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On Vacation 2011

Family on Vacation

I am on vacation this week with my family.  My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or there is an alarming outbreak of common sense in the government, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds.  If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 30,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.  A good overview of Gen Con is here.  Below is a Gen Con video from 2010 which gives a nice feel of the convention.

My wife and daughter participate in the live action dungeon at Gen Con.  Here is a trailer for True Dungeon 2011:

Continue Reading

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Explaining the Money Facts of Life to Liberals

I take off my hat to you Klavan on the Culture for making the effort, but it will take more than that to get through to people who believe that infinite wealth can be produced by government fiat.  Exhibit A is a plan to solve the national debt, read all about it here, which is quite popular among the people who call themselves “the reality-based community”.   Pixies, unicorn dust, Obama is a great President and the government is a cornucopia of infinite largesse: many leftists in this country would sooner see us do a replay of the Great Depression than give up such delusions.

 

 

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O’Brien on Potter & Entertainment

LifesiteNews has posted an extensive interview with Michael O’Brien about his views on Harry Potter. Michael O’Brien is himself a Catholic author, most known for his novel “Father Elijah.”

Much of the interview is about the particularities of Harry Potter. I agree and disagree with him. While I would concede that there are several instances where the Potter books don’t live up to Christian values, I think he misinterprets many of his examples to skew the books, particular in his discussions about the final scenes. However, I’m more interested in how his views would apply to a subject I rarely see discuss but which is very important: how Catholics ought to approach art and make the decision of whether or not to read/view a particular work. O’brien indirectly touches on this issue through the Potter debate, and it’s those areas I’d like to focus on.

Most important, she has taken the paganization of children’s culture to the next step, in which sorcery and witchcraft—traditionally allied with supernatural evil—is now presented as morally neutral. In the hands of “nice” people it’s an instrument for good. In the hands of not-nice people it’s an instrument for evil. She has shifted the battle lines between good and evil, which can have a disorienting effect, especially on the young who are in the stage of formation.

This is the crux of O’Brien’s argument against Potter: witchcraft is a traditional symbol of evil, and by presenting it as possibly morally neutral Rowling’s world ought to be rejected. His attempts to simultaneously defend Tolkien’s fantasy and the inconsistencies of this are well argued by many others. Howver, I think this claim is wrong even if he did condemn Tolkien.

What an author should do if they wish to use a traditional evil in a different way is to contemplate why that symbol was evil. Wizardry was a symbol of a desire for power and control; vampires for lust and immortality; werewolves for an animalistic view of humans, etc. O’Brien’s argument would corner us into using these motifs always as evil. But I think an author could genuinely write a story about a werewolf fighting his own tendencies in an effort to overcome his weakness. Indeed, Tolkien’s portrayal of dwarves fits into the tendency. The dwarves are tempted by greed and close-mindedness but throughout LOTR Gimli’s experiences change him so that he becomes a veritable hero. So while I think that authors would be wise to deal with the weaknesses inherent in their symbols rather than gloss over them, I don’t think authors are cornered the way O’Brien suggests. While O’Brien is right to suggest that authors need to pay careful attention to the traditional uses, I don’t think they are bound by them. Indeed, O’Brien’s book involves an attempt to convert the Anti-Christ; if that’s not using an evil symbol in an unorthodox way I don’t know what is.

That argument again points to the deeper problem. Without really knowing how we arrived at this position, we have made an artificial split between entertainment and faith—between culture and faith, in other words. We say, “I am a doctrinally correct Catholic (or Christian), I question nothing of the Church’s teaching. So if I want to watch videos, DVDs, television programs that violate those principles, I’m capable of focusing on the good and overlooking the evil.” It goes without saying that we should try to find the good in everything and shouldn’t always be looking for the evil around us. But when our consumption becomes an insatiable appetite, in which the evil components, the falsehoods and glamorization of evil activities are grave matters—and certainly sorcery and witchcraft is of the utmost gravity in terms of violating divine order—we should pause and say, “Is this worth it? Can I really ingest this amount of evil without being affected by it?

Part of this argument is contingent on his claims that Potter contains more evil than good. Now read this quote with it:

Potterworld is a scrambled moral universe. There are Christian symbols in the series, but the author misappropriates them, mutates them, and integrates them into a supposedly larger and broader system where evil symbols are dominant. Why are our antennae not quivering when that happens? I believe it’s because we have been overwhelmed by habitual dependence on the pleasure. I should add that we have also been overwhelmed by many opinion-shapers who tell us that there’s no problem here—even Christian commentators.

I would agree with O’Brien that commentators who say the Potter series presents NO problems are mistaken. But O’Brien’s problem with potter’s “scrambled moral universe” could apply to almost anything. The fundamental problem Christians have with approaching art is that the authors are sinful human beings. Even the best of authors are going to allow their sinfulness to creep undetected into their works so that their work contains mixed moral messages. While some works are clearly better than others at containing far more positive messages then evil (LOTR for example), no work is perfect. There is no work in the world in which the reader ought to be sitting and fully accepting.

The question for the Christian reader is how to deal with this. Part of this relies on literary interpretation. If you read Potter as offering an example of sacrificial love, you are more likely to believe it to ultimately be a useful work of art. If you read Potter as endorsing the end justifies the means, then you’re not. There are times when you can clearly say “x is unacceptable for Christians” but oftentimes this is difficult. Art speaks to different people in different ways so that some people make take more from the good parts than others. This is particularly true in the modern entertainment context, in which everything is very mixed and Christians who wish to stay engaged with the culture find themselves facing very difficult choices.

Even though there are works of art that label themselves as Christian, either they are Protestant, contain mixed moral messages anyway, or are just plain terrible works of art (think “Fireproof,” if you managed to get past the first five minutes of the dialogue). Many of the Catholic writers of the last century wrote stories with very flawed characters who seek truth in a postmodern world (Greene’s Power and the Glory, Percy’s the Moviegoer, Flannery O’Conner).

There’s no easy out, nor should their be. Good art is reflective of the world, and as that world is fallen and the author is fallen Catholics are going to have to balance the good and the bad. Good art ought to point more towards God than point away.

I have no problem if O’Brien or anyone else thinks Harry Potter does more ill than good. I disagree with them, but they are entitled to their opinion. But pretending that it is all evil avoids the difficult decisions that a consumer needs to make; and Catholics who trying to live out the New Evangelization and meet the culture need to be more aware of that decision.

