Seminarians make a music video …

Wednesday, December 8, AD 2010

It all started in Dr. Blosser’s philosophy class …:

It all started with an off-hand remark I made at the beginning of the semester this fall while talking about the challenges of reading Aristotle and St. Thomas. Students today might find it preferable, I joked lamely, if somebody could come up with a different medium for communicating metaphysics, like, say, a MUSIC VIDEO!

The students politely laughed. But two of them approached me after class with the idea of undertaking precisely such a project. For a moment, I wasn’t sure whether they were joking or serious. They were serious. [more].

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Top Stories on This Past Week

Wednesday, December 8, AD 2010

Here are the most popular stories this past week on, A Digest of the Best Punditry in the Catholic Blogosphere:

1. Dissident Catholic Newspaper Gets New Columnist! – Father John Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS?

2. Protesters Criticize New Archbishop of Seattle – Michael Martinez, CNN International

3. A “Catholic” College Girl’s Lament – Emmy Cecilia, Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer

4. The Origin of Ave Maria – Jeffrey Tucker, The Chant Café

5. Saved By Christ Not By Rules – Mark P. Shea, Catholic Exchange

If you liked what you found and you want more for the latest punditry updated twice daily, go to!

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Class and Marriage: A Reverse

Wednesday, December 8, AD 2010

It’s long been a trope of the “culture war” that the rich as social and religious libertines while the stolid middle class cling to traditional values. Or, as another portion of America sees it, that the educated elite have moved beyond the primative and prejudices social mores of the past while the uneducated cling to their guns and their religion. I would venture to say that for many of us reading here this may also to a stereotype which fits with our lived experience.

However, a report out from the Institute for American Values stands this set of stereotypes somewhat on its head, showing a educated elite which is going to church more and sleeping around less, while the broad middle class is going to church less, having more children out of wedlock and getting divorced more often.

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8 Responses to Class and Marriage: A Reverse

  • It’s still comparing those went graduated college in the 70’s (low 20%) to those who graduated in the 2000’s (30%). In other words, the “highly educated” now includes some in the middle class.

  • Awesome find DC!

  • I suspect that one reason marriage is less frequent and divorce and unwed motherhood are more frequent among the lower/middle classes is simply the fact that single parenthood in and of itself perpetuates poverty, limits educational opportunities, deprives children of stable adult role models with intact marriages, and to some extent, limits one’s ability to be an active churchgoer.

    A child who grows up in a single parent home in which the parent (for the sake of simplicity I’ll assume it’s the mother) works long and sometimes unpredictable hours, doesn’t make much money, doesn’t have time or energy to help the child with homework, and doesn’t attend church on Sunday for various reasons (from lack of transportation to just plain being worn out on weekends) probably won’t grow up to attend church or graduate from college.

    If he or she doesn’t have a father and most of his or her peers don’t have two-parent families, then the child grows up assuming that two-parent families are outside of the norm, or that only rich people can attain them (this is particularly true when society and the media places great emphasis on financial and career stability as a prerequisite for marriage).

    If a lot of the people the child knows have kids out of wedlock, then he or she assumes that to be normal and more likely than not, does the same thing. Then the downward cycle continues into the next generation.

    Meanwhile, children who grow up in two-parent, married, churchgoing families are less likely to be poor, do better in school and are more likely to complete college. They pass on the same expectations to their children. With each generation, the percentage of religiously observant, married persons with traditional sexual mores grows. This is because the traditional family structure (surprise, surprise!) tends to produce disciplined, stable and productive citizens.

  • I wonder how applicable the comments of Ross Douthat earlier this year might be applicable to these findings:

    “Liberals sometimes argue that their preferred approach to family life reduces the need for abortion. In reality, it may depend on abortion to succeed. The teen pregnancy rate in blue Connecticut, for instance, is roughly identical to the teen pregnancy rate in red Montana. But in Connecticut, those pregnancies are half as likely to be carried to term. Over all, the abortion rate is twice as high in New York as in Texas and three times as high in Massachusetts as in Utah.

    So it isn’t just contraception that delays childbearing in liberal states, and it isn’t just a foolish devotion to abstinence education that leads to teen births and hasty marriages in conservative America. It’s also a matter of how plausible an option abortion seems, both morally and practically, depending on who and where you are.

    Whether it’s attainable for most Americans or not, the “blue family” model clearly works: it leads to marital success and material prosperity, and it’s well suited to our mobile, globalized society.

    By comparison, the “red family” model can look dysfunctional — an uneasy mix of rigor and permissiveness, whose ideals don’t always match up with the facts of contemporary life.

    But it reflects something else as well: an attempt, however compromised, to navigate post-sexual revolution America without relying on abortion. ”

  • Overall this is just a reflection of the devastation of our society by liberal moral concepts. That it is spreading to the middle and lower classes while fading a bit in the upper class doesn’t really alter the fact that no one so much as blinks when they hear of an unmarried girl getting pregnant; and when was the last time that anyone felt that divorce was a shame? In the end, relentless propaganda in favor of pre-marital sex and divorce has led to more pre-marital sex and divorce.

    We’ve, at best, about half the population living lives of sobriety, hard work and thrift. We can’t sustain very much more social disintegration. The line must be drawn and we must start to battle back to the old moral values.

  • It’s almost as if some of these educated people woke up one morning, looked at the society they had created, and perhaps after seeing an episode of Jerry Springer or Maury Povich and said in bewildered tones, “wow, ideas have consequences.”

    They made a desert – a moral and spiritual desert – and called it peace. But now the party is over and the corpses are starting to stink.

  • A couple of hypotheses to consider:

    1. Fr. Paul Mankowski’s observation that the clergy have been losing their rapport with the wage-earning population, making congregations a bourgeois preserve. If I understand him correctly, he is referring to an intramural process derived from how clergy are recruited, trained, and formed. We might consider that the process is at work in the protestant congregations as well as the Church.

    2. Getting married in today’s world requires one lay aside some of one’s normal risk aversion. Husbands and fathers are treated as redundant and disposable to a far greater degree than was the case sixty years ago and their willingness to invest in family life has corresponding diminished. This problem one might speculate is simply more acute among wage-earners, who are less valued by women.

Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum

Wednesday, December 8, AD 2010

Venerable Brethren,
Health and the Apostolic Blessing.

An interval of a few months will again bring round that most happy day on which, fifty years ago, Our Predecessor Pius IX., Pontiff of holy memory, surrounded by a noble crown of Cardinals and Bishops, pronounced and promulgated with the authority of the infallible magisterium as a truth revealed by God that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception was free from all stain of original sin. All the world knows the feelings with which the faithful of all the nations of the earth received this proclamation and the manifestations of public satisfaction and joy which greeted it, for truly there has not been in the memory of man any more universal or more harmonious expression of sentiment shown towards the august Mother of God or the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

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2 Responses to Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum

TAC Bowl Pick’Em Contest

Tuesday, December 7, AD 2010

The bowl selections are out, and it will be Auburn v. Oregon in the BCS Title game. This is irrelevant, because the two biggest fan bases on this site will be meeting in Jerryworld on January 7th (that long. Seriously?) in the Cotton Bowl. I would talk trash about the Aggies, but there’s no need. Any school willing to be bought off by their biggest rival really isn’t worth the effort.

Ok, so in order to continue the college discussion at TAC, we’re doing a bowl pick’em game. There would be a prize but we have no money (unless you’d like to chip in…). You will get honor and glory…and perhaps the right to write a guest post on any college football topic of the winner’s choosing (I’ll work out the details and let you know if that’s happening).

The method is simple. We’re picking every bowl. The bowl begin on December 18th and to be consider you must have turned in your entry by the beginning of the New Mexico bowl, which is at 1 pm on the 18th. The list of all the bowls can be found here. Next week (hopefully on Monday), all the rankers here at TAC will put out their picks with their reasons.

So how do you turn in your picks? You can post them here in the comment section or you can post it on the wall of our facebook group (look for The American Catholic if you haven’t liked us yet). I suppose you could theoretically tweet it to TheAmCatholic, but that would probably be annoying. And by probably I mean definitely.

I’ll allow changes up until the the New Mexico Bowl, but if you do it in a different forum make sure I can identify you.

So send in your picks, and we’ll start the discussions and debates right away!

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12 Responses to TAC Bowl Pick’Em Contest

Inside the Belly of the Beast

Tuesday, December 7, AD 2010

I have managed to come upon a fund-raising letter sent out by Planned Parenthood.  It is a fascinating look inside an insidious organization, and it’s quite revealing.  It is a paper copy, so I unfortunately can’t link to it (if only my PDF-making and linking skills were superior).  The intro is quite unintentionally hilarious in its over-the-top rhetoric.

Dear Friend,

Let’s be clear about what we’re facing in America today.  Over the past year, the divisions in this country have grown sharper, uglier, and increasingly dangerous.

Anti-choice, anti-women rhetoric that once was considered wildly extreme has seeped into the mainstream.  And, following the November 2nd elections, the national anti-choice movement is not just a potent lobbying force on Capitol Hill – anti-choice members have increased their ranks in Congress itself – a Congress soon to be led by a virulently anti-choice Speaker of the House.

Already, some of the Congressional opponents of women’s health [ed: I simply love this part.  We’ve managed to go from anti-choice to anti-woman, and now, anti- women’s health.  I wonder if this includes female opponents of abortion – whoops, I said the a-word.  But more on that in a moment.] are organizing to defund Planned Parenthood.  Their goal: make it virtually impossible for Planned Parenthood to play the critical role we have in millions of women’s lives.  [Of course we’re talking about federal funding of Planned Parenthood.  How many other organizations get to enjoy the comforts of tax-payer subsidies?  I mean if what they do is so critical and vital to women’s “health,” I’m sure they’d be able to survive solely off of the generosity of their millions of supporters, not to mention the fees paid by its victims clients.]

These developments threaten to undermine the work we do every day.  And they make it absolutely essential that you make Planned Parenthood a high priority in your personal year-end giving.  [Yes, certainly Planned Parenthood has got to be at the top of anyone’s list for Holiday-season giving.  Tricycle for little Bernadette?  Check.  Gifts for all my nieces and nephews?  Check.  A little extra for the Church?  Check.  Money to fund the murder of unborn children?  Triple check!!!]

And it goes on and on and on.  It’s actually quite predictable that Planned Parenthood would rely on scare-mongering to rally the base and solicit funds for . . . what exactly is it soliciting funds for?  Let’s look at some of the language used in the remainder of this lovely letter.

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7 Responses to Inside the Belly of the Beast

Quote of the Week

Tuesday, December 7, AD 2010

So I’ve been reading Fintan O’Toole’s Enough is Enough: How to Build a New Republic on my Kindle recently. I know what you’re thinking: why would someone read a book about how to make Irish politics more left-wing when he is neither 1) Irish nor 2) left-wing? And it’s true, I have a problem; I need help.

But leave that aside for now. I’m currently on a section in which O’Toole rails against the large place the Catholic Church has in providing health care in Ireland. It seems that the Irish bishops have actually had the temerity to oppose increased government involvement in health care, as this would interfere with the Church’s role. For example, in 1948 the Bishops opposed a government plan to provide free health care to children and new mothers. O’Toole quotes Bishop Cornelius Lucey of Cork laying out the Church’s view on the part the state should play in health care:

What should we expect from the State? Help to enable us to help ourselves. Thus, instead of providing directly through its own agencies free housing for all, free health services for all, free school meals for all, etc., it should rather see to it that these are available and that people can afford to pay for them. Thus the real answer to the problem of the man who cannot afford medical care for his wife and children is not a free mother and child service for all, but a rise in wages – or cut in taxes – sufficient to enable him to pay.

Milton Friedman couldn’t have said it better himself.

I note this because you sometimes hear it said that American political culture is fundamentally protestant, and that Catholics who believe in limited government are somehow buying into protestant individualist notions. Correct me if I’m wrong, though, but my impression is that Ireland circa 1948 was pretty Catholic.

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18 Responses to Quote of the Week

  • On a slightly more serious note, I should say that when he isn’t attacking the Catholic Church O’Toole’s book is pretty good. The Irish really are getting shafted by bankers, the EU, and their own government, and many of O’Toole’s proposals (more localism, decentralization, etc.) are music to my ears.

  • Blackadder,

    Do you know how much an increase in wages would be required for the majority of families to be able to afford their own health insurance? It would seem to me to be quite a large increase, but you might have a sense of the number.

  • WJ, when you receive medical insurance from your employer, it is part of your compensation, an in-kind addition to your wages.

  • WJ,

    A majority of families already pay for their own health insurance, so the answer would be $0.

    Of course I would not want to settle for a majority of families being able to afford their own health insurance. All families should be able to afford it. My guess though is that if you changed the way the health care payment system is structured you could bring down costs such that it wouldn’t take a big increase in wages for everyone to be able to afford it.

  • Art is of course right WJ. We owe our present deranged pairing of health insurance with employment to the confiscatory income tax rates of World War II. Unions bargained for good health insurance plans for their members instead of wage increases, due to the taxes their members would have had to pay on increased wages.

  • Awaiting Morning Minion’s explanation on how Ireland came under the influence of Calvinism…

  • Awaiting Morning Minion’s explanation on how Ireland came under the influence of Calvinism…

    Easy enough. Via Jansenism. 😉

    Also, IMO it is an error to conflate health care and health insurance. One could easily argue that a large part of why the cost health care visits and procedures are high is the proliferation of health insurance for a few generations. If things like regular doctors visits were never included in plans, and the plans were geared more towards the catastrophic health issues, I doubt the YoY cost of health care would be nearly as high.

  • It would very much help the reader’s level of cognitive dissonance if you refrained from using the phrase “free healthcare”. Nothing is ever free, least of all when government attempts to provide it.

  • RL, whatever you take out of health insurance, I think regular doctor’s visits probably shouldn’t be one of them. It’s the one form of health care that we actually want consumed more. Plus, as it isn’t an emergency service, insurers can limit access to in-network clinics which keeps costs down.

