9

Obama’s Fool: Bart Stupak

It seems that Bart Stupak has done another interview with a version of events about how last year’s Obamacare debate really went down. Of course, Morning’s Minion has done a piece explaining the virtues of this stalwart pro-life defender.

I’m one of the few people here who would have voted for the healthcare bill before the Hyde language was omitted, I thought it would be interesting to look at Stupak’s claims. Most of the stuff if how poor Stupak has to deal with angry people and how Obama really can be trusted on abortion. This isn’t really terribly interesting (except if the bishops really do view Obama as the most pro-abortion president ever, as this would cause much grief to many on the left), though I find it amusing that Stupak takes this position as Obama appears to be willing to shut down the federal government to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood. No word yet if Stupak trusts Obama to keep America out of messy and poorly thought-out wars.

What is interesting is that Stupak claims that really the Republicans are to blame for the lack of protection against abortion spending in the bill:

Was it unpleasant talking to Rahm? Everybody thinks he’s just a screamer and shouter and would just wave his fists around–

No, Rahm doesn’t scream and shout at me, ’cause he knows better. I’ll just tell him to go to Hell and move on. No, no. rahm and I had a couple of good conversations. The executive order came up in the conversations we had a few weeks before it ever came.

But, to be honest with you, I’d been working with some of the Senate Republicans on trying to find some way to do a technical corrections bill. And actually, truth be known, the Republican leadership in the Senate pulled the rug out on me on that on Thursday night, the Thursday before that Monday [when the final vote occurred]. Most people don’t realize that.

Anyways, long story short, I always thought we would have some statutory language. It wasn’t until Thursday before the vote that when the Republican leadership on the Senate side said no go … and the reason was that it would pass.

Health care would have passed the Senate with Hyde language?

Yeah. It would fly though the Senate. So they weren’t interested in getting health care passed, they were interested in killing it. So every suggestion, every legislative proposal I had–and I knew I had to get to 60 votes in the Senate–I was led to believe up to that point in time they’d work with me. And they pulled the rug out that Thursday before. Remember, they went home that Thursday night, or that Friday night there. They weren’t around that weekend when we voted on the health care bill.

It’s helpful here to remember the situation. The House & Senate must pass identical bills. Any alterations to the Senate bill would have sent the bill back to the Senate. The Senate’s bill lacked the statutory language of the Hyde amendment, and therefore if the House had insisted the whole bill would go back to the Senate. At that point, the Democrats’ majority had been reduced to 59 as Scott Brown was elected from Mass. and promised to vote with the rest of the party to filibuster the bill.

What makes Stupak’s latest version of the events surrounding Obamacare so implausible is the idea that with the Hyde amendment language, the Senate would magically have 60 votes. What vote? The Republicans in the Senate had all voted against the Senate bill and Brown was elected in part b/c of his opposition. Even if Brown was amiable to the language, the Hyde bill would not make a difference to him, as he’s not exactly a pro-life politician. The only Republican for whom this language made a difference was Rep. Joseph Cao-but Cao was in the House, not the Senate.

Yet Stupak is here claiming that the GOP stopped working on the Hyde language b/c the language would help it get the 60 votes in the Senate. But what Republican would have switched his vote just b/c of the abortion language? As Minion points out ad nauseum, most Republicans were against healthcare reform in itself, not only because of abortion. Other than Cao, the conflicted congressmen were all Democrats.

Now, perhaps the GOP didn’t want the Hyde language b/c that made Obamacare more likely to pass the House, but that’s not Stupak’s claim. Nor is he saying his technical corrections bill would fly through the Senate. He specifically claims Obamacare would have flown through the Senate with the Stupak language.

To be blunt, I’m not sure if Stupak is delusional or dishonest here. I imagine a little bit of both, but this is yet another version of Stupak’s story that doesn’t quite mesh with the plain reality that was before him. The best scenario is that he expected the GOP to work with him to get the corrections bill through that included the statutory language, but I don’t know why he would think that. The GOP may have been willing to do so if abortion was the only thing on the plate, but the GOP wanted to defeat Obamacare. There were other things that had to be in that technical corrections bill for the bill to be passed, and the GOP was not interested in having those pass that would pave the way for Obamacare.

In the end, the GOP is not responsible for Stupak’s language not being in the bill. It’s Pelosi’s, Nelson’s, and Obama’s. I am perfectly willing to concede that the GOP could have bent over backward to change the language by giving up the fight against Obamacare in order to provide better protection against abortion funding, but even had they done so, the language would not have changed. Pelosi and Obama didn’t want that language changed and weren’t going to let the bill come before the House in any other form. In the end, Stupak’s choice was still the same: to stand strong against Obamacare’s lax protections against abortion funding or provide Obama political cover. Stupak chose the latter.

So since we honor April’s Fools tomorrow, today we should honor Obama’s Fool: Bart Stupak.

UPDATE after the break

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7

Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Jefferson and Bishop Sheen

Oh the gems that can be found on Youtube!  From 1957, two legends discussing a third.  Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the greatest American architects of the 19th and 20th centuries, and Carl Sandburg, poet and Lincoln biographer, talking about Thomas Jefferson!

Carl Sandburg, in his multivolume biography of Lincoln, got closer to the heart of the man than many professionally trained historians, telling the tale of a man’s life requiring the touch of a poet as well as a chronicling of facts.  Frank Lloyd Wright developed a style of architecture that causes his buildings to be treasured.  In my town of Dwight, the building of the First National Bank of Dwight was designed by Wright, and is a little gem of his style.  Go here to read all about it. 

It is interesting to hear two men who are now legendary themselves, discussing a third legendary American.  In the world beyond one can hope that Jefferson has since taken part in the conversation! Continue Reading

1

MLB Preview: NL Central

There are six teams in the NL Central, and we’re just about at opening day, so I’m going just going to give thumbnail sketches for this division. The Central is another tough division to forecast with three teams that seem capable of playing into October.  So who will win it all?

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14

Not Really A Surprise

Everyone already knew that Chuck Schumer is an ego-maniacal demagogue who is a fairly petty politician, even by New York standards.  Now we have some clear evidence of this fact:

Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.

After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”

A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell.

Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.

Granted this is nothing more than a peak inside the talking points maneuvering that we all know goes on behind the scenes, but it’s kind of funny to see the arrogant one make a public gaffe like this.

Democracy in action, baby.

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Poor Misunderstood Marx!

Commonweal has an article by Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton in which he argues that Marx was right in his critique of captalism.  Go here to read it.  Go here to read a post about the article which appeared on the Commonweal blog.  ( I will confess to having a very slight  grudging respect for Mr. Eagleton ever since his memorable, and scorching,  review which may be read here, of Richard Dawkins’ inane The God Delusion.  The respect is very slight and very grudging indeed, since Mr. Eagleton also wrote a bitter diatribe against John Paul II, which may be read here, after the death of the pontiff.  He also views the Catholic Church, the Church he was raised in, as “one of the nastiest authoritarian outfits on the planet”, which is rich coming from a Marxist.)

The Marx set forth in the article by Mr. Eagleton is unrecognizable to me.  The Marx of history was not some sort of democratic eurosocialist.  He was a hard core advocate of terror.  The quotations from his works and letters on this point are legion.  Here is a typical statement he made in 1850 in an address to the Communist League:

“[The working class] must act in such a manner that the revolutionary excitement does not collapse immediately after the victory.  On the contrary, they must maintain it as long as possible.  Far from opposing so-called excesses, such as sacrificing to popular revenge of hated individuals or public buildings to which hateful memories are attached, such deeds must not only be tolerated, but their direction must be taken in hand, for examples’ sake.”

