Monthly Archives: January 2011

Is A Preferential Option for the Poor Bad for the Poor?

Admittedly this sounds like a silly question, but it is effectively one that Kyle Cupp is asking over at Vox Nova:

Putting aside whether or not the theory actually works in practice, a question I don’t here wish to debate, does trickle-down economics embody what has been called in Catholic circles the preferential option for the poor?

I’m inclined to answer that it does not, that while helping to generate pools of capital at the top may benefit the poor through a process of “trickling down,” the theory itself embodies a preferential option for the rich.

Kyle wants us to put aside the question of whether “trickle-down” economics actually works, so for purposes of considering the question we can assume that trickle-down does make the poor a lot better off than any alternative. So what Kyle is really asking here is whether a preferential option for the poor might require us to make the poor worse off (e.g. by rejecting trickle-down economics). Continue reading

Bees in the Mouth

All the recent hubub  about our political rhetoric led me to re-read a book by Peter Wood called A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now. It was published in 2006, so at the time Wood focused mainly on the angry political rhetoric of the left.  He didn’t claim that political anger was solely a phenomenon of the left, but most of the examples of heated rhetoric came from left-wing sources. (This, by the way, is where I got that quote from Paul Krugman that I cited last week.)

At any rate, Wood concentrates on what he terms “new anger.”  He acknowledges that there has always been heated political argumentation, but that stylistically much has changed.  People worked hard to suppress anger – witness George Washington’s dedicated attempts to control his quick temper.  Now anger is celebrated.  It has become something of a performance art in our modern society, and we celebrate expressions of righteous anger.   As someone who titles his personal blog (tongue-in-cheekly) the Cranky Conservative, I can see the merits of his argument.

Though Wood makes many decent observations, there are two problems with his book.  Continue reading

Head of CCHD Was Treasurer For Pro-Abort Candidate

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In a dog bites man story, and an example of good blog journalism, Creative Minority Report has broken the news that the head of the CCHD, Ralph McCloud, while he was head of the CCHD, was the campaign treasurer for pro-abort Wendy Davis in her successful run in 2008 for the Texas State Senate:

 While the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has come under well deserved scrutiny for supporting groups such as ACORN and groups with ties to promoting abortion, CMR has uncovered that Ralph McCloud, while heading the CCHD in 2008, was simultaneously working as a highly placed campaign official for a pro-choice politician seeking to unseat a pro-life politician.according to public records, McCloud also worked as the Treasurer for Planned Parenthood endorsed Democrat Wendy Davis.Annie’s List,raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Davis in 2008 while McCloud worked as Treasurer. The group even gave a spirited endorsement of the pro-choice Davis, who succeeded in defeating her pro-life opponent.

As you likely know, CCHD is the bishops’ anti-poverty program which funds community organizing and economic development projects and has been at the center of a number of controversies. Ralph McCloud was named head of the CCHD in November 2007. In his first year as head of the CCHD,

Why would the director of the CCHD, during his tenure as head of an ostensibly Catholic institution act as champion and treasurer of a campaign for a pro-abortion politician seeking to oust a pro-life politician? This is the textbook definition of scandal.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website, “the CCHD fully upholds the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception through natural death.” But acting as Treasurer for a pro-choice politician means that every single yard sign, every press release, every brochure or pamphlet of the Davis campaign had Ralph McCloud’s name on it. So in short, while heading up the CCHD, McCloud was very publicly working against the stated goals of the organization he oversaw.

Isn’t that a bit confusing to Catholics? Isn’t that in itself a scandal to the faithful?

McCloud himself labeled questions about another CCHD employee John Carr’s commitment to the pro-life cause “very disturbing allegations” which he believed were unfounded. CMR believes it to be equally disturbing that McCloud would work for a campaign garnering donations from Annie’s List (a pro-choice PAC), Planned Parenthood and ACORN.

Go here to read the rest at Creative Minority Report. Continue reading

Is Mr. Smith in the Tea Party?

Now that college football season is over, Tito is going to make me write real posts again.

