Thursday, March 3, AD 2011

Catholics don’t ask why enough.


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.

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One Response to Why?

  • This relates very much to the relationship of orthodoxy to orthopraxis. You must have both.

    There is not a day that goes by that I don’t ask why. Why am I Catholic? Why does the Church teach what it does? I think we must approach the teachings of the Church as little children. We must approach the teachings with docility. The Church has much to teach us. Let us set down at the feet of the Bishops who has this authority given to them by Christ through the Apostles. Let us listen and receive what they have to teach us with an open heart and mind.

Why Do Popes Bother?

Wednesday, March 2, AD 2011

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.

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5 Responses to Why Do Popes Bother?

  • Why do Popes bother?

    Well, because eventually all of their writings will be posted on TAC! 🙂
    With the advent of the internet and Catholic blogs, my guess is that Papal writings are probably reaching more readers than any other time in the history of the Church. This is a very new development and it will take time to see what the impact of this will be.

  • Actually have been reading Verbum Domini for about six weeks now as spiritual reading. Taking so long as might only read a paragraph need to stop and think/meditate. Also like to look up the biblical references. Suspect I might take most of this year to finish it.

  • Phillip – Cardinal Arinze recommends doing exactly that with the CCC.

    Chris – Thank you for reminding us on what is really important. That’s a great idea about implementing some type of Lectio Divina during Lent. Too often I find myself distracted by secular topics, i.e. politics. God help me during the upcoming election cycle.

  • I actually read through the whole CCC. Wasn’t given it as spiritual reading by my spiritual director. Read alot of the footnotes but to my shame didn’t look up many of the biblical references. What can I say, I was young.

  • That should read “Was given it as spiritual reading…”

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

Wednesday, January 5, AD 2011

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.

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

  • If we are talking philosophically, I would point to Russell Kirk, who rarely ever discussed economics (insofar as I’m aware). The libertarian, on the other hand, seems to me to be preoccupied with economics and monetary policy.

    One instance in which Kirk did opine on economics was his essay on Wilhelm Roepke, who favored, according to Kirk, the “economic humanism of the Third Way.” That’s a big difference in theory, anyway.

  • “is there a difference between conservative and libertarian perspectives on economic policy?”

    Yes, but this question cannot be answered without clarification of terms and geography. First, our political geography is British-American and the usage of terms in this geography is different from everywhere else (in effect, we do not use them properly). The Australians have it more proper: the party of the right is the Liberal Party because of its economic (classical) liberalism and its coalition (disparate) social policies; the party of the left is Labour.

    In the U.S., both parties are “liberal” – the GOP strongly tends toward right-liberalism (Freedom!), mostly in economic terms, and the Democrats strongly tends toward left-liberalism (Equality!). Libertarian thought is very much in the liberal camp, although we tend to (awkwardly) use “liberal” to mean “statist” or “corporatist.”

    However, right-liberalism and libertarianism are in the coalition of the “Right”, although these strands of thought are not “conservative.” In fact, capitalism et. al. is really quite radical, and Ayn Rand (who hated libertarians and conservatives, by the way) called herself a “radical for capitalism.”

    Much of “conservative” opinion today is not truly conservative – it is Wilsonian (look into Ronald Pestritto for this very strong case) and liberal (despite the semantic confusion). Basically, Pat Buchanan is right.

    As for your question on economic policy, we answer yes because a conservative properly understood (seperate from other members of the coalition of the Right) views culture and human capital, for example, as more important than the details of economic structure for the advance of material prosperity.

  • I think that libertarians tend to be more pure in their support of the free market economic policies than are conservatives. Most libertarians, for example, would say that we should get rid of the FDA, privatize all the national parks, etc., whereas my guess is that such ideas would make the typical conservative nervous.

    To some extent this may just be a consequence of their being so many more conservatives than libertarians. Self-described conservatives are about 40%, libertarians are about 1%. If you are generally in favor of economic liberty but think allowing unlicensed doctors or whatever is going too far, you’re probably going to call yourself a conservative rather than a libertarian.

  • Good insights jonathan.

  • BA,

    Would you say that there is some principle(s) underlying the conservative perspective? My initial impression of your comment is that you’re saying that libertarians are more philosophically consistent… both groups hold to the same principles, but conservatives don’t see those principles through to their logical conclusions as do libertarians.


    I agree with your comments… I was using “conservative” in the American sense, even though it isn’t technically accurate. I think your final ‘graph is key… perhaps we might say that conservative economic thought doesn’t operate in a vacuum but takes culture & human capital into account.

  • Libertarians seem to be a lot more philosophical than general conservatives– they figure out what their planks are and stick to them; conservatives tend to have more general principals.

    It seems like Libertarians, when they have to opposed views, will reason them out and discard one of them; conservatives tend to have more of a web of views.

    A major difference I see between libertarians and conservatives on economic matters is “what are allowed to be economic matters”– I’ve seen (personally initiated) indentured servitude, prostitution, organ selling, etc, defended on libertarian grounds. More philosophically pure– if you have the right to make a contract (limited to yourself and your stuff) then….

    It’s a little tough, because it’s not really black-white, and the terms aren’t perfectly agreed on– I’m a conservative that’s largely libertarian, even in some realms where other conservatives feel we need to build more morality, but in some places I do support “social engineering.” (I hold that a political collective should act to promote the highest quality citizens it can, thus it should promote self-sufficient families, thus tax disincentives to have a parent at home should be avoided. ) Some libertarians hold we should have a tax carefully designed to be totally neutral, although that’s a bag of cats in itself.

  • In all seriousness, the economic alternative to libertarianism in the GOP is corporatism. It is also the leading economic philosophy of the Democratic Party. The dividing point presently between the two camps is that Republicans tend to favor economic security being provided to labor via the government (at whatever level) and the Democrats tend to favor it being provided to labor through business owners via regulation. An example of the former is increasing the child tax credit. An example of the latter is taxes on businesses that don’t provide adequate health coverage to their employees. On the think tank side of the equation, I think the GOP is clearly libertarian driven. There are also demographics within the GOP where libertarian economic thought is more persuasive, and I think that owes to the fundamentalist nature of economic libertarianism.

  • Basically, Pat Buchanan is right.

    Ah blow mah noze at yew!

    is corporatism. It is also the leading economic philosophy of the Democratic Party.

    Whatever it is.

  • My initial impression of your comment is that you’re saying that libertarians are more philosophically consistent.

    I would say that’s right, though I don’t necessarily view it as a criticism of conservatism.

  • I would say that’s right, though I don’t necessarily view it as a criticism.

    But isn’t the consequence of that that on economic matters, conservatism is (at least somewhat) arbitrary, or even unprincipled in the literal sense?

  • Conservatives are libertarians on a diet. I don’t think most libertarians would oppose an increased child tax credit. Children make your poorer. Most libertarians aren’t opposed to helping the poor through tax credits. I think the split is deepest in the area of moral behavior. Prostitution, gambling, sodomy, statutory rape, organ sales, drugs… Of course, it’s complicated by countless exceptions. Is harsh drug laws really a conservative position? Was William F. Buckley not a conservative? Justice Thomas said he would repeal anti-sodomy laws. St. Thomas Aquinas defended legal prostitution. It seems like most conservatives couldn’t care less about gambling.

  • But isn’t the consequence of that that on economic matters, conservatism is (at least somewhat) arbitrary, or even unprincipled in the literal sense?

    Not necessarily. I think it comes down to conservatism sometimes being more behavioralist than rationalist. The places where conservatives differ from libertarians on economic policy are often place where the conservative argument is along the lines of “yes, but people are used to this other approach” or “perhaps, but people don’t tend to understand it that way”. This may be less philosophically principled, but that’s in part because conservatives are holding to a different principle that things should not change suddenly and that there is a value to doing things in the way that people have come to expect and understand them.

  • I think (“Opinion is not truth.” – Plato) that the libertarian paradigm is closer to pure economics in that its economics policy (seemingly) would be more free of moral “pulls” and other agendae.

    Economics does not, generally, factor in moral, charitable, or political power (buy votes) considerations. It is concerned (theory and purity – nonexistent) with rational behavior in an economic unit’s own best interest assuming the player is typically motivated and has access to adequate information to make an rational “economic” decision that is in its best interest.

    Libertarians oppose laws against prostitution and narcotics not (I hope) on moral grounds, but because they lead to excessive governmental power, less liberty, etc. Conservatives (probably really Wilsonians, I guess) may more likely support morals in laws.

    Labels. Labels. I can’t tell you whether I am a conserv or a libertarian. It depends.

    One thing I agree with liberts: tax laws should be solely written to raise needed revenue not to advance agenda or narratives. Point of information: the $1,350 Federal income tax personal exemption (had been $600 for decades) would be over $10,000 if it were indexed for inflation.

    My children make me more wealthy (my not pure economic rationalization: the lower net worth is worth it!). It’s the AMT that’s making me poorer.

  • “Unprincipled” is generally for moral matters, not philosophical ones. Yay, English not making sense. It might apply, but that would be a whole ‘nother debate on if we define political philosophy as morality, rather than being influenced by morality, then we’d have to decide which philosophy was the correct one.

  • The places where conservatives differ from libertarians on economic policy are often place where the conservative argument is along the lines of “yes, but people are used to this other approach” or “perhaps, but people don’t tend to understand it that way”.

    I would disagree with this. I don’t see folks like Bruce Bartlett forwarding such an argument. There are a number of Republicans that don’t believe Libertarian arguments are sound on the merits. It was Nixon after all who said, “We’re all Keynesians now.” For better or worse, mainstream Republicans are willing to accept the three-part division of labor, owners, and government. Libertarians generally do not accept this division.

    However at the think tank level, I can’t think of any conservative think tanks on economic policy that aren’t libertarian. In as much as that is the root for the formulation and dissemination of ideas, that will continue to push Republicans further into the libertarian camp.

  • I think there are many areas where libertarians and conservatives can and should agree ideologically and economically.

    I think personal responsibility is probably the most important point of agreement, since it goes hand in hand with individual liberty.

    The Austrians do not represent ALL libertarians but it is a very influential school of economic thought. And if you really read their material, what emerges at the end are a set of rather common-sense and, I dare say, conservative propositions and values for ensuring economic health: saving, spending wisely, investing rationally, not living beyond one’s means, respecting the private property of others, not going too deeply into debt, and so on.

    They contend that much of our economic problems stem from policies and practices that disincentivize these practical and sensible economic behaviors and encourage the opposite, such as the constant expansion of the money supply. It removes the discipline of competition and the threat of failure. It encourages and rewards bad investments, reckless spending, disregarding other’s needs, and so on.

    Implicit in Austrian theory, then, are conservative values in the truest sense of the word, values that few if any self-identified American conservatives would reject. Even Pat Buchanan wouldn’t reject them 🙂 This is why I think American libertarianism and conservatism get along on one level. For in the end, and whether they know it or not, a libertarian society would depend heavily upon conservative values to maintain itself. Moral degeneracy promoted by the liberal left is nothing but a different kind of slavery.

  • I would disagree with this. I don’t see folks like Bruce Bartlett forwarding such an argument. There are a number of Republicans that don’t believe Libertarian arguments are sound on the merits. It was Nixon after all who said, “We’re all Keynesians now.”

    I would distinguish here between between conservatism and the GOP. I don’t believe either Bartlett or Nixon would have described themselves as conservative (Barlett used to self-describe as a libertarian; not sure if he still does).

  • saving, spending wisely, investing rationally, not living beyond one’s means, respecting the private property of others, not going too deeply into debt

    Are they against wife beating too?

  • There is an element of philosophical conservatism in the conservative political movement. There is also an element of libertarianism. To the average political conservative (which is what we’re talking about), libertarianism functions more as a critique, a warning that even though a policy may promote a good thing, an incremental increase in government is something to be leery of.

    The conservative and the libertarian differ on their priorities. For a conservative, lower taxes are good because they encourage pro-growth, pro-society behavior. For a libertarian, lower taxes are a good in and of themselves. The libertarian’s goal is freedom. The conservative’s goal is a good society, which (he believes) history has shown him can best be achieved by a free and moral people.

  • Ok, definition time.

    Libertarianism: let us refer to Charles Murray (his book is What it Means to be a Libertarian) and Brian Doherty (his book is Radicals for Capitalism, by far the best history of the movement in the U.S.). The definitons presented in these works are NOT conservative, but they very much ARE of the “right” coalitions of politics, which is unfortunately called “conservative.”

    For example, Doherty: “By extending individual liberty into radical areas of sex, drugs, and science (no restrictions on stem cell research, cloning, or nanotech), libertarianism is the most future looking of American ideologies.”

    There are many such other sentences, and the author knows more about the subject than just about anyone else. Conservatives would NOT extend individual liberty, present no restrictions, be forward looking in this way, and would not consider itself an ideology.

    Conservatism: there is no good definition. But it may be defined by its philosophical opposition to libertarian, right-liberal thought.

    My view of conservatism as a matter of definition:
    Conservatism is opposition to all forms of political religion. It is a rejection of the idea that politics can be redemptive. It is the conviction that a properly ordered republic has a government of limited ambition. Conservatism has to do with social order; it recognizes that the sufferings of the underdog are not caused by the fact that some have managed to rescue themselves from their predicament. It is anti-utopian and against the view that what is human should be measured in terms of wealth or power. Conservatism originates in an attitude to civil society, and it is from a conception of civil society that its political doctrine is derived.

    This is set against ideology and towards sentiment and disposition, centered in the family.

  • Libertarians may be more likely to remove from economic policy: agenda, charity, morality, hysteria, narrative, philosophy, political power play, superstition, etc.

    Would a libertarian foreswear any connection with a central planning/collectivist government? Posse comitatus . . .

  • Johnathan,

    I JUST bought and began reading the same Doherty book. But let’s look at this.

    “Conservatives would NOT extend individual liberty, present no restrictions, be forward looking in this way, and would not consider itself an ideology.”

    Can we make a distinction here between values and laws? Because there is a movement within libertarianism, paleolibertarianism, mostly associated with the Austrian school, that does not VALUE unrestricted sexual liberty, drug abuse, or these technologies that tamper with the foundations of life and nature. It simply argues that in most cases, the state’s intervention will do more harm than good, or that in others, that it has no right to intervene at all.

