5

Patty Andrews: Requiescat in Pace

The last of the Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews, died yesterday at 94.  The daughters of a Greek immigrant and a Norwegian-American mother in Minnesota, the Andrews Sisters were an amazingly successful singing act, selling over 75 million records.  They were also ardent patriots.

During World War II the Andrews Sisters tirelessly performed for the USO stateside and in Africa and Italy.  They were enormously effective at selling war bonds with their rendition of Irving Berlin’s Any Bonds Today.  They helped found The Hollywood Canteen and donated their time to perform there, a memorable pleasant stopping off point for sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen on their way to the hell of war in the Pacific.  When they were entertaining troops they often would pick three servicemen at random to dine with them after the show.  Performing so frequently on Armed Forces Radio, they were designated the Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service.  They recorded millions of V-Disks for distribution of their songs to the troops.  Continue Reading

23

Tell Us How You Really Feel Dale!

Priests check the firearms of Marines who will be sent to Basilan province in southern Philippines during the 110th founding anniversary of the Philippine Navy in Manila

 

My friend Dale Price writes insightful posts at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings.  I stop by there regularly to steal borrow blog ideas.  Dale is always very good, but when he lets himself go he is magnificent.  Herewith is his post on the scape goating anti-NRA hysteria that some on Saint Blogs have been participating in:

Being marginalized in the culture war.

 
This is not directed at the people of good faith who I have spoken with about firearms since Sandy Hook. Hopefully, you know who you are. But I do have to unburden myself, and unfortunately in a burdensomely-verbose manner.
It doesn’t matter, but I didn’t sleep for s–t in the ten days after the Sandy Hook massacre. I was up until at least 1 am every night, trying to distract myself from the horror of the butchery committed by that evil garbage. It’s not much, but my wife made sure to send a card to the Newtown priests facing the horror. When I started talking about the issue, I expressed my interest in solutions like smaller magazine capacity, biometric safes and trigger locks and the like. Productive, civil conversations. Or so it seemed.
As it turned out, none of that mattered. The tone changed from one of wanting to prevent another Sandy Hook into a two-months hate against gun ownership in general and NRA members in particular. Solutions fell by the wayside, and de-legitimization began in earnest.
You see, I’m an NRA member. I do not own a Bushmaster, or any other semi-automatic weapon. As is my wife. I–and Heather–collectively own several firearms. Including–as will be set forth below–a completely-legal, bona-fide military weapon currently used by our military right now. Unlike what [damnatio memoriae] used at Newtown.
Nevertheless, because of our membership in Satan’s Own Rifles, prominent people of culture hope we get shot. Hope really hard! [Which strikes me as an odd spin on the Hope™ being offered in 2008, but I digress for the first time.] Continue Reading
23

The Controversies of the Permanent Diaconate

I read.  I read a lot.  I like to think that I have a decent working knowledge of contemporary discussions within the Church.  And yet more often than not, I am humbled when I run across a topic or debate that has been ongoing for years, but I am just now reading about it.  It just goes tho show that the more a man knows, the more he knows how much there is that he doesn’t know.

It happened most recently this past weekend.  I got wind of a debate about the permanent diaconate and decided to read up on it, when what to my surprise, the debate is almost a decade old.  Of course I knew that there have been several contentious conversations surrounding the topic of the permanent diaconate.  One the one hand, some have never fully accepted its reinstatement.  One the other hand, enthusiastic proponents of the institution refuse to recognize the complications and confusion that come from a married man with one foot in world of clergy and the other in the world of the laity.  For my own part, I readily recognize that Holy Mother Church has granted us the reality of the permanent diaconate, and I thus take an initial posture of humility and obedience.  And yet the whole thing has always been a bit confusing for me.  When some have suggested that I pursue the diaconate, I have had trouble reconciling the “dual vocation” nature of the whole thing.  Perhaps this is indicative of the aforementioned confusion, or perhaps it simply means that I am not called to such a state in life.

Nevertheless, there is a particular debate regaining some steam based on a Canon Law article from the well-known canon lawyer, Dr. Edward Peters.  The article was written back in 2005, but I get the impression that he has been defending his thesis ever since.  As I stated from the start, for whatever reason, I am just now getting wind of it, and I have to admit that topic is fascinating, which probably speaks more to my being a geek than it does to the topic itself.  The question is simple:

According to Canon Law, when a married man is ordained a deacon, must he refrain from martial intercourse for the rest of his life?

The question itself is provocative, with my initial reaction being, “Well, of course not.”  In fact, it was provocative enough that I thought of titling this post something like, “Deacons and Sex,” just to see if it would generate more hits.  I took the high road, however.

I immediately read Dr. Peters’ article, and I have poured through many of the irate responses written since 2005.  When all is said and done (though I suppose this matter remains somewhat open, so all is not in fact said nor done), I have three observations to make.  First, Dr. Peters is on to something.  His argument is compelling, cohesive, and comprehensive.  Second, most people are mischaracterizing Dr. Peters’ argument.  Third, those that are responding to Dr. Peters have not yet provided a reasoned response.  This of course doesn’t mean that one is out there yet to be discovered and/or written; it simply means that I have not yet found it.

What I would like to do here is to present a very trimmed down outline of Dr. Peters’ argument, indicate where most people seem to have misunderstood or mischaracterized the argument, and address the one counter argument I have found that even comes close to a refutation of Dr. Peters’ position.
Let’s begin with a few definitions.  We must distinguish between continence,celibacy and chastity.  By continence we mean the refraining of all sexual relations.  By celibacy we mean refraining from marriage itself.  By chastity we mean the conforming of one’s sexual actions with the moral law within the context of one’s state in life.  We will be concerned mostly with the first two definitions: continence and celibacy.
Of course all of God’s people are required by the moral law to practice chastity.  For an unmarried person (ordained or otherwise) this would require continence, or the abstaining from all sexual relations.  For married people this may require periodic continence if for serious reasons they do not wish to conceive a child.  Similarly by reason of the moral law this same reason, celibacy (not being married) also requires continence (not engaging in sexual activity).
We should also note what is not being debated here or even generally within the current discussion: can an ordained deacon subsequently marry, if he has never been married, or re-marry if his spouse passes away?  The answer to this question is certainly, “No.”  Canon Law is quite clear in this regard, and no serious person is debating that point.  There are those who think it should not be this way, but do so with specific knowledge that Canon Law stipulates otherwise.
With that, let’s outline the argument of Dr. Peters.
The central Canon for Peters is #277:

Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity” (CCC 1983, c. 277).

Note first that deacons most certainly fit the definition of “clergy,” and so they are seemingly included in this call to “perfect and perpetual continence.”  (Recall that this means the refraining of sexual activity.)

 What follows is a list of Dr. Peters’ major points:

1.  There is a deliberate distinction between celibacy and continence: both are mentioned for good reason.  In the case of the married deacon, celibacy (refraining from being married) is not applicable by the very definition of celibacy.  In the case of a priest, continence is redundant.  (By the moral law, any many who is not married would be bound by continence.)  Thus, the canon seems to be stressing both celibacy and continence separately, and in its wording holds continence as the “higher” good that is surrendered, with celibacy being presented as a secondary good.

2.  The first point is made clearer by reference section 2 of this same canon (#277): “Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful” (emphasis added by Peters).  Here there is a mention of continence, but not of celibacy.

These two points serves to illustrate that continence and celibacy are two separate concepts, and they are not necessarily joined together in all cases.

3.  Canon 288 specifically exempts permanent deacons from a variety of obligations (such as the inability to hold political office and the requirement to wear clerical dress, among other obligations), and it makes no attempt to distinguish between married and non-married permanent deacons.  There is no mention of continence among the exemptions.

4.  Canons 1042 and 1037 deal with the exemption for celibacy among permanent deacons.  (1037 is where we find the requirement that unmarried men who become ordained to the diaconate are bound not only to continence, but also to celibacy; that is, they cannot get married.)  Neither canon specifically dispenses the permanent deacon from the requirement to observe continence.

These two points serve to illustrate that Canon Law has ample opportunity to specifically exempt married deacons from the requirement of continence, but in fact does not.

5.  Canon 1031 requires that a married man obtain the consent of his wife before being ordained to the diaconate.  Peters argues the fact that spousal consent is required provides a strong argument that the intent of Canon 277 is that married deacons are bound to continence within their marriage.  He asks, “To what is the spouse consenting, and why is her consent necessary?”  Peters argues that if the consent is not because of the required continence, then no-one has been able to provide a reasonable answer to its necessity.  Vague attempts are made at claiming that the wife is consenting to the pressures that may be put on the marriage because of this new commitment, but Peters sees these arguments as quite weak: in no other Sacrament does one need the permission of the spouse in order to receive it.  One does not, for instance, need to permission of a non-Christian spouse in order to receive Baptism, even thought this could very much put pressure on the marriage.  The requirement of spousal consent would only make sense if the wife was being asked to forgo one of her own rights guaranteed by her state in life, i.e. the sexual union with her husband.

6.  The 1917 Code of Canon Law does not distinguish between the requirement of continence and the requirement of celibacy (no such distinction would have been necessary since all clergy was to be unmarried, and all unmarried men, regardless of particular state in life, are called to continence by the moral law).  Yet available commentators on the 1917 Code, in discussing dispensations from the Vatican for married clergy, were unanimous: a married man who is ordained would be required to forego sexual relations with his wife.  This is important because in reinstating the permanent diaconate, Pope Paul VI said explicitly, “We must confirm all that is said in the [1917] Code of Canon Law about the rights and duties of deacons, either those rights and duties which they have in common with all clerics or those proper to themselves, except where We here state otherwise, and We decree that these rules are to apply to those whom are to be permanent deacons as well.”   The exemption from celibacy is “state[d] otherwise,” and yet nowhere is there an exemption from continence.  This, it seems that the intent of the Holy See at the time when the permanent diaconate was reinstated was explicitly not to remove the exemption of continence from married deacons.

7.  The final argument comes from the revision history of the pivotal canon 277.  Peters notes that the paragraph underwent two signifiant changes.  The first version had the following statement immediately after the first section.  “Men of mature age, promoted to the stable diaconate, who are living in marriage, are not bound to the prescription of section 1 [which imposes both celibacy and continence]; these however, upon the loss of their wife, are bound to celibacy.”  What is significant here is that the language is vague enough to suggest that all of canon 277 section 1 would not apply to married deacons.  It seems to dispense with the entire section, which could then be read as exemption married deacons from both celibacy and continence.  The second version revised the very same sentence as, “Men promoted to the permanent diaconate, living in marriage, are not bound to the prescription of section 1.”  This is even more vague as it seems to not only exempt married deacons from continence, but could also be understood to allow a deacon to re-marry upon the death of his spouse.  What is significant here is that neither version of the sentence made it into the final promulgated Code of Canon Law.  The history suggests that the authors knew that these statements were vague and could be misconstrued to exempt marriage deacons from continence.

These three points positive evidence that the intent of those writing the canon was to specifically retain the requirement of continence for married deacons, (the first being the reference to Pope Paul VI found above).

