Your Wealth Makes Me Wealthy

Friday, June 12, AD 2009

One of the concepts in economics that people seem to have difficulty grasping at an intuitive level is how other people’s income affects one’s own income. Many people instinctively ascribe to the “lump theory” of money, in which one may imagine all wealth to consist of a set amount of money, like a dragon’s hoard. If you capture more of it, that means that someone, somehow, has ended up with less.

In certain circumstances, this theory might describe things pretty well, but in most times and places wealth grows and shrinks with productivity. Basically, if I am able to produce more goods and services of value to othe people in the same amount of time, then my income grows.

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5 Responses to Your Wealth Makes Me Wealthy

  • I agree. A man who won’t mow his own lawn isn’t much of a man. Even when I had 1 acre to mow, I did it on my own. With a regular, not a riding mower mind you. Couldn’t afford one.

  • I mow my lawn at home and absolutely hate doing it, although one of my sons mows half of it for me. I have my office lawn mowed and would never think of doing it myself. I would pay to have it done at home, except that I am cheaper than I am lazy (at least when it comes to yard work.)!

  • Excellent point. A related point is that rising wages in one field will make that field relatively more attractive, which means that wages in other fields will have to go up in order for employers to be able to retain workers.

  • My lawn mowing days are over, I hope forever, but I did it for many years and took pride in it, as did my son after me.

    My son, Michael, is matriculating at the University of Illinois this fall to pursue his MBA. Since graduating from DePaul in 2004 (Economics) he has worked for a credit union downtown while living in greater Lincoln Park. He secured that job, which has served him very well, by starting there doing part-time clerical work during the summers he was at DePaul. The part-time work opportunity came by way of a recommendation and tip from the CFO of an Atlanta credit union for whom Michael performed part-time mail room work while in high school. That summer job was the product of the CFO being a neighbor who so admired the outstanding job Michael did on our front lawn (the CFO is an avid golfer and can appreciate such things), that he offered Michael the job under the theory that “any kid who takes that kind of pride in mowing and caring for his family’s lawn is someone I want working for me.” Now that kid is off to Champaign. Taking pride in one’s work does not always pay off, even though we all agree it should I suppose; but sometimes it does.

  • Chesterton had some reflections on wealth [Illus London News U.S. 12 July 1924]:
    “It is a curious paradox that competition had really the same ethics as communism… The individualist of this school did not, indeed, think of it as other people’s money. Neither did he think of it as his own money. He thought of it simply as money, as a mass of worldly wealth vaguely wandering about, a floating treasure that was in its nature unattached… It was property without a proprietor…
    This sort of individualism had no sense of property…

More Biden Merriment

Friday, June 12, AD 2009

Biden 

Joe Biden, Veep-in-charge-of-public-amusement , continues his one man war against national gloom Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. In regard to a question about the new Hudson river rail tunnel on June 8, Joe said, ““Look, this is designed, this totally new tunnel, is designed to provide for automobile traffic.  It’s something, as you know, up your way, that’s been in the works and people have been clamoring for for a long time.”  The tunnel is solely for trains.

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2 Responses to More Biden Merriment

Stagflation or Hyperinflation?

Friday, June 12, AD 2009

laffer-monetarybase

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air .  Economist Arthur Laffer, he of the Laffer Curve, sounds the tocsin regarding the incredible expanision of the money supply.

“But as bad as the fiscal picture is, panic-driven monetary policies portend to have even more dire consequences. We can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years, and a concomitant deleterious impact on output and employment not unlike the late 1970s.

About eight months ago, starting in early September 2008, the Bernanke Fed did an abrupt about-face and radically increased the monetary base — which is comprised of currency in circulation, member bank reserves held at the Fed, and vault cash — by a little less than $1 trillion. The Fed controls the monetary base 100% and does so by purchasing and selling assets in the open market. By such a radical move, the Fed signaled a 180-degree shift in its focus from an anti-inflation position to an anti-deflation position.

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75 Responses to Stagflation or Hyperinflation?

  • I think that significant inflation is a realistic possibility and have made some investment decisions to take account of that fact. I’m less confident than I used to be, however, that we will see any serious inflation.

  • I agree with Blackladder. Recessionary times introduce deflationary presssures that can greatly intensify the severity of a recession. In fact, that is largely what happened in the 1930s. Milton Friedman and other so-called monetarists have long pointed out that the Fed’s failure to counter the deflationary pressures by keeping a stable money supply (in a deflationary environment the maintenance of a stable money supply requires undertaking actions that in normal times would greatly increase money supply, i.e., be inflationary) via liberalized bank lending practices was what made what should have been an ordinary contraction into the prolonged Great Depression. Of course, economists agree that there is no perfect measure of money suppply (with velocity of money being a related issue), so how much to prime the pump is always a matter of imperfect judgment. Bernanke is rightly being aggressive, knowing that deflationary risks are generally worse than inflationary risks. That by no means suggests that he is estimating correctly; it is possible that inflation will ensue. But I don’t fault him for his prudential judgments on this score.
    I am more worried about the production of structural deficits. Keynes is certainly correct that fiscal policy can counteract economic contractions via the multiplier effect. The problem is timing. History indicates that the intended effects of fiscal stimulus often occur only after the economy has already started to recover, and then operates as a drag on that recovery by virtue of the government borrowing crowding out private borrowers and thereby increasing the cost of investment capital. And if such deficits are structural rather than a one-time shot in the arm the drag can be more than temporary. Well see.

  • Donald, your armchair economic analysis is embarrassing. Yes, of course inflation is a risk. But right now, there is no evidence of inflation on the horizon. There are a number of ways to gauge inflation expectations, the best being the breakeven inflation rates derived from TIPs — this is what financial markets think rates will be in the future. Right now, the 10-year breakeven rate is around 2 percent. That’s not high. But it has risen from zero and deflation risks fade. You can also look at long bond yields — while they have risen lately, they are still at spectacularly low levels, which suggests low growth and low inflation in the future.

    Bernanke is doing the right thing. Yes, its never been done before, but Bernanke — in his own research — has thought about these things long before he had his current job. You are aware of the zero bound and why unconventional quantitative and credit easing are needed, right?

    As for your stagflation theory– do you understand what you are saying? The 1970s stagflation resulted from an adverse supply shock, leading to less growth and higher inflation. What we have to today is a major negative demand shock, which leads to lower growth and lower inflation — and we have that. What would likely drive higher inflation in the future? Well, a rebound in growth before the Fed has had time to unwind liquidity.

    You’ve also ben harping a lot about the deficit, failing to acknowledge that the high deficit today is nearly all the result of the economy plus the inheritance of Bush. See the numbers in this post: http://vox-nova.com/2009/06/10/blame-bush-and-the-recession/. You may agree or disagree with the efficacy of the stimulus, but it’s not a main driver of the deficit. You might want to focus your attention instead on the big one – the fact that military spending accounts for almost a quarter of the federal budget and that the Iraq war will cost about $3 trillion, far exceeding anything Obama will spend. Welcome back to the reality-based community, Donald, the Bush years are over.

  • Thank you Tony for bringing Ms. Rosy Scenario to the combox. I stand by my prediction of stagflation, unless Obama manages to ignite hyper-inflation with his inane fiscal policies.

  • This article contends that we are already beginning to see signs of stagflation and I tend to agree:

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/142370-why-stagflation-has-already-begun?source=feed

  • Oh, and Tony, although I think Bush deserves a huge amount of blame for the Bailout Swindle of 2008, even the New York Times realizes that blaming Bush as a tactic to avert criticism of the Obama policies on the economy has just about reached its shelf life.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/us/politics/12memo.html?_r=2&ref=todayspaper

    Your guy got elected last year and it’s his economy now. I believe his policies have made a bad situation much worse. Time will tell. Ultimately however, he will will be the one to take the credit or the blame.

  • MM,

    I think the thing the analysis you are linking to is missing is how much Obama had racked up in increasing the deficit in just one year. One can point to the likely overall cost of Iraq over the course of the 8+ total years we’ll be spending on it, but Obama has put through some very hefty price tags in just one year, which leaves one to wonder what it will look like by the time he’s done ending health care as we know it and such.

    Obama pushed through even more “tax cuts” (balanced by an increase on the rich that will do little when the incomes of the rich are going down a great deal) and a 1 Trillion+ “stimulus” package which amounted to a retroactive partisan wish list. So far, the cost per year of having Obama is much higher than of having Bush — and Bush himself spent like a drunken sailor. Your argument would be reassuring if we could be assured that Obama would resign after a year in office, but as things stand, not so much.

  • There’s nothing particularly rosy about what MM is saying here. The markets aren’t forecasting much inflation right now (see here and here).

  • After the last year BA, I am somewhat sceptical as to the predictive ability of the markets, but your point is well taken that there is a division of opinion as to whether a bout of inflation is inevitable, and how much will result if we do experience it. Here is a good article by Paul Kasriel of Northern Trust as to why he sees inflation in our future.

    http://web-xp2a-pws.ntrs.com/content//media/attachment/data/econ_research/0906/document/ec060109.pdf

  • Nassim Taleb’s hedge fund — which made more than 100% in the past year due to correct forecasting — is betting heavily on inflation now. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124380234786770027.html

    What’s your track record of prediction, MM?

  • Donald,

    This is simply embarrassing. You don’t know what you are talking about. Randimly quoting other sources is no substitute for knowledge.

  • Darwin,

    Actually, that’s not true at all. First, Leonhart’s numbers (attributing only 7 percent of the fiscal worsening to Obama’s stimulus) is from 2009-12. He points out that extending the analysis a few years beyond this makes Obama look only a tiny bit worse.

    Others have argued that Leonhart is even overstating Obama’s contribution. AS Jonathan Chait points out, an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities thinks that the deficit under Obama will actually be $900 billion than under current policies (a standard fiscal policy benchmark).

    People who simply look at the deficit often fail to distinguish cyclical and structural factors, and within nstructural factors, dynamics from pre-existing programs. Let me give you an example from the UK, which is even more extreme. In a year, the deficit jumped from about 6 perent to over 12 percent of GDP. Of that, Brown’s fiscal stimulus accounts for 1.5 percent, the rest is the economy. It’s not so serious in the US (the UK relied a lot more onm sensitive asset-based taxes), but you had the downturn right as Bush’s previous measures (Iraq, tax cuts etc) were having a large dynamic impact.

    And by the way, nobody has yet answered by question: would you be willing to cut the deficit by cutting spending on the item that accounts for almost a quarter of spending, the single largest, discretionary spending porgram — the military? I would. Can we achieve common ground here?

  • Tony when you have something more of substance to say about this post, get back to me. I can understand however why people who have all their political hopes and fortunes tied in with this current administration might be a wee bit touchy right now, with a plurality of the public in some polls calling for the cancellation of the rest of the stimulus,
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/economic_stimulus_package/45_say_cancel_rest_of_stimulus_spending, and only 26% of the public supporting the GM bailout, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/auto_industry/26_applaud_gm_bailout_but_17_favor_boycott, it might be a longer four years than was originally thought for those who signed on for Hope and Change. Feel free to relieve stress whenever you wish by coming over here and venting.

  • Ah, some substance while I was responding to your earlier post. You want to slash spending on the military Tony? What a surprise. Tell you what. You help organize a movement to slash spending on the military and I’ll continue my efforts to get the Republicans in Congress to slash useless domestic spending and to trim military spending by closing useless bases and unnecessary weapon systems, both of which are not wanted by the Pentagon but are wanted by politicians eager to protect jobs in their districts, and maybe something will be accomplished. Question: what domestic spending, if any, would you be willing to have cut? Additional question, since you want socialized health care, how in the world can you pretend to have any concern about government spending?

  • Guys, unlike Vox Nova, your blog is doing a good job keeping commenters from flat-out lying about other people. Thus, just as you delete iafrate’s juvenile obscenities, you should delete MM’s insane remark above. Arguing with someone in a comments section is simply not “stalking.”

  • Agreed SB. I’ve deleted both Morning’s Minion’s comment and your response. Morning’s Minion proffered no evidence to support his contention, and, in any event, his contention was not germane to the discussion.

  • Thanks! That was really weird. Outside of a couple of emails literally a year ago, I’ve had absolutely nothing to do with MM in any way outside of blog comment boxes.

  • Actually, that’s not true at all. First, Leonhart’s numbers (attributing only 7 percent of the fiscal worsening to Obama’s stimulus) is from 2009-12. He points out that extending the analysis a few years beyond this makes Obama look only a tiny bit worse.

    I’m aware if that — my point is rather that this only takes one year of Obama’s decisions, and extrapolates the impact out over four years. If one had taken Bush’s 2001 decisions and extrapolated them out over four years, it wouldn’t have looked very bad either.

    Now, if your assumption is that Obama won’t be making additional decisions that will widen the deficit in the future, that is perhaps legitimate. But it doesn’t seem assured by any extent.

    And by the way, nobody has yet answered by question: would you be willing to cut the deficit by cutting spending on the item that accounts for almost a quarter of spending, the single largest, discretionary spending porgram — the military? I would. Can we achieve common ground here?

    Well, first off, like any responsible adult (including the candidate you supported) I think it would be grossly irresponsible, indeed inhumane and immoral, for the US to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan so quickly that unnecessary chaos and bloodshed resulted. As I recall, the Vatican has made much the same observation.

    As for how unreasonable it is for the US to spend roughly 20% of it’s budget on the military — I tend to think it’s a pretty small price to pay for most of the rest of the world agreeing to step out of the military business. A disproportionate share of world military spending is one of the plights of a hegemonic power. So I do not, of course, think that slashing US military expenditures the level of Germany or Italy would be a good thing for the world as a whole. But there is certainly money that’s wasted in the overall military budget, and I’d have no problem at all slashing that. Weren’t you the one who was so scornful of cutting “pork” as a means of helping the budget, though?

  • I note that Darwin is the only one addressing the argument. Sorry, Donald, but petulence is no substitute for knowledge. As I have shown, you don’t know what you are talking about. Take your stagflation argument — if we get inflation (unexpected inflation, because it is not priced in), it is because the rebound will have caught everybody by surprise. And that’s not exactly a bad thing. You don’t seem to know the difference between demand and supply shocks — that’s pretty basic, my friend.

    And the reason why I keep mentioning military spending is because (i) you seem to think spending iof far too high, leading to fiscal sustainability problem; (b) the military accounts for 20-25 percent of total spending and so is an obvious point to cut. There’s also that little thing about Christians seeking to turn swords into ploughshares.

  • Darwin:

    Obama supports reinstituting PAYGO, which means that any spending increase or tax cut would have to be financed by a tax hike or spending cut. That’s pretty good budget discipline (if only Bush had not thrown it out the window). But the real point of my comment here is to challenge Donald’s ridculous assertion that Obama’s decisions are behind the deficit number we see today.

    On the military issue, your answer basically says you place a very high value on this mind of spending. Well, I place a very high value on universal health care, on education, on income support for families. We all have our priorities — when so-called budget hawks like Donald seek to cut spending, what they really want to do is cut the spending they don’t like. So let’s be honest here. I would merely conclude by offering the point that spending on healthcare and education is more in tune withe gospel values, and with Catholic social teaching, than is such large spending on the military.

  • “Sorry, Donald, but petulence is no substitute for knowledge.”

    Indeed, Tony and yet you keep posting here anyway.
    Get a grip on yourself. The man you helped to elect to office is bankrupting the nation. His ludicrous appeal for paygo is akin to the man in Lincoln’s story who slays his mother and father and then throws himself on the mercy of the court as a poor orphan. Of course it is a complete sham.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124467627264104053.html

    In a few months only the true believers like you will be able to swallow the idea that Obama’s mad spending has done the nation any good.

  • Minion never got back on the question of the Mexico City Policy, Reagan and Bush at least asserted it, Obama and Clinton reversed it. I guess he/she took leave on the issue, doesn’t leave much room to act high and mighty. Reversing Mexico City policy is really shameful stuff, exporting funds for abortions overseas from some guy who has the Birth Certificate issue which I admit could be from extremists, still, it doesn’t change the fact, that many of his personal records are not for the general public to see including his long certificate of birth. What hypocrisy, what callousness. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/International/story?id=6716958&page=1 ABC news story. Seems she/he took a leave of absence on that one. That’s not to mention all of the other issues in this area like the Born Again Infant Protection Act.

    Not much room for the fancy words, petulance as far as I can see. Why take such a point of view serious in the first place, as if this person feels the rights to criticize others? Consider the source.

    I don’t mean that to be stern or offensive to anyone. There is no other way to put it when we are seeing how humane Obamanomics is supposed to be with money for healthcare, education and all that lala happy story. If my tone is serious, I would gladly tone it down.

  • Obama supports reinstituting PAYGO, which means that any spending increase or tax cut would have to be financed by a tax hike or spending cut.

    Well, first off, promises are one thing, actions are another. Thus far what we have to judge Obama on is a massive stimulus package — most of which hasn’t even gone out the door and thus isn’t even “stimulating” the economy yet. And we have a budget no smaller than Bush’s most modest. Frankly, with that foundation, even if he doesn’t raise spending even higher without tax increases, that’s very little help. I agree with you that Bush’s spending was out of control, but that means one has to cut it down directly, not freeze the status quo with PAYGO.

    On the military issue, your answer basically says you place a very high value on this mind of spending. Well, I place a very high value on universal health care, on education, on income support for families. We all have our priorities — when so-called budget hawks like Donald seek to cut spending, what they really want to do is cut the spending they don’t like. So let’s be honest here. I would merely conclude by offering the point that spending on healthcare and education is more in tune withe gospel values, and with Catholic social teaching, than is such large spending on the military.

    You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but thus far the track record of US military spending keeping the rest of the world fairly demilitarized is pretty good. Did you figure that the common good was better served in the first half of this century when US military spending was fairly small (though still a major percentage of the national budget — we just spent much less overall)? As I say, I’m all in favor of cutting military spending where it’s not actually conducive to the common good — but I tend to consider relative world peace to be conducive to the common good. And to be blunt — keeping Europe fairly demilitarized seems fairly essential to that goal.

    However, I would imagine that there are some things we could agree on on the number one area of spending: entitlements. Would you join me in supporting means testing for Social Security such that social security pay outs are phased out for people with higher incomes up to a max income (say, around 60k, very nice for a stage in life when you should own your home outright) above which no Social Security benefits at all would be paid out?

    Would you join me in supporting means testing medicare such that people with income over 40k pay for some of it and those over 60k pay for all of it? (I know you’re enthusiastic about MediCare’s cost savings, so clearly that would be a good deal for everyone.)

    Would you join me in supporting an end to farm subsidies?

    I’m sure there’s lots we can agree on without turning the world back into a powder keg.

  • Darwin:

    You still have not refuted the basic point that esimates of Obama’s contribution to the budget deficits how (depending on the assumptions used) either a tiny increase, or a vast improvement over the no-policy-change scenario. I think that’s pretty good fiscal discipline, especially in the midst of a recession where procylical fiscal tightening is exactly the wrong medicine. People seem simply to not understand the difference between overall and cyclically-adjusted budgets.

    And as for the stimulus not working, well, I’m not sure about that. Remember where we stand. In the last quarter of 2008, we came close to financial market meltdown. And first quarter GDP numbers were unaminously awful, big negative numbers from the US to Europe to Asia. But, now, the worst seems to have passed. Financial market stress is dramatically lower — look at LIBOR-OIS spreads and other indicators. Forward-looking indicators are turning up. Confidence is returning. Deflation risks seem to have passed. I think one reason for this is the huge fiscal and monetary stimulus in the system, not just here, but all over the world.

  • On Darwin’s other points: I don’t buy the American exceptionalist argument about keeping the world safe. WW2 is a long time ago. Since then we’ve have Mossadeq, Lumumba, Vietnam, the dictators in Latin America, nuclear weapons spreading, right to up Iraq and torture.

    Social security? That’s barely a problem! A little tinkering with the social security contribution can fix it. So I’m not quite sure I understand your proposal — whie social security has a big redistributive element (and should have), if you do what you propose, the social contract would end. Then again, that’s what many people want.

    Medicare is a problem. It’s costs are rising at an astronomical level, but what people don’t tell you is that private health care costs are rising faster. From that perspective, medicare is a good deal — relatively of course, as it wil still become unsustainable down the road. You can’t fix medicare wuitrhout fixing the entire health care system — and you know my views on that!

    Ending farm subscidies? In a heartbeat!

  • You still have not refuted the basic point that esimates of Obama’s contribution to the budget deficits how (depending on the assumptions used) either a tiny increase, or a vast improvement over the no-policy-change scenario.

    Actually, that’s pretty easy. Bush had not proposed anything nearly on the level of a 1.3 trillion dollar stimulus bill. If for some reason we’d had another term of Bush rather than a change in administration this year, total spending would almost certainly have been lower than it has been. As for whether the stimulus worked — I agree with you that things are starting to turn around, but I don’t see how one can lay that on Obama’s mat when most of the stimulus currently remains unspent. Really, the only thing that Obama has to recommend him at this point is that he hasn’t got around to enacting most of his agenda yet — other than the retroactive wish list bonanza of the stimulus, that is.

    I don’t buy the American exceptionalist argument about keeping the world safe. WW2 is a long time ago. Since then we’ve have Mossadeq, Lumumba, Vietnam, the dictators in Latin America, nuclear weapons spreading, right to up Iraq and torture.

    To be clear: It’s got nothing to do with American exceptionalism per se — other than to the extent that America happens to be better situated to be a hegemonic power than most of the other major powers on the world stage at the moment (for instance, because it doesn’t have regional enemies near it that would see it as a threat to see the US reach hegemonic levels of power.) Rather, it’s that I think having a hegemonic power which is not bent on conquest is much more conducive to world peace and well being than having a number of roughly balanced world powers. This difference is fairly clear if one looks at the difference between the last sixty years (even with occasional regional flair ups like Korea, Vietnam and Iraq) and the previous 150.

    Social security? That’s barely a problem! A little tinkering with the social security contribution can fix it. So I’m not quite sure I understand your proposal — whie social security has a big redistributive element (and should have), if you do what you propose, the social contract would end. Then again, that’s what many people want.

    The problem? Well, there’s “hardly a problem” with military spending either, if it’s function that you’re complaining about. But if you want to go after the largest areas of the budget, the real target is entitlements, which gives you two big targets.

    Social contract? Come now, my dear Rousseau, few people think of Social Security as a retirement account at this point. Everyone knows its a welfare program for the old, which for reasons passing understanding pays out even to the rich. If people want to save, they get an IRA or 401k. If saving money is truly of interest to you, you should have no problem with ending the charade that Social Security is anything other than a safety net program, and be happy to turn it into something which gives preferential option only to the poor.

  • Again, the stimulus bill is actually quite minor, as it is paid for in the later years (revsersing the Bush tax cuts etc). You should have a look at Jonathan Chait’s short piece: http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2009/06/11/the-truth-about-obama-and-the-deficit.aspx

  • So MM finally does realize, contra his post on Bartels a year ago, that much of what happens economically during a President’s 4 or 8 years in office is affected (if not determined) by a previous President.

    As I said in that thread — and it looks remarkably prescient, if I say so myself:

    Look at it this way: In 2009 or 2010, the US economy may experience a serious recession, as lots of people are predicting. This may be due to a thousand different factors — the collapse of the housing bubble, the price of oil, the collapse of the American honeybee population (driving up the price of food), decisions by foreign investors, etc., etc., etc.

    If such a recession does happen, it will be fundamentally stupid (for the same reasons that Rodrik and MM are fundamentally stupid here) to say, “Obama is President; therefore Democrats cause recessions.” I certainly wouldn’t say such an idiotic thing, and I’d eagerly condemn any Republican who did.

  • And as for the stimulus not working, well, I’m not sure about that. Remember where we stand. In the last quarter of 2008, we came close to financial market meltdown. And first quarter GDP numbers were unaminously awful, big negative numbers from the US to Europe to Asia. But, now, the worst seems to have passed.

    Given that the overwhelming majority of the stimulus money hasn’t and won’t be spent until the next couple of years, this is quite a magical effect. Just pass a bill without doing anything yet, and everything gets better.

    If the claim is that the economic movers are just inspired by the thought of all that money being spent two years from now, why can’t we just pass a bill that pretends to spend borrowed money in 2010 and 2011, but then just secretly waits to see whether it’s actually necessary at that point?