    Take sex, for instance. What ought to be punishable with regards to sex? Should we be locking people up for adultery or fornication? For homosexual acts? I think most conservatives would say no, we shouldn’t. Should we be throwing pornographers and their customers in jail? Again, I think a lot of conservatives would say no. I think you could even say the same thing about prostitution.

    And what about drugs? Again, I don’t value drug use as a positive good. I think it makes losers and criminals out of people. But should anyone be thrown in prison for possession, or for selling in small amounts, of marijuana? Absolutely not.

    As for the other issues, I think Doherty ignores the fact that there are a lot of pro-life Christian libertarians, most prominent among them, Ron Paul. The pro-life position can easily and even more consistently be defended on libertarian principles. Rand and Rothbard do not have the final say in this matter.

    All of that being said, I agree that libertarianism is not conservatism. They’re two different things. But they overlap in many important areas and have a lot to offer one another. If conservatives become less enthusiastic about foreign wars and filling up the prisons with victimless lawbreakers, and libertarians become less enthusiastic about sexual libertinism and scientistic futurism, the collaboration could become even more fruitful. And this will depend upon each recognizing what the other values, and valuing it as well: libertarians valuing a measure of order and stability as the requisite for dignified and human liberty (as opposed to something animalistic and depraved), and conservatives valuing liberty to live, work, worship and raise their children as they see fit.

    I think the key principle, then, they both need to work on and understand mutually is freedom of association.

  • Joe,

    You are correct that paelolibertarianism has much in common with Buchanite (post-1990, when he turned on libertarianism) popular thought, the rough outline of traditionalism in our American context (back to Kirk and then Burke) that I would consider conservatism. Rothbard even wanted to claim Burke as an offshoot anarchist, and he made a good case! And I know we have discussed Ropke in this vein as well.

    I would submit, however, we must make distinctions of human anthropology. What is the fundamental unit of society? Is one more likely in writings to answer the “individual”, or the “family”? Does one use the language of “personhood” and “community” as set against the state? If so, I do not consider them a libertarian, but instead as a member of the loose coalition of traditionalists, loose because our very founding was infused with radicalism and utopianism, full of the Puritans and Locke. But it was also full of the Greeks and Cicero and anti-Whig sentiment – a giant mixture that set the foundation for our current confusion of terms.

    Good discussion, more later to better directly your points.

  • Conservatism: there is no good definition. But it may be defined by its philosophical opposition to libertarian, right-liberal thought.

    Let’s see. Marxism is opposed to libertarian, right-liberal thought. Therefore Marxism is conservative. Left-liberalism is opposed to right-liberal thought. Therefore left-liberalism is conservative. And so on.

    It seems to me that if most people in a society who call themselves conservative believe X, saying that X is not conservative is a non-starter (it would be like saying that it was wrong to call oranges “oranges” because the word “oranges” really refers to bananas).

  • Black Adder, well, I could have been more precise in that opposition to right-liberalism (especially the elevation of an abstracted freedom) is one way to define conservatism, but certainly incomplete. The point is that the etymology of conservatism has less to do with ideology and much more to do with places, people, and circumstance. I don’t disagree with your point but it didn’t address my intended argument.

    Joe, Doherty does ignore the details of socially conservative libertarians like
    Ron Paul, but with very good reasons: they are not that common, they are not that loud within the movements, and philosophically, they are out of step with much of the movement. At many levels, this does not matter that much and can lead to a lot of agreement, particularly with regard to an increased and re-oriented federalism away from centralized power and away from Wilsonian adventurism. But it remains that the strongest currents of libertarianism is socially permissive, either by direct belief or by a consequence of their ideas (ie being for the overturn of Roe but against state restriction of a woman’s “freedom”).

    You are correct that the pro-life position can easily and even more consistently be defended on libertarian principles, but the above problem remains – will a libertarian advocate for the sort of severe state-level restrictions we would advcate for? I doubt it.

    And Rand and Rothbard are libertarians mostly by influence – Rand really did despise them, and Rothbard was quite a bit more ideologically “interesting” than a lot of LP types (who are themselves only part of the movements also).

    Finally, conservatism and libertarianism do overlap in many important areas and have a lot to offer one another. I agree. But they will always be fundamentally at odds, and the reason is human anthropology. The individual is not the basic unit of society, and society is a thing which exists.

  • The conservatism we speak of is a political group of the USA, holding to the notion that what we had before worked pretty well– Christian world view, classic morality, lack of powerful government forces, trust people to mostly take care of their own interests, keep predators at bay on the lowest possible level, asking for help from the next level up is something you do only when it’s a MAJOR thing.

    Not being a philosophy like Libertarianism, it’s a lot harder to define– ever try defining “Catholic” to someone? Go past “in communion with Rome” and you’ve got issues, because a lot of it is history. (Trust me, I’ve tried it– compare with “agnostic” and get real headaches.)

  • I believe that while both libertarians and conservatives favor free markets, conservatives insinuate a much greater prudential component into the calculus. Libertarians favor free markets as a matter of philosophy — they believe individual freedom to be the penultimate good. Conservatives agree that individual freedom is a good, but do not regard it as penultimate. And while conservatives favor free markets because freedom is a good, they acknowledge competing “goods” which must also be considered. That calculus also takes into account the perception that free markets tend to produce superior economic and social results, something with which libertarians generally agree but consider irrelevant since the only value they deem worthy of measure is the degree of individual freedom. A case in point would be public education. True libertarians oppose public funding of education, believing that each family should be responsible for raising and educating its own children. They would hold to this belief even if you convince them that a high percentage of families would fail in this regard and society generally would be worse off without an educated citizenry. This is because their calculus is entirely philosophical rather than partially prudential. Accordingly, they favor a voucher system over a public school system simply because it adds an element of freedom for individual families and is therefore closer to their philosophical ideal. Many conservatives also favor a voucher system, but only because they believe they work better than public schools — a prudential conclusion. If public schools could be shown to do a better job overall than publicly funded private schools, conservatives would largely favor a public school system over a voucher system notwithstanding the loss of market freedom. In such a case libertarians would still favor the voucher system simply because it allows for greater market freedom, which is a necessary component of their penultimate value.

  • is there a difference between conservative and libertarian perspectives on economic policy

    I think that depends on whether the perspective is normative (out of which distributional questions arise) or the perspective is positive (on the pattern of economic phenomena and the likely implications of adopting policy x, y, or z). I think the answers would be;

    1. Yes; and
    2. Not a systematic difference.

  • Johnathan,

    “Joe, Doherty does ignore the details of socially conservative libertarians like Ron Paul, but with very good reasons: they are not that common, they are not that loud within the movements, and philosophically, they are out of step with much of the movement.”

    Not that loud? Ron Paul has been arguably the most successful libertarian presidential candidate to date, and his campaigns have drawn tens of thousands of people towards libertarian ideas – such as myself (though I don’t agree with him on everything, and no one should agree with anyone on everything).

    I mean, who remembers Harry Browne? About as many people who remember James P. Cannon, and the same types too.

    Social libertinism is really quite damaging to the libertarian political cause. How many people out there agree with the basic points of the laissez-faire agenda, and even oppose American empire-building, but are completely turned off by the depravity that is lauded by libertarian types? It may fit philosophically, but it doesn’t seem necessary. Libertarians will never dominate the political scene – they have to choose between fostering the cause of economic liberty by siding with conservatism, or fostering sexual depravity by siding with the Democrats. They choose the former 9 times out of 10 because they know, deep down, that sexual libertinism has only created a situation where millions more have become dependent on social services, and that families are a if not the primary source of economic and even intellectual independence from the state.

    And I firmly believe that you can’t be a consistent political libertarian if you aren’t a metaphysical libertarian, and you can’t be a metaphysical libertarian if you don’t believe in God, and you can’t believe in God and celebrate amorality and depravity. In short, you can’t believe in freedom without some sort of restraint.

    Of course most people don’t care about consistency, I get that. But I think a perfectly coherent libertarianism that takes morality seriously on a philosophical and cultural level is possible and necessary. I need to write the book on it.

  • Mike,

    “True libertarians oppose public funding of education, believing that each family should be responsible for raising and educating its own children. They would hold to this belief even if you convince them that a high percentage of families would fail in this regard and society generally would be worse off without an educated citizenry.”

    This seems to be a sort of unwarranted generalization. Don’t libertarians support private schools, school choice, and the like? Why would they limit themselves to families?

    The core political-philosophical belief of the libertarian is that social arrangements ought to be voluntary. So if families want to fund private schools to educate their children, that is perfectly acceptable. They oppose public education because a) it is paid for by forcibly redistributing wealth, b) it is often compulsory, and c) it indoctrinates children with statist ideology. Educational institutions that do none of these things but which are not homeschools are possible and they exist.

  • Maybe I misunderstood, since vouchers pay for private schools. But even so, vouchers are far from the only non-statist alternative. You could have private schools that simply charge people for their services, and costs could be lowered in the same way they are in any other market – through competition. Or you could have employers starting up schools to educate future employees.

  • As I’ve said before, I don’t think anyone (or at least, very few people) is purely and consistently 100 percent liberal, conservative, libertarian, or any other political category. There always has to be a balance among these ideas in our public policy; the only question is where or in what direction the balance should be. Also, the balance needs to be adjusted depending on time and place — what “worked” during the Depression or World War II or the Baby Boom era won’t necessarily work the same way today.

    I seem to remember C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity writing that because we have fallen away from the ideal God created us to aspire to — the natural moral law — there will inevitably be parts of Christ’s teachings that don’t appeal to us, and we will always pick and choose the parts we like and claim that they are the entirety of Christian social teaching.

    He also said that if we ever did encounter a 100 percent “Christian” society, it would (by the standards of 1940s Britain, at least) appear to be very “liberal” or progressive in some ways (i.e. its insistence on helping those less fortunate and sharing one’s goods) but very conservative and old fashioned in others (for example, in its insistence on obedience to all lawful authority and — which Lewis admitted even then would be extremely unpopular — obedience of wives to husbands).

    Needless to say, Catholic social teaching is “all over the map” from a political spectrum point of view in that it is not consistently liberal, conservative or libertarian. And that is what we should expect.

    If the libertarian ideal is for all social institutions to be purely voluntary and privatized, then a “pure” libertarian would insist that all public schools, libraries, parks, transportation, infrastructure, and social services be abolished and replaced by private enterprise or else cease to exist. Government would be responsible only for national defense and law enforcement, and maybe some infrastructure like public roads, but nothing else.

    The odds are that only a tiny minority of people will ever want to take it that far and privatize everything. However, a well-organized and articulate libertarian movement might be able to persuade a significant number of people to privatize at least some functions now assumed by government. In this way, the balance of power between government and private enterprise is adjusted.

  • Needless to say, Catholic social teaching is “all over the map” from a political spectrum point of view in that it is not consistently liberal, conservative or libertarian.

    Tangential to this, Elaine, I value the fact that CST derives from a set of principles; that’s what I’d like to see within political discourse as well, but I wonder if I might as well be tilting at windmills.

  • Part of our problem is that conservatism, as it arose in post-WWII America, became almost immediately and exclusively about opposition to communism. This was a worthy object, of course, but it allowed those who carried on as conservatives to ignore the larger issue – what, after all, is conservatism trying to conserve? So wrapped up in opposing the communist threat, conservatives failed to perceive the dangers in over-large corporations like GM and Chase; failed to effectively fight against moral disintegration; failed, in the end, to come up with a coherent world view which would allow a conservative to say, “I want a society organized thus”.

    Because of this failure of imagination we’ve got a lot of ostensible conservatives out there – well meaning to a man and woman – who honestly think that capitalism is something worthy of conserving; who fight tooth and nail against Big Government without taking a thought about Big Corporation; who have become so wrapped up in fighting the Statist liberalism of modern times that they have resigned the fight against pornography, depraved popular culture, family disintegration and the rest of our social pathologies. While not going libertarian on such matters, there is little thought among most conservatives about these issues, and the destruction being done.

    Libertarians just get it a bit more wrong – a once admirable defense of freedom has essentially become a plea to just do as one pleases. Such people really can’t see what is wrong with gay marriage, for instance – they just can’t imagine a world in which individual choices can result in societal destruction, and thus such choices are, at least in part, the business of society as a whole.

    What all this has wound up causing in practice is just what Chesterton observed about conservatism a century ago – it merely conserves liberalism (libertarianism does so, too; but on a smaller scale as there are so much fewer libertarians). The forces of the right have fought a receding battle – always thrust back from each position because there has been on the right no set of principles of where we’re going. No understanding what we want to conserve, no understanding that if we want to conserve it, we must make it anew in each generation.

    So, at bottom, libertarianism and conservatism are the same – in the sense that both are fighting a losing battle. Only just now, in this past year – and only via the TEA Party movement – have libertarians and conservatives (and then only some of them) started to develope a coherent worldview – a goal to be achieved. We’ll see how it comes out.

  • Joe,
    By public funding I meant government funding, not private voluntary arrangements. Sorry if that was not clear, especially since my comment makes no snese whatsoever otherwise.

  • Joe,
    Also, I was not suggesting that libertarians favor only homeschooling. Libertarians believe that families are *responsible* for their children’s education and can and should fulfill that responsiblilty by any voluntary arrangement they choose.

  • Mike – We’re very much in agreement about this. Modern conservatism is very Aristotelian, defining the good life in terms of individual character and quality of society. A lot of the founding fathers’ quotes you’ll see online (“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams) reflect this way of thinking. There’s an understanding of liberty as a means, or at most one goal of society.

    The libertarian sees liberty as an end. I once heard Arthur Laffer asked about Jack Kemp’s idea of urban enterprise zones. Laffer answered that any tax cut, anywhere, was a good idea. I think that’s the libertarian perspective: looking at a reduction in government as a good thing, in and of itself.

  • Exactly, Pinky.

