Life Expectations, As Viewed Through the Fiat

Tuesday, November 25, AD 2008

When I consider the malaise that has spread across our nation, I ponder where it has come from. Is it a matter of a historical discomfort, so that it has always been present and is simply more noticeable now, or is it a more recent phenomenon? Part of me wants to simply assert that in the past, we were too busy worrying about survival to really bother with such concerns, and that nowadays we have so much luxury time that we can actually sit back a think about things are.

Continue reading...

One Response to Life Expectations, As Viewed Through the Fiat

  • Thank you for this article, Ryan. I imagine a lot more can be said about the problems of an entitlement culture; hopefully you can continue to develop these thoughts.

2 Responses to Our Oldest Ally

  • We dig the current Pres, Monsieur Sarkozy. Remarkably sane and clear-thinking chap. We most definitely dig the new Madame Sarkozy- Ms. Carla can come to any old White House state dinner, with or without hubbo. But the French have had their brains marinated by too much Marxist-socialist-existentialist-other ist stuff since WW II. We have problems with their love of any American eccentric- Jerry Lewis, Mickey Roarke, any number of jazz musicians. They also provided aid and comfort to Ira Einhorn- Philly-born spouter of what is now New Age bosh. Round about 1979, he murdered girlfriend Holly Maddux, stuffed the poor child into a box, and skipped off to Europe for well nigh 20 years. Spent much of that time in Burgundy, with la belle Francaise and le good life. In ’01, I remember hearing the whooshwhooshwhoosh of helicopter blades while in downtown Philly. Ol’ Ira was finally home for long stay in le hoosegow. So I got issues with France.

  • Pingback: The Economy » Blog Archive » Manipulation on a Grand Scale- Making Hitler Look Like a Pussy Cat …

Bragging Rights

Monday, November 24, AD 2008

Goodness knows, there are lots of ways that liberals and conservatives manage to annoy each other. Still, one that has struck me recently is an odd sort of bragging rights.

One of the main divisions between these groups at this point in time is over how the less vulnerable in society are best provided with care. The liberal view is generally that comprehensive government programs should be set up to assure that everyone in society has a certain basic level of food, income, medical care, housing, babysitting, rice pudding, etc. The conservative view is generally that guaranteed government handouts create dependency and hurt people in the long run, and that short term help for those in trouble is generally better provided by family, church or private charity.

The problem comes when members of these two groups get together and start arguing about how to help others.

Continue reading...

9 Responses to Bragging Rights

  • There’s probably an entire book that could be written about this topic. One way I’ve often thought about it is to describe it as first order vs. second order thinking. Taking the cue from math, you can take the first order derivative of something, and it can tell you one thing. But you have to take the second order derivative to know where you really are — local maximum or minimum. It’s that second order condition that completes the picture and gives you a fuller sense of where you are.

    I would characterize a lot of progressive thought as first order thinking. It often correctly identifies the problem, usually out of a conscience that is rightly ordered toward sympathy and justice, and the emotions they arouse. Unless you dig a little deeper, the immediate temptation is to resort to policy that has coercion as its underpinning. Coercive policy might or might not be warranted, and a technical review of the problem can help find the answer. (And this is true not only of economic policy, but a lot of “progressive” social policy as well).

    Second order thinking isn’t very popular, though. If it takes more than a soundbite to describe a problem and its possible solutions, it won’t get much air time. Hence the corner the conservative is often backed into: not supporting the easy fix, he looks like a curmudgeon at best. The second order inspection often reveals deeper truths that aren’t “convenient,” to coin a phrase.

    In fact, Darwin, one thing you left out from the conservative’s proposed toolkit of solutions that REALLY raises the ire of the Left is morality. Blaming the victim is not what I mean: rather, it’s a general verdict on the nature of mankind’s relationship with God that is at fault. This is a complete non-starter in most cases, and yet – religion aside – how are we ever to cease being moral creatures? We still need the language to talk about morality and rescue it from non-judgmentalism and vapid “tolerance.” There needs to be a way to salvage that tool from the kit, because so many of our economic and social ills have moral causes at their root. (Not entirely, of course, but enough to warrant at least a discussion.)

    We have to move beyond ideologies and soundbites to solve our problems. Serious, sustained thought is necessary to get at the root of the issues. The solutions will not always fit neatly into our worldviews — which is why, even as a conservative, I readily admit that there is a strong role for government to play in many areas of public policy. What the Left also needs to admit is that there are valid arguments to be made for charity, local solutions, market-based approaches, and (yes) “cultural” change on morality. I don’t think these two worldviews are mutually exclusive, yet our rhetoric almost always treats them that way.

  • There’s probably an entire book that could be written about this topic.

    There already is one.

  • Arthur Brooks and I went to the same graduate school, but I doubt that’s why we share some opinions.

  • I think that American conservatives get into trouble when ideology seeps into their solutions, because ideology implies totality – in effect, a denial of the trade-offs that do and will always dominate life. This is to say that policy gets mixed up with ideological principle (Bush’s idea that all kids can be above average in school, and that Wilsonian adventurism made up as spreading democracy to grateful peoples is a-ok). What policy should be mixed up with, instead, is conservative sentiment – against utopia, realizing that trade-offs exist, against ideology. The solutions should be flexible, and we should not be “running people out” of any center-right coalition, which is always shifting and always full of contradiction.

