There are certain topics that tend to come up a lot here at TAC, and foreign policy is one of them. Often times the discussion breaks out on a comment thread of a post that has nothing to do with foreign policy whatsoever, and so those of us who want to continue the discussion either choose not to, or are politely advised by the moderators here to stay on-topic. This happens with a few other topics as well. So every now and again, I think it would be fun to do a post that addresses one of these topics so we can “have it out” without any hindrances or encumbrances. They’ll be called “Let’s Discuss!” and they’ll cover different topics that come up in the comment threads that don’t get finished. Hopefully they will be of interest to new readers as well.
I’d like to discuss these things charitably too, and I’ll do my best to start out on that foot. I’ll also do my best not to respond in kind if the first response is “you’re a moron who supports a lunatic and should be banned from participating in politics or having children.”
One of the more fashionable responses to any Christian’s objection to the legalization of “gay marriage”, or for that matter, any objection to anything blatantly immoral in modern society, is to immediately announce that since the Bible (allegedly) endorses slavery, anything it has to say on any moral issue is completely irrelevant.
I suppose the argument goes something like this for most people in their heads: “so your Bible says that (insert the sin you want to justify here) is immoral, eh? Well let me tell YOU something:
The Bible says slavery is moral. (Premise 1)
Slavery, as we all (allegedly) know is immoral. (Premise 2)
Therefore the Bible endorses something that is immoral. (Premise 3)
Therefore, the Bible is not a legitimate source of moral arguments. (Conclusion)”
Have I got that right? I think I do. So let’s deconstruct these premises and demonstrate why this ever-so popular argument is really just another lazy, uncritical, decontextualized, factually-deficient and hypocritical canard.
I have a long weekend and very busy next-week ahead of me, so I won’t be here posting and commenting for a few days. Until then, enjoy this music! Amadeus is one of my favorite films, and Mozart one of my favorite composers. Here is the full finale of the opera that had “too many notes.”
I have to say, I’m not the biggest fan of the GOP or most of its politicians. Of course I consider the party to be marginally better than the Democrats on most issues, and so if I grace the polls with my presence, I tend to prefer GOP candidates. But this is hardly a ringing endorsement. Nor can I possibly count my political support for Ron Paul as support for the GOP, since he rejects significant parts of the party platform, rhetoric and practice.
Paul Ryan, however, is someone I have begun paying attention to. Since he has invoked Catholic Social Teaching (CST) as the basic foundation of his approach to the federal budget, he has become quite the person of interest among combatants in the Catholic media and blogosphere.
Ryan recently penned a column which appeared in the National Catholic Register titled “Applying Our Enduring Truths To Our Defining Challenge.” It is worth reading. I will quote some of the highlights here. His main point:
As a congressman and Catholic layman, I am persuaded that Catholic social truths are in accord with the “self-evident truths” our Founders bequeathed to us in the founding ideas of America: independence, limited government and the dignity and freedom of every human person.
Absolutely! Human dignity and freedom are indivisible; every assault on a legitimate right or liberty is an affront to human dignity. It is no coincidence that those philosophers who have most despised liberty have also most despised man himself, viewing him as little more than a machine comprised of pleasure and pain receptors.
We knew it would come to this, but we weren’t sure until when until the Obama administration announced the contraception mandate; even then, we weren’t sure when exactly it would be explicitly spelled out by the leadership of the Church. I am referring to the U.S. bishop’s recent statement declaring, among other things, the following:
It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.
It is essential to understand the distinction between conscientious objection and an unjust law. Conscientious objection permits some relief to those who object to a just law for reasons of conscience—conscription being the most well-known example. An unjust law is “no law at all.” It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal. (Emphasis added)
In making this statement, the bishops have echoed Pope Leo XIII’s statement in his encyclical Libertas: “But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.”
My last post got a lot of traffic, along with generous heapings of love and hate. The love is always appreciated. As for the hate, when it doesn’t amuse me with its enraged ignorance, it makes me sad with its malicious presumption.
How anyone could come away from my post thinking that I believe conservative Catholics should “shut up” about public affronts to Christ is beyond me. Maybe I didn’t make clear that I think we should have a public prayer campaign for the conversion of people like Jon Stewart. Maybe some of you don’t understand how much such a gesture would rial up the left, far more so than some hysterical campaign for a public apology. But tunnel-vision is funny that way.
So, in order to avoid any confusion…
By all means, please keep pointing out and denouncing public attacks on the faith.
That is what I intend to do here on this blog, and what we are all called to do.