    And I disagree with much of Mark’s post. True conservatism abhors coherence in preference to an acknowledgment of competing considerations evaluated through a prudential lens. A conservative may well believe that divorce violates God’s law but nonetheless favor its legal availablity in civil law on prudential grounds. In other words conservatives recognize certain moral absolutes, but do not believe societies can be structured around the assumption of universal observance. Conservatives do not trust those who have confident views of how a society should be organized, or especially reorganized.

  • I think on economics conservatives are simply more willing to make compromises with progressives than are libertarians.

    But this is coming from someone who believes that the terms conservative and liberal are useful only to identify very broadly with a set of political ideas.

    Sorry if this has already been said I haven’t had time to read all the comments!

  • Mike,

    A conservatism which doesn’t get coherent will, 20 years from now, find itself fighting to defend gay marriage against innovators who want polygamy legalized…and that conservatism will lose that fight, too.

  • 20 years? More like five for that fight.

Must Read: Mark Brumley

Wednesday, November 24, AD 2010

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.

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2 Responses to Must Read: Mark Brumley

A Dead Horse and All That…

Friday, September 24, AD 2010

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?

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19 Responses to A Dead Horse and All That…

  • I think the rationale is that women in decisionmaking positions within the Church would not have cooperated with the cover ups. Possible but there’s no way to prove it one way or the other.

  • But even that doesn’t make sense after a few moments of reflection, RR… what in womanhood makes participating in coverups such as this less likely?

    And if I understand Fr. McBrien correctly, the scandal is the abuse itself, as well as the coverup, and having priestesses wouldn’t have prevented the former.

  • You can never be sure that the horse is dead until a veterinarian confirms it, so please kick it a few more times just to be sure.

    The French Revolution, communism, modernism, WWII, half the stuff the Jesuits have done over the years…the history of the Church is one of nonstop crises. I wouldn’t want to have to rate them, but I bet that the rise of evangelicalism in Latin America has put more souls at risk than the current pedophilia scandal.

  • I think the rationale is that women in decisionmaking positions within the Church would not have cooperated with the cover ups.

    The Church did not make its personnel files public or turn them over to law enforcement. It settled law suits rather than going to trial. In most cases this may have had something to do with:

    1. The confidentiality of personnel files is the default among American employers;

    2. Attorneys in civil practice very seldom take cases to trial because trials are crap shoots;

    3. Priests hear a great deal of dirt in the confessional and are not in the habit of reporting dirt to law enforcement;

    4. The accusations against priests were generally made 10, 15, 25 years after the fact and it is very difficult to reach satisfying conclusions about their veracity.

    I would not wish to deny the horror stories you hear of episcopal non-feasance (the cases of Maurice Grammond or of Cdl. Madeiros’ handling of John Geoghan comes to mind), but in most cases honest bishops faced impossible dilemmas in attempting to evaluate accusations.

    Women are less likely to commit predatory crimes than men. The notion that the mundane integrity of the female population exceeds that of the male population is characteristic of someone who does not know many women or who is engaged in status-seeking behaviors in a certain sort of milieu.

  • “…..than the current pedophile scandal.”

    Repeat a lie often enough, it will become the “truth”.
    The clerical sex abuse scandal was homosexual – not pedophilic. Very few cases were actaully pedophilia.Its just not PC to call it as it is unless we upset the gay movement, who have gained acceptance within the wider secular society, and are trying to infiltrate the church to a small degree.

    Michael Rose makes a good exposee in his book, “Good bye, Good Men.”

    Many women (some ex nuns) who had inveigled their way into positions of desisionmaking on entrants to clerical studies turned away “manly” men, in favour of “soft” men, in whose ranks were many SSA men. So feminist women were , to some extent, part of the cause of the problem.

    However, I consider that it is a cleansing of the priesthood, which will be the stronger and more humble, orthodox and obedient because of it.

  • “I think the rationale is that women in decisionmaking positions within the Church would not have cooperated with the cover ups. Possible but there’s no way to prove it one way or the other.”

    The abuse situation in public schools is far worse, and there are plenty of women in decisionmaking positions in those institutions.

  • Chris, motherly instinct. Unless, you don’t believe such a thing exists. Also, the cover ups sometimes led to more abuse.

    Don, were the victims not mostly minors? You make it sound like it was consensual.

    Brian, I’m not aware of a widespread sex abuse cover up in public schools. Do you have a link? For now, let’s put aside the fact that you’re comparing public school teachers to men of God.

  • RR,

    Your questions weren’t posed to me, but I’ll reply to a couple anyway. 🙂

    I believe in a motherly instinct as well as a fatherly instinct. Unfortunately in this fallen world and in particularly this fallen culture those things have been disordered in many. Based on first hand interactions as well as observing events in the news and discussing matters of family law I would say that women are no more immune to losing the parental instinct than men – perhaps they’ve fallen even further. Never mind that a woman who doesn’t feel called to the vocation of motherhood may very well not have that motherly instinct in the first place.

    The victims were mostly minors. However that doesn’t necessarily constitute pedophilia. This was clearly a case of pederasty and pointing that out in no one implies it was consensual.

  • RR.

    Agree with what RL has to say. Pedophilia applies to pre-pubescent children – the vast majority of those offended against were from around 9 or 10 into early to mid teens. The abusers were in a position generally to groom and then seduce the victims, but that dos not imply consensual involvement.

  • RL, but that’s not what Don was pointing out. He broadened the actions to mere “homosexual” acts and places it in the same category as consensual gay sex. I’d also remind people that this “It’s not pedophila. It’s pederasty!” line of defense is counter-productive especially when put in the tone that Don put it. It’s like the people defending the Ground Zero mosque on the basis that it’s not technically a mosque. They’d be missing the point, not addressing the actual issue, and looking petty in the process.

  • “Never let a ‘good’ crisis go to waste . . . ”

    Sorry for the cliches (you started it: dead horse): a stopped clock is correct twice a day. O’B doesn’t meet that standard.

  • RR,

    From what Don wrote I don’t get that he’s trying to broaden the actions to mere homosexuality, nor do I get the impression that he considers any homosexual act as “mere”. To the contrary I think he is trying to narrow it down in order to correctly identify the problem.

    I realize the term pedophilia sounds worse to most people and might be a preferable term due to that, but I assure you the damage done to these kids is every bit as bad at age 12 or 14 as it would be if they were 6. Still, if we want learn from this scandal and proactively address and correct it going forward we would do well to identify the true nature of it. This was in part what the John Jay study was about (and it was that report which substantiates what Don said about it primarily being a pederasty problem).

  • I believe McBrien’s concept of how things should be are erroneous but I do not believe they are dying.

    They are wholly present and merely adapting to rear their heads in other disguises. To think otherwise is too stupid to address.

  • Karl, they may be present among the uninformed, but for those who *want* to learn more about their faith, dissident notions aren’t nearly as popular as they were 30 years ago.

  • My guts say otherwise, having lived through all of this since 1954. I would bet against your position and hope to lose, as bizarre as that sounds. I think, I would take the pot.

  • As for the notion that putting women in charge would have prevented the sex abuse scandals or the cover ups… well, not too long ago Fr. Z’s blog had links to stories saying that the LCWR (the “liberal” nuns’ group) had been stonewalling attempts to investigate allegations of sexual abuse of children by nuns of the member orders:


    The reason I post this link is not to argue whether or not nuns of whatever ideological/liturgical stripe are better or worse or “as bad” as priests when it comes to abuse, but simply to point out that cover-up and denial is not strictly a male thing.

  • You are correct. You shouldn’t have bothered reading Fr. McBrien’s article, and quoting from it. It is another episcopal scandal that his column is printed in so many diocesan bulletin. The man never did learn to think, but only to orate.

  • Elaine, that is an excellent observation, as it shows that not only is the
    sexual abuse of children not the exclusive preserve of men, but also that
    men do not hold the patent on covering up that abuse.

    The sexual abuse of children that takes place in our public school system
    dwarfs the Church’s problem with such abuse, not merely in number but
    in offenses per capita. The school system’s habit of transferring offending
    employees is also well-documented. These offenses are committed and
    covered up by both men and women, married and unmarried. It is simply
    laughable to blame the Church’s sex abuse scandal merely on the fact
    that it was caused by celibate males.

  • Oh, and Fr. McBrien is such a tiresome hack.

    Can anyone imagine a respectable institution holding a symposium
    on his collected works? In a generation, will anyone in his field
    remember his ‘contributions’?

Who's Gonna Grab the Third Rail?

Tuesday, August 10, AD 2010

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.

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3 Responses to Who's Gonna Grab the Third Rail?

  • Really? So FICA and Medicare withholding represent the entire federal revenue stream? Whatever happened to the federal income tax and other revenue sources?

    The reality is that we are being set up. The federal government is looking for ways to default on what it owes and it will be far easier to default on what it owes its own people through social security than what it owes foreign banks. Defaulting on foreign loans will affect its credit rating and ability to further borrow while leaving retirees high and dry will just hurt retirees.

  • Finaly someone has outlined the major problem of our deficit spending..Without borrowed money in the term of t notes, we would be bankrupted in regards to income. IT IS TIME for means testing and benefits of those who really do not need SS survie. A cap on those with a certain substainable income need to be removed from SS and Medicare needs to have a schedule of benefits and of premium cost similar to the income tax tables based on 1040 results of income each year to determine premiums and benefits. There will be the normal hue and cry, but our representatives need the backbone to make it happen.

  • They will never solve anything.

    Nearly that entire first paragraph is incorrect. SS and Medicare are (even today) fully funded out of specific FICA and Medicare taxes, not out of general (personal and corporate income taxes, excise taxes, etc.) tax revenues. In fact, the SS surpluses are spent in vote-buying gov programs, and the SS trust fund gets in return nonpublic US debt instruments that can only be repaid from new taxes. The fit hits the shan when the SS taxes paid in are insufficient to pay SS (30,000,000 baby boomer) benefits and the guv needs to tax we the people to repay worthless debt to pay SS beneficiaries.

    I’m too depressed to continue.

It's About the Children. Seriously.

Wednesday, August 4, AD 2010

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.

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29 Responses to It's About the Children. Seriously.

  • Well said.

  • Exactly. Americans, even conservative Protestants, have removed children from marriage. Without a procreative intent, admittedly, there is little reason to ban gay marriage. Or incest for that matter.

  • Americans?

    Westerners. America still has the highest birth rate in the Western world, and Utah has the highest birth rate out of all the states.

    Supposedly “family friendly” Europe cut children out of the picture a long time ago. All of the welfare provisions, reduced work weeks, paid maternity/paternity leave didn’t do a damned thing to reinforce families or birth rates.

    This is because Europe not only removed children from the marriage, but God from their lives and culture. Mormon Utah thrives for exactly the opposite reason. When will Catholics get it?

  • Actually, welfare did help increase the birth rate in Europe. The Scandinavian countries have the highest birth rates in Western Europe.

  • How would things look if marriage were dead? Out-of-wedlock births, acceptance of any cohabitation arrangement, the presumption that any relationship in non-binding…exactly what we have today. Marriage is dead as a norm in the West. There are only pockets and subcultures that preserve it.

    We talk about the “war on Christmas”. Christmas has been stripped of its old meaning and given a new purpose; a few of its traditions are unthinkingly continued. By the time the courts started enforcing “holiday pageants” in public schools, the war was long lost. That’s exactly what’s happened to marriage.

    Maybe my blood sugar is low or something, because even I am not usually this pessimistic. I’m just not seeing any reason to be encouraged.

  • Marriage is dead as a norm in the West.

    Yes, this is what I’ve been saying about the SSM debate all along. To those who ask, “How is SSM going to harm your (traditional) marriage?” I say, “It’s not — the damage has already been done. I just don’t see the reason to codify the death of marriage in law.”

  • Marriage is certainly in disrepair in the west. Many forces contributed to that, but the disentanglement of sex, children and marriage via modern birth control options is certainly a key part of it, resulting in the normalization of premarital sex, cohabitation, divorce, serial monogamy, etc. That said infidelity (i.e., extramarital sex) is still largely unaccepted in the US. Marriage may be in the ICU, but it is not dead yet.

  • Pingback: Supporting Gay Marriage: It’s Not About the Children. Seriously. « Agree to Disagree
  • The trolls are out.

  • restrainedradical wrote Thursday, August 5, 2010 A.D. at 8:29 am
    “Actually, welfare did help increase the birth rate in Europe. The Scandinavian countries have the highest birth rates in Western Europe”.

    The birth rate in Sweden is 1.67 children born/woman (2010 est.), i.e., less than replacement. Much of this is probably due to immigrant populations.

  • It seems to me that there is an assumption that the U.S. is a fine moral country.
    The opposite seems to be true. The number of child murders continues to increase.
    Poverty is widespread despite “Wars on Poverty” [because of?].
    The immigration question continues to fester. {On what moral basis can immigrants be denied entry?].
    The continued base treatment of Indians reeks to heaven.
    Justice Ginsberg speaks of “undesirable populations”.
    Multi-skillionaires give much money to killing babies in this country and abroad.
    Pornography becomes more and more widespread like a plague.
    Actors are treated as moral gurus, because their faces are familiar, not because they know how to behave.
    To put it succinctly: what is it in the U.S. which gives it any claim to be a light unto the nations?

  • I’m not sure I understand the argument. People who don’t procreate shouldn’t get married? Then where are the rallies against childless marriages? Why aren’t we banning people whose disabilities prevent them from having children from marrying? Or the elderly? Why aren’t we protecting the procreative institution of marriage from these barren impostors? And what about adoption? Since adoption by same-sex couples would challenge your argument, you must be against that, too. In which case, shouldn’t we stop straight couples from adopting, too? Those children may be in need of care, but of course the bigger need is for people to have their own babies. Please help me understand how we can include the disabled, the elderly, adoptive parents and those who are childless by choice into the Prop 8 campaign, because clearly we’re leaving a lot of people out.

  • Thanks for the comment, Maisha. You raise a common but good question with regard to our position, and it’s one that certainly seems to follow from my post. I somewhat oversimplified the argument last night, but in so doing left the door open for your objection. Let me see if I can offer at least a beginning of a response.