  • I enjoyed this piece for many reasons, not the least of which was the authors frank discussion of the obvious flaws in both viewpoints. I can see agreement with both sides but can’t help remember the frustration I felt trying to help an 18 year old with no medical insurance having an allergic reaction but not wanting an ambulance because he knew he couldn’t pay the bill. Some things may not be rights according to conservatives but how do you explain that to a self reliant 18 who in just another minute or two may not be able to breathe? In other words, theoretical discussions are nice but don’t help many people if they need help right now. Ideaologies are nice but don’t solve many problems, progressives may use coercion, but there solutions to help people.

  • “I felt trying to help an 18 year old with no medical insurance having an allergic reaction but not wanting an ambulance because he knew he couldn’t pay the bill. ”

    You call the ambulance and the 18 year old worries about the bill later. With Universal “free” Government Health Care the thrifty 18 year old will soon find that his paycheck has a lot more to worry about than an ambulance bill.

  • You missed my point. I was on the ambulance and he needed to be transported and didn’t want to go. I understand that he would have more to worry about from taxes but conservative ideology is very easy to advocate in the abstract and sometimes very difficult to advocate in the specific. The progressive ideology is just the opposite, very easy to advocate in that kind of a situation but very difficult to advocate in the abstract. This is why most people can’t answer the “what about” type arguments of most progressives.

  • “This is why most people can’t answer the “what about” type arguments of most progressives.”

    I think that’s right. It has struck me in arguments related to the automobile bail-out. Progressives are arguing ‘what about all of the people that will be out of a job?’ And conservatives are responding ‘what about the larger number of people you can’t see who will lose their jobs because the bailout involves making a terrible investment with scarce resources?’ The conservative argument is perfectly sound, and, in my view, is superior on policy grounds. But it does have the disadvantage of being more abstract (like the argument about mediating institutions and health care).

  • Micah,

    Good point.

    Another element, tying specifically into the point you make about the ambulance, is the inability of many people to think longer term.

    There was a point back in college when I specifically skipped paying health insurance for a year, on the theory that the student plan was a thousand dollars in spending that I never got anything for. It figured that that would be the year I managed to injure myself — and so spend six hundred dollars out of pocket on some doctors visits in town. It took me several weeks of kicking myself over this to realize that:
    a) I’d still actually spent less than the 1000 for the insurance
    b) I would have been able to spend much less if I’d shelled out the $120 for a doctors visit right away when I injured myself, instead of walking on it for a couple weeks and showing up when I had a badly healed wound and a tenacious infection.

    That’s one of the things that often strikes me when people talk about the, “By not having health insurance, you force people to get treated in an emergency room for the flu,” argument. It’s certainly true that what many people end up doing without insurance is waiting until things get so bad they end up having to be taken to the ER — but its a self defeating behavior.

    And yet people naturally want to avoid spending the smaller amount of money to get treated when its not an emergency yet.

Petition the United Nations to respect ALL Human Life

Monday, November 24, AD 2008

On December 10th — the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948 — pro-abortion groups will present petitions asking the United Nation’s General Assembly to make abortion a universally recognized human right.

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute created an alternate petition drive that calls for government to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting human life from the moment of conception to natural death.

Continue reading...

9 Responses to Regulation & Credit Card Companies

  • I have small love for the credit card companies, as my hundreds of bankruptcy clients can attest, but you can either have easy credit with little regulation, or you can have tight credit with lots of regulation. Credit card debt is a classic unsecured debt. Those type of debts are going to have high interest rates unless the government subsidizes the loans. Who knows? Perhaps the government will be doing that in a few months. The Federal government is doing precisely the wrong thing with the bailouts, and I imagine this philosophy will spread with the government taking on additional obligations that the taxpayers will never be able to pay. Far better to let debtors, both individual and corporate take bankruptcy.

  • I am relatively open to regulation, and I hold no love for credit card companies, but capping their interest rates just drives people to pay day lenders and loan sharks, with worse outcomes than bankruptcy.

  • Pay day lender loans often have rates, in Illinois, that work out to about 345% per annum or worse.

  • Donald,

    I agree that unsecured debt is going to carry a higher interest rate, but it seems to me that it would be relatively easy to cap the interest rate at something like the the prime rate plus 6-8 percent. This would undoubtedly reduce the availability of credit to some borrowers, but many of these borrowers are simply postponing the inevitable. On average, a person who is willing to borrow at an 18% APR for a significant period of time is not in a good position to repay it.

    This would mean that people would probably have to declare bankruptcy earlier, and perhaps on the margin it would force more people into bankruptcy because of the lack of available credit. It seems to me that this might be a better outcome. People would not be able to incur as much debt, which would mean less crushing levels of debts for debtors and less write-offs for financial service companies. It would also protect individuals who are not particularly financially savvy from excessively high interest rates.


    You raise a good point about pay-day lenders. Any reform would have to encompass pay day lenders as well (necessarily with somewhat higher interest rates), so that the situation would not be made worse than it currently is.

  • “but it seems to me that it would be relatively easy to cap the interest rate at something like the the prime rate plus 6-8 percent.”

