Great Turkey Disasters

Wednesday, November 24, AD 2010

As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and as we recall our blessings and thank God for each and every one, let us also remember the humble turkey and the various disasters that result when that proud bird is not treated with the care that it deserves, dead or alive.    Oldtimers like myself will recognize the above video as part of the famous “Turkey Drop” episode from WKRP, a sitcom from the Seventies.

Of course Turkey Disasters are not, unfortunately, restricted to the realm of fiction.    Deep frying a turkey poses various risks.

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7 Responses to Great Turkey Disasters

  • I think my favorite holiday-themed episode of WKRP was its retelling of “A Christmas Carol”… Johnny Fever was a great Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come! 🙂

  • Don, thanks for a little bit of levity (which we sure could use) during the seriousness of this past week. I vividly recall watching the “Turkey episode” when it originally debuted. I think of WKRP everytime I drive down to Cincinnait and see the radio-tv tower used in the opening theme song. There was something about those 1970s and early 1980s tv shows where adult themes were not over the top and one could use their own imagination, instead of the obvious. If I remember right, the characters were based on real life radio personalities, though I have no idea if they had anything to do with the Cincinnati station WKRC. The immortal words of Mr. Carlson still reverberate in my ear; “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

  • Johnny Fever is one of the great TV comic character creations Chris.

    Dave, I have had that immortal phrase “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” ringing through my mind in the aftermath of some of my greater foul ups.

  • “I have no idea if they had anything to do with the Cincinnati station WKRC.”

    I don’t think they did. My late uncle worked at WKRC in the 60s and early 70s, in the control room. He usually worked the evening/night shift and he was acquainted with WKRC’s lead news anchor at the time, Nick Clooney, father of a certain well-known actor. Hey, that makes me only 3 degrees separated from George Clooney 🙂

    My second most favorite WKRP show (after “Turkey Drop”) is the one where a tornado is about to hit Cincinnati and Les Nessman’s only guide for what to do in case of disaster is an old manual for responding to an atom bomb attack. He reads the instructions verbatim, subsituting “tornadoes” for “Soviets” and solemnly warns his listeners that they are under attack by “godless tornadoes.”

  • “Godless tornadoes!” Thanks, Elaine, for bringing back a great memory! WKRP was a wonderful show (I also miss Taxi and Barney Miller.)

    This is a bit more serious, but I really appreciated this article by Jonah Goldberg about the Pope’s remarks re: condoms.

    In the spring of 2005, Pope John Paul II died. My father, who passed away that summer, watched the funeral and the inauguration of the current pope, Benedict XVI, from his hospital bed. My dad, a Jew, loved the spectacle of it all. (The Vatican, he said, was the last institution that “really knows how to dress.”)

    From what he could tell, he liked this new pope too. “We need more rocks in the river,” my dad explained. What he meant was that change comes so fast, in such a relentless torrent, that we need people and things that stand up to it and offer respite from the current.

    It is just so rare and thus, so very refreshing, to read an appreciative, thoughtful article about the Pope written by a non-Catholic. In fact, I recently saw an interview with Goldberg on “Book World” and he said that although he is not an atheist, he is a “pretty secular guy” compared with most of his NRO colleagues. And yet this secular Jew has a deeper, more sympathetic understanding of our Church and our Pope than even many cradle Catholics do. After all the ridiculous hyperbole I’ve read about the Pope’s “approval” of condoms, Goldberg’s commonsense, respectful article is one small thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

    Of course, there are many other things to be thankful for, including this blog, which I do not get to read these days as much as I would like.

    Thank you TAC bloggers and have a restful and pleasant holiday!

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/253833/pope-plays-it-right-jonah-goldberg

  • The happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours Donna!

TAC College Rankings

Tuesday, November 23, AD 2010

After a lackluster week in college football (unless you’re Bo Pelini), the Friday after Thanksgiving gives us an excellent slate of college football. Arizona v. Oregon, Auburn v. Alabama, and Boise v. Nevada. The day after, TCU, Stanford, Wisconsin, LSU, and Ohio St. will all be looking to get wins & style points to position themselves for a BCS bid, possibly a title game if a scenario that involves the Second Coming occurs.

We know that Oregon is dreadful in the computers. We know the SEC schools do really well. Can everyone stay undefeated? Can one of the non-AQs impress enough to get in? And throw in the fact that this is rivalry week, which always adds for an extra bit of chaos and unpredictability. The worst teams can and will challenge teams that normally would be far superior to them (like for example when Ole Miss debuts a quasi triple option offense in a failed attempt to beat LSU. Enjoy Hell, you racist rednecks). Weeks like this make college football a lot of fun.

To the rankings!

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11 Responses to TAC College Rankings

  • Michael,

    The LSU-Ark match-up looks very good for the Tigers. Arkansas is dangerous, of course, but LSU’s defense is built to stop it. Individual play – not schemes – will be the determining factor here. Plus, Arkansas’ defense can give up lots of points – just when the Tigers’ offense is finding confidence.

    Boy, I really hope that ‘Bama plays its best ball of the season. I agree that if they lose, they’ll drop further than what would normally happen.

  • What happened to my rankings? I sent them to you on Monday.

  • I don’t have them. I’ve been getting a bunch of emails right before exams, so I may have lost it by accident. Send them to me, and I’ll try to update the post.

  • Don’t forget that the Aggies’ three losses have come at the hands of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma State, three top-15 BCS teams. Two of those losses were by a touchdown or less.

    I would love to replay those three games. Okie Lite is good, and I think we could beat them (almost did with a turnover-prone QB). Same with Mizzou… the Aggies are playing much better lately. Arkie is the only one I have doubts on…. the hogs are good.

    Bring on the ‘sips! It’s gonna be a hot time in Austin tomorrow night.

  • Big Tex,

    The Aggies are playing very well. It’s too bad y’all hit that three game skid in the middle. I’ve got to admit that I haven’t followed Aggie football too closely lately, but I know y’all have a couple of pretty good running backs. Good luck today.

    Although I think LSU will get a berth in the Sugar Bowl, with a loss to the Hogs, the Tigers could also end up in the Cotton Bowl. If the Aggies win, they might also end up in the Cotton Bowl. We might see each other in a few weeks.

  • Big Tex,

    Congratulations on the win over the Longhorns.

  • The Cotton Bowl would be awesome. And I’d love to play LSU.

  • Not sure who called it, but props to the commenter who’s been calling the Boise St. loss to Nevada since October. Got it right.

  • Wow! Well, I guess it’ll be LSU and TCU in the Sugar Bowl. That’s okay with me.

    Of course, LSU has to beat Arkansas today. Geaux Tigers!

    As for the national title (I know: Oregon and Auburn still have a game to play; but, does anyone doubt who it will be at this point?), we won’t lack for scoring.

  • Probably won’t be TCU; the Rose Bowl gets stuck with TCU. The Sugar is likely to pick up Ohio St., and we’ll have a rematch of the 2007 game.

  • Congratulations to Arkansas. The Hogs simply outplayed LSU in the 4th quarter. LSU missed some terrific opporutunities.

    Now, it looks like the Sugar Bowl will get South Carolina, as the #2 SEC team.

Another Roundup of Catholic Blogosphere’s Reaction to Condomnation

Tuesday, November 23, AD 2010

I have placed together another roundup of the better informed among us in the Catholic blogosphere concerning the Pope’s comments on the use of condoms (to build upon a previous similar post).

In my personal opinion, the more I read up on this issue, the more confused I become.

For the record, I am no philosophy or theological expert.  I have a more rudimentary understanding of the teachings of the Church, ie, I clearly understand what and why, not necessarily the minutiae and nuance.

So I comprehend what the pope meant that if the person in question (example of a male prostitute in the act of fornication) decides to use a condom to protect a client, thus indicating that said person is heading in the right moral direction.  Which then begs the question, then it is ok (or is it understandable) to use condoms in certain circumstances, despite Church teaching (Vatican document), ie, Humanae Vitae (Wikipedia entry), to the contrary?

Nonetheless, one cannot come away thinking that the pope himself has allowed for the use of a condom. Period!

This point is obvious enough that Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph is breaking his own arm from patting himself on the back so hard from this discovery (here, here, and here)!

Before I give the impression that Pope Benedict has given his blessings to the rise of a brave new condom nation, His Holiness was not speaking ex-cathedra.

But considering the weight of the papal office and the high standing the Church herself holds as a pillar of morality in a depraved world, the comments are disconcerting to the average (practicing) Catholic.

Anyone Can Use a Condom? – Steve Kellmeyer, The Fifth Column

Clarification of Pope’s ‘Male Prostitute’ Reference – John Thavis, CNS

Deflating the NY Times Condom Scoop – George Weigel, Natl Rev Online

When Are Points Not Worth Making on Pope & Condoms – Darwin

Wisdom of The Cross: Benedict & Contraception – Reginaldus, NTM

Ed Peters: L’Osservatore Romano as Origin of Problem – Fr. Z

Did Pope ‘Endorse’ Condoms? – Steve Kellmeyer, Fifth Column

Confusion On Pope’s Condom Views – N. Squires/J. Bingham, Tlgrph

Stop the Presses! – Steve Kellmeyer, The Fifth Column

(Hat tip:  The Pulpit)

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48 Responses to Another Roundup of Catholic Blogosphere’s Reaction to Condomnation

  • Steve Kellmeyer’s analysis is brilliant and depressing:

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010Anyone Can Use A Condom?
    Well, the Pope has doubled down on his statement concerning condoms:

    “I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.” [There is that insistence that condom use is a move towards objective good. Again.]

    “This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point. The point is it’s a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another,” Lombardi said.

    The clarification is significant.

    Yeah, I’d say that last sentence was the understatement of the year.

    Here’s the problem.

    In order to be able to use condoms, the principle of double effect must apply.
    In order for the principle of double effect to apply, the following must be true:

    The nature-of-the-act condition. The action must be either morally good or indifferent.
    The means-end condition. The bad effect must not be the means by which one achieves the good effect.
    The right-intention condition. The intention must be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an unintended side effect.
    The proportionality condition The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect.
    1a) The use of a condom in a heterosexual encounter is not morally good or indifferent. Insofar as it is contraceptive, it is intrinsically evil. Fail on Test #1 for heterosexuals.

    However, insofar as the use of a condom is NOT contraceptive, it is NOT evil. Since the use of a condom between homosexuals is not a contraceptive act, Pass on Test #1 for homosexuals.

    2a) Since the seminal fluid which carries the sperm also carries the STD, and these two cannot be differentiated or separated, the means of achieving the bad effect (stopping the sperm from being communicated) is identical to the means for achieving the good effect (stopping the STD agent from being communicated) – the same barrier prevents both from obtaining. Fail on Test #2 for heterosexuals.

    Since the presence or absence of sperm is immaterial to the sodomitical act, Pass on Test #2 for homosexuals.

    3a) All that you have, according to the Pope, is a good intent – the desire not to transmit disease, either to yourself or to others or both. Pass on Test #3 for both groups.

    4a) The good effect, keeping disease from being transmitted, is a lesser good than preventing the coming into existence of an immortal person who has the capacity to praise and glorify God for all eternity. Disease and death are temporally self-limiting – at most, they will only apply for a few decades out of eternity, while the person that may be conceived will exist for all eternity. The difference in goodness is infinite. Fail on Test #4 for heterosexuals.

    Since homosexuals cannot bring an immortal person into existence, Pass on Test #4 for homosexuals.

    Results:
    In order for double effect to apply to the use of condoms in marriage or any other encounter, all four tests must pass. As you can see, for heterosexuals, three out of four do not. For homosexuals, all four tests pass and condom use is not a problem.

    Indeed, as I pointed out yesterday, the principle of double effect doesn’t even apply to the homosexual act, since the homosexual act has only one effect – pleasure. There is no procreation, thus there aren’t two effects whose relative merits have to be judged, as there are for the heterosexual act.

    But, of course, because the Vatican is not bothering to explain any of this, and because the Ignatius Press book does not bother to explain any of this, all of this is being ignored. The Pope’s failure, the Vatican’s failure, to adequately contextualize the Pope’s words is creating a firestorm.

    As I said yesterday:

    Just as an action can have multiple consequences, so I can have multiple intentions when I carry out an action.

    According to the Pope, when I use the condom, I may sin through the intent to commit sodomy or fornication, but I do NOT sin by intending to reduce disease transmission.

    Insofar as I use the condom only for that purpose, I do not sin.

    Indeed, according to the Pope, insofar as I use the condom for that purpose, I take the first actions towards moral good, the humanizing of the sexual act.

    It’s counter-intuitive, but that’s what he himself says in the first part of his answer.

    Now, when it comes to sodomy, there is NO difference between the use of a drug that reduces the probability AIDS will be transmitted and the use of a condom.

    So, it is absolutely the case that the Pope is endorsing the use of a condom to prevent disease transmission per se because when I use it FOR THAT INTENTION, I am moving towards the good, which the Church endorses.
    So this is not a question of “how to sin in the least offensive way.”

    The Pope is saying anyone who uses a condom with the intent to reduce disease transmission is doing objective good – taking “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”

    And, just as an aside, the Washington Times reports today on the development of EXACTLY the same kind of drug I hypothesized in my example yesterday: a drug that when taken daily by an HIV-negative person reduces the incidence of AIDS acquisition and transmission by 70%.

    Several people have asked whether this isn’t really just an academic question.
    After all, how many people actively involved in sinful sexual activities are worried about condom use?

    As I’ve pointed out previously, the way people rationalize sin is impressive. How many times have we heard the story of the priest or bishop who thought homosexual activity didn’t violate celibacy vows?

    Similarly, is it really outside the pale for those same priests or bishops to insist that they didn’t want to use a condom during their “celibate extra-curricular activities” because the use of a condom was sinful?

    No, I don’t think this was ever just an academic discussion.”

    http://skellmeyer.blogspot.com/2010/11/anyone-can-use-condom.html

  • Which then begs the question, then it is ok (or is it understandable) to use condoms in certain circumstances, despite Church teaching (Vatican document), ie, Humanae Vitae (Wikipedia entry), to the contrary?

    Not at all, and I’m having trouble understanding why some Catholic commentators are not getting this.

    For instance, I don’t think that all and every one of those young misguided college activists vocally criticizing the Church for its condom stance are motivated by purely malicious desires. Some of them genuinely want to help suffering people, albeit in an ignorant and misguided way. Their advocacy of condoms is intended to be a recognition of the human dignity of African AIDS victims. They are wrong, of course, but it’s a better position that not caring whatsoever about the human dignity of suffering Africans.

    The Pope explicitly states in the interview that the use of the condom is not a moral or acceptable solution. He is simply recognizing the gravely and deeply misguided but nevertheless well-meaning intention of using them in this case.

  • Even with the clarification, this really ought not be as disconcerting as some apparently think it is. (As I’ve noted in another thread, I *do* think that it was highly imprudent of L’OR to publish *this* excerpt, particularly without comment or context.)

    The use of a condom in intercourse is gravely immoral. The intent does not change that.

    *But*, the intent in this example can and does indicate *some* positive stirring in the heart of the contracepting person, even though it doesn’t change the gravity of their sin.

  • Hey Tito,
    Add me to the chorus?

    http://vox-nova.com/2010/11/23/pope-benedict-doubles-down-on-condoms/

    By the way, good point Michael B.

  • Michael B. said : The Pope explicitly states in the interview that the use of the condom is not a moral or acceptable solution. He is simply recognizing the gravely and deeply misguided but nevertheless well-meaning intention of using them in this case.

    Perfectly and concisely written, Michael B. – thank you. Someone high up in the Vatican should say this. It won’t help with calming down the drumbeat from the major media outlets but the faithful could use more authoritative and concise teaching.

  • Interesting that Fr L. implied that Transsexuals are neither male nor female, but something apart.

  • From a comment on Brett’s thread over at Vox Nova:

    “So may I ask a serious question? For those people that are the so called cafeteria catholics, that read what is written, and yet use their own minds and come to their own conclusions on certain things. Were they wrong then? I mean I often listen to people who love to call out the cafeteria catholics and basically make them feel like they are sinners- or more prone to sin than others are. However, one has to reason for themsleves in some ways based on certain situations in the world. Another thing I notice when I look around on Sundays is, if everyone was not using some form of birth control, then why are the pews not filled with families with children of 5 to 8 children? I think this reversal by the Pope is really something. I personally was sort of amazed at the take by so many that it was only homo-sexuals the Pope was referring too. I just didnt see it that way when I read the statement for myself. Now more light has been shed by the Pope. Ijust think sin is what it is. Everyone know’s what sin is and sometimes we sin anyway. We are all sinners. Yet if we are going to sin, then wouldnt one take precautions? I mean I know that makes me a class ‘a’ sinner I suppose. But isnt that logic? With what we know today, and how man is fallen, why can we not use our own logic sometimes?”

    http://vox-nova.com/2010/11/23/pope-benedict-doubles-down-on-condoms/

    This I think is not going to be an atypical reaction among many, many Catholics. The Pope has blithely done serious damage through his remarks to basic Church teaching in this area. For the sake of what reads like hair-splitting advice to confessors, he has devastated the fight of the Church against artificial contraception. I will leave to others the task of picking out the slivers of silver in this deeply black cloud.