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July 28, 1861: Death of Sullivan Ballou

Thirty-two years old in 1861, Sullivan Ballou was already well-established in life.  Married with two sons, he was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and had served as speaker of that body.  When Lincoln called for volunteers, he did not hesitate, and enlisted as a Major with the Second Rhode Island infantry.  At the battle of Bull Run he received what would prove to be a mortal wound.  His right leg was amputated and he succumbed to his wounds on July 28, 1861.  Before the battle of Bull Run he wrote to his wife a timeless letter of love and hope for the future beyond the grave: Continue Reading

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“Catholic” Hospital Has Abortionist on Staff

Hattip to Creative Minority Report. In a story that sums up quite nicely so much that is wrong with the Church in America, Lifesite News has the tale of an abortionist on staff at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, Colorado.

After a Catholic hospital in Colorado refused to remove a Planned Parenthood abortionist from its ob/gyn staff, pro-life advocates have organized a protest, featuring Live Action President Lila Rose, on Aug. 4.

“The reason I perform abortions is because I’m a Christian,” Richard Grossman, a Quaker, told the Durango Herald after a similar protest outside Mercy Regional Medical Center last year.  “Personally, I believe in the strength, intellect and fortitude of women. When a woman says a fetus is a person, I think it is one. I believe the woman empowers the fetus.”

Continue Reading

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Alexander Hamilton and the National Debt

This country was blessed at its founding to have on the scene a member of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who was a financial genius.  His idea to have the Federal government adopt the Revolutionary War debts of the states in order to establish the credit of the new Federal government was a policy of genius.  At a stroke he restored the credit of the country as a whole, made certain the debt would be paid, made America attractive to foreign investors and laid the basis of future American prosperity.  His ideas on the subject were set forth in his first report to Congress on  public credit, 1789, and which may be read here.

The final paragraph of the report is salient for the time in which we live: Continue Reading

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Perry Vs. Santorum on Gay Marriage

At this early stage of the game, I’d say that my top  choices for the GOP nomination are two Ricks: Perry and Santorum.  The latter has as much chance as I do of actually getting the nomination, but he’ s also the one who I am most sympathetic to ideologically.

I say this all as a preamble because I’m going to disagree with parts of both of their comments from this past weekend.  Rick Perry had this to say about New York’s decision to permit gay marriage:

Perry, who is considering running for president, at a forum in Colorado on Friday called himself an “unapologetic social conservative” and said he opposes gay marriage — but that he’s also a firm believer in the 10th Amendment, the Associated Press reported.

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said to applause from several hundred GOP donors in Aspen, the AP reported.

“That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

Perry’s argument on behalf of federalism is completely legitimate.  For now I’ll leave that specific debate aside and focus on the tenor of Perry’s statement.  While one can argue that a state has a right to do x, it does not follow that the state should be free from criticism.  This is similar to something that Rudy Giuliani said, and which I criticized last week.  All that federalism means is that individual states have wide latitude to formulate their own laws, free from interference by the federal government.  Federalism does not mean that citizens of other states cannot criticize these decisions.  This idea that federalism entails complete silence on the doings of other states is akin to those who hide behind the first amendment when they say something silly and earn public ridicule.  Just because you have the right to do something or say something it doesn’t mean that you should do something, and citizens of other locales absolutely have the right to speak out against these decisions and perhaps persuade the citizens of the state in question to change their mind.

That said, I have a slight issue with Santorum’s response:

That prompted a response from Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who tweeted overnight: “So Gov Perry, if a state wanted to allow polygamy or if they chose to deny heterosexuals the right to marry, would that be OK too?”

It’s not unfair to employ the logic of  a slippery slope argument.  There are already rumblings from polygamist groups who want to legalize polygamy now that the floodgates have opened.  That said, there are a couple of problems with this rhetorical strategy.  To me the slippery slope argument is the last refuge when all other arguments fail.  It doesn’t really address the actual issue at hand, and in fact there’s a subtle implication that the subject under consideration is not all that serious a concern.

I guess what bothers me about Santorum’s tweet is that it doesn’t tackle the issue of gay marriage head on.  I acknowledge that this is just a tweet, and Santorum has no doubt argued well on behalf of traditional marriage before.  But this smacks too much of a dodge, as though gay marriage isn’t that bad – but polygamy and the outlawing of heterosexual marriage, now that’s bad.  If the issue under discussion had been abortion, would Santorum have raised the specter of something semi-related?  I doubt it.

I’ll admit I might be nitpicking here, and that Santorum is simply mocking the absurdity(in his view) of Perry’s federalist stance.  Again, you’re not going to capture a lot of nuance in a single tweet – which says something about the nature of twitter, but that’s for another rant.  I just fear that too often defenders of traditional marriage rely upon the slippery slope argument too facilely.  If gay marriage is as bad for society as we think it is, we should argue against it on its own merits (or demerits) instead of attacking semi-related subjects.

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Shea, Voris and Amazing Grace

An interesting spat has developed between Catholic blogger Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It and Michael Voris of RealCatholic TV.  In the above video Mr. Voris attacks the use of the Protestant hymn Amazing Grace at Mass.    Amazing Grace was composed by John Newton, an eighteenth century captain of a slaver, who converted to Christianity, was ordained in the Anglican Church and became an abolitionist.  The song is used frequently at Mass in my parish.

Mark Shea, who has never had any use for Mr. Voris as far as I can tell, attacked the video in a post at his blog:

Voris’ sole message is “I am the measure of Real Catholicism and those who agree with me have the right to call themselves Catholic, while those who disagree are liars and lukewarm fake Catholics”.

Continue Reading

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NY Times Writers Argue For Dictatorship

William Jacobson has a regular feature on his blog making fun of some of the more ridiculous bumper stickers he comes across.  Today he observes a typical moonbat parading his “thoughts” for the world to see.  Among the litany of bumper stickers he spotted was a classic: “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  Yeah, there’s nothing particularly original or insightful with this bumper sticker, though it does display the leftist predilection to accuse conservatives of fascism.  The funniest part of this is that it overlooks what is obvious to those of us who kept studying history past high school, specifically that it is the left that more often proposes totalitarian policies.

For further proof of this, here’s a charming op-ed from the New York Times. Continue Reading

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There’s A Law About That?

The FCC is coming under fire from Congress for lax oversight of kids’ programming.  So what’s the problem?  Is Joe from Blue’s Clues working a little too blue, if you catch my drift?  Are the explicit drug scenes from Yo Gabba Gabba getting a little too out of control?  Is the lack of parental oversight of Max and Ruby sending a bad message?

No, none of that.  Evidently there are too many commercials.

I am not making this up.

TV watchdog groups say the Federal Communications Commission needs to better target kids’ programs that have too many commercials, and they want the commission and Congress to strengthen oversight of the Children’s Television Act.

Fueling the drive is a Government Accountability Office report issued last week that highlights FCC shortcomings in enforcing the landmark 1990 law intended to raise the quality and educational value of children’s programming while also limiting advertising. The report said the FCC has been lax in ensuring compliance from cable and satellite providers and questioned the commission’s guidelines for determining the educational value of children’s shows.