    Our position is that marriage is an institution in which a man and a woman come together with a desire to grow more deeply in love and with an openness to children, *even if children are for some reason impossible for them*. For us, the act of marital love — sexual union — is itself ordered towards procreation, even if in at any particular time procreation is impossible (perhaps due to infertility, because the woman is not in the fertile stage of her cycle, or whatever). So in the case of an elderly couple beyond childbearing years, the sexual union remains structurally oriented towards procreation.

    Such is obviously not the case for the same sex couple, however: same sexual acts of their nature cannot be procreative, while — all things being equal — heterosexual acts are always structurally procreative.

    That’s the beginning of a response… let me know where I’m unclear, and I’ll try to clarify.

  • When I comment on subjects like this my post is in danger of being deleted, which is ok, I have to answer to God for me, not whomever does the deleting.

    That being said:

    With the Catholic Church, the children are really just pawns. The real battle is keeping the pews full, I think for the power that gives the Church. I would like to think otherwise but I really do not, based upon personal experience.

    When divorce happens, the Church does and says nothing, to heal a marriage, when it is clear to the Church, as they have all the evidence they need in nullity cases, that a marriage has simply been abandoned and the abandoner has taken the spoils, including the children.

    Rather, should not individual priests and bishops in authority, address the situations, especially when these are presented to the Church for nullity investigations and work, tirelessly, pastorally and with canonical strictures, to restore marital union? Especially so when nullity is shown NOT to exist?

    No such thing happens, at all!

    No, Chris. I do not agree it is about the children. It is about power and control, although it should not be that way.

    If you must delete this, go ahead. I did not mean any disrespect by it. I just commented on my personal experience and from what I have heard from others, who have been through it.

    Regarding marriage, I believe, the chemical inability to make the sperm/egg do not invalidate, the inability to “perform the act” necessary for procreation, either physiologically or psychologically, is what validity and hence, real marriage, hinges on, provided the people are free of all other impediments.

  • If I’m following you correctly, Karl, two comments come to mind.

    First, there are programs present in the Church which try to heal broken/dying/weak marriages… Retrouvaille comes to mind.

    Second, I’m not sure what you think clerics can do to get two people back together who refuse to do so.

    Can you elaborate or clarify?

  • Going there would hijack the topic. I simply wanted to infuse my personal experience into my comment.

    I have never, once, seen the slightest concern for the scandal and abuse our five children have experienced by any of the priests or bishops who were supposed to pastor them. To this day the scandal is encouraged.

    Our acceptance of divorce has prepared the groundwork for this “dumbingdown” of marriage.

    It is about the children and their souls, that is clear, but I do not see the Catholic Church as having the moral high ground. Not over divorce, Chris.

    God is teaching his Church, if it will listen to spouses like myself and others who have seen its evil deeds, to repent and to LISTEN. Bur for twenty years, the ears of the Church have been sealed, in my personal experience.

    I hope, whatever it takes to break the back of the dead consciences of the Catholic intelligencia, lay and clerical, is done. They do not listen. They listen to “experts” they DONOT

  • LISTEN to their victims.

  • The Church must defend marriage, period, not selectively in the face of a homosexual challenge.

    It must cease allowing its teachers to stress the “benign” nature of divorce. It must do so with strong canonical sanctions. It must hold to account, with formal canonical sanctions those who abandon marriages, particularly when they do not seek counsel from the bishop or when they abuse those few specified canonically allowed circumstances when separation is allowed.
    Wrongful divorce must not be unaddressed, in public and those who refuse, without substantive, serious reasons, to work, endlessly if necessary, at reconciliation, especially if there are children involved, should be formally and very much in public, be admonished and in short order, formally excommunicated, if the refusal to work toward healing the marriage continues. All those who cooperate, formally, with the support of the unrepentant, should similarly be held to account, with more vigor if they are a religious or in any position of authority/importance in the Church.

    The Church has lost all credibiliy due to its generations of laxity regarding marriage. This is constantly used against the Church and justifiably so.

    Unless this is addressed and addressed, last year, the Church is the hypocrite it is so often accused of being.

    May God have mercy on His, very unfaithful Bride. It is those of us who are struggling to be faithful to both our spouses and our faith, who God requires
    His Bride to listen to. The Pope and the rest of the Catholic clergy need to understand how much harm they do each day our cries are left unanswered with almost anything but disdain, from those who should know better.

  • Karl,
    When you write that “the Church” has been moving in the direction of accepting divorce, I believe you should modify that by saying many [most?] priests and bishops have been moving in this direction. And it is, as you rightly note, part and parcel of the sexual scandals. Once start hedging – even in the smallest manner – on matters of Church teaching, the hedging simply grows.
    The hierarchy is mealy mouthed when it comes to the use of the pill. Most of the pills are abortifacient. All of them sterilize. How often do priests and bishops note this? How often do they remind the faithful that they are committing a mortal sin by the use of the pill?
    But I believe there is a mistaken notion that our bishops, as such, are a saintly lot. They are not. You have but to read a bit of the history of the episcopacy to realize that bishops do not contribute much to the list of saints, to those we are enjoined to emulate. They are for some reason a timid lot.

  • Unfortunately too true. We must remember that the priesthood and episcopacy are charisms, gifts for the good of the Church, and not holiness. A mother at home raising her children may have a far greater place in heaven than many a bishop.

  • How is SSM going to harm your (traditional) marriage?

    That is really the incorrect question – it should be “How is SSM going to strengthen marriage as an institution?”

    And the answer is, it is not. It will only further hide the now barely recognized fact that the proper end of intercourse is procreation.

  • I think there’s a real serious question whether ANY church in the USA takes marriage seriously–with (ironically) the possible exception of the Mormons. Among Catholics, even those who cannot remember the number of the commandments, let alone the content of the list, can tell you that when we want to divorce and remarry in church, we just get an annulment on some (frequently bogus) “psychological” ground. This happens no matter how long the supposedly invalid marriage has lasted or how many children it produced. This last point is especially important; the annulment regime now in force is saying that it is NOT important to stay married “for the children’s sake.”

  • ron chandonia, I agree that there have been serious abuses in Catholic Church annulments. But the idea of an annulment does not hinge on whether the apparent marriage lasted many years, nor on how many kids there are, nor on whether it is better for the kids’ sake to stay together. If a couple never did get married to begin with, despite appearances, then it means that they have been living an error for however long the apparent marriage has been going on, whether short or long. I accept that a long-lasting arrangement suggests that there must have been a real commitment to permanence, but there are other commitments needed for the marriage to have taken place to begin with.

    I know a couple who got married 20 years ago, and got an annulment 2 years ago: the guy had been a pornography addict and sexual deviant the entire period. He was incapable of a real commitment to marital fidelity at the time of the wedding, because he was addicted to porn.

    The Church usually states that if a couple has kids, they both have a deep, serious obligation to see to their welfare even if a divorce or annulment occurs. How can it be better for the kids for the Church and society to pretend that a marriage took place when it didn’t. I should think, generally, that a couple with young kids, who discover that they never did truly marry, ought to ask themselves whether they might have a moral obligation to actually make real the apparent marriage that they had been living in action, for the sake of the kids. But of course, nobody discovers this without a marital breakdown, and at that point it is often difficult to establish that it really would be better for the kids if their mom and dad got married even when they hate each other.

    Given that at least 30% of heterosexuals don’t seem to have a grave problem with the very idea of homosexual marriage, it is probable that many, many people don’t understand marriage enough to actually form a marriage bond with another person. Given that, it should not be surprising that many annulments are granted correctly.

  • May one not also ask what is the difference between gay “marriages” [sodomy] and marriages in which the female uses the pill to sterilize herself? Marriage is not even chiefly for procreation. Procreation is an added blessing. To reject that blessing is to reject the Almighty.

    Consider also the vow “until death”. As Harry Truman remarked “if a man will not keep his word to his wife, to whom will he keep it”? The Church does not prohibit divorce when it is but separation. It prohibits divorce – it points out the breaking of the vow – for “remarriage”.

  • Gabriel,
    It is my understanding that the Church does not so much prohibit divorce as simply not recognize it. Indeed, while legal separations may be favored over divorce as such, I believe that the Church understands that divorce under civil law is often necessary in order to ensure protection of the weak — usually but not always the wife or children. Consequently, what is not permitted is remarriage (absent an annulment of course), since the first (without an annulment) the marital sacrament remains in place and remarriage constitutes adultary.

    Thanks for the Truman quote. I was unaware of it.

  • How mislead and scandalous these comments are.

    How easily you have swallowed the Kool Aid of divorce to think that it is anything but condemned.

    Do you reacall it says…..God Hates Divorce. How easily man has rejected the expressed Will of God and searches for rationalizations for his sins.

    Watch and learn as society and the Catholic Church decay for their self-serving attitudes, especially towards marriage. The reconing will come.

  • Karl,
    Emoting about Kool Aid is not productive. While I’m hardly an advocate of divorce, and it is certainly true that the rate of broken marriages is scandalous, the fact is that obtaining a divorce in and of itself is not understood by the Church to be a sin. Indeed, the Church views a civil separation and a civil divorce indentically. Neither has any effect whatsoever on the marital Sacrament. The Church recognizes that the parties are not morally enjoined from selecting whichever legal route leads to greater justice under our civil law system. This is especially important in the case of serious abuse. Neither legal approach, however, permits “re-marriage” in the Christian sense, even if civil divorce does so under civil law. The sin occurs if a person bound by the marital sacrament to his spouse remarries or otherwise has relations with another regardless whether the married couple are separated, divorced, or neither. Note the important fact that the Church does not view civil divorce as disturbing the status of a Christian marriage.
    Of course, as I noted the rate of divorce is evidence of deep and disturbing problems within our society. The wounds, especially to children, are incalculable. But divorce is a symptom of sin, not the sin itself. This is pretty straightforward Church teaching.

  • Karl,
    Catechism 2383:
    “The Church teaches that the separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases. The Catechism states: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.”

    Which is to say “divorce” is a civil separation, not a breaking of the marriage vow.

Healthcare Reform & the Magisterium

Saturday, June 19, AD 2010

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?

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34 Responses to Healthcare Reform & the Magisterium

  • Thank you for raising this important question, Chris.

    I do not think the Catholic Health Association was “disobedient” for not taking the same position as the Bishops. I do think it was a bad political decision and I am not sure if the official stance reflected the views of every member of the CHA. The responses in the media and the internal “church war” did little to serve the visible unity of the Church. I think it could have been a more tactful disagreement — a suggestion, perhaps, that the Bishops’ reading of the legislation might need a second analysis. But it was a very pronounced disagreement that was unfortunately hijacked by the political operatives and partisan Catholics more than ready to paint the USCCB in bed with the Republicans — and we’ve surely gotten portraits of the opposite, that is, of the USCCB having succumbed to liberal politics. I’d like to think that both sides seriously needs to rethink their Catholicism before trying to translate their faith into contrived, acceptable political platforms rooted in secular schools of thought.

    I do thinks the Bishops were right in their basic analysis, but I do think some of the criticisms of their conclusions were actually very legitimate. I think there more at stake in the health care debate — something deeper than — than health care policy, or even the right-to-life issues.

    There was a lot of misinformation, single-word slogans, and rhetoric and willful partisan fighting to simply win. This was most unfortunate.

    I do not think the Senate compromise on the abortion language was necessarily immoral. Politically, it was not what we would desire first, but I don’t think it was a riot. It surely wasn’t the Capps’ language that required in explicit terms abortion funding. I thought that claims that the language was absolutely unacceptable were terribly exaggerated. I believe the scare over CHC’s were a bit naive.

    The serious overriding issue was that the legislation did not say explicitly, leaving room for no ambiguity that no provision in the Act would allow funds to be used to subsidize abortion. The Act did not say that abortion could be funded rather it remained silent. The problem is — to my understanding — is that abortion jurisprudence in the last few decades has a clear tradition of allowing abortion funding when Congress does not explicitly exclude it when it calls for, say, “comprehensive services.” The logic obviously being that abortion is a legal medical procedure and if it is not singled out, then it should be included amongst “comprehensive” and/or “preventative” services.

    There was a Colloquy (a pre-scripted dialogue that goes on the record to clarify and illuminate Congressional intent on certain provisions of a bill) before the House vote on the health care bill that clearly stated that the legislation would be subject to the spirit of Hyde as is all other federal programs.

    Such a colloquy could be cited in Court as evidence to clarify the intention of Congress (when debating whether Congress intended to allow abortion to be funded). An Executive Order obviously would be overturned if it contradicted an explicit statutory law. The problem is that President Obama’s EO does not contradict statutory law and therefore is not absolutely guaranteed to be overturned by a court. But that doesn’t mean that it would hold up in Court either. It could, but then again, it could not.

    Therefore the security of the pro-life provisions are undesirably weak. I think this would be reason enough — even though there were plenty of other reasons — to hold out for amendments to statutory law to ensure that there would no insecurity and no ambiguity over the fate of the pro-life provisions of the bill.

    This is obviously a prudential assessment of the situation and it is clear that I, with a few disagreements, came to agree with the Bishops.

    However, anyone who sincerely and honestly disagreed may not be “disobedient” or a dissident Catholic. Obviously they could be. But I’m not really talking about party operatives or Catholics who are pro-choice or for whom abortion was never really an issue.

    Someone may come to a different conclusion and I’m sure they would present the case for the EO and the final abortion language quite differently. I don’t think they would be correct but I’m not ready to claim that they are a “disobedient” Catholic.

    This brings us back to your fundamental question: was the Bishops’ position on health care an act of the Magisterium? No. I think the approach was very political and pragmatic. The Bishops mostly focused on abortion, conscience clauses for health care professionals, and access for legal immigrants. But there was so many other concerns — voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, government and private-sector rationing of medical care, abuses regarding organ donation (particularly those resulting in euthanasia) mostly because of the dubious concept of “brain death,” not to mention, financial sustainability and the overall structure of the health care system itself. The moral principles are all there but there be an array of policy perspectives from those who fundamentally agree. So I’m not sure sharing the conclusion of the Bishops (as long as one was agreeing morally) was necessary to remain a Catholic in good standing. I’d say it is probably wise not to tread too far from the Shepherds for they have a vast resource pool from which to draw to form very informed and moral conclusions.

