1

Why?

Catholics don’t ask why enough.

Seriously.

To some — for instance, those who have the run-of-the-mill dissenter in mind — this might seem to be prima facie false, given that plenty of Catholics seem to question Church teaching. But I’m not talking about questioning Church teaching in the sense of doubting it; yes, dissenters do that aplenty, but what they don’t do is ask “Why?” with sufficient depth, with the goal of truly seeking to understand what the Church teaches on topic X and why she teaches that. In the case of most dissenters I’ve encountered, their “why?” is really “Well, that’s silly, I don’t believe that,” without any substantial engagement with the Church’s teaching, without any grappling with the inner rationale of the doctrine. For the most part, dissenters don’t really ask “why?”.

But they should. And so should the rest of us.

Continue Reading

5

Why Do Popes Bother?

Last fall, Pope Benedict issued the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. With a handful of exceptions, the response of the American Catholic blogosphere (and the Catholic commentariat in general) was crickets.

It seems that unless a papal document somehow touches on an issue of the culture wars, near-silence is the response.

So, why do popes bother?

The question is rhetorical, of course. The fact of the matter is, Catholics ought to be reading these documents, and not just “professional Catholics” or clerics, but all of us. Look at whom Verbum Domini is addressed to, for example: bishops, clergy, the consecrated, and the lay faithful. Virtually every other major magisterial text is similarly addressed (curiously, one of the more technical ones which does get greater attention — JPII’s Veritatis Splendor — is addressed only to bishops), yet all too often, even informed, orthodox Catholics seem to fail to read them.

Why is that?

Look at the documents of Vatican II… both before and after they were elected to the See of Peter, Popes John Paul II and Benedict were emphatic that the renewal of the Church which the Council hoped for would not happen unless the members of the Church actually read the documents and internalized them. Even in his apostolic letter closing the Great Jubilee (Novo Millenio Ineunte), John Paul called for the further implementation of the Council, again, with the actual reading of the texts. Have these calls been heeded?

With Lent nearly upon us, now seems an appropriate time to prayerfully discern which one of these gifts of the Magisterium we might take up and read.

42

Bleg: on matters economic, what distinguishes conservativism from libertarianism?

The comments to Darwin’s recent post on Ross Douthat’s pro-life column reminded me of a question I’ve had for some time, and I’d like to hear from TAC contributors and commenters in its regard: is there a difference between conservative and libertarian perspectives on economic policy? Or is the distinction between conservatism and libertarianism found in other areas of public policy? I tend to think that there is in fact a difference; I think, for example, of the proposal advanced by Ramesh Ponnuru and other bona fide conservatives for a sizeable child tax credit ($5k, if memory serves), but such a policy proposal would seem to be antithetical to libertarian principles (and in fact numerous libertarians disagreed with Ponnuru on the grounds that tax policy ought not be used to further any specific agenda).

If there is in fact a difference between conservative and libertarian perspectives on economic policy, my follow-up question is this: what is the nature of the difference? (Even though I do see a difference, I don’t know the answer to this question.)

As noted in the title, this is a bleg, not an argument… I’m curious what others think.

2

Must Read: Mark Brumley

Mark Brumley is the president of Ignatius Press, which today published a little book by a little German which is generating a little buzz.

Yesterday at IP’s official website for the book Mark posted a “summary interview” regarding the condom controversy. I highly encourage anyone interested in better understanding what the heck is going to read this interview.

19

A Dead Horse and All That…

I shouldn’t have, but I did.

Today I read Fr. Richard McBrien’s article on Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the new head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. As the prefect for this congregation Cardinal Ouellet will play a crucial role in the appointment of the Church’s bishops in the years to come.

In his article McBrien makes the following observation:

When commenting on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century, Ouellet seemed to blame the scandal of sexual abuse in the priesthood on the weakening of moral standards in society — a common explanation given by those who are reluctant to address the internal problems of the church, including obligatory clerical celibacy, the role of women, and the declining quality of pastoral leadership.

While there might be some who see the clergy sex scandal as the greatest crisis for the Church since the Reformation, I am certainly not one of them. But what I found completely absurd — again, I should’ve avoided the article to begin with, because it was to be expected — was McBrien’s reference to the role of women in this context. How, exactly, would priestesses have prevented the abuse of children by clergy?

Father McBrien: your vision of the Church and of the Second Vatican Council is both erroneous and dying. Only a tiny fraction of young Catholics in general and those seeking degrees in theology in particular accept that erroneous reading.

Might I propose that you get with the times?

3

Who's Gonna Grab the Third Rail?

That’s a line from a brief but astounding post by Kevin Williamson of NRO, which I’m reproducing in full here:

A little perspective from the debt commission:

“The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. ‘The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans — the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries,’ [Alan] Simpson said.”

Three programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — consume 100 percent of federal revenue, and everything else is paid for with borrowed money.  This is why we cannot balance the budget by cutting military spending, foreign aid, food stamps, etc. There is not going to be a serious project to address our deficit/debt problem without deep, painful entitlement reform, and the longer we wait to admit that fact and get going on it, the worse it is going to be.

