Failure: Vox Nova Takes on Conservatism

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I wasn’t going to do this, but now I am. A contributor (Morning’s Minion) to a certain blog (Vox Nova),  whose views on gun control I previously challenged, took it upon himself to let it all out about “conservatism” – partially, I believe, in response to our exchange.  The same themes are there at least, though he does go on (and on) about slavish right-wing support for Israel, an issue on which I am not so enthusiastic. I’ve also made my opposition to America’s interventionist foreign policy known.  In doing so I respectfully digress from many of my co-bloggers at The American Catholic.

But there are a number of very broad points made by Morning Minions that are more or less directed at me, and my co-bloggers, and of course conservatives and libertarians in general, and I will answer them here.

He begins:

In my opinion, what runs through that hodge-podge of peculiar and inconsistent beliefs that characterizes American “conservatism” is a theology of violence.

I believe the Old Testament was the original theology of violence.  Nary a thing is accomplished for God’s chosen people without incredible acts of violence, on the part of either God or the Israelites themselves.  One can certainly point out that Christianity introduces different solutions, but we still eat flesh and drink blood every Sunday. Some people might think that “violent” too.

What runs through American conservatism, at any rate, is realism. I disagree with many conservatives on foreign policy, but I am not a pacifist. Sometimes violence is necessary. And when it is, it won’t be successfully employed if we are weak-kneed about it. It can be a challenge to find the balance between becoming lethargically avoidant of violence, and fetishizing it, but it must be seen as a potential good in a wide variety of situations. That is the reality of a fallen world.

The charge, coming from someone who sympathizes with leftist policy positions, is moreover hypocritical; all political authority rests upon violence. The sort of wealth redistribution schemes the left promotes and depends upon for political power rely heavily on the threat of coercion. The right has no problem with admitting the necessity of violence or the threat of it for the common good and our security; the left speaks of “peace” and “cooperation” while working on programs that can’t exist without a state (a body of armed men) much larger than what most conservatives would like to see.

The next point:

On one level, there is of course the derivative Calvinist dualism that divides the world into friend or enemy, loyalist or traitor, freedom-lover or terrorist, patriot or socialist. And the other, of course, to is be destroyed.

Is he serious? Let me get this straight: it was Calvinism – Calvinism, which was introduced to the world in the 16th century – that taught men to “divide the world into friend or enemy”? For 10,000 or so years, men lived in a happy utopia, a garden of delights, free of conflict and division until Calvinism came along? This is, quite frankly, one of the most absurd things I have ever read.

The division of people into “us vs. them” sorts of groups is a tendency deeply embedded in human nature, and indeed throughout all of nature. Again, it is that whole “fallen world” concept, remember? You can’t even claim that “Calvinism” is just a particular historical representation of some tendency embedded in human thought – this so-called, and utterly misnamed, “dualism” is much older than that. Are monkeys being “Calvinists” when they have turf wars? How about cats and dogs?

Comparing human behavior to animal behavior can sometimes be degrading, but in this case I really don’t mean it to be. Conservatism embraces a healthy survival instinct, which absolutely does require identifying in clear terms who one’s allies and one’s enemies are. This is how both entire species and individual rational beings survive. Because we have reason, an intellect and a will, we also have a moral obligation to use these faculties with wisdom and restraint – and we are equally obliged to secure the common good (which includes defense as well, shocking as it may be to some Catholic lefties) by using them proficiently and not slacking in the vain hope that they will not be necessary.

The Church teaching is clear: “[G]overnments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.” (CCC 2308) I think America’s two latest wars fall short of this criteria, but certainly not all conceivable wars – including a war on the Mexican drug cartels, which I believe would be just.

I’d also add that to make this “us vs. them” phenomenon peculiar to conservatism is equally ridiculous.  As if leftists, progressives, socialists, and communists do not vilify and slander the “reactionaries”, as if the regimes they’ve headed did not mass murder tens of millions of political enemies, including millions of Christians and faithful Catholics, throughout the last century and even today. As if the Soviet Union or China or for that matter, “Catholic” liberation theology, did not glorify and revel in revolutionary violence and all of the attendant imagery and song. What utter nonsense.

On another level, there is a liberal social contractarian that restricts basic human rights to those within the perimeter of the social contract – and liberalism is the reigning philosophy of the American right.

This is a verbal slight-of-hand as well. The so-called “liberal social contractarian” – by which, I can only assume Morning Minions means John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and those who follow after them – does not “restrict basic human rights to those within the perimeter of the social contract.” This is a fantasy invented by the author.

First, there is no one social contract. Secondly, why shouldn’t there be a social contract?  Perhaps Morning Minions has never heard of the Salamanca school (of the 16th century), or of Francisco Suarez, a Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian of that school, who developed a social contract theory of his own. I’ll quote the wiki here, though you can check the link for Suarez’s work itself:

For Suárez, the political power of society is contractual in origin because the community forms by consensus of free wills. The consequence of this contractualist theory is that the natural form of government is either a democracy or a republic, while oligarchy or monarchy arise as secondary institutions, whose claim to justice is based on being forms chosen (or at least consented to) by the people.

I think it is arguable that Suarez, along with St. Robert Bellarmine and others, had at least some influence on the tradition that ultimately manifested itself in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which is not exactly a crude copy of Locke. But I won’t speculate too far down that road here. The point is that social contract theory has a place in the history of Catholic political thought dating back some 450 years.

And finally on this point, consistent constitutionalists (as opposed to doctrinaire libertarians or anarchists, who are a minority and don’t really influence policy anyway) will note that the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This means that, if states like Massachusetts, or even cities such as San Francisco, want to establish government-run healthcare, they are free to do so. And the rest of America is free to stay out of it, and to deal with healthcare in different ways in different states and locales. This is the true American conservative vision, and the one most consistent with the founding principles of the nation – principles, which I have shown, that have never been denounced by the Church. Indeed, this is nothing other than the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.

Now we come to one of the older canards:

And on another level still, there is consequentialism – the notion that all acts should be evaluated solely on their consequences.

I have been on the receiving end myself of the charge of “consequetinalism” from two of Morning Minion’s co-bloggers, as have most of us at The American Catholic writers and columnists and beyond.  It is high time to put an end to this nonsense.  Vox Nova often indiscriminately applies this word when it has no relevance or moral weight, such as when the means to the proposed end are not actually inherently evil – perhaps just a little unsavory – or it uses it in such a way so as to give the impression that consequences don’t matter.

But consequences do matter. Paragraph 1750 of the Catechism establishes that “The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the “sources,” or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.” It also notes that they are of “secondary” concern, and cannot by themselves render an evil act good. Thus, they are neither to be ignored or elevated,  but they are to be considered.

It may be true that American conservatives focus more on consequences, perhaps at times elevating them from secondary to primary concerns. This is a legitimate point of critique. It would have more credibility coming from one of the major contributors to Vox Nova if he and his colleagues did not wear it down to a useless nub.

I was once accused of “consequentialism” by one of them for simply defending the use of graphic photos of aborted fetuses as pro-life propaganda. This was an absurd claim, since showing these photos is not “in itself” evil, and it does lead to a good end. Another time, it was over simply preferring to ask Catholic dissidents to leave the Church once it became clear their intention was to revolutionize it. Again, more absurdity, since nothing inherently evil was proposed.

The lesson: if you want accusations of consequentialism to be taken seriously, stop crying wolf with them.

I will finally respond to the nonsensical claim that I believe either is, or could be, directed at me in particular given our recent exchange on guns:

Taking the individual autonomy underpinning liberalism and Hobbes’s social contract to absurd limits, these “conservatives” elevate the virtue of gun ownership to defend oneself against both other individuals and the state. If they cross you, shoot them.

Elevate? If you don’t use guns to defend yourself against other individuals (who are presumably trying to kill you) or a rouge state in a legitimate resistance, what are they for? I don’t understand how this is an “elevation.” Our individual right to life, which I would be terrified to learn that a Catholic and an American citizen disputed for some reason, means nothing without a corollary right to defend it. This is not an “elevation”, it is a basic principle.

I will also point out once again that it is not gun owners who live in the world of autonomy and the law of the jungle, but rather the urban city-dweller, the professional liberal yuppie who faints at the sight of a weapon. Many gun enthusiasts come from rural areas, from tight-knit religious communities that probably have a greater sense of sharing and cooperation than, say, a social worker or some other bureaucratic functionary. It is the leftist, materialist bureaucracy (along with the corporate media and consumerism, unfortunately ignored by some on the right) that atomizes individuals and creates the very conditions for the Leviathan state.

The last line – “if they cross you, shoot them”, is a childish and hyperbolic outburst that the author ought to be embarrassed to have written.

I could go on indefinitely, but I think I’ve covered the major points. The rest isn’t worth addressing, for reasons I already stated, and I will leave it to someone (who cares) who does hold those positions on torture or foreign policy to say something. He also argues that there is some contradiction between being pro-life and pro-gun. He brought up this point to me in the previous exchange, to which I replied, and which you may quote at any time:

You have a right to defend yourself for the same reason you don’t have a right to an abortion. You have a right to your life. The baby has a right to his or hers.

About the only thing to result from this attack on conservatism, as I see it, is that the phrase “social contractarian” now has a permanent place alongside “Calvinist dualism”, “consequentialism”, “individualism” in the Vox Nova lexicon of conservative-bashing. He certainly failed, in my view, to point out a single inconsistency – instead using the word “inconsistent” to mean “position I don’t like.” Meanwhile his own take on American conservatism is riddled with inconsistencies and hyperbole.

105 Responses to Failure: Vox Nova Takes on Conservatism

  • AndyMo says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a post by MM that did anything but toe the Democrat line. Sure, he dresses it up pretty and makes it sound as if he were making a theological observation (his favorite is labeling as Calvinist anyone who disagrees with him), but in the end he’s just another Catholic Democrat.

    Emphasis on the Democrat.