    It’s certainly very easy to do John Henry by government fiat, but it would also place credit cards out of the hands of most people who believe that they need credit. Today the prime rate is 4.00. Limit credit card rates to 10.00 or 12.00 and only people with pristine credit ratings will be able to have credit cards. Banks are in business to make money and they are not going to give unsecured loans to people with less than stellar credit histories without the ability to charge interest rates commensurate with the risk. I believe adults should be able to decide for themselves whether an interest rate on a credit card is too high. Careful buyers with good credit ratings can get low interest credit cards. For the rest, let them make the decision as to what is in their economic interest rather than have the government take that decision from them. The vast majority of credit card debt is repaid so I would submit that only a small minority of credit card holders are unable or unwilling to live up to the terms of their agreements. I prefer a society with easy credit and high interest rates on unsecured debt to government regulation which artificially lowers interest rates and dries up credit.

  • On average, a person who is willing to borrow at an 18% APR for a significant period of time is not in a good position to repay it.

    Generally speaking, an interest rate will reflect convenience (both convenience of the borrower and potential inconvenience for the lender) as part of the interest rate. One of the things about credit cards is that they allow you to take out a significant loan (up to a certain amount) at any time, and pay it back whenever you want, so long as you’re making a pretty minimal payment. That naturally increases the interest rate — both because the lender doesn’t know when they’ll get their money back, and because the borrower can take out money based on circumstances that he knows about but the lender doesn’t.

    So for instance, if I lost my job, and then we had a major medical expense, I could run up a few thousand dollars on my credit card without any clear idea of how I’d pay it, using it as a way to get a 5k loan without collateral or any fixed pay-off period and wait till I had work again — but if the lender had to evaluate me at that moment they would certainly not offer to give me 5k given that I had no income.

    In other words, it give the borrower the edge in terms of information.

    Now, I agree that credit card companies are often, to some extent, predatory in their approach. They know that if they have good enough ways of calculating who really needs money but will eventually pay it all of, they can successfully land long term borrowers who will net them a lot of interest.

    However, that the CC companies even make much money in the first place suggests that much of the time they do indeed get paid off — which means that most borrowers aren’t simply postponing the inevitable. (While nearly everyone who declares bankruptcy doubtless has lots of CC debt, most people with CC debt never declare bankruptcy.)

    I suppose a lot depends on what you mean by “significant period”. We’ve had a pair of nearly year long periods in our marriage when a combination of unexpected expenses and low income resulted in carrying a balance — though for a slightly lower interest rate.

    The trick is, I was fairly confident in my ability to earn and save my way out of those situations — but a government regulator is not really in a good position to determine if a given borrower is.

  • Donald,

    “I prefer a society with easy credit and high interest rates on unsecured debt to government regulation which artificially lowers interest rates and dries up credit.”

    As I said there is a trade-off here. I guess my problem is that credit card companies frequently (still more, pay-day loan companies) engage in predatory lending tactics that increase profitability but harm financially unsophisticated individuals. I think this is immoral in some cases, although I am not going to grab a pitchfork and start chanting ‘usury! usury!’. Just because something is immoral does not mean it should be illegal, and usum non tollit abusus.

    Nevertheless, I would be interested in looking at ways to curb the more questionable practices. As you note, this is a paternalistic approach that would constrict individual parties’ freedom to contract. I have not conducted the type of empirical studies that would be necessary to identify the best ways to change the existing law (the 6%-8% plus prime figure was intended as an example rather than a proposal). In any system there will be individuals who make irresponsible decisions with their freedom, as well as some level of regulation to protect consumers. The question is: have we struck the best balance between freedom of contract and regulation? I am not sure that we have, and I can think of explanations for that state of affairs (credit card companies likely are more effective lobbyists), but I am open to being persuaded otherwise.

  • Darwin,

    “In other words, it gives the borrower the edge in terms of information…but a government regulator is not really in a good position to determine if a given borrower is (likely to be able to pay back the money).”

    A well-thought out response (as was Donald’s). I agree, of course, that the government is not in a good position to determine if an individual borrower would be best served by additional debt. At the same time, it seems to me that there is often an information asymmetry between borrowers and credit card companies. For instance, a credit card company can increase the interest rate rather suddenly on a borrower – and borrower’s often do not consider this ex ante. In the article cited below, an individual missed one payment and immediately their interest rate increased from 9% to 30%.

    That individual was able to pay off the balance and immediately did, but those types of practices are not uncommon, and not everyone can pay off the balance that quickly. The incentive structure for credit card companies is to push people just to the verge of bankruptcy with higher interest rates, before working out a payment plan at a lower rate (e.g. somewhere between 9% and 30%). And, of course, it is the least sophisticated borrowers who are disproportionately impacted. It is fair to respond to all this that the inability of some people to manage their finances should not deprive the sensible majority of a very useful financial planning tool. I am not proposing that we do away with credit card companies; simply suggesting that this is an area (and there aren’t many) where I might support more regulation. Although I wasn’t aware of this when I wrote the post, it appears that the Federal Reserve and Congress are considering additional regulations that would take effect next year (in fact, if the article is correct, that may be one of the reasons why the interest rate for carrying a balance on our card is being raised now). It seems to me that there is a real difference in information between borrowers and credit card companies, that credit card companies often have greater bargaining power after the initial transactions, and that credit card companies are a sophisticated party with an incentive to encourage people to make unwise financial decisions. In such cases, I am more sympathetic to a higher level of regulatory oversight. In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

  • And similarly, I’m not necessarily totally against regulation of such companies per se — but it strikes me that most of the regulation ideas which are developed specifically by those wanting to “protect the poor from predatory lending” aren’t unhelpful. Maybe in part because those with that specific aim often attempt too much.

