“Christian” Music

Friday, September 9, AD 2011

Marc Barnes on VirtuousPla.net has a few posts  discussing the problem with Christian music on the radio. In the end, his biggest problem is that it lacks authenticity as many bands produce music in imitation of a pop form that is more designed for mass consumption (and thus profits) than it is for serious reflection on the awe of God, which would produce beauty.

Selling out is a problem for every art form, but I’m not sure it alone explains the current dreadful state of Christian music. While reading these posts, it occurred to me that there was a problem with Marc’s analysis. When we discuss Christian music on the radio, perhaps we need to start out by a critique not of the music aspect of it (which Marc does exceptionally well and far better than I could) but with a critique of the “Christian” part. It seems to me that when I listen to powerful. encouraging. KLOVE! I’m not getting a Catholic perspective. I’m not sure a Catholic perspective is even allowed. What I’m getting is at best “mere Christianity” but at times general evangelical Protestantism.

This seems to present a few problems for an achievement of real beauty. In regards to the absence of Catholicism, Catholics who wish to make it on radio suddenly find themselves stripped of a lot of their material. Mary, the Eucharist, the Saints, the Mass, the Sacraments etc. are all topics that can’t be used. While that still leaves plenty of material, there’s stilla problem: it’s natural for a Catholic to talk of Mary are the Eucharist when talking of the love of Jesus; by getting rid of that stuff it becomes more difficult for Catholics to talk about Christ’s love. The act of making something “merely Christian” always avoids the truth by avoiding those areas of the truth where there is disagreement among Christians. To diminish the truth is to diminish beauty and this is all the more true from the Catholic perspective.

But more troubling is that mere Christianity or evangelicalism has a tendency towards a trite emotionalism anyway. The focus of the evangelical is the act of salvation in which theologically a heap of dung is covered by the snow of grace. After this covering, the person is forever saved. While Protestants obvious think that grace is awesome (or amazing), that’s kind of underwhelming compared to the Catholic teaching whereby through the sacraments a heap of dung is converted not covered into real pure snow. That is, the transformation is considered greater in Catholicism, the power of God all the more awesome.

Think of Catholic literature here. The Mestizo & priest of Graham Green’s Power and the Glory, Gollum & Frodo of Lord of the Rings, the various characters of Flannery O’Conner and Walker Percy. There’s a lot of struggle there yet even despite that tremendous struggle we get heroes: the bad priest dies a matryr, Frodo destroys Sauron, etc. (though I would probably have a harder time finding heroes in O’Conner’s and Percy’s work). That transformation & victory over struggle is possible (or perhaps natural) only from a Catholic point of view.

Also worth noting is the Protestant tendency towards fideism. If you don’t see the world with both faith & reason you tend not to look in the universe with the same awe. Think of the difference between “wow, there’s a theology of the body such that my body works best when I act in accordance with the natural law and God’s teaching” and “I shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage b/c the Bible says so.” The first one can produce a good song; the second one not so much.

In short, the limitations of Protestantism (and “mere christianity”) are going to affect the ability of its musicians to express beauty in an authentic way. To be sure, there is beautiful Protestant art & music but it’s a lot harder to get there.

And this is BEFORE we decided that all Christian music has to be powerful and encouraging, defined as “the messaege is Jesus loves you.” This is probably more a critique of KLOVE than anything, but it seems like the songs I hear on the radio have two purposes: (1) to be played to hurt teenagers at retreats to try to inspire them to convert and/or (2) to be played as feel-good Jesus-loves-you booty-free music for moms and parents in the car. These are not bad objectives; helping kids know Jesus loves them or allowing people radio music that isn’t antithetical towards truth are good things. But this is hardly the full scope of Christian music.

I noticed in Marc’s piece there was discussion about how there is a tension between rock with started out as rebellion and Christian which emphasizes obedience. While that tension is there, how on earth is Christianity not rebellious, especially in this day and age? Almost every politician, every program, every piece of art, seems to be enticing us away from holiness and into prideful individualism and materialism. To be Christian today entails rebellion and non-conformity with the status quo. While I like Flyleaf and Firelight’s  work as Christian rockers (generally not played on KLOVE), I’m also thinking of Danielle Rose’s “Crucify Him” where she identifies many of the areas of society where we continue to sin and crucify our Lord.

A lot of people need to know that Jesus loves them. But a lot of people also need to know that Jesus because he loves us is calling us to conversion, which is a nice way of saying you are a sinner, and you need to repent. As I mentioned earlier, this is something Catholic literature does especially well (namely, critiquing the absurdities of our secular society and the areas of needed conversion) but maybe for one or two songs it’s not a topic worthy of Christian radio.

I could probably go on, but the point is that the failure of Christian music is often tied with failures in Christianity. Pursuit of mainstream success is a part of that, but it’s our modern fear of saying anything really Christian lest we offend as well as the theological presumptions behind a merely Christian radio station that have prevented Christian musicians from producing the kind of beauty that their subject deserves.

P.S. I should state that simply because one is Catholic that does not mean that their music is better than a Protestant’s. Catholics have shown themselves quite capable of producing material that is trite and flat.

P.P.S. I leave unanswered the question of “If Protestantism is such a hinderance towards real beauty, then how can a Catholic musician find the success necessary to maintain a livelihood?” I’ve noted that a lot of bigger Catholic artists try not to advertise their Catholicism too much, presumably for fear of alienating the folks who buy Christian music and organize music festivals. I’m not quite sure Catholics are ready to have their own radio station but perhaps separation from KLOVE would not be an inadvisable goal.


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18 Responses to “Christian” Music

  • I know plenty of people who will only listen to Christian rock. I live near a Christian rock station. These folks look at it, not so much as an art form, but as part of life — they listen to the radio and to CDs — and they want an alternative to the secular. And, yes, they are often looking for a positive and “worshipful” emotional experience. That’s how they worship (with no, or only a few, sacraments) and they want that feeling to extend to their whole lives. Yes, it often produces trite or derivative music, and (to me, anyway) cloying messages. And yes, most of it is profoundly un-Catholic. But I don’t think that criticizing it is the way to go. It’s here to stay! It’s important to help Catholics see that Protestant messages are DIFFERENT from Catholic ones. I have heard many Catholics say, “it’s all the same.” But it’s not.

    Several years ago I tried to get our parish to host a series of Catholic concerts — I was going to go for a contemporary Catholic rock band, an 80s-sounding Catholic rock band, and a Catholic alternative band. Local Protestant churches host these things all the time and people from other churches come. My parish was not interested (sigh). But in talking to the bands, I found that they had a very difficult time getting any Catholic churches to hire them! Even for festivals. The parishes want familiar local secular bands or big-name “Christian” bands. Most of these Catholic bands, as you mentioned, market themselves as Christian bands and tone down their Catholicism for other Christian communities — who ACTUALLY HIRE THEM. If people want Catholic music, they have to hire Catholic bands.

  • I am far from a connoisuer of Christian contemporary music, but the little of it I have come across seems to suffer from being too obviously or overtly Christian. Much of the same problem exists with other forms of performance art. What makes works such as LOTR so appealing is that you are not being hammered over the head with Christianity, rather Christian themes are subtley woven in.

  • Back when I was at China Lake, I donated to Air1 right up until they changed their statement to include sola scriptura. Sure, there’s a lot of drek “Christian music” out there– Sturgeons law. There’s also some gems out there– even if it does tend to be pretty dang protestant, or even go into Buddy Christ territory.

    The really good stuff I can think of is pretty disparate… There’s Dolly Parton’s “He’s Alive,” Stuart Hamblen’s “This Old House,” Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Dive” and DC Talk’s “Supernatural“.

    C Matt’s quite right– it takes a heck of a song to make sledge-hammer-Christianity into a good song, same way that CS Lewis’ books would’ve been horrible from a lesser writer. (Yes, I would instantly put Dolly Parton in the same class of artist as CS Lewis. The lady has my respect.)

  • I gravitate toward classical hymnody. Give me Amazing Grace, Just a Closer Walk with Thee, or Come Christians Join to Sing anyday. I’ll always prefer them over contemporary church music, though I do love I am the Bread of Life. I felt lifted into an “upper room” experience each time I sang it after Communion in my old Episcopal church. Like the last Passover. Truly incredible. It conveys the most wondrous miracle since creation!

  • You know, I’m reminded of a real classic called O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go….I think of how we must die a thousand deaths to be born anew. That song says it so well. In four lines this Scottish preacher, George Mattheson, blind as he was, told it. He said it was the fruit of much bitterness and sorrow. That he wrote it quickly and that it came to him easily, like no other. It reiterates how the glorious hope trumps all tragic dissapointment. You’ve just got to read all four lines and hear the melody, St. Margaret’s tune with it. Fabulous.

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  • I’ve been following these recent posts about Christian music. Being a Catholic musician I am naturally drawn to this subject. I’ve been a professional musician for over 40 years. The comments I’ve read recently seem to confirm my own personal observation that most Christians listening to Christian music seek the traditional (loosely speaking) “praise-and-worship” content that they’ve become accustomed to. This in contrast to a declarative use of music, with a view to evangelization. Music is also powerful in ways that parallel lectio divina in the contemplation and meditation of Sacred Scripture. The fact that music that makes it into the main stream, be it a Christian radio station or crosses over into secular main stream should not lead one to presume the musician sold out, in spite of the obvious monetary gain that would accompany this shift. “…”You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven….” (Matthew (RSV) 5)

    If you read between the lines, the sentiment in most recent comments here and elsewhere is “I want”. A musician can also read this as “I thirst”. When a musician assumes the role of servant and responds to this thirst through the promptings of The Holy Spirit, music transcends ‘entertainment’ and becomes food. “…”For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it….” (Isaiah (RSV) 55)

    The book of psalms is generally understood to be prayers – that were set to music. This book was traditionally divided into 5 books, for most an allusion to the 5 books of the Pentateuch. It’s good to have “praise-and-worship” music. But it is incumbent on musicians that are led by The Holy Spirit to not ignore the other aspects or dimensions we have received in Sacred Scripture. Perhaps many readers and commenter’s here intuited this.

    For any Catholic musicians here that have recorded original music, I invite you to sign up here: http://www.indiemusicworks.com It’s free, and for now at least, it can offer you an opportunity to be featured and interviewed on one of my Saturday night internet radio shows.

    My own music can be found here: http://www1.indiemusicworks.com/Kephas/ and here: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Kephas

    Peace be with you…


  • I note that Catholic musicians can write and play Catholic songs if they refuse to compromise. Perhaps they will and do find it very difficult to find a market for their music; however, if their music is filled with beauty and truth and they preserve, their music will be heard.

  • Christian music must be biblically informed. It must also flow from the Christian life experience. To have music that merely teaches doctrine or to have music that only reflects our experience is insufficient. We must have both kinds.

    Hymns and preaching—they together contribute toward worship. Can’t have one without the other. I must sing, and I must be preached to. I can do without liturgy, though missed. I can never make it without singing and a sermon, however. I have to hear a message spoken. And I have to sing loudly alongside others who sing loudly. Christianity is a singing religion. And it’s a preaching religion. This is because we’ve been given a story and a song. Let’s tell the story and sing the song!

  • Ok. since this music will never be played in Church – it doesn’t meet the criteria of the liturgy..why are we bashing the music??? I look at Christian music as this – an ALTERNATIVE to what is being played on the radio. And unless you have XM/Sirius to listen to a Catholic station or your AM station doesn’t sound like aliens trying to take over the world..you are limited to what you can listen to. And although Catholic performers are few, most of the music is not bad. Most of them have a good message whether it is limited. And the message that God loves you no matter what is not exactly a horrible message!!! I for one while driving would like to listen to something up-beat and praiseful. I have my ipod and listed to true catholic classics in church to drown out the noise of rude people making noise in church and to enter conteplative prayer. Compared to the nasty word rap garbage out there and sex filled music – what would YOU rather listen to?? The music is not meant to please us old folks – and if the kids like it and get something good out of it – what is the harm???? Hmmm kids singing “Praise Jesus” or “kill cops”????

  • Laurie:

    I don’t think my post ought to be construed as a “Christian music is bad” but rather “Christian music needs to be improved.” I would much rather listen to KLOVE than the latest Lady Gaga, but I think KLOVE & Christian music in general is capable of producing better music.

  • Laurie Schultz: Because much of the message of Christian pop is opposed to Catholic theology. As I said in my post above, it is not all the same! But again, if people won’t listen to Catholic bands, or hire them for their events, they will never survive. Catholic music is just getting to be where generic Christian music was 10-15 years ago — but it won’t get any better without people to listen to it. Christian music, 25 years ago when I was in high school, was pretty bad. There was little reason to listen except the dogged determination to have CHRISTIAN pop music, dang it! Now a lot of the bands are really good, or at least on par with mainstream pop, rock, alternative, country, and every other genre out there.

  • Laurie, i think much of Christian pop is generic. And bland. That’s why i don’t like it. Much of it is repetitive. Emotive words and phrases are used again and again. Yet many people like it. I don’t think it conflicts with Catholic or any other kind of theology. I don’t think it could.

  • Another one I totally love is Will the Circle be Unbroken. THis bittersweet hymn reflects how we feel. That this world though tragic, finds redemption. Johnny Cash did an excellent rendition of it, and the tempo is nice and fast.

  • So I am a die-hard Catholic who has really found grace and peace listening to Christian music. Christian music has become so varied in the past decade that I don’t think it’s been done justice here. Michael, while I see where you’re coming from as regards Christian Pop or P&W music as played on K-Love (that’s positive, not powerful) and others like it, there is much more out there that would be worth your while to listen to and perhaps change your idea of where Christian music has come.

    Let’s look at where Christian Rock has brought us. I love your take on the rebellion of rock music and how Christian rock artists have really brought that to the forefront as the rebellion of the Gospel. But while Flyleaf and Fireflight have some great stuff, bands like Disciple, RED, TFK, and Pillar, although more hard rock musically, really bring forth Christian messages that I think really speak to people where they are at. They are certainly not trite and often point to finding Christ within yourself and allowing Him to transform you, which is the ultimate goal of the Christian life, no matter whether you’re Catholic or not.

    Although not Catholic in the traditional theological sense, so many of the messages they give are Catholic at heart. Sometimes it takes some interpretation and the ability to look at things from a Catholic viewpoint, to really see the beauty that these artists bring with their music. I don’t think whacking people over the head with theology, like Danielle Rose does every now and again, is the way to go either. Simple is not always trite. Instead, if we allow the deep theology that the Church gives us to inform our listening, what may seem trite can lead us to appreciate the glory of God and pray to Him with a thankful and open heart.

    And these bands in rock are just a part of it, check out what’s happening in Christian Rap, with Lecrae or Group 1 Crew, or Christian Metal, with August Burns Red or As I Lay Dying, to find more great Christian music; you’ve just got to open up your horizons. Even Toby and the Newsboys are rooted in faith and bring great messages along with some great music, regardless of their Evangelical interpretation of the Gospel or their more mainstream success. So don’t disregard the leaps and bounds that Christian music has taken in other musical genres, even if you’d rather not listen to the screaming of the metalheads. (Just think of it as the cry of the soul for what it cannot find in the world, what it thirsts for in Christ.)

    Much of what you hear on K-Love is blatantly evangelical, but just because the beauty and truth is found amidst error doesn’t mean that it is less beautiful or less true. So instead of being negative about the errors, look for the grace of God in everything, praise Him for the grace that He has given us to sing to Him even when we don’t always get it right, and let us pray and sing with our brothers and sisters in Christ, always affirmed and rooted in the truth of the Catholic Faith.

  • I find contemporary Christian music banal. Its words are sincere and emotive, but lacking in any depth. It fails to convey anything beyond our feelings. And Christianity is not really about feelings. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about faith and conviction. Knowing the God you serve. I feel hymns should speak of our experiences and of God’s nature, and of our interactions. That’s what I see classical hymnody as conveying. I just don’t find that in contemporary praise music.