  • Art Deco says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a post by MM that did anything but toe the Democrat line.

    Mainline Democrats do not tend to have the sort of curious and contrived antagonism to the State of Israel that he does or that is a staple of British political discourse.

  • R.C. says:

    Joe:

    I couldn’t agree more with your post. Indeed, I nearly felt you were channeling me in much of it: Have you perhaps bugged my house, or hacked the microphone on my webcam, that your reaction to the Minion so thoroughly reflects the things I find myself saying under my breath whenever I bow to morbid curiosity and visit VoxNova?

    I have on occasion been goaded into posting a protest comment in reaction to some of the absurdities found there. But it is a temptation I am trying to resist.

    The moral principle is not entirely summed up by “cast not your pearls before those whom rational argument will never convince”, inasmuch as I think Minion will listen to rational argument; that is, to conclusions which follow from their premises.

    But I think Minion and some of his fellows have adopted as true a whole set of paranoid leftist fantasies from which they argue as starting premises. The exact fantasies are hard to pin down, but when I read Minion, I find myself thinking, “This person is describing a world and a country and group of people which I know perfectly well, yet I don’t recognize them at all as I read his descriptions of them. He is describing conservatives and the Founding Fathers and various other things, but he seems to be describing them in photo-negative, making everything look caricaturish or demonic.”

    And of course one cannot rationally discourse with someone who so thoroughly disagrees about the world in which we live. Debate involves disagreement, but there must be common premises from which to begin.

  • T. Shaw says:

    Of course, unjust, racist private property must be taken and redistributed to the mob. That is charitable. And us (Calvinist, Consequentialist) ignorant morons don’t understand that the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Commandments were repealed by Vat II and Das Kapital. That justifies mass brigandage and massacres, because it’s called “liberation theology.”

    They are a flock of saintly (ask them) people (working on multiple post-doctoral degrees in moral superiority and lesbian poetry in pre-Columbian Central America) who use theology (making up stuff about God) to justify voting for abortion/class hatred/Obama and for smearing (calumny/detraction – are NOT charitable) good people like President Bush.

    Besides, it serves a purpose. Voz Nobrains site/comments are vital if you must do field studies in proctology.

    They never met an anti-American, anti-semitic mass murdering tyranny they couldn’t justify.

    And, they’re all saints, too! Just ask each one.

  • American Knight says:

    T. Shaw,

    Brilliant! Sadly lefties don’t speak sarcasm. They’re probably blushing right now – aw, shucks, the troglodyte thinks we’re saints, how quaint.

  • samrocha says:

    Hmm… I seriously doubt that there is a general thing we can call “Vox Nova” anymore than there is a general thing we could call “American Catholic.”

    Sure, there are ‘left’ and ‘right’ orientations, but these terms don’t do a good job of describing a position. And, furthermore, there is also this “Catholic” thing that we claim to share.

    Agonistic disputation is not the same as antagonism, and when the latter becomes the case all we show the world is the poverty of our witness tot he Gospel. When the former exists we show a disputation that is wholesome and good, I think.

    I appreciate the line-by-line arguments in this post directed at a particular person and position, but find the generalities and platitudes (mostly in comments) disappointing.

    Just my $.02. God’s peace,

    Sam

  • Colin Gormley says:

    I do find it amazing that Morning Minion is very nuanced when it comes to supporting health care despite abortion funding yet fails to nuance about almost anything else. When I saw that we were responding to a “tirade” of sorts I knew exactly who the author was.

  • Colin Gormley says:

    And under the principle of “if you can’t say something nice…” I like Sam Rocha’s work. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but his work is always interesting. And he doesn’t make you think you are an idiot for disagreeing with him.

  • Phillip says:

    Though I’m not sure arguing for “agnostic disputation” is necessarily valid. I think we are having a “Catholic” discussion.

    I think part of the problem that Joe is addressing is that many Vox Novans assume that those who write here are not arguing from Catholic principles. However, we are. And those principles do include the right to private property, subsidiarity, the primacy of the right to life (as in “no direct killing of the innocent” and not a generic “every social issue is an equal right to life issue”) etc. We may be starting from different premises and, based upon our experience which is just as valid as an academic knowledge base that many Vox Novans parade about, conclude prudentially that one policy is better than another. This problem is particularly evident in writings that reduce all arguments here to originating in the “Calvinist dualist’ boogeyman.

    The fact that Catholics can licitly disagree on issues is also part of Catholic Social Teaching. That is part of the “Catholic” thing we share. Reduction of others to false philosophical judgments is not.

  • samrocha says:

    Phillip: Terms like “Vox Novans” are very slippery, at least for me.

    I think you’re right about disagreement and the nature of where arguments begin. However, my point is that when we are antagonistic towards each other by using generalities and platitudes rather than call someone by name and be very specific, then, we might be offering something that seems to be beyond the scope of “disagreement” and bear a poor witness.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    MM is correct when he points out the misuse of the term “liberalism.” (The Australians have it right for a Western democracy – Labour, Liberal). American conservatism is in fact infused with it (liberalism is “equal freedom” in one phrase), but this is because of our unique founding, and it should be recognized that the Left broadly defined is completely swimming in it (equality, typically enforced). “Burkean” and “Paleo,” conservatism, the kind I like, is a small influence in uneasy relationship to the Wilsonian adventurism and economic liberalism of much of the Right.

    Now, with that said, American conservatism’s “fusionism,” which began with National Review and the defeat of Goldwater, is typical and natural for any set of sentiments that wish to gain actual influence. Not noteworthy.

    What is noteworthy is MM’s incessant and insufferable preening when it comes to writing about these topics. My guess is its all part of a status and preening game. (And who doesn’t want to feel morally superior to someone else? It’s probably part of our evolution.)

    This becomes quite evident when one discusses such things (which libertarians, for example, usually don’t recognize) as what makes societies successful (again back to human evolution and our tribal impulses), namely homogeneity of race, ethnicity, religion, and culture (diversity plus proximity equals war, in a phrase). Uh oh – bring on the condemnation and preening!

    As for myself as a conservative, I will continue to despise the Left, even as I dislike many in the conservative coalition (especially libertarians). I have less quarrel with many varieties of liberalism, chiefly because liberalism cannot be escaped in our socio-cultural contexts.

  • Art Deco says:

    However, my point is that when we are antagonistic towards each other by using generalities and platitudes rather than call someone by name and be very specific, then, we might be offering something that seems to be beyond the scope of “disagreement” and bear a poor witness.

    That’s nice. Can you pass that on to the fellow who penned a diatribe against ‘conservatism’ this morning (or is that not a ‘generality’)?

  • samrocha says:

    Philip: Yes, of course. My own work in this regard has been slow and plodding, but it maps on to some of the sticking points, but not others. All in all, I guess I might be acting a little bit selfish about how awkward it is to see such nasty things written about generalities that I am included in. More than that, though, it seems like more than just a selfish thing to point out, it might even be true.

    Art Deco: Sure, I guess. Are you implying that I somehow think the same things as everyone at Vox Nova? Or that any of us do, for that matter?

  • “took it upon himself to let it all out about “conservatism”

    I most certainly did not. I criticized, and will continue to criticize, that aspect of American liberalism that has the gall to call itself “conservative”. I find it highly ironic around here that people elevate an attack on this pseudo-conservatism to the level of an attack on the Church itself! That in itself says so much….

    The basic point of my original post was that this fake movement was too supportive of violence, and yet you respond with a hearty defense of violence. I especially love the fundamentalist reading of the OT to justify violence!

    There are 2 discussions you need to have: (i) what is authentic conservatism and how does it differ from the American fake version; (ii) what the are commonalities and differences between this authentic conservatism and Catholicism (there are commonalities, but also stark differences).

    You can have this conversation, or do can keep defending phoniness.

    (Oh, and by the way, I wish I could claim credit for the theory of strong dominance of Calvinism in the American culture – but sorry, this theory is as old as the hills, and recently enunciated by Cardinal George in the US and Cardinal Laghi, among others, in Rome).

  • T. Shaw says:

    I apologize to all.

    It’s just I think that people with superior intellects should develop skills in edification and producing goods and services rather than in tearing down the USA – mankind’s last, best hope – and judging to be evil everybody that disagrees.

    I don’t go to voz nueva any more. One of my penances is to abide with @$$holes all day at work. Why add to the pain? Plus, the sweet liberals have censored my comments for years. Real liberals!

  • M.Z. says:

    I was once accused of “consequentialism” by one of them for simply defending the use of graphic photos of aborted fetuses as pro-life propaganda. This was an absurd claim, since showing these photos is not “in itself” evil, and it does lead to a good end.

    Parading dead bodies around is not in keeping with respect for the dead. If you believe denigration of the dead can be redeemed by some other good, you are a consequentialist.

    Nary a thing is accomplished for God’s chosen people without incredible acts of violence, on the part of either God or the Israelites themselves.

    In short, you aren’t disputing that you use a narrative of violence then, redemptive violence at that.

    all political authority rests upon violence. The sort of wealth redistribution schemes the left promotes and depends upon for political power rely heavily on the threat of coercion. The right has no problem with admitting the necessity of violence or the threat of it for the common good and our security;

    You know better than to act like private property is an absolute good. You know that taxation, both its offer from government and the duty to pay from individuals, is just. I’m not even sure you buy your own hyperbole, so why even bother to offer it?

  • Art Deco says:

    There are 2 discussions you need to have: (i) what is authentic conservatism and how does it differ from the American fake version;

    Now that is one discussion we do not need to have. Political terminology provides consistent referents that tolerably indicates that to which you are referring or it can act to confound by referring with one words to dissimilar properties or phenomena.

    The use of political terminology is not like numismatics. There is no ‘fake conservatism’. There are different sets of ideas to which the term has been applied for convenience. There is no sort of ‘authenticity’ to which to aspire. One aspires to promote truth or justice. The only people who aspire to be conservative are accountants. Good trade, but not what your on about when you discuss political topics.