After this (not so) brief review, I think it is important to state clearly what it is that Dr. Peters believes, but more to the point what he doesn’t believe:

A.  The 1983 Code of Canon Law, after careful examination from a variety of angles, imposes upon married men who want to be ordained as permanent deacons a requirement of continence.  That is, married men who are ordained to the diaconate are to refrain from sexual relations.  Such a drastic requirement is precisely why spousal consent is necessary.

B.  [CURRENT DEACONS, PLEASE READ.]  Those who have been ordained to the permanent diaconate already and have not been made aware of this requirement are not bound by it.  Under Canon Law, no one can be bound to surrender a right unless they were made aware of it at the time of their ordination.

It is important to note that Dr. Peters very much sees the current situation as one that is irregular.  What’s more, he doesn’t even seem to take any one specific position on how to rectify it.  More to the point, I cannot find anywhere that he suggests that married deacons should have imposed on them a requirement of continence.  He is simply stating that Canon Law does in fact make such an imposition.

Peters offers four solutions for rectifying the current situation:  (1) reaffirm the unbroken tradition of continence for all clerics, including married deacons – from this point forward begin enforcing the requirement with newly ordained men, (2) reaffirm the practice for priests, but abandon it for married clergy, (3) change the requirement to a temporary continence for married clergy, or (4) abandon any expectation of continence for married clerics.

Dr. Peters’ thesis is simple: practice and Canon Law are not in conformity.  One of the two (or both) needs changed.  Either rewrite or otherwise clarify the current Code or change the practice to confirm with the Code.  Those who have come out in violent opposition to Dr. Peters seem to have missed this point.  While I am sure that Dr. Peters has his own personal preference within the four options, I cannot find anywhere that he oversteps his bounds as a canon lawyer: he merely states that something needs done, and he offers the list of possible solutions.

Finally, we have the various attempts at debunking Peters’ argument.  Most of these are not worth considering, as they have missed the point altogether.  Some have attempted a historical study on the presence of married clergy within the Church, but this is altogether irrelevant.  Peters is making an argument from Canon Law.  Whether married deacons were required to observe continence throughout all of history is not relevant; Peters is claiming that they are required to do so now.

Others has cited the widespread ignorance of the law itself as proof of Peters’ erroneous reading.  In other words, “Surely if thousands of married men have been ordained by bishops without knowledge of this requirement, something must be wrong.  Surely Peters’ reading must be erroneous.”  The problem here is (1) there is no attempt at why canon 277 should not be read according to Peters, but only states that it is “not being read according to Peters,” and (2) Peters himself has nowhere suggested what the practice should or should not be, only that it is not in conformity with Canon Law.

The only argument worth dissecting is the one that claims an implicit exemption from continence based on the explicit exemption from celibacy.  In other words, it is clear that married men (by definition) are exempt from celibacy.  Further, because part of being married included the natural right to engage in marital intercourse, the exemption from continence is implied.  First, this is quite weak.  Peters goes to great lengths to (1) show the numerous places where the exemption could have been made explicit but is not, and (2) offer at least three positive arguments for the intent of retaining the requirement of continence (the necessity of spousal consent, the explicit intent of Paul VI in reinstating the permanent diaconate, and the history of revision of canon 277).  The whole of this counterargument seems to be, “I don’t like this requirement, so I am going to claim an implied exemption.”

There is one author that has at least attempted a logical argument similar to this.  He begins by stating that the canon is equivalent to a logical if-then statement.  (I’ll spare you all of the formal logic language.)  He then offers what is a well-known law of logic: the law of contrapositive.  The law of contrapositive states that “If then q” is logically equivalent to “If not then not p.”  We can see this by example.  The statement “If a number is greater than 2, then then number is positive” can be re-written as, “If a number is not positive, then it is not greater than 2.”  The author then proceeds to go through canon 277.  He claims that “Clerics are obliged to continence and therefore are bound to celibacy” is equivalent to, “Clerics who are not bound to celibacy are not therefore obliged to continence.”  The author then applies the latter to married deacons.

This seems to have merit on the surface, and yet one feels a sleight of hand, or perhaps a sleight of words.  His argument only works if canon 277 intends to present a true logical if-then statement.  In other words, it only works if (1) canon 277 can be rewritten as, “If a cleric is obliged to continence, then he is obliged to celibacy,” and (2) this if-then statement is true.  Regarding (1), this is debatable, as the example below will illustrate.  Regarding (2), it is simply a restatement of the very issue at hand.  Dr. Peters says that the expressed exemption of deacons from celibacy later in Canon Law is precisely the counter example that renders such a statement false.  In fact, notice the careful rewording of the contrapositive above: it no longer speaks in terms of absolute requirements, but it instead uses the relative pronoun “who.”  A more accurate contrapositive would be, “Clerics are not bound to celibacy and therefore are not obliged to continence.”  If the author is correct, then it would seem to imply much more than married deacons being exempt from continence and celibacy, but rather all clergy.  This is clearly not correct.

Finally, we can see a parallel in the Confiteor in which we profess, “I have greatly sinned, and therefore I ask Blessed Mary … to pray for me.”  It is because I have sinned that I ask others to pray for me.  The author above would have us believe that this is equivalent to saying, “Those who do not ask for the prayers of others have not sinned.”  This is clearly false and it comes not from an error in logic, but from an imprecise translation of an English statement into formal logical statements.  In other words, “therefore” (or “because of this”) as used in the English language is not equivalent to the  “If … then …” of formal logic.

Of course, one thing that could resolve this debate is some clarification form the Vatican.  I have not yet been able to find any, but I am happy present it if someone wants to pass it my way.
*          *          *
I intended this to be short – I have failed miserably.

3

The Muse Among the Motors

Rudyard Kipling and car

The eighteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here and here.  Kipling had a very distinctive style, a style which has produced endless poems imitating him.  It occasionally amused Kipling to do a poem in the style of some other poet.  Between 1904 and 1929 he did a series of short poems in the style of various poets.  The subject of the poems was the new horseless carriage.  Kipling loved cars, although it is unclear whether he ever drove one himself.  Here are a few of the poems in his series The Muse Among the Motors.  I will leave to the readers in the comboxes to guess the poet being copied.  We will start out with an easy one:

The Justice’s Tale

With them there rode a lustie Engineere

Wel skilled to handel everich waie her geere,

Hee was soe wise ne man colde showe him naught

And out of Paris was hys learnynge brought.

Frontlings mid brazen wheeles and wandes he sat,

And on hys heade he bare an leathern hat.

Hee was soe certaine of his governance, That, by the

Road, he tooke everie chaunce.

For simple people and for lordlings eke

Hee wolde not bate a del but onlie squeeke

Behinde their backes on an horne hie

Until they crope into a piggestie.

He was more wood than bull in china-shoppe,

And yet for cowes and dogges wolde hee stop,

Not our of Marcie but for Preudence-sake–

Than hys dependaunce ever was hys brake. Continue Reading

13

Intellectual Bankruptcy on Display

One can look at the blatant dishonesty displayed by gun control proponents one of two ways. These people are so dishonest and so loose with the facts that they destroy their credibility with each new fabrication. Alternatively, these individuals are so shameless and brazen that we can only stand aside in wonder as they run full steam ahead.

The latest display of such hubris is from the firestorm over the supposed heckling of Neil Heslin, father of one of the murdered children at Sandy Hook elementary, Jesse Lewis. The problem: he wasn’t heckled.

MSNBC is propping up its story with a blatantly edited video. In fact, Heslin was not heckled. Gun rights advocates in the audience indeed voiced their support for the Second Amendment — after he asked why anyone would need “assault-style weapons or high-capacity clips.” You’d never know based on the MSNBC version, which completely cut out the footage of Heslin’s question.

Fortunately, Twitchy has obtained the full, unedited video, which you can view for yourself below (relevant portion starts at the 15-minute mark):

You can go to the Twitchy link to view the video. Here is Ace’s summary:

At first you might think this is a rhetorical question; the audience in fact takes it as rhetorical, and doesn’t answer. Then he scans around the room, looking for someone to answer, and, as everyone’s silent, concludes, as he’d intended, that no one has a good answer.

At that point, people realize that their respectful silence is being taken for assent, and they begin chiming in “The second amendment.”

He asked a question and was legitimately looking for people to answer. People did, and they were shouted down for actually responding.

Obviously the man is still grieving, and should be afforded respect. At the same time, he is also willingly allowing himself to be placed in a public situation to make an appeal for legislative change to gun laws. No one shouted him down – just the opposite. People assumed he was making a rhetorical point, and when it was obvious that it was more than just a rhetorical question, they replied in kind.

Should people have remained silent even when pressed? Some will argue that a man in Heslin’s state should be given the utmost space to bare his soul. But it seems to me that the people who are disrespecting Heslin are the people who put him on that stand. They used him as a political prop. Well, that’s not entirely fair, because I am sure that Heslin was willing to make this public testimony. Yet those that are so indignant about people actually responding to Heslin when he asked them a question are simply enraged that their political theater was upstaged for a minute. How is it respectful of Heslin to use him as a political prop to bludgeon political opponents over the head with? If anyone is disrepecting Mr. Heslin’s dignity, it is folks like those at Media Matters, David Frum, and others who don’t really see him as a human being, but as a useful political tool. And those people frankly make me sick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

Letter to Hooker

Joe Hooker

One hundred and fifty years ago last Saturday, President Abraham Lincoln sent what is doubtless the most unusual letter ever sent by an American president to an American general:

Executive Mansion Washington, January 26, 1863

Major General Hooker: General.

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

Yours very truly

A. Lincoln Continue Reading

12

None Dare Call it Fascism

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey found himself engulfed in controversy for remarks he made about Obamacare:

Back in 2009, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal labeling President Obama’s Affordable Care Act a form of “socialism.” Today on NPR’s Morning Edition he changed his mind. Mackey now thinks Obamacare is “fascism.”

“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism,” Mackey told NPR. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”

That’s an f-word that you just don’t use in polite conversation, so Mackey backtracked slightly.

On CNN this morning, host Carol Costello confronted Whole Foods CEO John Mackey over his recent comments that ObamaCare was tantamount to “fascism” because “the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it.”

“You initially labeled the Health Care Act a form of socialism, and then on NPR you called ObamaCare ‘fascism.’ Why did you decide to change the terminology?” Costello asked at the outset.

Echoing his statement yesterday that he regrets using the word “fascism,” Mackey explained, “That was a bad choice of words, but traditionally socialism means that the means of production are run by the government and in fascism the means of production are still owned by private individuals but they’re controlled by the government. And what’s happening. Our health care system is moving away from free enterprise capitalism towards greater governmental control. That was a poor choice of words due to the baggage and associations that go along with it. So now I’m just calling it ‘government-controlled health care.’”

An unsatisfied Costello then challenged Mackey, saying, “You realize when you say ‘fascism,’ it brings up Nazi Germany and all sorts of things. And we really want that kind language out of our public forum at the moment, don’t we?”

“Apparently you can’t use that word in America any longer, it’s taboo,” Mackey fired back.