    I’ve become cynical about significantly reducing the cost of health care. End-of-life care is the biggest cost and you can’t control those unless you let people die. The public won’t stand for that, especially not from a private insurer, unless you convince them that the care simply isn’t available. I suspect that’s how countries like Canada controls their costs: “Sorry, we’ve done everything we can. But there are hospitals in the US that can do more if you’re willing to spend out-of-pocket.”

  • I guess I was operating under the assumption that most people who have health insurance do get it from their employer. (I could be mistaken about this as well–I have no strong views on health insurance other than a desire that it be less expensive!) If we were to divorce health insurance from employment, how much higher would wages have to be so as to allow individuals to buy their own insurance? Would this number still be $0? I am assuming–but maybe incorrectly–that companies, etc. might get discounted rates based on scale, but that if the purchase were to devolve onto individuals, it would be at a higher cost to them.

    I mean, do you really think that, given the cost-structure currently in place, it would be better if individuals were left on their own to purchase insurance? (I’m not being argumentative here; I just want to see whether you–Blackadder and Art Deco–think that this proposal above is in principle workable today, or whether other things would have to change before it became possible.)

  • WJ,

    I think the point that’s being made is that employers already factor in health-care costs. For example, my employer will provide us with a worksheet that basically lays out our total compensation, including benefits, and that amount is obviously a lot more than what our actual salary is. So employers would presumably simply just makeup in salary what they are no longer covering in health benefits. So essentially the net change to them would be zero.

  • I suspect Blackadder is in error. Most people receive medical insurance from their employer. It is the accounting convention that the cost is partially expressed as a charge against the employee’s nominal salary.

    There are certain advantages to having medical insurance conjoined to one’s employment. A collection of working adults generally does not include people who are old and/or disabled and the federal government has for some time been willing to assume the cost of the most ruinously expensive treatment for the able bodied (kidney dialysis). A body of employees can form a viable actuarial pool.

    The trouble you get with general reliance on insurance purchased by individual households (and Mr. McClarey has spoken of replacing Medicaid and Medicare with vouchers to purchase household insurance) is the problem you get with the market for long-term care insurance as we speak – a considerable mass of households will be deemed uninsurable risks making necessary some sort of financing arrangement apart from and outside of the market for household insurance. (Make necessary in our world, not in the world of Ayn Rand-bots).

    Memo to RR: nursing home care currently accounts for only about 11% of the some of expenditures on medical care and allied services.


    I know; I hate a lot of Reason Magazine too. Its name is condescending and pretentious, but here’s the rub: as much as we don’t like him, he has a point- not the whole answer, but a valid point.

    A while back there was a discussion on the right to adequate health care, while I agree with that right (and don’t think that ADEQUATE health care is really up for grabs or disagreed with much in the Church), I don’t agree that people who could afford health insurance, who choose to spend the money on other things, should get to reap the fruits of other’s labor, without any reciprocity for them. This seems to be beyond orthodoxy vs. individualist heresy.

  • Art Deco, I wasn’t even thinking about nursing homes. I mean those expensive treatments that aren’t expected to extend life much. More than half the Medicare budget is spent on patients who will die within 2 months.

  • “Easy enough. Via Jansenism. ”

    Not true. Jansenism never gained significant traction in Ireland.

    “Jansenism”. The Oxford Companion to Irish History. 2007.

    “Jansenism was viewed with great suspicion by Rome, and 17th-century Irish synods toed the Roman line. Indeed, while its moral rigorism made it attractive to elements of the Counter-Reformation church, Jansenism’s theological and political radicalism alienated both local hierarchies and Catholic monarchs. This was especially the case in France and most Irish clerical students there associated with milieux hostile to the movement. Indeed their anti-Jansenist opinions were singled out for criticism by the pro-Jansenist journal Nouvelles ecclésiastiques, Irish clerics, in general, being more attracted to Jesuit-style humanism. The success of the anti-Jansenist bull Unigenitus (1713) marginalized the movement but it survived as a popular millenarian-cum-miracle cult. Neither as a theology nor as a political attitude did Jansenism recommend itself to the Irish Catholic community, either at home or abroad. The frequent claim that Irish Catholicism was Jansenist-influenced springs from the tendency to confuse Jansenism with mere moral rigorism.”

    Dr Thomas O’Connor. Ph.D.
    Senior Lecturer – Department of History, National University of Ireland

    author of:

    _Irish Jansenists 1600-1670: politics and religion in Flanders, France, Ireland and Rome (Dublin, 2008)
    _Strangers to Citizens: the Irish in Europe 1600-1800 (Dublin, 2008)
    _An Irish Jansenist in seventeenth-century France: John Callaghan 1605-54 (Dublin, 2005)
    _An Irish Theologian in Enlightenment Europe: Luke Joseph Hooke 1714-96 (Dublin, 1995)

    Healy, John. Maynooth College : its centenary history (1895). Dublin : Browne & Nolan, 1895.

    “During the eighteenth century many of the most eminent Churchmen in France were, to some extent, tinctured with these Jansenistic views, even when repudiating the Jansenistic errors regarding the operation of grace and free will. But although so many of our Irish ecclesiastics were educated in France during the eighteenth century, none of those who came to Ireland ever showed the slightest trace of this Jansenistic influence, either in their writings or their sermons. Nor has any respectable authority asserted, so far as we know, that the French Professors of Maynooth were in any way tinged with the spirit of Jansenism.”

    Most Rev. John Healy, D.D., LL.D., M.R.I.A

  • If anyone is interested in more of Dr. Lucey’s thoughts on the social question, here’s a pamphlet he wrote in the 1940s…

  • Umm, thanks for this, Shane. I’m sorry to have wasted your time though. I was just being sarcastic. A terribly thing about blogs where you have a relatively steady readership and commentariat is that we assume everyone else knows where we tend to stand on issues and where those who differ generally stand. My comment was just a continuation of the previous quip. 🙂

  • heh.

    Morning’s Minion says:
    December 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    From the article Colbert quoted, it would appear so. That’s nothing unusual with American Catholics brainwashed by the dominant Protestant culture, and tinged anyway with Irish Jansenism.

69 Years Ago

Tuesday, December 7, AD 2010

My sainted father was 8 years old on December 7, 1941.  He told me how the next day men and older boys, ranging in age from 60-16, gathered in long lines in front of the recruiting offices in Paris, Illinois to sign up to fight.  I think those of us who weren’t alive at that time have difficulty grasping the impact Pearl Harbor had on the nation, as it launched the country on a crusade to break the power of the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany.

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19 Responses to 69 Years Ago

  • There is grave sadness on many levels.

    The saddest is: America in the 21st century is not America of the 20th century.

    E.G., the current unknown in the White House stated in 2006 America had lost the war . . .

  • Until a nation is put to such a test T. Shaw, it is hard to say just how it will respond. Viewed from abroad America in the Thirties must have seemed weak, its economy still struggling with the Depression, committed to isolationism, bitterly divided over the policies of the New Deal, and led by a President widely regarded among his detractors, and a few of his supporters, as shallow and weak. I am unconvinced that in many essentials the America of today is not the same as the America of 1941, the America of 1861 and the America of 1776.

  • Mac,

    You; my son, Captain US Army Infantry, Airborne Ranger, CIB; the ROTC cadets I had the extreme honor to dine with last Saturday evening yet are “there.”

    It’s just that . . .

    “Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot.”

  • I deleted your comment Nate. You do not get to attack the US war effort against Japan in this thread today. I am happy to debate such issues in other threads and on other days, but not in this thread on Pearl Harbor Day.

  • Thank you Mr. Churchill and Mr. McClarey.

    “I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!”

    My husband is a naturalized exile, retired special forces officer and former defense researcher. He knows firsthand how hard the US tries ‘not’ to kill. I thank God he stands next to me and guards our children.

  • I had just turned ten at the time. My mother had died in June of pneumonia leaving us five brothers and our father with the loss of our dearest love somewhat adrift. It was a sunny day in Dayton, Ohio as I was on my way out to find one of my playmates that Sunday. He greeted me on the sidewalk with “The Jap’s bombed Pearl Harbor”. With no TV or newspaper and one radio that had not been turned on yet we knew nothing of what had happened. I suppose there were plenty of kids just like me whose thoughts were the same as mine. Who are the “Jap’s” and where is Pearl Harbor? It wasn’t long before all of us were totally immersed in Uncle Sam’s war effort that included collecting tin cans, used tires, cast iron, paper, and buying saving stamps or war bonds along with accepting rationing of food, shoes, gasoline, or “nylons”.
    That was the “easy” part. Soon almost every family in the neighborhood had their front window draped with a service flag containing a star for every member of the household in the armed forces. One week after Pearl Harbor was the sixteenth birthday for one brother who begged his older one to wait so they could “go fight together”. The eldest of the lot had a wedding coming up in the spring and his girlfriend asked him to wait until after the wedding. The fourteen year old enlisted as soon as he turned old enough. Like the others, all in the Marine Corp and all in the Pacific from Guadalcanal to Iwo to the occupation forces. Thank God all returned whole if not unscarred, hundreds of thousands that have been all but forgotten by a world saved from tyranny did not.

  • Bill, I had two uncles who served in the Pacific, one as a Marine and one as a sailor in the Navy. They both got back without a scratch. They used to tell me that the real heroes of that war were the men, like many of their buddies, who never made it back.

  • Nate, I had thought that I had made my wishes plain to you in regard to this thread. Apparently not, judging from your last attempted comment. I am placing you on moderation for the time being. You will have plenty of opportunities to argue your pacifist position in future on other threads, but not on this thread.

  • “The more we glorify war, the more we ignore murder, the more we put men …into terrible spiritual danger.”

    Language doesn’t change the truth.
    War with the brutality, enslavement, and killing (murder) that comes with it can be and is “glorified” only in the minds and policies of those who use it to gain dominion or expand their rule. Spreading liberty with the use of force after all else has failed to God’s people crying out for freedom from tyranny is quite the contrary.
    Scripture at its very source has forever testified in God’s name to this truth. We are even told to destroy the parts of our own bodies that seek to defile our souls or deny God’s will for us.
    The Church, in truth and justice, can and should rightly honor its sons and daughters past and present who place their lives on the line to assure peace and tranquility among “men of good will” who keep and cherish her precepts.

  • “An old woman stood at an intersection outside town (Nettuno, Italy – Anzio), kissing the hand of every American soldier tramping past. As one private reported, ‘She did not miss a man.’”
    The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Rick Atkinson

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  • An interesting story I spotted today: the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is not ready to disband just yet even though its members are now close to or past 90 years old:

    “A Pearl Harbor Survivors Association has been around for 52 years and, while struggling to continue, 100 members voted against disbanding at their annual meeting on Monday, said association president Art Herriford.

    Herriford, 88, said old age makes it difficult for members to organize their biennial meetings and handle other duties, but they “don’t want to throw in the towel right away.”

    “Some of these old duffers, if you tried to do away with this organization, you’d have them all to fight,” Herriford said after the group met in Waikiki. A vote count was not provided.”

    Of the 18,000 survivors who joined the association after it formed in 1958, only 3,000 are still living. (Frankly I’m surprised it’s that many.)

  • “Some of these old duffers, if you tried to do away with this organization, you’d have them all to fight,” Herriford said after the group met in Waikiki. A vote count was not provided.”

    I love that remark Elaine! I’ll pass it along to some World War 2 vets I’m having lunch with tomorrow!

  • Sam, I deleted your comment, and for the personal insult it contained, you are banned from this site.

  • Donald,
    You are really handing out the excommunications today! 😉

  • Good for you, Donald. Excommunications are good for the soul! 😉

  • A blog excommunication is rather like being mauled by a toothless ancient poodle; it doesn’t hurt but it does tend to attract attention. 🙂

  • Donald,

    Can I refer to you as a “toothless ancient poodle” from now on?

  • I have been called much worse than that WJ.

At The Dawn of 2011, Despite Bumps In the Road Catholic Orthodoxy Marches Onward

Monday, December 6, AD 2010

It seems every time a kerfuffle pops up in the Catholic Church, many in engage in hand wringing and doom and gloom scenarios. The latest occurred with Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms, which were wildly taken out of context in his interview with Peter Seewald turned book Light of the World. Following these remarks, some of us have probably been peppered with questions from family and friends as to what this means, and if the Church has changed her teachings in the arena of birth control. Those of us who have welcomed the new orthodoxy taking place within in the Church during the last ten or twenty years, probably have wished this latest kerfuffle had never taken place. However, this in no way shape of form means the orthodoxy movement has stalled. Oddly, I received some gleeful e-mails from some who surprisingly seemed ecstatic to point out that my book; The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism couldn’t possibly be correct. Hopefully, this article will point out that Catholic orthodoxy is alive, well and here to stay.

Church liberals who had long pilloried Pope Benedict XVI even before he was a cardinal, a simple university professor in the famed German town of Tubingen, seemed perplexed on how to treat the latest uproar. Some felt that he was moving in the right (or in their case left direction.) However, the more cynical among them knew that the Holy Father hadn’t changed a thing. They in turn left posts at the National Catholic Reporter decrying the German pontiff’s lack of pastoral ministry. Though I don’t know which saint said it, I am sure someone who was canonized uttered something along these lines; “God please save your Church from these overly pastoral pastors.”

The Holy Father was merely engaging in an abstract theological conversation much like a bunch of guys at a sports bar might conjecture what would happen if modern team x played historical team y for a mythical championship. Yet, the mainstream media along with some in the Catholic media went into a frenzy. The Holy Father was changing nothing in the Church’s teachings concerning birth control. The fault lie with those in the Vatican’s Public Relations Department in making sure the ubiquitous editor Giovanni Vian didn’t somehow put the Holy Father’s abstract scenarios into an excerpt for the L’Osservatore Romano. The comedy of errors in the Vatican could make one’s hair fallout.