  • M.Z. says:

    The purpose of a funeral is to mourn the dead. The purpose of the Holocaust memorial is so that people can understand that tragedy of their own free will, although there are Jews that object to the piles of dead bodies being shown. The parading of abortion photos is meant to incite shock in the public square. These things are manifestly different. It is cheap polemnic to feign indifference.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    MZ,
    Your claim that showing graphic photos of the unborn is intrinsically evil and therefore not justifiable by good ends is not supportable under Catholic teaching. Period. Full stop. The idea is no more than your own idiosyncratic innovation, and a stupid one at that. Next thing you know you’ll be telling us that it is morally required that the graphic photos of the corpses at Auschwitz be censured as well.
    One might fairly argue the prudential merits of sharing such photos, but consequentialism has nothing to do with it.
    Given your obvious intellignece, I’m really quite surprised you would assert such an idiotic claim.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    (Oh, and by the way, I wish I could claim credit for the theory of strong dominance of Calvinism in the American culture – but sorry, this theory is as old as the hills, and recently enunciated by Cardinal George in the US and Cardinal Laghi, among others, in Rome).

    Wow, now I am going to completely rethink my position that you’re talking out your ass on this topic. I mean Cardinal George is a highly respected political theoretician when it comes to the development of American political thought, and if he said it, it must be so. Let’s not worry our little heads off about analyzing whether or not that this proposition is correct. Oh no, better to repeat it like a mindless drone without taking a look at whether this is an appropriate way to describe the development of American conservatism.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Wrong again, MZ. The purpose of sharing the photos of those killed in the Holocaust photos is exactly the same as that of showing the photos of those killed in abortions. It is to horrify (I’m fine with “shock”)) people into acknowledging the depth of man’s inhumanity to man, and to therefore prevent future occurances of it. That is hardly a cheap polemic.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    M.Z.,

    “Parading dead bodies around is not in keeping with respect for the dead. If you believe denigration of the dead can be redeemed by some other good, you are a consequentialist.”

    I don’t believe it is denigration. Why is it denigration?

    “In short, you aren’t disputing that you use a narrative of violence then, redemptive violence at that.”

    If it’s there, it’s there. I’m not saying I “use it”, but its existence seems to undermine the notion that violence has no place in Christian history or theology.

    “You know better than to act like private property is an absolute good.”

    I’m not. Where did I say that? It is, however, an inviolable right, and one moreover which should not be burdened with excessive taxation, according to Rerum Novarum.

    “You know that taxation, both its offer from government and the duty to pay from individuals, is just.”

    Never said it wasn’t. But if it is just, so is the coercion, the threat of violence, used to procure it. And if that form of violence is just, then it seems to me that “violence” as such can’t be the issue, theologically or otherwise.

  • M.Z. says:

    There is no dispute that at a funeral one is attempting to respect the dignity of the deceased. The purpose of museums is the preservation of the arts and history. There is still a proportionate argument involved, but that is the case there. The ability to horrify people is not a right.

    And is not the case where we allow the public airing of the dead. In many civilized countries, it is illegal to publish photos of accidents (like car ones) without the express permission of the family. Up until recently, it was illegal to publish pictures of the dead returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. One still needs the permission of the family in order to do so today. It simply is not the case that the gratuitous display of the dead is allowed.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    “There is still a proportionate argument involved, but that is the case there. The ability to horrify people is not a right.”

    No one argued it was “a right” – it was only argued that it was not intrinsically evil, and therefore not “consequentialist.”

  • M.Z. says:

    The catechism:
    2300 The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy;92 it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.

    2301 Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Minion,

    “The basic point of my original post was that this fake movement was too supportive of violence, and yet you respond with a hearty defense of violence. I especially love the fundamentalist reading of the OT to justify violence!”

    The Church herself defends the use of violence in plenty of situations. A categorical condemnation of all violence is simply wrong. And hyperbolic overreaction to a perceived embrace of violence on the right is misguided.

    “There are 2 discussions you need to have: (i) what is authentic conservatism and how does it differ from the American fake version; (ii) what the are commonalities and differences between this authentic conservatism and Catholicism (there are commonalities, but also stark differences).

    1. There is nothing “fake” about American conservatism. You think it fake because it is attempting to preserve a tradition that is partially – not wholly – but partially rooted in classical liberalism.

    Some self-identified conservatives would probably be better labeled libertarians, but a few libertarian ideas in a person’s mind does not a “liberal” make, not if the balance of ideas are conservative.

    2. You mean between “European” reactionism and Catholicism, I suppose. Throne and altar? Well, I won’t go into all of it now, except to say that the Church never condemned America’s political institutions or her philosophy.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    “The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection.”

    Well, if this is the issue, talk to the abortionists. They’re the ones who dispose of the bodies as if they were garbage.

    And in any case, we’re talking about pictures. I see nothing disrespectful about using the picture of a dead fetus to make a point. It could well be an honor, to be displayed in such a way as to prevent the next potential murder. This is done for many crimes, including “hate crimes” and other causes of the left.

    So what is the criteria for disrespect?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Also, it seems clear that dissecting bodies is ok for educational purposes. Well, showing these images of aborted fetuses provides an education in what abortion is. People believe, because they are told, that a “fetus” is a “lump of cells” – they don’t understand that it has a recognizable human form.

    Humanizing the unborn victims of abortion, to me, is among the most charitable thing we could ever do for them.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    MZ,
    You do realize that there is a difference between bodies and photos don’t you? If pro-lifers were to start “parading” around actual dead fetuses then I would join you in criticism. But photos are not bodies; they are not the subject of Christian burial, autopsies, or organ donation. I really can’t believe you are serious.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    “Authentic conservatism” does not exist. There are sentiments that are conservative, and I believe that conservatism in the abstract is the “negation of ideology”, even as its coalitions may contain ideologies, as detailed here:
    http://vox-nova.com/2009/02/06/what-is-conservatism-part-v/

    This is why it is so strange to attack “conservatives” as a catch-all term. It is a circumstantial term, from the time of Burke’s and Pitt’s followers until now. It wishes to conserve and to slow change. What is conserved may or may not be “liberal.”

    In our political tradition, Anglo-Americanism, the root is the Glorious Revolution. That was an “anti-Catholic” undertaking. Thus American conservatism, as with British Conservatism (in its party orientation, not its Little England one), is very broadly “anti-Catholic.”

    However, after Pitt and the settlement of reform acts (Conservative AND Whig undertakings) such a thought holds very little currency.

    Catholicism is not political. It is not ideological. It is Christ-centric – so much so, it is Christ Himself in the Eucharist.

    This is reflected in the family. Thus to the extent that conservatism is family and local community (my own belief), it can be political and ideological. But we should resist this comparison, because to make it is to cheapen our Communion with Christ, which must inform all actions, political or otherwise. Primarily Political People – a particular disease of the Left – fill up too much life space with matters of systematic organization. Such actions are the opposite of conservatism.

  • Foxfier says:

    Wait, pro-life demonstrators are parading corpses? That would be rather horrific! Especially when a picture of the dead bodies would probably be enough proof to show that yes, a person died.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Johnathan,

    I’m with you on most of these points.

    I do however question the extent to which the GR was “anti-Catholic.” It was certainly anti-absolutist, and it was certainly opposed to what was seen as an attempt to reintroduce Catholicism into Britain.

    But, I think the Catholic political tradition, as exemplified by philosophers such as Suarez, aligns rather comfortably with the Anglo-American political tradition. There are a number of historical circumstances which absolutely prevented this from ever manifesting itself in practical politics, to be certain.

    But if we step outside of history and into the realm of pure thought – permissible, as long as we don’t forget where we came from! – I think there are relevant overlaps. I think the political thought of Pope Leo and that of Thomas Jefferson had many points of convergence. And I’d say the same even of Suarez and Locke (probably not Hobbes).

    At any rate, they would have more in common than either would with the French Enlightenment, German idealism, or their communist children.

  • M.Z. says:

    Well, showing these images of aborted fetuses provides an education in what abortion is.

    A public demonstration is expressly not that. I really don’t understand why keep offering these red herrings. You are fine with the photos being used as a prop in public advocacy. Arguing their are for education is groping for an argument.

    You do realize that there is a difference between bodies and photos don’t you?

    There is, but the difference is not significant. Performing sex acts in public and displaying videos of the same are treated substantially the same. There have been some first amendment arguments over it, and I disagree with some of courts’ conclusions on a moral level. The most recent case of animal crush porn would be an example where I disagree.

    I really can’t believe you are serious.

    I’m not sure why. I’ve consistently taken a dim view of the 1st amendment, where a lot of this stuff finds its support.

  • Foxfier says:

    You are fine with the photos being used as a prop in public advocacy.

    Hold up, hold up. Saying “you are murdering babies, see? That is wrong” is “public advocacy”? Wow, that’s a…bloodless way to put it.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Joe,

    It strikes me as fair to classify 1). the Glorious Revolution as anti-Catholic 2). the Glorious Revolution as the beginning of Anglo-American conservatism.

    I write the second point because it is close to indisputable that Reflections is the founding document of Anglo-American conservatism, and very clearly Burke invoked it as foundational to the stability of his ideas.

    Now, does this mean that our conservatism is anti-Catholic? I would argue exactly the opposite, and it is because of Burke (what a genius he was!). His foundations made it clear to those that came after him the conservatism must be flexible, and it must contain means of reform (thus accomodations with liberalism, the fraility of early party discipline, and the very quick formalized removal of socio-political barriers for Catholics).

    And no question that Catholicism is an easier fit to Anglo-American thought (including its Tocquevillian liberalism) than with the radicalism of liberal, modernist revolutionaries.

    And by the way, how odd for many on the Left (including one supposed “anarchist”) to claim fascism for the Right. It was, and is, a collectivist, modernist movement from within the theories of socialism.