I find this all rather amazing. For the past four years leftists – and a fair number of conservatives, as well – have decried any use of the word socialist to describe the Obama administration. You see Obama wasn’t really a socialist, and anyone who dared use that term to describe Obama was a crazy kook who needed to be shunned from society. So Mackey attempted to use more accurate terminology in describing Obamacare, only to discover that it has become verboten. Well, it’s only verboten when applied to politicians on the left. Ed Driscoll quotes from Jonah Goldberg’s G-File (available via email only):

None of this surprises me. But it’s still quite amazing. The simple fact is that fascism is a uniquely radioactive political term and the Left has an exclusive license to use it. Liberals are allowed to be as glib and cavalier as they want about the use of the word. But if conservatives use it — entirely accurately — it is an outrage and a sign of ignorance. Yes, technically, it would have been more accurate, and certainly less controversial, if Mackey had said Obamacare is corporatist — the economic structure of fascism — but very few people know what “corporatist” means. 

And so you have this carve out for liberals. They get to use the word fascist — incorrectly — all of the time. But if a conservative (or in this case a libertarian) uses it accurately, and not particularly pejoratively either, it’s offensive or stupid.

This is why Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism, was such a delightful and enlightening read. Fascism is such a loaded word that it has become almost impossible to talk seriously about it. The left has done a masterful job of twisting the word around and have managed to turn fascism into some kind of right-wing ideology in the minds of most Americans. Anyone with more than a cursory understanding of political thought would understand why that is completely laughable, but sadly most people do not possess even a cursory understanding of political thought. So either the term is applied – mistakenly and inappropriately – to conservatives, or else anyone who uses it to describe – fairly accurately – the policies of the Obama administration is to be mocked and ridiculed.

Mackey may have been right, but that’s of no use to him now. Clearly both “socialist” and “fascist” are completely off the table when it comes to discussions of President Obama and his signature policy achievement. Well then, we’ll just have to stick with “counterproductive,” “wrongheaded,” “bankruptcy-inducing,” and other adjectives.

3

When Seconds Count, the Police Are Only Minutes Away

Bravo to Sheriff Dave Clark of Milwaukee who tells the absolute truth in the video above.   I have been involved in many orders of protection where the judge issuing the order admonishes the person seeking the order that it merely is a piece of paper and that they must take precautions for their own safety.  The Law is a powerful tool, but it cannot provide protection from armed assailants night and day. Continue Reading

12

Feast Day of the Angelic Doctor

 

As a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.” The Church is more immortally important than the State; but the State has its rights, for all that. This Christian duality had always been implicit, as in Christ’s distinction between God and Caesar, or the dogmatic distinction between the natures of Christ.
But St. Thomas has the glory of having seized this double thread as the clue to a thousand things; and thereby created the only creed in which the saints can be sane. It presents itself chiefly, perhaps, to the modern world as the only creed in which the poets can be sane. For there is nobody now to settle the Manichees; and all culture is infected with a faint unclean sense that Nature and all things behind us and below us are bad; that there is only praise to the highbrow in the height. St. Thomas exalted God without lowering Man; he exalted Man without lowering Nature. Therefore, he made a cosmos of common sense; terra viventium; a land of the living.
His philosophy, like his theology, is that of common sense.
He does not torture the brain with desperate attempts to explain existence by explaining it away. The first steps of his mind are the first steps of any honest mind; just as the first virtues of his creed could be those of any honest peasant.

G.K. Chesterton Continue Reading

63

January 28, 1813: Pride and Prejudice Published

Two centuries today since the publication of Pride and Prejudice.  I confess that I have generally found Jane Austen to be a snore fest unless her text is enlivened, if that is the proper word when Zombies are involved, as in the above video.  Austen’s books began to be published in America in 1832, although they made little impact with the general public until the latter part of the Nineteenth Century when the novelist William Dean Howells wrote several essays celebrating Austen as an author.

One of her most biting critics was Mark Twain.  A sample of his Austen tirades:

Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.

I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone. Continue Reading

8

Illinois Taught Obama All He Knows About Governing

Lincoln Weeping

 

 

Well, the Land of Lincoln, and the home state of the South Side Messiah, has another distinction:

 

 

The Land of Lincoln now has the worst credit rating of any state in the nation:

llinois’ credit rating has taken another hit.   Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service downgraded the state from an “A” rating to “A-minus”, making it the worst in the country.

The New York ratings firm’s ranking means taxpayers may have to pay tens of millions of dollars more in interest when the state borrows money for roads and other projects.

The downgrade is the latest fallout over the $96.8 billion debt to five state pension systems.

The downgrade now ties Illinois with California, but California has a positive outlook.

Illinois’ fragile overall financial status netted it a negative outlook, putting it behind California overall.

The ratings came out now because Illinois plans to issue $500 million in bonds within days.

Finally…we beat California at something.

 

 

Continue Reading

1

Morton of Merry Mount

There was Morton of Merry Mount, who so vexed the Plymouth Colony, with his flushed, loose, handsome face and his hate of the godly.

Stpehen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the fourth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet and here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler.  In this post we direct our attention to Thomas Morton of Merry Mount.

A Devonshire man born in circa 1578, Morton was an attorney and a lover of plays and classical learning.  In 1624 he became involved in a trading venture to the Algonquian Indians in what is now Massachusetts.  In 1626 he founded the settlement of Merry Mount.  Morton ran a free and easy settlement, with the English settlers mixing freely with the Indians and quite a good time apparently being had by all.  On May 1, 1627 Morton erected a Maypole with much frolicking going on around it.

The pilgrims were shocked.  Governor William Bradford of Plymouth wrote: Continue Reading

5

Theme From El Cid

Something for the weekend.  The forgiveness song from El Cid (1961).  I have always loved this retelling of the legend of El Campeador, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, who purportedly despised each other during the filming.  I think the etchings of the intro capture something of the spirit of believing Spain, always waiting for the next great Crusade.

Here is my favorite sequence from the film: Continue Reading

13

Prayer When It Suits Them

 

Pro-abort Senator Diane Feinstein, (D.CA)  at her press conference yesterday at which she displayed the guns she wants to ban, had it begin with a prayer by Episcopalian Canon Gary Hall, who runs the laughingly entitled Episcopalian “National Cathedral” in Washington, DC.  Canon Hall made news for himself earlier in the week by announcing that same-sex “marriages” would be performed at the “National Cathedral”.  I found it intriguing that a representative of a dying church would be tagged to baptize Feinstein’s gun grabbing efforts.

The Episcopal Church is clearly rotting away.

Self-reported statistics provided by the denomination this month show that the church has dropped from 2,006,343 members in 2009 to 1,951,907 in 2010, the most recent reporting year. The loss of 54,436 members increases the annual rate of decline from 2 percent to 3 percent, outpacing the most recently reported declines in most other mainline churches. The church’s 10-year change in active members has dropped 16 percent.

A branch of the otherwise fast-growing 80 million member worldwide Anglican Communion, the third largest family of Christian churches globally, the Episcopal Church had also seen a steady decrease in the number of parishes, losing or closing over 100 in 2010, as well as a drop in attendance from 682,963 in 2009 to 657,831 in 2010, a 4 percent drop. Fifty-four percent of all U.S. Episcopal Churches suffered attendance loss over the prior year. Over the last decade, attendance was down 23 percent.
The denomination, which once claimed over 3.5 million members as recently as the mid-1960s, has lost over 40 percent of membership even while the U.S. population grew by over 50 percent.

 

 

Why this is occurring is easy to determine by reading an article on Canon Gary Hall at The American Spectator.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Hall is not content to host conversational forums with authors and poets or preside over high-profile funerals like those of Gerald Ford and Neil Armstrong. From calling in December for new firearms restrictions, to announcing last week that the massive gothic church is available for gay weddings, Hall embraces liberal causes as easily as he dismisses traditional Christianity.

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Previous generations of liberal Episcopal clergy often spoke in layers of obfuscation; discovering the heretical teaching buried in their writing and preaching required hours of decoding. Hall represents a younger generation of liberal Episcopalians who resemble nothing so much as Unitarian Universalists decked out in stoles and surplices; they are quick to denounce those who advocate historic Christian teaching—especially moral teaching—as intolerant perpetrators of injustice who must be silenced.

In an October interview with the Detroit Free PressHall announced that he is, “not about trying to convert someone to Christianity. I don’t feel I’m supposed to convert Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or Native Americans to Christianity so that they can be saved. That’s not an issue for me.”

Hall was also forthcoming about the fact that he finds common cause with those who do not profess a faith in Jesus Christ.

“I have much more in common with progressive Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists than I do with certain people in my own tradition, with fundamentalist Christians,” Hall declared. “The part of Christianity I stand with is the part in which we can live with ambiguity and with pluralism.” Continue Reading

45

Amazons Attack!

 

 

Back in my misspent youth in the Seventies I served some time in the Green Machine.  (I like to think that I greatly contributed to the defense of the nation by leaving the Army.)  While I was learning the mysteries of how to manuever squads, the other officer cadets and I would train with female officer cadets.  Most of them found the fairly arduous training very exhausting.  A few of them were as capable as the least physically in shape of the men.  (I would have been in that category.)  This was only basic training and not the type of training that would go on at an infantry branch school for the Lieutenants assigned to that branch.  Women of course back in those days could not be assigned to the Combat Arms branches of the Army, and I do not recall one woman complaining about that.

However, now Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on his way out the door, has announced a policy to allow women to serve in the Combat Arms.  Since my service was a peace time comedy of errors, and I have an XY chromosome combination, I will defer to the observations of Captain Katie Petronio, USMC, made last year:

As a company grade 1302 combat engineer officer with 5 years of active service and two combat deployments, one to Iraq and the other to Afghanistan, I was able to participate in and lead numerous combat operations. In Iraq as the II MEF Director, Lioness Program, I served as a subject matter expert for II MEF, assisting regimental and battalion commanders on ways to integrate female Marines into combat operations. I primarily focused on expanding the mission of the Lioness Program from searching females to engaging local nationals and information gathering, broadening the ways females were being used in a wide variety of combat operations from census patrols to raids. In Afghanistan I deployed as a 1302 and led a combat engineer platoon in direct support of Regimental Combat Team 8, specifically operating out of the Upper Sangin Valley. My platoon operated for months at a time, constructing patrol bases (PBs) in support of 3d Battalion, 5th Marines; 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; 2d Reconnaissance Battalion; and 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. This combat experience, in particular, compelled me to raise concern over the direction and overall reasoning behind opening the 03XX field.

Who is driving this agenda? I am not personally hearing female Marines, enlisted or officer, pounding on the doors of Congress claiming that their inability to serve in the infantry violates their right to equality. Shockingly, this isn’t even a congressional agenda. This issue is being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of civilians appointed by the Secretary of Defense called the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS). Their mission is to advise the Department of Defense (DoD) on recommendations, as well as matters of policy, pertaining to the well-being of women in the Armed Services from recruiting to employment. Members are selected based on their prior military experience or experience with women’s workforce issues. I certainly applaud and appreciate DACOWITS’ mission; however, as it pertains to the issue of women in the infantry, it’s very surprising to see that none of the committee members are on active duty or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to the issue they are attempting to change. I say this because, at the end of the day, it’s the active duty servicemember who will ultimately deal with the results of their initiatives, not those on the outside looking in. As of now, the Marine Corps hasn’t been directed to integrate, but perhaps the Corps is anticipating the inevitable—DoD pressuring the Corps to comply with DACOWITS’ agenda as the Army has already “rogered up” to full integration. Regardless of what the Army decides to do, it’s critical to emphasize that we are not the Army; our operational speed and tempo, along with our overall mission as the Nation’s amphibious force-in-readiness, are fundamentally different than that of our sister Service. By no means is this distinction intended as disrespectful to our incredible Army. My main point is simply to state that the Marine Corps and the Army are different; even if the Army ultimately does fully integrate all military occupational fields, that doesn’t mean the Corps should follow suit.