You mean to tell me there is a law out there that dictates the amount of commercials that can be shown during children’s programming?  Surely you jest.

Congress crafted the law in response to a decrease in educational shows during the 1980s that corresponded with an uptick in commercial blitzes during children’s programming. To shield youngsters from excessive commercials, the law restricts advertising during children’s programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

I repeat: there is a law, passed by Congress, signed by a President, that actually dictates the amount of commercials that are to be shown during kids’ shows.  The government of the United States deemed this an issue worthy enough of oversight.

Moreover, there are people who think the government isn’t doing enough.

During the Clinton administration, the FCC was “paying attention to children’s education, and the quality of children’s programming improved,” said Dale Kunkel, a child media expert and a communications professor at the University of Arizona.

“We slowly moved to a posture in the 2000s where they completely ignored the issue and the broadcasters offered whatever they want,” he said.

Wait a second.  Broadcasters can offer programs that viewers have the option to watch, or not watch?  What is this, a free country or something?

Look, I’m all for making sure that the airwaves are generally clean for kids.  While parents have the ultimate responsibility for watching their children and making sure that the content of what they’re viewing is appropriate, it’s helpful to be assured that they’re not going to watch all the animals from Franklin get a little too friendly (and at least they’ve finally had the decency to put some clothes on little bear).  But do we really need the government to dictate the quality of educational programming available, or the precise amount of commercial time airing on television?  Is there anything that busybodies won’t ask the government to oversee?

3

July 21, 1861: First Battle of Bull Run

History is unkind to defeated generals.  All most of us recall about Irvin McDowell is that he commanded the Union army at First Bull Run, First Manassas south of the Mason-Dixon line, and was beaten by the Confederates.  He had a long and illustrious career in the Army both before and after Bull Run, but none of that matters.  He is the defeated general at Bull Run, and after History places that stamp on him, nothing else really matters.  In John Brown’s Body, his epic poem on the Civil War, Stephen Vincent Benet has a few words on McDowell that I believe should be remembered. Continue Reading

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Dog Days of Summer Open Thread

We haven’t had an open thread in a while, so here we go.  The heat across most of the nation is unbearable, so blogging in air conditioned splendor is fairly attractive right now.  The temperature reached 100 degrees today at around 2:30 PM in Pontiac, Illinois as the family and I were driving back from Springfield, Illinois.  Thursday we will have more of the same.  Friday the temperature is expected to plummet all the way down to 90!  Time to dust off the winter coat!

5

Rudy Giuliani Should Stay Out Of Public Affairs (Updated)

Despite my opposition to his presidential candidacy in 2008, I’ve always liked Rudy Giuliani.  Most of that stems from having grown up in New York and seeing the city’s renaissance under Mayor Rudy.  Also, despite his socially liberal views, Rudy generally refrained from head-on confrontations with social conservatives.  He always struck me as the type of guy who understood that his positions were in the minority within the party and so, unlike other social liberals, Rudy focused his fire on the left and largely kept mum on social issues.

Until now.

He may not agree with the vote in New York to legalize gay marriage, but former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the Republican Party should butt out of the bedroom and stick to fiscal policy.

“I think the Republican Party would be well advised to get the heck out of people’s bedrooms and let these things get decided by states,” Giuliani said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’d be a much more successful political party if we stuck to our economic, conservative roots.”

There are so many problems with this statement that I almost don’t know where to begin.  First of all, we need to retire the “stay out of people’s bedroom” meme.  It’s a silly cliche and it is used to shut down debate.  As is the case with abortion, I don’t think too many marriages take place in the bedroom.  The implication is that this is ultimately an issue that revolves around sexual morality, but that misses the point.  Nobody is urging that gays be prohibited from doing what they want behind closed doors.  Gay marriage opponents simply do not want the definition of marriage to be changed.  In point of fact, the libertarian position on this issue would not necessarily be for marriage to be opened to gays, but rather for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether.*  The people advocating government involvement in this area are gay marriage advocates, not opponents.

*The merits of this particular argument have been debated here and elsewhere, and I’m not particularly concerned with continuing that discussion here.  I just bring it up as an example of what the libertarian position is, not what it ought to be.

Giuliani also seems confused as to which side is making all the noise.  Conservatives aren’t the ones who started this debate by advocating for a change.  We’ve been the ones fighting a rearguard action to fend off those who would fundamentally alter the definition of marriage.  Saying that we’re the ones who need to be quiet about the issue is completely hypocritical.

Rudy then tries to have it both ways, later saying that he’s personally opposed to gay marriage but that he supports the democratic process in New York.  Well which is it, Rudy?  If you think that it’s a bad idea, why are you telling others who share your view to shut up about it?  Do you think that you can play both sides by feigning opposition while ultimately taking the side of gay marriage advocates?  More importantly, Giuliani reverts to another tired meme that is constantly trotted out during this debate.  Just because one believes in the principle of federalism it does not mean that one should not inveigh against states making bad decisions.  Curiously the same people now talking about the glories of federalism didn’t seem to have the same opinion about remaining silent on state laws when it came to the Arizona immigration debate.  Just because a state has the right to do such and such doesn’t mean that you can’t lobby the people and legislators of said state to reach a different conclusion.  This is akin to the first amendment argument wherein people use the freedom of speech as a crutch when criticized for saying something stupid.  Freedom is a two-way street, and we are allowed to criticize bad ideas and work for change within the states.

Finally, the political calculation is just off.  Perhaps it’s unsurprising that the man who waged one of the worst presidential campaigns in history is offering bad political advice, but time and again polls show that it’s on social, not economic issues that conservatives are more in line with majority opinion.  It’s one of the great fallacies of our era that conservatives should concentrate on economic issues in the interests of electoral gain.  There’s a reason New York is the first state to enact gay marriage through the legislature.  If being pro-gay marriage were a winning issue, then more states would have permitted it through the democratic process by now.  And of course this ignores the more important issue about abandoning principles in the interests of political expediency.

Update: Semi-related, here is a story linked at Creative Minority Report about Vermont Inn Keepers being sued for refusing to host a gay marriage reception.

What now Rudy?  Should gay marriage advocates stay out of Catholic innkeeper’s bedrooms?

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July, Springfield and Lincoln

 

Well, it is time again in the McClarey household for our mini three day July vacation.  (We take a week off in June and August.)  Today we make our annual pilgrimage down to Springfield to the Lincoln sites.  We say a prayer at the tomb of Mr. Lincoln for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and children.  All of Lincoln’s immediate family are buried there except Robert Lincoln, a Civil War veteran, who is buried in Arlington.