    As an aside:
    The chief connector of throne and altar and libertarian thought (both of which are of the Right, even as they are opposites and classical liberalism is radical) is its opposition to revolutionary statism. Anyone who calls those of us on the Right a “fascist” simply doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    “You are fine with the photos being used as a prop in public advocacy. Arguing their are for education is groping for an argument.”

    No it isn’t. Most people are told by the abortion industry that a fetus is a “clump of cells.” This view of the unborn is dehumanizing and contributes directly to their deaths.

    The pictures humanize the unborn. I don’t see how this would fall outside of the scope of education. But I have no problem with “public advocacy” either. Your whole issue was with “disrespecting the dead”, was it not? I say that humanizing the unborn by showing their broken human forms is the highest form of respect.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    MZ,
    The absurdity of your claim that sharing these graphic photos is intrinsically evil is not obscured by a reference to an irrelevant constitutional provision that you have a dim view of. Only a moron would suggest that something that is protected by the First Amendment is automatically not intrisically evil, and no on here is a moron. To state that there is little difference between displaying a corpse versus displaying the picture of a corpse is trifling with the actual words and meaning of the catechism. Let me know when you find a competent chatechist who agrees with you. Until then you would do well to be more careful about making accusations. It is heretical for a Catholic to be a consequentialist, and it is a sin to libel someone.

  • I don’t think there is much of an argument for the photos being “intrinsically” evil-however I think the pubic display (i.e. on the side of trucks) lacks prudence and so is not preferable (and perhaps with sinful motives-the worst of them is to use the bodies as a means to an end, as well as not showing enough respect for the dead, depending on the how and what of the particular displays & photos).

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    It doesn’t lack prudence.

    The lie that abortion only removes a clump of cells is a great evil that can only be countered with the truth.

    It is preferable to know the truth than to believe a lie, and worse, to commit murder on the basis of a lie.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Joe,

    I tend to agree with you, though do acknowledge that reasonable people can differ on the prudential calculus.

    Michael, I cannot figure out your last comment. After more or less dismissing (correctly) the argument that the use of the photos is intrinsically evil, you then criticize using them as a means to an end. Using or doing something as a means to an end is only morally problematic if either the means or the end is intrinsically wrong. How are the ends wrong here? It is hardly disrespectful of unborn innocents to deplore their killing. Neither taking nor sharing photographs of of the deal is necessarily disrespectful.

    I concede that Joe and I may be wrong about the efficacy of sharing these photos, but there is nothing morally problematic here. Just as there is nothing morally problematic to share photos of Holocaust victims for the purpose of communicating the truth about man’s inhumanity to man.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Patton vomited after he witnessed his first death camp. He then joined in Eisenhower’s order that German civilians around the death camp should be rounded up and marched through the camp to see what he had seen. The mayor and his wife of the local village, after they were marched through the camp, went home and hung themselves. Confronting raw evil is never pleasant, but it is always necessary.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Of course, unjust, racist private property must be taken and redistributed to the mob. That is charitable. And us (Calvinist, Consequentialist) ignorant morons don’t understand that the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Commandments were repealed by Vat II and Das Kapital. That justifies mass brigandage and massacres, because it’s called “liberation theology.”

    They are a flock of saintly (ask them) people (working on multiple post-doctoral degrees in moral superiority and lesbian poetry in pre-Columbian Central America) who use theology (making up stuff about God) to justify voting for abortion/class hatred/Obama and for smearing (calumny/detraction – are NOT charitable) good people like President Bush.

    Besides, it serves a purpose. Voz Nobrains site/comments are vital if you must do field studies in proctology.

    They never met an anti-American, anti-semitic mass murdering tyranny they couldn’t justify.

    And, they’re all saints, too! Just ask each one.

    It’s as if you were channeling me in those comments!

  • JD says:

    (Oh, and by the way, I wish I could claim credit for the theory of strong dominance of Calvinism in the American culture – but sorry, this theory is as old as the hills, and recently enunciated by Cardinal George in the US and Cardinal Laghi, among others, in Rome).

    And that theory, as you express it, is unremittingly stupid, disconnected as it is from anything that even remotely resembles actual Calvinism.

  • T. Shaw says:

    Tito,

    I feel I must pray for them.

    As long as they live, there is the chance that they may come around to a more salutary way of thinking. But, they are a stiff-necked (and annoying) bunch.

    I am daily praying (in my Rosary) not for the conversion of Russia, but for the conversion of liberals.

  • GodsGadfly says:

    Morning’s Minion. There are only two readings of the Old Testament:
    A “Fundamentalist” one and an atheist one.
    Two of the most surefire signs of a “Fake” Catholic are:
    a) trying to reinvent the Old Testament,
    and
    b) trying to reinterpret anywhere Jesus says something contradictory to liberal platittudes (e.g., where He says that you need to be violent to get into the kingdom of Heaven).
    One of my favorite cases is the pastor I had in VA who regularly said, “This Gospel doesn’t really sound like Jesus, does it? Well, Jesus didn’t really mean to say. . . . ” And a few days after he launched into a full scale tirade against the Pope, Canon Law, etc., and before I’d written the letter to the bishop I’d drafted in my head, he resigned in a pornography scandal.

    Ever hear of St. Louis of France? St. Joan of Arc? St. Wenceslaus?

    As for the Old Testament, Scott Hahn has the best explanation. Besides the fact that God is God, and it’s perfectly in His right to command genocide if He so chooses, mortal sin before Christ was just that: literally mortal. Since there was no possibility for salvation, the only option was to kill the perpetrator, whether it was by death penalty for an individual Israelite or slaughter of a whole populatoin of pagans.

    Certainly, the Old Testament also points to God’s desire for mercy, and His desire for conversion. But when those were not options, due to people’s hard-heartedness, it was better to have them wiped out than to have them pollute God’s Children.

    Like any good parent, God tried to keep His Children from being exposed to bad influences.

  • Kevin Rice says:

    Isn’t it revealing that the Vox Novans in this thread seem very obviously to be so much more offended by he use of photos of aborted babies than they are by the abortions themselves?

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it — Vox Nova is nothing more than a sterile echo chamber of heresy and dissent where left-wing politics is elevated to the status of orthodoxy while actual orthodox Catholicism is derided as fundamentalism. Pearls? Even nacre-coated glass is too good for that species of porcine prig. Leave them to rot and shake the dust off your feet when you go. Let the dead bury their dead.

  • Isn’t it revealing that the Vox Novans in this thread seem very obviously to be so much more offended by he use of photos of aborted babies than they are by the abortions themselves?

    Isn’t it revealing that the Vox Novans are showing respect for the dead, while others find it satisfactory to continue to objectify the babies, to continue the abuse started against them from whoever aborted them? It makes it clear who actually respects the babies and their dignity.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it — Vox Nova is nothing more than a sterile echo chamber of heresy and dissent where left-wing politics is elevated to the status of orthodoxy while actual orthodox Catholicism is derided as fundamentalism.

    Yes, we all know, Pope Benedict is a left-wing liberal when he spoke out against voluntarism.

  • Morning’s Minion. There are only two readings of the Old Testament:A “Fundamentalist” one and an atheist one.

    Actually the fundamentalist and the atheist tend to read the text the same, while there are many different ways to read and understand texts beyond fundamentalism. I would suggest GG read Vatican document so Scripture and see what they say about fundamentalism.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Henry,

    You’re becoming unhinged again. Who said anything about “voluntarism”? And what “Vatican document” are you talking about?

    I mean, I know we don’t get along, but you could at least try to contribute something useful to this discussion.

  • Joe

    Nothing unhinged on my end of things. Just because you do not understand what people write does not make them unhinged.

    Now, I will answer your questions, despite your rudeness.

    Voluntarism — the people who are defending a poor interpretation of Scripture which says “God orders genocide and it’s fine” are indeed engaging voluntarism by saying “Well, God can order anything, and it is fine, since he is God.” This is exactly the kind of interpretation of Scripture and argument Pope Benedict disputed at Regensburg. Though people did not say “I support voluntarism,” their words are voluntarist and exactly the argument given by voluntarists. This has been discussed a great deal on Vox Nova — and I am not the only one who recognized their error, Br. Matthew OP also saw through the methodology and criticized it.

    Second, as for the interpretation of Scripture — there are many documents which have come from the Vatican about it. However, one of the more important ones is “Interpretation of the Bible in Church”, which does speak out against fundamentalism: http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_Interp.htm

    In it, for example, we read:

    F. Fundamentalist Interpretation

    Fundamentalist interpretation starts from the principle that the Bible, being the word of God, inspired and free from error, should be read and interpreted literally in all its details. But by “literal interpretation” it understands a naively literalist interpretation, one, that is to say, which excludes every effort at understanding the Bible that takes account of its historical origins and development. It is opposed, therefore, to the use of the historical- critical method, as indeed to the use of any other scientific method for the interpretation of Scripture.

    The fundamentalist interpretation had its origin at the time of the Reformation, arising out of a concern for fidelity to the literal meaning of Scripture. After the century of the Enlightenment it emerged in Protestantism as a bulwark against liberal exegesis.

    The actual term fundamentalist is connected directly with the American Biblical Congress held at Niagara, N.Y., in 1895. At this meeting, conservative Protestant exegetes defined “five points of fundamentalism”: the verbal inerrancy of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, his virginal birth, the doctrine of vicarious expiation and the bodily resurrection at the time of the second coming of Christ. As the fundamentalist way of reading the Bible spread to other parts of the world, it gave rise to other ways of interpretation, equally “literalist,” in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. As the 20th century comes to an end, this kind of interpretation is winning more and more adherents, in religious groups and sects, as also among Catholics.

    Fundamentalism is right to insist on the divine inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy of the word of God and other biblical truths included in its five fundamental points. But its way of presenting these truths is rooted in an ideology which is not biblical, whatever the proponents of this approach might say. For it demands an unshakable adherence to rigid doctrinal points of view and imposes, as the only source of teaching for Christian life and salvation, a reading of the Bible which rejects all questioning and any kind of critical research.