I understand that there are female servicemembers who have proven themselves to be physically, mentally, and morally capable of leading and executing combat-type operations; as a result, some of these Marines may feel qualified for the chance of taking on the role of 0302. In the end, my main concern is not whether women are capable of conducting combat operations, as we have already proven that we can hold our own in some very difficult combat situations; instead, my main concern is a question of longevity. Can women endure the physical and physiological rigors of sustained combat operations, and are we willing to accept the attrition and medical issues that go along with integration?

As a young lieutenant, I fit the mold of a female who would have had a shot at completing IOC, and I am sure there was a time in my life where I would have volunteered to be an infantryman. I was a star ice hockey player at Bowdoin College, a small elite college in Maine, with a major in government and law. At 5 feet 3 inches I was squatting 200 pounds and benching 145 pounds when I graduated in 2007. I completed Officer Candidates School (OCS) ranked 4 of 52 candidates, graduated 48 of 261 from TBS, and finished second at MOS school. I also repeatedly scored far above average in all female-based physical fitness tests (for example, earning a 292 out of 300 on the Marine physical fitness test). Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.

I was a motivated, resilient second lieutenant when I deployed to Iraq for 10 months, traveling across the Marine area of operations (AO) and participating in numerous combat operations. Yet, due to the excessive amount of time I spent in full combat load, I was diagnosed with a severe case of restless leg syndrome. My spine had compressed on nerves in my lower back causing neuropathy which compounded the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. While this injury has certainly not been enjoyable, Iraq was a pleasant experience compared to the experiences I endured during my deployment to Afghanistan. At the beginning of my tour in Helmand Province, I was physically capable of conducting combat operations for weeks at a time, remaining in my gear for days if necessary and averaging 16-hour days of engineering operations in the heart of Sangin, one of the most kinetic and challenging AOs in the country. There were numerous occasions where I was sent to a grid coordinate and told to build a PB from the ground up, serving not only as the mission commander but also the base commander until the occupants (infantry units) arrived 5 days later. In most of these situations, I had a sergeant as my assistant commander, and the remainder of my platoon consisted of young, motivated NCOs. I was the senior Marine making the final decisions on construction concerns, along with 24-hour base defense and leading 30 Marines at any given time. The physical strain of enduring combat operations and the stress of being responsible for the lives and well-being of such a young group in an extremely kinetic environment were compounded by lack of sleep, which ultimately took a physical toll on my body that I couldn’t have foreseen. Continue Reading

3

Live Not By Lies

 

 

Live Not by Lies is the last thing Alexander  Solzhenitsyn wrote before his exile to the West in 1974.  Solzhenitsyn was one of the giants of the last century.  Thrown into the Gulag while he was an artillery officer in the Red Army during World War II, he tirelessly, at the constant risk of his life, fought a lonely battle for freedom for three decades in the Soviet Union.  His courage and literary skill inspired people around the globe, including me as a teen-ager and a young man.  I never thought what he wrote would be applicable to the United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Alas, in the Age of Obama Solzhenitsyn’s writings have an increasingly unpleasant contemporary ring to them.

 

So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood–of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one’s family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies–or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one’s children and contemporaries.

And from that day onward he:

  • Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.
  • Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role.
  • Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.
  • Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.
  • Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.
  • Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.
  • Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question.
  • Will immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.
  • Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

Of course we have not listed all of the possible and necessary deviations from falsehood. But a person who purifies himself will easily distinguish other instances with his purified outlook.

No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.

But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul- don’t let him be proud of his “progressive” views, and don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a merited figure, or a general–let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and warm.

Even this path, which is the most modest of all paths of resistance, will not be easy for us. But it is much easier than self-immolation or a hunger strike: The flames will not envelope your body, your eyeballs, will not burst from the heat, and brown bread and clean water will always be available to your family. Continue Reading

11

History is Boring!

No, History is not boring, but it certainly is usually taught in a boring fashion.  The main culprits:

1. Badly Written TextbooksUsually drafted by committees of fairly untalented hacks, they frequently make the reading of technical manuals seem exciting by comparison.

2.  Politicized Drek-Textbooks often have a strong ideological slant.  These days that slant is usually, although not always, driven from the Left.  Therefore students are likely to read quite a bit on the treatment of women in colonial America, with the military history of the American Revolution left to a scant two pages.  This distorts History and usually drains the life out of it, as the study of the past becomes yet another opportunity to deliver a twenty-first century political diatribe.

3.  Ignorant Teachers-Too often History is taught by teachers who have little knowledge of it and no passion for it.  When I was in high school back in the early Seventies, coaches often were  assigned to teach History, under the assumption that anyone could teach it.  There were exceptions, and I still have fond memories of Mr. Geisler who taught American history and Mr. Vanlandingham who taught European history, but the usual level of the teaching of History was quite low.

4.  Laundry Lists-States often mandate inclusion of certain subjects in History.  This results in a laundry list approach of teaching History in which so many topics must be covered that short shrift is given to understanding a period as a whole. Continue Reading

13

By What Right?

The ongoing health care debate, specifically the mandate by Health and Human Services that Catholic employers provide insurance coverage that includes artificial contraception, has spurned a renewed discussion of basic human rights.  On the one hand, the Catholic Church claims that the fundamental right to religious freedom is being violated by the current administrative order.  On the other hand, the government claims that people have the right to basic affordable health care, and that an employer who refuses to provide services that fit the definition is in violation of this right.  The Church then rejects the idea that contraception is part of “basic human health care.”  The administration disagrees.  And the conversation hits a stale mate.  The whole debacle fails precisely insofar as it ignores the discussion of rights in general.  The discussion, rather than being stranded in a limbo of competing “rights,” should begin by revisiting the very question of rights themselves.  What is needed is a complete rethinking of this question, and in some way, a return to a past that was not marred by the modern rights language that has led to this whole debate.

Perhaps the most adamant proponent of the position that rights have no real place in medieval or ancient philosophy is the French jurist Michel Villey.  While Brian Tierney1 has called his work “idiosyncratic,” there is no doubt that Villey has made great contributions to our understanding of legal history.

“The modern idea of subjective rights, Villey asserts, is rooted in the nominalist philosophy of the fourteenth century, and it first saw the light of day in the work of William of Ockham.  Ockham inaugurated a ‘semantic revolution’ when he transformed the traditional idea of objective natural right into a new theory of subjective natural rights.  His work marked a ‘Copernican moment’ in the history of the science of law” (Tierney, page 14).

Villey begins his presentation by examining the Latin word ius, which roughly translated can mean “right.”  However, in the classical world, ius was never a power possessed by an individual, as in the right to own personal property.  Rather, to the classical mind, ius was a thing, a legal thing in fact.  It was the proper end to the virtue of justice.  It was that reality towards which a jurist strives.  Villey’s somewhat well-known example comes from the writings of Gaius.  The ancient legal writer speaks of a ius altius tollendi, or “the right of building higher.”  This is in reference to the right of raising a house and blocking the lights of a neighbor’s house.  At first glance, it seems that Gaius is in “Locke” step with the modern understanding: a man has the right to add to his house if he so desires.  This might be true but for the subsequent ius non extollendi.  What could it mean to have a right not to build a house higher lest a neighbor’s house be blocked?  Rather than seeing a right as something inhering in a subject (in this case a homeowner), Gaius is simply pointing out the obvious: in some cases what is fair and just (“objectively right”) is for a homeowner to add a story to his house, while in other cases what is fair and just is the opposite.  It is the role of the judge to exercise the virtue of justice in specific cases.  The object of his decision is ius, “the right.”

Ius, as the root of the word justice, is first that which is rendered as the object of justice, or the just due given to an individual, rather than a power enjoyed by a particular subject.  This is why Ulpian, when speaking of suum ius cuique tribuere (“to render each his right”), gives the example a parricide who had the “right” to be sewn up in a sack of vipers and thrown into the Tiber.  This is hardly the kind of right envisioned by modern human rights commissions.  As Ralph McInery2 puts it, “It is difficult to imagine a Human Rights Commission coming to Lizzie Borden’s aid to insure that she be given her rightful sackful of snakes and a dip in the river.”

Aristotle understands the term ius (dikaion in Greek) in two ways.  The first is as the object of a virtue, an act proper to the human person.  The other is as an “objectively right state of affairs” (Tierney, page 22).  Neither of these are equivalent to the modern concept of inalienable rights possessed by an individual subject.  Much of this stems form the fact that Aristotle sees the universe as ordered towards a particular harmony.  It is the virtue of justice that brings about this harmony.  Human society, too, is intended to be ordered towards this harmony, and it is the moral virtue of justicethat allows humanity to accomplish this.  For Aristotle, then, and we will see the same thing in Aquinas, ius is defined primarily as a thing in terms of relationship rather than a personal power held by an individual.

“The just, what’s fair, the dikaion or iustum is a thing, a relation or proportion, out there, to be objectively determined by the judge so that the contentions of the parties to a suit are adjusted” (McInery).

It should be noted here, as pointed out by Tierney, that Villey criticized many of the early Christian Church Fathers, who he saw as distorting the classical sense of ius into something of a divine command, effectively equivocating it with lex (law).  In Villey’s opinion, it was Aquinas who rescued the concept.  “[Villey] thought that one of the great achievements of the Dominican master was to restore for a time the objective, classical meaning of ius, a meaning that would be lost again by Ockham and the nominalists” (Tierney, page 23).

Villey is not alone in his critique of subjective rights.  Alasdair MacIntyre3 too has expressed reservations about their existence.  MacIntyre’s argument is different though.  He claims that the existence of a right apart from human relationships conceives of a human person existing prior to such relationships.  But for MacIntyre, such an individual does not exist.  All human persons exist within a particular social narrative.  In other words, the human person does not exist apart from social relationships.  Even in traditional natural law theory, we are talking about man in relationship, specifically in relationship to God.  This is why the virtue of justice (what is “right”) is a virtue of relationship, not a particular power possessed by an individual.

“Lacking any such social form, the making of claim to a right would be like presenting a check for payment in a social order that lacked the institution of money” (MacIntyre, 65).

Aquinas continues the work of Aristotle, though as expected, he frames everything within a Christian perspective. Like Aristotle, ius is a thing for Aquinas, not a power possessed by an individual subject.  Aquinas sees it as either quod iustum est (what is just) or ipsam rem iustam (the just thing itself).  Even in his derivative meanings of ius we find nothing of a subjective definition.

While there is always the danger of pulling a particular question from Aquinas out of context from the holistic structure of the Summa, we feel fairly safe in examining Question 57 from the Secunda Secundae as representative of Aquinas’ presentation on ius.