There was an interesting post a few days back from Stanley Fish comparing Palin’s vision of American to Frank Capra’s, particularly as embodied in his classic film (and my favorite movie) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The movie *spoiler alert* involves an young idealistic Boy Scout leader who is nominated to the Senate because the powers that be, including a sitting Senator and a large businessman, believe he can be easily manipulated to serve their interests. Mr. Smith stumbles into the corruption and attempts to expose him. His enemies mount a successful smear campaign for them, causing Mr. Smith to have to filibuster both to save his seat in the Senate and to expose the corruption. This is where Fish (who also mentions some other Capra works) comes in:

In each of these films the forces of statism, corporatism and mercantilism are routed by the spontaneous uprising of ordinary men who defeat the sophisticated machinations of their opponents by declaring, living and fighting for a simple basic creed of individualism, self-help, independence and freedom.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It describes what we have come to know as the Tea Party, which famously has no leaders, no organization, no official platform, no funds from the public trough. Although she only mentions the Tea Party briefly in her book, Palin is busily elaborating its principles, first in the lengthy discussion of Capra’s Jefferson Smith and then, at the end of the same chapter, in an equally lengthy discussion of Martin Luther King. These two men (one fictional, one real) are brought together when Palin says that King’s dream of an America that lived out “the true meaning of its creed” would be, if it were realized, “the fulfillment of America’s exceptional destiny.” A belief in that destiny and that exceptionalism is, she concludes, “a belief Senator Jefferson Smith would have agreed with.” (In the spirit of full disclosure, I myself became a believer in American exceptionalism the first time I visited Europe, in 1966.)

Exceptionalism can mean either that America is different in some important respect or that, in its difference, America is superior. Palin clearly means the latter:

I think however that the idea which Fish ascribes to Palin, namely that Mr. Smith stands for a lot of ideas of the tea party, is wrong. Continue reading

House Votes to Repeal ObamaCare: 245-189

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The House voted to repeal ObamaCare yesterday with the vote being 245-189.  Every Republican voted for repeal and they were joined by three Democrats.  (Passage of ObamaCare in March of last year was 219-212.)  Now the bill goes to the Senate where Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, has pledged that the repeal measure will never come to the floor for a vote.  Not so fast Harry!  Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, is pledging to get a senate vote on repeal:

 

 “The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want to vote on this bill,” McConnell added. “But I assure you, we will.” Continue reading

Monsters

Every now and then we need a reminder that true evil exists in this world.

An abortionist arrested in Philadelphia faces eight counts of murder, one for the death of a patient, and the other seven for killing babies who survived his botched abortions.  The district attorney alleges that Kermit Gosnell used a pair of scissors to sever their spinal cords.

Ed Morrissey links to the Grand Jury report.  It is truly gruesome.

One woman, for example, was left lying in place for hours after Gosnell tore her cervix and colon while trying, unsuccessfully, to extract the fetus. Relatives who came to pick her up were refused entry into the building; they had to threaten to call the police. They eventually found her inside, bleeding and incoherent, and transported her to the hospital, where doctors had to remove almost half a foot of her intestines.

On another occasion, Gosnell simply sent a patient home, after keeping her mother waiting for hours, without telling either of them that she still had fetal parts inside her. Gosnell insisted she was fine, even after signs of serious infection set in over the next several days. By the time her mother got her to the emergency room, she was unconscious and near death.

A nineteen-year-old girl was held for several hours after Gosnell punctured her uterus.  As a result of the delay, she fell into shock from blood loss, and had to undergo a hysterectomy.

One patient went into convulsions during an abortion, fell off the procedure table,  and hit her head on the floor.  Gosnell wouldn’t call an ambulance, and wouldn’t let the woman’s companion leave the building so that he could call an ambulance.

And to cap things off: the state did nothing to stop this.

We discovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.

The State Legislature has charged the Department of Health (DOH) with responsibility for writing and enforcing regulations to protect health and safety in abortion clinics as well as in hospitals and other health care facilities. Yet a significant difference exists between how DOH monitors abortion clinics and how it monitors facilities where other medical procedures are performed.

Indeed, the department has shown an utter disregard both for the safety of women who seek treatment at abortion clinics and for the health of fetuses after they have become viable. State health officials have also shown a disregard for the laws the department is supposed to enforce. Most appalling of all, the Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and of Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design. …

Starting at page 99, the Grand Jury report details of the killing of viable babies.  I do not recommend you read this unless you have a very strong tolerance.  In short, these murders were so awful that even staff began to question the practices of this doctor.