    I could potentially see things which are fairly circumscribed working well — designed more to change the weighting of the game rather than “protect” people. For instance, one might allow rate changes at most once a year and limit the amount a rate could be increased as a “penalty rate”. (Though one would need to understand this would result in higher rates over all and weigh the two possibilities.)

17 Responses to We Have No King But Jesus

  • It would be nice to see this blog put into practice this insight that we have no king but Jesus. Nice words, but there is little behind them.

  • Not even Thanksgiving is a good enough reason to take a break from unfair generalizations and polemics, eh?

  • Catholic Anarchist you never let any American holiday go by without displaying your hatred of your native land do you? I truly do pity you.

  • The Feast of Christ the King is not an American holiday, Donald.

  • But you showed up and left your comment nearly a week after the Feast of Christ the King, as part of your fuss about people’s Thanksgiving posts.

    I must admit, Michael, I’m never quite clear what it is that you consider putting Christ above king to consist of — other than sharing your personal preferences and prejudices on a range of topics. And yet, I must asume that there are many ways to grant God proper place, respect, and worship in our lives other than being Michael Iafrate.

  • Darwin, that comment made no sense. Rephrase?

  • With less intricate sentence structure:

    You often comment that others put America before Catholicism. Your comment that it would be nice if people here “had no king but Jesus” seems very much along those lines.

    Your use of this accusation often seems to amount to, “You have different opinions about American culture and politics than I do!”

    I’m not clear why differing from your assessment of American culture and politics amounts to putting America before the Church. Surely being Michael Iafrate is not the only correct way to have a correctly ordered relationship to God and Country.

  • I’m not clear why differing from your assessment of American culture and politics amounts to putting America before the Church.

    But clearly I’m not critiquing just any difference of opinion, but the fact that so many bloggers here buy into American civil religion, most especially the pseudo-worship of soldiers. Many of you have more respect for U.S. troops than you do for the U.S. bishops. That’s a problem.

  • Depends on the soldier and the bishop 🙂

  • Michael,

    Like your open support of pro-abortion Obama than you do for U.S. Bishops?

  • Michael – caricatures and insults are easy – any drunk at a baseball game can do that much. If there is a specific position that I or someone else has taken that you think indicates membership in “American civil religion”, please bring it to our attention. You may be right after all; but sweeping generalizations don’t help anybody.

  • Michael,

    While “guy into American civil religion” is a wonderfully grad-school-ish phrase of derision, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen you convincingly make the case that your opponents participate in it, other than simply making the assertion when people express sentiments you disagree with. Nor does your claim about the “pseudo-worship of soldiers” strike me as particularly sensible. Certainly, a number of us frequently express gratitude for the sacrifices that soldiers make. I’m sure that you would agree it is not easy or pleasant to be deployed in often primitive conditions, away from family, exposed to danger, and under obedience. I think most people recognize this and are thus thankful for the sacrifices which servicemen make on their country’s behalf.

    Many of you have more respect for U.S. troops than you do for the U.S. bishops. That’s a problem.

    Again, I’m not really sure what you mean by this.

    Certainly, there are many here who have criticized the USCCB as a body or bishops individually on various issues. Surely you can hardly criticize this, as you once (to my mind wrongly) accused the entire USCCB with the exception of one eastern rite bishops of lacking male genitals, simply because you thought the bishops should have used rhetoric similar to your own about the Iraq War.

    I would wager that everyone here respects the office of bishop more than the office of soldier. The soldier’s office is to obey and to have courage, willingness to sacrifice and suffer the deprivations of being in danger far from home. The bishop’s office is to be a shepherd to the people of Christ, providing them with both teaching and the sacraments. In that much, much more is expected of an individual bishop than of an individual soldier, it can hardly be surprising that it is easy to criticize bishops for not living up to their duties.

    While people should keep this in mind, and be hesitant to criticize the bishops excessively, I don’t really see how it could even be a reasonable comparison to argue that someone has more respect for soldiers as a group than for bishops as a group. Certainly not unless someone had been so foolish as to actually state the sentiment openly.

    Your making it against people here doesn’t really strike me as any more reasonable than if I were to say that you respected Chomsky more than the bishops.

  • Many of you have more respect for U.S. troops than you do for the U.S. bishops. That’s a problem.

    A phantom one, at best. Showing respect for our troops in no way diminishes our respect for our bishops, whether we blog about it or not. Frankly, I find that our soldiers are in much more need for our prayers and support, given the danger they’re in (not just of imminent death, but psychological trauma, and spiritual decay). But I don’t see how you come off making your accusation. Our soldiers work to gain us temporal good; our bishops work to gain us eternal spiritual good. That the latter is so obviously more valuable should barely warrant comment.

    Buy into American civil religion? How so? I suppose that if you believe people here at A.C. support unjust war and torture and lining the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor, you have reason to believe we are in error. But maybe you’ll be willing to explain how those are even part of this “American civil religion” you mentioned. And maybe you’ll consider that there’s a difference between the “religion” and the practitioners. The U.S. is against unjust war, against torture, and dedicated to helping the poor and the righting of injustices. Where is that even in conflict with the Catholic Church? I’ll concede that we’ve had people, even presidents, that have not molded well to what America stands for, but then we’re arguing about sinners and application of principles.

    It would be nice to see this blog put into practice this insight that we have no king but Jesus.