Has the title of this blog post got your attention? Good. Many of this blog’s regular readers and com-boxers could be classified as conservative Catholic, myself included (though I do my best to elude fixed categories). So I hope you will take this to heart, and maybe even take the debate outside the confines of this blog if you feel so moved.
I like Bill Donohue. I sympathize with him and his organization, The Catholic League. I share many of their sentiments, including outrage and disgust, whenever the media decides to take another whack at Christianity. So I certainly don’t critique Donohue or the CL from the left. Nor is my critique limited to Donohue and CL, but could extend to any number of Catholic and Protestant organizations as well.
With that said, here are two things that I wish they would all stop doing, and they are closely related.
I’ve been told by more than a few people who support “gay marriage” that my take on it is somewhat unique. Given that I am virulently opposed to “gay marriage”, this is no small victory. It may be my absolute lack of fear when it comes to self-criticism (which may spill over into self-loathing if I am not careful), my willingness to unload heaps of criticism on those with whom I agree (lovingly of course), and/or my high level of intolerance for self-congratulatory nonsense that is responsible. I don’t really know. But I will tell you what I think about “gay marriage”, a phrase I will never utter or write sans-scare quotes, and you can decide.
First and foremost, I’ll acknowledge that a lot of criticism of “gay marriage” just misses the mark. Just the other day I witnessed a college-age conservative Catholic attempting to argue to a mob of atheists, some gay, some straight, that homosexuality was not a valid expression of human love. Woven in were concepts from modern Catholic teaching on the theology of the body and things of this nature. Setting aside the validity of such arguments, I have to say that attempting to argue that what someone experiences as “love” is not really love is going to be a pretty tough sell. I can’t imagine it working at all, especially coming from a stranger. Arguments that homosexuality will naturally lead to the acceptance of pedophilia or bestiality don’t tend to go over well either.
Ever since Congressman Paul Ryan announced his budget plan, claiming that it was inspired by his understanding of Catholic social teaching (CST) in general and subsidiarity in particular, old debates about the meaning of CST have flared up once again. Michael Sean Winters of NCR blasted Ryan’s conception of “subsidiarity”; then Stephen White of Catholic Vote critiqued some of Winter’s own oversimplifications. Since everyone and their aunt in the Catholic blogosphere will weigh in on this at some point, I’ll get it over with and throw in my two-cents now.
First: I do believe that some of Ryan’s statements are oversimplifications. For instance, he claimed that subsidiarity and federalism were more or less synonyms for one another. They are not. Stephen White pointed out that these concepts are complimentary, however, and they are.
Secondly: Winters, and he is not alone in this, repeats Vatican statements about “access” to health care as if they were an exact equivalent with Obamacare or other types of government-run healthcare schemes. As White pointed out, Winters presents his leftist policy preferences as non-negotiable points of CST.
Third: I think the entire framework of this discussion needs a serious overhaul.
I am happy to be blogging at The American Catholic, which I have always known to be one of the most significant blogs covering the intersection of politics and the Faith. To have a public space in which Catholics are not expected to apologize for being Americans or espousing American values is more important today than perhaps it has ever been. And it is my belief that the values that have defined America are not incompatible with the truths of the Catholic faith, but are in many respects extensions of them.
So let me tell you about myself and what you can expect from me.
By education and profession, I am a political theorist. I greatly enjoy exploring Catholic Social Teaching, particularly the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII. I don’t have much to say about theological or liturgical disputes, though I will let it be known that I frequent the Latin Mass.
I espouse political views that can be classifed as “paleo”, whether they are paleo-conservative or paleo-libertarian (depending on the issue). My political influences are John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Pope Leo XIII, the Austrian school of economics, Pat Buchanan, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Thomas Woods Jr., and of course, Ron Paul, the man who converted me to the paleo-political diet in the first place.
I am not the least bit ashamed of Catholic history. I do not apologize for the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, or any of the other “black legends” that were spread by the lying enemies of the Church. I do not believe that the history of the Church has been one of terrible crimes against humanity for which she must atone. On the contrary, I am an unahsamed cultural elitist. I believe Western Christian culture is the best thing to ever happen to humanity, providing us with the most magnificent technology, art, architecture, and moral values known on the planet, and that none of it would have been possible without the guidance of the Catholic Church.
I don’t bow to political correctness, and that includes the right-wing version alongside the more familiar left-wing version. Chances are I will offend you at some point if I haven’t already. At the same time, there is no position I take that I am not willing to defend with arguments, and there are many issues I would be willing to change my mind on.