  • It’s interesting that the orthodoxy in Humanae Vitae seriously damaged Pope Paul VI’s papacy to the point he never issued another encyclical.

    The irony being that on the surface it looks as if Pope Benedict XVI has challenged this orthodoxy (Humanae Vitae) and in the end ultimately damaged his papacy to the point in which anything he says will be rendered irrelevant because of his off the cuff remarks.

    His Holiness has created a crack in Church teaching, as much as it was carefully worded, this “opening” will be used by dissident Catholics to further deconstruct more Church teachings.

    That is my grave worry.

  • It’s not clear that double effect is doing the heavy lifting here. In Rhohnheimer’s fuller articulation of his position in his debate with Fr. Benedict Guevin (available here: http://americanpapist.com/ncbq/562030k671p51440.pdf) he *rejects* the claim that his argument is grounded in double effect. He does so because (1) not *everything* praeter intentionem is analyzable according to double effect and (2) on his reading “using a condom” does not sufficiently render the *object* of the intentional act clear. If Rhonheimer’s thought is behind the recent clarification–and I would guess that it is–then double effect is a red herring. Now, you may not be persuaded by Rhonheimer’s arguments; but you don’t have to be. You just have to trust that the CHurch knows what she’s doing, here.

  • Donald,

    I would encourage you to better your understanding of the Church’s teaching in Humana Vitae and of the principles behind her sexual ethic before you go running around tellings us all that the sky is falling. Have you even considered the possibility that your own view is not as complete or subtle as Benedict XVI’s on this matter?

  • “For the sake of what reads like hair-splitting advice to confessors, he has devastated the fight of the Church against artificial contraception.”

    If the distinction is true, it’s true, Donald, even if it might make it harder to understand and explain.

    There is no crack in Church teaching either, Tito… this position has been a licit one.

    Just yesterday I had a phone call from a woman who was very distressed because of the Church’s teaching on the illicit nature of having a tubal ligation even in the case where a pregnancy would be life-threatening. The subtlety of the Church’s teaching made it difficult to explain, but it is what it is.

    Not only is Benedict a brilliant theologian, but he spent 20+ years addressing precise questions like this and discerning the Church’s teaching. I understand why it might be somewhat confusing, but I think we can trust in the Holy Father.

  • WJ may be correct. Rhonheimer is clearly using a distinct understanding of the moral object of the act and double effect than has traditionally been used. Again he is taking off from Grisez’s development of the moral object if I understand correctly. This understanding of the moral object as well as double effect leads to some different and controversial conclusions including the validity of using condoms in marriage to prevent disease transmission. (It also allows for craniotomy to deliver a baby in order to save the life of the mother. But that’s a whole other can of worms.)

    This understanding of the moral object of the act and double effect has not been definitively endorsed by the Church and the Pope has called on moral theologians and philosophers to write about this theory so that the Church can proceed to pronounce on it. There are many out there who do disagree with it.

    The bottom line is the Pope, being the theoretician he is, offered a conditional “may” to his statement on the licitness of condom use. But that subtlety is lost on the MSM.

  • “Have you even considered the possibility that your own view is not as complete or subtle as Benedict XVI’s on this matter?”

    His view should bloody well be more complete and subtle than my own since he has spent his entire life doing theology and I am just a country shyster. However, it takes no great subtlety of intellect to recognize that the Pope’s comments are an unmitigated disaster for the Church in regard to the use of condoms as contraceptives, and that the Pope doesn’t seem to be bothered by the havoc that his remarks have created. That strikes me as extremely irresponsible for the Vicar of Christ. If a Pope blunders badly, in my view, I am not going to pretend that I think he has engaged in some masterstroke.

  • One issue at play for the Church is that most people were already rejecting her teaching on artificial contraception. In my experience, anyone who was looking for an excuse to ignore the Church on this question already felt they had one. I’m not sure Benedict could have screwed this up as much as Donald and others think he did. What was there to screw up? Who is this demographic that was willing to listen to the Church on the question of artificial contraception until last weekend?

    It may even be possible that there is a demographic (though also a tiny one) that has now found the Church’s teaching more credible. Or at least they are more ready to hear it now that it is clearer that it doesn’t imply that the Church thinks prostitutes etc. are better off unprotected.

  • What do you think he should’ve done, Donald?

  • Prostitutes are better off not fornicating. Not using a condom.

  • Tito,

    Benedict said that condoms are never a moral solution. *Never*. He was clear on that.

  • Tito,

    That’s very true. But the Pope is not rejecting the proposition in question, so the point seems to be moot. Or do you think he is rejecting the proposition in question?

  • I know I’m stating the obvious when I point out that moral theology can be complex and very precise, exactly because the human person is a complex entity, particularly when it comes to human action. So if a question is posed which *necessitates* giving an answer with fine distinctions, we either try to avoid the question or explain the answer as best we can. But the cat is already out of the bag, so to speak… the question was asked.

  • “What do you think he should’ve done, Donald?”

    Oh, maybe told the interlocutor that it is never licit to use condoms for any purpose regarding heterosexual sex, and that in regard to the example of the homosexual prostitute with aids, the prostitute’s idea of using a condom with its failure rate indicates that in addition to being involved in mortal sin he is also either hopelessly foolish or callous.

    This whole farce demonstrates that Popes should have long ago left collegiate bull sessions behind before ascending to the chair of Peter.

  • “maybe told the interlocutor that it is never licit to use condoms for any purpose regarding heterosexual sex”

    But he *did*. Condoms are never a moral solution. That’s what he said.

    Why do you think this is a *farce*?

  • “Oh, maybe told the interlocutor that it is never licit to use condoms for any purpose regarding heterosexual sex”

    But Donald–this would not have been true to say! I understand that this is what you you *prefer* Church teaching to be on this issue, but that doesn’t make it Church teaching! The reality, as Chris Burgwald points out, is much more complex and involves a much higher degree of precision.

  • Let me specify, in case there is confusion. Donald’s statement is not unambiguously correct for two reasons:

    1. “For any purpose” is too broad. Suppose that, for example, a married couple uses a condom during the act of fellatio (not ending in male orgasm) prior to the act of intercourse itself. The Church has no stance on this. What Donald means is something much more precise–that a condom may not be used in order to impede the properly procreative aspect of the marital act. But specifying what this entails is very difficult, especially in some circumstances, like:

    2. The case of an infertile couple one of whom is HIV positive. As Fr. Rhonheimer points out, the Church’s teaching on the use of a condom in this scenario is *not defined*. That’s not to say that there’s no answer to the question; it is to say that the Church has not been able, yet, to determine what the proper approach to this scenario should be. These are hard issues.

  • I guess WJ and Chris need to debate each other now.

    Chris, after the muddying of the waters the Pope engaged in his with his remarks, I wouldn’t wager five bucks on what he would say next in this area.

    It is a farce because the Pope obviously made a blunder and he is too proud or too cautious or too something to walk it back. Poor Father Lombardi gets to play the bumbling go between twixt a Pope who is apparently not going to explain himself any further and Catholics crying out for further direction from their Pontiff. It would take a heart of stone not to to see the comedic elements in this.

  • I don’t imagine that Chris and I disagree on anything substantive in this area. I am open to his correction or clarification, in any case.

    Donald, you continue to assert that the “Pope obviously made a blunder” even after you have admitted that the Pope has a far better grasp of the moral theology at work here than you do. Your claim that he “obviously made a blunder” is grounded in nothing than your obsession on what everybody is saying about this clarification in the two or three days since its first being reported, and your forecast that this clarification will somehow sound a death knell for the Church’s teaching on contraception–a teaching, as Brett points out, that was not exactly uncontroversial or readily accepted by Catholics even before the Pope’s comments. If you want to apportion blame to somebody, a better target, given your concerns, would be the editorial staff of LOR rather than Benedict XVI himself, who did nothing other than answer, truthfully and honestly, a question that was posed to him. Your own ‘preferred’ answer which you would substitute for Benedict’s actually misrepresents Church teaching! Reality is complex, Donald, which does not mean it is not also precise. It is both, and the moral theology of the Church, because it is *true*, is also both.

  • Okay, if we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty, WJ is correct. So there is no debate between us. Jimmy Akin has done an admirable job recently and less recently trying to give a layman’s explanation of this… see here (http://www.jimmyakin.org/2006/05/contraception_e.html) from 2005 and here (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/understanding-the-popes-dilemma-on-condoms/) from the other day (Tito linked it on Monday).

    Don, do you think he made a doctrinal blunder or a PR blunder? I’ve seen people accuse him of both, but I’m not sure yet which side you fall on.

  • Here’s a key section from Jimmy’s recent article:

    “What the Church—in Humanae Vitae and the Catechism—has done is say that one cannot deliberately frustrate the procreative aspect of sexual intercourse between man and wife.

    “That’s actually a fairly narrow statement. It doesn’t even address all situations that may arise in marriages, because there may be situations in which the law of double effect would allow the toleration of a contraceptive effect as long as this is a side effect of the action rather than being intended as a means or an end.

    “It thus would rule out the use of a condom to prevent a husband and wife from conceiving a child, but that doesn’t address condom use in other situations. Thus far the Church has not explored the question of condom use—or other, typically contraceptive acts—in cases outside of marriage.”

    What Don wished the Holy Father would’ve said is something which the vast majority of Catholics — including orthodox, practicing Catholics — think the Church’s teaching is. And honestly, that’s often how I’ve personally taught it for “popular” consumption, because it’s simpler and easier. But in the end, it’s I who have done the disservice to the truth, not the Holy Father.

    (There’s a reason I chose dogmatic theology instead of moral! 🙂

  • “Don, do you think he made a doctrinal blunder or a PR blunder? I’ve seen people accuse him of both, but I’m not sure yet which side you fall on.”

    I think he blundered in a number of areas actually:

    1. Interviews to be published in book form are not a proper forum for a pope to be engaging in fairly abstruse theorizing. Save that for lengthy encyclicals where he can provide a full array of caveats for specialists to earn their butter analyzing for the next few centuries and the specifics of which the laity will happily be ignorant of.

    2. Not explaining himself once a furor arose and not addressing it himself rather than shoving the hapless Father Lombardi out the door to face the media. (This truly would make a good comedic Italian film with poor English voice overs.)

    3. Not realizing, or not caring, the havoc the remarks were going to cause when it should be obvious to the newest seminarian that when a Pope speaks about condoms the sparks are going to fly.

    4. Not addressing the failure rate of condoms which is a factor to consider when addressed with the hypothetical that he was presented with.

    5. Addressing a hypothetical at all. That is work for a Catholic theology professor producing articles that no one other than his fellow drones bothers to read and not for the head of the Universal Church.

    6. Allowing LOR to continue on its merry way of causing as much chaos in his Papacy as it can, without apparently the Pope lifting a finger to resolve the matter.

    7. Failure to recognize that the Pope wears many hats, and theologian-in-chief is only one of them and far from the most important one.

    8. Failure to recognize that advice to confessors hearing a confession is bound to be misconstrued by the media and many, many Catholics.

    I am sure that I can think of many more. This is a disaster of the first water on so many levels. As to the doctrinal implications, we will simply have to wait until the Pope sorts out this mess, assuming he ever does.

  • Donald,

    I continue to think you are exaggerating the fall-out from this (Will anybody even talk about this two weeks from now? I doubt it.), but I have to chuckle at a couple of your items: the “hapless Fr. Lombardi” is really a terrific phrase.

  • Actually WJ I hope no one will be talking about this in the next two weeks, as I think the whole affair is damaging to the Pope. Unfortunately the Pope has sent in motion debate in an area where there are many questions, and until the Pope addresses the questions, if he ever does, the debate will continue. The mainstream media, which knows as much about Catholicism as Bill Clinton does about chastity, will move on to other things until some priest begins handing out condoms to gays and says he is doing this out of obedience to the pope or a nun decides for the same reason to pass out condoms to female prostitutes for use by their male clientele. Sadly, I think this particular tempest is just beginning.

  • There’s another distinction which needs to be made…

    WJ has been noting (and I’ve concurred) that there’s actually greater complexity on the question of the morality of condoms than we often think. And that’s true.

    But in my reading of the excerpt from LOTW, I don’t think the Holy Father is necessarily getting into that topic. As I and others have noted, I think he’s making the point that someone who uses a condom to avoid passing on HIV is manifesting even the smallest spark of an awakening in their conscience. Even if condoms were wrong in every circumstance, this would be true. And we need not and ought not fear the truth.

    (I started this comment much earlier, hence its lack of interaction with the last couple posts.)

  • I concur. My presentation of the complexities involving the use of condoms was not intended as a parsing of the Pope’s statements in LOTW, but as a response to those who (seem) to think that a correct reading of HV allows no leeway for the Pope to do this. Chris is correct, though, that the interview itself doesn’t necessitate bringing in these other considerations. (They rather arise in trying to explain to others *why* what the Pope said isn’t a change or a development so much as a clarification of an existing position.)

  • I disagree. If he had said this in an encyclical it would have been worse. this interview was designed to be accessible to the general public; non-theologians can read it. Encyclicals largely aren’t read by the general public, which means what they get is entirely through the media. Putting the nuances in an encyclical is a waste of time, b/c those nuances aren’t going to make it into the NYT.

    2. Not explaining himself once a furor arose and not addressing it himself rather than shoving the hapless Father Lombardi out the door to face the media. (This truly would make a good comedic Italian film with poor English voice overs.)

    I think he did. It’s pretty clear; I really don’t know what the argument’s about. What else does he need to say?

    3. Not realizing, or not caring, the havoc the remarks were going to cause when it should be obvious to the newest seminarian that when a Pope speaks about condoms the sparks are going to fly.

    I think the Pope has accepted that no matter what he says, it will be taken out of context or manipulated to serve the narrative of the secular world. He’s stop caring b/c there’s nothing he or anyone else can do about it. While the Vatican could do a better job with PR, it’s not like the bad press is BXVI’s fault.

    And sometimes, havoc is good. If someone using contraception reads this and sees “well, I can use it for disease prevention but not for other reasons,” then that is probably an advance in moral reasoning for that person. We can argue about the disease cases, but for most people that’s not an issue. The real issue is the ones who contracept so they can buy a Lexus, and those people may actually be struck to reexamine Church teaching, and their hearts may convert.

    4. Not addressing the failure rate of condoms which is a factor to consider when addressed with the hypothetical that he was presented with.

    It’s a factor to overall morality. But the failure rate doesn’t affect whether it’s a step in the right direction. It’s still immoral; failure rate is only relevant when we’re discussing whether you can use double effect to justify the use, a position the pope explicitly rejected.

    5. Addressing a hypothetical at all. That is work for a Catholic theology professor producing articles that no one other than his fellow drones bothers to read and not for the head of the Universal Church.

    This isn’t a vague and unrealistic law school hypo; people have this situation in real life and need guidance as to how to their lives in accordance with the truth. Theology has very practical purposes, and this question and answer have very practical ramifications. Let’s not pretend this is a waste of time.

    6. Allowing LOR to continue on its merry way of causing as much chaos in his Papacy as it can, without apparently the Pope lifting a finger to resolve the matter.

    I agree with this one. LOR needs to have its shops cleaned. Heads need to roll.

    7. Failure to recognize that the Pope wears many hats, and theologian-in-chief is only one of them and far from the most important one.

    So when confronted with difficult questions, the pope ought to back down? I really don’t buy the notion you seem to be pushing, namely that the pope ought to avoid these difficult and tricky questions. If the Church is going to be a credible source of guidance, we need to plunge into these issues in order to provide witness even in the most of circumstances.

    As has already been said, this will be a non-issue outside of Catholic circles at least in the US. Many in Africa will try to justify use of condoms with this, but they’re the ones who have already been skirting the rules. I imagine it will take some time, but I expect there to be a more detailed discussion from the Vatican.

    And finally, all this snarking at the pope boils down to one thing: do you think the pope is a holy man? I think he is, and I think he is one who follows what he discerns is god’s will. I trust him to make the right decisions for the Church, and even when it seems cloudy I think all will turn out for the best. The pope can make mistakes, and while this didn’t go down in the ideal way, it’s hardly an unmitigated disaster. I think much fruit can come from this.

  • If what some have been saying that the Pope is very well aware that his comments would cause such a stir, then maybe an explanation is forthcoming from His Holiness in anticipation of the brouhaha.

    And if it isn’t, then this indeed is a blunder on the part of good Pope Benedict.

    If the pope is going to rely on “theologians” to explain away his comments, then why bother with the Magisterium.

    A statement such as this needs to be fleshed out in an encyclical, papal bull, apostolic letter, whatever means necessary on a controversial and heated topic such as condom-use.

    Not a second-rate paper that is the semi-official mouthpiece of the Vatican and armchair theologians such as myself.

  • “do you think the pope is a holy man? ”

    Not knowing him personally Michael I have no way of knowing. The Church has had holy men as Popes who have been disasters, Saint Celestine V is a prime example, and less than holy Popes who have been effective stewards of the Church, Julius II coming to mind in that category. Until this fiasco I would have said that on balance the Pope was an effective steward of the Church. Now I would not say that.