  • While projected spending can stimulate the private economy when vendors ramp up, the spending in this stimulus is primarily in the public sector (teachers, entitlement programs etc.), not in the private sector (infrastructure). Until those new public jobs come on line there is no new jobs (as evidenced by the unemployment numbers).

    No, whatever is going on in the economy is not from stimulus.

  • By the way, MM, shouldn’t you take a break from defending Obama for a moment, and saunter over to VN to amend your comments: 1) accusing a Jewish guy of not being “Catholic” enough, and 2) falsely accusing Joseph Bottum of “idolizing Ronald Reagan” and engaging in “Reagan worship”?

    Number 1 is was a jaw-hits-the-floor moment. Of course, Calvinists (I here refer to actual Calvinists, i.e., followers of John Calvin) have quite a better record of toleration towards Jews than the Catholic Church did up till just recently (for reasons that can be traced to John Calvin himself). Thus, perhaps you think it’s too Calvinist that First Things even lets a Jewish guy near the place.

  • S.B.,

    This isn’t my thread, but is it really necessary to comment here on another thread on an unrelated topic on another blog? (btw, I am sympathetic to your criticisms of the other post, I just don’t think it’s helpful to bring it up here.)

  • Sorry, it’s just that since Henry banned me from Vox Nova, there’s no other convenient outlet for tweaking MM on his absurdities. 🙂

  • I didn’t ban you from any of mys posts, SB, but I do try to ignore you. 10 percent of the time you say something interesting, while the other 90 percent consists in a barrage of harassment, over months and even years, off topic or on topic. And I want to respect John Henry’s wishes (this is his turf, not mine), but I will point out that discerning right from wrong is what the natural law is all about, and Jews are no different from Catholics is this regard.

    Well, SB, I guess this is one of the 10 percent of posts, because your link to Justin Wolfers (a really good economist) does manage to shed some light on the issue. For me, the key is the level of inflation expectations — from an unbelievably low 0.9 percent to 2.25 percent. If financial markets expect inflation of 2.25 percent in 10 years, then we really don’t have much to worry about. Of course, the speed of the correction could be an issue. I’ll repeat the point from earlier — if inflation gets out of control, it will most likely come from a recovery that comes sooner and stronger than most people now anticpate, before the Fed has a chance to properly drain excess liquidity from the system.

    I would also draw attention to Paul Krugman today, as he discusses this very topic:

    “On one side, the inflation worriers are harassing the Fed. The latest example: Arthur Laffer, he of the curve, warns that the Fed’s policies will cause devastating inflation. He recommends, among other things, possibly raising banks’ reserve requirements, which happens to be exactly what the Fed did in 1936 and 1937 — a move that none other than Milton Friedman condemned as helping to strangle economic recovery.

    What about the claim that the Fed is risking inflation? It isn’t. Mr. Laffer seems panicked by a rapid rise in the monetary base, the sum of currency in circulation and the reserves of banks. But a rising monetary base isn’t inflationary when you’re in a liquidity trap. America’s monetary base doubled between 1929 and 1939; prices fell 19 percent. Japan’s monetary base rose 85 percent between 1997 and 2003; deflation continued apace.”

    I would point out that Krugman was one of the first people to correct diagnose Japan in the 1990s.

  • Krugman on the stimulus:

    “And Republicans, providing a bit of comic relief, are saying that the stimulus has failed, because the enabling legislation was passed four months ago — wow, four whole months! — yet unemployment is still rising. This suggests an interesting comparison with the economic record of Ronald Reagan, whose 1981 tax cut was followed by no less than 16 months of rising unemployment.

    Well then, what about all that government borrowing? All it’s doing is offsetting a plunge in private borrowing — total borrowing is down, not up. Indeed, if the government weren’t running a big deficit right now, the economy would probably be well on its way to a full-fledged depression.

    Oh, and investors’ growing confidence that we’ll manage to avoid a full-fledged depression — not the pressure of government borrowing — explains the recent rise in long-term interest rates. These rates, by the way, are still low by historical standards. They’re just not as low as they were at the peak of the panic, earlier this year.”

    Sensible, as always. I guess one can make the point that the effectiveness of the stimulus has yet to be seen, and that monetary policy alone might be enough to do the job. That’s a valid point, but I’m with Krugman on the pessimism. There’s another point that he doesn’t raise — we have seen other cases where the stimulus really worked, especially in countries with various constraints on monetary policy. In China, for example, domestic demand is booming, and has already outweighed the collapsing exports, and this can be traced to the fiscal stimulus delivered through infrastructure projects. China was faster off the mark than was the US on that one.

  • fiscal stimulus delivered through infrastructure projects.

    If only that was what we had done. Our “spendulus” was just a big expansion of the federal government.

  • I didn’t ban you from any of mys posts, SB, but I do try to ignore you. 10 percent of the time you say something interesting, while the other 90 percent consists in a barrage of harassment, over months and even years, off topic or on topic.

    From what I was told, Henry banned me from all posts, for what reason only he knows.

    Your 90% figure is surely an exaggeration . . . perhaps you have in mind the fact that I have occasionally (not 90% of the time) referred back to an old instance of dishonesty or inanity that had never been corrected (e.g., your old post doing a simple regression on abortion and poverty as if this proved a causal relationship, or Gerald Campbell’s defense of the “pro-choice position” as normatively “justified by subsidiarity”). And what’s wrong with this? You seem to be aware that it’s fair game to criticize people for things that happened before this morning, as shown by the fact that you yourself refer back to your old posts all the time, i.e., on Joseph Bottum or Michael Novak or whoever.

  • Krugman is fairly persuasive on the inflation issue. On the stimulus less so. Obama’s economic team said that unemployment would peak at 9% in 2010 if the stimulus bill wasn’t passed, and that it would stay below 8% with the stimulus. Krugman himself worried back in January that people would call the stimulus a failure if unemployment reached 8.1% by year’s end. Well, we’re still less than halfway through 2009 and unemployment is already at 9.4%.

    Of course, one can always say that people were being overly optimistic back in January (though it’s hard for me to even write that sentence with a straight face). But if we grant that we’re basically granting there’s no way to ever prove that the stimulus was a failure. No matter how bad things get, you can always say that they would have been worse without the stimulus.

  • perhaps you have in mind the fact that I have occasionally (not 90% of the time) referred back to an old instance of dishonesty or inanity that had never been corrected (e.g., your old post doing a simple regression on abortion and poverty as if this proved a causal relationship, or Gerald Campbell’s defense of the “pro-choice position” as normatively “justified by subsidiarity”). And what’s wrong with this?

    It gets old.

  • Well, it gets old that certain bloggers do anything to justify and defend such dissent. If they had said, a year ago, “Oh, that’s obviously not what subsidiarity is about, Gerald is wrong,” the subject would have been dropped then and there.

    It also gets old that those same bloggers always want to be Inquisitors sitting in judge of everyone else’s orthodoxy for saying the wrong thing about capitalism, health care, or some other much less clear-cut issue.

    And in any event, it is an absolute falsehood for anyone to suggest that “90%” of my comments are in that vein. Just not true.

  • Reading S.B. re: Gerald Campbell never gets old to me. But that’s just me, I’m sure.

  • It gets old.

    So does inserting the charge of Calvinism into every post. But I guess we all have our peccadilloes.

  • So does inserting the charge of Calvinism into every post.

    Yes, that gets old too.

  • You just say that because you’re secretly a Calvinist. 🙂

  • Shhhhhh. Ixnay on the alvinist-Cay.

  • It is old. And I’m not taking the bait. Stick to the subject.

  • And pretending that right-wing liberalism (free markets, big government in military affairs, small government in everythinge else, individualism, nationalism etc.) is really conservatism also gets old! Sorry, couldn’t resist that, but no more!

  • And pretending that right-wing liberalism (free markets, big government in military affairs, small government in everythinge else, individualism, nationalism etc.) is really conservatism also gets old!

    That’s right. By golly, in the good old days there were never any problems with nationalism. And did soveriegns spend a significant portion of their budgets on their militaries? No, no. Back in those days it was all technocratic social programs from dawn till dusk. It was just when these bloody liberals came along (freemasons all of them, I tell you) that people started cutting out all the generous lord-to-serf benefit plans like universal health care and pouring all their resources into capitalism and militarism instead. Back to good old days is what I say, what ho!

  • Why would it be “taking the bait” to agree that the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity does not in fact require or even imply the pro-choice position? It’s such a simple and indisputable truth. Indeed, you have it within your power to avoid further criticism, and even to win plaudits for courageously abandoning the intellectually corrupt “no enemies to the left” principle, by simply saying “yes, that’s right.”

    But you won’t do it. Odd.

    Well, I won’t mention it again. Gets “old,” you see. At least not until you once again take the Inquisitor role regarding economic issues that are much less binding and clear-cut than this. Then, much as I might try to restrain myself, I might just mention the fact that you don’t object to dissent except where as you see an occasion for beating up on your political enemies.

  • I think the difficulty the Federal Reserve faces is that the propensity of people to hold cash balances has been quite unstable in recent months and for that reason no one has a good handle on the likely effects of the recent expansion in the monetary base on prices over the next few years.

    One might also note that a ‘liquidity trap’ is a theoretical construct and economists dispute whether it is a real-world phenomena. It has been a long time, but as I recall, the ineffectuality of monetary policy in a supposed liquidity trap is a function of the interchangeability of cash for the usual sort of securities the central bankers will purchase in order to expand the monetary base. Critics of the notion of a real-world liquidity trap contend that if the Federal Reserve purchases a security with a significantly positive interest rate, the conditions of the trap do not obtain. The Federal Reserve has in fact been doing this in recent months. (I think implicit in other critiques is that public demand for real balances is never totally elastic, which it is in the theoretical liquidity trap).

    We can look it up, but as I recall, Japan had stable, not declining, prices during the period running from 1989 through 2002. Dr. Krugman also fails to note that the price level in the United States increased considerably after March 1933 (and after the dollar was taken off the gold standard). The deflation was entirely concentrated in the period running from September 1929 to March 1933, when monetary policy was quite conventional.

    It ought be noted that economists with little time for Dr. Krugman’s macroeconomic nostrums (e.g. Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago) argue that inflation would be beneficial to the American economy by vitiating the real value of our overhang of mortgage debt. Of course, it it provokes a currency crisis….

  • The 1970s stagflation resulted from an adverse supply shock, leading to less growth and higher inflation.

    It has been years, but as I recall, econometric studies of the inflation experienced during the period running from 1973 to 1981 attribute only small portions of it to exogenous shocks in commodity markets; it was ultimately a monetary phenomenon.

  • Yes — policymakers in the 1970s made the mistake of treating a negative supply shock as a negative demand shock and thus loosening monetary policy. All you get in this scenario is higher inflation (there are some technical distinctions between the short-term and the long-term, and how inflationary expectations become embedded in the system, but that’s the jist of it).

  • OK, SB, for the last time. I’ll probably regret this. Of course subsidiarity cannot be invoked to justify the “pro-choice position”. As you phrase it, that statement is almost absurd in its fallacy. I said as you phrase it — I’m not in the game of talking about what a third party (who is not here to defend himself) did or did not mean.

    But what do you mean by the pro-choice position? There are many shades that you gloss over. There is the argument that abortion is a right, something good, or at least morally neutral. That is a wicked opinion.

    On the other end of the spectrum are those who claim it is murder, and seek appropriate penalties. Well, it is indeed murder in the natural law, but that does not mean it gets treated as murder in positive law — I do not believe any jurisdiction has ever treated it as such. So one argument that it should not be permitted by law, but that the penalties would be trivial or even non-existent (this was the South Dakota proposal).

    Moving further along the spectrum, there is the position that since getting the required legal protection is impossible unless we change the culture, we should seek to reduce abortion by other means, all the while seeking the change the culture. I am personally sympathetic to this position, and the Declation on Procured Abortion lists that as the most important objective. Note this does not mean any support for the laws in question, and it does not make one “pro-choice”.

    As I’ve said a million times with these kinds of attacks, the real problem is not any deviation from Church teaching, it’s deviation from “Republicath orthodoxy”. Tactics are elevated to the point of principle. It’s a little ironic, since the Roe-centered position is indeed based on subsidiarity – that the federal courts are not the place for these decisions to be made.

    I wish you would bring your same zeal to those who actively dissent on other areas of Catholic moral teaching, including those who support torture and unjust war — and to people who share blogs or publications with them. Go for it.

  • I am on vacation this week with my family and my blogging opportunities are somewhat limited as a result. Good to see that this thread is still running strong.

    Tony, I’m sure you can explain how your voting for a pro-abort for President ties in with this section of the catechism:

    “2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

    “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80

    “The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81

    I would have much more respect for you Tony if you would simply admit the obvious. You are a committed Leftist. You voted for Obama because you want him to transform this nation into a clone of a European socialist state. As to the fight against abortion, that is low enough on your list of political priorities that a politician being a complete pro-abort would never cause you to vote against him or her on that basis alone. All the “Republicath” blather in your comment above and in endless other comments and posts you have made over the years can’t conceal these facts that any one with any familiarity with your internet writings will grasp.

  • I wish you would bring your same zeal to those who actively dissent on other areas of Catholic moral teaching,

    You are undeniably one of the most hypocritical individuals I have ever encountered. You share a blog with people who dissent openly on matters of Church teaching on matters such as abortion, homosexuality, and female ordination, and you have the temerity to criticize anyone else about the manner in which they challenge others who dissent from Church teaching.

    As your comment indicates the fact of the matter is you don’t give a damn about abortion. It is an inconvenient distraction away from the glories of your one true Church – the Democratic party.

  • Thanks, MM, for that clear statement about subsidiarity.

  • the real problem is not any deviation from Church teaching, it’s deviation from “Republicath orthodoxy”. Tactics are elevated to the point of principle.

    these kinds of statements crack me up. The principle is clearly enunciated by the magisterium, as Donald has cited.

  • Donald, I am in the tradition of European Christian Democrats, who recognized well the problems of both collectivism and individualism. I support the social market state, which conforms to Catholic social teaching. I’m a Pius XI-style socialist. You on the other hand, are an American liberal individualist.

    And on the life issue, I oppose abortion and euthansia, but I also oppose war and guns and violence in popular culture. You claim to care about abortion and yet you ingest an economic philosopy that flies directly against the injunction in the Declaration on Procured Abortion to takle first and foremost the underlying causes of abortion. You claim to be pro-life and I see you every day glorifying war.

  • That should read “Pius XI-style corporatist” not “socialist”.

  • MM,

    Freudian slip?

    That should read “Pius XI-style corporatist” not “socialist”.

    bet you wish you could take that one back, eh?

    Declaration on Procured Abortion to takle first and foremost the underlying causes of abortion

    Actually, I think it says that first and formost, the laws of a nation must respect the unborn. Nevertheless, it does NOT say that we must accept your worldview that the root cause is free market capitalism.

  • Moving further along the spectrum, there is the position that since getting the required legal protection is impossible unless we change the culture, we should seek to reduce abortion by other means, all the while seeking the change the culture. I am personally sympathetic to this position, and the Declation on Procured Abortion lists that as the most important objective. Note this does not mean any support for the laws in question, and it does not make one “pro-choice”.

    Since you mention torture later:

    The required legal prohibition on torture is impossible unless we change the culture (I’m quite confident that there are many fewer Americans who oppose waterboarding a couple of top al Qaeda members than who oppose abortion). Thus, we should seek to reduce torture by other means, all the while seeking to change the culture.

    Personally, my best plan for accomplishing that objective is this: Campaign and agitate for a presidential candidate who openly brags about his support for torture, and who, as a quite charismatic fellow, can be sure to win over converts to his views.

    How will this accomplish my asserted end of changing the culture, you ask? Well, now: my candidate will be so successful in fighting terrorism that he will ultimately reduce the societal NEED for torture. Voila, the culture will change, just like that.

    I leave it to the reader to guess whether such an argument is believable or sincere.

  • SB,

    that is HILARIOUS!

  • I have never glorified war Tony. I have celebrated courage, faith and decency demonstrated by men fighting in war, as the Church has throughout the centuries.

  • And don’t forget two more critical points:

    1. The charismatic candidate has never even hinted that he is personally opposed to torture or suggested that it is a tragedy even when “necessary”; and

    2. the campaigns’s own torture partisans, when talking with anti-torture advocates, are quick to emphasize that they have no desire to reduce the *number* of acts of torture, but simply to reduce the *need* for it. Anything that suggests torture itself is an illegitimate act is right out.

  • You clearly know more than I do about these people, Paul. I think what you say is rubbish, but again, I’m not going to speak about third parties who are not here to defend themselves. But this much I will say: you share blogs with dissenters on the death penalty (the author of this post himself). You share blogs with people who support unjust war and the recent war crimes committed by Israel. And do you want to take responsibility for all the opinions of your new friends at First Things? I wouldn’t go pointing fingers when the culture of death is right at your doorstep.

    But hold on: I’m merely drawing a comparison with the rhetoric of those who point to selective dissent. I actually think the whole “guilt by association” game is rather pointless, and more than a little stupid — of course you are not responsible for any of these opinions I listed above. What I want is some consistency, and I will keep pointing out the lack of consistency.

    Me a Democrat? Funny, coming from the guy whose underlying philosophy is the hodge-podge set of beliefs that thinks it is somehow related to “conservatism”, something that is unique to the latter-day American Republican party!! If you want me to choose between two parties, neither of which has an anthropology aligned with the Catholic worldview, then I certainly pick the one that is not completely and utterly insane.

    One more thing: you guys discuss Republican tactics and politics as insiders, as “we”. I can assure you, I do not feel such affinity for the Democrats. There is no “we”. And yet I am held up as a partisan in your circles!! I can also assure you that if I did write from such an insider perspective, you people would be the first to go on the offensive, showing yet again the clear existence of double standards.

  • I know you are all smart enough to understand the distinction between when the acting moral agent is the government versus when the acting moral agent is a private person. But don’t let that fine distinction spoil your fun! Good night!

  • An earlier post perusing what the Declaration on Procured Abortion calls for (in the context of Obama’s proposals): http://vox-nova.com/2009/04/30/obama-addresses-abortion/#more-7168

  • I know you are all smart enough to understand the distinction between when the acting moral agent is the government versus when the acting moral agent is a private person. But don’t let that fine distinction spoil your fun! Good night!

    When danger reared its ugly head/
    Sir Robin bravely turned and fled/
    Brave brave brave brave Sir Robin…

    As an aside, I’d never pegged you for a libertarian, but that’s as dogmatic an argument for limited government and unrestrained personal liberty as I’ve seen in some time.

  • you guys discuss Republican tactics and politics as insiders, as “we”. I can assure you, I do not feel such affinity for the Democrats.

    You realize that this is not how you come across, right?

  • But this much I will say: you share blogs with dissenters on the death penalty

    I know that in your pretend world the Catholic Church holds an absolutely prohibitionist stance on the death penalty, but the fact of the matter is, Tony, that it is not a sign of dissent to support the death penalty.

    You share blogs with people who support unjust war and the recent war crimes committed by Israel.

    Absolute rubbish that once again shows more about your penchant for hyperbolic comments that simply caricature your opponents’ thoughts.

    And yet I am held up as a partisan in your circles!!

    Gee, Tony, why could that be? It couldn’t possibly have to do with the fact that you rarely ever criticize the Democratic party or the leftists who make up the lion’s share of its membership? And in the rare times that you kind of subtly criticize the party you quickly point out that the GOP is worse? Nah, couldn’t be.

    If one goes through my archives you will see quite a few posts that are extremely critical of the GOP. In fact, there are probably periods where a significant majority of my political posts are ones excoriating Republicans. The same cannot be said of you. That is why you are singled out for the rabid partisan that you are.

  • I do not feel such affinity for the Democrats. There is no “we”. And yet I am held up as a partisan in your circles!!

    The relevant question isn’t whether you ‘feel’ such affinity; it’s whether your writing is partisan. And the answer to that question is yes, and occasionally in ways that imo substantially weaken your credibility.

    By the way, it is gracious of you to respond to the criticisms in this forum MM (even if all of your responses have not been similarly gracious).

  • I know you are all smart enough to understand the distinction between when the acting moral agent is the government versus when the acting moral agent is a private person. But don’t let that fine distinction spoil your fun

    Why is that distinction all that relevant? The moral culpability of the government agents is different, yes, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is whether it’s legitimate to say that your approach to fighting an evil is to vote for a guy who is actively campaigning on behalf of that evil. And in any event, it still remains the case that most people aren’t that upset over smacking criminals and terrorists around. So until we change the culture to really oppose torture, the best way to prevent torture will be to elect someone who works at reducing the need for torture, by capturing as many al Qaeda terrorists as possible.

  • Seemingly, people keep on forgetting that many of the Democrats favored an invasion of Iraq as well. Getting Blair on to our side delayed the invasion. We have the satellite photography of trucks transporting something to Syria previous to the invasion. They say, Al Qaeda had no connection to Saddam, but why have they been in Iraq en masse once we got there? And years and years of sanctions previously took their toll on the Iraqui people, said on these forums before implemented in part during the Clinton administration.

Alphonse: A Monster For Our Time

Thursday, June 11, AD 2009

Catholic writer Matthew Lickona has the first issue of a graphic novel out, and the topic is an interesting one.

Alphonsemon’ster n.
1. An animal, a plant, or other organism having structural defects or deformities.

2. A fetus or an infant that is grotesquely abnormal and usually not viable.

– The American Heritage? Medical Dictionary
Alphonse is the story of eight lives that intersect because of an attempted abortion. Why “attempted?” Because while there are no angels or demons on either side, there is definitely a monster in the middle: Alphonse.

Rendered “grotesquely abnormal” by his unwitting mother’s use of controlled substances, he is both sentient and freakishly coordinated. He is also deeply wounded, twisted by fear and rage after the attempt on his life – and bent on revenge.

But violence begets violence. Alphonse is pursued even as he is pursuing, and haunted by the insistence of his only friend that there is another way…

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2 Responses to Alphonse: A Monster For Our Time

Age of Kings?

Thursday, June 11, AD 2009

  

I love Shakespeare and I love history, so I naturally glommed on to Shakespeare’s An Age of Kings (Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III) after it was released by the BBC in this country.  The plays are divided into 15 episodes, a total of 947 minutes.  First broadcast in 1960, the plays present a galaxy of British actors and actresses who later went on to build outstanding careers.  The two standouts are Sean Connery as Harry Hotspur,   and Robert Hardy as Juvenile Delinquent turned Hero King Henry V.   It should be remembered however that these were originally broadcast in 1960 and the visual quality is often not of the best.  Nonetheless, mediocre black and white visuals detract not a whit from the superb performances.  This would be a good set for homeschooling parents who wish to introduce their kids to Shakespeare.

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5 Responses to Age of Kings?

  • Got another Brit series for the older younguns- I, Claudius from the mid 70s. Actually shown on CBS along with the public teevee stations. Seriously fine. Perhaps the best ensemble series about sociopaths before The Sopranos. Fun to see Patrick Stewart- later as benevolent Captain Picard and wise Professor Xavier- as a Roman thug. And John Hurt with a masterful over-the-top performance as Caligula. Five stars.

  • I loved I, Claudius.

  • Visual quality?

    I hope you’re aware of the fact that most classic films are predominantly of the black/white variety and by far engagingly more magnificent than any of the deplorable refuse that is produced these days, even with the high-tech, high-definition regalia.

  • I am aware of the silver screen e., and that period had quite a few masterpieces and quite a few clunkers. BBC TV broadcasts in the early sixties lend new depth to the phrase “muddy image”. I enjoy the series but prospective buyers need to know what they are getting.

  • “…and quite a few clunkers.”

    True, but there seems several hundreds more today than yesteryears.

    “…lend new depth to the phrase ‘muddy image’.”

    Thanks for the fair warning.

    About BBC broadcasts in its early years, is it just me or has their programming suffered tremendous decadance over the decades?

    I can’t recall watching a decent program on the Beeb since Jakobi’s Cadfael days.