    The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation of this kind is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human. It refuses to admit that the inspired word of God has been expressed in human language and that this word has been expressed, under divine inspiration, by human authors possessed of limited capacities and resources. For this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods. It pays no attention to the literary forms and to the human ways of thinking to be found in the biblical texts, many of which are the result of a process extending over long periods of time and bearing the mark of very diverse historical situations.

    Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth. It often historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning.

    Fundamentalism often shows a tendency to ignore or to deny the problems presented by the biblical text in its original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek form. It is often narrowly bound to one fixed translation, whether old or present-day. By the same token it fails to take account of the “rereadings” (relectures) of certain texts which are found within the Bible itself.

    In what concerns the Gospels, fundamentalism does not take into account the development of the Gospel tradition, but naively confuses the final stage of this tradition (what the evangelists have written) with the initial (the words and deeds of the historical Jesus). At the same time fundamentalism neglects an important fact: The way in which the first Christian communities themselves understood the impact produced by Jesus of Nazareth and his message. But it is precisely there that we find a witness to the apostolic origin of the Christian faith and its direct expression. Fundamentalism thus misrepresents the call voiced by the Gospel itself.

    Fundamentalism likewise tends to adopt very narrow points of view. It accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible; this blocks any dialogue with a broader way of seeing the relationship between culture and faith. Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudices–racism, for example–quite contrary to the Christian Gospel.

    Finally, in its attachment to the principle “Scripture alone,” fundamentalism separates the interpretation of the Bible from the tradition, which, guided by the Spirit, has authentically developed in union with Scripture in the heart of the community of faith. It fails to realize that the New Testament took form within the Christian church and that it is the Holy Scripture of this church, the existence of which preceded the composition of the texts. Because of this, fundamentalism is often anti-church, it considers of little importance the creeds, the doctrines and liturgical practices which have become part of church tradition, as well as the teaching function of the church itself. It presents itself as a form of private interpretation which does not acknowledge that the church is founded on the Bible and draws its life and inspiration from Scripture.

    The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Um…

    I didn’t ask you what voluntarism was. I asked you who brought it up, that you felt you had to make a condemnation of it.

    In any case, your argument is not logical. Saying that God ordering genocide is fine isn’t the same as saying God can do anything. The two claims aren’t logically related in any way. It is possible to argue that genocide is well within the bounds of what God can do, and not outside of them.

    But the real problem here is that you admit, frankly, that no one actually claimed to be a voluntarist – you interpreted their words that way. You do that a lot, and you aren’t the best at it. It’s why people like me find you rather annoying. Let people speak for themselves, and ask them questions if you find what they say to be unclear.

    It really isn’t what you believe at all, Henry – it is how you consistently read things that are simply not there in the writing of others. You may find that insulting, but I figure it is better to tell you what the source of our acrimony is.

    Finally, I don’t see how the argument against “fundamentalism” is an argument against the reality of violence in the Old Testament. If all of the violence in the OT were waved away with the dismissal of “fundamentalism”, there’d be some pretty important and large chunks missing. My point about violence in the OT was very broad.

  • Joe

    “It’s fine for God to order an intrinsic evil.” If it is an intrinsic evil, it is not fine. That’s the point. Now nominalistic voluntarism has no problem with it, however, Catholic teaching does. There is no problem with calling out what people are proclaiming, whether or not they say they are doing it — but it is very clear in the discussions which have gone for sometime, this voluntarist vision is indeed being supported by many who support violence.It is also very telling that your use of violence is also similar to what the Vatican had concerns about Liberation Theology. Indeed, you have created a liberation theology here… it’s not that liberation theology itself is bad, but the kind which you are presenting is the kind which the Vatican takes to be erroneous.

  • GodsGadfly,

    There are only two readings of the Old Testament:
    A “Fundamentalist” one and an atheist one.

    I note that you’ve put “Fundamentalist” in quotes, so I can only hope that you’re attempting to make a point through coopting a term intended to be of derision. The term “fundamentalist” is usually taken to mean “literalist”, but obviously there are many contradictory literalist interpretations that can be made of the Old Testament, and a great many of them are not true.

    I think you correctly identify that a desire to reinterpret “what God really meant” is often a pathway out of orthodoxy, but that does not mean that the only other alternative is strict literalism, something the Church has never endorsed.

    Joe,

    Good post. I’ve got to admit, when I read MM’s post I thought: This guy has got to the point where he’s simply not capable of talking to or about those he considers “the other side” in regards to political philosophy. There’s too much of “it doesn’t matter what you think you believe, I know what’s really going on”.

    But I think you did a great job of taking it apart and diagnosing it piece by piece.

  • Teresa says:

    Henry,
    Thank you for proving Kevin’s point. You typify the very deep, dark sterile echo chamber of heresy and dissent that has taken over and infects the Vox Nova blog and its moderators. In previous discussions on inerrancy and the Bible, you claim that ignoring the Word of God, and that ignoring what the Word of God denotes “orthodoxy” in interpreting scripture.

    Here is my explanation on the inerrancy of the Bible, which also has links to discussions on inerracy at Vox Nova:

    http://teresamerica.blogspot.com/2010/05/inerrancy-debate-part-deux.html

    http://teresamerica.blogspot.com/2010/04/bible-inerrant-or-not.html

  • Teresa

    Once again, like a fundamentalist, you confuse your understanding of Scripture with Scripture itself. I have fully affirmed the Catholic understanding of Scripture, including the charism given to it. God indeed reveals in it what he wants revealed; you confuse, however, how you want to read it with how God wants it revealed. That is the same problem with every other sola scriptura position, especially since they need the interpretation of Scripture to be simple in order to justify their attacks on Catholic theology which requires detailed exegetics.

  • “Vox Nova is nothing more than a sterile echo chamber of heresy and dissent” – Kevin Rice.

    “We are particularly concerned about blogs that engage in attacks and hurtful, judgmental language. We are very troubled by blogs and other elements of media that assume the role of Magisterium and judge others in the Church.” – Bishop Gabino Zavala, USCCB communications chair.

    We all know exactly what Bishop Zavala was talking about.

    I will go further – what Kevin actually means is “heresy and dissent” from the prevailing hodge-epodge of secular liberal beliefs that are falsely dubbed “conservatism” in America. I might say that the attempt to trap the awe-inspiring and world-altering mystery of the incarnation into the narrow confines of this dubious ideology is itself a form of “dissent”, but I won’t go there! :)

  • Kevin Rice says:

    Thank you and God Bless You, Joe! You saved me the considerable aggravation of having to make the exact same points in my own defense. Don’t mind Henry too much. He’s just mad that he could not drop my comment like he does over at VN nine times out of ten. Even my toned down ones, which offer simple points that are hardly even argumentative but practically tautologies (like the fact that a tithe in ancient Israel was normatively a flat ten per cent) are considered too dangerous for publication there. That’s why I can no longer summon an ounce of respect for them: it’ not their vapid liberalism, but for their terror of real dialogue that provokes my disgust.

  • Kevin Rice says:

    Morning’s Minutia,

    You’re dead wrong as always. Your silly vacuous leftist political leanings over at VN never troubled me, just your denials outright of biblical inerrancy. If the Bishop you quote didn’t find such content at least somewhat disturbing, then he would probably be one of those bishops that we believing Catholics find very hard to respect. I wonder i you submitted it to him what he would say. I wonder if he might tell you that what I and others were attempting to do was not “heresy hunting” so much as fraternal correction, a spiritual act of mercy.

  • Teresa Rice says:

    Correction- I said “claim” and sorry but that was attributing honesty to Karlson which never happened with regards to his admitting his problem with inerrancy and the Bible. You can’t fix your problem unless you admit your problem first.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    Assuming the role of the Magisterium and judging others in the Church?

    Dear Lord, Tony. Do you even have an ounce of self-awareness? Your quoting the Bishop Zavala piece in this context indicates that you do not.

    The whole point of Joe’s post is that this is exactly what you do on a daily basis, rather than actually engaging people on the substance of their ideas. Why bother refuting what people actually say when you can merely pronounce anathemas and read them right out of the Church by labeling them as Calvinists and/or Dualists (i.e. heretics)?

    And please don’t fall back on the “Cardinal George said it, not me” meme. Assuming that everyone concedes that statement by Cardinal George, it is nevertheless far too great a leap for you to then take it upon yourself to label every idea or point of view that is foreign to your own sensibilites as “Calvinist” or “Dualist” or the product of an “incomplete conversion”. Neither are you the Magisterium. Your own notions of what a Catholic response or mindset should encompass are NOT the benchmark by which the authenticity of another’s Catholic mind and heart are measured.

  • Before things go totally into the ditch here, allow me to venture the strong opinion that I have never see the current authors at Vox Nova write something which can be described accurately as heresy — they just have a strong tendency to mischaracterize those they disagree with and accuse them of heresy. And go on a very great deal about some rather tenuous prudential judgements.

    Both of these are not uncommon faults in the blogsphere, though that does not make the offense any less.

  • Oh dear. Kevin Rice : “one of those bishops that we believing Catholics find very hard to respect”. Kevin Rice is making a quintessentially liberal/ modernist statement – a profound disrespect for traditional authority and the elevation of individual autonomy of the supreme guide to decision making.

    He could always follow these thoughts to their logical conclusion and emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ, unmediated by those troublesome bishops that stand in the way of good decent “believing Catholics”.

    Oh, and the fact that Teresa Rice echoes the language of Kevin Rice makes my point – she has shown herself to be a particular strident follower of that the American liberal tradition, and indeed exalts the very worst elements of that position, including a laissez-faire approach to economic interaction and an ugly and violent neocon approach to world issues.

  • Mike Petrik:

    Intrinsic evil implies that there are no circumstances under which one can show those photos. For example, an abortion is always evil. The death penalty, while mostly evil, is not intrinsically evil b/c there are circumstances in which it is permissible.