  • “Let’s not pretend this is a waste of time.”

    Yes, the Catholic world was in anguish over whether male prostitutes using condoms were taking a baby step toward God as a result. What may be going on here of course is that the Pope took a lot of flak last year for his stance against the use of condoms by aids infected heterosexuals in Africa and he is simply tired of taking the flak. Until the Pope explains himself further, if he ever does, who knows.

  • Tito, the norm (with occasional exceptions) throughout the life of the Church is that the Magisterium presents what the Church teaches, and one of the tasks of theologians is to explain that teaching. Paul VI didn’t explain HV… theologians did.

    In many cases, the explanation requires significantly more paper than the teaching. To give an example which is one of the exceptions to the norm, JPII sought out to explain HV… look at the number of words he took in Theology of the Body (let alone his pre-papal books) to present his explanation of HV (which is a fairly short document).

  • HV is a very well written document, with the exception of order of certain topics.

    I didn’t need to read a 500 page theological journal on condom use through the lens of HV to know that using condoms at all was wrong on all levels.

    HV is a beautifully written and simple document.

    If it takes a 500 page theological journal to explain certain aspects of our faith, then I’m all for it.

    Hence my confusion with the pope’s latest statement. He wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra, regardless of how many times people such as Damian Thompson say that the pope gave his blessing to justified use of condoms (which His Holiness did not say whatsoever), nor was he expounding on a theological point.

    He gave his “opinion” in a certain situation where it “may” arise that a condom may be used.

    That is where my confusion comes from because was he then speaking and creating a new Church teaching or was he simply stating his opinion, or a little a both.

    Confusion.

    His Holiness cannot say seven months prior that condoms have caused an increase in the spread of AIDS in Africa and then reverse himself and say that it is acceptable in certain situation.

    Confusion.

    I’m confused! Confused. Confused.

  • Tito, he didn’t say it was acceptable. He didn’t say a condom may be used (i.e. he didn’t say it was moral to do so). Please read Brumley’s interview.

    And as Jimmy Akin indicates in the article at NCRegister which you and I have both linked to, HV doesn’t say that condoms are always and in every instance wrong.

  • Chris,

    I was paraphrasing and mocking Damian Thompson.

    I know he (Pope) didn’t say it was permissible.

  • Tito,

    Sorry, I didn’t catch the sarcasm… I haven’t read DT on this yet. 🙂

  • Chris,

    No biggie.

    🙂

    I know we’re engaging in dialogue on a difficult subject.

    I have friends who are solid Catholics with better foundations than I do that are just devastated by what the Pope said and so I want more clarification of what His Holiness meant by his comments.

    So I’m also commenting as proxy for them because the pope’s comments have disturbed me enough that I need to flesh it out myself in this forum to clear the catechetical cobwebs.

  • Don’t let this imbroglio unduly disturb you Tito. In 2000 years we have had plenty of them as one would expect of an institution that is Divine, but also Human.

    Mentioning Julius II above always reminds me of the finest film depiction of any pope:

  • Don,

    I’m not to worried about the Gates of Hell prevailing one bit.

    I guess my concern is more for my friends who seem to be having a minor (hopefully not major) crisis in their faith due to the Pope’s ‘comments’.

    That is a great film! The Agony and the Ecstasy!

    I love the line where Pope Julius II is setting contractual terms to a kneeling Michelangelo and he says “…for this you will be paid three, ahhhh, two thousand ducats, less the rent of the house”.

    Makes

  • I finally read the entire two pages (if that) of the ‘condom comments’ Pope Benedict was quoted in saying.

    The entire passage is pretty much clear on Church teaching and other topics.

    It’s the follow up question that provokes the ‘condom comment’.

    Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

    Pope Benedict XVI: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

    Basically the Pope did not endorse, justify (sorry Damian Thompson), nor bless (again, sorry Damian Thompson, you need new reading glasses) the use of condoms.

    It’s a first step.

    Meaning that a progression of this persons morality towards abstinence is in order, ie, understanding the fuller sense of sexuality. The procreative and unitive act that is ultimately what sex is for, of course, in a marital state.

    I feel much better.

    I’m purchasing the new book by Peter Seewald.

    The very first Peter Seewald interview(s)/book with then Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, was a major factor in bringing me back into the faith.

    Talk about a desert of heart and mind that needed the refreshing waterfall of Cardinal Ratzinger’s insight and wisdom.

    L’Osservatore Romano needs to be purged.

    First the editor, then the rest of the staff.

    Those guys are nasty, mean-spirited, and vindictive invertebrates.

  • I wouldn’t say that L’Osservatore Romano editors and work-staff are incompetent, they are fully competent.

    They openly and with full knowledge purposely released snippets of the book to get the media to react the way they did. Putting PBXVI in a tough situation on the narrowest of exceptions (if it can even be called that).

    L’Osservatore Romano is no better than the New York Times or National Catholic Reporter.

  • Glad you found the actual words helpful, Tito.

    For what it’s worth, a couple hours ago I recorded the weekly podcast, “Prairie Rome Companion”, I host in my day job, and my guest co-host this week was Carl Olson. I’d asked Carl last week to be on to talk about the new post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini which came out a couple weeks back (Carl wrote an article for it for OSV), but given his work for Ignatius Press, we also talked about the book. I’ll try to remember to give a link once we’re able to get it online, which will probably be early next week.

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Waiting for Blood

Tuesday, November 23, AD 2010

I’ve been ending day lately with an hour or two of reading Jose Maria Gironella’s, The Cypresses Believe in God, a massive novel set on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Given the novel’s sheer size, and that it starts out spending so much time just giving a sense of early 30s Spain as a place and time, as the civil war itself begins to approach one feels with the characters a certain creeping unreality, as the descent of politics and then society as a whole into factional violence seems to become first imaginable, then possible, and finally inevitable.

Having fallen asleep, as it were, in 1935 Catalonia, it was with an odd sense of unreality that I clicked on a link this morning and found a New York Times columnist declaring it impossible to work with his political opponents peacefully and darkly predicting “there will be blood”.

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13 Responses to Waiting for Blood

  • That is not news.

    In the 1960’s and 1970’s, violence was their (SDS, weathermen, SLA, black panthers, etc.) MO.

    I don’t read the NYT. It’s replete with detritus – class envy, distortions, exaggerations, fabrications, class hatred, omissions, left-wing ideology.

    The totalitarians have been waging class war for over 100 years. Until recently, the liberals’ program was to disarm we the people so they could “peacefully” take away our liberties and property.

    I was a boy scout. Be prepared.

    PS: imagine if Sarah Palin, or any other tea party fanatic, said or wrote such hate-filled nonsense.

  • Gironella’s trilogy is the finest novel I have ever read. It is impossible to claim to understand the Spanish Civil War without reading it. Krugman is a highly educated jackass.

  • I recall reading the memoirs of a nationalist fighter pilot, Combat Over Spain, where he mentions that an anarchist decided to shoot up his sister’s wedding for no appreciable reason, this was before the Spanish Civl War, leaving her blind. The remarkable thing to me is that he mentions it so matter of factly, as one would discuss a relative who had experienced an injury in a car crash. When political violence becomes that endemic in a society, normal life becomes a cold war that inevitably will become a hot one. I think the US will be spared this, in spite of the maunderings of idiots like Krugman.

    http://www.amazon.com/Combat-over-Spain-nationalist-1936-1939/dp/B0007EY438

  • Krugman strikes a properly combative pose to go with his article. Somebody help him before he bursts a blood vessel

  • I think, for the most part, both parties are to blame. Both the democrats and republicans are more interested in grabbing and holding onto as much power as they can, and both sides will use any technique they think they can get away with to do.

    The extension of the Bush Tax cuts is an example of this. The majority of democrats and republicans agree on extending the cuts for all but people making over $250,000. Neither side is willing to compromise on this last little bit, despite the fact that they both agree on 90% of the total.

    Now this is an issue of tax policy. While I am sure one can argue that the taxes on those making $250,000+ a year are too high (or not high enough depending on your perspective), this really can’t be an issue of principal here like it might be for issues like abortion or the wars we are fighting.

    Both sides seem to be letting all of us take a tax hit (since even the those making more than $250,000 will keep the tax cuts for income up to that amount) to score points with their base.

  • The good news is that Krugman isn’t representative of anything other than a small slice of elite opinion. The man immolated his credibility by defending Obama’s annihilating deficit spending after railing for years against Bush’s smaller (but still problematic) deficits.

    Partisan shills aren’t a good barometer of overall public opinion.

  • The irony is that by recklessly impugning other people’s motives and character, Krugman has done more than his share to poison political discourse for nearly ten years now. In so doing, he sacrificed his reputation among the bulk of those of that public which reads topical commentary as well as damaging his reputation among economists. What he got out of it, who knows?

    Argentina endured a violent economic contraction and multiple political crises without much more than some riots, so I would not pay too much attention to this prognostication. Still, if he want’s to bring it on, he ought to remember that the American military likely does not have a network of Grand-Orient lodges to be mobilized on behalf of neo-Jacobins and Marxists and that Manuel Azana died in exile, broke and alone.

  • “What he got out of it, who knows?”

    A Nobel Prize?

  • Phillip stole my answer.

    The last few years has proven that the quickest route to winning some prize or the other is to trash conservatives (see, e.g., Krugman, Gore, Carter, Obama, Katie Couric, Kathleen Parker, Tina Fey, etc.)

  • Actually, he won the John Bates Clark medal about 20 years ago. He was authentically respected for his theoretical work in the economics of trade. As far as I am aware, he has not published applied research in macroeconomics, nor has he published theoretical or applied work in finance. He is channelling other economists when he is writing on the current situation.

    He also wrote topical commentary and general interest books which were not sectarian pieces. They were favorably reviewed in National Review ,among other places. About ten years ago, he did a complete about face and began writing what he writes now. Why is a mystery.

    Sorry to be literal-minded, but Kathleen Parker is about the only person on that list whose career of late has benefitted from trashing Republicans, et al, becuase it makes her a useful mannequin on CNN and op-ed pages.

  • I suppose my point is that each of the people I listed have won major prizes over the last few years, the justification for which can only be explained as their having received either the “Not Named George W. Bush Award” or the “Outstanding Achievment in Anti-Palinism Award”.

  • When elitists like Krugman start whining about how the country is “ungovernable”, watch out.

    It wasn’t too long ago that Thomas Friedman of the same publication lauded the the Chinese government. These people are intoxicated by power, they believe that sufficiently enlightened and educated will can bring order to chaos (much of which government caused in the first place).

    Whereas I believe that if the government would simply protect our natural rights, we would do that all on our own.

  • Gore, Carter, and Obama all won the Nobel Peace Prize, which originates in the Norwegian legislature and is of scant value except for the cash. (Or if it did mean something, awarding it to B.O. promptly debased it thoroughly). I would say you’re right, though. I hadn’t thought of that.

24 Responses to Joe Friday on the TSA

  • Live free or fly.

    I have bilateral total knee (titanium) replacements, I set off the metal detectors everywhere. I get frisked every time I fly.

    Sounds like they’re getting more “up close and personal.” Once, a TSA twit made me hike up my pants to check out my scars.

    I bet they’re told to “give it” to anyone that refuses to be scanned.

    I only fly when I get paid to fly and you can’t drive over an ocean. Next March, I’ll be driving from NYC to Annaheim. I don’t care if its takes three or four days. I’ll be reimbursed and I’ll take some time to see fly-over country.

    Maybe, I’ll seek political asylum somewhere in America.

  • Joe Friday is of course correct that the searches made of minor children by TSA employees would be felonies if not conducted under color of law.

    Why would they be felonies?

    And you are aware that in that second video it was the father that pulled off the child’s shirt, not the TSA.

  • “(e) “Sexual conduct” means any intentional or knowing touching or fondling by the victim or the accused, either directly or through clothing, of the sex organs, anus or breast of the victim or the accused, or any part of the body of a child under 13 years of age, for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the victim or the accused.”

    That is taken from 720 ILCS 5/12-12 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes of Illinois. Sexual conduct with a minor child in Illinois is always a felony and whether or not the touching was for sexual gratification is determined on a case by case basis by the judge or a jury.

    The father pulled off the boy’s shirt, because the boy was too shy and fearful to submit to a patdown by the TSA agent. I hardly think that factoid lessens the absurdity of minor children being routinely subjected to patdowns by federal agents in order to fly on planes.

  • According to the definition you provide and the way your post is worded, you seem to be implying that all TSA agents are getting sexual gratification from touching children. I doubt that is what you mean (and would be shocked if that is what you believed) but that is the way it reads.

    As for patting-down children, if they went through the scanners they wouldn’t be subjected to such an intrusion. The father is the one that made that choice for his child.

  • Many people are leery of the machines because of radiation and in any case going through one would probably be frightening for a small child. Parents shouldn’t be placed in the position of either doing this or having their children touched by strangers.

    As to individual TSA agents, if they were not operating under the shield of federal law, I would leave it up to a judge or a jury. Let the TSA agents explain why they think it necessary to pat down little children. I am certain that we would hear a rendition of “I was only following orders” defense. People should have zero tolerance for this rubbish, especially when it comes to kids.

  • I don’t think much of the Huckster, but he is dead on the money here:

  • “As for patting-down children, if they went through the scanners they wouldn’t be subjected to such an intrusion.”

    Whatever makes you feel safe, Joe.

  • As for patting-down children, if they went through the scanners they wouldn’t be subjected to such an intrusion.

    Actually this isn’t true. If you choose to go through the scanner or metal detector and there is an anomaly, then you still get the pat down (the kid in the video, for example, set off the metal detector). I’ve had an experience similar to the one Nate Silver describes here, where the scanner sees things that just aren’t there:

    As is my usual practice when passing through airport security, I emptied my pants pockets completely — there wasn’t so much as a stick of gum, a penny, or a taxi receipt in there. But the machine nevertheless insisted that that there was something in the back right-hand pocket of my jeans. When the official from the Transportation Security Administration asked me what I had in my pocket, and I told him that there was absolutely nothing, he then performed a pat-down. I was in a chipper enough mood that I wasn’t inclined to make a scene, but I did ask the T.S.A. official whether it was routine for the machines to see things that weren’t there, to which he declined to respond.

  • Whatever makes you feel safe, Joe.

    It does make me feel safer because the new measures to make us safer.

    I don’t live in some libertarian fantasy-land. I live in the real world where people use knives to take over planes and kill my fellow citizens. Concern for my fellow man trumps the right not to have someone “touch my junk” when I choose (of my own free will) to board a public aircraft.

  • “I don’t live in some libertarian fantasy-land.”

    LOL! Yep, that’s me. The very model of a modern libertarian. Please. One need not be a libertarian to find this nonsense – which absolutely does nothing to make us safter but only provides the illusion of doing something – beyond the pale.

  • By the way, your boy Huck doesn’t think much of it, either.

  • which absolutely does nothing to make us safter

    Are you saying that the machines don’t work, that they don’t detect weapons?

    By the way, your boy Huck doesn’t think much of it, either.

    I saw that. He really needs to do his homework before making such comments. The pat-downs can be done in private with a witness of the person’s choosing watching the screening. It is not necessarily done in public as Huckabee implies.

  • I live in the real world where people use knives to take over planes and kill my fellow citizens.

    It is no longer possible to take over a plane using a knife or other weapons. Anyone who tried would be instantly set upon by the other passengers, who would not stop until he was subdued. This is what happened with United 93, the shoe bomber, the underpants bomber, and is what would happen if there were any further attempts.

  • So far as I can tell, they could go back to airport security procedures circa 2000 with virtually no reduction in security. People will never again follow the “it’s safer to let the hijackers do what they want” approach. That’s what makes us safer.

  • Anyone who tried would be instantly set upon by the other passengers,

    I’m not sure that is true. People who freak out because a TSA screener needs to pat them down aren’t likely to have the physical courage to stand up to a hijacker.

    And let’s not hold up United 93 as a model. Those people on board were extraordinary. I’m not confident that it is the way every group would react.

    We should also keep in mind that plane crashed and everyone on board was killed. Are you saying that we shouldn’t worry about people bringing weapons on planes because it will only kill the people on board?

  • People who freak out because a TSA screener needs to pat them down aren’t likely to have the physical courage to stand up to a hijacker.

    You are confusing a desire for privacy and dignity with physical cowardice. Captain Sullenberger, for example, has objected to the new pat downs. Does that make him a coward?

    And let’s not hold up United 93 as a model. Those people on board were extraordinary. I’m not confident that it is the way every group would react.

    The folks on United 93 were heroes, but the main difference between them and the other three planes was not that they were brave while the others were cowards, but that they knew the planes were being flown into buildings whereas the others did not. If an attempt was made to hijack a plane today, everyone would realize that the likely result would be the death not only of everyone on the plane, but also of thousands of other Americans. To expect passengers to sit meekly by while it happens because a guy has a knife is silly.

    So far there have been four tests of this: United 93, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, and the case of the crazy guy who tried to break into a plane cockpit. In each case passengers acted swiftly and decisively.