Yet, I remember the words of a priest who once spent a considerable amount of time at the Holy See. He told me that the amount of miracles and jaw dropping examples of God’s Grace, that he personally witnessed behind the Vatican’s walls, still amazes him to this day. However, on the flip side the amount of sinister almost demonic style attacks amazes him to this day as well. The evil one knows where his primary target is located and he does his best to cause mayhem.

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4 Responses to At The Dawn of 2011, Despite Bumps In the Road Catholic Orthodoxy Marches Onward

  • You mention as an undesirable example 40,000 Protestant churches and name a few. They are distinguished from one another by their differing beliefs and practices. In the Roman Catholic Church, you find two factions, “us” and “them”, the liberals.
    It is illuminating to identify the large number of distinguishable groups within the Roman Catholic Church today, marked by their differences in beliefs and practices although not yet assigned formal names. Each considers itself the truly faithful. The concept of unity spoken of by the Pope and others seems to have little to do with the Catholic church as a list of clearly different, faithful Catholic factions would show. 450 years ago looks rather similar in some ways.

  • There is a linguistic confusion which conflates the Church with Catholics. Jack B. writes of “the large number of distinguishable groups within the Roman Catholic Church today, marked by their differences in beliefs and practices although not yet assigned formal names”.

    There are many more than a large number: there are groups whose distinguishing characteristics is that they – that we – are all sinners. We may grumble about Rome and the Vatican and those clerics who are continuously interfering in our cosy lives. Looking at the Church is much like looking at a family. Would it be a family were there not regular disagreements? “Differences in beliefs and practices” are like the weeds that have ever encumbered the growth of the Church – the chaff, the tares. They will be with us until the end as Our Lord told us. We just have to live with it.


A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

Monday, December 6, AD 2010

In yet another effort to remain relevant to our political discourse, David Frum is partnering with William Galston to launch a new project that is sure to to revolutionize politics in much the same way the New Majority Frum Forum has.  It’s called “No Labels,” and I’ll let Frum describe it:

On Dec. 13, more than 1,000 citizens from the 50 states will convene in New York to change the odds. They are founding a movement – No Labels. Among them will be Democrats, Republicans and independents who are proud of their political affiliations and have no intention of abandoning them. A single concern brings them together: the hyper-polarization of our politics that thwarts an adult conversation about our common future. A single goal unites them: to expand the space within which citizens and elected officials can conduct that conversation without fear of social or political retribution.

Their movement rests on the belief that the real American majority wishes to reassert control over a political system mired in brain-dead partisanship. Those traveling to New York are going at their own expense. No Labels is gaining a thousand fans on Facebook each day. Citizens across the country are asking how they can get involved.

Frum is discouraged by our current political discourse and wants to turn things around:

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. At a time of national economic emergency, when Americans are clamoring for positive action, our government is routinely paralyzed by petty politics. Through the summer, as the economy teetered between recovery and stagnation, the Federal Reserve lacked a quorum because a single Republican senator took it upon himself to block Obama’s appointments. Republicans were only doing unto the Democrats as the Democrats had done unto them: In January 2008, as the country geared up for an epoch-making election, the Federal Election Commission lacked a quorum because one Democrat had put holds on President George W. Bush’s nominees.

Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed. Labeling legitimate policy differences as “socialist” or “racist” undermines democratic discourse.

Frum is understandably concerned. 

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25 Responses to A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

  • Thanks. Just joined the FB group. There’s no denying that we’re become more partisan over the last few decades. Can you imagine a 49-state presidential victory today? But I think it’s the issues, rather than the climate, that is driving most of the partisanship. Having said that, the climate isn’t helping. I think the right should cheer Frum’s counterbalance to Jon Stewart’s left-leaning Rally to Restore Sanity. There’s a dangerous but popular idea these days that sane = liberal and crazy = conservative.

  • To quote an old Illinois saying, “Politics ain’t beanbag.” Anytime people are arguing about something important, emotions tend to get high and language becomes intemperate. Most political language fortunately does not descend usually to the billingsgate under which serious theological debate has sometimes been conducted.

  • Can you imagine a 49-state presidential victory today?

    Well, that victory was won by a man who ran on one of the most unabashedly, unambiguously conservative platforms in American history. As I wrote in the linked to post on Almost Chosen People, the main cause of the Whig Party’s death was its inability articulate a clear agenda. So I would argue that an electoral landslide of that magnitude is more likely when there is a clear ideological rift (perhaps the Eisenhower victories providing the counter-example).

    At any rate, I think we get bogged down by this notion that we’re living in the most partisan times ever. It might seem that way, and the mass communications revolution has probably made our politics seem more bitter and confrontational. Also, there is a bit of myth-making about our past, for example the romaticization of something like the “era of good feelings.”

    There’s a dangerous but popular idea these days that sane = liberal and crazy = conservative.

    The counter to that is not to join Frum’s never ending quest to mold the Republican party in his image.

  • I took a look at the FB page you linked to. I’m not sure the self-congratulatory “at least we’re not like that rabble on the extreme” message is really the surest way to win converts. Also, isn’t it a bit disingenuous to decry labels while at the same time labeling anyone who is even slightly a bit your left or right an extremist? Labels for thee and not for me? And instead of worrying about the tone of politics, isn’t it more useful to actually promote ideas people can get behind? I’m sorry, but I’ve just had enough of this kind of moral preening.

  • “There’s a dangerous but popular idea these days that sane = liberal and crazy = conservative.”

    Considering the recent election results in reaction to what Obama and the Democrat Congress did, RR, and further considering the fact that 40% of the American people now call themselves conservative, and that Republicans now outnumber Democrats, I’d say you’ve got that formulation backwards.

  • What is truly dangerous is the idea that sanity = perfect calm. If your house is burning down and you’re trying to reason with the flames, that makes you more insane than the man frantically looking for a water hose.

    Sometimes genuine rationality necessarily gives the appearance of what would otherwise appear to be irrational. Different situations call for different attitudes, dispositions, words and actions. To recognize that simple truth is sane. To struggle against it is either vanity or insanity.

  • The specific problems he describes derive rather less from political labels and such and rather more from the Senate’s asinine parliamentary rules. That is something the Senate can fix. And they won’t.

  • Yes! This is an awesome article.

  • The man who slandered Robert Novak and other conservatives who opposed the Iraq War as “unpatriotic” is lamenting the tone of political discourse?

    Frum is a hypocritical fraud.

  • Ideas such as “compassionate conservative” and “bipartisanship” has resulted in alot of bad laws (how about that Senior Citizen Drug benefit) I rather like drawn out battles I think it paints a picture for the citizens of this land I want contrast and real choice not compromise which leads to something that does not work and no one really likes.

  • Good catch, Jay.

  • The man who slandered Robert Novak and other conservatives who opposed the Iraq War as “unpatriotic” is lamenting the tone of political discourse?

    I cannot recall what he said about Mr. Novak specifically, but the main object of his critique was a circle of commentators associated with the Rockford Institute. I would not say ‘unpatriotic’ was the most apt term, but it would be fair to offer that the views of these characters have had certain ‘structural’ similarities to the views of someone like Victor Navasky, who definitely is unpatriotic. Among those who endorsed the critique was the historian Stephen Tonsor, who had in the past been considered one of their number (he disagreed, saying they were ‘flaky cranks’) and the widow of Leopold Tyrmand, who had founded the Rockford Institute’s monthly magazine in 1976; she said her husband would have been appalled at what his successors had done with his publication.

  • Here is a link to the text of the article Jay referred to:

    Frum I think was on target with some of his observations, although attacking the patriotism of one’s adversaries, rather than their policy positions, is almost always a mistake on many levels. As for Frum, this was back in the day when he was still attempting to pretend that he was a conservative, although he was still usually the same insufferable jerk that he is today.

  • For the record, here is a link to said column.

    In retrospect, perhaps Frum should not be condemned for the article’s title so much as the meandering, score-settling undertones. If he contented himself with noting some of the loopier elements on the right (Raimondo and Rockwell, for instance) it may have been a touch more fitting. In the specific case of Novak, he lumps him in with the rest of the “unpatriotic” conservatives without acknowledging the relative merits of his arguments. Say what you will about Novak and even Buchanan, even if they were wrong on the war they didn’t deserve to be so casually lumped in with the rest. In fact, as much as I dislike Buchanan, this is a pretty disgusting smear:

    Pat Buchanan, one can say, permitted a dual loyalty to influence him. Although he had denied any vital American interest in either Kuwait’s oilfields or Iraq’s oilfields or its aggression, in l991 he urged that the Sixth Fleet be sent to Dubrovnik to shield the Catholics of Croatia from Serbian attack. “Croatia is not some faraway desert emirate,” he explained. “It is a ‘piece of the continent, a part of the main,’ a Western republic that belonged to the Habsburg empire and was for centuries the first line of defense of Christian Europe. For their ceaseless resistance to the Ottoman Turks, Croatia was proclaimed by Pope Leo X to be the ‘Antemurale Christianitatis,’ the bulwark of Christianity.”

    How is this any different than accusing Jewish Americans of having dual loyalties to America and Israel?

  • Donald beat me to it. And his point stands – in the end, Frum didn’t do himself any favors by attacking the patriotism and not the substance of the arguments made by some the paleos.

  • This has got to be a parody article.

    “They are founding a movement – No Labels. Among them will be Democrats, Republicans and independents…”

  • Scratch below the surface, and Frum’s entire piece at National Review was an anti-Catholic screed.

    I’m certainly no paleocon (although I am becoming more sympathetic as the years go by), but I was and remain apalled that National Review printed Frum’s calumnious piece. The fact that that infamous editorial appeared in William F. Buckley’s publication will forever, in my mind, be a mark against National Review.

    Frum owes those he attacked in that despicable hit piece an abject and public apology. Alas, it is too late to make amends with Mr. Novak.

    Who knows? Perhaps Frum sees his leftward swing and talk of “civility” as a sort of penance for his disgusting slander of better men than he in his pursuit of the war agenda. An admission that he was wrong would, of course, have been preferable to trying to flaking out and becoming a parody of the typical liberal elitist Republican.

  • Jonah Goldberg has a great take on this “No Labels” idea here. The key grafs:

    What no-labelers really mean is that they don’t like inconvenient disagreements that hinder their agenda. And that’s what is so troubling, indeed so undemocratic, about this claptrap. When they claim we need to put aside labels to do what’s right, what they are really saying is you need to put aside what you believe in and do what they say. When activists say we need to move past the partisan divide, what they mean is: Shut up and get with my program. Have you ever heard anyone say, “We need to get past all of this partisan squabbling and name-calling. That’s why I’m going to abandon all my objections and agree with you?” I haven’t.

    No Labels says it’s “about taking the politics out of problem-solving.” It is amazing how cavalierly people say this sort of thing, as if this wasn’t the rationale behind pretty much every dictatorship since the dawn of man. Nearly once a week, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman gives voice to his full-blown man-crush on China’s one-party dictatorship because — according to Friedman — the Chinese, unlike us, can implement “optimal” policies without getting bogged down in such distractions as elections, the rule of law, human rights, etc.

    Look: You can’t take the politics out of problem-solving. Politics, even in China, is the art of problem-solving. People aiming to yank the politics out of government invariably end up removing the democracy instead.

  • for his disgusting slander of better men than he in his pursuit of the war agenda.

    I think as a practical matter one can generally refrain without much trouble from evaluating men as men and just look at their words. That having been said, given that his targets included Thomas Frank, Justin Raimondo and Samuel Francis, I would have to say your opinion of Mr. Frum as a human being must be quite severe.

  • I was speaking of Mr. Novak. And I have no problem making that assessment in comparing Mr. Novak to Mr. Frum.

  • As for the other gentlemen about whom Frum was writing, I know very little about them, apart from Pat Buchanan (of whom I’m not very fond, but still hold in higher esteem than I do Frum).

  • My regrets: “Thomas Fleming” not “Thomas Frank”. Thomas Frank is the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas. Thomas Fleming is the editor of Chronicles.

    It is true in that particular article he includes a list of people he has in mind which includes Robert Novak and Patrick J. Buchanan, which was ill-judged as they are qualitatively different from most of the other characters on his list. His specific comments about Novak’s writings seem within the bounds of civil (if not necessarily correct) criticism.

    Frum is perplexing, and perhaps an example of how middle-age has an unhappy effect on one’s faculties. Best ignored.

  • Frum in this article was doing what a paleos did before and since: excommunicating from conservatism all those who disagreed with his stance on the war. But instead of saying anyone who supports the war is a neocon imperialist, Frum decries war opponents, or a good chunk of them, as unpatriotic. I agree with Art that he’s got a point when it comes to some of the names on this list, but he goes overboard when he starts flailing away at Novak and Buchanan.

    Frum is perplexing, and perhaps an example of how middle-age has an unhappy effect on one’s faculties. Best ignored.

    Agreed, and I think most have already taken your advice. This was just too amusing to pass up.

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Is Inflation Hiding?

Monday, December 6, AD 2010

There’s an old saying, which I’ve seen attributed to every from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to the effect that while a man is entitled to his own opinion he is not entitled to his own facts. This saying would seem to be particularly relevant to current arguments about the Federal Reserve and monetary stimulus. As I noted in my last post, some commentators have been warning for years that the Fed’s actions would cause a return to the high inflation of the 1970s, if not to 1920s Germany. Yet more than two years on, this inflation has failed to materialize.

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20 Responses to Is Inflation Hiding?

  • Don’t believe the federal stats. Prices have gone up sharply on virtually all commodities as any grocery store or retail shopper knows. Inflation is in high gear and it’s a missed story in the lamestream media.

  • Joe,

    You didn’t even read the post, did you?

  • Now of course it is always good to take government figures with a grain of salt.

    No, it is good to know how to read the government’s statistical reports. Unless you have reason to believe they cook the books or that some private agency has a methodologically superior process, you should take the government’s reports as the gold standard.

