Pope Benedict, the SSPX, and the dispute over Religious Freedom and Church-State Relations

Sunday, February 22, AD 2009

Last year, commenting on Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to the United States, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, remarked:

And now, we have a perfectly liberal Pope, my very dear brothers. As he goes to this country [the United States] which is founded upon Masonic principles, that is, of a revolution, of a rebellion against God. And, well, he expressed his admiration, his fascination before this country which has decided to grant liberty to all religions. He goes so far as to condemn the confessional State. And he is called traditional! And this is true, this is true: he is perfectly liberal, perfectly contradictory. He has some good sides, the sides which we hail, for which we rejoice, such as what he has done for the Traditional liturgy.

What a mystery, my very dear brothers, what a mystery!

As Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (What Does The Prayer Really Say?) noted at the time, Fellay’s remarks are indicative of a point he has maintained time and again: the greater dispute between the SSPX and Rome is not so much over questions involving liturgical reform (and the ‘reform of the reform’) — on which there is a great deal of room for agreement — or even the matter of the excommunications; rather, the chief problem hinges on the Society’s objections to Vatican II’s articulation of the principle of “religious liberty” and the relationship of civil and religious authority.

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2 Responses to Pope Benedict, the SSPX, and the dispute over Religious Freedom and Church-State Relations

  • Great post!

    It seems to me that one of the problems the critics of a reconciliation of the SSPX have is that they themselves allow significant freedom to explore theological issues and still remain in the Church in good standing. Lord knows that we have allowed dangerous levels of variance without canonical penalty. Even Hans Kung, while suspended from teaching is in good standing. And yet, these critics don’t want the SSPX back unless they sign on to every jot and tittle of Vatican II.

    An apt comment on Fr. Z’s blog was, if the SSPX will sign on to every jot and tittle of Vatican II, will all of the bishops and priests in good standing take the anti-modernist oath, sign on to every jot and tittle of every ecumenical council since Jerusalem I?

    In fact, I don’t think we should here from any critics of the reconciliation unless they subscribe at the least, to the anti-modernist oath.

    http://www.franciscan-archive.org/bullarium/oath.html

    I N. firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (cf. Rom. 1:19-20), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated: Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical’ misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our Creator and Lord.

    Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.

    Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way. I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God. . .

    This whole religious freedom argument seems to me much ado about nothing, if you accept that the teaching must be understood in context to the Church’s teaching on it’s mission and “Extra Ecclesium Nulla Salas”, then you should have a right understanding of it’s applicability.

  • Thanks Chris for long thoughtful essay. The kind we can now anticipate from this post. Doesn’t look like Fellay is in any hurry to reconcile with Rome. Oh well. His problem not ours.

3 Responses to Illinois Deserves a Medal!

A New "Fill in Blank"

Saturday, February 21, AD 2009

Something for the weekend:  A New Argentina by the original Broadway cast of Evita Patti Lupone in the title role is the essence of explosive energy.  I have always loved this musical.  It is a superb cautionary tale about what can happen to a nation when an economically illiterate leader is elected on a popular frenzy of adulation.  Peronism has been a plague on the politics of Argentina ever since.  Perhaps too high a price to pay for a nation to provide fodder for a musical.

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3 Responses to A New "Fill in Blank"

  • I love the song “Don’t cry for me, Argentina”.
    I have a sister in law named Tina – to my kids, Aunty Tina.
    So then, how do I paraphrase the song? 🙂

  • Ha! My favorite memory of that song Don is during the Falklands’ War in ’82. A British non-com gives the command to his troops to board the transport taking them to the Falklands: “To the South Atlantic quick march!”, and the band strikes up “Don’t Cry for me Argentina.

  • The flim version was designed as a star vehicle for Madonna. Not sure if this one or remake of Swept Away was the final exercise in moviemaking that swept her cinema career away. Somewhat bummed out. In surfing the net for Oscar stuff, haven’t seen if Madge showed up with Brazilian Boytoy in tow. Seems to be media blackout surrounding her. Guess their telling her get out and stay out and take Boytoy with you. Too bad. More in the mold of old skool divas like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford than the current artistes. Although Kate Winslet can show up at my Oscar after party any old time.

Luke Live, Days Three and Four

Friday, February 20, AD 2009

I continue once again with my shameless promotion of Paulist Father James DiLuzio and his Luke Live performace, part 3, covering Luke chapters 17-24.

Over the last two days, the conversation we had (Father DiLuzio continually encouraged us to have a dialogue on the text, to reach deeper meanings) focused on two fairly notorious characters: Judas Iscariot, and Pontius Pilate.  Now, in general terms, these two have been condemned since the inception of the Church.  Judas, the betrayer, has classically been believed to be in Hell, and every week we recite in our creed:  He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

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35 Responses to Luke Live, Days Three and Four

  • I won’t go Balthasarian here (though I am tempted to do so). Rather, I would point out, contrary to your claim, Pilate has not been routinely condemned to hell; indeed, some apostolic churches have declared him to be a saint!

  • Henry,

    I’m confused. I nowhere said that we condemn Pilate as being in Hell. I said that often we have condemned Judas, but I stated specifically that there’s a case against that. So, are you confused in what I said, or did you mean Judas instead of Pilate? If you still mean Pilate, I would invite you to review my post, for nowhere in it have I made any mention of Pilate’s eternal destination.

  • “Now, in general terms, these two have been condemned since the inception of the Church.” The word condemned, especially in connection with the next sentence which talks about Judas in hell, suggests the condemnation is of the eternal kind. Perhaps I misread it because of the placement of the sentences.

  • Okay, I’ll bite: What apostolic church(s) have declared Pilate a saint, and why?

    Given my Dante=Tradition on Hell assumptions, I would certainly have felt comfortable saying that Pilate was generally imagined as condemned.

  • Pilate is considered a saint by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. His wife Procula is considered a saint by both the Ethiopian Othodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. Beats me why they did this. Other than very dubious legends, all we know about Pilate and his wife is contained in the New Testament, two tiny references in Tacitus and Suentonius, and the Pilate inscription.

    http://www.bible-history.com/empires/pilate.html

  • Interesting.

    Well, I guess one can expect the Oriental Orthodox churches to be a bit odd, having been off on their own for the last 1550 years.

  • The Church teaches that it knows not specifically of the existence of any particular human soull in hell, including even Judas.

  • What’s the fuss about? Ryan simply states what’s obvious, Judas and Pilate are nefarious characters, and generally Catholics suspect that they may not have made it to purgatory. I don’t think that’s a sin of presumption or against hope, certainly we hold out hope for all, but we know, contrary to Balthasazar… Hell is not empty.

  • I think the notion of “Hell being empty” usually is in reference to the Christian hope that no human beings are in Hell rather than there is no sort of being there at all. The former is perfectly orthodox theological speculation and a beautiful hope and trust in God’s mercy and love. The latter is heretical and also intellectual confusing, given the explicit dogmas regarding Satan and the fallen angels being in Hell.

  • Eric Brown ,
    I think the notion of “Hell being empty” usually is in reference to the Christian hope that no human beings are in Hell rather than there is no sort of being there at all. The former is perfectly orthodox theological speculation and a beautiful hope and trust in God’s mercy and love. The latter is heretical and also intellectual confusing, given the explicit dogmas regarding Satan and the fallen angels being in Hell.

    Hell is not empty of human beings. I’m not prepared to call it heresy, but…

    Luke 13:24
    Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.

    If no humans are in hell then getting to heaven is not hard, and that is contrary to the teachings of the Church. There is no such thing as hope that no human beings are in hell, only hope that no particular human being is in hell.

  • Matt,

    Based on the power of the glorious love revealed fully on the Cross, I am dared to hope all the time that no human beings will be in hell…..

  • Henry,

    I think we’ve stumbled across the problem.

    “Now, in general terms, these two have been condemned since the inception of the Church.” The word condemned, especially in connection with the next sentence which talks about Judas in hell, suggests the condemnation is of the eternal kind. Perhaps I misread it because of the placement of the sentences.

    It is sloppiness on my part that led to the confusion. Yes, condemn can and often does mean something along the lines of “declared damned to Hell”, but that wasn’t exactly how I was trying to use. I just meant that they are notorious characters, definitely portrayed as the “bad guys” in the gospels. It was not meant to be a statement of their eternal destination, especially as I followed up by specifically stating that Judas has traditionally been believed to be in Hell, while Pilate’s ultimate decision to sentence Jesus to death was so remarkable that we include him by name in our creeds.

    I’ll try to use more precise language in the future, to avoid such confusion.

  • Mark D.,

    Based on the power of the glorious love revealed fully on the Cross, I am dared to hope all the time that no human beings will be in hell…

    The Scriptures notwithstanding? God loves us so much He would not lie nor remove our free will, which is your proposal.

  • To hope that all men be saved deoes not entail a denial of free will. It is a hope that the glory of God’s love is attractive/persuasive enough to ultimately win the free consent of all human beings for their salvation.

  • Mark D.

    Luke 13:24
    Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.

    If no humans are in hell then getting to heaven is not hard, and that is contrary to the teachings of the Church. There is no such thing as hope that no human beings are in hell, only hope that no particular human being is in hell.

    Never mind that naughty scripture.

    ultimately win the free consent of all human beings

    If a man dies in a state of mortal sin, he is judged immediately, that is dogmatic. There’s no “ultimately” about it.

    1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately,–or immediate and everlasting damnation.

    Matthew 25:32-33
    And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left

    What you’re saying is that the goats are possibly hypothetical??

    If a man believes it’s possible that nobody is in hell, then why would he bother to lead a just life? The pains of hell have always been part of the negative motivation of religion, if the worst offenders in history are all in the bosom of Christ, then why worry about a few relatively minor mortal sins? Why go to confession at all? This theology is not only erroneous, it is incredibly dangerous to the salvation of souls.

    How ’bout this one:
    “The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of rotten bishops.” St. John Chrysostom

  • Matt,

    Mark is just proposing a hope, not a dogmatic declaration. Our Church implicitly keeps to that hope, both recalling that we are not to judge whether or not anyone was “bad enough” to go to Hell, and in not dogmatically declaring anyone an anti-saint as she declares some few definitely saints.

    Now, you can argue whether or not Mark’s hope has much of a chance of being fulfilled, but you’ll only be talking “maybe’s” and “it seems” and “Scripture suggests”. There’s nothing definite (other than that Satan and his fallen angels are in Hell) to work. While I’ll agree with you that it seems fairly compelling to believe that some men did indeed choose so firmly against God they could only go to Hell, it is still an awful thing to contemplate. Have you truly sat down and considered just what eternal torment means? Eternal pain, with no hope of change, and no chance to escape from it? Personally, the very thought terrifies me, and it leads me to pray that no one actually endures such a thing.

    I see two dangers, though, one in holding to the hope that ultimately everyone accepts God’s redeeming love, and one in holding that some, or even many, will reject it. The hope has the danger of complacency–I don’t have to do anything to help my neighbor find faith. The other carries the danger of self-righteousness and contempt. I think the best course is to walk the narrow path between, hoping that all will accept redemption, but knowing full well that people can very easily reject it.

  • Matt,

    And one more edit, since we apparently wrote our most recent replies simultaneously:

    Mathematically, in order to demonstrate a set is not empty, one must prove the existence of an element in that set. We cannot definitively prove that any one person is in Hell, nor can we prove definitively that some generic person is in Hell, and thus we cannot definitively prove that the set of all humans who have gone to Hell is non-empty. Thus the hope itself is not necessarily problematic.

    And as compelling as your last argument is (trust me, I’m sold), that doesn’t count Jesus’ tendency to speak in hyperbole. I think Mark’s defense rests on that, though I should probably let him speak for himself.

  • Ryan,

    Our Church implicitly keeps to that hope, both recalling that we are not to judge whether or not anyone was “bad enough” to go to Hell, and in not dogmatically declaring anyone an anti-saint as she declares some few definitely saints.

    This is a “Non sequitur”. That she hopes each individual is not in hell is not the same as hoping that nobody is in hell. Neither does not hoping that nobody is in hell mean that we hope somebody is in hell, it only means we accept the teaching of the Scripture and Tradition that there are souls in hell, the “goats”. While we may not limit the power of God, we should not hope the impossible, and the one thing that is impossible is for God to contradict Himself.

    some men did indeed choose so firmly against God they could only go to Hell

    Where did you get the impression from scripture that it is so hard to get to hell? All of the Church’s teaching from Scripture and Tradition is that Heaven is difficult to get to and hell is easy. Narrow is the road, camel’s and eyes of needles… etc. etc.

    it is still an awful thing to contemplate. Have you truly sat down and considered just what eternal torment means? Eternal pain, with no hope of change, and no chance to escape from it? Personally, the very thought terrifies me, and it leads me to pray that no one actually endures such a thing.