    I think there are circumstances that you can (if you ask permission to show; there is an education value as Joe said). Other than that, I think it lacks prudence.

    Joe:

    There are many other ways to disprove the “clump of cells” notion without openly displaying graphic images of abortion. Why must graphic images be used when there are other means (ultrasounds, scientific graphics, etc.).

  • MM, Kind of like the “good decent ‘believing Catholics’” who spent weeks ranting at the USCCB for not endorsing the Obama/Stupak compromise on abortion in health care reform?

    Sheesh… I’ll defend you from charges of heresy if pushed to it, as I don’t like to see the truth abused, but when it comes to your ability to discuss politics and attitudes towards the Church with those you disagree with, you seem to be getting increasingly unselfware with this stuff you’re saying.

  • I’ve been thinking about this, and why we seem to be always talking at cross-purposes, and I think part of it is as follows:

    When I think of Catholicism and political theories, I think about Aquinas and his intellectual order. I think about the nominalist revolution, which led to voluntarism, humanism, Protestantism, and the liberal Enlightenment. I think about the Church’s strong stance against these developments, and the uneasy truce at Vatican II. I am well aware that liberalism is not all bad, and the Church has learned much from it (such as rediscovering the emphasis on the fundamental dignity of the person), but it also contains so many pitfalls and traps, chief among them its tendency to reduce human relations to the level of the social contract among autonomous individuals. I believe that the best accomodation of Catholicism with the liberal tradition comes from Christian Democracy, something that has never existed in the United States.

    These are the issues I think about and wrestle with. Notice what I did not mention. I did not mention the United States political tradition or the Enlightenment-era founders of that tradition. Why? Because I do not find them very interesting, or very unique. The United States today is a standard liberal democracy. It has its good points and bad points, but it is fundamentally not so different from any other western liberal democracy. It just happens to owe much more to the English/ Scottish Enlightenment than what took place on the continent. I do not find this very interesting.

    The problem is that there is a strong American exceptionalist streak in this country, a strong tendency to see the world through the eyes of America, and to think that it is somehow more unique, more “pure”, more “free”, than elsewhere. And this leads people down some false paths. It means grasping onto an undistilled form of the liberalism upon which the country was founded, while other countries have evolved and adapted over time.

    Now, you may fundamentally disagree with everything I said, and that’s fine, but this is where I am coming from.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Liberalism as a socio-political force is inescapable. It is in the very foundational bones of the democratic processes of Western representative republics.

    It’s quite understandable to criticize this, as there is much to criticize. But to have such a sad history of assigning motives and namecalling and mischaracterizing and refusing to give the “benefit of the doubt”, among other problems – and to be “called out” so strongly and so frequently by a wide variety of folks (including one pacifist I know we both respect) – is not understandable. It is lamentable.

    You have many good points concerning the awkward use of terms like liberal and conservative. Is it really necessary to be so offputting and insufferable and self-righteous about it?

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Now, you may fundamentally disagree with everything I said, and that’s fine, but this is where I am coming from.

    It’s not so much that you’re wrong, it’s that you seem to have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about (and lest this be considered ad hominem, MM tactitly admits as much in his comment). You employ a lot of terminology without thinking through what these terms mean and whether or not they’re truly applicable in describing the political trends you’re talking about. And when you write this:

    I did not mention the United States political tradition or the Enlightenment-era founders of that tradition. Why? Because I do not find them very interesting, or very unique.

    Then how can we take what you say seriously? It’s fine that you’re not interested in the subject, but then you can’t pretend to be some sort of expert or even to have some kind of unique insight into American conservatism if you admit that you don’t really know much about the foundational aspects of American political thought.

    It just happens to owe much more to the English/ Scottish Enlightenment than what took place on the continent. I do not find this very interesting.

    Yes you have repeated this sentiment ad nauseum, and as I have also replied to you ad nauseum, you never really do much more than assert this. You’re not completely off-base, but you fail to explain the degrees to which such a connection is bad, and whether or not there was more behind the American founding than some blind aping of the Enlightenment. And if you find this subject uninteresting, then why even bother addressing it?

    In closing, I’ll just echo what others have said. You’ve basically lapsed into parody at this point. Almost everything you write about American conservative thought and American thought in general is the stuff a senior in high school or freshman in college could write, and that’s a shame because you’re obviously not a stupid man. But you cannot move behind these crass generalizations backed up by little or no thought, and until then it’s really futile to bother engaging with you in any way.

  • Kevin Rice says:

    MM, you don’t even know where YOU are coming from, let alone those who disagree with you.

    “The problem is that there is a strong American exceptionalist streak in this country, a strong tendency to see the world through the eyes of America, and to think that it is somehow more unique, more “pure”, more “free”, than elsewhere. And this leads people down some false paths.”

    There are clear, obvious and objective differences between the U.S. ad everywhere else that supports Americans believing in American exceptionalism. I have corresponded with Australians and Britons who believe in American exeptionalism for the same reasons many Americans do. To me, it just seems that Americans who love their country will certainly believe it is exceptional, since there are those who do not love it (and even those who hate it), who begrudingly admit its exceptionality. But here is the problem with libs like Morning’s Minion — Americans are not allowed to love their country. FOr libs, all patriotism is jingoism. American is the only country whose patriots are derided as evil racists merely because they are patriots, and American is the only country that is not to be tolerated for having its own distinct border, official language or culture. Everyone else’s patriotism, border, language and culture is to be repected, but not America’s. And this, of course, means America is NOT exceptional, because it is the only country that isn’t. And that’s not an exception, of course, that’s just the one rule. And you’d better toe the damn line!

  • T. Shaw says:

    Mr. Rice: Kudos!

    One point of information: “Everyone else’s patriotism, border, . . .” Everyone else except Israel.

    Next Monday is Flag Day. Please do something special to commemorate Flag Day.

    God bless America!

    Pray for Victory!

  • Sydney Carton says:

    You know, it’s amazing how much patience you have for dealing with people whose actions speak louder than their words. They act to continuously defend the party of abortion. That’s all you need to know.

    Have they criticized Nancy Pelosi for consistently defending abortion policies, notwithstanding her idiotic claim that she’s a faithful Catholic? Of course not.

    Vox Nova is a blog for abortion-loving “Catholic” libs. Period.

  • These are the issues I think about and wrestle with. Notice what I did not mention. I did not mention the United States political tradition or the Enlightenment-era founders of that tradition. Why? Because I do not find them very interesting, or very unique. The United States today is a standard liberal democracy. It has its good points and bad points, but it is fundamentally not so different from any other western liberal democracy. It just happens to owe much more to the English/ Scottish Enlightenment than what took place on the continent. I do not find this very interesting.

    I think Paul already did a great job of addressing this, but since I’d started mentally formulating a reply before I saw his comment I can’t help joining in just a bit.

    I’m unclear why you put so much effort into trying to change American political terminology and telling American conservatives where you think their ideas come from and what you think they imply if you’re so profoundly uninterested. Usually, if one finds a topic uninteresting, one doesn’t know a great deal about it, but that’s okay because one has the sense to leave it alone. I don’t know a great deal about the political history, alignments and commitments of Swedish political parties, but the result is that I make it a point not to go bother people discussing Swedish politics.

    I mean seriously, you assert that the US and its political history and landscape are so uninteresting you can’t bestir yourself to think much about them, but then you drop something like, “It just happens to owe much more to the English/ Scottish Enlightenment than what took place on the continent.” Well, you may not find that interesting, but from an actual point of view of political philosophy there is a massive difference between the English and French Enlightenments. Figures like Burke and Smith (or Adams, Hamilton and Madison on our side of the water) are very different in their understandings of the human person and the state from continental figures like Rousseau and Voltaire.

    I don’t think you’d be impressed by someone someone who said, “I can’t bother myself to be interested in Christian Democracy, it’s just another party of continental liberalism with a little bit less anti-clericalism than its other manifestations,” and I can’t really understand why you’d expect people who have any interest or knowledge about American and Anglosphere political history to be impressed by your brush off here unless it was delivered as an explanation of why you don’t normally discuss American political thought at all.

  • Kevin Rice says:

    Amen Sydney! It was pretty obvious that these VN’ers were more offended by the use of photos of aborted babies to make obvious in the most clear and unrefutable possible way the evil of abortion than they ever were by the abortions whose grisly results those pictures very revealingly depict. That smokescreen about “respecting” the dead fools no one. Does anyone harbor even the smallest doubt that these Vox Nova “Catholics” would, in a New York minute, vote for a radical pro-choice candidate who supported their favorite social programs and the effective elimination of our southern border over any Republican candidate who favored the posibility of expressing opposition to abortion with such photos? I really think they would sooner support outlawing such exercises of the first amendment over making even partial birth abortion illegal.

  • I admit to not knowing much about the thought of the American founders; I am, however, quite familiar with the English/Scottish enlightentment (even though I intensely dislike that period of history). My claim is that:

    (i) The American founders reflected this thinking – this is not to say there were not sufficient differences and nuances in their thinking, or that this thinking evolved differently on the continent, but rather the whole encompassing anthropology was based on the liberal individualism that came out of the Enlightenment, and which can ultimately be traced back to the nominalist revolution (there is really good book by Michael Allen Gillespie called “The Theological Origins of Modernism” on precisely that point). And yes, Burke had some authentic “conservative” leanings, but he was no Joseph de Maistre, was he? !!

    You all keep bringing the conversation back to the political theories of the American founders, and I’m not sure why. Are they unique?

    (ii) But the real issue is that what you call “conservatism” is nothing of the sort. My great mentor befriended Elizabeth Ancombe because they were both conservatives in the Thomist tradition who were appalled by American “conservatism” with its emotional nationalism and equation of the common good with profit motive interest of corporations. Macintyre and Schinder make similar kinds of points, and these would both be seen as “conservative” and suspicious of modernity. I guess I am more optimistic, more comfortable with working within the liberal tradition as expressed in its Christian Democratic form. But the brand of liberalism that is seen as “conservative” here I find rather depraved (oh, and just be to clear, that’s me speaking only for myself!!).