    As for Messrs. Green, Jones, Medaille, ShadowStats: some people are bound and determined.

  • A good and helpful post–speaking as someone who is usually pretty skittish about inflation.

  • I’m no economist, but I find Steve Keen’s deflationary forecast the most convincing of all the predictions I’ve read.

    Of course, the government can cause inflation if it prints enough money, by definition. And they’d probably like to inflate away some of the massive debt they’ve taken on. But Keen suggests (as I understand his calculations) that serious inflation would require upwards of 20 trillion extra dollars printed and dumped on the streets, and I don’t see how they can do that without causing panic and problems with China.

    It’s also occurred to me that it might be possible to have simultaneous inflation — in the sense of people losing faith in the fiat money and fleeing it for gold or other tangibles — and deflation — in the general economic sense of individuals and companies tightening their budgets and producing less. So sometimes I think the inflation and deflation forecasters are talking about two different things. After all, if it were as simple as having the right volume of money supply, then that would mean there’s a sweet spot where if they print juuuuust enough dollars, everything will be peachy. It seems more likely to me that we could have inflation at any particular “healthy” level we choose, and still see the economy and incomes shrinking.

  • You may well be correct.

    The inflation-adjusted $13 trillion 2010 GDP would be $3 trillion in 1969 dollars.

    In the past two years, 314 banks and savings banks have failed with $650 billion in aggregate total assets. The FDI insurance losses were about $75 billion. Recently, FDIC reduced its estimate of projected aggregate losses (for this banking crisis) from $100 billion to $92 billion based on lower aggregate total assets in problem banks. “The Sun will come out tomorrow . . . ” la la la la la

    For the two years, unemployement rate has been a tad below 10%, but really it is about one-in-six. About 2 millions homes eventually will be lost to foreclosure.

    What caused the recession? Maybe someone should identify that and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That is above my pay garde. But, I will say, it was not high interest rates or declining money supplies. The FRB kept rates too low too long and HUD/FNM/FRE interference in housing markets provided excess liquidity and caused bubble housing prices . . .

    See: WSJ 12/3/2010: “Why Do We Have a Central Bank?” by Gerald P. O’Driscoll Jr. “There is no liquidity crisis now, however, and no justification for continued lender-of-last-resort activity. There are quite possibly still large unrecognized losses on banks’ balance sheets associated with the housing collapse and other unwise lending. These losses mean such institutions are in reality undercapitalized, not short of liquidity.”

    There is NO DEFLATION. There is disinflation in housing. Potential buyers will not bid because they think prices have (who knows how much) farther to fall. Trial lawyers abuse of the judicial foreclosure process (“if the glove don’t fit you must acquit.”) is adding uncertainty that will further hamper housing prices return to equilibrium and construction industry recovery. The 2009 housing market was artificially buoyed by fed tax credits and gummanament loan modification programs.

    One in six of we the people cannot afford to buy car and other big ticket items. No inflation there.

    In the wildest examples of the unprecedented housing bubble (you have amnesia from the S&L crisis of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s) in Merced, CA housing prices at the peak in early 2006 (Merced Case-Shiller data) were 311% of the January 2000 index of 100. That is six years. Let’s say inflation was 5% on average (compounded) over those six years. In that scenario, the housing prices would be on average 134% of the 2000 index NOT 311%.

    God willing, we’ll live to see who is correct. I bet no inflation. Obama will have his way. The economy will be in the “hurt locker” for about 10 more years.

  • Adder, yes, I read it. What’s your point? My comment stands.

  • Art Deco: Surely, you can’t be serious. Predicted response: “I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.”

    Believe the government stats?! Like we should believe the fabrications read by TelePrompTer from Our Beloved Leader? Or would you rather believe the facts being spread by Wikileaks?

  • Dear Sir:

    Can you explain why the Euro trades higher than the US Dollar. The EU seems to be in worse shape than we are. Also, I read all kinds of stories as to why gold is so high but I can’t seem to discern the truth. Could you shed some light on this as well? Thanks!

  • Adder, yes, I read it. What’s your point?

    In the post I deal precisely with the argument that commodity prices reflect a large increase in inflation.

  • Joe Green, the statistics are generated by several agencies, most prominently the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of the Census. These are, in turn, staffed with the permanent civil service. The Department of Commerce began generating and publishing statistics on economic activity since 1921 and has done so now for 90 years under administrations of both parties. Unless you have evidence they have been cooking the books, your complaint is of no account. Mr. ShadowStats fancies he produces better statistics at his desk than these three bureaux do with their large collection and analytical staff. I suppose that gets him through the day.

  • It seems to me that the main reason we had “deflation” in 2009 was due to gasoline/fuel prices coming down from the artificially inflated peak they reached in 2008 (when gas went over $4 a gallon).

  • The absence of evidence is just evidence of how well thought out and organized the conspiracy is.

  • Elaine,

    It wasn’t just the price of gas that fell in 2008/2009. This chart, for example, shows the inflation rate for the price of groceries as compared to core inflation for the past ten years (2010 is marked 1, 2009 is 2, and so on). The blue bars are for groceries, the red is core inflation. You’ll note that we had deflation for grocery prices in 2009.

    Now what you’re saying has an element of truth, in that if you look at the core inflation rate (which excludes food and energy prices but includes everything else), that number was positive in 2009. But it was just barely positive. And core inflation has been trending downward towards zero.

  • Art Deco, et al. Statistics, schmatistics. A million deaths are a statistics, one death a tragedy. Wasn’t that Stalin? Anyway, all I know is that when I fill up it’s $3.05 a gallon now, not $1.75 like it was a couple of years ago. Crude was around the same price per barrel. So who is pocketing the profits? OPEC? Exxon/Mobil. The state and the feds?

    The price of butter, eggs, milk, meat — all up substantially. Let the bureaucrats churn out all the numbers they want. Meaningless in a real world where paychecks don’t stretch as far and mac and cheese is becoming the staple at the dinner table. Anecdotes win the argument, not dry stats. Still, I’m not here to fight, merely weigh in with a couple of cents, which may be taken with grains of salt…Too many mixed metaphors; I’ll quit while I’m either even or even behind.

    Thanks for stimulating a discussion.

  • D.L. Jones:

    The price indices published by the U.S. Government are generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, not the Federal Reserve.

  • Taking housing out of the picture doesn’t change things much. Inflation is still low and falling.

  • Art Deco – That’s exactly what Jim Rogers says in his 2-part video interview above. I encourage folks to watch it.

6 Responses to Avoid the Doghouse

  • Donald,
    You do know that this post is offensive, don’t you? In a sad trifecta of bigotry, you have managed to demean women, men, and dogs in one post. In anticipation of your pathetic claim that you did not have malicious intent, I would remind you that such a feckless defense is exactly what one would expect from a male with fascist tendencies.
    Eventually the men, women, and dog communities (and by them I mean *authentic* women, men, and dogs) will stand up to this kind of outrageous insensitivity.
    Repent, Donald. Instead of 10 Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers, I suggest 20 guitar Masses surrounded by people who can’t wait to hold your hand during the Lord’s Prayer.

  • Thank you Mike for allowing me my best laugh on a dreary Wednesday in Illinois dealing with drearier litigation! 🙂

  • Repent, Donald. Instead of 10 Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers, I suggest 20 guitar Masses surrounded by people who can’t wait to hold your hand during the Lord’s Prayer.

    The Church now discourages painful and violent mortifications absent the guidance of a qualified spiritual advisor. Better stick to the Rosary or a cilice around your neck.

  • (and by them I mean *authentic* women, men, and dogs)

    Woof! That’s hilarious, Mike. Nothing like humor to point out absurdity.

  • I know I mention this every time this video is posted, but my wife actually asks for stuff like that for Christmas. She’s a very practical woman.


Captain Blood and History

Sunday, December 5, AD 2010

I love history.  To me it is endlessly fascinating, the never ending chronicle of the triumphs and tragedies of mankind, filled with adventure, courage, cowardice, wisdom, folly and all those elements that make great novels.  I therefore find it  distressing that so many people think history is dull and are indifferent or even hostile to it.  Distressing but understandable.  Too many historians seem to write with the unstated desire to make their subject matter as dull and dreary as they can manage.  A useful corrective to this are good historical novels, which can often awake  in readers a love of history.  One of the great practioners of the craft was Rafael Sabatini.

Writing at the end of the Nineteenth and the first half of the Twentieth, Sabatini wrote with color and verve and his historical novels, the best known of which is Captain Blood, were historically accurate as well as being vastly entertaining. Children can often come to love history if it is demonstrated to them that it does not have to be dull, and a great historical novel can help accomplish this.

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8 Responses to Captain Blood and History

  • Thank you!

    Hooray for Captain Blood!

    And here’s a (gesture) for Lord Jeffries!

  • To me, many historical writers seem to be feverishly working to make “their subject matter as dull and dreary as they can manage”, most of the rest are revising history to support their current world views.

    For Catholics interesting in the “world war” fought in the 16th century between the protestants and Catholics a fine history would be Garrett Mattingly’s The Armada. In one volume he gives a comprehensive overview of that entire campaign from all the various angles and sides.

  • Captain Blood is indeed an excellent work, and Sabatini at his best rivals Scott quite easily, to my mind. Thanks for the post.

  • Thank you gentlemen. Even before I became an attorney, my favorite part of Captain Blood was the courtroom back and forth between Peter Blood and Chief Justice Lord Jefferies. Alas I cannot find the whole brilliant sequence on line, but here is the ending:

  • One of the great things about Sabatini is that a great deal of his work (including three of his four most famous novels: Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk and Scaramouche) are all in the public domain (see Project Gutenberg or So, if you can read them for free on any device that supports ebooks like the Kindle or a Smartphone.

    I will say that one problem I had with Captain Blood though is that it is at least somewhat anti-Catholic. Its a fun read, but the villains are all Catholic (or Catholic sympathizers) and the heros are all Protestant.


  • A point Bill, although ironically Peter Blood is Catholic, at least when it suits him to be.

Weekend Fun Vids

Saturday, December 4, AD 2010

Some fun stuff for the weekend.

The internet is truly a wonderful invention.  Without it, we’d be deprived of clips like these that make us weep for our civilization.

The first clip is a cover of the great Pink Floyd song “Comfortably Numb.”  If you can make it through without weeping, you are truly made of sterner stuff than me.

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5 Responses to Weekend Fun Vids

  • Paul, just delete this post and call it an act of charity. The Comfortably Numb performance was atrocious, and I say that as someone who appreciates it when an average bar band attempts to play something challenging our different. i.e. I’d rather hear a less than stellar performance of Whole Lotta Love than a respectable performance Proud Mary. I was ticked off that the guys in the video made me suffer through that singing only to end the end song before before I could be either amazed or brought to tears of laughter as the guitar player attempted the Greatest Solo – and with a Gibson no less.

    The other two videos were tortuous but informative in a way. For some reason I thought Larry Hagman was dead. I’m sure he’s happy to find me wrong. 🙂 It was also neat so how good Bo Derek still looks and I had forgot all about Samantha Fox existing.

  • The first: weeping? I’m homicidal! I’m ready to cut some throats. Don’ta have time for the others.

  • Why do I get the feeling that a Norwegian TV guide is dominated by American sitcoms and evening soaps from the 1980s?

    Come to think of it, if American TV was that way, I’d probably watch it once in a while.

    Tanya Harding with a femullet. It’s always nice to see a minor celebrity wholeheartedly embrace her destiny that way.

    How does Bo Derek look no older than Samantha Fox?

    On a serious note, hearing “We Are the World” makes me think that was a much more innocent time. I mean, all these people got together and sang a song, and actually thought it was going to make a difference. They were wrong, of course, but somehow it’s kind of touching that they believed it. Could that be done now with a straight face?

  • Paul, just delete this post and call it an act of charity.

    Eh, I think I’ll leave it up as an act of communal penance.

    I was ticked off that the guys in the video made me suffer through that singing only to end the end song before before I could be either amazed or brought to tears of laughter as the guitar player attempted the Greatest Solo – and with a Gibson no less.

    That thought occurred to me as well. If you’re gonna go that far, then you have to tackle the best part of the song. It’s like doing a cover of “Layla” and then stopping before you get to the guitar and piano solos.

    On a serious note, hearing “We Are the World” makes me think that was a much more innocent time.

    As a child of the 80s, I’d say so.

  • Thank you Paul for fielding all of these comments!


Veni Veni Emmanuel

Saturday, December 4, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  Veni, Veni Emmanuel.  The words of this magnificent hymn are from the 9th century and the melody is from 15th century France. 

It is Advent, so we are all hearing a lot of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, usually in English, at Mass, a song I have always loved.  The version above is from Casting Crowns, a Christian Rock group that my daughter is fond of.  I was stunned last year when I came across this, as I like it, and I usually refer to the music she enjoys as “animal killing music”!

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3 Responses to Veni Veni Emmanuel

  • Absolutely beautiful, music!

  • It just isn’t Advent without this song for me. Although it’s kind of melancholy, well, isn’t Advent all about longing for a savior?

    Just to show how wrapped up in worldly things one can get… a couple of years ago about this same time of year, I saw a different post titled “Veni Emmanuel” and the first thought that came into my head was that it was about Rahm Emanuel (this was right after Blago got busted for selling the Obama Senate seat). At that moment, I realized that I had been spending WAY too much time reading political blogs 🙂

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Can Assisting A Just Action Be Unjust?

Friday, December 3, AD 2010

One of the things which has always confused me a bit in regards to discussions of just war is when people seem to imply that while it might be just for Country A to resist the attack of Country B, it is unjust for Country C to assist Country A against Country B. It seems to me that thi effectly amounts to arguing that assisting someone in performing a just action is itself unjust, which seems hard to credit at a principled level, though there certainly might be ways you could attempt to assist which would be unjust.