We also go to the Lincoln Museum, which is first rate.  For those of you with time to kill, go here to watch a CSpan two and a half hour (!) tour from 2005 of the Lincoln Museum. Continue Reading

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Obamacare to Require Coverage of Contraception

In a move likely to surprise only those on the Catholic Left, the government received a recommendation (which it is almost sure to implement) to require all insurance companies to cover contraception as it is a preventive service. This will not allow for insurance companies to require a co-pay for these services. This includes not only all FDA-approved contraception procedures, but also all sterilization procedures as well as education and counseling for “all women with reproductive capacity.” I’m not certain, but I assume “all FDA-approved contraceptive procedures” would include some abortifacients, specifically the “emergency contraceptives” that prevent implantation (considered by some to not be abortive because they define pregnancy at implantation not fertilization).

There do not yet appear to be any provisions providing for entities to opt out of this kind of coverage, which likely means that Catholic employers are now mandated to provide insurance will have to pay for contraception and abortion.

Thanks for your hard work, Mr. Stupak.

 

1

Matthew Brady, Father Thomas H. Mooney, Dagger John and the Fighting 69th

The above photo is one of the archetypal Matthew Brady photographs of the Civil War.  Whenever religion in the Civil War is mentioned in a history, odds are you will see this picture.  It was taken on June 1, 1861 in the camp of the 69th New York, later to be christened The Fighting 69th  by no less an authority on fighting  than Robert E. Lee, and it depicts Mass being said by Father Thomas H. Mooney, the first chaplain of The Fighting 69th.

Born in Manchester, England, and ordained in 1853 in New York City, Father Mooney had been pastor of Saint Brigid’s in New york City, as well as being the chaplain of the 69th New York.  Archbishop Hughes of New York City, known universally by friend and foe as “Dagger John”, warned Father Mooney about the large number of Fenians, a precursor of the Irish Republican Army, who had enlisted in the regiment:

“They are incompetent to be admitted to the Sacraments of the Church during life and of Christian burial after death, unless they shall in the meantime renounce such obligations as have been just referred to. In regard to the whole subject, you will please to exercise all the discretion and all the charity that religion affords: but speak to the men and tell each one (not all at one time) that he is jeopardizing his soul if he perseveres in this uncatholic species of combination.”

The Church in Ireland and America had a mostly negative view of the Fenians due to an overall opposition to revolutionary movements in Europe by Pope Pius IX and because the Fenians called for a separation of Church and State In Ireland.

The 69th was one of the first Union regiments to go to Washington in 1861 in response to Lincoln’s call for volunteers.  Father Mooney went with it, and quickly proved extremely popular with the men and officers of the regiment.  He founded a temperance society in the regiment,  held daily Masses and confessions, and was tireless in reminding wayward soldiers in the regiment that this was a great opportunity for them to return to the Faith.  A correspondent for the New York Times reported on the high esteem in which Father Mooney was held:

As for the Sixty-ninth, they turned out more than twelve hundred muskets, leaving yet another hundred — the newly-arrived Zouaves — in their late headquarters at the College. This Regiment has grown into great fever in Washington — not a single one of its members ever having become amenable to the police authorities in any way; and its discipline and efficiency having frequently been made the subject of complimentary notice by Gens SCOTT and MANSFIELD. For very much of the good order and moral restraint existing in the ranks, it is doubtless indebted to the ceaseless and zealous exertions of Father THOMAS MOONEY, an admirable specimen-priest of the true high type, who, if he were not chaplain, would certainly be a candidate for Colonel — fate and a sanguine temper giving him equal adaptation to the sword of the spirit and the “regulation sword” — a veritable son of the church-militant. But this again is a degression.

Father Mooney’s career as a chaplain was cut short by “Dagger John”.   On June 13, 1861 the 69th was helping to emplace a rifled cannon in Fort Corcoran, named after Colonel Corcoran the commander of the 69th, near Washington.  Everyone was in high spirits.  Father Mooney was called upon to bless the cannon.  Instead, he decided to baptize the cannon. Continue Reading

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The Constitution Isn’t A Suicide Pact

But it is a document that ensures a pesky little thing called religious freedom, something that Herman Cain has seemingly missed.

Herman Cain, a Republican presidential candidate, says Americans have the right to ban Muslims from building mosques.

“They have the right to do that,” Cain said on Fox News Sunday, expressing his concerns with Sharia law. “I’m willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists.”

Cain’s comments were in reference to a Tennessee town that is attempting to ban a mosque in its community. “That’s not discriminating based upon their particular religion,” he said. “There is an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn’t get talked about. And the people in the community know what it is and they’re talking about it.”

“Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state,” Cain said. “Islam combines church and state. They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people in the community do not like it.”

I’m the last person to deny the perniciousness of many elements within Islam, but this is nonsense on stilts.  The most deliciously ironic aspect of this comment is Cain’s relying on the “separation of church and state trope.”  So Cain doesn’t seem to think that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, which it in fact does, but he does think it guarantees a separation of church and state, which it in fact does not.  And I especially have to laugh at Cain saying “They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community and the people in the community do not like it.”  First of all,  the church part of our First Amendment?  What?  Second, does anyone doubt that if an atheist or hardened leftist (I know, I’m being redundant) had said something like this he would have been excoriated by most conservatives.  Evidently only pre-approved religious viewpoints are allowed to influence people in a given community.  Perhaps Herman Cain would like to share with us which viewpoints are acceptable, this way we can be all clear in the future.

Naturally this has provided an opportunity for people to beat their chests and play “more righteously angry and conservative than thou.”  Because only a hippy could possibly think that it is a dangerous thing to start prohibiting certain religions from constructing places of worship.  This selective application of the first amendment could never be applied to Catholics, right?  No one could possibly fathom using the same precise rationale that Cain has advanced here in order justify blocking the construction of a Roman Catholic Church.

I thought the construction of the Islamic cultural center at Ground Zero was a terrible idea, but that had to do with the symbolic import of the location.  Even then, I thought the way to oppose it was through social pressure, not by the strong arm of the state intervening and prohibiting construction.  The people of the local community can certainly express their displeasure, but once we allow the state to intervene we have destroyed the concept of religious freedom.

And yes, I know that many adherents of Islam do not even believe in the concept of religious freedom.  Certainly there is a political element within Islam that makes it as much an ideology as a religion,  at least in certain quarters.  But are we willing to completely write off all Muslims as deranged fanatics unworthy of constitutional protections?  If you think as Herman Cain does, then that’s implicitly what you are saying.