These killings became so routine that no one could put an exact number on them. They were considered “standard procedure.” Yet some of the 100
slaughtered were so fully formed, so much like babies that should be dressed and taken home, that even clinic employees who were accustomed to the practice were shocked.
I’m not going to paste it here, but look at the opening paragraph on page 101 and tell me that Satan is not at work in this world.

The Materialism of Limited Toolset

I make a point of always trying to listed on the EconTalk podcast each week — a venue in which George Mason University economics professor Russ Roberts conducts a roughly hour-long interview with an author or academic about some topic related to economics. A couple weeks ago, the guest was Robin Hanson, also an economics professor at GMU, who was talking about the “technological singularity” which could result from perfecting the technique of “porting” copies of humans into computers. Usually the topic is much more down-to-earth, but these kinds of speculations can be interesting to play with, and there were a couple of things which really struck me listening to the interview with Hanson, which ran to some 90 minutes.

Hanson’s basic contention is that the next big technological leap that will change the face of the world economy will be the ability to create a working copy of a human by “porting” that person’s brain into a computer. He argues that this could come much sooner than the ability to create an “artificial intelligence” from scratch, because it doesn’t require knowing how intelligence works — you simply create an emulation program on a really powerful computer, and then do a scan of the brain which picks up the current state of every part of it and how those parts interact. (There’s a wikipedia article on the concept, called “whole brain emulation” here.) Hanson thinks this would create an effectively unlimited supply of what are, functionally, human beings, though they may look like computer programs or robots, and that this would fundamentally change the economy by creating an effectively infinite supply of labor.

Let’s leave all that aside for a moment, because what fascinates me here is something which Roberts, a practicing Jew, homed in on right away: Why should we believe that the sum and total of what you can physically scan in the brain is all there is to know about a person? Why shouldn’t we think that there’s something else to the “mind” than just the parts of the brain and their current state? Couldn’t there be some kind of will which is not materially detectable and is what is causing the brain to act the way it is?
Continue reading

Seymour Hersch Channels Dan Brown

 

Hattip to Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal.  Seymour Hersch, part time left wing loon and full time writer at the New Yorker, critiques US policy in the Middle East and blames us papists:

In a speech billed as a discussion of the Bush and Obama eras, New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe here Monday expressing his disappointment with President Barack Obama and his dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. foreign policy.

“Just when we needed an angry black man,” he began, his arm perched jauntily on the podium, “we didn’t get one.”

It quickly went downhill from there.

Hersh, whose exposés of gross abuses by members of the U.S. military in Vietnam and Iraq have earned him worldwide fame and high journalistic honors, said he was writing a book on what he called the “Cheney-Bush years” and saw little difference between that period and the Obama administration.

He said that he was keeping a “checklist” of aggressive U.S. policies that remained in place, including torture and “rendition” of terrorist suspects to allied countries, which he alleged was ongoing.

He also charged that U.S. foreign policy had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative “crusaders” in the former vice president’s office and now in the special operations community.

“What I’m really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over,” he said of his forthcoming book. “It’s not only that the neocons took it over but how easily they did it — how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced.”

Hersh then brought up the widespread looting that took place in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. “In the Cheney shop, the attitude was, ‘What’s this? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they’re all worried about some looting? … Don’t they get it? We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. And when we get all the oil, nobody’s gonna give a damn.’”

“That’s the attitude,” he continued. “We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command.”

He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.”

Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization commited to “defence of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering,” according to its website.

“Many of them are members of Opus Dei,” Hersh continued. “They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.”

“They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins,” he continued. “They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community.”” Continue reading

An Honest Woman of the Left

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Last week RFK, Jr, attempted to tie in the slaying of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 with the Giffords shooting:

“Jack had received myriad warnings against visiting the right-wing Texas city. Indeed, there had been a sense of foreboding even within our family as he and Aunt Jackie prepared for the trip. Jack made an unscheduled trip to Cape Cod to say goodbye to my ailing grandfather. The night before the trip, Mummy found Jack distant and brooding at a dinner for the Supreme Court Justices. He was very fond of Mummy, but for the first time ever, he looked right through her.