From the same address:

To be able forcefully and threateningly to oppose this party, whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the very first hour of victory, the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens’ militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed. Where the formation of this militia cannot be prevented, the workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the state authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. Where the workers are employed by the state, they must arm and organize themselves into special corps with elected leaders, or as a part of the proletarian guard. Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. The destruction of the bourgeois democrats’ influence over the workers, and the enforcement of conditions which will compromise the rule of bourgeois democracy, which is for the moment inevitable, and make it as difficult as possible – these are the main points which the proletariat and therefore the League must keep in mind during and after the approaching uprising.

Nothing done by the Communist states that claimed Marx as their ideological father in regard to the suppression of adversaries and the use of mass terror to remain in power cannot find full warrant in the works of Marx.

Of course, Marx goes wrong at the very beginning in regard to his view of Man which is completely materialist.  In his A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx spelled out his view that religion was an illusion which deterred the revolutionary rage of the people: Continue Reading

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Augustine’s Confessions: An Elusive Love

Book 3 finds Augustine studying in Carthage. On the personal front, the adult Augustine accuses his late-teen self of being consumed by lust, but he hasn’t yet found a specific person to get into trouble with.

I had not yet fallen in love, but I was in love with the idea of it, and this feeling that something was missing made me despise myself for not being more anxious to satisfy the need. I began to look around for some object for my love, since I badly wanted to love something.

Of course, from his authorial vantage point, Augustine sees that what he was searching for in the most final sense was God. Lacking God to love, he sought about for other things — sex first among them — which he thought would fill that lack.

Yet even acknowledging that God is our deepest and ultimate need, there’s also something that’s very familiarly human about Augustine’s phrasing here. Continue Reading

9

The Difference Between Libya and Iraq Explained

For additional comedy relief, here is a video put out by a group supporting Obama for president detailing Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq.

You know, I think quite a few of the easy marks who voted for Obama will regret eventually having voted for him, perhaps none more so than those who voted for him because they actually believed that he was a peacenik.

Why, perhaps even Morning’s Minion at Vox Nova, who wrote the paragraph below, will someday realize that Obama played him like an accordion: Continue Reading

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Von Galen Contra Euthanasia

In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich.  Today we examine the third of three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe.  One week after his first breathtaking sermon against the Gestapo, my examination of which may be read here, he preached on July 20, 1941 a blistering sermon against the Nazis and their war on Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, which may be read here.  On August 3, 1941 at Saint Lambert’s in Munster, he preached a third sermon which, along with an overall attack on the Nazi regime, attacked an evil that, alas, unlike the Nazis, remains with us today.

My Beloved Brethren,

In today’s Gospel we read of an unusual event: Our Saviour weeps. Yes, the Son of God sheds tears. Whoever weeps must be either in physical or mental anguish. At that time Jesus was not yet in bodily pain and yet here were tears. What depth of torment He must have felt in His heart and Soul, if He, the bravest of men, was reduced to tears. Why is He weeping? He is lamenting over Jerusalem, the holy city He loved so tenderly, the capital of His race. He is weeping over her inhabitants, over His own compatriots because they cannot foresee the judgment that is to overtake them, the punishment which His divine prescience and justice have pronounced. ‘Ah, if thou too couldst understand, above all in this day that is granted thee, the ways that can bring thee peace!’ Why did the people of Jerusalem not know it? Jesus had given them the reason a short time before. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; and thou didst refuse it! I your God and your King wished it, but you would have none of Me. . . .’ This is the reason for the tears of Jesus, for the tears of God. . . . Tears for the misrule, the injustice and man’s willful refusal of Him and the resulting evils, which, in His divine omniscience, He foresees and which in His justice He must decree. . . . It is a fearful thing when man sets his will against the will of God, and it is because of this that Our Lord is lamenting over Jerusalem.

“the capital of His race.”  What courage it took in Nazi Germany to remind people of the fact that Jesus was a Jew!  Von Galen had always been a friend to Jews, and would hide a Jewish boy, with the help of a Protestant pastor, at an institute Von Galen controlled, from the Nazis.  After his death he would be highly praised by the Munster Jewish community for the care and assistance he had shown them.  Would that all Germans had acted the same way.  It is a canard to say that all Germans hated Jews:  even with the Nazis pumping out the vilest anti-semitism imaginable 24-7 since they took power that was not the case.  However, it is fair to say that a majority of Germans were indifferent to the fate of the Jews and were unwilling to raise their voices against the Nazi persecution of the Jews.  This attitude of most of the German people is well described in the film Judgment at Nuremberg where Burt Lancaster, as German judge Ernst Janning, gives riveting testimony:

Von Galen I think realized this indifference and his sermons were meant to show Germans that the evil of the Nazis was not restricted only to people they were shamefully indifferent to.

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2

The Prayer After Communion – Third Sunday of Lent

Listen to the new translation for the Prayer After Communion composed for the Third Sunday of Lent:

As we receive the pledge

of things yet hidden in heaven

and are nourished while still on earth

with the Bread that comes from on high,

we humbly entreat you, O Lord,

that what is being brought about in us in mystery

may come to true completion.

This is simply exquisite.  It emphasizes that the Mass is both a foretaste of and, in some mysterious way, a participation in the heavenly banquet.  That pledge which “we receive” is the Eucharist, and it is the Eucharist which unites heaven and earth.  It nourishes us “while still on earth” and gives us a taste of “things yet hidden in heaven.”  Cardinal Ratzinger, in The Spirit of the Liturgy describes the present time (that which is after the Resurrection but before the end of the world) as the proper time for liturgy, for it is the great “already, but not yet.”  Only in such an era can something like a sacrament make sense.  Only in such an era can “Bread that comes from on high” be an efficacious sign of heavenly realities.

In the same book, Ratzinger speaks of how the liturgy is anthropological.  It took me several readings to fully understand the Cardinal’s words.  The explanation goes something like this.  We know that our completion (our “final cause” or telos) is to be found in God’s presence, that is, in heaven.  In other words, we will be most fully human when we are standing before God’s loving gave in glory with the angels and the saints.  Conversely, the souls of the damned are virtually inhuman, which is why even individual demons in the Gospel (though properly speaking these are fallen angels not fallen men) describe themselves in the plural: “We are Legion.”  In hell, all individuality is lost, for the self is given over to sin.  Said differently, sin consumes the person.  Think here of the character of Gollum in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.  The ring, symbolic of evil, has all but claimed the identity of the wretched creature, so much so that Gollum refers to himself in the plural, experiencing the utmost of personality crises.  Rather than giving the self over to evil, we are to empty ourselves out for the summum bonum: God himself.  The Gospel paradox is: in giving ourselves away to God, we subsequently find our true selves.  This is because all fulfillment (all telos) is found in God.  From God we have come, and to God we must return.  The soul who gives himself to evil merely empties the self; absent is the promise and possibility of finding the self.

Moreover, the Mass is our participation on earth in the reality that constitutes heaven, for heaven is nothing more than the eternal worship of the Almighty God.  Putting these two things together, (1) if our fulfillment is found in heaven, and (2) if the Mass is a participation in the reality which is heaven, it follows that our fulfillment as human beings begins in the Mass.  It is in the Mass that we find our true selves.  It is in the Mass that we become that for which we are destined; it is here we become holy. This is simply an extended explanation of a sacrament as “an efficacious sign of God’s grace,” and this is what Cardinal Ratzinger means when he says that the liturgy is “anthropological.”