Supreme Court Justices and Religion

Wednesday, June 10, AD 2009

To ask some questions is to answer them, and via Commonweal, I see that UCLA history professor emeritus Joyce Appleby has penned a lovely exercise in anti-Catholicism entitled, Should Catholic Justices Recuse Selves On Certain Cases?. Here is an excerpt:

But because of the Catholic Church’s active opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and capital punishment, it raises serious questions about the freedom of Catholic justices to judge these issues. Perhaps the time has come to ask them to recuse themselves when cases come before their court on which their church has taken positions binding on its communicants…

…Recusal sounds like a radical measure, but we require judges to withdraw from deliberations whenever a personal interest is involved. Surely ingrained convictions exert more power on judgment than mere financial gain. Many will counter that views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty are profound moral commitments, not political opinions. Yet who will argue that religious beliefs and the authority of the Catholic Church will have no bearing on the justices when presented with cases touching these powerful concerns?

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46 Responses to Supreme Court Justices and Religion

  • Well, didn’t Scalia say the Catholic judges who are against the death penalty should recluse themselves? hmmm….

  • Pingback: First Thoughts — A First Things Blog
  • Well, John Henry, as you rightly point out, there is a worldview of all the judges.

    What I find interesting is “justice” is not justice in the natural law sense. That is, having American positive laws in conformity with the natural and eternal laws. Alexander Hamilton put it this way: “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

    However, the American sense of “justice” is to uphold the letter of the Constitution and legal precedence. This can pose quite a dilemma. If I’m a Catholic sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, hypothetically dealing with a case prior to the 1860s regarding slavery, I would be obliged to rule to uphold what is, in fact, not just at all. My very obligation — according to “originalism, as I understand it — would be to to rule in such a way that contradicts the very title of “Justice.”

    Yet, it seems, to lax strict guidelines and open the door to some sort of “judicial autonomy” easily leads to what we call legislating from the bench.

    I’m not sure what the solution should be. Constitutional law is a matter where I’m simply agnostic and hesitant about most positions. To be sure, I do think the comments by Scalia and Thomas–no matter political orientation, or their purposes–are downright scandalous. The my “faith has nothing to do with my rulings” statements though situationally different than legislators reaffirms the separation of faith and life, religion and politics — all of which, I don’t support.

  • “He said they should resign.”

    He’s right. Just according to Catholic teaching. Shouldn’t be automatically discarded by a Catholic judge.

  • Eric

    I think as to Pre- Civil War Judges that were anto Slavery they would be hard pressed to ban slavery since theire power and authority came from an agreement among the States that involved the Slavery issue. It was part of the pact as it were.

    THere has been some talk in recent threads about Scalia and Thomas statements and if they are scandaleous. I really don’t think they are. However I wish they would have fleshed out what they mean more.

    I suggest this article that also has a helpful comment by Rick Garnett as to being what a Catholic Judge is

    http://www.firstthings.com/on_the_square_entry.php?year=2007&month=10&title_link=antonin-scalia-not-a-catholic-

    That article also shows that Scalia had other thoughts that rarely get mentioned as to that statement

    “If he were not a textualist and an originalist, if he thought he ought to rely on substantive moral notions not found in the text, then, Scalia said, his Catholic faith would make a large difference in how he judges cases. Similarly, if he had to judge common-law cases¯cases that do not involve texts enacted by a legislature but only judge-made law, cases of the kind that sometimes come before state courts but rarely come before federal courts¯things would likewise be different. In making common-law decisions, a judge has to make normative judgments about which laws are best, and so the judge’s values are properly in play. So, too, in the voting booth. Indeed, when the question switches from which laws we actually have to which laws we ought to have, then a person properly relies on moral values, whether they be Catholic or anything else.”

    I think this is very correct and there is nothing really un Catholic about that.

    I suppose my question is why are Judges (Catholic or otherwise) criticized for not thinking they have a grant of authority to do X

    FOr instance if we take that standard then why do we not criticize a Pro-Life President for not sending out his Federal Marshals and closing down all the abortion Clinics by Fiat. The reason we don’t is because we know that would be a UnConst power grab. Society can not function in such an environment.

  • One other thought on Sclaia Statements as to State execution. THe media generally does a bad job of covering religious issues. The only thing they do worse is covering Supreme COurt matters and the people on the Court

    From a person that was there:
    I would note one (perhaps self-evident) thing in clarification of the Scalia
    argument as it has been described in this thread: Scalia’s view that a
    Supreme Court Justice should resign if he or she believes the death penalty
    is immoral is dependent on the further assumption, manifest in his speech,
    that a Justice does not (or ought not) bring personal or contemporary moral
    judgment to bear in deciding death cases or in establishing death-penalty
    doctrine: “[T]he Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living, but
    dead; or as I prefer to call it, enduring.” “Bear in mind that I don’t make
    up new constitutional rules.”

    Further from Rick Garnett that was also there

    As I heard him, Justice Scalia was careful to establish, as a premise to his
    “have to resign” conclusion, that his position as a Justice involves him to
    a sufficient degree in the application of the death penalty to make him
    complicit in the wrong done. That is, I don’t think he was suggesting that
    his disagreement, standing alone, required him to resign, but rather, that
    (a) he has a moral obligation not to “cooperate” with evil (assuming that
    the application of the death penalty is, in fact, illicit); and (b)
    participating in death cases constitutes “cooperation” with evil. For my own
    part, it is not clear that a Supreme Court Justice who, say, fails to vote
    to deny a stay of execution, or fails to vote in support of a habeas
    petition brought by a capital defendant is, in fact, “cooperating” with the
    (assumed) evil of the death penalty.

  • What is bizarre about this is its literal unconstitutionality. Article VI, Section 3:

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

    So under the guise of separation of church and state, something never mentioned in the constitution ironically, we are forced to ignore the actual words of the constitution.

  • For those interested I find the transcript of Scalia’s remarks so you see them in the full context

    http://pewforum.org/deathpenalty/resources/transcript3.php

  • jh,

    That was precisely my point. I was arguing that, to begin with, we aren’t even starting with a natural law conception of Justice. It is fundamentally a social contract theory, which itself is the arbiter of what is right and wrong in a legal sense. In other words, I think the lack of natural law orientation profoundly obscures what is true justice and the essence of law.

    My other concern is being complicit. Regardless of judicial philosophy, I would not rule to uphold slavery as the law of the land because it isn’t true justice. I simply cannot imagine allowing such an evil to perpetuate because of such commitment to a particular judicial philosophy, especially, if hypothetically, it was a 4-4 and I was the “swing vote.” I would not vote to uphold it when I know, apart what may be philosophically ideal, when I knew that I could stop an evil immediately. In other words, I find it problematic that our judicial system is more concerned about the letter of the constitution and legal precedence than actual justice.

    I understand why we currently operate like this. There are alternate approaches that I wouldn’t say any better, e.g. the approach that got us Roe v. Wade.

    Even still, I am not satisfied or convinced by Scalias’ argument. I think so far, at least, it may be the do-the-least-harm approach and our best weapon against getting results like Roe, or even worse, Casey with its infamous “liberty clause.”

    If Catholics are right about law, about the nature of law, then the American emphasis on upholding whatever is the positive law on the books as long as its conformity with the framework of the Constitution is problematic, in my view, that is building a system on a false premise of law and justice.

    Thus, I think we should develop a different judicial philosophy. I wish I knew what it was. But with the status quo, I can’t say I am satisfied.

  • “I find it problematic that our judicial system is more concerned about the letter of the constitution and legal precedence than actual justice.”

    Perhaps, I should say more committed to…or more interested in, at the expense of natural law thinking.

    I don’t think Catholics should throw natural law under the bus for positive law. The West profoundly misunderstands law and I wish we currently were operating through some different, more acceptable (in my view) judicial apparatus but we aren’t…

    I suppose the problem is finding a way that one does not get into the “living Constitution theory,” as it is currently promulgated.

  • In other words, I find it problematic that our judicial system is more concerned about the letter of the constitution and legal precedence than actual justice.

    I understand why we currently operate like this. There are alternate approaches that I wouldn’t say any better, e.g. the approach that got us Roe v. Wade.

    I hate to say it, but your approach largely is the approach used in Roe v. Wade, only from a different perspective. The judges in that case thought abortion was a manifest right, the Constitution be damned, and so essentially made a decision based on their conception of what was wrong or right. Your approach is similar, only you’re arguing that slavery is morally wrong. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t get us very far if 5 Justices happen to disagree with you. So either we follow the written text of the Constitution or we follow the dictates of our conscience (hopefully the two are not in contradiction). 99% of the time the latter approach is the right one, but not when adjudicating in a Court of Law.

  • Eric

    As to Slavery the natural law sometimes must make an accomdation with a evil to help mitigate that evil. It should be noted that as a part fo this aggreement the International Slave Trade as to the USA was abolished. Again back then the theory was to strangle it out and even SOutherners thought it would die out of existance. The problem was people went back on the deal when they wanted it expanded.

    So I think Catholic Justices had no moral problem on the whole. Also lets be real here. Can you imagine if say in 1850 the Supreme COurt would have declared Slavery illegal. Well they would have just been ignored and thus set a dangerpus precedent

    I have no objection to a natural law jurisprudence. But again what is that? I can recall when Justice Kennedy came and taught my Const Law class. He asked a questions about rights and the rights listed in the Bill of Rights

    He said why don’t we have a

    Right to a Job
    A right to Health Care
    etc etc etc

    In fact this is where exactly many people that advocate a Natural Law Jurisprudence from the more Catholic left want to go. That is look at that rights that in the SOcial Compendium and have judges declare it.

    Kennedy pointed out the obvious. If these were “rights” on par with lets say the Freedom of Assembly there would be chaos.The Chaos he was talking about dealt with how in the world would Judges be able to deal with it and frame that right. You would in effect have a mini legislature in the Judicial branch and I suppose Law Clerks with no expertise in all these issues involved in all this.

    From a personal veiwpoint looking at How Federal Judges have run the East Baton Rouge Parish School system for 25 years while it was under the desegration decree I find trheir management skills quite lacking

    I can’t imagine what they would do to the Health system as Federal Judges come in and manage them in order that a “right to Health Care” could be had

  • Paul,

    Well, perhaps I’m liberal after all. Though, in some respect, I am not “reading” stuff in the Constitution that clearly isn’t there and pretending that the text of the Constitution is in alignment with my position.

    I’ll put it this way. In terms of maintaining social order and political stability, the “originalist” position is best, in that, it does the least amount of harm. In the end, I still think it’s flawed and there has to be some ways to address its flaws.

  • Eric

    I would also say as to Natural Law thinking that this could occur in the legislative branch. I am also still open to it in the Judicial branch.

    You might really enjoy this one hour podcast that Arkes had at the Making Men Moral COnference as he explains his attempts to get his Friend Scalia and others to recognize they can use the Natural Law.

    Scroll down to “Closing Luncheon with remarks by Hadly Arkes”

    http://www.uu.edu/events/makingmenmoral/schedule.cfm

    That speech as well as a few others really address what you are talking about especially Arkes

  • “As to Slavery the natural law sometimes must make an accomdation with a evil to help mitigate that evil.”

    The principle of the Double Effect only works if the evil you are tolerating is not objectively evil in and of itself. The argument is basically proportionalist aka. utilitarian aka. consequentialist.

    “So I think Catholic Justices had no moral problem on the whole. Also lets be real here. Can you imagine if say in 1850 the Supreme Court would have declared Slavery illegal. Well they would have just been ignored and thus set a dangerpus precedent”

    That’s consequentialist reasoning. It is like the sin of omission, or not doing what is right because of the consequences that it would render. I’m afraid to say it strikes me like saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would cause a political backlash and cultural division even worse than it is now, thus, one should act to bring change slowly. It is the argument of the “white moderates” who wished to (allegedly) integrate blacks into society over time, as the culture slowly changed.

    The argument is basically pragmatist and only further convinces me that the machinery of our government places Catholics, particularly in this regard, in a dangerous place. You either cooperate with the machine and lose your ethics, or you “legislate from the bench” and cause tyranny.

    And again, I don’t think anyone has seen a natural law jurisprudence laid out because it’s in its early stages. However, I think the debate should be had.

  • Eric

    I don’t think the situation that lets say anti Slavery Catholic Judges found themselves in was at all consequentalist. Again part of the deal was in order for this nation to be formed some of the evils of Slavery would have to be minimized. Therefore the natural law made a accomdation with a evil to minimize it. What made the whole deal go off the rails was the South basically demanding a Right to Nationwide Slave code which was demanded by the SOuthern Democrats at their Dem Convention in Charleston.

    Lets use another example. That is the sex business. The Church has recognized that such things as Prostitution and brothals are evil and bad. Yet the Church has reconzied that such things as regulation of it to mimizew it evils (like red light districts) and such is ok in many regards.

    One can make a arguement as to abortion that a process of chipping away at it slowly and strangling it to death (like Slavery) is the way to go. If there is a all or nothing approach there would never be proress on the issue.

    Also in the end the Court again has no power to tax and really no way to enforce it orders. It must rely on its good name. At times they cash it in. Look at Brown vs the Bopard of Education. But if the COurt was issuing Society changing ruling like Brown every year then I predict they would be ignored. That is for instance the Executive Branch would disover Lincoln’s musings that he had a right to interpret the Const kust like the Court.

    This is one reason wehy for the most part the Court is slow in making dramtic changes

  • “Therefore the natural law made a accomdation with a evil to minimize it.”

    I understand that people made compromises that seemed unavoidable, e.g. compromises like we make on abortion to get as much restriction as possible. However, the natural law does not accommodate evil–it is the moral law of God and the standard of perfect justice. So, the language you’re using is problematic in terms of moral theology, hence I keep arguing against it.

    “Yet the Church has reconzied that such things as regulation of it to mimizew it evils (like red light districts) and such is ok in many regards.”

    Well, I think the Church would say restrict it as much as possible with the intention of ultimately obliterating. I’m not sure the Church would deem such immoral activity confined to a place as “ok in many regards.” As far as I know, there is no constitutional right to prostitution.

    “One can make a arguement as to abortion that a process of chipping away at it slowly and strangling it to death (like Slavery) is the way to go. If there is a all or nothing approach there would never be proress on the issue.”

    In regard to abortion, there is this interesting phenomenon. People who are conservative tend to oppose radical changes while liberals want changes to bring about immediate justice. You get a conservative Catholic and they’ll tell you let’s outlaw abortion. You get a more liberal Catholic, they’ll say we should do it gradually and get a greater social consensus. On the issue of abortion, the two sides flip — for the most part.

    I think the reason we’re not pulling an all or nothing on abortion, as was the case with slavery, is because the machinery of government has us in a tight spot. My only problem with the “slow” process is that meanwhile a great injustice casually continues and with abortion, it’s going at a rate of 4,000 a day and I’m not sure if we have the luxury of time insofar as we aren’t acting so imprudently as to compromise the cause and a swift as possible triumph.

    And Brown vs. Board of Education is a prime example. I think the problem here is I’m emphasizing achieving true justice because doing the good is a moral obligation that should not be considered solely based on the consequences, as that would be a departure from natural law moral ethics; whereas, you are emphasizing the need for stability and keeping social order lest the Court lose its authority and the actual good be lost to the jaws of defeat due to a swift backlash due to a wreckless dash for a short victory.

    My problem is, seeing my strident commitment to keeping natural moral ethics, is that, if in such a system, there is great tension for a Catholic sense of morality, I feel inclined to try to develop a judicial philosophy where Catholic ethics don’t conflict so readily with the process. That’s pretty much my whole deal with your approach. It might be the best we’ve got right now, but I can’t settle with it.

    I must depart for now. Thanks for the discussion…

  • Ms. Appleby is effectively arguing for the recusal of any save the most carefully-vetted agnostics from service as a judge.

    By what feat of special pleading would an Episcopalian not also be forced to recuse him/herself on the same issues? Actually, it goes further than that–any issue of “commitment” would force recusal. Consider the case of a vegan judge in a case involving Eckrich, for example.

  • It is curious that the matter of the Catholicism of Roger Taney was not raised. But Taney is an excellent example of accepting the law as it stands.
    He despised slavery [“those vermin who trade in human flesh”]. But he also recognized that it was lawful under the Constitution.
    Slavery is the great example that Chesterton uses tp point out that democracy is not perfect.

  • No, by the time of the Dred Scott decision Taney was an ardent defender of slavery. His views on “the peculiar institution” had done a 180 from his younger days. His opinion for the court held that slaves, or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States, and that Congress did not have the power to ban slavery in the territories. Neither proposition was supported by the text of the Constitution, and are a precursor to the type of jurisprudence that produced Roe.

  • Scalia on Taney: “There comes vividly to mind a portrait by Emanuel Leutze that hangs in the Harvard Law School: Roger Brooke Taney, painted in 1859, the 82d year of his life, the 24th of his Chief Justiceship, the second after his opinion in Dred Scott. He is all in black, sitting in a shadowed red armchair, left hand resting upon a pad of paper in his lap, right hand hanging limply, almost lifelessly, beside the inner arm of the chair. He sits facing the viewer, and staring straight out. There seems to be on his face, and in his deep set eyes, an expression of profound sadness and disillusionment. Perhaps he always looked that way, even when dwelling upon the happiest of thoughts. But those of us who know how the lustre of his great Chief Justiceship came to be eclipsed by Dred Scott cannot help believing that he had that case–its already apparent consequences for the Court, and its soon to be played out consequences for the Nation–burning on his mind. I expect that two years earlier he, too, had thought himself “call[ing] the contending sides of national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.”

  • Gabriel,
    You are wrong. Dred Scott was wrongly decided for a host of legal reasons, regardless of one’s position on slavery. Basically Taney’s reasoning was a foretaste of substantive due process, which is what eventually led the way to the loose reasoning seen in Roe. Seriously, if you are a constitutional scholar (I taught it at a law school for almost 10 years), I encourage you to carefully read Scott. It is appallingly poorly reasoned. There are cases where judges properly follow the law to make decisions that are either objectively distasteful or distasteful to them. Dred Scott is not an example of this, however.

  • Donald,
    I failed to see your earlier posts. Once again, we are in complete agreement.

  • As usual Mike! Scott is a prime example of the deadly impact a rogue Supreme Court can have on this nation. Taney and his cohorts reignited the slavery issue, convinced many moderate Northerners of a “slave power conspiracy” to spread slavery throughout the nation, strengthened Southern reluctance for any compromise as to slavery in the territories and vastly increased the likelihood that the debate over the question of slavery would eventually end in blood. When the Supreme Court steps in and attempts to act as a super legislature it always stirs up a hornet’s nest.

  • Exactly, Don. As much as I believe that our unborn should be legally protected, I similarly think it would be wrong for the Supreme Court to overturn state laws that permit abortion under some type of contrived right to to life enshrined in some penumbra. The lawmaking power rests with the people acting through their legislators; they cannot avoid this responisiblity by pretending that judges are empowered to do whatever they think is right and best. A judge’s authority is limited; Dred Scott and Roe are both testaments to what happens when he exceeds his authority just because he can.

  • About 2 years ago, I did a post about Taney, which also drew a Taney defender (who was clearly arguing from a misperception, which he later acknowledged) in the combox discussion that followed:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2007/08/roger-taney-may-get-boot-civil-rights.html

    Catholics need to stop feeling like they have to defend Taney and his egregious, unjustifiable, and activist opinion in Dred Scott.

  • jh Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 11:37 am
    “I think as to Pre- Civil War Judges that were anto Slavery they would be hard pressed to ban slavery since theire power and authority came from an agreement among the States that involved the Slavery issue. It was part of the pact as it were”.

    Which was Taney’s point. The way to settle the issue of slavery was to change the Constitution. This was done by the 13th Amendment. Thei demonstarted the truth of Taney’s argument.

  • Eric Brown Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 11:57 am
    “My other concern is being complicit. Regardless of judicial philosophy, I would not rule to uphold slavery as the law of the land because it isn’t true justice”.

    There in lies the nub. Whether slavery is true justice or not, it was the law of the land, of the U.S.

    There is, it seems to me, an idea that the U.S. is a perfect land. It is not. It was not from its beginning. As Jefferson wrote “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just”.

    Let us forget for the moment the issue of slavery. What about the ongoing treatment of the Indians in our country? the broken promises? the violated treaties?

  • Donald R. McClarey Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 5:06 pm
    “No, by the time of the Dred Scott decision Taney was an ardent defender of slavery. His views on “the peculiar institution” had done a 180 from his younger days”.

    References?

  • Donald R. McClarey Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 5:12 pm
    “Scalia on Taney: “There comes vividly to mind a portrait by Emanuel Leutze that hangs in the Harvard Law School: Roger Brooke Taney, painted in 1859, the 82d year of his life, the 24th of his Chief Justiceship, the second after his opinion in Dred Scott. He is all in black, sitting in a shadowed red armchair, left hand resting upon a pad of paper in his lap, right hand hanging limply, almost lifelessly, beside the inner arm of the chair. He sits facing the viewer, and staring straight out. There seems to be on his face, and in his deep set eyes, an expression of profound sadness and disillusionment. Perhaps he always looked that way, even when dwelling upon the happiest of thoughts. But those of us who know how the lustre of his great Chief Justiceship came to be eclipsed by Dred Scott cannot help believing that he had that case–its already apparent consequences for the Court, and its soon to be played out consequences for the Nation–burning on his mind. I expect that two years earlier he, too, had thought himself “call[ing] the contending sides of national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.”

    Interesting aesthetic but irrelevant [i.e., not to the point] comments by Justice Scalia. I’d suggest that Taney’s unhappiness was caused by his realization that neither side would cede; that the Constitution was a compact with the Devil.

  • Mike Petrik Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 6:48 am
    “Gabriel,
    “You are wrong. Dred Scott was wrongly decided for a host of legal reasons, regardless of one’s position on slavery”.

    Is this an example of the third manner of presenting an argument – bang on the desk?

    Much of the decision’s argument arises from the nature of legal property. Blacks were property, chattel, cattle, if you prefer, that could freely be moved from one state to another. The Dred Scott decision was the bearer of the bad news. Our polity is not the Heavenly City.

  • Donald R. McClarey Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 7:08 am

    “Taney and his cohorts reignited the slavery issue”.

    Not true. The issue of the Civil War was the Union. Could a state secede?

    [I like “cohorts”. Is this akin to fellow conspirators?].

  • Jay Anderson Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 10:48 am
    “About 2 years ago, I did a post about Taney, which also drew a Taney defender (who was clearly arguing from a misperception, which he later acknowledged) in the combox discussion that followed:
    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2007/08/roger-taney-may-get-boot-civil-rights.html
    Catholics need to stop feeling like they have to defend Taney and his egregious, unjustifiable, and activist opinion in Dred Scott”.

    I do not have a belief that I must defend Roger Taney [although his attitude and actions in defense of blacks are certainly admirable, as was his refusal to abandon habeas corpus and to knuckle under to Father Abraham, the sole decider of the War].

    I do not defend the decision. I merely examine it; and find that it admirably displays the law of the land at the time. He did not find unmentioned side laws and umbras in the Constitution, as did the justices in Roe v. Wade; and the overreaching justices in Brown v. Board, kin to the overreaching justices in Plessy.

  • On the other matter of whether Catholics should recuse themselves on matters on which the Church has spoken, would this apply to matters of charitable giving, to education, to the whole host of activities in which the Church is active?

    On this principle, should men recuse themselves when an issue of women’s rights is raised? Should blacks and whites [“Caucasians”] recuse themselves in civil rights matters?

    Only in the academy could such non-sense be spoken.

  • Okay, Gabriel. Defend these 2 propositions relying solely on the text of the Constitution:

    (1) That black Americans (regardless of whether they were slaves or not) could not be citizens of the United States, and
    (2) That Congress had no power to regulate “property” in the federal territories.

  • Jay Anderson Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 5:57 pm
    “Okay, Gabriel. Defend these 2 propositions relying solely on the text of the Constitution:
    (1) That black Americans (regardless of whether they were slaves or not) could not be citizens of the United States, and
    (2) That Congress had no power to regulate “property” in the federal territories”.

    This is not a class room. There is a tendency among some posters to believe it is.

    Citizenship depended on the state.

    “Property” is an issue with several hundred years of dispute behind it.

    A further note: Taney in the later Booth case vigorously denied that states had the right to ignore federal laws. Curiously, the Booth case was an abolitionist arguing for secession.

  • This is not a class room. There is a tendency among some posters to believe it is.