    It leads me also to warn of the dangers of hell. If I even imply that nobody might be there, do I not weaken the argument for conversion?

    holding that some, or even many, will reject it…carries the danger of self-righteousness and contempt.

    You impute these vices to many saints, popes and doctors of the Church, who all believed that there were souls in Hell and it is easy to get there. The road is narrow… the road is narrow… the road is narrow.

    This argument reminds me of the liberal/progressive precept that “judgmentalism” is the only mortal sin.

  • Mathematically, in order to demonstrate a set is not empty, one must prove the existence of an element in that set. We cannot definitively prove that any one person is in Hell, nor can we prove definitively that some generic person is in Hell, and thus we cannot definitively prove that the set of all humans who have gone to Hell is non-empty. Thus the hope itself is not necessarily problematic.

    This is not a mathematical question. Christ says there are goats, goats there must be.

    And as compelling as your last argument is (trust me, I’m sold), that doesn’t count Jesus’ tendency to speak in hyperbole. I think Mark’s defense rests on that, though I should probably let him speak for himself.

    I’m not familiar with his tendency to “hyperbole”, I always took His Word to be Gospel. Even if Christ exaggerates, he can not exaggerate 0 into a number other than 0.

  • Matt,

    I know myself well enough. And if I am to have hope for my salvation, I MUST therefore hold out hope for the salvation of all.

  • ps.

    Even if Christ exaggerates, he can not exaggerate 0 into a number other than 0.

    because if one exaggerates 0 into a number, it’s not an exaggeration it’s an outright lie, Christ is Truth, he does not contradict Himself.

    Mark,

    I really don’t think you’re that bad.

  • Matt,

    The point is that by ourselves all of us radically miss the mark.

    All that is good in our world is grace.

  • Mark D.,

    The point is that by ourselves all of us radically miss the mark.

    All that is good in our world is grace.

    That is, of course true. That is not the point.

  • Matt,

    It is hardly a non-sequitor. I’m merely trying to offer justification for Mark’s hope. Those two statements (as well as my mathematical analysis), are geared to that effect.

    On a slightly different note, it is an odd thing to argue about, whether or not hope that everyone is ultimately (and by ultimately, I just mean to include all future generations who have not yet even been born) saved is a licit hope. With the proper understanding, I don’t see how the hope is not licit. (With an improper understanding, the hope would be a symptom of heretical beliefs, so I understand your concern there.)

    Here’s a hypothetical for you. If, up to this point in history, everyone who had died repented or was guilty only of invincible ignorance, and thus when to Heaven, would that negate any of Jesus’ teachings? Would it contradict even a majority of people going to Hell, supposing Jesus taught that? I would argue that, as highly unlikely as that is, it doesn’t contradict anything, on the case that maybe those who end up in Hell simply haven’t been born yet.

    Where did you get the impression from scripture that it is so hard to get to hell? All of the Church’s teaching from Scripture and Tradition is that Heaven is difficult to get to and hell is easy. Narrow is the road, camel’s and eyes of needles… etc. etc.

    I don’t have that impression at all. Unfortunately, html doesn’t seem to support hyperbole, exaggeration, irony, or sarcasm tags. On the other hand, neither does the Bible. We know that the camel and eye of the needle comment is hyperbole, for I do believe that we have some rich saints. We also know that the “call no man father” is a hyperbolic statement, especially since we have to keep reminding our Protestant brethren of that.

    You impute these vices to many saints, popes and doctors of the Church, who all believed that there were souls in Hell and it is easy to get there. The road is narrow… the road is narrow… the road is narrow.

    And you impute to me intention I never included in my statement. Be careful in your desire to wax eloquent, because you might miss some meaning here. To impute these vices to saints, et al, as you have suggested I did, I would have had to have said something along the lines of “anyone will become contemptuous”, and not suggested it was a danger but a certainty. Obviously the saints, even if they struggled with such self-righteous contempt, managed to overcome it.

    Let me clarify my meaning, though. What I’m talking about is that when we become fixated that “oh yes, people are definitely going to Hell, Jesus said so,” then we have a tendency start marking lines in this life. (Think Rev. Phelps and his anti-homosexual crusade.) That’s the danger I’m talking about–turning the belief that people go to Hell into a crusade to identify who those people are, while they still live. This in itself is sinful, for it is a rejection of God’s grace and mercy, and it leaves us bitter like Jonah. Oh those sinful people of Ninevah! God’s going to destroy them they’re so wicked. Wait, they repented? And God forgave them? What utter…!

    If you think I’m going overboard on that concern, then let me just confess that I find myself overstepping that boundary a time or three each week.

    This argument reminds me of the liberal/progressive precept that “judgmentalism” is the only mortal sin.

    On the other hand, judging that a person is definitely damned to Hell is still sinful, even if it is not the only sin.

    I’m not familiar with his tendency to “hyperbole”, I always took His Word to be Gospel. Even if Christ exaggerates, he can not exaggerate 0 into a number other than 0.

    There’s a lot to be said about the hyperbole Jesus uses, especially since as a teaching method it was in vogue at the time. I mentioned a couple of examples above, and there are plenty of others. Check into it. It is good for exegesis.

    On the other hand, I don’t really have an argument about how you exaggerate nothing into something. At least, I don’t have a good one.

    And it’s hard to keep this argument up, since I don’t think everyone has made it to Heaven, nor will everyone from here on out do so.

  • I know myself well enough. And if I am to have hope for my salvation, I MUST therefore hold out hope for the salvation of all.

    For what it’s worth, Mark, I think many of us with a more traditional approach to the question of whether there’s anyone in hell are motivated by self knowledge as well.

    If I find it so difficult to conform my will to God’s and feel in no sense assured of my own salvation, how likely is it that no one ever in the history of the universe was so wrapped in pride as to look at God and turn away. If it was done one of the greatest of the angels, and if my own pride seems so great an obstacle to doing right, what is the likelihood that pride has never led any human soul to follow Lucifer away from God?

  • Ryan,

    Acknowledging that you are not necessarily opposing the belief that there are souls in hell, but only arguing that the converse is an acceptable conclusion, it is still an interesting argument, so I will respond.

    It is hardly a non-sequitor. I’m merely trying to offer justification for Mark’s hope. Those two statements (as well as my mathematical analysis), are geared to that effect.

    That the Church holds hope for each human being does not logically lead to the conclusion that it hopes for ALL to be saved. This reminds me of a strong argument against the concept of universal salvation…

    Simili modo, postquam cenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, item tibi gratias agens benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, [mysterium fidei] qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem.

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/category/wdtprs/pro-multis/

    Why do we use the words “pro multis” – for many? The Holy Father explains:

    1) Jesus died to save all and to deny that is not in any way a Christian attitude, 2) God lovingly leaves people free to reject salvation and some do

    Here’s a hypothetical for you. If, up to this point in history, everyone who had died repented or was guilty only of invincible ignorance, and thus when to Heaven, would that negate any of Jesus’ teachings? Would it contradict even a majority of people going to Hell, supposing Jesus taught that? I would argue that, as highly unlikely as that is, it doesn’t contradict anything, on the case that maybe those who end up in Hell simply haven’t been born yet.

    I’m not sure it helps to slice and dice the timeline of history, it’s certainly not a reasonable argument to say that the most prideful have not yet been born given recent history, also many of the traditional citations on the matter suggest that in the present time thre was in fact souls in hell already. I suspect that the only reasonable conclusion is that every time sees many souls lost to the devil.

    I don’t have that impression at all. Unfortunately, html doesn’t seem to support hyperbole, exaggeration, irony, or sarcasm tags. On the other hand, neither does the Bible. We know that the camel and eye of the needle comment is hyperbole, for I do believe that we have some rich saints.

    And so what is the intent of the hyperbole? It is clearly to emphasize…. HOW HARD IT IS IN FACT.

    And you impute to me intention I never included in my statement. Be careful in your desire to wax eloquent, because you might miss some meaning here. To impute these vices to saints, et al, as you have suggested I did, I would have had to have said something along the lines of “anyone will become contemptuous”, and not suggested it was a danger but a certainty. Obviously the saints, even if they struggled with such self-righteous contempt, managed to overcome it.

    Fine then I concede this. But the possbility of inspiring some vice does not preclude the truth of a matter, it is of no evidentiary value.

    “oh yes, people are definitely going to Hell, Jesus said so,” then we have a tendency start marking lines in this life. (Think Rev. Phelps and his anti-homosexual crusade.) That’s the danger I’m talking about–turning the belief that people go to Hell into a crusade to identify who those people are, while they still live. This in itself is sinful, for it is a rejection of God’s grace and mercy, and it leaves us bitter like Jonah. Oh those sinful people of Ninevah! God’s going to destroy them they’re so wicked. Wait, they repented? And God forgave them? What utter…!

    Indeed, the road is narrow, fear of going into the ditch on one side is no argument in favor of going into the ditch.

    This argument reminds me of the liberal/progressive precept that “judgmentalism” is the only mortal sin.

    On the other hand, judging that a person is definitely damned to Hell is still sinful, even if it is not the only sin.

    Certainly, and yet it bears not on this discussion because we are not talking about any particular person.

    I’m not familiar with his tendency to “hyperbole”, I always took His Word to be Gospel. Even if Christ exaggerates, he can not exaggerate 0 into a number other than 0.

    There’s a lot to be said about the hyperbole Jesus uses, especially since as a teaching method it was in vogue at the time. I mentioned a couple of examples above, and there are plenty of others. Check into it. It is good for exegesis.

    I guess I just never heard the use of “hyperbole” to describe His use of metaphor, I guess technically it is not incorrect.

  • “All that is good in our world is grace.”

    “That is, of course true. That is not the point.”

    It is the precisely point. Who am I to limit the efficacy of grace, to the extent that I dubiously assert it is guaranteed that grace is/was/will be unable to work itself successfully on one (or more) human soul, in terms of eternal life.

    The possibility is of course there.

    But given the Paschal Mystery, my faith tells me I have groungs TO HOPE otherwise.

  • Mark,

    are you interested at all in any opinion but your own and Balthazar? Are yous suggesting that the Holy Father is limiting the efficacy of grace? St. John Chrysostom?

    Do you not have time to consider the Scriptural and Traditional evidence against your premise?

  • The Holy Father is actually in agreement with von Balthasar.

    ………………..

    On Holy Saturday, Jesus took human God-forsaken-ness into the very Communio of God,

    He has ways, I believe, of transforming even the most obdurate simnner, respecting the latter’s free will.

  • Mark,

    The Holy Father is actually in agreement with von Balthasar.

    ………………..

    On Holy Saturday, Jesus took human God-forsaken-ness into the very Communio of God,

    He has ways, I believe, of transforming even the most obdurate simnner, respecting the latter’s free will.

    You’re not seriously suggesting that this means the Holy Father believes that hell could be empty? For His grace to have effect, the sinner MUST consent… no consent… no salvation. His statement quoted above completely contradicts your interpretation of this comment.

  • Mark,

    Matt is caught up to his own particular interpretation of Scripture, without having done any sound study on the matter itself. His characterization of Balthasar points to this fact — calling Balthasar a universalist when he is not, or suggesting — as ridiculous as it is — that Balthasar somehow has no notion of free will, and that is his problem? It would do well for Matt to learn some German and to read one of Balthasar’s last essays which is a criticism of universalism — Balthasar agrees that universalism, that the foreknowledge that all will be saved, is indeed contra-free will, but that has nothing to do with the hope that all might be saved, because of course the pull of God, the pull of love, allows for the conversion of the heart. Matt, by saying this, shows who it is that ultimately rejects free will.

  • Henry,

    you are caught up in an inability to respond substantially to valid points, instead, you resort to ad hominem. It’s very sad for such an obviously intelligent person to do this. Just try, I’m sure you can get over it.

    I did not call Balthasar a universalist at all, nor did any of my statements in any way impede the dogma on free will, which you and Mark seem to be skating dangerously close to.

    I in no way deny that the pull of love allows conversion of the heart. Where in the world would you get that ridiculous notion? God loves us so much that he comes to us and seeks to draw us to his bosom, but he loves us so much he would not impede our free will to reject Him. This is absolutely fundamental Catholic teaching.