    But if the Bishops’ analysis of legislation is an act of the Magisterium then their endorsement or opposition to any legislation whether it’s health care, immigration, or any such thing, no Catholic could disagree. And I’m pretty sure a number of Catholics, particularly in conservative circles, don’t share the USCCB’s position on immigration and therefore I’d suspect that wouldn’t go so far as to say we must always agree with the Bishops’ prudential policy judgments.

  • Can one be disobedient and not violate the Magisterium? If so, I think that happened here.

    I don’t think there was anything close to dogmatic in the bishops’ evaluation of the bill (other than abortion funding is wrong). That said, even in non-dogmatic matters deference is owed to the bishops. If one disagrees with them, one must do so after prudential consideration. Furthermore, I think one ought not to be actively campaigning against them.

    So while the CHA could disagree with the bishops, I don’t think they cared one hoot about what the bishops thought. Indeed, many of the liberal Catholics started painting this picture of the bishops as silly old buffoons easily misled by the NLRC and other Republican groups masquerading as pro-lifers. Worse, the CHA and others went out of their way to show their Catholicism in support of the bill, clearly frustrating the bishops message.

    Nothing the left did shows any support or obedience to the bishops, even if dogma did not require them to agree with them.

  • “So while the CHA could disagree with the bishops, I don’t think they cared one hoot about what the bishops thought. Indeed, many of the liberal Catholics started painting this picture of the bishops as silly old buffoons easily misled by the NLRC and other Republican groups masquerading as pro-lifers. Worse, the CHA and others went out of their way to show their Catholicism in support of the bill, clearly frustrating the bishops message.”

    Bingo! The magisterium that they are loyal to has little to do with the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

  • The misnamed Catholic Health Association was in bed with the Obama administration from the beginning on ObamaCare:


    Abortion simply was not a priority for them in comparison to passing ObamaCare.

  • It seems to me that Sr. Keehan, the CHA et al. went out of their way to snub the Bishops, ignored the Bishops prudential judgment, and were indebted to helping the liberal establishment in passing any type of socialist or national health care regardless of what the consequences are going to be for unborn babies, elderly, and the rest of the most vulnerable human beings. They did not feel any obligation to follow the Magisterium and avoid scandal or a scandalous perception.

  • Obviously the bishop’s position on the health care bill was not a magisterial teaching. Lay Catholics take no vow of obedience to their bishops.

    I am one who thought Capps-Stupak would’ve been great but not absolutely necessary for me to support the bill. I ultimately opposed the bill on the grounds that the bishops told me to and, considering the politics, there was more to be lost in opposing the voice of the Church in America than opposing the bill.

  • Every time I see “the bishops” presented as some kind of Magisterial body I nearly want to go postal. The USCCB and “the bishops” in NO WAY have any teaching authority.

    Cardinal Ratzinger addressed this in “The Ratzinger Report” where on page 60 it says;

    “No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops.”


    In other words the USCCB is not an “American Magesterium” – despite the efforts of the bureaucrats who manipulate “the bishops” efforts to pose as such.

    There is an old saying that there are two things you never want to see being made – sausage and the law. I would add a third, a document from the USCCB.

    Their watered down “documents” more often than not muddy crystal clear church teaching after laborious twisting and contorting aimed at preventing anyone form being “offended”. If you don’t believe me – watch the TV coverage of the next USCCB Conference where endless debates over every punctuation mark will bring you to tears. Our “Shepherds” have become congressmen.

    Call the USCCB what it is – an administrative body stuffed with career bureaucrats that speaks out on politics – mostly with liberal positions. The entire mess should be shut down.

  • It could be their hospitals’ solvency was the main motive. Yet that is not supportable, unless . . .

    Else, the “nuns-in-pants-suits'” prudential judgement is that “free lunch/something for nothing” always overshadows liberalisms’ insidious aspects – exterminating 47,000,000 more unborn persons, class envy/hatred, ESCR, gay privileges, immoral public school brainwashing of youth, etc.

    Their priorities seem to lie with secular, humanist progressives. For the secularist, man is the end all and be all and the greatest good is not saving souls but making life better for the convict, drug addict, drunk, felon, fornicator, illegal invader, murderer, rapist, thief, et al: all at the expense of the evil, racist, rich unjust American taxpayer.

    The COMMON GOOD???? Likely (my opinion), every (except the rulers in DC) American will be reduced to an equal level of health care misery and desperation.

  • It is a moral teaching and directive – not to support a law that promotes or supports abortion.

    It has Magisterial binding power coming from each individual bishop who concurred with that. And the pols under the bishop’s authority is obliged to obey as the Lord is to be obeyed. “He who listens to you, listens to me.”

  • I don’t think it’s a matter of being obedient or disobedient to the Bishops per se…it is a matter of being obedient or disobedient to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Lawyers studied the bill and I have read part of it where the bill gives Kathleen Sebelius major authority down the line to distribute federal funds as she sees fit and we know that ‘Catholic’ Kathleen Sebelius is rabidly proabortion, was a friend and colleague of George Tiller who terminated viable babies in the womb…abortion is a grave evil and anyone participating in any way is cooperating with this evil…Sr. Keehan and her group can disagree or not with the Bishops but – they have defied the teachings of the Church which teaches that abortion is the killing of a human in the womb…Canon Law states clearly that anyone publicly promoting such evil cannot receive the Eucharist…our Bishops do not enforce this which is, I believe, why these ‘Catholics’ are becoming more and more defiant and arrogant in their advocacy for abortion. I was told that Joe Biden went to Africa to convince them to legalize abortion in order to receive aid…the Africans don’t want to kill their babies!!! Pelosi preaches about how ‘the Word’ is so important to her…the word was made flesh…where does she think the word became flesh???? In the womb of Mary the mother…would Pelosi have fought so ferociously to exterminate the baby in the womb of Mary? I don’t think we are obliged to follow the advice of Bishops but we surely are not meant to publicly defy them…I think it’s time for the Vatican, for Pope Benedict,to speak into this issue just as he did in his letter to the Irish Bishops – he spoke strongly and forcefully against the abuse of children in Ireland…well, we are talking here about the extermination of human babies in the wombs of their mothers…millions and millions of them!!!!! It must be stopped…please God the Bishops will have the courage to tell Pelosi and Biden and others who advocate for abortion that they are not Catholics in good standing and that until and unless the publicly reject their pro abortion stand they cannot receive the Eucharist…until they do, the slaughter will go on…and on and on…

  • Samwise,

    I completely agree!

    But, I would like to point out that the Pope just recently talked to the priests about using the “rod” against heresy.

    “The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod,” he said, “the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray.”

    “Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented.”

    This is a step in the right direction.

  • The Health Care Bill put together with the USCCB and CHA equals a headache. But I’m glad that you’ve narrowed down the discussion with your last paragraph: “Does the authority of the Magisterium extend to this sort of legislative analysis? If it does not, then how ought faithful Catholics respond to this sort of activity on the part of bishops?

    As previous commentators have said already very thoroughly, the USCCB has no teaching authority. They do serve as a guide for how to apply real Church teachings to real life for Catholics but this does not mean everything they say or suggest is infallible and in fact is sometimes quite the contrary.
    Faithful Catholics ought to listen respectfully and try and understand what the USCCB stands for and may be trying to teach us. I think though, that if one does disagree with some or all of a statement or a posistion of the USSCB they do have a duty to disagree tastefully and respectfully. If love is not part of the motivator behind the disagreement then there’s a problem.

  • Does the authority of the Magisterium extend to this sort of legislative analysis? If it does not, then how ought faithful Catholics respond to this sort of activity on the part of bishops?

    It does not. The bishops do not, as bishops, have the authority to interpret the meaning and consequences of civil legislation. If the bishops had this authority and competency, they would be able to provide an official Catholic interpretation of other documents, such as the U.S. Constitution. But, of course, we don’t look to the bishops for whether we ought to interpret the Constitution as a “living document” or as its writers intended. Such questions reside outside their domain.

    On the other hand, I understand the frustration the bishops feel at the very public disagreement with them made by the CHA and others. They have sought to understand the legislation as best they can, have judged it to be morally problematic, and have, because of their concerns about the potential immoral consequences of the legislation, spoken out against it. Then they see other public Catholics disagree with their conclusions about it. A messy situation, to say the least, but then, the moral life is messy.

    In the case of “Obamacare,” at least, we will soon know who was right. Either it will fund abortions or it won’t.

  • Kyle,
    I agree that the Bishops don’t have the authority to make it obligatory for Catholics to either support or oppose specific pieces of legislation when it comes to the Bishops’ prudential judgments. But, if after researching a particular piece of legslation the Bishops oppose that piece of legislation because of coming to a conclusion that that particular piece of legislation will indeed cover abortions or fund abortions, wouldn’t that fall under the Magisterium’s authority since abortion is an intrinsic evil?

    I would rather be safe than sorry, and be absolutely sure that this piece of legislation does not have federal funding for abortions on demand or taxpayer funded abortions then find out later that Obamacare does fund abortions.

  • But, if after researching a particular piece of legslation the Bishops oppose that piece of legislation because of coming to a conclusion that that particular piece of legislation will indeed cover abortions or fund abortions, wouldn’t that fall under the Magisterium’s authority since abortion is an intrinsic evil?

    Nope. The question here isn’t whether or not abortion is evil or whether or not funding abortion is evil – questions Catholics believe the bishops have authority to speak on. The question here is whether or not this legislation will fund abortion, which isn’t a question of faith and morals, but of legal meaning and consequence.

  • Kyle,
    Then one could draw a similar consclusion when referring to legislation related to border security or immigration, and matters of national security.

  • If the question is “Will immigration legislation do X?” or “Will national security legislation do Y?”, then sure.

  • “…we will know soon know who was right. Either it will fund abortions or it won’t.”

    Though on the question of conscience I think it may take longer.

    Are there any protections for health care workers or hospitals that are Hyde Ammendment-like. That is, will Catholic health care workers and hospitals be able to refuse medical treatments that violate medical ethics? Can the state say to them that if contraception or abortion, etc. is not provided, then they can be denied health care dollars?

  • I would also say that Bishop conferences can teach with magisterial authority but that this is limited to a doctrinal matter and seems to require a unanimous vote (see Apostolos Suos). When it comes to prudential application of doctrinal principles, a Catholic may licitly disagree.

    Thus the arguments that some (not all) in CHA and others offer are licit though I think wrong especially beyond questions regarding abortion. When others disagree with immigration policies or even the general thrust of a document such as Faithful Citizenship, they are also free to do so.

  • Here is an example of why we need to heed our Bishops words, and why our perceptions as to what constitutes “prudential” judgement may not merely fall under the umbrella of prudential judgment in the case of health care reform.

    “Federal funds in the Act can be used for elective abortions. For example, the Act authorizes and appropriates $7 billion over five years (increased to $9.5 billion by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) for services at Community Health Centers. These funds are not covered by the Hyde amendment (as they are not appropriated through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill governed by that amendment), or by the Act’s own abortion limitation in Sec. 1303 (as that provision relates only to tax credits or cost-sharing reductions for qualified health plans, and does not govern all funds in the bill). So the funds can be used directly for elective abortions.
    The Act uses federal funds to subsidize health plans that cover abortions. Sec. 1303 limits only the direct use of a
    federal tax credit specifically to fund abortion coverage; it tries to segregate funds within health plans, to keep federal funds distinct from funds directly used for abortions. But the credits are still used to pay overall premiums for health plans covering elective abortions. This violates the policy of current federal laws on abortion funding, including the Hyde amendment, which forbid use of federal funds for any part of a health benefits package that covers elective abortions. By
    subsidizing plans that cover abortion, the federal government will expand abortion coverage and make abortions more accessible.
    The Act uses federal power to force Americans to pay for other people’s abortions even if they are morally opposed.
    The Act mandates that insurance companies deciding to cover elective abortions in a health plan “shall… collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex, or family status) a separate payment” for such abortions. While the Act says that one plan in each exchange will not cover elective abortions, every other plan may cover them — and everyone purchasing those plans, because they best meet his or her family’s needs, will be required by federal law to fund abortions. No accommodation is permitted for people morally opposed to abortion. This creates a more overt threat to
    conscience than insurers engage in now, because in many plans receiving federal subsidies everyone will have to make separate payments solely and specifically for other people’s abortions. Saying that this payment is not a “tax dollar” is no help if it is required by government.”

    I found this here: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/Abortion-Funding-in-Health-Care-Law-4-12-10.pdf

  • Teresa,
    First, I agree that disagreement with the USCCB is not in and of itself disobedience in any proper sense. So I have no quarrel with the CHS if its interpretation of the law differs.
    That said, the explanation you quote is pretty compelling. Has the CHA ever responded with similar clarity? As an attorney, I am well aware that reasonable people can in good faith interpret a law differently. I am prepared to believe that is what is happening here, but given the USCCB’s general affection for liberal causes its opposition to the health care legislation does seem credible.

  • For example, the Act authorizes and appropriates $7 billion over five years (increased to $9.5 billion by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) for services at Community Health Centers.

    CHAs haven’t performed abortions. Many if not all of them would have to change charters in order to do so.

    These funds are not covered by the Hyde amendment
    This is a point of dispute.

    The Act uses federal funds to subsidize health plans that cover abortions.
    It is presently legal for health plans to offer an abortion benefit. Federal highway dollars cover roads driven on by drunk drivers too. More anon.

    Sec. 1303 limits only the direct use of a
    federal tax credit specifically to fund abortion coverage; it tries to segregate funds within health plans, to keep federal funds distinct from funds directly used for abortions. But the credits are still used to pay overall premiums for health plans covering elective abortions.

    There is no moral requirement to limit indirect funding. Federal housing dollars do not discriminate between women that have and have not had abortions. The tax code does not distinguish deductibility of premiums between plans that offer abortion and those that don’t. Further, there is no substantive difference between this and the USCCB’s endorsed Stupak compromise of requiring a rider be offered to the policies. With an executed abortion rider, a subsidy would still be offered to plans that “cover abortion.”

    everyone purchasing those plans, because they best meet his or her family’s needs, will be required by federal law to fund abortions.