So, for instance, I’ve heard it argued at times that while it might have been just for the South Vietnamese to resist the invasion of the North Vietnamese, it was clearly unjust for the US to get involved in the Vietnam War.

Now, I could see it as being arguable that it was highly unwise for the US to get involved in the war, but it seems hard to understand how it would be unjust, in principle, to assist South Vietnam in defending itself against North Vietnam’s attack.

Is there a principled fashion in which one can argue that it is unjust to assist a country engaged in a just war? If so, what is the argument?

If so, is this a principle which only applies to countries, or are there also examples of personal interactions in which it is just for someone to perform an action, but unjust for another person to assist in that action?

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48 Responses to Can Assisting A Just Action Be Unjust?

  • It is not unjust for individual citizens of Country C to voluntarily assist Country A in its defense against Country B.

    But whether it is just for Country C as a whole to assist Country A against Country B is another matter.

    There are many things which an individual may justly do (or opt not to do), which his employees or servants may not justly take it upon themselves to do on his behalf, with his money.

    The military power is delegated to the government by the people, who in themselves initially held the just authority to defend innocent persons by force and to organize with others in doing so. But the military power was delegated to the government for particular purposes; namely, for the defense of the people and the nation and its territories and its vital national interests.

    To the degree that a particular exercise of military power is not connected to these, the people rightly sense that their servants are going beyond their warrant, like a bunch of employees using company computers for “Non-Approved Purposes.”

    Thus the reason for the disconnect.

    Of course it’s difficult to see these issues clearly because they’re so easily mixed up with others. For example: The U.S. repulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the 90’s: Was it just? (Certainly private American citizens could have justly gone to Kuwait to assist in the defense, but was it just for the U.S. military to do it in an official capacity?) And, was it wise?

    Well, the justice of the U.S. military doing it depends partly on whether they had warrant to exercise power on behalf of the people of the U.S. for the purpose of defending Kuwait. Did they? It wasn’t a defense of U.S. territory.

    Was it in the national interest? Well, that’s an arguable point, and the arguments in favor of it, or against it, are exactly the same arguments as those used to determine whether it was wise, or not. So we see that the discussion of whether it is “wise” can overlap with whether it was “just.”

    That doesn’t mean there’s no difference between “just” and “wise” as categories.

    It takes a certain amount of wisdom to know whether a given military adventure will turn out in the end to have been in the national interest. If it is, then (assuming all other criteria for Just War were met) it becomes a just use of official U.S. military power. If not, then, as it didn’t involve defending the homeland and her people, it is an unauthorized use.

    But people can, through lack of wisdom, guess wrongly about what is in the national interest. So you can have a military action which, in the end, turns out to be unwise. Does it follow that it was unjust? Not necessarily.

    I think the concept of “just” deals with moral culpability for an error. An Unjust War is morally culpable. But moral culpability means you had to know you were doing something wrong; in this case, it means you had to know the war was unwise before you “pressed go.” Or, at the very least, that “you should have known.”

    So: Let us say that we, as Country C, are faced with the decision whether to defend our trading-partner Country B, with whom we are on a friendly basis but with whom we have no formal alliance, against an invasion by Country A. Should we do it?

    Well, assuming all other criteria for Just War are met, we have to ask, “Is this a use of military power authorized for us by the people, under our Constitution?”

    If the answer is, “Well, it doesn’t deal with defending ourselves existentially, but it does involve our vital national interests” then we must ask, “Fine, but going to war is a tricky thing. How sure are we in the end that once the costs and deaths and everything are taken together, the entire exercise will have been beneficial to our vital national interests?”

    At that point, the wisdom of the “deciders” comes into play.

    But let us say that the “deciders,” exercising their limited human wisdom to the best of their ability and without any culpable negligence, answer, “Yes, the entire exercise, taken together, will be beneficial.”

    In that case I would hold that the exercise of military power in this instance was Just. And I would hold that even if it turned out, a few years later, that the “deciders” had guessed wrongly, and that the whole exercise had been Unwise, because detrimental to the national interest.

    In that case, the proper formulation would be: “Had we known then what we know now, then we’d have known the whole thing to be against our national interest, and it would have been not only unwise, but unjust because our people did not authorize us to use their military in such a fashion. But because we did not know that then, our decision was not morally culpable. Consequently, the war was a Just War — assuming it fit all the other criteria for that designation — but remains, in the end, an Unwise War.”

  • I imagine it comes down to intent. Looking at Vietnam, if the US’s intent was to assist with the defense of a country against an invasion, then it would be just. If the US’s intent however was to have an arena in which to battle the Soviet Union (i.e. and intent not related to a just defense), then it would be unjust. I don’t know enough about vietnam to say which was which but I think if a country uses an unjust invasion as an excuse to justify what would be otherwise unjust motives, the presence of the just reason will not excuse the unjust reason.

  • Depends on the nature of the assistance, but sure. All that’s necessary are the conditions for “just war” not to apply to the specific assistance given by the assisting country, right?

    (working off the top of my head here) For it to be just, the assistance has to be proportionate, and likely to succeed (or to be really helpful). If the acts which constitute assistance are out of proportion to the harm that the war was supposed to stop or prevent, that wouldn’t be just. If the assistance is harmful rather than helpful, that wouldn’t be just. And maybe there is also a requirement that other means (e.g. negotiations) should be exhausted before material assistance with warfare.

  • Consider assisting in this context.
    It’s a little puzzling to note that most PRO-abortionists are also ANTI-war people. So it comes down to what is justifiable and who or what do we rely on for the justification. These judgments have to fit a template which society sets for itself in advance of an emergency or moral dilemma and it minimizes individual judgments having to be made under duress or on the spur of the moment.
    You must admit that those who would staunchly go along with the justification of terminating a pregnancy to “save” the mother must also and always support justifiable warfare. They are one in the same in that civilian casualties of justifiable warfare must be assumed to be simply collateral damage. You can’t have it both ways. Is the choice of ending one life at a time any more rational or justifiable than several at once?

  • The Rabbits Who Caused All The Trouble

    Within the memory of the youngest child there was a family of rabbits who lived near a pack of wolves. The wolves announced that they did not like the way the rabbits were living. (The wolves were crazy about the way they themselves were living, because it was the only way to live.) One night several wolves were killed in an earthquake and this was blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that rabbits pound on the ground with their hind legs and cause earthquakes. On another night one of the other wolves was killed by a bolt of lightning and this was also blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that lettuce-eaters cause lightning. The wolves threatened to civilize the rabbits if they didn’t behave, and the rabbits decided to run away to a desert island. But the other animals, who lived at a great distance, shamed them saying, “You must stay where you are and be brave. This is no world for escapists. If the wolves attack you, we will come to your aid in all probability.” So the rabbits continued to live near the wolves and one day there was a terrible flood which drowned a great many wolves. This was blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that carrot-nibblers with long ears cause floods. The wolves descended on the rabbits, for their own good, and imprisoned them in a dark cave, for their own protection.

    When nothing was heard about the rabbits for some weeks, the other animals demanded to know what happened to them. The wolves replied that the rabbits had been eaten and since they had been eaten the affair was a purely internal matter. But the other animals warned that they might possibly unite against the wolves unless some reason was given for the destruction of the rabbits. So the wolves gave them one. “They were trying to escape,” said the wolves, “and, as you know this is no world for escapists.”

    Moral: Run, don’t walk, to the nearest desert island.

    James Thurber

  • For you, Donald:


  • I love both of those Thurber stories, yet watching Olbermann read them I kept expecting, from his tone and verbal intonation, him to suddenly fall upon the book with his teeth and tear it to pieces.

    I guess that’s just how his voice always sounds…

  • If a nation is unjustly attacked by another, anyone – and any nation – which does not rush to the defense of the injured party is morally wrong. This is the same as if we were to see a person being attacked on our local streets and decided not to do anything. Wickedness must be opposed at every possible point – understanding that we can’t get at it all, but that we must get at it when we can.

  • While there may be some positions that it might be unjust as some previous posters comment upon, I don’t see why it would as a general rule.
    If I see Person A mugging Person B, I am just in defending Person B from Person A; but I am not just in just attacking Person A without provocation. Your proposal just extends it to the Nth degree, but I think the same principles will hold.

  • While not immediately apparent, there are definitely situations where status is king and acting under the guise of solidarity doesn’t make all things right.

    For example, a dear friend’s wife is having difficulty achieving pregnancy due to a difficulty your friend is having. Not having this difficulty, understanding that you would help her achieve pregnancy were she your wife, and having your friend’s blessing, you take your friend’s stead. This is in a nutshell the basis for the illegitimacy of surrogacy.

    Now I’m hesitant to say this applies to war in part due to the historical record. By the same token, I’m not convinced there is a transitive property to just war.

  • To answer the question in the post title: of course it can be, in general, immoral to assist someone who is himself doing something morally just.

    The act of assisting involves a separate, distinct act of its own. If that act is evil in its object (means), intent (end), or circumstances, then the act of assisting is evil. Furthermore, if the act of assisting involves remote material cooperation with evil, then the assister must have a proportionate reason.

    That raises the following problem in the specific case of war, where the just war doctrine defines what is meant by proportionate reason in detail.

    Lets assume right intention on the part of Country C: country C’s objective just is to help country A defend itself against the very same unjust aggression that country A is defending against.

    If Country A is fighting a just war, that means – by the definition of a just war – that (among other things) Country A must fight the war as a last resort in defense against the aggressor, and at the same time country A must have a reasonable chance of success. If A is justified in fighting on its own, it follows that C’s choice to go to war – a separate choice from A’s – is not itself a last resort. So it seems to follow that either A’s war is not just without C’s help, if A is unlikely to succeed without C, or C’s entry into the war is unjust if A is likely to succeed without C, since C’s decision to go to war is not a last resort.

    Since A’s choice to go to war is defined as a just choice in the problem definition, C’s choice to go to war is therefore unjust – because unlike A’s choice, C’s distinct choice is not a last resort. (If it were a last resort then A’s choice to go on its own would be unjust, since A would not have a reasonable chance of success on its own).

    Of course these are all about likelihoods, etc, and the prudential judgments which go with them. That leaves plenty of middle ground where the particular situation is ambiguous. It also sets aside cases where (e.g.) A’s war is just, but things go badly – that is, circumstances have changed – and C’s help is required at some point during that war-underway to retrieve the reasonable likelihood of success. This analysis assumes an “all at once” choice where C’s choice to assist is made at the same time and in the same basic circumstances as A’s choice.

    But handwaving aside the middle ground and altered circumstances for the sake of discussion clarity, it seems that if A’s war would be just going it alone – which is in the problem definition – then C’s choice to assist is probably unjust, because by definition C’s choice, unlike A’s, is not a last resort.

    (I’m not sure I buy the argument myself, mind you, but I don’t see any holes in it at the moment).

  • MZ,

    FWIW, the example of “helping” a friend get his wife pregnant was the main thing that occurred to me where “helping” a just action would be clearly wrong. I thought of including it, but dropped it out a need for brevity, but also on the theory that if I get my friend’s wife pregnant, I’m not actually helping him get his wife pregnant (a moral action) but rather getting her pregnant myself (an immoral action.)

    More generally, it’s hard for me to see that there’s an inviolable relationship between one country and the other country attacking it which is sullied by the intervention of another party. Still, it is an example case.

  • More succinctly:

    It appears that it is not just for Country C to go to war unless C is needed in order achieve success; and if C is needed in order to achieve success, then going to war without C is not reasonably likely to succeed, and therefore unjust.

  • Bob,

    It’s an interestingly self consistent argument, though like you I don’t really think I buy it. Let me see if I can make a few attempts at poking at it.

    – It might be that A is capable of fending off the attack of B, and that the devastation resulting from that defensive war on A’s part would be less than that likely to be caused by B’s annihilation of A, however that C is significantly more powerful and rich in resources than A or B, and so if C fulfills a treatied obligation by coming to A’s aid, C would end the war more quickly, resulting in less destruction. The argument would thus be that while A could possibly win, and thus can engage justly in the war, C’s entry makes victory certain, quicker and less destructive. The claim would thus be that the destruction resulting from C not entering the war would be grave, that if C does not enter the war that the war between A and B (the injustice) would certainly continue for some time, and that the destruction resulting from leaving A and B to fight it out would be much greater than that resulting from C stepping in. It’s not as neat, but I think it basically works.

    – My next attempt is, I think, less rigorous, but rather more common sensical: If C coming to the aid of A when A is invaded by B is immoral, then necessarily any treaty of mutual defense is immoral and unjust. And yet, if treaties of mutual defense are immoral, then wars are doubtless far more likely, as there are fewer consequences for unjust aggressors and greater ease of success. Indeed, throughout history (up to and including the modern day UN) the popes have frequently endorsed treaties of mutual defense as a just way or ensuring greater peace. As such, it seems hard to come to the idea fulfilling the obligations of such treaties is immoral.

    – Finally, by analogy to personal interactions, we know (or at least, I take it that we know) that it is moral for one person to assist in the defense of another person against unjust violence. If this is moral among individuals, it seems hard to see how it is immoral among countries.

    That said, I think the general point that “this country is engaged in a just war, therefore we can get in on it as a freebie and be just as well” is clearly wrong. Countries should be reluctant to go war even when assisting someone involved in a just war for the reasons you and R.C. outline.

  • I agree with DarwinCatholic.
    The notion that a nation is morally *required* to stand by and watch another nation be raped, pillaged, and plundered because it is safe and secure (i.e., not a last resort) is truly standing morality on its head.

  • That’s good, Darwin. I think we can expand on it in a way that better comports with intuition without going all waffly on the just war doctrine.

    To formalize it a bit more, we can observe that the lasting, grave, and certain damage inflicted by the aggressor nation is not a single hermetic unit. So we have damage X, Y, and Z. Country A is justified in going to war to block damage X, but on it’s own cannot block damage Y or Z. Country C’s decision to assist can be just if its entry into the war is a last resort to block damage Y. Presumably in war there is virtually always a lasting, grave, and certain damage Z which cannot be prevented.