    This is all typical of the liberal/progressive approach to argument. They present no counterpoint, only appeals to emotions, appeals to ad hominem, calling on people to read books in foreign languages… anything to avoid revealing the logical errors in their position.

  • Matt

    The problem is you do not know the position of the other, and you falsely describe it. That is the problem. That the depth of Balthasar’s idea, or the idea of the hope that all might be saved, goes beyond the simplistic presentation you give should suggest why you might want to read the texts in context, and see how those authors, like Balthasar, deal with your so-called objections. I do not plan to waste more time responding to you than that, because it is quite clear, you come into the discussion without sufficient ability to engage it.

  • Ok, one last word. For there to be an ad hominem, I would have had to engage you in a debate, and to make an assertion about some non-related quality about you to show that you are wrong. However, since it was not a debate with you, but a discussion with Mark, that is not the case; moreover pointing out your ignorance of the matter, and lack of knowledge of what Balthasar (and others like him) say on the matter, as confirmed with your discussion on free will, indicates it is not an ad hominem, but a significant fact which explains the situation. If one wants to contend against Balthasar, free will is not the area to do it. But one who has not read Balthasar would not know that.

  • Henry K,

    that’s what I thought.

Praying for a Miracle

Friday, February 20, AD 2009

Hattip to Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester.  In purely human terms this is a waste of time.  Obama is a hard core pro-abort.  The idea that he will change his mind and open his heart to the unborn is ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as the idea that a movement begun 2000 years ago by a group of peasants in a backwater of the Roman Empire could now command the allegiance of a third of humanity.  Hmmm, I’d better start praying!

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  • Odds are horrendous that he’ll change. Good. Always a solid point to start. Also consider his off-hand admission that Fairness Doctrine is not one of his highest priorities. So calm down fans of Rush, Sean, Laura, the loon Savage- they’re not going away. Even with lib talk host- and former teacher at Philly’s Father Judge High School, run by the good Oblates of St. Francis de Sales- Bill Press, complaining about the lack thereof. Memo to Mr. Press- your ratings are awful. Your station in D.C. is switching to biz talk because the numbers were below actual measurement. Which means there are probably as many people reading this scribbling as hearing you praise our Apostle of Hope and Change. And that ain’t saying much. A roundabout way of saying that our Apostle is learning to pick his battles. Or used up so much political capital early in the game for the Porkapalooza Bill that his ATM spit out a paper that said Ha Ha You’re Busted. May be considered at a later date. Until that unfortunate day, get that prayer action going.

  • Gerard E,

    Also consider his off-hand admission that Fairness Doctrine is not one of his highest priorities. So calm down fans of Rush, Sean, Laura, the loon Savage- they’re not going away.

    If we calm down it will most certainly happen. Either by congressional action or the head of the FCC. It may not be an outright fairness doctrine, but it could be crafted in a way that would have similar effect, a poison pill for talk radio. This needs to be in the public’s mind, just like FOCA.

  • I saw this a few weeks back. It was certainly effective and well-conceived (pardon the pun) which is precisely why it causes the Left to gnash its fangs and, hopefully, experience an apocalyptic case of acid reflux. Without any undue manipulation, with mere application of the most basic facts and realities, the ad demonstrates the utter folly of one of the Left’s favorite “reasoning-away” tactics concerning the right to life. Anything can happen, in terms of a person changing a horrible mindset, and praying for Obama’s change in this matter is not without merit. Catholics, however, need to mobilize themselves with greater political unity and zeal than ever before, as this nation is led deeper into ostensible Perdition by President Moonbeams and Fairy-Dust, and his personal hedge-witch, Nancy “Theologian and Doctor of the Church” Pelosi. That’s right, folks–she’s the current “happening” and legitimate Fresh, Fresh Face of Modern Catholicism, in the eyes of the mass media! How’s that feel? If recent sit-downs with the Pope and Niederauer can’t get this daft besom to follow the teachings of her own Church, don’t get too excited about the possibility of a sudden Obama epiphany. Mobilize now. Pray later (or during).

  • No less than Fr. Groeschel exhorted the faithful to pray for the conversion of President Obama at the March for Life.

    It’s no laughing matter. If you don’t believe in intercessory prayer, you should revisit your Bible.

  • Still waiting for one of you ‘blog savvy’ folk to open up a ‘rogue’s gallery’ of anti-catholic ‘catholics’ in positions of power. That way, every time Biden or Sebeliius et al are chastised publicly, the lay person google search brings up the ‘dirty deeds’ site.

    Any takers?

  • [No less than Fr. Groeschel exhorted the faithful to pray for the conversion of President Obama at the March for Life.

    It’s no laughing matter. If you don’t believe in intercessory prayer, you should revisit your Bible.]

    How dreary and jejune to imply that someone who advocates action doesn’t believe in the power of intercessory prayer. I never said anything to the contradict the importance of prayer. It’s everyday Catholics who do not combine action with prayer that hinder the Church. If privately asking God to magically change minds is all it takes, then don’t you think God would have done that already, without needing to be cajoled into action? Christ had much to say about that; have a gander.

    Prayer (intercessory and otherwise) is more for our edification and agreement, and the strengthening of our unifying bonds in the Body of Christ than it is about having various requests “granted” or stroking some hypothetical Divine Ego. “Revisit” your own Bible. I suggest a month-long stay.

    BTW: Groeschel is a most admirable man, but not everyone finds him (or is required to find him) irresistibly compelling. Waving him around like a flag is hardly a definitive gesture. IMO, his teaching is geared toward Catholics with a still-underdeveloped grasp of Catholic doctrine, its history, and its complexity. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as such Catholics actually learn and move onward, as Paul once exhorted. I’m glad you enjoy Groeschel’s assistance.

  • Ian,

    Are you trying to be insulting?

  • Ian,

    I totally agree with your call to action. St. Thomas More said that we should pray like all depends on God, but act like all depends on us.

    Prayer (intercessory and otherwise) is more for our edification and agreement, and the strengthening of our unifying bonds in the Body of Christ than it is about having various requests “granted” or stroking some hypothetical Divine Ego. “Revisit” your own Bible. I suggest a month-long stay.

    Your assessment is dangerously close to denying the supernatural aspect of prayer. God hears our prayers and responds to them, not necessarily in the manner of the request. They are not principally for our “edification”, I suggest you read some Catholic sources on prayer.

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p4s1.htm

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12345b.htm

  • I suppose that praying for Obama’s conversion — or, for that matter, the conversion of the Democratic Party in general to a pro-life or at least not rigidly pro-abortion point of view — is about as much a waste of time as was praying for the conversion of Russia in 1917?

  • Speaking of praying for miracles, would it be too much to suggest that all Illinois residents start praying with equal fervor for an end to corrupt (and pro-abortion) government in our state… it took 70 + years to get Russia turned around so we’d better start now!

  • “Speaking of praying for miracles, would it be too much to suggest that all Illinois residents start praying with equal fervor for an end to corrupt (and pro-abortion) government in our state… it took 70 + years to get Russia turned around so we’d better start now!”

    I second that!

  • Maybe the Blue Army could take up this cause and change its name to the Blue STATE Army 🙂

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  • And who woulda thunk in 1973 that “Jane Roe” herself (Norma McCorvey) would one day become pro-life?

  • I met her in 2007 Elaine. She is quite a lady. Her movement towards the pro-life cause came while she was working at an abortion clinic. One of the pro-life protesters would bring her two little girls with her, and Norma grew to look forward to seeing the two little girls who would play while their mom prayed and passed out literature. One day a pro-abort volunteer attempted to trip the little girls. Norma tossed the pro-abort volunteer off the grounds and went home that night with a lot to think about.

  • I see where Time magazine is now chiding Catholics for getting all worked up about a “nonexistent” bill (FOCA, which has not yet been introduced in the 111th Congress). They admit, however, that Obama has no one but himself to blame for all the hubbub since he promised that signing FOCA would be the “first thing” he’d do as president (in relation to abortion).

    The fact that as of right now, there is no FOCA pending before Congress is a testament to the depth of opposition it has raised and to the prayers of many devoted pro-life people.

    Before the election, and immediately after, many Catholic and pro-life observers seemed to be absolutely convinced that FOCA was going to sail through Congress and be ready to sign the moment Obama took his hand off the inauguration Bible. I always did suspect that was an exaggeration, but you never know.

    I have also wondered, too, whether the Blago-Burris disaster might have contributed to the lack of action on FOCA since it demonstrated that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party in general could lose the goodwill of the voters as quickly as they gained it. Perhaps the attention Blago brought to ethics issues helped sink Bill Richardson’s shot at becoming Commerce secretary, and may also have contributed to the ditching of other Cabinet nominees (including notorious Catholic pro-abort Tom Daschle) over tax issues.

    If that’s the case (and I realize there’s probably no way of ever proving it) then maybe we Illinois residents haven’t suffered in vain after all. Perhaps God is indeed writing straight with crooked lines, or crooked ex-governors, as the case may be.

  • NCR post ‘Trojan Foca’ http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/17318

    explains how ‘stealth foca’ is being passed already in bits and pieces.

  • “Perhaps God is indeed writing straight with crooked lines, or crooked ex-governors, as the case may be.”

    True Elaine. I have always thought that God uses both saints and sinners to work His will.

Econ 101

Thursday, February 19, AD 2009

While most of our recent public debates have centered around topics on which economist’s disagree, Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw recently posted a list of fourteen propositions that most economists accept, which is an excerpt from his popular macroeconomics textbook. I thought it might be of interest to some of our readers, as discussions of the common good and public policy often touch on these subjects:

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13 Responses to Econ 101

  • Interesting.

    Actually, it struck me as interesting that a number of those points of agreement are still very politically controversial, despite the fairly universal agreement by economists.

    It’s true that more detailed conclusions are subject to more dispute, but then I suppose part of that is that the more detailed a proscription, the more reason people are likely to have to dispute it, and thus the less likelihood that people are going to admit to it being a settled matter. The economy effects us all quite a bit, so it’s probably not surprising that there’s a lot of opinion and dispute as to how it works.

  • Is Economics a science? Or is it “voodoo”?

    There is a reason why the subject was originally denominated Political Economy.

  • The problem is that economics is a social science whose association with mathematics often leads people to mistake it as hard science. The listed principles are basically a function of market economics, and pure market economics assumes perfect information and perfect rational behavior, and of course those two assumptions are never true. This is the real reason business cycles occur, and both poor information as well as irrational behavior are associated with expanding as well as contracting economies. While economic contractions are a normal and necessary response to excesses of expanding economies, they can and often do involve their own excesses, fed by fear instead of greed. Accordingly, political leadership should moderate these excesses by encouraging caution in good times and offering encouragement in tough times.
    While the human condition will never allow for perfect reason or perfect information, markets do work tolerably well as long as poor reasoning is punished, good reasoning rewarded, and information is allowed to flow freely. Non-market economies have no good way of either determining or encouraging rational behavior.

  • Scribbled down viewpoints on each bullet point. Agreed with all except 3- floating rates lead to sinking ships; 8- not sure, so disagree; 13- welfare already an unholy mess, would mess it up further; 14- uh, America, we have pollution licked. Give us something else to tackle. Economics- not a candy mint like Mathematics or breath mint like Sociology. Like old commercial is two- clik- two- clik- two disciplines in one. The more one reads of it- outside of Keynesian mishmash- the more the world makes sense. Read this stuff like laws of physics not those made up by greedy ambitious pols in dead of night. Then Advocates of Hope and Change will not appear as attractive.

  • I can’t say I found Manzi’s criticism all that persuasive. He starts by dismissing half the propositions because they are normative rather than descriptive. He then dismisses the other half because they don’t tell you which policies you should adopt (in other words, because they are descriptive, and not normative). It’s a neat trick, but I don’t find it convincing.

  • I’d also note that Prof. Mankiw’s list was hardly (meant to be) comprehensive. Here, for example, is an older post from Mankiw’s blog in which he lists the rate of support among economists for some of the above cited propositions as well as for some others. Nariman Behravesh’s book also contains a similar list of about thirty propositions that command the support of at least two thirds of economists.

    This hardly means that economics is of a piece with physics (a standard most of the hard sciences wouldn’t even be able to meet), or that economists agree about everything.

  • It’s a neat trick, but I don’t find it convincing.

    Well, I think Manzi’s broader point is simply that economists (e.g. Krugman) often try to shut down debate by saying: “I’m an economist, defer to my expertise,” when, as you observe, economists cannot have the same degree of certainty as practitioners in the hard sciences.