3

Warren H. Carroll, Requiescat in Pace

Warren H. Carroll died yesterday at age 79.  Founder of Christendom College, he earned a BA from Bates College and an MA and Phd in history from Columbia.  He converted to the Faith in 1968 and thereafter fought a tireless battle in defense of the Faith.  The author of a number of popular histories regarding events in Church history, his most significant scholarly work was his five volume History of Christendom.  I highly recommend the first four volumes.  (The fifth volume was written after he had a debilitating stroke and basically is largely a rehash of earlier writings on the events surrounding the French Revolution and is not up to the high standard of the first four volumes.)  He never pretended to objectivity:  his histories were always written from a strongly Catholic  point of view.  However, his scholarship was usually of a high order and he demonstrated a complete command of the historical literature involved in the subjects he wrote about.  His notes and annotated bibliography in the History of Christendom are a joy to read for any lover of history.  I will miss him.  May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision.

 

9

A Foundation of Determinism

Paul Krugman recently did a Five Books interview with The Browser, talking about his five favorite books. The books are: Asimov’s Foundation series, Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, two books by Lord Keynes, and a book of essays by economist James Tobin, one of Krugman’s old teachers. Of Foundation he says:

This is a very unusual set of novels from Isaac Asimov, but a classic. It’s not about gadgets. Although it’s supposed to be about a galactic civilisation, the technology is virtually invisible and it’s not about space battles or anything like that. The story is about these people, psychohistorians, who are mathematical social scientists and have a theory about how society works. The theory tells them that the galactic empire is failing, and they then use that knowledge to save civilisation. It’s a great image. I was probably 16 when I read it and I thought, “I want to be one of those guys!” Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that and economics is the closest I could get.

Continue Reading

1

Some Gaffes Are More Equal Than Others

I don’t know Klavan on the Culture.  I had always assumed that the media downplays gaffes by Obama because he is obviously a genius and that therefore when he makes a gaffe it is simply a mistake, and no big deal.  Republicans on the other hand are self-evidently idiots, or they would be Democrats, and therefore when they make a gaffe it is revealing of their essential idiocy, and thus newsworthy because it alerts the public to the fact that Republicans are idiots.  No media bias here! Continue Reading

19

Fictional Hates

 

 

 

 

Ah, the world of fiction.  It entertains us and helps lend spice to the mundane world.  However, some of the characters who inhabit it simply put our teeth on edge.  Here are the three top annoying characters on my list.

Dobby the House Elf-From the time I first saw Dobby in the Harry Potter films, I found him intensely grating.  His voice, his mannerisms, his obsequiousness to Harry Potter, all make me choose Dobby as the fictional character I would most like to ask to attempt to unjam a  woodchipper by sticking his arm into it.  I did restrain myself from giving a cheer when he shuffled off his fictional vale of tears in the penultimate Harry Potter film.

Jar Jar Binks-This character immediate signaled to me that something was going badly awry in the second Star Wars trilogy.  A bizarre unackowledged homage to Stepin Fetchit, George Lucas, if he were not a completely conventional Hollywood liberal, would have become the poster boy for entertainment racism by the NAACP. Continue Reading

Eroica

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Erocia (Heroic) by Beethoven.  Beethoven originally had dedictated Eroica to Napoleon.  When he heard that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor here was his reaction according to one of this pupils:

I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!”

Beethoven ripped the dediction to Napoleon from the title page of Eroica.  This post has videos for the first two movements. Continue Reading

7

A Religious Turning Test

This post requires a bit of background explanation, so bear with me.

A few weeks ago, Paul Krugman made the following comment about conservatives and liberals:

[I]f you ask a liberal or a saltwater economist, “What would somebody on the other side of this divide say here? What would their version of it be?” A liberal can do that. A liberal can talk coherently about what the conservative view is because people like me actually do listen. We don’t think it’s right, but we pay enough attention to see what the other person is trying to get at. The reverse is not true. You try to get someone who is fiercely anti-Keynesian to even explain what a Keynesian economic argument is, they can’t do it. They can’t get it remotely right.

Krugman, of course, famously refuses to read conservative bloggers, and his work at the New York Times doesn’t exactly display a deep understanding of conservative ideas (perhaps he is a good example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action). In any event, libertarian blogger and economist Bryan Caplan responded to Krugman by proposing the following test: Continue Reading

6

2012 Presidential Election: Clouds Are Gathering For Obama

The Presidential election is still just over 15 months away, and much can change in that time.  However, as of now the signs are ominous for President Obama:

1.  The Unemployment Rate: Currently the unemployment rate is around 9.2.  Since World War 2 no President has been re-elected when the unemployment rate was greater than 7.2.  Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with an unemployment rate of 16. 6 and again in 1940 with an unemployment rate of 14.4.  However, FDR had inherited an unemployment rate of 19.8.  Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.8.  If, as increasingly looks likely, the economy remains stagnant or slips back into recession, I find it had to see how there will be much improvement in the unemployment rate prior to November 2012.

2.  Electoral College Shift: The Republicans will see a probable gain of approximately 14 votes in their electoral college votes simply due to red states gaining population and blue states losing population.

3.  2012 ain’t 2008: In 2008 Obama took Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, a total of 39 electoral votes.  I do not believe he has a prayer of taking any of those states in 2012.  Ohio with 18 electoral votes and Florida with 29 electoral votes went for Obama in 2008, and both went big for the Republicans in 2010.  Unless Obama can take one of those states, the electoral math becomes hard for him, albeit not impossible.

4.  Say Goodby to the Youth Vote: Obama benefited from a high level of support among young voters, precisely the category of voters suffering the highest level of unemployment.  I doubt if a good many of them will be motivated by the promise of four more years of the same to leave Mom and/or Dad’s basement to pull the lever again for Obama, certainly not in the same high numbers.

5.  Polls: Obama is beginning to show real weakness when matched against a generic Republican:

Registered voters by a significant margin now say they are more likely to vote for the “Republican Party’s candidate for president” than for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, 47% to 39%. Preferences had been fairly evenly divided this year in this test of Obama’s re-election prospects.

The latest results are based on a July 7-10 poll, and show that the Republican has an edge for the second consecutive month. Obama held a slight edge in May, when his approval rating increased after the death of Osama bin Laden. As his rating has come back down during the last two months, so has his standing on the presidential “generic ballot.”

Gallup typically uses this question format when a president is seeking re-election but his likely opponent is unknown, as was the case in 1991-1992 and 2003-2004, when incumbents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, respectively, were seeking re-election.

The elder Bush held large leads over his generic Democratic opponent throughout 1991, but early 1992 preferences were more evenly divided and Bush eventually lost his re-election bid. The younger Bush also consistently maintained at least a small advantage over the Democrat throughout 2003, before winning re-election in a close contest in November 2004. Continue Reading

38

Is it Anti-Catholic to Believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ?