  • Yes, modern Protestant music strikes one as extremely emotional at times. Very unthoughtful, even. Classical hymnody–those hymns one finds in Protestant hymnals–represents the experiences of Christians and the attributes of God. All one has to do is turn to a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Episcopal hymnal to see that.

    The issue among Protestants is that the last generation has mostly grown up in a different context. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, they neither relate to those hymns nor to the style of worship of which they were a part. The whole approach to worship in some of these churches has changed. People no longer look down at a hymnal and sing lyrics with notation. Often, their eyes are shut and their hands are in the air. Sometimes they seem to be transported, though fewer words are expressed verbally. I’m really convinced something drastic has occurred within the past ten or twenty years. They’re thinking and feeling something different from what people thought and felt as they sang a generation ago. I just can’t identify it. I only know from watching it. Some would claim it’s more spiritual. I just think it’s different. I know too well that Christians of great stature sang the old way for the longest time. No one will convince me that this new approach is more spiritual. Just different.

  • Another hymn I dearly love is For All the Saints. Each time I sing it I feel a part of that universal church which transcends time and space. Each line develops further until the last line speaks of the countless host entering the gates hailing the Trinity. I’ve always heard it on the organ, and the tempo is pretty quick. Beautiful. Especially when a loved one has passed. I also think of Palestrina’s The Strife is O’er. Perfect for a funeral.

A Closer Look at College Realignment

Thursday, September 8, AD 2011

We’ve heard about super conferences. A lot of people hate the idea, and their concerns are worth noting. They fear the destruction of traditional rivalries and geographic continuity that has made college football great. Most of my catholic college football fan friends note that subsidiarity ought to be considered in light of this.

I don’t see anything wrong with the current alignment, but since the Big 12 is imploding due to Texas’s greed, I wondered whether super-conferences would destroy what I loved about college football. When I started looking through the scenarios, the answer I got was “well, not necessarily.”

To start, let’s see what these 4 16-team conferences would/could look like. To make this, I based it off of what appear to be the likely realignment scenarios from the rumors. I also decided that Texas & Notre Dame would not be independents. I also presumed that conferences would not vote schools off the island to make room for better candidates. New additions are in italics.

Now this is based off the idea that the ACC consumes the Big East, which becomes a basketball-only conference. Under that thinking, Kansas St. and Cincinnati would join/continue with the Big East in basketball and play somewhere else like C-USA for football (there’s been rumors that Iowa St. may get invited to the Big East too, but I consider that unlikely).

Now, let’s look at the conferences one at a time.

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3 Responses to A Closer Look at College Realignment

  • Kansas in the Atlantic Coast Conference? Good Lord!

    The whole thing defies sound judgment, but that outcome, alone, makes this super-conference fiasco a crock of $h!+.

  • At least TCU is in a state that borders the Atlantic Coast (Gulf of Mexico).

  • Well, isn’t Kansas closer to the Atlantic Ocean than Oklahoma is to the Pacific Ocean?

    Actually I don’t see Missouri as that much of an oddball geographically in the SEC. The state has somewhat of a Southern feel to it (as well as Plains and Midwest). The state borders three current SEC states (Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas). Yes, it would be on the edge of the area but especially if you are adding Texas A&M, it does not feel really out of place.

3 Responses to GOP Debate on Illegal Immigration

  • Yep, even the Gipper could be wrong. That George H.W. Bush could also be wrong will come as no surprise to anyone outside of the extensive Bush clan.

    The 1986 law that Reagan signed was known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act which coupled amnesty for some three million illegal aliens with requirements that proof of citizenship be provided to employers and sanctions against employers who knowingly hired illegal aliens. Amnesty was the only thing the bill accomplished as employers quickly found means to evade the law.

    Edwin Meese, close Reagan friend and confidant, and Reagan’s Attorney General, believes that Reagan would have learned from his mistakes on immigration:


  • The idealistic views Bush and Reagan evinced in 1980 have been proven naïve and wrongheaded.

    Mexico’s economic problems would have been better addressed by that nation opening up to American capital and Catholic teaching. Instead, it remains closed to most of the American investment it could gain, sinks further into immorality and corruption, and forces millions of the least among them to go far from home and family, into an alien land whose language is alien to them.

    Where’s the effort among U.S. bishops to unite with their fellow bishops in Mexico to rescue Mexico from corruption and secularism?

  • Everyday in my work I see men and women with criminal records who were charged with one, sometimes much more serious, crime be given the opportunity to salvage their lives through the process of plea bargaining. I have seen it on multiple occasions for the same person and more often than not(of course there are those who continue their lives of crime for numerous years) they settle for a life where the criminal acts cease in the wake of a period of some criminal activity.

    I have never heard this called amnesty.

    It is a clear downgrading from a more serious situation but it is NOT amnesty.

    This is what should be done in some circumstances involving illegal immigration.

    It should either be done away with for all or it should be available for all, depending upon the crime(s) involved.

    It is not a good situation to leave people without status for long periods as is the case now. Nor is it good to simply say, you entered illegally, you must return to your home country. Complex circumstances are not amenable to simple solutions; just as quick fixes are seldom good in the long run and often do more harm, in the long run, then the good they did in the near term.

    I wish I had more wisdom, since I have serious concerns whether this country can even survive as a single entity in the face of the wave of change brought by the large numbers of diverse immigrants since the seventies. But, what is cannot be returned to what was. We must deal with what we have now. Now we have a very large number of people without lawful status. This cannot continue.

    We are at a crossroads in our history how we respond to our many active, pressing problems will have much to do with the survival of America as a nation. A disunited country will not survive in the long term. A “unity” of the least common denominator is a failure in progress.

    God, save America.

TAC College Rankings 2011: Week 1

Thursday, September 8, AD 2011

College Football has returned! There’s a lot going on off the field, before we get to the happenings on.

First, the alternate uniforms trend is getting despicable. I don’t mind a slight change every now and then that has a purpose or harkens back to tradition. LSU’s been lucky in this regard, but most have not. Oregon, Boise St., and Maryland had uniforms that looked like they were designed by an eight year old in that they have a creative idea but lack restraint or tact. Boise St. Broncos? Let’s have a HUGE BRONCO covering THE ENTIRE HELMET! Georgia? POWER RANGER! Maryland’s flag. Let’s have the FLAG EVERYWHERE! HELMET GETS A FLAG! SLEEVES GET A FLAG! SHOULDERS GET A FLAG! SHOES GET A FLAG! To me, the best uniforms are not these loud monstrosities but the ones that are classic and understated. I’m not saying you can never have alternate uniforms, but there’s a way to play with tradition (think Georgia’s black unis) rather than blow it up entirely.

Speaking of blowing up entirely, how about the Big 12? Because Texas wanted to be independent with a scheduling arrangement, we seem destined towards the super-conferences of 16. I don’t like the trend, although I will enjoy playing the Aggies in the SEC. Still, one of college football’s greatest strength was its regional locality, and the bigger the conferences get the less strong it becomes. I do wonder whether if we get the 4 16-team conferences people are discussing whether that will pave the way for a playoff. It’d be feasible, as you’d only need an extra game somewhere.

Now to football. We had a surprising number of upsets and losses in the top 25 for week one, as #3 Oregon, #16 Notre Dame, #19 Georgia, and #14 TCU lost and Auburn and USC barely escaping. Part of that was a few teams being willing to schedule opponents with a pulse in Week 1, with the drawback being a loss. However, everyone on that list lost to a BCS opponent or a ranked team. A few more teams play real teams next week with the marquee matchup being South Carolina v. Georgia for the lead in the SEC East race. To the rankings!

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10 Responses to TAC College Rankings 2011: Week 1

  • I think the Aggies will fit in nicely with the SEC. Baylor needs to accept its fate and stop throwing a tantrum. Ready for the drama to end.

  • Sic ‘Em Bears!!!

    I’m really busy the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, by week 3 I’ll have an opportunity to submit my votes.

    Or, alternatively, I could just wait until the first BCS poll comes out to submit my poll preferences – my votes have just as much validity.

  • Don’t intent to thread-jack, but talking about football, today, Friday 9th. September 2011, the Rugby World Cup kicks off in NZ, with the NA All Blacks playing Tonga tonight at 7.30 pm.

    I know rugby isn’t big in the USA, with only a few states promoting it, but their team has been improving each tournament (held every four years) in recent years, and has the potential to make the quarter finals this year (18 national teams from around the world are here)
    Now, on with your NFL 🙂

  • Grrr. That should be ” the NZ All Blacks”

    (stupid, stupid fat fingers…….)

  • Don the Kiwi,

    My two younger sons play rugby. Both played at club level in university and the lelder played for the All-Army team, plus for the NYPD team, last Fall and will try out again this year. The bigger guy is a prop. The youngest was a full(?)back and co-captain this year.

    Great sport. Give blood. Play rugger.

    Many Americans are too insensible to understand the rules, after eight or ten beers.

  • Thanks to Don the Kiwi, I didn’t comment with uncharitable garbage about ND.

  • I wish hurling would catch on over here. The fastest game on grass.

  • Jay,


    You mean after a night of drinking?

  • Touche, Tito. 😆

  • The “hurling” I’m talking about is the fastest sport on grass. But now that you mention it, drinking and hurling do generally go hand in hand.

Small Miracles

Thursday, September 8, AD 2011

The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.

CS Lewis



My sainted mother taught me how to drive, and I was a hideously bad driver at first.  She would take me out to drive and come back and take a “nerve pill”, as she called the tranquilizers that she reserved for encounters between me and the horseless carriage.  I improved with time, I certainly couldn’t get any worse, but my mother remained nervous about me having some mishap on the road.

She died at 48 on Easter Sunday 1984 after a heroic battle with cancer that lasted a year and a half.  For the remainder of my life I will remember the courage, grace and humor with which she fought the disease that took her life.  Cancer conquered her but it did not defeat her spirit.  For her last two weeks of life she was hospitalized in a coma.  My wife and I would stay with her during the day and my Dad and brother would take the night shift.  Come what may Mom was not going to die alone.  On Easter morning, as my wife and I approached my mother’s room, my brother came running out to get us saying that Mom was waking up from the coma.  We ran into the room, and Mom’s eyes were open.  She looked at the four of us, said that she loved us all and died.  I told our priest about this and he said that we had been granted a great privilege that morning and I agreed with him.  I regard this as my first encounter with the miraculous.

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12 Responses to Small Miracles

  • One Saturday or Sunday afternoon about 32 years ago my husband John, sleeping in his Lazy boy during a football game or something– woke up, jumped out of his chair, ran to the patio door, out, over the deck railing and ran to the front yard where he slid under my son who was falling about 18 + feet from a broken branch in a boxelder tree. Caught him just in time. I had followed John as fast as I could, and came upon them both– John pale and out of breath flat on his back with Jase on his chest, just fine. We have always thanked Jase’s angel for that mysterious “call” to his Dad.

  • My Mom passed away about two weeks ago. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

  • She died at 48 on Easter Sunday 1984……

    Ah,…….48 years old – much too young to die.
    However, Don, I’m sure your description of her as your ‘sainted mother’ is highly accurate.

    How’s this one. (one among several throughout my life).

    In 1979 I moved with my young family to Austrtalia – the work situation in NZ was not good, and although I was well qualified in the building trade, and in management with a large manufacturing company associated with the building industry, nothing went right.
    I had purchased an old 1964 Holden Station wagon for my work – it was pretty clapped out, but – hey – it went. This Sunday morning I went out early to see if it would start, because I knew the battery was low. No go. So I opened the bonnet to let the early morning sun warm the battery. I went out again half an hour later, and after turning the engine about half a turn, it died again. So i left the bonnet up for the sun to weave its magic 😉
    So its a quarter to eight, Mass is 2 miles away at 8 a.m. I got my two young boys, sat them in the seat with me, and with not much hope, hit the starter. All I got was a “Rur” – and that was it; the battery was as dead as a maggot.
    My older boy said, “What’re we going to do?”
    I said, “You boys start praying – say the Our Father.”
    When they got to – “Thy will be done” I hit the starter again. Would believe the car roared into life. I kid you not – I and my boys remember it as if it was yesterday. So we joyfully bounded off to Mass.
    After Mass, we went out to start the car to go home, and it wouldn’t even mesh the ring gear. It had totally expired after its last gasp mission accomplished. We walked home, and I rang my cousin who was a part time mechanic, and after an hour or so and a transplanted battery, the old grey Holden had its life back.

    Anyone is welcome to top that one. 🙂

  • Anzlyne, your son obviously has a hard working guardian angel!

    Catholic Lawyer, my condolences. It is a hard blow. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of both my father and my mother. I regret most of all that they did not live long enough to see my kids here on Earth. However, I have attempted to remedy that by telling my kids about my parents and the humorous and touching times we enjoyed. Memory of loved ones is painful and joyful, which is a pretty good summary of our mortal lives.

    Thank you Don. Mom lived a short life but a good one. She had a bout with breast cancer that she survived in 72. She said that as long as she lived to see her boys grow up that she was content, and she accomplished that goal. I will never forget how tenderly my tough Dad nursed her in her final illness. It was a great lesson for me in true love.

    In regard to some onery vehicles that I have had, divine intervention would have been very welcome indeed!

  • Catholic Lawyer.
    My prayerful condolences for your mother’s recent passing.

    Don. The memory of our parents is always with us. My mum passed away last year in February, and dad about 6 years ago. Like you say, they are a constant reminder to us of the example that we should set for others – particularly our children and grandchildren.

    This last week has been a real reminder to me of our short time in this life. Monday of last week, my Aunt Louisa Young died at the ripe old age of 106 years. My brother and sister & I went to Auckland to her funeral which was a very secular affair – Aunty had a little faith, being baptised and raised Methodist, but had not bothered much with religion in her life. She was however a generous soul, so I prayed for Christ’s mercy for her.
    Then on Tuesday of last week, Deacon Mike Ryan died in Rotorua. Dcn. Mike was the first deacon in NZ, being ordained in 1990 – he was a big man who had been a hard man in his younger day, but became a firm but gentle giant with his diaconate. His funeral was Saturday – a wonderful Requiem Mass with 2 bishops, 15 priests and 10 deacons in attendance – a total contrast to my dear old Aunt’s funeral the day before.
    Then this Monday, Sister Kathy died – she was a nun in the order of St. Joseph of Cluny from the convent here in Tauranga. She was 72 and died of cancer – she didn’t want any treatment, just pain mamagement – and she died only 3 months after diagnosis. She was a Cook Islander, and her funeral was yesterday, with 3 bishops and 10 priests, and many of the members of her family from Auckland and Rarotonga. The Islanders broke out into song after communion – the rousing harmony that the Pacific Island people put into their song is something quite unique and wonderful and I always think that that is how much music will sound in Heaven.
    And yesterday, a dear old lady Clare McFarlane died – she was one of a group of four old dears to whom I take communion in a rest home each Friday morning – now there is only three. I had difficulty not choking up while I offered prayers for her with the remaining three old darlings. Sic Transit Vitam.
    So presently, I’m all funeralled out – Its a good thing I can sit back tonight and watch the rugby while chuggalugging a couple of the amber fluid.

  • Donald, you are so very right! Our lives can be summarized as both joyful and painful; if we’re Christian, it’s a tragi-comedy. I want to say that the quote from Lewis is exactly right. The idea that God must supernaturally intervene in what is otherwise normal and mundane to perform miracles is entirely post-Kantian and strictly untrue. Lewis was more to the point when he said that God “feeds new events into that pattern.” I like that. We recognize something of that when we acknowledge the incarnational nature of the faith. And how God uses the ordinary to bring about the extraordinary. How he transforms suffering, pain, grief and loss….how all of that is taken up into the cross and there sanctified….out of evil comes good!