    And I find normative statements less helpful than descriptive statements because normative statements can be driven by considerations other than economic data (or complexities in economic data). For example, in this list economists agree as a descriptive matter that minimum wage laws increase unemployment; but in the link you provided they disagree as a normative matter about whether there should be minimum wage laws.

    That said, I think Manzi’s campaign against economics has reached the point of diminishing returns. He’s right to point out that it’s very difficult to make detailed predictions about the effects of fiscal stimulus, and that economists over-step when they imply otherwise. But that just means economics provides better answers on some questions than others; not that it’s useless as a discipline.

    Insofar as Manzi’s suggesting economists should display more epistemological humility in public debates, I think he’s making a useful point though.

  • Even [note the ‘even’] J.K.Galbraith agreed that there was not very much to economics as a serious subject, apart the politics. He pointed out quite simply that there is an overwhelmingly necessary part of human life in which economics is impossible: agriculture. You cannot predict the weather; you cannot predict whether the earth is warming or cooling, the nonsense of the Rev. Mr. Malthus has been disproved generation after generation. It would be an amusing past-time to put together all the predictions about economic conditions, over, say, the last two decades.

    I add to the discussion:
    “There’s an old joke about three guys stranded in the desert, dying of thirst. They have a can of water – but can’t open it. One guy, an engineer, uses a stick as a lever and a rock as a fulcrum and … nothing. The second guy, a physicist, does some calculations, drops the can from a predetermined height at a carefully considered angle and … still nothing. Finally, the third guy, an economist, looks at the can and says: “OK. I have the solution. Assume a can opener.”

  • Not sure why the “even” above. Galbraith was never understood to be a serious economist; he was much more interested in politics. And he was almost always wrong. Read his books, “The Affluent Society” and “The New Industrial State.” They were predictive in nature, and could not have been more mistaken in their predictions.

  • Galbraith thought he was serious, but not as an economist. He was properly interested in politics.

    Have you some examples of his being almost always wrong?

  • Read his books. Among other things, he believed that the power of large corporations (i.e., GM, US Steel, etc.) was so entrenched that market and other forces could not move it. Compare the Fortune 500 of 1959 with 2009, or even 1984.

  • For my sins, I have read his books – all of them.

    He chiefly believed that it was necessary to control [not own] the big corporations, as well as the big labor unions.

    He was a farmer’s son and knew whereof he spoke about agriculture.

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Most People Are Not Like You

Wednesday, February 18, AD 2009

Almost no matter who you are, the above is almost certainly true. Yet it’s a fact that few people seem to readily grasp.

I was struck by this as I continued to read the exchange between Ross Douthat and Will Wilkinson over whether secular libertarian intellectuals should all pack up and join the Democrats. Will predicts:

…I think intellectual capital flight from the right really does threaten the GOPs future success. If Republicans keep bleeding young intellectual talent because increasingly socially liberal twenty-somethings simply can’t stand hanging around a bunch of superstitious fag-bashers, then the GOP powers-that-be might start to panic and realize that, once the last cohort of John Birchers die, they’ve got no choice but to move libertarian on social issues. Maybe. I like to imagine.

This reads like it comes from some alternate universe, to me,

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  • People like Wilkinson have been crying out since 1976 that the GOP needs to go liberal on the social issues. That was John Anderson’s theme in the 1980 Republican primaries and fueled his third party run in the general election. It is all rot. Most republicans are fiscal and social conservatives and believe in a strong defense. A political party does not achieve success by alienating its base.

  • “And the majority of people who actually vote (and thus determine which party is in charge at a given time) are so woefully uninformed that making intellectual statements about parties as a whole is nearly impossible”.

    Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

  • Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

    Well, it’s true that I’d feel pretty comfortable saying that simply by having the interest to read that much about politics, regular readers of this blog are probably in the top 10-20% of voters as far as being informed. So yes, I suppose I am rather elitist in that sense. Though for what it’s worth, I’d also be ready to say that being informed about politics is not necessarily indicative of much of anything in regards to one’s worth as a person or overall intelligence.

    Perhaps I’m overestimating based on the sort of “man on the street” interviews which those on either side of the political spectrum are often able to use to point to how idiotic the other sides voters are (recall the YouTube that was going around where a local radio station got a bunch of Obama voters to voice their support for Obama’s opposition to Roe v. Wade, and even his choice of Palin as a running mate), but I do tend to think that the average voter has a very, very simplistic understanding of politics and economics (and the stands that the candidates have taken on them.)

  • Winston Churchill said that the best argument against democracy was a five minute talk with the average voter. I have noticed that when I discuss budgetary woes of the government with people who do not follow these issues very closely, invariably they will say that there would be plently of money if we didn’t give so much to foreigners. When I point out that foreign aid is a miniscule portion of our budget they will often refuse to believe me. I have never been interested in professional sports and my knowledge of that subject is small. I am afraid that a substantial percentage of the voters have the same attitude towards politics and the functioning of the government. I do not think it is elitist to point this out, but merely factual. Needless to say, this does not cause me to think that intellectual elites in our society make better political judgments. I agree with Buckley that I would rather be governed by people chosen at random from a phone book than the faculty of an elite academic institution. Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized.

  • Remember the much-maligned “values voters” of 2004? Well, gee, what happened to them all? Did they all take up recreational drugs and wife-swapping during the past 4 years and thus social conservatism is now on its last legs?

    I don’t think this past election had much to do with social conservatism at all. It was decided by the economy, above all, and by the fact that Obama ran a very good campaign (and had the MSM in his back pocket) and McCain ran a very poor one. (Other factors: the GOP learned nothing from the kicking it got in 2006 and so was seen as Dem-lite and the media successfully demonized Bush – who certainly made his mistakes.)

    One thing I do believe is that the conservatives made a great error in ceding the culture to the Left. As a result, we have kids who are indoctrinated in public schools, exposed to all sorts of garbage in the media, and have reached maturity thinking the party of “freedom” is the one which wants to expand government into every reach of life and the GOP is the party of white guys who yearn to oppress everybody. How the heck you reverse that at this stage in the game is beyond me. The only thing I can hope for this that once these Obama-smitten young folk actually get out of college and are paying taxes, the burning issues of gay marriage and pot legalization will recede in importance. It’s struck me before that that “political correctness” came to the fore in prosperous times. And it took hold most strongly in those parts of the country with high percentages of well-to-do upper middle class people with the luxury to worry about sexist language, recycling, “a woman’s right to choose” etc, etc. Real estate ain’t cheap in Berkeley on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

    P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college. Then he got his first job and took a look at what was withheld and lo, a conservative was born. And the GOP didn’t have to jettison its pro-life plank or become “cooler than thou” to bring him around.

  • Oops, that should be “Berkeley or the Upper West Side of Manhattan.”

  • “P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college.”

    When he told his rock-ribbed Republican grandmother that he was a Maoist she said “Just as long as you aren’t a Democrat dear”. Looking back on this time O’Rourke said: “I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a “learning experience.” Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a “learning experience.” It makes me feel less stupid.”

  • Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized

    Very true, and what is wearisome is that these people think they’re rational and expremely knowledgable when all they’re doing is expressing the fashionable prejudices of the day. Mac down at the truck stop might have some ignorant prejudices, but Mac usually don’t think he knows everything about everything. Whereas I’ve had the most frustrating conversations on and off-line with college-educated people who “know” belief in God is idiotic, the Pope is a Nazi, the Founding Fathers were contemptible racists, Republicans hate poor people, animals should have the same rights as people do – who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?

  • “expremely”??? Was I trying to type extremely or supremely? Actually, I rather like “expremely.”

    (I really need to break down and get me some reading glasses. I’m at that age,…,)

  • “who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?”

    True Donna. My late mother and father never attended college although they made certain that my brother and I did. I never met a professor at college or law school with as much common sense as my parents displayed to me every day. The education I received at college and law school was mere icing on the cake for the more important lessons I learned from my factory worker parents. I just wish they had been alive to help their lawyer son and his librarian wife raise their own kids. I don’t think we have done badly, but input from them would have been invaluable.

  • Agreed, Donna. One of the reasons I’m suspicious of the technocrat culture which so many on the left seem enamored of (Europe envy, I guess) is that I think the elites generally know rather less about a situation than they think.

    Doesn’t stop me from being something of an elitist, but at least I’m an elitist who doesn’t think that knowing a great deal about a topic means that I should make everyone’s decisions for them.

    To know much is to know you don’t know everything.

  • Donald, since we appear to have similiar tastes in humorists, I think you’ll appreciate Iowahawk’s take on the Archbishop of Canterbury, written in Chaucerian English:

    http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/dburge/2009/02/17/heere-bigynneth-the-tale-of-the-asse-hatte/#comments

    It won high praise from Christopher Johnson (who I pray swims the Tiber one day).

    /OT

  • Ha! Donna if Iowahawk isn’t making a mint from his brilliance in the “real world” there is no justice. The man is consistently the funniest writer on the net. The Archbishop is a prime example of the worthlessness of education without an ounce of common sense.

  • Donna V.,

    How about a pic for your ID?

  • He knows people like him and I know people like me. But neither means that all young intellectuals are like us.

    While I agree with your broader point about the nature of political coalitions, I think there are solid grounds for believing Will’s intellectual and educational formation is more typical of young intellectuals than yours (or mine).

  • Tito: I confess – I have no idea how to post a picture here. There – now you all know there is no way I can be a member of the techocratic elite:-)

    DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers.

    Donald: I had the good fortune to meet Dave Burge (Iowahawk) at an informal get-together of conservative bloggers and blog readers held in Chicago in 2004. He looks like a pretty hip fellow, a guy who would have been playing the bongos in a bebop jazz band 50 years ago (the goatee gives him a Maynard G. Krebs vibe); but he said that the tension between the small town Iowa values he was raised with and the Chicagoland liberals he is now surrounded by inspires much of his writing. I didn’t talk to him for long, but we found we both have a weakness for cheesy low-budget 1950’s sci-fi flicks. A very affable, pleasant man. I don’t think he was making a lot of money from his writing then; I hope that has changed.

  • Above post is yet another echo of longtime New Yorker Moon Pitcha critic Pauline Kael. Who remarked that she was surprised that Tricky Dick swamped Goo Goo George in 1972 presidential election because nobody she knew voted for Trickster. Above essayist apparently polled limited number of people or own self for conclusions. Lies damned lies and statistics I say. I could say that Current Apostle for Hope and Change is worst thing to happen to Democratic party. Looks about true. Even though House Speaker La Pelosi is real President and allows Hope/Change Apostle to do her bidding as she sees fit. But- proof of my own. Many of y’all know that last Friday night, Phila. Police Officer John Pawlowski murdered- fifth officer killed in a year. Within 12 hours, Facebook group page set up to memorialize him. More than 11000 members as I write including own self. And my darling brilliant goddaughter Regina. And many many other young folks who admire and respect our fine law enforcement pros and mourn Officer Pawlowski- Mass of Christian Burial on Friday noon at Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Thus I have confidence in this nation’s future.

  • I know that most of the folks I know with any sense don’t talk to folks who look like they’re doing “man on the street” interviews– and that’s both for the liberal and conservative folks.

  • “DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers”.

    I believe the subject was exhaustively discussed by Socrates in THE SOPHIST.

    [Note; The Sophists were the lawyers of their day. They could argue both sides of a case with equal conviction].

Pope Denies Worthless Political Hack Photo-Op

Wednesday, February 18, AD 2009

pelosi

Hattip to Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia.  The Pope reminded Speaker Pelosi in their meeting of the Church teaching on life.

“The Vatican released the pope’s remarks to Pelosi, saying Benedict spoke of the church’s teaching “on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.” That is an expression often used by the pope when expressing opposition to abortion.”

The 15 minute meeting was closed to reporters and photographers.

“The Vatican said it was not issuing a photo of the meeting — as it usually does when the pope meets world leaders — saying the encounter was private. The statement said the pope “briefly greeted” Pelosi and did not mention any other subject they may have discussed.”

I wonder if Pelosi is bright enough to realize the snub that the Pope just gave to her pro-abort self?

Update I: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air reminds us of why the Pope felt it necessary to repeat Church teaching on abortion to Speaker Pelosi since,  judging from her own words, she is woefully ignorant of it.

Update II: The ever perceptive George Weigel wonders if the Pope and the clueless Speaker were at the same meeting.