The first article addresses whether or not “right” is the object of justice.  From the start it is clear that Aquinas’ answer is the affirmative.  In one of his replies, he outlines the three uses of the term.  “The word ius was first of all used to denote the just thing itself, but afterwards it was transferred to designate the art whereby it is known what it just, and further to denote the place where justice is administered [a court of law].”

As a side note, the last definition provides some insight into how Thomas might envision a “court of law.”  In continuity with his ancient forerunners, it seems to me that the place where justice is administered and the manner in which it is administered would look very different from the modern court (at least at the highest levels) of law focussed around rights and their violations.  “The task of the jurist is to establish just relationships among persons and between persons and property – not to affirm absolute rights, but to determine what is objectively right” (Tierney, page 21).

Nowhere is a “right” presented as something possessed by an individual subject.  In fact, while ius is framed in terms of relationship (justice, after all is a virtue of relationship), his presentation focuses more on the moral agent and how to act rather than a claim made by the agent.  In other words, Aquinas’ conception of right looks more like an imperative placed on the moral agent, i.e., “it is right to not take the property of another,” rather than some sort of entitlement claimed by a subject, i.e.,  “I have the right to possess personal property.”  As with anything framed in terms of virtue, the presentation propels man towards good action rather than allowing him to rest on the laurels of some preexisting entitlement.  This is all to say, ius is known primarily as belonging to a relationship among parties and as the object of an obligation imposed by natural law.  From the perspective of the moral agent, it is not something I claim for myself.  It is instead something that directs my actions toward the virtue of justice.  Further, as a virtue, ius must be learned and developed in habit. In this way ius is not self-evident as is claimed by post-enlightenment “self-evident truths.”

While Aquinas doesn’t draw out this distinction, which serves to indicate that the modern sense of the term right is unknown to him, his examples throughout the question make his position clear.  For instance, a husband’s ability to beget children to his wife is an example of what is naturally “right.”

For Villey, however, it is not enough to point out the lack of connection between the modern theory of rights and ancient/medieval philosophy.  He also argues against the very existence of rights in the modern sense.  Villey describes three fundamental problems with the modern formulation.  It is Utopian, arbitrary, and sterile.  We turn to Tierney once again:

“It is Utopian because the supposed absolute rights are fictions; they usually do not exist in actual law or in real life.  Rights theories are arbitrary because the rights claimed are ultimately based on subjective whim; they lead on to a debased understanding of justice as ‘nothing but a label you attach to your own subjective preferences.’  And modern rights theories are sterile because they cannot form the basis of a coherent jurisprudence.  The rights that people assert conflict with one another” (Tierney, page 21).

We begin with the notion that modern rights are Utopian.  In this claim, Villey questions the very existence of rights seen as a subjective powers held by individuals.  Consider as a first example the claim of a right to religious freedom.  Worship, as understood by Aquinas, is a virtue of justice.  It is rendering unto God what it due to God.  Thus, worshiping God as God wants to be worshiped is the “right” thing to do.  But man emphatically does not have the “right” to worship how he sees fit anymore than man has the “right” to worship a God other than the one true God.  In other words, as with any moral situation, man does not have the “right” to act wrongly, to act contrary to objective truth.  Freedom of religion, posited as an inalienable right, implies that man, according to his nature, has the either the right to worship God, or not to worship God, or to worship a god that is something other than the one, true God.  The problem is that only the first of the three is an exercise of justice.  Since ius (right) is the object of justice, only the first of the three is, classically understood, “right.”  Lest I be misunderstood, we might agree that the best way to organize society is to prevent government intrusion into religious decisions.  We might agree that the more prudent course of action is to separate the exercise of religion from the State.  We might even agree that the best course of action is to allow man to discover and adhere to the truth of being unimpeded by human authority.  Thus, we could support a legal right to religious freedom.  We could even agree that prudence dictates a teaching motivation by proposition rather than imposition.  It is something altogether different to claim an inalienable right to religious freedom, which somehow suggests that man is entitled to believe whatever he wills, even if those beliefs are models of untruth.  In fact, seen in light of Aquinas and the ancients, man does not have the “right” to worship how he sees fit.  He only has the right to worship as God sees fit.  Anything less is a violation of the virtue of justice.

Even that most fundamental right championed by our Constitution’s Preamble, the right to life, is worth examining.  Does man have an inalienable right to life?  If so, is God in violation of this right when he takes a man’s life?  Seen through the lens of virtue, we can emphatically claim that it is a grave violation of justice for one man to take an innocent human being’s life.  Yet from the perspective of the divine, God has given us our life gratis, and when he decides that our time on earth is done, it is well within the bounds of justice for him to end that life.  In fact, given that the wages of sin are death, the entire Paschal mystery is an act of mercy and grace that transcends the virtue of justice.

Second, Villey claims that the modern presentation of rights is arbitrary.  It will inevitably lead to moral relativism, and the right to religious freedom is case in point.  If man has an inalienable right to religious freedom, then by what measure do we evaluate religious truth?  If the right is inalienable, then the exercise of the right to pursue something objectively true is indistinguishable from the exercise of the right to pursue something objectively false.  Further, there is no mechanism by which we can decide whether or not a particular claim actually is a right.  Some authors, McInery included, have tried to ground the concept of rights in the natural law tradition.  Granted, if we are to adopt a rights-language, then it must be grounded in the nature of the human person.  However, the nature of the human person includes being a creature, which brings us back to the first point: as creature, we do not possess any power by way of entitlement, but rather by an act of grace.

Third, Villey notes that modern rights are essentially sterile, that they cannot form the basis of a coherent jurisprudence.  When rights are seen as objective, inviolable powers possessed by individual subjects will inevitably lead to competing rights.  This makes sense if “I have the right to x” is indistinguishable from “I desire x.”  What I want will inevitably come into conflict with what someone else wants.  The most recent example of this is the one with which I opened: the conflict between the right to religious freedom and the right to affordable health care.  Yet we could brainstorm countless hypotheticals in which two rights come into conflict.  In the perennial paradox of the father who steals bread to feed his family, the right to own personal property conflicts with the right to life.  The right to bear arms conflicts with the right to a safe environment.  In the classic case of the crowded theater, the right to free speech conflicts with the right to safety.  Even the most fundamental rights can come into question.  The abortion debate is essentially a debate about the right to life conflicting with the rights that women have over their own bodies.  In fact, there are even cases where a right can come into conflict with itself.  Take for instance the right of a parent to educate their kids in the way that they see fit.  If Parent A’s ideal educational environment is in the home, but Parent B’s ideal environment includes being in a classroom with all the neighborhood kids, including Parent A’s kids, we have a conflict.  There are only two ways to resolve these conflicts.  The first is to prioritize the rights, which is essentially what most modern systems of jurisprudence do.  Yet this contradicts the very definition of rights as inalienable.  The second is to question whether one or both of the claimed rights are in fact rights in the first place, but then we have come full circle to the first issue. Rights discussion will necessarily come to an abrupt halt when such conflict arises, and the conversation is rendered sterile.

We should pause here to recognize that the Church has, in modern times, adopted the language of rights in some of its teachings.  “As a devout Catholic, Villey could not have missed the way in which such documents of Vatican II as Gaudium et Spes and so many other magisterial documents employ without hesitancy the language of human rights” (McInery).  While I would never want to presume to question the prudence of the Church in her official statements, I will simply point out two things.  First, the manner in which the Church uses the term “right” is founded on the Thomistic notion of natural law.  Utterly absent from its discussion are any hints of moral relativism.  Second, the infallible truths of our faith in no way rely on the language of natural rights, and can all be framed in terms of natural law.  In other words, rights language is in no way necessary for the Church.  Quite the contrary: she functioned perfectly well for 1500 years with it.  This would be the fourth adjective that I would add to Villey’s critique of modern rights language.  It is quite unnecessary for a functioning system of jurisprudence.  History has produced thousands of years of political organization without the need of subjective rights.  It is helpful to repeat that the modern notion of rights was utterly absent from political philosophy until Ockham’s innovations.

In fact, the Church herself, while recently more sympathetic to the notion of rights language, has also issued extreme caution.  Pope Pius VI called attention to this very problem when decrying the madness of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man.  He said, “This absolute freedom is established as a right of man in society.  It not only guarantees him the right to no be disturbed because of his religious opinions, but it also gives him license to think, speak, write, and even print with impunity everything which the most unbridled imagination can suggest about religion.  It is a monstrous right which seems nonetheless to the Assembly to result from the innate quality and freedom of all men … a chimerical right … contrary to the right of the supreme Creator.”

Without rights, then, what does the moral conversation look like?  That is, if we don’t cling to something like religious freedom, how shall we frame our response to the HHS mandate?  More specifically, if we dispense with the language of natural inalienable rights, will the conversation deteriorate into relativism?  Not only is the answer emphatically negative, but what’s more, it is the undefined and ambiguous language of subjective rights that has us in this mess of relativism to begin with.  The language itself has no defense against relativism.  If one person claims a right, another person will claim a different right, and the process will inevitably spin out of control.

However, it seems to me that Aquinas and his forerunners have given us a viable framework: natural law.  To be clear, natural law is something distinct from natural rights.  Aquinas actually begins with the concept of eternal law (lex aeternae).  This law is of God’s making and is coeternal with His own nature.  It is promulgated from time immemorial by the act of creation by which creatures are endowed with a spontaneous inclination to move towards their own perfection and the cohesive perfection of the universe.  For humans, who can either accept or reject this law, the eternal law is received from within.  When humans act in a manner consistent with God’s eternal law, they are not inventing laws of their own, but rather discovering this law and appropriating it for themselves.  This, for Thomas, is the natural law (lex naturalis).  It is our participation in the divine law held in the mind of God.

Of course, for Aquinas natural law is much broader than ius.  Natural law commands the practice of all the virtues, whereas ius concerns only the virtue of justice.  It begins with a couple self-evident principles.  First, anything good must be pursued and anything evil must be avoided.  From this first and most basic principle we derive others such as, “bodily health, knowledge, and friendship are good to be pursued, and their opposites are evils to be avoided.”

In addition to the natural law, we have positive human laws to help in the organization of society.  However, any human law must be in conformity with the natural law.  If it is held to be in violation of it, that law must be struck down or otherwise disobeyed as an unjust law.  If it is not in violation of it, then the virtue of prudence serves as the mechanism for determining whether or not a particular law advances the organization of society and its purpose: to maximize the possibility of all men being able to advance in virtue.  This distinction, by the way, is precisely the distinction made by the Catholic Church on the “non-negotiable” issues (abortion, marriage, etc.) and matters of prudential judgement (how best to reduce poverty, etc.)  The former collection contains violations of the natural law.

The HHS conversation must begin here.  To what degree does the regulation implement or negate the natural law?  It is not my intent to answer this question in this article, but instead to properly frame it as we go forward.

The point of this article, rather, is to reframe these questions in terms that are more familiar to our philosophical patrimony.  To the degree that we claim for ourselves inalienable rights, we become a people of entitlement.  Instead, we are called to recognize that everything we have, everything we are, we receive by the grace of God.  We don’t deserve any of it.  Virtue-based ethics and natural law theory is a much more robust framework to promote this understanding.

 

References

1.  Brian Tierney, The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law, and Church Law, 1150-1625 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997).