    Gabriel:

    You have attempted on several threads on this blog over the past few months to defend Taney’s decision in Dred Scott. If you do not have the sufficient understanding of the issues surrounding the case and are thus unable or unwilling to defend Taney in a meaningful manner, then it would be best for you to bow out of the discussion.

  • Sorry, the above comment was a bit uncharitable. What I am trying to get at, Gabriel, is that we’re having a discussion (partly) about constitutional law and the manner in which Supreme Court Justices ought to approach cases. The very nature of our conversation is therefore, in a sense, “academic.”

    The questions that Jay asked are central to an understanding of the Dred Scot decision, so you can’t just shrug them off if you are going to defend the opinion that Taney wrote and to which his associates signed onto.

  • paul zummo Says Friday, June 12, 2009 A.D. at 2:42 pm
    “This is not a class room. There is a tendency among some posters to believe it is.
    Gabriel:
    You have attempted on several threads on this blog over the past few months to defend Taney’s decision in Dred Scott. If you do not have the sufficient understanding of the issues surrounding the case and are thus unable or unwilling to defend Taney in a meaningful manner, then it would be best for you to bow out of the discussion”.

    Does that mean leave the room or go stand in the corner?

  • paul zummo Says Friday, June 12, 2009 A.D. at 2:52 pm
    “Sorry, the above comment was a bit uncharitable.

    It was not uncharitable. It was dense.

    “What I am trying to get at, Gabriel, is that we’re having a discussion (partly) about constitutional law and the manner in which Supreme Court Justices ought to approach cases. The very nature of our conversation is therefore, in a sense, “academic.”

    Academic, indeed. That was my point.

    “The questions that Jay asked are central to an understanding of the Dred Scot decision, so you can’t just shrug them off if you are going to defend the opinion that Taney wrote and to which his associates signed onto”.

    You have too many “to’s” there. [Sorry, couldn’t resist].

    I have had many discussions over the years with lawyers [Eliot Richardson, for example] and professors [Bernard Schwartz, for example].

    The basic issue is not slavery; it is property. It is a good question whether Taney despised slavers or abolitionists more. I think the latter. He was a strong federal union man. Having been law clerk to the Maryland representative at the Constitutional Congress, he know how difficult it had been to form “the more perfect union”. And how easy it might be to dissolve that union.

    But … that union was not perfect. It was not, and is not, the City of God on earth. It had and has many blemishes. It took a century before the rough equality of blacks was enforced by law. Cf. Douglas Blackamon’s Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II.

    [A propos, the opinions he cited about blacks were shared by Father Abraham].

    [Another a propos: slavery is not an absolute evil, like abortion].

  • I have had many discussions over the years with lawyers [Eliot Richardson, for example] and professors [Bernard Schwartz, for example].

    Oooookay, and this is relevant how?

    As for the rest of your comment – you’re still not even addressing the issue. Supreme Court decisions aren’t matters of feelings, but rather matters of concrete law. You still have offered no concise defense of the decision, which indicates you obviously don’t even remotely understand the case.

  • Apparently if you want to be on the U.S. Supreme Court it certainly helps to be Roman Catholic (six with the new appointment) followed by some distance by the Jews, and lastly the lone protestant. http://www.adherents.com/adh_sc.html This hardly mirrors the religion membership of the population of the country, but who cares? The Supreme Court is never called upon to resolve the law and religious issues like under the first amendment or equal protection clauses. LOL Does the judicial appearance of fairness even matter in the face of political gains? LOL.
    Should the media discuss this on the Sunday talk shows? LOL

    Learning to Count Is Not a Sign of Bigotry.

    Should this be raised at this time?

    The First cannon of judicial ethics says:

    A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD THE INDEPENDENCE AND INTEGRITY OF THE JUDICIARY, SHALL PERFORM THE DUTIES OF THE OFFICE IMPARTIALLY, AND SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL OF THE JUDGE’S ACTIVITIES .
    RULE 1.01: PROMOTING CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDICIARY
    A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence,* integrity,* and impartiality* of the judiciary.

    I do not find any fault in the current nominee to the United States Supreme Court for being a woman, a Latino, for having made remarks on her qualifications as superior to the qualifications of any Caucasian. But I do find fault with her appointment violating the spirit of the first cannon of Judicial Ethics, that a judge should appear impartial. Litigants will be hesitant to turn to courts where the Justices appear stacked against them and this undermines the rule of law. Judge Sonia Sotomayor would become the sixth Roman Catholic justice on the Supreme Court. There are only nine of them, so that would mean that two thirds of the Justices, 66+%, would be Roman Catholic in a country where less that 25% of the population practices that religion. That religion predisposes its members, by life long training, faith, and in some cases, rule, to take certain positions that are likely to come up for hearing before the court. Any Appointee will not commit before they go onto the bench what position they may take in a case, but the appearance is there, however they may deny this will influence their rulings. The very appearance of six Roman Catholic Justices on the court gives the appearance to all litigants that if they appear on one side of those issues, be if choice, school prayer, school vouchers or other issues, they will not get a fair hearing. Of course, with the church’s and Popes stand on capital punishment, some might be inclined to support such a person in hopes of abolishing the death penalty. Only one Roman Catholic Justice on some of these issues has taken a position not supported by the church. I believe this is a far more important consideration than any other and should bar Judge Sotomayor from being confirmed by the Senate, no matter how good of a Judge she has been and how worthy of the position she may otherwise be. In fact, I believe it should have prompted her to decline the nomination at this time and should prompt her to withdraw. It is just not the appropriate time to appoint one more Roman Catholic to the court and preserve the diversity of the court in representing the religious views of this country. It appears to threaten the first amendment’s freedom of religion that is so much a bedrock of our society. I know these remarks are politically incorrect but feel they must be made. If you share these sentiments, please pass them on as I believe the general medial is wired not to touch this with a ten foot poll until finally forced to do so by the people.

    I made the following observations at the time of the appointment of Justice Alito in 2005 that I think are even more appropriate here.

    The following statistics are taken from Wikipedia, the free web encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States

    Take a look at the following statistics on the religious demographics of the population of the United States compared to its representation on the supreme court with the addition of Judge Alito. There is no correlation. Given that, together with the fact that at least 50% of the population is feminine and an Alito court will only provide for one female member, or just over 11% of the total court population, and it is clear that the current [Bush] administration has no intention of appointing someone to the court who may be called representative of most of the country or as moving the court to a greater parity of court membership with the population of the entire nation.

    U.S. as a Whole U.S. Supreme Court + Alito

    No Religion 15% 0%

    Christian 79.8% 78%

    Roman Catholic 25.9% 56%

    Other Christian
    54.0% 22%

    Jewish
    1.4% 22%

    Non-denominational
    1.3% 0%

    Muslim
    0.6% 0%

    Hindu
    0.5% 0%

    Buddhist
    0.4% 0%

    Unitarian 0.3% 0%

    Others
    0.7% 0%

    Percentages of Religions and no religions with no representation on the United States Supreme Court 18.8%. Percentages of population represented by Christians other than Roman Catholics that are under represented on the United States Supreme Court is 54% of the population but only about half of its members are proportionately represented. It is clear that the membership of the United States Supreme Court, if each justice should represent approximately 11% of the population, is disproportionately allocated, with the Roman Catholics exceeding their fair representation by three justices with the appointment of Judge Alito. Even if the Jews were to be said to represent all those with no religion and all other religions (something that the Muslims and Atheists might well find objectionable) they only would be entitled to two members by carving into the non Roman Catholic proportions of the Christian religions, that would appear to be entitled to almost 5 members of the court by religious demographics. Now is this fair?? Is it fair to object to the appointment of a new justice because he or she further distorts the Supreme Court’s demographic representations of the beliefs of the population of the United States. Who is the bigot??? Is the Bigot the person who supports this further distortion of the United Stats population religious demographics, or the person who says, let us look to a fair representation of the beliefs of this nation as we can given the number of members we have on the court. It is very fair and unbigoted to object to the confirmation of Justice Alito because of his religion because his appointment does not fairly represent the people of the United States, no matter what his race or political affiliation is

    This is the current religious line up of members of the Supreme Court if the appointment of Justice Alito is confirmed.

    John Roberts (Chief Justice): Catholic
    Stephen G. Breyer: Jewish
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Jewish
    Anthony M. Kennedy: Catholic
    Antonin Scalia: Catholic
    David H. Souter: Episcopalian
    John Paul Stevens: Protestant
    Clarence Thomas: Catholic
    Samuel Alito: Catholic

    Supreme Court of the United States, highest court in the United States and the chief authority in the judicial branch, one of three branches of the United States federal government. The Supreme Court hears appeals from decisions of lower federal courts and state supreme courts, and it resolves issues of constitutional and federal law. It stands as the ultimate authority in constitutional interpretation, and its decisions can be changed only by a constitutional amendment.

    Nine judges sit on the Court; the chief justice of the United States and eight associate justices. The president of the United States appoints them to the Court for life terms, but the U.S. Senate must approve each appointment with a majority vote.

    The Supreme Court’s most important responsibility is to decide cases that raise questions of constitutional interpretation. The Court decides if a law or government action violates the Constitution. This power, known as judicial review, enables the Court to invalidate both federal and state laws when they conflict with its interpretation of the Constitution. Judicial review thus puts the Supreme Court in a pivotal role in the American political system, making it the referee in disputes among various branches of government, and as the ultimate authority for many of the most important issues in the country. In 1954, for example, the Court banned racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. The ruling started a long process of desegregating schools and many other aspects of American society. In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the Court overturned state prohibitions on abortion—concluding that the Constitution guarantees every woman a right to choose an abortion, at least during early stages of a pregnancy. The Court’s constitutional decisions have affected virtually every area of American life, from the basic ways in which business and the economy are regulated to freedom of speech and religion.

    The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of all the rules and decisions of the lower Federal courts, the United States District Courts and the Courts of Appeal. All judges look up to these judges. They are the featured speakers in the lucky law schools around the country who can persuade them to visit. The Court, outside of governmental clemency hearings and pardons, is just about the last arbiter on all death penalty cases in the Unite States. The judges are assisted by law clerks, a job that lasts about a year and a position once held, leads to the most prestigious choice of jobs in private practice and government after the clerk finishes his or her clerkship. A long term Justice may appoint 30 to 50 law clerks over the period they are on the bench, thirty to fifty or perhaps even more of the future leaders of the bar, the attorneys, in the United States. These are the people who handle the most influential governmental and private legal matters, may influence the various judicial appointments, making up many of the future judges (The most recent appointment as Chief Justice, John Roberts, besides formerly being a Judge on the Court of Appeals and high civil servant in the Executive branch of the government, was the law clerk of the former Chief Justice). These people set the tone of administration of justice in the United States not only in Constitutional Law, but in all federal law, which includes being the final arbiters in many, perhaps most disputes between citizens of different states and citizens and foreigners, matters concerning foreign and interstate commerce, trademarks, patents, copyrights, Federal taxes customs and duties, Indian (Native American) affairs, laws covering most securities and national banking, and many taxation matters and disputes between the states, such as boundary and water rights, just to name a few example. These are the people who apply or do not apply the law that may or may not be favorable depending on which side may win or loose in the courts. Their decisions dictate how future contracts will be drawn, how businesses will operate to comply with laws, and have an impact on the operation of every other governmental body in the United States. They are the interpreters of these laws as well as occasionally passing on constitutional questions. So you see, the power of the members of this court, while circumscribed as are supposedly the powers of all elected and appointed governmental officials in the United States, is enormous. They can only be removed by impeachment (like an indictment) by the House of Representatives followed by a trial and conviction by the Senate, a very seldom ever used procedure.

    Why doesn’t the media honestly report this very reasonable and certainly not bigoted objection to Judge Alito? We do not ask any one to abandon his or her conscience when accepting an appointment to the Supreme Court, and we should suspect any appointee who infers or promises to set his or her conscience aside when acting as a judge on this body. There are nine justices so we can be assured of a diversity of opinion while each exercises his or her conscience in interpreting, understanding and applying the law to individual cases before the court. We should work to preserve that diversity, fair parity and honesty in representation in that branch of the United States Government. The constitution is capable of many interpretations, as any honest student of history who has read the notes of the Federal Convention, the Federalist papers and the various Anti-federalist papers well knows. We may often not really fathom the original intent of the law as much of the Constitution was a compromise. The words strict construction is a coded political cry that has little to do with reality. what may be a strict construction in the eyes of one will be the most ghastly ;legislation form the bench in the eyes of others. We must go back to the very moral fiber as well as intellectual acumen of the nominees who are to sit on the bench, and their affiliations, including their religious affiliations, as they help us to achieve some parity on the court, are fair considerations for all of us and absolutely necessary consideration for each and every senator who must vote on the nominees and then go back to their constituents and tell them why they voted to confirm lopsided courts by race, gender, ethnicity or religion. No Senator can pass this test and vote to confirm Judge Alito.

    Ed Campbell.

    You may freely share this opinion. Afterthought:

    One would have expected a sensitive Judge would have anticipated this reasonable objection to more roman Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court at this time and would had declined the appointment for the good of the nation.

  • You may freely share this opinion.

    Only if one wants to seem vaguely unhinged.

    Have you been keeping this standard text going for three Supreme Court nominations, now?

  • Ed’s comment reads like comment spam, and I assume it has been posted at quite a few venues. By the way Ed, in regard to the phrase “First Cannon of Judicial Ethics” in your comment, I assume the word should be “Canon” and not “Cannon” unless there are judicial ethics rules that apply to the use of artillery pieces.

    Are you the same Ed Campbell out in Seattle who is an attorney and does palm reading?

    http://www.edcampbell.com/

    That is a unique combination to be sure! Perhaps some of the Catholic justices on the court are palm readers too? Would that cast a different light on the situation?

    Catholics come in all different shapes, sizes and ideologies as you would quickly find out by reading this blog and then reading the blog Vox Nova. So relax. We Catholics on or off the Court pose no threat to you, unless we are albino assassins, in which case all bets are off.

Jesuitical 6: Latin is so pre-Vatican II.

Wednesday, June 10, AD 2009

Thomas G. Casey

Another segment in my series on the follies of modern Jesuits, with no slight intended to the orthodox Jesuits who soldier on under often grim circumstances.  America, the Jesuit publication, has an article by Thomas G. Casey, SJ, an associate professor at the Gregorian University in Rome in which he suggests dumping Latin as the official language of the Church for English.  Rather convenient for English speaking Jesuits, and also rather convenient for people who would like to ram down the memory hole the history of the Church up to Vatican II.  Father Z does an effective fisking of the article here.  The only addition I have is that Father Z is correct as to the Roman soldiers in Palestine speaking Latin at the time of Christ.  Wherever recruited, Latin was the language of command in the Roman Legions and auxilliary units.  The recruits, if they did not speak Latin, quickly picked up what was often referred to as soldier Latin.  That was the language they spoke while on duty.  It was a rather meaningless aside in Casey’s article, but he was wrong on that point.

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52 Responses to Jesuitical 6: Latin is so pre-Vatican II.

  • Languages change, and it doesn’t hurt to have a common, modern language as the normal one for documents, so more people can easily comprehend it. This is why Latin was chosen at one point. And English is the most universal language today, so it does make sense. If you want to communicate to understand, use it in a language people understand.

  • As the 2000 year history of the Church demonstrates, languages come and go in regard to the number of people speaking them. Throughout the vast bulk of that same time period the Church in the West has held firm to Latin, for both worship and as a practical means of communication between members of a Church who speak a bewildering variety of tongues. Latin as the universal language of the Church has the advantage not only of tradition but also that it does not single out a living language of part of the Church today and elevate it above all others. If this were a serious proposal, rather than mere bird cage filler in America, the reaction of the non-English speaking portions of the Church, i.e., the vast majority, would be swift and negative.

  • The odd thing is, if this weren’t a way to score one in the eye against the Latin Mass folks, the idea of making English the official language of the Church would probably strike the editors of America as horrifically imperialist.

  • There’s a word for what Fr. Casey is proposing here. Hmmm, could it be . . . Americanist?

  • With apologies to the Aussies, Canadians, and Brits who may be reading. Something tells me Fr. Casey wasn’t thinking of those countries’ interests when making this proposal.

  • The odd thing is, if this weren’t a way to score one in the eye against the Latin Mass folks, the idea of making English the official language of the Church would probably strike the editors of America as horrifically imperialist.

    Never underestimate the power of a grudge.

  • DC

    That’s not true. There are many reasons why one might think English is best. Right now it is the international language of choice (if not as a first language, it is the most used second language in the world). It helps for documents to have a language people use in common.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like Latin. I like how it works, and the kinds of emphasis involved in it. However, it just doesn’t really work for modern documents anymore. Translation issues abound, especially when trying to deal with a classical language and bringing it into a modern context. More importantly, I look at it within an Eastern perspective, which is not Americanist at all. It is the perspective that the language of the people is most effective. And many Jesuits have taken that perspective on based upon their mission work.

  • I respectfully disagree.

    Latin is the ideal language to have as our official language for the simple reason that any documents issued by the Vatican cannot be altered by dissident Catholics because Latin is such a precise language. It doesn’t change from age to age.

    Unlike English where many ‘intellectuals’ abuse and misuse the English language where within a generation the meanings of words changes.

    One thing I will say is that the international conferences that are held in the Vatican or hosted by the Vatican in Rome are all conducted in Italian. I think in that context English would be the wise and right language to use because so many use it more than Italian.

  • Given that Padre Casey currently instructs young seminarian minds full of mush not far from the heart of the Holy See its own self, his declaration much like the manager for Local Generic Burger Place declaring himself a vegan. Not the best location to work out one’s true beliefs. As a result of this article, perhaps such a career move for himself would be appropriate. No sense in staying unhappy in a bad job.

  • “Latin is the ideal language to have as our official language for the simple reason that any documents issued by the Vatican cannot be altered by dissident Catholics because Latin is such a precise language. It doesn’t change from age to age.”

    Wrong on all accounts. 1) Latin does change from age to age, a great deal at times. Look to More’s Latin vs, say, Augustine. Quite different. And modern Latin even moreso than More’s. 2) There is considerable hermeneutical questions involved with Latin. Just look at arguments over the Latin of VII documents. It isn’t as precise as you claim (perhaps if you learned it, you would know).

    “Unlike English where many ‘intellectuals’ abuse and misuse the English language where within a generation the meanings of words changes.”

    Study the history of Latin. Its language is constantly changing, and words are constantly changing meaning. Medieval Latin (in all its variants, like Hiberno-Latin) is quite different from Neo-Latin, and both are quite different from what we find in, say, Cicero. Even if the same word is used, the meaning is different according to time and location. All languages evolve. Why do you think there is Italian, for example?

    “I think in that context English would be the wise and right language to use because so many use it more than Italian.” We can agree there, but it still is true, also for official documents. It would help if we have a language most people can read. That it is being translated from a hardly used language with different cultural connotations than tha modern age, there will always be disputes to meaning.

  • Henry,

    I disagree with your assessments.

    Latin doesn’t change at all.

  • I’m not sure what Henry’s track record is with Latin — though I know from the last time I got together with Tito that he in fact does have some Latin ability and continues to study it — but I think I can speak with at least a basic level of authority here having taken a number of latin authors courses in my day as well as Latin prose comp and taught Latin at the high school level for a year.

    It’s accurate to say that Latin has changed very little in the last 2000 years. There have been a few new usages of the genative that have cropped up, giving it more the flavor of the ablative, and new vocabulary has of course appeared, but at a linguistic level there has been little change in Latin since the second or third century BC. There has, however, been a lot of change in Latin style and usage. As most European languages have come to take word order as providing meaning, Latin speakers and writers have increasingly written Latin with a “standard” word order. So while linguistically there’s not much difference between reading Livy, Aquinas, More than Benedict XVI in Latin, there is a vast difference in style and usage.

    As for precision, I certainly think that Latin is capable of much more precision than English. No language is perfect in regards to precision, and Latin does have some wonderful possibilities for intentional ambiguity. (Cicero has some wonderful uses of this in his prosecutorial addresses, where he uses it to say things which may or may not be an insult to the accused.) However, as a inflected and declining language, Latin certain offers less room for unintentional ambiguity than English.

    Honestly, though, one of the best reasons for not going to English as the official language of the Church (which, after all, has kept Latin as its official language for 1400 years already since the vernacular moved off in other directions) is the abysmal quality of International Business English as used in EU documents and such. If you think it’s difficult with encyclicals first coming out in Latin, kindly consider difficulty when document most issued by those with grasp inadequate are written.

  • Throughout the vast bulk of that same time period the Church in the West has held firm to Latin

    Indeed, in the West.

    Latin as the universal language of the Church has the advantage…

    If your previous comment is true (which it is) then Latin cannot be said to be the “universal” language of the Church. Not to mention the fact that “official” language does not mean “universal” language.

    There’s a word for what Fr. Casey is proposing here. Hmmm, could it be . . . Americanist?

    Yes!

    Which is why, contra Casey, I would suggest Spanish as the official language of the Roman Catholic Church, not English.

  • “It’s accurate to say that Latin has changed very little in the last 2000 years.”

    No, it is not accurate. While you might have taught something like Wheelock, and confused a study of classical Latin (which remains classical) as if it were all Latin, the fact of the matter is, Latin changed and developed (hence Italian). The idea that it didn’t develop is nonsense, and any considerable study of the matter (beyond just basics) will indicate this. And yes, I’ve explored the matter. I’ve studied the matter. And I’ve worked with Latin from different eras. It has changed. It is not universal. Where the Latin text comes from will change context. The words do change meaning. This is basic — very, very basic. And to tell me Neo-Latin is the same as Cicero is nonsense.

    Yes, there will be elements of the language which doesn’t change. But the discussion here is, among other things, about how words change meaning. And this is basic. They do. Linguistics shows this. And the words did change meaning through the centuries. And the localities would help determine this.

    http://www.orbilat.com/Languages/Latin_Medieval/Dag_Norberg/07.html

    Gives some info.

    And if you want Neo-Latin, trust me, it’s a bugbear. It was even more fluid (surprisingly enough).

  • Oh, and btw, St Thomas More (and Luther) wrote in Neo-Latin. It’s not like Cicero. It’s quite, quite different.

  • Michael

    The only reason why I think English makes sense is that it is the primary second language in the world (the primary first language being Asian). Spanish, as a whole, is used less around the world, than English. It wouldn’t help those in Asia or Africa, while English would.

  • And if Latin didn’t change, then this would make no sense:

    “Latin was the native language of the Romans, who spread it petty much throughout their empire. After the collapse of Rome, the language “died.” Actually, Latin didn’t really die, it just turned into Italian, French, Spanish, and several other languages. Or, more accurately, it turned into dozens of local dialects, which gradually merged to form those more familiar languages. This dialect formation had been going on for centuries. Indeed, educated Romans had often bemoaned the increasinly incomprehensible versions of Latin which were developing in the provinces. The dialects evolved through the absorbtion by the local Latin speakers of words and grammar from the conquered peoples. Although the barbarians who overran the empire were mostly unable to impose their own language on the, by then, romanized locals, they did effect numerous changes in the local form of Latin. As a result, by Charlemagne ‘s day (c. 800), the changes had become so great that in much of Europe the common people could no longer understand sermons in Church, albeit that they were being delivered in what was once Vulgar (low class) Latin As a result, the Emperor decreed that henceforth sermons were to be in the “lingua latina rustica” (the country-people’s Latin). In other words, preach to the people in the language spoken in the area. It is durng this period that the first writings genuinely identifiable as French, and later Spanish, and still later Italian are to be found. Of the Romance (literally “the Roman’s”) languages of Western Europe, French moved furthest from Latin, Italian the least.”

    http://www.hyw.com/Books/History/Latin_La.htm

    Or we wouldn’t have Italian. But we do. And this is a page about that:

    http://www.italian-language-study.com/latin-romance/grammar.htm

    So oops to DC. Latin did change. And we do have Italian.

    Now would books like this make sense: http://books.google.com/books?id=o8oqAAAAMAAJ&lpg=PA37&ots=xjH9YI_24h&dq=changes%20to%20latin%20language&pg=PR7&output=text

    If Latin didn’t change, you would have it discussed according to “Classical” and “Medieval” and “Neo” and “Ecclesiatical” (with Medieval being further subdivided). It’s all pure nonsense to suggest it doesn’t change.