  • CatholicLawyer– I’m sorry to hear of your loss.

    Donald- my family has a pattern where things go wrong in the best way possible. Just like your steering and tires– there’s a tiny time range when something going wrong is annoying but not a disaster, and that is when things happen.

    Favorite example: my dear husband was promised his dream orders, but got switched to a different ship that wasn’t even out of Tokyo…where we met. I think he’s happy about that, for the girls if nothing else. *grin*

  • Many prayers to be offered for the recent losses mentioned above. CatholicLawyer, my condolences.

    My elder brother’s work in the music industry calls for constant travel, and surviving a lifetime of that seems to require small miracles. He missed—by hours—the sinking of the Estonia, and the Kyoto earthquake. (Never mind icy runways, riots at concerts and that brush with the Nigerian military.)

    Curiously, my maternal grandmother, my mother, and I all experienced strange “rescues” as children. Gram slipped on the frozen deck of a sailing yacht her carpenter uncle was working on, and fell over the side, but instead of tumbling into the icy water below she (somehow) fell up and landed on another part of the deck. My mother was hit by a car, and she (somehow) flew into the air and ended up sitting on the curb, unharmed, as an ashen-faced driver screeched to a halt, positive he’d run down a child in the street. Less dramatically, I slipped through an opening at the top of a basement staircase, and (somehow) floated gently down into a box on the concrete floor below.
    Guardian angels wield powerful updrafts.

    If you can, please take a moment to pray for the souls of those lost in the tragic plane crash in Russia on Wednesday. Almost an entire KHL hockey team is gone, representing many nationalities, and hundreds of families are now mourning sons and brothers, husbands and fathers.

  • Small miracles, guardian angels, and travels.
    My sympathy to you two Dons and Catholic Lawyer. Anzlyne, any more treeclimbing – not that one I hope.

    My pastor said no when I asked him if it was crazy to think angels broke my fall from the ladder going down to the cellar last winter. Just a sprained wrist.
    Twice, intentions prayed for in Novenas were granted to those people. Long stories.

    This is weird, but I think it’s a miracle. In April of 1984, also, my father who always said when you die, that’s it; died at 69. He was in hospital on pain med like morphine, but on his last night he energetically asked me to get his dungarees, which he never even owned, because he was getting out of the museum. I had seen him watching Billy Graham intently not long before that spring and I think he knew then there was more after death because he wanted comfortable clothes to go to work – in purgatory? Sort of saying not to worry, a changed heart, the dungarees being the new kind of work clothes at that time. He was a worker with his hands on anything mechanical. (He drove to Meridian (!) from MA seven times from wedding to seeing their granddaughter) For a little time after, my mother (I once) saw the pull string on the light over his workbench swinging. Weird, but I have hope for his soul after his joyous request for his dungarees.

    Not weird, but miraculous, are the constantly appropriate messages and prayers of Pope Benedict XVI. Our Catholic religion is rich, full of hope and help.

  • Don, we are always in the midst of death and life, and I think the older we get the better we understand that fact of this vale of tears.

    pat, out of evil comes good indeed, if not always in this life most assuredly in the next!

    Foxfier, I had a similar turn of events that led me to meeting my bride of 29 years and counting involving a brief window of time when we both both living in the same grad dorm at the University of Illinois for one year only. We met in February, were engaged in May and married in December. I would not recommend such rapid courtships to my kids, but it has worked passably well for both my wife and me! 🙂

    Suz, prayers on the way for the Russians! I have had similiar escapes and I always refer to them as days when my Guardian Angel is working overtime!

    PM, I trust that your father and mine are now both members of Saint Joseph’s work crew! My Dad was a great tinker, shadetree mechanic and amateur draftsman, and I can think of few things that would make him happier than engaging in that type of work under the gaze of the Beatific Vision.

  • Sounds like you have a great Mom, Don.

    She’s alive in Heaven now.

Post Debate Thoughts

Wednesday, September 7, AD 2011

I made a semi-serious New Year’s Resolution not to discuss or even read about the presidential campaign until Labor Day.  I didn’t quite live up to that resolution, but I have managed to steer clear of the discussion far more than I would have thought possible.  So tonight was the first of the presidential debates that I have seen.  Below are my thoughts on how each of the candidates fared.

One general comment: the debate moderators were horrendous.  It seemed that about half of the questions were addressed to Rick Perry, and just about less than half to Mitt Romney.  In fact the first ten minutes were essentially just a sparring match between the two.  The most embarrassing part of the evening was when they trotted out a newscaster from Telemundo just to ask a question about immigration.  Just awful.

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26 Responses to Post Debate Thoughts

  • The debate was good compared to the CNN “deep dish or thin trust” debate. Substantive questions focusing on the candidates of consequence.

    Newt and Santorum need to smile. Romney merely held his ground. Perry did not help himself but he didn’t falter badly either. Huntsman finally distinguished himself but he needs to hire some marketing consultants and polish his presentation. Bachmann needed to demolish Perry but she didn’t. Her time is up. Why is Cain up there? Ron Paul had a couple moments but he also had a couple completely incoherent moments.

    All in all, no big movements in the standings except for the end of Bachmann. That leaves Perry as frontrunner with Romney close behind and Huntsman as the long-shot.

  • Huntsman? Please. The guy is at 2% in the polls, and that support is all coming from Democrats and the media. He didn’t help himself tonight with his smug, eyebrow cocking ingratiating of himself to people who’d never dream of voting for him over Obama.

    And just another one of my periodic reminders that I will NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER vote for Mitt Romney. If he somehow manages to win the nomination, I will not support him in the General Election. And before any of the “anybody but Obama” crowd asks the question, no, I would not support Romney even if I knew for a certainty that my vote would be the difference in his defeating Obama.

  • This is a Perry-Romney race currently, which Romney is doomed to lose. Gingrich now is running a campaign for a cabinet position which he probably will get. Bachmann is probably hoping currently for Veep but that is not going to happen. Huntsman has a great future as being a “reasonable Republican” and can be counted on to be trotted out by the Lamestream Press in future forums where they need a Republican to agree with Democrats and give a show fake balance. Santorum’s campaign won’t survive Iowa. Like Bachmann he is hoping for Veep, but the best he and Bachmann will get is a cabinet position. Cain is a shoe-in to be Secretary of Commerce in the next Republican administration. Ron Paul: a mixture of ignorance and ideology with a crazed cult of followers. The only question for Paul is whether he goes third party next year and I suspect he will. If he does he will take more votes from Obama than the Republican nominee and end up with about three percent.

    If Palin gets in it becomes a Palin-Perry race and that is what has the Perry campaign concerned. Other than major gaffes and Palin entering, Perry is the prohibitive front runner.

  • I didn’t watch it last night, I can’t stand Brian Williams.

    “Huntsman has a great future as being a “reasonable Republican” and can be counted on to be trotted out by the Lamestream Press in future forums where they need a Republican to agree with Democrats and give a show fake balance.”

    They do this quite often. They also like to trot out liberal Catholics to bash the church.

  • I watched the Brewers lose to the Cardinals, 2-0. Nyjer Morgan got thrown out in the 9th for jawing at the pitcher and Albert Pujols ran across the field, almost sparking a donnybrook. It was apparently more exciting and impactful than the dull political debate I missed especially if you’re a cheesehead.

  • Uh oh, those Cards are only 8.5 back now. The Brewers better beware.

  • Paul, two words: 1964 Phillies.

  • Lowest point in the debate was when the crowd cheered when Williams said Perry had overseen 240-250 executions as governor. Sad.

  • Why aren’t more people getting behind Santorum? I haven’t followed everything around the debates and presidential campaigns but what I’ve seen I’ve been impressed with. Is it that he is too conservative on the social issues? Not strong enough in economic/foreign affairs issues? Combination? What is he missing?

  • I am not sorry that I didn’t my waste time.

    Anybody but Obama.

  • Huntsman has a shot at Secretary of State or if Obama wins, he’ll be the 2016 frontrunner. The veep will be Marco Rubio.

  • Lowest point in the debate was when the crowd cheered when Williams said Perry had overseen 240-250 executions as governor.

    A state as populous as Texas has likely seen about 15,000 homicides during the 10 years he has held the position.

  • Why are so many people pro-Santorum? Didn’t he betray the pro-life and conservative position a few years back when he spported Arlen Spector over a pro-life candidate?

  • Art:

    We won’t get into a discussion of how all those executions didn’t stop all those homicides. Your argument is self-defeating. Countries and states with no capital punishment have lower homicide rates than those with capital punishment.

    The most grizzly thing was not that all these executions took place but that this audience cheered that he oversaw all of these executions.

  • We won’t get into a discussion of how all those executions didn’t stop all those homicides. Your argument is self-defeating. Countries and states with no capital punishment have lower homicide rates than those with capital punishment.

    Of course, it could be in part because other states have fewer homicides that they are more in the mood to coddle murderers.

    Though I agree that it’s unseemly to cheer executions, however necessary they may seem.

  • When they stick the needle into Major Hasan there will be a big collective fist pump in our house.

  • Joe/Darwin:

    Will you both be in your pews during the Mass for the forgiveness of sins this Sunday shaking your heads and saying “bullshit”? I don’t believe Christ wants us to be selective in our forgiveness.

  • “Whoever sheds human blood, by man shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.
    Genesis 9:5-7

  • Eva,

    Of course not. The Church has never held that justice and forgiveness are mutually exclusive, and I most certainly do not. Even John Paul II, an anti-capital punishment pope if there ever was one, stated clearly that the use of the death penalty was necessary and just in other times and places than our own. That doesn’t mean that forgiveness was, to use your word, “bullshit” in past societies.

    I’m not here to make a full-throated defense of capital punishment as it’s currently used in the US, because I don’t think it’s necessarily used justly or effectively. However, I do think that anti-capital punishment advocates in the US generally spend most of their time either mawkishly sympathizing with murderers over their victims or else making very poor arguments.

    The claim that capital punishment “doesn’t work” because countries that don’t have capital punishment have lower homicide rates is a poor argument. For instance: capital punishment was virtually non existent in the US (due to supreme court intervention) from 1966 to 1980. That same period marked an increase in murder and other violent crimes, which then began to fall as executions increased. (It fell the fastest in the ’90s, the period when executions were at their highest.)

    A whole lot of other things changed during those periods. I would tend to think that capital punishment was not instrumental in driving down the murder rate — because it’s used so infrequently compared to the number of murders. But it would certainly seem to run against the notion that outlawing capital punishment reduces murder.

  • We won’t get into a discussion of how all those executions didn’t stop all those homicides.

    My point, eva, was that the State of Texas does not appear to be executing people with abandon.

  • I would like to see an entirely different debating format. We lend up learning as much if not more about the moderators and questioners than about any of the candidates. The candidates should question each other rather than having the press decide what issues should be addressed and which ignored. Values are evident in the questions raised, not just in the answers.

  • I didn’t get to watch because I had to go to a catechism meeting…
    but I prayed for Rick Santorum.
    He said he supported A Specter as part of an effort to make sure we had good Supreme Court appointments Santorum later apologized I also really like Gingrich– I hope one of those two will at least be VP

  • What’s so terrible about applauding Gov Perry for saying Texas executed 234 murderers? I live on the outskirts of Peoria, Il where one shooting or murder, on the average, occurs once a month. I would applaud our dimwit Govenor Quinn, if he would lift the moratorium on the death penalty. And maybe some of those folks who were applauding lost a friend or a loved one to a murderer.

  • eva,

    Judge not . .

    A noted theologian penned the following, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    The noted theologian that wrote the above is now Pope Benedict XVI

  • Pius XII speaks for me on the death penalty:

    “Even in the case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life.”

    There is a world of difference between forgiving someone for sins and trangressions and arguing that therefore they should not pay the earthly penalty for their crimes. That some Catholics are apparently incapable of understanding this is all part of the moral chaos of the modern world.

    The late Cardinal Dulles gives a good overview of the history of the teachings of the Church in reference to the death penalty:


  • Weird I had a completely different takeaway from the debate. Maybe because I have not seen any of the candidates speak prior to last night.

NFL Power Rankings

Wednesday, September 7, AD 2011

Real football is finally slated to begin tomorrow night with the meeting of the previous two Super Bowl champions.  Instead of doing a division-by-division breakdown, I’m simply going to list the teams in order from 1-32.  This is simply my list as we’re not repeating our efforts last year at TAC to do a weekly power ranking poll.  I might revisit the list during the mid-season, but for now this is how I see the season playing out.  As is done with fantasy rankings, I’m breaking the teams out into tiers.

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15 Responses to NFL Power Rankings

  • You may well be right about my #16 Bears, but I’m not so sure. After splitting the regular season (including a very close season ending loss in a game that was key for the Pack and meaningless for the Bears), the Bears lost to your #1 Packers by a touchdown in the NFC Championship last year — an outcome more comparable to your #2 Steelers in the Super Bowl than your #10 Falcons. And Cutler played great last year behind an offensive line that was the consensus worst, by far, in the NFL. God knows what he might be able to do if he had Rodgers line. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not convinced the Bears belong in Tier One, but Tier Three — I don’t think so. If the Bears do not fix their O-Line they will likely perform no better than last year, but if the O-Line improves there is no reason to believe that they can’t be in the thick of things.

  • What is this futbol of which you speak? 🙂

  • Longtime Steelers fan here…..they have an old defense and a mediocre at best secondary that Aaron Rodgers shredded in the Super Bowl. Rodgers was throwing deep passes over the middle, his receivers were getting open…and dropping the ball. 31-26 was a fluke. It could have been worse.

    Pittsburgh has not gotten any younger on defense.

    As for the Pack, great team, the coach is a good Catholic from the Greenfield neighborhood in Pittsburgh, but nobody repeats as Super Bowl champs any more. There will be a hangover of sorts, sometime during the season, and they will slip.

  • Good points about the Steelers, but I still think they’re still a notch above the rest of the AFC. I don’t think the Jets have enough firepower to knock them off, the Chargers will choke, and the Pats are not as impressive as people think. I hope I’m wrong – well, only about the Jets not having enough firepower to overtake them.

    As for Da Bears, I see what Mike is saying, but if we’re going by single games they are a team that lost at home . . . to the Redskins.

    But this is all speculation. That’s why they play the games. And as my less than stellar MLB predictions show, I probably will get most of these wrong.

  • Chargers ranked too high; always slow out of the gate. Great fantasy team, but with Norv Turner at the helm they’ll never get the the SB.

    Jets overvalued once again. Rex Ryan talks big but with an inconsistent and still green Sanchez taking snaps, look for 9-7 at best and maybe out of the playoffs.

    Pats and Steelers each will win divisions as usual and go deep. Of course, the Pack are solid faves to repeat and, as a WIsconsinite, they’re my pick to go all the way.

    As for the rest: YAWN.

  • As to my Lions, I’m in Fox Mulder mode now: I want to believe.

    While the point about Matthew Stafford and his Magical Mystery Shoulders is a good one, the offense percolated reasonably well under Shaun Hill. In fact, the Lions won two of the four games in their season-ending winning streak under the field leadership of the legendary Drew Stanton. Why? Because their running game finally came to life.

    The guys to watch on the Lions offense are RBs Jahvid Best and Maurice Morris/Jerome Harrison (they also picked up an RB on the waiver wire from the ‘Skins, but I know bupkis about him). If they can rack up, say, sixteen hundred yards between them, the Lions can contend for the wild card.

    They can, but it’s about 40-60 that they will. Best is a Reggie Bush-style runner, not a load carrier. Morris and Harrison are the high-carry backs, and the best one can say about their respective careers is that each has a good work ethic and isn’t afraid to try to move the pile.

    If rookie Mikel Leshoure hadn’t blown his achilles during the second practice, I’d flip the odds.

    Sooo…I’d probably have them at 18 or 19. The national consensus tabbing them as a “Surprise Pick/Team of the Future” makes me queasy.