Jack’s death forced a national bout of self-examination. In 1964, Americans repudiated the forces of right-wing hatred and violence with an historic landslide in the presidential election between LBJ and Goldwater. For a while, the advocates of right-wing extremism receded from the public forum. Now they have returned with a vengeance — to the broadcast media and to prominent positions in the political landscape.”

 

RFK, Jr missed a little point in his tirade of course.  Right wing opposition to JFK, in Dallas or elsewhere, had nothing to do with the fact that JFK was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist, a former Marine who attempted to defect to the Soviet Union.  This omission is noted by Violet Socks in a brilliant post that may be read here at her blog Reclusive Leftist.  Here is a portion of what she writes:

But the essay is missing a sentence. I was so sure the sentence had to be there that I read the entire piece three times, and then started doing page searches to find the missing words. Surely the sentence was there and I was just somehow not seeing it. It’s the sentence that goes something like, “Ironically, despite the atmosphere in Dallas, it turned out that Uncle Jack’s assassin was a misguided pro-Castro Marxist.” Because that, of course, is what actually happened. That was the great irony of the JFK assassination. Dallas was infested with wingnuts (though they weren’t called wingnuts back then), and at first everybody thought that’s who killed the president. But lo and behold, it was just Lee Oswald, delusional Communist blowhard. As Jackie Kennedy remarked bitterly, JFK didn’t even have the “satisfaction” of dying for his liberal ideals; instead his assassin was just a “silly little Communist.”

She ties this in with the Giffords shootings:

Nor can you even say that the anti-JFK stuff in Dallas gave Oswald the idea of killing the president. He’d already tried to shoot General Walker back in April. In October 1963 he watched We Were Strangers, a film about political assassination, and according to Marina was very excited by it. There’s also good reason to believe he’d seen Suddenly and The Manchurian Candidate, both films about shooting a U.S. president—and both starring Frank Sinatra, weirdly enough. (Wait, is Frank implicated?)

If you want to make the case that violent political rhetoric in general begets real violence, then make that case. Don’t fudge the data and don’t cherry pick your facts. Don’t talk ominously about right-wing vitriol and look meaningfully over at Dallas 1963, or at Tuscon 2011. Unless, of course, you want to argue that right-wing rhetoric is dangerous because it drives leftists and schizophrenics to murder, but somehow I don’t think that’s the goal. Continue reading

The Hero and the Priest

 

 

Andre Cailloux was born a slave in Louisiana.  He lived his entire life in and around New Orleans.  In 1846 his petition for manumission, with the support of his owner, was granted by an all white police jury in New Orleans.   The next year he married a former slave, Felicie, with whom he had four children during the course of their marriage, and set up a cigar making business in the Crescent City.  He soon became recognized as a leader in the free black community of New Orleans.  Cailloux, a firm son of the Church, learned to read with the help of teachers at the Institute Catholique.  Through his own efforts he became an educated man, fluent in both English and French. 

At the beginning of the Civil War Cailloux became a Lieutenant in the 1rst Louisiana Native Guard, a Confederate black militia unit made up of free blacks to defend New Orleans.  After the first battle of Manassas, the 1rst Louisiana Native Guard volunteered to guard Union prisoners.  The offer was declined with thanks by the Confederate government.  No effort was made by the Confederate government to supply uniforms or weapons for the unit, and the men supplied themselves out of their own resources.  (It should be noted that many white Confederate and Union units  were in the same boat at the beginning of the War, as the number of volunteers vastly exceeded the ability of the governments to provide for them.)  The 1rst Louisiana Native Guards did participate in two grand reviews in New Orleans with other Confederate units. 

After the Confederate Congress passed a conscription act in 1862 making all whites of military age subject to a draft, the white officers in the 1rst Louisiana Native Guards were transferred to other duties and the regiment was disbanded on February 15, 1862.  Needless to say, the Confederacy missed a golden opportunity at the beginning of the War of enlisting free blacks.  Blacks given any encouragement at all to enlist in the Confederate Army, especially with a promise of eventual emancipation for all blacks, might have helped alter the outcome of the War.  Of course if the Confederate leaders had been willing to entertain such ideas at the beginning of the War, neither secession nor the War would have occurred.