We return now ready to understand the Pray After Communion on the Third Sunday of Lent:  “We humbly entreat you, O Lord, that what is being brought about in us in mystery may come to true completion.”  I repeat that with which I started: this is simply exquisite.

It is so exquisite, in fact, that I hesitate to ruin it with the current, deficient translation.  I even thought of letting it go and simply recommending that people listen carefully this coming Sunday.  Alas, I am weak, and I cannot resist the opportunity to demonstrate just how deficient it is.  I won’t go through the Latin; rest assured that the new translation is much more faithful.  Without further adieu, here is what we will hear this weekend:

Lord, in sharing this sacrament

may we receive your forgiveness

and be brought together in unity and peace.

And with that, I leave you with that which has become my mantra as of late:

I feel like each Sunday this year presents a funeral of sorts … a passing of Mass texts that will never be heard again.  Rather than mourning this passing, my heart finds solace in the assurance that these texts will rise again in a more perfect form with the ‘advent’ of the new translation.  While we have a full year to pay our respects to the passing Ordinary, there is a rejoicing of sorts that the current Propers have reached the end of the proverbial line: their days are numbered, their time has passed, and blessed be God for that.

At least in terms of the Holy Mass, the 1973 ‘Prayer After Communion’ for the Third Sunday of Lent has met its maker, kicked the bucket, bit the dust, bought the farm, breathed its last, and indeed … croaked.  This is not a cause for mourning, but rather a looking forward to the day of resurrection; for the Latin soul of this prayer is indeed filled with grace, so when it rises again as the 2010 Prayer, it will be gloriously triumphant.”

 

3

Alexander the Great

Something for the weekend.  The song Macedonia to the tune of Sharona by the Knack, by the endlessly talented folks of History for Music Lovers.  Alexander the Great, living refutation of the idea that history is all grand vast processes and that individuals matter for little.  In his brief 32 years he had a larger impact perhaps on this world than any other one man in secular history.  The spreading of Greek culture in the East led to the vast cultural synthesis of Hellenism, and had a huge impact upon Judaism and, eventually, Christianity.  It is somewhat frightening to think that so much of our history depended upon the military prowess of one man.

What if Alexander hadn’t turned East?  What if he had turned West?  The Roman historian Livy, in one of the first examples of alternate history, mused about what would have happened if Alexander had marched against Rome. Continue Reading

MLB Preview: National League East

The American League East deservedly has the reputation of being the best division in all of baseball, but the NL East might be a close second.  Other than the Washington Nationals, every team in the NL East should finish at .500 or better, and two teams have legitimate World Series aspirations.  Of course one team received most of the national attention when it signed a prized free agent pitcher and thus assembled one of the best starting rotations that the game has ever seen.  With such a loaded staff, there’s really not going to be much of a contest, right?  We might as well crown the division champions before the season even starts.  I mean is there any doubt as to who will come out on top in the National League East?

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Someone Give This Man a Job Immediately!

Hattip to Creative Minority Report.

If Tim Roach questioned his own manhood after six months of unemployment, consider the question asked and answered. Tim Roach is a man, a good man.

In mid February, Tim, got a call from his local union with the news every laid off worker longs to hear — a job offer.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Tim’s unemployment benefits were about to run out. He could hardly believe what the voice on the other end was presenting to him — an offer to be a job foreman for at least 11 months, with a salary of $65,000 to $70,000 a year.

Perfect, Tim thought. Then came the bad news — he would be working on construction of a new Planned Parent­hood Clinic in St. Paul on University Avenue. The highest of highs became the lowest of lows as he quickly turned down the offer.

Tim’s Union rep tried to get him to reconsider saying he wasn’t sure if abortions would be performed there but he simply responded, “It’s a Planned Parenthood. No.”

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7

Theodore Roosevelt: They Don’t Come Any Tougher

A recording of a speech by that force of nature otherwise known as Theodore, he hated being called Teddy, Roosevelt during his “Bull Moose” campaign for president in 1912.  Note the clear delivery and diction.  Note also his references to French history:   politicians did not assume that they had to talk down to the average voter in those days.  By splitting the Republican vote, Roosevelt getting the larger share, Roosevelt’s third party campaign ensured the election of Woodrow Wilson.  Although he failed to win, during the campaign Roosevelt established beyond doubt that he was one of the toughest men ever to be president.

On October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was giving a speech in Milwaukee.  A deranged saloonkeeper, John Schrank, shot him in the chest.  Roosevelt refused to cancel a scheduled speech.  His opening is perhaps one of the most memorable for any speech:

Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best. Continue Reading

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Foxfier on Internet Debate

The American Catholic is blessed with many fine commenters, regular visitors to our blog who enliven and illuminate our comboxes.  One of the finest of our commenters is Foxfier who is unmatched in internet debate.  Go here to read her classic debate with “Sal”.  On her first rate blog Head Noises, she has written her rules for arguing on the internet.  I wish they could be engraven on every blog that allows comments.  Here beginneth the Foxfier Lesson:

1) You do not have the right to a reply.
The only person involved in an argument on line which you can control is yourself. Argument from ignorance is still invalid– just because they didn’t responds to your spittle flecked rant from nowhere well researched and calmly argued response to their post, even if it has been five minutes a long time since you posted. Not everyone will check back at a post. Not everyone will read or heed even if they are subscribed to comments.

Some people will make rules about who they will or will not spend their time on– I have a three strike rule; three indications that continuing would be a waste of time, and I will stop trying to have a conversation. I’ll still debunk false or misleading claims, but that is because Google will find the conversation and it makes sense to counter false or misleading information everywhere you can, if it might mislead others.

  2) Wiki isn’t a source.
 Wiki is edited by non-experts, with their biases intact. It’s like walking into a room and asking a question, then listening to the loudest folks as the truth. Wiki is, however, a great way to get some information to start from– give you an idea what to search for. This leads to my next point….

  3) Make your own argument.
 By this I do not mean that you have to be a unique flower with only your own special view and none of those icky shared opinions, especially if said arguments are shared by lame parents authority figures. The strength of an argument is inherent, not based on who is making it. I mean that if you are supporting a position, make the arguments. Don’t link to an information page and berate the other person for not going, sifting through the dross and trying to find an argument for you.
 Linking to a detailed, cited argument for your view is alright– in many cases, it’s a superior way of arguing, since it keeps the comboxes nicely clear, and allows for a lot more detail. For example, here  (Sadly, link is broken because the blog moved, and the comments are no more; here’s the article, though.) a poster named Aaron links to a white paper that consists of a short statement and argument, with the option of greater detail if you download the information. Which also leads to:

  4) Be familiar with basic definitions. 
If the topic is biology, know what “organism” means in that context; if there are multiple meanings for a word and you wish to focus on a specific one, define the term as you are using it. If you wish to discuss torture in the context of treaties, link to a treaty and offer the relevant definition. If you’re using an unusual definition, don’t be surprised if the opposite side calls you on argument by bizarre definition rejects it.