  • Dale, sorry to rain on your parade but the fragile Stafford will go down by game 3. Calvin Johnson and not much else. 3rd place would be a step up.

  • Joe:

    No, no, no. I won’t deny a strong likelihood of a Stafford injury (which is inexplicable given his clean bill of health prior to the pros). The offense is much, much better than that. Johnson is obviously a god among men, but he’d be that on any team. Pettigrew is a top-flight tight end, Burleson is a genuine NFL No. 2, and their O-line is good if not great with (finally!) some capable depth players.

    Also, you’re ignoring the defense, which will be better yet with a much-improved linebacker corps. The front seven will be formidable. Overall, the D will keep them in more games.

  • The key thing about the 2010 season was that the NFC West was historically bad. So the teams I think you overate are the ones who played a lot of games against that division: Saints, Chargers and Rams. Though you are rightfully skeptical of the bucs and falcons.

    Other than that is the usual anti-Philly Zummo bias with regard to the Eagles. (For the record I’m a Bears fan.)

  • Other than that is the usual anti-Philly Zummo bias with regard to the Eagles.

    Guilty as charged.

    Of course, just because I’m biased doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

  • With game 1 in the books, it looks like you’re on target with the Packers. The offense looked … unbeatable.

    Of course, the Saints defense picked right where it left off last season. And it that continues, I don’t care how many points Brees and Co. put up, New Orleans won’t smell the playoffs. 🙁

    P.S. – “In a league that so often touts parody …”. Actually, with Chad Ochocinco in the league, that’s probably true.

  • The Packers won a shootout, and their run defense was solid. Intimidated the Saints into passing on 4th and 1 in the red zone, which is something. But Brees picked their secondary to pieces–410 yards and three touchdowns. Sure, it’s Brees–he’s hard to stop. Still, they’re going to have to find a way to stop a good passing game at some point.

  • And it you’re not biased against the Eagles this year, you either live in their blackout zone, aren’t paying attention or happen to be as nutty as Al Davis. I’m a bit tired of their hype machine myself.

  • Green Bay’s offense sorta sputtered in the second half though. One of their two TD’s was a 108 yd KO return (featuring an incredible acrobatic barrel roll). After rolling up 28 first half points, I expected more of a blow-out.

    Despite their 2nd half lack of production, Green Bay is still formidable. Having a healthy Ryan Grant will make Rodgers even better.

    New Orleans blew it with the 4th and 1 – I would’ve taken the 3 points, if it were me. Go for the sure points on the road. And the extra play at the end? What in the world made them think they would be able to run it up the gut? I would’ve called a play-action with a pass into the flat to Sproles (who would outrun anyone on GB’s defense to the corner) or their tight end. For a minute there, I thought I was watching the Lions’ offense.

    Speaking of which – good call, Dale, on the Fox Mulder reference. I’m closer to investing time in watching them this season, but with the Tigers closing in on a division title, I’ll be paying closer attention to them seeing that they’ll have at least one playoff series.

    And then there’s the Red Wings…

  • Larry:

    Yeah, the Tigers are absorbing my attention, too, but there isn’t much overlap between the NFL schedule and the MLB. While I’m not exactly recommending a three hour investment in the Lions every Sunday (got too burned by that during the Millen-ium), I’m closer than I have been in years. They longer constitute child abuse for my eldest son to watch.

Employment for All: A Response

Wednesday, September 7, AD 2011

Last week, Alex of Christian Economics wrote a piece arguing, on the basis of both catholic social teaching and modern monetary theory, for the government to act as an employer of last resort. In this post, I’d like to respond to several aspects of his argument. This kind of exchange is always challenging as on the one hand I want to give the fullest possible justice to Alex’s argument, but on the other in an internet debate it seems impossible to respond to every point without both sides getting totally bogged down in novel-length posts. As such, this post will be comprised of several titled sections dealing with different aspects of Alex’s post which I thought most interesting to present counter-arguments to.

The Purpose of Unemployment: Why Looking For Work Is Work
Just a couple months into my first full time job, I was laid off. It was 2000 and the tech bubble was in the middle of bursting, and I was a college senior trying to work full time while finishing off my last few classes. The web hosting company that I was working for had built itself on an unsustainable business model so one day my whole office showed up to work and found out that every single one of us was laid off. Even though I was young enough and my expenses were low enough that I could weather joblessness fairly easily (despite not qualifying for unemployment since I hadn’t been working the job long enough) if was definitely one of the uncomfortable experiences of my working life. Looking at the job listings was infuriating — it seemed like there were dozens of jobs that I could do (and, of course many, many more which required experience or qualifications I didn’t have) but they remained steadfastly silent as I sent out applications and resumes. It only took me a few weeks to find a part-time job at similar wages, and only a month longer to find a full time job that actually paid slightly more than the job I’d been laid off from, but it seemed like a very long time.

I bring up the personal angle because it seems to me that job searching serves very different purposes for the individual job hunter and for society as a whole.

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68 Responses to Employment for All: A Response

  • I would limit the program to those out of work for more than some period of time, say a year. Also, it shouldn’t be guaranteed in the sense that you can’t lose it. Only guaranteed in the sense that it’s there if you’re willing.

    As for complacency, without the work many of them just wouldn’t work. They would play X-Box in their underwear at their parent’s house all day. It would actually discourage unemployment complacency. At any rate, you can still require that they continue looking for employment. These sorts of programs always have a requirement that you submit proof that you applied to some minimum number of jobs every week.

  • Possibly the current form of unemployment is illustrative of the damage done by changing the rules after the ball’s in motion– they do keep on offering more free money each time they get near the end.
    (I haven’t had a paying job in several years, but they managed to track me down, correctly tie me to my military pay, and inform me how many weeks I’d “get” … if the big bad politicians over there didn’t “take” it from me by not extending the benefits. The same state gov’t that can’t figure out I’ve moved and should not be sent three ballots in one year managed this.)

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  • Hi Darwin,
    I am, as you know, quite an amateur in all this, though I find it important and interesting. My problem is that I am, in a sense, sympathetic to both arguments. My question to you is, if the current system is as good as you say, what should we actually be doing to help the economy? It strikes me as strange that most conservative arguments say we need to just keep doing what we’re doing, when what we’re doing has made a terrible mess.

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  • Brett,

    Good and fair question.

    I think, first, let me clarity: It’s not so much that I think the current “system” is great, it’s that I think it has the virtue of mostly staying out of the way and allowing a solution to emerge. By paying unemployment benefits (if necessary for a fairly long time during a deep jobless recession like this one) that keep people out of extreme poverty while being significantly less than the worker used to make, we give people the time and incentive to find new work.

    This leaves a lot up to individual workers and entrepreneurs: Workers may look for a job just like their old one, or a similar one in a different industry, or they may start on a whole new career, go back to school, etc. Entrepreneurs are looking for new ways to run businesses, new products and services to provide. Millions of people all over the country trying to solve their problems, some succeeding and some failing.

    So it’s not so much that, as a conservative, I would say we shouldn’t do anything. Rather, I’d say we should be doing millions of different things, not having a single big thing that we do to solve the problem.

    As for why we should keep doing what we’re doing when what we’re doing has made a terrible mess: I think it’s important to bracket what made the terrible mess. Among other things, there was a bad set of incentives that caused banks to make a lot of money (and create a number of jobs) focused around lending more and more money to buy and refinance houses. Builders and real estate agents and home renovators also boomed. When the bottom fell out of that situation — a lot of people in those industries lost their jobs. And since those people weren’t spending as much anymore (and everyone was in too much debt) fewer people were buying all sorts of goods and services and so the economy as a whole took a beating. Companies slowed down in hiring and people found themselves out of work long term.

    As for continuing what we were doing before: I’d be very much against pushing housing and financing as ways to get the economy growing again. There was a lot of malinvestment there and it need to work itself out.

    However, I’d tend to think that simply having a solid set of unemployment benefits and letting people work out where the best place for them to work is were not, in themselves, “the problem” which got us into this mess. These strike me as fairly value neutral mechanisms for allowing us (and the economy is, after all, just “us”, it’s not some big whirring machine full of gears that need tuning) to figure out what to do next.

    In this sense, I don’t think that continuing on is going to perpetuate the current terrible mess. Indeed, I’d see it as the only way of really getting out. Now, I’d say it’s likely that there will be other terrible messes in the future. But that seems to me to simply amount to saying: There will be people in the future, and people are imperfect.

  • I have a somewhat different response, Brett. As a conservative I do think markets generally work better than planned economies, including labor markets. I do not believe markets work perfectly, since that would require both perfect information and perfect rational behavior — neither of which is possible. For that reason market economies will always have business cycles. Alhough proper monetary and fiscal policies can soften those cycles somewhat, I don’t think such policies can eliminate them altogether. The question that emerges is what government polices are appropriate to address the hardships associated with recession induced unemployment. I do think government can have a remedial role via transfer payments, but the prudential questions are what kinds work best and how much is enough or too much. The most fundamental point to remember is that perfection is not attainable, either by government policies or by functioning markets, and that one cannot assume that well-intended policies aimed at problems, however real and severe, cannot make such problems worse — even much worse. Doing nothing or doing less is often the optimal choice, even if politically unpopular and psychologically difficult.

  • Agreed, Mike. (And yours is shorter, so probably better.)

    Or, Brett, if you’re prefer it more rhythmically:

  • Does ” bad incentives” mean that the financial industry should have been more regulated? In Canada, we were more regulated and we have come through this much better than you guys. (Not that it matters in the long term. If you go down, our tiny lifeboat will get caught in the whirlpool.)

  • And how do conservatives interpret JPII’s “strong juridical framework”?
    (I’m not being sarcastic. I’m genuinely curious.)

  • You were blessed with a Conservative government in Canada Brett throughout the economic crisis while we have been cursed with Obama. Some of us will do our best to remedy this discrepancy in 2012.

  • “And how do conservatives interpret JPII’s “strong juridical framework”?”

    This conservative lawyer believes that John Paul II, a great pope, would have been less fond of a “strong juridical framework”, whatever the heck that really means, if he had possessed practical experience as a small business man, an attorney or a politician. Whenever clerics write about economics I always recall that very few of them have ever had to wonder how they were going to make a mortgage payment or meet a payroll, or ponder how businesses in the private sector get along without donations from people in the pews rolling in. Popes are great about telling us how to get to Heaven, relatively poor as economists or businessmen, as a history of Vatican finances graphically reveal.

  • Seeing as I had to look up “juridical,” I’d say that we greatly support it– it appears to be about following the actual laws.

    Most of the conservatives I know are greatly displeased with Obama for precisely this lack– laws are used as sticks, and exemption from them as carrots.

    A secondary meaning offered is that it promotes justice. That meaning, also, would be in line with a major conservative complaint in the financial recovery area– that of regulations and laws being made to harm fair competition, to favor the interests of one business over another in the same field.

  • Does ” bad incentives” mean that the financial industry should have been more regulated?

    I’m of the mind that this is the wrong question about all sorts of government regulation. The meaningful question to me is not should something be more regulated or even less regulated, but should it be better regulated. The answer is usually yes. Better regulated will usually mean little but effective regulation. Even with that there are likely to be many arguments about the what, how, and how much of it, but it’s erroneous to assume that to fix the shortcomings of poor, misguided, or malicious regulation is to add more of the same.

  • And how do conservatives interpret JPII’s “strong juridical framework”?

    A body of corporate law, bankruptcy law, general commercial law, labor law, tax law, tort law, banking law, insurance law, securities law, real estate law, and environmental & resource & land-use regulations that is transparent, stable, and respectful of unmanipulated price systems. An optimal balance between risk pooling and moral hazard. A means for the most expeditious acknowledgement of bad debts and liquidation of insolvent enterprises.

  • “And how do conservatives interpret JPII’s ‘strong juridical framework’?”

    I guess it depends on what such a framework looks like. Just as there is progressive taxation in America as well as an extensive social safety net, there are strong laws regulating business. The question becomes how progressive taxation, safety nets and strong laws should be. That is up for prudential discussion. But I don’t think one can say there is no strong juridical framework in America.

  • Brett,

    Does ” bad incentives” mean that the financial industry should have been more regulated? In Canada, we were more regulated and we have come through this much better than you guys.

    “Bad incentives” is a broadly applicable term.

    When considering the question of whether a market should be “more regulated” I think it’s often (as RL points out) more important to look at how it’s regulated than whether it’s regulated. After all, the idea that there are “unregulated” markets involved in any of this is more a rhetorical ploy than a reality.

    For instance, after the real estate bubble inspired financial crisis, many in favor of “more regulation” claimed that if there had been regulations about created tradeable derivative financial products made of “packaged” mortgages, this would have prevented the problem. Those of a more libertarian bent pointed out that one of the reasons that these derivatives became popular in the first place was that other regulations had been created requiring certain types of funds to invest in AAA rated securities — thus creating an artificially high demand for securities which ratings agencies were willing to class as AAA.

    Texas suffered much less from the bubble and ensuing recession than most other US states with much more regulation. Part of this was due to the fact that Texas did not have the zoning regulations which tended to drive up housing values in other states. Part of it, however, was also due to Texas mortgage laws not being as loose on second mortgages and refinancing as other states (high regulation California having nonetheless allowed all sorts of crazy mortgages and suffering pretty badly from the crash.)

    And how do conservatives interpret JPII’s “strong juridical framework”?

    Just to provide context for other readers, this refers to the following quote:

    But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed with a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative. (Centesimus Annus, n. 42)

    As a comparative laissez faire guy when it comes to economics, I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, but I’m sure my interpretation is different from that of a strongly progressive Catholic.

    I think that markets and prices are an important way to make decisions about what people should do and produce because it’s a way of determining what people actually want (how they spend their money) rather than going by what they say they want, much less what some planner thinks they should want. To me, much of the difficulty of “regulation” when it comes to planning how an economy should work is that those planning it, even when well intentioned, often don’t fully appreciate all the effects of what they’re setting up. (Not to mention that regulatory agencies are often “captured” by moneyed interests who have the most to gain in a market, and so more regulation often involves giving the fox more latitude in his running of the hen house.)

    At the same time, I seems to me that it is absolutely essential to understand that markets as we know and use them in the Anglosphere do not spring into being out of nowhere without effort and a good deal more law and tradition than we necessarily assume. Without stable and fair rules, we get a sort of might-makes-right economic thuggery in which those who have the most economic leverage get to play by different rules than those with less.

    A good example of the way we don’t even think of these rules was told by an economist who’d been trying to organize an academic conference in Russia. A month before the conference, when everyone had already bought tickets and such, the owner of the hotel where it was scheduled to be held called up the organizer and said that he was canceling their reservations.

    “Why?” the economist demanded.

    “Someone else offered more money.”

    “But you can’t do that!”

    “What are you going to do about it?”

    Given the courts in Russia, it’s an open question whether the organizer would have managed to bring a successful suit against the owner regardless, but even if he had it wouldn’t have solved the problem in time. What he ended up having to do was forking over a good deal more money in order to get his reservation back.

    This is an example of the kind of business thuggery that tend not to expect (at least in ordinary consumer interactions) in the US or the rest of the Anglosphere — but it is surprisingly common in parts of Eastern Europe where “free market” institutions were thrown up quickly with little precedent and tradition, and the business habits of the old black markets that flourished during the communist period have carried over. This kind of behavior — truly unrestrained fighting for economic advantage, without a juridical framework that requires fair play — actually makes market outcomes less efficient and makes it harder for people to do business.

  • Thanks all,
    I’m certainly willing to grant that “better” regulated is preferable to simply “more.”
    Can someone tell me, then, how Canada was better regulated in order to make it through this in better shape? And would you be willing to import such better regulation?