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28 Responses to Pope Denies Worthless Political Hack Photo-Op

Luke Live, Day Two

Wednesday, February 18, AD 2009

I continue now with my shameless promotion of Father DiLuzio’s Luke Live performance.  Again, we were treated to a wonderful exchange of ideas, marked by a charismatic leader who helped enliven St. Luke’s Gospel and knit the narrative together.  Father DiLuzio offered us to begin with the choice of hearing entire chapters at once, or breaking it down into slightly smaller pieces.  Having seen yesterday the amazing continunity of a text that, for many of us, originally seemed a disjointed collection of brief non-sequitors, we voted roughly 55-45 to continue being inundated by large chunks of text.  And so he began his recitation starting from chapter 18, and the parable of the persistent widow.

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George Weigel on Narratives & 'Bush Derangement Syndrome'

Wednesday, February 18, AD 2009

In an essay entitled A Campaign of Narratives in the March issue of First Things (currently behind a firewall for non-subscribers), George Weigel writes:

Yet it is also true that the 2008 campaign, which actually began in the late fall of 2006, was a disturbing one—not because it coincided with what is usually described in the hyperbole of our day as “the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression” but because of how it revealed some serious flaws in our political culture. Prominent among those flaws is our seeming inability to discuss, publicly, the transformation of American liberalism into an amalgam of lifestyle libertinism, moral relativism, and soft multilateralism, all flavored by the identity politics of race and gender. Why can’t we talk sensibly about these things? For the past eight years, no small part of the reason why had to do with what my friend Charles Krauthammer, in a nod to his former incarnation as a psychiatrist, famously dubbed “Bush Derangement Syndrome.”

Raising this point is not a matter of electoral sour grapes. Given an unpopular war that had been misreported from the beginning, plus President Bush’s unwillingness to use the presidential bully pulpit to help the American people comprehend the stakes in Iraq, plus conservative aggravation over a spendthrift Republican Congress and administration, plus that administration’s failure to enforce discipline on its putative congressional allies, plus public exhaustion with a familiar cast of characters after seven years in office, plus an economic meltdown—well, given all that, it seems unlikely that any Republican candidate could have beaten any Democrat in 2008. Indeed, the surprise at the presidential level may have been that Obama didn’t enjoy a success of the magnitude of Eisenhower’s in 1952, Johnson’s in 1964, Nixon’s in 1972, or Reagan’s in 1984.

Still, I would argue that the basic dynamics of the 2008 campaign, evident in the passions that drove Obama supporters to seize control of the Democratic party and then of the presidency, were not set in motion by the failures and missed opportunities of the previous seven years but by Bush Derangement Syndrome, which emerged as a powerful force in American public life on December 12, 2000: the day American liberalism’s preferred instrument of social and political change, the Supreme Court, determined that George W. Bush (the candidate with fewer popular votes nationally) had, in fact, won Florida and with it a narrow majority in the Electoral College. Here was the cup dashed from the lips—and by a court assumed to be primed to deliver the expected and desired liberal result yet again. Here was the beginning of a new, millennial politics of emotivism (displayed in an astonishing degree of publicly manifested loathing for a sitting president) and hysteria (fed by the new demands of a 24/7 news cycle).

[Emphasis Mine]

I think this analysis gets things exactly backwards.

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35 Responses to George Weigel on Narratives & 'Bush Derangement Syndrome'

  • Good post. Ultimately, this defeat may in fact be the best thing for the Republican Party as it embarks on a return to principles and examines what led to the public’s dissatisfaction.

    On a tangential note, your observation that “the press embarked on what was, in my view, a credibility-shattering love affair with the Obama campaign; it became difficult for me to separate the official Obama campaign spokesmen from the unofficial, honorary spokesmen at our major newspapers,” ABC’s Jake Tapper blogged an interesting story on former-journalists-turned-Obama-appointments.

  • John Henry,

    good post. I’m not sure about this though:

    In short, the polling data suggests events, rather than a mysterious political pathology, were responsible for Bush’s unpopularity.

    If we examine the actual events which led to his popularity drop, many of them really are not justified. The liberal media’s hatchet jobs had their intended effect. That is not to say there weren’t PR and real blunders, but not anywhere near what could legitimize the rage.

    Look at the “One’s” blunders in his first weeks, and yet nary a peep of rage at him… Harriet Meiers may have been unqualified as a SC justice, she at least, as far as we know, paid her taxes.

  • Poor Weigel.

  • Spot on by Prof. Dr. Weigel. But would go back further to that ghastly Tuesday night in November 2004 when both Houses of Congress went into hands of Wascally Wepublicans. Unhinged the Dems big time- power as a matter of their sheer force of righteousness. Setting stage for hanging chads nonsense with led to Bush Derangement Syndrome. Which will account for the rushrushrush to move Porkapalooza Bill down assembly line. In fact may be release of pent up energy building up far back as 1965- Great Society, War on Poverty, etc. Perhaps even waaay back to 1933. Note that when Messiah of Hope and Change signed Porkapalooza into law, among casualties was that grabbag of regulations known as Welfare Reform. Agreed to by Slick Willie in summer of 96 before boarding plane to Chi-Town Convention. Gone gone gone. More lifetime serfs dependant on Federal subsidies for very existence. Took some cold logical thinking in the midst of BDS to insert those clauses into Porkapalooza.

  • Chris,

    Thanks for pointing out that story; I hadn’t seen it. Given the financial state (and the politics) of the journalism industry, I suppose it’s not very surprising (although I wonder why anyone would want to work as part of Joe Biden’s communications team).

    Matt,

    I think it’s true that Bush received harsher coverage than a similarly-situated Democratic President would receive. At the same time, I think that type of thing moves the approval rating from 50% to 46-47%, rather than from 50% to 30%. Bush, after all, was re-elected in 2004. Events drove the difference in perception between 2004 and 2008.

    Gerard,

    Your comments almost invariably make me laugh; I think we have to agree to disagree here. I certainly acknowledge that something akin to ‘Bush Derangement Syndrome’ exists; what I dispute is that ‘the basic dynamics of the campaign’ were set in motion by it rather than Bush’s (very real) mistakes.

  • events drove the difference in perception between 2004 and 2008.

    Of course without any events it would have been much harder to drive the perception, but that does not explain it without a massive and misleading campaign by the liberal media.

  • Major correction- big time derangement since 1994 congressional election- revenge inflicted in part with Porkapalooza.

  • I cannot believe George Weigel is still defending the Iraq war, and his infamous “charism of political discernment” (“Bush’s unwillingness to use the presidential bully pulpit to help the American people comprehend the stakes in Iraq”). Shame of Weigel for going against the Church on this from the beginning, and even bigger shame on him for not repenting his earlier mistake.

    Plus, he’s a good friend of notorious torture defender Charles Krauthammer????

  • I’m not clear why defending the Iraq War now would be less tenable now than it was four years ago. From a just war perspective, it was either just or it wasn’t in the first place. Some Catholics such as Weigel (and I) thought and continue to think that removing Hussein from power was a worthy and just cause of war. Some, such as you and apparently John Paul II and Benedict XVI, did not think the war was justified.

    But there’s not a specific position of the Church as a whole on the topic, and I’m not clear why the passage of time would necessarily make Weigel’s position any different than it was in the first place.

  • Plus, he’s a good friend of notorious torture defender Charles Krauthammer????

    “Morning’s Minion” — Honestly, I think I’d be more understanding if you voiced similar outrage about somebody’s being a good friend of “notorious defenders of” Roe v. Wade.

  • Or, for that matter, voting for “notorious defenders” of Roe v. Wade.

  • methinks M.M. can be right about the warmongers and sadists…AND still not vote for or support either them or the “notorious defenders” [i.e., abortion had NOTHING to do with M.M.’s comment]

  • Darwin:

    Many who supported the Iraq war did so because: (i) they believed Saddam presented an imminent threat, based on his WMDs; (ii) they believed the war would be quick and costless, as the Iraqis would welcome the invasion. For a Catholic, (i) would take care of the “last resort” criterion and (ii) would address “proportionality” from a just war perspective. I would argue (and did argue) with these interpretations but there was at least the semblence of an argument there. And, honestly, given the lies and obfuscation of the last regime, I can understand why somebody would fall for (i)– unaccustomed to being told lies of this magnitude, I believed it myself at first.

    But we now know that both (i) and (ii) proved false, and that the war has been a disaster– up to a million Iraqi deaths, a quarter of the population displaced, God hows how many future terrorists nurtured on the killing fields of Iraq. So, yes, I would expect Mr. Weigel and others who take just war teaching seriously to show just a little remorse and humility. Is that really too much to ask for?

  • And, honestly, given the lies and obfuscation of the last regime, I can understand why somebody would fall for (i)– unaccustomed to being told lies of this magnitude, I believed it myself at first.

    I guess I’m a little confused by this, since as a war supporter I did not at all think that Hussein and his potential weapons presented an imminent threat to the US. Nor did I think that the administration presented a very strong case that he did. The case that I did and do think was strong was that Hussein was an illegitimate ruler who had already invaded several of his neighbors, who did not abide by the treaty that ended the Gulf War (which should unquestionably have gone all the way go Bagdad) and who had been almost unimaginably cruel to his people. He had also made it clear he was unwilling to leave power of moderate his tyranny, thus making it obvious that nothing short of a war would remove him from power. So clearly, war was a last resort when it came to removing Hussein from power.

    As to proportionality — anyone who thinks any war will be quick and costless is not only a fool, but a dangerous fool. If someone thought such a I thing, I think he was very wrong to. But at the same time, it seems to me that your approach to proportionality here is rather flawed. The decision to overthrow Hussein’s regime pretty clearly did not directly result in all the civilian deaths and displacement that occurred. (I think the numbers you’re citing are incorrect, but it’s not a numbers game so that’s irrelevant.) Most of that death and displacement was caused by attacks on the Americans and especially on the general population made by factions within Iraq that were unhappy with the sort of government that came into being after the invasion. It was (as I recall you pointed out on more than one occasion) a civil war. Now I think that many in the DOD and administration were very much to blame for the fact that things became sufficiently destabilized after the invasion to get to that point, but one can hardly cite the methods of civil war factions within Iraq as reasons why the original decision to get rid of Hussein via an invasion was disproportionate.

    I could certainly see supporters of the war wishing that it had been run better, and bitterly regretting the amount of unnecessary destruction which resulted from poor planning for the post invasion period. But I really can’t see why you’d think this would change one’s assessment of whether the invasion itself was just. (Though it might make people more inclined to be realistic about the capabilities of military power, which is always a good thing.)

  • Now I’m confused, Darwin. If that is the reason you supported the removal of the pesident of Iraq by force, then I could probably come up with maybe 20 equally odious regimes that nobody would miss. Do you really want to go down that road?

    As for proportionality, I think you are missing the point. I never said the US was directly responsible for the carnage that ensued. But by storming into this tempest, without heed for history, culture or context, it bears responsibility for what happened in the aftermath. And there were many voices warning that this was going to happen (including from the Vatican), but they were ignore.

  • Now I’m confused, Darwin. If that is the reason you supported the removal of the pesident of Iraq by force, then I could probably come up with maybe 20 equally odious regimes that nobody would miss. Do you really want to go down that road?

    I’d have to hear the examples, but I might well consider it to be entirely just for one to wage a war to remove any one of those regimes. The fact that it would be just certainly does not mean that one absolutely must do it. (Or at least, I would assume that you don’t argue that simply because it would be just to wage a war in a given circumstance, that it would thus be immoral _not_ to.)

    For example, I would consider it entirely just for the US to intervene in Darfur in order to protect civilians from government backed militias — but the fact that one would be justified in doing so does not necessarily mean that one _must_ or that it would be evil not to.

    As for proportionality, I think you are missing the point. I never said the US was directly responsible for the carnage that ensued. But by storming into this tempest, without heed for history, culture or context, it bears responsibility for what happened in the aftermath. And there were many voices warning that this was going to happen (including from the Vatican), but they were ignore.

    The just war criteria is that the wrong being addressed must be proportionate to the evils that inevitably result from war. That’s different from the instigators of the war being responsible for every possible resulting occurrence.

    Also, I think you’re eliding the fact that simply removing Hussein did not necessarily have to result in nearly the problems that did in fact happen. The incredibly bad decisions made by Gen. Tommy Franks and Ambassador Bremmer (among others — and of course Rumsfeld and Bush in that they approved those decisions and picked those decision makers) make things far, far worse than they need have been. For that I do have a lot of regret, but it’s not regret that the war took place at all, but rather than the follow through was so poor.

  • I guess I’m a little confused by this, since as a war supporter I did not at all think that Hussein and his potential weapons presented an imminent threat to the US.

    I may have misunderstood Just War theory, and the Catechism is necessarily a simplification, but it says that “governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed,” and when it sets forth the conditions, it says “The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration…” If you don’t believe the U.S. had a legitimate claim to acting in self-defense (as I didn’t), doesn’t that preclude the invasion regardless of proportionality?

    For example, I would consider it entirely just for the US to intervene in Darfur in order to protect civilians from government backed militias

    I think there is a distinction between a humanitarian intervention to protect citizens within a country, and a situation like Iraq, where it was frequently argued that Iraq was a military threat to the United States. There was some language about humanitarian intervention in the run-up to Iraq, but my recollection is that this consideration was a distant second or third to other objectives. I do not think it is accurate to characterize the invasion of Iraq as motivated primarily by humanitarian concerns, and I didn’t think the U.S. had a strong case for self-defense.

  • John Henry,

    you don’t believe the U.S. had a legitimate claim to acting in self-defense (as I didn’t), doesn’t that preclude the invasion regardless of proportionality?

    Legitimate defense can apply to the defense of others, including the population of the country itself. I don’t believe anyone argued that Iraq was a direct military threat to the US. They were in no means capable of attacking the continental US, and nobody argued it. What was argued (irrefutably), was that Iraq was a threat to it’s neighbors and by extension to legitimate US security interests. It’s apparent attempt to develop WMD only heightened the level of that threat.

    do not think it is accurate to characterize the invasion of Iraq as motivated primarily by humanitarian concerns

    correct, but this justification doesn’t require us to have this primary motivation as the primary goal (provided the end itself is not immoral).

    I didn’t think the U.S. had a strong case for self-defense

    How many National Security briefings were you privy to? The same number as the Holy Father, and the USCCB? I’m not saying you don’t have a right to your opinion and voice, we all do, and must express them. At the end of the day, we are not aware of much of the information that the president has. Even conservative commentators have stated that Bush was no longer best equipped to make such judgments the day after he took office.

  • What was argued (irrefutably), was that Iraq was a threat to it’s neighbors and by extension to legitimate US security interests. It’s apparent attempt to develop WMD only heightened the level of that threat.

    Well, part of the difficulty with Just war theory is that the standards are unavoidably ambiguous. At a high level of generality I suppose Iraq was a threat to its neighbors in the same way Iran is a threat to Israel, and Israel, Iran; the same way India is to Pakistan and Pakistan is to Israel; and the same way that Russia is to its former satellites. But my interpretation is that the threat should be more imminent than the general threat that exists any time countries have long-standing animosities and military capability, otherwise Just War theory is basically a green light to attack whenever you feel ‘threatened’ in some sense. To me Iraq was not sufficiently distinguishable as an imminent threat, and this rendered our response illegitimate. It’s hard to argue it was in ‘self-defense’ or even defense when no attack was imminent.

    How many National Security briefings were you privy to? The same number as the Holy Father, and the USCCB?

    Judging by the reliability of some of the pre-war intelligence, one may have been better off not being in those briefings…

  • “I don’t believe anyone argued that Iraq was a direct military threat to the US.”

    What world were you living in during 2002-03?

  • John Henry,
    Well, part of the difficulty with Just war theory is that the standards are unavoidably ambiguous. At a high level of generality I suppose Iraq was a threat to its neighbors in the same way Iran is a threat to Israel

    Generality? So training and funding terrorists to blow up school buses and markets is just a “general” threat? You’re joking right?

    and Israel, Iran

    Israel is only a threat to Iran because of it’s own attacks by proxy against Israel. The threat is by no means “general”… if Iran gets to close to it’s bomb, Israel will attack, be assured of that.

    the same way India is to Pakistan

    It’s a different situation there, far different, and not “general” either. There is a threat though, and under the right theoretical circumstances either party may be justified in attacking, of course those circumstances couldn’t exist because of proportionality.

    It’s hard to argue it was in ’self-defense’ or even defense when no attack was imminent.

    Aside from the attacks which were ongoing against our aircraft performing a legitimate humanitarian and security function?

    I think part of your problem here, is that you are trying to deal with all of the justifications in isolation from the other, that is not giving you the whole picture. Iraq was violating the terms of the truce, the whole purpose of a truce is that it prevents the offender from being able re-arm and pursue it’s agenda again.

    How many National Security briefings were you privy to? The same number as the Holy Father, and the USCCB?

    Judging by the reliability of some of the pre-war intelligence, one may have been better off not being in those briefings.

    You and I are STILL not in a good position to know everything the president knew, nor do either of us know if Syria is now in possesion of Iraqi WMD materials or technology. Even IF the intelligence was as bad as you might think, it doesn’t change the the moral justification if it was reasonably believed to be accurate.

    Mark D,

    did you think that Iraq had missiles, bombers or warships capable of attacking US soil? I never heard anyone claim such, but maybe you have different sources than I.

  • While I don’t necessarily agree with every detail of what Matt said above, I think he’s pretty clearly right that no one serious claimed that Iraq was a direct military threat to the US back in the lead up to the war. There was a lot of discussion of Iraq’s potential to cause trouble for us in Afghanistan or to provide aid to terrorists who would in turn attack us directly, but aside from shooting at our planes in the No Fly Zone, Iraq wasn’t really capable of being a direct military threat to us.

    Thus, if one takes just war as only applying in situation which are directly self defensive in nature, than I would see a pretty clear argument that the way isn’t just. It doesn’t seem to me, however, that just war must always be defensive. I already pointed out the possibility of “humanitarian” wars, and I would tend to consider removing a manifestly aggressive and oppressive regime that was destablizing the region as a reasonable casus belli in certain situations.

    At root: I think that getting rid of Hussein’s baathist regime was the right thing to do in 1991, and short of it massively changing its way of behaving (which it clearly hadn’t) I continued to support removing it at any point thereafter.

    It’s perhaps key that the Vatican opposed the original Gulf War as well (which strikes me as odd, in that that struck me as a pretty classic example of a just war) and so I’m hardly surprised that they opposed continuing it to its logical conclusion.

  • It doesn’t seem to me, however, that just war must always be defensive…

    Is this view in tension with Just War theory as it is presented in the Catechism? Granted, the CCC is a starting point rather than the definitive understanding, but it seems to suggest that ‘self-defense’ is the primary consideration, and when it sets forth the Just War conditions it says: ‘the strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force…’.

    I already pointed out the possibility of “humanitarian” wars,

    I think the use of force for humanitarian intervention can be justified under the right circumstances, but I do not think Iraq was understood to be primarily a humanitarian enterprise. This is a different type of ‘defense,’ but it is still defense.

    At root: I think that getting rid of Hussein’s baathist regime was the right thing to do in 1991, and short of it massively changing its way of behaving (which it clearly hadn’t) I continued to support removing it at any point thereafter.

    Well, I guess the point is moot now, but while I think this justification works theoretically, it’s always left me cold. I tend to think there was an end to the hostilities in the original Gulf War, and that the renewal of large-scale military activity required a separate justification. That said, aside from diplomatic considerations (the appearance of Vatican-sanctioned Christians v. Muslims), I’ve always thought the original Gulf War was basically a slam dunk case for military intervention. The U.S. was not directly threatened, but they stepped in, along with much of the international community, to assist in the restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty. I’ve always been puzzled by the Vatican’s opposition to the original Gulf War.

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  • How can anybody seriously claim that Iraq was bit presented as a direct threat to the US in 2002-2003? Doesn’t anybody remember that the imminent threat of Iraq justified preemptive war?

  • Wj,

    shouldn’t be hard to come up with a citation then.

  • Matt,

    Here’s George Weigel, for example, in January 2003:

    As recently as the Korean War (and, some would argue, the Vietnam War), “defense against aggression” could reasonably be taken to mean a defensive military response to a cross-border military aggression already underway. New weapons capabilities and outlaw or “rogue” states require a development of the concept of “defense against aggression.” To take an obvious current example: it makes little moral sense to suggest that the United States must wait until a North Korea or Iraq or Iran actually launches a ballistic missile tipped with a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon of mass destruction before we can legitimately do something about it. Can we not say that, in the hands of certain kinds of states, the mere possession of weapons of mass destruction constitutes an aggression—or, at the very least, an aggression waiting to happen?

    This “regime factor” is crucial in the moral analysis, for weapons of mass destruction are clearly not aggressions waiting to happen when they are possessed by stable, law-abiding states…If the “regime factor” is crucial in the moral analysis, then preemptive military action to deny the rogue state that kind of destructive capacity would not, in my judgment, contravene the “defense against aggression” concept of just cause. Indeed, it would do precisely the opposite, by giving the concept of “defense against aggression” real traction in the world we must live in, and transform.

  • John Henry,

    this citation does not suggest that the threat is directly against the US. In fact it’s clear from his use of the Korean War, and Vietnam that Weigel is not necessarily concerned with direct military threats to the US, but also with with threats against neighbors and threats against US interests.

  • It sounds like he was talking about a threat to the U.S. to me…

    “…it makes little moral sense to suggest that the United States must wait until a North Korea or Iraq or Iran…”

  • John Henry,

    “…it makes little moral sense to suggest that the United States must wait until a North Korea to attack South Korea or Japan, or Iraq to invade Kuwait again, or Saudi Arabiaor Iran…” attack Israel.

    Now, the scenarios I listed are all eminently more realistic than the idea that Iraq attacking the US directly. The scenarios are also very real threats to US and world security.

  • John Henry,

    The scenarios are also very real threats to US and world security.

    Exactly the point. It was argued that preemption was necessary to protect against “real threats to US” security.

    Ok, so what do we disagree on? I’m simply arguing that an unrealistic direct attack by Iraq on the US was not the used to justify the invasion, but a very real threat of Iraq attacking other nations in the region causing instability and a serious impact to US security.

    We can disagree on the level of threat or whether it provides sufficient justification, but it has to be based on an acknowledgment of the facts. Iraq was a serious threat to the region and indirectly to the US.

  • Matt,

    It seems to me that Weigel himself suggests that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iraq could constitute a direct threat to the U.S.. I don’t know why you thought it was particularly relevant to alter his phrasing to add other countries; he only mentioned the U.S.

    Here’s Bush in the 2003 State of the Union, suggesting Iraq could provide such weapons to terrorists:

    Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq. A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States….

    And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/transcripts/bushtext_012803.html

    Iraq was described as a threat to the United States, often a direct one, and a preemptive attack was justified on those grounds.

  • John Henry,

    Weigel did not say ““…it makes little moral sense to suggest that the United States must wait until a North Korea or Iraq or Iran…” to attack the US.

    What did he mean? It’s entirely likely he meant attacking neighbors in the region. Which is an indirect attack (as would, say putting a nuclear weapon in the hands of Al Queda).

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Pro-lifers, the Next Generation

Wednesday, February 18, AD 2009

For those in the pro-life movement who may sometimes get discouraged, take a good look at this speech.  This struggle for the unborn will be fought until it is won, if not by us, then by the pro-lifers who come after us.  Naturally the judges at the speech contest where  this speech was delivered disqualified her because of her success at articulating the pro-life message.  This decision was later reversed after one of the judges stepped down and our pro-life speaker was declared the winner.  Truth will prevail if we have the stomach to proclaim it in season and out of season.

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7 Responses to Pro-lifers, the Next Generation

  • Fine articulation, coming from this young woman. We need it–as we saw during this recent presidential campaign, young pro-life conservatives need to start utilizing the same technologies and available media options to mobilize and compete with the pervasive liberal buffoonery. There’s no reason why the next generation of conservative pro-life advocates cannot be as up-to-speed and savvy.

    We are cleaner and far better looking than liberals, after all. Camera ready. (Heh!)

    Seriously–props to this compelling young lady; I loved her Horton/Seuss reference at the end.

  • May the Heavenly Father abundantly bless this brilliant young person. Probably in vanguard of pro-life underground building up in Canada and throughout our Fruited Plain. Note that every January 22, busload upon busload of younguns disembark. Sparkling, delightful, prayerful, leave less trash behind them than the pilgrims who flocked there for the Ascendancy of The Standard of Hope and Change. If pro-life movement has had secret weapon, it is edjermacation. Of course, in Catholic/Fundamentalist/Orthodox Jewish schools. But leave us not forget our fine homeschoolers- many Catholics among these parents who will not subject their young to horrors of government-funded factories full of all manner of cockamamie theories. Beyond one ironclad rule of history- The Future Belongs To The Fertile. Many pro-abort advocates sentencing themselves to long cold lonely years in dotage.

  • Yes, I most definately felt encouraged by this young lady. How refreshing it is to see someone so young be so serious about this most serious issue. How many young ones her age are to ethralled with the latest Hanna Montana trash, and whose parents are not encouraging them to pick up the batan in this fight, and what a fight we will have especailly under this current regime. God help us all, but on this we can rest assured God is in charge and this young lady is His proof to us, that He will not abandon us. I know that there are many like her out there. God bless her and her parents, and all parents who are raising good children in this culture of death…Let’s say our daily rosary!!!

  • Does anyone have a transcript of this speech?

    I could transcribe it myself, but if there was one already it would be greatly appreciated.

  • Wow. This young lady is so well spoken and sincere. A must view video for all kids her age! We are called to be priest, prophet, and king, and she is living up to that calling. Are you a prophet? Then prophesy!

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Luke Live, Day One

Tuesday, February 17, AD 2009

This week, at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Laramie, we have Father James DiLuzio visiting to perform his Luke Live, essentially a performance of the Gospel of St. Luke.  We are on the final run of the gospel, covering chapters 17-24.  I have to say, Father DiLuzio is quite an engaging, energetic fellow, and last night’s session was a blast.  I’m looking forward to the next three, and I hope to report on them each day, with what we discussed and what observations we made.  (And if anyone else has had the pleasure of joining Father DiLuzio for Luke Live, please feel free to share your observations!)

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  • Father DiLuzio once was a priest at a parish I attended.

    He organized a performance of Sondheim’s “Into The Woods” performed in the main body of the church. The altar had some scenery thrown over it to disguise it. Fr. DiLuzio was the male lead. The parish’s main cantor was the female lead. I will never forget watching them kiss each other passionately in front of the altar.

    What, you think I’m kidding?

  • I will never forget watching them kiss each other passionately in front of the altar.

    Lord help us.

Res Ipsa Loquitur (II)

Tuesday, February 17, AD 2009

I posted last week about the negative reception to Geithner’s bank plan. Here, for instance, was Paul Krugman’s take:

It’s really not clear what the plan means; there’s an interpretation that makes it not too bad, but it’s not clear if that’s the right interpretation….So what is the plan? I really don’t know, at least based on what we’ve seen today. But maybe, maybe, it’s a Trojan horse that smuggles the right policy into place.

Not exactly an enthusiastic endorsement. Today’s Washington Post has some of the back story:

Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face.

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  • Another view of the limits of Governments and economic policies:

    “The third issue, I would like to mention here today, is the current financial and economic crisis. I recently spent three full days discussing this topic at the World Economic Forum in Davos and my feeling is that the rationality and the economic science have been suppressed or forgotten. The very unpleasant, day by day deeper economic crisis should be accepted as a standard economic phenomenon, as an unavoidable consequence and hence a “just” price we have to pay for the long-term playing with the market by the politicians. Their attempts to blame the market, instead of themselves, are unacceptable and should be resolutely rejected. Their activities, aiming at “reforming” the economic system, are all very doubtful and I as said in Davos: I am getting more afraid of these reforms than of the crisis itself. ”

    Václav Klaus, Foreign Policy Lecture Series, Foreign Policy France, Ledoyen Restaurant, Paris, 11 February 2009

    Full text here:

    http://www.klaus.cz/klaus2/asp/clanek.asp?id=pwMGFzzPU1MJ

  • While Klaus is known for taking controversial positions, I think the debates around the stimulus package have clarified his point fairly well: we don’t know that it will work, but we hope (and have some reason to expect) it will be better than nothing. Time will tell.

  • The haste of our Hope and Change President and enlightened Congresspersons in enacting the Porkapalooza Bill speaks loudly. As though releasing pent-up energies building up since 1965. Possibly since 1933. As in always one or more reasons not to do it. Those pesky wars. Roaring economic times or the lack thereof in the 30s. Those even peskier GOP Presidents- Ike, Tricky Dick, Ronaldus Magnus, Bush pere et fis. Those really annoying elections of 1994, 2000, 2004 that held back the tide. By November 4, 2008 the stars and planets aligned in their favor. The Messiah of Hope and Change ascended to the White House. Another two years of enlightened Dems running Capitol Hill. A GOP dismayed and flummoxed. And we can’t wait write write write get it done Speaker Pelosi’ trip to Rome may be in jeopardy. Listening to our all-news radio station this morn- story of how City Hall bureaucrats pour over the 1000-plus pages of the Porkapalooza Bill, rightly dividing the word of truth to see how much cash funnels to Philly. Where it better help our beleaguered police department, pronto- Officer John Pawlowski, fine young Catholic law enforcement pro, gunned down like a deer in the woods Friday night. Sixth such murder of an officer in a year. Leaves a greaving bride pregnant with first child. No sympathies coming from Washington. Why? If Porkapalooza is the first of such bills, why need state or local governments? And who would care in D.C. of such heroes as Officer Pawlowski? Thus we interpret Hope and Change.

  • we don’t know that it will work, but we hope (and have some reason to expect) it will be better than nothing. Time will tell.

    I think that’s part of it, but another big chunk (and I fear it’s actually the larger part of the motiviation) is that as a matter of self defense people are always more inclined to do something rather than do nothing in a situation with a lot of pressure — even if the information and reason they have available to them suggest that a less interventionalist course might actually be the best one.

    If you say, “We’re already doing everything that we can, and now we just want to execute to our plans and hope for the best,” you leave yourself wide open to all sorts of, “But if he had done this,” claims. If, on the other hand, you constantly come up with and execute new plans (even plans that use up resources without helping — possibly even make things slightly worse) you can always point back and say, “We did everything we could. Surely things would have been even worse if we hadn’t acted.”

    So in an attempt to assure approval people will often do incremental actions that are actually helpful, just so that they can claim to have “done everything”.

  • I would agree that the 1) something must be done, 2) this is something, therefore it must be done line of thinking was a primary motivation for the stimulus package. I would add a third: cramming in eight years worth of projects from the Democratic Congressional wish list.

    Larison thinks the Democrats will come out of this fine, regardless of the outcome. At least they can say they did something. That’s quite possible, but it seems to me they over-played their hand somewhat. As discussed previously, almost half the funding won’t even be spent until 2011; the Democrats basically refused to make any concessions on the bill, saying basically, ‘we won’.

    If it doesn’t work out, I think they will be vulnerable to the charge that they acted irresponsibly; pursuing their own pet projects instead of policies like payroll tax deductions that most economists support. The ‘we were trying everything’ line only works if people think you are sincere. I am not sure the Democrats effectively made the case that their motivations were for the public rather than their party.\

    On the banking plan, the article seems to suggest they’ve (rather clumsily) decided on a somewhat less interventionist approach than they originally planned.

  • but we hope (and have some reason to expect) it will be better than nothing.

    It may do what it is intended to do, but that is far worse than nothing. This is not a stimulus bill, it is a vast enlargement of the Federal government, it creates new entitlements and distributions which will never be rolled back, and to boot… it will not likely help the economy even in the short run.

Inequality and the New Aristocracy

Tuesday, February 17, AD 2009

Running into this article the other day, I was startled to find how many of my own intellectual hobby horses it touched upon. Arnold Kling and Nich Schulz are economists, and their topic is in equality in the modern economy. They cite Google co-founder (and billionaire) Sergey Brin as an example of many of the forces they believe are driving inequality and list the following major forces:

Technology: Brin’s wealth comes from the famous search engine he pioneered with cofounder Larry Page. Their company is a mere ten years old. And yet in the blink of an eye, he has become one of the richest men in the world.

Winners-take-most markets: Certain mass-market fields tend to simulate tournaments in that they produce just a few big winners along with many losers. These include technology/software, as in the case of Google, but also entertainment (Céline Dion), book publishing (Stephen King), athletics (Tiger Woods), and even some parts of academia, finance, law, and politics (as the impressive post-presidential earnings of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton demonstrate).

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14 Responses to Inequality and the New Aristocracy

  • So really bright people from egghead families tend to succeed. Maybe not on Sergey Brin’s level, but still likely for success. Say this is something the Church could emphasize in defense of the families. As I work each day in one of America’s toughest neighborhoods, I see sad evidence of this fact. In fact, much of this data would look remarkably similar two hundred or so years ago in transition from agrarian to industrial-based economies. Meaning- the other information and commentary tends toward boo hoo hoo we don’t like change. Deal with it. Coming atcha faster and harder than before. You can thank Brin and his fellow Internet innovators for that fact. Will even surpass what our all wise and loving congresspersons have cooked up for us in the Porkapalooza bill. A major gift we can provide for our younguns is to train for change. It is impossible to imagine what their world will be like two decades hence. Just as our current stuff was impossible to thunk up twenty five years ago. But some factors never change. The role of the family. The need to nurture and train youngsters in a stable, loving home environment- with hugs and boundaries in equal measure. Sweat not this stuff. The Church has seen worse. The world will eventually catch up to us. Even bright people on the Sergey Brin level.

  • I think a major problem in our world today is our near worship of “productivity” and “growth”. We have made man a slave to our machines, which increase productivity at the expense of making workers redundant. The ability to produce more widgets, faster is not a gain to society if it increases unemployment or makes men into mere “machine minders”.

    E.F. Schumacher said it best when he said “If that which has been shaped by technology, and continues to be so shaped, looks sick, it might be wise to have a look at technology itself. If technology is felt to be becoming more and more inhuman, we might do well to consider whether it is possible to have something better – a technology with a human face.” What he called “intermediate technology”.

    We fail in living our faith when we allow and encourage the growth of huge companies and complex technology that creates few “winners” and many “losers”. I think you are wrong in thinking that the barriers to economic “success” can be overcome with determination. Those who don’t read by fourth grade are never fluent. And you really can’t pass on what you have never had. Those who feel they cannot succeed will rarely redouble their efforts. Most will rightly perceive that the deck is stacked against them and instead rage against the injustice that has made them useless. Which is exactly what our economy has done to those who are not inclined to the work of the mind.

    Cheaper goods in ever more quantities is not a solution but rather a problem as it has made millions of honest hard working people redundant and useless without hope for good employment. Those in the bottom tier of work are treated worse than children, looked down on, treated with suspicion. Their work is soul deadening and mind numbingly repetitive. Their bodies are destroyed and to top it all off, they have to listen to their economic “betters” tell them that their failure is their own fault. If they only had enough “determination” they could succeed.
    Sorry for the rant, I’ll stop now.

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  • Jessie,

    I’m sympathetic to what you’re saying in broad terms, since as a traditionalist sort of conservative I’m strongly disposed to look fondly on the ways of the past and be suspicious of that which is “modern”. At the same time, though, I think it’s important to be realistic about the sorts of realities that we get past by increasing productivity and becoming “slaves to machines”.

    What I’d question, though, is whether increased productivity necessarily means being enslaved by machines, or rather being freed from servile work. In the American folk tale of John Henry and the steam driver, John Henry is a symbol of humanity striving against having a machine take his job — yet in the long run isn’t driving a steam driver generally an occupation more contributing to human thriving than swinging a sledge hammer by hand?

    Automating a factory further can result in eliminating jobs, but in a deeper sense: is standing in a factory all day where those people should really be in the first place?

    So while I don’t think that ever cheaper and ever more goods in and of themselves are a “solution” in life, I’d tend to see increased productivity as a good thing nearly all of the time, since it frees us up to engage in increasingly skilled work rather than servile work.

    The challenge, as I would see it, is in trying to make sure that people are able to thrive in that increasingly complex environment. As you say, people who don’t learn to read and learn well early in life can find themselves trailing permanently. That’s an area in which I see few easy answers, as all the research I’ve seen suggests that the most key time is very, very early in development: often birth to four years old. I see little ability for larger social institutions than the family to influence that period, and that increases the danger of people whose parents were not educated not being educated themselves either.

  • Why should the choice be between standing in a factory all day or being left behind in the “complex” environment. If we eliminated the outlandish automation, then we could have men employed in a factory doing real work in producing real things and not just repetitive machine minding. The choice is not between machines and men, the choice is between using machines to replace men and using them to enhance man’s creative abilities.

    I would further argue that a steam driver would be not be a positive contributor to humanity if it meant that one person now had a nicer job at the expense of the dignity of many men now left hopeless with no employment prospects and thus little left to offer their families. First, such men are not likely to step up and BE family men. Men humiliated by an inhumane economic environment are not going to be good family men and will thus most likely contribute to a poor social environment. And in fact, we see this played out in economically “blighted” areas.

  • I’ve long thought that the reason winner-take-all occupations would be increasing inequality (compared to the past) is at least in part just because our country is bigger and richer. Being the best basketball player in 1950 is very different from being the best basketball player today, simply because today there are more people who have more money to spend on you. Whereas janitors don’t have the same opportunity to sell their services to more and richer people.

  • Jessie,

    What you’re describing is often called the “lump of labor” fallacy. Man vs. machine is a false opposition, as is the idea that there are only so many jobs to go around. The mistake is in thinking that no new jobs are created by productivity gains. The problem is the education differential, as Darwin points out. People who don’t have enough education or job skills, especially when they lose their career field in middle age, are in a difficult position to switch careers.

  • j. chrisitian, I wasn’t pitting man against machine. I was pointing out that when we stop using tools to enhance the work that men do and start using machines to replace the men themselves, than we have begun moving down a path that leads us to start treating men as machines. Indeed, we are no longer called citizens but our leaders now call us consumers.

    Saying we will re-educate those now redundant men to flip burgers, make lattes, and sell more stuff is not really a solution. And it further dehumanizes those real people who are really unemployable due to ever increasing worship of technology and gigantism. They are not just numbers and we can’t just wave an educational wand at them and, voila, they are now skilled in another career they did not choose but we are sure is just as rewarding.

    Those graphs show that the people needed to actually produce real items is decreasing. So what are all those people doing now? They are pushing wealth around in the health and education fields. But those fields don’t actually produce wealth, they merely facilitate its transfer. How many CNAs do we need (and they have crappy jobs for lousy pay) How many underpaid “para educationist” do we need?

    I don’t think it is a good for us to ever forcefully reduce the number of people who are allowed to work in actually making things and growing food. Its especially wrong to not debate the appropriate level of technology and just assume that more must be better because it has gotten us to where we are. Because where we are is not necessarily good. Machines are tools and they should serve our greater good, we should never be sacrificed to the machines.

  • Jessie,

    “[U]sing tools to enhance the work that men do” and “using machines to replace the men themselves” are just two different ways to describe the same phenomenon. When I type these words into a keyboard instead of having them written down by scribes and carried to you by messengers, I am using tools to enhance the work I do, but I am also using machines as a replacement for men who would otherwise have to do those tasks (if they were to be done at all).

  • Blackadderiv,

    Yes that is true, but you missed the main thrust of my comment. There is a difference between the evolution of tools making certain jobs unnecessary and the goal of eliminating workers in order to decrease “labor costs”. I am glad for my modern household tools and they eliminate the need for servants, but they have merely made the homemakers job easier, not redundant. Likewise, we have technology that has made your writing easier, but you are still needed to do the writing. But that said, you cannot ignore that many jobs have not been made easier but eliminated or made soul deadening by machines. Machinist have been replaced, weavers have been replaced, farmers have been replaced, craftsmen of all stripes have been replaced and our society is less for it.

    And of course, my main point has not been addressed, and it is simply this; that we need to have a debate about the appropriateness of different levels of technology and how they affect us.

  • From the article quoted above: “Given the other forces driving inequality, there may be less that government can do than one might hope. Research from Heckman suggests that education is a relatively feeble remedy for the effects of family background (although Heckman believes that early intervention, in preschool or even before, shows promise).

    In order to make a dramatic impact on inequality, government would have to do something about the fundamental causes: technology and marriage patterns. However, putting a brake on technological progress seems hardly feasible or desirable. And forcing people to select mates at random rather than on the basis of similar backgrounds and tastes seems similarly unlikely. As much as inequality may be a problem, no real solution is in sight.”

  • There is a difference between the evolution of tools making certain jobs unnecessary and the goal of eliminating workers in order to decrease “labor costs”. I am glad for my modern household tools and they eliminate the need for servants, but they have merely made the homemakers job easier, not redundant.

    There might be a difference in one’s personal intent, I guess I’m unclear, though, whether there’s necessarily a difference in the visible action or process.

    I would hope that people weren’t thinking, “We’ll buy that modern washing machine and dryer and dish washer, and then we’ll fire old Mrs. Smith who always did our housekeeping for us. Good thing that’ll save us 5% a year.” Indeed, perhaps many household which bought “conveniences” did so in order to make the lives of the “the help” easier. But somewhere along the way the vast numbers of people who were “in service” in 1900 dwindled away. I suspect part of it is that people came to expect more out of their livelihoods than being “in service” could provide. And also as a new generation of people moved out on their own, they found that they could afford the conveniences that allowed them to do their own housework much more easily than hiring help, and so young families never hired servants.

    Whatever the millions of individual motivations that added up to the trend: the career of being “in service” is pretty much no longer available, and while I enjoy watching Upstairs Downstairs as much as the next bloke, I’d tend to think that’s a good thing.

    Similarly, the forklift allows a company to move things around a warehouse much faster than they could have with teamsters carrying things by hand. And it allows people to work later in life at their warehouse jobs without suffering the disabling injuries that would put most hard laborers out of work by 40. But at the same time, it allows a company to ship much larger volume with fewer people. Which at some point means less jobs for hard laborers.

    So while I do agree that we have a human and moral duty to those who work with us and for us to, I think the tendency towards productivity is not only overall a good thing, but probably also pretty much an inevitable factor that we need to work with rather than against.

  • Jessie,

    In order to make a dramatic impact on inequality, government would have to do something about the fundamental causes: technology and marriage patterns. However, putting a brake on technological progress seems hardly feasible or desirable. And forcing people to select mates at random rather than on the basis of similar backgrounds and tastes seems similarly unlikely. As much as inequality may be a problem, no real solution is in sight.”

    The inequality is not based on marriage patterns or technology. Every study shows that it is almost entirely based on moral choices – principally out of wedlock births. The only thing that government could do to help resolve this is to get out of the business of enabling it.

    I notice that in providing examples of how technology has eliminated the need for menial work (scribes and servants) the posters suggested that they would not need these workers… I submit that most of us unless to the manor born would actually be doing these jobs if it weren’t for technology, not hiring others to do so….

    There are so many issues with our society that are at the root cause of injustice. With the proliferation of double income families, we nearly double the workforce. This drives down wages making it difficult for a single wage earner to support his family.

  • I think the tendency towards productivity is not only overall a good thing, but probably also pretty much an inevitable factor that we need to work with rather than against.

    I don’t think the argument is that productivity is a bad thing, just that we don’t have a lot of thought about when there is to much. At some point, the increase in productivity fails to bring any real help, and actually may cause harm. Much of the negative environmental conditions can be directly attributed to the side effects of productivity gains.

    A good analogy would be medicine. Medical advances have been staggering and wonderful. Medical advances are not wonderful when the violate the Hippocratic oath. Medical advances are not wonderful when they break people rather than heal them. Medical advances are not wonderful when they are used in the service of eugenics to create a race of ‘super-men’. Could society benefit in some ways if we lifted these restrictions – yes. Would society as a whole benefit – no.

    A good tool is a good tool, and productivity does help humanity. However, tools scaled to monstrous proportions with the intent that people be molded to fit the machine, rather than the machine to the people should be as abhorrent as eugenics.

The Strange Case of Father Damien and Mr. Hyde

Tuesday, February 17, AD 2009

robert-louis-stevensonLeprosy Settlement

The Vatican is expected on February 21 to announce the date of Father Damien’s canonization.  So much has been written about the famed leper priest that I feel no need to discuss here the basic facts of his life.   After his death from leprosy grave libels were made against Father Damien, chiefly by a presbyterian minister C.M. Hyde, who, oddly enough, had praised Father Damien during his life.

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  • Growing up in Hawaii we were taught of Fr. Damien’s exploits in Hawaiian history class in a public high school. That is how much he is revered in Hawaii. We even have a (Catholic) high school named after him, Damien Memorial, which I hope will be changed to St. Damien.

    His remains were dug up and moved to Belgium, but I believe there is a bone of his left in his old grave back on the island of Molokai.

    It’ll be a great day for the state of Hawaii. Probably not since statehood will the state see this much pride and joy when Fr. Damien is canonized a saint.

  • Damien Memorial is a Christian Brothers of Ireland HS. I serve on the Board of its Chicago sister school, Brother Rice, and have had the pleasure of meeting some of my board counterparts at Damien. It is a terrific institution. Father Damien no doubt is proud of their work.

  • Blessed Damien.. the man who brought me to Christ.

    I’m over the moon at his upcoming glorification.

  • I always found RLS’ defense so touching. BTW, I believe that at the Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki there is the old Banyan tree which RLS leaned upon to write. I believe that is the story. Correct me if I’m wrong Tito.

  • You’re probably right about that story. I am not familiar with RLS defense, but I’m sure you have the details correct… and that is a very nice story to read!

Just An Observation

Monday, February 16, AD 2009

Wyoming recently has passed legislation that “bans” smoking in public places (except for a list of particular establishments where smoking is still permitted, and except for any county or municipality that doesn’t want to participate in the ban).  There once was hope of increasing the “sin tax” on chewing tobacco.  Elsewhere in the nation, we have had strong campaigns to reduce smoking for sake of health and public expenditure.  Now the campaigns are shifting gears and targeting refined sugars, transfats, and calorie-laden meals.

I understand, to an extent, why people are so concerned about how many times we vist McDonald’s, or much fat is in that bag of potato chips, or whether or not we buy “Biggie”-sized soft drinks.  As we continue to pay for insurance, either private or governmental, the effects are clear.  Bad health practices lead to increase in expenses.  Yet what I find odd is how the whole matter is couched almost as a moral dilemma, a moral crusade.  Isn’t just unhealthy to partake of deep-fat-fried potatoes–it is an abomination that should be punished.

Now, I seem to remember a certain gentlemen who came around saying something like: “Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?”

Is it just me, or is our society unwittingly attempting a reversion back to the Old Covenant (though we’ll pick different foods to declare “unclean”)?

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  • Worst of all, bacon is unclean under both regimes.

  • OH NO!! That means I’m going going to have to make my Bacon Explosion (http://www.bbqaddicts.com/blog/recipes/bacon-explosion/) in secret!

  • We live in an odd era. Having extra-martial sex? No big deal (don’t forget that condom). Eating a Big Mac – for shame, do you know how many fat grams are in that thing? Abort your child – no problem. Light up a cigarette within 50 feet of non-smokers and you’re a pariah. (I am an ex-smoker and don’t like when people light up around me either, mainly because it makes me want to have one.)

    When health becomes a religion, well, it follows that government officials decree “clean” and “unclean” foods. Maybe we’ll see a return to the “Scarlet Letter.” Instead of punishing people for adultery, the New Puritans will make them stand on the street corner with contraband twinkies or chocolate bars sticking out of their mouths.

  • Bill, my heart went into palpitations just looking at the finished product! Yikes! I can’t wait to try it…

  • A soon-to-retire gent that I take the evening train with just returned from a two-week trip to Alaska. He and his wife went there and put an offer in on a house because, in his words, We just want to be left alone and the states in the Northeast don’t seem to understand that”

    I understand.

  • I am firmly of the conviction that all bars ought to be smoke-filled and that there ought to be a two smoke minimum for certain establishments. I want a state to pass that law!

  • Donna V.

    Perhaps not a scarlet letter, but some golden arches will be the badge of dishonor. Then they will be “boiled in their own pudding,” and buried with a steak on their heart.

  • S.B,

    I saw that Mark Shea had linked to that on his blog, and that started me thinking. The observation comment comes out of that article, but I felt was enough of its own thought that it stood alone without the trace back. Perhaps I was wrong.

  • This may sound a bit shocking coming from an otherwise conservative Catholic who’s never intentionally inhaled anything for amusement (other than helium balloons), but if we’re going to crack down on alcohol, tobacco and fattening food to the point where they are almost illegal, why not treat marijuana the same way — legalize it, but tax and regulate it to death, don’t allow it to be smoked in public places, and save the “war on drugs” for the really dangerous stuff like crack, heroin, and meth.

    Yes, pot is mind-altering but so is alcohol and that’s legal. From what I understand it’s not any more addictive or harmful to one’s physical health than tobacco, and that’s legal too. From a moral point of view I don’t see where a pothead is that different from an alcoholic or chain smoker. No material thing or substance is evil in and of itself; it only becomes so when misused.