After the capture of New Orleans by the Union, Major General Benjamin Butler decided to reconstitute the 1rst Lousiana Native Guard as a Union regiment.  Cailloux rejoined the regiment and was made Captain of Company E.  The black population of New Orleans responded enthusiastically to Butler’s initiative, and the Native Guard soon grew to three regiments. 

In December 1862 Butler was replaced by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks.  A former governor of Massachusetts, Banks was one of the worst Union generals of the war ( I believe the man he replaced, Benjamin Butler, deserves the chief position as most incompetent Union general.)  Forces under his command were so regularly beaten by the Confederates, that they nicknamed him “Commissary” Banks, since they would seize Union supply trains after they whipped his forces.  Banks replaced the black officers in the second Native Guard regiment with white officers, as it was the usual Union policy not to commission blacks.  However, the black officers in the first and third Native Guards remained in their positions.

The regiment was utilized for fatigue and guard details until it entered combat in the siege of Port Hudson, a Confederate fortified position north of Baton Rouge which the Union needed to seize as part of the campaign to bring the Mississippi under Union control.  On May 27, 1863 Banks, who commanded the Union army besieging Port Hudson, ordered assaults on the Confederate fortifications.  The 1rst and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards participated in these attacks.  The Union troops fought heroically, but Banks, with his customary lack of even elementary military skill, failed to coordinate the attacks, and the Confederates beat back the assaults with relative ease.  Captain Andre Cailloux, heroically leading his men, was killed. Continue reading

Joseph H. Rainey-First Black Congressman

 

The first black Congressman elected and seated in the House of Representatives was Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina.  Born to slaves on June 31, 1832 in Georgetown, South Carolina, he became a free man soon after his birth, thanks to his father, Edward Rainey, a successful and industrious barber who purchased his family’s freedom.  He followed his father in the barber trade, until the beginning of the Civil War.  Drafted as a laborer, he worked on fortifications and blockade runners.  Escaping with his wife, they spent the rest of the war in Bermuda where Rainey resumed his trade as a barber.  After the war he returned to South Carolina and became active in Republican party politics.  Well read and intelligent, Rainey quickly made his mark.  In 1868 he was elected as a delegate to the South Carolina constitutional convention.  In 1870 he won election to the state senate of South Carolina and then, winning a special election to fill a vacancy, he was elected to Congress and would serve there until March of 1879, making him the longest serving black congressman until William Dawson of Illinois eclipsed his record in the 1950s. 

In Congress Rainey fought for civil rights for blacks and against the ultimately successful effort in the South to effectively disenfranchise blacks.  He brought to his efforts a keen wit and eloquence as can be seen in this speech which he delivered after disparaging remarks were made about blacks in the South Carolina legislature by Democrat Representative Samuel Cox of New York in 1871:

The remarks made by the gentleman from New York in relation to the colored people of South Carolina escaped my hearing, as I was in the rear of the Hall when they were made, and I did not know that any utterance of that kind had emanated from him. I have always entertained a high regard for the gentleman from New York, because I believed him to be a useful member of the House. He is a gentleman of talent and of fine education, and I have thought heretofore that he would certainly be charitable toward a race of people who have never enjoyed the same advantages that he has. If the colored people of South Carolina had been accorded the same advantages—if they had had the same wealth and surroundings which the gentleman from New York has had, they would have shown to this nation that their color was no obstacle to their holding positions of trust, political or otherwise. Not having had these advantages, we cannot at the present time compete with the favored race of this country; but perhaps if our lives are spared, and if the gentleman from New York and other gentlemen on that side of the House will only accord to us right and justice, we shall show to them that we can be useful, intelligent citizens of this country. But if they will continue to proscribe us, if they will continue to cultivate prejudice against us; if they will continue to decry the Negro and crush him under foot, then you cannot expect the Negro to rise while the Democrats are trampling upon him and his rights. We ask you, sir, to do by the Negro as you ought to do by him in justice.