2.  Ralph McInery, “Natural Law and Human Rights,” American Journal of Jurisprudence vol. 36 (1991).

3.  Alisdair MacIntre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981).

18

Sarah Palin on Roe and Obama

 

 

Forty years ago today the Supreme Court rendered its Roe v. Wade decision. Those who believe in the sanctity of human life and long to see America embrace a culture in which innocent life is honored and protected continue to look for a day when humanity is again deemed valuable, where we cherish even those who would be born in “less than ideal circumstances.” Children are our most precious resource and remain the greatest symbol of hope God has given us. This is just one reason why the annual March for Life has been such a powerful aspect of the pro-life movement. This year’s event is Friday, January 25th, and once again a multitude of Americans will gather in Washington, D.C. to show their support for precious little ones.

Our Founding Fathers declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” However, since 1973, millions of children have been denied the basic right upon which all the others hinge: the right to life.

Lately, President Obama has taken to boldly highlighting children in his speeches. Using kids as the backdrop for his gun control speech, the President claimed his commitment to young ones. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try,” he said. He then outlined why gutting our Second Amendment is the means by which he believes we accomplish this. Every law-abiding citizen’s heart is broken when children are the target of men hell-bent on committing acts of evil, and we agree that the safety and protection of innocent life is paramount. Continue Reading

14

Nothing Says Romance Like Genocide!

Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report.  Nope the above ad is not a parody, but was actually put out by The Center for Reproductive Rights.

Doctor Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., mother of six and a strong pro-life advocate, provides all the commentary this ad needs:

Abortion is genocide.  It’s killing populations. It’s killing generations and certainly the population that is most impacted by abortion in America is the black community. So I feel that as a civil rights leader I have responsibility to proclaim that black Americans are being exterminated by the genocidal acts of abortion. Continue Reading

6

Trembling for my Country

Abortions since Roe

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.

Thomas Jefferson, 1785

I have always agreed with this sentiment of President Abraham Lincoln:

“Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

If the Civil War was the punishment visited upon the nation for slavery, what plague will visit us for celebrating the “right” to abortion?

23

Who Laughed During the Roe v Wade Arguments?

Sarah_Weddington.jpgIt is a little known fact that there was laughter in the United States Supreme Court 40 years ago during the Roe v. Wade hearings. Thought to be the youngest person ever to win a Supreme Court case, then 26 year old Sarah Weddington, the attorney for “Roe”, briefly lost her composure in a choked bout of chuckles before the court. She laughed alone that day, however, and every single citizen in our nation ought to hear what was said, particularly in light of this month’s Alabama Supreme Court ruling that “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.”

When Justice Harry A. Blackmun asked whether Mrs. Weddington felt there is any “inconsistency” in Court decisions against the “death penalty with respect to convicted murderers and rapists at one end of lifespan, and [her] position in this case at the other end of lifespan,” she replied that it has “never been established that the fetus is a person or that it’s entitled to the Fourteenth Amendment rights or the protection of the constitution.” It was clear to the court, even back then, that the case depended on the “fetus” having “constitutional rights.”

Justice Potter Stewart pressed further, “Well, if it were established that an unborn fetus is a person within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, you would have almost an impossible case here, would you not?” Mrs. Weddington replied, “I would have a very difficult case.” And then she laughed nervously. Justice Stewart, not laughing at all, continued that this is akin to ruling that if a “mother thought that it bothered her health having the child around, she could have it killed.” Mrs. Weddington said, “That’s correct,” and declined any further response.

Our laws still, chillingly, reflect this inconsistency. On the one hand, we have the almost decade long 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act which federally recognizes a “child in utero” as a legal “victim” if he or she is injured or killed by crimes of violence, and laws such as the one decided in Alabama this month that recognize “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.” On the other hand, we have abortion for all nine months of pregnancy and impunity for the ones that kill those children, children who are not even guaranteed the protections given to convicted murderers and rapists in some states. It was not funny 40 years ago, and it is still no laughing matter. These are children being killed. Aren’t children people too?

Have you ever listened to the Roe vs. Wade arguments?

Click the play button, it will start at ~20:00 minutes into Mrs. Weddington’s arguments (the attorney for Roe). The clip is only ~4 minutes, but be sure to listen from 23:30 – 24:30. The whole recording is found here. It is a piece of history, a tragic one. This is how it was argued that a mother has a right to kill her own child 40 years ago.  Continue Reading

24

Why the West is Bankrupt

Welfare Queen

John Hinderaker over at Powerline has a story from The Sun that helps explain why the West is bankrupt:

Ms. Belova could find work if she wanted to, but it isn’t worth her while. She is too well-educated, she thinks, to accept a low-paying job:  

She is careful to work fewer than 16 hours a week so that the benefits keep rolling in. But her wages boost her income to more than £400 a week.   On top of that she gets free childcare, fruit and milk vouchers — and even a clothes allowance for “job interviews”.   Natalija said: “It is a strange system in this country. Basically, the fewer hours I work, the more I can earn on benefits. But that’s the way it is and it is not my fault.”   She fell pregnant by an “on-off boyfriend” after her redundancy. Natalija said casually: “We decided not to stay together.”   She insisted she would be prepared to get a full-time job — but only if the salary tops £25,000. Natalija said: “I am a highly educated woman and I speak six languages. I would never apply for a supermarket checkout job or a cleaner.   “I am over-qualified. These jobs are beneath me. They are for people who don’t have the education I do.”

 

Continue Reading

Walter Butler

For there was Walter Butler, the loyalist, who spread fire and horror through the Mohawk Valley in the times of the Revolution.

Stpehen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the third in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty and here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet.  In this post we will examine the life of Major Walter Butler.

Walter Butler was a young man of 23 at the start of the Revolution, the son of John Butler, a wealthy Indian agent and a judge in frontier Tryon Country, soon to be the scene of many desperate frontier battles between Patriots and Loyalists, and their Indian auxiliaries.  John Butler was a firm loyalist as was his son.    Walter Butler served as an Ensign at the battle of Oriskany in 1777 during the Saratoga campaign.  Shortly after Oriskany he was captured behind enemy lines.  Sentenced to death he succeeded in escaping.  When his father formed the Loyalist Butler’s Rangers, Walter served in it as a Captain.

On November 11, 1778 at Cherry Valley, New York, Butler, leading a mixed force of Loyalists and Mohawks and Seneca under Joseph Brant, easily overcame the heavily outnumbered 7th Massachusetts Continentals.  In the aftermath of the battle, 30 settlers were murdered, including women and children.  In his report Butler blamed Brant and his Indians and steadfastly insisted that he spared no effort to rescue settlers from them.  However, Patriots claimed that Brant attempted to save settlers and that it was Butler who instigated the massacre.  My estimate is that neither Brant nor Butler were directly responsible and that it was independent action by the Seneca and the Mowhawk, who had many scores to repay, that resulted in the murders.  Like many historical questions the evidence now is too fragmentary and conflicting  for complete certainty.

Butler was killed in a skirmish on October 30, 1781 and scalped by Oneidas fighting for the Patriots.  Here is a contemporary account of his death by Philip Graff, a member of the Patriot militia in Mowhawk Valley New York: Continue Reading

16

Outrage & Disgust: Gun-Grabber Cuomo Pushes for Infanticide

I have been writing about politics, morality and religion for years now, and I often do so with a certain amount of passion and sometimes anger. I really thought I had seen it all in terms of hypocrisy and sheer moral blindness. I really didn’t think it could get much worse. But here we are.

In case you haven’t yet heard, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is aggressively pushing for a bill that would legalize late-term abortions in his state. It would allow non-doctors to perform them. It would eliminate parental notification laws – all of this, according to the Democrats for Life, who are as disgusted as I am with this man and his agenda.

And there is is plenty to be disgusted with here. Partial-birth abortions themselves are disgusting, the violent dismemberment of a tiny human being usually for the convenience of someone else. Abortion clinics are often disgusting, staffed by incompetents and criminals, the refuse of the legitimate and respectable medical profession. The rest of Cuomo’s legislation is pretty bad as well, including coercive wealth redistribution and other infringements upon liberty and property in the name of “gender equality”, something the coercive arm of the state has no business getting involved in at all.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, is more disgusting than the sight of this man himself, who just recently pushed through some of the most aggressive anti-gun rights legislation in the entire country, supposedly for the children. Here is what the unconscionable scumbag declared while promoting his gun policies:

“This is a scourge on society,” Cuomo said Monday night, one month after the Newtown, Conn., shooting that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. “At what point do you say, ‘No more innocent loss of life.”‘

What I want to know is, at what point does someone slap Andrew Cuomo so hard, so many times, that he never again has the gall to speak of “innocent loss of life” while promoting the mass-murder of infants with dirty metal tools in dirty little rooms? At what point do we, perhaps, strap him to a chair and force him to watch the scissors being jammed into the back of the child’s neck before its brains are vacuumed out? At what point do we go absolutely crazy, unable to bear for another day, another moment, a moral blindness and/or hypocrisy so heavy and so dark that you just want to to completely give up?

I don’t really have much more to say about it. Not much more should be said about it. At this point you either see how completely messed up this is, or you’re hopeless and we can’t communicate. Finally, check out my new personal blog, where I will try to contain all of the foreign policy and civil liberty stuff that TAC readers can’t stand. You know, the Ron Paul echo chamber stuff.

15

We Will Outlast Them

Obama Joke

“That on you is fallen the shadow,
And not upon the Name;
That though we
scatter and though we fly,
And you hang over us like the sky,
You are more
tired of victory,
Than we are tired of shame.

“That though you hunt
the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more
heart to run
Than you have heart to ride.

“That though all lances
split on you,
All swords be heaved in vain,
We have more lust again to
lose
Than you to win again.

G.K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse Continue Reading

2

Now Why Didn’t I Think of This?

Hmm, I have several complicated legal documents to draft today.  Surely I could have someone overseas do it for me?

Valentine was hired to investigate when the company, a Verizon client, saw that someone from Shenyang, China, was logging in to its computer network during every workday. The breach was traced to Bob’s VPN network, but he had to be innocent, the victim of some kind of breach, the company figured. He was a quiet family man, “someone you wouldn’t look at twice in an elevator,” Valentine writes. And Bob was sitting there, working at his desk, every day. But when Valentine’s staff looked more closely at Bob’s computer, they ultimately found the smoking gun.

Bob had PDFs of hundreds of invoices from a third-party contractor in Shenyang for developer services. Bob had been paying the contractor $50,000 a year, while he himself made hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While the developer was working 9-to-5, Bob surfed the Web. At 9, he’d roll in and surf Reddit, watching cat videos. At 11:30 he’d grab some lunch. After lunch it was time for EBay for about an hour, when Bob migrated to Facebook. At 4:30, he’d email management, telling them what he had “done” during the day, and at 5, he’d go home. Continue Reading

2

January 21, 1985: Reagan Second Inaugural Address

For some reason on this day I am thinking of a Presidential second inaugural, that of Ronald Reagan!  He summed up the theme of his Presidency well with this observation in his speech that day:

Four years ago, I spoke to you of a new beginning and we have accomplished that. But in another sense, our new beginning is a continuation of that beginning created two centuries ago when, for the first time in history, government, the people said, was not our master, it is our servant; its only power that which we the people allow it to have.