    I think that makes explicit the “overlap” which our intuition insists upon. At the same time, as you say, each country clearly must independently go through te just war criteria; and just because A gets a green light that doesn’t mean that C gets a green light.

  • Darwin’s title asks:

    Can Assisting A Just Action Be Unjust?

    The answer is, absolutely, yes. Here are two cases (we can multiply them):

    1) Seth is married to Beth. Seth seeks to render to Beth her conjugal rights, which would be a just act (i.e., fulfilling her marital right). Seth’s neighbor, Jeff, seeks to assist Seth in Seth’s just act. Would Jeff’s assistance be just simply because Jeff is assisting a just act? Of course not.

    2) Seth and Beth have a child, Harry. Harry has a right to education and nourishment, and Seth and Beth have the obligation to fulfill that right. The national government of the nation in which Seth and Beth live assists Seth and Beth in nourishing and educating Harry, bypassing all lower associations and governments, which are more than capable of assisting Seth and Beth. Would the national government be acting justly in assisting Seth and Beth? Probably not, since it would be violating the principle of subsidiarity.

    What do these two cases show? That the question “Can Assisting a Just Action be Unjust?” doesn’t really get us anywhere. It’s far too general to be of any real philosophical interest.

    Darwin seems to notice as much, since he asks a different question toward the end of his post:

    “Is there a principled fashion in which one can argue that it is unjust to assist a country engaged in a just war? If so, what is the argument?”

    This question is much more nuanced and apropos of the topic he wishes to discuss (i.e., U.S. engagement with Vietnam). But I am afraid that once more Darwin has over-simplified the matter and dwelt at too high a level of generality to answer the specific question about U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

    The moral value of an action (i.e., whether it’s just or unjust, right or wrong, good or evil) depends both on the intention (i.e., the end) and the means (i.e., the specific action to bring about the end). Asking for a purely “principled fashion” of argument that can apply universal and unequivocally to every case of a nation assisting another nation in a just war obviously is too simplistic and general to be of use here.

    What Darwin needs to consider in order to give any approximation of an answer to the question of whether U.S. involvement in Vietnam was just is:

    1) Since the mode of assistance is war (as opposed to just an “act” in general, as the title of his post ambiguously suggests), there are more criteria involved then what we use to determine the moral value of particular actions of individuals (which is why Mark Noonan’s analogy fails). These criteria would be the just war criteria. So Darwin needs to ask: Does the U.S. war (not just an “act”) in Vietnam satisfy just war criteria?

    2) The moral criteria would also need to be addressed (which Michael Denton rightly notes above): What was the U.S. intention (i.e., end) in this war? Was this end moral or, at least, non-moral (as opposed to immoral or unjust)? What was the means used to bring about that end moral or just?

    3) With respect to the actual U.S. war in Vietnam, what was the pretext of going to war?

    So, really, Darwin’s not asking the right questions if he is interested in discovering the moral value of the U.S. war in Vietnam. To appeal simply to “assisting” in a just act, we see from the example of Seth and Beth, won’t do the work. Requesting a general, universal principle with respect to assisting in just wars, likewise, advances us very little. Finally, not asking what the pretext, means, and end of the U.S. war in Vietnam leaves us unable to render any answer to the question that really matters.

    The problem with most just war discussions is that they take place at a very simplistic, general level. These discussions require a great deal of precision in ethical thinking. Such precision, I suggest, will lead to a much greater consensus among Catholics when it comes to evaluating the moral value of particular wars. The problem, of course, is that many want to pronounce a particular war “just” or “morally good” without doing the tough work of thinking through just war criteria AND moral evaluative criteria. I am not accusing Darwin of failing to do this work, as he merely raises questions in his post. But I am accusing Darwin of doing is asking the wrong kind of questions.

  • MJ,

    This question is much more nuanced and apropos of the topic he wishes to discuss (i.e., U.S. engagement with Vietnam).

    Um, no. I don’t want to discuss whether US involvement in Vietnam was just. If I was wanting to discuss that, I would have titled my post something along the lines of, “Was The US War In Vietnam Just?” As it happens, I did not title it in such fashion. Vietnam was an intensely messy situation with a lot of different things going on, and what I am trying to look at here is the more abstract question. Should I ever get the itch to write a post about the question of the justice of the Vietnam war, be assured that you shall be the first to know.


    Your two numbered examples are somewhat interesting (though one MZ and I had already discussed, as you can see above) but I think they rather miss the point in that they involve someone taking over the act appropriate to someone else rather than assisting in it. One may argue that is what happened with the war in Vietnam, but I don’t think it addresses the more abstract question which is whether, if A has been invaded by B and seeks assistance in defense from C it would necessarily be unjust for C to get involved despite the justice of A’s cause. Your two examples would apply if there is an intimate relationship between Invader and Invaded as there is between husband and wife or parent and child, and it is wrong for others to interpose themselves into the mutual obligations which Invader and Invaded have towards each other (things, I suppose, like the consummation of the machine gunning act, the mutual obligation to shoot to kills, all those other treasured interactions.) However, I don’t think that either one of us imagines that the relationship between invaded and invader is an intimate and sacred one in that sense, so we seem to find little help here.

    1) Since the mode of assistance is war (as opposed to just an “act” in general, as the title of his post ambiguously suggests), there are more criteria involved then what we use to determine the moral value of particular actions of individuals (which is why Mark Noonan’s analogy fails). These criteria would be the just war criteria.

    Yes. I think that Bob does a pretty good job of examining the relevant issues above.

    Though as I think about it, one of the things that has me wondering about this is that by the time C is trying to decide whether to come to A’s aid, a war has already broken out. So it’s no longer a question of, “Gee, does this situation merit a war,” but rather, “Do we leave A alone in this situation, or do we go help them.”

    If we take it, as I did in my example, that A is engaged in a just war of defense, then we know that it is at least moral for some citizens in A to fight in A’s army against B. The remaining questions would be:

    – Is it okay for John Smith, being a man who lives near A but right across the border in another country, to go volunteer to fight for A because he believes that A’s cause is just, even though he is not a citizen of that country.

    – Is it moral for country C, being A’s neighbor, to send it’s army as a group over to support A against B and A’s request.

    2) The moral criteria would also need to be addressed (which Michael Denton rightly notes above): What was the U.S. intention (i.e., end) in this war? Was this end moral or, at least, non-moral (as opposed to immoral or unjust)? What was the means used to bring about that end moral or just?

    Again, I’m not interested in arguing Vietnam in particular here, but yes, that’s clearly a reasonable question. A historical example which springs to mind is Italy’s late entry into the Great War, mainly with an eye to snapping up Austrian territory once it became clear that Austria was having a bad time of it. Even if we take it that the Allied cause in the Great War was just, this was not necessarily a moral reason for entering into a war.

    The problem with most just war discussions is that they take place at a very simplistic, general level. These discussions require a great deal of precision in ethical thinking. Such precision, I suggest, will lead to a much greater consensus among Catholics when it comes to evaluating the moral value of particular wars. The problem, of course, is that many want to pronounce a particular war “just” or “morally good” without doing the tough work of thinking through just war criteria AND moral evaluative criteria.

    Actually, I highly doubt this would lead to greater consensus, unless we also posit a world in which everyone has transparent and easy agreement as to what the pretext, means and end of a war are. Very often this is precisely one of the main points of dispute between those who consider a war just and those who don’t.

    Usually the only way people manage to convince themselves that such a consensus of right thinking Catholics is likely or even possible is by assuming that all Catholics who disagree with their conclusions are not right thinking and working backwards from there.

  • Though as I think about it, one of the things that has me wondering about this is that by the time C is trying to decide whether to come to A’s aid, a war has already broken out. So it’s no longer a question of, “Gee, does this situation merit a war,” but rather, “Do we leave A alone in this situation, or do we go help them.”

    I alluded to that above when I handwaved over the question of altered circumstances: I’m not a historian, but I would guess that alliances in the real world aren’t going to all decide at once to go to war, nor all for precisely the same reasons.

    In some ways though that makes MJ Andrew’s point for him: in each case what we really have is a de novo application of the just war doctrine to current circumstances for the specific country considering the question. To push the matter further, one might even ask the question “is it ever just for country C to go to war to assist country A when A’s own past decision to wage war was unjust?” Although one initially greets the question with skepticism, I am virtually certain that we could develop particular scenarios where the answer is that yes, it can in fact be just for C to do so. (An obvious case I already brought up in the previous discussion is where A’s decision was unjust because A had no reasonable chance of success; but with C’s help, A can prevail — but these cases can be multiplied by looking at the JW criteria and creating scenarios where A fails but C passes, and stipulating that A went to war already anyway).

    My own impression about particular decisions to wage war (FWIW) (and really, any precise discussion of just war needs to separately consider jus ad bellum and jus in bello, where in the present discussion I’ve focused on the former) is that most people really don’t care about the just war criteria and simply look for something to justify foregone conclusions.

    Among the small subset of people who actually do care about the just war doctrine, though, the dispute seems as often to be over the facts, at least in addition to and perhaps even to the exclusion of the principles applied to those facts. (Not to mention other strange “mixed” or epistemic gambits, such as the bizarre notion introduced by George Weigel that because the competent authority must make the “go” decision in order for it to be a just decision, only the competent authority is capable of knowing the facts which obtain and therefore nobody other than the competent authority is capable of determining, as a matter of public knowledge, that the decision was unjust).

  • Though, to be fair, I think a lot of the reason why just war analysis looks like foregone conclusions is that many of the inputs to the decision are the stuff of foregone conclusions.

    As in, it will generally be those for the war who think that all other options short of war have been exhausted, that the matter is sufficiently grave to merit war as a solution, that the chances of success are good, etc. Those who are against the war, on the other hand, are likely to already think that there remain other avenues to resolution, or that the matter is not sufficiently grave to merit a war to resolve the issue, or that there is little chance of success, or that the evils resulting from the decision to wage war will be disproportionate to the good to be achieved by it, etc.

    There’s a sense in which this falls into the same logical difficulty as Plato’s understanding of the good — no one knowingly wishes to do other than good because if he wants to do something he necessarily thinks it to be a good from a Platonic point of view. Similarly, I’m not sure anyone knowing wishes to wage an unjust war. It’s more that some people have more deluded ideas as to reality than others.

    I could never quite make head or tails of Weigel’s line of thinking you mention, though it does strike me that there’s an extent to which rulers bear the primary moral culpability for whether they make a just decision in regards to war or not.

  • Though, to be fair, I think a lot of the reason why just war analysis looks like foregone conclusions is that many of the inputs to the decision are the stuff of foregone conclusions.

    Well, those inputs are the facts I am referring to which I think are usually the thing in dispute; as opposed to the principles.

    …it does strike me that there’s an extent to which rulers bear the primary moral culpability for whether they make a just decision in regards to war or not.

    Certainly. IIRC Weigel made the odd move of implying that the authority and associated responsibility of the competent authority in some way obscures, from the rest of us, whether or not a particular decision to go to war was just. That is like contending that because Fred is responsible for his decisions about what to do with property, only Fred is capable of concluding that when he stole a car doing so was unjust: the conclusion that it was unjust is utterly hidden from the rest of us.

    Anyway, I think that is something of a sidetrack here. I think we are agreeing that – at least among those who care about just war doctrine at all – the bulk of real disagreement tends to be over the facts which are fed into the principles, rather than over the principles themselves.

  • MJ,

    No, I think my analogy holds true in all circumstances. Remember, we’re talking about what to do with one nation attacks another without just cause. Nation A (the aggressor) has no case against Nation B – there was no mobilization in B as precursor to hostile acts; no holding A’s ships on the high seas; no offense against the lives or property of the citizens of A. This a bolt out of the blue – such as, for instance, Hitler’s attack on Poland in 1939.

    The failures of B in this case play no role, as long as those failures don’t entail provoking the war. That the Polish government had long been purblind in its dealings with Nazi Germany (including playing the part of hyena over Teschen just a few months prior to the German attack) doesn’t matter – the Polish people, which includes a great number of very truly innocent people, was under attack for no just cause.

    Now at that time – and later – the cynics answer was that Poland had a lot of flaws, was indefensible by those willing to offer aid and, at any rate, the elimination of Poland would give Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia a common border and they were sure to come to blows – and why not let those two hideous regimes just have at each other? Serve them right, wouldn’t it?

    Except for the fact that Germans and Russians are people, too. Bamboozled or browbeaten in to supporting hideous regimes, no doubt – but still human beings; still our brothers and sisters. If their disgusting governments are permitted to go to war, then lots of people will die – almost all of whom are not morally culpable for their leader’s sins.

    If, in 1939, the whole world had done its duty – rather than just Britain and France (and them quite feebly, to begin with) – then Hitler’s Germany would have been swiftly crushed. No bloody, devastating Second World War. No Holocaust. No post-WWII Stalinist surge. No 50 year long Cold War. No Korea. No Vietnam. Perhaps no War on Terrorism, given that the initial terrorist groups were Soviet-sponsored.

    There is right and there is wrong – when wrong happens, then if you can do anything about it, you must do so. There is no moral option of thinking it over, or finding flaws in those under attack to excuse you from taking action. I think a great deal of our problem – as Catholics – with war stems from a very flawed understanding about war which has developed since the devastation of the Second World War and the very reasonable desire of the Church to prevent a repeat. But our overwhelming desire to prevent such a thing has deadened us to the concept of honor – meaning, in this sense, the honor of a brave man who will do a man’s part in the world. Our Mother is very central to our lives – but St Michael and St George also have their role to play, and we’ve forgotten it.

  • This is an interesting discussion, from which I’m learning a lot.

    I do have to intrude to disagree with Mark Noonan’s last point, which I read as implying that the chief failure in contemporary American Catholic thinking about Just War is an effeminate hand-wringing brought about by the loss of a concept of “honor”–a dubious motivation if there ever was one (cf: Civitas Dei).