So, who’s gonna grab that third rail? George W. Bush tried and got hammered — an example that few if any in Washington are eager to follow.

Indeed. I think if this is going to happen, it’s going to have to come from the people (tea parties, perhaps?), because it seems suicidal for any politician to take it on without considerable popular support.

29

It's About the Children. Seriously.

I must confess that today’s judicial ruling out of California which overturned Proposition 8 has riled me up, suprisingly so. I heard about the ruling while listening to the livestream of a tech podcast in which one of the three podcasters is a lesbian (previously “married” in CA) and the other two (middle-aged married men) evidently supported the decision. The ease with which they threw out bromides (“finally, equality!”) bothered me, primarily because it revealed two things: 1. a group of intelligent people couldn’t grasp that there might be real objections to same sex “marriage”, and 2. as I’ve noted previously, too many (probably most) Americans simply don’t understand the essential nature of marriage. Simply put, the state’s interest isn’t strong feelings or commitment… it’s children. And — to state the obvious — a homosexual relationship isn’t structured towards procreation the way marriage is.

Continue Reading

34

Healthcare Reform & the Magisterium

In this spring’s debate over the healthcare bill, one of the disagreements that raised eyebrows most in Catholic circles was that between the US bishops conference and the Catholic Healthcare Association and other similar groups. The bishops claimed that the healthcare bill would lead to federal funding of abortions, while CHA et al. concluded that it would not.

In my opinion and that of numerous observers (including most of my fellow contributors here at TAC), the bishops were correct and CHA was horribly, terribly wrong.

There is another question, though… was CHA disobedient? That is, were they obliged as Catholics to accept the conclusions of the bishops conference? Was the activity of the bishops conference an act of their teaching charism which American Catholics were obliged to give their assent to?

Continue Reading

5

If You Repeat a Lie a Thousand Times…

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis has defended Pope Benedict in his column in the archdiocesan weekly newspaper.

In reporting on the column, the Associated Press closed their story with this:

Critics of the church’s handling of abuse cases are citing Benedict’s tenure as head of the Vatican office charged with disciplining clergy. The office halted a mid-1990s investigation into a Wisconsin priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys.

Dear Associated Press: the CDF did not stop the investigation. If you’d actually do some journalism you’d know that.

Continue Reading

6

Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 16

In light of the fascinating discussion of personal and social sin kicked off most recently by Darwin here (make sure and read the comments) and followed up by Joe here, I thought it would be worth posting article 16 of John Paul the Great’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, entitled “Personal and Social Sin”. It’s obviously very pertinent, yet unless I missed it, no one has referenced it yet. The actual text is below the break. As the reader will note, one point relevant to the discussion here is that sin properly speaking is an act on the part of an individual person. Yet while social sin is such only in an analogous sense, JPII makes clear that it does describe something real. Now, on to the text.

Continue Reading

3

Miracles, "Skeptics" and Logic

Tonight we celebrate what many describe as the greatest miracle in the history of the universe: the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. But as we know, God continues to work in miraculous ways throughout history, even in our own time. An episode of ABC’s 20/20 on Good Friday featured a number of alleged modern miracles, and all in all, they did a nice job.

Unfortunately, the man they brought on to give “the other side of the story” — Dr. Michael Shermer, Executive Director of the Skeptics Society — managed to commit a basic logical fallacy, and in so doing, gave a poor showing for those who see themselves as better practitioners of logic than those of us who rely on both faith and reason.

Continue Reading

24

This is Unconscionable.

From the Anchoress:

MSNBC ran a headline on their website:

“Pope Describes Touching Boys: I Went Too Far.”

NBC has apologized (the linked story had absolutely nothing to do with the headline, or with the pope, for that matter).

Really? Will heads roll, too? They should, but I doubt they will.

17

God is Here, Not "Out There"!

Here in the midst of the Christmas season our awareness of the meaning of the Incarnation is particularly heightened. In reflecting on this mystery, we commonly speak about Jesus “leaving Heaven” or “leaving the Father” to become one of us, to take on human nature. I submit that while there is certainly some truth in such formulas, they are potentially more dangerous than they are useful, in that they unintentionally reinforce erroneous understandings of Heaven and of God’s transcendence, understandings which unwittingly lead us towards a deistic conception of God “out there” which is manifestly false and contrary to Christianity.
Continue Reading

19

You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

Okay, that’s a heckuva long title for a blog post, but it also happens to be almost perfect for the subject of this particular entry at The American Catholic.

On Tuesday, the voters of the state of Maine — surprisingly — rejected same sex marriage (SSM) and reaffirmed that marriage in Maine is between a man and a woman. Naturally, SSM supporters were shocked and outraged (the Catholic Church appears to be the early target), while supporters of traditional marriage were overjoyed with the results; Maine, after all, isn’t exactly in the Bible Belt.