    Sorry Don, I’m not buying the Conservative government bit. Not unless you can show me that the better regulation we had in Canada was their policy (and not simply a hangover from previous governments) and that it was the same kind of policy that conservative Americans are clamoring for. (“Conservative” often means something quite different when you cross the 49th. Heck, we have actual socialized medicine (not just restrictions on insurance companies) and even with a Conservative majority, there is no hint that we want to get rid of it.)

  • And I’m sorry Don, but the bit about how the Pope is not to be trusted on matters where he does not have practical experience is an argument I’ve seen before in places like the National Catholic Reporter. Only they weren’t talking about money.

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  • “And I’m sorry Don, but the bit about how the Pope is not to be trusted on matters where he does not have practical experience is an argument I’ve seen before in places like the National Catholic Reporter. Only they weren’t talking about money.”

    Because the National Catholic Reporter and other heterodox Catholics have little problem with contraception, abortion and homosexual conduct, sins universally condemned by the Church since the time of the Crucifixion, in no way negates my observation that when popes are talking about economics that we must judge them as we would anyone else making an economic argument. The popes as a whole have no special expertise in this area, as many of them have dramatically illustrated by the feckless manner in which they have overseen Vatican finances, and infallibility does not extend to papal pronouncements outside of the areas of faith and morals. That brief does not include a pope attempting to draft a blue print for how economies should function. Pius IX of blessed memory is a perfect example of a pope who was great when he stuck to faith and moral issues, and a complete failure throughout his ventures into secular arenas. His Syllabus of Errors should be a standing reminder to all popes of the limitations of their office.

  • “Sorry Don, I’m not buying the Conservative government bit.”

    Of course not Brett, because your political sympathies lie with the Left, at least on economic issues, and my response is an inconvenient one that you do not wish to attempt to rebut.

    The Harper government has followed classic conservative themes of reducing taxes and government regulation. Read all about it:


  • “Heck, we have actual socialized medicine”

    Oh please Brett. I tend to keep a fairly close eye on developments north of the border and government care in Canada is in crisis, hence the explosive growth of private clinics:


    When Canadian elites need quick and the best health care they often come to the US:


    A slogan for socialized medicine in Canada: “Good enough for the proles!”

  • I’m certainly willing to grant that “better” regulated is preferable to simply “more.”
    Can someone tell me, then, how Canada was better regulated in order to make it through this in better shape? And would you be willing to import such better regulation?

    You could probably get a lot of people to tell you, and they’d tell you different things. There’s very little agreement on what in detail caused things to go wrong in the US — I don’t see why there’d be more agreement on what caused things to go comparatively right in Canada. (And as I pointed out, if there’s the “more regulation” argument for Canada there’s the “less regulation” argument for Texas.)

    Also, at broad strokes, keep in mind:

    a) Even in the US the housing bubble on the ground was restricted to areas on the country with dense population where limited amounts of housing were bid up rapidly. Areas where people could simply build more houses were much less effected.

    b) Part of the reason the securities aspect of the bubble hit the US so hard is that the US is where the whole world comes to trade securities. Wealthy Canadians probably took a solid hit from the US bubble, but they did so via funds and securities being traded in New York. This is why for a little while everyone was blaming the US for their financial problems — that is, until real estate markets collapsed in a number of European countries. And, of course, if we have a second round of global economic problems it will doubtless be because of the collapse of the Euro due to social safety net overspending in a shared currency zone. (Would you be eager to sign up for a significant reduction in social safety net spending as a result of such a collapse?)

  • Economics isn’t within faith and morals?!? Tell Amos.

  • Condemn the rich all you want for ignoring the poor Brett and I will agree with you. However, Amos, a dresser of vines, did not seek to draft an economic plan to guide Israel, nor did our Lord in his parable of Lazarus and Dives. Our popes would do well to follow their example.

  • As for not attempting to rebut, that is a stretch. My stated belief is that it need not be rebutted unless it can be demonstrated that there is more to it than the name “conservative.” You need to show that it was actually their policies that were in place vis-a-vis regulation and that such policies are what conservatives like yourself have been after in the US. That seems a pretty fair request, but you declined. (The link you posted, while interesting, had nothing to do with my question about regulations on the financial sector.)

    I certainly can’t rebut the name of the party in power. Let’s not play games with words.

  • As for the proles, I’m much happier to be proles here than there. So was my brother when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Don’t pretend that the service Danny Williams got is available to any American at the asking.

    Sure elites travel for healthcare. But that doesn’t prove anything except that your system has a bigger gap between service for rich and poor than ours does. Congratulations.

  • Amos and Jesus said nothing about artificial contraception either. Should the Popes follow that example?

  • Actually Medicare and Medicaid, as well as old fashioned indigent care by Catholic and other non-profit hospitals, would take care of almost all if not all patients. This I know from working at a Catholic hospital at this time. Nobody is turned away and all get the same care.

    “But that doesn’t prove anything except that your system has a bigger gap between service for rich and poor than ours does. Congratulations.”

    I’m not sure all gaps in services between rich and poor are rejected by Catholic Social Teaching.

  • Also, who said anything about infallibility? Must something be infallible before Catholics owe the Pope allegiance?

  • I suspect one does not need to take everything that is not infallible and reject it. Thus deferring to the Pope, particularly in matters of Faith and morals, that have not been infallibly defined.

    Though I think the Popes have defined that the application of CST is subject to legitimate variety of opinion and that Catholics of good faith may disagree. Also, that it is the laity, and not the clergy, that have the charism of applying the teaching of the Church to the secular order.

  • As for the proles, I’m much happier to be proles here than there. So was my brother when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Don’t pretend that the service Danny Williams got is available to any American at the asking.

    FWIW, I’ve had a number of relatives go through long intensive medical issues here in the dreaded US — including my dad in his seven year fight with non-Hodgekins Lymphoma — and the only one who can be described as having suffered any adverse outcome as a result of the US system was a great uncle who was put off too long on diagnosis for his cancer to be treated well — a problem which various “socialized” systems are pretty well known for as well. Nor is that because we’re “rich” by any stretch. My mom and dad were both the first in their families to ever go to college, and my dad was a teacher while my mom stayed home. The whole extended family is solidly lower middle class.

  • I am struck by the fact that when the Pope says something, or issues an encyclical, we have a tendency to look at it through the lens of our opinion. No one questioned Pope John Paul II’s critiques of the Communist economic system…but we suggest that he is ill informed when he challenges the excesses of Captalism. Or when he suggests that Invading Iraq may not have been justified. We see the Pope’s statements about economics through our lens of human greed, and write it off as “ome old religious dude who knows nothing about economics who should keep his nose out of things he doesn’t understand” when in fact he (they) have clearly been teaching and speaking to the morality of econimic systems…and we as Catholics are called to apply our Catholic moral beliefs to all aspects of our lives…not just to those areas where it is “convenient”.

  • “Also, who said anything about infallibility? Must something be infallible before Catholics owe the Pope allegiance?”

    I don’t think Catholics owe any allegiance to the Pope when he is acting outside of the realm of faith and morals. Respect always, but not allegiance. When popes go into areas beyond this their arguments must be judged based upon their strength and not upon the office they hold. When a pope condemns greed he has the strength of his office behind him. If he were to then say that therefore no one should earn more than a million a year and government should confiscate the rest, he is venturing a personal opinion that is entitled to no greater weight because he is pope. Considering how frequently popes have contradicted each other in areas outside of faith and morals, I can only assume that is the attitude they take to such positions of their predecessors.

  • “Amos and Jesus said nothing about artificial contraception either. Should the Popes follow that example?”

    Apples and rock salt Brett. The Church has condemned with one voice contraception throughout her history. In regard to economics, popes have been all over the ball park, as one would expect in an area where they have no charism of infallibility and no particular expertise.

  • Darwin, the recent analysis I have seen as to why Texas suffered less to the housing collapse had to do witht he fact the people are not allowed to borrow 100% of their homes value, they are limited to 80%. I would call that either more or better regulation, not less. Plus Texas bank are heavily regulated, they were not allowed to branch when I lived there. This lead to the growth of the savings and loan industry which was regulated by the federal government. When the regulations on the S&L industry were relaxed by the federal government in the 1980’s, the result was the savings and loan crisis of 1989 which was entirely in Texas except for 1 S&L in Ohio and 1 in California.

  • “Don’t pretend that the service Danny Williams got is available to any American at the asking.”

    Actually it is. The finest medical treatment available in the Midwest for cancer is at the Mayo Clinc in Rochester, Minnesota. People in Central Illinois go there routinely, several of my personal acquaintance. Few of them could be considered rich, some without insurance and several receiving treatment in excess of their insurance policy limits.

  • “I am struck by the fact that when the Pope says something, or issues an encyclical, we have a tendency to look at it through the lens of our opinion. ”

    And so we should when a pope ventures beyond faith and morals in an encyclical to purely prudential matters. A fascinating exercise is to compare statements of popes on these types of matters: Pius XII on the death penalty for example and John Paul II on the death penalty; or Pius IX on religious freedom and Pope John XXIII on the same subject. Where popes differ, I do not think that a pope can expect uncritical obedience from the laity.

  • Paul,

    Darwin, the recent analysis I have seen as to why Texas suffered less to the housing collapse had to do witht he fact the people are not allowed to borrow 100% of their homes value, they are limited to 80%. I would call that either more or better regulation, not less.

    Well, clearly the conclusions will depend a lot on who you have do you analysis, but just to be clear on some facts: I bought a house in Texas in 2004 for which I put down 3%. In 2008 I refinanced that house, and even then I only owned 15% of it. (I sold the house in 2011 when I had to relocate for my job, still owning less than 20% of it.) So I believe it’s safe to say that Texas mortgage law does not require that one own 20% of one’s house. I routinely saw real estate signs around the Austin area advertising “Buy with no money down!”

    So while Texas usury laws may play a minor part in its being spared, I would tend to place much more stock in the fact that through most of Texas zoning was not used to try to restrict the amount of development and intentionally drive up housing prices. In the few areas where this was done (like some parts of old Austin near the river) there was in fact a pretty hard crash in home prices, but since this was restricted to some very small and expensive areas, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what happened in places like California, Florida and the Northeast.

    Plus Texas bank are heavily regulated, they were not allowed to branch when I lived there.

    Perhaps, but since I did all my banking while I was there with Chase and Wells Fargo — two non-Texas banks which are not kept from operating there, and indeed which had more convenient branches than any local bank — I would tend to draw from my experience that state regulations on local banks didn’t do much to slow down people’s ability to act the same way in Texas as they would have elsewhere in the country.

  • You keep saying “outside faith and morals”
    Are you suggesting that their comments about economies and political systems are not comments about morality and justice?

  • “Are you suggesting that their comments about economies and political systems are not comments about morality and justice?”

    Depends upon the comment. For example, Pope Benedict apparently has a great deal of faith in the role to be played in the world by an institution like the UN, if not the UN. I think that opinion is clearly his own and not directly related to either faith or morals. I would say the same about John Paul II’s anti-death penalty stance, especially since his stance was at odds with traditional Church teaching in that area.

    Where the popes decry the conditions of the poor and call upon all of us to help the poor, they are clearly telling a basic Catholic truth. If a pope were to go beyond and mandate a particular social program or organization of a polity in order to carry out the helping of the poor through government action, I believe that goes well beyond their office.

    A very good book, along the lines of Sic et Non, is waiting to be written comparing and contrasting the political and economic stances of popes across the history of the Church. Some interesting debates are being waged on various such questions no doubt in Heaven. I would love to be a fly on the wall for example in a debate between Julius II and John Paul II on war and peace.

  • Darwin,
    I was in error the 80% rule was on home equity rules (http://www.occc.state.tx.us/pages/brochures/home_equity_lending.html#eighty) My reference to the branching of banks was when I lived there in the early 1980’s and I am sure the bank consolidations and the S&L mess resulted in changes in regulations. The point that Texas’ success is not based on less regulation but rather on more is still valid though.

  • By faith I authorize the pope (plus Church teaching for 2,000 years) to tell me I need to give alms to the poor out of my money.

    The pope does not have authority to tell me to vote to tax money from a hard-working person and give it to someone else.

    Morality and fairness? How do you define fairness and morality based on 40,000,000 diverse facts, circumstances, and conditions?

    But, no sweat! Philosophers and theologians know everything about everything and those of us who dare disagree are evil.

  • Actually, Catholic teaching back to at least to the First Vatican Council and the document Dei Filius, states that the internal and sincere assent due to teachings presented even in a non-infallible way by the supreme teacher and ruler of the Church is definitely and seriously obligatory.What this means is that teachings by the Pope may not fall under the category of infallibility, but we are still follow them until such time as the Church modifies them.

  • A comenter above wondered why Canada did not have a housing bubble burst induced economic debacle. It seems to have had nothing to with excesses of capitalism. But, everythiing to do with usual hells that result when do-godders try to creat heaven on Earth.

    Outlined from Mark J. Perry, professor of economics, School of Management, Flint campus of the University of Michigan:

    1. Full Recourse Mortgages in Canada. The buyer pledges the house and everything else he owns as collateral.

    2. Shorter-Term Fixed Rates loans in Canada – generally 5 years and renegotiate

    3. Mortgage Insurance (for lower down payment/initial owner investment loans) Is More Common in Canada than in the United States

    4. No Tax Deductibility of Mortgage Interest in Canada

    5. Higher Prepayment Penalties in Canada discourage refinancing and home euity loans – HEL’s

    6. Public Policy Differences for Low-Income Housing. Canada provides public funding for low-income rental, and thus avoided the mistake of using misguided policies to turn good, low-income renters into bad homeowners. Canadian government has not used public policies like the Community Reinvestment Act in the United States, which encouraged homeownership for lower-income and less creditworthy borrowers, financed frequently with subprime mortgages.

    7. A Few Other Differences that Contribute to Bank Safety in Canada. There is a much lower rate of loan originations by mortgage brokers in Canada (only 35 percent) than in the U.S. (70 percent), far less mortgage securitization in Canada than here, and a much smaller subprime mortgage market. Banks in Canada keep and service 68 percent of the mortgages on their own balance sheets that they originate and underwrite, which encourages prudent lending since banks are putting much of their own capital at risk.

    8. Canada – a healthy “pro-lender” environment absent political motivations for greater homeownership, compared to the often politically motivated “pro-borrower” and “pro-homeowner” policies of the United States. While Canada’s banking system has promoted responsible borrowing and prudent lending and underwriting practices with little politically motivated interference, the U.S. banking system seems to have encouraged excessive lending to risky borrowers because of the political obsession with homeownership.

    It wasn’t me! That was Professor Perry’s analysis.

  • “2. The forms, by which a General Council is identified as representing the Church herself, are too clear to need drawing out; but what is to be that moral cathedrâ, or teaching chair, in which the Pope sits, when he is to be recognized as in the exercise of his infallible teaching? the new definition answers this question. He speaks ex cathedrâ, or infallibly, when he speaks, first, as the Universal Teacher; secondly, in the name and with the authority of the Apostles; thirdly, on a point of faith or morals; fourthly, with the purpose of binding every member of the Church to accept and believe his decision.

    3. These conditions of course contract the range of his infallibility most materially. Hence Billuart speaking of the Pope says, “Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible,” t. ii. p. 110 [Note 3]. And for this simple reason, because on these various occasions of speaking his mind, he is not in the chair of the universal doctor.

    4. Nor is this all; the greater part of Billuart’s negatives {326} refer to the Pope’s utterances when he is out of the Cathedra Petri, but even, when he is in it, his words do not necessarily proceed from his infallibility. He has no wider prerogative than a Council, and of a Council Perrone says, “Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition, nor in matters which relate to persons, nor to physical matters which have no necessary connexion with dogma.” Præl. Theol. t. 2, p. 492. Thus, if a Council has condemned a work of Origen or Theodoret, it did not in so condemning go beyond the work itself; it did not touch the persons of either. Since this holds of a Council, it also holds in the case of the Pope; therefore, supposing a Pope has quoted the so called works of the Areopagite as if really genuine, there is no call on us to believe him; nor again, if he condemned Galileo’s Copernicanism, unless the earth’s immobility has a “necessary connexion with some dogmatic truth,” which the present bearing of the Holy See towards that philosophy virtually denies.”