    Given the many number of wars, declared and undeclared, that America has taken upon itself to wage since the conclusion of WWII, I find it implausible in the extreme to think that American Catholics are likely to err in their thinking in the way that Noonan suggests. Just the opposite is the case–we are probably much more likely to view our nation’s military adventures with a favorable eye, and regard them as necessary, for the greater good, etc. just because we are Americans. I do find it strange that a war which the vast majority of Catholics worldwide had no difficulty in determining to be unjust–the 2003 action against Iraq–was thought to be justified (and is *still* thought to be) by many self-described “orthodox” Catholics in America (including my 2003 self, which was blissfully ignorant in its trust of the then administration).

    But perhaps Noonan was making a point about *non*-American Catholics–this makes more sense: Paul VI, JPII, Benedict XVI, etc., these figures are all strongly skeptical of war, and so perhaps they have all become too Marian as Noonan suggests.

  • “I do find it strange that a war which the vast majority of Catholics worldwide had no difficulty in determining to be unjust–the 2003 action against Iraq–was thought to be justified (and is *still* thought to be) by many self-described “orthodox” Catholics in America (including my 2003 self, which was blissfully ignorant in its trust of the then administration).”

    Indeed WJ? Can you cite any evidence for that contention? There was great hostility in most of Europe among great sectors of the population to the Iraq war. I doubt seriously if in the vast majority of cases this had anything to do with their Catholicism since most European Catholics pay no heed to most of the teachings of the Church and are notable by the fact that they rarely go to Mass and tend to elect politicians hostile to most of the public policy positions of the Church. I think their position on the war tended to be motivated by other factors: what political party they belonged to, how recently they went through multi-year low level Leftist brainwashing seminars, that often tend to be called erroneously colleges and universities in our time, belief in cospiracy theories involving sinister Zionists and Neo-Cons, an embrace of fashionable, in Europe, pacifism, anti-Americanism which has never gone out of fashion among intellectual elites in Europe, etc. To be fair I would say the same thing about the positions taken by most American Catholics on the Iraq war in 2003: that their positions were not really motivated by their Catholicism, but rather by other factors. As for the Vatican, well, it is a rare military action that the Vatican has supported since World War II, the last time in which the Vatican was under direct military threat, and Vatican policy in the Arab world has been, at almost any cost, to foster good relations with the Arab states and oppose any action that would be perceived as rocking the boat and causing problems for Arab Catholics in a region where their existence is always precarious due to their muslim “brethren”. Ironically I believe that a great many of the European Catholics that you cite on the question of the justness of the war in Iraq, then opposed the Vatican on the question of US and allied forces remaining in Iraq after the war to stabilize it, which the Vatican supported and most critics of the war, here and abroad, did not, favoring an immediate cut and run strategy. Of course all of this reality is to get away from a truly first rate, and I mean that sincerely, theoretical discussion of the Just War Doctrine.

  • wars, declared and undeclared, that America has taken upon itself to wage since the conclusion of WWII,

    Leaving aside some small and brief operations in the Caribbean basin, the United States has gone to war in the following circumstances:

    1. Korea (1950-53)
    2. VietNam (the ‘advisory war’ of 1961-65)
    3. VietNam (1965-73)
    4. The Persian Gulf (1990-91)
    5. Afghanistan (2001- )
    6. Iraq (2003- )

    None of these was a war of national mobilization in the sense that the first or second World War was. The military has been at war. The society has not been.

    The first and the fourth followed on an attempt by a peculiarly repulsive foreign state to conquer a neighboring state. That has not been particularly common in the post-war period and in nearly every other case but these two, armed intervention would have meant a direct confrontation with a great power (e.g. Czechoslovakia in 1968) or the aggressor had comparatively benign objects and those so injured were no accounts (Tanzania’s conquest of Uganda in 1979).

    The fifth war followed upon a bloody attack on American soil for which that state was responsible.

    The second war was in assistance to an ally combatting a manufactured insurgency.

    I do not see what is objectionable about the first, second, fourth, or fifth (in and of themselves) from an ethical standpoint. With regard to the other two, you might have a case, but you and MJ have elected not to make it in this forum, instead simply repeating the term ‘manifestly’.

  • “But our overwhelming desire to prevent such a thing has deadened us to the concept of honor – meaning, in this sense, the honor of a brave man who will do a man’s part in the world.”

    I agree with you on that point Mark. Unfortunately when you speak the language of Honor, as traditionally understood in Western culture, to most people today, you might as well be speaking Attic Greek, since the subject was usually not covered in what they studied, what did they study?, in school. In our pc culture, honor is to be laughed at, until in CS Lewis’ immortal phrase, we are in mortal danger and suddenly realize, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful.”

  • Art Deco,

    I wrote “many number of wars, both declared and undeclared”–but I will cede the point and say, instead, “extent of military operations, both declared and undeclared.” I’ll do this because many of America’s military interventions across the globe since WWII have, as you rightly note, not been described by Americans generally and historians specifically as “wars” per se. My larger point, though, was to note that America has been, shall we say, very *active* militarily since the end of WWII, and most American Catholics don’t seem to raise a fuss about it–either because they are unaware of them or don’t think that they merit ethical analysis. I’ll just say that the *actual* extent of U.S. military operations is far greater than the “wars” which you cite, and that in many of these instances of operation, the U.S. was concerned to prop up or dismantle the government of a foreign nation, an action which seems to me to be analyzable under Just War criteria. I won’t provide the long list of such interventions, but you can find it, for example, here:

    I don’t intend this description of U.S. military action to be moralistic, but a realist portrayal of the fact that we have, in fact, *constantly* intervened militarily across the globe since WWII, and this seemed to fit oddly in, somehow, with Noonan’s point.

    A larger discussion of these and other issues is, of course, beyond the purview of this thread. But thanks for the correction, and the opportunity to clarify my statement.

  • Donald,

    Let’s not forget that “honor” is, strictly speaking, not a virtue. It is rather the social recognition of the virtuous person, and it’s worth is proportionate to the person giving it. For “honor is not in the honored, but rather in him who honors” (Summa I-II 2,2).

  • At its best WJ a code of Honor is a code of conduct to help men along the course of right behavior, and judging from the history of Fallen Man we need all the help we can get! Like anything else of human creation it has its limitations, and there are countless examples throughout history of men who have paid lipservice to such codes and behaved like scoundrels nonetheless. However I do think that such codes have generally civilized life, at least in the West. However, like much human behavior it is a learned behavior and such codes are not generally not taught in our society. The service academies do hold on to the notion. Here is the honor code for West Point: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” The periodic cheating scandals at West Point and the other service academies indicate that such codes do not change the conduct of all who take them, but I think for most people they do have an impact upon conduct. Civilian unversities often have academic honor codes but they don’t seem to take them seriously. I was at the University of Illinois for seven years and I can’t recall the honor code being mentioned at any time.

  • Yes, that seems reasonable enough. You are certainly right that we all need “all the help we can get.” May you have a peaceful Sunday, and may the Bears defeat the Lions. Take care.

  • Bears? Lions? They are fighting each other now? 🙂

  • … when wrong happens, then if you can do anything about it, you must do so. There is no moral option of thinking it over, or finding flaws in those under attack to excuse you from taking action.

    Honestly, and with all due respect, that is just the worst bit of rhetoric posing as moral reasoning – well, gratuitous assertion at any rate – I’ve seen in a long time. If it were true that wherever there is evil we are compelled to act by the simple fact of our material capacity to act, we’d all be sinning by not each adopting a starving family in Africa.

    What the Church teaches about positive moral precepts is this:

    In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. But the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception.

  • I’ll just say that the *actual* extent of U.S. military operations is far greater than the “wars” which you cite, and that in many of these instances of operation, the U.S. was concerned to prop up or dismantle the government of a foreign nation, an action which seems to me to be analyzable under Just War criteria. I won’t provide the long list of such interventions, but you can find it, for example, here:
    I don’t intend this description of U.S. military action to be moralistic, but a realist portrayal of the fact that we have, in fact, *constantly* intervened militarily across the globe since WWII, and this seemed to fit oddly in, somehow, with Noonan’s point.

    I forgot the bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999 (which does not bother me either).

    Beyond that, there is little on your list of ‘interventions’ that merits much discussion by Catholics as Catholics, or anyone not an academic or professional specialist. The author in question jumbles together the residual occupations at the close of the second World War, rescue missions, military exercises, covert operations (including stating as fact a claim about Chilean politics which is dubious from two different directions) and instances of actual military combat into one stew on which you and he slap the label ‘intervention’. I cannot take that seriously. Your objection is not that we engage in ‘unjust wars’; it is that the U.S. Military does something else with its time than sitting in the barracks pitching cards and smoking cigarettes.

    Very few foreign countries have the ready resources to put together military and naval forces that operate in more than a geographically restricted domain and some that do (Germany and Japan) can usually rely on the United States, France, and Britain to deliver the supplies, evacuate foreign nationals, and interpose themselves between combatants. We do it because we have the men and materiel and an institutional history of this sort of work. The Spanish military does not.

    You may be a maven of Just War theory, but I can say that your complaint as stated is thoroughly banal to anyone who has sampled opinion journalism written in the last forty years, very little of which is composed by anyone concerned with the content of Papal encyclicals. I do not see what your problem is a priori with ‘propping up’ a foreign government under siege. Which foreign government do you find proper meat for some violent insurrection? What would be the alternative to the government being ‘propped up’ in these circumstances? Or has Just War theory now degenerated into some sort of international-political Social Darwinism: foreign governments who need the help of friends for survival deserve neither friends nor survival, eh?

    I think during the post-war period you will find no more than two good and undisputed examples of a foreign government being ‘dismantled’ at the instigation of the United States government. You will find a third example of the U.S. Government supplying one side in a dogfight (Iran in 1953). You will find some other examples of American officials as actors in the messy political theatre of ill-consolidated states. For some that is sufficient to attribute every disagreeable thing about political life in those places to the U.S. Embassy, which is nonsense. The instigators and suppliers were not the military but the intelligence services and the diplomatic corps and in only one case was a constitutional regime (that of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala) deposed.

    ‘Way beyond’ my foot.

  • WJ,

    One cannot really become “too Marian”, of course – but I do wonder if we’ve lost an important part of what it means to be Catholic? Unless you want to hold that things like the Crusades were, from start to finish, nothing but an error or that the Battle of Lepanto should never have been fought, then it has to be granted that the sword has its place in Catholicism. How are we to convert the world if we don’t have a bit of fire in ourselves – and a willingness to be firm? Truckling to enemies – as we do regarding our relations between middle east Catholics and the majority Moslems – doesn’t seem, in the long run, the best means of converting Islam (and we must seek their conversion, shouldn’t we?).

    There has crept in, at least in my perception, a belief that death is the worst thing which can happen. It isn’t, of course – not that death is to be courted, but it is also not to be rejected, if that turns out to be what is required for the defense of a greater good.

  • Donald,

    It is hard to defend basic decency these days, isn’t it? We’ve become a world where if a man merely doesn’t hit the road after getting a girl pregnant, he’s a good guy – we’ve fallen very far. In fact, we’ve fallen quite far enough – time to rise, again.

  • Bob,

    I think I was pretty clear about it – if we can do something, we must do it. Can you adopt a person in Africa? If you really can, then you should. I can’t – but I always take chances such as this to plug Missionaries of the Poor. They really go great work for the poorest of the poor and if you can kick them a few dollars, it’ll be a great thing.

    That said…

    The point I’m making is that when an evil deed occurs, if you have the means to stop it or prevent it, you should do so. I am quite confident you will not assert otherwise. Unless, that is, you want to state that nothing is ever worth shedding blood over. If that is the case, then we have nothing really to discuss. I feel otherwise. If, on the other hand, there are things you’d kill or die for, then we have much to speak of.

    Naturally, one can’t do everything – and neither can even the richest and most powerful nation in human history. If during WWII Brazil had suddenly attacked Argentina, there wouldn’t have been anything we could have done to stop it. We are not all powerful. But we are powerful – and I don’t think that God endowed us with a continent so that we could just enrich ourselves; I don’t think God gave us a sublime military tradition so that we could stand aside and watch others suffer; I don’t think we were granted the chance for liberty so that we could just keep it for ourselves.

  • Mark:

    I can only go by what you actually said, I can’t make divinations into your mind to determine if you meant the opposite of what you said.

    What you actually said was “… when wrong happens, then if you can do anything about it, you must do so. There is no moral option of thinking it over, or finding flaws in those under attack to excuse you from taking action.”

    And as I said in reply, that is the worst bit of empty rhetoric posing as moral reasoning I’ve seen in some time. (Which is saying something, when you consider the sheer volume of empty rhetoric posing as moral reasoning on the Internet).

    In reality, it isn’t just that there is a moral option of thinking it over and making a prudent judgment. In fact, thinking it over and making a prudent judgment is morally required: the very opposite of what you stated explicitly. Your reply that everyone who is materially capable of doing so is, without further thought, morally required to adopt a poor family in Africa, simply reinforces the fact that you are engaged in empty chest-thumping rhetoric.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m all in favor of chest-thumping when we are in the right, and I even agree that the West has lost a sense of honor and that this is a terrible loss. But in this case what you proposed explicitly – whatever may or may not have been bouncing around in your head as you proposed it, invisible to the rest of us – is very precisely the opposite of what is right.

  • Art Deco,

    I don’t think I’m arguing what you think I’m arguing. Let me simplify: Mark Noonan made a point about Catholic hesitancy to embrace war and/or military interventions which I believed to be ambiguous: if it applied to American Catholic thought it seemed to me to be not accurate, given the fact that America has been very militarily active since WWII with not much attention or criticism given to these adventures outside of a small set of marginalized Dorothy Dayish non-violent types (a group with which I sympathize but do not identify myself); if Noonan’s claim applied to European Catholics it seemed much more applicable. That is all.