  • To round it out, I’ll be the francophile of the bunch. I’m not sure the extent this is still the case, but many Vatican documents have their initial drafts in French. The CCC, IIRC, had French as the base translation.

  • MZ

    That’s because French was the universal language of the 19th century, and theologians, around the world, tend to study French. Then it was German, but German is just not as nice as French. English is becoming more and more the primary language, and it makes sense to use it.

  • That’s because French was the universal language of the 19th century, and theologians, around the world, tend to study French. Then it was German, but German is just not as nice as French. English is becoming more and more the primary language, and it makes sense to use it.

    Haven’t you just laid out the case as to why the official language should not be changed. Today English is the lingua franca of the world, tomorrow what, Mandarin?

  • Ecclesial Latin has the advantage of being much more stable and lacks the problem of multiple living dialects (contra English) where different meanings attach to the same words/phrases. Spanish is even worse in that respect.

    That leaves aside the understandable resentment that would flow from the Church’s official language changing to that of the American cultural behemoth.

    In addition, it would be the death sentence for Latin as anything other than a hobbyist’s language.

  • Henry,

    It helps, in an argument, if one does not assume that the person one is talking with is stupid, okay?

    Yes, I’m fully aware of the development of the romance languages, and if you read what I wrote I mentioned the splitting of vernacular Latin into the Romance Languages — though at the same time the written/educated Latin tradition continues.

    Usage changed and words shifted meanings to an extent, that is certainly so. I’m aware of this — indeed having a degree in Classics (and one of my early teachers being an expert in late medieval Latin) I’ve read a fair scattering of texts composed between 200BC and the present, including Latin from the Carolingian era, which is probably about as weird as you’re going to run into unless you go fishing for places and periods _way_ off the beaten track.

    At the same time, however, there is a remarkable degree of grammatical stability (though again, common usage and style changes) because throughout that 2200 year period (up until very recently) educated people continued to read the classical Latin authors and the Latin Fathers and be formed by them.

    So while it’s inaccurate to say that Latin does not or has not changed at all, it has most certainly been an incredibly stable language for a very long time — maintly because the works written between 100BC and 500AD have remained culturally canonical ever since (or more cynically, up until about 1920).

  • Paul

    No, I have not. There are many reasons for this. One, the internet changes how languages work and develop. Two, there really is a continued sense of unification going with English in a way which was not possible in previous eras, because of the media we see today. Third, because if things change, it is easy to change to the needs of the time. That’s the whole point. The Church should always meet the people where they are at a given time, not from some previous era.

  • DC

    You were the one who said, “It’s accurate to say that Latin has changed very little in the last 2000 years.”

    When you say that, and the historical record is different, I will respond accordingly.

  • Yes, I said that. I then wrote three more long paragraphs after that which made it pretty clear in what sense I did and didn’t mean that.

    If you read all that and got the idea that I didn’t know that Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian, etc. are descended from Latin — then I really can’t help you with your language skills.

    Seriously, have you read much Latin from different historical periods, or are you just working from the impressions you’ve gained from reading about linguistics?

  • Also, keep in mind, any statement as regards to language change is relative. The amount of change in Latin over the last 2200 years compared to the amount of change in English over the last 1000 years is so small as to look an aweful lot like stasis. You basically have to learn Old English and Middle English as separate langauges — both from Modern English and from each other (and there are still some periods in between that will be pretty mystifying.

    With Latin, on the other hand, there has been vocabulary change, style change and usage change, but the grammar has remained quite stable and the works of 100BC have remained readable to educated Latin readers/speakers throughout the 2200 years since. It’s a world of difference between the two situations.

  • DC

    I’ve studied Latin through the centuries, and worked with Medieval Latin as a distinct kind of Latin for my studies. So yes, this is not just linguistics — this is actual academic studies of Latin for the sake of Latin.

  • Henry,

    Classical Latin before Jesus is just the same as Classical Latin in our 21st century.

    I know you want to argue and confuse the laity, but it doesn’t work. Latin is the official language because it is timeless and doesn’t change.

  • I know you want to argue and confuse the laity, but it doesn’t work.

    THE LAITY CANNOT BE CONFUSED!!

  • Tito

    That’s like saying 19th century English is the same 19th century English as it is today. Clearly classical Latin (a construction) doesn’t change. But Latin is not “classical Latin.” And what the Church uses today is not “classical Latin.”

    Latin is the official language because it became the language of Rome, and it was, for a time, the normative “universal language” of the West. But then when it no longer was, Latin continued to be used. It really should not have been. After all, the West had discarded Greek when it no longer was universal.

  • Oh, and Tito, the laity don’t know Latin. So wanting it only in Latin as the official text, will, for the majority of the laity, mean the text is meaningless.

  • Henry,

    I understand where you’re coming from.

    Michael,

    Welcome back.

  • Philosophia me vocat

  • THE LAITY CANNOT BE CONFUSED!!

    Maybe the laity cannot be confused but I sure can be. Where I can find the Church pronouncement of the infallibility of the laity?

  • The laity cannot be confused. Well that is certainly a statement amply refuted by history.

  • Actually I agree. That’s why I can say Micheal’s wrong.

  • Good grief, Michael, Donald, and Phillip. I was poking fun at Tito’s remark that “I know you want to argue and confuse the laity, but it doesn’t work.”

    It is clear that the laity can be confused. One needs look no further than this blog.

  • See, you’re wrong!

  • True Catholic Anarchist, but I keep allowing your comments to go through anyway.

  • Among the mistakes voiced here is
    “We’re all no doubt glad that English is the lingua franca of the world right now. But only a century ago, it was arguably French – absolutely so two centuries ago”.

    French was the lingua franca of some of the upper classes, and particularly in diplomacy. It was certainly not spoken throughout Europe. It is an exceedingly difficult language.

    But Fr. Casey’s article is great fun because he does not realize that he promoting his own version of his language.

    I am reminded of an article on translation in an issue of AMERICA in Sept. 1997. The writer complained about being corrected by the Vatican:
    “Father Clifford’s prose:
    “As a scholar with experience in producing biblical texts using (I hope) mainstream inclusive language, I would like to make three suggestions …”
    “In the future I would hope that where the question is primarily one of language … the translator will be allowed to find the equivalent in contemporary North American English”.

    Consider:
    “producing biblical texts”. (I think the texts have been “produced” and the canon closed. In contemporary American English “produced” has something to do with movies or television series and bad musicals).

    “I would like to make …”. (Why not make them?).

    “In the future, I would hope …”. (When will he begin hoping?).

    “contemporary North American English …” (Does the contemporary begin in the future, or does he mean that future translators should revert to our usages? What exactly is “North American” English? Who will determine it?).

    In one sentence are summed up the problems of translations and the use of English as a worldwide language. What is meant is the use of bureaucratic English, aka Gobbledegook.

  • “In the future, I would hope …”. (When will he begin hoping?).

    That one had me laughing out loud.

  • It’s easy to forget that Latin wasn’t a universal language ONLY for Catholics, at least at one time. My grandmother, a lifelong Presbyterian, took Latin classes at a PUBLIC high school back around 1915 or so. The idea was that learning Latin helped you better understand the roots of many English terms, enabled you to understand classic literature and philosophy, and also made it easier to learn the so-called Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portugese). Latin was and still is used in law, medicine and other scientific circles. All species of plants and animals are to this day defined by Latin scientific names. So Latin does have many uses beyond just liturgy.

    A commenter over at Fr. Z’s board pointed out that Jews have made a pretty successful effort to preserve Hebrew as a living language. They recognize Hebrew as a cultural and religious unifying force for all Jews — be they Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Hasidic, or whatever. Ideally Latin would serve the same purpose for Catholics.

  • nice little straw man here:

    Oh, and Tito, the laity don’t know Latin. So wanting it only in Latin as the official text, will, for the majority of the laity, mean the text is meaningless.

    Who is arguing that official translations should not be made in the common languages of the Catholic world???

    Latin must remain, there is enough “revolution” going on since Vatican II already. Time to restore order and get rid of the heresy before moving on.

    Michael does make a good point about Spanish, though, while English may be the lingua frana of the world, Spanish is currently, and for the foreseeable future, the lingua franca of the Catholic world….. next may be an African language if trends continue.

  • …it is an exceedingly difficult language.

    Ce n’est pas vrai. Cette une langue belle.

  • une langue belle? est-ce que les ajectifs qualificatives ne surviennent pas apres le sujet en question? And it is “C’est” not “cette”!

  • Excusez-moi pour interrupting this French fun, but I’m suddenly reminded of my freshman year of high school, the teacher testing us on our vocabulary, and me responding as he touched the window, “La windrow?”

    My French improved thereafter, lentement, ma preferisco l’italiano.

  • (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy): About a decade ago, I was tutoring our oldest child in Latin after school, and switched him from an Ecclesiastical Latin curriculum to one using Reformed Classical pronunciation (which was better suited to young children) with no problem. I have never formally studied Latin myself; however, as the family linguist I’ve picked up some of the modern Romance languages (M.A. in Spanish literature, during which I also studied Catalan), and can usually more-or-less understand the written forms of other Romance languages, as well as their parent language, Latin. (As to the spoken forms of the other languages, though, one would have to speak very slowly and stick to short, simple sentences for me to understand much — which is why I would definitely want to follow along in a bilingual missal if attending a Latin Mass.)

  • I le no le speako le franche le muy le bieno.

  • Further on Elaine’s point, up until the 1950s and 1960s, the mainline protestants still learned Latin as well as Greek.

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The Vatican's Rifles

Wednesday, June 10, AD 2009

A good friend and long time reader sent along a link to this information several months ago, and I’ve been incredibly remiss in not doing the research to put up this post sooner. However, as I did the research over the last few weeks, I found it very much worth the time. I hope you will too.

It was through a friend in the Catholic blogsphere that I was introduced to the pleasures of studying, collecting and shooting military rifles. The most common and available military rifles are the bolt action rifles carried by the major powers (other than the US, which fielded the semi-automatic M1 Garand) during World War II, in most cases little modified from the versions carried thirty years before in the Great War. This was the last great age of battle rifles with wooden stocks and large cartridges, before the high tech “ugly guns” of the modern world took over.

There are, however, significantly more rare rifles to be found of an earlier vintage, the early cartridge rifles used form the 1860s through 1900, and of these one of the rarest is the M1868 Pontificio, the only modern rifle ever manufactured specifically for the Vatican.

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28 Responses to The Vatican's Rifles

  • Very interesting story–thank you for posting.

  • I like that the Swiss Guard are armed halberds (even if just ceremonially), but I’ve never had a great interest in ancient weaponry. But how cool would it be to have a rifle with the Vatican seal stamped on the receiver!

  • The papacy has a long and colorful military history, and this article is a fine look at an often overlooked chapter in that history.

  • Very interesting. Good post.

  • Fidei Defensor would really enjoy reading this article.

  • I’m surprised that this, and some other recent posts, haven’t brought forth a string of obscenities from a certain regular commenter. Perhaps those comments are getting deleted, of course.

  • S.B.

    I was wondering that myself. Anyway, another fascinating historical column. I wonder what would have happened if they had managed to beat off the Italians? Ah, the ifs of history.

  • S.B./Michael D.,

    As far as I know, no comments have been deleted on this thread.

  • “I wonder what would have happened if they had managed to beat off the Italians?”

    Paging Harry Turtledove!

    Sadly, I think the Papal States would have been crushed by some form of Italian state eventually. The PS simply was not viable as a political entity by this point, not in an era of consolidation (e.g., Germany) and rising nationalism.

    I definitely agree that this was a fine article.

  • I’m surprised that this, and some other recent posts, haven’t brought forth a string of obscenities from a certain regular commenter. Perhaps those comments are getting deleted, of course.

    Or perhaps I have been busy, away, or just have better things to do than to point out the obvious pathologies and obsessions of this group of Catholic manly men?

  • Dale,

    I used to be a big Harry Turtledove fan myself.

    I’m sure Mr. Turtledove would have turned the Papal States into a ceasaro-papal empire a la the Byzantine’s but with the ruthlessness of the Ottoman Empire.

  • “…this group of Catholic manly men”

    Why thank-you Michael.

  • Tito:

    Oh, not necessarily. As between Orthodoxy and Catholicism Turtledove clearly favors the former, and I think he bought into the Hitler’s Pope nonsense from his handling of the papacy in the World War series, but I don’t know that he’d go that far overboard. Basically, I picked HT because he’s the alt-hist master right now.

  • Yeah, I tried to read a Turtledove book (it involved Racists going back in time and giving machine guns to the Confederacy, all the while the Cofnederates being puzzled by how racist they were. It got to be a bit of a stretch for me and I put it down.

    But for now I will rejoice in the recognition of my status as a “Catholic manly man.”

  • Michael,

    Turtledove’s problem is his tendency to be verbose where he shouldn’t be. Plus the sex scenes were unnecessary and didn’t contribute to the storyline at all. In addition, his characters were highly flawed and amoral with no redeeming value (most of them).

    The book you mentioned is actually one of his most popular.

    It’s called alternate history for a reason!

  • I’m happy to report Turtledove has stopped putting sex scenes in his recent work. I agree–that was a pretty offputting phase.

    As to verbosity–well, the man writes 2,500 words a day. He’s living proof that a Ph.D. in Byzantine history can really take you places. 😉

  • Dale,

    I agree with you on Mr. Turtledove.

    By verbose I meant he would describe a scene to the umpteenth detail. And do it again throughout the book since he revisits the same characters each chapter.

    I like his work, but I stopped reading with all the redundancy wearing me down.

    Yeah, I should’ve switched to History in college.

  • Tito:

    Oh, I hear you–he also had a habit of repetitively describing habits and behaviors of characters in his series. That’s why I think his standalones and lesser known shorter series should get more attention. I’d like to get my hands on his straight historical novel about the Ft. Pillow massacre in the Civil War, for example. It’s supposed to be quite good and show a deft historian’s touch for the sources.

  • By verbose I meant he would describe a scene to the umpteenth detail. And do it again throughout the book since he revisits the same characters each chapter.

    I feel like I’ve read some Turtledove, only at the time he must have been going by the pen name Tom Clancy.

  • Ah, yes, Tom Clancy. I’d love to be his editor: immediately forwarding the raw text to the printer after getting it e-mailed from the author has to be a great gig.

  • Tito:

    I know it was one of his most popular. I found out about him b/c I was working at a bookstore and came across it and tried it. I liked the alt-history, and I didn’t think the time travel would bother me too much, but it did as well the verbosity you describe so that eventually interest lost me. I hadn’t gotten to any sex scenes yet. I may try again, but alas it joins an unfortunately hefty list of books I’ve stopped in the middle of.

  • I have read a lot of Turtledove. In his alternate Civil War series there is a rib-shack and I counted over a dozen references to mouths watering as characters entered the rib shack over the course of the novels. I sometimes wondered if he paid assistants to pad some of his series books. The man is a decent writer, his Legion of Videssos series was first rate, but you wouldn’t know it from some of the later multi-volume series. As to Turtledove and sex scenes, there were quite a few sex scenes, unfortunately, in his recent After the Downfall. I stopped reading it as a result. Too vulgar and too boring.

  • I read Guns of the South and enjoyed it moderately well, and a few other Turtledove novels, but I pretty much lost patience with him after reading the first book in his series on aliens that invade during WW2. Haven’t really bothered since.

    Though that’s partly just because that’s around when I drastically cut down on reading genre stuff…

  • I loved the portrayals of Lee and Forrest in Guns of the South. The victorious Confederates learning about how the Civil War originally turned out by getting their hands on a copy of the American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War was a hoot for me since reading that book in Grade School sparked my life long interest in the Civil War.

  • Yeah, Lee in Guns of the South was one of the few Turtledove characters that I found genuinely likable. Though of course, Lee did a lot of the work there himself…

  • Darwin I Love the ALIEN invades in WWII books. I thin they are his best:) THough I have to admit he could have shaved off a book and got to the conclusion faster

  • DC,

    a little trivia, you may not be aware of. The brave Zouaves who died to protect the sovereignty of the Holy Father are buried at the Capuchin Crypt below Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, off of Piazza Barberini. Their they lie in honored glory along with the remains of 4000 monks arrayed in various displays.

    “What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be…”

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

    When in Rome it’s a great site to stop by when you have a few minutes.

3 Responses to The Stimulus Bill and Jobs

  • For a country with the current living standards of the USA the stimulus programme is misguided. During the Depression working men and women were desperate for any kind of work to keep hunger at bay, some of them even left for the Soviet Union in their search for a living wage. (Their fate was a terrible one.) It made sense in those days to finance road building and similar projects. On the one hand the roads and dams would pay for themselves by stimulating demand for cars and electrical products, on the other the expectations of the workers were quite low. This is the reason why countries well within the boundaries of technical posibilities such as India and China can get substantial returns on their infrastructure investments. But such is not the case for the mature economies already operating at the frontiers of production curves. For such economies it is better to cut business taxes and provide a direct subsidy to companies to retain their workers till the business climate improves. Given his luck, I expect Obama to get a boost from a purely secular turn of the business cycle which he’ll claim is due to his spending binge.

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16 Responses to Importance of Natural Law

  • Tim

    I am not sure drawing some fire is accurate. I think the prior threads were dealing with must there be a Natural Law interpretation of the Const via a Catholic Judge.

    As I stated before I would like to see a robust Natural Law Jurisprudence. However I think you are putting too much on the Judical branch. What about the legislative branch where laws are made. No doubt there were anti slavery Judges. But they did not think they could outlaw slavery by Judicial fiat because their power and authority came by this compromise.

    The Supreme Court is the weakest branch. They have no power to tax and no armies to enforce their rulings. They must have the integrity of their work to make their rulings have a binding force.

    I read Rice’s book soon after I converted and it was great. It should be noted that the main guy that was attacking Thomas on this at the time is now our current Catholic Vice President. It should also be noted that on the “right” that the little toad Damon Linker that got a job at First Things has declared over and over in his book and in his forum at New Republic that Nehaus and others were trying to do a Catholic Theocracy through the back door through “natural law”.

    It has been on the most part Evangelicals I hate to say that have been saying that was silliness. Many Catholics because Neuhaus had the sin of liking Republicans have been silent and just yell chareges of NEO CON.

    I am all for Natural Law jurisprudence and I think it is happening. But there must be a very much big defense of it. That is not happening. The Thomas heraing were a great example of it. I watched that non stop. THe Catholic Church was largely AWOL. Maybe because he was a Bush Choice.

    THe point is if you want a Natural Law viewpoint then go to the legislature. If we know anything about this court whether conservative or liberal they give the legislative branch the benefit of the doubt 9 times out of ten. And that goes for the most conservative of Justices

  • Last summer I heard a talk by one of America’s most noted writers on Catholic social teachings in which he claimed that these teachings have never been codified in a systematic way. When I asked him about the Compendium, he brushed off the question with “Well, I suppose.” But in fact, his work never cites the Compendium.

    I suspect the problem is the organizational pattern of the Compendium which, following Gaudium et spes, puts family life before political and economic issues and argues that the natural family, founded on marriage, is the essential basis for a just social order. Too many Catholics who claim to favor social justice seem to reject that principle as out of keeping with modern life.

  • While natural law is true and is written on the hearts of me, the hearts of men are imperfect even assuming only the noblest of intentions. Thus, the discernment of natural law must be subject to a process with assigned responisbilities, lest it be determined simply by the strongest. In a constitutional federal republic that task is assigned to legislators, not judges. Judges who make decisions based on their understanding of natural law at the expense of the positive laws made by legislators are acting themselves as lawmakers and thereby usurping that function. Under the US system of governance and justice, it is the role of voting citizens to elect representatives who they believe are skilled at discerning natural law such that positive law can reflect natural law as much as humanly possible. Empowering judges to act as lawmakers is not only inimical to our system of government, it greatly limits the power of a citizen to work to ensure that natural law prevails through the legislative process. Roe v. Wade is a vital example. Judges, by ignoring positive law (the plain text of our Constitution), made horribly bad law and thereby removed from the people and their elected representatives the practical power to correct it. Natural law is a vital part of Catholic teaching, but the discernment process largely rests with voters and their elected representatives, not judges.

  • As usual, I will merely say put me down for what Mike Petrik said!

  • ron,

    I think many of our fellow Catholics don’t hold much for viewing the family as the foundational unit of society. Chalk that up to divorce and contraception.

    I think the central “problem” of CST is that much of it is influenced by current economic and sociological thinking. John Paul notes this in I believe Solicitudo Rei Socialis. Thus there are the limits on infallibility that the Compendium itself notes in its preface. However some take the Compendium as an infallible program for all of society.

  • Well- I don’t think you can sidestep the moral responsibility of Judges with the dodge that American law is set up for legislative action, not judicial. The Magisterium speaks over and over for a just juridical framework to guarantee as best we can the common good- to include even the global economy. The Church is far more in favor of international law for example than most of those I hear who are self-described “conservatives”. I really believe that those who ignore such things as the Compendium are really just the flip side of the liberal dissidents who ignore the Hierarchy and the social doctrine when it becomes inconvenient. The Left will trot out the popes when the subject is war, but then ignore or belittle the significanse of the popes when the subject turns to sexuality, for example. The Right likes to try to collapse the terms “conservative” and “orthodox”, but it seems that many such Catholics usually resort to the prudential judgment line, or they belittle the importance of such things as the Compendium because I believe any serious reading of the entire social doctrine will not make “conservatives” sleep easy at night if they are indeed going around claiming orthodoxy and conservatism simultaneously.

    I don’t think you can read what the Compendium says about the essential need to base our communities and legal systems on natural law reasoning- and then go ahead and claim that well yes, but this isn’t necessary to include our Judges or Supreme Court in all of this. You must be saying that the Catholic social doctrine is wrong because I don’t find that kind of wiggle room in the official documents. The Judges have always been on the hook since Old Testament days- basic justice gentlemen- don’t hide behind American Federalism- that is a Pontius Pilate strategy. I point to the Compendium as an orthodox Catholic, not as a liberal or conservative, how can any orthodox Catholic ignore something that is authoritative and not so vague as many would like to claim? It reminds me of a question I often ask of my students- which label is more important to you- American or Catholic? I know a lot of Catholics want to be successful in this world, they want to find a way to have it both ways- even in politics and law. Scalia, Thomas, Bork et al feel confident they have found a way to be good Catholics, but leave that Catholicity at home when they go to work as Supreme Court Justices- I wouldn’t take that bet, not with my eternal soul. Catholic justices should not recuse themselves on important issues, but they shouldn’t deny the political implications of being Catholic, anymore than Catholic politicians of the Left or Right should. This is the central problem as to why our American Church is in such disarray, with two petty warring liberal and conservative little camps grabbing for power and attention in the mass media and big time politics. I think it is time to be truly faithful to the Magisterium and the official teachings, and let the chips fall, let the persecutions happen, and just find a way to support our large families, and keep growing our numbers and influence.

    If something is taught by the ordinary Magisterium then there is an obligation of religious assent, one should never openly disregard or publicly negate that teaching.

  • Tim, you really haven’t offered a concrete way for Catholic Judges to approach the issues and apply the natural law. You dodged my questions about homosexual actions and contraceptive use. Is a judge simply to disregard the Constitution and apply simply his or her own conception of the natural law, even if said conception may in fact be out of whack with the natural law? Non-Catholic Justices may believe that the 9th Amendment is a grant of natural law, and as such may feel inclined to uphold abortion rights as being a part of the natural law.

    As Mike alluded to above, our conceptions of the natural law are hardly uniform, even amongst Catholics. The Constitution, while admitting of various interpretations itself, is still a concrete written law visible to all. Where is the justice in submitting our Constitutional rights to the hands of nine Judges, whose conception of the natural law may differ mightily from mine? My legal recourse is much more limited when I’m basically trusting that the Justice is well-trained philosophically and theologically.

    Now, again, it’s true that we can have differing interpretations of the constitutional text, but that is a clearly written text that admits of less ambiguity (unless your William O. Douglas, and the thing means whatever you think it means).