    Cardinal Newman, “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk”

  • The DEATH PENALTY isn’t a matter of faith and morals?!?!?
    Is this whole thing a hoax?

  • But Don, my question wasn’t about a concrete application of principle. There is no question here of Pope’s mandating social programs.

    John Paul II articulated a principle to which Catholics owe religious submission of mind and will, namely, that for captialism to receive a positive evaluation from the Catholic perspective, economic freedom must be constrained within a strong juridical framework. There is certainly room for a conservative, even minimalist, interpretation of this principle, as Darwin demonstrates, but there is no room for pretending that it is not a principle but rather something akin to mandating a specific social program. Neither is there any room for pretending it is not a matter of morals. Neither is there any room for suggesting that a such a principle articulated in a papal encyclical has no more demand on you as a Catholic than a blog post by yours truly.

    The more you write, the more you look exactly like the progressives you so openly despise.

  • Was the Church correct in its traditional teaching Brett prior to the papacy of John Paul II or was it incorrect? The Church clearly stated that the State could execute malefactors. It could hardly say anything else due to numerous scriptural passages in the Bible. John Paul II decided to do his very best to put the authority of the Church behind efforts to abolish the death penalty, without doing a complete 180 from traditional teaching, but coming very, very close. Now, if we contend that the death penalty is a matter of faith and morals we then have popes contradicting each other. Fortunately we have then Cardinal Ratzinger’s own words on the subject:

    ” 3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”


  • “John Paul II articulated a principle to which Catholics owe religious submission of mind and will, namely, that for capitalism to receive a positive evaluation from the Catholic perspective, economic freedom must be constrained within a strong juridical framework.”

    His opinion Brett. I might even agree with it in part. However there is nothing in the Faith that requires Catholics to grant assent to a papal proposition where the Pope is not writing ex cathedra on a question of faith and morals, particularly where a Pope is venturing an opinion on a matter that is obviously open to factual debate. Newman warned about the tendency of some in his time to seek to make infallible every note written by a pope, and he had good reason to so warn, because popes over time contradict each other in matters of prudence. That is not my opinion but a simple statement of historical fact. We see this quite clearly in the death penalty and other areas. Unless infallibility is strictly limited, as I think was ultimately the case at Vatican I, Catholics are simply called upon to walk in lock step behind the pope of their time, and to be prepared to change their opinions instantly if the next pope is of a contrary view, instead of viewing the teachings of the Faith as a whole stretching from Christ to the present pope. No pope is greater than the Tradition that guides the Church and pretending otherwise is not wise for Catholics.

  • “Don’t pretend that the service Danny Williams got is available to any American at the asking.”

    While the U.S. healthcare system is far from perfect, I don’t think the poor or uninsured are quite as shut out or excluded from such care as many people think. For one thing, many hospitals and doctors will work out affordable payment plans with people who are uninsured, or whose insurance coverage is deficient. I personally took advantage of such a service a few years ago when I was in a situation of not having adequate insurance. Second, there are many hospitals and clinics and other outreaches that target the poor and uninsured, and others such as the famed St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that treat everyone regardless of ability to pay.

    Another observation and personal experience: I had outpatient gallbladder surgery a few days ago (doing just fine, thanks be to God, a skilled surgeon and a decent insurance policy). The time span from my initial diagnosis of gallstones to my operation was less than a month. During this time I came across a couple of internet forums and comment threads populated by gallbladder patients, many of whom were from the UK and Canada which have nationalized health care. They routinely have to wait many months for such surgeries and when I commented on how my case was going they were really surprised that I got in for surgery as quickly as I did. Some of them are just miserable, having attacks daily and barely able to eat or drink but stuck on lengthy waiting lists for their operations.

    I guess what we have in the U.S. is a system where many people get very good health care (those with good insurance or sufficient private wealth to self-pay), many others get moderately good health care (if their insurance is so-so, or if they can take advantage of a low-income program or other arrangement), and still others get little or no health care (if they are poor or simply do not know where they can obtain care). Whereas in countries with nationalized health systems, EVERYONE gets moderately good or adequate care; routine checkups and emergency care are fairly well covered but elective or non-emergency procedures like mine, not so much.

  • Many of the poor are covered by medicare. The gap is usually seen in the upper poor and lower middle class who do not qualify for such programs and do not have insurance. Most hospitals have charitable care available to such people based on income. In my own county we have a volunteer organization of doctors, dentists and nurses who provide free care to this part of the population on weekends. I am on the board of my local community chest and we help provide funding for this worthy endeavor each year.

    The growth of private sector doctors and clinics in Canada demonstrates that there is a market for private health care in a country where taxes pay for “free” government health care. I would hope that even the most ardent fan of govenment care would be against laws attempting to shut down such clinics and doctors, as they obviously meeting a need not met under the current health care program in Canada.

  • The leading cause of bankruptcy is medical costs due to illness and injury. Even with Medicaid and charity, the poor go under treated due to a large number of reasons, but mainly due to the unavailability of people who will accept Medicaid or due charity work. Many hospitals will treat anyone who comes to them, but usually people go to the hospital when it is too late for effective treatment of an illness. Medicaid has a waiting period before a patient is accepted of 6 months; in the case of someone who is forced onto disability due to an illness like MS they lose their insurance and then have to wait 6 months for Medicaid to kick in. During this time their disease progresses and it cannot be treated in a way to undo the damage done. When my daughter broke her finger we were told she could not see an orthopedic doctor for a week. The next day I called the doctor’s office to complain and on finding out we were not on Medicaid but had insurance we were scheduled that day to see the orthopedic doctor who said the one day delay would result in life long problems.

    I could continue with examples, but the point is we like to believe Medicaid and charity give the poor adequate healthcare; the truth is they do not. Systems have been tested in other countries and at some places in the US that increase quality, reduce cost and provide more general healthcare, we refuse to implement any of them here. Instead we insist on either sticking with a system that is costly and offers poor quality (a high number of errors), or going to systems that have never been tried successfully (some of the plans put forward by leading Republicans).

  • “The leading cause of bankruptcy is medical costs due to illness and injury.”

    That is a false statement Paul, although often repeated on the internet. Bankruptcy makes up a large portion of my practice. Of the over a thousand bankruptcies I have performed, about three percent were caused by medical debt. Most bankruptcies have some medical debt, usually a minor hospital bill, but they are not the precipitating factor for bankruptcy, which is usually caused by large credit card debt or people being way over their heads on a house or vehicles. Divorce is often a precipitating factor for bankruptcy as people barely able to handle debt together, give up on trying to handle it separately.

    Here is a good look at the worthless study that led to this claim:


  • Full employment for all: is this a hoax?

    “Feds fine plumbers $5,000 for fancy shower heads.”

    Eternally, it’s raise taxes for evil, filthy rich! It’s the solution to unemployment, the national debt, the deficit, halitosis, . . . ?

    Obama-worshiping imbeciles are so cute.

  • “Many of the poor are covered by Medicare”

    This is an easy mistake to make, but I presume you mean Medicaid. Also, some states have additional forms of medical assistance that cover populations not eligible for Medicaid and therefore do not receive federal matching funds (the State pays the whole tab for these programs). Not all medical assistance is Medicaid, though most of the public uses “Medicaid” as a catch-all term for all forms of publicly funded medical assistance to non-elderly persons without private insurance.

    I have to agree that Medicaid, although certainly better than no insurance at all, does severely limit one’s choice of doctors since so few are willing to take it (and I don’t blame them, particularly in Illinois where payments are made in an extremely laggard manner). My daughter was on Medicaid for 2 years and I was really, really glad when I was able to get her off of it.

    The slowness of Medicaid payments in Illinois and other states is so infamous that there are times when I wonder, only slightly in jest, if the best way to stop abortion would be to pass a “reverse” Hyde Amendment that would require ALL abortions to be paid for by Medicaid… then we could watch abortuaries go out of business just like mom and pop pharmacies and nursing homes are now!

  • Early morning blogging strikes again Elaine! Yes I did mean Medicaid. If Gov care ever does come to the US with full implementation, I suspect it will resemble Medicaid with all its flaws.

  • Paul,

    I was in error the 80% rule was on home equity rules (http://www.occc.state.tx.us/pages/brochures/home_equity_lending.html#eighty) My reference to the branching of banks was when I lived there in the early 1980?s and I am sure the bank consolidations and the S&L mess resulted in changes in regulations. The point that Texas’ success is not based on less regulation but rather on more is still valid though.

    The claim in your last sentence only holds if you can make a strong case that there is a great deal of bank-specific regulation in Texas which is to be clearly credited for the lack of a real estate bubble there. You can’t just assert it as axiomatic. Thus far, all the examples you’ve brought out have turned out to be false.

    Now, as I’ve said, Texas is somewhat more restrictive on second mortgages than most of the country, and I think this probably deserves a bit of credit. But it seems to me that a lot of the credit goes to Texas’s comparatively permissive zoning laws, which allowed expansion to take place rather than bidding up of existing housing stock. Plus, the overall pro-business environment of Texas (with half the net new jobs creates in the country since the recession hit being created in Texas) meant that it was able to grow its way out of the (comparatively mild) housing slump in a way in which other areas weren’t.

    Here, though, you seem to be taking it as axiomatic that only “more regulation” can prevent bubbles (whereas in fact badly made regulation — which happens a lot — is just as capable of creating bubbles) and thus concluding that even if unable to identify what exactly prevented a housing bubble in Texas that it must have been stiffer regulations than the famously laissez faire states like California, New York and Washington.

  • It’s not the quantity of regulation (more vs. less) that counts as much as the QUALITY of regulation. Neither the liberal approach of regulating everything to the nth degree, nor the conservative/libertarian approach that automatically equates regulation with unnecessary job-killing burdens, is correct.

    Good regulations are those which allow for a degree of discretion by the agency but also contain clear standards or criteria for the agency to apply in making decisions. You don’t want a situation in which an agency head or deputy can turn down someone’s request merely because they feel like it. A good regulation also MUST include some kind of due process by which an adverse decision can be appealed or a case made for an exception. A well-crafted regulation can serve to protect private business and citizens from unnecessary government encroachment, and need not be a burden.

  • There are lengthy discussions of the reasons behind the “Texas miricle” on several other sites I have seen. Most conclude it is more related to $100 dollar a barrel oil than the business friendly environment. Of course I don’t spend much time on the Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute sites, so that may sway my data.

    I believe my response was related to comparing the less regulation in Texas tothe more regulation in Canada. I think the real answer may lie in the better regulation mentioned by several commentors above. In both the case in Texas and the case in Canada it seems people and banks refrained from (or were not allowed to) enter into the risky loans and business practices that others enterred. To believe regulations did not prevent this, you would have to believe the bankers and people in Texas and Canada were either smarter as a whole, or not as greedy as a whole. I do not believe either, so I’m sticking with better regulated.

  • Anyhow, AZ, CA, FL, IL, MI, and NV are the worst housing bubble areas. Outside those states and Puerto Rico, the devastation is less pronounced.

    Bankers in Canada did not have the authority to sell to FNMA and FHLMC nontraditional home loans advanced to dishonest (stated they would live in the houses, etc.) speculators low-to-moderate income borrowers. So, they did not make such loans.

    Federal real estate lending standards for state nonmember banks are set forth in FDIC Rules and Regulations Part 365. The down payment requirement is one of a number of underwriting factors. In many cases, regulation required appraisals were overstated and did not stabilize the bubble price rises. Collateral value is often lacking when repayment capacity is no longer effective.

  • In both the case in Texas and the case in Canada it seems people and banks refrained from (or were not allowed to) enter into the risky loans and business practices that others enterred. To believe regulations did not prevent this, you would have to believe the bankers and people in Texas and Canada were either smarter as a whole, or not as greedy as a whole. I do not believe either, so I’m sticking with better regulated.

    Well, the flip side of your quandary is that in order to avoid assuming that people in Texas and Canada are smarter and less greedy than those in other areas of the US — you end up having to assume that regulators in Texas and Canada are smarter and/or less corruptible than those in other parts of the US.

    I’m wanting to assume neither. I’m assuming that because there was a lot of room for development in Texas and local regulators chose not to keep down suburban sprawl, that greed was directed into building lots of new houses rather than bidding up the price of the existing houses.

    There are lengthy discussions of the reasons behind the “Texas miricle” on several other sites I have seen. Most conclude it is more related to $100 dollar a barrel oil than the business friendly environment. Of course I don’t spend much time on the Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute sites, so that may sway my data.

    I haven’t been to Cato or Heritage sites either — most of my secular reading is on The Atlantic or the Wall Street Journal — but I think the fair assessment would tend to be that while oil has helped the Texas economy, that’s not nearly all of it. This post at Political Math Blog does a pretty good summary:


    Now, for the record, I don’t think Perry deserves huge amounts of credit for the shape of Texas’ economy, other than for not messing it up. I am highly skeptical of the ability of politicians to do anything to “create jobs” other than not make things worse.

  • Paul duBois,

    You did not have a real estate bubble in the Great Plains generally. You did not have one in Upstate New York (though real estate prices were severely inflated in sections of Downstate). To what aspects of banking supervision in North Dakota and New York do you attribute these discrepancies?

  • At the moment, a similar price bubble in US farm land seems in motion. FDIC analysts (Quarterly Banking Reviews) and former Chairman Bair have commented several times since 2008.

    The regulatory response: caution lending banks to consider lower loan-to-value ratios, i.e., larger down payments, when underwriting such loans.

    In theory, the investor/buyer of a commercial real estate or the speculator in residential real estate will determine the bid price based on the expected, stabilized net operating income from the property divided by a capitalization rate or the anticipated sale price. Loan underwriters need to do a similar calculation based on conservative, realistic assumptions and estimates.

    In the early 2000’s, I reviewed appraisals with market value based on extremely low cap rates (as low as 4% in 2005, 9% to 10% would be the norm) and assumptions that every house in a neighborhood would sell (comparable sales price is the main residential RE appraisal factor) would sell for over $1 million.

    For example, if a farmer expects to net (after expenses) $100 from an acre of farm land’s crop produce, he may capitalize that NOI at 10% and bid $1,000. Alternatively, if he capped the NOI at 4%, he may bid $2,500. I don’t know agriculture, but $2,750 an acre seems too high for farm land.

  • It seems to me that there is broad agreement that good quality regulation is desirable. I suggest that if we (bloggers, the MSM, and the general public) put more time and energy into discussing what amounts to good regulation and less into sloganeering about regulation (in general) vs. deregulation (in general), politics would get more done while dividing the populace less.

  • Possibly.

    I’m certainly in favor of trying to get regulation right, but I think there remains a lot of room to argue about “less” versus “more” in that often our ability to know what kind of regulation is actually going to be needed in the future is limited. Many things are commonsensical, but often human systems seem like biological ones: the trait which proves to be adaptive for a species in a sudden and unusual situation is often one which previously existed for some other reason and just happens to make it “fittest” in some later, unforseen, situation.

The Great Pig War of 1859

Wednesday, September 7, AD 2011

The United States and Great Britain after the War of 1812 frequently came into conflict during the Nineteenth Century, and it is a medium sized miracle that one of these conflicts did not end in a third Anglo-American War.  The most surreal of these conflicts, beyond a doubt, is the Pig War of 1859.

Both Great Britain and America claimed the San Juan Islands lying between Vancouver Island and the then Washington territory, and the islands were settled by British subjects and American citizens.  On June 15, 1859 Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer on San Juan island, came out and found a pig eating tubers in his garden.  This was not the first incident involving the wayward pig, and Cutlar shot the pig, killing the porcine invader.  The pig was owned by a British subject, Charles Griffin, who took umbrage at the slaying of his wandering porker.  The two men had words about the pig.  British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, and the American settlers called for American military protection.