    It would be nice to see something more substantive as a comment than just a snide statement. Really, Michael, I’ve read your comments for a while, and they mostly seem to have no point but to deride. Getting more insightful statements from you is like pulling teeth. Granted, I’ll give you that some of us have not been the most charitable towards you, but if you have valid concerns about what we’re doing here at A.C., it would be far more helpful, constructive, and enlightening–both for those of us who contribute directly and those who read here looking for insight–if you took some time not just to point out flaws, but even explain how you even believe we have these flaws, and what you think we should do to fix them.

    But clearly I’m not critiquing just any difference of opinion, but the fact that so many bloggers here buy into American civil religion,

    This is exactly my concern about your comments. You simply make this brash statement with nothing around it make it insightful or helpful. Maybe I’m just dense, but when you say “American civil religion”, what are you even talking about? Such a statement is pretty vacuous because there’s not context behind it. Maybe for you, it should be obvious that it means something like “worshiping G.W. Bush as God”, but for me, when you say “American civil religion” what I think of is the religion of “me before anyone else”, “no one can interfere with my ‘sexual rights'”, “as long as it doesn’t ‘hurt’ anyone else”, and so forth.

    DC tried to involve you into an actual conversation (though arguably not the best way of going about it) of how what we’re doing here places America before Church, and you respond with just another unsubstantiated assertion that we’re, in your opinion, placing America before Church. I know I feel, and probably most others feel, that you’re stating A, and then try to prove A by restating A.

    Moreover, these discussions we could be having are some of the important discussion to have. Yet it feels too much of the time that the conversation just becomes “You’re wrong–nuh uh–yeah huh–nuh uh–yeah huh–nuh uh–yeah huh….”

  • Maybe I’m just dense, but when you say “American civil religion”, what are you even talking about? Such a statement is pretty vacuous because there’s not context behind it.

    Sure there is. “ACR” is a term with a meaning. Perhaps you could look it up instead of saying that my statement has no meaning.

  • Still waiting on an argument or evidence Michael…

  • You’ll be waiting for a long time . . . his sneers aren’t often backed up by any rational thought process.

  • That a term has a meaning does not mean that it can be applied to a person or group without justification. I can thinking of a lot of terms which I might apply to you, which you would no doubt consider to be inaccurate descriptions, despite the fact that the terms do very much have meaning.

    If you’re talking about “American civic religion” in the sense coined by Bellah in the 60s, my recollection is that this was a sociological term used to describe a shared set of ideals, values, holidays and “civic rituals”. It does not necessarily designate, as you seem to imply, worship of the state — or indeed a reverential or religious attitude towards the state at all.

    Given your general attitude towards things American I can see why you would use it as a derogatory label — and perhaps you read people who do. Sociology is not particularly my bag. But even if so, you don’t appear to be making a sociological argument, but rather imagining that you’ve come up with a rather damning indictment of the general tenor here. And at least from a general knowledge of the term, I don’t see how your statement is meaningful.

What Makes Music American?

Sunday, November 23, AD 2008

Tito and Donald have instituted a worthy tradition of posting music on the weekends here at American Catholic, and so as the weekend winds to a close I thought I would attempt by own contribution to the genre, though with a characteristically analytical slant.

I’m not sure how it is that one can say that a piece of music “sounds like” a particular country. And yet some pieces of music very clearly have a regional tone. For instance, Vaughan Williams orchestral music simply sounds like English countryside.

While I don’t think I could describe what it is that makes something sound American, the following are some of the most American-sounding pieces of music that I know of.

Jerome Moross received an Oscar nomination for the score he wrote for Big Country, the outstanding 1958 western staring Gregory Peck, Charleton Heston and Burl Ives.

The movie itself is very much worth watching, and the score is one of my favorite movie scores. This video illustrates the main theme with scenes from the movie.

Continue reading...

16 Responses to What Makes Music American?

Canonical Options For Dealing With FOCA

Sunday, November 23, AD 2008

With President-elect Obama assembling together the most anti-life and anti-family radicals imaginable for his upcoming administration.  In addition to ignoring the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) statement* (November 12, 2008 AD) to reconsider not signing the misnomered Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).  Along with other abortion related executive, judicial, and legislative acts, the options to combat this evil are becoming fewer for American Catholics.

With American Catholics being left to their faith for sustenance, our shepherds, the Catholic Bishops (USCCB), may need to review their canonical options for dealing with Catholic legislative support for FOCA.  The USCCB will have to engage the issue of well known “Catholic legislators supporting a specifically and gravely evil bill” as Dr. Edward Peters, a well respected canon lawyer, stated today on his blog.  Dr. Edward Peters sees four (4) canonical options in “dealing with these Catholic legislators who support FOCA” (emphasis mine):

1. Canon 915. Make plain, by public announcement and/or private contact, that a legislator’s support for FOCA qualifies as (probably formal, but certainly proximate material) cooperation with objective grave evil and that such conduct, in this case, would render one ineligible for reception of holy Communion under Canon 915.

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Canonical Options For Dealing With FOCA

  • As Prof. Dr. Peters outlines, numerous options for our shepherds in case FOCA gets Mr. Obama’s John Hancock. The one possibility for prevention is that other issues command his attention, particularly the economy. If not, the bishops are in a significant bind. Many bold and freeswinging letters, documents, interview quotes were issued before November 4. Oops- the majority of our brethren voted with the understanding that economic issues trump the lives of unborn babies. Some quick and fast evangelization may be needed to reinforce opposition to FOCA. Never a very good idea to call for battle with no troops behind the generals.

