americans know of the carnage wrought by the opioid epidemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, opioids caused 91 deaths every day in 2015. Expect a significant increase when the 2016 medical examiner and coroner reports are released nationwide. In my jurisdiction alone, 596 people died from opioid-related deaths in 2016, an increase of 286% since 2012.

Less known, however, is that this growing epidemic has been fueled in part by the manipulation of well-intended federal laws — such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Mental Health Parity Act — by unscrupulous individuals looking to profit on the misery and vulnerability of others. Fueled by new financial benefits in federal law, private drug treatment providers have flourished, as marketers often push individuals with substance use disorder to the warm weather states of Florida, Arizona and California as recovery destinations. The unethical players within the recovery industry see the addict as a valuable commodity and have exploited federal law to foster a cycle of relapse, rather than recovery.

Today, big money in the drug treatment industry comes through failure. …

Read it all.

Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine

Dr John Kerrison weighs in on the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision

From here:

Imagine you are in court getting divorced. You may be angry, relieved, or bereft of hope. Nevertheless, you expect fair treatment.

It happens that you are married to a judge.

Wait — the judge hearing your case is your spouse?

Now the judge has ruled in her own favor on their own, personal case. Is this justice? Who cares?

Think about that for a minute. This happened when S.C. State Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn ruled in a case despite her membership in the activist Episcopal Forum, and even though it directly involved her own church and disregarded established precedent of the S.C. Supreme Court.

When my wife and I formally complained in writing to the committee on Judicial Conduct on Sept. 28, 2015 about the conflict of interest in accordance with Canons 2 and 3 of the South Carolina Code of Judicial Ethics, we were told this was not a problem.

Now that she has ruled, it is a problem on display for all.

When you love God, you love justice. Blessed are those who are persecuted for his sake.

John B. Kerrison, M.D….

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Local Paper) Some leaders say the time is now to act to save Charleston, South Carolina, from seas which have risen 4.2″ in 33 yrs

Fast-forward 33 years.

The sea level has risen 4.2 inches since then.

Last year, the city’s low-lying areas saw 50 days of nuisance flooding, a record.

Three mega storms in the past three years turned the city of Charleston’s largest medical district into a virtually inaccessible island.

And some city officials still talk about the “generational challenge” that rising seas present.

That doesn’t sit well with Mike Seekings, a city councilman who spent the past few days tromping around city streets as nuisance tides once again cut off thoroughfares in his district.

“Last night between 8:30 and 9 o’clock, there was a foot of water at Broad and Lockwood,” he said. “You can’t live in a city when roads are closed on good days and roads to hospitals are closed on bad days.”

This is no longer a generational challenge, he added. “We’ve been talking about doing things for so long. Let’s start these projects now.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology

(AP) Episcopalians struggle with history of Confederate symbols

“You do have an identifiable connection to the Confederacy,” said Doug Thompson, history professor at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. He said Episcopal churches prayed for the president of the Confederacy, not the Union, during the war. “Episcopalians have built into their very structure an attachment to this national identity.”

Just steps away from the Statehouse, the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is wrestling with Confederate ghosts. The South’s Gen. Wade Hampton and its poet laureate, Henry Timrod, are buried on the parish’s grounds. A plaque in its sanctuary honors members who died in the Civil War. However, the church doesn’t allow the display of Confederate flags, and the Very Rev. Dean Timothy Jones said Confederate flags recently placed on soldiers’ graves were removed.

“I care deeply about how historical symbols can create hurt and communicate a message of discrimination,” Jones said. “We believe in redressing the terrible wrongs of slavery and affirming the dignity of every human being.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Upshot) Whites Have Huge Wealth Edge Over Blacks (but Don’t Know It)

“I’m a person who studies inequality, who should really know how inequality looks,” said one of the psychologists, Michael Kraus, who researches the behaviors and beliefs that help perpetuate inequality. “And I look at the black-white gap, and I’m shocked at the magnitude.”

Black families in America earn just $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. For every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04.

If Mr. [Michael] Kraus, of all people, is taken aback by these numbers, what are the odds that most Americans have a good understanding of them? The answer, he and his colleagues fear, has broad implications for how we understand our society and what we’re willing to do to make it fairer.

Americans, and higher-income whites in particular, vastly overestimate progress toward economic equality between blacks and whites, the psychologists reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Americans believe that blacks and whites are more equal today than they truly are on measures of income, wealth, wages and health benefits. And they believe more historical progress has occurred than is the case, suggesting “a profound misperception of and unfounded optimism” regarding racial equality.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(Sunday [London] Times) ‘They’re here, then they just die’: opioid addiction kills 175 Americans a day

At first glance, Manchester, New Hampshire, seems a typical New England town. A pleasant, low-key sort of place, free of extreme poverty or urban decay.

