War and the Eclipse of Moral Reason

Wednesday, October 12, AD 2011

This post was prompted by Kyle Cupp’s recent reflections on the “inviolability of human life” (Vox Nova October 6, 2011). Insofar as it concerns a republication of an essay pertinent to the topic of Kyle’s post, I will confine my own introduction to three responses that came to my mind during the course of reading.

First, with regards to the assertion that “any direct killing is not only an attack on the creature but an attack on God, which is always and everywhere evil” — I have often wondered how do advocates of this line of thought address God’s summary execution of Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament (Acts Chapter 5)?

Secondly, it seems to me that the adoption of a stance of absolute pacifism in some Christian circles flirts dangerously with the heresy of Marcionism — in that its adherents seem all too willing to draw a sharp divide between the God if the Israelites in the Old Testament (who was not above ordering Israel’s kings, prophets and judges to use lethal force, to say nothing of His own actions) and the by-and-large peaceful and nonviolent God of the New Testament (to which, again, the story of Ananias and Saphira might constitute an unsightly and conflicting blemish). This is exemplified in one reader’s comment:

More proof, if any were needed, that the so-called “Old Testament” should be consigned to the literature shelf, along with Homer and the rest of the primitive, pre-Christian texts. The “O.T.” can be cited to justify virtually any kind of homicide one should want to commit, including genocide. All one needs do is think that he’s channeling God’s will and he can kill with guilt-free abandon. Some call it piety; some call it pathology.

Cardinal Dulles once observed that the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution, and that while Jesus refrained from using force in most cases (a notable exeption being driving the money-changers from the temple with a whip), “at no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment.” While he argued in opposition to the death penalty, he wisely saw that one could not do so in ignorance of, or opposition to, Catholic tradition. His example is worth emulating.

My third and final point has to do with the “dirty hands” perspective — the assertion that even in situations where killing is warranted (as a defensive measure), the mere act of taking human life itself is intrinsically immoral, the equasion of armed force with violance, and lethal force to murder, such that any resort to such is deemed necessarily sinful. Or as Kyle says: “Killing is always wrong, even when it’s right.” Curiously, I find this stance indicative of a distinctly Protestant mentality that dispenses with centuries of Catholic thought and tradition. (That said, we are in an age now where it seems that Protestant and Catholic voices have become indistinguishable on this very subject, with multiple fronts voicing indiscriminate condemnation of armed force without qualification).

This last and final point is best argued in the following essay, “War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning”, by Dr. Philip Blosser. (Republished here by kind permission of the author) — a discussion of which I hope will bear much fruit.

— Christopher Blosser

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64 Responses to War and the Eclipse of Moral Reason

  • Oh Lord, Phil and Chris, you have gone and done it! You have crossed the Shavian line in the sand. You’re now (gasp!) death penalty maxiumists! God’s prophet will thunder from Seattle to solemnly damm you for your blood lust! Repent, or face the prospect of your comboxes of being flooded with ani-death penalty tirades1 LOL!

  • How does John 8:10 fit?

    At first glance, Christ abrogates the Mosaic law. In essence, He says that only the sinless (i.e. God) can righteously stone the woman for her sins.

    As for the proposition that the death penalty does not contravene Charity, I have to respectfully disagree.

    The death penalty is sometimes necessary. Indeed, through much of history, it was the only choice that would protect society from further injury. However, where alternatives exist, surely Charity demands that we choose the alternative.

    I believe that all men can turn to God and accept His mercy. This capacity exists in the most sinful as much as in the least. If this be so, then more time may be of great benefit to those deserving of capital punishment. SS Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler’s story illustrates my point I think.

    It is probably uncommon that men who justly face death for their assault against society turn towards God. Doesn’t the possibility that a soul, starved of the evil influences that brought him to death’s door, might one night see himself for who he is and God for who He is and, so, repent, justify the abolition of the death penalty?

  • What in heck is a vox nova?

    “Some would say, ‘Well Father, what about those people who support the war in Iraq, or the death penalty, or oppose undocumented aliens? Aren’t those just as important, and aren’t Catholic politicians who support those “bad Catholics” too?’

    “Simple answer: ‘No. Not one of those issues, or any other similar issues, except for the attack on traditional marriage is a matter of absolute intrinsic evil in itself.'”
    Father John De Celles, 9/1/2008

    And so, if they vote for abortion, contraception, euthanasia, gay marriage, etc. because the candidate opposes the DP and proposes socialism [fill in the blank].

  • G-Veg, Jesus was responding to Pharisees who had caught a woman in the act and wanted Him to pass judgement. What they did was illegal, according to the Mosaic Law, because both the woman and the man involved had to be tried (So the Pharisees actually abrogated that law). Besides, they were trying to trap Jesus. If He said that she shouldn’t be executed, they could say that He opposed the Law. If He said that she should, not only would they accuse him of lacking compassion but fomenting rebellions against Rome, since the Romans were the only authority that could perform executions in first-century Palestine (that’s why the Pharisees went to Pilate to crucify Jesus; they couldn’t do it themselves).

    Jesus’ answer did not excuse the sin. It pointed out the Pharisees’ own trechery…and the Pharisees knew it; just look at their immediate reaction.

    Not even Sister Helen Prejean, one of the most popular opponents of capital punishment, contends that the abolitionist position has biblical roots, or that John 8 condemns capital punishment, as she admitted in her book, Dead Man Walking:

    “It is abundantly clear that the Bible depicts murder as a capital crime for which death is considered the appropriate punishment, and one is hard pressed to find a biblical ‘proof text’ in either the Hebrew Testament or the New Testament which unequivocally refutes this. Even Jesus’ admonition ‘Let him without sin cast the first stone,’ when He was asked the appropriate punishment for an adulteress (John 8:7) – the Mosaic Law prescribed death – should be read in its proper context.

    This passage is an ‘entrapment’ story, which sought to show Jesus’ wisdom in besting His adversaries. It is not an ethical pronouncement about capital punishment.”

    Besides, adultery no longer is considered a capital offense by any nation outside of the Muslim world.

  • Besides, the whole concept of “the inviolability of human life” denies the fact that God, as the Author of life, has the prerogative to outline conditions under which that life must be taken — and also effectively makes life itself a kind of idol. That last statement is pretty strong, I admit, but eminently logical.

  • I have disagreed more often than I have agreed with Joseph over the years, but I think his last comment is spot on correct. Catholics can have a disordered understanding of the importance of life in much the same way as Protestants can have a disordered understanding of the importance of Scripture. These disorders can lead to the worship of life or Scripture instead of God.

  • I hadn’t considered the NT passage in that context before so I appreciate the response.

    My larger point about the death penalty stands unanswered though. (I’m not sure whether the allegation that some Catholics idolize life was meant to answer it or not. If so, I need something further to understand the point.)

    I trust that you will humor my response to the point that justice demands death as a punishment for some crimes.

    It may be that justice demands certain punishments for certain crimes. God made all and His destruction of anything He created is eminently just. This is a simple truth. However, men presume too much when they declare themselves the righteous hands of God. Frankly Man doesn’t have that great a track record on justice so it is a bit of a farce to declare that so-and-so deserves death but another does not.

    The justness of the death penalty as a general punishment is somewhat distinct from the justness of a particular sentence but it is not entirely separate. I don’t think it quite right to suggest that a society so poor at determining guilt is equipped to dispense so final a punishment. Even if it were, even if we got it right all of the time, it still doesn’t answer the charge that killing a man cuts him off from the opportunity to be saved.

    It isn’t that life is valuable in and of itself, it is that being alive is the precondition to accepting God’s mercy. That’s not idolatry, it is Charity for a fellow sinner.

  • G-Veg, here’s a commentary I wrote for Front Page Magazine on the Catholic view of capital punishment, exemplified by the Vatican’s condemnation of Saddam Hussein’s execution: http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=1463

  • In regard to the death penalty, Pius XII set forth well the traditional Catholic view in a speech on March 13, 1943 to parish priests in Rome:

    “Human life is untouchable except for legitimate individual self-defense, a just war carried out with just methods, and the death penalty meted out by public authority for extremely grave and very specific and proven crimes.”

    The papal states had the death penalty and executions were not infrequent. The Vatican had the death penalty from 1929 to 1969 which was reserved as a punishment for assassination of the Pope.

    Here is a good wikipedia article on Giovanni Battista Bugatti, the official executioner of Pius IX, who carried out some 516 executions between 1796 and 1865:


  • I thought the later movies about veitnam you mention were made well after Vietnamese War, not at its end?

    The issue with Vietnam, as it is with many of our skirmishes of late, is the very mixed motives for which we get involved. WWII seemed pretty straightforward. Vietnam, as well as many of our forays into Latin America and elsewhere have much more cynical motives. Thus, it is not that Just War is rejected for pacificism, but that Just War, when applied, demonstrates many of our excursions are seriously lacking. That, and for good reason, people trust the gubmint far less in these matters than they used to.

  • “WWII seemed pretty straightforward.”

    Only after Pearl Harbor cmatt. Before Pearl Harbor quite a few Americans, probably a majority, were quite willing to see the rest of the world go to hell as long as the US could stay out of it. In regard to Vietnam the problem was that most Americans eventually concluded it wasn’t worth it. Other than the idiot Leftists like Jane Fonda who actively supported the enemy, most Americans had no illusions about what the Communists would do once they won. However, the death toll for Americans was simply too high to maintain the war effort where the existence of America wasn’t at stake. War weariness historically sets in for the US at about the third year of a conflict, and it takes a very great threat to the US itself for the US to stay the course, unless casualties are relatively minor. (Certainly of course casualties are never minor to the wounded and the dead and their grieving families.)

  • Christopher

    Y0ur fathers article was one of the best I read at the time. Still one of the best I read from any time.

    I was coming home from the dentist about that time and as idea for a satire came into my head. “Root Canals and the Decline of Moral Reasoning”. Following the logic of those being criticized, dentists should not do root canals because the patient feels pain for the dentist’s instrumtnerts. Better to take the moral high road and leave them with and intolorable tooth ache. After the pain killer wore off it did not seem as funny.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Permit me the risk of sounding even more distinctly Protestant by explaining my statement a bit further. I said killing is always wrong, even when it’s right. I stand by that, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the wrongness of killing is necessarily sinful or detrimental to the soul. In my perhaps muddled way of thinking, killing presents us with an act that defies our moral categories. Even though I see good reason to think of killing as justifiable in some circumstances, I cannot escape the lingering sense that even these acts of killing are evils to be avoided. The Church itself calls for all war (emphasis on “all”) to be outlawed by international consent. Never again war, pontiffs have spoken. Why does the Church desire an end to deeds that can be just? Perhaps because even just killing is a moral evil of sorts.

  • Kyle, the Vatican cannot be seen as taking sides in any war because doing so would sabotage its diplomatic credibility, let alone its moral credibility (though some of us believe the Vatican has no moral credibility, but that’s a discussion for another day). In addition, there’s a strong sense of appeasement within the Vatican, as exempllified by its stance not only on the 2003 invasion of Iraq but also by its stance on the 1990-91 invasion of Iraq, which the UN approved to get Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait, which Iraq attacked without provocation and tried to annex.

    If the Vatican believes that “just killing is a moral evil of sorts,” then it’s clashing headlong with, for example, the OT’s divine pronouncements against the Canaanites (because of barbaric religious practices) and the Amalekites (for attacking the Israelites when they were at their most vulnerable during the Exodus). Granted, we no longer live in OT times. But anything “just” cannot be considered a “moral evil;” doing so is not only a logical contradiction but also an ethical one.

  • Kyle is correct in that killing men is an evil to be avoided if possible. I have talked to many combat veterans over the years and few of them have expressed animosity towards the men they were fighting, as opposed to the causes those men fought for. The veterans I have spoken to viewed their combat opponents as simply men like them fighting for their country and their deaths as a sad thing, although far prefererable to the veteran and his buddies dying.

    I think it was Wellington after Waterloo who said that the only thing half as melacholy as a battle lost is a battle won. Combat veterans often have a bond going through that searing experience that civilians, thankfully, never know. That is why in the 1880s, for example, Union and Confederate veterans began holding joint reunions. Killing is a very sad thing, but in this fallen world it is often a very necessary thing, lest far worse things occur.

  • Donald
    You know this but it needs to be added….fighting is an ontic evil of being so to speak but it must be done with spirit, energy, committment and belief. If a combatant is filled with present regret about fighting, he will lose. The Kuomintang really gave their second best in the defense of Nanking against the Japanese which turned into their tenth best when soldiers fleeing Shanghai quit and dressed like civilians….leading to a contempt by Japanese which led to tens of thousands of poorer Chinese women of every conceivable age being raped and killed in the tens of thousands for 6 weeks by an army that Mitsui had repeatedly ordered to treat civilians with respect because the world was watching.
    Second Timothy 3:1 says, “In the last days, dangerous times will come.”. Christ said there will be wars and the rumors of wars but such would be the beginning of sorrows. Outlawing war by international agreement simply doesn’t have credibility in a world where the apostasy must take place. I don’t look at quixotic statements of two Popes…minus 263 other Popes. I look at their bodyguards and what those bodyguards are carrying….SIG pistols and H&K submachine
    guns…top of the line. Don’t look at words; look at choices in the everyday.

  • I do not disagree Bill. One can be sick at the idea of killing other people, while still being filled with pride in one’s unit and believing that it it can overcome anything it confronts. Fortunately we humans are complicated creations of a loving God and can hold various thoughts and emotions at the same time.

  • Don, The Church hasn’t always been on the side of right in its dealings in the world. Sometimes the all too human aspects of the institution overwhelm its divine mandate. It strikes me that, with regards to executions of condemned criminals, the Church Temporal did what was common and prudent at that point in history. The Church acted as a sovereign and, as such, exacted Man’s justice. If I have it right, then I don’t believe that the response addresses the underlying concern: that cutting a man off from the opportunity to accept God’s mercy is a grave evil and could only be the right choice where there are no reasonable alternatives.

    Joseph, Thank you for pointing me to the articles and papal statements on the matter. I had not heard or read them before – my catechesis being woefully inadequate. I rather think though that our Popes and Bishops have the better of the argument and that your take on the matter lacks the cohesiveness and a concordance with scripture and tradition requisite to prevail over the official position of the Church.