  • Forget the troops! Be true shepherds and defend the magisterium regardless of the flock. The Bishops are wholly responsible for 54% of Catholics voting for evil by their equivocating in their ‘Faithful Citizenship’ Document. They must now act and act boldly. Forget the economy, the rich progressive benefactors, and lead, or resign. Also, the Vatican needs to be more selective when it chooses Bishops. The time for gentle politics is over. Act now and act decisively! This will seep back into what little is left the Church if no action is taken.

  • COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and

3 Responses to The Toleration Act of Maryland

Turkeys, Reporters and Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 22, AD 2008

Governor Palin is interviewed while turkeys meet their mortality in the background.  She pardoned one lucky turkey at the turkey farm.  This video has become a minor media sensation and I can understand why.  Most reporters do have a certain kinship with the victims.


Update:  We hear from the Turkey wrangler here.  My favorite quote: 

“Tomes has worked at the Triple D Turkey Farm in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska for the past nine years. He says Palin is being unfairly criticized over the video. “The only thing I can say is, ‘Don’t mess with my Governor!'””

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Turkeys, Reporters and Thanksgiving

3 Responses to Mozart Te Deum

To Pray, To Engage, and Fight Like a Maccabee.

Friday, November 21, AD 2008

I confess I am disappointed to see one of my colleagues at American Catholic dismiss the “Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama” as only so much “fruitless and pointless rhetoric”.

In response, permit me to explain what led to my own signature of the letter in question.

Readers of Catholics in the Public Square are no doubt aware that I have emphatically disagreed with Henry and those contributors at Vox Nova who supported Barack Obama throughout the 2008 election.

At the same time, to say Catholics shouldn’t have cast their vote for Obama is not the same thing as asserting that they were prohibited from doing so. This, at least, seems to be the conclusion drawn from the USCCB document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position [on abortion] may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

Suffice to say I was among the those who did not believe a “grave moral reason” existed that warranted voting for Obama. And if some members of Vox Nova disagreed, I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt, and trust they thought about it as long and hard as my own decision to vote for Senator McCain.

Continue reading...

8 Responses to To Pray, To Engage, and Fight Like a Maccabee.

  • Christopher Blosser,

    I respect you more than you know. I also agree with most of your posting.

    I do want to say that if the letter emanated from an orthodox source say like Fr. Zuhlsdorf or even Mark Shea, I would not have regarded the “open letter” as fruitless and pointless.

    I want to say that the letter, because of the source that it is emanating from, is pretty much Dead On Arrival. Not that President-elect Obama would not respond positively, which I am sure you and I agree that he does, but basically that people such as Henry Karlson, Michael Deem, and their ilk have done everything possible (with some even advocating AND voting for Obama) to confuse Catholics, obfuscate the issues, and undermine the Faithful Citizenship document to the point of allowing faithful Catholics to be confused at best, disoriented at most.

    I also agree 100% with Dale Price, and I do pray often each day and for our new President-elect, that we as Catholics should engage in dialogue with our new President. But I do not believe the sincerity and genuiness of a certain group of Catholics that did the maximum possible harm to the efforts of preventing Senator Obama from being elected President of our great nation.

    Christopher, I do not doubt for one moment your sincerity and honesty or Fr. Z’s, Mark Shea’s, Deal Hudsons, and the many other orthodox Catholics that signed. You and the other orthodox Catholics did not do anything wrong, in my eyes.

    To those that misled the faithful, the following quotes from holy scripture come to mind:

    Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

    — Romans 1:22-23

    Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

    — Isaiah 5:20-24

    Again Christopher, I don’t fault you for you signing the document. I believe your sincerity to the fullest.

  • Christopher,

    I like the “fight like a Macabee” title. I heard it before from another poster on another blog. Is this a common refrain? If it is, I haven’t heard of it until recently.

    Again, I don’t discount the letter by itself, just that it came from certain Vox Nova bloggers, just seems very disingenuous to me coming from them.


  • Christopher,

    A very reasoned and fair engagement on your part.

    Your philosophical mentors are/would be proud, I am sure!

  • Still a nice letter. Always good to keep the door open until it gets slammed shut. If I could guess and I will that our President Elect will be totally preoccupied with ecnomic stuff and being the Wizard of Oz who suddenly makes everything better. Meaning- FOCA and Fairness Doctrine and that other messy stuff may get pushed to back of the attic. Of course this could change in blink of an eye. But still fun to speculate.

  • Wonderfully written Christopher; I agree entirely.

  • Pingback: Canonical Options For Dealing With FOCA « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective
  • A very charitable and reasoned post. Like you, I thought that the minority of bloggers at Vox Nova who supported Obama were wrong to do so, and I never missed an opportunity make that known in many of my posts there.

  • This is a cool blogging platform. Which is it?

A Call to Arms for God, Life, and Country

Friday, November 21, AD 2008

With the election of the most anti-life president in this nations history, Christians across America will soon be facing a daunting gauntlet of attacks on the sanctity of life.  We need to now follow Jesus more than ever, embrace His teachings, practice our faith, evangelize our friends and neighbors, and pray.  Pray and strive for prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance with faith, hope, and love.

st-michael-the-archangle-by-raphaelThis is spiritual warfare on a massive scale.  We need to win the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans in order to push back against evil.  What is at stake are unknown millions of innocents that will be slaughtered for Mammon’s sake.  Not since World War II and maybe even the French Revolution has human civilization been faced with such dark forces arrayed against it.  The time for fruitless and pointless rhetoric ended on November 4th.  We now cannot stand by the wayside and negotiate the nonnegotiables with those that intend to do harm to the most vulnerable among us.  No equivocating, no complacency, and no compromise.