You do not have to look far, however, to see something is amiss: this is a town firmly in the grip of the opioid crisis that is devastating America.

Dotted around the central squares and parks are small groups of people visibly suffering from addiction. Yesterday, hundreds of residents took part in a “rally for recovery” in the town centre, gathering to highlight the plight of their friends and neighbours.

On the walls of the Hope addiction recovery clinic, a few hundred yards away, are pictures from a kayaking expedition. Karla Gallagher, who works at the clinic, cannot look at it without becoming close to tears.

“We lose these people all the time,” she said, pointing to a picture of a smiling young girl on a canoe. “We lost her. One day they’re here and then they just die.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, State Government, Theology

(WSJ) CC Pecknold on the very troubling recent Senate questioning of a recent Roman Catholic Judicial Nominee

…at the very moment Ms. Feinstein is alienating religious conservatives, two prominent Democrats are pushing a new progressive claim on Christianity. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has spoken to journalists about how her faith shapes her political views. And Hillary Clinton, who reportedly once considered becoming an ordained minister, has made religion central to her postelection messaging, as the Atlantic reported last month in a story titled “ Hillary Wants to Preach.”

Sens. Feinstein and Durbin were troubled not by Ms. Barrett’s Catholicism, but by her failure to prove her religion could conform to a more dogmatic progressivism. The “religious test” Democrats want to impose isn’t about religion per se; it’s about ensuring that every religious claim can be bent to more comprehensive political aims. It’s about defining anyone who dissents from the mores of the sexual revolution as disqualified from public office. That’s what makes Ms. Feinstein’s questioning so chilling.

Few liberals have spoken out against these religious tests, providing tacit consent for the Democratic Party to continue the practice. One of America’s major political parties appears prepared to consent to a very different kind of creed from the one the American founders envisioned. Our forefathers understood religious freedom in positive terms, as freedom for the highest good, God. This “first freedom” was held as the basis of all the political freedoms, including the freedom to dissent and to disagree on matters of law and politics.

Ms. Barrett has spent her career honoring the older creed—not only with her Scalia-like deference to the law, but through respect for freedom of religion and conscience. Ms. Feinstein honored the new creed, the one dividing an already polarized nation. A dogmatism now threatens countless Americans’ freedom, and it isn’t Catholicism.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate

(WSJ) Why Entitlements Keep Growing, and Growing, and . . .An interview with John Cogan

Mr. [John] Cogan has just written a riveting, massive book, “The High Cost of Good Intentions,” on the history of entitlements in the U.S., and he describes how in 1972 the Senate “attached an across-the-board, permanent increase of 20% in Social Security benefits to a must-pass bill” on the debt ceiling. President Nixon grumbled loudly but signed it into law. In October, a month before his re-election, “Nixon reversed course and availed himself of an opportunity to take credit for the increase,” Mr. Cogan says. “When checks went out to some 28 million recipients, they were accompanied by a letter that said that the increase was ‘signed into law by President Richard Nixon.’ ”

The Nixon episode shows, says Mr. Cogan, that entitlements have been the main cause of America’s rising national debt since the early 1970s. Mr. Trump’s pact with the Democrats is part of a pattern: “The debt ceiling has to be raised this year because elected representatives have again failed to take action to control entitlement spending.”

A faculty member at Stanford’s Public Policy Program and a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Cogan, 70, is one of those old-fangled American men who are always inclined to play down their achievements. The latest of his is the book that draws us together in conversation. To be published later this month by Stanford University Press, it is a 400-page account of how federal entitlement programs evolved across two centuries “and the common forces that have been at work in causing their expansion.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The U.S. Government

(1st Things) Rusty Reno–remembering Michael Novak+the Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Needless to say, Michael Novak did not foresee these outcomes when he wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism any more than I did when I thrilled to his insights more than three decades ago. This should not surprise us. As Yuval Levin outlines in The Fractured Republic, America came out of the Great Depression and its mobilization for World War II with a consolidated economic, political, and social system. There was a closed, sealed quality to a great deal of social and economic life, which is why Michael and so many others were attracted to motifs of creativity and openness. Seventy years on, however, the project of deconsolidation has done its work. We now live in a fluid world in which the very idea of borders—between nations as well as between the sexes—seems more and more tenuous. In this context, which is our context, the genius of capitalism as Michael described it—creative, open, innovative, and dynamic—seems less benign. Those qualities liquefy our social relations, and even our sense of self.