    Aquinas’ critique is far more cogent and persuasive. This is hardly surprising and it is worth pondering his position that the imminence of death for one’s crimes makes stark the connection between life’s choices and the consequences. He is arguing that if staring death in the face for one’s sins doesn’t turn the hart, nothing will. I don’t argue that this may be true. We can imagine a theocracy in which punishment is meted out based upon a concern for the soul of the condemned. We can conceive of a tribunal as much concerned with reclaiming lost souls as man’s justice, sentencing one to death and another to a lifetime in jail based upon their receptiveness to correction. However, I suspect that such conjecture is purely utopian – that it is not likely to work as intended.

    Man’s justice is terribly flawed precisely because Man is terribly flawed. Our self interest, prejudices, and imaginings intervene in our perception of Truth to create confusion. Our conclusions are riddled with fault and uncertainty.

    We are pretty good at dispensing justice on a broad spectrum of law. There may be many individual cases that reach an un-just result but the law, as a whole, finds guilt where there is guilt and acquits where there isn’t. So long as we are talking about other than punishment that terminates life, this may be good enough. It may be the best we are capable of. However, I am arguing that it isn’t good enough when we are talking about capital punishment. It is evident from your article that the Church agrees and fills in my sophomoric arguments with a great depth of learned opinions. Against this backdrop, your defense of death lacks sufficient substance to convince.

    I hope you will not misunderstand my response to be in any sense scoffing. Your article betrays a fine intellect. I appreciate your entertaining my thoughts on the matter. I am just not convinced that 1) because the Church executed people in the past that the death penalty is right or 2) because man’s sense of what is just or concern for the victims and their families is of greater importance than salvation.

  • G- Veg
    In the process of reading the recent Popes, I would suggest you first read God in Genesis 9:6 because John Paul II not only read it but throughout Evangelium Vitae, he quotes the half of it that was consonant with his personal proclivity and he sequesters or removes from view the half that he dislikes:

    ” Anyone who sheds the blood of a human being,
    by a human being shall that one’s blood be shed;
    For in the image of God
    have human beings been made.”

    Read Evangelium Vitae which positions itself against the death penalty. JPII cites the last two lines repeatedly and never shows the reader the first two lines. Likewise no where in EV does JPII quote Romans 13:4. He’d rather you not see it but it is the NT echo of the first two lines of Genesis 9:6. He saw both quotes and effectively hides them from the reader. That kind of editing of the word of God on a topic would get a very low mark as an essay in any good university.

  • Mr. Bannon,

    I respectfully disagree with your approach to resolving complex moral questions.

    I am not a protestant. I do not reserve to myself the authority to determine what the Word means when doing so would directly conflict with the Church or, worse yet, lead me to conclude that the Church is lying.

    You are entirely too bold in your critique of our Popes.

  • G-Veg
    So in 1455 after Romanus Pontifex, you if Portuguese would have felt free to enslave natives who resisted the gospel ( mid 4th large paragraph) and after Exsurge Domine in 1520 (art.33), you would have supported burning heretics against Luther’s objections and in line with Leo X. That means that educated laity go in any direction whatsoever based on non infallible texts of Popes.

  • We all approach moral problems in different ways. I can only speak for myself.

    I first ask if I know something to be clearly true – not in some amorphous way but with a very human certainty. Then I ask if what I know matches what the Church teaches. If it does, end of dilemma.

    If I am uncertain, and I often am, I yield to the Church’s clear and specific guidance.

    If the particular problem presents me with uncertainties and the Church has not specifically spoken to the issues, I seek advice from my betters and incorporate the different answers into what I know. I then run that result against what the Church teaches to make sure the answer doesn’t contradict the Truth and, if it doesn’t, I go with it and hope for the best.

    I pray about such things quite a lot and would really appreciate it if God would just give me the answer in sort of a burning bush moment. That hasn’t happened yet.

    What is your approach?

  • My approach was to actually read the Scriptures cover to cover and memorize much, then I read Aquinas’ Summa Theologica almost cover to cover, then I read almost all of Augustine. That gave me the scriptures with the commentary of the two minds who were the best on it. Then I read Rahner and the extreme modern biblical scholar who was on the Pontifical Biblical Commission under JPII and under Benedict as Cardinal…..Raymond Brown. I interwove that with doing intimate Christian social work through caring for the twins of a heroin dealer and the daughter of a prositute for years in Newark. Thus when John Paul wrote EV, I had much background to know what he was leaving out. I submitted to his infallible passage condemning euthanasia despite my proclivity in favor of it in extreme situations like my mom’s; and I will always see his non infallible passages on the death penalty as deceptive but well intentioned…but deceptive. Were he interested in prisons, he would have noticed that Catholic dominant countries sans death penalties are in the forefront of high murder rate countries of the world. He never noticed. Neither he nor Benedict accepts the first person imperative nature of God giving death penalties or war orders (see EV sect.40 and Verbum Domine sect.42)….and there they part company with 263 other Popes you apparently would have followed in their time. That means if God did not give the war orders and death penalty orders in the first person imperative that scripture says He did…..then guess what….all of His first person imperatives like the Ten Commandments are now vulnerable. The anti gay action directives it can be argued were never really from God either just as the death penalties were not. Men can covet their neighbors wife or Japanese Maple. Who knows if God really opposed sloth?
    Can you see then why Christ quoted scripture (often out of context like Aquinas and Billy Graham)…. and why Christ said in John 10:35….”the scriptures cannot be broken”.
    John Paul and Benedict abided Raymond Brown who didn’t even believe that Mary said the Magnificat (page 349 “Birth of the Messiah”). It is no great wonder that they used his example to subtract God giving death penalties or war orders.

  • Kyle and Blosser can both agree, can’t they, with Augustine: that even just wars and executions should be occasions for wailing, lamentations, and prayers for the Christian. I take it only that Kyle is emphasizing this last aspect–that even just wars are to be lamented–and that Blosser is emphasizing the prior aspect–that there could in principle be a just war or a just execution. Is there really a difference in principle here?

    If you agree with Weigel’s claim that just war theory does not contain within it a presumption against violence, then you have a hard time making sense of Augustine’s description of just war. But Weigel’s reading of the tradition is not accurate; hence we can say, with Augustine, that just wars exist, and that they should nonetheless be lamented, with groans and tears. There’s a both/and here, not an either/or.

  • Mr. Bannon,

    I am very sorry that your mother suffered and appreciate your charity. In so many ways, a Christianity without action is no Christianity at all.

    Consciences and intellects are not formed equally. Some are sufficiently formed to determine for themselves what scripture says and means and to incorporate those ideas into the broader fabric of their experience and learning. I submit that most men are not up to this task and here state that I am one of these.

    The road to Luther and rebellion begins with well intentioned and intelligent men who favor their views over the Church’s. Lesser men look at a dilemma and say “I do not know and the Church has spoken so the Church is presumably right.” Men of greater knowledge and deeper intellects look at a dilemma and say “I can figure this out and, if the Church and I are in agreement, so be it. If not, I will reject the Church’s position in favor of my own.”

    Many who adopt that line of reasoning are not really up to the challenge. Their views are mere substitutions of their wishes and conceits for Truth.

    I cannot agree that the Church’s positions are as nothing and that a loose linking of writers and scripture should supplant the Church’s position. I will not become accustomed to narrowing my trust in the Church’s teaching to only that which is declared infallible. If that makes me a bit of a rube, so be it.

  • G-Veg
    Luther actually agreed with John Paul II’s sect.80 of Splendor of the Truth on torture at least in 1520; and Calvin had our 1830 answer on usury in 1545.
    Peace….and at minimum, carry pepper spray because Ephesians 5:16 says “the days are evil”….the Pope is carrying much more than pepper spray through his body guards…..this inter alia:


  • I don’t look at quixotic statements of two Popes…minus 263 other Popes. I look at their bodyguards and what those bodyguards are carrying….SIG pistols and H&K submachine guns…top of the line. Don’t look at words; look at choices in the everyday.

    Bill, that is probably the most intelligent comment on this thread. Good on ‘ya!

  • …I will always see (John Paul II’s) non infallible passages on the death penalty as deceptive but well intentioned…but deceptive. Were he interested in prisons, he would have noticed that Catholic dominant countries sans death penalties are in the forefront of high murder rate countries of the world. He never noticed. Neither he nor Benedict accepts the first person imperative nature of God giving death penalties or war orders (see EV sect.40 and Verbum Domine sect.42)….and there they part company with 263 other Popes you apparently would have followed in their time. That means if God did not give the war orders and death penalty orders in the first person imperative that scripture says He did…..then guess what….all of His first person imperatives like the Ten Commandments are now vulnerable.

    Bill, I wish you would write more about this subject in Catholic outlets. Too many Catholics favor the current revisionist policy either because they personally oppose capital punishment or do not have the intellectual courage to challenge the writings of any Pope, let alone an extremely popular Pope.

  • I hope you will not misunderstand my response to be in any sense scoffing. Your article betrays a fine intellect. I appreciate your entertaining my thoughts on the matter. I am just not convinced that 1) because the Church executed people in the past that the death penalty is right or 2) because man’s sense of what is just or concern for the victims and their families is of greater importance than salvation.

    G-Veg, thank you so much for your compliments. Please re-read my article because my opposition isn’t based on whether the Vatican City State performed executions or on man’s sense of what is just. My opposition is based on the fact that the Church’s revisionist policy directly contradicts divine revelation when it comes to dealing with murderers (as Bill Bannon addressed in previous posts).

    Regarding salvation and concern for victims, those are two different categories. Accepting salvation is the responsibility of the perpetrator; that responsibility doesn’t change because of the nature or length of the sentence. St. Paul said that “now is the day of salvation!” Showing concern for victims is one of the Church’s moral and spiritual duties — one it doesn’t perform very well, btw. That doesn’t mean that the victims have no responsibility for their reactions. But if you have ever lost a loved one (as I have, twice), you know that grief can be powerful and overwhelming. The contemporary Church’s focus on the perpetrators of evil effectively not only ignores the suffering of the victims but, essentially, mocks it (as McCarrick’s comments demonstrated). That should be an abomination to anybody who has even a modicum of compassion.

    One more thing, and this came to me after I wrote the piece: JPII’s revisionism essentially changes the fundamental focus of the argument. Before, the focus was placed on offending the inviolability of the divine image in humanity. Now, the focus is placed on the state’s ability to protect society, which varies with the its ability to fund prisons and other penal measures. Given this nation’s current economic problems, many states may find it necessary to cut such expenditures, thus increasing the risk of putting dangerous criminals back on the street.

    I’m not arguing that capital criminals should be executed as a cost-cutting measure; that would be immoral. I am saying, however, that relying on the state’s ability to provide penal measures as a fundamental thrust of Church policy carries its own set of societal problems.

  • Joseph D’Hippolito,
    Dissent against the papal non infallible is hidden in Catholic moral theology tomes which few buy or even know of; and such dissent is obscured by Lumen Gentium 25’s partial truth on religious submission of mind and will. Left to itself Lumen Gentium 25 ( if read partially the way it’s quoted) orders one to obey the pro slavery injunction of Pope Nicholas V and three successors and obey the pro burning at the stake idea of Pope Leo X. So how could a Catholic avoid two alleged intrinsic evils in the 15th and 16th centuries if they gave religious submission to acts now consideted inrinsic evils? But theologian Fr. Yves Congar noted that Councils often make partial truths whose completion,I add, can be found in LG 25’s case in conservative
    Germain Grisez’s “Christian Moral Principles” page 854…allowing dissent that is studious inter alia and against the non infallible. Put LG 25’s religious submission of mind and will together with the studious prayerful dissent clause hidden in moral theology tomes and you have a complete healthy idea that is thoroughly Catholic but unknown especially to converts on the net whose clergy contacts are not inclined to reveal freedom aspects but only restriction aspects….which the catechism also does by giving a “read until you believe what we said” concept of conscience which is contradicted by the moral theology permission of thoughtful dissent in the very conservative Grisez book mentioned above.

  • Bill, what you just said reflects the ultimate failing of Catholicism, if you will: The institutional tendency toward enforcing collective control instead of stimulating faith. Part of that tendency is an approach to truth that reflects the philosophy of Oceania’s Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984: “We were always at war with East Asia…I mean, with Eurasia….I mean….” In such a context, intellectual vanity often gets substituted for serious, profound, sensible discussion of theology.

    One of the more popular apologists, Mark Shea, even suggested that “docility” is the appropriate response to the Magisterium’s approach to capital punishment: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/the-death-penalty-and-docility/ . That approach, despite what he says, is merely another way of saying, “capitulate to authority, even if it might be wrong.”

    With Catholics such as Shea, who needs L. Ron Hubbard?

    Any religion that calls itself “Christian” must dedicate itself to the honest transmission of divinely revealed truth and not substitute its own intellectual vanity. Far too often, Catholicism has failed to do this….and I was baptized, raised as a Catholic and have worshipped as a Catholic for the vast majority of my life.

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  • Joseph,
    Return to Catholicism. You could be wounded by the fact that LG25’s submission concept taken in isolation is the law vis a vis fathers and older brothers in some Italian families. Much of Catholic authority nuances come from 343 straight years of Italian Popes. (The Church might have feared other groups after Pope Alexander VI (Spanish) and the Borgias in general.)

    I believe it was Karl Adam who said there were always problems in the outer crust of Catholicism due to human failings…. but not in the core…..where Holy are the sacraments, de fide
    dogmas, and the descent from the apostles. St. Antoninus in the 15th century said that at his
    time most of the curia had mistresses. If it’s not one thing, it’s something else. I liken it to one of
    those geodes you buy in a nature store wherein the center of the stone formation is these
    gorgeous milky colorful mineral deposits and the outer rock crust is very plain and here and there
    ugly. Convert writers have rarely encountered moral theology tomes and the issue I just
    broached though I would think Jimmy Akin knows his stuff but may not say it…noticing that the
    clergy never broach that topic. Career and one’s next meal influences Catholic-speak….whether within the clergy or within lay writers. You simply do not earn money from the active Catholic audience if you diverge from their exact knowledge level and borders by too much. Paul in Galatians “withstood Peter to his face”…and he could financially do so because he was a tent maker. Now…..Cardinals and Bishops and lay writers are not as independent as Paul. I’ll leave it at that. Return. We need you in….not out….and think on the Italian link. It was commonplace at Vatican II that generally Italian and Spanish clergy were found on the authoritarian side of issues while northern Europeans were on the other less authoritarian side….one can sometimes see it in comboxes. Go back to Rome and the Stoics believing that a father could execute his own children until the age of reason..14 for them. Extreme power. Then centuries later the mafia had similar tendencies for the godfather. Extreme power. Some of that nuanced itself into the Church. And it is that which could affect you more than it would me because it is close to you.
    Peace. My brother and his wife just got back from Venice and I’m stunned by how few photos he took from the gondola….stunned.