    And this is really no different than today. As a consequence of where one works, one may be forced to subscribe to a plan that covers abortion. However, the idea that the plan that will “best meet his of her family’s needs” will be the one that covers abortion is malarkey and product of closing one’s ears to what insurance company’s have been saying. Insurance professionals have been claiming that they hard pressed to offer a plan with abortion due to the additional costs involved. Due to the additional costs, insurers believe they will have difficulty capturing subscribers on plans that offer abortion benefits.

  • Any thoughts on conscience protections?

  • I’m not sure Phillip. Do you (or anyone) happen to know what is current law regarding conscience protections?

    What are the laws on the books and are they being properly enforced? I think this question is getting regularly overlooked and new laws are being crafted unnecessarily when we could simply enforce or clarify existing law.

    But that is all contingent on whether existing law is sufficiently pro-life.

  • A primer:


    Don’t know what it will all mean with the new Health Care legislation.

  • Finally, how something like this might play in to the discussion:


  • Thank you Phillip for doing a bit of research.

    The next time there is a Republican Congress, the Hyde amendment needs to cease being an budgetary amendment attached to appropriation bills and voted on year-after-year and rather introduced as federal-wide legislation governing any and all monies. This could in effect end domestic subsidizing abortion and act as a permanent “Mexico City Policy” that prohibits funding of abortion on the international stage.

    The other thing is with such widespread abuse on conscience rights as the Bishops note (which I’m assuming didn’t just start happening post-November 2008), current conscience laws should be updated and clarified.

    I’m not sure how this has just now become an issue. We most certainly have dropped the ball on the first item.

    I think the latter story involving the Catholic college could be solved with contracts and this is a solution from a perspective of subsidiarity. But all employers of Catholic institutions should sign a contract stating in clear terms that all medical care and benefits offered to employers, spouses, children, etc will be in line with the clear and consistent teachings of the Catholic Church and no comprehensive plans or benefits will include abortion or birth control.

    The obvious point is that such things if people were to choose those things — unfortunate as it is — they would have to use their own funds.

    There really shouldn’t have to be a need to resort to such protective measures, but it has become increasingly necessary.

  • I think the conscience clause became an issue in Jan/Feb 2009 when the Obama administration stated it was rescinding Bush era protections. Before this it was undoubtedly a problem at local levels which prompted Bush era efforts. Prior to Bush I think most organizations/states accepted that health care professionals could refuse certain procedures that violated their conscience. I know as a medical student and resident I refused to take part in abortions, sterilizations and prescribing birth control. No one gave me grief over this (this was in the 80’s after all.)

    In the new millenium this started to change when organizations such as the American College of OB/GYN insisted that residents be trained in abortion procedures and some states supported this. See here:

    This may have been further made urgent by the Benitez case:


    Thus the prompting of the Bush efforts. It seems to have taken on import with the USCCB with the Obama administration efforts noted above.

    A brief history that may require more unearthing and likely has more parts.

  • The position from the USCCB that points out the need to conscience protections. The threats seem to originate as I noted in the new millenium. Thus the Bush protections and the threat to such protections from Obama administration efforts:


  • “…because the issue here is the competence of the Magisterium to determine the consequences of a particular legislative bill.”

    I suspect that the National Bishop’s council is a different entity than the “magesterium” and as such has “no hierarchal authority.”

    I still await their justification of failing to engage the Catholic issue of solidarity and their earlier approval of “the Welfare state”(Obamacare without abortion) so excoriated by JPII – not to mention their silence on the “death panels” government intrusion into end of life moral decisions by free citizens.

    I wonder why the eccleasial construction of the three bishops who wrote the final turnaround letter after the Stupak fiasco blew up in their faces was labeled the “migrant” bishop? Could that be that socialized Obamacare was really about immigration which the Catechism says is the business of the laity?

    Do they yet have any outside objective investigation ongoing or in the pipeline to find out how they jeopardized charity for the poor itself, by funneling all those millions to ACORN (long known to be of questionable character) to help elect the most pro- abortion pro-infanticide president in history. (thy still haven’t written a pastoral letter of protested about Obama”s installation of the principle of intent allowing the slaughter of a baby outside the womb because the mother intend to abort or simply asked -how long Obama, does such intent last?

    There are far too many unanswered questions about the national bishop’s council to blindly follow what appears to be their politics, as opposed to their obligation to lead souls to salvation.

    I also think the question of the “smoke of Satan in the tabernacle” finally raised by the late Pope Paul continues to require some housecleaning and serious redirection of the American Chiurch at its highest levels. Notre Dame honoring Obama (the first openly infanticide president in history)and the public silence of more than two thirds of our shepherds in the face of that scandal ought to have been the clue that more than healthcare needs to be reformed.

  • These nuns think they can speak for the Church. So, they offer an alternate teaching. And the media whores quickly pick up on the scandal that they’re causing. They’re applying American principles of independence and feminism in places where those do not apply. The community of faith is not a democracy even if they want to make it such and have themselves voted into power. The community of believers are not independent from their traditional and historical origins and an American revolution will not change that nature. But deluded with their degrees and having too much time in their hands plus the limelight of a secular press, these women forge on and wound the very people that they pretend to serve.

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If You Repeat a Lie a Thousand Times…

Friday, April 9, AD 2010

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.

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5 Responses to If You Repeat a Lie a Thousand Times…

  • The communists succeeded in branding His Holiness Pius XII as a virtual agent of Hitler because of his alleged silence in the face of Nazi atrocities. The facts suggest otherwise, but they have been buried over time, and the mud sticks. Now, secularists (and others, including some in the Church herself) are trying to do the same to His Holiness Benedict XVI with regard to the priest sex scandal. The facts tend to exonerate him, but I fear the mud will stick. It will take a persistent and forceful defense if there is to be any hope for his legacy.

  • So, did you try to contact MPR to address their error?

  • I tried to contact the AP, but there’s no writer in that or other bylines, so I have little idea who to reach. And given that it’s been picked up elsewhere, merely trying to communicate with MPR seemed pointless.

  • You ask,

    “If they [AP] can botch this story this poorly, how can I trust their reporting on other issues?”

    So far as I can see, you can’t.

    All you can do is trace the facts about any given story that AP presents in a broad-brush kind of way, compare those to the facts presented from other sources, find the commonalities, then go seeking criticism from bloggers who specialize in the relevant topics to get a sense of which commonly-reported facts are open to debate or alternative interpretation, and which are thought by the bloggers to be missing.

    Rinse, repeat, for several days.

    Then you ruminate, allowing that picture simmer and stew until you come to some kind of conclusions about what actually happened.

    That’s how one “checks the news” these days. AP is just mono-sourced data. If you want information, even minimalist “satisficing” (let alone detailed knowledge) will require individual collation of data from multiple inputs.

    The darkly amusing thing to ponder is this: Were the MSM always this bad, and we just didn’t have enough sources of alternative opinion to know about it? Or has the failure of intellectual and moral standards brought us gradually to this point from some earlier state of being in which media organs were moderately trustworthy?

  • “Were the MSM always this bad, and we just didn’t have enough sources of alternative opinion to know about it? Or has the failure of intellectual and moral standards brought us gradually to this point from some earlier state of being in which media organs were moderately trustworthy?”

    Bad reporting there has ever been, and the access of the internet to multiple sources displays such reporting in bold relief. However, I doubt if there has been a time before when the ink stained wretches were so ideologically committed in one direction and so uncaring about their professionalism.

Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 16

Tuesday, April 6, AD 2010

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.

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6 Responses to Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 16

  • Great stuff. I would add the pertinent section of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

    117. The mystery of sin is composed of a twofold wound, which the sinner opens in his own side and in the relationship with his neighbour. That is why we can speak of personal and social sin. Every sin is personal under a certain aspect; under another, every sin is social, insofar as and because it also has social consequences. In its true sense, sin is always an act of the person, because it is the free act of an individual person and not properly speaking of a group or community. The character of social sin can unquestionably be ascribed to every sin, taking into account the fact that “by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others”[226]. It is not, however, legitimate or acceptable to understand social sin in a way that, more or less consciously, leads to a weakening or the virtual cancellation of the personal component by admitting only social guilt and responsibility. At the bottom of every situation of sin there is always the individual who sins.

    118. Certain sins, moreover, constitute by their very object a direct assault on one’s neighbour. Such sins in particular are known as social sins. Social sin is every sin committed against the justice due in relations between individuals, between the individual and the community, and also between the community and the individual. Social too is every sin against the rights of the human person, starting with the right to life, including that of life in the womb, and every sin against the physical integrity of the individual; every sin against the freedom of others, especially against the supreme freedom to believe in God and worship him; and every sin against the dignity and honour of one’s neighbour. Every sin against the common good and its demands, in the whole broad area of rights and duties of citizens, is also social sin. In the end, social sin is that sin that “refers to the relationships between the various human communities. These relationships are not always in accordance with the plan of God, who intends that there be justice in the world and freedom and peace between individuals, groups and peoples”[227].

    119. The consequences of sin perpetuate the structures of sin. These are rooted in personal sin and, therefore, are always connected to concrete acts of the individuals who commit them, consolidate them and make it difficult to remove them. It is thus that they grow stronger, spread and become sources of other sins, conditioning human conduct[228]. These are obstacles and conditioning that go well beyond the actions and brief life span of the individual and interfere also in the process of the development of peoples, the delay and slow pace of which must be judged in this light[229]. The actions and attitudes opposed to the will of God and the good of neighbour, as well as the structures arising from such behaviour, appear to fall into two categories today: “on the one hand, the all-consuming desire for profit, and on the other, the thirst for power, with the intention of imposing one’s will upon others. In order to characterize better each of these attitudes, one can add the expression: ‘at any price”'[230].

  • I agree that this is good stuff. I would only want to point to a couple problematic or confusing parts, toward the end.

    The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals.

    I’d say persons rather than individuals. In other words, there is no “system” or “situation” apart from human persons.

    A situation-or likewise an institution, a structure, society itself-is not in itself the subject of moral acts. Hence a situation cannot in itself be good or bad.

    The last sentence undermines everything he said about the “culture of death.” Is a “situation” in which abortion is considered birth control NOT “bad”?

    At the heart of every situation of sin are always to be found sinful people. So true is this that even when such a situation can be changed in its structural and institutional aspects by the force of law or-as unfortunately more often happens by the law of force, the change in fact proves to be incomplete, of short duration and ultimately vain and ineffective-not to say counterproductive if the people directly or indirectly responsible for that situation are not converted.

    Notice all he aid was that systemic change does not complete the job. He did not say that the way to change structures of sin or sinful “situations” is merely to “change hearts,” which is the nonsense we hear from politically conservative Catholics.

  • (A complaint about the title “JP the Great” would be off-topic, and I don’t want to ruin the potential thread, but I hope I get the chance to rail against that some time.)

  • Thank you for the authoritative reference. I suspect Darwin agrees with all of what Pope John Paul II writes here. Sin is a personal act with individual and social consequences.

  • Thanks, Chris. What John Paul II says here clarifies things for me a lot, especially in regards to the correct use of the terminology of “social sin”.

    It sounds like in my original post what I was attempting to address was not a dichotomy of “social sin” versus “personal sin”, but rather an offshoot of what John Paul II says in his fourth paragraph from the last in regards to those who assign virtually all blame to structures of sin and none to the person acting. Further, I’d say what I was attempting to address was a side-issue of this tendency to place huge emphasis on structures of sin over personal will, which is the tendency to ridicule the important of focusing on avoiding ones own sins and instead place primary moral weight on whether one is correctly alligned on combating structures of sin in the wider society. Essentially, dismissing most sins one is capable of committing oneself as unimportant and instead chosing to focus almost exclusively on whether ones advocacy is in the right place.

    I think if I re-wrote the post I would drop the term “social sin” entirely and focus on the primary point of how advocacy and aligning oneself with large just causes can not be a substitute for pursuing virtue in one’s own life.

  • Darwin,

    I think that approach would be best! Our enemy here is fatalism, determinism, and any other theory that deprives man of free will and moral culpability.

    For all of the ranting and raving some people do here about our “Calvinism” (in addition to our “Americanism”, “individualism”, “liberalism” and the like), I sure see a lot of Protestant-sounding opposition to the concept of personal sin.

Miracles, "Skeptics" and Logic

Sunday, April 4, AD 2010

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.

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3 Responses to Miracles, "Skeptics" and Logic

  • Profesional skeptics like Shermer are dishonest and bigoted. He and his kind have already made up their minds not to believe anything that will not fit into their worldview. Even if a bonafide miracle where to occur before their eyes, like the Pharisee’s of old, they would rationalize it away. Since Shermer and his ilk don’t believe in the supernatural, they wouldn’t be able to say the miracle was done by the prince of demons. They would probably claim the miracle was mass hysteria or Hollywood special effects.

  • In the end of the show, when asked if he would pray if his child were sick/dying he said he would.

    When I am strong I am weak . . .

    Happy Easter!

  • I do wish they’d found some better showing for the other side, then… even if it boiled down to “I don’t think that our inability to find a natural reason means there can only be a supernatural reason.”

This is Unconscionable.

Wednesday, March 31, AD 2010

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.

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24 Responses to This is Unconscionable.

  • I find it hard to believe that this was inadvertent. I suspect that it was simply an example of Catholic bashing bigotry so fashionable these days in certain circles and that was engaged in by whoever put together the headline.

  • Completely agreed, Donald… no way it was just an accident.

  • I think it’s easy to believe it’s inadvertent. It’s possible a different headline involving the Pope was considered, then they went with this headline but forgot to change out “Pope.” Or the Pope was on the writer’s mind, not the priest.

    Whoever writes those headlines probably does at least 5-10 a day. He’s going to screw up, and this is one of those times.

  • Anyone reading MSNBC the last few weeks knows this was no accident. There is no news organization around more virulently anti-Catholic than MSNBC.

  • Utterly appalling & completely unacceptable! That’s not by accident!