 This is not to be confused with a common form of #3– “go look it up!” If you find yourself about to type that, stop, find the definition, post the link. If it’s as obvious as you think, it will make them look foolish; if not, problem solved! Continue Reading

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MLB Preview: AL West

Though the American League’s western division is arguably the weakest in all of baseball, it is the home of the defending American League champions, the Texas Rangers.  There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.   Like the American League Central, the AL West sports a trio of decent teams that should be in the hunt for a division title, though two should separate themselves from the third.  Continue Reading

10

Jesus is Hardly a Pacifist (Neither is St. Michael, nor Gandalf)

Whenever the Gospel scene of Jesus cleansing the Temple comes up in conversation, is it always entertaining to see people try to rationalize or explain away the anger that our Lord displayed.  There are those who will say that this is a demonstration of Jesus’ humanity, but such an explanation always seems to have an accompanying tinge of “perfect divinity, imperfect humanity.”  After all, when we say of someone, “He is only human,” we are usually doing so to justify an imperfect action or reaction, as if to say, “He is human, and therefore not perfect.”  Such an accusation of Jesus is misleading at best.  Yes, Jesus is human, fully human, in fact, as well as fully divine.  However, Jesus is perfect in his humanity.  Therefore, any reaction he gives is the perfect reaction to the situation that stands before him.  This is good news for the rest of us, for it demonstrates that humanity in both its core and destiny is fundamentally good, that imperfections found within all of us are the result of sin (both original and personal), and not the result of being human as such.  Therefore, the perfection that Jesus possesses in being fully human is a perfection that awaits us, God willing, in our glorified state.

 

What then, should we make of the anger demonstrated by Jesus in his cleansing of the Temple?  The first conclusion we can draw is that there is a place for a righteous anger in dealing with the problem of sin.  Of course, we should not mistake this kind of anger for the irrational, impatient, and reactionary kind that we so often demonstrate in our lives.  But Jesus is hardly a pacifist.  To get a better sense of righteous anger, it helps to consider a few examples.  The first we will take from the life of Jesus, the second from the archangel Michael, and the third from that master of myth, J.R.R. Tolkien.
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1

Mormon Long March

One of the oddest episodes in American military history occurred during the Mexican War.  In 1846 the Mormons were beginning their epic trek West which would end with their carving a Mormon Zion out of the wilderness in what is now Utah.  The Mormons, realizing they would need at least tacit Federal approval to accomplish this, sent representatives to Washington.  The Polk administration asked for a quid pro quo.  The Federal government would render assistance if a battalion of Mormons would enlist to fight in the Mexican War.  Brigham Young readily agreed, and a battalion was raised after much cajoling by Young, due to the suspicion of most Mormons of the Federal government as a result of Federal indifference to the persecution of Mormons in Illinois and Missouri.

Along with the approximately 500 men, the Battalion was accompanied by 30 Mormon women, 23 of whom served as laundresses, and 51 children.  The Mormons were mustered into the Army on July 16, 1846.  They were assigned to the Army of the West under General Stephen W. Kearny, a tough regular.  From Fort Leavenworth on August 30, 1846, the Mormon Battalion made the longest infantry march in US military history, 1900 miles to San Diego, California which they reached on January 29, 1847.  The Battalion captured Tuscon, Arizona on the way to California, but saw no fighting, although the harsh climate and terrain they marched through more than made up for the absence of human adversaries.

The Battalion was discharged on July 26, 1847 in Los Angeles, and most of the men began the long trek to rejoin the Mormons in Utah.  Among the men who marched in the Mormon Battalion was George Stoneman, a future governor of California.  The video below at the end shows members of the battalion rejoining a Mormon wagon train after their service in the Mexican War.

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69

Libya and Just War

President Obama, winner of the Nobel peace prize, has thrust the United States into yet another war. I know from facebook and twitter that many of Obama’s liberal supporters are shocked and upset with the decision. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. As I noted out in the run-up to the election, Obama never was a peace candidate, much less a proponent of just war theory. Instead he uses roughly the same calculus for war as Bush did, though as Douthat points out he uses a more multilateral approach once he’s made that calculus. Obama’s position as a peace candidate was grounded more in not being a Republican than being a believer in peace, and it is the fault of those advocates for peace that they didn’t do the basic research to see that truth. I am curious to see if this has changed the minds of many of the more “liberal” Catholics who voted for Obama, but I have not seen anything from them yet.

Since most of our attention was on Japan, I think most Catholics and Americans are still feeling a little whiplashed by the quickness. It’s so difficult to determine whether this action was just b/c there is so much confusion and secrecy both about our true intents towards Libya as well as the actual situation in Libya. The Vatican hasn’t been able to offer much guidance either. It is true that Pope Benedict’s neutral statements are far less condemnatory (if they are condemnatory at all) than JPII’s during the buildup to Iraq, but the key word there is “buildup.” There was very little buildup, and very little opportunity for debate and dialogue before the war was begun. It is true that the Vatican is more comfortable with a multilateral, UN-endorsed war than a unilateral war but it is not certain whether the Vatican approves.

So we’ll need to rely on the sources of just war doctrine ourselves to determine whether this was a just war. I confess that I don’t feel comfortable enough with the facts of Libya to say for certain, but I find it very unlikely that this is a just war. Don did a post a few days ago with different just war standards, and just for the sake of brevity let’s assume that there are two different approaches to just war: the Thomistic approach and the current approach.

Under the Thomistic approach, there are 3 requirements in the Second Part of the Second part, Question 40: (1) that the war be declared by a legitimate sovereign; (2) that there be a just cause; and (3) there must be an intention of advancement of good. Catechism 2309 has a more detailed description (I would argue that they simply explain further what Aquinas is saying rather than raising the requirements, but that may be an argument for a different time) in which the aggressor nation (i.e. the one to be attacked) must be inflicting lasting, grave, and certain damage, all other means must be exhausted, there must serious prospects of success, and the use of arms must not produce greater evils than the evils sought to be prevented. Let’s look at the Libya situation in detail

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The CIA and Facebook

From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.   Hmmm, so I guess that Facebook could potentially do more harm to people than merely being a venue where future employers can see drunken photos of job applicants. I don’t know, this seems a bit too clever for the CIA.  On the other hand, if someone wanted to claim that Facebook was started by the Internal Revenue Service, I would readily agree.

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Augustine’s Confessions: Sin for the Sake of Sin

In Book 2, we find Augustine (the character) as a teenager, while Augustine (the author) takes the opportunity to think about what makes us sin. The connection will be familiar to us all. Augustine talked about Original Sin in Book 1, that tendency which we can see even in very young children towards selfishness in which we can see the rooted tendency towards self over others which is at the root of sin. But that selfishness of childhood is largely unthinking. It is as we enter late childhood and early adolescence we attain the ability to think about sin in a way much like that of adults, but with the drives almost unique to adolescence. Augustine sees this in his past self and doesn’t like what he sees:

For as I grew to manhood I was inflamed with desire for a surfeit of hell’s pleasures. Foolhardy as I was, I ran wild with lust that was manifold and rank. In your eyes my beauty vanished and I was foul to the core, yet I was pleased with my own condition and anxious to be pleasing in the eyes of men.

In this book, the story of what’s going on in young Augustine’s life (versus his examination of the human condition) struck me, with the ways that it seemed both familiar and alien. Continue Reading

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Scott Walker: Crusader Against Abortion

 

In all of the furor over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bill to curb the power of public employee union to careen the state of Wisconsin into insolvency, other stances of the Governor have been overlooked.  Leftist magazine Mother Jones notes in a current story that Walker is an ardent foe of abortion:

Walker, the son of a minister, attended Marquette University in Milwaukee from 1986 to 1990, where he served as chair of Students for Life. He dropped out of the school without graduating in 1990, and unsuccessfully ran for the Assembly that fall. He ran again in 1993 in a special election and won an Assembly seat representing Wauwatosa, a city just outside of Milwaukee. It didn’t take long for him to take up the abortion fight.