By August 10, 1859, 461 American soldiers with 14 cannon confronted five British warships carrying 2,140 men.  Fortunately, both sides exercised restraint and no shots were fired.  James Douglas, the governor of British Vancouver, ordered British Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes to land Royal Marines on  San Juan island and engage the Americans.  Baynes flatly refused, saying that for two great nations to come to blows over a squabble over a pig was foolish.  London and Washington were equally aghast at the idea of going to war over this case of porcinecide, and General Winfield Scott was sent by President Buchanan to Vancouver to negotiate with Governor Douglas.  Agreement was reached that the British and American forces would be reduced to a 100 men each on San Juan island while negotiations were underway between the countries.  Ultimately third party arbitration, by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, led to the islands being awarded to America in 1872.

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11 Responses to The Great Pig War of 1859

  • “By August 10, 1859, 461 American soldiers with 14 cannon confronted five British warships carrying 2,140 men. Fortunately, both sides exercised restraint and no shots were fired.”

    Imagine what might have happened if the commanders on the scene had been rasher.

  • Imagine what might have happened if the commanders on the scene had been rasher.

    No doubt! It would be almost as silly as going to war just because France asked us to secure Lybian oil for them. Oh wait…

  • Another interesting what if, is if this had occurred in 1860 instead of 1859. There was little love lost, to say the least, between James Buchanan and Stephen A. Douglas, but I think Buchanan would have found it much more difficult to be diplomatic in the midst of a heated election campaign. Twisting the tale of the British Lion was almost always good domestic politics in Nineteenth century America, and I can imagine both Democrats and Republicans engaging in a contest over who could make the most inflammatory remarks against John Bull.

  • San Juan is a beautiful island and you can still visit the American and English camps. True fact: the command of the American camp was none other than George Pickett of Pickett’s Charge.

  • Some commanders will forever remain

  • There is an interesting twist involving the British constable on the island Mark and the Civil War, but that is a post for another day.

  • In the same month that Griffin’s pig was killed the French and Austrian armies accidentally bumped one another on the plains of Lombardy. The ensuing battle of Solferino was a bloodbath with 20,000 Austrian and 18,000 French casualties. Witnessing the carnage, Henri Dunant was moved to found the Red Cross. In the next twelve years Bismarck went to war successively with Denmark, Austria and France, unified Germany and radically altered the balance of power in Europe. Britain could only watch from the sidelines; her commercial and maritime supremacy availed her little. When Bismarck was asked what he would do if the British army landed in Europe he replied “I would send a policeman and have it arrested”. War with the United States was never really on the cards, as naval power could only be effective on the peripheries of the conflict. Granted, the US army in 1859 didn’t amount to much, but the Civil War showed what happens when a nation mobilizes its industrial and manpower resources for a protracted and all-out conflict. Not for nothing did John Terraine refer to it as the first of the three great wars of the Industrial Revolution. Sickened by the cost of his victory at Solferino, Napoleon III quickly made peace; this was not possible in 1861-65, 1914-18, or 1939-45.

  • Would the Civil War not have been fought if in 1860-1861 the nation had been involved in a war with Great Britain? On the other hand, would such a war have given impetus to the secession movement by assuring the South of a built in ally in its war for independence?

    I answer both questions with a “no” because Lincoln isn’t a plausible Republican nominee had a war with a foreign power been ongoing in 1859-60.

  • In that event Micha, the odds on favorite for the Republican nomination would have been Senator Seward of New York, who was anathema to the South because of his abolitionism and coining of the phrase “irrepressible conflict” in regard to the battle over slavery. Interestingly enough, after Lincoln made him Secretary of State, Seward thought that the best way to get the seceding states back into the Union was by threatening war with Great Britain. The whole idea was simple madness, as Lincoln pointed out when he told Seward that one war at a time was quite enough.

  • The military world didn’t pay too much attention to the lessons of the American Civil War. IIRC, the otherwise-astute elder Moltke dismissed the conflict as “armed boys chasing each other across a contintent.” While there was some merit to that, he should have paid more attention to the entrenchments around Richmond and Petersburg. Lord knows the soldiers of 1914-18 paid for it. Over and over again.

  • Dale, you’re right up to a point, although the American Civil War was seriously studied at Sandhurst in the 1870s. One shool of thought held that modern technology would make future wars quicker and more decisive, which seemed to be borne out in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05. Others, including Lord Kitchener, were less sanguine.

Becoming My Father

Tuesday, September 6, AD 2011

One of the more annoying and awkward moments of my life was watching the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards with my dad.  We had two cable-ready televisions in the house, and I guess my mother was watching the other one.  So I had to endure three hours of my father’s ongoing social commentary during the show.  Here was a show that featured performances of bands I actually wanted to watch: Def Leppard, U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and, most importantly, Guns N’ Roses, yet my father had to interject himself every thirty seconds to express his contempt and disgust for what was happening on screen – except for Eric Clapton performing “Tears in Heaven,” because evidently Eric Clapton was the only artist who had debuted since Django Reinhardt that didn’t draw my father’s ire.

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10 Responses to Becoming My Father

  • “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

    Mark Twain

    That is a beautiful video Paul. I don’t think I truly appreciated my own father until I spent a summer working in the truck body plant where he worked and experienced the conditions he endured each day to earn our daily bread.

  • It is a neat video, and I was surprised that something from College Humor could actually be somewhat poignant.

  • Cool vid. ‘Today’s younger generation is no worse than my own. We were just as ignorant and repulsive as they are, but nobody listened to us.’
    Al Capp

  • Heh, I turned into your father before my 21st birthday. MTV became unwatchable for me in 1984. Not that I don’t appreciate Rock and Roll and like to see videos, but MTV lost me way back when simply because I do like Rock and Roll. I can’t imagine even having watched in the ’90s. I guess it’s a generational thing each kid has to go through since the late 70’s.

  • Heh, I wish I could turn into my father… he’s quiet, clever in a way that you often don’t realize you’ve been zinged, and charmingly caring so that you don’t mind when you do figure it out, plus patience and solidity of a huge book of cliches.
    (My mother? Five pounds of gunpowder in a three pound bag with half-inch fuse, sharp as a bag of scalpels, full of Views…and, suitably, the distaff version of the video, minus the tyrant, that I can remember. Both parents always made a very big point of EXPLAINING why, even if they sometimes couldn’t do so immediately– I can’t remember a time before I knew that there was a why, even if I didn’t know it yet.)

  • A long while back I supervised a friends grandchidren as she moved, my job was to keep them working. Half way through I realized I sounded just like my father. And about as effective.

    He was never a great chit chatter, but would create a conversation by making an off the wall comment on the politics or such at which point people would try to talk common sense to him. When I finily realized the came I started responding with even more off the wall comments. We had a great time.

    If you need to liven up the comm let me know.

  • Should be realized the Game

  • Ah yes – 80’s and 90’s MTV.

    Y’know, that should be just about enough to convince Don McC. that the 70’s music wasn’t quite so bad. 😉

  • Somebody out there has children and hasn’t rid their home of teevees yet?

And a Happy Labor Day to You Too Hoffa

Tuesday, September 6, AD 2011

James P. Hoffa, current boss of the Teamsters’ Union, and son of former boss of the Teamsters, and gangster, Jimmy Hoffa, whose mortal remains no doubt reside in various locations around the country courtesy of his gangland cronies, took the opportunity yesterday to declare his Union members an army for Obama and to spit on the morality of the mothers of those who oppose Obama.

I look forward with eager anticipation to the civility police on the political Left in this country swinging into action and condemning Hoffa’s use of gutter language and apparent confusion of next year’s election with a war.

Obama got the endorsement of the Teamsters in 2008 by suggesting that he was open to less federal oversight of the Teamsters.  The federal oversight has been going on since 1991 as part of an ongoing effort by the feds to rid the Teamsters of mob influence.  The Teamsters’ Union has long been opposed to the federal oversight, for reasons that I will leave to the perspicacity of my readers.

President Obama, at the rally where Hoffa gave vent to his inner thug, immediately condemned the intemperate remarks and renewed his call for greater civility in politics.  Naah!  Actually President Obama praised Hoffa.

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16 Responses to And a Happy Labor Day to You Too Hoffa

  • The only thing missing was the brown shirts.

  • Anthony Provenzano was a gangster and Jackie Presser was as spurious as he was odious. The elder Hoffa was an unscrupulous man (in his work life) and co-operated with the Mafia in a mutual exchange of favors. He was, however, an authentic labor leader.

    In an act of bad taste and nostalgia, the Teamster membership put his attorney son in charge of the union. However, it was the Teamster membership that did that (and they have made worse choices on the local level). The Teamsters as a whole are likely cleaner than they have been at any time since 1927 or therabouts, and more democratic in their internal procedures.

  • “The Teamsters as a whole are likely cleaner than they have been at any time since 1927 or therabouts, and more democratic in their internal procedures.”

    That ain’t saying much Art:


  • “The elder Hoffa was an unscrupulous man (in his work life) and co-operated with the Mafia in a mutual exchange of favors. He was, however, an authentic labor leader. ”

    God save the working man Art from such authentic labor leaders:


  • Oh yes it is. See David Witwer’s history of the Teamsters. They had a chronic problem with mob infiltration from 1928 onward, first in Chicago and then, from 1930, in New York. Nevertheless, there was considerable variation in the character of the men at the union’s apex and core. The rap on the Teamsters, ca 1988 was not merely the presence of the mob and general corruption, but the degree to which the union functioned as a dues collecting machine that did little for its members. Hoffa-pere was recalled fondly because he was unlike his successors in this regard. Both he and his predecessor David Beck were repellant characters in many ways, but they both were successful pavement level organizers in their day (one of warehouse workers, the other of laundry workers).

  • In other news: True to form President Failure and Class Hate refuses to condemn union leaders’ violent threats.

  • The new “civility” at work, post Tucson

  • Bunch of red raggers. Bring on the Revolution.

    How would you like that bunch in the workforce of your business?

    Not on your nellie!!

  • “Bunch of red raggers.”

    Thank you Don! That goes into my little black book of quotations that I stea- er borrow, for future use!

  • Seriously? Disagree with the ideology of his rhetoric all you like, the speech itself was really pretty tame — one okay-for-daytime-TV off-color phrase notwithstanding. The intent was to get the core voters excited, not have a quiet and frank discussion of policy.

  • Very seriously. If Hoffa had been a conservative the Lamestream Press would be shouting about this for days as further evidence of the violent proclivities of those dangerous right wingers. Obama set the rules of the civility game by his speech calling for an end to violent rhetoric earlier this year, and he sits tamely by as Hoffa calls his adversaries sons of female dogs. Hyprocrisy and irony competed for first place in regard to the Hoffa-Obama performance yesterday.

  • Very, very seriously, the Obama propaganda machine went into full gear to advance “civility”, when a GOP judge was assassinated in Tucson, at the same time his evil minions were liberally lying about the dangerous tea party and calling anyone that disagrees violent threats to public safety. When you can’t win the debate you . . .

    PS: Obama on Labor Day – Should have said, “Sorry, I killed your jobs!”

    PPS: The Zero sounded like Al Sharpton.

  • I’m going to regret commenting, but since the Teamsters were discussed, their Local 456 is the Union Local for the Security Guardforce at the Indian Point Energy Center for nuclear power plant units 1 (now decommissioned), 2 and 3. Units 1 and 2 were owned by Con Ed and sold to Entergy Nuclear, and Unit 3 was owned by the New York Power Authority and also sold to Entergy Nuclear. The International Utilities Workers Union of America provides union representation for operators, mechanics, electricians, and other technicals. Teamsters does for the Security Guard Force because regulations prevent the same union representing both sets of people. Anyone feel secure, now?

  • Being on the left means never having to say you’re sorry.

  • In keeping with the “new tone:”

    Authorities are investigating a carjacking and assault that occurred Thursday during protests by union activists concerning their right to work at a Washington state grain terminal at the Port of Longview.

    According to a Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) press release Friday, law enforcement officials with multiple agencies were forced to back off from their defensive position during the ILWU protests over fears for their safety.

    “Our teams of four or five officers were confronted by baseball bat and axe handle wielding protesters.” Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson said.

    Oh, and another story has this little note:
    Scott Mason, president of the ILWU Local 23 in Tacoma, said some of his members have joined in the Longview effort, but he doesn’t believe they were involved in illegal activity. He blamed the company for provoking the response and warned that more activity could be coming.

    Only reason I heard about it was because the local talk radio this morning was complaining that our worthless Obama-chasing governor hadn’t managed to even respond to any of this. >.<

  • I found it richly ironic Foxfier that the story involving the ILWU and the mass criminal activity they engaged in occurred so soon after Hoffa’s speech. None of this should be news. Violence engaged in by Unions is not a rare event and such incidents are rarely punished by the legal system:



    Too often the political powers that be are completely in the pocket of the Unions and look the other way. Hoffa may not realize it yet, but he may have helped stir up a reaction to this tolerance of Union thuggery.

4 Responses to Forget Those Who Protest: Keep Watch on Jesus’ Disciples at Work in the World

  • I don’t recall having ever heard of MCI, but am grateful they exist. It was good of you to highlight their work and I couldn’t agree more about your assessment regarding the vociferous groups that do little to no good vs. those who quietly and humbly walk the walk everyday.

  • “Listening to the protesters who are getting their “face time” on television, one might walk away with the mistaken impression that there’s absolutely nothing the Church has to say about anything that is of any worth for today’s world.”

    Disgusting isn’t it? I’ve come to really despise the media.

    Nice post…btw.

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  • Thank God for what you are doing. We pray for more blessing

5 Responses to God Bless The USA!

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  • must not we avoid an uncritical nationalism? how many ‘good’ catholics went along with mussolini, hitler, and franco? we are not there yet; but how an we know how to discern what is ‘loyal’ and what is faith directed?

  • Somehow Paul I suspect that few fans of Il Duce, Der Fuhrer or El Caudillo will be singing along with this song. I do have a feeling that lots of Catholics will be singing along who agree with 2240 in the Catechism:

    “2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country:

    Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.45
    [Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.46

    The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”47”

  • Anyhow, it took him two days before making the “Yeah, but . . . ” dig at the great satan.

    And we see from whence this leftist guy comes.

    FYI: Franco was the savior of his country and the Roman Catholic Church in Spain.

    NB: This dude represents the fruits of public schools and lib universities feeding their “charges” ideologies not educations.

  • He also broke one of the rules about how not to appear crazy in comments. Hey Paul, you see that button the left-hand side? It’s the shift key. If you hold it down you can form capital letters. Although I suspect you may have broken the button when typing your name.

The Fighting SeaBees

Sunday, September 4, AD 2011

Construimus, Batuimus (We Build, We Fight)

At the outset of World War II, the Navy faced a task of unbelievable difficulty.  Around the globe, and especially in the Pacific, the Navy would be fighting in regions practically untouched by the modern world.  Everything to support military operations would have to be built from scratch:  bases, ports, airstrips, and an endless parade of other facilities.  The task was daunting, perhaps impossible.  However, the Navy had a secret weapon:  the American worker.

Forming Navy Construction Battalions, (C-Bs), the Navy turned to the civilian construction trades and asked for volunteers.  The response was overwhelming with civilian workers flocking to the task, and placed under the leadership of Navy officers.  These were older men, the average age of the volunteers being 37, and masters in their trades.  They formed the bedrock of the eventual 325,000 men who would serve in the Seabees during the War.  By V-J Day they had completed construction projects on six continents and 300 islands, many of the islands bearing strange and unfamiliar names like Guadalcanal, Tinian, Saipan, Tarawa and Iwo Jima.  They went about their work often under fire, sometimes participating directly in combat, and usually in conditions that were miserable beyond belief.  Tropical jungles, deserts, alpine mountains, arctic wastelands, nothing stopped them from doing their jobs, and usually completing their tasks ahead of schedule.