  • I did not, until today, understand the Reformation.

    I am not a learned man. In some ways, this is a blessing for “much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” I bah contentedly as I follow my shepherds.

    Between work, a full home life, Knights of Columbus, scouting, and RCIA, there isn’t the time to do more than struggle with the next Sunday’s readings and do my hour at perpetual adoration. I am not complaining. I have a good life and am grateful for all that I have. I have been given much in this world and struggle to give back a full measure.

    The challenge of the learned is to remain more like Erasmus than Luther.

    It is a great burden to have a bright intellect and the opportunity to consume information. Remaining humble and trusting of God and His Church is no small achievement.

  • G-Veg, back to your concerns about capital punishment, I heartily recommend this piece from RenewAmerica:


  • Joe D:

    “Forgive all injuries.”

    You have a beef with Mark Shea, take it up with Mark.

    I am a true ignoramus on philosophy and theology. I know accounting and finance. That feeds and clothes my family. But, I minimally read and take in commentaries on the issues.

    My take: The intrinsic evils Catholics MUST confront are abortion, gay marriage, artificial birth control, government schools brainwashing children into amoral slugs, . . .
    See the Four non-negotiabl;es of the Pope in 2008 which were roundly ignored.

    In the military, the first thing they teach in tactics is you fight the most dangerous opponent/thrreat first. That is if you are facing a mortar and a platoon of infantry, you need to neutralize the mortar first, or you lose. Today, the intrinsic evils are the “mortar” and DP/war are the pea shooters. And, that could be the reason the Church is losing souls.

  • What are the “Four non-negotiables of the Pope in 2008?” I haven’t heard of this and would like a point.

  • I think it was the three non-negotionables:



    – protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;


    – recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;


    – the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

  • “In the military, the first thing they teach in tactics is you fight the most dangerous opponent/thrreat first.”

    Hah! Apparently they stopped teaching this round 2003!!! 🙂 (More plausible is that they kept teaching it, but politicians and DOD stopped listening.)

  • T. Shaw, Why don’t you see the death penalty as being encompassed by the first non-negotiable?

  • I am not T. Shaw, but……the exception to the first non-negotionable is Romans 13:1-7 and Genesis 9:6.

  • I don’t make up stuff about God. 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.”

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

    I apologize in advance. I hope I’m not wrong here.

    How can the following be true, “any direct killing is not only an attack on the creature but an attack on God, which is always and everywhere evil.”? We believe that God the Father Almighty willed that Jesus Christ (True God and true man, like us in all things except sin; all loving, all redeeming, all saving, all courageous, all forgiving, all obedient, . . . ) must by His Life, Death (on a cross), and Resurrection purchase for us the rewards of eternal life.

    PS: God is eternally perfect. God did not change His “mind” about the DP in 1993, or whenever they rewrote the Catechism.

  • St. Peter expressed his shock that Our Lord must suffer and die for us.

    Jesus’ response,

    “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

    Matthew 16:23

    “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.”

    I think as he was dying: “Being reminded of all he had suffered, he replied with these remarkable words: ‘Padre, this is not the time to be thinking of that; it is by the merits of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that I hope to be saved.'” – Saint John of the Cross

  • T Shaw
    You are reminding us that had Pope John Paul II gotten his personal way with the death penalty when Christ was starting His ministry…….we would not be saved at all….because our salvation required an unjust use of a good thing. That calls for a Bacardi Dark. I’ll think of other abstinences or other works to cover Friday.
    On another note, I am aware of three cases in the past several years of little girls being raped and strangled both in Canada and the US. In one the little girl took her tooth brush because she trusted the kidnappers lies. In another video showed the girl holding the shoulder of the man because she too trusted her kidnapper’s lies as to what they were about to do in the motel room.
    Would G-veg be satisfied with life sentences if that were his daughter? You give such men
    counseling on the particular judgement and God’s love for them and then shoot them as my wife
    says on those kinds of murders of children. She’s Beijing dangerous….being from there…..and more sensible about such matters than an auditorium filled with high clergy….who in 1520, would have been following Leo X in burning heretics…..from docility.

  • T. Shaw, if we had taken Mark’s advice regarding “docility” on this subject, this thread wouldn’t exist. Being a Christian, let alone a Catholic, does not mean acting like a Scientologist.

  • I was always taught to add “God forbid” after using an example like that. The comment should have read “[w]ould G-veg be satisfied with life sentences if that were his daughter? God forbid,” which, given the fact that I have two beautiful daughters, would have been courteous. Courtesy, courtesy, courtesy. It goes a long way.

    We are getting off track.

    Surely you agree that whether something is just or not does not depend upon the feelings of the injured. If justice were whatever the injured party demanded, then “justice” would be nothing more than a synonym for “vengeance.” I assume that this is not what you are saying and that your passions got the best of you.

    I have not heard any disagreement with the statement that “Catholics are bound by Ex Cathedra teachings.” I think we can dispense with that point as one answered.

    There is, however, substantial disagreement with the significance of teachings not bound by infallibility. I maintain that it is reasonable for a man to apply a two prong approach to moral dilemmas: 1) where the Church has specifically spoken, that teaching controls, 2) where the Church has not spoken with specificity, a man may seek guidance, mesh the advice together into something articulable and reasonable and then put that conclusion up against Church teaching to see if it passes muster.

    I am hearing variations on a theme from you guys. If I read it right, you are saying that ONLY Ex Cathedra teaching can be entirely trusted, that all other matters should be analyzed through the study of scripture, the teachings of Church doctors and fathers, the application of experience, and the application of reason.

    (Please correct me if I’m misstating the various positions.)

    If I am fairly stating the common thread to your positions, I have to ask whether there is all that much difference between your approaches and those of our high Protestant brothers. It sure seems like the only difference between your articulation and that of an Orthodox Metropolitan, an Anglican Bishop, or a Lutheran Pastor is that they would probably not concede that Ex Cathedra teachings could be trusted.

    This is well and good for learned men but, as alluded to before, it carries with it a frightening duty to be right. This is to say that encouraging others to abandon what the Church teaches in favor of what a Bannon teaches is to take the burden of their souls on one’s own head.

    You are braver men than I.

    And what if you ARE so confident. Indeed, what if you are right?

    Are you doing a service to Man by creating yet another area for men to scoff and mock the Church? Is it so awful a thing for your fellow Catholics to accept as a truth that life is precious from conception until natural death, that, where there is an option to preserve a life and, with it, a salvific opportunity, Christians should prefer that option?

    It may indeed be that the Church was in error in the past. Do you deny this is so? Do you reject the notion that the all-too-human temporal institution is sometimes in error and that the error might have been in too readily allowing man’s sense of justice to lop off the heads of the condemned?

    No… You have not carried the day. You have simply stated your opinion and, if I have to pick an opinion to follow, I will pick that of our Holy Father.

  • G- Veg
          Let’s note what you conveniently left out about how the Pope got to a novel view of the death penalty which would have struck all Popes from 1253 AD til Pius XII in 1952 as oddball (the death penalty was affirmed that long and used by Popes almost that long and there were life sentences all that time since the Inquisition used it.
          Several days ago you did not know the following about Evangelium Vitae but you do now but you are pretending you don’t.  And the following is easily checkable by you…the encyclical is online.  You could have checked it by now…..or just prior to your post.
         This is not a normal encyclical but one in which the death penalty is treated and the two classic death penalty passages (Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4) are totally absent while a piece of the Genesis passage is cited repeatedly and it’s the reason God gave for the death penalty part but John Paul put it to an entirely different use while not showing the reader the death penalty part.  That is not normal since the encyclical quotes the Bible throughout it’s sections on a host of matters.  What I think you want is to never read God’s word extensively so that you can simply get it through Popes and put the whole onus as to what you believe on them.  Had you lived in various centuries with that shortcut, you would have been a slaver under Pope Nicholas V and three of his successors and you would have burned heretics at the stake under a series of Popes beginning with Innocent IV who made it mandatory for secular rulers whereas prior to him, they did it as a purely secular law.
          You know something odd happened in Evangelium Vitae with this editing of God by a Pope.  It is not hidden in a Vatican archive….it’s on the net and totally cheackable by you but it requires not a child’s relationship to the Pope but an adult’s relationship to the Pope.  You might ve holding onto the former because it saves you from feading the Bible….an unfortunate propensity of millions of Catholics who however have read thousands upon thousands of pages of their favorite books by the time they die…..but about 150 pages of God’s word on their own by the time they die.  Now to the question you dismissed on a technicality.

          I’ll ask again in my words not your family’s… the question you avoided with an etiquette tour of a  prayer tradition of your family.  Transactional analysis people (I’m ok,you’re ok) would say you jumped into your “parent” script to avoid the question.  And I’ll ask because that physician-father in New England whose wife and daughter were raped and killed and burned two years ago simply wanted the death penalty for the two men who destroyed his family.  He did not want the two men burned or sodomized so as to match the crime.  He wanted less than what they did.  Augustine noted that men usually want more than an eye for an eye…..knock out someone’s eye and see if they do not seek more than one of your eyes in civil court…..so the doctor- father asking for the death penalty in the New England case was measured and more relevant than a sentence constructed by someone who is insensitive due to little experience with offspring… like a Pope with no daughters.  
    These last two Popes had a lot of inertia just rallying up anger about priest pervs in 20 years.  Even their biggest fan, George Weigel, doesn’t suggest that either will go down in history as heroes in that matter.

    Again to the question:
          Would it suffice for you to know that the murderer-rapist of your family member has a life sentence which here in the US means he gets guaranteed three meals a day ( unknown to half the world), sports facilities, medical and dental, and no worry as to the ups and downs of employment or of paying bills.  By court order, he gets visits and phone contact and you have an abyss within you about her abscence everyday for the rest of your life.  As to his possible 
    repentance, that will happen if he cooperates with God…and he’ll have ample time even under the death appeals time period (20 years in CA…10 probably in many states.  Judas began to do that cooperation with Gid then he stopped according to Augustine and Chrysostom who greatly disagreed with these two last Popes about Judas’ fate being in doubt. A murderer-rapist may just as likely commit sexual sins….be it masturbation to TV…. for the next 30 years whereas imminent death may have freightened him away from that and towards God.  Oddly the new papal position may be enabling rapist murderers to do countless more mortal sins so that they not only go to hell….but go to a deeper part.
    Again….a theological possibility that goes unmentioned in the Catholic press…..a saccharine outlook unsupported by Eccesiastes which says, “The number of fools is infinite.”. Adding up mortal sins within a life sentence seems more probable than repentance for the majority of criminals until we look at the two crosses to Christ’s sides.  A 50% success rate of death penalty repentance.  Many Popes would have considered that quite a wonderful rate of salvation.

  • For all those people whio oppose the death penalty, would they support a truly just alternative? This is what my Dad (a very religious man) proposed as the alternative to the death penalty:

    Solitary confinement in a cell no bigger than what’s needed for a bed, a sink and a toilet bowl. No TV. No books except the Bible. A single 60 watt incandescent bulb continuously lit night and day (ok – make it flourescent for the greenie weenies). No visitors ever. Continuous Gospel music – hymns and what not – piped over a loud speaker 16 hours per day with 8 hours of silence a day for sleep. 3 meals per day – bread and water – that’s it. Let the capital offender live like that till God takes him home. Let him sit or lay in his stink for whatever remains of his life in this world. Now that would be REAL justice.

    Yet weak-kneed, yellow-bellied, gutless, spineless, cowardly liberal nit wits who would say, “That’s inhumane!” Well, what the guy did – murder, rape, etc. – was inhumane!

    For some strange reason there is this idiotic idea that we can re-educate a rabid animal such as a serial killer or a pedophile, and that we have to be nice and kind and tolerant to these freaks whie supplying themn with free housing, free food, free sanitation, free TV, and free education. Are we nuts!? No, we don’t have to do these things. We can do what my Dad suggested or we can send them to Jesus for final judgment. Romans 13:1-7 allows the later. Genesis 9:6 demands the later. And no one can overturn that.

  • Conversation ceases and we throw mud at one another… There is a point in most conversations where one side can’t answer the other and, out of frustration, slips into name calling, misrepresentation, and assumption.

    I believe that I have clearly stated my position. I have stated my view of your positions as well and asked if I understand you rightly. Have you answered any of that?

    It would surprise those who know me to hear me called a “weak-kneed, yellow-bellied, gutless, spineless, cowardly liberal nit wit.” You assume that, because I oppose the death penalty, I am a Lefty. Weird… Taking the Church’s official position makes one a Liberal? I thought this was a Catholic space and I don’t think most readers would call it a Liberal one.

    The short of it is that you have no answer and, so, strike out like a viper, at any passing shadow.

    I assure you, there is something more Christian in the Amish approach to tragedy (see http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-07-24-amish-tragedy_n.htm) than I am hearing here. Instead of forgiveness and acceptance of God’s right to judge and punish, you advocate man’s justice as a replacement. Again and again I hear you saying “I’ll bet you wouldn’t feel that way if it were your child” and “If you actually suffered from violence, you would want the perpetrator to die.”

    Maybe. Maybe my faith would fail. Maybe I would lose my mind and take vengeance. Maybe I would accept God’s just demand that I spend eternity in Hell in exchange for seeing the same pain and horror on the perpetrator’s face and that of his family as I suffered. Maybe. God forbid.

    All of this is a smokescreen for you. The core arguments: that cutting man off from salvation is wrong where there are alternatives and the wisdom of accepting the Church’s teaching, even on matters not declared ex cathedra, remain unanswered.

    You throw out paragraph after paragraph of venom. You call the Popes liars and deceivers. Surely you didn’t think you could do that here and not get a response.

    What troubles me is that so few stepped up to the plate to declare their allegiance to the Church, to declare that it is fundamentally wrong to slander JPII and our German Shepherd. So strike away at character but know that none of that will get you one iota closer to being right.