If the Democrats are such staunch friends of the Negro, why is it that when propositions are offered here and elsewhere looking to the elevation of the colored race, and the extension of right and justice to them, do the Democrats array themselves in unbroken phalanx, and vote against every such measure? You, gentlemen of that side of the House, have voted against all the recent amendments of the Constitution, and the laws enforcing the same. Why did you do it? I answer, because those measures had a tendency to give to the poor Negro his just rights, and because they proposed to knock off his shackles and give him freedom of speech, freedom of action, and the opportunity of education, that he might elevate himself to the dignity of manhood. Continue reading

Susannah York of ‘A Man For All Seasons’, Requiescat In Pace

Susannah York succumbed to cancer this past Friday at the age of 72.

She is best remembered for portraying Saint Thomas More‘s daughter, Margaret More, in what is arguably the greatest Catholic film of all time, A Man For All Seasons.

She was very beautiful and enchanting and her role as Margaret More captured the essences of an integrated Catholic life that is an excellent example for laypeople everywhere today.

The following clip is that of the King paying his Lord Chancellor, Saint Thomas More, a visit on his estate.  The King encounters More’s family and is introduced to More’s daughter, Margaret, at the :45 mark of the clip.  They engage in conversation at the 1:32 mark of the clip.  The entire 10 minutes should be viewed to really enjoy her performance and appreciate the film itself:

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Here is the trailer to that magnificent Catholic film, A Man For All Seasons:

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Post script:  I was unable to find out if Susannah York was a Catholic or not, but her portrayal of Margaret More is a fine example of living a Catholic life.

Cross-posted at Gulf Coast Catholic.

“Settle for Nothing Less.” (Walker Percy)

Q: What kind of Catholic are you?
A: Bad.
Q: No, I mean are you liberal or conservative?
A: I no longer know what those words mean.
Q: Are you a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don’t know what that means, either. Do you mean I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?
Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, behavioralism, materialism, Buddhism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That’s what I mean.
Q: To say nothing of Judaism or Protestantism.
A: Well, I would include them along with the Catholic Church in the whole peculiar Jewish-Christian thing.
Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer, “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less.

Conversations with Walker Percy (1985)

Father John B. Bannon: Confederate Chaplain and Diplomat

 

There were a great many brave men during the Civil War, but I think it is a safe wager that none were braver than Father John B. Bannon.  Born on January 29, 1829 in Dublin, Ireland, after he was ordained a priest he was sent in 1853 to Missouri to minister to the large Irish population in Saint Louis.  In 1858 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s parish on the west side of the city.  Always energetic and determined, he was instrumental in the construction Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist church.  Out of his hectic schedule he somehow found time to become a chaplain in the Missouri Volunteer Militia and became friends with many soldiers who, unbeknownst to them all, would soon be called on for something other than peaceful militia drills.  In November 1860 he marched with the Washington Blues under the command of Captain Joseph Kelly to defend the state from Jayhawkers from “Bleeding Kansas”.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, most of the Saint Louis Irish were strongly Confederate in their sympathies and Father Bannon was of their number.  The Irish viewed the conflict in light of their experiences in Ireland with the English invaders, with the Southerners in the role of the Irish and the Northerners as the English.   Confederate militia gathered at Camp Jackson after the firing on Fort Sumter, and Father Bannon went there as chaplain of the Washington Blues.  Camp Jackson eventually surrendered to Union forces, and Father Bannon was held in Union custody until May 11, 1861.  He resumed his parish duties, although he made no secret from the pulpit where his personal sympathies lay.  Targeted for arrest by the Union military in Saint Louis, on December 15, 1861, he slipped out of the back door of his rectory, in disguise and wearing a fake beard,  as Union troops entered the front door. 

He made his way to Springfield, Missouri where Confederate forces were gathering, and enlisted in the Patriot Army of Missouri under the colorful General Sterling Price, who would say after the War that Father Bannon was the greatest soldier he ever met.

He became a chaplain in the First Missouri Confederate Brigade, and would serve in that capacity until the unit surrendered at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.  He quickly became a legend not only in his brigade, but in the entire army to which it was attached and an inspiration to the soldiers, Catholic and Protestant alike.  At the three day battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 6-8, 1862, he disobeyed orders for chaplains to remain in the rear and joined the soldiers on the firing line, giving human assistance to the wounded, and divine assistance for those beyond human aid.  For Catholic soldiers he would give them the Last Rites, and Protestant soldiers, if they wished, he would baptize. Continue reading

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