In November 1996, Walker and Assemblywoman Bonnie Ladwig R-Caledonia announced plans to introduce a bill banning “partial-birth” abortions, or what’s medically known as dilation and extraction. Anti-abortion groups have condemned the practice, but groups that back abortion rights argue the procedure could save a woman’s life in the case of severe late-term complications during a pregnancy. Walker said partial-birth abortions are “never needed” to save lives, adding, “This procedure is not a medically recognized procedure.” Continue Reading

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MLB Preview: AL Central

The American League Central boasts a trio of good, but not great teams that should battle it out down to the wire.  It’s difficult to see any of these teams pulling away or fading from contention.  In the end, I’m going with the team that always seems to wind up on top.

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Von Galen Contra the Swastika

In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich.  Today we examine the second of three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe.  One week after his first breathtaking sermon against the Gestapo, my examination of which may be read here, he preached on July 20, 1941 a blistering sermon against the Nazis and their war on Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.

Today the collection which I ordered for the inhabitants of the city of Münster is held in all the parishes in the diocese of Münster which have not themselves suffered war damage. I hope that through the efforts of the state and municipal authorities responsible and the brotherly help of the Catholics of this diocese, whose contributions will be administered and distributed by the offices of the Caritas, much need will be alleviated.

Charity, always a prime duty of Catholics.

Thanks be to God, for several days our city has not suffered any new enemy attacks from without. But I am distressed to have to inform you that the attacks by our opponents within the country, of the beginning of which I spoke last Sunday in St. Lambert’s, that these attacks have continued, regardless of our protests, regardless of the anguish this causes to the victims of the attacks and those connected with them. Last Sunday I lamented, and branded as an injustice crying out to heaven, the action of the Gestapo in closing the convent in Wilkinghege and the Jesuit residences in Munster, confiscating their property and possessions, putting the occupants into the street and expelling them from their home area. The convent of Our Lady of Lourdes in Frauen­strasse was also seized by the Gau authorities. I did not then know that on the same day, Sunday 13th July, the Gestapo had occupied the Kamilluskolleg in Sudmühle and the Benedictine abbey of Gerleve near Coesfeld and expelled the fathers and lay brothers. They were forced to leave Westphalia that very day.

The Nazi war on the Church is becoming more brazen in the midst of the War. Continue Reading

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Hardtack: Civil War Taste Treat!

 

Something for the weekend.  Ah, hardtack!  A food that superb has to have a song about it, as indicated by the first of the above videos.

Hardtack, a very hard, thick cracker, was the soldier staff of life North and South during the Civil War.  Prior to the War, hardtack had long served as a food staple for explorers, hunters and anyone else who needed a food source that was light and could last forever.  Unfortunately, the hardtack often became infested with weevils.  Soldiers who didn’t want the extra protein would often put the hardtack into water and skim the weevils off the top.

The hardness of hardtack was legendary and gave rise to many soldier jokes.  This one was typical.

Private Jones:  I bit into a piece of hardtack and hit something soft.

Private Green:  A worm?

Private Jones:  No, by glory, a ten-penny nail!

Things like hardtack remind us that it is definitely more amusing to read about the Civil War than it was to actually participate in it! Continue Reading

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Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

In the comments to  my post last week, Henry V Times Four, which may be viewed here, and which had four versions of the immortal “band of brothers” speech, commenter Centinel posed a very interesting question to me:

Mr. McClarey,

I’ve come to respect your knowledge of history and your insights. I just wanted to get your honest opinion on oneissue. As I understand it, Catholic doctrine would say that wars of aggression are not justified (most of the time). Though I enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, it bothers me that Henry V was fighting a war of aggression – hence, an unjust war.

From Henry V’s point of view, the war was about his (legitimate?) claim to the French throne. But from the point of view of the French peasantry, whichever dynasty sat on the French thronedid not really make any difference in their lives. They were merely caught in the middle; the longer the war lasted, the greater the collateral damage to French civilians. Besides, Henry V already had the Kingdom of England. Hence, it was just pure greed driving Henry V to claim the French throne.

I would appreciate your opinion on this.

My response:

Centinel thank you for very kind words and for inspiring a forthcoming post! The more I thought about your question the more complicated my answer became and only a post length reply, which I will attempt to do in the next week, will do it justice. The short answer is that Henry V, by the just war analysis of his day, had a defensible claim to be fighting a just war, while under the just war analysis of our day his war would be unjust. However, there is much more to say than that, and I will attempt to do this intriguing question justice in my forthcoming post.

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time. Continue Reading

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Union Impressions: Rules vs. Work

All of the discussion in the Catholic blogosphere, and the wider public square, about unions (and public employee unions in particular) has given me cause to think a bit about my attitude towards organized labor. There are a lot of rational political, economic and moral reasons I can give for why I don’t like labor unions as they exist in the US, but as is so often the case with deeply held opinions, my most basic reaction to unions has a lot to do with my personal experiences relation to work and to unions. As such, it seemed like a good way to address the issue is through the lens of the experiences which have helped shape my opinion of unionization.

1. Most of my exposure to unions was through my father, who held a staff position at a community college for twenty-five years, retiring just a month before losing a multi-year battle with cancer. (In a state college, the major divide is between staff — which includes basically everyone who is neither an instructor nor a manager — and faculty, who are the actual instructors. Since he only had a bachelor’s degree, Dad’s position was classified as staff, and staff positions were represented by a state school employees union which is a member of the AFL-CIO.) The college was not unionized when Dad got his job, but it became a union shop half-way through his time there, via an election which he always wondered about the validity of. (Union members and non-union members were given different colored ballots, so it certainly would have been easy to cheat if someone had wanted to.) Not only were the union’s politics diametrically opposed to my father’s (he always used their “state issues” political mailing to decide how not to vote) but the union supported people for the college board of directors who hired a college president who eventually drove the college into the financial ditch, resulting in constant fear and occasional layoffs. His more daily frustration, however, was the effect of the union’s vigorous protection of people who did not do their jobs well.
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The Quiet Man

A nice idealized version of Ireland for Saint Patrick’s day.  Go here to see the fight scene between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen, who was a boxer along with being an actor, for my money the best fight sequence ever filmed, and certainly the funniest.  Ironically, both Barry Fitzgerald, the matchmaker in the film, and Victor McLaglen, both of whom became screen archetypes as Irish Catholics, were Protestants, with the tough, burly McLaglen being the son of an Anglican bishop.

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Teachers’ Unions Explained

Hattip for co-blogger Chris Blosser for pointing out the above video to me.  Back in 1979 when I graduated with my BA in the teaching of Social Studies from the University of Illinois, one of the factors motivating my decision to immediate run off to law school was my extreme antipathy to the teachers’ unions.  From what I had observed as a student training to be a teacher, the unions tended to focus their efforts on protecting the least competent teachers from being fired and political involvement on behalf of the Democrat party and leftist causes in general.

In three decades nothing has changed.  The advocacy of abortion by the largest of the teachers’ unions, the National Education Association, is of course the most objectionable aspect of the political involvment of a union which purports to represent those who help shape the minds of students.  In 2008 pro-life teachers wrote to the NEA protesting the NEA support of abortion: Continue Reading

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How Obama Spends His Time

This is a time with many crisis. A President has to chose where to put his efforts carefully. He could focus on the civil war in Libya. He could look towards Bahrain and the battles there. He could drum up relief for Japan in the wake of the tsunami. He could look to help Japan fix its nuclear reactor and ensure that such danger cannot be repeated here. He could work to reduce gas prices. He could create jobs. He could negotiate to ensure the government doesn’t shutdown due to a lack of a budget.