Writing in the Atlantic, Joshua Green notes that Michelle Bachmann’s (now former) church holds some, shall we say, unflattering views about the papacy:

Bachmann was a longtime member of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn., which belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), a council of churches founded in 1850 that today comprises about 400,000 people. WELS is the most conservative of the major Lutheran church organizations, known for its strict adherence to the writings of Martin Luther, the German theologian who broke with the Catholic Church and launched the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. This includes endorsing Luther’s statements about the papacy. From the WELS “Doctrinal Statement on the Antichrist”: “Since Scripture teaches that the Antichrist would be revealed and gives the marks by which the Antichrist is to be recognized, and since this prophecy has been clearly fulfilled in the history and development of the Roman Papacy, it is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist.”

Bachmann, it seems, never subscribed to the belief in question, and left the church sometime last year. Nevertheless, some are drawing comparisons between the views of Bachmann’s former church and those of President Obama’s former pastor, Jeramiah Wright.

I confess that I am of two minds about this story. Continue Reading

3

Lincoln’s Advice to Lawyers

 

Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1850 was writing down some notes for a lecture to lawyers.  I have always found this advice helpful to me in my legal practice, and I think non-lawyers can benefit from it also:

I am not an accomplished lawyer. I find quite as much material for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful. The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done. When you bring a common-law suit, if you have the facts for doing so, write the declaration at once. If a law point be involved, examine the books, and note the authority you rely on upon the declaration itself, where you are sure to find it when wanted. The same of defenses and pleas. In business not likely to be litigated, — ordinary collection cases, foreclosures, partitions, and the like, — make all examinations of titles, and note them, and even draft orders and decrees in advance. This course has a triple advantage; it avoids omissions and neglect, saves your labor when once done, performs the labor out of court when you have leisure, rather than in court when you have not. Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too much on speech-making. If any one, upon his rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it. Continue Reading

23

Soft Despotism

Alexis de Toqueville wasn’t always right, but he was almost always right. From Book One of Democracy in America:

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, and here they are always fashioning new ways to live up to de Tocqueville’s prophecy.

The Montgomery County Council approved a smoking ban at playgrounds and indoor common spaces on Tuesday, asking neighbors to report offenders.

The ban restricts smoking within 25 feet of playgrounds and in the shared spaces of multifamily residential buildings, such as apartment hallways or lobbies.

Two witnesses can file a complaint identifying the smoker, as well as the time and place of the violation, to start an investigation. Otherwise, a county Health and Human Services Department employee must catch a violator lighting up.

Excellent.  Not only have they all but banned smoking in your own home, but they’re also encouraging people to inform on their neighbors.  I wonder if this poster served as an inspiration to the County Council: Continue Reading
20

The Clothes Have No Barack

Right you are Klavan on the Culture!  I think that future historians will find the Obama years puzzling in that a large segment of the American population spent them resolutely denying the obvious:  that electing as President a politician from Illinois with little experience, few leadership skills, a reactionary adherence to government as panacea, and a pronounced hostility to the private sector, has been an unmitigated disaster for the country. Continue Reading

13

Misplaced Tears Over Outsourcing

An acquaintance linked to this article about outsourced call centers in India, and since that’s a topic I know a certain amount about from a while back, I had to look despite the fact it’s at Mother Jones — not exactly one of my usual sources of news.

In facts, the article pretty well reflects the way things are, from what I know of the industry (more of that in a bit), but the editorial angle of the piece is so at odds, at times, with its content that the contrast become dizzying (unless you behave as Mother Jones perhaps expects their readers to and simply agrees to be outraged by whatever the author chooses to be outraged by.) For instance, read this section:

Every month, thousands of Indians leave their Himalayan tribes and coastal fishing towns to seek work in business process outsourcing, which includes customer service, sales, and anything else foreign corporations hire Indians to do. The competition is fierce. No one keeps a reliable count, but each year there are possibly millions of applicants vying for BPO positions. A good many of them are bright recent college grads, but their knowledge of econometrics and Soviet history won’t help them in interviews. Instead, they pore over flashcards and accent tapes, intoning the shibboleths of English pronunciation—”wherever” and “pleasure” and “socialization”—that recruiters use to distinguish the employable candidates from those still suffering from MTI, or “mother tongue influence.”

In the end, most of the applicants will fail and return home deeper in debt. The lucky ones will secure Spartan lodgings and spend their nights (thanks to time differences) in air-conditioned white-collar sweatshops. They will earn as much as 20,000 rupees per month—around $2 per hour, or $5,000 per year if they last that long, which most will not.

Is there any greater cruelty than capitalism? Aren’t you shocked by what companies are forcing these Indians to do? Why do they put up with this abuse. Oh wait, the next sentence says:

In a country where per-capita income is about $900 per year, a BPO salary qualifies as middle-class.

Maybe this explains why people flock in from all over the country to these business hubs in order to try for one of these graveyard shift “sweatshop” jobs: Instead of appearing in picturesque native garb while working outside in “Himalayan tribes and coastal fishing towns” they can slip on their business casual clothes, head to an air conditioned office, and make 5.5x the per capital wage of the country. This would be the equivalent of making $240,000/yr in the US. Continue Reading

59

Whatever Happened to Usury?

While the subject of usury used to be a hot topic in moral theology, the Church has not had much to say on the subject over the last couple hundred years. The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Interest ably sums up the current situation:

In our day, she [that is, the Church] permits the general practice of lending at interest, that is to say, she authorizes the impost, without one’s having to enquire if, on lending his money, he has suffered a loss or deprived himself of a gain, provided he demand a moderate interest for the money he lends. This demand is never unjust. Charity alone, not justice, can oblige anyone to make a gratuitous loan (see the replies of the Penitentiary and of the Holy Office since 1830) . . . . In practice, however, as even the answer of the Sacred Penitentiary shows (18 April, 1889), the best course is to conform to the usages established amongst men, precisely as one does with regard to other prices.

Periodically, however, someone will suggest that the Church’s teaching on usury needs to be revitalized. Continue Reading

2

Banned in Chicago

 

Hattip to Allahpundit at Hotair.  Rebel Pundit went to the Printer Row’s Literature Festival in Chicago and asked festival goers which books they would like to ban.  To anyone who knows Chicago as well as I do, the results were predictable:

In June we attended the Printer’s Row Literature Festival in Chicago. City blocks were closed off for tents and booths full of all types of literature. We presented a board with a selection of well known book covers and asked visitors of the event if they could choose to ban any of the books on the board, which if any, they would in fact ban. They were allowed to choose any three of the eleven choices.

The authors of the books we offered to ban were Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Andrew Breitbart, Ayn Rand, Michael Savage, Bill Clinton, Michael Moore, Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler and Barack Obama. While there were in fact less than two handfuls of individuals who did tell us they don’t think any books should be banned, unfortunately there were a shocking amount of guests at this book fair who were quite open to the idea, and in fact lined up quite excited for the opportunity to voice their opinion.