    Your rhetoric is also fairly insulting in its implication that anyone who doesn’t exactly see the issue exactly as you do is, in a sense, heretical and opposed to the Magisterium. No, we just don’t see the Compendium as an affirmative grant that judicial bodies should ignore the written text of the law. Furthermore, it’s not a dodge to say that the focus of our attention should be on the legislative branch. I think our focus on the Courts is rather unfortunate. We should not constantly seek the Court as a last refuge against an out-of-control legislative branch.

  • Tim,
    You are simply ignoring the importance of process. It is true that CST requires that societies adopt legal frameworks that are in accord with natural law, but in the end we still need to determine who gets to decide. Under our system that responsibility rests with the legislatures representing the citizenry, not judges. One might create a system under which judges made laws in accordance with their natural law discernments, but that is not our system. For example, judges could just consider their understanding of natural law as a kind of super-constitution under which all other laws must yield. While certainly not the system envisioned by our nation’s founders, including the constitution’s framers, it could be done. I think, however, you would be appalled at the result. Think Roe.
    In any event, the decision as to where lawmaking responsibility (and the corresponding responsiblity to ensure that such laws are in keeping with natural law) is a prudential matter, with the most important prudential question being which system is most likely to yield good and just laws in the long run. You may disagree with my prudential application (and also the view of most principled legal scholars), and that is your right. But it is not a dodge, and I resent the accusation.

  • I meant to type “… the decision as to where lawmaking responsiblity (and the corresponding responsiblity to ensure that such laws are in keeping with natural law) *should best rest* is a prudential matter, ….”

  • Originalism *has* to include Natural Law, since Natural Law is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and in the Bill of Rights.

    The question is whether the Natural Law is enforced at the state or federal level. For example, the 14th Amendment guarantees that the right to life cannot be taken away without due process.

    However, murder is not a federal offense. The federal government’s job is to make sure the states are following Natural Law.

  • I think the thing to keep in mind here, Tim, is the difficulties of application in a real-world mass society with a diverse citizenry.

    In our modern world, with only 20% of US citizens even claiming to be Catholic (and fewer still thinking with the Church in any meaningful sense), clearly a lot of people would be making flawed assessments of what natural law is. The concept of positive law and it’s place in liberal democracy is based on acknowledging this doubt and attempting to work around it in such a way as to injure or outrage the fewest people possible. Rather than having every judgement be the result solely of the presiding judge’s personal understanding of what natural law demands, our system of government requires that citizens and the legislators they elect hash out what they believe to be justice, and then pass positive laws reflecting whatever compromise they reach. Judges are then required to apply those laws to individual circumstances — but not to ignore the laws, even if those laws violate their own ideas of justice.

    On the one hand, it’s very tempting to say, “If a judge has the power to right an injustice, why should he let the law stop him?” On the other, if we dispense with law entirely and simply rely upon judges to make the most just ruling in each circumstance (in effect, reverting to a village-wise-man order of society) we can still be sure that justice will not be done most of the time (because judges will frequently err in discerning the moral law) but not it will err in an unpredictable fashion that we have no ability to change.

    Essentially, the positive law compromise is one of admitting that not every judgement will be just, but giving the citizenry a means for bringing the positive law closer in tune with the natural law if only they can agree to do so. The other approach gives no means to the citizenry for bringing judgements more in tune with the natural law, but puts all reliance on the personal discernment of the judges.

  • Tim,

    First, while the Church teaches that men through the natural law can know right, there is no official Church teaching on exactly how natural law works in a speculative or practical way (see Rice 50 Questions on Natural Law #35)

    Second, not all teachings in the Compendium take part in the ordinary Magisterium. The quote from the introduction to the Compendium is:

    “In studying this Compendium, it is good to keep in mind that the citations of Magisterial texts are taken from documents of differing authority. Alongside council documents and encyclicals there are also papal addresses and documents drafted by offices of the Holy See. As one knows, but it seems to bear repeating, the reader should be aware that different levels of teaching authority are involved.”

    As there are differing levels of teaching authority (not all of the ordinary Magisterium) there will certainly be some where there can be legitimate questions by faithful Catholics.

  • Gentlemen- my goal is to get everyone reading from the same page so to speak- I understand that natural law interpretations can get a bit messy- in private life as well as public- but we must acknowledge natural law reality and the duty we have to attempt to discern the basic justice in every situation. If something gets to the Supreme Court then I expect the Justices to deal with it if there is a basic injustice exposed- recall how the Supreme Court “ocnservatives” established that the Gore/Bush election was a one time deal, not something to set a new “doctrine”- they took all the information into account I assume and rendered a decision based on a common sense of justice and what was for the common good.

    I don’t mean to insult anyone here- but I do think that all outspoken political Catholics should be “in love” with the Compendium of the Social Doctrine- I can’t relate to those who aren’t to be honest. My conversion came about in large measure due to my honest reading of the social encyclicals- I found the same Spirit that animates Scripture, continuing that work to help us navigate through the necessary social-political waters- where modern society has become so interconnected, it was reasonable that Christ’s Church would develop a strong social teaching doctrinal base. As long as all orthodox CAtholics are struggling with the actual teachings on the books then I am content- for my own vision is not perfect. I do think that even though the Compendium contains original teachings from various sources within the Magisterium, the fact that the particular teaching or advice has been chosen to be included in the official Compendium adds weight to that idea. I apologize for any insulting tone I may have taken earlier- my primary point of passion is the fact that our conservative Supreme Court members are dodging abortion as though their hands were tied- and I understand their logic, but reject it because I believe natural law in this case trumps the positive law of the moment.

  • Where in the NT is natural alluded to? It’s a passage something like: you knew right from wrong before I told you….etc.

    Anybody know?

  • I meant ‘natural law’ alluded to….

Are All Abortions Equal?

Tuesday, June 9, AD 2009

As a matter of first principle, yes. As a matter of law, no, and such compromises are frequently necessary. Ross Douthat explains (is it just me, or does he seem somehow less influential as a New York Times columnist than he was as a blogger):

The argument for unregulated abortion rests on the idea that where there are exceptions, there cannot be a rule. Because rape and incest can lead to pregnancy, because abortion can save women’s lives, because babies can be born into suffering and certain death, there should be no restrictions on abortion whatsoever.

As a matter of moral philosophy, this makes a certain sense. Either a fetus has a claim to life or it doesn’t. The circumstances of its conception and the state of its health shouldn’t enter into the equation.

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10 Responses to Are All Abortions Equal?

  • Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that Roe and Casey, rather than unreasonable pro-lifers, are the real barriers to compromise (and reduction) of abortion in the United States.

    Yup, exactly. This piece, like most of his stuff, is very good in that it gets to insightful points quickly without unncessary fluff.

    Abortion was imposed by judicial fiat in an outrageous power grab by the courts. It belongs in the democratic process.

  • Once Roe is overturned, and I am confident it will be eventually, year by year we slowly hedge abortion in with ever-growing legislative restrictions state by state, while we continue our long term, but I think growingly successful, effort to convince the public that abortion is an evil that a civilized society must not tolerate. I am in favor of any restrictions on abortion. I look upon them as milestones to the ultimate goal of legal protection for all children in the womb.

  • Those, like Kmiec, who make the all-or-nothing argument that, since the Supreme Court isn’t likely to do the “REAL” pro-life thing and apply the 5th and 14th Amendments to the unborn, one might as well vote for the party fighting tooth and nail against any and all restrictions on abortion, sets an impossibly high standard for pro-lifers.

    It is done purposefully. By taking overturning Roe off the table as a viable (no pun intended) pro-life option, the intent is to make voting for the pro-life party seem just as “pro-choice” as voting for the pro-abortion party. Kmiec explicitly argued as much during the election, claiming that McCain’s anti-Roe views, which would return abortion to the states, were equally as “pro-choice” as Obama’s never-met-an-abortion-he-didn’t-like-and-didn’t-want-to-constitutionally-protect-from-the-democratic-process views.

  • It would be returned to the states effectively. However, if there were a federal majority of pro-life members of Congress, a bill such as The Right to Life Act or other unborn-personhood legislation could effectively outlaw abortion nationwide.

    The assumption that overturning Roe v. Wade will overturn the matter to the states, to remain at the state level isn’t a necessary assumption. If anything, supporters of legal abortion will immediately seek to protect their views from Washington, D.C.

    If anything, those who advocate waiting for the culture “to change” strike me as similar to the “white moderates” addressed by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter From Birmingham Jail.

  • Eric I think that for a HUman Right act to pass we would need more than a simple majority.

    If it returns to the States I have a feeling the COurt would be wary of drastic regulations to protect or ban abortion via commerce clause

  • “Abortion was imposed by judicial fiat in an outrageous power grab by the courts. It belongs in the democratic process.”

    The degree to which murder is decriminalized does NOT belong in the democratic process. Murder is murder is murder. I’m ok with chipping away, but the “compromise and reduction” that Mr. Douthat commends is total garbage. The same sort of garbage that made Roe possible with the Blackmun exception.

    A personhood bill could make an end run around Roe. Why is this never acknowledged here?

  • Steve,

    A personhood bill would not (successfully) make an end run around Roe. Roe says that women have a Constitutional right to abortion. Congressional legislation infringing on that ‘right,’ even a personhood bill, would be struck down to the extent it interfered with that right. There are really only two ways to ahieve more abortion restrictions: 1) A constitutional amendment; 2) Changing the composition of the Court.

    Douthat’s piece is an effort to point out to a liberal audience (i.e. NYT readership) that Roe is the most serious obstacle to abortion compromise (which most liberals claim to want) in the United States. Even if you dislike the compromise you think he’s selling (which is undefined in the article btw), you should recognize that Douthat’s main objective here is doing spadework for overturning Roe. This is valuable work from a pro-life perspective, even if you would prefer to see different strategies emphasized.

  • “(If the) suggestion of personhood [of the preborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”

    -Justice Blackmun in the Roe v. Wade decision

  • Steve,

    As I said, even if Congress passed a law stating that fetuses are persons entitled to legal protection, I think the current Court would simply disregard it. The Court has held abortion is a fundamental right; in doing so, it has held that fetuses are not persons under the Constitution. A law passed by Congress cannot alter the meaning of the Constitution. Granted, the Court’s claim that abortion is a right guaranteed by the Constitution is based on very dubious reasoning, but correcting this mistake requires changing the composition of the Court.

  • Mr. Henry,

    I suppose I’ll accept that premise since I know it frustrates you as much as it frustrates me.

    That said, I think pushing a personhood bill is necessary, and the GOP’s failure to even attempt it makes them contemptible in my eyes.

25 Responses to Obama and Notre Dame – a Belated Follow-Up

  • Agreed 150% on the PWSA as a good common-ground measure. Heck, it’s good legislation regardless of whether it brings folks together or not.

    But, if you google around a bit, you’ll find that there is a lot of resistance in left-wing circles to the Act, coming from the mindset of the “reducing pregnancies, not number of abortions” crowd. The PWSA forthrightly (and rightly) presumes that abortions are bad and discourages them, which is a no-no in those circles.

    Given that the President appears to share that mindset, I think the odds of him putting his clout behind the PWSA are vanishingly small at this point in time. If/when he needs pro-life Democrats to get something he truly cares about passed, then you might see the horse trading.

    Sadly enough, I think we’re much more likely to see Rep. Slaughter’s “Prevention First Act” than the PWSA. And, make no mistake, Slaughter is in the hard-core choicer camp.

  • Father Jenkins- surprise still in his job- received his 15 minutes of fame. Dear Leader received another day of adulation. Both care about the unborn about as much as the crumb sitting on my desk. By me. Lovely rhetoric about Dialogue and such. But no other significant issue- and this is as significant as it gets- is more polarizing. Designed to be no other way. Tim notes those rare creatures known as pro-life Democrats- endangered species who should receive legal protection. Perhaps Dear Leader will open up TARP money for Planned Parenthood and non-franchise clinics. Might have the same beneficial effect as to Ford and Chrysler. Oh, just to note before posting- Tiller The Killer’s big time abort business is shutting its doors. What a shame. Maybe it could have qualified for TARP funding.

  • (1) Scalia does not really believ ein Original Intent

    (2) I don’t know what you mean by the “American Right” wanting to wash it hands of abortion by sending it to the States. First many on the right are for the Human Rights Amendment. ALso the “AMerican Right” would be working in their respective State legislatures to prohbit abortion. Activity does not stop just because it does not happen in the District of Columbia

    (3) Archbishop Chaput said recently there was no “Catholic way” to the interpret the Const. I think he is right.

    (4) what you refer to as States Rights is more commonly know as Federalism that has not been abolished. I think if you are proposing that getting this issue back to the States is against Catholic SOcial Doctrine you need to flesh that out some.

    (5)THere are Natural Law folks on the right such as Arkes and Robert George etc etc that are trying to influence the Court and polticy

    (6) There is nothing to probhibit Legislators from legilsating based on the Natural law

  • Let me add the whole Subsidarity , Federalism, abortion issue was fleshed out in some detail in response to Kmiec.

    See this entry at America magazine

    http://americaelection2008.blogspot.com/2008/10/different-take-on-kmiecs-book.html

  • Yeah, I would say that States Rights is quite consistent with Catholic Social Teaching. Subsidiarity and all. That is a principle you know.

  • I will grant that labels like American Political Left and Right are very general- but I think that those who feel comfortable self-labeling themselves liberal or conservative, will fit those larger categories. I reject these labels for myself because I believe like Archbishop Chaput- I use his great book “Render..” in my classes- that there isn’t going to be a Catholic political party- as the Compendium states we are always to be critical members of any political party- that implies that there is always going to be an incompleteness in any purely political party.

    I don’t mean to take a cheap shot on those who take the Federalist position, that abortion can only be resolved at the state level because that’s how our Constitution was written- but I advise all Catholics to read Notre Dame prof. Rice’s book on Natural Law. He describes Justice Thomas as pretty much putting the idea of natural law reasoning to death, when he backtracked during his confirmation hearings on previous positive assertions on the role of such reasoning in juridical decision making. I do view Scalia and Thomas quite negatively for the way they come across in interviews when they seem proud to assert that their Catholicism has absolutely nothing to do with their work as Justices- I don’t think anyone in any position should say that- the natural law is everyone’s responsibility- especially those with juridical and political power- this is an intellectual dodge- even if it is an honest one- to come across as some kind of progressive, non-partisan in contrast with those who do use reasoning beyond the deciphering of the original intent of the Constitutional framers.

    Professor Rice says that on abortion we don’t even have to pull out the natural law trump card- it would be rare to have to do that given that much of positive law in the Constitution is already rooted in natural law reasoning- if we apply the 5th and 14th Amendments to the unborn, we would be good to go- but this is not on the radar in the Scalia/Thomas circles as far as I know- and I would say that these Justices are very well regarded in general by conservatives/ American Political Right.

    I am offering a critique that isn’t designed to play well to liberals or conservatives, I don’t think Jesus played to such narrow audiences, and I don’t find the complete social doctrine of the Church to be in conformity with any ideology that I’ve encountered thus far- so I work in both liberal and conservative circles depending on the issue- but sometimes neither camp seems to get it right- like on abortion- the liberal juridical approach is ice cold, while I grant the Scalia et al approach is luke warm- not sure I can get on board with lukewarm even if it offers a legislative endgame in every state. I want the unborn to be safe in every state, all over the world- the Law should reflect this- the Law must reflect this, and then all other aspects of society will need to reform to adjust to this reality- economically, culturally- all of it needs to upgrade to deal with the children we will be welcoming into the world instead of terminating.

  • Subsidiarity is not to be viewed apart from the universal common good and solidarity- it also isn’t a replacement for the natural law requirements for all people- Catholic or not. This emphasis on natural law is found throughout the social doctrine and papal encyclicals

  • Thank you for a thoughtful diary. Another bill that I hope starts gathering support is the “Newborn Child and Mother Act”. Approximately 1500 mothers die in childbirth across Africa EVERY DAY. I gather most of their babies die, too.

  • TIm

    Let me say I am not saying that Natural Law Jurisprudence is forbidden. As Arkes says where in the Const does it forbit it? I am just saying that if lets say a Catholic Judge does that think that was part of the Document then I think he can in a valid way interpret it otherwise. I mean in the end his Power and authority come from the Document or the “Pact” as it were. So when Scalia looks at the text he does not that think he has the power to change it

    It is in a sense similar to the situation of the Federal Judges that lets say were anti Slavery. They might have been anti Slavery but because their power and authrotiy came from an agreement that made an compromise with this evil they very well could not just ban it nationwide.

    Again as to Natural Law and the Social Compendium what should Catholic Judges do. I can’t imagine that they would start citing the Comepndium of SOcial Justice. In fact what authority would they have to base Opinion on that at all.

    I am not sure Scalia or THomas for that matter have an agenda to end abortion nationwide. I think they probally think that is not their job but the job of the legislator. I strongly suspect that Scalia thinks Gay marriage is wrong. However I doubt he would think he ahd any authority to “ban” it in lets say Iowa.

    TO quote Chaput in Full
    “CHAPUT: The Supreme Court doesn’t make law, as we know. It interprets the law. I think it’s much easier from a moral perspective to be a justice – a judge – than it is to be a legislator. Legislators are the ones who make laws and change laws. But to interpret the law in its fidelity to the Constitution is a much less morally compromising kind of position to have, I think.

    I’d rather be a justice than a politician, in terms of dealing with my conscience, because if we write bad laws in this country that are constitutional, then the judges – the justices – have to interpret the laws as allowed by the Constitution, even if they don’t like them, even if they would think they’re not good for the country, it seems to me, even if they think they’re not moral. That’s what justices do. So I had the impression that Wendy thinks that the Supreme Court writes the law. Certainly that’s not my impression. I know it can’t write the law. In terms of not wanting all the justices to be Catholics, I agree with you, Michael. That would not be a good idea in the United States”.

    http://pewforum.org/events/?EventID=213

    Now I think Judical attitudes matter that is for sure. The attitude of the Iowa Supreme Courts Justices was frightening as they basically shot down arguments because they thought they could smell religous intent.

    I just think from a Natural Law standpoint that the key is if one wishes to adovcate that is to start in the legilatures. That is where the action is.

    As Chaput stated

  • “Subsidiarity is not to be viewed apart from the universal common good and solidarity- it also isn’t a replacement for the natural law requirements for all people- Catholic or not. This emphasis on natural law is found throughout the social doctrine and papal encyclicals”

    Well Tim I don’t think Federalsim gets rid of that. I mean what is changed or what is at issue is what branches of the Governements have the responsibility, power , and authority to act as to the common good or solidarity.. As to the abortion question is it the States or the Federal Govt or a combination of the two.

  • What other aspects of the natural law should the Justices be concerned with? Should a Catholic-based interpretation mandate that all homosexual acts be outlawed? Should a natural law view of the Constitution mean a ban of contraceptives? How far do we take this? And what do we do when we have a majority of Justices whose interpretation of the natural law leads to conclusions quite the opposite of our own?

  • Tim

    I think my other post did not go through for some reason

    Let me clear I am not saying that Natural law Juridprudence cannot be had. As Arkes says where in the COnst is it forbidden.

    I just think that if you really want Natural Law and to have it part of our system one needs to start with the legislature where the real action is at. THat is not to ignore the Judiciary. We should recall that Iowa Supreme Court mandated Gay marraige and in that argument they shot down opponets of it because they say said they could smell religious reasoning. That is a problem

    I am not sure at all that THomas and Scalia have a “plan” to end abortion. I suspect they don’t think that is their job but that of the legislature. Just Like how I think that Scalia is against gay marraige but I could never seem him overturning a state law allowing it because it goes against the natural law or because he does not like it.

    I suppose if we are going to get natural law more in the discussion first the Catholic schools nned to be teaching it more.Then we are going to have to have an discussion with our neighbors about it.

    Political parties are not going to be able to do that. In fact in GOP circles where such an approach has fans in some segments there would have to be some on the evangelical side that would have to embrace it. SOme are open others are wary.

    So as to Natural law principles I think there is a lot of work to be done before we can expect polticos to start using it. In fact we might need to breed a whole new generation of polticos that understand it.

    When I talk to Catholic about the natural law it sometimes seems like they look at me like I am from Mars. That has nothing to do with left, right, or center but just horrid Catholic education in the Puplit, in CCD , and in the schools.

    As to Catholic social justice concerns and principles I think there will be porgress till each “side” that is engaging this start talking to each other instead of yelling at each other.

  • Tim,

    Of course subsidiarity is to be seen in the context of the common good and solidarity. Just as solidarity is to be seen in the context of the common good and subsidiarity. The claim of solidarity does not rule out allowing more basic units of society tend to the common good. Catholic Social teaching never says this. In fact higher units of society are to take over only when lower units cannot meet a common need. States rights fits perfectly in this framework.
    When to allow higher units to take over from lower is a prudential judgement in many cases and you will not find such a criteria in the Compendium.

  • My impression from reading the social doctrine is that the common good is the only real reason for having governing authority in the first place- when this focus is lost then that authority can soon run amuck- I do not dispute or ignore the principle of subsidiarity but we are talking about abortion here, and that is something that cannot be left to even a popular vote- it smacks of the whole scene with Jesus being condemned by popular vote, and Pilate standing by, washing his hands of the affair, even as he seemed to side with Jesus on the level of basic justice- Pope John Paul II even used this comparison with abortion and Christ with over-reliance on democratic outcomes in determining all important matters- now Pilate has not gone down in history as a heroic figure- and I don’t think that a State’s Rights approach to abortion is going to be seen as the best we could do at the level of civil authority.

    We have a problem with subsidiarity as a primary principle to view abortion or the global economy through right now- with the power of multinational corporations usurping even the power of national governments- read Bailouts- it would seem that the local government powers have not kept up with the times- and Free Trade Pacts have taken economic decisions far afield from local control. With abortion, we simply have to have everyone doing what they can with whatever power they have to establish the legal and moral sense that an unborn child is worthy of our human rights. Natural Law reasoning does not have to be overused to the point where we have an effective theocracy- but we ignore the Natural Law to our own peril as a nation, as a people.

    Again- I cannot go into the detail here on this as Professor Rice did in his book- 50 Questions on the Natural Law- if anyone has read that book and has any comments I would love to hear of your thoughts. I think he represents the most orthodox Catholic position on the importance of Natural Law, and how we can promote it without having to force the nation to convert to Catholicism wholesale. There is something religious behind the Natural Law, and the Catholic social doctrine is a necessary guide- but the Natural Law is something reasonable and can be argued with non-believers and believers alike. We cannot continue to cede everything to the secularists- at some point we have to fight for more than merely symbolic gestures like Nativity Scenes on government property- we need Catholics willing to stand behind Natural Law reasoning and Catholic social doctrine- the Natural Law reasoning is all we need to use in public debates, and all the Justices need to make certain that Justice prevails when opportunity comes for them to render decisions that obviously offer life and death for many. Imagine if genocide came up for a vote? Abortion is a genocide of unborn, unwanted children- millions of them- if this doesn’t call forth a universal decision on the part of our Supreme Court- then they may as well pack it in, and leave our Capital empty of Justices and Justice.

  • Tim

    So a vote on the Supreme Court is legitimate but a vote in the Staer Houses is not. Also one can amend State Const a heck of a lot more easier than you can the U.S. COnst to show these natural law principles

    Again it is not a principle of “State Rights” but Federalism. I am not saying fight for a Human Rights AMendment. In fact I suspect that a HUman Ruights amendments would gain steam when it returned to the States.

    You know we can’t just blame nameless polticos in D.C. for not getting the pro-life cause done. It is suddennly much more in our faces where we must convince our neighbors

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  • Tim,

    Its not a problem of seeing subsidiarity as a primary priciple for in fact it is. As are the principles of the common good and solidarity. They are an organic unity. The problem becomes how do we apply these primary priciples to concrete situations. You have your problems with multi-nationals. I have a problem with strong (an ever increasingly stronger) national and international governments. The Compendium does not have a policy to address these. Catholics in good conscience apply the primary principles. At times Catholics in good conscience disagree, sometimes strongly. That’s life in the secualar for the Christian.

  • Honestly, Tim, I think your argument sets up a couple of straw men that you then proceed to effectively slaughter; I disagree with a couple of your premises, and must, therefore, disagree with your conclusions.