  • Paul Zummo says:

    My claim is that:

    (i) The American founders reflected this thinking –

    Yes your claim is that, but you haven’t proved it. You see, when you put forward a thesis, your job is to link together the pieces of evidence in such a manner as to prove the point that you are tying to make. Repeatedly asserting something is not proof.

    And yes, Burke had some authentic “conservative” leanings, but he was no Joseph de Maistre, was he? !!

    I was going to say yes, but the second exclamation point has me reconsidering my position.

    You all keep bringing the conversation back to the political theories of the American founders, and I’m not sure why. Are they unique?

    Umm, we’re talking about American conservatism, so it would make sense to discuss the philosophy of the generation of the American founding. After all, if conservatism is about conserving something, it would imply that we’re conserving uniquely American traditions.

    My great mentor befriended Elizabeth Ancombe because they were both conservatives in the Thomist tradition who were appalled by American “conservatism”

    So we’re supposed to take your word for it because you knew someone who knew Elizabeth Ancombe and they both didn’t like American conservatism? Really? That’s what your putting out there? And you expect us to treat that argument seriously why?

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    You all keep bringing the conversation back to the political theories of the American founders, and I’m not sure why. Are they unique?

    Yes.

    The difficulty is that, philosophically, there was not one “American founding.” There was, across the colonies, the profit motive and the religious motive (and here, my previous points about the pull of tribal homogeneity was very much evident, as reading Patrick Allitt or Fischer’s Albion’s Seed will make evident). After those two generalizations, things get very messy very fast.

    Take, for example, our Catholic founder, Charles Carroll. He shared a loathing for critiques of equalitarianism and mass democracy that was rampant among the Federalists – and also shared by Plato and Aquinas and Burke. Yet such influence mixed, for decades of fierce debate, with influential and brilliant thinkers and actors such as Paine. The resulting mix was a strange and blessedly enduring (for how long?) brew of Roman-style civic republicianism, therapeutic deism, and representative theory in furious action. To try to untangle it is to marvel at the bravery of giants like Washington, Hamilton, and Madison.

    Our liberalism is rooted in Tocqueville: Carroll had a large influence on him, as did the English and French radicals. This is why he is our founding political theorist, and this is why America is seperate from the Scottish Enlightenment.

    It’s liberalism is its own, and a country born in revolution can never be truly “conservative.” But to fail to try to understand and appreciate these nuances is to fail to understand and appreciate the very large and active Rightist arguments (always against the socialist and statist theories of Communism and Fascism, by the way, should you again run into a certain “anarchist”) that contribute much to national debate.

  • Phillip says:

    “I admit to not knowing much about the thought of the American founders.

    My claim is:

    (i) the American founders reflected this thinking…”

    If you don’t know the thought, how do you know they do. You just don’t make sense.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    So many good points have been made since I went to bed. Allow me to reply to Henry, Darwin, and Minion in turn.

    Henry,

    ““It’s fine for God to order an intrinsic evil.” If it is an intrinsic evil, it is not fine. That’s the point. Now nominalistic voluntarism has no problem with it, however, Catholic teaching does.”

    Well, if God did it, then we might say that it is not an intrinsic evil.

    Let me put it differently – I don’t think you can compare ancient and modern warfare. I don’t think you can compare the methods of an ancient army to the industrialized mass murder of the Holocaust, or the lesser but still as brutal and industrially organized Soviet gulag.

    The exigences of war were different then. If all the men were slain in battle, who would take care of the women and children? They would be doomed to a slow death by starvation. They either had to be taken slaves or disposed of. Slavery in the ancient world was not like chattel slavery in the early modern world, moreover.

    It is finally arguable that peoples so overwhelmed with evil, to the point where they are sacrificing children to the fire, should be cut out like a cancer. In a pre-Christian world, I can see it having even more validity.

    So I’m not sure that anything God is “said to have” ordered in the Old Testament constitutes an “intrinsically evil” act. Furthermore, as the creator and redeemer of all souls, God can certainly take lives without injustice – if any truly “innocent” people are killed in a war commanded by God, would their souls not be in his care? Would his justice fail them? I don’t think so.

    It only becomes this insurmountable and inexplicable “evil” when we take the view that “this life” is the only one. This is why materialists and atheists hate the Old Testament. In their view, people rationalized war in the name of God and stripped people of the one life they had. That’s the injustice they see, when you get down to it. But if we’re Christians, we believe something else about life, death, and therefore justice. That’s how I see it. As for this,

    ” Indeed, you have created a liberation theology here…”

    Please be specific. Quote exactly what I have said that has “created a liberation theology” and explain why. In other words, s*** or get off the pot. Sorry to be vulgar, but, there it is.

    Darwin,

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with this:

    “I’m unclear why you put so much effort into trying to change American political terminology and telling American conservatives where you think their ideas come from and what you think they imply if you’re so profoundly uninterested”

    Bingo.

    You know I used to share some views of what I thought “conservatism” was with the VN crowd. Spending time among you all, and reading more on my own, has really changed my views – you especially, Darwin. And my friend R.C. – you still out there!?

    MM has already admitted that he doesn’t know that much about the founding fathers, about the American political tradition – he is frothing. Which brings me to…

    Morning’s Minion,

    “And yes, Burke had some authentic “conservative” leanings, but he was no Joseph de Maistre, was he?”

    Who cares? Honestly, who cares? Why does someone have to rise to the level of de Maistre to be considered an authentic conservative? Who established this criteria? This is arbitrary nonsense. This is why I ridiculed your post. You really went way outside your area of competence.

    You should listen to Johnathan Jones about “authentic conservatism”, for I largely agree with him. It doesn’t really exist – it has a different form in different countries.

    “You all keep bringing the conversation back to the political theories of the American founders, and I’m not sure why. Are they unique?”

    I come back to the founders because theirs is the political tradition that Americans wish to preserve. The Constitution is what we wish to conserve. I wrote about this here:

    http://joeahargrave.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/what-is-a-conservative/

    And I wrote this:

    “Thus I am not convinced that Americans on the right side of political spectrum are always and necessarily “conservatives.” They can be, I believe, if the give equal weight to the liberal and republican traditions they seek to defend”

    I would specify even further – they have to defend the place of religion in public life, at least at the local level, for this is one of the traditions of the country as well. A “pure” libertarian is not a conservative. But a reactionary monarchist is not a genuine American conservative either. They agitate for something that never did, and could not exist in the United States.

    To be an American conservative is to faithfully defend the Constitution, and the three currents of America’s founding political tradition – classical republicanism, classical liberalism, and the common beliefs of Catholic and Protestant Christianity (even if one does not subscribe to them, they should be recognized as part of the country’s heritage and given pride of place in the culture).

    “But the real issue is that what you call “conservatism” is nothing of the sort.”

    All you really had to do to make your argument plausible was to make your language less absurd. Allow me to explain.

    You could have identified this peculiar set of beliefs you dislike – emotional nationalism and the worship of profit – as not authentically conservative, and I would have agreed. The problem is that you tarred ALL of American conservatism with this, and it is a whole truckload of arrogant, presumptuous nonsense.

    On the one hand, it is impossible to know with you and those like you whether ANY appreciation of the country (the Catholic virtue of patriotism), or ANY recognition of the legitimacy of profits (confirmed by Pope Leo XIII and others throughout the body of Catholic political teaching) is EVER acceptable. If you categorically rule them out, then you’ve failed Catholic political theory 101.

    On the other, it is beyond me why you couldn’t simply say that these particular people aren’t authentic conservatives, but that this does not apply to ALL self-identified conservatives in America, and for charity’s sake, included a few examples. Do you really think that paleocons like Pat Buchanan and Chuck Baldwin or libertarian-constitutionalists like Ron Paul fall under these extreme categories? Of course they don’t. They stand with the Constitution, the rule of law, Christian values, and a free market economy, none of which are intrinsically evil or condemned by Catholic social thought.

    So, the problem here is that you over-generalize, you presume, you are careless with language, you admit that you don’t have the knowledge or the background – and so really you ought to more carefully measure your words in the future.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    It might be helpful, to build on the 2:42 comment, to offer an aside of what “conservatism” is in the American context, and why Burke (sentiment) and Pitt (organization) are its founders, with Reflections as the founding text :

    conservatism, is an opposition to all forms of political religion, a rejection of the notion that politics can or should be redemptive. This, given our modernist, liberal contexts, is itself a modernism, and in this lies the secret of conservative success. It is adaptable and circumstantial, with the anchor of a sentiment to social and political change that looks for support to the ideas, beliefs, and habits of the past – certainly far ahead of abstraction (this is why we must say a “war for democracy,” for Wilson and W. Bush alike, is liberal, never conservative).

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    JJ,

    I (think) I agree with that. I think it dovetails nicely with Pope Benedict’s rejection of utopianism, which I have talked about many times.

    Do you think it is exclusive with what I wrote – that an American conservative in particular defends the three traditions I talked about?

  • OK, let me try something simple. I’d like Paul, Joe, Darwin, Jonathan, and anybody else who is interested to answer a simple question:

    As a liberal democracy, is the United States different in any appreciable way from other liberal democracies in the western tradition, and if so, does the thought of its founders explain this?

    I would answer no.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Joe – the generalization is not a bad one, because our political traditions are more British than anything else. After industralization, Britain’s Big and little C’s came to increasingly defend industry (though never like most Whigs) and to rely on established religion as a means of nationalist unity. The difficulty, however, is that we borrowed quite heavily from the French and their very different ninteenth century conceptions. (I personally believe, for example, that the U.S. territories, outside of some pockets of the Northeast, were religously heterodox for quite some time).