    We should also keep in mind that plane crashed and everyone on board was killed.

    The reason United 93 crashed is that the passengers didn’t find out planes were being flown into buildings until after the terrorists had taken over the plane. Had they known this from the beginning the plane would not have crashed. Today cockpit doors have been secured to prevent forced entry and the passengers know from the outset that if the plane is taken it can be used to bring down a building.

    Assume, however, that someone could bring down the plane itself if they were able to sneak a weapon or bomb on board. A comparable number of people can be killed by bringing a bomb into any school or office building. Yet it would be absurd to say that because of this we ought to have pat downs and full body scans for anyone going into a school or office building (at least, I think this is absurd; perhaps you would feel safer if this were instituted as policy).

  • I live in the real world where people use knives to take over planes and kill my fellow citizens.

    They were boxcutters, not knives. And the point about United 93 has been made thoroughly by others.

    As I see it, the biggest issue with our airport security is that it is reactionary. It heaps on more and more “checks” with each new attempt to bring down an airplane. First, it’s the liquid issue. Next, we have to remove shoes. Now, it’s the porno-scans or federally sanctioned molestation. It follows with each incident where the passengers subdued the would-be bomber. What’s next? Shall we submit to a colonoscopy if someone attempts to light off a bomb embedded in his rectum? Joe, what’s too far in your mind?

    Frankly, I’m tired of it. This approach the TSA has taken virtually treats us like criminals prior to boarding an airplane. (Inmates are regularly subjected to full body searches, especially after a visit.) What other industry allows its customers to be treated as such?

    I’m tired of it, and so are a great many other Americans. The uprising we are witnessing is completely justified. There are other ways to provide the flying public with safety and security without compromising their liberties. For example, our friends in Israel do a phenomenal job and yet you are not scanned, fondled, de-shoed, and you can even take your liquids with you. Imagine… safety AND personal liberty.

    Take a moment to read and watch:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/744199—israelification-high-security-little-bother

    http://online.wsj.com/video/how-israel-screens-for-terrorists/987D025A-145D-42F5-9756-7B43CC7613CE.html

    We’ve allowed this current “security theater” to go on for too long in the name of the sacred cow of political correctness.

  • They were boxcutters, not knives.
    According to the 9/11 Commission report, they attacker used both knives and boxcutters.
    As I see it, the biggest issue with our airport security is that it is reactionary.
    So you’re saying you’d be fine with these measures if they had been proactive? I don’t many other people feel that way. People already whine and fuss when safety measures are taken after a threat has been discovered. What are the chances they’d be for them before something happened?
    Joe, what’s too far in your mind?
    Too far would be measures that are overly intrusive. Nothing that has been done so far has even come close to violating our civil rights. Americans are just soft. And yet they will cry about how the government didn’t do enough to protect us as soon as something happens.
    What other industry allows its customers to be treated as such?
    If you don’t like it, don’t fly. I’m serious. No one has to put up with the searches since no one has to fly. Americans do not have a God-given right to air travel.

    Take a moment to read and watch
    My column for FT tomorrow addresses why the way Israel does profiling is neither applicable in America nor fixes the problems. (In 2002, a hijacker managed to sneak a knife onto an El Al flight. Had the air marshalls not subdued him, no one would be praising Israel’s approach.)
    We’ve allowed this current “security theater” to go on for too long in the name of the sacred cow of political correctness.
    Anyone who truly believes that hasn’t done their research on profiling. The idea that all hijackers are Arabic speaking Muslims is absurd and shows that people are reacting to the issue more out of emotion than by thinking about it rationally.

  • If you don’t like it, don’t fly. I’m serious. No one has to put up with the searches since no one has to fly.

    First, lots of people do have to fly for work (myself included).

    Second, if the scans are accepted for airports who is to say that they won’t then be imposed others places? There are already metal detectors in many government buildings and schools.

    Third, it is well established that you are much less likely to die during a plane flight than you are driving an equivalent distance. Far more people will die in car accidents because they don’t want people looking at naked pictures of them than would ever be saved by the screening.

  • “Second, if the scans are accepted for airports who is to say that they won’t then be imposed others places?”

    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/130549-next-step-for-body-scanners-could-be-trains-boats-and-the-metro-

    This is stupidity on stilts. People are being subjected to these indignities for absolutely no purpose other than to give the illusion of security through these dog and pony shows.

  • Americans are just soft.

    I agree, but I’d say the evidence of it is that we’re apparently willing to allow the government to do these things to the public in the name of “keeping us safe”. I fail to see the strength or virtue in bending over for Big Brother. The terrorists have already won.

  • We the sheeple . . .

    I will walk through Penn Sta., NYC this morning and past armed national guard (God bless them) troops, NYPD hercules unit SWAT dudes, and some sort of radiation detector. A year ago, I had a nucular heart stress test and the MD told me I may be stopped in Penn Sta.

    Am I any safer? Not sure. I ID the moose limbs and assorted threats around me.

  • I admire the imagination of this gal:

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/traffic/transit/Traffic-LAX-holiday-travel-thanksgiving-110384004.html?dr

    However, I do not think I will follow her example. The sight of me in swimming trunks would be even more punishment than the minions of the TSA warrant.

  • So you’re saying you’d be fine with these measures if they had been proactive?

    Boy, that’s rich.

    Too far would be measures that are overly intrusive. Nothing that has been done so far has even come close to violating our civil rights. Americans are just soft. And yet they will cry about how the government didn’t do enough to protect us as soon as something happens.

    Naked scans and pat downs of one’s genetalia. Yeah, that’s pretty intrusive. Without the cover of federal law, that’s either video voyeurism or sexual assault.

    If you don’t like it, don’t fly. I’m serious. No one has to put up with the searches since no one has to fly. Americans do not have a God-given right to air travel.

    Business travel.

    My column for FT tomorrow … … In 2002, a hijacker managed to sneak a knife onto an El Al flight. Had the air marshalls not subdued him, no one would be praising Israel’s approach.

    Air marshalls… just one more layer in the Israeli security machine. But then, the profiling done in Israel is more about behavior than about anything else, which is not mentioned in your article. You cite the challenges, and I think they are surmountable. Which would you rather have, the circus we have now or highly trained individuals?

    Anyone who truly believes that hasn’t done their research on profiling. The idea that all hijackers are Arabic speaking Muslims is absurd and shows that people are reacting to the issue more out of emotion than by thinking about it rationally.

    Back to behavior again. To most Americans, profiling equals racial profiling. Too many of us are hung up on race. Don’t default to racial profiling. It’s not what Israeli security is about.

Apologia Pro Libertarianism Sua

Monday, November 22, AD 2010

There’s been a bit of discussion about the nature of libertarianism on the blog recently, and as the resident pseudo-libertarian, I thought I would re-state where I come down on the matter (this is based largely on an older post I did on the subject, which sadly is now lost in the cyber-ether).

To understand where I am coming from, one needs to make a distinction between political positions held as a matter of moral principle, and those held as a matter of prudence. Take the issue of torture. One might oppose the use of torture on the grounds that it’s not a good way to get information from suspects, or because by using torture on the enemy you risk retaliation by the enemy on your people, etc. Alternatively one might believe that torture is just immoral, and you should do it regardless of whether or not it is effective.

Call the first type of objection to torture “pragmatic” and the second “principled.” (A person might object to torture on both pragmatic and principled grounds, in which case the opposition would be principled, though buttressed by pragmatic considerations). Dividing the justifications for various political positions into principled or pragmatic can be sometimes tricky, but the basic idea is, I hope, intuitive enough.

A principled libertarian, as I use the term, is someone who holds libertarian political beliefs for principled reasons. Taxation is theft, my body, my business, etc. In my experience, when you say libertarian this is what people think of.

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17 Responses to Apologia Pro Libertarianism Sua

  • Excellent, the “will the bloody duck swim?” test – it is, really, the best. As it turns out, most conservative things do work, and most of the time a libertarian attitude towards government power is for the best…but, not all the time and not in all things.

  • BA,

    With your (very helpful) post as the context, how might you articulate the difference between “principled conservatism” and “pragmatic libertarianism”? Your post prompted me to realize that I tend to identify political positions with their fundamental principles, but clearly not everyone does so. Nonetheless… why not just call yourself a conservative?

  • Chris,

    What is “principled conservatism”?

  • BA,

    I’m thinking of conservatism as it’s been articulated by the likes of Kirk, Weaver, etc…. generally-limited intervention by the government, determined along the lines of subsidiarity, etc.

  • BA – answer Burgwald’s point/question first before responding to my random thoughts below.

    Chris’ comments relates to the tension between ideology vs. pragmatism. Was Reagan good (or great) because he was an ideologue or a pragmatist? I would argue the latter, as was other good Presidents, i.e. Nixon, Eisenhower, etc.

    More specifically related to your topic though and what came immediately to mind are the differences between the Mises Inst. and Cato Inst. The Mises Inst. (i.e. Murray Rothbard, Walter Block, etc.) & were/are the ideologues and the folks at Cato & Reason are pragmatists.

    Is Conservative American Political Party’s Two Pillars Strategy based upon the later? I would argue it is. Others would argue it’s not possible for a third party to gain sufficient support therefore it’s the former.

    http://www.thedailybell.com/1311/Nelson-Hultberg-on-Libertarian-Conservatism-and-His-New-Conservative-American-Political-Party.html

    The deeper or more fundamental question for me though is this – Which is true or what is true? Orthodoxy precedes Orthopraxis. Action based upon false or bad principles will eventually fail or not succeed. What are presuppositions and assumptions driving people’s thought and actions? If their world and life view is flawed, so will be their actions. I much prefer truth over error.

    Culturally it’s very American to focus on pragmatism. Focus on utility, focus on what works. This is the very essence of Scientology, but is Scientology true?

    I might add just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s good.

    Anarchism is a completely different topic. It’s one that I will study more deeply. For the life of me at the moment I don’t see the reasonableness of it, but I want to read the best thinkers for anarchism before I make a judgment. Most Libertarians are probably minarchists, but is this the truest position to hold as a Libertarian? I don’t know…

  • Chris,

    I confess I haven’t found Kirk or Weaver to be very helpful in thinking about politics. Kirk is too impressionistic, and Weaver thinks that today’s problems are the result of philosophical errors made in the 12th century.

    In terms of why I stopped calling myself a conservative, there are a couple of factors. One is that I became increasingly uncomfortable with a lot of what was being espoused by American conservativism (e.g. defenses of torture, jingoism, xenophobia, etc.) Even where I agreed with the “conservative” position on an issue, it increasingly seemed as if I and your typical conservative doing so for very different reasons.

  • BA,

    I concur on your last point… I don’t think I’d be considered a “movement conservative”. But that’s because of my preference for identifying political labels according to principles rather than pragmatic approaches… I don’t think “movement conservatism” is being true to conservative principles, but I don’t eschew the label “conservative” with regard to myself because of it.

    But that’s me… as already noted, your post was helpful for me in that it alerted me to the fact that others might identify political labels differently.

  • Oh: I tend to think Weaver is right, by the way. 🙂

  • I don’t think “movement conservatism” is being true to conservative principles

    I took a similar line for a while, but eventually I had to conclude that the tendencies I was seeing weren’t deviations from “true” conservatism but were pretty much baked in the cake from the beginning. If anything it’s Kirk who was the oddball.

    Oh: I tend to think Weaver is right, by the way.

    A lot of people do. For myself, reading Occam pretty much robbed me of the ability to take Weaver seriously.

  • “Weaver thinks that today’s problems are the result of philosophical errors made in the 12th century.”

    To quote Wellington, anyone who would believe that would believe anything. Today’s problems have the same root cause as yesterday’s problems and tomorrow’s problems: original sin. Ideas Have Consequences is still a great book to read, as long as one doesn’t take it much more seriously than Das Kapital as a philosophical tract.

  • I’ll make a confession: I don’t know the specifics of Weaver’s arguments…. but perhaps he is right for the wrong reasons, because I certainly agree with the thesis that there is a faulty intellectual foundation to much of our contemporary discourse, a foundation which goes back to Ockham, and probably Scotus before him. Perhaps Weaver’s specific argument is weak, but he’s hardly alone in his conclusion: the Radical Orthodoxy school concurs, as do a number of the Communio scholars, along with a large chunk of Thomists.

    Benedict (a member of the Communio circle) certainly seems to indicate an agreement with his thesis, given the Regensberg address, in which his rightly notes the impact which late medieval theology & philosophy’s voluntarism has had on modernity.

    It’s clear that concepts might work themselves out and have “real-world” ramifications centuries or even millenia later… we see this positively with ancient greek philosophy and with the intellectual content of our own faith, but it’s just as possible for wrong ideas to work themselves out over similarly long periods of time.

  • Chris,

    I dated a Scotus scholar for a while after the Regensberg lecture. When I mentioned the controversy surrounding the speech she thought I was talking about the Scotus part. She hadn’t heard about the Islam rioting, but thought what Benedict said about Scotus was an unfair distortion.

  • BA,

    And…? 🙂

    I don’t doubt that the voluntarism that came forth from Scotus’ thought was far from his intention, but unintended consequences and all…

    I don’t expect a Scotus scholar to agree with this view, but given that it’s one held in common by various Augustinians, Bonaventurians and Thomists indicates that there’s *some* consensus among various schools regarding the ill fruit of Scotism on this point.

  • Is Ron Paul pragmatic?

    His voting record is one of the most ideological driven in the entire Congress, but he’s a Republican. I think he learned from his experience(s) when he ran as the third-party candidate (Libertarian Party) for President. Did he make a bigger impact by running as a Presidential candidate as a Republican? What kind of impact will he make as the Chairman of the sub-committee which oversees the Fed. Reserve? Will he run again for President, either as a Republican or third-party candidate, i.e. Conservative American Political Party? Many of the same folks who are supporting this new party and funding the below movie are huge Ron Paul supporters as well. Let us see.

    http://www.spoilerusa.org/

    Is the Free State Project pragmatic?
    http://freestateproject.org//

    Many argue that the Non-Aggression Axiom is the principle which drives Libertarian thinking. Is it true?

    Audio – The Lew Rockwell Show – 11. The Non-Aggression Axiom
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/lewrockwell-show/2008/08/04/11-the-non-aggression-axiom/

    The Non-Aggression Axiom of Libertarianism by Walter Block
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block26.html

    Jonah Goldberg and the Libertarian Axiom on Non-Aggression by Walter Block
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/block1.html

    Defending the Undefendable (a more detailed book on this axiom) by Walter Block
    http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Undefendable-Walter-Block/dp/1933550171/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290609211&sr=1-1
    F.A. Hayek agreed, writing the author as follows: “Looking through Defending the Undefendable made me feel that I was once more exposed to the shock therapy by which, more than fifty years ago, the late Ludwig von Mises converted me to a consistent free market position. Some may find it too strong a medicine, but it will still do them good even if they hate it. A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economic frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and showing the falsity of these stereotypes you are doing a real services, although you will not make yourself more popular with the majority.”

  • One additional point – notice how Ron Paul is an active member of the Mises Inst. and how Lew Rockwell and the Mises Inst. are supporters of the Free-State Project.

  • Notice also how ISI who is a major promoter of Kirk’s and Weaver’s thought and books is now publishing the thought and books of Mises and Austrian economics.

  • David,

    In American politics pragmatic is typically used to describe a politician who does whatever is popular with the voters. That’s not what I mean. In other parts of the world being pragmatic means evaluating policies on their merits.

    I do not subscribe to the non-aggression axiom. Like many political principles it sounds nice in the abstract but when you look at the implications it is not clear why anyone would believe it.

When Are Points Not Worth Making?

Monday, November 22, AD 2010

The media firestorm swirling around Pope Benedict’s discussion of morality and condom use seems like a good illustration of the problem of great trouble and anguish being caused by making completely true and reasonable points. The pope’s comment itself is both true and sensible: there is nothing magically wicked about condoms in and of themselves, rather it is using them in order to render sexual relations sterile which is immoral. However, because the pope is such a uniquely high-profile figure in the world, both those (inside and outside the Church) who are desperately eager for the Church to approve artificial contraception as morally licit, and those who live in constant fear that the faith will somehow be betrayed to the ravening hoards outside, immediately went into full freak-out mode.

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20 Responses to When Are Points Not Worth Making?

  • I think one further factor to consider here is that, even if there is confusion around what the Pope said, that does not mean that people know less about Catholic teaching than they used to. Most people (inside and outside the Church) don’t know what the Church says on this stuff. Just yesterday, a Protestant who has known me for years, shocked me by suggesting that Catholics can only have sex when procreation is explicitly intended. Public discussion can’t do that much harm when everyone is already mistaken on the question in question.

  • I agree, somewhat, with Darwin here, but I feel the truth of Brett’s remark. What has been surprising to me isthe very great number of people who *think* that they know what the Church teaches in this area but who, judging from their frankly hysterical response to Benedict’s comment, really have no idea of the principles behind the Church’s sexual ethic. This points to a serious failure in catechesis–on the part of bishops, priests, and even the laity.