  • G-Veg,

    Do you support solitary confinement for the capital offender as I described above, or would you rather these criminals get free TV and free college education on the tax payer dime? Do rapists, pedophiles, serial killers, etc., deserve anything more than bread and water? Should they be treated better than the poor who have not committed any crime are treated? Do you disregard what most Popes previous to JP II and B XVI said regarding the death penalty? Do you throw out Romans 13:1-7 and Genesis 9:6 because they aren’t convenient to your liberal sentiments?

    If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck and acts like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

  • G-Veg
    Try using a real name and you’ll take more pride in documentation in your posts which are almost all subjective opinion and display no reading familiarity even with the encyclical you are defending.
    I have to stop responding to most of the faux moniker people. Their family name is never at stake in their posts. I’ll never learn. Yours looks like a vegetable juice drink one drinks after running. Your accusation of slandering two Popes is slander. Please let your daughters point out your faults even if only on Sundays at a family meeting. If you’re excessively protecting Popes from rational criticism, you are excessively protecting Pope G-Veg in the home from criticism.

  • All right, that is quite enough back and forth between commenters in this thread. To quote a judge at a hearing I was at this week, “Everyone is going to be nice!”

  • Well, I shouldn’t have been so nasty. I apologize to G-Veg. But I just don’t understand why some people think that if we just treat capital criminals nice and kind and are tolerant and support diveristy and all that crap, then we can cure them. It’s ridiculous.

    Now yes, I do NOT prefer the death penalty (I really don’t), but St. Paul did say that the wages of sin are death. Furthermore, while I do prefer the punishment for capital criminals to be solitary confinement on bread and water for life, God gave the State the authority to execute these criminals and neither JP II nor B XVI, whose motives are certainly laudable, can take that authority away. One other thing: I would wager (though perhaps G-Veg is the exception – he hasn’t, however, indicated so) that all those anti-death penalty folks would be equally appalled at the alternative of solitary confinement on bread and water for life.

    If one is a pedophile or a rapist or a spouse or child abuser or serial killer or a cop murderer, then one deserves a punishment fitting the crime and society deserves to be protected from one’s behavior.

    In simple terms, a rabid dog is taken out into the field and shot dead in the head. There’s no cure for rabidness. There’s no rehabilitation. Rather, the people threatened by the rabid dog are protected. Now that’s going to make me no friends here. To them I say the alternative: solitary confinement on bread and water for life. Will they support that?

  • There are several ideas moving through this thread and I’d like to take them separately for clarity’s sake.

    Thank you for the apology. I am sorry for any unintentional offense.

    If I have restated positions unfairly, I am sorry for having done so. I called it like I saw it. I request though that you state your position more clearly though with regards to what you are claiming JPII and Benedict XVI have done. Reading your comments again, I get the same impression – that you are saying they intentionally misquoted scripture and redefined sacred tradition to support their position on the death penalty. That sounds like you are saying that the last two popes are lying and deceiving. If you mean otherwise, please clarify. If you do not, then I do not see that I have anything to apologize for.

  • Paul
    I think you’re suggesting that the body does not need a host of vitamins and minerals and proteins that are not found in bread and water….or you are thinking of a one a day vitamin which district courts would rule insufficient.
    The official Bible of the Catholic Church is the Vulgate. Here it is on Romans 13:4

    ” Dei enim minister est tibi in bonum si autem male feceris time non enim sine causa gladium portat Dei enim minister est vindex in iram ei qui malum agit.”
    starting at non enim: not without cause does it (the State) carry the sword for it is the minister of God…a vindicator in His anger toward he who does evil.

    A vindicator in His wrath. CCC#2266 honors that passage and CCC#2267 in the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia….let’s that function vanish. If a life sentence satisfies for one victim’s life, it can’t possibly satisfy for two dead victims. The state is not a rehabilitator primarily but a vindicator in His wrath. If a person becomes good while waiting for execution, the
    state can stay the execution but is better morally if it carries it out because future felons will tell
    themselves they just need to get good on death row and the state will switch them to life.

  • Mr. Bannon,

    With regards to my use of G-Veg, this is a reasoned choice.

    I am a civil servant and a conservative one at that. I am a civil servant working for the most liberal administration in my lifetime: one wed to forces allied against the Church.

    My job does not often require me to address social issues. This is good because my career would be in jeopardy if the many far-left people I work for knew I oppose abortion, same sex unions, adoption by homosexuals, etc. I leave out of the workplace discussions that have nothing to do with the workplace. However, I am not so naïve as to think that personnel decisions are made without searching the web.

    For the most part, I have kept my name off of the web. I don’t have any social networking accounts. Granted, some of this is due to security concerns (law enforcement) but much of it is protection from scrutiny by the Administration.

    I am curious though why you think knowing someone’s name makes a difference.

    I am active in my parish, scouting, the Knights of Columbus, RCIA… Were you a member of my parish, knowing that G-Veg and I are the same guy might make a difference. However, we will probably never meet so knowing my thoughts as coming from “Bob Smith” strikes me as no more illuminating than knowing them to be from “G-Veg.”

    G-Veg will do just fine. If you don’t want to talk to me, it is both of our losses.

    I have said before and here affirm that I respect your intellect. I want to hear your arguments and have been trying to give them a fair hearing. I’m sorry that you do not see this as an opportunity to fine-tune your positions. I surely see it as so for me.

    If this is the end of the conversation between us, go with Christ.

    Your Brother in Christ, G-Veg

  • Mr. Primavera,

    You raise fair questions as to what constitutes justice for terrible crimes if not death.

    This is a different question than whether the death penalty is right where it isn’t necessary.

    I regularly go to prisons. They suck. Crowded, smelly, hostile, loud… The food is lousy and I can’t describe the unpleasant sensation of doors clanging behind you as you move from one section to the other. Everyone around you is engaged in some kind of scam and scheme. Even the pallet is unpleasant: orange jump suits, white walls, grey-blue doors and bars.

    The thing is, prisons have to be unpleasant or they cannot possibly be a deterrent. It can’t be just that one is losing one’s freedom. It must be oppressive for it to salvific. It is a small taste of hell here on earth so that one can learn and avoid the permanent condition. It is like swatting your kid’s but so that they can avoid prison later.

    Callous killers should never be let out. A “life sentence” should be a life sentence and the sentence of heinous crimes like rape should be a life sentence.

    I see no merit in providing prisoners with television or workout facilities. I see no value in training courses that don’t lead to occupations that they will likely use. I don’t much feel like paying for computer access for prisoners. They deserve what We the People feel like giving them and nothing more.

  • Mr. Primavera, you write “[d]o you disregard what most Popes previous to JP II and B XVI said regarding the death penalty?”

    The short answer is “yes.”

    This is a reasoned choice.

    I don’t know what y’all do for a living. I’ve imagined it would be cool to be a professor, to be able to read and research, and then post what I thought. But I’m not a professor.

    I post when I have time. At work, I post while on teleconferences and such. (Speaking of punishment.)

    I read my RCIA stuff and help my kids with their Catechism. I do the breviary on the train (were it not for my train ride each day, I certainly wouldn’t get to it). I am able to get through the Rosary every morning while doing my chores.

    I say all of this, not because I’m proud of it, but to illustrate a reality: that many of us are doing all we can to live the faith but that there is a limit to what we can do. Reading posts on line can be helpful. Reading pointed to articles and encyclicals (for the record, I read it, I just don’t agree with the analysis and, to be fair, the analysis encompasses much that is outside of the corners of the document) is a great blessing to me because it opens up another layer of religious knowledge. However, the truth is that I am not going to be able to get to more than a smattering of the rich tradition of our faith.

    For those in my position, the best that we can do is to take the Faith where and in the time that we find it. As applied to the instant discussion, this is actually a pretty good approach because the men speaking to the issue are icons for my generation. Benedict XVI is a renown scholar. More importantly, we are talking about an encyclical, not a speech or homily. It is a document that was subjected to a robust process of review. I really don’t think it unreasonable for a Catholic to rely upon it.

  • G- Veg
    I can see the difference in posts where there is a real name….though you’re reason is good. I’m out of the interchange. Read the Connecticut Petit case online for your daughters’ sakes and your wife’s. A family relaxed about criminal dangers in modern life. A family gone. The state deputes to each of us the right to kill home invaders who threaten our lives. I had one a year ago but I let him live because he was unarmed but I subdued him. If I get another one who is carrying a gun, I’ll shoot him straight through the heart with a magnum shotgun shell. After Jehu killed the house of Ahab, God…the Trinity…said to him, “You did well what I deem right.”
    2 Kgs.10:30. The last two Popes expressed chagrin at that side of the Bible (EV sect.40/ VD sect.42). Plato in bk3 of the Republic said males become feminized from too much culture….he was correct….and I say that as a painter. God be near you four.

  • Mr. Bannon,

    I owe you an apology.

    I assumed this was theoretical. I think I understand better your visceral response to being told “killing is wrong, even where the condemned deserves it.”

    I’m sorry you faced that situation and glad that it ended as it did.

    I used to sleep with my Ithaca side by side above the bed. Then my eldest discovered there was a world beyond her nursery and I had to put it away in the safe. Now I keep a baseball bat behind my bedroom door.

    Again, I’m sorry if all this theory was so dismissive of your experience.


  • G-veg
    Peace..I grew up in violence with two friends murdered yards from our house. One murderer served 5 years because he was young. He got out and bragged. An Irish gang overheard him and removed all his teeth from his mouth in a bar the hard way because they liked the Irish girl he killed. A life sentence of soup and no more seductions for the cassanova.


Wednesday, October 12, AD 2011

“I thank God that I served as a sergeant and army  chaplain in the First World War. How much I learned about the human  heart during this time, how much experience I gained, what grace I  received.”

                                                                      Pope John XXIII




The seventh in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here,  here and here.  Throughout his life Kipling constantly returned to one theme in his poetry and prose:  the common British soldier.  Kipling did not romanticize them, being far too aware that they were merely fallible humans like the rest of us, and often the products of the school of hard knocks with many rough edges about them.  However, he also recognized their virtues:  courage, endurance, good humor and a willingness to place their lives at jeopardy for the rest of us.  He never forgot the men who lived at the sharp end of the stick and who often got the short end of the stick from the society they protected.    His poem Tommy  brilliantly encapsulates this wretched ingratitude:


I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
 O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
 But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
 The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
 O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
 For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
 But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
 The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
 O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
 Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
 But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
 The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
 O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
 While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
 But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
 There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
 O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
 For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
 But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
 An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
 An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

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12 Responses to Tommy

  • “Single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints.”

    Check out Kipling’s eclipse of moral reason.

    “So we loosed a bloomin’ volley,
    An’ we made the beggars cut,
    An’ when our pouch was emptied out.
    We used the bloomin’ butt,
    Ho! My!
    Don’t yer come anigh,
    When Tommy is a playin’ with the baynit an’ the butt.”
    “The Taking of Lungtingpen” — Barrack Room Ballad.

    It’s better today than when they spat on, and threw feces at, Vietnam War soldiers.

    The same ilk that did that are now “occupying” Wall Street.

  • T Shaw

    Help me out.

    The stanza is a narrative description.

    They were in fight with an enemy. For lack of other data in your selection we must assume in accord with the JWD and law of warfare.
    The ran out of bullets
    They to used the Bayonet and Rifle Butt.

    Kipling offers practical advice that to potential enemies that will lose even if it gets down to ‘baynit an’ the butt.”

    Where is the moral reasoning, good bad or indifferent.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Don

    One of my favorites. It seemed to hit a cord in the early 70’.

    Roger Moore gave a impromptu presentation from memory. Missing a few lines but he catches the emotion better than most.

    <Tommy Atkins>

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • ” It seemed to hit a cord in the early 70’.”

    Didn’t it though Hank. I arrive at the U of I in the Fall of 1975. The Armory where I took my ROTC courses had been firebombed before I got there. In the Spring of 1975 the student government held a party to celebrate the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia to the Communists. Yeah, Tommy fit right in with that milleau.

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  • The point: there is no moral reason. War is all hell. There is no way to kill gently or to destroy honorably.

    The story is about Brit regulars taking a Burmese rebel ville after a forced march. Imagine the troops are getting “payback” for ambushes and sentry throat cuttings. Assume the Brits are armed with modern (probably rolling block, single-shot Martini-Henry) weapons. The Burmese have flint locks and edged weapons, maybe a muzzle-loading cannon. The Brits ran out of ammunition and were ordered forward with the bayonet, which employed by organized, trained men is truly fearsome.

    Kipling expresses the ardor and excitement of troops in a rare victorious action, I think.

  • The quote from Pope John XXIII on his learning about the human heart brought me to think about how well Rudyard Kipling did, too. Each revealing the wisdom of the other. The Pope defining the essence of Kipling’s skill, Kipling writing the voice of the Pope’s understanding knowledge. Great minds thinking alike.

    ‘Tommy’ reminds me of a 1971 winter evening scene as I opened the door to leave Goodell Library at U of M to find a passing war protest march proceeding to the nearby Student Union heckling me as misplaced (a Pass/Fail system had been instituted to accomodate anti-war things). Didn’t know what to think, except that I had to get to my job, my brother was on USS Enterprise, and during recent holidays the sad development of a social divide between college and military draft kids I knew of from high school.

    In 2011, I’m glad I went to work that night rather than follow them into the unknown. 40 years from now how will these occupiers have formed their world? Cannot imagine – oh – I guess a little. Outside the grocery store, someone with a handful of petitions was asking for signatures for a ‘dignity law’. What? Translated to passing assisted suicide for the elderly. Wasn’t hungry – but bought cookies and chips.

  • Article 1, Section 8, the Constitution.

  • I saw this silly musical when I was much younger and loved old musicals — this number at the end shocked me. I didn’t know then about the pacifism that followed WWI, in part because of how badly the war was managed and the bitterness of so many people over the deaths of their sons and brothers and fathers. I can’t imagine a movie having a number like this in it today — perhaps a very cynical one, but not one like this.


  • I like Kipling, and I’ve enjoyed the articles about him on this site. But for all the merit in what he’s saying in this poem, don’t you ever get the feeling that he’s pulling your leg? It’s just too much pub song and too little poem. Part of that is that he writes with ease – the same thing that Mozart does, where he makes it look like child’s play. I don’t know.

  • People did sing the “Barracks Room Ballads”; there were a number of popular musical settings for each of the big ones, and people are still setting them to music today.