With all of these options, what is our fearless leader doing? He’s clowning around with ESPN discussing his “barack-etology” and why he thinks Kansas will win it all.

How insensitive and ridiculous is this? Even if you were in the throes of the Obamessiah movement in 2008, how is this justifiable? Look, I’m a huge sports fan. I understand the need for Obama to not spend every second on the presidency and take some time for sports. I don’t even mind that he spends time to fill out a bracket if he did it privately.

But to do this so publicly just sends all the wrong messages, both to those at home and abroad.

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MLB Preview: AL East

The smell of freshly cut grass.  The thermometer registering above 50.  Birds chirping to signal the dawn of each new day.  Yes, if you live in the southern states, some of you might actually be enjoying these signs of Spring.  As for me, it’s perpetual rain and moderately cool  temperatures, which means that Spring is just around the corner in DC.  And those are the two best weeks of the year by far.

It also means it’s baseball time.  Yes, our long national nightmare – meaning the seven weeks between the Super Bowl and opening day for Major League Baseball – is almost over.  We can stop having to pretend to care about basketball and hockey and get back to some real sports.

So with baseball mercifully just around the corner, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season.  And I will begin with the best division in baseball, the American League East, or as it is otherwise know, “Four awesome teams and the Baltimore Orioles.” Continue Reading

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Nuclear Reactors in Japan

There’s been a fair amount of worry the last couple days about the situation with several nuclear reactors which were hit by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The difficulty is, of course, that most reporters know nothing about nuclear energy or physics, and there is a tendency (in TV news in particular) to focus on whichever “experts” are most exciting. Combine that with the fact that when most people near the word “nuclear” they picture a mushroom cloud and it’s easy to produce hysteria.

While the events at the Fukushima plant reactors are serious, they also underline how many layers of redundancy and safety measures are built into modern nuclear power plants. There’s a good blog post by an MIT engineer (expanded and corrected by the Nuclear Science and Engineering department as MIT) which covers the basics of how this type of reactor works, what happened to the reactors at this plant which are having problems, and what the relevant dangers are. I’d strongly recommend this post over most mainstream media coverage. Members of the Nuclear Science and Engineering department has continued posting additional updates on the topic at this blog.

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Augustine’s Confessions: Growing Up Human

The second half of Book I (Chapters 7 to 20) deal with the earliest years of Augustine’s life, starting with his infancy. One of the things I find kind of charming about this section is the approach Augustine brings to examining his earliest years:

I do not remember that early part of my life, O Lord, but I believe what other people have told me about it and from watching other babies I can conclude that I lived as they do. But, true though my conclusions may be, I do not like to think of that period as part of the same life I now lead, because it is dim and forgotten and, in this sense, it is no different from the time I spent in my mother’s womb.

This is one of those fascinating things about Augustine. He’s never just talking about himself and his memories, even if that is the theme which drives his narrative. He’s perhaps more interested in the experience of being human, and of humanity in relation to God, than he is in telling us about his experiences in particular.

Of course, when Augustine thinks about the experience of being human, he immediately starts thinking about original sin, and some find him rather dour because of this. Augustine is one of the few people you’ll find talking about infants sinning:

It can hardly be right for a child, even at that age, to cry for everything, including things which would harm him; to work himself into a tantrum against people older than himself and not required to obey him; and to try his best to strike and hurt others who know better than he does, including his own parents, when they do not give in to him and refuse to pander to whims which would only do him harm. This shows that, if babies are innocent, it is not for lack of will to do harm, but for lack of strength.

Read in isolation, this can sound rather cold and severe. Of course babies cry, they have no other way of making their needs known! But Augustine recognizes this, and indeed notes that people never blame or scold babies for being selfish, because of course they can be no other way. Continue Reading

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John Brown: Problem Child of American History

Our history has its share of odd characters, but surely none odder than John Brown.  An Old Testament prophet somehow marooned in Nineteenth Century America, John Brown preached the wrath of God against slave holders and considered himself the bloody sword of the Almighty.  It is tempting to write off John Brown as a murderous fanatic, and he was certainly that, but he was also something more.

The American political process was simply unable to resolve the question of slavery.  Each year the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces battered at each other with no head way made.  Bleeding Kansas was the result of Stephen A. Douglas’ plan to simply let the people of the territory resolve the issue.  Where ballots cannot, or will not, resolve a question of the first magnitude in a democracy, ultimately bullets will.   A man like Brown, totally dedicated to the anti-slavery cause, was only too willing to see violence resolve an issue that the politicians would not.

Brown attacked a great evil, American slavery, but he was also  a murderer, as the five pro-slavery men he had dragged from their houses at night and hacked to death at Pottawotamie in Kansas with home made swords would surely attest.   His raid on Harper’s Ferry was a crack-brained expedition that had absolutely no chance of success, and yet his raid helped bring about the huge war that would ultimately end slavery.

 After his mad and futile attempt to start a slave insurrection at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, Brown was tried and hung for treason against the state of Virginia.  He considered his trial and treatment quite fair and thanked the Court.  Brown impressed quite a few Southerners with the courage with which he met his death, including Thomas Jackson, the future Stonewall, who observed his execution. 

Brown of course lit the fuse for the Civil War.  He convinced many moderate Southerners that there were forces in the North all too ready to incite, in the name of abolition, a race war in the South.  The guns fired at Harper’s Ferry were actually the first shots of the Civil War.

Brown, as he stepped forward to the gallows, had a paper and pen thrust into his hand by a woman.  Assuming for the last time the role of a prophet, Brown wrote out, I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Abraham Lincoln commented on Brown at his Cooper’s Union  speech on February 27, 1860 and took pains to separate the Republican Party from Brown: Continue Reading

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Hating the Near and Loving the Far

At the risk of being all-books-all-the-time around here, (and really, if one is going to run risks, that’s not a bad one to run, is it?) I can’t this. I’ve been working through a lot of analysis at work lately, which involves long periods of sitting at my desk alone wrestling with Excel and Access, and to help stay on task I’ve been listening to John Cleese reading C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. It’s probably been ten years since I read Screwtape, and I’d forgotten how quotable it is.

These two sections particularly struck me. The first about the tactic of getting the temptee to focus on loving those he doesn’t actually know, while disliking those he actually interacts with on a daily basis.

[from Screwtape Letter #6]

As regards his more general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in Christian or anti-Christian periodicals. In his anguish, the patient can of course be encourage to revenge himself by some vindictive feelings directed towards the German leaders, and that is good so far as it goes, but it is usually a sort of melodramatic or mythical hatred directed against imaginary scapegoats. He’s never met in real life. They are lay figures modeled on what he gets from the newspapers. The results of such fanciful hatred are often most disappointing. And of all humans, the English are, in this respect, the most deplorable milksops. They are creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door. Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence as well as some malice in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remove circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real, and the benevolence large imaginary.
Continue Reading

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March Madness is Just Madness

I’ve become the sports guy here at TAC, so I figured I should say something about the impending college basketball tournament for the national championship, affectionately known as March Madness. While I enjoy the annual ritual of filling out a bracket and watching as my predictive skills are demonstrably obliterated, I’ve never fully bought in to the Madness. To me, March Madness is the dumbest way to determine the national champion in college sports.