Pray and fast for President-elect Obama and our glorious nation.

Continue reading...

13 Responses to A Call to Arms for God, Life, and Country

  • “We must make choices.”


  • Mahalo Tito for sharing! I’ve posted it on my blog and am sending it out to others.
    God bless,

  • I think it is unfair to call the open letter ‘pointless rhetoric’. Even if all it does is help people in the Catholic blogosphere focus more on FOCA, it will have done an important service. Additionally, it’s always possible that it will get picked up by a news outlet and help shape the discussion.

    I am skeptical that FOCA is a priority for the Obama administration, but if it does come up, it is very important that people call and write letters to their Congressional representatives. Raising awareness about FOCA is a good thing, and even if the open letter is not particularly successful, it is worth a small amount of effort at a chance of a larger payoff. To paraphrase Paschal, a potentially large payoff is worth a small expenditure of effort.

  • Pingback: To pray, to engage, and fight like a Maccabee. « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective
  • Vox Nova invites the devil into their midst and then sends it a note asking the devil to not act devilish.

    The first act was foolish, the second is absurd. The letter is pointless when ‘point’ is understood to mean that which is directed to a final end. Because the letter has virtually no more chance of success as would a letter to the devil himself.

  • John Henry,

    I respect where you’re coming from and I understand why you feel the way you do. I am certainly one for constructive dialogue, but when the open letter comes from one that openly cooperates in disparaging and hindering the efforts of those wanting to end abortion, then I find it disingenuous at best.

    Christopher Blosser,

    Fr. Z may have signed it, but it is my opinion, not Fr. Z’s, that this open letter will help. But I want to reiterate that I do respect your feelings and thoughts on why the letter is important. Had it come from any other source, it would have had a different meaning to me and many others out there.

    But since it has eminated from a known anti-life blog such as Vox Nova (and yes, they are anti-life, when some bloggers openly endorse to vote for the most anti-life president in U.S. history), then it pretty much lost most, if not all, moral credibility.

    I don’t disparage those like Fr. Z, Deal, and yourself for signing it, but I do think it highly disingenous from the likes of Henry Karlson, Policraticus, and Michael Iafrate.


  • skeptical that FOCA is a priority? Obama has just recently appointed Ellen Moran (no pun intended) director of communications at the White House. She is exec director of ‘EMILY’s List’, a group that supports and promotes female candidates that are pro-abortion.

    the guy voted that a baby may be left to die when surviving an abortion attempt (in case you forgot). O is a monster

    Christ promised the gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church. He never made such a promise to America.

    i hope i’m wrong but i think the prophesies of Akita, Japan 1973 may be coming true soon on American soil.

    i’ve made my choice – getting out of here. ay mate!

    it didn’t have to be this way but America has made her choice.

  • Superb to point this out about Ms. Moran. Much like the Department of Chicken Protection appointing Mr. Fox as Chief Security Guard. More like Moran is good Dem soldier getting sweet job and preoccupied with White House briefings, official statements, and babysitting Helen Thomas. As for splitting the scene…..come on….stay where the action is, Ed…….

  • Pingback: Canonical Options For Dealing With FOCA « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective
  • Dude get over yourself, he’s not anti – life he’s pro- choice. there is a large difference. its just that you guys are so caught up in your own beliefs, you don’t consider the rights and beliefs f your neighbors.

  • Razz,

    I’m not sure what you were trying to explain, but this is a free country and we Christians have fundamental rights in the constitution that allows us to practice our faith and exercise those rights.

    ‘Being caught up in our own beliefs’, I’m not sure what you were trying to express, but try again. Do you mean we aren’t allowed to express our opinion?

  • “you don’t consider the rights and beliefs f your neighbors.”

    Ah but that is the problem. Unborn children are our neighbors, our most weak and vulnerable neighbors, and it is unjust to allow them to be put to death.

15 Responses to The War on Joe the Plumber-the Report

  • I agree with your anger Jonolan but I deleted your comment. Talk of “gunning down” the officials involved goes way, way over the line.

  • If you say so, Donald; it’s your blog.

  • How infidels may be punished for daring to challenge the Most High and Mighty President Elect. Of course the main bureaucrat responsible donated a couple grand or so to the campaign. Would write It Will Have A Chilling Effect and Beware The Fairness Doctrine and so forth. I have very little faith in anyone involved in the business of politics- as Scripture warns put not your trust in princes. But I sense the Obamaites will fall over themselves to implement their many and varied and often conflicting agendas. From Fairness Doctrine to FOCA to whatever, they may well wind up with a losing batting average. Consider the Dems’ panic at the thought of a 2010 meltdown. While sending up Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to Homeland Security. In past life, she was legal counsel in 1991 for St. Anita Hill, Virgin And Martyr. I would expect her confirmation hearing to be jolly fun, particularly if she faces my senior Senator, the Hon. Arlen Specter. AKA Chief Inquistitor for St. Anita. As for our Joe, he will walk away with much coin following the mandatory lawsuits against these officials. A special guest star at GOP fundraisers. Nothing succeeds like excess.