    Now, all this being said, I also think–but here I am open to correction–that Benedict’s statement *does* open the door somewhat for the Church’s prudential support of *some* ways of handling the HIV epidemic in Africa in *certain instances* which up until this point the hierarchy was wary of supporting. It seems to me that once you allow (1) the context of illiceity of sexual activity and (2) the possibility that using a condom in such illicit sexual activity *may* be a step toward arriving at a more fully human version of sexuality, at some point during which the illicit actions would cease altogether, then you have an argument for the *prudential* and *careful* acknowledgment that *certain* sectors of the population, *if* it is known that they will be acting illicitly in any case, *may* be encouraged “at least to use a condom.” Am I wrong here?

  • Your point seems to me well taken.

    In family life, among friends, at work, and in broader discussions like this, one simply must take the audience into account and ask how nuanced statements will be simplified and whether such simplification will have other than the intended meaning. This is particularly true for “public figures” such as heads of state.

    I seem to recall that His Holiness had a similar experience when he offered an academic point on the perceptions of Islam in the West.

  • No you are not WJ, and that is precisely why the Pope’s off the cuff remark is a disaster. People are going to argue that it is morally licit to use a condom to prevent STDs and the Church’s stand against this form of contraception goes right out the window. I cannot put a smiley face on this one. The Pope blundered and he blundered badly in apparently not recognizing the firestorm his theorizing would cause.

  • Donald,

    But I think this formulation is too vague: “People are going to argue that it is morally licit to use a condom to prevent STDs.”

    People may argue anything they wish, but the disputed proposition: “That it is morally licit to use a condom to prevent STDs” needs to be clarified and made more precise before you can even begin to affirm or deny it.

  • Yes, WJ’s post demonstrates the problem perfectly. No, the Pope didn’t say it could be licit to encourage condom use in certain circumstances. He simply pointed out that there are different levels of seriousness of sin, and someone who’s living a life of depravity might try to take a first step out of it by replacing a more serious sin (giving someone a deadly disease) with a lesser (but still serious) one like using a condom. It would be wrong to tell someone it’s okay to skip Mass every other week. But if someone goes from attending once a year to attending once a month, we can recognize that as a positive change while still understanding the remaining sin involved.

    I’m thinking that this kind of nuanced application of dogma to specific circumstances belongs in the confessional or rectory office, or even the pulpit, but not an edited interview. Not only is DarwinCatholic right about how it affects the three groups of people he mentions, but it was completely predictable that it would do so. Did we learn nothing from the way Humanae Vitae was treated? Millions of Catholics already thought artificial birth control was okay, despite that document’s complete opposition, simply because its very existence gave dissenters a context to go out and preach as if it taught the opposite.

    It’s just not enough to say, “Well, if you look at what the pope really said….” That’s not how it works in today’s world, if it ever did. If you want to get your message out clearly, you have to make it happen yourself. You can’t chat into a microphone for a while and expect that when it gets edited down and discussed in the press, your points will be clear and treated fairly. That will not happen.

  • Brett,

    I can see that to an extent, though I think people starting out in some degree of ignorance many not necessarily mean that any change is good. For instance, if a Catholic starts out with the idea that “the Church says condoms are eeeeeeeevil” and gets from this some muddled idea of “actually, the pope says it’s okay to use condoms sometimes” I think that person would have been made worse off. His original idea would have been a distortion of Catholic doctrine and lacked an understanding of why we don’t use contraception, but this new mistaken view is likely to be more destructive than his old mistake view in regards to his own life and morality.

    Nor, to be honest, am I all that optimistic that many non-Catholic are learning why the Church really teaches as it does about birth control as a result of this, since most of the reporting is so ignorant as to be little help in that regard.

    All that said, if one told the pope he could never speak on any nuanced topic at all for fear of being misreported and thus harming people, the pope could never say anything and that would be rather useless.

    I don’t have an answer here on this particular issue — though I think L’Osservatore Romano is rather at fault in this case for making a poor selection of quotes, given how avidly watched they are. And like all such teapot tempests, this will blow over soon enough and be forgotten by most people.

    I do think there are some topics which it’s problematic to spend too much time speculating, especially before a mainstream audience, however, because poking around the fringes can sometimes cause more harm than good in regards to understanding.

    WJ,

    It seems to me that once you allow (1) the context of illiceity of sexual activity and (2) the possibility that using a condom in such illicit sexual activity *may* be a step toward arriving at a more fully human version of sexuality, at some point during which the illicit actions would cease altogether, then you have an argument for the *prudential* and *careful* acknowledgment that *certain* sectors of the population, *if* it is known that they will be acting illicitly in any case, *may* be encouraged “at least to use a condom.” Am I wrong here?

    I think the problem is when we get to the word “encourage”. When you start encouraging people to do something, even when you say you consider it the lesser of evils, people immediately start getting the idea it’s okay.

    Pick something there’s agreement between the Church and secular culture is wrong and I think this becomes pretty clear: If the Church tried to reduce the injury to women in cultures where wife beating is common by saying, “Beating your wife is always wrong, but if you really must do so, please use a leather strap rather than a baseball bat, metal wrench, or other hard object. We would be happy to distribute leather belts to at any of our missionary facilities for this purpose.” I think people would be justified to run with the headline, “Church Endorses Wife Beating!!!”

    It seems to me that people who are already having illicit sex are prettly clearly willing to do what they want regardless of what the Church says, and that by pushing condoms through its organizations in Africa and other AIDS stricken areas the Church would mainly serve to destroy its ability to communicate its teaching on sexuality, and accomplish very little (if anything) to anyone’s benefit in slowing the spread of AIDS.

  • Aaron,

    Though to be fair, the interview in question was an un-edited, book-length interview by a journalist who has been completely fair and transparant with similar interviews with Ratzinger prior to his becoming pope. In this case, I think the inciting incident was L’Osservatore Romano’s choice to publish a short excerpt including that section of the book.

    But I think there is, at times, a danger for those who are deeply educated in theology to get interested in quirky moral situations which, presented to the wrong audience, can end up confusing ordinary lay people more than educating them.

  • I’m not sure how you discuss contraception without getting into nuance anyway, so I can’t fault the pope. I also don’t think it’s healthy to pretend a moral doctrine has no nuance when it does-intellectual dishonest may be more damaging than the misleading nuance. The Church is about truth, and not recognizing truth simply b/c the truth is difficult to explain is very dangerous doctrine to accept.

    The real culprit is LOR, who instead of waiting for the MSM to dig through a book to find this quote, served up the out of context quote on a silver platter, ripe for misinterpretation. They practically did the MSM’s job for them. Severe consequences for this, just the latest in a line of embarrassments from that paper, need to come.

  • In the context of homosexual “sex,” how is condom use in and of itself illicit? It has no contraceptive effect at all. Homosexual “sex” is certainly morally illicit, but I honestly don’t understand why or how the introduction of a condom in that context can be immoral. If anything, it can be, as the Holy Father suggests, a morally responsible act that lessens the overall sinfulness by trying to avoid giving (additional) injury to another.

  • There are so many hidden parts to this story that one might have to be Sherlock Holmes to put it all together. Why did the Vatican’s newspaper publish an excerpt of a rather long abstract conversation that the Holy Father had with Peter Seewald concerning an admitted very rare situation on the subject of condoms? The book is loaded with all kinds of fascinating info in which the Holy Father tells Peter Seewald his thoughts on the Abuse Scandal, Father Maciel, Islam, the world economy, and on and on. Yet, an abstract thought is published. The Holy Father has never claimed to be adept at political spin, but there are many in the Vatican who are. Why did someone (some people) allow this abstract thought to be published in the Vatican’s newspaper. What did they hope to gain? Did they hope to change the Church’s stance on birth control, or did they want to embarrass the Holy Father?

  • Dave,

    I think you’re overestimating the intelligence of the LOR folk; it’s unlikely that this was the result of some grand conspiracy, and more likely that it resulted from sheer incompetence.

    I have another question that perhaps a moral theologian might answer. If you *know* that a male prostitute will be engaging in illicit acts of sex with other males and you give him a condom and tell him that he must think of others, etc. are you formally cooperating with evil?

  • WJ said: If you *know* that a male prostitute will be engaging in illicit acts of sex with other males and you give him a condom and tell him that he must think of others, etc. are you formally cooperating with evil?

    I think one would have to instruct the prostitute that engaging in illicit sex is wrong, with or without a condom.

  • Zeppo,
    Sure, that is sensible, but it does not answer WJ’s question — unless you are suggesting that the boilerplate instruction gives warrant for such distribution. Frankly, I have always thought that the answer to WJ’s question, was yes until I studied “formal cooperation” and concluded that the answer was not so obvious and perhaps contingent on other subsidiary facts and circumstances.
    A similar question has come up in the context of the distribution of clean needles to users of illegal drugs, and it has been the subject of considerable debate on this very forum IIRC. I originally argued in favor of always immoral, only to allow additional self-study to confuse me into less certainty.
    I continue to think that the actual use of condoms by homosexual prostitutes is an easier moral question; the distribution of such items for such use strikes me as more fact dependent, though in the end both may involve prudential calculuses — unlike homosexual sex itself, which is intrinsically immoral.

  • I don’t think L’Osservatore Romano is “the Vatican’s newspaper” in the same sense it used to be. At least, not in the sense I thought they used to be. The best analogy I can think of is, unfortunately, the way Pravda was the voice of the Soviet Union.

    On a bit of a tangent, I don’t like what the internet has done to the way many (including me) view the Vatican. We want to know the inner workings, and look for subtle power plays. I wish I approached the Church more with reverence and less with sophistication.

  • WJ, I am the last person who believes in conspriacy theories. I simply believe that someone or some group had an agenda. As I indicated, there were so many excerpts that would have been far more fitting than the one they used.

  • Pope hinted he could resign, which may be a sign of approaching dementia.

  • I’ve not joined those who’ve been strongly critical of Gian Maria Vann’s tenure as editor of L’OR… until now.

    With others here and elsewhere, I concur that this was a major error on Vann’s part… of *all* the excerpts he could’ve chosen to publish, why this one? And why do so while the book was under embargo?

  • Chris

    I would ask what Ignatius thought of L’OR ‘s publication of the excerpts; I still can see it as being pre-planned by the two to get people talking and thinking about this very section of the book, and perhaps the Pope himself wanted it to be out in the public like this. We don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case. This strikes to me as something planned, not a mistake.

  • Henry,

    Prima facie that’s certainly plausible, but given that IP’s “official” blogger, Carl Olson, has been quoting and linking articles critical of L’OR’s actions at the “official” IP blog tells me otherwise.

Roundup of Catholic Blogosphere Reaction to Pope’s Condom Comments

Monday, November 22, AD 2010

The Pope’s comments in an unauthorized excerpt release from Peter Seewald’s latest book, “Light of the World, The Pope, The Church and The Signs of the Times”, has caused quite a stir.

Basically he said, as an extreme example, if a male prostitute was to use a condom during sex, it was a step towards a better morality.

Pope Benedict wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra.

Nonetheless, the secular media, like clockwork, has declared that condoms are now allowed by all fornicators (not like dissident Catholics were following the teachings of the Church anyways).

So here is a short roundup of the better informed among us:

Pope Approves Restricted Use of Condoms? – M.J. Andrew, TAC

Understanding Pope’s Dilemma on Condoms – Jimmy Akin, NCRgstr

Condoms, Consistency, (mis)Communication – Thomas Peters, AmP

Pope Changed Church Condoms Teaching? – Q. de la Bedoyere, CH

A Vatican Condom Conversion? – Mollie, Get Religion

Pope: Condoms, Sex Abuse, Resignation & Movie Nights – John Allen

What The Pope Really Said About Condoms in New Book? – Janet Smith

Ginger Factor: Pope Approves of Condoms! – Jeff Miller, The Crt Jstr

The Pope and Condoms – Steve Kellmeyer, The Fifth Column

Condoms May Be ‘First Step’ In Moralization of Sexuality – Cth Herald

Pope Did Not Endorse the Use of Condoms – Fr. Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS?

Did Pope Change Teaching About Condoms? – Brett Salkeld, Vox Nova

(Hat tips:  The Pulpit & Henry Karlson)

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15 Responses to Roundup of Catholic Blogosphere Reaction to Pope’s Condom Comments

One Response to Pharoah Oprah

  • This bit was so funny and almost seems like it could be true. I know women who follow her every word. I’ll be glad when her show is off the air.

God the Servant

Sunday, November 21, AD 2010

The feast of Christ the King is one of my favorite in the liturgical year.  It reminds me powerfully, through the confusion of daily life, that God reigns and rules.  However, there are myriad other ways of looking at God, and one of the more unusual, and powerful, is courtesy of the patron saint of paradox, G. K. Chesterton, in his The Ballad of  the White Horse.

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Favorite Civil War Book

Sunday, November 21, AD 2010

The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth — not a different truth: the same truth — only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.

Shelby Foote

I know quite a few of our readers have a keen interest in the Civil War, and I am curious as to what their favorite Civil War books  are.  There are so many magnificent studies of the Civil War that I have read over the years, that I find the question difficult to answer.  However, I think pride of place for me is Shelby Foote’s magisterial three volume The Civil War:  A Narrative.  Written by a master novelist, Foote’s volumes are an epic recreation of the terrible conflict that made us, certainly more than any event since, what we are today.  That is my choice, what is yours?

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5 Responses to Favorite Civil War Book

  • Best Civil War work: “Lee’s Lieutenants” in 4 volumes by Lee’s greatest biographer and editor of the Richmond Times, Douglas Southall Freeman, an incredibly intricate yet simultaneously engrossing account of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days to Appomattox. Really brings out the personalities and events not just of the Confederate generals but of many of their opponents.

    Growing up though, what hooked me was Bruce Catton’s trilogy “The Coming Fury,” “Terrible Swift Sword,” and “Never Call Retreat.”

  • Ah Bruce Catton, Tom, the author who first got me interested in the Civil War as a child with his introduction to the American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War. I went on to devour everything he wrote on the Civil War with my favorite being the Army of the Potomac trilogy.

    Well thumbed copies of Lee’s Lieutenants and the magisterial R.E. Lee are among the most prized volumes in my Civil War collection. Lee’s Lieutenants I think is still the best command study of an army ever written.

  • As a digestable one volume history, “Battle Cry of Freedom” is pretty hard to beat. The “American Heritage History of the Civil War” has remarkable depictions of the battles that combine miniature painting and map making. The Golden Book version of that book is still one of my treasured possessions from my youth.

    As far as campaign books go, Wiley Sword’s “Embrace an Angry Wind” is magnificent. It chronicles the last offensive of the Army of Tennessee into its titular State before being demolished at Nashville. I regard John Bell Hood as one of the most tragic figures in American history on the strength of Sword’s account.

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  • Battle Cry of Freedom is probably the best one volume history since Fletcher Pratt’s in the Fifties. The maps in the American Heritage History of the Civil War helped make me a wargamer.

    I have never read Embrace An Angry Wind, although I have long been intending to purchase it. Hood’s last gasp offensive into Tennessee has long fascinated me, and, besides, I have never heard a more evocative title on a Civil War book. Recently on Almost Chosen People I had comments from a very nice group of Hood defenders:

    http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/the-yellow-rose-of-texas/

2 Responses to Lego Richmond Is A Hard Road To Travel

Thoughts on Health Care as a Right

Friday, November 19, AD 2010

As MJ posted yesterday, Pope Benedict was in the news this week in regards to health care this week. A couple things struck me as interesting about this article, and the debate that immediately sprang up around it here.

1. It’s Not All About US Politics

It’s not often that those in the Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter set get to rub their political opponents noses in something and play the, “You’re not a very good Catholic, are you?” game, so it’s hardly surprising if there’s been a bit of crowing in some circles. However, as is often the case, I think it’s a mistake to see this as primarily relating to recent US political struggles, much though Catholic Democrats would like to imagine that the pope is admonishing the USCCB for not supporting ObamaCare. Indeed, the pope’s sentiments should be rather castening to those of us in the developed world:

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41 Responses to Thoughts on Health Care as a Right

  • I think the distinction between the different types of right is useful. If it hadn’t been poisoned by how it is used in this country, the word entitlement is perhaps a better term than right. I.e., I have the right to do X, I am entitled to Y by the society I live in (whether by the government, churches, etc.).

    I also agree that this is not, nor should not be looked at as a chastisement of the current health care bill (I object to the term ObamaCare for two reasons, 1. it was written substantially by congress, and 2. large parts of it were based on Republican ideas for Health Care reform from the 1990s). Certainly, the Pope made clear that the right extended to unborn as well (Which was the key reason the Bishops opposed it.

    I do however, think that at least some of the Pope’s talk can and should be applied to the United States. In particular I object to your characterization of the Health Care debate in this country as being about “an insurance policy which absolutely guarantees that no matter what ails him, he will never have to pay more than he can comfortably afford out of pocket for state-of-the-art care”. I don’t know your personal history, but based on this statement, I can only conclude that you have never faced a major medical bill. Even something as basic as the birth of a child can cost $10,000 or more — even if there are no complications. Even with insurance (Which normally will pay 80% after the deductible… which would be applied both to mother and child), the bill can easily hit $3000.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but $3000 is beyond what I would consider comfortably affordable… particularly if it was for a medical emergency which is harder to plan for than the birth of a child. And remember this is with insurance. As the sole income earner of a young family, a $10,000 (pretty much the minimum I expect for a hospital stay without insurance) bill would exhaust my rainy day fund (You might think I should have saved more… but I invite you to find space in my budget to save more than I do), and require that I did into retirement and/or college savings.