And yes, I think it’s dumber than the BCS. By far. Basketball is not a single-elimination sport. If the teams are evenly matched, or even kinda close, the game comes down to the execution of a single minute. While that’s very exciting, it’s not a great indicator of overall strength. It’s like shootouts in hockey or soccer. They’re exciting and fun to watch, but it’s not the sport. You can be good at hockey without being good at shootouts. The skills are different. Similarly, the skills needed to win over  season of basketball can’t be summarized in a single elimination tournament.

This is why we see all these upsets and Cinderellas. George Mason was never the 4th best team in the country, but they made it to the Final Four b/c on a neutral court, if you play decently you have a chance to win it at the end. It’s ridiculous for teams in the Big East to slog through a rough conference schedule only to be plopped on neutral court with a team from Colonial conference in a single elimination. You’ll note that the NBA has best out of 7 series for a reason; namely that any team can beat another team on one night, but it’s harder to beat them 4 out of 7 times unless you are the truly superior team. So if we’re looking to discover the best team in college basketball, the Madness is not the way to do it.

What makes this more frustrating is that there is a more sensible way to conduct the tournament. College baseball uses a regional system. All the conference winners still get to go in a 64 team field. However, the 64 teams are divided into 16 regionals, with the #1 seed in each regional hosting their regional. This rewards teams for success in the regular season (unlike the Madness, where Ohio St. has the toughest regional with no reward). In the regional, there are 4 teams each and they play double elimination. The winner of the regional then faces another regional winner (hosted by one of the two) in a separate double elimination (ie. regional winner 1 must beat regional winner 2 twice, even if regional winner 2 lost once in the regional). They then move on to the College World Series in Omaha, where there are two more regional like rounds, and then the final is another double elimination.

Not only does this best represent baseball by forcing teams to have the depth to withstand double elimination tournaments, it rewards good teams. Moreover, it allows smaller teams to have more games (instead of just getting offered up as a sacrifice to Duke). There’s no reason basketball can’t do this; in fact, it would expand the games available to sell to TV networks.

So enjoy the madness, but just remember that the madness isn’t necessary. There’s a way already out there that’s a lot more sensible that crowns the best team in the sport, not just a buzzer beater.

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Augustine’s Confessions: Contemplating the Infinite

Book I of The Confessions seems to me to fall into two parts: Chapters 1-7 grapple with the very concept of an infinite and eternal God, while Chapters 8-20 discuss the human experience of growing up and attaining some degree of youthful self awareness. I’ll cover this first half of the book today, and the second half tomorrow, so that each post can be relatively short.

Augustine sets out to tell the story of his own life in relation to and in relationship with God, and he opens the book by addressing God. Right here in Book I, Chapter 1 we run into one of the handful of quotes from Augustine that practically everyone has heard, whether or not they actually know it comes from him:

[T]hou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.

That restlessness will provide much of the matter for Augustine’s story, but here he asks the more basic question of why an eternal and perfect God concerns himself with all too mortal and fallen humans:

How shall I call upon my God for aid, when the call I make is for my Lord and my God to come into myself? What place is there in me to which my God can come, what place that can receive the God who made heaven and earth?

This idea of God being in something while also being both infinite and the creator of all things is something which an inquiring mind must necessarily poke at, and Augustine pokes with a sense of imagination which seems, in some ways, oddly modern: Continue Reading

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Dipping a Toe in the Dark Side

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a devotee of the true faith.  I am not  referring here to Catholicism, which of course I would refer to as the True Faith.  I am referring to the true computer faith, PCs.  I have been worshiping in the House of Gates since my bride and I purchased our first PC in 1988.  CGA graphics, no hard drive, one floppy disk drive: 1200 bucks, on sale.  You could heat a room with it after it was on for a few hours and it was only a little less loud than a vacumn cleaner.  Love at first sight.  Then of course there was the joy of learning the cryptic MS-DOS and all the arcane symbols to make the computer function, which would have made a medieval alchemist scream in frustration at the complexity.  A true man’s operating system, although my bride somehow mastered it first and imparted the secret knowledge of the PC Craft to me.

Over the years at my home and office I have owned so many PCs I long ago lost count, and we have followed them through all of their transmutations:  Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, Vista (Don spits) and Windows 7.

I will turn this over now to my bride of 29 years this coming December, who will explain why we have brought a Mac product into this PC home: Continue Reading

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Von Galen Contra Gestapo

 

 

In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich.  Today we examine the first of three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe.  In the summer of 1941 the Third Reich was at its zenith.  Operation Barbarossa had been launched, and the Soviets were reeling, with German armies advancing rapidly against a Red Army which appeared to be on the verge of dissolution.  In North Africa, the Desert Fox was besieging Tobruk and it seemed only a matter of time until Egypt might fall to him.  American still slumbered in an isolationist dream.  World domination by Nazi Germany seemed to be approaching reality.

At this point, when his Nazi foes were their strongest, on July 13, 1941, Bishop von Galen threw down his episcopal gauntlet to the Gestapo, the secret police of the Nazis, who brutally terrorized Germany and occupied Europe:

 

My dear Catholics of St. Lambert’s:

 I have longed to read personally from the pulpit of this church today my pastoral letter on the events of the past week and in particular to express to you, my former parishioners, my deep-felt sympathy. In some part of the city, the devastation and loss have been particularly great. I hope that by the action of the municipal and government authorities responsible, and above all by your brotherly love and the collections taken today for the work of the Caritas Union and the Parish Caritas, some of the hardship and suffering will be relieved. I had in mind also, however, to add a brief word on the meaning of the divine visitation: how God thus seeks us in order to lead us home to Him. God wants to lead Münster home to Him.  How much at home were our forefathers with God and in God’s Holy Church! How thoroughly were their lives — their public life, their family life, and even their commercial life — supported by faith in God, directed by the holy fear of God and by the love of God! Has it always been like that in our own day? God wants to lead Münster home to Him!

Von Galen here is speaking about the devastation caused by British bombing raids.  Note his comments about the practical steps necessary to help the victims through special collections, and the overriding necessity of turning to God.

Concerning this I had meant to put some further reflections before you. But this I cannot do today, for I find myself compelled to openly and in public speak of something else — a shattering event which came upon us yesterday, at the end of this week of calamity.

What could be more important than the damage wreaked upon us by the enemy bombers I am certain was the thought that first occurred to many of von Galen’s listeners.  Continue Reading

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Our Lady of Akita: Pray for Japan!

Japan’s devastation this week from the earthquake and the resulting tsunami have left thousands dead.  Now, the Japanese are beset with damage to six nuclear reactors.  We must give our brothers and sisters in Japan our prayers and assistance.  It is also a very good time to recall that in the Seventies of the last century Japan was the scene of the best authenticated Marian apparition since Fatima, and which has been deemed worthy of belief by the Vatican.  The message of Our Lady of Akita is a stern one, and a call for repentance and a turning to God.  Here at the beginning of Lent we have  a graphic reminder that in this world, as well as in the next, our only sure reliance is in God. Continue Reading

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The Fighting 69th

Something for the weekend.  The Fighting 69th sung by the WolfTones.