  • Any decent organization has checks and balances. I would be seriously shocked if headlines don’t have to be signed off on by at least 2-3 people before being published on the MSNBC site. (Though as in all such systems, some people may approve without reading or thinking.)

    We have better controls than this on the processes I deal with at my company despite the fact we have individual people publishing hundreds of changes per week.

    So while I could perhaps believe that the original mistake was some sort of mental slip, letting it through was gross negligence possibly compounded by actual anti-catholicism.

    I mean, seriously, you don’t imagine that MSNBC would “accidentally” run a headline saying “Obama Admits Accepting Bribes, Promises Not To Run Again” because some totally unrelated black Democratic politician had made such an admission, would you? This seems like a similar scope mistake.

  • Its clearly their idea of fun, let an obvious slander against the Pope pass and then come up with a proforma apology.

  • A few years back, MSNBC made a somewhat similar gaffe during an interview with Niger Innis, a spokesman for the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). They posted a graphic on the screen in which Niger’s first name was spelled with two “g”s. The mistake was quickly spotted, MSNBC apologized, and Innis didn’t make a big deal of it.

    Years ago I wrote a lengthy feature story about a man who had been a ham radio operator for more than 50 years. A few days later, he called to thank me for the story, which he said was wonderful except for one little thing… I had called him George Flanagan instead of Glenn Flanagan (his real name). He was very kind and respectful about it and not upset however.

    Recently I started doing occasional theater reviews for the local newspaper. In my first draft of one such review I referred to an actor whose real name was “Sean Michael Butler” as “Sean Michael WINTERS”…. because I had the name of Michael Sean Winters of America magazine on the brain at the time.

    My point is that gaffes like this CAN happen purely by accident — I know because I’ve committed them myself. So I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the “pope” headline was deliberate. The biased and slanted content of the stories themselves, however, is another matter completely.

  • Cancel your newspapers and cancel your cable TV – the only way to fight back. We do want to fight back don’t we? Be careful how you spend your money.

  • MSNBC: Unfair and unbalanced

  • I agree Marc, but I’d spread that to include the execrable Faux News and Crappy News Network as well. Journalism is a joke today.

  • They think they have the last laugh, lol, no problem, God has his way of dealing with ‘no good’ evil people like msnbc, watch just watch!

  • Do the Catholic-haters,aka MSNBC/NYT, ever reflect on why they are allowed to print lies in English, rather than in Arabic or Turkish? They would learn how the Catholics and the Pope saved the bacon of their European ancestors by the Battle of Tours; the Battle of Vienna; and the naval Battle of Lepanto. For dessert: How Saint Clare stopped the advance of the Huns.
    By the way DarwinCatholic, “anti-catholicism” should be
    “anti-Catholicism” as other religions and adjectives that
    modify them enjoy. One does not see: muslim, lutheran, amish, methodist, baptist, and forty thousand others.

  • Elaine Krewer listed three typos as examples of “gaffes”. MSNBC’s headline would be one serious typo. The headline is deliberate and she knows it; otherwise, MSNBC would have
    issued a hasty apology.

  • Nemo, my whole point is that I DO NOT KNOW that the headline was deliberate, and MSNBC DID issue a hasty apology (the same day it happened).

    Things like this do happen, and Kevin Jones’ explanation makes sense to me. The examples I cited from my own experience were NOT “typos”, i.e. totally accidental misspellings, but lapses of judgement on my part — I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the real name of the person in question. Something similar COULD have happened with regard to the “pope” headline.

    My point is, let’s direct our outrage where it belongs — to the content and reporting of these stories, and not against some copy editor or headline writer, or whatever the equivalent title is in TV news, who might have slipped up.

  • If said copy editor, headline writer, etc. did slip up and make an honest mistake, but gets fired to placate outraged Catholics while the reporters and assignment editors acting engaging in obviously biased reporting are allowed to stay and keep drawing their six- or seven-figure salaries, I don’t think that would be at all fair or just.

  • Cheer up! Based on how things are heading, in 5 years the NYT will no longer exist in print form. Can they survive and make money as a web-only newspaper? Maybe … maybe not. So how do you think it hits these folks to see that their beloved cage liner will not outlast the Catholic Church?

  • Perhaps, it was a mistake. Most likely, not a mistake. It gives me the willies that our Holy Father is being attacked so viciously, especially during Holy Week, and so soon after Obama signed the worthless Executive Order prohibiting federal funding of abortions, that I think we are all aware of the possibility of a decree being issued to Catholics, more subtle than the below, but nevertheless a decree:

    “More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs the pastors . . . Just as the deleterious influences of astrologers, seers and other fakers are eliminated and suppressed by the State, so must the possibility of church influence also be totally removed . . . Not until this has happened, does the state leadership have influence on the individual citizens. Not until then are the people and Reich secure in their existence for all time. “

    Martin Bormann, Head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, June 1941.

  • Moe, are you suggesting that this is part of a conspiracy to separate us from Christ and ruin this country? Do you really think there are people who want to remove God and replace Him with the god-state?

  • AK,
    Of course, I detect your facetiousness, but, yep, it has become meaningless to appeal to any higher law, God’s law, above the commands of the State. The Church is the State’s strongest opposition, ideologically speaking, and the media is the State’s strongest ally and is dutifully doing its job in attempting to destroy the Church, as evidenced by the latest round of attacks.

    Furthermore, there is no room for the Cross because suffering must be eliminated, at the expense of the weakest. And because the Cross has been eliminated, there will be no Simons, only the State. Pretty sterile stuff. The Paschal Mystery has been replaced with cute bunnies, chocolates, and baskets. Everything is feel-good fluff and Greek columns. Just take a look at the 70-year-old sexy-looking botoxed Lying Worthless Political Hack, who, as Elaine so recently succinctly put it, never saw an infanticide that she didn’t like.

  • If anyone is STILL watching MSNBC, I hope they will stop…

  • MSNBC purports to be a credible news agency. If this was a flub, then head(s) should roll given the enormity of the mistake. If it was intentional, as most of the comments indicate, then it is totally in-excusable. Either way MSNBC loses its credibility and is probably the reason why no one has been taking them seriously for a very long time and they are in the tank. So one can only say about this ridiculous headline ..consider the source!!! and be about your business.

  • Elaine: Yes dear,but that’s why they have proof-readers!! Or have they been down-sized?? at MSNBC!
    along with truth and sense of fair-play?

  • +Easter Blessings!
    It could have very easily been a mistake, most of what happens at MSNBC is a mistake!

33 Responses to Hollywood Angelology

  • The movie looks demonic.

  • That pretty much eliminates this film for my viewing enjoyment.

    I’ll be watching A Man for All Seasons instead.

    Can I assume that the title of the movie is in reference to the demon Legion in the Holy Gospel of Saint Mark 5:9?

    And he asked him: What is thy name? And he saith to him: My name is Legion, for we are many.

  • Hollywood’s hatred for God is unlimited.

  • I’m going to reserve judgment until I see it. Maybe there’s some crazy plot twists and it turns out to be a good Christian film.

  • RR,

    Paul Bettany also starred as the Opus Dei albino monk assassin.

    Is there a pattern that I am detecting of this English actor?

  • I doubt it. These people absolutely hate God, and they admire Satan for rebelling against him – whether they see that as a reality or a myth, that is who and what they identify with.

  • Some people have pointed out that “the fallen angel” supporting his own messiah sounds like “making the audience root for the anti-Christ.” We have come to this.

  • Here’s a good quote:

    “So, it would appear that just about everything in this movie in relation to the Christian worldview upon which it is supposed to be based has been turned on its head. Now I understand that the producers are trying to spin this as a re-telling of the Old Testament Flood narrative with God giving up on mankind and effectively hitting the reset button, but in no way was God ever depicted as the bad guy in that scenario, so that analogy doesn’t hold up. This treatment of this worldview betrays either an unfamiliarity with the subject matter or an utter disdain for it. At this point one might think it would be time to ask what this says about the folks behind the production of this film, but there is something else that concerns me greater. Similar treatment of the Star Wars or Star Trek universes by a director would stir up a firestorm across the blogosphere the likes of which we have never seen. Yet in this case there is mostly silence. So, what does that say about us?”


  • As an aside, I’ve considered all the light-porn angels we see, such as in Victoria’s Secret ads, are good evidence for existence of the succubus…

  • HK,

    light-porn angels we see, such as in Victoria’s Secret ads, are good evidence for existence of the succubus

    Good catch on that one. I’m sure Victoria Secret won’t like that bit of info.

  • It also says,

    “So, we have a movie where the audience is asked to root for Satan as he tries to protect the Antichrist from being killed by God. Nice.”

    Yes, this is exactly what they want. They’ve been doing it through music for decades, and subtly through film, but now it is out in the open. It is out in the open because they know that now most people either agree with, or are indifferent to, their message – and that even the people who see it for what it is and are appalled by it will do absolutely nothing about it.

    They aren’t just mocking Christianity. They’re spitting in our faces. And there will be millions of fans of this, who have been prepared now for a generation to hate Christianity and above all the Catholic Church.

    I could say a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that.

  • Joe,

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    I could say a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that.

    That would be good for another post don’t you think?


  • “As an aside, I’ve considered all the light-porn angels we see, such as in Victoria’s Secret ads are good evidence for existence of the succubus…”


  • Similar themes have been popular in video games for years, though that’s probably due to historical anti-Christian prejudice in Japanese culture.

  • Why would God try to prevent the second coming of Himself? Seems like a plot point thats either going to end up with a lame explanation or be completely ignored… which is what I’ll be doing to this movie.

  • Tito, the funny thing is, Bettany also played the Catholic doctor Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander with Russell Crowe.

    This story tilts as so very many windmills. The portrayal of God is obviously not a Christian one… what happened to the “for God so loved the world” stuff? What seems at least implied is the standard, superficial-yet-common view of God: angry, vengeful, ready to get medieval on your… you know what. (To be honest, I think many Christians have this view of the Father!) To apply Sheen’s famous remark about the Church more generally… there are many who oppose Christianity, but only a few of them really understand that which they are opposing.

  • “The portrayal of God is obviously not a Christian one…”

    That really depends. I believe the makers of this film fully intend for the audience to accept in their minds that this is the one God, the God of Jews, Christians, Muslims and assorted sects and cults, the God that has been called “Yaweh” and “Jehova.”

    By virtue of what they propose God is doing, no, is not our God. But that isn’t the point. The harm will be done regardless. Movies such as this are both caused by, and contribute to, the moral, spiritual and intellectual degeneracy of our time. I believe this movie has been created to give the open and violent enemies of God, and the open admirers of Satan, something to salivate over. It is a celebration of rebellion against the one true God, who it turns out was a mean guy all along – don’t you see, that Satan guy had the right idea.

    It would be a grave and foolish mistake – and I don’t accuse you or anyone else here of this, mind you – to shrug this off, or get a laugh out of it. At no point in Scripture did God find blasphemy amusing, at no point has the Church found it amusing. It is always something to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

    Finally, I do believe that God is capable of anger, vengeance, and “getting medieval” – but also, as we know, of infinite mercy and love. These are not mutual exclusives. Only to modern man have they become so.

  • Annoys me that 1) it would be *easy* to make this movie OK with at least shallow Christian mythos and 2) they are STILL making everything look like the CGI of The Mummy.


    To both.

  • One could, in theory, say this is a Gnostic film, and that would be why “God” would oppose the second coming, but it really feels more as if it is an Antichrist film

  • Henry, I thought the same thing initially, but there is no “salvation through esoteric knowledge” theme… then I thought it was simply Manichaean or an even more basic dualism… then I concluded that I was giving the screenwriter et al. *far* too much credit and that the story is too superficial to merit too close a philosophical analysis.

    Joe, I appreciate your comments; I’m certainly not laughing the movie off… as I noted in the OP, I was dumbfounded by the premises. And I agree that God is capable of something analogous to anger… my concern is that we are once again seeing an implicit dichotomy between the OT and NT: the God who seeks to wipe out humanity reminds people — naturally — of the God of the flood, but far too many people fail to realize that the God of the OT is a God of mercy & love… we didn’t have to wait until Jesus to find that out! If you read the Psalms, Hosea or even “boring” Deuteronomy God’s love for His people is apparent and obvious. One of my many concerns about this film is that it will reinforce that false stereotype, even for those who see the more obvious errors in the storyline.

  • I think it hilarious that the new Messiah is discovered in a diner in New Mexico. Does anyone have an idea of which diner in which town?

    There is a level of absurdity which is too far out to criticize or to make mock of.

  • IIRC from the trailer, the town’s sign indicates that it’s named “Paradise”.


  • Chris,

    I thought there could be a sense of inspiration from Pullman going on here, which would both allow for Gnosticism, and allow for the scriptwriter to include it without knowing what he/she is doing.

  • “I think it hilarious that the new Messiah is discovered in a diner in New Mexico.”

    Is his first line “Can I finish my waffle?”

  • I think it hilarious that the new Messiah is discovered in a diner in New Mexico.

    So much for returning in glory.

  • well, Hollywood has hit a new low, really low. They must be getting very desparate at trying to shock us. We all need to write a letter-to-the-editor of our local news papers urging christians, jews and muslims not to spend one dime on this movie that encourages us to rebel against God and side with fallen angels who are supposedly sticking up for us. Sure…thats going to happen.

  • Given the many *fake* “Christian protests” that have gone down, we don’t want to do that.

    Perhaps, more effectively, we could tell a better story?

  • i just saw the movie last night, and the angels certainly did look demonic, and with the due consideration that they “possessed” human bodies in order to take out the “new messiah”… well, at least it explains why they can be killed, i guess. the archangel gabriel is sent to actually kill the baby, which bothered me more than almost anything else in the plot line. the movie itself was cheesy and didn’t give any regard to the actual biblical stories, one that it even references. i was still resting under the impression that God has promised that He will never kill his children off again.

    but in the end, He is supposed to have come to his senses because of saint michael and realized that humanity is still good and He still loves them, so i suppose it has a happy ending after all.