    Of course, anything really serious, and the bill will run into the many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars (without insurance).

    To give a little example.

    My brother, who also happens now to be a priest, has lived in England for almost 20 years now. Before he entered the seminary, he was working in the sort of temporary job that doesn’t pay much, and in this country is unlikely to come with insurance. He found a lump. In this country, he may have put off going to get it checked out because of how much it would have cost; that decision would have cost him his life. The lump was cancer, and the English Medical system saved his life. I know the English “Socialized Medicine” is not a popular idea in the United States (by either the left or the right), but it not only saved my brother’s life, it saved the life of a future priest. Even if he had gotten it checked out in this country, he would have ended up deeply in debt (and likely taken out the savings of my parents, myself, and my other brother as we tried to help him as much as we could have!).

    Obtaining adequate health care is an issue in the United States, just as much as it is in the third world. Yes, the United States has better health care available, but in both, making it affordable to all is the basic challenge. I don’t know if going to a socialist approach to medicine is the answer (Though frankly, at the rate our society is aging, a large proportion of our population is already in a socialist system or soon will be), but I do know the current system is broken. We pay far more for health care than anyone else in the world, and yet many of our outcomes are worse than the rest of the industrialized world (which do have socialized medicine).

  • DarwinCatholic – I really enjoyed reading both your and MJ’s post/comments. I had a good laugh about the need on waiting for Pope Weigel’s analysis. That my friend is the best line of the day if not of the entire week. I need to re-read both posts so this entire dialog sinks in a little deeper. Truth be told I am a Hillbilly Thomist therefore I have more questions than a statement.

    Is health care a moral matter? Is the view of the Church or the Holy Father on this secular topic infallible? Can good Catholics disagree and still be faithful Catholics? What about the autonomy of the temporal order as it relates to this topic? Health care, at least the prudent application of it, falls in the role of the laity. To be sure we can agree to disagree at that juncture. I am not attempting to be herectical here either and that’s why I am asking questions.

  • Darwin,

    “Perhaps rather more central to the pope’s thoughts than these issues of American politics is the plight of people in the developing world who can’t get basic medicines and treatments which would cost only a few dollars per life saved.”

    You know, I don’t doubt this, but that makes the statements even LESS realistic. How on Earth can you declare a universal, inalienable right to a scarce resource! If it is scarce then not everyone can have it and anyone who does have it can lose it; if it isn’t scarce than no one needs to have a right to it.

    Here is ONE area I think the Pope and many libertarians can agree on – modify or get rid of intellectual property rights! It’s through that nonsense that more efficient producers in the third world have been barred from making cheap medicine because first world behemoths own the patents. We don’t need to declare more inalienable rights – we need to strip certain entities of the “right” to be rent-seeking parasites.

    And yes, there is a difference between active and passive rights. The language of natural law, of classical liberalism and of Pope Leo XIII had been active – you have a right to DO something, not necessarily to have something. Social democrats, American liberals, and I guess the modern Church now uses passive rights; you have the right to have something given to you. You have the right to some good or service.

    The only good or service that I think we recognize as a right – according to our Anglo-American heritage anyway – is to an attorney if we are arrested. And even that’s been problematic time and again. Public defenders are severely overworked, innocent people slip through the cracks because they didn’t get a good defense, state budgets can’t afford to lighten the load by hiring new people; yet everyone has a constitutional right and to counsel.

    Declaring things a right doesn’t help get them to people who need them. It creates a mess of problems instead. We should focus on abolishing the real obstacles between the world’s poor and the medical treatments they need – rent-seeking parasitism from the first world and a lack of respect for property rights and markets in the third world. The WTO has little to do with free trade; its regulations are a part of the problem too.

    http://mises.org/daily/1380

    I finally “get it.” Glad it happened before I turned 30.

  • Is health care a moral matter?

    Well, it has a deep moral dimension insofar as the Church teaches it is a basic right. It’s hard to deny that when the Church says it is derived (i.e., entailed by) the right to life and it describes the right as “basic” and “inalienable.” You are definitely correct that there is much prudential judgment involved in determining how best to fulfill that right. The moral dimension involves the obligation to fulfill and protect the right rather than the mode of fulfillment and protection.

    The Catholic view on rights is that they are BOTH negative/passive and active. They entail prohibitions and moral obligations of fulfillment.

    Is the view of the Church or the Holy Father on this secular topic infallible?

    Probably. The teaching was not issued via an exercise of extraordinary infallibility, but it’s hard to imagine the Church being wrong about a statement about a basic inalienable right. I see this very much along the same lines as the authority of the Church’s teaching on contraception.

    Supposing the Church is not infallible on this matter (i.e., the Church may be in error on a matter of basic human rights), it would still be an authoritative teaching. After all, infallible teaching and binding teaching are not extensionally equivalent (Lumen Gentium 25; First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ 3).

    Can good Catholics disagree and still be faithful Catholics?

    Probably not, since they would be challenging a moral teaching issued in a papal encyclical and continually affirmed by subsequent popes and bishops. This would not be the same as, say, challenging Leo XIII on the role that women are most suited by nature to fulfill.

    The Church’s doctrine of rights [iura] goes back at least to St. Isidore, and finds its fullest and most lucid formulations in Aquinas (which is why CST picked up Aquinas’ view). On this view, moral obligations toward others are derived from a set of basic, inalienable rights, so it would be odd to think that a Catholic can knowingly reject the Church’s position on a source of moral obligation and still be a “good Catholic.” I would say that those who deny that there is a right to access to adequate health care are either woefully ill-informed about the Catholic tradition on right (and reject the teaching on account of pride in one’s own learning and misunderstanding) or they are disposed to challenge the authority of the Church on moral matters. In either case, it’s hard for me to think of such a Catholic as a “good Catholic.”

  • You know there’s quite an irony here.

    I’ve been hearing from MJ since the beginning of this Locke debate that there is this really important difference between Locke and Aquinas – the position they take on the source of good; is it independent of God, or is it God’s will? I don’t think it has one darned thing to do with our debate, but I will say this: it is interesting to me that people who seem to me to be taking the position that we shouldn’t obey God’s will just because it’s God’s will are the first to argue that we should obey the Church’s teaching just because it’s the Church’s teaching.

    What happened to reason? What happened to “reasonableness” as this wonderful criteria for determining what we ought to do? What happened to declaring obedience to the will of a higher authority as “voluntarism”? All of this was at least implied in our discussions.

    I think this is a problem of language more than anything else. I think everyone with a conscience wants everyone who needs health care to have access to it. But I also think it is short-sighted to declare a tangible and scarce good an inalienable, universal right. That has implications that no society can prepare to meet.

    I’m sorry you don’t consider some of us “good Catholics.” But I would have been considered a bad one a long time ago for going to Latin Mass by the same people who shifted away from Leo’s understanding social teaching to this modern view. So I’ll just add one more thing to the list.

  • …Could he mean “right” the same way that my daughter has a “right” to me mothering her? It’s the right thing to do kind of “right”….

    Argh, English!

  • it is interesting to me that people who seem to me to be taking the position that we shouldn’t obey God’s will just because it’s God’s will are the first to argue that we should obey the Church’s teaching just because it’s the Church’s teaching.

    Did I say where I stand on the intellectualist/voluntarist debate? I have not counted myself publicly in either camp. All I have said is that this debate has enormous implications for the nature of rights and how they are to be understood, which is one of the main reasons Locke and Aquinas disagree on the nature of value, rights, and, more specifically, the right to property.

    But I also think it is short-sighted to declare a tangible and scarce good an inalienable, universal right. That has implications that no society can prepare to meet.

    So you are, after all, accusing Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessors Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, of “short-sightedness.” And, naturally, you do not suffer from such short-sightedness since you know better than to think that access to adequate health care is a right.

    As for scarcity, to my knowledge, there have been physicians dating back to the earliest civilizations. It appears you are confusing the difference between a right to something and the historically contingent availability of that something. Indeed, you are not the short-sighted one. Perhaps we can blame the Ludwig Von Mises Institute or Acton Institute for not having the answer you need for this.

    I have a right to life, which puts moral obligations on others in the form of prohibitions against killing and doing injury as well as positive duties to fulfilling that right. Now, imagine I am drowning in a lake and someone walks by. Do they not have a moral obligation to save me if they can? On the Church’s view, yes. But suppose now that there is no one to save me. It’s just me drowning in the lake. Do I suddenly have no right to life since there is such a scarcity of people available to save me? Of course not. The same is true in the case of all basic rights on the Church’s view. Wide availability of means for fulfillment is not a necessary condition for a basic right on the Church’s view. Incidentally, the same is true of libertarian negative rights; no informed libertarian would say that scarcity of means is an indication that there is no basic inalienable right.

    To help you with this, imagine another case. Suppose there is a time period in the world when virtually all the food has been consumed, material resources have been depleted and rendered unusable, and the earth is so polluted that we have no hope of growing crops or tending livestock anytime soon. Would this mean that, since there would be such a scarcity of private property, a tangible and scare good, a libertarian would say that there is not an inalienable right to private property? OF course not. Again, scarcity of means of fulfillment has no bearing whether there is a inalienable right.

    The place where you would need to argue against Pope Benedict XVI is where he derives the right to access to adequate health care from the right to life. That’s where the Pope is doing the work. Focusing on scarcity is a dead-end for the one wants to bring a case against the Pope’s “short-sightedness.”

  • I don’t so much want to argue with the right’s origins – I’ll accept that such a right exists if the Church really says so. What I cannot accept or understand are the utterly empty definitions provided by the Pope and other Bishops.

    The right is contentless. “Health care” can mean so many different things.

  • MJ,

    “So you are, after all, accusing Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessors Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, of “short-sightedness.”

    If they are saying what I think they are saying – but I’m not even 100% sure about that.

    “Perhaps we can blame the Ludwig Von Mises Institute or Acton Institute for not having the answer you need for this.”

    What insulting garbage. It’s sad you can’t argue without this. Pitiful.

    “I have a right to life, which puts moral obligations on others in the form of prohibitions against killing and doing injury as well as positive duties to fulfilling that right”

    That’s not all the right does, first of all. The right to property is a corollary of OUR obligation to preserve ourselves and others. But this does not mean a right to any particular thing, any scarce commodity. It is a right to obtain what need to live from nature by our labor or from the property of another through theft. But as RC points out, you may have a right to steal bread in order to live, but you don’t have a right to have bread continually supplied to you if you can support yourself through labor. It’s for extreme cases only.

    “But suppose now that there is no one to save me. It’s just me drowning in the lake. Do I suddenly have no right to life since there is such a scarcity of people available to save me? Of course not.”

    It’s you who obviously doesn’t understand what scarcity means. Let me put it to you this way: if by some magic health care wasn’t a scarce resource – meaning it could be produced in abundance to satisfy all demand – and we could declare it a positive right, you wouldn’t lose that right because for some reason it couldn’t be supplied to you. But no tangible good that is the product of human labor and subject to economic laws will ever be able to satisfy all demand. So to declare that EVERYONE has a positive right to it is short-sighted if there’s no way everyone can actually have it.

    The word “access” is perhaps where we are getting lost; theoretically everyone has as much a right to “access” health care where it is available, just as everyone has a right to the fruits of their labor and what they can obtain by exchanging those fruits for another thing. But to say it is a positive, universal, inalienable right almost always leads to the conclusion that someone or something must provide that thing for everyone. “Access” isn’t a scarce resource, fair enough. But the actual thing being accessed is.

    I suppose as long as we keep that in mind, no one has to disagree with what the Pope said. But no one EVER disputed “access” in the sense that people have a right to a service they can make a legitimate exchange for. So either this is saying nothing new at all, or it is saying something profoundly new.

    “Would this mean that, since there would be such a scarcity of private property, a tangible and scare good, a libertarian would say that there is not an inalienable right to private property? OF course not.”

    So then the Pope is agreeing with the libertarian view of rights? Ok, sounds good to me. There is an inalienable right to property, including health care, which you have to exchange your property in order to get, but not a positive one. When you combine those two, on the other hand, you get the argument that it is immoral for a person NOT to have health care, even if they have the right to “access” it but can’t because they can make no legitimate exchange. That’s how I see it.

    So to be clear, its this view I am calling short-sighted. I’m not even sure that is the pope’s view, because it was you and not he who said “positive right.”

  • Lets look at an example to illustrate my point: the right to counsel. It is one of the few – it may be the only, in fact – positive rights in our entire theory of rights in the Anglo-American tradition. Everyone has the right to have a lawyer appointed to them if they are arrested and charged with a crime.

    In practice, we’ve seen individual states’ public defenders offices come to the point of bankruptcy and collapse; overburdened defenders get spread out among too many clients, innocent people going to jail because their defender was taxed to the limit, and the modern notion of the right to due process could be put in jeopardy if we continue along this path.

    I don’t know what constitutional implications a fiscal impossibility of providing free counsel to all would entail, but it is clear that the mentality that issues forth from declaring something to be a positive right is that the government has to provide it. And that’s the short-sightedness of which I speak, since it ends up actually depriving people in some cases of their rights. Same with broken down national healthcare systems.

    These are, in other words, economic questions. They are technical problems that cannot be resolved with decrees.

  • Just a small quibble here, Joe. A couple times now you’ve written something like this: “But as RC points out, you may have a right to steal bread in order to live, but you don’t have a right to have bread continually supplied to you if you can support yourself through labor.”

    It’s technically incorrect to describe a man who takes bread from another in this situation as “stealing” or “thieving” the bread. His particular condition, combined with the universal destination of property, entail that in such situations there is no stealing at all. (Aquinas’ and Leo’s position is not that in some instances stealing is morally legitimated; it is that in some cases the taking of another’s property isn’t stealing at all.)

  • WJ,

    It is a quibble. I get your point, but what are we supposed to call the act? “Appropriation by means other than labor?” Distinctions need to be made because of the different circumstances. And it helps if we can sum them up in one word. There is labor, and there is…. what? Taking?

  • “Justice in health care should be a priority of governments and international institutions”

    If health care is dependent upon the UN, I predict the return of Theodoric of York:

    http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/23497313

  • If access to health care is indeed an inalienable human right, then our first priority ought to be doing what we can to get health care to the people MOST in need of it — that is, the Third World peoples who die from treatable conditions and diseases. There are, of course, many people already working on this via medical missions, etc.

    One thing people who are in a position to help (i.e. medical R&D people, physicians themselves, pharma companies, etc.) absolutely cannot do is turn our backs on people like the children dying of cholera in Haiti on the grounds that it’s not our problem, or on the Rushian grounds that we “already gave” to help these people through our taxes. Nor should we, needless to say, be stocking Third World clinics with condoms when they could really use antibiotics, vaccines, and reasonably up to date medical and surgical equipment.

    What I hear the pope saying is that the right of the least of our brothers and sisters not to die or be disabled for life due to easily preventable diseases is a universal, i.e., Catholic, concern. With those needs in mind, I’d say fixing the imperfect but still basically functional healthcare system in the U.S. and Europe might be a bit lower on the priority scale.

  • It is regrettable that the Pope used the term “right” in relation to a person’s ability to obtain health care. Health care cannot be a basic human right because it requires the actions of at least one other person – the rights we have from God are individual, not collective. We all have a moral obligation to ensure that everyone in our society has adequate health care, housing and food – but moral obligations are strictly voluntary. Everyone is perfectly free to be a rat bastard about such things – though, of course, there will come a time when the real Judge will ask for an accounting. I ascribe the use of such terminology as “right” in relation to health care to the Pope’s European background, where such things as government health care are so entirely embedded in society that only deep and long thought on the matter by an European would allow a different conclusion.

    The truth is that the more government provides, the more anti-life government becomes – because the ultimate business of government is not human needs, but power and wealth. If our governments could be staffed entirely by saints, we would have a different circumstance and could safely turn over all decisions to them – but as we simply won’t get that, our only safety in the long run – the only way to have a society of life rather than a Culture of Death – is to strictly limit government’s roll in our lives.

    Now, that being said, there is quite a lot government can do to help ensure that people have basic health care, housing and food – but the best means of doing this is to simply use a surplus in one area to help a dearth in others, and to allow local groups – especially those attached to the Church and other religious bodies – to distribute what is needed to those who are in need (what this boils down to is that wealthy areas like New York would provide things for poor areas like Detroit…but rather than having a person in New York decide what to do, it would be people in Detroit making the call).

    People need help, but government must be limited – if we fail to help or allow government to get too large, we have failed in our moral duty. Striking a balance is what is necessary, and that is what I read in the Pope’s statement.

  • I was too quick to imply that the Pope was short-sighted. It was what I was absolutely certain that every Catholic socialist was going to get out of it that I was reacting to.