That system has never failed us, but, for a time, we failed the system. We asked things of government that government was not equipped to give. We yielded authority to the National Government that properly belonged to States or to local governments or to the people themselves. 

Here is the text of the speech of President Reagan 28 years ago: Continue Reading

23

You Are the Threat!

Right Wing Extremists

 

You may never have considered yourself a terrorist, but if you are a conservative a new government study indicates that you might well be:

The report’s author is Arie Perliger, who directs the Center’s terrorism studies and teaches social sciences at West Point. I can only imagine what his classes are like as his report manages to lump together every known liberal stereotype about conservatives between its covers.

As Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times, who broke news of the report on Thursday, recounts:

[The Center’s report] says anti-federalists “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights. Finally, they support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government. Extremists in the anti-federalist movement direct most their violence against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement.”

The report also draws a link between the mainstream conservative movement and the violent “far right,” and describes liberals as “future oriented” and conservatives as living in the past.

“While liberal worldviews are future- or progressive -oriented, conservative perspectives are more past-oriented, and in general, are interested in preserving the status quo,” the report says. “The far right represents a more extreme version of conservatism, as its political vision is usually justified by the aspiration to restore or preserve values and practices that are part of the idealized historical heritage of the nation or ethnic community.”

The report adds: “While far-right groups’ ideology is designed to exclude minorities and foreigners, the liberal-democratic system is designed to emphasize civil rights, minority rights and the balance of power.”

The Times quotes a congressional staffer who has served in the military calling the report a “junk study.” The staffer then asked: “The $64,000 dollar question is when will the Combating Terrorism Center publish their study on real left-wing terrorists like the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, and the Weather Underground?”

This is not the first time elements of the federal government have tried to smear conservatives with sloppy work and a broadbrush analysis. Continue Reading

10

Guns and “All Men Are Created Equal”

Few issues demonstrate better that liberal elites and the rest of us might as well live on different planets than the Second Amendment.  Frequently living in gated communities, usually working in institutions that have armed guards, and sending their kids to elite schools that have elaborate security, liberal elites are quite good at proclaiming that other people should disarm and rely on the police for protection who, as most cops will readily admit, are minutes away when seconds count.  James O’Keefe, the master of conservative undercover journalism, and his Project Veritas, expose liberal hypocrisy in the above video.  Contemporary liberalism is all about implementing rules for the majority to live by, rules which liberal elites themselves, and their friends and colleagues, can freely ignore.  Such a system, with one set of rules for the masses who live under the laws, and another set of rules for those who effectively live above the laws, is an essential component of a tyranny in the making.  It makes a mockery of the words of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:  “all men are created equal.”   Let us recall these words of Abraham Lincoln: Continue Reading

2

There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town

Something for the weekend.  Hands down the favorite song of the troops during the Spanish-American War was the ragtime hit, written in 1896 by Theodore August Metz, There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight.  This presented something of a generational music gap as most of the older officers were used to the more sedate melodies of the earlier Nineteenth Century, but most of the men in the ranks and the younger officers were more attuned to ragtime and its syncopated style.  Continue Reading

12

Jonah Goldberg’s Message to Socially Liberal Fiscal Conservatives

Socially Liberal Fiscal Conservatives – like albino monk assassins sent out by Opus Dei, orthodox Catholics on the staff of the National Catholic Reporter, people who like the movie Gigli, and Lennay Kekua – have contributed much to society. But it looks like Jonah Goldberg has grown a bit tired of their act. So he has written an open letter to them, addressed to “Bob.” Continue Reading

4

Daniel Webster and Leviathan

Daniel Webster's Sea Serpent

I have long admired Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster in which Daniel Webster defeats Satan in a jury trial for the soul of Jabez Stone.  Far lesser known is an amusing story written by Benet in which Daniel Webster encounters Leviathan from the Bible:

“Well, Mr. Webster,” said Seth, and stared at his boots, “she says you’re quite a handsome man. She says she never did see anybody quite like you,” he went on. “I hate to tell you this, Mr. Webster, and I feel kind of responsible, but I think you ought to know. And I told you that you oughtn’t to have shot at her—she’s pretty proud of that. She says she knows just how you meant it. Well, I’m no great hand at being embarrassed, Mr. Webster, but, I tell you, she embarrassed me. You see, she’s been an old maid for about a hundred and fifty years, I guess, and that’s the worst of it. And being the last of her folks in those particular waters, there’s just no way to restrain her—her father and mother was as sensible, hard-working serpents as ever gave a feller a tow through a fog, but you know how it is with those old families. Well, she says wherever you go, she’ll follow you, and she claims she wants to hear you speak before the Supreme Court——”

“Did you tell her I’m a married man?” said Dan’l. “Did you tell her that?”

“Yes, I told her,” said Seth, and you could see the perspiration on his forehead. “But she says that doesn’t signify—her being a serpent and different—and she’s fixing to move right in. She says Washington’s got a lovely climate and she’s heard all about the balls and the diplomatic receptions. I don’t know how she’s heard about them, but she has.” He swallowed. “I got her to promise she’d kind of lie low for two weeks and not come up the Potomac by daylight—she was fixing to do that because she wants to meet the President. Well, I got her to promise that much. But she says, even so, if you don’t come to see her once an evening, she’ll hoot till you do, and she told me to tell you that you haven’t heard hooting yet. And as soon as the fish market’s open, I better run down and buy a barrel of flaked cod, Mr. Webster—she’s partial to flaked cod and she usually takes it in the barrel. Well, I don’t want to worry you, Mr. Webster, but I’m afraid that we’re in a fix.” Continue Reading

9

A Heresy in Education (or An Education in Heresy)

“In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Eloquent though he may be, Benjamin Franklin would have done well to add “heresy” to his infamous pair of unavoidable realities.

Philosophical preconceptions once condemned by the Church have an odd way of rearing their ugly heads. Take Manichaeanism for example. Battled by the great St. Augustine of Hippo, the Manichaean school taught the profound separation of soul and body, a dualism that has been condemned by the Church more than once throughout the centuries. With two equally powerful deities, one good and the other evil, the human person of this heresy becomes the battleground for their contest of power, with the body being the domain of evil and the soul being the domain of the good. The Christian faith, of course, has taught the contrary, the inseparable union of body and soul, both good because of their creation by the one God who is pure goodness.

I was a high school teacher of mathematics and computer science for nine years, and Manichaeanism is only one of the many heresies I see deeply imbedded in modernity, particularly amongst adolescents. In the years I spent in the classroom, the cases of academic dishonesty had noticeably gone up. What is perhaps more noticeable, however, was the change in students’ reactions when the dishonesty is exposed. There was a time when the remorse was authentic, but more recently, when present at all, it seemed more like mere regret over being caught.

I found myself repeatedly in conversations about how students view the act of cheating. A colleague of mine once remarked, “I honestly do not think that the students see it as wrong.” On the contrary, the students’ actions do not reflect any moral confusion. After all, students will go to great lengths to see to it that they are not caught, and when they are, they will craft the most elaborate of stories to exonerate themselves. I once had a student who plagiarized a computer program off of a university professor’s web site. When confronted about it, he claimed, with a great deal of confidence and conviction, that he would like to meet the professor who stole his code to post on the university web site. While the creativity is remarkable, the same cannot be said for character.

What, then, is at the root of the issue? While teachers generally recognize this as a growing and problematic trend in the education environment, they are often at a loss to explain the trend, and therefore end up remarking, “I honestly do not think that the students see it as wrong.” The truth is that students do understand the difference between right and wrong, and they do understand that cheating is a morally impermissible action. The problem is not in their ethics; the problem is in their anthropology. Students are Manichaeans.

The heart of the matter is that adolescence often do not understand the profound connection between body and soul that the Christian faith has always taught. Quite the opposite, students have a tremendous ability to keep a rift between body and soul. Said differently, these adolescents do not see a connection between their actions and their personal character. While they know and understand that certain actions are morally unacceptable, they do not see these actions as reflective of their person. They sincerely believe that they are good people and that this goodness cannot be tarnished by any action.

What adolescents fail to understand is that the human person is not only the source of his actions, but is also a product of his actions. What we do is reflective of who we are, and who we are will influence what we do. Philosophically, we would say that the human person isconstituted by his actions. There is no rift between the actions of our body and mind and the state of our soul. Body and soul are mutually interpenetrating. This is the essence of the Catholic teaching on mortal sins. Because there is an indestructible link between the body and the soul, there are certain actions that can affect the very state of the soul, remove it from the state of God’s grace.

We are how we act. A thief is nothing more than one who steals, and a lair is nothing more than one who lies. Similarly, a cheater is a person who cheats, and it is impossible to cheat without at the same time becoming a cheater. The student, however, does not see himself as a “cheater”; instead, he sees himself as a “good person” who happened to cheat, but the action of cheating is not reflective of his character. How is it that they are able to maintain this disconnect? It is simple: they are Manichaean. How is it that they are Manichaean? That is also simple: modernity is Manichaean, and this is perhaps the greatest heresy of our time. It is a heresy that is not only at the heart of academic dishonesty in the schools, but also constitutive of the greed and avarice in the market place, the sexual permissiveness in the media, and the utter disregard for the sanctity of life in the abortion industry.

Being a heresy, however, I have a feeling that it, like death and taxes, is inevitable. This does not mean we give up an authentic education in the virtues. It does not mean that we neglect to expose the lies for what they are. But it does mean that, while the battle has already been won on the Cross, the enemy of heresy is as certain in this world as death and taxes. Perhaps, though, heresy has more in common with death and taxes than its inevitability. “In this world” certain the trio may be; yet in the next it is certain that all three will be abolished.

2

232 Years Since Cowpens

A very accurate video on the battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1781.  Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, the American commander, was an American original.  An ill-educated frontiersman, Morgan was also a natural leader of men, made easier by his height, well over six-foot, and his robust sense of humor, along with his willingness to use his fists to enforce discipline if necessary.  He served in the French and Indian War, being sentenced to 500 lashes for punching a British officer.  He later made a joke of it saying that in carrying out the sentence the count was one short, but it was a tribute to his toughness that he survived such an experience.  It is a pity that the late John Wayne, circa 1955, did not appear in a movie bio of this remarkable man.

At the beginning of the Revolution, Morgan led a company of Virginia riflemen to join Washington’s Army besieging Boston.  Volunteering to join the invasion of Canada, he led three companies of riflemen that quickly became known as Morgan’s Sharpshooters.  In the attack on Quebec on December 31, 1775, Captain Morgan led his men in ferocious fighting in the city.  The attack was ultimately defeated, with Morgan refusing to surrender to the British and instead tendering his sword to a French priest. Continue Reading

13

A Guide to the 23 Edicts for the Perplexed

 

We at The American Catholic, among our many other missions, aim to translate Governmentese into English with color commentary.  Herewith is an example of our service in regard to President Obama’s 23 executive orders on gun control, better termed edicts:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

Do what the agencies have been supposed to be doing all along.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

The maze of laws and regulations belched out by Congress and the Executive branch each year, and which I have overwhelmingly supported, have a deleterious impact on background checks, as they do with accomplishing anything in these United States.  Shazam!
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

Fall in line States or we will deprive you of Federal money.  Federalism, what’s that? Continue Reading

27

This is Why We Have a Constitution, and Why the Alternative is Tyranny

New York’s Trespass Act of 1783  offered relief for Patriots who had fled New York City during the time of the Revolutionary “by permitting them to recover damages from persons who had occupied or used their premises during the war.” Common law had typically required  “that actions for trespass must be tried where the property was located, but the act allowed Patriots to sue in any court where the defendant could be found.” It also denied the laws of war by prohibiting the accused of arguing that they had been acting “under orders of the occupying British army, and the act also prohibited the defendants from appealing to a higher court.” (Citations from Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum.)