    You sound like the kind of person who looks for post-postmodern irony while listening to dance songs on a country music station.

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October TAC GOP Presidential Poll

Tuesday, October 11, AD 2011

Rick Perry has suffered in the secular polls due to his performance in the debates, Herman Cain has gained traction, Mitt Romney has remained stable and just received an endorsement from Chris Christie who himself has officially stated he will not run for president (this time around).  In addition both Sarah Palin and Thad McCotter have also announced they will not pursue the nomination, in all this, Rick Santorum has maintained a lead among TAC readers of all candidates.

Will Santorum continue his popularity among Catholics or not?

Here’s our latest poll so please vote after watching tonight’s GOP debate:

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29 Responses to October TAC GOP Presidential Poll

  • Santorum would help his case if he didn’t sound like a whiny jerk, because he’s an A+ on the substance. Perry helped himself tonight, and I think Cain hurt himself just a little. Newt’s still the most impressive guy on the stage, but I’m not sure he can overcome his baggage.

    As for the rest of the field – who cares?

  • Perry is old news. Maybe that’s supposed to be impressive in Texas but on the national stage, he’s no match.
    Cain has peaked. He bet the farm on 9-9-9 and Bachmann and Santorum took the wind out of that sail. Maybe he has other tricks but it’s a very difficult task to stay fresh.
    Newt is running for VP.
    Santorum has two problems. He always looks like he’s about to explode and the Google problem. It’s nearly impossible to shake off a negative first impression.
    None of this matters since Romney is the Republican nominee. At this point I can guarantee it. The more contested race is for running mate. Marco Rubio is the front-runner but there’s a long list of real possibilities.

  • because he’s an A+ on the substance.

    If he is not proposing a credible plan to balance the books, he is not A+ on substance. His career before politics was truncated and his executive experience is nil. Only three or four of these candidates have what might be adequate preparation for the job and two or three of them have serious issues over and above the usual nonsense on fiscal policy. The stage manager’s cane, please.

    None of this matters since Romney is the Republican nominee.

    What is the point of making statements like that?

    Marco Rubio is the front-runner but there’s a long list of real possibilities.

    There is no front-runner because there is no contest for this position.

  • What is the point of making statements like that?

    What is the point of making a statement like that?

    There is no front-runner because there is no contest for this position.

    There’s no popularly elected position of running mate but there certainly is a contest.

  • I didn’t watch the debate.

    Four more years of Obama and we’re finished. You need to prepare for it.

    Anyone had better beat the incompetent community agitator (pitting against each other haves vs. have-nots and foisting class envy and social unrest are not leadership) whose last best hope is a couple hundred unemployable hippies “occupying” Wall Street and his lying, lap dog media.

    Pray for the best. Prepare for the worst.

  • If you wish to beclown yourself by making declarative statements about things the answer to which you do not know, be my guest.

    The only ‘contest’ for the vice presidential slot goes on in the head of the nominee and the nominee will likely be unknown for another four or five months. Since most recent nominees have made choices apparently driven by idiosyncracy and short-term contingencies, you are not going to have a clue even if you know the nominee.

  • For me, Santorum is the best by far, and I can understand his behavior, he is hardly mentioned in any TV show (look O’Reilly), even when he present much substance in debates. And even during the debates, rarely he is called to the center of the discussion.

    Maybe, if he feels he is better positioned, he can show more calmness.

    Cain is out with his 999, he is trying to be VP, as well Bachmann, Paul, Huntsman. So, there are four candidates Romnoway, Perry (good candidate), Gingrich (carrying stones) and Santorum.

    Santorum 2012.

  • Who is Buddy Roemer, a NASCAR driver?

  • Just wondering with Cain’s 999 plan whether that includes a free topping : )

  • *This* is the cream of the GOP crop, eh? And against a badly-flawed, detached incumbent whose term has seen unemployment hover at 9+%?

    Astonishing. I’m reminded of this:


  • I’ll take Santorum ANY DAY OF MY LIFETIME over any GOP or Democratic candidates these past 30 years (with the exception being Ronald Reagan).

  • I am afraid that I am gravely dissatisfied with all the Republican candidates, although, except in the case of Ron Paul, I would vote for any of them over Obama. (In a Paul-Obama race I would write in Bob McDonnell.)

    1.Michele Bachman-Bad habit of making things up. Knowledge base that is broad and an inch deep. Poor presentation of herself when coolness and a calm head are needed from a candidate.

    2.Herman Cain-His 999 plan is rubbish and would lead to lower income individuals paying far more in tax than they do now. Personally an impressive man, he gives little indication of having thought deeply about most of the problems confronting the country. If the country is fed up enough with professional politicians however, he has a definite shot.

    3.Newt Gingrich-Just go away Newt. You aren’t going to be getting the nomination and you are wasting our time. More skeletons than a small town graveyard.

    4.John Huntsman-Would be surging to the lead if Democrats were Republicans. Wrong party.

    5.Ron Paul-Klaatu barada nikto!

    6.Rick Perry-An astonishingly bad candidate after so many elections! The speed with which he went from front-runner to pack trailer is truly amazing. If he is going to have a comeback he is giving no sign of it.

    7.Rick Santorum-Closest to my own political positions, Santorum is a lousy candidate. His 41% to 59% loss to Casey the Lesser in 2006 was stunning, since Casey was a pretty weak candidate. Pennsylvania was going to be tough for any Republican in 2006, but bad tactics by Santorum turned a tough race into a rout. Has a talent for making enemies within the party. All the Touhey supporters are nodding their heads.

    8.Romney-The weather-vane. Pro-abort and now pro-life. In favor of Romney care; opposed to Obamacare. Moderate to liberal governor of Massachusetts, and now a born again conservative. I have absolutely no trust in him. I also doubt if he has the fighting instinct for the 2012 race. The Left will be throwing every thing imaginable against the Republican nominee next year, and I doubt if Romney can stand up to it.

    Time to pray for a dark horse, although if the economy continues to tank, it may not matter and Obama may be dead meat in any case next November.

  • Huntsman keeps getting described as a moderate or a liberal, but this seems to be more over matters of style than substance. On policy he seems pretty conservative (note: this is not an endorsement of Huntsman).

  • Huntsman is a conservative trying to run as a moderate who went too far and is now perceived as a liberal. He forgot that he has to win the primaries first. He’ll make a great Secretary of State.

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  • Santorum (is that Latin for Saint?) is likely best on so-con issues, but his foreign policy is essentially a W redux, which is largely what got us in the mess we are currently in.

    Ron Paul looks crazy because he is the only sane person left in this country. That said, if you want to get elected, you need the crazies (i.e., the rest of the country) to vote you in and therefore must speak their language. Klaatu barada nikto, indeed.

  • Ron Paul looks crazy because he is the only sane person left in this country.

    Yes yes, he’s the only true patriot, liberty, constitution, blah blah blah. Meanwhile he’s hanging out with the 9/11 truthers, urging us to go back to the gold standard, and pretending that those craze moolahs would just love us if weren’t for those damned dirty Jews.

    If that’s sanity, I’m happy to be crazy.

  • Count me in, I’m happy to be crazy as well.

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  • Gosh- dismissive comments – “lousy” “go away” about these good, intelligent, hardworking and very capable people doesn’t help the social or fiscal conservative cause. Pres. O’s team doesn’t need our help casting aspersions on our candidates. Santorum and Gingrich are my choices.

  • “O’s team doesn’t need our help casting aspersions on our candidates.”

    But we certainly do. In politics it does no good to ignore the flaws in the primaries only to have the adversary party rip into the flaws in the general election.

  • Please, please, please do not vote for Rick Santorum. The man is as thick as a plank. EG: Diane Sawyer said the presidenial candidates spend millions on their campaigns adfvertising and looked into their campaignt T shirts The 3 major candidates had shirts made in the USA. Then she showed Gingrichs’ and it was foreign made and when asked it took him a few minutes and he figured it out and replied he’d get USA made shirts….then Ron Paul, took him a few minutes to think about his foreign made shirts and he decided to dispose of them all immediately and get USA made ones. A llittle slow those two but they got the idea. When she asked Rick Santorum… his response…it’s hard to find anything made in the USA, and hard as she tried couldn’t get him to think about it and give the right answer. And he’s running for President, just a little scary!!
    As a Pennsylvanian who suffered him as senator, believe me, I know this is typical. Also, he has a bad habit of maintaining a position until (apparently) someone explains to him that he will get more votes for saying the opposite and then – VOLTE FACE! I know he is really, really pro-life but he is not presidential quality.

  • I love Herman Cain! He has to be our next president! None of the other candidates can even come close to the character he possesses, and I look forward to him getting the nomination…

  • Rasmussen: Cain 43, Obama 41

    Mitt Romney hardest hit.

    In all seriousness, it’s futile to trust in polls this far out. That being said, anybody voting for Mitt solely because he’s the most electable candidate should be forced to hand in their voter registration cards.

    Which, of course, is nothing more than a symbolic gesture since you generally don’t need them to vote.

  • Cain for President, Santorum VP

  • CAIN for president, John Huntsman vp

The Age of Innovation

Tuesday, October 11, AD 2011

Good post from Carl Olson on Steve Jobs that casts a different light on the man than some of the hagiography that we’ve seen.  What caught my attention and what I wanted to post about, however, was another article that he linked to which was written by Vaclav Smil.  It hits upon a subject I’ve been meaning to blog about since Jobs’s death.  The long and short of it: Steve Jobs was no Thomas Edison.

I have no desire to disparage or dismiss anything Jobs has done for his company, for its stockholders, or for millions of people who are incurably addicted to incessantly checking their  tiny Apple phones or washing their brains with endless streams of music—I just want to explain why Jobs is no Edison.

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10 Responses to The Age of Innovation

  • Perhaps, a stretch but this article makes me recall this exchange in Inherit the Wind with Spencer Tracy and Frederic March:

    Brady: Is it possible that something is holy to the celebrated agnostic?

    Drummond: Yes. The individual human mind. In a child’s power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted “amens” and “holy holies” and “hosannas.” An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man’s knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters. But, now, are we to forgo all this progress because Mr. Brady now frightens us with a fable?! Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, “Alright, you can have a telephone, but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.” “Madam, you may vote, but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder-puff or your petticoat.” “Mr., you may conquer the air, but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.” Darwin took us forward to a hilltop from where we could look back and see the way from which we came, but for this insight, and for this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis.

  • I was thinking about something along these lines a while back when I was on a flight checking my email and getting cramps in my wrists and started thinking, “Really? We can put internet access into planes but can’t make flying efficient enough that people don’t have to be crammed in like sardines for it to be sustainable? Is this really progress?”

    On the computer issue, all the basic theory on which personal computing (or any kind of computing) was based had been worked out by 1940; when we talk about the revolution in modern computing, we’re really talking about integrated circuits, which still gets us only as late as the 1950s, and thus even if we take Steyn and Smil to be underestimating the importance of computers, the central discovery of that is almost an exception that proves the rule: one could just as easily take the integrated circuit to be a late bloomer, the last hoo-rah, so to speak — people were working toward things roughly like integrated circuits in the 40s, and it’s just that some tricky issues with materials and precise design took some time to work out (e.g., it took some time to recognize that full integration was in general a better design than modular wafers, and it took a while to realize that silicon was a handier semiconductor than germanium for the chips).

  • Paul,

    Exactly. I have not read the book (read several chapters at B&N and had enough), but I did hear Mark Steyn mention this and when Steve Jobs did pass away, his point of not being as amazed was very succinct and applicable to Steve Jobs.


    Excellent point, but not to be “obtuse”, Steve Jobs didn’t invent the computer. Nor did he build the original Apple (Woz did).

    But Steve’s greatest contribution was how effective he was in combining art and technology. He was a marketing genius and for that he should be rightly commended.

  • Tito-
    Jobs made a lot of tech toys “cool.” That sounds like it might be a putdown, but it really isn’t– “isn’t that so COOL!” has been a motivator for folks to advance.

  • Jobs sure has had a lot written about him since his death. Then why is it that I do not own an iPad or iPhone or iPod and don’t want one? It must be the ever growing influence of popular (slopular) culture on our society.

    George Westinghouse was a far more important “inventor” than Jobs. Westinghouse invented the air brake, which made rail travel safe. the same basic technology is still used today on trains, buses and trucks. Tesla invented alternating current, but Westinghouse obtained the patent and Westinghouse kicked Edison’s butt with AC.

    Before the destructive Michael Jordan (not the NBA player) became CEO of Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Westinghouse was a far more important company than Apple. Westinghouse started the world’s first commercial radio station. As stated earlier, I can live without anything Apple makes. Westinghouse air brakes, light bulbs, refrigerators, radios, power generation. defense contracting and broadcasting had a far greater positive impact than Jobs’ toys.

    Mr. Green, please state the scientific proof that Darwin’s evolution has been proven to be fact. The last I read, it’s still a theory.

  • The best innovation of all that makes all the rest possible is access to low cost energy. As fossil fuels run out and their burning continues to adversely affect the environment, that age is coming to a close…


    We get over over our paranoid fear of nuclear energy. Those nations (like communist China) who embrace nuclear energy will have low cost access. Those nations (like the US) that let events like Fukushima instill unreasoning fear will fail. (PS, less than a dozen people died outright from Fukushima Daiichi, but 1800 people in a nearby village died when renewable energy – a dam – failed.

    Innovation such as what Steve Jobs provided us requires low cost energy. But fear stands in our way. There’s snout thorium and uranium in Earth’s crust to provide everyone the same standard of energy consumption and style of living that the average American enjoys, and to do so for 100 thousand years or more simply by breeder reactors.

    Instead, what we have is an anti-nuke NRC Chairman who is keeping North Anna shutdown after the August earthquake that resulted in no nuclear significant damage, and who is hamstringing the industry with more and more regulations out of Fukushima scare tactics.

    Sometime I think our greatest innovation is a government bureaucracy that stifles anything promising to grow the economy.

  • Sometime I think our greatest innovation is a government bureaucracy that stifles anything promising to grow the economy.

    That was basically the point Steyn was making in coming up with the time machine scenario.