  • Maryland Bill,

    In particular I object to your characterization of the Health Care debate in this country as being about “an insurance policy which absolutely guarantees that no matter what ails him, he will never have to pay more than he can comfortably afford out of pocket for state-of-the-art care”. I don’t know your personal history, but based on this statement, I can only conclude that you have never faced a major medical bill. Even something as basic as the birth of a child can cost $10,000 or more — even if there are no complications. Even with insurance (Which normally will pay 80% after the deductible… which would be applied both to mother and child), the bill can easily hit $3000.

    As it happens, I’ve paid for the birth of five children over the last seven years — the first two via insurance (with one of those dreaded HMOs, Kaiser, the cost out of pocket was $500 total) and other three out of pocket via a midwife because our insurance didn’t cover midwifery. We’re not rich, so this was certainly a financial difficulty. But given that food, shelter and medical care are the three major expenses necessary to keep body and soul together in this world, I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate that paying for health care be similar in cost to paying for life’s other necessities. I certainly agree as to the necessity of insurance to cover truly catastrophic expenses, such as the experiences our family has had with cancer, in which insurance came very much in handy. But at the same time I think that an excessive reliance on insurance for normal expenses (and I’d consider a normal birth to be a normal expense) is one of the things which has allowed the cost of health care to become so absurd.

    Most of the world would find it almost impossible to imagine getting the level of care that Americans get from a normal HMO — I don’t think we should be shocked at the idea of having to give up some of our wealth (again, rather staggering from a global point of view) in return. There are certainly advantages in certain cases to a system such as that of the UK — but there are also very clear reasons why it is that one’s life expectancy with heart disease or cancer under their system is lower than one’s life expectancy under the US system, individual examples not withstanding.

    So while I certainly think that there are things which could be done better in the US system, I don’t think that we have something so obscenely impossible or expensive that we’re entitled to get worked up about our “rights” being denied.

    Joe,

    How on Earth can you declare a universal, inalienable right to a scarce resource! If it is scarce then not everyone can have it and anyone who does have it can lose it; if it isn’t scarce than no one needs to have a right to it.

    Well, primarily because I don’t think that by calling something an inalienable right the pope means that it must be provided “free” to everyone or that it magically shows up on its own. (That would indeed be pretty silly.) The Pope also talks about a right to food and water and shelter at times — but no one imagines that these are provided without work or without pay, and in all but the most backward and desperately poor countries, they are not generally distributed by the government. They’re produced and paid for by most people on their own, and provided by society to the few who are not able to get their own or receive help from more immediate institutions such as family, church, clan, etc. I would assume the his discussion of health care is in the same area.

    MJ,

    Maybe I’m off, but it seems to me that talking about “inalienable rights” is at best an attempt to translate Church moral teaching into the terms of secular modern discussion (of a European variety, in this case) so I guess I’m unclear what it would mean to say that the Church teaches infallibly that something is or is not a basic human right. It seems more like this is a case of the pope saying something which has been understood by Catholics for a very long time in a new and less clear fashion in an attempt to fit it in with the terminology which modern people normally use.

  • Perhaps this would help clarify thing: It seems to me that one of the basic moral issues at play in the Terri Shaivo case was the refusal of her husband to provide her with the food and water to which she had a basic human right.

    This doesn’t mean that everyone has a right to unlimited free food, but the human person cannot live without food and water, and thus it is (in that use of the term) a basic right. That she was denied this right was clearly wrong (and resulted in her death.)

  • Darwin,

    “Well, primarily because I don’t think that by calling something an inalienable right the pope means that it must be provided “free” to everyone or that it magically shows up on its own. ”

    If it doesn’t mean that, then no one has ever disagreed with this sentiment, from the most radical anarcho-libertarians to the most statist-socialists. I don’t even see why it needs to be said. “Inalienable” means you can’t give it away or have it taken from you; you cannot “alienate” it.

    But if its something you have to make a legitimate exchange for – if it isn’t free, like the right to counsel (“if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you”) – then it IS alienable. You can buy it and you can sell it.

    It’s just like saying you have a right to what you can afford, what you can make a legitimate exchange for. That means I have as much a right to health care as I do a new video game or anything else that isn’t blatantly immoral or harmful to the common good (like hard drugs or child porn). No one can rightfully deny me access to Best Buy, and absolutely no one is arguing that people who have the means to afford health care could or should ever be denied it.

    You see, what commies and social democrats mean when they say everyone has a right “access” to health care is that it has to be made available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. What libertarians mean is that society should look for ways to lower costs so that more people can afford it, and it usually involves getting rid of regulation and bureaucracy. This is an economic problem and a technical problem. Everyone wants everyone to have access to health care. But everyone disagrees on how to provide it. So this statement – the way you’ve presented it in your last comment – is meaningless.

  • “Did you think that money was Heaven sent?”

    I am abjectly uninformed and rapidly approaching senility (Thank God!).

    It appears . . . We all have repented of our sins; gone to Confession; done penance; amended our lives; and through GOOD WORKS glorify Almighty God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior (True God and True Man) in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor for ever and ever. We are all daily praying the Rosary and contemplatng/meditating on the Mysteries of our Redemption . . .

    I am probably wrong.

    Anyhow, Bastiat, “The state is that fictional thing wherein everyone lives off of everyone else.” Or, something like that.

  • It is regrettable that the Pope used the term “right” in relation to a person’s ability to obtain health care. Health care cannot be a basic human right because it requires the actions of at least one other person – the rights we have from God are individual, not collective.

    This is not quite right. While a right is, indeed, something held by an individual, a right entails obligations for others (on this point, Joe and I are in full agreement, though he uses the term “corollary” for that relation while I use “entailment”). Aquinas’ discussion of rights is embedded in his Treatise on Prudence and Justice. Justice, he says, is a virtue that always involves interpersonal relationships. Rights, which are a key aspect of justice, therefore always involve interpersonal relationships. To use your words, a right, indeed, “requires the actions of at least one other person.” It makes no sense to speak of rights or justice without also speaking of the actions required by others to protect, respect, or fulfill that right.

  • “It makes no sense to speak of rights or justice without also speaking of the actions required by others to protect, respect, or fulfill that right.”

    I might add to that, “…to the extent possible in a fallen world without violating other rights.”

    That I think would fully encompass CST.

  • Joe,

    If it doesn’t mean that, then no one has ever disagreed with this sentiment, from the most radical anarcho-libertarians to the most statist-socialists. I don’t even see why it needs to be said. “Inalienable” means you can’t give it away or have it taken from you; you cannot “alienate” it.

    But if its something you have to make a legitimate exchange for – if it isn’t free, like the right to counsel (“if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you”) – then it IS alienable. You can buy it and you can sell it.

    It’s just like saying you have a right to what you can afford, what you can make a legitimate exchange for. That means I have as much a right to health care as I do a new video game or anything else that isn’t blatantly immoral or harmful to the common good (like hard drugs or child porn).

    Honestly, I’m not sure what’s meant by inalienable in this case — among other things I’d be curious to know what words the pope actually used, as I imagine he didn’t write in English. But in your response here it seems to me that there must be some middle ground between a something being always and everywhere free, and something being a good which is sought via exchange which it’s not anyone else’s concern whether you have or not.

    Let’s start with food, and posit that there is something or other called a right to food. It seems to me that this does mean that if I live in a community and I have plenty of food and fungible resources, and there are also people in the community who, for whatever reason, are unable to get sufficient food to stay alive and basically healthy, this becomes my problem. This is because nourishment and water and basic human necessities to which people have a “right” in some sense.

    Now, at the same time, I don’t think that admitting this means in any way that no one should ever have to pay for food or drink. Indeed, I think clearly people should pay for food and drink pretty much all of the time — in all circumstances except those in which it’s virtually impossible for them to provide for themselves. And what is provided to them by others does not necessarily have to be top notch — it may be the duty of society to make sure that those who lack get a basic amount of bread and meat and dairy and drinking water — but that doesn’t mean they owe them filet mignon or artisan breads or imported wines or even soda. Things which are luxuries beyond the level of necessity are things one clearly needs to get for oneself. Nor, I think, is there any necessity that some sort of social dole give everyone “basic food” when most people are much happier getting their own better food with their own earnings.

    Now, on the other hand, if someone comes to me and says, “There are some poor people in your community who don’t have the money to buy Tour Of Duty 5 at Best Buy,” I may or may not decide that this is something that I want to personally help out with, but it’s clearly not something to which anyone has a “right” in this sense. If someone comes by saying he wants to set up a government program to provide everyone with video games, I’m well within my moral rights to tell him to sod off.

    Now, I think the thing that becomes problematic when you figure out what to do in this regard with health care is that in this day and age it is possible to do so much in regards to health care if one is willing to spend nearly unlimited amounts of money. It seems to me that there are good and realistic ways to see that everyone in society has access to the sort of basic medical treatments which make our life expectancy so much higher today than it was 100 years ago without breaking the budget in any way — while leaving most people responsible for paying for most or all of their care. Just as we don’t feel that we need to have everyone get food stamps, I don’t see that we need to have everyone in some sort of government health care system. And I think that the attempts to put everyone into one are mostly a cynical power play cloaked in progressive language — a program which everyone relies on gives you a lot more power than one that only helps the truly needy.

    But at the same time, no one (including the Church) seems to have managed to come up with a very clear idea of what we do in a situation in which there are almost always additional medical treatments available which have at least some small chance of making a condition better — but the cost is so high that it is clearly impossible to provide such a level of care to everyone.

  • If it isn’t clear, then the Church shouldn’t be making such pronouncements. It doesn’t help to say that everyone “has a right to access health care”, because the word “access” can mean different things.

    Does it mean no one can deny you access? If so, then I agree, and so does virtually everyone else. There are some people who would deny even emergency care to illegal immigrants, but that’s a radical position. Everyone has a right to “access” that which they need to live.

    The question is how one “accesses” this thing. Do they have to make an exchange for it, or do they have it provided for them? Well I think we agree that people who can pay, should. And if we can bring down costs, more people will then have access. But that’s unacceptable to social democrats, who don’t trust the market, and who conflate the absence of the technical means to provide everyone with a thing with the absence of a WILL to do it.

    Supply and demand works; command economies don’t. But no system can provide everything that everyone needs to live; that is why the right to these things is an individual right that follows from a law that all individuals (and not societies) are bound to obey – the law of self-preservation. Our right to property is nothing more than a corollary of our obligation to live.

    If given the chance, technology + markets will deliver to people who demand them the goods and services that they need. Get rid of the rent-seeking conglomerates, modify patent laws so that some company can’t buy a patent on cheap medicines and never use it or allow anyone else to, get rid of any protections or subsidies that hinder the flow of medical goods and services, let people who have the ability and the will to mass-produce them deliver them to those who have need of them. That’s how you will have the most people have the most access, and that’s what we want.

    But if it means they have to have these things provided for them, free of charge, then this is totally destructive to the common good. National healthcare was a luxury of Europe’s post-war arrangement with the US. We rebuilt their shattered society with the Marshall Plan, we shouldered the vast majority of their defense needs, and they had extra resources to play around with. That deal is over. Add to that the fact that their collapsed birth rates mean that fewer and fewer people put into the system than take from it. The fiscal burdens of these programs are unsustainable in the long run.

    Statism doesn’t work. And that’s part of what makes it immoral. If it did work would still be immoral if it violated man’s natural rights. But it doesn’t work, partially because it does violate his rights. It attempts to do by sheer force what is better done by initiative and mutual cooperation. It is artificial, invasive, reactionary, narrowly focused and economically calamitous.

  • A couple of hard sayings which should be put into the discussion:
    Our Lord: “The poor will always be with you”.
    St. Paul: “Who does not work will not eat”.

    It has always seemed to me that discussions about charity fail to realize that charity is a personal virtue. No amount of government aid will replace the virtuousness of charity, which is to say, our obligation.

    There is a reason why Death Panels were included [and will always be included] in such as the latest legislation. It is a question of money. What limits are to be imposed on the expenses of treatment?

  • MJ,

    Which is why I put it as “regrettable” rather than “wrong”. In moral terms, if I came across you starving in the snow, you would have a right to expect that I, as a moral person, would pull you out of it and give you at least sufficient to prevent death. But you have no right to compel me to do so – even God doesn’t take that office; its purely voluntary.

    Far too many things are classed as rights in our modern society, and very mistakenly. Our entire world view is deformed by a series of lies which have been presented with such force and persistence that hardly any one is willing to challenge the underlying lies. In order for us to come to correct conclusions, the underlying data must be correct – to speak of a fundamental right to health care plays too well in to the hands of those who wish to compel us to do things which are going to be counter-productive.

    Remember, right now the Church is battling those who would use the health care law to compel Catholic hospitals to provide abortion and birth control. If health care is a right, then abortion is a right – so goes the thinking of the Culture of Death. Great care needs to be taken that we on the side of life provide no hand hold for the Culture of Death.

  • A couple of hard sayings which should be put into the discussion:
    Our Lord: “The poor will always be with you”.
    St. Paul: “Who does not work will not eat”.

    Context, context, context.

    Christ said this to Judas (John 12), who objected to costly perfumed oil being used on Jesus just before the Last Supper. Judas objected that the oil could be sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus, knowing that Judas did not care for the poor, told him that the poor will always be there for ministry, but that Jesus would not always be with them. The insinuation is that even if oil had not been used on Jesus, Judas would never care about giving money to the poor. The context of this line is Jesus’ preparation for his death. It surely has nothing to do with saying that there must be poor
    among us or that there will always be poor people.

    St. Paul (2 Thess 3) is admonishing the Christians at Thessaloniki to avoid being busy bodies and involving themselves in others affairs. The ones who “refuse to work” are the ones who are acting disorderly, involving themselves in the affairs of others rather than being willing to”work quietly and to eat their own food.” Paul tells the Thessalonians to “shun” these individuals and not to keep table with them (recall that St. Paul is insistent throughout his letters that Christians should not share table with those who mock the faith or live immoral lives). For Paul, a Jewish Christian, sharing meals was an intimate affair reserved for family. In the context of faith, that would be the brethern in Christ. What Paul certainly is not making is a statement about labor, wages, and food supplies.

    It has always seemed to me that discussions about charity fail to realize that charity is a personal virtue. No amount of government aid will replace the virtuousness of charity, which is to say, our obligation.

    Bear in mind that Aquinas, whose treatment of justice was adopted by the Church, treats Charity and Justice separately. The latter treatment involves the basic rights of individuals and the moral obligations that fulfill/respect those rights. On Aquinas’ and the Church’s view, fulfilling/respecting the basic rights of individuals is a matter of justice primarily, and society is charged with solving those co-ordination problems that violate these rights. As Christians, we are called to go above beyond this minimum, which would be by why of charity.

    There is a reason why Death Panels were included [and will always be included] in such as the latest legislation. It is a question of money. What limits are to be imposed on the expenses of treatment?

    If a “Death Panel” is that panel of persons who determines whether or not to allocate monetary resources for medical treatment, then “Death Panels” are not a problem with “the latest legislation.” On your view, my health insurance carrier has got its own “Death Panel” that decides how much and to whom monetary resources will be distributed. The “who pays” question is tricky one that plaques private and public health care systems.

  • But you have no right to compel me to do so – even God doesn’t take that office; its purely voluntary.

    If by “compel” you mean “force,” then you’re right: God probably won’t causally force you to perform your duty. But neither would a government that legally obligates you to discharge your duty. One thing is probably certain: God and/or the government will punish you for not discharging your duty. So really, your point here is irrelevant when it comes to determining what rights individuals have and which moral obligations are entailed by those rights.

    Far too many things are classed as rights in our modern society, and very mistakenly.

    Agreed. But what criteria are we to use to determine what are rights and what are not rights? I think the Church, who is the leading authority on moral questions, provides good criteria.

    In order for us to come to correct conclusions, the underlying data must be correct – to speak of a fundamental right to health care plays too well in to the hands of those who wish to compel us to do things which are going to be counter-productive.

    But this certainly would not mean that such a right does not exist. This is a lot like Joe’s point on scarcity; scarcity of means and possible misinterpretations are irrelevant as to whether or not there is a right to something. Rights, since they are part of our nature and necessarily flow from the value of our nature, are prior to any contingent events in the world, such as scarcity of means or government coercion.

    If health care is a right, then abortion is a right – so goes the thinking of the Culture of Death. Great care needs to be taken that we on the side of life provide no hand hold for the Culture of Death.

    Agreed. Yet, part of taking “great care” is speaking the truth about human nature and value. Downplaying or disavowing an inalienable right would not be proclaiming the truth about human dignity.

  • MJ,

    “Rights, since they are part of our nature and necessarily flow from the value of our nature, are prior to any contingent events in the world, such as scarcity of means or government coercion.”

    Let’s just cut the crap.

    If “right to access” means obligation to make affordable to all, then we are obliged to consider scarcity; it has a direct bearing on whether or not any number of people can actually access that to which they have a right.

    If “right to access” means obligation to provide for all regardless of cost, then we’ve entered la-la land and are insisting upon the impossible.