    MM – Your question can only be applicable after the First World War, when European areas ceased to be Empires and became liberal democracies, more or less. From 1918 forward, my answer is mostly no. However, that qualification probably invalidates the question.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    MM,

    I would answer yes.

    “is the United States different in any appreciable way from other liberal democracies in the western tradition”

    In the first place, and I realize this may be controversial, but I think it is defensible – I don’t think there are any liberal democracies left outside of the United States, with maybe a few exceptions in Asia (like South Korea or India, I suppose). I think SOCIAL democracy has replaced “liberal” democracy in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, et. al. I would have liked to have called Britain a liberal democracy too, but it simply isn’t possible anymore.

    And yes, the thought of the founding fathers does explain it. In no other country has there been struck the same balance between classical republican ideals (which were taken to extremes in France by Rousseau and others), classical liberal ideals, and Christianity. In every other country one of these tendencies would dominate. Radical republicanism, laissez-faire capitalism, throne and altar reactionism, all came to dominate parts of Europe and Britain, and then further still even more radical ideologies such as communism and fascism. Those experiences shattered forever the prospects of genuine “liberal democracy” and ushered in social democracy instead.

    The founders were quite aware, even in their day, of all the tendencies in the old world that would eventually lead to those calamities. In their writings one sees conscious attempts to mitigate these forces by achieving the best admixture of political ideas. Everyone knows well the “separation of powers”, but this is predicated upon a balance of ideas, philosophies, and ideologies as well.

    So far, the house they built has held together, but it is falling apart. I believe Obama and the Democrats want the US to become a social democracy. I believe the modern Democratic Party is really the Social Democratic Party, equivalent to what reigned under Wiemar Germany. The big difference is that our discontented middle classes have a constitutional, democratic tradition that I do not believe will become susceptible to a personality cult like German or Italian fascism.

    I think the discontent American middle classes will rally, and are rallying, instead around the Constitution. And I think that is a great thing. It is the gift of the founders to future generations, that they instilled in the citizens of this country not love of a single man (George Washington rejected attempts to make him generalissimo for life in the name of republican liberty), but of basic principles and the Constitution.

    It is the kind of “reaction” I can get on board with.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    It should be mentioned that one unavoidable end of liberalism (by which we mean, in the general, “equal freedom”) is necessarily “social democracy” in places (such as the U.S. and Western Europe) where different populations reside. Unequal outcomes, being intolerable, require consistent state intervention. (Stop to ask yourself why Chicago and New York, to take two prominent examples, “work” in recent decades – massive intervention to cool a constantly-simmering social atmosphere…go ahead and read about Chicago FD, or…).

    Thus to “socialize” where there are democratic processes and different populations is to “nationalize.” Always – these become synonyms.

    Liberalism and “social democracy” must contain homogeneity if one values classical liberalism. This is why “traditionalist conservatives” will argue that culture is more important than politics and economic structures. We also see an end of the preening status game, which is far less about helping others than it is about bashing around co-ethnics to stress moral superiority.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I would also, finally, point out to MM – regarding “where he is coming from” – that the Church never condemned America’s political philosophy.

    I addressed MM’s brand of anti-American Catholicism here:

    http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8044&Itemid=48

    This, in addition to what I pointed out about the Salamanca School and Francisco Suarez, should be enough for you, MM, to reconsider the antagonisms you want to establish between Catholic and American political thought.

  • Art Deco says:

    As a liberal democracy, is the United States different in any appreciable way from other liberal democracies in the western tradition, and if so, does the thought of its founders explain this?

    I do not think you are going to find a nexus of social phenomena that is explained by a single cause. To the extent that intellectual genealogies influence people’s conceptions of what their interests and ideals are, the thought of that corps of politicians is important. To the extent that the social evolution of the United States has been shaped by political institutions which were informed by the thought of these men, their thought is important.

    Any society has its signature elements. I am not sure why it escapes you what ours are, in the political realm and outside it. We can defer for a moment the more interesting discussion of the country’s social history and historical geography and just look at aspects of the latter-day political order, as you insist.

    1. The political parties have tended to manifest conflict between subcultures rather than between social strata.

    2. The political parties are haphazard and decentralized in comparison with their European counterparts (France excepted).

    3. Formal political institutions are likewise, with many accumulated barnacles.

    4. We maintain a common law system, which is not indebted to the Code Napoleon.

    5. Our constitution antedates all but a few in Europe by a century and the forms delineated therein derive from institutions of colonial government more than 150 older than that; there has been intramural political violence in the United States but also absolute continuity of local institutions for more than 400 years and continuity of continental institutions for in excess of 200 years.

    6. Because our institutions are comparatively antique and because they were delineated by a single statute, aspects of political practice in Britain were retained here while being abandoned there and elsewhere. Notable is the absence of parliamentary government, something quite unusual among the fifty or so most durable constitutional systems. (I believe the United States and Costa Rica are the only examples).

    7. Both in politics and society, trade and industrial unions are much weaker here, comprehending just 9% of the private sector workforce. Unions in America are now lobbies for the interests of public employees.

    8. The multiplication of the functions of the state and corporatist institutions and practices have been much more restrained here. Public enterprise has tended to be limited to natural monopolies owned and operated by provincial and local governments; the federal government operates a postal service, some hydroelectric stations, and maintains a large inventory of land, but that is it.

    9. The political intelligence and moral sentiments of our elected officials (not our judges) remain more resonant with that of the general public than is the case elsewhere. I think it was Oriana Fallaci who once complained that if you ask a British legislator what the intellectual influences on him were, he might offer Marx or Burke; his American counterpart would name his own father. There is a reason we have capital punishment in this country and they do not in Canada, and that reason is not differences in public sentiment.

  • MM,

    As a liberal democracy, is the United States different in any appreciable way from other liberal democracies in the western tradition, and if so, does the thought of its founders explain this?

    I suppose the answer to this depends a great deal on what one means by “appreciable way” and what one means by “liberal democracy”. I would tend to argue, however, that it is. Indeed, I’d argue there are 3-4 rough groupings of liberal democracies that it’s important to understand, and that discounting one or another entirely would be a mistake.

    1) The US, which is founded on comparatively old institutions with an explicitly written constitution founded on a mixture of Scottish Enlightenment and Classical Roman ideals, in a region with no real history of monarchism. It’s also probably key that the US does not have a sense of having suffered “colonialism” in the way that many former colonies do, since what upset the colonists was not a sense of “having been colonized” but rather that they weren’t being sufficiently respected as “true Englishmen”. The specific mixture of Scottish Enlightenment and Classical ideals which are found in the US founding are indeed a product of the founders and their writing — as is the rather unique fact that the US: a) never had an established religion, b) explicitly accepted religion in the public square and was not anti-clerical in founding, c) was founded on a reaction against absolutism rooted in the Glorious Revolution.

    2) The Anglosphere, which is typified by old but very malleable institutions, an unwritten constitution, and parliamentary rather than representative democracy. Not being intentional products of design like the American system, the anglosphere nations states mostly have political alignments and and institutions which represent more recent thinking than the American system. They also have a background of either aristocracy or colonial administration, which has transferred to a stronger class consciousness in some cases, and a greater tendency towards technocracy.

    3) Continental democracies: I’m unsure if these need to be more subdivided. All of the extant systems have histories beginning since 1848, and all show the influences of both the original French revolutions (nationalism, egalitarianism, radical anti-clericalism, utopianism, etc.) and also the statist vision of Bismark and other more mature mid-19th-century and later democracies.

    Given that it seems necessary to think of at least three groups of liberal democracies in the West, and arguably it’s simply necessary to understand each country (one would imagine that the events of the last six months would underline the foolishness of the euro-ideal that all European democracies are basically the same) I’m not clear why someone who claims to be interested in political ideology would be totally incurious about America’s history and political heritage. I don’t imagine you would be very impressed if I told you that I found Christian Democracy totally uninterested because it was really just a Christianized retread of Bismarkian statism, would you?

    If one did want to have a decent understanding of the US and what “conservatism” might mean in it, I would imagine the right reading would be: Polybius, De Re Publica, The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, The Constitution, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Democracy in America. (Though Joe, Paul or Jonathan would probably be better on this question.)

    Joe,

    Spending time among you all, and reading more on my own, has really changed my views – you especially, Darwin.

    Thanks, Joe. That’s one of the more encouraging things I’ve heard this week. If my fooling around online actually leads to someone achieving a clearer understanding of history and ideas, then that’s not too shabby.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    All I would add, Darwin, is that for me, contemporary conservatism is not the GOP. It’s Chuck Baldwin, Pat Buchanan, and Ron Paul, to name a few. Yes, Paul is described as a libertarian, but his commitment to the Constitution and to the pro-life cause put him in the conservative camp in my view.

  • n4nadmin says:

    There comes a point when one realizes that listening to anyone left of center is profitless. The problem with them stems from the ultimate flaw of leftist thinking – that Man can be fashioned by men in to something he’s never been since the Fall. For the left, its just a matter of setting up the right system and bliss will follow – and if a leftist program comes a cropper, then its just because they didn’t get the system quite right, but if we just give them infinite power, money and patience, they’ll eventually get it right.

    This hideous outgrowth of the misbegotten and mis-named “Enlightenment” of the 18th century (really a darkening of the much better thought of the previous 5 centuries) has led to all of the things which have deformed our world – liberalism of the Manchester School; socialism, fascism, communism, Nazism and the ever changing admixtures of these various strands of the same nasty thread.

    We Catholics, especially, must keep in mind that we have Truth – we’ve had it for 20 centuries, it will never change and every proposal for action must be set against this Truth to determine if its worthwhile, or not. To attempt to get in to debate with someone who’s world view is entirely wrong from the get go is perilous for both sides – it might lead the possessor of Truth to drift away while giving a patina of legitimacy to the guy who is advocating lies, even if very well meaning lies. Sometimes it must be done, but it should never be done on the assumption that someone who has got 1 plus 1 wrong might still have something worthwhile to say about the square root of 19.

    Mark Noonan

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