Participants overwhelming chose Sarah Palin who received 53 votes putting her at 36% overall, Glenn Beck at 23% and Ann Coulter at 22%. All of the other choices received a very minimal amount of votes, with the next most popular to ban being Adolf Hitler at 0.5%. Ironically, Michael Savage, who has been banned from entering Britain over things he often says, did not receive one vote to have his words banned in Chicago. Continue Reading

21

The Conclusion of Harry Potter

*There may be a spoiler or two. Proceed with caution

This week marks the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II,” which marks the end of the movie franchise and, for intents and purposes, the cultural phenomenon as well (barring a sequel, of course). For members of my generation, especially among those who enjoy reading, this will probably be a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, the last movie looks like it will be an exciting conclusion; on the other hand, we have to say goodbye to the series that has been a large part of our growing up. Many of us waited at midnight in bookstores for the release, and then spent most of the the next morning reading it.

It’s undeniable that for many Harry Potter was important. The question is why it became so important and what inspired so many. There are other books that are far better written, and fantasy is a genre that usually lives on the periphery of popular culture.

I think Potter managed to grab attention because behind all the spells and magic was a little boy who never knew his parents. The opening book’s depiction of Harry returning night after night just for one glimpse of him with his parents struck many people, especially me. My own father died when I was four, so I understood why Harry went to the Mirror of Erised every night, and how throughout the series Harry would stop everything just to get a tiny scrap of what his parents were like, just he could get to know them a little better.

But this is enough to get people reading; but what kept them reading was a plot that contains many Christian themes. Although many Christians objected to the magic, Harry won not through finding the special spell or the magic weapon, but purely through selfless, sacrificial love. Although there are several instances where Christian ethics are not applied, on the whole Christians can find this work agreeable.

It’s not often that Christian themes are given such a showcase which enjoys such popularity. As the series concludes this week, let’s be thinking about how we can use Potter the way many already use Lord of the Rings: as a vehicle to introduce and inspire people to the Christian life.

13

Father Coughlin and the Great Depression

I recently finished Alan Brinkley’s Voices of Protest, which is a dual biography of Louisana politician Huey Long and radio firebrand Father Coughlin. Father Coughlin is known for being virulently anti-semitic, yet Brinkley takes pains to note that a focus on Jews only occurred towards the end of Coughlin’s career, long after he had ceased to be a major political figure. According to Brinkley, Coughlin is best understood as an heir to the midwestern populist tradition of William Jennings Bryan. And indeed there was quite a bit of overlap between the views advocated by Father Coughlin during the early 1930s and those of Bryan forty years earlier. The Principles of the National Union for Social Justice (Coughlin’s organization) supported the living wage, support for unions, a “conscription of wealth” in the event of war, and the nationalization of “banking, credit and currency, power, light, oil and natural gas and our God-given natural resources,”

Like Bryan, though, Coughlin’s main focus was on monetary policy. Continue Reading

12

Global Warming as a Substitute Religion

 

 

 

 

In these days we are accused of attacking science because we want it to be scientific. Surely there is not any undue disrespect to our doctor in saying that he is our doctor, not our priest, or our wife, or ourself. It is not the business of the doctor to say that we must go to a watering-place; it is his affair to say that certain results of health will follow if we do go to a watering-place. After that, obviously, it is for us to judge. Physical science is like simple addition: it is either infallible or it is false. To mix science up with philosophy is only to produce a philosophy that has lost all its ideal value and a science that has lost all its practical value.

G. K. Chesterton

One of the more pernicious follies of our time is the mixing of politics, science and religion.  The Global Warming scam is a prime example of what a noxious brew can result from this.  Among many of the elites in Western society, environmentalism has taken on all the aspects of a religion.  The religious left has been eager to climb on to this new religion.  Based upon very dubious science, and fired with the faith that has traditionally been given to religion, powerful forces throughout the West are eager  to implement revolutionary changes in our society, most involving a radical expansion of government control over industry. Continue Reading

7

Abe Lincoln In Illinois: A Review

Thomas Wolfe once famously wrote “you can’t go home again” and I guess that sometimes applies to films.  When I was a boy and a teenager I loved the film Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Released in 1940, the film was an adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood’s broadway play.  Raymond Massey gave a stunning performance as Abraham Lincoln which has remained with me, although I have not seen the film, other than Youtube excerpts, in probably 35 years.  Recently I learned that the film had been released on DVD.  Purchasing it, I watched it last Friday evening.

The film was certainly as powerful as I remembered it.  Raymond Massey gave an eerily on target performance as Abraham Lincoln and Gene Lockhart was magnificent as Lincoln’s great antagonist, Stephen A. Douglas.  However, in the intervening decades I had learned quite a bit about Lincoln and his time and several aspects of the film I found grating:

1.  Historical howlers: Every Hollywood “historical” epic tends to commit sins against the historical record, but Abe Lincoln in Illinois had some egregious ones:

a.  Jack Armstrong, one of Lincoln’s earliest New Salem friends, is shown as offering to throw a tomato at Stephen A. Douglas during one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858.   I assume it was his ghost since Armstrong died in 1854.

b.  John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry which occurred in 1859 is shown as taking place before the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Senate race.

c.  Lincoln is shown as receiving a military bodyguard immediately after being elected.  No such protection was afforded the president-elect by President Buchanan, even though Lincoln was deluged with death threats.

d.  In an affecting scene, the citizens of Springfield begin singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic as Lincoln heads off to Washington in February of 1861.  The song wouldn’t be written until November of that year and not published until 1862.

2.  Ann Rutledge-The film spends a great deal of time depicting the romance between Lincoln and Ann Rutledge.  There is virtually no historical support for this charming old fable.

3.  Lincoln the Reluctant-Lincoln is shown as a very reluctant politician. Rubbish!  Lincoln loved politics and was an enthusiastic participant throughout his life.

4.  Mary the Shrew-Mary Todd Lincoln is depicted in the film as a shrew who drives an ambitiousless Lincoln forward to fulfill his destiny very much against his will.  Lincoln had quite enough ambition on his own.  By most accounts the Lincolns had a loving marriage,  with the usual ups and downs familiar to most married couples who stay together through good and bad times. Continue Reading

38

Father John Corapi Open Thread

Father John Corapi released a statement on his Black SheepDog blogsite basically denying some, but not all, of the allegations put against him by his order, S.O.L.T.

I won’t get into what who said what or not since this will be an open thread, but I don’t recall Padre Pio resigning from the Capuchins for the restrictions placed on him from the many allegations levied against him at the time.  And if I recall correctly, he was under these restrictions for ten years.  Plus, after they were lifted, there were still restrictions to when and where he could practice.