    First, I believe you fall victim to the same illogic that drives most who claim to not be “right-wing” Catholics: namely, you choose to lump all Catholic Social Teachings, and abortion, into the same mass and call it legitimately Catholic. I disagree for a couple of reasons:

    1. You mentioned that you would have invited neither PResident Obama nor President Bush to speak at Notre Dame, given the authority to make such a decision. You cite both men’s lack of conformity to basic principles of Catholic Social Doctrine as your reason.

    This comparison sufers for at least two reasons. first, abortion, and , say, the death penalty are not equivalent issues. The authority to make the decision to mete out a penalty of death rests with duly elected civil authorities. SOLELY with them. And while the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching may decry the occasional necessity to mete out such a sentnece, and while it may state that the circumstances which should require such a penalty are so rarae as to be almost nonexistent, in the end, the judgment of the circumstances lies SOLEY with those duly elected to exercise such authority.

    Similarly with the exercise of war powers. The Church rightly decries the use of military force in *any* circumstance; however, it recognizes the right of governments to enter into armed conflict against those nations or entities which pose a credible threat, and which cannot be subdued by other means. That right flows from the national leader’s responsibility to provide for legitimate defense of its territory and citizens. And the authority to make such a decision rest, again, SOLELY with the likes of President Bush and President Obama.

    Man, this is brain-wracking. I will amend my opening statement to include the thought that I can only respond to one at a time.

    But i fwe are goin gto use Catholic Teaching to justify our positions, it wold seem prudent…to use ALL of it, not jsut the parts that nicely fit our preconceived schema.

    God bless.

  • Totally apart from the extremely interesting issues and discussions in this thread, it occurred to me [somewhat belatedly] that Father Jenkins was greatly disingenuous in the reasons he gave for inviting Mr. Obama to speak at the Commencement exercises.

    Commencements they are meant to be – but commencements to the world wider than the campus in South Bend.

    Now if the graduating students had not pretty well covered the subject – personally and intellectually – in four years’ attendance at the school, what is the purpose of a dialogue about it just as they are about to leave? Surely their teachers must have discussed [dialogued?] the issues during the campaign a year previously.

    I said disingenuous; I repeat disingenuous.

  • And the authority to make such a decision rest, again, SOLELY with the likes of President Bush and President Obama.

    But it does not end there. The authority to pass judgment on the decision made by presidents lies with the Church and SOLELY with the Church.

  • Tim,
    I would go further in this line of consistent criticism of the American political Left and Right. I don’t believe that the state’s rights approach to abortion rights is truly consistent with Catholic social doctrine. The juridical philosophy called “Originalism”, which is championed by many Catholics supportive of the American political Right, is not one that is rooted in Natural Law.

    Conservative Catholics hold to the belief that the laws of the land should be rooted in Natural Law. They belief that the way to change those laws is through democratic processes which are established in the United States constitution and the constitutions of the several states which it comprises. There is nothing in Natural Law which states that a judiciary should act in contravention of the laws which are established.

    Professor Rice says that on abortion we don’t even have to pull out the natural law trump card- it would be rare to have to do that given that much of positive law in the Constitution is already rooted in natural law reasoning- if we apply the 5th and 14th Amendments to the unborn, we would be good to go

    I agree completely.

    but this is not on the radar in the Scalia/Thomas circles as far as I know- and I would say that these Justices are very well regarded in general by conservatives/ American Political Right.

    I’m not so sure, have they ruled that way? If a case came before them which way would they rule? I think you’re mistaken. Those justices have consistently ruled in a way that would allow us to infer they do in fact believe that the unborn are human persons and are protected. Their Catholic faith (and basic empbryology) teaches them that, and there is no contradiction with the Constitution which would preclude them as “originists” in ruling that way.

    we simply have to have everyone doing what they can with whatever power they have to establish the legal and moral sense that an unborn child is worthy of our human rights. Natural Law reasoning does not have to be overused to the point where we have an effective theocracy- but we ignore the Natural Law to our own peril as a nation, as a people.

    Absolutely, but I think there is limits to what a Catholic is compelled to do given the restrictions of his office, especially if he has taken an oath to be bound by those restrictions. Now, no Catholic is permitted to commit an immoral act regardless of his office, but that doesn’t mean he is obliged to use their office illegally in their actions.

    Michael J. Iafrate,

    But it does not end there. The authority to pass judgment on the decision made by presidents lies with the Church and SOLELY with the Church.

    No. Wrong. While the Church has the authority to pass judgments when a public act is in objective violation of Church teaching, she does not make such judgements on purely subjective reasoning (sound thought it might be), nor does the Church pass judgement where she does not possess all of the relevent facts that the civic authority does. She may and often does issue opinions based on what is known and the preponderance of evidence, but that is not the same thing. Ultimately the judgement falls to the Lord God Almighty.

    Jh,

    I just think that if you really want Natural Law and to have it part of our system one needs to start with the legislature where the real action is at.

    exactly!

    Deacon,

    awesome! You nailed it.

  • No. Wrong. While the Church has the authority to pass judgments when a public act is in objective violation of Church teaching, she does not make such judgements on purely subjective reasoning (sound thought it might be), nor does the Church pass judgement where she does not possess all of the relevent facts that the civic authority does. She may and often does issue opinions based on what is known and the preponderance of evidence, but that is not the same thing.

    No, YOU are wrong. The Church has the right to make judgments on wars. Period. That it does not do so regularly with unambiguous force does not mean it does not possess this authority.

    Your mistaken view is precisely one of the results of buying into the americanist separation of secular and sacred authority. Too many Catholics (usually so-called “patriotic” ones) fall for it. What you do not realize is that you are contributing to the marginalization of the Church by promoting such nonsense.

  • “There is nothing in Natural Law which states that a judiciary should act in contravention of the laws which are established.”

    Because the Natural Law, i.e. the Law of Human Nature has no conception of “judiciaries.” However, the moral principles to which we’re oriented would suggest that laws that are not in accord with true justice–thus, not actually being laws should be contravened. Simple establishment makes no case in itself for not contravening it. Now you’ll argue that’s the role of the legislatior; I’m establishing that the Natural Law is not silent about the matter.

    “I think there is limits to what a Catholic is compelled to do given the restrictions of his office, especially if he has taken an oath to be bound by those restrictions. Now, no Catholic is permitted to commit an immoral act regardless of his office, but that doesn’t mean he is obliged to use their office illegally in their actions.”

    Well, I see your point. But this is again my problem with Scalia’s philosophy. I talked about it in a different thread. Effectively, I think the American conception of “justice” and “law,” at least in terms of judicial philosophy is based largely on positive law philosophy and Western Enlightenment philosophy rather than natural law thinking, and therefore, a proper notion of justice and law. Therefore, I think the “originalism and textualist” position might do-the-least-harm, it remains fatally flawed.

  • Eric,

    so how do you propose a “natural law” based judiciary should act? Do we need a legislature at all, just for administrative types of laws? Why not just a system of judges who base their rulings on their understanding of natural law? What reference documents for natural law would be used as a basis?

    I reject this idea because it is akin to anarchy. Each judge applying his own understanding of a very broadly contentious set of rather non-specific rules.

    I believe self-governance is in accord with natural law, and so the people guided by conscience establish the system of laws, the judges do not overturn them they simply apply them.

    There may be certain cases where heroic violation of laws will not cause more harm than good, that any moral person should stand up against them, this can not be the general case.

  • Matt,

    Well, I am no constitutional law scholar. However, I do think that the “originalist” and “textualist” position contradict, to some degree, my understanding of both law and justice because of the inherent lack of consideration of natural law principles. This, I think, is a built-in recipe for disaster. Granted, while the philosophy itself might be, relative to other theories, the “lesser of evils” because of its do-no-harm mantra, it still can create quite a few ethical problems for Catholics.

    I earlier used the example of pre-Civil War slavery. Hypothetically speaking, if there were a case regarding slavery before the United States Supreme Court, tied 4-4, and I’m a Catholic sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, I certainly would not rule to uphold slavery as the law—and with no apology. It seems that the American notion of “justice” is not whether or not a law is in conformity with the natural law, reflecting the eternal law of God. No, rather, “justice” means having laws conform immediately to the written letter of the U.S. Constitution strictly and legal precedence. While this is not immediately a problem (I’m not saying that the U.S. Constitution should be irrelevant), while it is not in and of itself wrong—it does give rise to ethical issues.

    From the originalist viewpoint regarding slavery, a Justice would have to rule in favor of an unjust law which contradicts the very essence of their title: Justice. An unjust law is not a law according to the scheme of the natural law. However, to an originalist, that point is irrelevant. If law is not meant to be in conformity with the natural law, which reflects perfect justice, then our inherent goal is not to uphold real laws at all but human decrees with no consideration or concern of objective conformity with the laws written into Nature. This, to me, seems to be clearly antithetical to Plato’s The Laws, Cicero’s On The Law, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law which are four of the most important works in the natural law tradition. There is a fundamental disagreement then about the nature of law itself, about the nature of justice, and therefore, the likeliness to reach just conclusions, while not impossible certainly, is more difficult.

    Alexander Hamilton put it this way: “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” Even the more secular-minded Thomas Jefferson agreed: The “only firm basis” of freedom, he wrote, is “a conviction in the minds of people that their liberties are the gift of God.”

    These words are clearly a natural law commitment (and I’m not suggesting they are advocating it be used by the U.S. Supreme Court). Yet contemporary judicial philosophy is based largely on the Enlightenment-borne philosophy of legal positivism—that is, there is no inherent or necessary connection between the law and ethics, but rather laws are rules made by human beings entered into a social contract with no regard for moral objectivity because the contract is inherently relative.

    If you consider such broad phrases such as “cruel and unusual” or “unreasonable searches and seizures,” it seems to me that the Founders presuppose that you would reference some sort of objective moral criteria that exists outside of the text of the Constitution to know what constitutes such activity. What is cruel? What is unusual? What is unreasonable? Unless there is some objective, unchanging standards that it is presupposed, that is known and can be known because of a common human nature with an unchanging law—the natural law—then it seems that the “concepts” of these things evolve and change with society; thus, this lends itself to the argument for a “living Constitution” that should be read in light of the relative values of the contemporary people. Yet the “originalists” pore scrupulously over the text for some criteria, the Founders (in a world yet to have fully abandon the natural law) may have presumed to be self-evident, or they commit to some legal precedence judged to be in conformity with their judicial philosophy versus what it may be the Founders actually intended. Again, to what do you reference as the criteria to define such “concepts” (cruel, unusual, unreasonable)? Their time period? Our time period? And barring natural law ethics, it becomes inherently relative, which requires one to inject their “personal values” into the constitutional text.

    Simply put, I cannot fully embrace this judicial philosophy and am rather interested in projects to rethink, reasonably, how to interpret the Constitution and develop an American legal system that is more harmonious with the ongoing project of Catholic legal theory. Though, I will add that originalism does guarantee some sort of consistency in judiciary judgments and protects Americans from arbitrary changes in constitutional interpretation. Moreover, to fully reject originalism there needs to be a ready, clearly articulated criterion for interpreting the Constitution, otherwise the matter of law will be solely at the discretion of political inclinations of sitting Justices. Perhaps, at best, originalism constrains the worse temptation of Justices to overreach.

    But it still remains that originalism isn’t perfect. It faces hermeneutic difficulties to which Justice Scalia admits, when he said, “It’s not always easy to figure out what the provision meant when it was adopted…I do not say originalism is perfect. I just say it’s better than anything else.” That is, anything else so far. So while I am not in favor of a hasty departure from originalism to an anything-goes Court, I’m not going to back the theory.

    I still think that it poses quite an ethical dilemma and I’m weary of the Catholic support it gets despite the fact that its philosophical underpinnings, i.e. legal positivism, are fundamentally contradictory to Catholic moral and social thought. While I am sympathetic to the intellectual commitment to protect the integrity of the legal system and the constitutional order, I don’t think that requires an immediate advocacy of originalism over attempting to find some other way to interpret the Constitution. I am not convinced it’s all or nothing—either originalism or the “living Constitution” theory.

    As Edmund Randolph set out at the Constitutional Convention, the goal was to “insert essential principles only; lest the operations of government should be clogged by rendering those provisions permanent and unalterable, which ought to be accommodated to times and events.” Now, this quote, granted, can be misconstrued and interpreted as advocacy of an “evolving” doctrine in regard to constitutional interpretation. However, it seems to me, that the U.S. Constitution seeks to create a government that recognizes and respects the natural, inalienable rights that are self-evident in the natural moral law which are enshrined within the text of the Constitution. While the “essential principles,” which are moral, cannot change—as the moral law does not change; positive laws, however can. Different situations, different circumstances, different cultural values may have a need for different positive laws to best accommodate and promote human flourishing and the protection of human rights. (I’m not saying these laws come from or should come from the Court.) Now how such a view could reasonably and practically be played out in terms of judicial philosophy is quite a debate.

    Nevertheless, originalism strikes me as too keen on preservation of the status quo, that is, order rather than on actual Justice, ifthe circumstances puts the two in contradiction. It brings to mind Machiavellian principles (which I think is the actual beginning of modern philosophy) specifically the re-definition of prudence as a purely pragmatist virtue oriented more toward some end, judging and weighing consequences, i.e. consequentialist and utilitarian ethics that masquerade as natural law thinking when it really is not. It seems the concern is not necessarily on what is moral, but to what works (pragmatist). Therefore, one of the Cardinal Virtues is employed in such a way that its immediate and direct concern is not necessarily intertwined with its sister virtue of Justice, real justice. And the divorce of the two, characteristic of modern thinking, is precisely what I am arguing against.

    Again, I’m not constitutional law scholar, but I do find it curious that the framers of the Constitution did not indicate, in the text itself, how the Constitution should be read. I have no idea why. Perhaps they could not agree on a method themselves, as we cannot.

    Though, I do wonder if one is arguing “original intent” or “original meaning,” does this include taking into account the fact that the words (diction), come from other common law traditions based largely around natural law thinking? Do you seek to understand the words in those light as to get a greater understanding of the words in light of the historical situation? This might be comparable to using the historical-critical method as a tool for scriptural exegesis. In other words, one would read the U.S. Constitution in light of the Declaration of Independence and the natural law tradition? Or, does one read the text strictly, isolated from such references?

    My question arises because of this: The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal. The Bill of Rights establishes natural human rights. Yet in the U.S. Constitution there is legalized slavery. A natural law thinker would see that as a blatant contradiction. If such a matter were before a Catholic on the Supreme Court, should the Catholic uphold the unjust law as a matter of originalist intent even if contradicts the natural law and say, the majority of the United States citizens refused to conform with natural justice and outlaw it legislatively. For instance, what if abortion was a right written verbatim into the U.S. Constitution. Would I have to be complicit with an intrinsic evil until such a time that society changed its mind? I know I certainly wouldn’t. I am not sure if any oath or commitment can exempt you from stopping an objective moral evil. Consequences aside, as judging whether or not to end slavery or abortion based on how the populace will respond is judging the rightness or wrongness of the act based on the consequences–which again, is consequentialism and not natural law morality. The problem again persists.

    This is the challenge and difficulty of natural law jurisprudence, of which, I am profoundly interested in. Perhaps, I should send Prof. Robert George, a proponent of the “New Natural Law Theory”, another email and ask him a few questions about the matter; he usually replies rather quickly.

38 Responses to Alexia Kelley — a solid Catholic appointment by President Obama?

  • This from the “Reproductive Rights” blog:

    “Moments after the announcement, John O’Brien, president of the pro-choice group Catholics for Choice, released a statement calling the Kelley appointment “a defeat for reason and logic.”…

    O’Brien’s complaint is that the choice of Kelley, given her previous role overseeing a Catholic, anti-abortion organization, puts important social policies in danger of being hijacked by those same Bushian forces. But Kelley is not the Bush-styled pro-lifer of yore. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which Kelley founded, is a progressive organization that has also played a primary role in instigating a nationwide discussion of common ground on abortion. Her group has championed policies aimed at preventing the need for abortion, policies that have been identified as those pro-choice people can support too. It would be a mistake to group Kelley among anti-abortion operatives who snub opportunities to improve the relationship between pro-choice and pro-life communities, and who refuse to do anything to reduce the need for abortion.”
    http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/reproductive_rights/2009/06/a-different-perspective-on-alexia-kelley.html

    Translation: She really isn’t a pro-lifer. They are right. As always Frances Kissling is not only wrong but WRONG!!!.

  • Silly dissenters. Kelly is just another pro-abort in Catholics’ clothing. Otherwise would not have extracted cash from the Daddy Warbucks of the Democratic Party. Also note her previous employers as listed by Chris. Just business as usual. As though a real defender of the unborn would be hired.

  • It’s a lose-lose scenario with your people. Appoint somebody who is not pro-life (in the narrow sense of abortion anyway), like Sibelius, and you jump up and down. Appoint somebody who is pro-life, and you still jump up and down…because that person supports Obama and marshalls arguments to make that case. In other words, the only way Obama could make you people happy is to appoint a pro-life Republican. In other words, you put partisanship above the issue of life.

    And please, don’t even try to suggest that an orthodox Catholic cannot vote for a politician who supports legalizated abortion — tell that to any non-American Catholic, anybody not exposed to the American evangelical culture, and see how far that gets you. (It’s actually not that hard when you realize that neither party will have much influence on abortion, and yet the party that most contributors to this blog favors has the annoying habit of believing every world problem can be solved with violence — and actually go about doing it).

    One more thing: I fully agree with you that Kissling is a dissenter. Do you agree with me that the American Catholics who defend Cheney’s torture tactics are also dissenters?

  • Blah blah blah Americanists. Blah blah blah Calvinist. Blah blah BLEH.

  • Paul,

    That was certainly a shorter, and better read.

  • “Do you agree with me that the American Catholics who defend Cheney’s torture tactics are also dissenters?”

    I don’t think theyu are dissenters since many are trying to debate what actually is torture

    In any event I dount there will be any real opposition form the Catholic conservative or GOP elements as to her nomination.

    I think some pople are pointing out that perhaps the “Pro-choice” elemnts concerns are misplaced

  • What makes someone “reflect Catholic principles?” Surely you cannot seriously suggest that simply being strongly anti-abortion (and voting against any anti-abortion politicians) should be the only criterion? I don’t consider this Roeder murderer reflecting Catholic values. I applaud President Obama for seeking people of differing views but open minds to work in his administration. It is surely an improvement over the incompetence of the Bush administration.

  • JH

    That’s like some people saying, “I don’t think those people are for the killing of babies, since they debate what exactly babies are.”

  • “you put partisnaship above the issue of life”

    Were you looking in the mirror when you wrote that, Tony?

  • “In other words, you put partisanship above the issue of life.”

    Interesting case of projection here. Tony, someone voting, as you did, for the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history, a man who raised funds touting his opposition to a partial birth abortion ban, amply demonstrates the priority given by such a voter to the fight against abortion. It would be rather like someone who is a declared philo-semite voting for the Nazis in Germany in 1932. It would be difficult to take the philo-semitism of such a person as anything but lip service.

    Of course Catholics under the Catechism have a duty to vote for candidates in favor of legally banning abortion:

    “2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

    ‘The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.’

    ‘The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.'”

    Of course I am sure that you can explain how voting for a man who would sooner eat ground glass than support legislation banning abortion is in accord with this section of the Catechism.

  • And, for the record, I commend Kelley’s appointment. Even if she’s only paying lip service to favoring restrictions on abortion (and I’m not convinced that she isn’t sincere on the issue, despite her allegiances to the party dedicated to legalized abortion-on-demand), that makes her much better than the President’s openly “pro-choice” Catholic appointments to date.

    Let’s take her at her word and give her the benefit of the doubt.

  • Appoint somebody who is pro-life, and you still jump up and down…because that person supports Obama and marshalls arguments to make that case.

    Actually, I believe the point was to outline that she’s a hack with no serious commitment to the pro-life cause. Of course, surely we’re being unreasonable Calvinist Americanists who believe that consistently voting against pro-life candidates while actively promoting pro-abortion candidates fails to signal a deep commitment to the pro-life cause.

    In other words, the only way Obama could make you people happy is to appoint a pro-life Republican.

    Actually, that wouldn’t make me happy. If he resigned or became pro-life, or actually took a stand against torture rather than putting every effort to defend torture and its perpetrators, I would be pleased. Of course, it could not make me happy, because I believe that happiness comes from Christ and not from material goods but perhaps you missed that part.

  • Henry I don’t think it is all the same. As I have pointed out an amazing number of things are called torture now. Once you get past waterboarding there is a lot of gray and their needs to be debate.

    Especially if we are going to have it as an standaard and prosecute people over it.

  • “the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history”.

    This is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with the convergence of Catholic pro-lifers and Republican tactics. Your rhetoric is the sloganistic rhetoric of the Limbaughs and the Hannitys. Its disdain for fact and context push it into the relativistic realm. You are giving support to tactics that are Leninist at root. How ironic is that?

    See here for a fuller elaboration, if you want to debate the point (I’m arguing in good faith, by the way, and I know that most of you are better than Paul and Phillip on this front) — http://vox-nova.com/2009/04/27/a-watershed-moment/

  • Morning Obama is indeed one of the most Pro-Abortion Presidents in history

    No sense sugarcoating it. I guess we can debate if he or Clinton are in a tie.

    I mean I guess if was anti adoption or something that would make it worse but it is hard to see how it can be much worse.

  • JH

    We have many documents which indicate things to be torture, and those are the same ones being “questioned.” Things historically considered torture are now “questioned.” It’s exactly the same thing as “questioning whether or not that is a human person.” Same argument, different evil.

  • “It would be rather like someone who is a declared philo-semite voting for the Nazis in Germany in 1932. It would be difficult to take the philo-semitism of such a person as anything but lip service.”

    As always, you confuse an absolute principle (act A is intrinsically evil and can never be supported) with a relative choice. I believe it would be difficult to argue that abortion would have been any different under any Republican president. I also believe that the Republican choice would support war, and probably torture too, support the rich over the poor, mock the need to reduce greenhouse has emissions, and continue with the economic mismanagement that has characterized the movement since the 1980s. On the fundamental issue of life, claiming to be against abortion while being in favor of modern war as conducted by the US military is a sham.

  • “This is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with the convergence of Catholic pro-lifers and Republican tactics.”

    Bluster and sophisty. You helped put into the White House a man pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. The only way Obama could be more pro-abortion would be if he actually performed them with his own hands.

  • “On the fundamental issue of life, claiming to be against abortion while being in favor of modern war as conducted by the US military is a sham.”

    All a smoke screen to allow you to vote for pro-abort candidates. I really doubt if at this point you are even fooling yourself with your arguments. The simple truth is that you rank the fight against abortion far below other issues and the fact that a candidate you support is a pro-abort is of little consequence to you.

  • Minion:

    That post is remarkable in its failure to actually address the argument. While I don’t use the phrase often, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s accurate.

    Instead of showing how Clinton and Obama shared abortion positions, you instead criticize Reagan for not really being pro-life while attacking Bush over the Iraq War and torture while not mentioning FOCA.

    If you want your claim that this is Leninist tactic to be taken as anything more than a liberal example of partisanship, you might want to put some effort into showing the phrase isn’t not true. But you can’t, since the FOCA that Obama endorsed is much more extreme then the presidents before him had endorsed, Clinton or Reagan.

  • Wow! First the wonderful speeches at ND and in Cair, add to them the inspired nominations of Sotomayor, Diaz and, now, Kelley…… tell us again why we, the majority of Catholic voters who voted for the President, need to confess our “sin”?

  • Oh boy!!! Economic mismangement. Our Sec of Treasury got laughed out in China last week when he said that China inestments in American were safe.

    I don’t know what people are going to do when they wake up and realize all the money has been wasted and there is no money left to even borrow for these big ticket items like Health Care they want.

    Handing the keys ot he treasury to Reid and Pelosi does not seem to be doing well.

    Is Obama that much different that Bush on “torture” Rendetion is contuining and my gosh we have not waterbnoarded anyone since 2003.

    Favored the rich over the poor. Yeah I see what a priority immigration reform is under this administration.

    Regardless I think the issue was abortion. Not the polciy in Afgansiatan

  • An

    I am not against the Kelly nomination nor the Diaz nomination. I will say if you think these picks are inspirations then I would suggest you have a low bar for inspiration. Nothing wrong with them but I don’t seem them as groundbreaking and something to be wowed over with

  • Minion:

    I think your comment shows quite well that YOU’RE NOT APPLYING THESE PRINCIPLES EVENLY!!!!