    As I said above, I don’t intend my listing of American military activities to be moralistic; I have no idea, in some instances, whether they were justified or not (and, by the way, I certainly don’t claim to be a Just War maven, as you put it!)–I’m merely pointing to the fact that they occurred. (I do find it odd, as a side note, that you want to explain away or minimize the extent and effects of such actions: why? If they are Just, or at least justifiable, then there is no need to do so. In any case, I get the sense that you think I am attacking these activities when I am merely pointing out the fact that they occurred.) The point of the comment in the first place was merely to suggest that Noonan’s observation, if it applied to American Catholics, didn’t seem to map well onto other facts.

    Myself a realist, I happen to think that States almost *never* act with an eye toward the good or the just, but only with an eye toward maintaining what they perceive to be their own self-interest at the moment (or maintaining what a dominant section of the populace has conceived to be in its own self-interest). I’m sure, or pretty sure, that Just War thinking never plays an *actual* role in a State’s decision about whether to enter or how to prosecute a war.

  • if it applied to American Catholic thought it seemed to me to be not accurate, given the fact that America has been very militarily active since WWII

    And my contention is that your definition of ‘very militarily active’ is hopelessly bloated.

    (I do find it odd, as a side note, that you want to explain away or minimize the extent and effects of such actions: why? If they are Just, or at least justifiable, then there is no need to do so.

    These operations generally do not bother me. My point was to comment on the disincilination of your referent and you yourself to make distinctions between the different sorts of activities in which the U.S. Military engages. I think it trivializes a discussion of Just War to invoke some evacuation effected by American soldiers in the course of complaining about the ‘activity’ of the American military. You referent also made false statements about covert action in Chile that are quite common and should not be left to stand.

    Myself a realist, I happen to think that States almost *never* act with an eye toward the good or the just, but only with an eye toward maintaining what they perceive to be their own self-interest

    Hans Morgenthau was a theoretician. He manufactured an ideal type. There is a difference between ideal types and realities. His conceptions were deterministic, as if the interplay of international politics were a machine. The thing is, politicians make choices all the time, as students of Morgenthau learn when forced to digest dense diplomatic histories. International politics, unlike economic life, cannot be described using statistical aggregates.

    The sociologist Stanley Rothman once had a retort to the purveyors of realist theories: your conception of what is in your self-interest is filtered through culture. One can learn from Morgenthau and others. One must learn from their adversaries as well.

  • Mark,

    I think the difficulty with the suggestion that if one is able to perform some particular good act (say, in your example, adopting a family from Africa) one therefore is morally required to do so is that, if one takes the term “able” seriously, it would require you to do a number of actions which all together might not be at all wise. For instance, perhaps right now I can afford to support a family in Africa, so I sign up to do so. Then, three months from now, I find out that my wife is pregnant, one of our cars breaks down, and I’m laid off from my job. Now I find myself unable to meet even my own obligations, which puts those I’ve adopted in a rather bad place. Most people and organizations tend to minimize long term obligations to those which are necessary in order to avoid finding that they have unknowing shortchanged their essential long term obligations — employing a sort of moral opportunity cost analysis.

    This certainly doesn’t mean that one should never use one’s power and resources to intervene for good, where one can justly do so, but I certainly wouldn’t say that one is always required to simply because one in theory could.

  • There are a number of responses here, so I cannot say that I’ve read each in depth, but the analogy is a bit challenging. In the case of the example, the US helping S. Vietnam resist N. Vietnam agression, there was a pre-existing treaty – SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization) which was an agreement the the US would help S.V. against any communist agression. This obviously served several interests: to check the expansion of communisim (the domino theory), the position the US as a regional power in the SE Asia region, and to stabilize business and trade in the tense region.
    So, in this case, where Country C (US) helps Country B (S.V) in fighting Country A (N.V.), Country C was actually living up to a promise, an obligation to support their ally. The question of ‘rightness’, then, is different. The premise that a third party cannot involve themselves without somehow comprimising their morality is confusing and, I believe, oversimplified. An example of the evil which was present in the equation was seen in Cambodia under Pol Pot, where an untold number were slaughtered for the communisty idealism. So, it would appear that Country C was not involving themselves in a conflict in which they had no personal interest, but were instead acting in the interest of the millions of unprotected who could not resist such an evil. Perhaps the moral issue should be ‘in the event Country C involves itself in the resolution of Country B’s conflict, can it ever relieve itself of that obligation?’

  • Bob,

    I think you’re dodging a bit there – I said if you can do something, you should. Are you asserting that it if it is in your power to do a good thing there may still be a reason for not doing it? I’d like to find the passage where Our Lord says, “I was hungry and you didn’t think it over before helping me”.

  • Darwin,

    I didn’t say it’d be easy – but I can’t think of anything in our Catholic faith which instructs me to be greatly concerned about the circumstances of tomorrow when I’ve got a problem to deal with today. In fact, I seem to recall some passage in there where we are specifically instructed not to worry about tomorrow.

    To do the deed at hand is, I think, what is required of us. If it kills us, then so be it. It is up to God to ensure that the long term effect of our trying to do the right thing is, indeed, to the greater good. Now, if we don’t have the means of helping (“gold and silver I have not”, eg) in a particular manner, then we should still help with whatever means we have. We never have no means, as we can always at the very least pray – and, some times, that is all we can do (and a tremendous thing it is, too, as it is calling God immediately to aid).

    Prudence does have its place, of course. But I do worry that we’re placing too much emphasis on it. That we, in the end, worry too much about what might happen rather than concentrating on what must be done, right now. Its not going to do me any good to ignore your need today while I prepare tomorrow, and then I die this night.

  • Really, how can one even have a discussion with a man who is arguing for the principle “don’t think”?

  • Bob,

    A lot easier than arguing with the man who says “don’t do”. Inert things can’t really be used for much.

  • “Down with thinking before acting!”

    Silly man.

  • Alright, guys. I think this is headed off the rails here. Let’s not.

    I’ll grant Mark that Christ’s message is the scriptures does not tend to emphasize forethought in the material world as a virtue. Indeed, material prudence is usually only mentioned in parables in which it serves as an analogy for how we should have forethought towards storing up treasures in heaven rather than being careful with material goods in the here and now.

    That said, prudence (including prudence with material goods and responsibilities) has been seen as a virtue by the Church throughout its history and planning and consideration of these sorts has been seen as a moral necessity by Church thinkers from Augustine through Aquinas and down to the present day. There are figures such as St. Francis who saw prudential planning as being a faily to put one’s faith in God, but that’s certainly not the only trend in Christan thought.

    Also, it’s perhaps noteable in this case that most of those Church thinkers who have most emphasized relying on God rather than planning for the future have also emphasized non-violence, while those who have emphasized self defense and just war have also seen the wisdom of planning in this world.

What Faith Was That, Governor?

Friday, December 3, AD 2010


Pat Quinn is the Governor of the State of Illinois.  He was Lieutenant Governor under Rod Blagojevich and took over after Blago was impeached and convicted by the State Legislature.  Quinn bucked the Republican tide this year and won election to a four year term, narrowly defeating pro-life Republican Bill Brady.  In that campaign Quinn emphasized that he is a pro-abort.

Pat Quinn claims to be a Roman Catholic.  The State Legislature this week passed a civil unions (pretend marriage) bill for homosexuals.  Quinn has vowed to sign it.

Gov. Pat Quinn – who campaigned on the issue, lobbied members and was on the floor of the House for much of Tuesday’s debate – lauded the House’s action. Quinn said he would sign the bill if it passes the Senate, where a vote is expected today.

“My religious faith animates me to support this bill,” Quinn, a Catholic, told reporters after the vote. “I think, as a matter of conscience, this was the right vote.”


The Bishop of Springfield, Thomas Paprocki, wasted no time correcting the Governor:

After the Illinois House of Representatives approved legislation that would require the state to recognize same-sex unions, Governor Pat Quinn was quoted as saying, “My religious faith animates me to support this bill.” He did not say what religious faith that would be, but it certainly is not the Catholic faith. If the Governor wishes to pursue a secular agenda for political purposes, that is his prerogative for which he is accountable to the voters. But if he wishes to speak as a Catholic, then he is accountable to Catholic authority, and the Catholic Church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.

The Governor met the Bishop’s rebuke with a shrug of indifference:  Asked about the bishop’s statement, Quinn said, “I follow my conscience. My conscience is not kicking me in the shins today.”

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12 Responses to What Faith Was That, Governor?

  • Bishop Paprocki most appropriately availed himself of this opportunity (“teachable moment”) to make perfectly, succunctly clear the Church’s Truth on this faith and morals issue.

    There is another form of bankruptcy (besides fiscal bankruptcy): moral bankruptcy.

    IL is bankrupt on both counts. It just hasn’t declared bankruptcy . . . yet.

  • My guess is that this is more about Quinn paying back the gay activist groups who contributed money to his campaign, than it is about his faith. I don’t recall him making an issue of civil unions/gay marriage until maybe a couple of months before the election.

    Do these statements indicate that Bp. Paprocki will invoke Canon 915 against Gov. Quinn or is considering it? Anything is possible, I suppose. However, if he did, I don’t know that it would have much of an effect. You see, Quinn still has a home in Chicago, and most of his public appearances on weekends are in that area. More likely than not he goes to Mass there. The Cathedral is only 2 blocks from the governor’s mansion and I belong to that parish but I have yet to see him or any other well-known, Catholic statewide official at a weekend Mass. Of course, maybe I’m just going to Mass at the wrong times 🙂 A formal canonical action, if it comes to that, would need Cardinal George and all the bishops of Illinois on board to really be effective.

  • The news just gets worse and worse for the Land of Lincoln. I applaud the Bishop for his clear remarks.

    Disaster I fear looms for Illinois, that’s what happens when your state is taken over by Public Service Unions.

  • “I follow my conscience. My conscience is not kicking me in the shins today.”

    He’s a pol from Chicago. What conscience?

    What is disgustingly amusing about this is that the Governor professes it a matter of conscience that the gay lobby be given a bauble that was dreamed up around about 1986. Our social policy is being set by people who are driven by fashion and when asked to explain themselves have nothing to offer but ‘whatever’.

  • My guess is that this is more about Quinn paying back the gay activist groups who contributed money to his campaign, than it is about his faith.

    Thirty some years ago, the National Organizaton for Women had occasion to complain that state Governors were unwilling to horse trade to get their pet project (the ‘Equal Rights Amendment’) passed. I think it was Governor Thompson of Illinois who offered in reply that for the opposition it was a matter of conscience as well and ‘you don’t trade a constitutional amendment for a job or a bridge’. I guess standards in Illinois have been in long-term decline.

  • Actually this bill opens up even more cans of moral, societal, and fiscal worms than just gay marriage…

    Because the civil unions provided for in this bill are open to BOTH opposite-sex and same-sex couples, some senior citizens think it might provide a convienient resolution to the dilemma of widows/widowers who want to remarry without losing Social Security, pension or other benefits from their previous spouses.

    A civil union under this law would be recognized by the State and grant all the rights the State normally grants to married couples (inheritance, insurance coverage, medical decision making, etc.), but since it wouldn’t be recognized by the FEDERAL government, wouldn’t affect Social Security benefits or change one’s income tax filing status.

    So, what happens if a Catholic or mixed-faith couple, one or both of whom is widowed and has a pension or other source of income they would lose upon remarriage, decides to opt for a civil union instead, and then decides to marry in the Church? What are they going to tell the priest when he asks for their marriage license? What is the priest going to do when he discovers they don’t have one? Is the couple guilty of fraud or cooperation with evil? Does their legal status impinge upon whether or not the sacrament is valid?

  • “Because the civil unions provided for in this bill are open to BOTH opposite-sex and same-sex couples, some senior citizens think it might provide a convienient resolution to the dilemma of widows/widowers who want to remarry without losing Social Security, pension or other benefits from their previous spouses.”

    I don’t wish to insult you Elaine, but that observation was worthy of an attorney! 🙂

    The dirty little secret about gay marriage and civil unions is that, outside of the activist homosexuals, there is precious little evidence that homosexuals en masse are much interested in either one. The type of gaming of the system you mention regarding heterosexuals using civil unions to get around social security regulations, or losing health insurance or pension benefits for that matter, might be the chief legacy of the creation of these pretend marriages. Legislation always has unintended consequences and this might well be one in the case of civil unions.

  • Bravo Bishop Paprocki!! I love how he spoke up and set the record straight.

    It’s really all about these secularists tearing down the family and the importance of marriage, and not about them participating in marriage or civil unions.

  • Another group that may be interested in civil unions as a “lite” form of marriage: young people who want to get on their significant other’s health insurance plan (if it doesn’t already cover domestic partners) but aren’t yet ready for a “real” wedding because they can’t afford the big bridezilla party, or for other reasons.

    However, the ability to have one’s wedding… er, civil union, cake and eat it too won’t last very long if and when the federal government decides to recognize same-sex unions or put them fully on a par with civil marriage. That might please gay activists but probably won’t please the opposite-sex couples who use civil unions to game the benefit system.

  • Quinn needs to be told: “Get thee behind the church, Satan!” Then maybe he will start properly forming his conscience.

  • This is as much a rebuke of Quinn as it is the blue collar Chicago catholics who voted him back into office. The fact that catholics continue to vote for such pro-aborts is also a poor reflection on the unfortunate ineffectual leadership of Cardinal George.

  • So…

    I gather Quinn is not permitted to receive at any Catholic parish within the Springfield diocese? Is that right?

    I ask because doing so would be, under the circumstances, dangerous for Quinn personally. St. Paul asserts that some folk get sick or die as a chastisement from God for taking the body and blood while not properly disposed.

    So, did Bishop Paprocki take this additional pastoral step of keeping Quinn out of harm’s way? (I suppose he could have done it privately.)