  • Maybe you should offer Plumber Joe’s (along with You Betcha Sarah’s) book through American Catholic…

    They all seem to go hand in hand…

  • Funny how I did not see a similar concern from you over the Bush Administration’s outing of Valerie Plame…

  • Funny how I did not see a similar concern from you over the Bush Administration’s outing of Valerie Plame…

    I don’t know why I am bothering to respond to this troll, but A) This blog didn’t exist in 2005, and B) the Bush administration did not “out” Valerie Plame, but of course knowing that would require getting one’s news from something other than the Daily Show and CNN.

  • My recollection is that, indeed, American Catholic was silent about the Plame affair. Additionally, we failed to condemn Watergate, opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Joe McCarthy ;-).

  • Btw, I don’t think Mr. DeFrancisis is a troll (despite occasional similarities).

  • Oh, so he just plays a troll on the internet?

  • The Plame case is still an existing civil suit.

  • The person who revealed the non-secret secret that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent and used her position to have her husband Joe Wilson investigate Iraqi attempts to purchase yellow cake in Niger was Richard Armitage, right hand man of Obama endorser Colin Powell. The Plame civil suit was dismissed in federal court on july 19, 2007 and the dismissal was upheld on appeal on August 12, 2008.

  • Let us also remember – well, learn if the Leftists have that capacity – that there is no direct equivalence between outing a CIA operative and illegally using government resources in order to harm a private citizen who embarrassed a political candidate. Both are wrong, but they’re not equivalent crimes against America.

  • Well said Jonolan, especially when the fact that the CIA operative was a CIA operative was an open “secret” in Washington is taken into account. Joe Wilson, her garrulous husband, certainly went out of his way to tell reporters that his wife worked for the CIA when he was shopping around his take on his role in the Niger yellowcake investigation:

  • Tito,

    Thanks for this bit. Can’t wait to see an update on the news tonight.

Top Ten Catholic Bestsellers for November 2008

Friday, November 21, AD 2008

One of the major resources that I used to educate myself on my Christian faith were reading books.  I am a book-hound.  I have a stack of books that I haven’t even begun to read yet that are all on Catholicism.  Whether if they are about saints, history, mysticism, philosophy, or our Holy Bible, I am just enamored with almost anything Catholic in book form.  Right now I’m reading several books (not all at the same time).  Render Unto Caesar by Archbishop Chaput, St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, and Father, Forgive Me, for I Am Frustrated by Fr. Pacwa just to name a few.

I am always hunting for books at my favorite Catholic bookstore here in Houston, Veritas, or Half Price Books.  Yes, I even browse the books at Barnes & Noble and Borders.  And if that’s not enough, I go online to  I have always enjoyed reading books and this love of reading helped me a lot in learning as much as I could about Christianity.  Having to hold a book in my hand and read it rather than going online to learn more about Catholicism, it is difficult to explain but it just can’t be beat. 

So in order to share my love of reading to you all, I’ve decided to post Amazon’s* Top Ten Bestsellers for Catholic books.  I find Amazon’s to be more concise than other providers.  Enjoy!:

Continue reading...

One Response to Top Ten Catholic Bestsellers for November 2008

  • Great resources. I’ll have to see if we can add some of these titles to our Book Club list. I’ve only read number 4 and 9 myself, though I did read Arroyo’s first biography of Mother Angelica. Jesus of Nazareth was great, but I was a little disappointed in Return of the Prodigal Son.

10 Responses to The Personality Type of a Blog

7 Responses to Blood and Guts Obama?

  • I fail to see how anyone who listened to what Obama said in debates, interviews, and speeches or who read his website could arrive at the conclusion that he is anti-war. He wants to increase America’s military presence and power in the world!

  • Kyle,
    If he said he wanted to shrink the military and retreat from the world, he never would have been elected. In other words, he lied. His anti-war supporters know this.

  • By the way, the picture accompanying this post is hilarious. Every once in a while I get a fleeting thought that Obama may turn out to be a laughing stock. He is utterly humorless, self-important, and very proud of himself. A previous post regarding American materialism was informative, but I believe that American mockery is an even more potent force.

  • So here’s your Hope and Change, dear liberals. Try Hilary- you used to love her but that love ran cold. Now she might be the face of American foreign policy. Not totally opposed to waterboarding, voted for the Iraqi adventure. In a way, her utter amorality may work well in an increasingly tense world. Not necessarily somebody that say, Crazy Hugo will want to see across a bargaining table. Not to mention the other Clinton Alumni Association members likely to assume positions of importance. Like Eric Holder at Justice. Tom Daschle at HHS. Greg Craig- likely new White House Counsel. Everything old is new again. The 90s are suddenly hip once more. C’mon, libs. Get with the program.

  • daledog,

    What, then, really are the foreign policy views of President-Elect Obama? And how do we know these are his views?

  • Oh, just wait. He’ll bomb the crap out of anything he has a mind to and you won’t hear a thing from Pelosi or Reid. Remember when Clinton set up that nice deal between Serbia and Albania – if Albania didn’t sign the treaty it was OK, but if Serbia didn’t sign it was curtains. No one blinked, though I remember thnking, “Wow, that seems rather unfair.” Then he killed all sorts of people and my squishy liberal friends pretended it wasn’t happening.

  • Kyle,
    He does not know his views. How can we? This man has not worked a day in his life. Soon he will be working 24 hrs. a day. The bulk of his legislative record is one of the most cowardly in modern times (voting ‘present’, etc.)Political expediency will be his political philosophy.