In his last article for First Things (“The Future of Democratic Capitalism,” June/July 2015), Michael summed up his spiritual endorsement of capitalism: “Free markets are dynamic and creative because they are open to the dynamism and creativity intrinsic to our humanity.” This anthropological assessment of capitalism follows the lead of John Paul II, and it’s a profound reason to cherish economic liberty. But Michael did not give due emphasis to an equally important aspect of our humanity, which is our desire to give ourselves in loyalty to permanent things. As a man of faith, he certainly knew and affirmed this dimension: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. But in his enthusiasm for open, upward transcendence—a constant theme in his work—he lost sight of our need for anchors. As a consequence, he described the anthropology of capitalism in a one-sided way. Its fearsome dynamism speaks to part of our soul, but it neglects and even works against the part that cherishes permanence.

This one-sidedness needs to be corrected, for our challenges are quite different from the legacy of postwar consolidation that Michael responded to with such élan. We do not live in a closed, regulated, regimented world. Political correctness is a serious problem, and it has an authoritarian tendency. But it is not born of loyalty to permanent things. As an outgrowth of liberalism itself, this rigid ideology comes under the sign of choice. It is an obligatory, enforced participation in a fluid, liquefied moral world. We are told that we are not required to think or live in any particular way—except that we can’t think or live in ways that constrain, compromise, or even throw doubt on anyone else’s free decision to think or live differently. Taken to its logical extreme—everything is permitted as long as it permits everything—this becomes a paradoxical totalitarian toleration that is all the more dangerous because it deludes those who promote it into thinking that when they drive all dissent from the public square, they are “including.”

All of this dovetails frighteningly well with the dynamism and openness of capitalism, which is also presented as obligatory. And its partial anthropological resonance means that a part of our soul—the dimension that, taken in isolation, thrills to today’s gnosticism and its promise of freedom from all constraints, even those imposed by nature and our bodies—is given great encouragement. This antinomianism—which, again, is presented as “history’s” obligatory verdict—casts a dark shadow on the West in the twenty-first century, not the Soviet Union or older forms of centralized, totalitarian control.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology

(TGC) Trevin Wax–Should We Pull The Plug On Cable News?

A steady diet of cable news reinforces the idea that everything is about politics, that everything is life or death, and that we should all devote our attention to the big news story every day. (Consider how news channels count down to big events, as if the entire country waits breathlessly for whatever the channel determines is most important!)

No TV 

Recently, I finished Andy Crouch’s The Tech-wise Familya book from a journalist and writer who I’ve long respected for his insight into faith and culture. Crouch is a brilliant commentator on society and culture. And he doesn’t have a television in the living room. The TV is in the basement. (The family turns it on so rarely that his daughter wasn’t even sure they had one!)

John Piper, a preacher and writer highly influential in American evangelicalism (especially among younger generations) doesn’t have a TV at all. He’s never had one.

Which makes me wonder: could it be that the reason Andy Crouch’s cultural analysis is so astute and Piper’s devotional and exegetical writing is so compelling is because they don’t spend time in front of the screen?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television

(Post-Gazette) Holly Lott–A Presbyterian’s lament: Our church is forsaking core values with ‘reform’ that deforms

this effort to keep apace of the progressive culture is happening at the expense of tens of thousands of members each year. In the face of this, we are told that “we are not dying, we are reforming.” What exactly we are trying to become, though, is thoroughly ambiguous at best.

It’s worth considering what exactly this “reformation” looks like. In recent years, we have witnessed, for example, the church adopt same-sex marriage. There is, of course, no biblical basis for this course of action, quite the contrary in fact. Yes, we love and respect the dignity of each of God’s children, but we also accept that God created man and woman, separate, distinct and purposeful.

At the most recent conference of our denomination, we were offered a Muslim prayer, referring to Jesus Christ as merely a prophet alongside Muhammad. Yes, we love and respect the dignity of the Muslim community as children of God, but ought we invite a person to reject our savior at a conference allegedly intended to decide how best to spread his teachings?

On abortion, we are told by PCUSA only that the decision is “deeply personal,” and should be made based on “Scripture.” Naturally, though, the statement offers no guidance as to any particular piece of Scripture that a person ought to reference. To do so would risk lending support to the inherent value of each human life. In fairness, however, it should be noted that PCUSA at least disapproves of partial-birth abortion. How bold.

In the face of these travesties, it should come as no surprise that our Christian brothers and sisters are vacating the denomination in droves.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Presbyterian [PCUSA], Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat on Michael Cromartie–The Apostle to the Media

Like many evangelicals, he ended up working in the peculiar outsider-insider world of conservative Washington, influencing the Republican Party’s counsels even as the wider establishment continued to regard his faith and movement as exotic, disreputable, possibly dangerous.