  • Kevin Drum has a response to this line of thinking: Why the Future Is Brighter Than You Think

    A lot of recent innovation is behind the scenes. Wal-Mart could not exist in 1950. Paul Krugman said that, except for the microwave, the kitchen of today is pretty much identical to the kitchen of 1950. To which Megan McArdle, responded, “try cooking like it’s 1950.” No frozen ingredients. No food processor. No coffee maker. Most importantly it means cooking in summer without air conditioning. These are things you don’t think about when you look at only the stove and the refrigerator.

    Every new technology is a luxury. Today, of course light bulbs are indispensable but in Edison’s time, they were as necessary as smartphones. Instead of comparing the utility of smartphones vs. light bulbs to us, we should compare the utility of smartphones to us vs. the utility of light bulbs to someone in 1890. Making the comparison that way, it isn’t so clear which had the greater impact.

  • Wal-Mart could not exist in 1950.

    The A & P existed. Woolworth’s existed. J.C. Penney existed. Associated Dry Goods existed.

    “try cooking like it’s 1950.” No frozen ingredients. No food processor. No coffee maker. Most importantly it means cooking in summer without air conditioning.

    The house I spent my childhood in was equipped with the original refrigerator, installed in 1942. It was equipped with a freezer only slightly smaller than the one in my home today. Drip coffee tastes just fine. People where I live seldom if ever have air conditioners in their kitchen. My grandmother lived most of her life in metropolitan Washington and had, after 1955, window units deployed everywhere but the kitchen. A food processor is an implement fit only for Rod Dreher (who for six years lived in a house with all the windows painted shut and the a/c running 24/7 to boot).

  • Has anyone ever seen Steve Jobs smile? I mean for a guy who supposedly connected up a world with no strangers he was one surly Buddhist. Bill Gates, who is usually cast as Darth Vader in these proceedings could always manage a smile now and then. Apple is a creepily manipulative company, they ran an advertising campaign in the 80s feauturing a faux rebellion with Pink Floyd’s “Brick in the Wall” as background music. The impression I had was that the rebel students were being primed for a much more subtle enslavement. Apple is not alone in this; Google is on course to becoming the most hated IT company out there.

Favorite Movie Priest

Tuesday, October 11, AD 2011

Pat Archbold at National Catholic Register has raised the question of who is your favorite and least favorite movie priests.   I’ll pass on least favorite;  too many nauseating candidates.   My favorite is easy.  Karl Malden gave the performance of a lifetime as Father Barry in On the Waterfront (1954) preaching an impromptu sermon over the dead body of a murdered longshoreman whose union is controlled by mobsters.  Malden’s portrayal of a fearless tough priest telling the Gospel message to men cowed by their fear of the gangsters who control them is completely magnificent and unforgettable.

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Non Negotiable Political TV Program To Debut In 2012

Monday, October 10, AD 2011

There are a slew of politically based TV talk shows on network and cable television. Have you ever had the desire to see a conservative oriented talk show that wasn’t full of gimmicks, one that brought in guests from the conservative and liberal sides? Sadly the current state of affairs seems geared for conservatives to either engage in name calling, a tactic often used by liberals, or worse yet negotiate away the conservative truths in which we believe. There is a better way; announcing the television program Non Negotiable; a new type of political program hosted by Dave Hartline and Damon Owens.

Both Hartline and Owens have appeared on various national television and talk radio programs. In addition they have written national and web based articles.  Non Negotiable was  created and will be produced by television and movie producer Christian Peschken who himself hosted Radio & TV talk shows in Germany , before he came to America some twenty years ago. Peschken has produced a variety of television programs and feature films. In addition, he has produced a number of programs for EWTN.

Non Negotiable will have seven truths rooted in the ideas of the US Constitution and Natural Law. The hosts of the show will discuss what can and cannot be negotiated with regard to these seven time honored principals. If after a discussion the idea proposed doesn’t fit the 7 Point Criteria, the hosts will simply announce; “This Non Negotiable.” The program will debut in 2012. Currently Peschken is in negotiations with several cable networks with regard to purchasing airtime to reach 90 million potential households nationwide.   

In 1996 the fledging Fox News Channel and their CEO Roger Ailes was laughed at by conservatives for putting Bill O’Reilly the host of a TV tabloid Show called Inside Edition as their number one Prime Time focus. Fifteen years later most political talk shows still try to copy O’Reilly’s The Factor. The point being that Ailes didn’t use conventional wisdom, his gut told him that Americans wanted something different, and so it is today with Producer Christian Peschken.

In 2012 the new political oriented TV talk show Non Negotiable will air in this pivotal election year. However, it is not just any election year but an election that comes against the backdrop of the most serious economic crisis since the Depression. Add to that a growing political movement called the Tea Party juxtaposed against a resurgent but as of late crestfallen liberal revival that first surfaced in 2006. These combustible ingredients parlay themselves into an attentive television audience the likes of which has never been seen in the modern, internet, social media age.

As this show’s production ramps up, there certainly are some of you out there, and you know who you are, who could help the investors get this show immediately up and running.  Investors are being sought now to procure the necessary funds for this program series.  Please keep this show in your prayers and look for updates as the fall of 2011 turns to winter.

To Contact Christian Peschken e-mail to [email protected]

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Poverty and Family Type

Monday, October 10, AD 2011

The old saw is that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, as if statistics were in some way a variety of lie. Of course, the issue is not so much that statistics are lies, as that statistics represent an attempt to simply quantify a terribly complex reality, and with simplification comes the opportunity for error — often error confirming the biases of the person doing the analysis.

The other day I ran into a very interesting exploration of one of those statistics which is often discussed — that “more families are in poverty” after the last three decades than was the case in the past. In 2006 Hoynes, Page and Stevens authored a paper entitled “Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations” which was published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. One of the interesting things they do is look at the trends in poverty by family type. The findings are fascinating:

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10 Responses to Poverty and Family Type

  • You’d think that the “actual percentage of people in poverty” measurement would be a pretty good middle ground between the two camps. (“Total family poverty then and now” vs “family poverty compared to those in the same situation, then and now.”)

  • (For those wondering if there may be a thumb on the scale because of gov’t aid– the paper is using the Census Bur’s measure of poverty on pre-tax income. I don’t know enough about child support to know if it would count, I believe social security counts and food stamps don’t count.)

  • I don’t believe child support is factored because it is not considered income. Theoretically, a recipient could be classified as being poverty, but objectively wouldn’t be due to child support income (quite likely many divorced/single mothers fall in this camp). Likewise, a payer could be could considered above the poverty line due to gross income, but actually be living below the poverty line when considering the child support paid (quite likely a fair number of divorced/single fathers).

  • This phenomenon discussed in the OP is called Simpson’s Paradox. Look it up, it is quite interesting.

    The most interesting example I can think of is a lawsuit brought against Berkeley(?) by some feminist group, claiming their admissions discriminated by sex. The rate of admissions to the school were not the same, indeed with females getting in less frequently. But when broken down by school or department, it turns out females got in as frequently as males, or more, within each school/department. What’s the explanation? Women tended to apply in much larger numbers to areas which had low admissions for everyone.

    It is easy to lie with statistics. It is easier to lie without them.

  • 46 million…23million, family of 3, 2, black or white. That isn’t the issue; regardless of who it is or how many…It still needs to be resolved! Why do we get so bogged down with subjects “surrounding” the problem but no discussion on THE PROBLEM and a solution?

    Very Confused!

  • The problem: sin.

    The solution: repentance.

    2nd Chronicles 7:14.

  • Very interesting.

    The number of people in poverty as a percentage of total population has been more or less stable for the past 45 years. But I don’t find that stat very useful. On the one hand it doesn’t include things like health insurance, public housing, and food stamps. On the other hand, for political reasons, we haven’t changed the laughably outdated measure of poverty. Officially, making $11K in NYC means you’re out of poverty.

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  • RR,
    Why do you think the definition is laughably outdated? While the definition has been relatively static, it requires that the thresholds be reset each year, and they are. So what is outdated about the definition and how would you change it?

  • The poverty guidelines are based entirely on food prices. That even sounds antiquated. If you were to come up with poverty guidelines from scratch today, nobody would even think go first go to the Department of Agriculture to determine how much a household spends on food then multiply it by an arbitrary number.

    The preferred method in the developed world is to set poverty lines at some percentage of median income. This takes into account the reality that poverty is also relative.

Pope Leo XIII on Christopher Columbus

Monday, October 10, AD 2011

No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.

Christopher Columbus

Another Columbus Day is upon us, and I always observe it with a post on the discoverer of the new world.  Go here to read an earlier post on Columbus.  The official observance this year in the US is on October 10, rather than on the date of the discovery of the New World which occurred on October 12.  I have posted before the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the 400th anniversary of the discovery.  This year we will take a closer look at his words, with comments interspersed by me.


To Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops and
Bishops of Spain, Italy, and the two Americas.

Now that four centuries have sped since a Ligurian first, under God’s guidance, touched shores unknown beyond the Atlantic, the whole world is eager to celebrate the memory of the event, and glorify its author.

Pope Leo flatly states that Columbus was guided by God on his voyage of discovery.  That is certainly in accord with what Columbus himself thought, as demonstrated by this excerpt from his letter to Raphael Sanchez, Treasurer of Ferdinand and Isabella, reporting on his first voyage:

But these great and marvellous results are not to be attributed to any merit of mine, but to the holy Christian faith, and to the piety and religion of our Sovereigns; for that which the unaided intellect of man could not compass, the spirit of God has granted to human exertions, for God is wont to hear the prayers of his servants who love his precepts even to the performance of apparent impossibilities. Thus it has happened to me in the present instance, who have accomplished a task to which the powers of mortal men had never hitherto attained; for if there have been those who have anywhere written or spoken of these islands, they have done so with doubts and conjectures, and no one has ever asserted that he has seen them, on which account their writings have been looked upon as little else than fables. Therefore let the king and queen, our princes and their most happy kingdoms, and all the other provinces of Christendom, render thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has granted us so great a victory and such prosperity. Let processions be made, and sacred feasts be held, and the temples be adorned with festive boughs. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto lost. Let us also rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on account of the increase of our temporal prosperity, of which not only Spain, but all Christendom will be partakers.

Nor could a worthier reason be found where through zeal should be kindled. For the exploit is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity. By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life.

Note that Pope Leo not only praises the spreading of Christianity, but also the raising up of the natives of the New World from “savagery to gentleness and humanity”.  How the intellectual fashions have changed from the time of Pope Leo to our own day!

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10 Responses to Pope Leo XIII on Christopher Columbus

  • Eliot Morrison wrote an excellent book on Columbus’ first voyage, Admiral of the Ocean Sea. It seems everything a sailor, or an admiral for that matter, did was accompanied by a prayer.

    Morrison also wrote The Two Ocean War, an outstanding short history of naval ops in WWII.

  • That was a condensed version of his multi-volumed official history of the US Navy in World War II. Morrison was an interesting fellow, a Harvard professor of History and a Navy Admiral. Such a combination is almost unimaginable today!

  • Hmmm, thinking out loud and running this past Don for his input. It just occurred to me that it *might* be said that the greatest military officers have a profound sense of history. I never really drew the connection before this moment, but I’m thinking to various things I have read and it almost always seems that it is the case. If valid, I’m wondering if one could suppose that it is an appreciation of history that in part leads a person to military service, at least (or especially) in the case of officers. At a cursory level it would seem to make sense. I have often found those who are least interested in or informed by history seem to be the most indifferent or opposed to things military. Thoughts?

  • Some soldiers certainly have had a strong interest in history Rick. Patton and Napoleon come to mind. However other able soldiers have been relatively uninterested in the subject, Washington and Grant for example. In my personal experience people in the military often have a greater knowledge of history, at least military history, than their civilian counterparts. In modern times it is impossible for an officer commissioned from either one of the military academies or ROTC not to have been exposed to some military history courses.

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  • Most of what I know about Columbus’ voyage is what I read from Warren Carroll’s book about Queen Isabel. Columbus certainly was no administrator, but as a navigator he was superior. While Columbus did not find what he set out to discover – a passage to India – he and he alone figured out a way to return to Spain, a journey that was more harrowing than the journey to the New World

    Since I was a young boy 40 years ago, the dufuses who run the education establishment have sought to trash Columbus. I don’t defend his administrative incompetence, but his navigation skills opened up an entire New World, a hemisphere that became majority Catholic. Portugal founded Brazil. France founded new France (Quebec). The Spanish Empire stretched from Tierra del Fuego to northern California, encompassing present day Florida, Texas and the American Southwest, most settled if only barely, before one English Protestant set foot on these shores.

    Columbus died, without money, alone, accused of crimes and a broken man.

  • At sea Columbus was in his element; ashore he was always adrift.

  • Apropos. From Morrison’s book quoted at “Never Yet Melted”:

    “America would eventually have been discovered if the Great Enterprise of Columbus had been rejected; yet who can predict what would have been the outcome? The voyage that took him to “The Indies” and home was no blind chance, but the creation of his own brain and soul, long studied, carefully planned, repeatedly urged on indifferent princes, and carried through by virtue of his courage, sea-knowledge and indomitable will. No later voyage could ever have such spectacular results, and Columbus’s fame would have been secure had he retired from the sea in 1493. Yet a lofty ambition to explore further, to organize the territories won for Castile, and to complete the circuit of the globe, sent him thrice more to America. These voyages, even more than the first, proved him to be the greatest navigator of his age, and enabled him to train the captains and pilots who were to display the banners of Spain off every American cape and island between Fifty North and Fifty South. The ease with which he dissipated the unknown terrors of the Ocean, the skill with which he found his way out and home, again and again, led thousands of men from every Western European nation into maritime adventure and exploration. And if Columbus was a failure as a colonial administrator, it was partly because his conception of a colony transcended the desire of his followers to impart, and the capacity of natives to receive, the institutions and culture of Renaissance Europe. …”

    Columbus’ discovery came at the culmination of 700 years of desultory wars of independence which molded the iron men (Hijos de Santiago) that won a vast empire and returned to Spain such wealth as had not been seen since Alexander conquered Persia or Caesar Gaul.

  • Great video sequence you posted.

    For some reason, the movie that this sequence is taken from is still not available in DVD (on Netflix).

Occupy America!!!

Monday, October 10, AD 2011

Certainly some of the issues raises by the ongoing protests at Wall Street and various cities across America are worthy of serious discussion and debate: the disparity between economic classes, the government bailouts to the financial industry and cushy severance packages to failed CEO’s vs the majority of those who can barely scrape by month-to-month, or might have lost their jobs (and homes, and savings) with no such financial safety net (a discussion of such here with Rod Dreher).

