The Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a significant blow to executive power, cutting back on the president’s power to issue recess appointments during brief breaks in the Senate’s work.
The court ruled unanimously that President Obama had violated the Constitution in 2012 by appointing officials to the National Labor Relations Board during a short break in the Senate’s work when the chamber was convening every three days in pro forma sessions. Those breaks were too short, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a majority opinion joined by the court’s four more liberal members.
The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protests near abortion clinics.
The law, enacted in 2007, created 35-foot buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics. State officials said the law was a response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994.
The law was challenged on First Amendment grounds by opponents of abortion who said they sought to have quiet conversations with women entering clinics to tell them about alternatives to abortion.
The court was unanimous about the bottom line but divided on the reasoning.
The banners read, "Please Pope stop here to see an angel who has been waiting for you," and, "Please come and bless little Roberta."
The family of Roberta, a young woman who cannot breathe unassisted or travel very far away from her home, hoped to greet Pope Francis as he returned to the Vatican from Cassano allo Jonio, where he denounced the horrible crimes of the mafia.
They got their wish as the pope rushed to greet them, blessing Roberta with a kiss before shaking hands with her friends and family. He hopped out of his car almost before it stopped moving in his eagerness to meet the family.
The lone American prisoner of war from the Afghan conflict, captured by insurgents nearly five years ago, has been released to American forces in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, Obama administration officials said Saturday.
The soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was handed over to American Special Operations forces inside Afghanistan about 10:30 a.m. Saturday by a group of 18 Taliban, officials said.
American officials said that Sergeant Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.
The five Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo were being transferred into the custody of officials from Qatar, who will accompany them back to that Persian Gulf state, where they will be subject to security restrictions, including a one-year travel ban.
Talks on the exchange resumed in earnest about a week ago with Qatari officials who were acting as intermediaries for the Taliban.
President Obama personally telephoned the soldier’s parents on Saturday, shortly after Sergeant Bergdahl was transferred to the American military; the Bergdahl family was in Washington after a visit here for Memorial Day, officials said.
“Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” President Obama said in a statement.
The sergeant’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, said in a statement: “We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son.”
Sergeant Bergdahl is believed to have been held by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan’s northwest frontier, on the Afghan border. He was captured in Paktika Province in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.
The circumstances of how he was separated from his unit and captured have remained a mystery.
The latest evidence indicating that Sergeant Bergdahl, who was promoted twice while held prisoner, was still alive came in January, when a video was obtained by the American military showing him alert but also apparently in declining health.
One Defense Department official said that once Sergeant Bergdahl was safely aboard the American military helicopter flown to the rendezvous, he wrote on a paper plate with a pen — because it was so loud — “S.F.?” seeking to find out if his rescuers were American Special Forces.
One soldier yelled back, “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time,” at which point, the Pentagon official said, Sergeant Bergdahl broke down crying.
Let's all set aside for the moment the circumstances surrounding his release and let's instead join his parents in rejoicing over his freedom. And let's pray the scars caused by his imprisonment heal quickly and fully.
To me basic SEAL training was a life time of challenges crammed into six months.
So, here are the ten lesson’s I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.
Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.
If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.
It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy.
Every day your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.
In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in.
Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.
For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.
You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help— and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.
If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class which started with 150 men was down to just 35. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.
I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them—no one was over about 5-foot five.
The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish America, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the mid-west.
They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews.
The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim.
But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh— swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.
SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.
If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough.
Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.
But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle—- it just wasn’t good enough.
The instructors would fine “something” wrong.
For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand.
The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.
There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right—it was unappreciated.
Those students didn’t make it through training.
Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.
Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.
It’s just the way life is sometimes.
If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events—long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.
Every event had standards—times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to—a “circus.”
A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics—designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.
No one wanted a circus.
A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue—and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.
But at some time during SEAL training, everyone—everyone—made the circus list.
But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Overtime those students-—who did two hours of extra calisthenics—got stronger and stronger.
The pain of the circuses built inner strength-built physical resiliency.
Life is filled with circuses.
You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.
But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.