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), was typical of the latter: “Every time Americans vote on marriage, traditional marriage wins.” And she’s right: when it comes to ballot initiatives, SSM is 0-31.

Continue Reading

4

Let's find the fallacy!

Yesterday The Nation‘s John Nichols wrote a rather scathing piece about President Obama: the piece is entitled “Whiner-in-Chief” and the first line reads, “The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.”

Of course, I tend to agree with perspectives like that. 🙂  But near the end of the piece Nichols tries to argue that the country isn’t as divided as the White House thinks, and along the way, he makes a heckuva non sequitur:

Continue Reading

12

A Public Option: the Left's Waterloo?

Blackadder has had a couple very interesting posts lately arguing that a public health insurance program wouldn’t sound the death-knell to private insurance companies (and hence competition for the consumer) which many have been arguing it would.

What I find interesting is the vehemence of the left regarding a public option… consider this quote from a WaPo story today: Continue Reading

1

The Loss of Limits… the End of Art

A priest friend and I are reading through Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ posthumously-published work, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile, and it’s been an enjoyable read thus far, even in the places where I disagree with the author.

For the purposes of this post, I wanted to share a citation which I found very intriguing regarding the impact on art of modernity’s flight from anything which might be remotely conceived of as limitation.

Continue Reading

15

Tea Parties, Principles and their Application

I’m a big fan of the personal finance speaker & author Dave Ramsey… when our oldest was born nearly five years ago and my wife prepared to stay home to take care of her and her siblings-to-come, I didn’t know how we were going to manage on my income alone; Ramsey’s book and radio show provided us with a straightforward, systematic approach to managing our finances, and for that, I am grateful… his is the talk radio show that I still listen to most.

But when it comes to politics, Dave is far too typical of many mainstream conservatives: he confuses principles for their application, just like Limbaugh, Hannity, et al.

Continue Reading

5

Ross Douthat: Not Backing Down

Today, regarding Kmiec (et al.):

But to claim that a candidate who seems primed to begin disbursing taxpayer dollars in support of abortion and embryo-destructive research as soon as he enters the White House somehow represented the better choice for anti-abortion Americans on anti-abortion grounds is an argument that deserves to met, not with engagement, but with contempt.

He echoes my weekend frustration.

29

Being Reasonable Doesn't Always Work

I’m sure everyone’s response to the title of this post is a variation, more or less, of “well, duh!”. But remember who it’s coming from: the guy who is always insisting on the importance of moderate rhetoric, reasonable discourse, etc.

I just want to be clear that I recognize that sometimes, it’s all for nought.

Continue Reading

14

Sarah's Going Rogue

See here and here.

I’m perfectly fine with that… maybe she’s not the hope for the future of populist conservatism that many believe she is or was, but I’d rather have her in the mix than not. And while she certainly bears some responsibility for some of her poor performances in interviews, an equal amount goes to the campaign for mishandling those aspects of her rollout.

(HT: Rod Dreher.)

22

Measured Rhetoric Is More Effective

A good part of what I was trying to say in my Socialist post the other day concerned the relationship between precision in political rhetoric and its ability to persuade; in short, I think that “toned-down” rhetoric is more likely to convince an interlocutor (let alone an observer)  of at least the plausibilty of one’s position than is the “speaking truth to power” approach.

Continue Reading

21

We're All Socialists Now

One of the things that quickly tires me is overblown political rhetoric; although it’s easy to give in to the temptation (I sure have a time or ninety), it simply serves no good purpose in advancing a civil and constructive political discourse. I’m all for making arguments for and against candidates (see the post below), but demonization is practically the standard, not the exception these days.

Continue Reading

10

The Dilemma of the PLCOS

It occurred to me recently that the typical Pro-Life Catholic Obama Supporter finds himself in a bit of a pickle… on the one hand, he obviously hopes (and prays?) that Senator Obama wins the presidential election; on the other hand, in order for his repeated assurances that there’s just no way that Obama’s abortion extremism will ever come to pass, he must similarly hope (and pray?) that the Illinois Senator’s party does not do as well as it appears it will, because if the Democrats do succeed in making substantial gains in the House and especially the Senate, then that abortion extremism has a very good chance of in fact becoming law.

So… go Obama, go GOP???

14

Archbishop Chaput Weighs In Again

Tonight Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput gave an address at a dinner for the national Catholic women’s group ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women), in which he critiqued the arguments of Prof. Doug Kmiec in favor of voting for Senator Obama, despite his stance on abortion. A condensed and adapted version of the address can be found online here at the Witherspoon Institute’s website (the same place one can find the essay by Prof. Robert George on Obama’s abortion extremism which other contributors have previously mentioned).

Continue Reading

12

Tom Cruise, First-Rate Philosopher

Okay, maybe not.

But one of his characters was more intellectually- and existentially-consistent that many (or even most) Americans of any religious affiliation, including Catholics. I’m talking about the hitman Vincent in the 2004 film Collateral, starring Cruise and Jamie Foxx and directed by Michael Mann.

Read on…

Continue Reading