    It costs governments and societies NOTHING to recognize natural rights, and a little more to protect them, and that is why scarcity doesn’t apply to them. My right to property isn’t contingent upon the availability of property, but it doesn’t oblige the government to provide me with it. In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII says that it would be good if governments would find ways to encourage more widespread property ownership. But nowhere does he say that the right to property entails a societal or governmental obligation to provide everyone with property. It only means that you have a claim to what is RIGHTFULLY yours – that which you earn by your labor, or in extreme cases, you take from another without their consent.

    The same with healthcare. If an “inalienable right” to healthcare does not oblige governments to provide it – as it would appear to do if it is also a “positive right” – then I agree, there is an inalienable right to health care that could just as well be subsumed under the right to private property. There would be no need to single out health care as a specific right.

    And if we find that people are without it in large numbers, and we want to rectify that situation – which is clearly what the pope wants, and what we all want – then it is the naming of it or unnaming of it as a right that is irrelevant, while its scarcity is of the utmost relevance.

  • If “right to access” means obligation to make affordable to all, then we are obliged to consider scarcity; it has a direct bearing on whether or not any number of people can actually access that to which they have a right.

    I don’t think the “obligation” is specified as “make affordable to all.” Rather, access to health care could be instantiated in many different ways. You are correct that one particular instantiation (e.g., affordable health care) would then take into account scarcity. But it is not true that scarcity need to be considered when discussing the right itself, whose corresponding obligations might have several instantiations, some of which would not involve scarcity.

  • Ok. Let me just ask: which “instantiations” would not involve scarcity?

  • Ok. Let me just ask: which “instantiations” would not involve scarcity?

    Like when we consider the putative right to private property, we admit that there is scarcity of all material goods and, consequently, the arts that make use of those material goods (e.g., manufacturing, medicine), insofar as matter is finite and limited. But I think you and I agree that this necessary scarcity is not what you are focusing on, since it would provide the same dilemma for a putative right to private property (and, note well, I am not thinking of a right to any specific thing, like that piece of baguette or that Toyota Corolla).

    The putative right to private property is a general, unspecified right whose fulfillment can come by why of prohibition of acts that violate it (when it is considered as a negative/passive right) or by way of some positive act (when it is considered as an active right). The putative right needs some content, which is to say that the individual does not exercise this general right until the individual takes into possession some material thing (let’s leave aside for now things like “intellectual property”). That material thing would be an instantiation of private property. Whatever that material things is, say, a blue Honda VTX1800, is a specification of that instantiation. The act by which you acquired the VTX, say, by purchasing it, would be a particular instantiation of a positive action whereby you exercise your right. The regime of private property and the market in the United States would be specific instantiations of fulfilling/protecting your right to private property in general, and the possession of your VTX specifically.

    You do not have a right to a blue Honda VTX1800. You have a putative right to private property, and the possession of the VTX would be an instantiation of that. The regime of private property in the U.S. would be an instantiation of an act of protecting/fulfilling your right. VTX1800 is a scarce good–there just aren’t enough produced to go around to everyone who wants them. Further, our regime of private property operates by and large on money and credit, and these are themselves scarce and limited. So, again, there is no individual right to a Honda VTX1800, but there is, on your view, an individual right to private property in a general, non-specific sense. Now, the regime of private property in the US is one many different imaginable instantiations of measures to protect/fulfill your right to private property, and this regime is a contingent, historical arrangement. Further, that Honda VTX1800 is a contingent, historical product. Neither it nor the US regime of private property are necessary, whereas your putative right to private property, like every historical human being’s putative right to private property, is, you would grant, a necessary aspect of being human. The scarcity of Honda VTX1800s or any specified thing has no bearing on your general right to private property, just as whether there is a coordinated market system for exchange like the one in the U.S. has no bearing on your general right to private property. Your right is prior to specific things and regimes that protect it. We can imagine other instantiations of the exercise of your putative right, the way it is protected/fulfilled, and the system in which these actions take place.

    Now move to health care. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we agree that there is an individual right to access to adequate health care. So you have an individual right to health care, and that right is a general right. You have no more right to a specified treatment, such as a CAT scan, than you do to a specified thing like a Honda VTX1800. Like the right to private property, you do not have a right to any specific medical product or treatment. The exercise of your right to health care, like in the case of the putative right to private property, takes place historically within contingent arrangements, techniques, and products. Now, the fact that health care in, say, the U.S. today, is market-based, privatized, and rendered by way of money or credit is purely contingent. Health care in the U.S. (like in the U.S. regime of private property) is embedded in a purely contingent system, and within that system money and credit are scarce and limited. Moreover, the specific advanced technologies that are used are themselves scare and limited. But who says that health care can only be instantiated in such ways? We can imagine arrangements for health care that do not look like this, and we can find real, historical arrangements that did not look like this. The scarcity that you and I are talking about is not built-in to a general notion of health care. Surely we can think of alternative means of health care that do not utilize the same arrangements, treatments, and tools as, say, Westernized health systems do, and we can imagine exchange systems that are not arranged in the same way as that in which U.S. health care is embedded. Adequate health care ranges in its instantiations from, say alternative medicine to the business model of health care. If you want me to say that CAT scan machines and hospitals are scarce, then you got it. They’re scarce. But what has this contingent fact to do with a right to access to adequate health care that is general and necessarily flows from the right to life?

    By “health care” we should not focus on any one historical instantiation of a health care system and how access to it is given. By “adequate” we should not think that this means entitlement to every single state-of-the-art treatment, technique, and rehabilitation there is.

    Now, going back to instantiations, if the current health care system in the U.S. is so arranged that it has created scarcity of services, instruments, etc., then it is, indeed, a special challenge for it to meet the right to access to adequate health care. But the scarcity issues is a problem of that specific instantiation of health care, not a problem for the right that is prior to any concrete arrangement.

    A bigger, related question is: Where do we find the notion of right, be it in Aquinas, Locke, or any major rights thinker, involving scarcity? In other words, do any of these thinkers say anything implicitly or explicitly about scarcity of means of fulfillment being a defeasor of rights claims?

  • MJ,

    “The scarcity of Honda VTX1800s or any specified thing has no bearing on your general right to private property”

    Right. That’s exactly what I said in the last post:

    “My right to property isn’t contingent upon the availability of property, but it doesn’t oblige the government to provide me with it.”

    All the right to private property entails is that I have a right to that which I produce by my labor, and to things produced by the labor of others by legitimate exchange under normal circumstances, and “theft” under extreme circumstances, and that the government has an obligation to protect my property and to not prosecute me when I break the civil law against theft in order to fulfill my natural obligation to live.

    No one can produce health care solely by their own labor. They either have to exchange for it, receive it as a free gift, or steal it (or have someone steal it for them). Which of these a person has a right to do depends entirely upon their circumstances. A person who isn’t dying and who isn’t living below subsistence level has no right to petition the government to steal from others to provide them with it, or accept what amounts to stolen property.

    All I want to know is, and all I care about is, what this “right to access health care” obligates or does not obligate government to do, whether it obligates it to plunder from the rich to give to the poor, or whether it obligates it to stop catering to special interests and allow the market to work. The right has to have some implication for the actions of government, which is charged with the protection of natural rights.

    But to say health care is a POSITIVE right creates in the minds of many a government obligation to provide it to everyone, in the same way everyone has a right to a lawyer (and that doesn’t work either). It means someone’s gotta give it.

    This doesn’t work because healthcare is a scarce resource, and because it is wrong to so grossly violate property rights. Scarcity matters IF it is a government obligation to provide health care for everyone, if that is what this right entails. And it matters still regardless of whether we are talking about CAT scans or tongue depressors – they all have costs, they are not infinite. It matters whether the scheme is a “Western” one or a Chinese one, since no treatments are going to be made without scarce resources unless they involve nothing but prayer. Acupuncture needles have costs as surely as MRI’s, and even they can’t be distributed without cost.

    The bottom line is this: Government obligation to provide + scarcity = bloated budgets, deficits, more borrowing, more inflation, fiscal instability, rationed care, decline in quality, and so on. To maintain a universal, inalienable, positive “right” to health care in such an environment, under such a mandate, is to invite social calamity.

    But if we agree that the inalienable right to health care doesn’t mean that the government is obliged to provide it, then I suppose we have no disagreement.

    But if it doesn’t mean that, then I don’t even see why it needs to be declared a right. It can be subsumed under general property rights. Where there is a demand, people will use their property rights to produce a supply and earn a profit.

    Think about it this way: the natural right to property doesn’t mean that the government has an obligation to provide everyone with property (if it did then we would have to consider its scarcity – and none of the great thinkers considered scarcity because they didn’t understand the right to property as entailing a government obligation to provide it), but it DOES mean that the government has an obligation under the social contract to PROTECT it.

    Now if health care is a natural, inalienable right, that would mean that governments are obliged to protect it too. How would they do this? What would this look like, assuming that protection does not = providing? Nothing more than protecting your right to make a legitimate exchange of the product of your labor for health care goods and services, or to receive emergency care if you are in danger of death regardless of your ability to pay. And no one contests this or denies it, or at least few do (and those that do aren’t going to be writing policy any time soon). It protects this right in the same way and for the same reason it protects your right to any other good or service.

    So what purpose does isolating and singling-out health care serve? If we want to prioritize health care because it is a right and people don’t have it, a government mandate isn’t going to deliver, even though people assume that this is what the right entails. If the goal is to get as many people health care as possible, then we don’t need to declare it a right, we just need to make its production and distribution more efficient.

    And it seems to me that is the goal of these declarations – to impress upon people the urgency of the problem, which wasn’t even considered in the past. All of the sudden this inalienable right to this specific thing springs up?

    You bring up the example of the medieval doctor – everyone had a right to access his limited time and resources. Ok. Well everyone has a right to access any doctor today. So nothing’s changed there. But that medieval doctor was supported by his lord. Today’s doctors aren’t. They sink or swim on their own, unless the government is paying for them. But unless we want medical care to sink back down to medieval standards, we’d better figure out a way to get off that.

    The real problem is that we now live in a society in which some people have adequate and more than adequate health care, while others go without. But rather than seeing the glass as half-full and encouraging the process by which it came to be so, social democrats see it as half-empty and want to arrest that process, which they think can’t fill the glass. That’s what it comes down to.

    And now we come to this:

    “Neither it nor the US regime of private property are necessary”

    That’s what you said. And I accept that, only because I don’t even think that the US has an acceptable “regime of private property” entirely in accord with our natural rights. It’s just not as grossly in violation of them, yet, as the EU or Canada is.

    But the pope, I realize, is speaking to a world audience. And in some places “right to” means “right to have someone give it to me for nothing”, whereas in other places it means “right to acquire it through my labor.” I’ve spent a lot of time around socialists, and a lot of time around libertarians. I know what those words mean to them.

    So what are we talking about?

  • Let me go at it from yet another perspective.

    There is a natural right that places an obligation on others to provide something for someone else: children have a natural right to the property of their parents. Parents have an obligation to provide for their children. They don’t just protect their child’s right to provide for themselves as the government does for adults; the have to actually provide FOR them.

    So unless the government is to become our mother and our father – which is the goal of all commies and pinkos – then this obligation can’t exist under natural law.

  • Why would you need to define a right to health care if all it means is that no one can stop you from accessing it?

    Are some people denied adequate health care by something other than a lack of resources and money?

  • “Are some people denied adequate health care by something other than a lack of resources and money?”

    Well, aren’t residents of some Third World countries denied health care (as well as food, water, shelter, and a means to make a living) by the action or inaction of their corrupt and oppressive governments?

  • Why would you need to define a right to health care if all it means is that no one can stop you from accessing it?

    Wait, there are places doing that– I seem to remember some fairly high profile ones where children deemed terminal wouldn’t be released into their family’s custody, but they wouldn’t be treated, either.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were policies in place to forbid even basic treatment of some folks, since we are in the same world where the Church had to point out that “offer water to drink” isn’t medical treatment.

  • Good point Foxfier. Elaine, too.

    Maybe the Pope is talking to these issues?

  • The reason why medical expenditures are through the roof is because of federal mandates to begin with. Get the government out of our medical care is essential to a free market system. That and the 10th Amendment never gave government the authority to regulate in such matters.

    Want costs to go down? Get rid of unconstitutional government intervention.

  • Though limited resources may play a role in providing a right and thus limiting what can be done. From the Pope:

    “Because an individual’s health is a “precious asset” to society as well as to himself, governments and other agencies should seek to protect it by “dedicating the equipment, resources and energy so that the greatest number of people can have access.”

    Note the Pope does not say that “all people” have access but rather the “greatest number.” This is quite consistent with CST and not just because the Pope said it here. This is clearly an aspect of CST. CST is not a utopian project where “inalienable right” necessarily translates into “must be provided.” CST takes into account human, economic and political realities including limits in human knowledge, redistributive efforts and resources. CST accepts that provision of rights will not necessarily be universal even if the right applies to all.

  • I think there are several take home messages. First, that there are numerous principles of CST. Understanding those principles in their totality is difficult and at times not clearly defined even by the Church. That doesn’t mean we don’t seek to apply them but that Catholics may disagree on their application.

    Principles like subsidiarity and solidarity are cornerstones of CST. They are supplemented by principles such as the right to private property and the preferential option for the poor. Neither of the latter two are absolute in that property and the preferential option for the poor must be in accord with the common good. If these goods threaten the good of others then there can be reasonable limits placed. (Thus another reason why rights in the Church, which do not appear to generally be absolute but for the most part limited by one factor or another, do not necessarily have to be met in all circumstances.)

    Part of CST is that govt. does have a role in regulating these issues but that these matters, as a matter of solidarity and not just subsidiarity, may be met by more primary institutions such as family, local bodies etc. That the teachings of the Church are not themselves a “third way” in the world but rather are the principles to guide the laity in forming the world is itself a core principle of CST. As such, Catholics may disagree on the particular policies and still be good Catholics.

    All this, even if Locke is inconsistent with CST. 🙂

Castro Hates the Tea Party

Friday, November 19, AD 2010

An English translation of the first portion of the above video.

Fidel Castro: Comrades, our nation is completely bankrupt! We have no choice but to abandon communism!
Castro’s Aide #1, Castro’s Associates: [sigh]
Fidel Castro: I know, I know, I know… but we all knew from day one this mumbo jumbo wouldn’t fly! I’ll call Washington and tell them they won.
Castro’s Aide #1: But presidente, America tried to kill you!
Fidel Castro: Ah, they’re not so bad. They even named a street after me in San Francisco!
[Aide #2 whispers something into his ear]
Fidel Castro: It’s full of what?

Hattip to the Babalu Blog, the go to blog on the net to keep advised of the follies of the Castro regime in Cuba.  It seems the Bearded One views the Tea Party as “fascist”: 

Speaking to a group of students visiting Havana, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused the Tea Party of leading the United States towards “fascism.”

In his comments, Castro chided the United States as a “ruined nation” and derided the Tea Party as “extreme right.”

Castro also announced that health concerns had forced him to step down from his position as head of the Cuban Communist Party.

Castro’s exchange with the students was published in Granma, the state-run newspaper.

“I got sick and did what I had to do — delegate my powers.” Granma reported.

Castro ceded the Presidency of Cuba in 2006 after 46 years in power. He was replaced by his younger brother Raúl.

Under both brothers, Cuba has been isolated from the international community, criticized for its lack of democratic elections and for its systematic abuse of human rights.

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Ghost Boredom

Friday, November 19, AD 2010

From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  Well the featured “medium” I suppose was either intended to be a fake (A fake “medium”?  Astounding!) or just a naturally boring guy.  The humor works better if he is simply naturally boring.  I once attended a lecture on roller coasters and the professor speaking managed the considerable feat of making roller coasters seem dull and tedious.  Some people have a natural ability to take any activity, no matter how exciting, and drain the life completely from it.

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Thomas Wenski – “hard charging, hog-driving” Archbishop of Miami

Thursday, November 18, AD 2010

Michael E. Miller (Miami New Times) provides a detailed — and fascinating — profile of Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski:

Dressed all in black, the biker roars his 1,800-cc Harley-Davidson Street Glide to a halt on the gravely shoulder of Florida Avenue in Lakeland. Ray-Bans hide his eyes. With his spike-topped black helmet glinting in the South Florida sun, he more closely resembles a Prussian soldier than Easy Rider.

Lucas Benitez spots the motorcyclist and his palms begin to sweat. All day, the stocky Mexican with a buzzcut has led a thousand Latino tomato pickers on the 11-mile march from Plant City to Lakeland to protest the stingy pay of $50 per two tons of fruit torn off the vine. When he looks at the biker, all he can think is: Not another pinche redneck picking a fight.

Then the heavyset motorcyclist steps from his machine and ambles toward the marchers. “Buenas tardes,” he says, holding out a hand. “I’m Bishop Thomas Wenski.”

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Fighting Global Warming

Thursday, November 18, AD 2010

The NCR notes a Rutgers professor went on the Joy Behar show and compared having kids to littering. I found this shocking. People watch the Joy Behar show?

Sadly, the idea that kids are an evil and that the virtuous green movement should rid them (presumably through contraception and abortion, though they rarely state the latter explicitly) seems to be growing in momentum on the left. In a humorous coincidence, this comic appeared in today’s newspaper (from Yahoo!).

People really will believe anything these days…

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