The New York Trespass Act was but one of many factors that led to the creation of the written United States Constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation government, the states had almost unlimited authority to pass any laws they pleased. The only check on the state governments were the citizens of the several states. Unfortunately, the people themselves were often the impetus behind the enactment of unjust laws.

The Constitution was a reaction to life under the Articles of Confederation. Though conservatives like to point out that the government created under the Constitution is one of limited powers – a fact which is undeniably true – the Constitution actually enhanced the powers of the federal government and was meant, in part, to curb some of the excesses of unlimited state authority.
In truth the Constitution was a perfect balancing act. The Federalists hoped to strengthen the federal government while simultaneously placing significant limits on the powers of said government. They wanted to mitigate the excesses of democratic government in the states while continuing to leave most of the day-to-day governing authority in the hands of local government. The Constitution is a document designed to prevent the outbreak of democratic despotism, but which also aimed at limiting the reach of government. These are not contradictory aims. As much as it may surprise political philosophers such as Piers Morgan to hear, purely democratic governments can become tyrannical – ask Plato and Aristotle about that.
If we understand the genesis of our Constitution then we can better understand why we revere it and strive to live as much as we can by the letter of said Constitution. It’s not because it’s some old, musty document and we just have a blind devotion to old things. There was a wisdom and a theory behind the Constitution that made as much sense in 1787 as it does in 2013.
And now, due to the gun control debate, we have proof of why the Federalists were right, and why we are inching closer to tyranny. Continue Reading
19

The War on Boys-Part One

 

 

The beginning of a new series in which we will look at the ways in which contemporary society has declared war on boys.  First up, two six-year olds receive a valuable lesson that playing as boys have since the dawn of time is now strictly verboten:

Two more Maryland school kids got into trouble for pointing their fingers playing cops and robbers at school.

Actually, in the Eastern Shore schoolyard during recess in this latest case.

It happened last week at White Marsh Elementary in Tabot County.

The two six year olds had been playing and were suspended for a day.

The father of one of the boys is in the Army and said he thinks the punishment was excessive for what amounted to horseplay between two first graders.

School officials declined comment citing federal confidentiality laws. Continue Reading

13

Government as False Savior

 

One of the more amusing aspects of living in contemporary America, if one likes one’s humor fairly dark, is that the government is attempting to take over health care at the same time the wheels are coming off some functions of government that have been around for centuries.  That is your cue Post Office.

Inspector general David Williams, described as the “chief postal watchdog,” said the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will go out of business this year unless Congress bails it out.
 
In an interview with the Guardian, Williams said the postal service lost nearly $16 billion the last fiscal year, nearly $41 billion over the last five years, and has reached its $15 billion credit limit.
 
When asked if the USPS will need a bailout this year, Williams said: “Yes. The choices are that it would cease to exist or it would need a bailout.”
 
Williams, whose agency audits the postal service, says Congress may have to help the postal service with its pension payments, which he says have put the postal service “in very serious trouble.”
 
According to the Guardian, the USPS has “missed its last two payments into the benefit funds” and “has never made a single payment without having to borrow from the US Treasury. “ Continue Reading

23

Vive la France!

A million Frenchmen marched on the capital of France, Paris, in defense of Marriage this past weekend.  Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Homosexuals, Heterosexuals, Men and Women all marched to protest François Hollande’s attempt at completing the destruction of the Family and the Church which began in the French Revolution and continued with the May 68ers, has been stalled at the moment.

Continue Reading

The Reverend John Smeet

The Reverend John Smeet, with his strangler’s hands and his Geneva gown, walked as daintily as he had to the gallows. The red print of the rope was still around his neck, but he carried a perfumed handkerchief in one hand.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone.  Only seven of these entities are named.  This is the second in a series giving brief biographies of these men.  Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty.

The Reverend John Smeet long puzzled literary analysts of The Devil and Daniel Webster.  No record could be uncovered as to his existence.  Scholarly debate raged as to whether Benet had been referring to other historical personages.  The mystery was not cleared up until 1960 when his widow, Rosemary Benet, wrote a letter to the New York Times Book Review in which she stated that Smeet was an imaginary character that her late husband simply inserted into the work.  This was not unusual for Benet.  He had invented a character called John Cotton, and even written a brief bio of him.  I will now do the same for the Reverend Smeet. Continue Reading

18

Understanding “Assault Weapons”

This post is a somewhat condensed version of a three post series that I posted on my personal blog last week.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to hear a lot about “assault weapons”. This term is one that makes those who are informed about guns climb the walls a bit. “Assault weapon” is a legal term which was created by a series of gun control laws in the late ’80s and early ’90s culminating in the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban. However, the term was coined to sound like the military technology term “assault rifle” (many even use the terms interchangeably.) Assault rifles were a development in military technology coming out of World War II, and it’s there that I’d like to start this story.

Battle Rifle to Assault Rifle

During World War II the need for a lighter gun suitable for rapid fire became increasingly obvious. The roughly .30 caliber battle rifles that were standard issue for all WW2 armies fired very powerful cartridges and were accurate out to distances over 600 yards.  However, although the rifles were technically accurate at such long distances, few soldiers had the skill to am the well at long range, and the vast majority of battlefield shooting was conducted at distances of 300 yards or less.  Moreover, in WW2’s highly mobile tactics, the ability of infantry soldiers to lay down effective suppressing fire had become important.  For most of the war this was achieved through specialization.  Most infantry soldiers carried full size battle rifles like the American semi-automatic M1 Garand and the German bolt action K98, while a smaller number of soldiers were issued sub machine guns — lighter weapons which could shoot in fully automatic (firing continuously as long as the trigger was held down) or burst mode (firing bursts of 3-5 shots every time the trigger was pulled.)  To make then easy to handle (and allow them to carry more rounds) sub machine guns shot smaller, pistol cartridges rather than a full size rifle cartridge and were thus suitable only for short range.

Tom Hanks holding a Thompson
Sub Machine Gun (chambered for the
.45 APC pistol cartridge) in
Saving Private Ryan

Military technologists were convinced that a cross between a full sized battle rifle and a sub machine gun was needed. Such a gun would shoot a rifle cartridge, but a lighter one which would not have as much recoil as a high power .30 caliber round. It should also be capable of shooting in burst or fully automatic mode as well as semi-automatic mode (one shot for each pull of the trigger.)

Germany produced the first true “assault rifle” near the end of World War II, the Sturmgewehr 44. It shot a shortened .30 caliber bullet with a lighter charge of powder behind it, making the recoil lighter and the ammunition cheaper to produce and lighter to carry, and it could shoot either in semi-auto or full-auto mode. By late 1943, however, the tide was already turning against Germany and its manufacturing capacity was waning. Only half a million were ever produced (compared to over 14 million of their full size K98 Mauser bolt action battle rifle.) However, it provided the inspiration for Mikhail Kalashnikov’s development of the AK-47 in Russia after the war. The AK-47 also used a light .30 caliber cartridge and selective fire (the ability to fire either semi-auto or full-auto.) The design became the standard Russian infantry rifle in 1949 and went on to become perhaps the most widely produced rifle design in history. Continue Reading

22

Piers Morgan on Domestic Thermonuclear War

 

 

Hattip to Jim Treacher.  CNN talking head Piers Morgan, desperately trying to hold on to any shreds of credibility after his shellacking by Ben Shapiro, emitted this email:

America has over 5000 nuclear warheads. Quite hard to defend against a ‘tyrannical U.S. government’ with that kind of firepower.

 

Where to begin?

First, it is unlikely that even the most mad US President would decide to use nukes to put down a rebellion in these United States.  Too many of his own supporters would be killed and the overall reaction would likely be for the rebellion to grow as a result of his action.

Second, a wide spread rebellion in the United States would likely have the sympathy of factions within the US military, if not their active support.  The order to nuke Americans might lead to an active revolt by the military.

Third, in the event of a widespread rebellion, the rebels would probably quickly have nukes of their own.  In the case of Obama, most ICBMs and tactical nukes are located on bases in Red states. Continue Reading

2

Girty the Renegade

And there was Simon Girty, the renegade, who saw white men burned at the stake and whooped with the Indians to see them burn. His eyes were green, like a catamount’s, and the stains on his hunting shirt did not come from the blood of the deer.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone.  Only seven of these entities are named.  This is beginning of a series to give short biographies on each of these figures.

Born in 1741 on the Pennsylvania frontier, Girty’s life took a sharp turn when he and his brothers were captured by the Seneca and adopted by them.  It would be seven years before Girty was able to return to his family.  By that time Girty was a Seneca in all but skin color.  At the outset of the American Revolution Girty supported the patriots, but eventually became a loyalist.  Frontier patriots regarded him as a turncoat and renegade. Continue Reading

16

Film and Faith

Film, at its best, can convey a hint of the overwhelming impact of religious faith on those who believe.  For me, the best example of this is Jesus of Nazareth (1977), as amply demonstrated I think in the video clip above.  When we read about Jesus in the Gospels it requires a leap of imagination to conjure up the scenes depicted.  Some people are better at doing this than others.  A good film can provide us with the emotional impact of the Gospels without the necessity of our providing the imagination to bring the event alive for us.  The Church has long understood this.  Hymn singing can also accomplish this, as do Passion Plays, as does the Rosary.   God appeals to our souls, our hearts and our minds, and we make a mistake if we ever forget this.

The History Channel in March will have a miniseries that dramatizes portions of the Bible.  Below is a trailer.

Continue Reading

21

Laws Are For Our Enemies, Not Our Friends

The District of Columbia, one of the worst governed jurisdictions in the United States, has a law on the books, placed there for political purposes by the uber liberals who run it, banning “high-capacity” ammo clips, of the type waved around by NBC unpaid Obama press flack reporter David Gregory in the above clip.  He did it in DC.  No intent is needed for the criminal prosecution.  It is a strict liability offense.  For the past few weeks the question has been whether Gregory would be prosecuted.  Not a chance I thought, and I was proved correct when Irvin Nathan, the attorney general for DC, released a pompous letter yesterday explaining why Gregory would not be prosecuted  The letter runs to three turgid pages, but I won’t inflict all of that on you.  Instead, here is the money quote: Continue Reading

22

Doing the Job Big Media Won’t Do

My friend Jay Anderson linked to this excellent piece from a Fox affiliate in Cincinnati addressing crime statistics in Great Britain and the United States.

As Jay remarked, it’s sad that it takes a small affiliate news station to do the sort of fact checking that major news networks are incapable of, 0r, more likely, unwilling to do.

As for Piers Morgan, watch what happens when he is forced to interview someone actually tethered to reality.

I think “your little book” is going to be an instant classic.