Yes, we are all not perfect, but Jesus did ask us to be perfect as he is perfect, ie, strive for perfection.

Please adhere to our rules and be civil.  All the contributors on this website have the authority to shut down the comments box.

22

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite: Why Doesn’t That Papist Bishop Just Shut Up?

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, current faculty member and former president of the Chicago Theological Seminary ,(don’t laugh yet), doesn’t think much of Catholic bishops expressing opposition to gay marriage, and she  said so recently at some length in the “On Faith” (trust me that is a misnomer) blog at the Washington post.  Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal, a Protestant who takes up the cudgels in defense of the Church so often that I have named him Defender of the Faith, gives her a fisking to remember:

Nobody, and I mean nobody, does pompous, arrogant self-righteousness better than liberal Protestants.  Via David “He Reads ‘On Faith’ So You Don’t Have To” Fischler comes this drivel from the Chicago Theological Seminary’s Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite criticizing a Catholic bishop for being…well…a Catholic bishop:

How can we expect other nations around the world to create and sustain pluralistic democracies when prominent religious leaders in the United Sates, such as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of New York, fail to grasp the fundamentals of this concept?

Continue Reading

6

Apostle to the Sioux

“Happy would I be if I could sacrifice for God what Custer threw away to the world.”

 

Bishop Martin Marty

During his approximately 59 years on this Earth it is probable that the Sioux chieftan Sitting Bull met only one white man he trusted implicitly:  Martin Marty.

Marty was born on January 12, 1834 in Schwyz, Switzerland to a shoemaker and his wife.  Gifted scholastically, he attended the Benedictine school attached to Einseideln Abbey.  Upon graduation he entered the novitiate, taking his final vows in 1855 and being ordained a priest a year later.  It is quite likely he would have remained at the abbey for the remainder of his life, “of the world forgetting, and by the world forgot”,  except that in 1860 his abbot ordered him to take over a disobedient and debt-ridden daughter house of the abbey in Saint Meinrad, Indiana.  He performed a minor miracle in restoring the morale and faith of the monks at the abbey at Saint Meinrad and brought it back to fiscal solvency.  The abbot decided that he was doing such a good job that he should stay where he was in America.  In 1870, the Saint Meinrad Abbey achieved independent status by a Papal decree of Pius IX with Father Marty as the first abbot.  It continues in existence to this day as an abbey and a seminary. Continue Reading

2

Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century

The past couple weeks I posted a summary and brief commentary on an address given by Francis Cardinal George at the Library of Congress in June of 1999.  While it didn’t spark that much debate, several people have written to me asking if I could upload the document, which appears to be absent from the internet as it stands.  (Yes, it is hard to believe, but there are some things that are not yet on the internet.)  I was, and still am, apprehensive about violating any copyright laws, either in letter or spirit.  While I am fairly confident that it is okay for me to post this, I wish also to make it publicly known that if Cardinal George, or any other who claim rights to this fine essay, wish it to be removed, I will do so immediately and with sincere apologies.

That is the “fine print,” if you will.

What follows is the speech in its entirety:  Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century, an Address at the Library of Congress on June 16, 1999, by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George.

 

Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century

6

Number 9 . . . Number 9 . . . Number 9

Back in high school I met a girl and she could turn all the boys heads when Al Gore was Bill Clinton’s running mate, I mocked  Gore’s monotone drone by pretending to be a robot, repeating the same hackneyed talking points over and over again.  Every sentence would begin, “Bill Clinton and I . . .” and then after sputtering a few cliches, I’d break down.  One of my classmates would pretend to wind me up and then I’d start all over again, repeating what I just said.

Little did I know that I was anticipating Ed Miliband, the UK’s Labour Party leader, by a mere 19 years.

I have to admit that at first I was unconvinced that the strikes were unnecessary, or that parents and the public had been let down by both sides, or that the government had acted in a reckless and provocative manner.  By the third response I started to see that the government had acted recklessly and let down the parents and the public, but I still thought the strikes were necessary.  By the final response I saw the light of reason, convinced by Miliband’s powerful argument.

As AP points out, this gets even better.

At just 41 years old, he’s already the leader of Britain’s Labour party, which means there’s an exceedingly good chance that he’ll be prime minister some day. What could go wrong?

Oh I’m sure it’s just going to go swimmingly when he’s negotiating with whatever dictator emerges out of Libya.  Maybe he’ll get $48 worth of beads for the islands.

56

SOLT Bombshell (Updated)

Update I: The press release is now up on the S.O.L.T. website.  Thanks to reader Wellington for alerting us to that.

Update II: Read the Catholic Blogosphere’s reactions to the S.O.L.T. Bombshell on ThePulp.it here.

Update III: Fr. Corapi has responded. Let’s just say that I find the response less than convincing.

[Editor’s Note: I have just gotten off the phone with the editors of the National Catholic Register and they have confirmed that this is a genuine press release from Father Gerard Sheehan of S.O.L.T.  They, S.O.L.T., are unable to take phone calls or respond to emails because they have General Chapter meetings until July 21, ie, reclused.]

Jimmy Akin links to a press release from Fr. Gerard Sheehan, who was Fr. Corapi’s religious superior in the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT).  It rehashes some of the things we’ve already heard about the investigation of Fr. Corapi, but then concludes with this:

SOLT’s fact-finding team has acquired information from Father Corapi’s emails, various witnesses and public sources that, together, state that, during his years of public ministry:

— He did have sexual relations and years of cohabitation (in California and Montana) with a woman known to him, when the relationship began, as a prostitute.

— He repeatedly abused alcohol and drugs.

— He has recently engaged in “sexting” activity with one or more women in Montana.

— He holds legal title to over $1 million in real estate, numerous luxury vehicles, motorcycles, an ATV, a boat dock, and several motor boats, which is a serious violation of his promise of poverty as a perpetually professed member of the society.

SOLT has contemporaneously, with the issuance of this press release, directed Father John Corapi, under obedience, to return home to the society’s regional office and take up residence there. It has also ordered him, again under obedience, to dismiss the lawsuit he has filed against his accuser.

SOLT’s prior direction to Father John Corapi not to engage in any preaching or teaching, the celebration of the sacraments or other public ministry continues. Catholics should understand that SOLT does not consider Father John Corapi as fit for ministry.

Wow.  I’m sure this is far from the last we will hear about this.

4

Another Glorious Obama Summer

This Klavan on the Culture is from July 2010 and it is just as topical today.  The Obama years are an endless national Groudhog Day with a lousy economy, high unemployment and multiple wars being fought on autopilot, and a completely clueless Chief Executive who fails to do anything to change anything in a positive direction.  For a candidate who promised Hope and Change, Obama has delivered Despair and Stasis, the lost years of Obama.