If you want serious analysis of the events, I recommend this excellent coverage by Robert David Graham (Errata Security), providing the quality coverage lacking in the mainstream media.

At the same time, it’s hard not to see the whole gamut of political-ideological factions — anarchist, marxist, libertarian, “tea party” (although the latter are branded as infiltrators wishing to “co-opt” the demonstration) — assemble to voice to their righteous indignation, and observe the moments of unintentional comedy and occasional irony that result . . . if not for which we might take their message just a little more seriously:

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7 Responses to Occupy America!!!

  • That citation from America is priceless Chris. It is hard to be a parody of a parody but Mr. Beaudoin manages that considerable feat. The first comment to his post however is a masterpiece!

    “I completely agree; to the barricades!!

    However, why stop at the the Church? Why aim so low when we can “Occupy Heaven”! Who is God to lord over us – the 99%! Who does he think he – the 1% – is up there above it all just lording over us!

    Rebels unite! I know this has been tried before but I am sure that we have a good shot!”

  • That anyone** takes seriously these imbeciles . . .

    Anyway, add up all (in every city on which they descended) of them and they could not fill 99% of the seats the new Yankee Stadium.

    In other words, there are about 310,000,000 Americans occupied with surviving until November 2012 when we stop Obama, Holder, Bill Ayres, et al from wrecking the most peaceful and prosperous nation in God’s Creation.

    I saw a bumper sticker: “Anarchists Unite!” The bumper sticker is a joke. And, especially unwashed , trust fund hippies are farce.

    Some of the right-wing (** left-wing radio is extinct but the obama-worshiping, lap dog main street BS-artists carry on!) talk radio hosts have extensively interviewed selected maroons: infallible ignorance . . . “We are the hope we have been waiting for!” BARF

    Yes! Some genius with a PhD in Pre-Colombian, Meso-American Indigenous Lesbian Literature is equipped to reform the (once) greatest economy on Earth!

  • the government bailouts to the financial industry and cushy severance packages to failed CEO’s

    The ‘bailouts’ for most parties consisted of bridge loans (now mostly repaid), guarantees of commercial paper issue (arguably unavoidable) and bond issues (arguably unnecessary and imprudent). Making bridge loans (though not in the form of purchasing preferred stock) is integral to the Federal Reserve’s foundational raison d’etre. The companies truly ‘bailed out’ were the mortgage maws (and that would be K Street, not Wall Street) and one insurance company (whose headquarters are on Pine Street in lower Manhattan and whose business is largely in the Far East). Also getting a sweet deal was the United Auto Workers (headquartered in Detroit).

    The principal-agent problem which leads to Brobdignagian executive compensation may be most extreme in the financial sector but is found just about everywhere and is far more severe in its manifestations than it was 30 years ago.

  • Darn it! America Mag stole my parody idea! And they were serious.

  • “necessarily imperfect and unruly … continued open-ended articulations of visions of a different Catholic Church”

    That phrase in particular gave me chills — and visions of a perpetual committee meeting of progressive Catholics attempting to establish “consensus”. Fortunately, judging by the comments on the post, few readers apart from The Catholic Anarchist seemed particularly enthused about the idea.

  • ” … without prematurely forcing the movement to take on a specific agenda. And yes, in the form of consciousness-raising and of direct action.”

    Right. Geniuses getting the me’s to babble about what the me’s want and to see what direct action happens. God pleasing? Understand the heart and mind of God through God’s Word? Oh, boy.
    Chaos inspiring Truth? Babble away morals, virtues, beauty, education, art, economies, self-evident truths, America the beautiful, the rest of the world. Temper tantrums adult-style. Make a mess. Point fingers. Pout. Pass laws.
    Then, what will you do when you have nothing good, are miserable, hungry spiritually and physically, and looking for someone to listen to the babble about direct action to clean up the mess? Or, if you see St. Michael, Archangel and Protector of the Church? Or not see?

  • I was in downtown Chicago today for an important meeting. Afterward I happened to pass by the “Occupy” protest outside the Federal Reserve Bank. Looked like noisy but harmless street theater to me, nobody was being particularly disruptive, didn’t see any obvious police presence, and most people not taking part in the protest seemed to regard it as more a curiosity than anything else. Turnout was respectable but not huge, and they could have done without the constant drumming. Some people had signs saying “Honk if you are one of the 99 percent” or something similar; it appeared that most of the vehicles honking were taxis 🙂 Not quite as exciting as the nightly news would have one believe, but… your mileage may vary, depending on where you are.

William Roper v. Richard Rich

Sunday, October 9, AD 2011

 In good faith, Mr. Rich, I am more sorry for your perjury than mine own peril; and know you that neither I nor any one else to my knowledge ever took you to be a man of such credit as either I or any other could vouchsafe to communicate with you in any matter of importance.

Saint Thomas More


Two arresting scenes from A Man For All Seasons, (1966).  Usually the second scene in the video clip is remembered for the statement by Sir Thomas More that he would give even the devil benefit of the law.  I have written about that statement here.  However there is another interesting facet to the pairing of these two scenes:  a comparison of William Roper and Richard Rich.

Sir Thomas is fond of Roper the suitor of his daughter, and the fondness is obvious in the scene.  However, he will not allow him to marry his daughter because he is a heretic.  More notes that at one time Roper was a passionate churchman and now he is a passionate Lutheran and hopes that when his head stops spinning it will be to the front again.  (Roper did become an orthodox Catholic again and remained one till his death, even under the reign of Bad Queen Bess.)  In spite of Roper being something that Sir Thomas detests, that does not alter either his liking or his high regard for the young man.  Why is this?  Because Roper is obviously seeking after the truth and attempting to do what he thinks is right.  Such good motivation is to be respected even when it reaches erroneous conclusions.

Richard Rich on the other hand lacks such motivation.  More likes him also, but recognizes that he has no character.  Rich will do whatever it takes for him to rise in the world, and if that involves immoral actions, so be it.  Unlike Roper he lacks any good motivation or honest intent.  (The historical Rich was a complete scoundrel and recognized as such at the time.  He specialized in betrayals and making himself useful to whoever was in power at the time.  Under Henry and Edward he persecuted Catholics, under Mary he persecuted Protestants, and under Elizabeth he was whatever she was.  It is a sad commentary on the human condition that such an open, time-serving villain prospered and died in his bed, the founder of an aristocratic dynasty.)

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6 Responses to William Roper v. Richard Rich

  • Well of course “Parliament has not the competence” – it’s Parliament! What possible competence could it have? 😉

  • Those are some pretty interesting thoughts there Don; I had not considered More’s perception of Roper & Rich, but it completely makes sense. Are there any books or other movies on More’s life that you might recommend?

  • There are endless good books on Saint Thomas Kyle!

    William Roper’s life of his father-in-law is the starting point for all More biographers.

    One of the more recent bios is Peter Ackroyd’s Life of Thomas More, which has some of the best recent scholarship on More.

    I have enjoyed The Field is Won by Ernest Edwin Reynolds.

    The late Richard Marius did an interesting, if critical, biography of More in 1984. Marius was editor of the Yale collection of the writings of More, and knew his source material, but his bio was marred by Marius attempting to portray More as troubled by religious doubt. Actually Marius, a fallen away evangelical, was reading his own lack of faith into More. He pulled the same unconvincing analysis in his bio of Luther.

    More biographies are endless, and in his case it is always “More the merrier!”

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  • One thing about the line about giving the devil benefit of law for his own safety:
    The law didn’t keep him safe did it? St. Thomas lost his life because a legal proceeding warped by the perjury of someone who didn’t respect the law!

  • John Guy’s A Daughter’s Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg gives a rather negative portrayal of Roper.

4 Responses to In Honor of National Zombie Day: October 8, 2011

  • Well, I don’t find any of the current GOP contenders very compelling so I’d be glad to vote for Reagan.

    BUT isn’t he ineligible under the 22nd Amendment? I suppose a lawyer (which I am not) might claim that the zombie is a different person (entity?) than the original RR to get around that. In which case how old is he/it? Surely not thirty-five?

  • “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”

    I would argue Thomas, with a very straight face since we lawyers are good at that sort of thing, that the amendment was not applicable since Zombie Reagan was not a person. Then if his political adversaries succeeded in proving before the Supreme Court that Zombie Reagan was a person, I would use the precedent in a full frontal assault on Roe!

  • The resurrected Reagan sounds so much more articulate than the others.

  • “National Zombie Day” was first celebrated on election day 1976 and it was resurrected election day 2008.

    Now, I remember why I sleep with a khukri under my pillow, and my wife between me and the door.

The Blind Men and the (Economic) Elephant

Saturday, October 8, AD 2011

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by American John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) recounts a traditional Hindu tale still used as a caution against focusing too narrowly on one aspect of the truth and failing to see the “big picture”. It’s a mistake many if not all of us have made at one time or another.

Right now I believe this poem is being played out in the public square via the contrasting, but in some ways overlapping, goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement and those of the Tea Party which preceded it. These two movements, I think, have more in common than they may realize, but see themselves as polar opposites because each focuses on different aspects of the economic “elephant in the room” — the squeezing of the middle class.

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12 Responses to The Blind Men and the (Economic) Elephant

  • I find it hard to think that the Occupy Wall Street Movement consists of much more than the usual Left rent-a-mobs, college kids out for a good time, hard core Leftists, and roving anarchists like those who show up at World Bank meetings. To try to discern a coherent message out of this over hyped agit-prop is probably a waste of time, but it seems to boil down to putting everybody on cradle to grave welfare and making the government pay for everything. Oh, and a common trope is debt forgiveness, especially, surprise!, student loan debt. I do not view this as in any way comparable to the Tea Party movement which is a serious political force in this land. The Occupy Wall Street movement is, if it is anything other than an opportunity to have a street party, the last reactionary impulse of a Leftist statism that is visibly failing and has no ideas on how to get government spending and debt under control, and to improve the economy. As a political movement it will be an anchor straight to the bottom except for politicians in most deeply blue political enclaves. The bailout of the banks in 2008 was a very bad idea. Reacting to that by conducting bailouts of everyone is simply lunacy and I think most voters understand that.

  • This is a good article and I do believe that there are points to be made for the OWS – however, it is being said that SEIU and other Union organizations are bussing in illegal aliens and paying them to protest. The illegal aliens don’t speak English and don’t know what they are there for but they are getting paid and that’s all that is necessary. In Wisconsin Union bosses bussed in people from all over the country to protest and the protest was not peaceful – they aggressively stormed the State Capitol just as they aggressively stormed the property of a banker while his young son was along inside of the house, terrified. In the interviews i have seen and heard, it seemed that most of the OWS protesters had no idea why they were there or what they were protesting – Pelosi blesses them though and says that they are focused and that they arose ‘spontaneously’ which I don’t believe is true, while she againt depicts Tea Partiers as violent and insists that they spat at her and her cohorts though that was proven to be untrue…

  • Perhaps I didn’t make it clear in my post, but I do think the Tea Party is closer to the truth than Occupy Wall Street.

    However, I still think the basic concepts of OWS that big business and the financial sector have sought government handouts they do not deserve and that they should be held to account in some fashion for their role in the financial collapse, is valid. If other leftist groups hijack that idea for their own purposes and add other less worthy ideas to the agenda, that is another problem altogether.

  • Agreed Elaine. I have always been appalled by Government bailouts of any business enterprise. It defeats the whole purpose of free markets where any enterprise should be free to succeed or fail. This video of course is quite eloquent on the pernicious effect of such attempts to rescue big businesses or banks:

  • I remember this poem from my Catholic school days almost 50 years ago. I found your application of it entertaining and thought provoking. While thoroughly enjoying this read, I felt I owed you my simple thoughts as you provoked :). What is clear among many things vague concerning OWS is the Marxist ideology which serves as its “organizing” focus and energy. There is nothing redeeming in an ideology of hate and envy. I would dare say that OWS is blindly inspecting a donkey, not an elephant.

    The TEA party as I view it has an unarticulated Chestertonian recognition of the despicable marriage of big government and big institutional interests, Hudge and Grudge. In one limited sense can an argument be made of a commonality between TEA and OWS: the physical occupation of “wall street” is but a physical symbol of only a part of the TEA party grievances. In that sense the TEA party is the elephant, and the OWS the blind men. May we elect our elephants over their jackasses.

  • I still think the basic concepts of OWS that big business and the financial sector have sought government handouts they do not deserve

    First, if the government subsidy was something the businesses “deserve” then it wouldn’t be a “handout” would it?

    Second, the TEA Party folks have been unhappy about unearned government benefits given to “big business and the financial sector” long before any leftist community organizer dreamed up OWS.

    …and that they should be held to account in some fashion for their role in the financial collapse…

    A punitive ex post facto law is what the mainstream OWS agitates for, among TEA Party folk it’s only their fringe element that talks that way.

    P.S. In my personal experience, “they’re all alike” and “stop the bickering” are shibboleths of the politically ignorant and uninvolved.

  • I didn’t say “They’re all alike”. I said they are looking at different aspects of the same problem. Yes, the Tea Party is more right than OWS but I think we ignore at our peril the very real concerns that are beginning to attract ordinary people — not ONLY the usual suspect leftist rent-a-mobs — to OWS.

    And how is seeking a proper BALANCE between government and the private sector, instead of regarding one as the root of all evil and the other as entirely good and able to do no wrong, a sign of “political ignorance”?

  • The Tea Party movement began as a truly grassroots effort made up of sincere and honest middle class Americans. It quickly got high jacked by conservative PACs and the Republican Party.

    The OWS movement began as an AstroTurf creation of left wing PACs and members of the Democrat party (with a wink from the White House) and hopes to attract the left wing version of the same middle class discontent that the Tea Party tapped into.
    Both groups are right on what the problem is, and both groups are either clueless or just dangerously wrong on what the solution is.

    Perhaps if the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on economic and social justice were a little more well known, then a solution would be more apparent.

    Lassaiz faire capitalism (which many in the conservative and libertarian movement are advocating as a solution to our nation’s problems) is just as morally bankrupt as the socialist/communist garbage that the left wingers are advocating.

    I know good and sincere folks on both sides of this issue, and neither side seems to see where the common ground is. Like the commentary above states, the media and the political players have turned this into a fight between two groups of middle class partisans.