Formed in 1851, the regiment served during the Civil War as part of the Irish Brigade.  The 69th earned its “fighting” sobriquet, according to legend, when General Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg, told that the 69th had made a gallant assault against the Confederate lines, and recalling the regiment from the Seven Days battles, stated “Ah yes.  That fighting 69th.”  Made up mostly of Irishmen during the Civil War,  the regimental battle cry was Faugh an Beallach,  Clear the Way.    The regimental motto was the traditional, and accurate, observation about the Irish:  “Gentle when stroked;  fierce when provoked”. Continue Reading

6

Same-Sex Marriage Bill Killed in Maryland Assembly

This looked like a done deal after the Senate approved it, but the same-sex marriage bill  went down to defeat this afternoon.  I find this to be particularly noteworthy:

Advocates for the bill had hoped Maryland would join five other states and the District in allowing same-sex marriages. The bill had significant momentum coming out of the Senate but ran into resistance in the Democratic-led House from African-American lawmakers from Prince George’s County, who cited religious opposition in their districts, and conservative Democrats in Southern Maryland and the Baltimore suburbs.

People assume that because Maryland is a deeply blue state that same-sex marriage would find more support than in other areas of the country, but there is some innate social conservatism here thanks in part to the substantial African-American population.  This was brought home to me just yesterday when I read an op-ed opposing gay marriage in an independent local paper aimed at the African-American community, and not one normally noted as a bastion of conservative thought.  But I think this vote represents one of the potential areas for schism within the Democratic party.  Just a year ago or so Marion Barry expressed his opposition to DC’s imposition of same-sex marriage, and now we have lawmakers from a majority-black county blocking same-sex marriage in Maryland.

All in all, a day for rejoicing.  For now.

10

Augustine’s Confessions: Getting Started

For several years running, I did a series of Lenten reading posts focused on Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s been a couple years, and I never did cover the last couple cantos of the Purgatorio, for which I am sorry. Perhaps some day the time will be right to go back to it. However, this year I had the itch to re-read Augustine’s Confessions, which is a conveniently Lent-length work. And so as a form of discipline, and also in hopes it may be interesting or helpful to a few people, I’m going to write my way through Confessions this Lent in a way similar to the Commedia posts of past year.

Before plunging in, a few brief notes on what we’re getting into. The Confessions was written by Augustine when he was in his mid-forties, in 397-398 AD, just a few years after he was made bishop of Hippo in North Africa. This was ten years after his adult conversion to Christianity which is the culminating even of Confessions.

Confessions is a very approachable work. It’s about 300 pages long in a paperback edition and although it deals with a number of philosophical and theological issues, its basic format is that of a spiritual autobiography written in the first person and addressed to God. It is not only perhaps the first spiritual autobiography, but also the first book-length personal autobiography in Western Literature. Other classical writers had written about themselves to one extent or another (perhaps most famously Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars and Civil Wars and Xenophon in his March Up Country) but had always done so in the guise of a third person, objective history. Continue Reading

7

Not Winning: John Cornyn (Updated x2)

After the 2010 Florida US Senate campaign debacle where John Cornyn and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) prematurely backed RINO (and later not even INO) Charlie Crist over (eventual winner) Marco Rubio, the last thing you’d expect the NRSC to do is get involved in another Republican US Senate campaign in the hopes of getting another RINO squish to run.  If you thought so – congratulations!  You are vastly more qualified to run the NRSC than John Cornyn.

Republicans in Washington are trying to recruit Joe Scarborough to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) next year.

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told The Hill on Thursday that he has talked to Scarborough a couple times about a Senate bid. And he indicated he’s still working on persuading the MSNBC host to run for the upper chamber.

“I’d be delighted to talk to him a third time,” Cornyn said.

Boy, you can just feel the base being energized with this news. This is the same Joe Scarborough who is employed by MSNBC and spends much of the day bashing other conservatives who don’t want to play nice with the Obama administration, and who recently called Scott Walker “un-American” for his attempts to reign in unions.  This is also the same Joe Scarborough who frankly comes across as someone who might need help tying his shoes in the morning – it being a taxing mental exercise and all.

Yeah, that’s the guy John Cornyn is desperately trying to woo in Florida.

You know, I can sit here and discuss how completely out of touch with reality John Cornyn is, and how he is single-handedly doing all in his power to keep Republicans in the minority in the US Senate.  But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this just about sums up my reaction: Continue Reading

19

Rand Paul, Abortion and Toilets

Hattip to Allahpundit at Hot Air.  My unexpected legislative hero, pro-life Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky,  was magnificent  yesterday:

“You’re really anti-choice on every other consumer item that you’ve listed here, including light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets – you name it, you can’t go around your house without being told what to buy. You restrict my choices, you don’t care about my choices,” Paul said to her. “You don’t care about the consumer frankly. You raise the cost of all the items with your rules, all your notions that you know what’s best for me.”

Frankly, my toilets don’t work in my house. And I blame you and people like you who want to tell me what I can install in my house, what I can do. You restrict my choices. There is hypocrisy that goes on when people claim to believe in some choices but don’t want to let the consumer decide what they can buy and put in their houses. I find it insulting. I find it insulting that a lot of these products that you’re going to make us buy and you won’t let us buy what we want to buy and you take away our choices.” Continue Reading

8

Public Employee Unions Explained

 

Now, there is a good deal of evidence in favor of the opinion that many of these societies are in the hands of secret leaders, and are managed on principles ill-according with Christianity and the public well-being; and that they do their utmost to get within their grasp the whole field of labor, and force working men either to join them or to starve. Under these circumstances Christian working men must do one of two things: either join associations in which their religion will be exposed to peril, or form associations among themselves and unite their forces so as to shake off courageously the yoke of so unrighteous and intolerable an oppression. No one who does not wish to expose man’s chief good to extreme risk will for a moment hesitate to say that the second alternative should by all means be adopted.

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum

 

 

 

Klavan on the Culture, you are correct!  Public employee unions, by funding Democrats and providing election workers, effectively were able largely to write their own compensation packages, taxpayer be hanged.  It was a decades long merry party at the expense of the public, and many states are on the verge of bankruptcy as a result.  The battle over public employee unions is just the opening round in a huge political fight across the nation as the states, which are unable to simply print money as the federal government does, desperately grapple with looming fiscal insolvency.  Change is coming as change often does:  brought about by onrushing reality. Continue Reading

9

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on Islam and Reform

Commenting on a prior post by Paul Zummo on “Religious Egalitarianism”, I had cited the provocative comment of the late Fr. James Neuhaus:

Yet more troubling is the message that Islam, in order to become less of a threat to the world, must relativize its claim to possess the truth. That plays directly into the hands of Muslim rigorists who pose as the defenders of the uncompromised and uncompromisible truth and who call for death to the infidels. If Islam is to become tolerant and respectful of other religions, it must be as the result of a development that comes from within the truth of Islam, not as a result of relativizing or abandoning that truth. Is Islam capable of such a religious development? Nobody knows. But, if the choice is between compromising Islamic truth or a war of civilizations, it is almost certain that the winner among Muslims will be the hard-core Islamism that [Bernard] Lewis rightly views as such a great threat.

Christianity is more, not less, vibrantly Christian as a result of coming to understand more fully the mysterious and loving ways of God in His dealings also with non-Christians. Although the story of this development is complex, the important truth is that tolerance and mutual respect are religious, not secular, achievements. I will say it again: the reason we do not kill one another over our disagreements about the will of God is that we believe it is against the will of God to kill one another over our disagreements about the will of God. Christians have come to believe that. We must hope that more and more Muslims will come to believe that. That will not happen, however, if they are told that coming to believe that will make them less faithful Muslims.

I was asked by a reader to expand on Neuhaus’ remarks, and as I’ve no wish to hijack Paul’s post (particularly as it wasn’t about Islam per se), here’s some further food for thought.

What does Neuhaus mean? Continue Reading