Monthly Archives: January 2009

When to be Progressive

Being a contarian sort of creature, I’ve been wanting for some time to write a post on why the progressive instinct is sometimes the right one. I’m quite certain that neither conservatism nor progressivism, properly understood, is the only possible view for the moral and reasonable citizen — and yet I find myself impeded in this by being in fact a very temperamentally conservative person.

First off, I’d like to suggest that as most precisely used “conservative” and “progressive” (I’m avoiding the term “liberal” here because it strikes me as having an even more confusing and increasingly imprecise meaning) are very relative terms. The progressive seeks to change current social structures, attitudes and political institutions in order to make them better. He seeks to progress. Conservative seeks to preserve existing structures and institutions, and when he accedes to change he urges that it be done slowly in order to avoid the disruption which rapid change often results in.

I would argue that there are some times when we should follow the progressive instinct, others when we should clearly follow the conservative one, and many in which it is a matter of debate which should be followed.

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Bag of Silver

bag-of-silver

Doug Kmiec, the subject of a few posts on this blog, here, here, here, here and here, has indicated , hattip to Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia, that he believes he is still in the running to be ambassador to the Vatican, presumably his reward for turning his back on the pro-life cause and shilling for Obama last year.  Professor Kmiec has also been apparently been glancing at some of the blogs that have taken him to task, hattip to Jeff Miller at Curt Jester.

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Questions about President Obama's executive orders on the incarceration and interrogation of detainees

The big news of this week: Obama’s first executive orders were not the reversal of the Mexico City Policy (as every major media source and not a few bloggers had predicted, and for which Obama waited until Friday) but the reversal of notable Bush administration’s policies on the incarceration and interrogation of detainees:

President Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.The orders, which are the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.

And the orders bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists. They will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.

However, while some cheerleaders for Obama are already hailing an end to the gestapo-inspired “enhanced interrogration techniques”, a review of critical responses — from the political “right” AND “left” — suggests that the President’s gesture is more symbolic and an exercise in moral posturing. It appears that serious questions remain about what is actually accomplished by President Obama’s recent executive orders.

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Let's Change the Subject? Catholics on the Left

One of the most frequently voiced criticisms of right-leaning Catholics is that they were insufficiently critical of the Bush Administration over the past eight years. According to this criticism, conservative Catholics were too eager to paper over the faults of the Bush Administration, and they failed to object at critical points to the Administration’s policies. While such generalizations can be problematic, I agree with this critique in broad outline. One of the lessons I’ve taken from the past eight years is that this is a temptation that must be consciously resisted.

It’s hard to express my disappointment, then, at the recent post entitled Mexico City? Try Gaza Instead…over at Vox Nova. Here’s the post:

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Battle Hymn of the Republic

Something for the weekend.  Another in my ongoing series of posts related to Lincoln leading up to his 200th birthday on February 12, 2009.  The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe.  Lincoln loved the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  After he first heard it performed, he asked, with tears in his eyes, that it be sung again.  Fittingly, it was sung at his funeral.

Miracle of the Sun

On the cold and rainy day of October 13, 1917 A.D. in the Cova da Iria fields near Fatima, Portugal, three shepherd children along with an estimated crowd of 100,000 witnessed the Miracle of the Sun.  The sun danced and zig-zagged its way towards the crowd for approximately 10 minutes where it then suddenly ceased and returned to it’s natural position.  The moment the sun ceased what was previously a wet and soaked crowd became dry along with the grass, dirt, shrubs, and trees in the within the surrounding area.  Many miracles were reported as well as sitings as far away as Poland and Italy.

The following is a compilation of photographs taken that very day.

YouTube Preview Image

For more information go here.

(YouTube Biretta Tip: Patrick Madrid via Kevin Knight)

MoralAccountability.com

A new website: MoralAccountability.com. This is their mission statement:

In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, a small group of Catholic and Evangelical Protestant intellectuals and activists, while saying that they personally support legal protection for the unborn and oppose the redefinition of marriage, promoted the candidacy of Barack Obama, who made no secret of his intention to wipe out the entire range of laws restricting or discouraging abortion and embryo-destructive research, or of his opposition to all state and federal initiatives (such as California Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act) to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. These men and women assured their fellow Christians and other social conservatives that Obama’s economic policies would reduce the incidence of abortion, and they promised that Obama was being honest when he said that he was opposed to “same-sex marriage.”

Despite these assurances, we fear that the Obama administration will swiftly begin an assault on pro-life laws and pro-marriage policies.

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Generations & American Catholicism

There have been some refreshingly candid (if not entirely harmonious) conversations over at Mirror of Justice recently about the blog’s mission as it approaches its fifth anniversary. Mirror of Justice is a great resource for Catholic legal scholarship, and it has a diverse set of contributors with different perspectives on Catholic legal theory.

I have thoughts about many of the issues that have come up, but one topic that I found especially interesting was the discussion of generational differences.

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Obama's New Politics and Abortion

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court, and also the day of the annual March For Life. It was also the anniversary of the day on which President Clinton had reversed Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, which denies US funds slated for international family planning services to any organization which provides or refers people to abortions. And the anniversary of the day on which President Bush reinstated the policy.

Given that President Obama had promised to move quickly to rescind the policy again as Clinton had, news organizations ranging from Lifesite News to NPR reported that he would probably follow his predescessor’s lead by issuing an executive order on abortion on January 22nd as well. It was thus mildly surprising when the Christian Broadcasting Network broke the story that Obama would not rescind the policy on the day of the March for Life. A few Catholic progressives got carried away and scolded their anti-Obama bretheren for jumping the gun, and it was more widely suggested this was a sign of the sort of approach Obama would take to moral issues more widely: treading slowly and granting respect to his opponents views.

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Flubbing the Oath

22 Weeks

I haven’t seen 22 weeks yet, but I’m going to, and I think all pro-lifers should.  It brings home the ugly reality of abortion and the bitter grief and despair that inexorably, in this world or the next, each abortion brings.  Here is a review.  May God forgive us all for this great evil that flourishes in our land and in our world.  Abortion is the ultimate taking of the gracious gift of life, and spitting in the face of He who granted it.   Humanity has the capacity for so much good, and this great evil drags us down lower, much lower, than the innocent beasts.  I pray that I will live to see the day when abortion will be viewed with the same horror that we now view slavery.

I Win

Let’s sit down and play a game. I’m sure some of you are familiar with it, but for those who are not, the game may need a little description. First, the game is entitled “I win.” No, no, come back, it is a fun game, I promise! Here’s the rules: I win. No matter what you do, I win. If you follow the rules, I win. If you don’t follow the rules, then you have forfeited, and I win. Pretty simple, right?

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