BRANDON: You recently converted to Catholicism after serving as an Anglican priest for many years. What drew you to the Catholic Church?
MICHAEL WARD: It was a long process—at least twenty years in the making. I view the change not as a turning of my back on my Anglican and Evangelical past, but rather as a continuation, a confirmation, even a completion of all that was best in that experience. Obviously, I can't go into any fine detail here about all the causes and reasons, but for me the change involved, among many other things, the following seven items, which I list in no particular order:
First, a concern about Biblical interpretation. I came to realize that it's not enough just to say, "Scripture is my final authority" and quote a text to prove a point, because the devil can quote scripture! One must have an authoritative interpretative community and tradition within which one approaches the Bible. Sacred scripture and sacred tradition are actually co-ordinate sources of authority: you can't have one without the other, and can only find your balance with them both together. I've been helped a good deal on this by a little book by Mark Shea, By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition.
Second, sexual ethics. I had to write an essay on that subject when I was training to be an Anglican priest and, for the first time in my life, I read the relevant papal encyclicals (like Humanae Vitae). These caused me to sit up and take notice, because they actually made sense to me as did no other tradition of sexual ethical teaching that I was (or am) aware of. I began to see that the contemporary Protestant confusions on sexual ethics were in large part traceable to decisions made in the 1930s, on the seemingly unimportant matter of contraception. But from that apparently small change in doctrine, all the other developments have unfolded, with an iron inevitability. It’s all of a piece. Our current controversies about what constitutes marriage, for example, are part of the same moral earthquake that began rumbling so quietly in the ‘30s but is now rocking almost everyone and everything. Catholic sexual ethics contains many hard teachings, to be sure, but it makes sense, it holds together, and it also comes hand-in-hand with the graces of the sacraments that help us to live by those teachings—especially the sacrament of reconciliation, without which we’d all be permanently adrift!
Third, Peter. The more I looked at the Biblical teaching about Peter, the more I was convinced that he was commissioned into a very special office by Christ when he gave him “the keys” and said "on this rock I will build my Church". But Christ also says to him, "I have prayed for you that your faith fail not." Is it likely that Christ's prayer would not be answered? And if Christ is with the apostles "to the end of the age" (as per the close of Matthew's Gospel), does this not mean that the Petrine office would continue indefinitely, in the successors of Peter, the bishops of Rome, as, indeed, we see beginning to happen even before the death of the last apostle (according to Clement’s Letter to Corinth)? To be sure, many popes have been wicked, and the papacy has gone through tumultuous periods, but the tradition of Christian faith and morals has still been securely handed on, even to the present day. This is surely what one would expect, if the office has been properly constituted. The office-holder may be better or worse depending on the particular person, but the office never loses its constitutionality or authority.
Fourth, Mary. I began to be aware that Mary was a real blind-spot for me, and that my ignorance of her role in salvation history had a seriously detrimental impact upon my understanding of Christ. It was only when I edited a book on heresies (Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why it Matters What Christians Believe) that I was brought face to face with my own tendencies towards a Nestorian view of Mary. (Read chapter 3 of that book to discover what Nestorianism is, if you don’t already know!) Since becoming a Catholic, I have found that Marian devotions have been a tremendously rooting and enriching part of my spiritual life. She is the archetypal disciple, in whose very body God chose to dwell, in the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation. And the place given to Mary in Catholicism helps explain also, at least in part, why Catholics have kept their head on sexual ethics, despite the modernist ethical earthquake. The femininity of the Church, and of all human beings vis-a-vis God, is constantly brought home to one by Mary’s example. The dignity of womanhood is affirmed, and all of us, men and women together, are reminded of the importance of contemplation and receptivity, of the need to say, with Mary, “Be it unto me according to Thy word”—and to let that affect our very bodies, as she did.
There are three more reasons, all of them worthy and then he answers additional questions.
President Drew G. Faust Harvard University Office of the President Massachusetts Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
Dear President Faust,
I am writing to ask you to use your office to intervene to shut down the terribly ill-advised and totally insensitive Satanic Mass that’s supposed to take place on Monday, May 12 at the Queens Head Pub within Memorial Hall.