    I also believe that the Republican choice would support war, and probably torture too, support the rich over the poor, mock the need to reduce greenhouse has emissions, and continue with the economic mismanagement that has characterized the movement since the 1980s. On the fundamental issue of life, claiming to be against abortion while being in favor of modern war as conducted by the US military is a sham.

    Let’s go through Obama’s ACTUAL positions.

    support war-Obama has promoted an expanded effort in Iraq while making no significant deviations from the Bush plan.

    and probably torture too-Obama has continued to fight efforts to uncover examples of torture and punish those who committed these acts.

    support the rich over the poor- Obama has pushed to give bankers bailouts while allowing GM & Chrysler to die, costing many poorer factory workers their jobs.

    the economic mismanagement that has characterized the movement since the 1980s.-That’s an argument of prudence, not of Catholic teaching. Besides, one would be hard pressed to show that Obama is doing an amazing job of economic management right now.

    On the fundamental issue of life, claiming to be against abortion while being in favor of modern war as conducted by the US military is a sham.

    So it’s less of a sham to be for abortion and for the modern war as conducted by the US military? How has Obama reigned in the modern war conducted by the US military? Surely not the examples of civilian deaths by bombings?

    You’ve projected your own desires on Obama, stubbornly ignoring the fact that he holds none of these positions in reality. That’s the true sham.

  • JH,

    They are “inspired nominations” if you’re a Catholic looking for anything … ANYTHING … to hang your hat on in justifying your vote for Obama. Like you said, there’s nothing particularly wrong with these choices (and there were obviously worse candidates that the President might have chosen), but they are hardly the sorts of nominations that Catholics are going to be looking to for “inspiration”.

  • Jay,

    They’re not just “inspired nominations.” They also have “compelling stories.” Come on. Get with it.

  • Michael D,

    First, I commend for you actually taking on the argument — sadly, Donald just retreats to slogans.

    A key component of your argument is that what I have argued is based on prudence. Absolutely. I cannot say these things with certainly, but I believe them to be more likely than not.

  • Oh, on the economics argument, some of you might be interested in what I just wrote. And I’m looking at you Donald! (actually, I’m looking at my monitor, but you know what I mean….)

    http://vox-nova.com/2009/06/09/american-socialism-a-long-and-detailed-post/

  • “sadly, Donald just retreats to slogans.”

    Projection again Tony. Take away cant phrases from your statements, such as “Calvinist”, and you have little to say.

    Body and soul you are a partisan liberal Democrat. The leaders of your political movement are pro-aborts. Rather than deal with that very unpleasant fact you attack pro-lifers who refuse to vote for pro-aborts and who oppose the pro-aborts. With your type of unblinking devotion, the pro-aborts in the party that has your unwavering allegiance will never change. Pro-lifers last year made it clear in the Republican party that we would never vote for a pro-abort. You would never be part of such a movement in the Democrat party. All your obfuscation can not conceal the fact that the slaying of the unborn is simply not a high priority issue to you.

  • These faux protestations by abortocrats on Kelley’s appointment is smoke and mirrors. Abortocrats can smell their own 100 miles away.
    Kelley may claim she’s pro-life, but her actions reveal what she really is.

  • It is my understanding, backed up by a number of official Church documents including Pope John Paul II’s “Evangelium Vitae,” that it IS permissible to vote for a pro-choice candidate WHEN they are the lesser of two (or more) evils, and their election would prevent an even worse pro-abortion candidate from winning.

    Now granted, Kelly is not an elected official, but out of all the people whom Obama would have (realistically) chosen for this post, might she not be a lesser evil than many of the others? And if so, would it not be permissible to support, or at least not actively oppose, her appointment?

  • Bruce Springsteen wearing a chain of what look to be a number of Miraculous Medals on the chain and there are recent pictures of this…and yes, Catholic background. Apparently, a campaigner for Obama, if only the Boss was on our side, who knows, he should address this issue. I apologize if this is “off-topic.”

  • Morning’s Minion Says:
    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 A.D. at 2:49 pm
    “As always, you confuse an absolute principle (act A is intrinsically evil and can never be supported) with a relative choice. I believe it would be difficult to argue that abortion would have been any different under any Republican president. I also believe that the Republican choice would support war, and probably torture too, support the rich over the poor, mock the need to reduce greenhouse has emissions, and continue with the economic mismanagement that has characterized the movement since the 1980s. On the fundamental issue of life, claiming to be against abortion while being in favor of modern war as conducted by the US military is a sham.”

    Not only a Prez. trying to enact FOCA as Donald R. McClarey mentioned, but at least Reagan and Bush tossed out the Mexico City Policy. I’m not up to snuff on this issue, but exporting abortion is an A-1 evil, is an ugly act of foreign colonialism or whatever word might be proper, especially from some guy that indeed, many have doubts about his own native birth in the United States. Imagine, aborting the lives of foreigners in foreign lands.

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  • I did not even mention BAIPA. It is becoming apparent that many supporters of Obama are just plainly not informed on the issues, then we see indeed, ignorance as being an ally in getting Obama elected.

  • Jh,

    Oh boy!!! Economic mismangement. Our Sec of Treasury got laughed out in China last week when he said that China inestments in American were safe.

    that one really cracked me up…. this is almost as good as Obama’s sudden born-again fiscal responsibility — ‘pay as you go’!

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4 Responses to Under Obama It's Funemployment Not Unemployment

  • And I guess your not partisan, right? The economy collapsed last year under the watch of the previous president and under the weight of the Reagan legacy.

  • An Piobaire, the shelf life of blame the other guys is wearing very thin. It is your man who is saddling this country with a debt now that your grandkids will be lucky to pay off:

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/05/obamas_debt_tsu.html

  • It’s becoming progressively more difficult not to hate my country…

  • An Piobaired,

    I think the first error is in thinking a President has that much to do with the economy. Even if it is a large amount I think one also has to look at the role Democrats, who were in control on Congress for two years prior to the recession, had in this problem. I think the failure of Democrats to reign in problems like Fannie Mae (which McCain and Bush tried to address) is a significant contributor.

If Obama Is Spock We Are Doomed!!!

Tuesday, June 9, AD 2009

Spobama

Maureen Dowd wrote a column last month in which she compared, tongue in cheek, Obama to Mr. Spock from Star Trek.  Jeff Greenwald of Salon also sees a resemblance between Chicago’s “gift” to the country and the first officer of the Enterprise.  Bill Whittle of Pajamas Media, takes great joy in informing us in a very entertaining video here why having an intellectual in the mode of Mr. Spock as president is very bad for the nation.

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10 Responses to If Obama Is Spock We Are Doomed!!!

  • well, most of ’em are true anyway

  • It’s a fun video, but I don’t think Spock qualifies as an intellectual (he’s very intelligent, but that’s not the same thing). Also, the problem Spock had in the series as a leader was that he couldn’t connect with people emotionally, and therefore they didn’t trust him. This, I’m afraid, is not Obama’s problem.

  • 0.o

    Want… to defend… Spock…..

    On a side note, I thought Spock had a pretty good sense of humor: very, very, VERY dry. Heavy use of irony.

    Spock is also very good at subtle, polite insults. ^.^

    I object to intellect without discipline; I object to power without constructive purpose. -Spock

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/148307/best_quotes_from_mr_spock_of_star_trek.html?cat=38
    http://www.pithypedia.com/?author=Spock

  • Foxfier, I will concede that Spock often got off a good bon mot. However, what made it humorous was the assumption on the part of the audience that Spock was not trying to be funny and would have been aghast at the suggestion that he was attempting to be funny.

  • Asperger’s.

  • I’d have to draw a distinction between “trying to be funny” and having a sense of humor; I’d further have to submit that any Vulcan dealing with humans will either have to be able to find some amusement in their actions, or go mad from the sheer irrationality.

  • Of course we also have to bear in mind that Spock was only half Vulcan. I always assumed that he massively repressed his sense of humor in order to be 100% Vulcan which was obviously his goal, at least in the original series. The Enterprise series portrayed Vulcans as being far more openly emotional, at least by the standards of the original series.

  • If I remember the bits of Enterprise I read, coupled with the history of the Romulans,

    *SPOILER*

    *SPOILER*

    *SPOILER*

    (maybe)

    in the Enterprise time-frame, Vulcans had fallen away from the logical teachings of Surak (googles to get the name right) and it was toward the end of that when the teachings made a resurgence; historically, the Vulcans nearly wiped themselves out before Surak’s teachings took hold.

    Several waves of refugees or those who didn’t wish to reject their (highly overpowering) emotions included the ancestors of the Romulans. (They seem to have found a way to control their overwhelming emotions by being cold-blooded, back-stabbing, manipulative politicians.)

    That would make Sarek a child soon after a big wave of religion sweeps over, so Spock might be modeling himself on some real hard-liners, logically speaking.

    Add in the way that someone who is halfway between cultures tends to choose one and be more Catholic than the Pope for that one, and it explains why Spock would be a Vulcan’s Vulcan. (Spock’s fiancé’s actions in that pon farr ep come to mind.)

    Side note: I am utterly geeking out that my spell check had “Spock” in it already.

  • While it is true that Obama has developed a reputation for being rather “geeky,” I seriously question whether he has Asperger’s, since most Aspies are socially extremely awkward and probably couldn’t win an election if their lives depended on it. I do not mean that as an insult, by the way, just a statement of fact.

    Probably the most famous Aspie in the world right now is Bill Gates; he is famous and very successful but charisma is not exactly his strong point. In general, Aspies have little or no interest in purely social friendship (it has to be about a common interest), or in the relentless social maneuvering that would be required to become a successful politician.

    A lot of Aspies do identify with characters like Spock and Next Generation’s Data because of their focus on pure logic and inability to deal with emotions and body language. As I said earlier, many Aspies (I strongly suspect myself to be one) prefer e-mail and blogging to in-person communication because it allows you to communicate pure words and ideas, without having to worry about eye contact, etc.

  • nope, obama cannot be an aspie because he is too full of shi* to be. as a rule, aspies are very honest, do what they say they are gonna do, and say what they mean and mean what they say. obama, on the other hand, is from the senate, and as a rule, people from the senate and the house are so full of shi* that they cannot tell the difference between truth and a lie – to congressmen and seantors – truth and a lie are the same thing. 😛

Well, Good Luck With That

Monday, June 8, AD 2009

[Cross posted from DarwinCatholic]

I have the feeling that readers have emailed me about this site a couple times before, and I left it without comment because some topics seem like shooting fish in a barrel for a blog with the tagline “Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don’t survive.” However there comes a point when fish who choose to live in barrels deserve to come under fire.

Meet the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

VHEMT (pronounced vehement) is a movement not an organization. It’s a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth. We’re not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.

We don’t carry on about how the human race has shown itself to be a greedy, amoral parasite on the once-healthy face of this planet. That type of negativity offers no solution to the inexorable horrors which human activity is causing.

Rather, The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of Earth’s ecology.

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7 Responses to Well, Good Luck With That

  • I think they’re saying that the urge is to have sex, but that there’s no urge to have babies per se. It sounds ridiculous. Haven’t they ever met a career-driven woman who’s also complaining that her biological clock is ticking? People definitely have an urge for babies, and not just plain old sex. They sound like a bunch of teenagers.

  • They claim that the “biological clock” is merely a cultural construct, that there’s no natural human urge to have babies, just to have sex.

    Which is ludicrous. The only reason, at a biological level, why we are able to have sex and why it’s pleasurable is in order to “make babies”. That’s why they’re called “reproductive organs”.

    As you say, it does all seem to suggest a certain lack of familiarity with life…

  • “They claim that the “biological clock” is merely a cultural construct, that there’s no natural human urge to have babies, just to have sex.”

    Obviously these people have never seen a group of women at a baby shower, or experienced the phenomenon of one woman in a group of friends of child-bearing age getting pregnant and the other females in her group of friends getting pregnant within a year. Not to mention the reaction of virtually all women when they see a baby. An ounce of experience is definitely worth a pound of theory in this area.

  • in the words of Johnny Mac: “You CANNOT be SERIOUS!”

  • Methinks these a-holes need to read some Chesterton.

  • Perhaps “apres vous”?

  • “If an idea lacks enough merit to be passed on without being force-fed from an early age, it probably deserves to be forgotten.”

    this quote pretty much sums it up for me, and as far as I’m concerned is the basis for all the erroneous liberal ideas that we see today.

Outing Bloggers

Monday, June 8, AD 2009

Blogging in Disguise

Considerable controversy erupted over the weekend in the blogosphere as to the outing of bloggers who blog using a pseudonym.  The details of what initiated this controversy are discussed in detail here at Southern Appeal, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air comments here, Jay Anderson has a thoughtful post here at Pro Ecclesia, as does Paul Zummo here at the Cranky Conservative.  My observations are as follows:

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33 Responses to Outing Bloggers

  • Donald,

    Did you just out the Cranky Con?

    😉

  • Paul is rather like the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four Tito, everyone knows his secret identity! 🙂

  • Donald, if you do not take this post down, I will be forced to bring litigation against you. You will owe me at least one soda pop when I’m through with you.

  • Soda pop, article, soda pop, article—hmmm.

  • people usually are more reluctant to act like total jerks when they are using their real names.

    I don’t think this is right. People do tend to be more rude on the Internet than in real life, but from what I’ve found, this tendency is no more pronounced in the case of people who blog under pseudonyms than for people who do not. The chances of ever encountering someone in “real life” that you’ve badly treated on the Internet are vanishingly small, whereas the Internet reputational effects of boorish behavior are the same for someone who uses a consistent pseudonym as for someone using their real name.

    I also don’t think doing something that could potentially destroy a man’s livelihood should be described as “merely a matter of good manners” but I suppose our perspectives differ on this.

  • “I also don’t think doing something that could potentially destroy a man’s livelihood should be described as “merely a matter of good manners” but I suppose our perspectives differ on this.”

    They do indeed BA. No one drafts people to comment on the internet, and there is no “Code of the Internet” that guarantees anonymity. If a man or woman’s livelihood is truly threatened by what they post on the internet, I am not entirely unsympathetic to their plight, but perhaps it would be time for them to take up another hobby or to restrict themselves to non-controversial topics.

    As to bad behavior being fostered by anonymity, I would merely point to anonymous comments and compare and contrast them with comments where people attach their real names to them. I believe, in general, there is a significant difference.

  • I”m kind of torn on this one. I believe wholeheartedly in always being civil while blogging and I do not say anything on a blog that I feel would be indefensible or insulting. However, I also prefer not to use my full real name either.

    On this blog (and this one alone) I use my maiden name, partly because my married name is extremely common and I would prefer not to be mistaken for someone else. Also, I used to be a journalist, and it is common in media circles for women who become well-known or establish a following under their maiden names to keep using their maiden names professionally after marriage. It also provides a measure of privacy for their husbands and children since the general public may not connect their last name with hers.

    Personally I prefer the use of a consistent pseudonym that gives you a specific identity. I have used the pseudonyms “Bookworm” and “Secret Square” on other blogs, mostly local newspaper blogs, regional/national political blogs, and some Catholic blogs. I didn’t go with a pseudonym here because most of you use your real names, also, I did want readers to know that AC was not an exclusively all-male preserve 🙂

  • I hope Elaine we can make it even less of an all-male preserve in the future. 🙂

    I have no particular problem with people using consistent pseudonyms on a blog, but I just do not think that it entitles them to an expectation of privacy as to their true identity when they do. I will honor their implicit request to keep their identity a secret as a matter of manners, but I cannot get too upset when others do not follow my course of action.

  • As to bad behavior being fostered by anonymity, I would merely point to anonymous comments and compare and contrast them with comments where people attach their real names to them. I believe, in general, there is a significant difference.

    There is a significant difference, this is true. But there is also a significant difference between anonymous comments and comments by people who use a consistent pseudonym. If you compare people who use pseudonyms to people who use real names, I don’t see much of a difference.

    No one drafts people to comment on the internet, and there is no “Code of the Internet” that guarantees anonymity.

    Morality isn’t a matter of subscribing to some “Code of the Internet.” If revealing a blogger’s identity could cost them their job, then one shouldn’t do so absent a compelling reason. That’s not a matter of etiquette; it is matter of basic decency. The fact that they wouldn’t be vulnerable to such action if they didn’t blog at all is not much of an excuse here (I happen to think that the Internet would be a much poorer place if everyone who knows blogs under a pseudonym were to leave, but regardless of how one comes down on that question, the fact is that people who choose to blog under a pseudonym).

  • As someone who has remained more-or-less pseudonymous for the last four years, this strikes me as fairly spiteful, but I do have a certain sympathy for this “if it’s so essential people don’t know who you are, don’t blog” argument.

    Several years ago, I did delete comments from someone who had done the research to out my name and parish on my blog — though as much because I found it disturbing someone would do the fifteen minutes research necessary to connect me with name and parish as because I was horrified to have my identity revealed. (At this point, it’s a pretty open secret, since it’s right on our contributors page.)

    The smallest offense can be an evil if done strictly with the intent to hurt, and in that regard this sounds to me like it was done in anger and out of spite. However, at the same time, if you really believe that being “outed” could result in the destruction of your livelihood, it strikes me as seriously irresponsible to run a well known blog.

  • BA, in regard to those who consistently use the same pseudonym I would concede that there is less of a difference between them and people who blog under their own name as to blog behavior as compared to people who post anonymously and those who post under their real name. People who have been using the same pseudonym for years generally do not wish, I assume, to have it tarnished by bad behavior.

    As to the job loss of a blogger whose identity is revealed being a question of morality rather than manners, I just don’t see it. All of us in our “real” life are constantly held accountable for our words and our actions. Someone blogging under a pseudonym is asking for an exemption from this general rule of life. As a matter of manners and good sportsmanship, I am personally willing to grant this exemption, but I do not see it as a question of morality when the general rule of life as to acccountability is applied to a blogger or a commenter.

  • Since most everyone works in an at-will State, I think it is prudent to not allow people to make casual associations. I would never, ever, want to have a boss tell me I was fired for writing on a blog.

    I have gone full circle. I used my first and last name originally, but found my namesake had a reputation. At that point I adopted my first two initials and my last name. That is the name most of you have known me under. I dropped my last name this past year, since I didn’t want people making casual associations. Today, I write comments under a psuedonym at most places. If that lowers my blog rep, then good bye blog rep. I never blogged for money, finding that distasteful, so it ain’t like the blog rep is worth anything.

    As far as nastiness, I have had plenty from people using their own names. I have given plenty of it under my own name.

  • If someone becomes abusive with their comments, I think it fair to make the person responsible. A person whould be. Also goes for those who grossly misrepresent their expertise and deceive others. Out their lies.

  • That should read “should be” and not whould.

  • I think Ed Whelan first off looks like a first class idiot.

    What was the purpose of this? Also it think it is important to note that JOB SECURITY was just one of the reasons that he wanted to remain private.

    I can veyr much understand why a Law Prof and those ona legal blog would want to be private. THey like to throw stuff out there to get reaction and input. SOrt of like a LAW Class calssroom. The problem is the general public I fear does not understand this distinction. Thus they think every word is the deep hearted beliefs of that person

  • An example of a phony military vet used by one internet site, votevets.org:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/08/us/08phony.html?_r=1

  • I abandoned a pseudonym in favor of my real name a long time ago precisely because I wanted to discipline my commentary. The temptation to post intemperate cheap shots is just too great from the perch of anonymnity.

    I also agree with Darwin that if making statements on a blog would jeopardize one’s livelihood or otherwise hurt one’s friends or family, it is irresponsible to rely on anonymity in the case of running a well-known blog. It is one reason it takes a certain amount of charity to accept Plubius’s objections and explanations at face value. Either he rather enjoyed the unaccountabilty of anonymity (and his expressed reasons are pretexts) or he was astonishingly imprudent in operating a well-known blog and expecting his identity to remain unknown.

    None of this excuses Whelan’s actions, of course. But he has been beat up enough and I have nothing to add to that.

  • I’m of the same mind with Donald.

    When I decided to come out with my full name I thought long and hard about this. It certainly makes you think twice before sending a nasty comment, plus it makes you more humble when you think twice about retaliating to someone who may have given it to you good.

    With that said, shouldn’t we as Catholics do our best to not slander, attack someones good name, and be more charitable towards one another?

    Being on the Internet does not absolve us from behaving as Christians towards each other.

  • Consider anonymous “bloggers” of previous times, i.e., pamphleteers: Cardinal Newman wrote many of his Oxford Tracts under a pseudonym. Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under a common pseudonym. Paine published Common Sense under a pseudonym.

    Should they have found another hobby? Are they cowards for not wanting to be held accountable for their words?

  • Nope. But if they were abusive or lying and they were exposed, good.

  • “Consider anonymous “bloggers” of previous times, i.e., pamphleteers: Cardinal Newman wrote many of his Oxford Tracts under a pseudonym. Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under a common pseudonym. Paine published Common Sense under a pseudonym.

    Should they have found another hobby? Are they cowards for not wanting to be held accountable for their words?”

    Not at all, but neither was anyone else under any moral duty to protect their identities. As a matter of fact, I believe in each case you cite guessing as to who the author was, was a popular activity.

  • What I have quarrels with is when sock puppets enter into matters. We have our respectable ways and then, someone might say something. We think “I don’t want to address the crudity as “Moi””, so then… hopefully, we can get by the situation. Perhaps, the internet has a lot of nonsense to it to. I shiver to read some things on it. Those dark corners I do not go to but we might have a curiosity to have looked at least once.

  • When I decided to come out with my full name I thought long and hard about this.

    I am the only one who finds it humorous to read stories about Catholic bloggers like Tito “coming out.” 😉

    I put my real name to try to curtail my own actions, but honestly I wish I had used a pseudonym now. In fact, I’m strongly considering deleting my blog and starting s fresh one under a pseudonym for when I go to law school, as I’d rather not my full views be all that Google accessible.

  • Cajun Catholic,

    Yep, I came out alright! 😉

    That might not be a bad idea to go incognito Miguel.

  • UGGG Michael. If you delete your blog I think I will scream. 🙂

    I hate when I want to go back and see soemthing interesting that someone said and I find (BLOG DELETED) which is one reason why I often block quote passages

    Anyway you blog would still show up in google cache or something

  • I think there are two questions here

    One is there some profound moral duty that was violated here. Well maybe not. But maybe just basic decency and a part of the social contract was in a way.

    This goes way beyond slandering people. As we have see via the prop 8 controversy and google maps speech and though can be chilled.

    One can lets say be a worker in a workplace that has an abudnace of gay workers. Should a Catholic be exposed and suffer intimidation because he gives passing mention to the teaching fo the Church. I think it all sets bad precedent

  • Don is right that no one was under any moral obligation to keep the names of the authors of the Federalist Papers under wraps. If Madison, Hamilton, and Jay were afraid of being “found out” for the views they expressed pseudonymously, then, absolutely, they should’ve found a different line of business.

    Fortunately, they weren’t and they didn’t.

  • Also, I believe the Founders used pseudonyms partially because they were so well known. They didn’t want their audience to pre-judge the message by associating it with a certain writer that they had fully formed opinions of, one way or the other. It was a way of divorcing the message from the messenger.

  • While blog anonymity does seem to give some people “permission” to be hateful jerks, it might also give otherwise timid souls or people who don’t express themselves well, or have much of a chance to express themselves at all, a chance to say good things that need to be said. That is the way I look at my pseudonymous blogging.

    You see, I write better than I talk, and I don’t always express myself well in person. Plus, I’m really chicken when it comes to expressing my personal views in front of people who might not agree with them. I may not have the opportunity or the gumption to discuss or launch a defense of Church teaching at work or at family gatherings, but I can do it via blogging, and maybe plant some good arguments or ideas in some reader’s mind.

    It is also my understanding that blogging and e-mail are favored and effective forms of communication for people who have autism spectrum disorders, since it doesn’t require them to worry about eye contact, body language, facial expression and all those other details that are difficult for them to handle.

  • All good points Elaine. I sometimes forget that not everyone is blessed\cursed with the hide of a rhinoceros when it comes to self-expression.

  • It was a way of divorcing the message from the messenger.

    Bingo.

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