    I see it as a fight between the Koch Brothers and George Soros.

    Look at the front groups on both sides and follow the money trail. I have.

  • “The problem ain’t what people don’t know. The problem’s what people know that ain’t so.” Will Rogers

    It’s not laissez faire, anymore. It’s “Wall Street” gaming the byzantine system their politician allies set up for them.

    It’s the opposite of free markets. The current Great Recession – no end in sight – was caused by crony (dem and GOP big guv types) capitalism, and central control gone wild with too much discretion causing massive, widespread financial damage with their 100%-wrong track record since 1913 when the (the plutocrats and the politicians:see Jeckyl Island conspiracy theorist half-sane investigative work) Fed and Fed income tax were imposed.

    Wall Street and the politicians are in an unholy alliance. The unions and Fed EPA/CAFI regs bankrupted GM and its bank (now Ally Bank) and Chrysler. And in the nationalization, the guvmint stole from GM investors to pay off UAW bosses and thugs.

    The “banks” (seems that would be every corporation that isn’t a saloon), e.g., Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America (among the largest Obama funding bunglers) would not have made and securitized 2,000,000 loans to subprime, no document check, no income check, option ARM, Alt-A, low-to-moderate income liar loans (the US home ownership rate rose to 69% from 65% in the 1990’s to 2007) were it not for their politician-allies’ creations the Fed, FDIC, FHA, FHLMC, FNMA, HMDA, CRA, HUD, VA, etc.

    Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall; Clinton and Greenspan refused to regulate (e.g., credit default swaps) the OTC derivatives markets; Clinton/Greenspan’s Long Term Capital Management bailout set the bail out precedent; Clinton, Cuomo, Bush, et al decided everyone regardless of repayment capacity (50% of FHLMC/FNMA home loan purchases must be to low-to-moderate income, CRA-types) should own a house; Greenspan kept interest rates too low, too long; etc.; etc.

    And, why did the Fed save Bear Stearns, and then allow Lehman Brothers to go belly up? That caused the October 2008 financial melt-down (liquidity crisis) which caused the precipitous creation of TARP, etc.

    Re: The bail out = TARP was 98% repaid: plus 5.5% dividends plus warrants-related capital gains to the government. In fact, JPMorgan Chase Bank was forced to take TARP $$$ so the “dead sisters” wouldn’t appear dead. AIG was provided over $80 billion (?) so it’s losses would be contained and not bust thousands of Wall Street counter-parties and filter down to you and me. And, US money market mutual funds (MMF’s) were about to “bust the dollar”, and so the US gov provided them with FDIC-like guaranties so John Q Public didn’t suffer $$$ losses. That was almost without cost, and it prevented ruinous runs on MMF’s.

    OTOH, $4 trillion in new debt and $2.5 trillion in Fed QE’s filled the coffers of whomever who will never repay.

    The OWS imbeciles want everyone to get paid $20 an hour and to get free everything all the time.

    There are two main problems not only with with the BAIL OUT but also the WS/Washington cabal: 1. the markets will not clear or properly function; and 2. the lying idiots (in the Congress and on Wall Street) that caused massive devastation are largely still in place.

    A stopped clock is right twice a day . . .

  • This is complex stuff. My insticts are against bailing out losers. I’m generally mistrusting of hastily written law and the method by which these bailouts and infusions were passed troubles me. I appreciate the attempts at providing a “cliff notes” to the arguments.

    With regards to the protests, everything written in the MSM about the Philadelphia “ocupation” on Friday is a lie. I was there at 4 pm. There were no more than a hundred or so people at City Hall. It was a “diverse” group, if by diverse you mean sixty-somethings and twenty-somethings who’s only “occupations” are protesting.

    Protesting what though? I really can’t say. Democrisy (that’s how one sign bearer spells it anyway) was a big theme but, with no better or more explicit description, I don’t really know what, if any, visions pass through their pierced and unkempt heads. Corruption is a big theme but the three speakers I heard seemed to think that it was Bush and “Congress” that are to blame… Though maybe I’m unfairlt presuming that they don’t realize that it wasn’t the present Congress that passed the bailouts.

    The funniest thing I heard was from a lawyer on the train who remarked “the last time Philadelphia was occupied was by the British and I’m guessing no one walked by openly mocking them.”

  • You’ve hit the nail on the head here.
    Not all poor (or middle class) are virtuous, nor are all rich (or middle class) perfidious sinners. Without a government that seeks to induce its citizens first to strive first for the Kingdom and God and His Righteousness (and hence, virtue), there is going to be one distortion after another as unworthy ends of sinful men, rich and poor, are given the means of government to acheive them. You’ve identified greed in both camps, acedia among many poor and avarice among many rich. That doesn’t exhaust the list of sins that our (U. S.) people–having been given every possible worldly blessing and many spiritual ones–have turned to and inflated with their money (even our poor are richer than most of the other inhabitants of Earth) and their staggering leisure time.
    Not only that, after the wrath blows through, there’ll be sinners who have held on to their one-percenter riches and sinners who still expect to be fed and entertained (and have all the sex and drugs they want) without accepting any personal responsibility.
    It’s not a pretty picture. I do think, however, that more and more people are beginning to suspect that neither camp has all the answers. That’s worth something.

Robert E. Lee, the Beatles and the Internet

Saturday, October 8, AD 2011

They do not know what they say. If it came to a conflict of arms, the war will last at least four years. Northern politicians will not appreciate the determination and pluck of the South, and Southern politicians do not appreciate the numbers, resources, and patient perseverance of the North. Both sides forget that we are all Americans. I foresee that our country will pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation, perhaps, for our national sins.

Robert E. Lee

Something for the weekend.  Further evidence of what a wild and wacky place the internet truly is!  Quotations from Robert E. Lee teamed up with the Beatles song Let it Be.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the video, although for share emotional impact, and a nice recreation of what Lee meant to the ragged, indomitable troops in the Army of Northern Virginia, nothing can top this scene from Gettysburg:

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Friday, October 7, AD 2011

White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

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5 Responses to Lepanto

Is it all just a bunch of “BS”?

Friday, October 7, AD 2011

A former Washington Post editor, Jeanne McManus, has written a delightful article describing her experience as a student at Blessed Sacrament School, located east of Chevy Chase in Washington, DC.  It’s a story that relates the experience of many who attended Catholic parochial schools between 1950 and 1967.



Some of the highlights:

  • The black-and-white photo of  the Class of 1961 contains mini-portraits of 53 students with their hair smoothed into submission, their collars somewhat straight for  picture day.
  • Each class was presided over by one Holy Cross  nun.  Students didn’t shuffle down the halls and change rooms for different classes, fused as they were that one nun and she to her students every day from 8:30 until 3:15, except for a  brief mid-morning recess and a lunch break.
  • Despite the student-teacher ratio, the students managed to read and write, solve math problems, learn world  history and geography and, importantly, how to conduct ourselves in public.
  • Under the iron rule of that one nun, tiny Sister Gonzaga, those 53 kids spilled out into the world of high school, from which they might  graduate in 1965, then on to college, from which they might graduate in 1969.   These are the children of the ’60s on the launch pad of that tumultuous decade,  boys with flat-tops and girls with Peter Pan collars.


Sound familiar?  Been there?  Experienced that?

There’s a lot more in McManus’ article that deserves reading.

The Motley Monk grew up in Chicago, sharing a very similar experience, one that many others have commented they have also experience as well in locales as far flung and different as San Francisco, St. Louis, Detroit, New York, Boston, Grand Rapids, and Philadelphia.  Could it that Catholic parochial schools were as uniform as were the uniforms that students wore?

You betchya!

But, The Motley Monk also happens to know personally about Blessed Sacrament School.  In the late-1990s, he conducted a faculty in-service program for the school’s dedicated faculty.

When someone made an announcement over the loudspeaker system, The Motley Monk’s attention was drawn to one of the speakers.  He noted the school’s letters emblazoned on on the speaker and as well as on all of the other speakers in the hall and, quite likely, on patches sewn onto every uniform.

Thinking back nearly four decades to seventh grade at Our Lady of the Wayside School in Arlington Heights, Illinois—where The Motley Monk was a student and the speakers and uniforms were similarly emblazoned with “OLW”—The Motley Monk asked the faculty if they ever wondered whether everything that blared over those speakers was “BS.”

Sister Gerald Francis, O.P., would never have approved of The Motley Monk’s observation.  But, she surely would have laughed, just as the faculty and principal did.



To read Jeanne McManus’ article, click on the following link:


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2 Responses to Is it all just a bunch of “BS”?

  • I would not trade my years in Catholic Elementary School graduating in 8th grade in 1968 at Saint Joseph’s School in Middletown, NY

    Those days shaped my life and those wonderful nuns and one lay teacher deserve eternity in heaven. It was not a perfect place but it was a great place to be in school as a youngster.

    Mother Alexsis, Mother Francis Regis, Mother Bernadette, Mother Martin Marie, Mrs Cartman, Mother Regina Marie, Sister Martin Marie and Sister Claire. I also remember Mother Charles, Mother Agnes and Mother Edward.

    God bless you wonderful Catholic women. You are precious to me beyond words.

Klavan v. The Right Wing Devils

Friday, October 7, AD 2011


Right you are Klavan on the Culture!  Conservative talk show personalities do owe a great debt to one group which has contributed more to their success that any other group:  Liberals.   Many liberals, through their over the top hatred of dissenting views, helped give vast publicity to the figures they hated and thus helped launch their careers and continue to give them endless publicity.  So a round of applause for intolerant liberals!

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9 Responses to Klavan v. The Right Wing Devils

  • Did ESPN fire Hank Williams, Jr. for “comparing” Hitler with Obama?

    Hitler’s insanity led to the righteous destruction of Germany. Give him four more years. Obama hasn’t wrecked America, yet.

  • @T Shaw: Williams didn’t actually compare Hitler & Obama, he likened the situation of Boehner golfing with Obama to Hitler golfing with Israel’s PM Netanyahu because both pairs are polar opposites & have no business being friendly to each other.

    @Don: I’ve always loved Klavan videos that you post. He’s very on-the-point with a great personality.

  • Kyle, Klavan’s commentaries are some of the funniest and most insightful videos I have ever seen. I have never watched any of his videos without laughing out loud and coming away with something to think about.

  • That would be impossible.

    Hitler killed himself over 65 years ago.

    Plus, I don’t believe Hitler played golf.

    It seems ESPN doesn’t like country music . . .

  • Most elaborate Rick-roll ever. *grin*

    T. Shaw- my folks would tell you that Bocephus doesn’t generally do country music unless he’s covering his dad’s songs….

    Gotta love Klavan– if you make someone laugh, it makes it safe for them to consider what you’ve said.

  • Okay but you gotta admit Beck really is insane.

  • I have always thought RR that Beck is fairly loosely wired.

  • Did ESPN fire Hank Williams, Jr. for “comparing” Hitler with Obama?

    -T. Shaw

    That’s the story ESPN is telling. I’m amused that in their haste to accuse Hank Williams, Jr. of crimethink, the faux-outraged reflexively linked his mention of Hitler to Obama rather than Boehner. That gave away a lot about what America’s soft-core left really thinks of Obama.

  • I just discovered this site…humor, intelligence, common sense, traditional values and God all in one place. I feel like Will Smith in “I Am Legend”. I’m not alone! I may even consider converting to Catholisism (you’re not the guys that require c right?) I’m a little old for that. The Hank Jr. episode is just the most recent example of the collective farce that passes he Free Press these days…if I can’t get get a laugh out of it…depression sets in…so thank you Mr. Klaven, Et al. for your contributions to my mental health.

Beware the Cult of Personality

Thursday, October 6, AD 2011

I have mixed emotions about Sarah Palin’s announcement that she won’t be running for the presidency.  Though she would not have been my top choice had she entered the fray, she at least would have been in the portion of the field that I am still considering voting for (with Perry, Cain, Santorum and Gingrich).  She would have provided a change of pace from the rest of the crop of candidates.  And, frankly, I like her and think she’s a much more insightful and perceptive person than given credit for. But I am not convinced that her time is now, so it’s probably for the best that she is not part of the conversation for 2012.

One of the fascinating things in watching the conservative end of the blogosphere over the past few months is the intense reaction that Palin sparks.  Of course there are her detractors, both right and left.  Some of these individual – in particular the wannabe gynecologists – border on the pathological.  There are valid criticisms to be levied against Palin, but I’ve seen otherwise reasonable people turn into irrational cranks when it comes to her.  She may not have been the best candidate for president, but she is not quite the manipulative, dumb, vacuous or whatever adjective you want to throw out there individual that her most vocal critics have portrayed her as being.

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9 Responses to Beware the Cult of Personality

  • Most politicians cannot be adequately judged until at least a century has passed from their death, and the passions of their time have died away. Of course some passions never completely die away, as is demonstrated in the comboxes whenever I post about Lincoln!

  • I will remember the following from Governor Plain’s statement to Mark Levin.

    “Saving the country is all that matters, and the first step required for that task is to totally reverse our current course. Of course, that includes removal of the current occupant in the White House.”

    You should do a study of the Cult of the Obama-worshiping Imbecile. They make Cargo Cultists look like Einsteins.

  • From the title, I thought you were going to blog about Steve Jobs.

  • Not really asking for a savior – almost the opposite: someone who is humble enough to understand the limits of office and stick to them.

  • T. Shaw, Sarah was anything but Gov. Plain. 🙂

    Also, great video. Living Colour’s first album, Vivid, rocked hard. Album no. 2 was okay with a couple of good songs, but it went downhill quickly after that.

  • I have Time’s Up but not Vivid. It was actually in the group of five cds that were the first ones I ever bought, and I’m not sure I ever listened to it again after the first time I played it.

  • “Put your trust not in princes. It’s a biblical injunction that we ought to heed. We’ve seen what happens when a large segment of the population treats a political figure as the Messiah, and we’re working to clean up that mess right now.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Even the real Messiah refused to be a political Messiah, to the disappointment of some of His followers.

    I would have to also agree with c matt that what we should be looking for is NOT a candidate who will change the world and solve all our problems but someone who, recognizing the limits of their office, won’t promise what they can’t deliver and who won’t make things worse.

  • We look to man to do what God alone can accomplish. Everyone wants a messiah who will solve their problems. The best thing elected officials can do is to remain humble, honest, and realistic.