To argue, as the Extension School’s Press Release did, that it’s about education or freedom of expression or assembly or religion is silly. We all know that if there were to be a seance to communicate with the soul of Adolf Hitler, Harvard would never countenance it, first because we’re clearly dealing with conjuring evil, and second because it would be terribly injurious to Jewish members of the Harvard community and the wider community.
We also all know that if an “independent student organization” were trying to host an event in which there would be reenacting the burning of a copy of the Koran, it likewise would never be permitted, because Harvard would never associate itself with the desecration of Islam’s sacred text or allow its name or property to be used in something that would obviously outrage the spiritual sensibilities of Muslims.
A ceremony invoking Satan, mocking the Catholic Mass and desecrating what Catholics believe to be the Body of Jesus Christ — or if, implausibly, an unconsecrated host will be used, something that is at least meant to symbolize the Eucharist — should be treated in the same way.
It’s not enough for Harvard to put out a press release saying that Harvard doesn’t “endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization.” Harvard simply would never allow itself or its properties to be associated with events that mock the religious beliefs, desecrate the sacred texts, or insult the spiritual sensitivities of Jews or Muslims. Likewise it wouldn’t allow its reputation or institution to be affiliated in any way with the activities or views of an “independent student organization” that was reenacting the lynchings of African Americans or homophobic attacks or violence against women. Harvard would act decisively in those situations, both out of just concern for its own reputation but also out of moral outrage against such insensitivity that clear thinking, ethical people immediately recognize as evil.
You have a special responsibility over Harvard’s reputation as well as occupy the most prominent position of all to demonstrate what Harvard stands for. Please grasp that Harvard’s present acquiescence to allowing its campus to be the setting for this Satanic Mass and its up-until-now anemic response have already brought the University local, national and international derision. The Founders of Harvard would, I think, be ashamed that a school to which they gave the motto Veritas: Christo et Ecclesiae would allow itself to be used in any way whatsoever as the staging for Satanic worship.
Yesterday I was asked by about two dozen people about what my alma mater was doing in allowing this mockery of Catholicism and this acquiescence in the conjuring of evil. I replied that I can’t fathom how this “dear mother” would have lost its capacity to see clearly and promptly how outrageous this is and that for the first time in my life I’m really embarrassed to be associated with Harvard. I’m sure there are many other alumni who are similarly ashamed.
There’s still time to remedy this situation and clearly communicate that mockery and desecration of the religious rites, objects, and sensitivities of others have no place at Harvard.
By shutting this event down and not just dissociating itself from what was supposed to happen but by forcefully condemning it, you would not only remedy the damage to Harvard’s reputation that has already taken place but set the type of example for educational institutions and the broader culture that Harvard has prided itself in setting for 378 years.
I’m hoping that you will use your office to respond as strongly to this insensitivity as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently used his office to respond to Donald Sterling’s racist comments.
That’s what this situation warrants. That’s what you have the power to do. And that’s what I’m asking and praying that you will do.
Children in the womb should have the same legal standing as other children, the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled Friday.
The decision upheld the prior conviction of Sarah Janie Hicks for “the chemical endangerment of her child,” when she exposed her unborn baby to cocaine. The boy, referred to as “JD,” was born testing positive for cocaine.
The 8-1 decision reaffirmed the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling in a similar case last year that the word “child” includes “unborn child.”
Friday’s decision was a review of the lower Court of Criminal Appeals’ conviction of Hicks.
According to Justice Tom Parker, who wrote the majority decision, “It is impossible for an unborn child to be a separate and distinct person at a particular point in time in one respect and not to be a separate and distinct person at the same point in time but in another respect. Because an unborn child has an inalienable right to life from its earliest stages of development, it is entitled not only to a life free from the harmful effects of chemicals at all stages of development but also to life itself at all stages of development. Treating an unborn child as a separate and distinct person in only select respects defies logic and our deepest sense of morality.”
Fr. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, referred to the decision as a unique instance of “common sense and logical consistency.”