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3 Responses to The Fighting SeaBees

3 Responses to Hymn to Saint Joseph

  • St. Joseph, Provider, for and Protector of, the Holy Family, pray for us.

    St. Joseph, chaste and faithful spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.

    St. Joseph, foster father of Our Savior, pray for us.

    St. Joseph Worker, pray for us.

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  • I’ve heard a quite recent oratorio composed by an Italian priest, F.Carlo Colafranceschi (R.I.P.) – “Il Custode del redentore (Redemptoris Custos)”, but this one is a celestial one. I can only associate the music with the theological Frenchman masterpiece, ” Le Mystère de Joseph, by F. M.D.Philippe o.p. And finish with a wonderful image of the Redeemer with his foster father published by “l’Osservatore Romano”, on march , 19, 2003: the picture characterizes the main virtues of our Saint, humility and purity, and spiritual joy that comes from them, alleluia! Thank you very much for this divine deed!

September 2, 1945: Japan Surrenders

Friday, September 2, AD 2011

A fascinating newsreel of the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  Note that MacArthur hands pens after he signs to General Wainwright and General Percival.  Both men had been prisoners of Japan for most of the War, and their gaunt skeletal presence at the surrender ceremony was a tribute to the Allied POWs who had been treated with a brutality scarcely believable.  MacArthur’s closing remarks deserve to be remembered:

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8 Responses to September 2, 1945: Japan Surrenders

  • Thanks much, Don, for posting this great video. In my opinion, MacArthur would have made a superb president. There was a special aura about him and he was one of the most beloved military leaders in history.
    To personalize this, I have a good friend — Charlie Marquardt, who lives in my hometown and is now 98 years old. Charlie’s hoping to make it to 100 and has been through a rough patch in recent days and hospitalized. I visit him often and thought he was a goner two weeks ago but he has since bounced back and is in rehab. I love that man. Anyway, I blogged about him on my website and here is the portion of my piece that’s relevant to the topic at hand:
    Charlie is from good hardy stock and from what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation.” A Navy gunner’s mate on the USS Tennessee during World II in the Pacific, Charlie and tens of thousands of other Americans in uniform fought gallantly and many lost their lives or limbs in defending this great nation against the sworn enemies of freedom. During, 1944-45, the Tennessee, which had been damaged along with other U.S. battleships in the 1941 Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, and its crew saw a lot of action including key battles at Leyte Gulf, Surigao Strait, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

    The Tennessee fired more than 150,000 projectiles, took a few kamikaze hits including one near the end of the war in 1945 when a Japanese suicide plane hit the ship, killing 22 men and injuring 107. “We were in some fierce battles,” Charlie told me back in 2002. While some of the men died or were injured nearby, Charlie came away with a couple of perforated eardrums from the noise of the big guns. “We were in the turret most of the time. Up on deck, there were smaller weapons. I recall seeing dismembered arms and legs up there. There are some things you never forget,” he said during my 2002 interview with him.

    Marquardt and his fellow sailors witnessed the formal Japanese surrender Sept. 2, 1945, held aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The Tennessee and its nearly 1,200-member crew earned a Navy unit commendation and 10 battle stars for World War II service.

    There are no finer people than our World War II veterans and as the years fade and every day we lose more of them, Americans today should always remember their enormous sacrifices with everlasting gratitude.

  • In her 1957 social/political article “Honoria” Taylor Caldwell chronicles the rise and fall of the fictitious country she calls “Honoria”. She ends the article with a very foreboding rebuke of society. “It is a stern fact of history that no nation that rushed to the abyss ever turned back. Not ever, in the long history of the world. We are now on the edge of the abyss. Can we, for the first time in history, turn back? It is up to you.”

    Caldwell, one of my favorite writers (Dear and Glorious Physician (St. Luke) and Great Lion of God (St. Paul), along with Pillar of Iron (the life of Cicero), also penned this:

    “The nature of human beings never changes; it is immutable. The present generation of children and the present generation of young adults from the age of thirteen to eighteen is, therefore, no different from that of their great-great-grandparents. Political fads come and go; theories rise and fall; the scientific ‘truth’ of today becomes the discarded error of tomorrow. Man’s ideas change, but not his inherent nature. That remains. So, if the children are monstrous today – even criminal – it is not because their natures have become polluted, but because they have not been taught better, nor disciplined.” – On Growing Up Tough, chapter The Purple Lodge

  • My uncle (RIP) was a fine man. He served as a machinist’s mate on liberty ships engine rooms. He was a young man and a bit wild.

    His brother was getting married over a weekend and he had a pass to be at the wedding. So, he took a train and went. He didn’t calculate the travel time and returned late for his ship’s sailing.

    He was given “captain’s mast” punishment fined and busted, and assigned to another liberty ship.

    The ship he missed was the USS Mount Hood on which all hands were killed in an ammunition explosion in Manila Bay.

    “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.”

  • MacArthur Joe was a great man with great flaws, his greatest flaw being his vanity. Overall I tend to be an admirer, but I can assure you that there are people out there, including some World War II veterans, who become red with rage at the mention of his name.

    His finest moment was his “shogunate” in Japan where he took a completely defeated nation, on the verge of millions dying of famine, and, more than any other man, helped transfrom it into a peaceful and prosperous land. It was a miracle, and he does not get nearly enough credit for how skillfully he managed it. His greatest moment was when he had millions of tons of food shipped from the US in 1945-1946 to feed a starving Japan. By this time Americans knew fully how our POWs had been treated at the hands of the Japanese, and shipping food to that country was deeply unpopular. MacArthur stated that the Japanese people and their well-being were his responsibility and he was not going to see millions of them die on his watch of starvation. Reacting to criticism in Congress of feeding Japan, he sent off this blunt missive:

    “Starvation breeds mass unrest, disorder and violence,” he cabled Washington. “Give me bread or give me bullets.”

    It was MacAthur’s finest hour.

  • Yes, Don, I am aware of his vain side and egoism but his other virtues shone through.
    Here’s a poem I carry around in my wallet:

    MacArthur was so inspired by Samuel Ullman’s poem that he popularized it and kept a framed copy in his office while Supreme Allied Commander in Japan. He quoted it so often in his speeches that it became known as “MacArthur’s Credo.”

    The Poem:

    Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years.
    People grow old only by deserting their ideals.
    Years wrinkle the skin but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles
    the soul.

    Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair . . .
    these are the quick equivalents of the
    long years that bow the head and turn
    the growing spirit back to dust.

    Whether 70 or 16, there is, in every being’s heart the love of
    wonder, the sweet amazement of the stars, and the star-like
    things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events,
    the unfailing childlike appetite for “What Next?”

    You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt,
    as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear,
    as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

    So long as your heart receives messages of
    beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from
    the earth, from man and from the Infinite,
    so long are you young.

    When all the wires are down, and all the
    central places of your heart are covered with
    the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism,
    then, and only then, are you grown old indeed,
    and may God have mercy on your soul.

  • Years ago, I read Manchester’s American Caesar. I was on the road and got it in each night before I hit the saloon.

    I think MacArthur was self-absorbed and consciously striving for arete – personal perfection (I think). As all classical, tragic heroes hubris was another flaw. I guess that became the “fatal flaw” when the General thought he could make Truman blink.

  • Shaw, many great military men had hubris, which is self-confidence to the max. Patton was one, Rickover another. I’d rather have a general or admiral with an inflated self-importance than a more reserved man (Ike?)

  • Joe,

    You’re right. Generals should be supremely confident.

    I can’t understand how I remember stuff Brother Anthony taught in Freshman Ancient Lit. in 1968, and I can’t remember . . . what was the topic?

    Even more amazing because: In school I was drinking more than thinking; and I misspent most of the last 40 years in banking.

    As I remember, the “formula” in Greek tragedy was the hero was undone (tragedy means it doesn’t end happily/well) because his over weaning pride caused either the gods or the people to ruin him.

    And, I think it was this: Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

Pope Benedict Asks for Forgiveness

Friday, September 2, AD 2011

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI told the annual gathering of his “Study Group” (some of his former students) to ask God’s forgiveness on behalf of generations of “cradle Catholics” who have failed to transmit the faith to others.

No doubt, evangelizing others is an important dimension of Catholic life, as Pope Paul VI reminded the Church in his 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi:

…what matters is to evangelize man’s culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et spes, always taking the person as one’s starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God. (#20)

Where evangelization first takes place is in the home as parents evangelize their children in the Roman Catholic faith and its practice.  Today, the most-often heard lament is that Roman Catholic parents, in general, are not evangelizing their children and, of those who do, they are not evangelizing their children in the Roman Catholic faith and its practice but in some generic form of Christianity that emphasizes democratic values and aspirations.

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7 Responses to Pope Benedict Asks for Forgiveness

  • Mama, who pays for Neighbors A to go to school?

    Well, daddy pays for some of it in property taxes.

    Mama, who pays for Neighbors B to go to school?

    Well, daddy pays for some of it in the church tithe.

    Mama, who pays for our school?

    Daddy does.

    The Catholic homeschooler who belongs to a parish with a school gets triple taxed.

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  • It seems to me that the Catholic Church needs to address the major cause for the mass exodus of the children of the Baby Boomers, the failure of the Church to give good catechesis in their formative years. I was born in 1947 and was the last child in my family to receive formation in the Baltimore Catechism. After me, the catechism was rejected in favor of whiffly, nondoctrinal, feel-good fluff. None of my younger siblings are practicing Catholics. They don’t even know what Catholicism is!
    I remained a faithful Catholic through all the storms of Humanae Vitae and pseudo Vatican II “reforms” largely because I had good formation, and hung around with others who had likewise. By God’s grace, I married a man who also knew his faith, and we have a large family of 10 children who have all maintained their Catholic identity, some even with religious vocations. When asked by other heartbroken friends how this happened, I tell them I think it is largely because when my husband went to his first Catholic school experience for parents to involve them in their child’s first sacraments, what he heard there so horrified him that he began to teach the children the Baltimore Catechism at home. It can be found online, and I know grandparents who quietly teach it to their grandchildren on visits.
    But noone can estimate the damage done by generations of no catechisis by a Church that used to take that role very seriously. Even homilies can be mostly “fluffy” instead of dealing with Church teaching on tough issues.
    THAT should be what the pope apologizes for, and for which the Church is responsible. Nevermind the colleges, bring those Catholic parochial schools up to speed! Where is their “oath of allegiance”?

  • But noone can estimate the damage done by generations of no catechisis by a Church that used to take that role very seriously.

    Check your Catechism of the Catholic Church. Parents have primary responsibility for the catechesis of their children.

    I’m of the opinion that the institutional church’s takeover of that parental role, however well-intended its motives were, was a grievous mistake that over time has done great harm to the Body of Christ that is His Church – as your personal testimony illustrates.

    The institutional church must humbly recognize that its role is to be an assistant to parents in their role of chief catechist to their children, not an usurper of that role. I believe this will require that formal, classroom catechesis through the Church be aimed primarily at adults, not children. And adult catechesis must be understood by the faithful as a commitment to lifelong learning.

    There’s a push in many dioceses for more “youth ministry.” Some hope that will be a fix for the poor catechesis of children in prior years. I’m doubtful about that.

  • Micha, I have run your response by one of my adult children , and he agrees that it is the enthusiasm for the Faith that parents communicate which makes the difference for growing children.
    On further thought, I also tend to generalize our experiences here in our diocese regarding Catholic education. We are in a liberal area, and experimentation, beginning in the 70’s and continuing until recently, has left our faithful quite scarred.
    The children were the most harmed, since they were the least protected by a sense of how the Church had been historically. “Bring a new Church into being” is one of the songs we still sing here, and incapsulates the attitude that remains here.
    I agree with you that evangelizing the parents is the key. Pope John Paul II said that evangelization has to proceed catechizing, for there to be an authentic renewal of the whole person. My husband read your remarks and remembers back to his Irish small town experience of the Faith. His parents distributed the local Catholic paper, went to devotions regularly, put up brothers who were evangelizing in their house, read Catholic literature, went to St. Vincent to Paul meetings and helped distribute food and clothing to the needy.
    Needless to say he has always had a vibrant faithlife. But he also had a warm family life, without the incredible stressors of addiction, violence, or divorce. My awareness is that the family lifestyle is also critical to an understanding of Who God Is. For better or worse, the father image of alot of us leaves much to be desired.
    Luckily, God works with each of us as we are, and gives familes the tools they need for them to play a part in His plan. And only He knows what has been given and what is expected.
    Thanks for your thoughtful answer.
    ps I have one child involved with ministry to youth, for two years on a college campus (FOCUS) and now in a parish. She finds the Holy Spirit is very active in converting these young people and making them in turn apostles and evangelizers. Apparently the Holy Spirit is alive and well and able to bridge the gap left gaping by family or schools!

  • The majority of Catholic parents send their children to government schools where practical atheism is the norm. Many times I’ve heard governmetnt school Catholics, particularly those who work there, chide the Faith for failure to adopt modern secular norms. As long as most Catholilc parents prefer to save tuition money and send their children to be schooled among atheists, we’ll not evangelize society.

  • One of the little known parts of the health care act are the sections that deal with the adult formation of children.

    Title V of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 701 et seq.), as amended by sections 2951 and 2952(c), is amended by adding at the end the following:

    It is as a result of this law that children’s upbringing now belongs to the State.

    From the health care act:

    `(C) ADULTHOOD PREPARATION SUBJECTS- The adulthood preparation subjects described in this subparagraph are the following:
    `(i) Healthy relationships, such as positive self-esteem and relationship dynamics, friendships, dating, romantic involvement, marriage, and family interactions.
    `(ii) Adolescent development, such as the development of healthy attitudes and values about adolescent growth and development, body image, racial and ethnic diversity, and other related subjects.
    `(iii) Financial literacy.
    `(iv) Parent-child communication.
    `(v) Educational and career success, such as developing skills for employment preparation, job seeking, independent living, financial self-sufficiency, and workplace productivity.
    `(vi) Healthy life skills, such as goal-setting, decision making, negotiation, communication and interpersonal skills, and stress management.

    This is a secular/atheistic government that does not recognize inalieanable rights as endowed by a Supreme Being (God) and will be teaching children a world view devoid of Chrisitan/Catholic spirituality.

    The government embracing a UN perspective regarding the ‘rights of a child’ to sexual activity is especially frightening. It is also a perspective in which parents have no rights.

    Santorum makes an interesting point in this video clip (about 28 secs in): http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PzzDrOR30U8

    He states that those who hold certain faith beliefs will be identified as “bigots” and then those identified as ‘bigots’ will not be allowed professional licenses. I believe it was Dr. Jane Orient who, after reading the act expressed concern that if drs don’t participate in Obamacare they will also have their licenses pulled. Here is another article that she wrote that addresses various concerns related to licensing. Excellent article: http://www.conservativeusa.org/orien100.htm

    What to me is particularly sad is just how many Catholics supported this abominable evil (there is so much more in this law that I am not addressing here….particularly as it relates to unlimited authorization of medical, biological, social, behavioral, psychological (etc) research according to guidelines established by a government that does not recognize God nor the sanctity of life). It is no accident that the law was passed connected to the education law. Thru curriculum regulation you will see Catholic preschool, grade school, high schools closed,and universities lose their ability for students to get student loans to attend their programs. And despite Sr. Keegans believes, yes, Catholic hospitals, and clinics will be forced to shut thier doors — unless they embrace the atheistic/secularism world view.

    “Evangalism” regarding correct Catholic doctrine is critical. It needs to be an evangalism based on true Catholic doctrine where Life is sacred and man is the steward of the earth, not the servant of the earth. A world view where God created the earth for man, and not a world view where man is expendable and subservient to the earth.