But more than most Cromartie did not accept this suspicion and mistrust as permanent or necessary. His great work, which occupied much of the last two decades of his life, was a distinctive exercise in dialogue and encounter: Twice a year, he invited prominent journalists, members of one of America’s most secular professions, into extended conversation with religious leaders, theologians and historians, the best and brightest students and practitioners of varied faiths. These conferences, held in Maine and Miami and Key West, Fla., were purpose-driven junkets, intended to prove that religious believers and professional media elites did not have to be locked in a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust.

And in the discussion sessions that Cromartie ran they weren’t. There were tense moments and hostile interactions here and there, but for the most part when you were inside his conferences (or helping to choose the speakers, as I did for a while), you could imagine that pluralism could actually work, that religious views could advance by persuasion without encouraging intolerance, that the religious and nonreligious could argue and listen in good faith, that conservative believers could be taken seriously by the media and extend greater trust and understanding in their turn.

This little Arcadia was an extension of its presiding genius’s personality. I was not Cromartie’s closest friend, and for a deeper appreciation of the man’s distinctive qualities I recommend the many tributes in the last week from journalists who were closer — particularly Carl Cannon’s eulogy in RealClearPolitics, which captures Cromartie in full.

But he was a personal inspiration to me from very early in my career. Nobody in Washington was kinder to me as a novice journalist, nobody gave me more hope that my own peculiar vocation was worthwhile rather than quixotic, and few men I met in my D.C. years modeled the Christian virtues of faith and hope and charity so ebulliently, without the air of defensive irony that many of us weave around our unfashionable morality and metaphysics.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) Giles Fraser–The disestablishment of the church is now necessary and inevitable

I always used to think that no political party would be prepared to give disestablishment the time and effort that it would require. But Prime Minister Corbyn might just be the man to do it. And far from being a fusty move for constitutional committees, disestablishment could be framed as an attempt to rationally redesign a Britain fit for a global role beyond the EU. After all, who needs Christian morality in the age of human rights?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not warm to the state of affairs that I have just described. Indeed, I feel profoundly alienated from such a country. It is just that I think something like this is unavoidable and that the established church has to get ahead of the situation by transforming itself, rather than play a continuous rearguard action against the inevitable.

But there is opportunity here for the church, as well as loss. What we give up is our traditional role as courtiers. Good, I say. The banners of the New Model Army would proudly proclaim that there is no king but Jesus. And to say that Jesus is the supreme authority is to say that no one else can be – not the Romans, not the pope, not the House of Stuart or the House of Windsor. The Church of England was specifically designed to soften that thought, to make it less dangerous. Christians were to be housetrained. We were to give up all our revolutionary talk of bringing God’s kingdom to earth and settle instead for a warm vicarage and being nice to our parishioners. That settlement is about to be ripped up.

I do not believe that disestablishment will revive the numerical fortunes of the church. Looking at our disestablished cousins, I think it may well mean we will decline at an even faster rate – at least in the short to medium term (and that means centuries in church terms). But please, my fellow Anglicans, we need to go before we are no longer welcome. And go in the knowledge that, as people of the resurrection, we do not fear death – either personally or institutionally.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(The State) Chuck Croft Chimes in–SC Supreme Court got it wrong on Episcopal Church dispute

I am outraged by the recent S.C. Supreme Court decision that strips the title of 28 churches in the Diocese of South Carolina and awards them to the national Episcopal Church. As acting Justice Jean Toal wrote in a dissent: “The First Amendment prohibits civil courts from resolving church property disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Washington Post Wonkblog) Christopher Ingraham–Here’s one marijuana trend you should actually be worried about

The latest federal survey data shows that while teen marijuana use continues to decline in the era of legal pot, adult use is rising. The percent of people over the age of 18 who smoke it in a given year has risen from 10.4 percent in 2002 to 14.1 percent in 2016. In other words, 46 million people got high last year.

In and of itself, the increase in adult marijuana use isn’t particularly alarming. Public-health researchers are typically more worried about adolescent drug use, which can derail a young person’s life. If more adults are smoking marijuana once or twice a year — even once or twice a month — it’s not really a huge concern.

More concerning, though, is the number of people who are getting high all the time — heavy users who smoke on a daily or near-daily basis. The federal data shows that those numbers are increasingly precipitously.

In 2016,  nearly 19 percent of people who used marijuana that year used it at least 300 days out of the year. That figure’s up by roughly 50 percent from 2002, when 12 percent of marijuana users consumed the drug daily or near-daily.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine