2 Responses to Catholics Come Home Epic

  • I’ve seen it before, but it’s still beautiful. Always good to remember what a gift it is to be Catholic.

  • No place to come home to when your wife and her adulterous civil “partner” already make their home there with the full welcome of those who are stewrds of that “home”.

    More BS.

Top 25 Catholic Blogs by Technorati Authority

Sunday, April 26, AD 2009

Last week Tito put together a list of his favorite 25 Catholic websites, using Google Reader subscriber numbers. While I take one commenter’s point that rankings are often vanity projects, I think they can also be a great way to discover new Catholic blogs, particularly for those (like me) who are relatively new to the Catholic blogosphere. I certainly enjoyed the new blogs I discovered while compiling this list.

The following list is based on Technorati authority, which hopefully will be a little more consistent than the Google Reader subscriber numbers. Additionally, blogging is a collaborative process, and Technorati authority should reflect some of the best places to go for Catholic conversation on the web. Feel free to leave any corrections or other blogs that should be included in the comments. Happy reading!

1) What Does the Prayer Really Say? 482

2) Conversion Diary 406

3) Inside Catholic 382

4) Whispers in the Loggia 358

5) The Curt Jester 339

6) Creative Minority Report 293

7) Catholic & Enjoying It! 264

8 ) Rorate Caeli 259

9) Per Christum 253

10) National Catholic Register (Daily Blog) 246

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22 Responses to Top 25 Catholic Blogs by Technorati Authority

Dolan: Man-Woman Tradition Is In Our DNA

Sunday, April 26, AD 2009

His Grace Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York spoke eloquently in a recent interview which touched on hot topics such as ‘gay’ marriage and a married priesthood by Dan Mangan of the New York Post.  The following is the entire article followed by the video interview [emphasis and comments mine]:

Archbishop Timothy Dolan yesterday said advocates of gay marriage “are asking for trouble,” arguing that traditional, one-man/one-woman marriage is rooted in people’s moral DNA [His Emminence is not parsing his words here, amen for that.].

There’s an in-built code of right and wrong that’s embedded in the human DNA,” Dolan told The Post in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview, a week after becoming the New York Archdiocese’s new leader.

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4 Responses to Dolan: Man-Woman Tradition Is In Our DNA

  • “your emminence”

    I’m only quibbling on a minor point here, but technically, in the Roman Rite, he would not be referred to as eminence until he is made cardinal. For now, he would be excellency. I apologize for going off-topic (feel free to delete this).

  • “An in-built code of right and wrong that’s embedded in the human DNA” is about the best modern definition of “natural law” that I’ve heard yet.

  • Alan,

    You are absolutely correct.

    I was just going to post on how to address religious and I got ahead of myself.

    I pray that His Excellency does receive the red hat, but more importantly that he does the will of God.

    No quibbling at all and no need to apologize.

    ;~)

    Tito

  • I regularly attended the Archbishop’s Mass at the Cathedral of St. John in Milwaukee, so I (and my fellow Milwaukee Catholics) felt sadness when he left. Our loss is truly New York’s gain, and I can guarantee that the Big Apple’s new Archbishop (who does not have a shy bone in his body) will deliver orthodox Catholicism to his new flock with humor, wit and grace. I will also wager that many Manhattanites will not want to hear it – but, hey, New Yorkers are supposed to be tough cookies, right?

12 Responses to Geekier Than Thou

  • ….WTF did they do to Romulans!?!?!?!

  • That does look rather strange doesn’t it? However, I think the program was not set up with dogs in mind.

  • I went to the site, as well, ‘cus I couldn’t tell what the heck… that thing looked like a TOS Klingon gone all tribal….

    Just more weight on my “we’ll see it when it gets to the cheap theater” impression. (Hey, they want a trek movie that “isn’t aimed at star trek fans”– they’ll get fans that aren’t aimed at their movie.)

  • Here’s a question for your geeky-ness:
    Have you ever considered where the heck the Church is, in Star Trek?

    I’ve said since high school that Vulcans would be very good Catholics. (yes, even before Mr. Wright’s joke)

  • Gene Roddenberry had little use for religion and therefore religion was downplayed in the original series, except for the Bread and Circuses episode:

    “McCoy: (to Kirk) I read in your report that Flavius was killed. I’m sorry. I really liked that sun worshipper.

    Spock: I do wish we could examine that belief of theirs more closely.

    Uhura: I’m afraid you have it all wrong. All of you. I’ve been monitoring their old style radio broadcasts. The Empire’s spokesman trying to ridicule their religion. But he couldn’t. (after a brief silence) Don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s the Son of God!

    Kirk: Caesar and Christ. They have them both.

    Spock: It will replace their imperial Rome, but it will happen in their twentieth century.

    Kirk: And the word is spreading… only now. Wouldn’t it be something to watch it happen all over again?”

  • Not sure how many of you know this, but Archbishop John Myers of Newark, formerly of Peoria, is a big Trek fan and in fact submitted some suggested plots to the producers of one of the early-90s shows (not sure whether it was “Next Generation” or “Deep Space Nine”) with his friend Gary K. Wolf (of “Roger Rabbit” fame”). They weren’t accepted, however.

  • Mr. McClarey-
    I know why there isn’t any showing, but if you treat it as a “world” instead of a show, you can make a lot of interesting stories– at one point I had a pretty good lineup of “evidence” that religion had been systematically repressed.

  • Interesting. My wife has devoured Star Trek fiction. I read a book by Esther Friesner where Aaron Stemple of the Here Come the Brides show was revealed to be an ancestor of Spock. The inside joke of course that actor Mark Lenard played this role, in addition to his role on Star Trek as Spock’s Vulcan father.

  • Et al.,

    After living life and becoming aware of the social themes of star trek, my enthusiasm dipped a bit when I realized that Star Trek was a Communist Utopia. Where there was no money and people pursued their vocations, not necessarily trying to survive since everything was taken care of.

    Of course this is incredibly unlikely with the demise of the Soviet Union, but I can see why some of the appeal being where there are no conflicts and people lived to fulfill themselves rather than God.

  • Star Fleet is the UN in space– part of why I enjoyed DS9 so much: socialist utopia gets smacked in the face with the folks they don’t control.

  • Of course the Star Trek episodes rarely took Roddenberry’s philosophy seriously. No war: The episodes of the show usually revolved around military conflict. No money: mentioned but never taken seriously. Just ask Cyrano Jones or Harry Mudd. The Prime Directive: Stamped on almost every time it came up. No religion: Star Trek Deep Space Nine reveled in religious themes. Utopia: Hardly, just ask the Maquis. Star Trek works because it barely pays attention to Rodennberry’s view of how the future might turn out. It is grand, and entertaining, Space Opera. Long may it go on providing amusement!

  • Mr. Roddenberry’s vision is kinda like the vision of most anything else: when it hits reality, it changes a lot.

    Communism: from each by their ability, to each by their need. Reality: nobody works to the height of their ability, and the folks managing the “to” always seem to end up with a bit more for their trouble.

    Ideal: “we hold these truths to be self-evident…”
    Reality: anyone who’s been into a history class in the last ten years got those bashed into their heads.

    ideal: Men and women are morally equal
    reality: women have to act like men to *be* the same.

Anzac Day

Saturday, April 25, AD 2009

kiwis_cassino

Today is Anzac Day.  It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

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9 Responses to Anzac Day

  • Thank you Don, for your wishes. I am rather humbled,flattered and honoured to be singled out.

    Loved your poem – I had not heard it before, but is very appropriate, and very Kiwi/Aussie. There are many other songs I could quote of course, but not printable on this blog – as I’m sure anyone attached with the military, and of that time, can attest. (If anyone is unsure what a “bob” is, it is the slang term for a shilling – nowadays, 10 cents.) Interestingly, wages had not gone up much, for by WW2, my Dad was being paid only ten bob per day. As Rommell said of the Aussie and Kiwi troops, “Pay them another ten shillings per day, and they’ll drink themselves out of the war.”

    Anyhow, we really kicked his arse at the battle of El Alemein in the Western Desert – he should have put up the extra ten bob. 🙂
    No small part of that was the Long Range Desert Group (LRGD) a bunch of mainly Kiwis, with a few Aussies and Poms thrown in, who harassed the German and Italian forces, hundreds of miles behind the enmy lines. A high death toll though; my father knew a couple of the guys involved.

    Back to Gallipoli, my maternal Grandfather, and mum’s uncle both served on Gallipoli.Grt.Uncle Eustace Nicholson was a Sergent Major – a big man, and a real feisty old bugger, who was a boxing champion on the Western Front after surviving Gallipoli. Pop Piper (Mum’s father) was a Cornishman – came to NZ about 1910, and was told that because he was from Cornwall, he could be a Tunneller. He used to keep us spellbound when we were kids, about how he could hear “the Turk” above him – that’s when they’d stack up explosives and get out quick before the ka-boom. Pop Piper was wounded, but went to England to assist with training etc. – joined the army as a private, came out a Second Lieutenant.
    Dad’s oldest brother also saw service in the trenches in France and Belgium. He got gassed, and when he recovered back in NZ, played Rugby for a Rotorua club for the next ten years. He was a real character – always had a twinkle in his eye, especially for the ladies. After his gassing, he was returned to NZ to a convalescent home. Only there for three days, and seduced the matron 😆 not bad for still recovering,and with only one lung.

    Dad served in Italy in WW2 – just missed Casino where the Kiwis suffered a bit of a clean up – but saw action in Faenza and Rimini in ’44. Came home on a hospital ship with a bad back injury – was used a a guinnea pig for spinal operations and took 18 months to recover. Managed the pain till his death in 2005 at age 93. Had many relations as well in WW2 – a mad Irish stock uncle – Joe Murphy by name – navigator in Lancasters – got shot down and captured, escaped, rejoined his squadron, got shot down again and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.

    Anyway, enough from me. Thanks foe the ANZAC post Don, and God Bless.

  • Oh, BTW.
    I read the links you have included.
    The third one – “The best kind of Travel experience” if you check out the left hand link about the Bay of Plenty, that’s my home town – Tauranga.

  • Glad you enjoyed it Don! I hadn’t heard of the Rommel comment before, but it sounds like the type of dry observation that Rommel would often make. Courage is a virtue too underrated today; the Anzacs had that virtue in plenty and that deserves to be remembered, and not just in New Zealand and Australia. For the benefit of our readers I am linking below to a site with a few basic facts about Tauranga.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tauranga

  • Gallipoli.

    If only Mr. Churchill planned it out better the outcome would have been different.

    We would have been able to march to Constantinople, free the city of Muslim rule and allow the Greeks to worship without fear.

    Now they’re almost wiped out.

    What could have been.

    *sigh*

  • Tito,

    that’s the religion of peace you’re talking about there.

  • Tito.
    It was mainly the blinding incompetence of the British command that was the main problem: procrastinated decisions,watering down objectives and failing to sieze initiatives.
    But lets not discount the fierce Turkish resistance either.
    The Aussies had the sense to take their troops out of British control after Gallipoli. In the campaign in Europe when the Aussies refused an order from General Haig, Haig threatened to execute them all for mutiny- The Aussie commanders told Haig that he could not put a volunteer army before the firing squad. Haig had to back down.
    The NZ troops were still under British command. Five NZ soldiers were infamously executed for desertion, but the poor devils were so shell shocked they didn’t know what they were doing. So much for the British stiff upper lip and absentee commanders.
    All a long time ago now.

    Have we learnt anything?

  • hi does anyone no how to get the lyrics to the poem the last post!!!

  • kate, here is a link, assuming this is the poem you had in mind.

    http://beck.library.emory.edu/greatwar/poetry/view.php?id=fiery_061

  • I remember reading that “we are the Anzac army’ was a marching song, sung to the tune of Aurelia (which to those unfamiliar with that name, is same tune as the famous anglican hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”)

    It’s easy to blame Gallipoli on WC, and it all but ruined his political career for a generation, but the whole British administration backed the plan … Kichener, Fisher, Asquith … that is, until they didn’t or got cold feet.

    Too many Anzacs …and Britsh … soldiers and sailors paid with their lives for inept combined tactics. W.C., however, was not responsible for Kichner’s unwillingness to combine landings with the naval assault on the Narrows, nor for the Navy’s unwillingness to press the battleship attack against the Narrows batteries when victory was at hand, nor the abysmal British generalship when the landings finally did take place – particularly at Sulva Bay.

    Sic transit mundi.

    Had it worked, the Ottoman Empire would have been out of the war … and likely no Bolshevik revolution, no Arabian revolt, and, perhaps, no World War 2. Who knows. The sacrifice of those who died on that terrible peninsula, who were maimed or wounded, though, is honored by all who admire duty, loyalty and courage. May the rest in peace and honor.

3 Responses to The Wearing of the Grey

Irony Alert

Friday, April 24, AD 2009

human-being

Hattip to The Catholic Key BlogComments of President Obama at the Holocaust Memorial in Washington.

“It is the grimmest of ironies that one of the most savage, barbaric acts of evil in history began in one of the most modernized societies of its time, where so many markers of human progress became tools of human depravity: science that can heal used to kill; education that can enlighten used to rationalize away basic moral impulses; the bureaucracy that sustains modern life used as the machinery of mass death — a ruthless, chillingly efficient system where many were responsible for the killing, but few got actual blood on their hands.”

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5 Responses to Irony Alert

  • Good post.

  • Two posts ago (the Colbert Report post) has 0bama lecturing us about losing our moral bearings. This is one sick dude.

  • I don’t know which possibility is scarier: that he may be completely oblivious of the obvious parallel, or that he is perfectly aware of it and doesn’t care.

    The major challenge for Catholics in the next four years will be to mount a credible opposition without allowing it to be characterized as “partisan politics.” Won’t be easy.

  • Great post Donald!

    gary,

    The major challenge for Catholics in the next four years will be to mount a credible opposition without allowing it to be characterized as “partisan politics.” Won’t be easy.

    not with his communications department in bed with pretty much the whole of the media, and liberal Catholics like Kmiec shilling for him.

Obama: Armenian 'Atrocities', Not Genocide

Friday, April 24, AD 2009

April 24, 1915 A.D. is the date fixed for the beginning of the Armenian Genocide where over 1.5 million Armenian Christians were slaughtered by the Turkish Muslims through deportation, starvation, slave labor, and concentration camps.

Today President Obama referred to the Armenian Genocide as “one of the great atrocities of the 20th century.”  Thus breaking his campaign promise of calling it a genocide in deference to Turkey’s delicate sensibilities to their Armenian question.

This display of masterful verbal calisthenics has not been seen since Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings of ’99.     President Obama skillfully used over a 100 words to explain these ‘atrocities’ instead of utilizing the more efficient use of ‘genocide’, which is one (1) word exactly (comments mine).

“(O)ne of the great atrocities of the 20th century.  I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed (a falsehood).  My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.  The best way to advance that goal right now is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their efforts to move forward.  (The  Armenians who were massacred in the final days of the Ottoman Empire) must live on in our memories.  Reckoning with the past holds out the powerful promise of reconciliation.  I strongly support efforts by the Turkish and Armenian people to work through this painful history in a way that is honest, open, and constructive.”

For the article click here.

To learn more about the Armenian Genocide click here.

Update I: The following are excellent articles relating to today about the Armenian Genocide.

Armenians Remember 1915 Killings

Turkey Declares Armenia Deal

Q&A Armenian Genocide Dispute

Turkey’s Armenian Dilemma

Fears of Turkey’s ‘Invisible’ Armenians

Cold War Haunts Armenian Border

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5 Responses to Obama: Armenian 'Atrocities', Not Genocide

  • The phrasing of Obama’s written statement attracted heightened scrutiny because of the sensitivity of the issue and because the two countries are nearing a historic reconciliation after years of tension. The Obama administration is wary of disturbing that settlement.

  • Mark,

    I understand the weariness of the Obama administrations reluctance of using a highly charge, yet accurate, term of ‘genocide’.

    Beside’s the presidents reluctance, I am heartened to hear of the settlement between Turkey and Armenia. Albeit that it’s incomplete, but it is a positive start to hopefully an end of over a century of animosity and to a new era of cooperation and friendship.

  • In the Bush 44 administration, George’s Inner Gipper was in constant conflict with his Inner Poppy. In final year, Inner Poppy won all the way. Within Dear Leader, we have ongoing smackdown between Inner Willie and Inner Jimmy. The Armenian ‘atrocities’ statement was pure Inner Willie. But Inner Jimmy is never far away, ready to mess things up- as in sending signals for Scooter Libby-style show trials. Or Janet Napolitano- his Janet Reno- alienating Canada, veterans, and pro-life moms. The struggle continues.

  • I think Obama played it well.

    Whether or not Turkey accepts the Armenian genocide (and they won’t, it’s illegal in Turkey to talk about it), the issue isn’t going to have a positive political effect. Sometimes you have to play politics, and when Turkey, a long-time regional ally, now has increased importance in resolving our Iraqi and Iranian problems, there’s no reason to through sand in their face with no obvious U.S. interest.

  • Joe,

    If by played it well you mean ignoring the deaths of over a million Armenian Christians so as to not offend Turkish Muslim ‘sensibilities’, then yes, he played it very well.

    Once can stand by the truth, or play politics. Obama promised to change the tone in Washington, instead he dolled himself up and is literally kissing the pig to ingratiate himself to the politiratti.

Colbert On Obama's Tortured Reasoning

Friday, April 24, AD 2009

The Pandora’s box that President Obama has opened with the release of the torture memo’s has caused quite a stir in the Catholic blogosphere.  Nonetheless the stealth Catholic, comedian Stephen Colbert, has geniusely made a humorous rendition of the logic floating around Washington on the torture controversy.  Biretta tip to Mark Shea.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.2419680&w=425&h=350&fv=autoPlay%3Dfalse]

more about “Colbert: The Word – Stressed Position“, posted with vodpod
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One Response to Colbert On Obama's Tortured Reasoning

Catholic Democrats of Ohio vs. the Catholic Bishops

Friday, April 24, AD 2009

Rich Leonardi (Ten Reasons) posts some particularly damning evidence as to where the Catholic Democrats of Ohio’s loyalties reside on the matter of Notre Dame’s honoring Barack Obama with a law degree:

In the event you are unsure which word in the group name “Catholic Democrats” is more important, this release should provide some clarity

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7 Responses to Catholic Democrats of Ohio vs. the Catholic Bishops

No Guarantees

Friday, April 24, AD 2009

I was struck by this Megan McArdle post, of which I will go ahead a quote a large chunk:

Guess what, honey? You’re not entitled. You can do everything right, and the universe doesn’t owe you anything. Neither do your fellow taxpayers. If there is any way to save the banking system without paying you $2 million a year, I will do it, not because I hate you and want to rob you, but because I don’t want to pay more than I have to. You may have come across this concept in business school. At Chicago, we called it “a market”.

The real problem with investment bankers goes deeper, and is the problem of the entire upper middle class: we have come to believe that complying with the rules produces excellent results as by some natural law. In school, if you do your work, teacher gives you an A. It comes to seem like a sort of a natural law: if you have a good education and work hard, the universe is supposed to reward you. After school, the upper middle class gravitates towards careers with very well defined advancement hierarchies: medicine, law, finance, consulting, where this subtle belief is constantly reinforced.

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2 Responses to No Guarantees

  • DarwinCatholic,

    Although I very much appreciate this entry, I’m not entirely sure that people are actually generally of the opinion that if you work hard, you shall reap its rewards. If the populace happens to believe such a notion, they are either naive or given to nonsense.

    In fact, the lessons featured herein are one most Harvard Business School grads themselves already know (or eventually do).

    Devotedly engaging in arduous labors in view of some high aspiration does not automatically guarantee that such efforts will result ultimately in some seemingly felt much deserved success.

    That’s almost as crazy as believing that if one is kind to others, others will be kind in return.

  • e.,

    People rarely phrase the objection in precisely those terms, but such an assumption is fairly common if my little corner of professional grad school is any indication. People take out very large amounts of debt to finance grad school with the (traditionally reasonable) expectation that they will be able to pay these debts off with a high-salary, high-status job upon graduation.

    When that doesn’t work out, they, like Ms. McArdle (and many of my classmates currently) are disappointed, and feel like the world is unfair. I think it’s a question of expectations. In general it’s much harder to lose something you expected to have (and thought you had), than just not to have it at all. These people are told constantly they are the best, and that they will be successful if they do the work. When that doesn’t happen they are disappointed, particularly those who have little life experience outside of the educational system, where there is a rough correlation between effort and success. Sure, they know intellectually that ‘life isn’t always fair,’ but it’s harder to experience it than to grasp it intellectually.

April Is Abortion Recovery Awareness Month

Friday, April 24, AD 2009

jindal-family-being-blessed

Hattip to Opinionated CatholicAbortion Recovery International, a group dedicated to helping women heal from the trauma of abortion has proclaimed April as Abortion Recovery Awareness Month.  Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, has issued a proclamation, as has Governor Rick Perry of Texas.  Bravo to the Governors!  Hey Jenkins, if Notre Dame really needs to honor a politician, you need look no farther than Catholic convert Bobby Jindal!

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Torture, Effectiveness, & Consequentialism

Thursday, April 23, AD 2009

I have been meaning to post on the torture memos since last week, but have not had time. For now, I’ll point you to a post of Blackadder’s, which highlights the unconvincing arguments currently being floated to justify the Bush Administration’s use of torture:

The latest meme running through these sites is that while it may be honorable to be opposed to torture on principle, we ought to be reasonable and just admit that torture works. Here, for example, is Jonah Goldberg:

I have no objection to the moral argument against torture — if you honestly believe something amounts to torture. But the “it doesn’t work” line remains a cop out, no matter how confidently you bluster otherwise.

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113 Responses to Torture, Effectiveness, & Consequentialism

  • It’s a great post, and thanks for highlighting here.

    Sadly, while one does have to occasionally wade into “but does it work?” waters, I think the better argument is that there are some doors you simply cannot open.

    I think the most disturbing line of implicit argumentation I came across was the discussion that the waterboarded terrorists thought we were weak until they got the watering can.

    I think I can live with their contempt, actually. Lest we forget, KSM was the one running for his life and looking like a cut-rate pr0n actor gone to seed when he was captured.

    I’ll go back to a point I made before: if Al Qaeda waterboarded captured Americans (say, 150+ times), would we describe their actions as “enhanced interrogation techniques”?

  • Should not there be an analysis of the severity and imminence of the harm that could be prevented by torture? For example, the classic Dirty Harry movie scene where the criminal has trapped a victim in a vault that will run out of air shortly. There is no reasonable chance of finding the victim in time to save her. Dirty Harry tortures the criminal to force him to tell the location and the girl is saved. Would the church forbid torture in that situation? Or in the “24” situation with a ticking nuclear bomb? Is it not the same inquiry that one has to make when defending a life? Certainly, if Dirty Harry would be justified in blowing a criminal away if it was the only practical way to prevent the criminal from actively murdering a victim, would he not be justified in doing less violence (torture is less than killing, no?) a criminal who was passively killing his victim?

  • Oh, I’d say that torture is quite effective as demonstrated by the fact that it has been part of human conflict as far back as historical records reach. John McCain was a rather brave Navy Pilot, but as he admitted torture broke him.

    http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/11/29/100012.shtml

    If the target of the torture has the information, I’d say that almost anyone will talk as a result of torture. I am opposed to physical torture including waterboarding, but I have not the slightest doubt it is very, very effective.

  • Donald,

    I think the discussion of torture’s effectiveness is broader than just ‘Can we hypothetically get x to say what he knows?’ In this particular situation the question is ‘did the use of torture make the U.S. significantly safer?’ And the evidence here does not seem to support the contention that it did. Another way of approaching effectiveness is to consider whether the reputational harms associated with the use of torture are outweighed by the benefits of any information received from torture. Again, these are consequentialist arguments, but I think they can be used to supplement (but not replace) moral arguments.

  • I think a question that fathers need to ask themselves is “would you waterboard someone to save your child”? Most fathers, I think, would say yes – though I’m sure they wouldn’t be proud of it. So, if it is OK in that circumstance, why isn’t it OK for the president to authorize it to save people he is supposed to protect?

  • John Henry in order to gauge the effectiveness of torture in a particular instance we would have to possess the information elicited and the actions taken based on this information, something neither you nor I nor the New York Times have. My point is that physical torture will obviously force almost anyone submitted to it to reveal whatever they know. It will also do it faster than alternative techniques. The worth of the information gleaned will obviously depend upon what the target of the torture knows.

    The interesting part of the Blair story is that the following portions were deleted from the version of his memo released to the media:

    “Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    “I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

    To futher and perhaps resolve this debate all the Obama administration has to do is to allow access as to information gleaned as a result of waterboarding for example and the use made by the US of the intelligence. I realize this may not be possible if the intelligence is sensitive, but it should at least be considered in a few cases so we can all have a better factual basis to determine effectiveness or ineffectiveness. Until we do we have no real way of knowing what was accomplished by waterboarding.

  • I am unequivocally opposed to torture – including waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques. I have no doubt that torture can be “effective” in getting the subject to tell what he knows, but I am nevertheless of the mind that we should not engage in grave intrinsic evils even if some good may result. In other words, no torture under any circumstances.

    That said, I find abhorrent the notion that we should “spin” the issue of torture’s efficacy in order to dupe a consequentialist American populace into thinking torture isn’t really all that effective. If torture has been effective in producing life-saving intelligence, rather than lying about that fact, our argument should be that it is, nevertheless, a price too high to pay.

    It’s just like ESCR: even if its proponents could prove that it was a panacea for all manner of health-related problems (and they can’t because it isn’t), our response wouldn’t be to “spin” the science; it would be to say that such research is an intrinsic evil that violates human dignity EVEN IF some good may result as a result thereof.

  • I find abhorrent the notion that we should “spin” the issue of torture’s efficacy in order to dupe a consequentialist American populace into thinking torture isn’t really all that effective. If torture has been effective in producing life-saving intelligence, rather than lying about that fact, our argument should be that it is, nevertheless, a price too high to pay.

    I think the idea of ‘duping’ is asinine; if there is strong evidence the programs were effective, then naturally there is no sense in arguing against the evidence. I don’t think we have such evidence, however. In such cases, there is nothing wrong with pointing out a given policy (like ESCR funding) is both immoral and ineffective.

  • “Should not there be an analysis of the severity and imminence of the harm that could be prevented by torture?”

    Sure, analyze away. But it won’t make a difference. Not if we’re Catholic.

    First of all, if something is intrinsically evil, there’s no ‘analysis’ that will justify it. There are plenty of people who make elaborate arguments to justify the personal and social utility of abortion and contraception. If the Church isn’t willing to consider those, then why would she consider torture?

    “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” 2297 of the Catechism. Also see 404 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine.

    So here it doesn’t specifically say, ‘torture used to get life-saving information’. So is there a gray area?

    I don’t think so. There is a hierarchy of values and priorities. If we believe what we say we believe, then we believe in eternal life and a heavenly judgment. It doesn’t make sense to do something so terrible to a human being to save the lives of others if life goes on forever. I’m not saying we must be pacifists, but there is a difference between self-defense and torture. There are simply some cases where we must be ready to accept bad things for the sake of not violating a moral law that will have even worse consequences here-after.

    I don’t think people really think about it, though. The old ‘practical man in a practical world’ logic relegates such concerns to monks and women and scholars. “Yes yes, I believe in God and all that, but we have a problem here.”

    I can’t accept that. The only relevant question is if torture aligns with the will of God, the goodness of God. If the answer is no then for us to do it anyway is to insult and offend God. What man finds important, Jesus says, God finds abominable.

  • I’d also add that the psycho-sexual torture of Muslim men is absolutely disgusting. I can’t see a loving God condoning demonic behavior.

  • I imagine that God might have a problem or two with our enemies who behead American captives and make snuff films about it. Compared to the enemy we have been fighting our behavior has been light years better. Just condemnation of abuses is one thing; we must also remember that the jihadists observe no rules of war at all.

  • Should our concern be what God does to people who are manifestly evil, or to us, who believe we have an obligation to be good? If they are evil because of what they do, then how are we not evil in doing the same? Or do we believe that the ends justify the means? Torture for the Republic = acceptable, torture for the Caliphate = bad?

    “Our enemies” are Muslims. How God will judge them, I can’t say. But I think I know what Catholic theology says about how He will judge us.

    And lets not forget the history of imperial domination and manipulation that caused a widespread resurgence of militant Islam after decades of secular political movements both liberal/constitutional and secular socialist. Not saying that I endorse the latter, but it was nothing like radical Islam.

  • While it’s understandable to want to add some practical arguments to our condemnation of torture, ultimately I think they should be put aside when we’re trying to make a moral argument about its inherent evil. First of all, if something is wrong, we should be content to just end it right there. For example, I’ve really liked delving into debates about the deterrent effect of the death penalty. I’m against it on principle – why should I get into what is a side debate that to me is really inconsequential?

    Also, if we give up the high ground of the moral argument, we could ultimately lose the practical argument. I’m not sure about whether torture really works, but, for example, what if ESCR does actually start fulfilling its promise? What then? It certainly is helpful to our cause that it does not work, but what if it did work? What if torture does work? What if the death penalty does have a deterrent effect? Then we retreat back to the moral argument? Well, that makes us look a little duplicitous.

  • Most fathers, I think, would say yes – though I’m sure they wouldn’t be proud of it. So, if it is OK in that circumstance, why isn’t it OK for the president to authorize it to save people he is supposed to protect?

    For a couple of reasons…

    First, torture is an intrinsic evil, so if one accepts that water-boarding against the will for coercive purposes is torture, then water-boarding is intrinsically evil. If water-boarding is torture, then whether or not most fathers would do it does not change the moral status of torture. Would it affect the moral status of abortion if you took a poll and discovered that most fathers would encourage their wives to abort a baby that will have severe disabilities and a short, painful life?

    Second, you cite an example that simply doesn’t work for two reasons:

    1) It is highly improbable that a father would have to link water-boarding to saving his child, which means a general position on water-boarding as policy would only have to make slight exceptions for the sort of periphery case you cite. Torture as a governmental policy, on the other hand, would not be periphery but normative and formal. In other words, an unlikely (though possible) periphery case can be accommodated by general principles, that is, approval of water-boarding to save a child’s life in a rare circumstance does not mean that normative, governmental policy would likewise have to be approved.

    2) You seem to be arguing by analogy between father-son, president-country. However, this is clearly a false analogy, which is a logical fallacy. For an analogy to work as an argument, the formal structure of both terms must be equivalent, that is, the material of the terms can differ but the form must be identical. The form of the father-son relationship is natural, absolute, and familial. The form of the president-country relationship is political, contingent, and governmental. Because the forms of the terms are obviously different, then you may draw an analogy for heuristic purposes but you cannot draw an analogy as an argument. So your argument (it’s not wrong in A, and A is like B, therefore it’s not wrong in B) contains a logical fallacy. For more on this, any logic textbook will have a section on logical fallacies and how to avoid them.

  • Paul/Jay,

    I think it’s important to distinguish between two different types of argument here:

    1)Feigning a concern about a policy based on reason y, when we really care about(but aren’t mentioning) reason x.

    2) Stating reason x upfront (e.g. I think torture/ capital punishment/ESCR are wrong morally), and additionally, I think the claims advocates make about their effectiveness are overblown.

    I am advocating strategy 2, not 1. With regard to torture, even most people who support torture concede it’s distasteful; they just think the results justify it. Assuming they have some hesitancy about it to begin with, pointing out that the successes claimed in its name are overblown can be an effective argument, as long as you acknowledge upfront that you find it morally objectionable.

    Now, it’s always possible that the benefits from torture are so clear and so obvious that strategy number 2 is facially absurd and discredits anyone who makes the claim (the ‘spin’ or ‘dupe’ approach as Jay referred to it). But I do not think we are there with respect to torture, as BA’s post suggests.

  • Well John Henry, Cheney has called for the release of CIA memos showing the results of the interrogations. I hope the Obama administration will do that, but I am not holding my breath, just as I would not hold my breath that the anti-torture policy of this administration will last 12 hours beyond the next big jihadist attack on this country.
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/20/cheney-calls-release-memos-showing-results-interrogation-efforts-1862515294/

  • Policraticus,

    Thanks for your comments. How about this one:

    Most fathers would be willing to shoot someone who was about kill their child. Most of us would also expect a police officer to do the same thing. I think this would be standard operating procedure for the police officer. Killing is more evil, or at least as evil, as torture. So why wouldn’t torture also be an acceptable option to save the child?

  • I saw that Cheney called for the release of the memos, but I have little confidence in his judgment on this issue (to put it mildly). I share your doubt that Obama will release the files, but I thought this op-ed from a CIA interrogator was very interesting:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/opinion/23soufan.html

    There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

  • “Killing is more evil, or at least as evil, as torture.”

    Tell that to the guy being tortured. He might be begging for death!

  • “Tell that to the guy being tortured. He might be begging for death!”

    PRECISELY!

    Torture is intrinsically evil. Capital punishment, according to the Church, is not. That seems as if it should be backward, but it isn’t.

    It’s simple to kill someone; it is an entirely different thing, an even worse thing, to make someone wish they were dead.

    Imagine how sadistic, how against your nature you are forced to behave, and the length of time you have to hold up the banner of justification for your actions — convincing yourself that what you’re doing is morally licit versus how long you have to pretend you don’t know killing is wrong to commit the act of killing.

    This might be going in an entirely different direction, but this reminds me of what Benedict XVI said a long while ago: we should really ask ourselves, seriously, “given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.'”

    The Holy Father doesn’t explicitly answer the question. I don’t think he has to, nor is his personal position entirely relevant. The question — profound as it is — speaks for itself.

    Sure, the cause one is fighting for may be just and noble. But we really downplay the effects of war, what it means for our humanity particularly those directly involved. There’s an old saying, “in times of war, the laws are silent.”

    And look at what we begin to justify — torture being the obvious.

    I’ve actually found it absolutely horrible that torture is downplayed as a non-negotiable issue, just as evil in its horror as abortion and euthanasia, perhaps, not in scope and gravity, but surely in the fact that it contravenes in itself the basic dignity due to a person by their humanity. And it rather disturbs me, particularly when Catholics, buy into the word gymnastics of “interrogation” et al, as if it is no different than when mainstream liberals try to call abortion something other than what it really is.

    Thank you, everyone.

  • I’m a flawed Christian.
    I must confess I would never stand back and allow a mujahadeen to attempt to kill my family, friends, or neighbors. I would either kill him, if that were necessary, or torture him to gain information that would relieve any threat of death or injury to family, friend, or neighbors.
    Reality demands it, and I will humbly stand in God’s judgement for my actions.

  • John Henry the article you linked to was written by Ali Soufan. He was FBI not CIA. The article struck me as more of the unending turf wars between FBI and CIA that has hampered the fight against the terrorists. If all the information is released we will see.

    One of the odd things about the article is that Soufan has worked for Giuliani Security since leaving the FBI.
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/73371

    When Giuliani ran for President he was the most vociferous of all the Republican candidates in supporting “aggressive interogation techniques”. Soufan contributed 2300 bucks to his campaign. Odd for a person who wrote the article yesterday. Wheels within wheels, as usual, when dealing with someone from the FBI or the CIA.

  • Here’s the deal: I share Don’s skepticism that the Obama Administration won’t resort to the same tactics should the “need” arise (clearly, the Administration sees some benefit to “enhanced interrogation” as evidenced by his retaining the extraordinary rendition polices of his predecessors in office). And for what other reason would they do so other than that they see torture as at least somewhat “effective” under certain circumstances?

    I’m afraid the “One Ring” (to borrow an analogy from Shea) is just too tempting a tool for those in power to forego using. And the argument against using the One Ring was never that it didn’t work. Of course it worked, which is why those in power were to tempted to use it. The argument against the One Ring was always that using it turned you into something you didn’t want to become, eventually giving Evil mastery over you.

    I don’t think we should even be countenancing “effectiveness” arguments. Because the risk of turning out to have been wrong on that issue (what if someday we learn that another catastrophic terror attack was stopped on the basis of information obtained via torture?) is that our moral and ethical arguments are thereby undermined.

  • Bob,

    Thanks for your honesty. I’m in your camp, and I suspect most fathers/family would do the same. Hopefully God would forgive us.

  • Bob,

    One other thing – I would also want the government or police to protect my family in the same way.

  • A few other points:

    Even if torture “works” in the sense that it extracts important strategic information, we should not assume that it is the ONLY thing that works for that purpose. There are alternatives (just as there are alternatives to abortion, contraception, the death penalty, etc.)

    Also, remember the saying that “hard cases make bad law.” The example of the father who resorts to torture to save his child’s life reminds me of the oft-cited example of abortion to save the life of the mother. It’s one thing if an individual resorts to illegal or immoral measures in a situation of extreme duress; they can be forgiven or their punishment can be mitigated or removed. That does NOT, however, mean these measures should be endorsed or approved by law or as a matter of policy. That’s how legalized abortion got started — by first legalizing it only for “hard” cases like rape, incest, life of the mother, etc. We all know how that ended up. Allowing torture only for “extreme” cases could very well end up the same way.

  • K.D.,
    Yeah, I figure it’s just common sense. Re: the gummint
    “protecting” my family I’m a bit ambiguous, for example, say we elected a pro-Muslim, left-wing socialist who had a chip on his shoulder for the white bourgeoisie who he believed has been oppressing his people for the past four hundred years? I sure don’t want him deciding who’s going to be “interrogated!”

  • Tell that to the guy being tortured. He might be begging for death!

    Is anyone seriously suggesting that the interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration had anyone “begging for death”? I know this post isn’t just limited to those techniques, but they’re certainly what sparked interesting in the topic. It’s also worth noting that some of those techniques reasonably fall under the category torture, e.g., waterboarding, while others arguably do not, e.g., sleep deprivation, prolonged questioning, etc.

  • Most fathers would be willing to shoot someone who was about kill their child. Most of us would also expect a police officer to do the same thing. I think this would be standard operating procedure for the police officer. Killing is more evil, or at least as evil, as torture. So why wouldn’t torture also be an acceptable option to save the child?

    Same problem if you are arguing by analogy. Your two analogies can be used for heuristic purposes (e.g., the president is “like” a father; a police officer acts “like” a father). But you seem to want to make an argument by analogy using terms that do not have the same form. The matter of each term is the same (i.e., water-boarding and killing a threat), but the formal structure of each term is different (i.e., nature of relationship and duty). That’s what makes your two examples false analogy. Like I said, you can draw an analogy with anything for heuristic purposes. But be careful when you draw analogies for arguments. You are confused by the fact that the matter in your examples is the same (i.e., the action), but you are missing that the form–which is the key for argument–is different. Hence, you have drawn two false analogies according to logic.

  • I share Poli’s sense that the analogy between father-child and state-citizens doesn’t work both because the father-child relationship is different than the state-citizen relationship, and because the relationship between a father and someone threatening their child is different than the State’s relationship to someone in custody.

    Most analogies used in political debate are heuristic, so I wouldn’t dismiss it solely on that basis, but I think the differences in this particular case are so significant that there is little, if any, heuristic value. Moreover, it seems to me that you’ve implicitly conceded (‘they wouldn’t be proud of it’) that the action may be immoral. If you concede torture is immoral but nevertheless support it, then the issue is not torture, per se, but with a Catholic vs. a utilitarian/consequentialist approach to ethics.

  • My two cents, it’s silly to claim anymore that enhanced interrogation has not produced actionable intelligence– it clearly has, and the only way to deny it is to impugn the honesty of the several individuals documenting this efficacy.

    Much ink has been spilled hand-wringing over the use of enhanced interrogation methods. And while there may be abuses, as in any human endeavor, the proportionate use of physical or mental stressors to discover life-saving intelligence is entirely consistent with Catholic moral principles, in my humble opinion. Just as in self defense, where the force used to repel the attack has to be proportionate with the threat, or in just war theory, where the means of executing the war must be proportionate (which is why we have issues with Sherman and Hiroshima), or in criminal punishment, where punishment must be proportional to the offense.

    Catholic moral theology has long understood and applied the notion of proportionality. If, and only if, the action proposed is intrinsically evil, is the action per se morally impermissible.

    The Church certainly never has in the past condemned forcible interrogation as intrinsically immoral. To the contrary. And even now, with Veritatis Splendor #80, there is great ambiguity about 1) what it is that is actually being termed intrinsically evil under the word “torture”; and 2) whether, given that many other actions appear to be termed intrinsically evil practices which are in no sense at all intrinsically evil (e.g., deportation), the document can be said to be trying to lay out definitively binding specific moral precepts as opposed to presenting examples the concrete moral implications of which the document doesn’t seek to address.

    Without VS#80, which is the sole magisterial basis for the position of those who argue that “torture” is intrinsically evil, we take up the traditional task of moral theology, assessing the specific uses of these methods, and coming to terms with whether the methods and their implementation are proportionate to the end sought, namely, actionable intelligence that may save innocent life.

    I fear that since this is a much more delicate task that calls for patience and prudence, it will be eclipsed by the need for some to have a simple rule that removes all such effort and doubt.

    The Quakers and Waldenses also sought such a clear rule, which is why they condemn any war or use of force whatsoever.

    But as Catholics, we are called to engage our reason enlightened by our moral principles.

  • Poli and John,

    I’m learning something about logic from both of you. However, it seems to me that the primary purpose of the state is to protect its citizens. That’s why abortion should be illegal. The government should protect innocent life. I want my government to do what it takes to protect my innocent child. If that involves waterboarding or killing the criminal, so be it. I expect the government to use less lethal means if possible, but in this fallen world sometimes it’s necessary to do more to protect the innocent. I’m not willing to sacrifice the life of my innocent child in order to protect the dignity of some criminal.

  • One thing about the “ticking time bomb” scenario: I do think it’s a different breed than the typical reality of torture. If someone has a literal finger on a trigger to kill, and it is morally licit to use force to stop that person from killing, then it’s possible to conjure a scenario in which a person has a figurative finger on a “trigger” — i.e., you know with certainty that this person is imminently going to give a signal to detonate a bomb and kill many, and you know with certainty that using physical force (torture?) would stop him from doing so… then it’s quite analogous to a situation in which force is applied to stop an aggressor — again, a licit action according to the Church.

    Big “however”: The ticking time bomb scenario is mostly a fiction from the likes of “24.” I don’t think it represents the reality at hand. Torture used to glean information is clearly not analogous to stopping an aggressor with force: the act is too far removed from the consequence, and there’s too much uncertainty involved. The only way I could conceive of something akin to “torture” being acceptable would be in the (mostly implausible and fictitious) ticking time bomb scenario.

    I think that’s what many have in mind when we apply the analogy of the “protective police officer.” It doesn’t really fit, though.

  • Knuckle Dragger,

    Take a look at my most recent post. I think that’s what you have in mind when you’re thinking of torture saving lives. I’d argue that you’re correct in the instance of an aggressor who is imminently going to take innocent life, that a proportionate response with force can be justified. However, I don’t think that’s how torture is typically applied. Using force to stop an aggressor directly is permissible, but using “force” (such as enhanced interrogation) to get information on your enemies is not.

  • It seems to me that confusion arises when “suppose” cases are used. Suppose you are with your wife and mother in a plane that is about to crash, and with only one parachute. To whom should you give the parachute? Your mother, of course. You can always get another wife.
    The instance underlines the absurdity of “suppose” cases. The Church does not go in for “suppose” cases.
    The question of torture was debated ad nauseam in the Inquisition.
    In a polity such as the U.S. which encourages abortions [the painful killing of innocents] discussions about torture seem disingenuous.
    An overlooked and overarching consideration is the simple fact that the Church does not consider death to be an “intrinsic” evil.

  • j. christian,

    I guess I’m thinking of the “ticking time bomb” scenario. If the government has some credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is about to happen in my town, but they don’t know exactly where or when, I would not be opposed to waterboarding someone who is very likely to know these facts. This would be a rare circumstance, but definitely possible.

    It shouldn’t be used to get general information on your enemies.

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  • Knuckle Dragger:

    Would you, then, finally protest the outright crucifixion of those individuals who just might’ve actually saved our families from yet another terrorist attack on U.S. soil?

    For folks to actually provide such protection to even these terrorists who would have me and my loved ones suffer another major loss of even more innocent lives in addition to those several precious we’ve already lost on that fateful 9/11 day is downright wicked.

    It isn’t enough that we’ve already suffered such tremendous tragedy but that even certain Americans themselves would actually provide safe harbor for the terrorists and, by so doing, serve to advance their murderously sinister agenda in successfully orchestrating even more ominous disasters on innocent American people!

    President Obama on Monday paid his first formal visit to CIA headquarters, in order, as he put it, to “underscore the importance” of the agency and let its staff “know that you’ve got my full support.” Assuming he means it, the President should immediately declassify all memos concerning what intelligence was gleaned, and what plots foiled, by the interrogations of high-level al Qaeda detainees in the wake of September 11.

    This suggestion was first made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said he found it “a little bit disturbing” that the Obama Administration had decided to release four Justice Department memos detailing the CIA’s interrogation practices while not giving the full picture of what the interrogations yielded in actionable intelligence. Yes, it really is disturbing, especially given the bogus media narrative that has now developed around those memos.

    SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124035706108641065.html

  • However, it seems to me that the primary purpose of the state is to protect its citizens.

    Yes.

    The government should protect innocent life.

    Yes, through just and moral means.

    I want my government to do what it takes to protect my innocent child. If that involves waterboarding or killing the criminal, so be it.

    That’s your subjective sentiment (“I want…”). It does not change the moral status of torture (“Torture is…”).

  • Again I raise the question: if it’s OK to torture someone in order to save your child’s life, would it be OK to perform an abortion on your wife or your daughter in order to save HER life?

    I do realize that in the latter scenario there are instances in which the principle of double effect would apply — e.g. removal of a cancerous uterus or repair of a fallopian tube ruptured by an ectopic pregnancy. In that case, the death of the child (assuming he or she is not yet viable) is an undesired “side effect” of a procedure whose primary aim is to save the mother. So it’s not a case of killing the child to save the mother, but saving the mother instead of simply allowing BOTH mother and child to die.

    However, these scenarios are extremely rare in modern medicine and most doctors never run into them. What did happen, however, was that the notion of abortion to save the life of the mother became one of the means by which abortion rights activists got the public to agree to the liberalization of abortion laws in the 60s and 70s.

    Could the double effect principle also apply in the case of torturing or killing someone in order to save a loved one in imminent danger of death? In other words, you really want only to save your loved one and you would do it by more peaceful means if it were possible; it just so happens that in this particular case, there is no alternative and the perpetrator “happens” to end up dead or severely injured. The alternative would be for your innocent loved one to die and the perpetrator to get away with the crime; if you resort to torture or deadly force, at least the innocent person is saved.

    So I will argue as I did earlier, that applying torture in individual instances as a last resort is an entirely different matter from endorsing it as a matter of policy or law. In the same way, back when abortion was illegal, individual doctors may have performed banned medical procedures in individual desperate cases and gotten away with it; but that didn’t mean abortion was endorsed or allowed by law as it is today.

  • Elaine,

    I think we agree. I’m absolutely with the Church on the abortion issue and the principle of double effect. And I also agree that torture is a last resort that should only be applied in the ticking time bomb scenario. I think that is in line with Church teaching, but I may be wrong. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

    Thanks,
    KD

  • Thanks KD. I should point out, as a way of heading off a potential objection, that there is of course a huge moral difference between using force against a GUILTY party (terrorist, convicted murderer) to save potentially many innocent lives, and using deadly force against an INNOCENT party (unborn child) to save one other innocent life (mother). A terrorist is not deserving of the same absolute protection as an unborn child, and to kill or inflict pain on a terrorist would not be as evil as doing it to an unborn baby.

    That doesn’t change my main point, though, that neither legally sanctioned torture nor legalized abortion should be official government policy.

  • “[N]either legally sanctioned torture nor legalized abortion should be official government policy.”

    People indulge in such seemingly grand & noble rhetoric now with so amazing a confidence in the fabric of their moral self-righteousness in this regard; yet, should (and God forbid this actually happens) another (or even worse) devestating terrorist attack occur on American soil and the toll of innocent American lives is even (and overwhelmingly) larger than of that horrible day then — when your family members, your own loved ones, your very children are amongst the dead, can you really be so self-righteously sure that the vast number of dead whose very lives you might have saved by engaging such measures of information extraction — but did not — was actually the right thing to do?

  • Pope Benedict XVI is on the record stating that “the prohibition against torture cannot be contravened under any circumstance.” The Holy Father is not exercising papal infallibility because the truth of the matter is presumed. In natural law moral theory, as we all know, something that cannot be done under any circumstances whatsoever is an action that in and of itself is morally evil, i.e. no intention or situation, no matter how difficult, makes such a course of action morally permissible. Therefore, if torture is an activity that cannot be done whatsoever, that the “no” to torture is so absolute that it “cannot be contravened under any circumstance,” then it seems that torture is regarded — in this philosophical statement — as an intrinsic evil.

    Therefore, if the methods of “interrogation” are in fact torture, then, it rightly follows that even the desire to protect one’s family and one’s nation — noble and good intentions — cannot justify such an activity.

    The only argument, it seems, that can be made in such a regard is that “interrogation methods” do not constitute torture.

    The question, then, of “what can we do to terrorists in custody?” — as sincere as it may be — strikes me in the same way as the teenage question, “how far is too far?” In other words, you want to see the bar and get as close to it without crossing it, which, I think is a dangerous game.

    Rather, we should ask “what rights do these men have, based on their human dignity, that cannot be contravened regardless of how angry we are or desirable we are to quickly attain justice?”

  • In regard to the Ali Soufan piece which appeared in the New York Times, here is a rather searching analysis.

    http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2009/04/levels-of-enhancement.html

    As I observed above, whenever a source is FBI or CIA, there are always wheels within wheels. Time to release more solid information.

  • Ok then, e., what if embryonic stem cell research DID prove capable of saving thousands of lives, would you then be saying we were too “self-righteously sure” about it and indulging in “seemingly grand and noble rhetoric”? What if (granted, this is still a big if and may prove not to be true) ESCR turned out to be the key to curing some fatal disease you or your loved ones had? Would you then say the Church was wrong and should never have condemned it?

    I think torture of some kind will ALWAYS take place in extreme situations, even if it is illegal or not sanctioned by the government — just as abortions still went on even when abortion was illegal. I’m sure that some of those super secret CIA operatives and others aren’t above applying a little extra force when they feel the need to, and always have been, and if there was sufficient justification for what they were doing, they were able to get away with it. However, the government didn’t officially APPROVE it. That would only have encouraged and expanded the practice.

  • Donald,

    The upshot of the blog post you linked to seems to be that there are potential conflicts between the different accounts of Zubaydah’s interrogation, which given the nature of the case is understandable. Most interesting to me, though, was the following bit:

    Zubaydah gave up perhaps his single most valuable piece of information early, naming Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom he knew as Mukhtar, as the main organizer of the 9/11 plot.

    So depending on who you believe, we may or may not have tortured a guy, and the best we can show for it is that we found out that KSM (who we already knew was a bad guy) was involved in a plot that had already happened. And of course, if this information was extracted through coercion, that means that KSM can probably never be prosecuted for his role in the 9/11 attacks. If this is what fans of “enhanced interrogation” consider a success, we can probably do without it.

  • The obvious way to clear all this up Blackadder is for the Obama administration to accept Cheney’s challenge and release the relevant documents:

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/04/24/wapo-release-of-torture-memos-political/

    For too long this debate on torture has been relatively fact free. Let’s get all the evidence out and on the table.

  • If that is too much for the Obama administration to do, then they should at least release the two documents specifically requested by Cheney dated July 13, 2004 and June 1, 2005.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/04/24/cheney-formally-requests-release-of-two-cia-memos-on-detainees/comment-page-2/

  • Torture in the catechism:

    Respect for bodily integrity

    2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.91

    This does not describe the use of enhanced interrogation techniques to prevent terrorist attacks that the subject, known to be guilty, has information about. I suspect that when the Holy Father speaks of torture in such certain statements he is referring to the context of the authoritative documents.

    Furthermore, in order to have a reasonable discussion about torture, we must acknowledge that it is not at all proven that ANY of these techniques authorized by the government qualify as torture.

    Clearly effectiveness is an argument when it comes to prudence on any particular technique. Any of these techniques if done for any other reason than their effectiveness (ie. to satisfy hatred) would by definition be immoral, however, if the act is not intrinsically evil (ie. stress positions), the intention is good (ie. saving lives), and more good than harm comes, does that not satisfy Catholic moral requirements?

    I think we have to be very careful defining “torture” to be intrinsically evil less we convict the Church of authorizing an intrinsic evil to be committed in her name. A troubling possibility.

  • Donald,

    we all know that the release of the torture memos was a purely cynical political maneuver to grease the ways for a kangaroo court which will draw the attention of the country away from the true evil which Obama is perpetrating on the American people. Releasing the information on effectiveness would diminish that effect, and so it will be delayed as long as possible and released eventually, probably on a Friday afternoon to avoid wide and rapid dissemination.

  • E,

    You are an anti-social troll who can’t make a simple point without insulting everyone who disagrees with you.

    I’m putting you on notice right now. If you can’t make an argument without being nasty about it, I will summarily delete your posts. You are a toxic presence on this blog, you lower the level of civility and intelligence in every discussion in which you take place, and more than anyone I have ever seen post here, you exude equally disturbing amounts of self-righteousness and smug contempt for everyone you engage with.

    I’m going to be busy today, but I’m going to make it a point to keep my eye on you. This isn’t is about your views. It’s about your attitude.

    And for the record, even if torture would save my family, even if it would save my life, I wouldn’t do it. I believe in eternal life, and whether or not I tortured people is going to have more of a negative impact on that.

  • e./Joe,

    I recognize this can be an emotionally charged issue, but please refrain from personal attacks. I will delete any further non-germane or ad hominem comments on this thread.

  • The obvious way to clear all this up Blackadder is for the Obama administration to accept Cheney’s challenge and release the relevant documents

    I’m not sure that selectively releasing information gives us an accurate picture of the overall costs and benefits involved here. And since releasing all information on the topic would presumably be a bad idea, I’m not sure I see the point.

  • I respectfully disagree BA. If the purpose is to determine what interrogation techniques elicited information and whether that information is useful, I must conclude that more information is a good thing. Otherwise we are all merely trying to draw conclusions on a subject with an inadequate factual basis. My guess is that since the Obama administration has mooted prosecutions of those involved, quite a bit of information is going to be forthcoming in any case, either as a result of the discovery process in criminal cases, or, more likely, leaks from those who feel threatened by potential prosecutions. Much of this information might also shed light on the involvement of Congressional Democrats in supporting then what they condemn now. This should all be very informative in the weeks and months to come.

  • Clearly effectiveness is an argument when it comes to prudence on any particular technique. Any of these techniques if done for any other reason than their effectiveness (ie. to satisfy hatred) would by definition be immoral, however, if the act is not intrinsically evil (ie. stress positions), the intention is good (ie. saving lives), and more good than harm comes, does that not satisfy Catholic moral requirements?

    One, effectiveness is an argument only if the act itself is not morally evil. I might decide to run off and “marry” another man and cite personal happiness as my reason, but the act itself contradicts my entire intention, in that it is intrinsically evil. If effectiveness — the means to the end — is the primal reasoning, this is not the natural law moral thinking of the Church, but fundamentally consequentialist ethics.

    However, if the interrogation methods we use — and I obviously disagree with this, but if it were true — did not constitute torture, then, the chosen course of interrogation as it currently stands is not in and of itself evil. Therefore, if one’s intentions are not evil and the evil does not outweigh the good, this would be the principle of the double effect and all the Church’s moral requirements arguably are satisfied.

    I’m simply suggesting that this is the best intellectual route rather than saying “torture is not intrinsically evil,” because it just strikes me as a course of action that will win you more advocates, or at least, more agreement and less heated debate. Now, I disagree with the moral calculus, but I would say the latter position strikes me as more respectable than the former.

    I think we have to be very careful defining “torture” to be intrinsically evil less we convict the Church of authorizing an intrinsic evil to be committed in her name. A troubling possibility.

    I think Benedict XVI was clear that torture is intrinsically evil. It is hard to imagine why torture cannot be contravened “under any circumstances” — a ‘no’ to all situations and intentions that may be used to justify it, if the activity itself is not intrinsically evil. He certainly is not an advocate of capital punishment; in fact, it is illegal in the Vatican. However, the Holy Father does not say that the ‘no’ to capital punishment ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances.’ He doesn’t take on absolute language in regard to it, neither did Pope John Paul II. However, both, use absolute language in regard to the prohibition against torture which seems to be indicative of the nature of the act itself — whatever, torture is.

    Moreover, the Church has never authorized in explicit universal teaching that torture is acceptable. Arguably, individual clergy and even a Pope or two, may have falsely claimed otherwise for political reasons. Such a claim (on their part) wouldn’t even fit into the requirement for such a claim to be a part of the ordinary Magisterium.

    So, I think that former scandals within the Church don’t say something definitively about the nature of torture. In some sense, the fact that this is knowable (the intrinsic evil) of the matter by natural law means.

    I think the most credible ground, if I believed it, would be that the “interrogation methods” do not violate the basic rights of the terrorists — irregardless of their effectiveness, as to avoid utilitarian ethics — and that in itself does not constitute torture, therefore, while it is not preferable, but it is morally neutral as opposed to be an objective moral evil.

  • To Joe Hargrave:

    Thank you for responding to my comment.

    I was being colloquial and not precise. I see a difference between intentionally inflicting pain and/or distress (physical, emotional, other) and “torture” that is analogous to the difference between killing and “murder.” In each case, the former may be morally licit while the latter never is.

    Your quote from the catechism bears this out:

    “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” 2297 of the Catechism.

    Employing “physical or moral violence” for any of the purposes listed above would be illicit torture. Absent from that list is anything like “to obtain information necessary to prevent an imminent and lethal event.”

    When evil situations are thrust upon us, we may have the obligation to make some kind of analysis to determine the difference between inflicting pain and torture and killing and murder. If someone attacks me I certainly have the option to refrain from killing them, even if that would result in my own death. If someone is attacking one of my family members, however, and the only way to prevent the death of one of them was to kill the attacker, there may be situations in which I am morally obligated to kill the attacker. As a father, I have the moral duty to protect my family from violence – moral, physical, spiritual, emotional. At the time of my judgment, I will be held accountable as to how well I fulfilled that reponsibility. It could very well be a sin to have refrained from killing — even perhaps a mortal sin, for example if I refrained from killing the attacker because I was angry with that family member and wanted him to die. The same analysis would apply to any other violence, including inflicting some kind of pain.

    Any person with the responsibility for others has a similar obligation — if not exactly analogous. Suppose, for example, during the cold war Russia had launched a full (convential) war against the United States with the express purpose of conquering us and turning us into a communist regime. Would it have been morally licit for the President to order our armed forces to stand down and surrender because defending the country would require killing Soviet soldiers? No. Would it have been morally licit for the President instead to launch a full-blown nuclear attack against Russian civilians? No.

    Some analysis must be made.

    There may be situations in which inflicting certain kinds of pain and distress is a greater evil than killing — but that analysis is probably not directly dependent on the subjective opinion of the victim in the moment of agony. From what I have heard and read, I don’t think waterboarding is one of those situations.

    Finally, to get back to the subject at hand, I have not yet had the opportunity to fully analyze the CIA’s use of waterboarding. What I have heard so far leads me to tentatively conclude that is was not morally licit.

  • Eric Brown,

    One, effectiveness is an argument only if the act itself is not morally evil. I might decide to run off and “marry” another man and cite personal happiness as my reason, but the act itself contradicts my entire intention, in that it is intrinsically evil. If effectiveness — the means to the end — is the primal reasoning, this is not the natural law moral thinking of the Church, but fundamentally consequentialist ethics.

    That’s what I meant to say, somewhat ineloquently, you are quite right and more clear.

    I’m simply suggesting that this is the best intellectual route rather than saying “torture is not intrinsically evil,” because it just strikes me as a course of action that will win you more advocates, or at least, more agreement and less heated debate. Now, I disagree with the moral calculus, but I would say the latter position strikes me as more respectable than the former.

    I agree that I would not accept the use of torture in these cases even if it’s not intrinsically evil, but I have a problem when people insist that it is, it is not in my opinion, and clearly the Church has not in an authoritative way declared it so.

    I think we have to be very careful defining “torture” to be intrinsically evil less we convict the Church of authorizing an intrinsic evil to be committed in her name. A troubling possibility.

    I think Benedict XVI was clear that torture is intrinsically evil. It is hard to imagine why torture cannot be contravened “under any circumstances” — a ‘no’ to all situations and intentions that may be used to justify it, if the activity itself is not intrinsically evil.

    Can you post the citation in context? Even if the Pope believes it to be so, it doesn’t necessarily bind conscience.

    both, use absolute language in regard to the prohibition against torture which seems to be indicative of the nature of the act itself — whatever, torture is.

    The citations I recall were not universal, but referred (as the catechism does) to specific instances, not a general instance.

    Moreover, the Church has never authorized in explicit universal teaching that torture is acceptable. Arguably, individual clergy and even a Pope or two, may have falsely claimed otherwise for political reasons. Such a claim (on their part) wouldn’t even fit into the requirement for such a claim to be a part of the ordinary Magisterium.

    Oh, for political reasons? Have you read Fr. Harrison’s excellent essay on the topic? He provides some excellent sources which suggest otherwise. What I’m saying is that I find it hard to believe that for centuries the Church found it moral to practice something which it later declares INTRINSICALLY evil, I’m unaware of any other examples.

    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html

  • I don’t know but I think e. was making some rather interesting points. A troll? I don’t think so, what is this the Inquisition? What e can’t speak his/her mind? Hey dude, it’s your sandbox.

  • Matt,

    This is the context of Benedict’s quote.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070906_pastorale-carceraria_en.html

    Here’s my issue with your thinking. I hope that it’s structured so you understand where I’m coming from and can offer your criticisms or comments back, as to why it might be an incorrect view.

    Now, the Church in all the ages of her existence has not always had an explicit universal teaching stating that racism is inherently evil. Though, today, the matter is quite clear. There is always a truth; it is simply not always explicitly stated, perhaps because it is not yet a problem for the faithful. I’d suspect that Marian doctrine did not need to be reiterated as infallible because it was presumed. Yet, post-Reformation due to Protestant theological thinking, the Church might have found herself with the obligation to clarify.

    In regard to racism, this is a prime example. It is deemed inherently evil, despite the fact that several Bishops and priests (through history) have indicated otherwise. There were even Popes who were, say, clearly anti-Semitic and supported attitudes and actions that were contrary to the basic humanity of Jewish people. Basically, I’m saying that something that is a widespread practice, or a teaching of even countless Bishops and priests — a common belief amongst Catholics — does not make it a teaching of the Church. Arianism is the prime example. Over half of the Catholic bishops were declaring that Christ was not equal to the Father.

    I am aware of the teachings and suggestions of many saints — Fathers of the Church, Doctors, or otherwise. However, these men do not necessarily bear infallible authority on such matters. St. Athanasius, for example, denied the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament as inspired. I don’t think we should agree with him. Tertullian by the end of his life was explicitly a heretic, despite the fact much of his early thought is clearly orthodox. Other Fathers of the Church believed that the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Shephard of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, etc. were inspired writings of Scripture. This is obviously not the case. St. Thomas Aquinas denied the Immaculate Conception that Pope Pius XII declared to be a matter of dogma. We are not to agree with St. Thomas Aquinas on this matter.

    This is certainly not to say that the body of teaching received by these extraordinary intellectuals of the Church are incorrect. Far from it. But, rather it is to say, not on every count is their teaching or words to be considered infallible, or the explicit teaching of the whole Church unless it is an absolutely conformity with Scripture and Tradition and expressly affirmed by the Magisterium.

    The same source you sent me to cites the Catechism in saying, “#2298. In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Distressing as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices are [esse] neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices lead [ducunt] to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.”

    Therefore, I don’t think “the Church” found it [torture] moral, but rather teachers of the Church, for whatever reason, saw no contradiction between the activity and the moral law. The fact that they did not personally object, or adopted the practices themselves from secular laws makes no statement about the objective truth of the matter, the truth, that is, or rather, must be the teaching of the Catholic Church who receives her teachings from Christ Jesus, the Logos, the truth of the Father.

    There were about 4 or 5 bulls issued by Popes throughout medieval history until the 19th century condemning the practice of slavery as contrary to the common good and against the dignity of persons. And persisting still, there were Bishops and priests teaching Catholics the contrary. Even in our own country, post-slavery, for decades, African Americans couldn’t be members of the Knights of Columbus in certain places and racism existed even amongst Catholics. The fact that this was the mindset of many Catholics, even Pastors of the faith, doesn’t justify it nor say it was the teaching of the Church.

    To clarify this, consider the Magisterium itself and how it works.

    The Magisterium:
    1. Pope (ex cathedra) is extraordinary and universal, therefore, is infallible and requires full assent of faith.

    2. Bishops, in union with Pope, defining doctrine at General Council is extraordinary and universal, therefore, is infallible and requires full assent of faith.

    3. Bishops (individually) proposing teaching definitively, dispersed, but in unison, in union with Pope is an act of the ordinary Magisterium, however, the universality of the teaching renders the it infallible and thus, it requires a full assent of faith. The greatest example of this level of the Magisterium is the issue of women’s ordination. It has not been condemned in either two manners listed above; however, it is an explicit infallible teaching. Prior to the Pope Pius XII, an example of this, would have been the Immaculate Conception. So, while a Pope making a statement, as a Bishop, as the Bishop of Rome, is not necessarily infallible because the Pope said it, if it a truth that is rooted in the message of Scripture and Tradition of the Church, and in regard to moral matters, a truth of the moral natural law (known by unaided reason) then it is, in fact, infallible in that situation. This is what I believe is the case in regard to torture. It does not require Benedict XVI saying “I am speaking infallibly.” It requires it being true.

    Now, arguably, Aquinas and surely others throughout history contradict the infallible doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Yet, the Immaculate Conception is considered known through Tradition. However, history demonstrates this idea is not unique to Aquinas alone. How does Tradition confirm this? It is because Tradition refers to the constant transmission of the fullness of Truth from one generation from another, not so much, the theological development and thought from one generation to another, that is, the beliefs of Catholic theologians and their teachings throughout history — though, that is many times an indicator, I don’t think the two should be confused

    And lastly, the ordinary Magisterium:

    1. A teaching of the Pope, solely from himself, is ordinary and non-infallible, requiring only religious submission of intellect and will.

    2. A teaching of individual Bishops, solely from themselves, is ordinary and non-infallible, requiring only religious submission of intellect and will.

    Therefore, even cases of Bishops saying, say, torture is licit (non-infallible statements) can be contradicted later in history by an act of the universal Magisterium, which is I think the present position of the Church. In the same way, Bishops telling the faithful (non-infallible statement) that they can purchase indulgences to be released from Puragoty can be contradicted later, as it has been, by the universal Magisterium.

    So, that is where you and I disagree Matt. My understanding of the Church is this: that the beliefs and acts of Catholics, even saints, pastors, bishops, or Popes constitute the teaching of the Church necessarily, particularly when it is not distinctly an expression of the universal Magisterium. Therefore, I think “the Church,” the whole Church, can in retrospect contradict, and in some sense, must contradict those incorrect statements as to educate the faithful and protect her own integrity.

  • The Holy Father is citing directly the compendium section #404 which addresses specifically the use of torture to secure a conviction. THat is already established as evil by the Catechism, I don’t think we can assume he is expanding on it, nor would it be significantly binding given the narrow venue of his speech. Let’s stick to the catechism, as long as it cites specific instances where torture is intrinsically evil, it is reasonable to believet there may be others where it is not.

    racism is evil, but the matter is quite clear

    not the same thing at all. There is no Church documents instructing that racism should be practiced by the Church.

    arianism

    Are you claiming that the Church doctors and popes who instructed that torture is acceptable are heretics?

    these men do not necessarily bear infallible authority on such matters

    I’m not suggesting I do. I am suggesting that these men did not teach contrary to the Church.

    You are free in good conscience to believe that torture is intrinsically evil, the Church has not definitively said so, as I am free to disagree.

  • Matt,

    I updated my post.

    In my understanding of moral theology, there aren’t circumstances where actions are intrinsically evil in regard to the circumstances.

    Abortion is intrinsically evil because the act itself is murder. It has nothing to do with circumstances or intentions. The same is true of euthanasia. The same is true of genocide.

    I can’t see how torture is only — in and of itself — evil only when it’s used to extract information violently. In that situation, if torture is not intrinsically evil, then it follows that the intention makes it evil, not the act. Therefore, torture wouldn’t be intrinsically evil. But if it intrinsically evil, then it would be incorrect regardless of everything else.

  • “There is no Church documents instructing that racism should be practiced by the Church.”

    Yet, there were no documents beforehand, stating that it shouldn’t. However, we do have the ability to discern good from evil and what IS in accord with out faith and what is not.

    “Are you claiming that the Church doctors and popes who instructed that torture is acceptable are heretics?”

    Not explicitly heretics, I’m saying they are wrong. Thomas Aquinas denied an infallible teaching in his writing that is allegedly a clear aspect of Tradition. I don’t agree with him at all. It is just demonstrable to the fact that Doctors of the Church and Popes and even Bishops are not instantly infallible on their documents. You, yourself, claim the same thing in regard to statements of the Pope just now. Benedict XVI is not necessarily speaking infallibly; and in the same way, the USCCB is not necessarily infallible. Same case here.

    “I am suggesting that these men did not teach contrary to the Church.” St. Athanasius denying a whole set of books does not seem to be teaching in ACCORD with the Church. Now, St. Athanasius, who is one of my favorite saints, is not knowing and intentionally setting out to contradict what is in fact the Truth.

    “You are free in good conscience to believe that torture is intrinsically evil, the Church has not definitively said so, as I am free to disagree.”

    That’s our disagreement. I think the matter IS clear. Therefore, I don’t think Catholics can disagree about it.

  • Eric Brown,

    In my understanding of moral theology, there aren’t circumstances where actions are intrinsically evil in regard to the circumstances.

    On a technical basis you are quite right, but in some cases the “what it is” is based on it’s circumstances. Take shooting a person who is trying to kill you, it’s not murder, it’s self defense. The circumstances define the morality of the act (technically the act is the pulling of the trigger). The same would be of torture, take the act, perhaps striking someone in the back with a whip. It’s torture, but is it immoral in any and all circumstances? I think intentions can’t make the act moral, but situations can. Perhaps the discussion were simpler if there was a different term for the different circumstances of torture.

    I can’t see how torture is only — in and of itself — evil only when it’s used to extract information violently. In that situation, if torture is not intrinsically evil, then it follows that the intention makes it evil, not the act. Therefore, torture wouldn’t be intrinsically evil.

    I think the reference means extracting information to secure a conviction, it refers specifically to that scenario, if it was intended to apply to corporal punishment, or the “gitmo scenario”, it would not have been qualified.

    But if it intrinsically evil, then it would be incorrect regardless of everything else.

    On this we are OBLIGED to assent.

  • “The same would be of torture, take the act, perhaps striking someone in the back with a whip. It’s torture, but is it immoral in any and all circumstances? I think intentions can’t make the act moral, but situations can. Perhaps the discussion were simpler if there was a different term for the different circumstances of torture.”

    I wouldn’t call that act, “torture.” Someone hitting me is not per se torture. If someone is performing an act, torture, which is a distinct “physical or moral violence” with no immediate desire to kill me, but to harm me and cause psychological distress in such a way that is against my human dignity, then, that activity is intrinsically evil, thus, unjustifiable.

    “I think the reference means extracting information to secure a conviction, it refers specifically to that scenario, if it was intended to apply to corporal punishment, or the “gitmo scenario”, it would not have been qualified.”

    No. The statement about torture is fourfold: (a) extract confessions, (b) punish the guilty, (c) frighten opponents — says nothing about whether said person is guilty or not (d) satisfy hatred.

    And I’m not sure if the list itself is bound to itself, in that, in only in THESE circumstances is torture wrong. But, taking it at face value, I’m disagree with a reading binding the prohibition against torture to the situation because I think it’s a misunderstanding of the nature of torture. So, again, we’re in disagreement.

  • Eric,

    “You are free in good conscience to believe that torture is intrinsically evil, the Church has not definitively said so, as I am free to disagree.”

    That’s our disagreement. I think the matter IS clear. Therefore, I don’t think Catholics can disagree about it.

    When you say it’s “clear”, you mean it’s clear to you, or you’re asserting that the Church has definitively declared it to be the case?

    You are in serious error in moral theology as to the level of authority of various instruments. A speech to a small group by the Holy Father is not a basis for definitive teaching which require the ASSENT of FAITH which you are demanding. Remember, popes have said at the higher levels of gravity that torture is acceptable and it is even commendable to torture sinners in order to save their souls.

    When the Church wishes to impose on the faithful a new definitive teaching she does so always universally and always with clear enunciation of the matter, without careful qualifications. There is no reasonable basis for your assertion (at least not at this time).

  • Actually, I don’t think I can imagine situations where lashing someone with a whip would be moral.

  • Eric,

    do you think there are situations where executing a man would be moral?

  • “When you say it’s “clear”, you mean it’s clear to you, or you’re asserting that the Church has definitively declared it to be the case?”

    I’m saying that it is quite clear just in natural law reasoning.

    Let alone, the Pope’s statement is not the sole statement about torture that exists. In various documents, Gaudiam Et Spes, for example — not an infallible document in itself, but it does contain infallible truths.

    This understanding has been expressed by Bishops with no statements of any sort in contradiction. The contemporary Magisterium is speaking in harmony, thus, though Ordinary, if universal, is infallible.

    I already addressed the Magisterium and my thoughts on previous Popes and Bishops already, to which, you have yet to respond. The idea itself that it is good to torture sinners to save their souls is quite an idea. If the medieval scholastics were correct, I should have been once killed to protect other sinners and myself. That is, people can and should be killed for intellectual disagreements. Yet, later, freely, with non-violence, I freely chose to become Catholic. Such thinking is profoundly utilitarian in my view.

    “When the Church wishes to impose on the faithful a new definitive teaching…”

    That’s a theological error. The Church never imposes a new anything. She declares what is and what always has been. Thus, I don’t think the Church is declaring something new, but is correcting and has been correcting, incorrect views from past — some of which were borne of her own clergyman.

    But, really, and this is just my thoughts here. This is no basis for intellectual argument, it is a mere observation. In the same way with other moral evils, the rhetoric of the other side is masked with curious diction that only makes their case all the more dubious to me personally. Abortion, for example, is masked by talk of “choice” and “women’s rights,” or “pregnancy termination” and other such word gymnastics that masks the reality of what abortion really is. The same is true of euthanasia with the euphemisms of “mercy killing” and the “right to die” and suggestions of “compassion” or “death with dignity” is very telling in how it attempts to conceal what in fact is the true nature of euthanasia.

    The case is no difference here. You hear talk of “sleep management” (or so I have heard) instead of “sleep deprivation” or having them sit or stand in “stress positions,” might mean forcing them to assume cruelly punishing postures for long periods. Who knows. It just strikes me terribly — the word choice is very curious.

    Even in itself “interrogation methods” is the label applied rather than “torture.” Maybe it isn’t torture. Maybe it is. But, in itself “interrogation” somehow sounds less cruel. Some would argue that “waterboarding” itself is a euphemism, which really doesn’t call to mind the reality of a simulated drowning, but simply “splashing water on someone’s face.”

    Just an observation, if not a statement.

  • “Do you think there are situations where executing a man would be moral?”

    Obviously. The Catechism says so, therefore, there must be. The guidelines for such circumstances, in my view, are often glossed over, watered down, or totally ignored. Hence, I usually tend to err on the side of mercy.

    I met a man two years ago who spent 20 years in prison on death row, who was released months before his execution after DNA evidence confirmed he was innocent.

  • Eric,

    That’s a theological error. The Church never imposes a new anything. She declares what is and what always has been. Thus, I don’t think the Church is declaring something new, but is correcting and has been correct, incorrect views from past — some of which were borne of her own clergyman.

    You can play semantics if you want to. My statement is true and you know it. The Church does not DECLARE a definitive truth in any vague sense with qualifiers and in private speeches.

    Regardless of your own conclusions that this is can be found by natural law, the Church has not DECLARED it and so you can not conclude that it is definitive, and therefore a Catholic in good conscience can dissent from your conclusion.

    If stress positions are intrinsically evil, do you think that all of the military instructors are going to hell for the intrinsic evil they impose on soldiers in training? What about prison guards who use stress positions to punish convicts for infractions?

    Regarding the death penalty, as horrific as it sounds the Church teaches that there are circumstances when it is morally acceptable.

  • Matt,

    This isn’t progressing very much. You never addressed my point that argued against your belief that previous “teachings” were in fact teachings of the Church. Thus, I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church ever definitively sanctioned torture as licit. If that isn’t settled, we’ll go in circles.

    “If stress positions are intrinsically evil, do you think that all of the military instructors are going to hell for the intrinsic evil they impose on soldiers in training? What about prison guards who use stress positions to punish convicts for infractions?”

    I never defined “stress positions.” I was talking about word choice and how it can effectively diminish one’s understanding of a reality. Waterboarding — evil or not — is not “simply splashing water on someone’s face” when you’re the person it’s happening to. So, in some sense, word choice should be reflected on. That’s all I was arguing.

    I’m well aware of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty. I simply stated that the criteria that must be met for it to be licit, in my view, is usually glossed over, watered down, or ignored entirely. Therefore, I think there are and has been several cases, in which it has been applied quite unjustly. I have never argued that it is always applied unjustly.

  • Fr. Harrison’s article is indeed excellent, with its references to earlier sources.

    I believe it would be worthwhile to make a clear distinction between torture used to extract information [i.e., before knowing whether a crime has been committed] and torture as the infliction of punishment for a crime.

    And also to distinguish between physical torture and mental torture. There is in physical torture something fundamentally repugnant to our nature.

    I have no experience as a torturer but I suspect that torture to extract information is of dubious value. This would remove the consequentialist argument.

    Torture or mutilation as a punishment is another discussion.

  • I wonder what this discussion will look like if/when the government starts torturing its own citizens.

    Do you realize how and why so many hundreds of people were tortured at Abu Ghraib? It wasn’t to get information. It was to humiliate and dehumanize as many people as possible to flush out ‘potential’ insurgents, to get them to reveal themselves through violent acts of revenge. You don’t do this crap to get ‘information’:

    * Urinating on detainees
    * Jumping on detainee’s leg (a limb already wounded by gunfire) with such force that it could not thereafter heal properly
    * Continuing by pounding detainee’s wounded leg with collapsible metal baton
    * Pouring phosphoric acid on detainees
    * Sodomization of detainees with a baton
    * Tying ropes to the detainees’ legs or penises and dragging them across the floor.

    They forgot to add covering a man in feces and taking a picture of him, something the Australian press discovered in 2006.

    Look at that list! This isn’t just about ‘water boarding’. It is about a more widespread acceptance of torture as an acceptable means to accomplish any number of military objectives, information extraction being only one of them. This had nothing to do with information gathering, two inmates,

    “Hung by their arms from the ceiling and beaten so severely that, according to a report by Army investigators later leaked to the Baltimore Sun, their legs would have needed to be amputated had they lived.”

    When you start playing around with torture, when you start legitimizing it, do you think it’s just going to be used exactly the way you want it to be? Watch the Ghosts of Abu Ghraib: a lot of the time the soldiers were torturing out of anger, out of a desire for revenge, or just to satisfy sadistic impulses.

    A quote from one of the prisoners:

    “They ordered me to thank Jesus that I’m alive.” […] “I said to him, ‘I believe in Allah.’ So he said, ‘But I believe in torture and I will torture you.’

    If that is true doesn’t it make you ashamed?

    It shocked the Vatican:

    “The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than September 11, 2001 attacks. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves.” — Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, foreign minister of the Vatican.

    No intricate debates and elaborate philosophical maneuvering there – its just plain wrong. You can’t unleash this monster and expect it is only going to be used on a select few bad guys. Anyone who gets brought in has potential ‘information’, and that’s all it takes to begin legally justifying acts of cruelty and sadism that no human being deserves, certainly not the majority of people who are actually tortured, who know nothing and are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Think this through before you start cheering on the torturers.

  • It’s also clear now that the Bush administrations excuses for Abu Ghraib were BS:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/22/abu-ghraib-iraq-torture-senate

    They might actually release the guy who is still in prison for it on the theory that he was dutifully obeying orders. In my view, anyone who does what he did is belongs in prison, orders or no.

  • Respectfully disagree with you Joe. The abuses committed at Abu Ghraib were authorized by no one in the Bush administration and were caused by a complete breakdown in command, most notably by the totally incompetent General Karpiniski who ran the place. The Taguba report is quite clear on this point:

    “14. (U) During the course of this investigation I conducted
    a lengthy interview with BG Karpinski that lasted overfour hours, and is included verbatim in the investigation Annexes. BG Karpinski was extremely emotional during much of her testimony. What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers. (ANNEX 45 and the
    Personal Observations of the Interview Team)
    15. (U) BG Karpinski alleged that she received no help from the Civil Affairs Command, specifically, no assistance from either BG John Kern or COL Tim Regan. She blames much of the abuse that occurred in Abu Ghraib (BCCF) on MI personnel and stated that MI personnel had given the MPs “ideas” that led to detainee abuse. In addition, she blamed the 372nd Company Platoon Sergeant, SFC Snider, the Company Commander, CPT Reese, and the First Sergeant, MSG Lipinski, for the abuse. She argued that problems in
    Abu Ghraib were the fault of COL Pappas and LTC Jordan because COL Pappas was in charge of FOB Abu Ghraib.
    (ANNEX 45)
    16. (U) BG Karpinski also implied during her testimony that the criminal abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) might have been caused by the ultimate disposition of the detainee abuse cases that originally occurred at Camp Bucca in May 2003. She stated that “about the same time those incidents were taking place out of Baghdad Central, the decisions were made to give the guilty people at Bucca plea bargains. So, the system communicated to the soldiers, the worst that’s gonna happen is, you’re gonna go home.” I think it important to point out that almost every witness testified that the serious criminal abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) occurred in late October and early November 2003. The photographs and statements clearly support that the abuses occurred during this time period. The Bucca cases were set for trial in January 2004 and were not finally disposed of until 29 December 2003. There is entirely no evidence that the decision of numerous MP personnel to intentionally abuse detainees at Abu Ghrabid (BCCF) was influenced in any respect by the Camp Bucca cases.
    (ANNEXES 25, 26, and 45)”

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/reports/2004/800-mp-bde.htm

    Karpinski has continued to blame everyone else other than accept the fact that she was a crummy CO and allowed some of her troops, through her complete command negligence, to engage in abuse of the prisoners. Of course if the Obama administration believes otherwise, it should release all of the relevant documents.

  • Eric,
    This isn’t progressing very much. You never addressed my point that argued against your belief that previous “teachings” were in fact teachings of the Church. Thus, I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church ever definitively sanctioned torture as licit. If that isn’t settled, we’ll go in circles.

    In that they were issued by the appropriate magisterial authorities they were teachings, now, they were never declared “definitively” and so they were reformable and did not bind conscience. That’s my point, if the Church is to bind conscience on your view, then she will declare it in the appropriate forum.

    I never defined “stress positions.” I was talking about word choice and how it can effectively diminish one’s understanding of a reality. Waterboarding — evil or not — is not “simply splashing water on someone’s face” when you’re the person it’s happening to. So, in some sense, word choice should be reflected on. That’s all I was arguing.

    “stress position” and “waterboarding” are not euphemisms meant to diminish what they are, I see no need to change the language, they are what they are. Neither place the individual in any real physical danger of injury, as torture would.

    I’m well aware of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty. I simply stated that the criteria that must be met for it to be licit, in my view, is usually glossed over, watered down, or ignored entirely. Therefore, I think there are and has been several cases, in which it has been applied quite unjustly. I have never argued that it is always applied unjustly.

    I’m not familiar with any serious Catholics glossing over the teachings on capital punishment, my point is, that given the Church’s teaching on capital punishment under very specific (and rare in modern times) circumstances that torture not being intrinsically evil is a reasonable proposition. We have to be careful of an overly broad definition of torture, especially with regard to punishment for convicted crimes, if the Church allows the execution, surely less severe physical punishments could be considered licit.

    Gabriel,
    I believe it would be worthwhile to make a clear distinction between torture used to extract information [i.e., before knowing whether a crime has been committed] and torture as the infliction of punishment for a crime.

    And also to distinguish between physical torture and mental torture. There is in physical torture something fundamentally repugnant to our nature.

    I have no experience as a torturer but I suspect that torture to extract information is of dubious value. This would remove the consequentialist argument.

    Torture or mutilation as a punishment is another discussion.

    Absolutely, the Church is clear that as a means to extract confessions torture is never permissable, however, as a means to extract lifesaving information from a known terrorist, that is another story. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to REAL torture, I don’t believe it would ever be acceptable for our government to authorize it under ANY circumstances, however, when it comes to questionable techniques such as waterboarding, I think that under certain circumstances they may be applied where they are shown to be effective. It’s pretty clear that the use of waterboarding on three known terrorists in the last few years has been very effective.

    Joe Hargrave,

    I wonder what this discussion will look like if/when the government starts torturing its own citizens.

    Do you realize how and why so many hundreds of people were tortured at Abu Ghraib? It wasn’t to get information. It was to humiliate and dehumanize as many people as possible to flush out ‘potential’ insurgents, to get them to reveal themselves through violent acts of revenge. You don’t do this crap to get ‘information’:

    * Urinating on detainees
    * Jumping on detainee’s leg (a limb already wounded by gunfire) with such force that it could not thereafter heal properly
    * Continuing by pounding detainee’s wounded leg with collapsible metal baton
    * Pouring phosphoric acid on detainees
    * Sodomization of detainees with a baton
    * Tying ropes to the detainees’ legs or penises and dragging them across the floor.

    They forgot to add covering a man in feces and taking a picture of him, something the Australian press discovered in 2006.

    I’m not sure who you’re addressing here, but nobody on this thread is defending anything like that which you are “alleging” nor is anybody here “cheering on the torturers”, and I am unaware of any reliable sources which put the number at hundreds. Perhaps you should start a thread about this instead of hijacking this one with an unrelated agenda.

  • Joe, the story you referenced referred to comments by a lawyer for Charles Graner. I don’t think he’ll be released any time soon. The evidence against him was strong and fit a pattern of abuse established by him long before he came to Abu Ghraib:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Graner
    http://www.talkleft.com/story/2005/05/06/103/05988

  • ps. as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers, and their co-coreligionists in other sects including women and children. Pardon me if I don’t have too much time to cry about them, I’ll focus my weeping on the true innocents.

  • Elaine,

    Again I raise the question: if it’s OK to torture someone in order to save your child’s life, would it be OK to perform an abortion on your wife or your daughter in order to save HER life?

    You’re talking apples to oranges here. The people we are talking about here are known terrorists, not innocent unborn children. Intentional killing the innocent is NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER permissible. This is really an easy one.

    UNBORN INNOCENT TERRORIST

  • oops, my not-equal symbol did not display:

    UNBORN INNOCENT not-equal TERRORIST

  • Matt,

    I am not ‘hijacking’ anything. Did you even read the original post here, or did you once again jump right into the com-box debate? Or did I miss the official rule that says that just because water boarding was mentioned, no other forms of torture can be discussed?

    The debate is obviously over torture in general, which is exactly what happened at Abu Ghraib.

    “I’m not sure who you’re addressing here”

    Everyone, Matt.

    And, these aren’t allegations – people have been convicted, discharged from the military, and fined for them.

    “as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers”

    Are you serious? Thousands of people were rounded up by US troops and sent to Abu Ghraib throughout the occupation of Iraq; the vast majority of them did nothing and knew nothing. The point was to intimidate and harass the population, to spread fear and root out potential insurgents.

    Do you really believe that every person tortured by the US military is in turn responsible for torturing a US soldier?

    And even if they were, all you are doing is adhering to the same double-standard logic as the left does with abortion: “they do it, so why can’t we?” It’s not a moral argument, it’s a childish complaint.

    Yes I know, no one wants to hear someone else quote Jesus, but seriously now, I have to ask, what does it mean to follow Christ? Does it mean ‘eye for an eye’? Does it mean, ‘do unto others as they have done unto you?’ Or is there at least a minimum standard of conduct we must maintain even unto death for the sake of our souls and obeying the will of God?

    No, I’m not claiming to be a theological expert but I think I know enough to know that God is not going to be impressed by purely pragmatic arguments, let alone arguments that are in any way grounded in a revenge mentality. Doesn’t anyone think about that? Doesn’t anyone care about that? Instead of combing through cannon law looking for a torture loophole, why aren’t we examining whether or not this even meets a pirma facie standard of Christian morality?

    Don’t cry for them. No one cares if you cry or who you cry for. It’s what policies you are willing to justify and support as a Christian that concern some of us here.

  • Joe,

    The debate is obviously over torture in general, which is exactly what happened at Abu Ghraib.

    It’s what policies you are willing to justify and support as a Christian that concern some of us here.

    Exactly, and nobody anywhere justified or supported the illegal and unauthorized abuses which occurred at Abu Ghraib… NOBODY. Why even bring it up?

    Do you really believe that every person tortured by the US military is in turn responsible for torturing a US soldier?

    What I believe occurred outside of policies is of no relevance. We are discussing POLICIES, there is no point in discussing malfeasance, because we ALL AGREE that malfeasance would be immoral regardless of how minimal it was.

    “they do it, so why can’t we?”

    Joe, why is it that in every conversation you have you chose to misrepresent the other poster’s position? You know that is not what I said. What I said was, I do not share your deep sympathy for those who blow up women and children because they worship at another mosque. I don’t condone their mistreatment at the hands of US soldiers but I will not lose any sleep over it. Too busy sympathizing with their victims.

    By the way, anybody who still abides by the ridiculous notion that Iraq would be better off without the US invasion should check into prison habits under Saddam… not likely his foes would leave Abu Ghraib at all, if they did, the results of their incarceration would be far worse than the humiliation heaped upon them by those US soldiers.

    Joe, those men and women do a near impossible job under extremely harsh conditions and with one arm tied behind their back precisely because of the political correctness crowd. You might consider a little respect for them all and stop talking as if they are the same as terrorists, and perhaps a little forgiveness for those who do step out of line, you seem to be full of forgiveness for the real terrorists.

  • Joe Hargrave Says:
    Sunday, April 26, 2009 A.D. at 1:44 pm
    “It’s also clear now that the Bush administrations excuses for Abu Ghraib were BS:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/22/abu-ghraib-iraq-torture-senate“.

    One permits oneself to doubt the reliability of writings at the U.K. Gaurdian. It is generally anti-Catholic, and anti-U.S. It would do better to clean its own house.
    Years ago it reproached the president of the U.S. in a dispute with a governor:
    “Why doesn’t the president just recall the governor?”.

  • Joe,

    Your demonic mischaracterization of me is nothing but the result of your own animosity and ill will towards my person.

    Produce, if you will, evidence where I have demonstrated exactly the kind of ill conduct that you would have people believe?

    If people do not happen to see the remarkable snobbery and calumny you’ve often so maliciously aimed at me time and again, then God forbid that folks mistake your conduct as anything but “Christian”.

  • Author: Matt McDonald
    Comment:
    “Absolutely, the Church is clear that as a means to extract confessions torture is never permissable, however, as a means to extract lifesaving information from a known terrorist, that is another story. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to REAL torture, I don’t believe it would ever be acceptable for our government to authorize it under ANY circumstances, however, when it comes to questionable techniques such as waterboarding, I think that under certain circumstances they may be applied where they are shown to be effective. It’s pretty clear that the use of waterboarding on three known terrorists in the last few years has been very effective”.

    In his CHARACTERS OF THE INQUISITION, W.T. Walsh refers to the Interogatorio of [the second] Torquemada and its instructions on the use of torture. It is surrounded by precautions. Interestingly, it permits “waterboarding”. The general tenor of the Interogatorio is that it must not inflict permanent damage.

  • Bob Cheek,

    I don’t know if whether or not your comments were sincerely genuine, but in case it was, I appreciate it.

    Folks who did not personally suffer the horrible tragedy of 9/11, that event unfortunately has become to them but a distant memory.

    To those of us who had actually suffered tremendous loss in the many dead of our loved ones that fateful day, that event remains fresh in our memory.

    Joe Hargrave can callously dismiss the many dead I and so many others have personally suffered as merely casualties whose voices in these matters should be altogether silenced or that those who may potentially such suffer similar tragedies should the terrorists be enabled to commit even further atrocities upon multitudes of innocent Americans as being nothing more than insignificant as compared to the very preservation of their lives; however, I would not be so blinded by my own politics so as to consider matters as these with not even glancing a compassionate eye towards those who have suffered so excrutiating a pain and those who eventually will by such blatantly devestating terrorism merely because, amongst other things, such considerations happen to prove too inconvenient a matter to a certain political agenda.

    (John Henry: Thanks, at the very least, for some semblance of compassion.)

  • On the question of whether it would licit to kill the child to save the life of the mother, [or the mother the life of the child].
    This is one of those suppose questions which has been widely used to justify abortion. As a matter of fact, the occasions when the problem would arise have been so rare as to be near non-existent. In the midst of delivering a child. a doctor would act not to risk the life of either. He would act to save both. He would not act to kill one or the other.

  • Matt,

    “Joe, why is it that in every conversation you have you chose to misrepresent the other poster’s position?”

    Misrepresent? It’s exactly what you did. You invoked what some Muslims have done to US soldiers.

    “as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers”

    What relevance does this have, if not to try and somehow excuse or lessen the seriousness of what our military has done?

    I don’t care to speculate as to why you don’t acknowledge the meaning of your own words.

    As for the rest, all of the torture done at Abu Ghraib was done for the SAME reasons as the water boarding. If you approve of water boarding, then why not eventually approve of some of this other degrading stuff? What if it ‘gets the job done’?

    Tell me how you unleash torture from legal restraint and then control it? You characterize water boarding as ‘questionable’ – meaning you still don’t even know if you are talking about torture or not! Maybe you should figure it out before you defend it’s use.

  • E,

    The evidence is on every post I’ve made, where the first things you post in response are hostile accusations and insinuations. Those posts are all here, preserved as part of AC, so anyone interested can see your record for themselves.

  • “What if it ‘gets the job done’?”

    When you end up ultimately holding the cold and mutilated corpses of your child, wife, parent in your arms, crying your eyes out to no end, with endless nights that even make your days seem just as unbearably long and dark, would you really be so bold as to think, “Thank God that even if it did cost me my loved ones, at the very least, I did not advocate the interrogation methods that would’ve actually prevented even their deaths”!

    When you engage in only the abstract and happen to think so academically the very horrors certain people themselves have actually lived out, you are no longer dealing sensibly with humanity, but merely the sterile confines of what is essentially a cold and uncaring intellect.

  • And, E

    I am not

    “blinded by my own politics”

    I consider things from a Christian point of view. Remember that religion we all supposedly belong to, that guy who died for our sins and all the stuff he said?

    Why does anyone who actually turns to it get dismissed as an ‘idealist’, or someone displaying ‘proud piety’, or some other dismissal? Is there something in those Gospels you don’t want people to see?

    And if you’ve lost a loved one in the war, I’m truly sorry for your loss. I think it is more important to pray for the dead than it is to avenge them.

  • E,

    I’m going to say this, and if you want to hate me for it, go ahead.

    We don’t make moral decisions, or policy decisions, based on personal tragedies. We don’t get to torture people because it will save someone’s life that you love. Right and wrong, and the law, aren’t about you.

    That isn’t ‘cold’ – that’s reality. And as tempting as it may be, we shouldn’t be so involved in issues in which we have such a direct emotional stake. Most of the time that creates a serious dilemma, an ethical dilemma, a conflict of interest between one’s personal motives and the public good.

    I know that the person I love more than anyone on this earth would rather die than be saved through torture. She knows the same about me.

    You deserve all the compassion a person can muster if you’ve lost loved ones. I can include them in my prayers, but what I won’t do is agree with you politically or morally on torture.

  • Joe Hargrave,

    Misrepresent? It’s exactly what you did. You invoked what some Muslims have done to US soldiers.

    Joe, drop the religion card why don’t ya? The word muslim APPEARS NOWHERE IN MY POST, again you are being completely dishonest.

    “as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers”

    What relevance does this have, if not to try and somehow excuse or lessen the seriousness of what our military has done?

    Yes, the nature and actions of the victim changes the seriousness of the offense. Sins which are directed at God are the gravest, against the innocent, are more serious than against the guilty. Stop referring to this case as what “our military” has done. THis involves individuals, not the military universally. As a Catholic you ought to be VERY careful about referring to the actions of individuals to paint the broad bush on the entire organization, as many of the secular liberals do. What the US Military has done:

    – freed us from the tyranny of the Nazi’s and Japanese
    – freed the Iraqi’s from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein
    – freed the Afghan’s from the tyranny of the Islamic Taliban
    – prevented further terrorist attacks on US soil from the Islamic Fascists who seek to destroy us.
    – kept YOU and your family safe from Communist expansionism, Islamic Fascists and many other threats from the day you were born, they will continue to do so no matter how many foul things you say about them.

    In light of this, instead of pointing fingers and sneering at INNOCENT soldiers, why not just thank them for their service to you and your family.

    I don’t care to speculate as to why you don’t acknowledge the meaning of your own words.

    I won’t acknowledge the mischaracterization of my words. You really ought to cease.

    As for the rest, all of the torture done at Abu Ghraib was done for the SAME reasons as the water boarding.

    Have you seen the photographs that the those soldiers took humiliating the prisoners???? Clearly it was a case of taking pleasure in their humiliation, none of this took place in the context of a sanctioned interrogation with careful controls and observation. Even if we assume that the intent of the soldiers who did it was to extract information, you surely can recognize the difference in context.

    If you approve of water boarding, then why not eventually approve of some of this other degrading stuff? What if it ‘gets the job done’?

    Some of the stuff I’m fine with, but it’s the context of a controlled and sanctioned interrogation. Can you not see the difference between a lynching and capital punishment? It’s exactly the same comparison.

    Tell me how you unleash torture from legal restraint and then control it? You characterize water boarding as ‘questionable’ – meaning you still don’t even know if you are talking about torture or not! Maybe you should figure it out before you defend it’s use.

    Sorry I was unclear. I do not believe that waterboarding used by the US Government, based on the public information we have is torture, period. I acknowledge that many reasonably dissagree with that position, therefore I refer to it as “questionable”.

  • Joe,

    thank God and the US Military for never having to live through the scenario that e. presented. Many of the victims of those dear sweet prisoners were not so blessed.

  • Matt,

    Why are you splitting hairs? Who are we talking about here? Muslims, non-enemy combatants, whomever, its besides the point. You really get worked up on these irrelevant distractions.

    I’m not going to get into a debate about the virtues of the US military. It just wouldn’t do any good.

    “Clearly it was a case of taking pleasure in their humiliation, none of this took place in the context of a sanctioned interrogation with careful controls and observation.”

    The consistent claim of the soldiers has been that it was ordered to ‘soften up’ the detainees for interrogation. New evidence, such as that I linked to earlier, is surfacing to prove they are not lying. They may release the man still in jail on the theory he was only following orders. I say let him stay there, and put more people in with him.

    Don’t you realize that they think they know what will make Muslim men crack? Psycho-sexual humiliation is a form of torture, Matt. It’s done deliberately, to break their will, to reduce them to nothing. If you really think torture is all about physical pain, you don’t know anything about it.

    Finally, I recognize the differences – the point is, do they? What was done at Abu Ghraib was most likely sanctioned by the Defense Department, all the way up to Rumsfeld. I don’t think they’re making the same clear distinctions as you.

  • Matt,

    Stop trying to personalize the debate. What you or I or anyone else goes through cannot dictate policy.

  • Joe,

    sorry, I just find it distasteful to demonstrate such disdain for the organization which allows you to live in relative peace and freedom. If you stop using blanket disdain for the US Military I’ll stop reflecting that disdain on you for living under their protection without gratitude.

    linked to earlier

    you mean the article from the Guardian? I think Donald addressed this.

    Why are you splitting hairs? Who are we talking about here? Muslims, non-enemy combatants, whomever, its besides the point. You really get worked up on these irrelevant distractions.

    I’m not the one inserting elements to the argument which I did not make, and no, we’re not talking about Muslims or “non-enemy combatants”, we’re talking about insurgent operators.

  • Interesting list of questions:
    Nine Questions the Left Needs to Answer About Torture

    The first three are particularly apt:
    1. Given how much you rightly hate torture, why did you oppose the removal of Saddam Hussein, whose prisons engaged in far more hideous tortures, on thousands of times more people, than America did — all of whom, moreover, were individuals and families who either did nothing or simply opposed tyranny? One assumes, furthermore, that all those Iraqi innocents Saddam had put into shredding machines or whose tongues were cut out and other hideous tortures would have begged to be waterboarded.

    2. Are all forms of painful pressure equally morally objectionable? In other words, are you willing to acknowledge that there are gradations of torture as, for example, there are gradations of burns, with a third-degree burn considerably more injurious and painful than a first-degree burn? Or is all painful treatment to be considered torture? Just as you, correctly, ask proponents of waterboarding where they draw their line, you, too, must explain where you draw your line.

    3. Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong? If there is no question about the identity of a terror suspect , and he can provide information on al-Qaida — for the sake of clarity, let us imagine that Osama Bin Laden himself were captured — could America do any form of enhanced interrogation involving pain and/or deprivation to him that you would consider moral and therefore support?

  • This first question is ridiculous and demonstrates a complete lack of moral depth. I’m ashamed to think that this what conservatives think is important, since I am certainly more of a conservative than I am a leftist.

    “why did you oppose the removal of Saddam Hussein, whose prisons engaged in far more hideous tortures”

    Many of us simply opposed an obscene violation of international law – pre-emptive warfare, for which the Nazi leadership was tried and convicted at Nuremberg. We rejected the childish logic of “that bad man is breaking the law, so we should break it too”, and insisted that our own country be held to higher standards. Again, it is sad to think that conservatives would become moral infants as soon as an issue tickles their moral funny bone.

    “you, too, must explain where you draw your line”

    I don’t think ‘all painful treatment’ is considered torture. For instance, if a cop slaps or hits a prisoner a few times, I call that police brutality, not torture. I would call it torture when the pain – psychological or physical – is systematically inflicted over a period of time. But I’m always flexible on definitions, if someone provides good cause to alter them.

    “Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong?”

    If by ‘maltreatment’ you mean torture, yes. It is always wrong. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Ultimately we give these things up to God. If you think you can face God and give him your rationalization for torture and that it will make sense to him, by all means, do it.

    Of course I now await the denunciations of ‘piety’ and ‘righteousness’ for daring to even suggest that God might have a stake in this issue. May as well be at an atheist website sometimes, the way some people’s ‘dander’ gets up at the mention of God when it comes to their pet issues.

  • “Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong?”

    This is one of the more distressing points of the discussion.

    There are actually those folks opposing even the typical psyhcological interrogation methods that cops themselves employ against ordinary criminals.

    So sad to think that there are actually people out there who would have these terrorists treated even better than these criminals.

    I would suggest to people such as Joe Hargrave to visit the graves of those who have actually died by the hands of these terrorists.

    Perhaps then they can finally understand why it is that we who personally suffered such tragedy would not want to endure yet another.

    People as these would make us out to be the villains instead of the terrorists themselves (e.g., see how Joe was so quick to demonize us as wanting nothing more than vengeance). When, in fact, all we want is not to have to suffer again such painful losses as those of our dearest ones we’ve already lost.

    Nobody should ever have to endure that kind of devestating tragedy either again or even for the first time.

  • E,

    All of the torture in the world is never going to result in a situation where nobody has to endure tragedy. Talk about utopian fantasies.

    I will not condone torture to appease anyone’s feelings. I’m not exactly sure how far we are to take Christ’s command to love our enemies, but I’m pretty sure that torturing them is taking too far in the opposite direction.

    Was he just blowing meaningless smoke when he insisted that we hold ourselves to higher standards than non-believers? I want to know, seriously, how you reconcile a belief in Jesus Christ with approval of torture.

  • “Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong?”

    If by ‘maltreatment’ you mean torture, yes. It is always wrong.

    Are you saying that any ‘maltreatment’ is torture?

    I didn’t really expect to get an answer anyway. It seems like Joe’s view is that all treatment that is not “kid gloves” is either torture or “police brutality”. I’m wondering does that extend even to having bars on the windows, sleeping hard cots in 6×9 cell? What are the limits?

  • It seems like Joe’s view is that all treatment that is not “kid gloves” is either torture or “police brutality

    Indeed —

    This is the first time that even the infamous “Good Cop/Bad Cop” routine or any one of the usual interrogration techniques so utilized by our own law enforcement for many years is actually ‘torture’, too.

  • E,

    Posts that attack a person’s character will be deleted on my watch.

  • How was the preceding post considered an attack on a person’s character?

    Kindly explain to me then how you would actually have terrorists escape even the kind of interrogation typically featured in a Law & Order episode?

  • And Matt,

    Why ask a question if you’re going to provide an answer to it in the same post?

  • E,

    In your mad rush to jump to conclusions about me, you decided that. I never made any such claim.

    The cops on Law and Order routinely do things that violate the human and civil rights of suspects. I’m not arguing that I always find it completely unjustifiable and reprehensible – most of the time I do – but even if I were to understand and even sympathize with the reason, that wouldn’t make it GOOD or RIGHT.

    If you don’t like that even suspects, even convicted criminals, even people captured in war retain civil and/or human rights, then move to North Korea.

  • E,

    I’m not going to let you slander me.

    When you can engage the arguments without making suggestions about who I really love and don’t love, they’ll be allowed to stand.

  • Joe,

    I’m speculating about the answer because you keep dodging it. I asked the question twice and you dodged. If you weren’t going to answer the question why would you even bother to respond to the post?

    One more time, here it is:
    Are you saying that any ‘maltreatment’ is torture or “police brutality”?

  • Matt,

    I’m saying that both police brutality and torture are wrong.

    I’m not going to comment on ‘maltreatment’ because that can be stretched out to encompass anything, in cheap attempt at moral trickery. Some people think that even being told they are doing something wrong is ‘maltreatment’.

    I am instead going to look at each policy and do my best to decide whether or not it respects, or flagrantly violates, the inherent dignity of human beings, even guilty ones, even bad ones. Torture does that.

Unreasonable Compensation

Thursday, April 23, AD 2009

With people focused on the economic downturn, many have found it a good time to give a little extra thought to whether other people are making more than they ought to. The president has spoken out several times against “excessive compensation” of executives, and a number of people have floated the idea of adjusting the top marginal income tax rate to effectively cap total compensation at ten million dollars a year. MZ tackled the question somewhat humorously here.

Beyond question, $10 million is a lot of money. Most of us will never see anything like that much money, and so it seems entirely reasonable to demand: Why should anyone be paid so much? What’s so special about CEOs and actors and baseball players that they deserve tens of millions of dollars? Aren’t they running off with the money that we should be getting instead?

I certainly wouldn’t claim that executives are not often paid more than they are worth. A board of directors is still a group of people with emotional commitments (including wanting to assure themselves that they made the right pick in choosing the current CEO) and they will certainly not always do what is in their own best interest. Though we may be comforted that in a free economy the incentives are in place to automatically punish them for not doing so.

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22 Responses to Unreasonable Compensation

  • supply and demand, it’s just that simple.

  • Concerns over executive compensations always seem overblown to me; a way for politicians to express faux moral outrage over what is almost entirely a matter of symbolism. In its worst form it exploits a crude populist instinct based on the haunting fear (and resentment) that someone, somewhere might be overpaid. Notice, even if confiscatory taxes were imposed on income over $10 million, the tax would generate very little revenue because the contracts would just be restructured. I suppose there may be some symbolic value in preventing people from being paid large salaries, but it seems to be a very minimal and cheap sort of value.

  • Indeed it is a distraction away from the far more vast and destructive sums being either created or spent by the government.

    While there is something to the argument that top executive are over paid, its really an irrelevant question. They should be paid whatever the market is willing to pay them. If the agreement on compensation is consensual then morally there isn’t much to argue against. If its a stupid move of the part of the employer, that will be revealed in due course as the company’s fortunes decline.

  • One of the odd things about executive compensation is that the people who actually have to pay the compensation tend to be the ones who are least concerned about it.

    As for whether it can be justifiable to pay someone $48,000 for an hour’s work, I think that the Wilt Chamberlain example shows pretty clearly that it can.

  • I’ll point out that to some of the workers on the lower end, $105 extra a year is a big deal (probably an extra week’s groceries).

  • There is a problem with executive compensation. Not that it’s too high, but that it’s unresponsive to the needs of the stakeholders – principally the shareholders of the company. This occurs because of imbalances in corporate governance. I think there are reasonable adjustments that the SEC could make to level the playing field so that shareholders can better control the selection of directors and ensure their interests are better served. This would result in a better correlation between compensation and benefits to the company.

  • I am opposed to high executive pay not because I think it needs to be re-distributed in a futile attempt at equality (real equality will be established through Distributist principles), but because that much money in the hands of a single individual easily translates into disproportionate political and social power.

    The disproportionate wealth stems from ownership, not work. More evenly balanced ownership, i.e. on the cooperative model, will address the problem. We will see that, after all, it is possible to compete and succeed without paying someone 34 million dollars to make all the big decisions. What a waste of resources.

  • I also want to add, whenever I’ve looked up CEO compensation, I see a break down that shows, like I said, that almost all the compensation comes from ownership: stock options, etc.

    The actual salary, for instance, of the CEO of Wal-Mart a few years ago was only 1.1 million, but he took home over 20 million in compensation.

    So, I don’t care about 1 million. I don’t think that gives a person a disproportionate political presence, though, if he is a Christian, he doesn’t need that much money and should give a lot of it away. But that’s his decision.

    I do care about the 20 million. Because it places too much power in the hands of one person.

  • My understanding is that it became a lot less advantageous for companies to give executives stock after the Sarbanes/Oxley round of accounting rules revisions.

    It looks like in this case, the CEO for 1.4M in salary, 5.3M in bonus, 7.9M in stock options and 18.6M in “non equity incentive plan compensation”. So about 1/4 stock, if I’m reading that right.

    It’s really interesting to me (in the sense that it highlights our differences) that you find the stock issues more troubling than the salary. I tend to be very much in favor of paying executives mostly in stock rather than in cash (especially if it’s restricted stock they can’t sell for a certain number of years) in that I think it incents them to look longer term.

    Now for instance, at the company I work for I own about 500 shares total, and my bonus is based on how profitable we are (so it was a lot smaller this year 🙁 ). By comparison, the CEO owns a much, much larger percentage of the company. But I generally consider that positive because I hope it means he’s incented to make good long term decisions for the company. The same actions that will make his billion dollar stake in the company be worth 1.5 billion would make my $5,000 stake worth $7,500, and assure me a safe job and good bonuses in the meantime.

    Which basically makes me realize that while I support a democratic (or more properly: representative democracy) ideal when it comes to political structures, I’m basically a monarchist or oligarch when it comes to the corporate world — though I want to see the castes be porous in a meritocratic kind of way.

  • “I do care about the 20 million.”

    Yeah, right.

    Is that only when his stock options are worth that much?

    Would you actually express the same disgust and resentment when his shares are significantly worth less?

    I can’t believe that folks here have the gall to think they can dictate such seemingly draconian terms on companies across America without actually paying any heed whatsoever on the kind of negative repercussions that might likely occur as a result.

    A talented individual such as a Steve Jobs might as well earn a mere dollar/year for his salary, but God forbid that he should happen to be compensated in stock options which value for the most part ultimately depends on his management of the company.

    Should his skillful management of the company be appropriately reflected in the value of those stock options, crucify the bastard!

    Should the value of said stocks fall below a buck, all the better!

  • “while I support a democratic (or more properly: representative democracy) ideal when it comes to political structures, I’m basically a monarchist or oligarch when it comes to the corporate world”

    And so here’s where we’ll have our disagreements 🙂

    I don’t see how a political democracy can be supported by an economic oligarchy indefinitely. We may call it a political democracy but if real power is distributed differently, it’s just a name.

    What is it people really want in life? I think we agree that no one needs millions of dollars to live a dignified and comfortable life; I should hope we would also agree that any man who says ‘only 30 million can make me happy’ doesn’t have a natural right to it.

    I see no reason why a man can’t be happy with a salary that provides a dignified, comfortable life. I don’t see why progress or economic decision making has to be conditioned on such large compensation. I have a very hard time respecting a person who insists on that much money. What would happen if they didn’t get it? Would they die? What would happen if they just lived at a middle class level, maybe a little higher? It would prevent them from wanting to do a good job?

    I guess I don’t understand how that works. I have many flaws and faults, many sins of which I am guilty, but the need for that much money is something I can say I’ve never had. In fact, give me a computer with an internet connection and I’ll live in a tool shed or a van if I have to 🙂

  • “Would you actually express the same disgust and resentment when his shares are significantly worth less?”

    Disgust and resentment? You’re projecting your own feelings on to me, E.

    I’m for the stock being more evenly distributed to all of the people whose labor create the wealth that the CEO has been hired to manage. Production is a partnership.

  • e,

    Don’t be unhinged. No one said what you’re suggesting.

    Joe did say that he finds it easier to approve of cash compensation than stock compensation — which I find myself at variance to — but no one is talking about crucifying anyone.

    (BTW, I don’t think Steve Jobs even gets stock options. He still owned a major chunk of Apple from when he founded it and figured increasing the value of that was enough. As someone who bought Apple stock in 1996, I agree.)

  • There is a lot to chew on here. I think we are in agreement that the compensation is mostly tied to the performance of the firm rather than the actual work product. My greater concern is not necessarily the gross dollar amounts as much as they act as a first dividend and our lax bankruptcy laws induce companies to undercapitalize thereby resulting in the socialization of risk and the privitization of profit. Similarily companies that carry too much cash on the books place themselves at risk for leveraged buy outs. LBOs wouldn’t be near as advantageous without the bankruptcy protection. Why own company stock if your bonus is equivalent of the dividend of x% of the float? Why worry about the long term health of the company, if you can be paid first and now for risk you aren’t really assuming?

  • The biggest problem I have with large executive bonuses at failing companies is the fact that the top people who are driving companies into the ground are being rewarded while the people at the bottom who are doing the front-line work, no matter how well they do it, get screwed.

    Take the Chicago Tribune, which is handing out $18 million in bonuses to its top executives while firing about 50 reporters, editors, and photographers. The people who actually make the paper worth reading (or used to, before Sam Zell got ahold of it) get nothing while the people who come up with one harebrained marketing idea after another get rewarded, on the grounds that they are sooo talented that the Trib Company simply must provide them with incentive to stay.

    An insistence on high levels of profit for the benefit of stockholders and executives is a big part of what is destroying the newspaper industry, to which I devoted 20 years of my life. It led to Gatehouse Media — a mega-corporation owned by some mysterious hedge fund in New York — buying up nearly every significant newspaper in downstate Illinois, running up massive amounts of debt, then having to slash and burn the staff at nearly every newspaper it owned.

    Now there’s nothing wrong with making a profit, of course; there’s nothing wrong with making big profits if they are the result of genuine innovation and high demand for your product. If Steve Jobs makes gazillions of bucks because Apple computers are great products and everyone wants one (including me, I love them), I don’t have a problem with that. It’s the idea that you can increase profits SOLELY by making risky investments and cutting costs (which usually translate into massive layoffs) that I have a problem with.

  • Elaine,

    While it’s a spectrum rather than a duality, it strikes me you basically have high growth business models and sustaining business models. A sustaining business model has the capacity to keep employing everyone well, and if it has investors to provide them with a small return each year. But the business itself is not going to be worth much more in five or ten years than it is now. A great many small family businesses fall in this category. On the other hend, you have high growth business models where you expect the worth of the business in five or ten years to be anywhere from 2-100x what it is now. These are the sorts of businesses which can return a lot to people via stock, etc.

    It strikes me that a number of the problems we have with “corporate raiding” have to do with people who take what is fundamentally a sustaining business model and try to turn it into a high growth business model for a while in order to turn a quick profit. It’s bad for the business, and indeed basically everyone involved except those who cash out early and run.

  • It’s bad for the business, and indeed basically everyone involved except those who cash out early and run.

    The difficulty, though, is that ‘corporate raiding’ is one of the most effective checks we have on agency costs like empire-building (AOL-Timewarner anyone?) and excessive perquisite consumption. Moreover, such ‘raids’ generally benefit shareholders, while the people doing the raiding are assuming much of the risk. LBO’s provide management with a very strong incentive to eliminate inefficiency and produce stable cash returns. I’ll admit that bankruptcy perhaps eliminates too much of the downside risk (as M.Z. suggested), and that some features of these deals are problematic, but here as elsewhere the benefits need to be considered in addition to the drawbacks. And I think LBO’s play an important role in reducing agency costs.

  • “I’ll point out that to some of the workers on the lower end, $105 extra a year is a big deal (probably an extra week’s groceries).”

    Michael–
    Indeed. But if I read the post correctly, hiring the cheaper guy could end up in revenue loss for workers.

    When you’re one of the guys on the factory floor who gets laid off because the company’s not being run well, it’s a big deal, all right.

  • Joe,

    I guess I’d need to think a little more deeply on the topic, but a few thoughts:

    – I’d see democracy as more necessary for a state than for a company because with a state (especially a large, modern state) the potential dangers involved in failure or overthrow much outweigh the greater efficiency one might find in a monarchy or oligarchy. Businesses on the other hand, present fewer problems when they fail. And leaving a badly run company is generally far, far easier than leaving a badly run country.

    – This is kind of an assumption of the above: It seems to me that individual decision making is almost invariably more efficient than collective decision making. Our form of government (representative democracy) recognizes this, in that rather than having everyone vote on everything, we elect people who then make decisions either individually or collectively. While a company of any size is large enough that one person can’t know enough to make all decisions, I do strongly support business models in which each person is the decions maker in regards to his set of responsibilities, with managers making decisions where necessary rather than doing everything by consensus. It’s not as simple as straight top-down management, but like with a well-run army the executives should give the next level of management a clear set of orders and objectives, those managers formulate order and objectives to accomplish those, and so on down the line. Each person down to the individual worker is a creative part of the whole, but each takes direction from above. Given my experiences in various companies I don’t find the idea of true bottom up management very attractive. I guess I should read up on how this works out in reality in organizations like Mondragon.

    – That said, I do strongly believe in profit sharing and employee ownership stakes. I don’t necessarily see why we should require everyone owning the company equally (if the CEO and CFO were the joint founders of the company twenty years before, it makes total sense to me that they’d own far more of it than the 1000th worker hired who’s only been on staff a year) but I do think that everyone should have a real stake in the company they work for. At the same time, my experience is that often the upper levels of management not only make decisions that have wide ranging effects, but they frankly put in more time than most workers would want do. As I’ve started to have to deal with VPs and Directors more, I find myself getting called into meetings that start as early as 7am or run as late as 7pm, and all the executives I know are answering emails and making phone calls in the evenings and through the weekend. 70+ hour weeks seem standard for them — and I’ve got to say that one of the things I’m enjoying about not being in business for myself anymore is not feeling like I need to put in 80 hour weeks.

  • John Henry,

    Agreed. LBOs are certainly not always a bad thing. Sometimes they turn a failing company into a successful one again. (And as you point out, the leveragers are the ones taking on the risk — since they are “leveraged” as in borrowing the money to fund buying the company on the assumption they can make it work.)

    But at times there do seem to be examples of people taking overweight old companies and trying to turn them into growth monsters when they’re simply in industries where there’s not that much room for growth. (Obviously, the people who try to do this must disagree about whether there’s room for growth.)

    I’d tend to put the fad of buying up regional newspapers around the country over the last ten years in that category. It doesn’t seem to me that there’s much growth potential in regional newspapers these days — at best you can keep them at a sustaining level. Though there are very interesting exceptions. The WSJ has turned itself into a broader national newspaper over the last five years and as a result is growing quite nicely.

  • The problem with this issue (like with many others) is it is multi-faceted and people choose to only address the area that fits the point they want to make or demagogue. Class warfare plays well with the masses so politicians make hay about CEO XYZ getting $$$$$$$ in compensation. It is an easy target to shoot at just like complaining about overpaid ballplayers. Truth is salaries at the top have skyrocketed over the last couple decades. However, that truth doesn’t automatically equal all being overpaid or mean that government intervention is necessary or proper to fix the perceived problem. We often hear that a company needed to pay X amount in order to attract top talent. Problem with that argument is it isn’t always top talent (or top results) being rewarded.

    This situation is similar to the problem caused by “free” health care. Whenever the end user is not responsible for the cost of something you can be sure the cost will escalate unchecked. In this case because of the dilution of the strength of the individual stock holder no one is able to speak up about the corporate waste or mismanagement of assets. If a company is owned by one or a few people they tend to be more careful about out of control spending including spending on management. However, a massive corporation has billions of share holders who have little or no say in the level of compensation, perquisites, or golden parachutes offered to management. I am strongly opposed to government interference, but I see it coming because most boards of directors are too cozy with management and are failing to provide proper oversight.

  • Well said. While some may think $10M or $40M is a lot of money for a CEO there are workers in Africa or China that think making $10 per hour is a lot of money. The goal should not to be to drag down those doing well but to lift up those that are not. You’re free to quit your company if you think the CEO makes too much money. You’re also free to better yourself with FREE books at the library so you can move up the ladder. Besides, the free market will reward and/or punish companies that do stupid things with their money much better than two corrupt politicians being wined and dined by some lobbyist that “help” them decide who gets paid what and who gets taxed and how much.

Bishop D'Arcy Responds

Thursday, April 23, AD 2009
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18 Responses to Bishop D'Arcy Responds

  • I hope it’s OK to comment. I am a Catholic, but I disagree with the Bishop somewhat. Plus: Why is it only abortion that matters? Obama is also pro-death penalty. Obama is not that pro-choice (what he says and who he appoints are two different things). But he is rabidly pro-death penalty.

    I don’t care if Obama speaks at Notre Dame. Lots of presidents speak at universities and to me it is something that students will always remember, whether they agree with that president’s political stands or not. I disagree with Obama on almost everything. I would rather see protests WHEN he speaks than protests about him speaking. IMHO.

  • Plus: Why is it only abortion that matters?

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it has been pointed out that the evil of abortion does outweigh some other issues. As then Cardinal Ratzinger put it:

    Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

    Obama is not that pro-choice

    Yeah, he kind of is. He is so rabidly pro-abortion that he opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which would have guaranteed some basic rights to babies that survived a botched abortion. Even Planned Parenthood didn’t hold such an extreme view.

    I don’t care if Obama speaks at Notre Dame.

    That’s nice. But that doesn’t really speak to the issue of whether or not honoring a public individual who supports a grave and manifest evil that is unequivocally opposed by the Church ought to be honored at a Catholic university.

    would rather see protests WHEN he speaks than protests about him speaking. IMHO.

    Why not both?

  • Carrisa,

    Whether you are Catholic or not, you are more than welcomed to comment here just as long as it relates to the topic, charitable, and constructive.

    Welcome to American Catholic!

  • Understatement of the year:

    Obama is not that pro-choice

    Yeah, he kind of is”

    I laughed when I read that 🙂

  • “Obama is not that pro-choice.”

    I think the argument used by some is that he is pro-choice but not pro-abortion.

    We’ll leave it at that.

  • Bishop D’Arcy talks about how proper consultation could have avoided all this. This is the real shame here. This all could have been avoided. Father Jenkins acted unilaterally. Where have I heard that unilateral action is the worst kind of sin? Hmm…

  • Father Jenkins acted unilaterally.

    Just because he didn’t consult with the bishop does not mean he acted unilaterally.

  • I’m pro-choice with regard to holding slaves.

    I think that every person should be free to hold slaves without government interference, the government should provide funding for people to purchase slaves if they can’t afford them, the government should provide facilities to keep slaves, also it’s good for the government to fund organizations which further the cause of slavery worldwide, I speak often at slavery conventions, and receive many political contributions from slavery groups.

    But…. I am not pro-slavery, I would not hold slaves, although if my children needed some help around the house I wouldn’t want them punished with having to do the work themselves, so I would take them to the slave auction and give them money to buy slaves).

    Slaves should be safe, legal, and rare.

  • Michael,
    Ought not a priest consult with the local bishop on a decision that was surely to be controversial? On a matter that cuts to the core of Catholic teaching and its alignment with the Natural Law? If not unilateral, then surely imprudent. The good father chose perishable wordly praise over timeless universal truth. How very sad.

  • Matt,
    Bravo. Can I borrow this comparison of yours? I may be able to make some headway with this.

  • daledog,

    I’m sure it’s been done before, but it fits Obama so precisely! Feel free to use it.

    I’m still trying to figure out how to make an analogy of the opposition to “Born Alive Protection Act” any suggestions?

  • “I’m still trying to figure out how to make an analogy of the opposition to “Born Alive Protection Act” any suggestions?”

    Not a direct analogy, but here goes:

    Fugitive Slave Act. If a slave actually manages to make it to freedom in the North, it is against the law for people in Northern states to aid said slave in his/her escape or otherwise provide assistance.

  • With respect to my comment that Obama is not that pro-choice, I realize in Catholicize there is no wiggle-room. But Obama isn’t Catholic, even though he gave more money to Catholic Social Services last year (as revealed on his income tax forms) than to any other group. Many Catholics belonged to a pro-Obama group (Catholics for Obama) because they believed that he was more anti-choice than pro-choice. I did not support Obama, but I think that group had good evidence. His first choice for Health and Human Services was Tom Daschle, a guy who had only a 50% rating from NARAL. And many of Obama’s associates are ministers like James Meeks of the Illinois Family Institute.

    Abortion just took over the Church as an issue. In the 1980s it became impossible to attend a mass or sometimes even a funeral without hearing about abortion. Now it seems to be homosexuality.

    When are we going to get back to the central message of love? When are the words of Jesus going to come to us from the pulpit? I have listed to pro-life men speak about abortion without ever using the word woman or mother: they say “womb,” like we are incubators. I don’t hear Jesus in that. I am not saying the Church should drop its doctrine or not take stands on issues of life. If I wanted no doctrine, no transubstantiation, no veneration of the Blessed Virgin, I would be a Unitarian or something. But I find more vitriol than love most of the time when Catholics talk about current politics.

    Thank you for letting me comment. God bless.

  • Above, second line should say Catholicism. Sorry.

  • Carrisa, here is a good site to learn about Obama and his record on abortion:

    http://www.lifenews.com/obamaabortionrecord.html

    The Church has condemned abortion since the time of the Apostles and Obama is a champion of abortion. The facts shout for themselves. A website you might find interesting is here:

    http://www.feministsforlife.org/

  • Carissa, even though I am 100 percent pro-life, I have sometimes wondered myself why the Church seems to “harp” on abortion so much.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because no other major institutions (other than evangelical Protestant churches) are doing so, and the Church HAS to go out of its way to remind people how evil abortion is because they aren’t getting that reminder anywhere else, with a few exceptions (e.g. Feminists for Life, noted pro-life atheists such as Nat Hentoff, some Orthodox Jews and Muslims).

    The Church doesn’t have to put quite as much effort into condemning war, poverty, capital punishment, or murder of people already born because there are plenty of other individuals and groups out there doing so already, and the force of civil law already condemns things like murder. With abortion (and now, gay marriage), however, Catholics and evangelical Protestants stand nearly alone in opposing it; so I guess they just have to repeat their message louder and more frequently.

  • The reason the Church harps on this so much is that Catholics DO NOT GET IT. Most voted for Obama, and every pro-abortion presidential candidate before him. Maybe they’ll take it easy when liberal Catholics get it.

  • Catholics say in the Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit the Lord and Giver of Life…” Anyone who thinks that abortion or euthanasia ought to be legal is an enemy of God and will receive the recompense which befits an enemy. This is so clear a child can understand. The enemies of God cannot see this which is the first sign that they are already being punished.

Res & Explicatio for A.D. 4-22-2009

Wednesday, April 22, AD 2009

Salvete AC readers!

Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:

1. The HOT rumor of the day is that “Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, is in Washington today (Tuesday) for an unannounced meeting at the White House.”

Is he personally visiting with President Obama to offer his sincere apologies for rescinding the invitation to speak at the commencement?  Rescind the honorary law degree?  Ask for a job after he gets fired?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Phil Lawler of Catholic World News received a report from a reliable source of Fr. Jenkin’s unannounced visit to the White House and they cannot confirm this report yet.

In other news, this past Monday Fr. Jenkins expressed his profound pride in honoring the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history.

2. Have you seen Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s updated and revised blog?  It is awesome!

3. Even though the 2012 U.S. presidential elections are three years away we can dream and speculate who we would like to run for office between either a Democratic or Republican candidate (or even a legitimate third party candidate).  One name that has become quite intriguing to me is the former U.S. Representative from Georgia, Newt Gingrich.  His mea culpa of his previous marriages, his incredible intellect, speaking skills, and his recent conversion to our beautiful Catholic faith makes him my favorite for now.

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77 Responses to Res & Explicatio for A.D. 4-22-2009

  • Newt Gingrich has a hundred ideas a day, at least three of which are sound! Bright guy but he would be a disaster as a candidate. Too many skeletons, too many bitter ex-wives and a tendency not to be trusted within the party. I could imagine him as a possible veep, but I don’t think he will ever be elected to the top job.

    In regard to Hitler, rumors constantly swirled during the War that he planned to imprison Pius and set up a puppet papacy. Wiser heads in the Third Reich realized this would be a disaster for them, and Hitler in his saner moments agreed, but the risk was real enough at the time. Hitler often spoke of “settling accounts” with the Church after the war, and I could easily imagine him in a moment of high anger deciding not to wait.

  • That is frightening to hear about “settling accounts”. If Hitler had won the war it may have well been one of the darkest periods for the Church since the French Revolution.

  • Because of your excellent points on Mr. Gingrich I still have inadequate information to be completely convinced of his candidacy.

    I’m still distraught over Senator Brownback’s support of Governor Sebelius so I don’t have anyone as of now that I really like.

    I hear from insiders of the Baton Rouge political scene that Governor Jindal so far has ‘mixed reviews’ on his performance, so I’m hesitant to jump on that bandwagon.

    And Governor Palin’s appointment of a pro-choice judge to the Alaska State Supreme Court has made my stomach turn.

  • To answer the question headline of one of the related posts:

    “Should Pope Pius XII Become a Saint?”

    Yes!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Hitler%27s_Pope

  • As Donald said Gingrich is an ideas guy, but he is saddled with too much baggage. This is the land of second chances, but the presidency isn’t a second chance job.

    Tito,

    I’d recommend you do some more research before you let your stomach turn. This non-issue was debunked a while back. Alaska Supreme Court Justices, unlike the US Supreme Court, are not chosen by the executive branch. In Alaska the state Judiciary Council submits nominees to the governor who has to pick one of the nominated individuals. A previous governor fought this requirement and lost. Unless the Alaska state constitution is modified the process will remain as is.

  • In regard to Hitler here are some of his diatribes against the Church contained in his “Table Talk” compiled following the war from notes taken at the time he spoke:

    ‘The war will be over one day. I shall then consider that my life’s final task will be to solve the religious problem. Only then Will the life of the German native be guaranteed once and for all.”

    “The evil that’s gnawing our vitals is our priests, of both creeds. I can’t at present give them the answer they’ve been asking for, but it will cost them nothing to wait. It’s all written down in my big book. The time will come when I’ll settle my account with them, and I’ll go straight to the point.”

    “I don’t know which should be considered the more dangerous: the minister of religion who play-acts at patriotism, or the man who openly opposes the State. The fact remains that it’s their maneuvers that have led me to my decision. They’ve only got to keep at it, they’ll hear from me, all right. I shan’t let myself be hampered by juridical scruples. Only necessity has legal force. In less than ten years from now, things will have quite another look, I can promise them.”

    “We shan’t be able to go on evading the religious problem much longer. If anyone thinks it’s really essential to build the life of human society on a foundation of lies, well, in my estimation, such a society is not worth preserving. If’ on the other hand, one believes that truth is the indispensable foundation, then conscience bids one intervene in the name of truth, and exterminate the lie.”

    “Once the war is over we will put a swift end to the Concordat. It will give me the greatest personal pleasure to point out to the Church all those occasions on which it has broken the terms of it. One need only recall the close cooperation between the Church and the murderers of Heydrich. Catholic priests not only allowed them to hide in a church on the outskirts of Prague, but even allowed them to entrench themselves in the sanctuary of the altar.”

    “The fact that I remain silent in public over Church affairs is not in the least misunderstood by the sly foxes of the Catholic Church, and I am quite sure that a man like the Bishop von Galen knows full well that after the war I shall extract retribution to the last farthing. And, if he does not succeed in getting himself transferred in the meanwhile to the Collegium Germanium in Rome, he may rest assured that in the balancing of our accounts, no “T” will remain uncrossed, no “I” undotted!”

  • LargeBill,

    Thanks for that bit of information. I was unaware of how Alaska politics works.

    Henry Karlson,

    No personal attacks and insults will be tolerated anymore. You are given your first warning before being placed on moderation.

  • Tito:

    I’m no insider but I do live in Baton Rouge. For my view, Jindal still has a lot of respect for his handling of Gustav as well as telling Obama to keep some of the money and being one of the first to do so.

    However, Louisiana does face a budget deficit (our problem is the oil revenues have gone down, just like Alaska) and there have been cuts, which rarely make one popular. Not to mention he did a pretty poor job in the response to Obama.

  • Michael,

    I do not doubt what you are saying is true. I like Mr. Jindal very much and I have heard many, many good things about him. I am just being cautious in my praise since he is a neophyte.

    I don’t want to get excited about someone with so little experience, especially after watching President Obama create one disaster after another in his “on the job training”.

  • Henry Karlson,

    You are hereby placed on indefinite moderation until you have a change of heart.

    [ed.-in fairness to Henry, I have edited out my accurate adjectives]

  • “Even though the 2012 U.S. presidential elections…”

    2012?

    Isn’t the world supposed to end in 2012?

  • “Henry Karlson…May God help you in your struggles [ed.].”

    Is this the very same Henry Karlson who authored a series on ‘lies’ at the blog Vox Nova?

    [ed.-sorry e., in fairness to Henry, I edited out my accurate adjectives]

  • Phillip et al,

    We’ve received numerous complaints from many of our good readers of the ‘distractions’ that people like Karlson have become to constructive debates and engagement in dialogue.

    The final straw came when we were being accused of tolerating insults and hate speech at the expense of good Catholics and dialogue.

    I have seen across the Catholic blogosphere these same culprits use their political agenda to cloud their Catholic sense of being because of their hate towards orthodoxy in general and Pope Benedict specifically.

    Many, many well meaning Catholics have been patient and charitable in tolerating these malcontents in their comboxes and we here at American Catholic have decided to draw a line in the sand against such hate speech.

    Henry Karlson exemplifies the liberal extremists who disguise themselves as Catholics to push President Obama’s agenda of abortion on demand. [conservative extremists can be just as awful. There is a distinction between liberals and liberal extremists. I count many friends with center-left leanings as good friends and model Catholics that I myself strive to be to follow in their footsteps.]

    The TIDE IS TURNING against them and they know it. Hundreds of seminarians are more orthodox than their predecessors. Orthodox parishes are thriving while the Spirit of Vatican II churches are shrinking in number.

    They know their days are numbered and they are frantically attacking anyone and anything that is bringing the Church closer to Christ.

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

  • e.,

    Yes. That’s if you follow Mayan paganism.

    In reality what it really means is ‘time will reset itself’. Like when you jump forward in Spring or turn back the clock in the Fall.

    Many people take it to mean something more sinister.

    But we as Catholics do not know the time nor the place of His return.

  • Tito,

    Thanks for the info!

    On the other matter, I’m fairly disappointed at Karlson’s behaviour. I never knew he could sink so low.

  • Now I’m just curious. What did he say?

  • When the world ends is unknown, though if the Saints draft well enough to win the Superbowl this year, it will most certainly end in Feb. 2010. 😉

    Tito:

    This is true, though Jindal does have more experience than Obama (House of Reps for I think 3 years).

    Donald:

    Thanks for the Hitler quotes; they are very chilling and important to keep in mind.

    Joe:

    I just finished that book. It was very convincing that Pius has been unfairly marginalized and should in fact be canonized. I hope that when he is sainted, the calumny against him will subside and he will be honored as a “righteous Gentile.”

  • Perhaps: “Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.”

    Or even just, “Ni!”

  • Darwin,

    Now those are fighting words.

    Tito,

    Okay, just saying ouch.

  • Michael D.,

    I have a soft spot for people like Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, and Bobby Jindal. I love hearing and reading about conversion stories. These stories fill me with inspiration and joy while simultaneously they motivate me to turn closer to God.

    Though they have many flaws I am reminded of Jesus’ mission that he came for these sinners so they may have eternal life. This particular passage is very soothing and I reflect on it right before the consecration during Mass.

    Just awe-inspiring!

  • I know I’ll regret this, but part of me just cannot let this [ed.-your lies will not be tolerated] pass. I would advise Tito Edwards to get a better handle on the term “liberal” [ed.-I said liberal extremist] before he throws it around (hint: it’s not what Limbaugh and Hannity say it is). For the record, Henry Karlson is one of the most conservative people [ed.-I view Catholicism as to whether one adheres to the teachings or as one who does not] I have ever met. He had a deep love of the traditional faith [ed.-in the many insults that Henry has given me through the years, not once has he ever mentioned his love of Catholicism, Jesus, or the Church], and he has described himself as a monarchist. He does not fit in well with the American political debate, because both sides in that partisan divide are heavily influenced by liberalism (and that includes your hero, Mr. Gingrich [ed.-I said I favor him. Much different than hero. Another lie from a Vox Nova contributor, par for the course]).

    Liberalism as manifested in politics neatly always boils down to the individual over the community, the focus on individual rights over the common good, the satisfaction of individual wants and needs. The US constitution is a deeply liberal document (I’m being descriptive, not pejorative). A second dimension of liberalism is a utopian approach to society, and both sides of the US debate share this zeal, especially when it comes to the role of the US and its institutions.

    On the left, liberalism manifests itself by insisting on the right to satisfy one and all sexual needs, by the right to marry whoever one wishes, by placing one’s rights above those of the unborn, by belief in a that all the ils of society that can be guided by good government.

    On the right, liberalism manifests itself as belief in the virtues of individuals maximizing utility in the free market, as an emphasis on keeping government off one’s back, on the right to own guns without restriction, on the right to consume as much material goods as one wishes regardless of its effect on the planet, and as a belief in the ability of the United States to impose democracy on the world through the barrel of a gun or the door of a torture chamber.

    You need to understand these points. You need to understand that your politics are as liberal as a partisan Democrat, and have the exact same fault lines. But the problem is not really your politics– you are entitled (as are we all) to support who you think will do the least harm in the public square. Your problem is that your political error translates into how you see Catholicism, for you are quick to denounce any who do not share your politics (not your theology) [ed.-I am a Catholic first, political last] as somehow heterodox. Not that I want to get into a [ed.-typical liberal extremist always using vile language to prove a point. Such language will not be tolerated on AC] context, but I would safely bet that the average Vox Nova contributor agrees with the Church far more on the issues than the average contributor over here [ed.-an opinion emanating from a false Catholic such as yourself from Vox Nova, nice]. Your heterodoxy is against Republican party orthodoxy (liberalism of the right), not the faith. You really need to see the sharp difference between your politics and your faith– the former is deeply flawed, while the latter embodies the truth.

  • Henry Karlson exemplifies the liberal extremists who disguise themselves as Catholics to push President Obama’s agenda of abortion on demand.

    I do not think Henry is a liberal extremist, much less someone who is Catholic as a ‘disguise…to push President Obama’s agenda of abortion on demand.’ [ed.-inappropriate comments that do not deal with the posting will be deleted.]

  • Henry Karlson exemplifies the liberal extremists who disguise themselves as Catholics to push President Obama’s agenda of abortion on demand.

    Tito, Lord knows I have my disagreements with Henry, but I would beg to differ with your characterization of him in this manner.

  • A second dimension of liberalism is a utopian approach to society, and both sides of the US debate share this zeal, especially when it comes to the role of the US and its institutions.

    I have never encountered someone so intelligent who is nonetheless so completely ignorant of basic political theory. The idea that classical liberalism is in any way utopian is so wide of the mark that one wonders if you have even read an elementary book on political philosophy. The utopian strain is clearly prevalent in totalitarian systems, all of which are antithetical to classical liberalism and modern American conservatism.

    On the right, liberalism manifests itself as belief in the virtues of individuals maximizing utility in the free market, as an emphasis on keeping government off one’s back, on the right to own guns without restriction, on the right to consume as much material goods as one wishes regardless of its effect on the planet, and as a belief in the ability of the United States to impose democracy on the world through the barrel of a gun or the door of a torture chamber.

    Does this even resemble the actual beliefs of, well, anyone? Liberal or conservative. Also, while it is possible that a fetish for free market economics could have a utopian overtone, it’s sort of difficult to square that particular circle.

    Your problem is that your political error translates into how you see Catholicism, for you are quick to denounce any who do not share your politics (not your theology) as somehow heterodox.

    Unlike say, yourself? BTW, isn’t it curious that you boys at Vox Nova are all so cozy with one Gerald Naus now that he’s not a practicing Catholic but is a practicing leftist. I think your sudden coziness towards that particular individual reveals all too much your own blatant partisanship.

  • Paul:

    There is most certainly a utopian thread within classical liberalism. Locke and Rousseau view their states of nature as utopian (or close enough in Locke’s case). Now to be sure, it is much stronger in communism and fascism, but that is because building off the liberal tradition they came to the notion that science and the right amount of government will lead to an improve of society.

    Indeed, liberalism holds that man is always rational and tends to deny the notion that man is fallen and therefore doomed to imperfection. This failure to emphasize the fallen nature of man made it prone to the utopian direction that its descendants have taken it.

    Furthermore, while I agree that sometimes Naus is treated too sympathetically at VN, it’s not as if the “boys” at Vn (poor Katerina and RCM) never disagree. think it’s true that we have a tendency to downplay the faults of those who disagree with us less-whether they are our friends or usual allies. For more on that, see the McCain love-fest before November in conservative circles.

    Minion:

    I would point out that before Iraq, the other side was just as willing to promote democracy with guns and judging by Obama’s foreign policy that hasn’t changed a whole lot (see Israel, in a situation I know you sympathize with).

  • Labels are problematic over the Internet, for many reasons: as wannabe writers, we like to call attention to ourselves, we “say” things we wouldn’t normally “say” in a different medium, labeling is cheap and easy and we all tend to be lazy, ect.

    That said, I enjoy TAC and hope that our blogs will continue to comment mutually. We should also all leave labeling behind as much as possible – like name-calling, which is also too easy to do – and engage points and substance with counter points and substance.

  • Contrary to popular belief, ‘labels’ aren’t in themselves an injustice; indeed, many times they are a ‘must’.

    It is by such means that we call evil ‘evil’ and good ‘good’.

    The injustice comes in when certain individuals come to call evil ‘good’ and good ‘evil’ or would leave the rather impressionable public believing thus.

  • There is most certainly a utopian thread within classical liberalism. Locke and Rousseau

    I would reject the classification of Rossueau as a classical liberal. If he can labeled thusly, then the term has no meaning. And I have no brief for Locke, but I’m not quite comfortable branding him a utopian. Yes, his state of nature musings were idealistic, but at the same time he acknowledges the imperfections of such a state – after all, what else can justify the social contract other than the very imperfections of such a state?

    Indeed, liberalism holds that man is always rational and tends to deny the notion that man is fallen and therefore doomed to imperfection.

    What then of pretty much all of the Founding Fathers – men like Adams, Madison and Hamilton, in particular – who had a pretty good understanding of the fallen nature of mankind (If men were angels . . .) Unless you deem them to be outside of the classical liberal tradition, then it’s hard to justify that claim.

    That being said, there certainly is a utopian strain in some current of liberal thought, exemplified in the American sense by Thomas Jefferson. That I would not deny, and I’d enjoy the opportunity of hashing this argument out further one day, but perhaps we’ll save that for another day.

    . think it’s true that we have a tendency to downplay the faults of those who disagree with us less-whether they are our friends or usual allies.

    The Closed Cafeteria

  • I have to agree with Paul – ‘utopian’ is a poor choice of word to describe classical liberalism.

    If the state of nature is a utopia, why the need for government? Locke’s state of nature is no where near as chaotic and violent as Hobbes’, but to say it is utopian, I think, is a stretch. Government still comes along to fix the problems of the state of nature, which are ultimately the results of flaws in people and their ‘private judgment’. Perhaps this isn’t an explicit recognition of a fallen nature, but it still seems far from a utopian conception.

    Rousseau on the other hand is not really a liberal; he is more a classical republican following in the tradition of Machiavelli. Republicanism and liberalism might have some overlap, and I think they are co-parents of 19th century socialism, but they’re distinct enough that no one should confuse them.

    Finally, I think MM just mis-spoke; modern liberalism insofar as it has socialist parentage does have a Utopian streak. We do have to make the distinction between modern and classical liberalism.

  • John Henry,

    I do not think Henry is a liberal extremist, much less someone who is Catholic as a ‘disguise…to push President Obama’s agenda of abortion on demand.’ That is a very serious and uncharitable accusation, and, in my opinion, calumnious, particularly since Henry made it quite clear he could not vote for Obama. If a commenter left such an accusation on one of my threads, I would delete it.

    His whole point is to disrupt the discussion on the content of my post.

    Henry K. has failed over and over to show any prudence, charity, or any semblance of practicing his Catholicism. If you have witnessed this then he is an even worse person than I thought. Purposely showing one face while in another instance leading sheep to the slaughter.

    Anymore comments that doesn’t pertain to the original posting will be deleted from here on out.

  • Sorry, got cut off:

    The Closed Cafeteria Gerald was almost literally hounded by the Vox Novaites on a daily basis. Now that Gerald has done a 180, they are eminently more accepting of him. So they’re basically showing by their actions that it is more tolerable to be a heterodox, politically left quasi-Catholic than an orthodox, politically conservative Catholic.

    For more on that, see the McCain love-fest before November in conservative circles.

    Umm, if by “love fest” you mean the “hold your nose and vote for him because he’s better than Obama” thread that ran through such circles, then maybe you have a point.

  • Paul,

    My reasons for placing Henry Karlson on indefinite moderation. His goal as well as his cohorts are to do the same to unwitting Catholics here at AC.

  • We do have to make the distinction between modern and classical liberalism.

    Exactly. And even then I think we have to make distinctions within the world of classical liberalism itself.

  • Tony in regard to your definition of liberal, Tito is correct in regard to modern American usage. In the 19th century sense of the term I am a political liberal. In today’s usage in this country I am a conservative. However, in neither usage am I a statist or a socialist. In terms of economics and the role of the state in the economy that is the true dividing line between most of the contributors of American Catholic and most of the contributors of Vox Nova. The exceptions to this dividing line are not insignificant. For example, Blackadder as a libertarian makes me look Leftist on economic matters, and Joe, who is a contributor to both blogs, is a Distributist I believe. (Please correct me if I am mistaken Joe.) However I think in general the role of the state in society is the general line of division between the Left and the Right in contemporary America.

  • Well its like Robert Bork said, liberalism was a good idea when it was tempered with other ideas and forces that prevented its less desirable tendencies from running amok.

    But then, so was conservatism.

    Now we simply have shrillness.

  • I am a Distributist 🙂

    But more importantly, I just try to follow Catholic social teaching as best I can, regardless of where that puts me on the secular political map.

  • Paul,

    I think you are missing the connections. Liberalism and socialism are intimately related. The Church always tended to condemn both in the same breath – and here I think we can draw a very interesting parallel between Pius IX’s authoritarian hatred of liberalism and its socialist step-sister, and Leo XIII’s condemnation of both from an economic perspective.

    My point remains: both sides of the debate in the United States are deeply grounded in the liberal tradition. There are very few true conservative voices. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine that people use these terms inappropriately. And no, you can’t just lump a bunch of unconnected and often contradictory beliefs together– free market liberalism, huge spending on military, small spending on everything else, nationalism, traditionalist sexual norms, opposition to abortion — and ascribe any consistent political philosophy to it, let alone “conservative”.

  • “I am a Distributist.

    In other words, “Communist”.

  • I think you are missing the connections.

    Yes, MM, please lecture me about the genesis of political thought in America, and the various influences on it. This is just a topic way beyond my pay grade.

  • e., Joe is not a Communist. Joe and I do not see eye to eye on economics, but there is nothing of the Bolshevik about him.

  • Mr. McClarey,

    It’s just I don’t see how distributism, if actually implemented, would not ultimately end up being, in the end, “Communism”.

  • E,

    Seeing as how I don’t believe in a command economy, nationalization of the means of production, or violent class warfare, I’d have to be one strange communist.

    That, or you don’t know what the h**l you’re talking about, once again.

  • “It’s just I don’t see how distributism, if actually implemented, would not ultimately end up being, in the end, “Communism”.”

    How do you define communism?

  • e, I have my doubts how Distributism would work in the real world. However, as Joe has pointed out he disavows the characteristic elements of most Communist movements and I take him at his word.

  • Herr Hargrave,

    Yes, I do not find it (i.e., distributism) exceptionally inviting for the very fact that it will merely result in the same sort of tyrannical coercion by the State not unlike that infamously found in your so dearly beloved Marxist system.

  • John Henry & Christopher Blosser,

    Reflecting on my comments I see my error.

    Henry Karlson exemplifies the liberal extremists who disguise themselves as Catholics to push President Obama’s agenda of abortion on demand.

    Henry isn’t pushing for abortion on demand. I assume he isn’t for that matter.

    What I dislike are his distraction techniques of taking the discussion away from the intent of the post to something frivolous as to what the definition of “is” is (as an example).

    I’m sure he’s quite a decent human being, though he makes it hard for me to see that part of him.

  • Distributism does work in the real world. There are thousands of successful workers, consumers, housing and credit co-ops all over the world. I just think it needs to be spread further.

    It’s the ‘free market’ that no one can seem to agree upon – does it exist, is it an ideal, has it existed? What we’ve only ever had is either command economies, or varying degrees of state-capitalism.

    E,

    I’m not going to let you continue slandering me. Your comments are entirely without foundation, I have never advocated anything close to ‘tyrannical coercion’, I have made it clear more than once that Distributism is a voluntary system.

    If there is some thing I have said that makes you think otherwise, quote it, and we will discuss it.

    If you can’t do that, I’m going to start throwing out the garbage – by that I mean, your posts.

  • What’s interesting about several of the comments above is that Tito went overboard in attacking Henry, and then was immediately criticized himself by several other bloggers here.

    What a sharp contrast from the conduct at Vox Nova, where Michael I. gets away with all kinds of slanderous comments and no one disagrees; where Gerald openly dissents from the Magisterium but no one disagrees (far from it: Henry pretends to believe — but he couldn’t possibly be that dumb — that Gerald’s comments are all faithful to the Church’s teachings); where commenters like Digby and Mark D. and Kurt say even more outrageous things and are never called to account.

  • Joe,

    I must’ve gotten you confused with some petty tyrant who actually wanted to impose this incredibly idealistic Chester-belloc vision on the whole world regardless of what anybody else had to say about it and would compel entire societies and even nations to do so on the simple basis that he knew what was best for them on a grander scale.

  • e,

    That would involve an awful lot of confusion. Joe shows no signs of being a petty tyrant. Still, if we’ve cleared up any confusion, one hopes we can move on.

  • e., not sure how you made that confusion, given Joe’s regular m.o. of proposing, not imposing.

  • I don’t particularly buy Newt’s “conversion”. Lets give it some time to see how it plays out.

    To be blunt I see no one in the field right now that is particularly appealing. I was a Paul supporter, and I don’t see any true “Old Right” guys coming into replace his voice in the Republican field. Its possible Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal or Gary Johnson might run, but a lot depends on the policy direction they advocate.

    I would be more optimistic about Republican chances today if they would renounce Bush foreign policies and return to being the party on non-intervention and diplomacy, as opposed to a party of blind militarism.

  • I would gladly and happily vote for Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska if he were to run for President.

  • 1). I agree with MM about the confusions of political labels. The Australians have it correct: the U.S. center-right / libertarian infused economics and Wilsonian adventure-ism that passes for center-right (it’s not; Robert Taft was) should have it’s home in the Liberal Party.

    2). The American Conservative magazine / Pat Buchanan / Steve Sailer / Oakeshott – Scruton ect. is much more in line with what it means to be of the Right. This died more or less in the 70s as liberals upset with Lyndon Johnson’s statist projects – who never left their idealisms behind – came to dominate the political Right (the borderline ant-Semitic stuff from the “paleos” is based in truth – there were and are a lot of very sharp and active Jews who abandoned the Left.

    3). That said, ALL of our discourse and political activity is inescapably under the umbrella of Enlightenment liberalism. There is no other way – it was an earthquake.

  • Whoops – minor typos above. That’s annoying.

    And let it be on record that I have written “I agree with MM”.

    Ha!

    I strongly recommend getting ahold of some Oakeshott and Roger Scruton. The basic idea is that to be of the Right is a temperment, a sentiment against all totality and ideology, against all utopia, and for local community and family as the basic foundations of society. Any harm to these (including industrial capitalism and the “elevation” of markets over society) are to be opposed.

  • e.,
    Yes, I do not find it (i.e., distributism) exceptionally inviting for the very fact that it will merely result in the same sort of tyrannical coercion by the State not unlike that infamously found in your so dearly beloved Marxist system.

    I think the difference is that distributism is more of a free association model, rather than a state coercive model which would make it socialist. While Joe disavows the label socialist, he hasn’t found a state intervention he doesn’t like so, if his political views defined distributism, it would be very close to socialism, but I think that view is flawed.

    Anthony,

    I don’t particularly buy Newt’s “conversion”. Lets give it some time to see how it plays out.

    I see. Do we speak of everyone’s conversion the same way, or just Newt? Do you think he did it for political reasons??? Oh, yes, there’s a strong precedence for conservative Catholics as successful national candidates.

  • Hey Tito,

    I will end this discussion right now about liberalism…

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/libsin.htm

  • Bret, the Publisher’s Preface states, By definition, Liberalism is the mistaken notion that “One religion is as good as another.”

    I don’t think that’s how liberalism is being used in the context of this combox.

  • Matt,

    “While Joe disavows the label socialist, he hasn’t found a state intervention he doesn’t like”

    This is another slander. On what do you basis this ridiculous claim? You first brought it up when I merely said I agreed with Obama’s ideas on clean energy and health care. Those are two ‘interventions’.

    Distributism has to do with property ownership. It doesn’t exclude government leadership on issues that affect the entire country. I evaluate each proposed ‘intervention’ on its individual merits.

    I am opposed, for instance, to gun control and a state monopoly on education. I am opposed to attempts to interfere with home schooling. I am opposed to big businesses forcing their way into small communities where they are not welcome. I am opposed to religious communities being forced to tolerate pornography and gay pride parades. These are only a few examples.

    In short I believe communities should be given a much wider range of freedom to determine their own standards, provided they don’t violate actual Constitutional rights of individuals and not made up ones (like the ‘right to privacy’ conjured up by the Blackmum court, or the ‘right to obscenity’ that is falsely derived from the first amendment). And I believe Distributism is the best economic base for a strong community, because it centers economic and political power at the local level and grants more people the opportunity to directly control their own lives, their own political and social environments.

    So I would call myself, in addition to being a Distributist, a communitarian. As for socialism, I stand with the Church: socialists have made some just demands. Yet it isn’t necessary to actually be a socialist to make those demands, and in becoming so, one professes agreement also with many other unjust demands.

    On the other hand, people such as yourself like to tar and feather people whose ideas sound unappealing to you with a negative label that some people will feel bound to reject without ever actually exploring the content of what is being proposed. It’s a cheap, dirty tactic, it smothers rational discourse and it feeds into the stupidity and hysteria of the mob.

  • I mean, Matt, you don’t even know me. I’ve only been here for a few weeks. And yet you have the bloody nerve to say I’ve ‘never met a government intervention’ I didn’t like, as if you’ve known me my whole life?

    Shame on you!

  • Matt,

    Your comments about Joe was unnecessary and in my view, entirely untrue. I personally find the majority of your comments to be condemning and not personable, or charitable in diction. Perhaps, it isn’t intentional. But, if you could, for the sake of civil dialogue, be more charitable toward others and consider your comments before posting, I’m sure everyone would be more appreciative. Thank you.

  • I don’t know a whole lot about Distributism, but from what I do know, it hardly seems communist. It’s more in line with the “conservative” ideals of individuals being self-sufficient instead of depending on someone else to provide them with a paycheck (be that the government or some mega-corporation). In other words, “give them a hand up, not a handout.”

    It’s also more in line with the very Catholic concept of subsidarity — doing things at the lowest level of societal organization that can handle it, e.g. the individual, family, parish, neighborhood, or community.

    I really wish more political conservatives would pick up on the idea of subsidarity. Instead of just constantly hammering on the notion that ALL government and taxes are bad, promote the idea of keeping government and taxation as localized (and as accountable) as possible instead of handing everything off to the state or the feds.

    As for GOP prospects for 2012, well, nobody’s perfect and conservatives had better stop expecting a “perfect” candidate. Beggars can’t be choosers and we’re pretty much beggars right now. Bear in mind, though, than inexperience is a problem that tends to get better with time. The longer Jindal, Palin, et al. stay in office the more experienced they become.

  • S.B.,

    Thank you for pointing the difference.

    Though I disagree that my comments went overboard, I do recognize the charitable correction from my fellow writers and combox buddies and understand to withdraw such comments since others deem them offensive.

    I want AC to be a forum of constructive and if possible positive dialogue on even the most contentious issues.

    Please do not hesitate to email any of us or post a comment in the combox if any one of us have crossed the line.

    Regardless of where anyone stands as a Catholic, we should all treat each other as brothers in Christ. I want AC to be welcome to those that care about helping the poor and the homeless as well as protecting life in all stages of life.

    We are all Catholics first, Americans of whatever political persuasion second.

    Sugar goes much farther than vinegar as they say.

  • I tried posting this on Fr. Longnecker’s website but couldn’t get signed into Word Press to do so, so I’ll summarize it here.

    Basically, Fr. argues that priestly celibacy was easier for men to live with years ago because many good Catholic men saw the life of a priest as being much easier and more secure than that of a married man who would have to support a wife and lots of kids (because they weren’t practicing birth control) and carefully save up to pay for everything the family needed (because it wasn’t as easy to borrow money then). Today, he says, marriage looks like a much better life because women work outside the home, most couples only have two kids, and they can own two cars, a house in the suburbs, and pay for everything on their credit cards.

    All that is true but I wanted to add some further observations.

    In those days (early Baby Boom era) just about any able-bodied man who was able to read and write (and even some who couldn’t) could usually find a manufacturing job at pretty good wages, and count on it to be there until he retired, at which point he could expect at least a small pension to live on. In many communities in the Midwest and Northeast such jobs were readily available, and men didn’t have to move out of town or very far away to find them. (I used to live in one such town in northern Illinois that had a large clock factory, which closed in the early 1980s, throwing the local economy into a tailspin that lasted well into the next decade.)

    Plus he could expect to have dinner on the table every night, and count on his wife to handle nearly all the details of child-rearing. A high school diploma was generally all that was needed to get a decent job; there was no need to go into debt for years or decades to get a college or professional degree. He could also continue to live near his parents, brothers, sisters, etc. and his children would grow up in close contact with them.

    Today any man who expects to be the sole support of a large family would pretty much have to obtain a college degree in a highly paid professional or technical field (incurring lots of debt in the process, unless he did a stint in the military first to get GI Bill benefits) and then, perhaps, move to a part of the country where his skills are needed (e.g. Silicon Valley), away from his family of origin (no siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles around to help babysit the kids).

    And even after all that, he would have no confidence that his job would not disappear after the next boom-bust cycle, nor can he count on any kind of retirement security. Plus, he has to be prepared to pay his children’s way through college if they are to have any kind of decent living. And, since his wife works they have to worry more about finding decent child care and supervising their kids’ after school activities.

    So when you add it all up, I’m not so sure that marriage is an “easier” choice today.

  • Paul,

    Yes, I know your Ph.D topic was on early American political philosopy, and I am most assuredly not getting into that debate with you! However, you miss the big picture, the sense that what calls itself American conservatism is deeply deeply liberal. It is the same way that many constitutional legal experts (many of them brilliant) are mired so deeply in legal positivism that they miss the bigger natural law picture.

  • ou miss the big picture, the sense that what calls itself American conservatism is deeply deeply liberal.

    Actually, no, I haven’t denied that American conservatism is the stepchild in some ways of classical liberalism. In fact, I cherish the fact that conservatives are greater expositors of true liberalism than the people that we call liberal today – so, we actually agree to a point on this issue. My point of departure is your classification of classical liberalism as a utopian political ideology.

  • …the sense that what calls itself American conservatism is deeply deeply liberal.

    Umm, I think everyone gets that. However, we also understand there are contexts in which terms are used (as someone above pointed out). MM, you continually use the terms left and right. We give you enough credit to assume that you’re railing against the right, it’s not because you think they’re sympathetic to French monarchy or sitting on the right side of the National Constituent Assembly. Wouldn’t you think I looked either ignorant or like a condescending ass if I complained every time someone used the terms left and right outside of the context of the French Revolution?

  • Sorry for using a little hyperbole to illustrate why e. is confused about distributism, frankly I think a lot of people are a little hypersensitive.

    To be totally direct without any ‘license’. I have not ON THIS BLOG seen a discussion with Joe in which he did not defend government intervention into the economy which could be considered a socialist policy. If I have missed one, then please post it and I will stand corrected.

    My point is that distributism is not communism or socialism because it is not controlled by the state. The confusion comes because of what I stated above, we hear that distributism is good in the same breath as endorsement of government control of the economy and it’s easy to conclude that distributism is that… it is not.

    Joe: why not make some more posts on distributism as endorsed by champions like Chesterton and Belloc? This might alleviate the confusion, and further your cause.

  • Well, you have not see me on this blog argue once against government intervention policies, so I suppose there isn’t capitalist policy, I do like?

    I’m sure you see the point. Simply because I haven’t done so, doesn’t mean I despise every stripe of capitalism. Same case here. Though, I’d suggest two things: Either read up personally on distributism, ask Joe what he thinks of ‘this’ or ‘that’ idea you encounter. Or, surely, as Joe might, ask him to post on distributism (as you have done) and maybe he can clarify some things for you.

    Thanks Matt.

  • Eric,
    Well, you have not see me on this blog argue once against government intervention policies, so I suppose there isn’t capitalist policy, I do like?

    nor did I suggest this about Joe.

    I’m sure you see the point. Simply because I haven’t done so, doesn’t mean I despise every stripe of capitalism.

    Nor did I suggest this about Joe.

    I’m sure you see MY point, if the biggest defender of distributism is seen as a big defender of government intervention in economy, that some readers may get the mistaken notion that distributism is like socialism. I’m suggesting that that this conflation be disavowed.

    Same case here. Though, I’d suggest two things: Either read up personally on distributism, ask Joe what he thinks of ‘this’ or ‘that’ idea you encounter. Or, surely, as Joe might, ask him to post on distributism (as you have done) and maybe he can clarify some things for you.

    I have read about distributism thank you very much, I am well aware of it and that it is a morally good economic system and that it is not socialist or communist in it’s nature. I am not a huge proponent of it on a wide scale because I don’t really see how it could be implemented without massive personal conversions, I’d be delighted to hear and discuss more about how it could be done in the current milieu, I’ve suggested this before on this blog and again today.

  • “I see. Do we speak of everyone’s conversion the same way, or just Newt? Do you think he did it for political reasons??? Oh, yes, there’s a strong precedence for conservative Catholics as successful national candidates.”

    Matt,

    I certainly do not profess an ability to peer into any man’s soul. However, its worth noting Tony Blair made the leap and it hasn’t amounted to much. There were rumblings of a W. Bush conversion.

    My concern is mainly with Newt’s own rocky track record in Congress and as Speaker of the House. He comes from a brand of Republicanism that loves the State. He seems to try and waffle between constitutional convictions and political trendiness. In short, I don’t really know what to think of him.

    If I had to guess, he would have appealing rhetoric during a presidential run and then promptly keep this fat American Empire on its destructive trajectory once in office.

    How does it relate to his conversion? It doesn’t, and thats precisely the problem. I would expect a lot from a constitutionally conservative, Catholic president and I don’t think Newt’s really up to the burden.

  • Anthony,

    I certainly do not profess an ability to peer into any man’s soul. However, its worth noting Tony Blair made the leap and it hasn’t amounted to much.

    That’s a fair point, but there’s a big difference between Blair and Newt. So far as government policy is concerned, there is little that Newt is obliged to reform in order to be consistent with the Catholic faith, while perhaps in some case it ought to.

    There were rumblings of a W. Bush conversion.

    I’ve heard this too, and I would say the same as I did about Newt.

    My concern is mainly with Newt’s own rocky track record in Congress and as Speaker of the House. He comes from a brand of Republicanism that loves the State. He seems to try and waffle between constitutional convictions and political trendiness. In short, I don’t really know what to think of him.

    I would suggest his conversion to Catholicism should not change your healthy skepticism.

    If I had to guess, he would have appealing rhetoric during a presidential run

    I really doubt it would be all that popular of a move, especially among the evangelical base of the GOP. While they might be comfortable with a Catholic, it seems less likely they would really want one who was a recent defector from their own denomination.

    and then promptly keep this fat American Empire on its destructive trajectory once in office.

    How does it relate to his conversion? It doesn’t, and thats precisely the problem. I would expect a lot from a constitutionally conservative, Catholic president and I don’t think Newt’s really up to the burden.

    You’re right on this. I guess my main point is we need to carefully separate his faith conversion from any political expectations.

  • Joe & Matt:

    Yeah, right.

    This highly noble system of distributism of which you speak could never ultimately end up being an even distribution of property by force of law.

    Far be it for me to consider Chesterton’s ideas in this regard romantic (let alone, extremist) when, in fact, they are achievable and, what’s more, without any such coercion by the State.

  • GK Chesterton:“That economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists, roughly recognizable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage.”

    I’m not sure that what Chesterton describes is accurate to the current situation here in the US. Small business ownership and stock ownership directly or via mutual funds held in 401k’s and pensions is incredibly broad here. While there is much wealth concentrated in a relatively small group, there is massive opportunity for independence here, far more so than any place.

    Derived from: http://www.census.gov/epcd/www/smallbus.html

    20% of US workers own their own business, or are employed at a firm with less than 5 workers.

    45% of US workers own their own business, or are at a firm with less than 100 workers.

    42% of US workers are employed at firms with more than 500 workers

    Keep in mind that many of those in the latter category are completely free and capable of becoming small business owners but find the safety of corporate life preferable however many of them do, including me.

    It would be interesting merge this with a study of stock ownership by those employed, as it would further move the “concentration” down.

    I don’t think there’s any of the more conservative poster’s here that would argue that more small business and more broadly distributed ownership of enterprise would be a good thing. We are the ones advocating for measures which have shown or can reasonably be demonstrated to aid people in building their own business or becoming owners of shares.

    To me, the change to broader ownership can only be done through coaxing, and leadership, not through coercion. Frankly much of it can be accomplished from the ground up, and I think you’ll find that within the conservative movement it largely has…Go Joe the Plumber!

    It’s actually my theory that preferential treatment by government is part of the reason that ownership concentrates in large corporations as much as it does. The complexity of government regulation makes economies of scale more significant than they ought to. Last summer’s law requiring testing of virtually every product intended for children is in the process of destroying virtually every small manufacturer in that market.

  • Matt,

    What government interventions or what have you have been proposed, that I agree with?

    I can only recall TWO things that I’ve said I agree with, when did the rest of this happen?

    Do you think I’m lying when I pointed out in an earlier post, right here on this thread, all of the government interventions I don’t agree with?

    You don’t seem to understand that the issue of Distributism is separate from the issue of government regulation. If we had an economy based on workers cooperatives, if the majority of firms were structured in just the way I think they ought to be, even then I would STILL be for government regulation and oversight. Why?

    First of all, because I’m a Catholic and I believe, as Pope Pius XI wrote, that the economy must be ordered and guided by an effective principle – an ethical principle, the common good. The economy exists to serve man and not the other way around. Government regulation of the economy is completely and wholly endorsed by CST and does not negate the principles of Distributism.

    Meanwhile economic liberalism – the idea that the economy should not be regulated, that each individual has unlimited economic freedom, that their cumulative efforts over time will generate the best economic result – has been unambiguously, clearly, condemned.

    The key as always is finding a balance – between economic anarchy and command economies. The most powerful economies the world has ever seen have existed because of extensive private-public collaboration. This ‘free market’ doesn’t even exist, it never has existed. We know that because its most ardent defenders, whenever markets are blamed for any problem, immediately step forward and declare, ‘that’s not the free market’. Ok, so where is it? What does it do? Nowhere and nothing.

    For me the choices are not ‘free market’ versus distributism, but rather economic oligarchy in a state-capitalist framework, or economic democracy in a distributist framework. The ‘free market’ isn’t an option, a totally deregulated economy isn’t an option and most of us do not proceed on the naive assumption that it is.

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Debt Sun

Wednesday, April 22, AD 2009

 debt-sun

Hattip to Instapundit.  The Heritage Foundation supplied the above graphic which compares Obama budget “cuts” of $100,000,000.00 to the appropriations bill for fiscal 2009 of $410,000,000,000.00, the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes erronously called the “stimulus” bill, which has a price tag of $787,000,000,000.00 and the estimated bill for fiscal year 2010 of $3,600,000,000,000.00.  How ludicrous is all this?  Ludicrous enough that the Obama supportive Associated Press makes fun of it.  Ludicrous enough that even Paul Krugman is chuckling.

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11 Responses to Debt Sun

  • Is this the equivalent of global warming?

  • Considering that Al Gore helped to create both Phillip, I’d say you are on to something!

  • Perhaps he could cut $100 million by merely not printing that amount!

  • The problem is that a lot of people will fall for this 0bama stunt. This man preys on the stupid better than anyone.

    It’s been a long time since I heard the word matterhorn.

  • Fron the “White Giant” to the “Red Dwarf”

    The end of life as we know it.

    OR

    The Big Bang, and the ever expanding universe. 🙂

  • You’re just upset that you’re looking at winter coming. 😉

  • “Either we turn away from this madness or our ecnomy will eventually hit a wall of governmental debt and the whole house of credit cards will come crashing down.

    I think we’re already getting there. This wretchedly regrettable crisis we’re currently in is merely but one of its manifestations:

    “The root cause of today’s crisis lies not in the housing market but in America’s foreign debt. Over the past four years the U.S. private sector has borrowed an astonishing $3 trillion from the rest of the world. The money, directly and indirectly, came from countries such as China, Germany, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, which ran huge trade surpluses with America. Foreign investors trusted their funds to U.S. financial institutions, which used much of the money for mortgage loans.

    But American families took on a lot more debt than they could comfortably afford. Now no one is sure how much of that towering sum the U.S. is going to pay back — and all the uncertainty is roiling the financial markets.

    SINCE MID-2004, AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS HAVE TAKEN ON A BIT MORE THAN $3 TRILLION IN MORTGAGE DEBT.”

    SOURCE: Chief Economist Michael Mandel

    — and —

    “Experts say that even when the current credit crunch eases, the nation may finally have maxed out its reliance on borrowed cash. Today’s crisis is a warning sign, they say, that consumers could be facing long-term adjustments in the way they finance their everyday lives.

    ‘I think we’re undergoing a fundamental shift from living on borrowed money to one where living within your means, saving and investing for the future, comes back into vogue,’ said Greg McBride, senior analyst at Bankrate.com. ‘THIS ENTIRE CREDIT CRUNCH IS A WAKEUP CALL TO ANYBODY WHO WAS ATTEMPTING TO BORROW THEIR WAY TO PROSPERITY.’

    AMERICANS ARE MORE RELIANT ON DEBT THEN EVER BEFORE.

    The portion of disposable income that U.S. families devote to debt hit an all-time high in the second half of last year, topping 14 percent, figures from the Federal Reserve show. When other fixed obligations — like car lease payments and homeowner’s insurance — are added in, about one of every five household dollars is now claimed by bills.

    The credit card industry lobbied heavily in 2005 to tighten bankruptcy laws to make it more difficult for consumers to seek court protection and shed responsibility for paying off debt. But in a sign of just how much households have become dependent on borrowing, the average amount of credit card debt discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings has tripled — to $61,000 per person — from what it was before the law was passed.

    ‘We are going to have to cut back,’ said Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. thinktank. ‘We’ve really been living beyond our means.'”

    SOURCE: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27149408

  • “From the “White Giant” to the “Red Dwarf”

    The end of life as we know it.

    OR

    The Big Bang, and the ever expanding universe.”

    I’d vote for the Big Whimper Don!

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