  • also, i feel it important to add that the angels who possessed aforementioned bodies came with flies, which was, i was always taught, a sign or demons/satan. this is just a bad movie based shallowly on the end of days, with a few out-of-context biblical references and some “get your life straight” lines sprinkled in.

    overall… i wouldn’t give it much more thought than given to constantine or any number of movies fitting the same motif.

  • Emma,

    Thanks for the update! Interesting ending as you said.

    Chris B.,

    Tito, the funny thing is, Bettany also played the Catholic doctor Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander with Russell Cr

    Stephen played a cynical character that doubted and questioned tradition. His only saving character trait was that he helped secure the capture of the French frigate while disregarding his selfish impulse of continuing his naturalist research.

  • Finally saw it. I don’t think it was really anti-Christian. Despite the premise, religion doesn’t feature prominently. You’d think there’d at least be some religious imagery. Nothing. It must’ve been one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen. There’s so many holes in the story you wonder if the writers even thought this through. Watched it with my mother who was laughing. It’s that ridiculous.

  • Better than Hollywood angelology, or even the new novel Angelology, is a true life story of a musician and a life with angels and their teachings for the world today.

    See it at Amazon. Angels on My Stage: The True Story of Eddie Benitez

4 Responses to Mother Earth Strikes Back

7 Responses to Thank you, Mister President!

  • Surely I can’t be the *only* Lost fan here…

  • I used to be a Lost fan, but they lost me due to a combination of their erratic schedule, certain stupid plot turns, and other priorities in my life. Frankly, I’m surprised to hear it’s still in production. Perhaps this is the season where you’ll see Jack on water skis trekking back to the island with only a ramp and a shark between him and the island.

  • Rick, Rick, Rick… you show have stayed with it. When did you bow out? 2nd or 3rd season? Things got a bit silly for a bit, especially in the early 3rd, but the finale of the 3rd kicked off a non-stop roller coaster.

  • I think it was in the third season that it lost it’s grip on me. I hated the whole Kate/Sawyer/Jack thing (creating romance where didn’t already exist is often a sign of writing weakness). Last I recall seeing was they were off the island, and IIRC, Jack trying to persuade Kate (and Hurley?) to go back.

    Do you suppose it’s possible to pick back up on it after missing so much?

  • Yeah, the consensus — even among the executive producers — is that things got a bit wobbly there at the time you stopped… I don’t blame you. Can you pick it up again? I think so… I’m pretty sure all of the seasons are on Hulu. Really, beginning with that finale, seasons 4 and 5 were strong. Not perfect, but much more like the first season than the first half of season 3.


  • Your opinion provides me with incentive to rent the DVDs. I’ve heard so many good things about it, but have never had the time to watch it.

  • I strongly second Chris’s recommendation! Lost is one of the best dramatic series ever produced for television, notwithstanding some weaknesses in the 2nd half of season 2 and the first half of season 3. I lived in Honolulu while they filmed the first four seasons and had the opportunity to see lots of the sets and meet some of the cast. They were always filming all over Oahu, and their set and FX departments were always doing a great job dressing up Honolulu to look like London, Miami, and Sydney. Great show, and gives one a LOT to consider in terms of philosophy. Much better to watch a whole season quickly on DVD, as well!

God is Here, Not "Out There"!

Monday, January 4, AD 2010

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.

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17 Responses to God is Here, Not "Out There"!

  • Actually, it is a place. I would refer you to 326 and 1029-1033 in the Catechism.

  • DB, please note that CCC 326 puts quotation marks around “place,” indicating its metaphorical usage. Your other citations refer mostly to purgatory. In any case, I cited 1024 and 1025, which explicitly refer to heaven as a state. What specific passages do you have in mind?

    Stepping back for a moment, though… I didn’t make another evident point in my post, that is that heaven *can’t* be a place, given that God is spirit, not matter. My concern was with the *implications* of a view of heaven as a place, not with the view itself, as my post indicates, but I should have made this point nonetheless at the outset.

  • Chris, it is clear to me that Heaven is the total ecstasy of the Beatific Vision, and that this is union with God and that God is pure Spirit. But it is not clear to me that for humans, this spiritual reality does not also have a physical place. In the end of time there will be the Resurrection of the Dead, and those with God in Heaven will be reunited with their bodies. These bodies have to occupy some space, as Christ’s did when he appeared to the apostles in the upper room. Given that this is the case, is it not fair to say that Heaven is both a spiritual reality (union with God in the beatific vision) and also a material reality, in our resurrected bodies and our friendship with Christ? The Bible often speaks of Heaven as another world. I think this is commonly understood as a rejuvenated and perfect Earth or new Eden… am I way off base here?

  • But I see your point about putting unnecessary distance between us and God. We should not do this! God is indeed immanent and we need to recognize this. Ought we ought not also recognize that his transcendence is not perfectly revealed to us because of the limitations of human nature? I think this is what is met by the “No one has seen God” verses found throughout the Bible.

    But yes, God is always with us, even here on this strange blog!

  • Your right, Zach, in that those in Heaven will occupy a place; my point is that heaven is not a specific place, though. Using a silly example, let’s say that after the final judgment and the renewal/glorification of creation, we’re able to travel the universe… regardless of our physical location in the universe, we’ll be in heaven.

    Does that make sense?

  • Yes, actually a lot of sense. Very helpful. Thanks!

  • Heaven is a place and a state…to imply that it isn’t a place is nonsense, because where did Jesus go when he Ascended? Your clarification is noted, and your point well taken.

  • DB, according to that logic, love must be a place, because I’m in love with my wife, and I’m somewhere.

    Again, body-soul persons in heaven are obviously somewhere, but the “somewhere” isn’t what makes heaven heaven, but rather the state of their existence *anywhere* makes heaven heaven.

    If you want to insist that heaven is defined as a place, what’s its address?

  • If you want to insist that heaven is defined as a place, what’s its address?

    To listen to my neighbors talk, Heaven is in Texas, but I haven’t found it yet.

    Not surprising, Hell is in Michigan.

    Somewhat fittingly, Purgatory is in Rhode Island.

  • 🙂 And let’s not forget: Minnesota is the Promised Land. 🙂

  • As support for what Chris rightfully states, one might also want to look at this address of Pope John Paul II on hell, which of course the news took out of context:


  • To listen to my neighbors talk, Heaven is in Texas, but I haven’t found it yet.

    Not surprising, Hell is in Michigan.

    As a native Texan and Michigan lover, I must object. Michigan in the winter is hell, and Texas in the summer is hell.

    Aside from the absurd farm subsudies, from which the government directly funds the corn that helps to make us unhealthy, the Midwest rocks.

    And so as not to derail the thread, thinking heaven and hell as actual places makes my head hurt.

  • Where did Jesus go when he Ascended, if Heaven isn’t a place?

  • DB, for Jesus & Mary, anywhere & everywhere is heaven. I don’t know where they are geographically, but it’s really irrelevant, in that they are resting in the Father’s embrace.

  • D.B.

    How can Jesus be at the “right hand of the Father” if the Father has no hands?

  • That would be a cute observation, except for one thing….People actually watched Jesus enter the sky. Now I am not saying that Heaven has boundaries like the state of Montana or any other piece of Geography, but to imply that Heaven is merely a state of being would be in error..from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
    “Where is heaven, the dwelling of God and the blessed?

    Some are of opinion that heaven is everywhere, as God is everywhere. According to this view the blessed can move about freely in every part of the universe, and still remain with God and see everywhere. Everywhere, too, they remain with Christ (in His sacred Humanity) and with the saints and the angels. For, according to the advocates of this opinion, the spatial distances of this world must no longer impede the mutual intercourse of blessed.

    In general, however, theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world. For the surroundings in the midst of which the blessed have their dwelling must be in accordance with their happy state; and the internal union of charity which joins them in affection must find its outward expression in community of habitation. At the end of the world, the earth together with the celestial bodies will be gloriously transformed into a part of the dwelling-place of the blessed (Revelation 21). Hence there seems to be no sufficient reason for attributing a metaphorical sense to those numerous utterances of the Bible which suggest a definite dwelling-place of the blessed. Theologians, therefore, generally hold that the heaven of the blessed is a special place with definite limits. Naturally, this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but, in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, without and beyond its limits. All further details regarding its locality are quite uncertain. The Church has decided nothing on this subject.”

  • My final comment on the matter is this: Perhaps we are merely arguing semantics and terminology here. I see no reason why an either/or argument should be the case.

    God Bless.

15 Responses to For the record…

  • Chris,

    I tried valiantly to fight that battle a decade ago. Since then, I’ve decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

    Happy New Decade!


  • Chris:

    I have to take issue with you. I’m a stickler for this sort of thing, and I was one of those who refused to start the new millennium/century in 2000. Decades, unlike centuries, are not counted ordinally. We don’t say we’re beginning the 202nd decade. Decades refer to a random set of 10 years, unlike centuries, which refer to a specific set of 100 years. Thus the 2010s do indeed begin today.

  • Paul,
    You raise a fair point, but it is not altogether persuasive. First, strictly speaking I don’t think that either millennia or centuries must be counted ordinally, though they certainly commonly are. Similarly, I don’t think decades are necessarily not counted ordinally, though I concede they mostly are not. Shoot, even a year can be any random or assigned set of 365 days (e.g., fiscal years), but that does not mean that we don’t also count years ordinally. It is difficult to ignore the fact that today’s common practice of counting decades starting with year zero, even if technically not incorrect, is almost certainly the result of the same erroneous thinking that caused most people to regard January 1, 2000 as the first day of a new century and new millenium. The bottom line is that while starting decades is not technically incorrect, the custom is probably the result of fuzzy thinking; and this same fuzzy thinking is commonly applied to centuries as well (for the exact same reason) and will quite possibly lead to an analogous custom there as well.

  • Fuzzy thinking, maybe. Perhaps just a harmless and useful categorization. When people refer to a particular decade it’s usually a casual reference and the mind is probably just focusing on the numeral in the “ten” place. i.e. Reagan was elected twice in the 80’s. Super accurate, no. Useful and meaningful, yes. Similarly, in the tech field they use base 10 – the ten numerals start with 0 and go through 9. I think it’s just a similar mode of thinking. Besides, you may not want to make an issue of it because it will change nothing and might make you seem like the types who can’t distinguish between conservative and liberal in a given context – and you sure don’t want that. 🙂

    Happy New Year, all, and blessing in this new decade!

  • Thank you Chris.

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Where’s a Magisterium for numbers et al. when you need one? 🙂

  • Of course this is the last year of the decade. And 2000 was the last year of the 90’s, and 1990 was the last year of the 80’s, and 1980 was the last year of the 70’s…

    Actually I TRULY TRULY doubt that any of the pedants who insist on reminding everyone that there was no year “zero” and thus every decade starts at a 1 would say that a person born in 1980 was born in “the seventies” and the lack of consistency irks me a lot.

    This pointless bickering about how to divide the decades / centuries / millenia turned up ten years ago, too, and it’s primarily the fault of insufferable know-it-alls that we have these ridiculous arguments in the first place. There’s a difference between the LINGUISTIC way of referring to the decades, in which speakers of English divide them beginning at the zero year of a decade, and the MATHEMATICAL way of dividing them, which calculates them according to how many full ten-year periods have passed.

    It feels like writing the number seven as “7” and then having a computer scientist come and say, “No, that’s wrong, it’s 111”. Believe it or not there are just different standards for calculating these things and I absolutely can’t stand the smugness of people who insist on bringing this up when it’s REALLY a non-issue. Just move on people.

    Sorry to take out all my frustration at this site but I’m getting sick of rehashing this conversation and this was the last straw. And it wouldn’t even be a problem if the “decades start at 1” constituency didn’t insist on talking down to everyone. We’re all aware of your argument and don’t really give a (you know).

  • If you want to get REALLY picky on this question, the Year 1 A.D. (Roman year 754) WASN’T the actual “Year One” of Christ’s life on earth, which is supposed to be the basis of our year numbering system.

    Scholars have long believed Christ was born sometime during the period we now reckon as the years 8 to 4 B.C. He could NOT have been born any later than 4 B.C. (Roman year 750) since that is the year Herod the Great (who tried to kill the infant Jesus) died.

    So technically speaking, the “third millennium” Anno Domini really began sometime between 1992 and 1996, and all our year, decade, century, etc. numbers are probably off by about 6 years anyway.

    Happy Year of Our Lord 2016 everybody! 🙂

  • Chris, one man plus the truth makes a majority. Stick to your guns.

  • SJG, tell us how you *really* feel. 🙂

  • I hope my post didn’t come across like SJG’s. There was no frustration, or derision behind mine. Frankly, I don’t care how people view it and was only trying to express what I consider valid observations.

  • I see both arguments having some validity; however, the fact remains that we use a dating standard, which is far more recent an occurance than commonly beleived in order to regulate our interactions, especially in a global 24/7/365 world (I know a year is not exactly 365 days – leave it alone). We do need to agree on time and date in order to interact with each other in some manner of order.

    There is another less practical and more important aspect. Elaine discussed it very well above. We date from Anno Domini, the Year of Our Lord. Is it cosmically and methematically accurate? No. Then again we also know that The Nativity of Christ is not on December 25th. So what? That is the number the Church has fixed and our liturgical years are set by it. 25 Chislev is the day the Temple was rededicated – so it is an important date.

    I think that part of our obedience (and this is not obligatory because it is not a matter of fatih or morals, but it is important) is to follow the Church as accurately as possible. Especially in the liturgical cycle.

    If we count the year that occured 2,010 years ago as the first Year of Our Lord, then this year ends the first decade of the third millenium, which began on January 1, 2001.

    As the world tries to crowd out God and His Son, we need to take every opporunity to remind the world that she has a Savior. I notice this website is one of the few places where I see dating using A.D., mostly it is ignored and far too often it is C.E. – what the heck is so bloody common about this era anyway?

  • Rick, I thought you made some excellent points, e.g. “the 80’s”, which SJG echoed with his reference to linguistic/mathematical conventions. And I certainly found no derision or frustration in your post.

  • On the bright side we only have to revisit this question every ten/eleven years! 🙂

  • When we are born, we start from a few seconds old, and as we grow through the days, weeks, and months, we achieve our first year – we are ONE year old, after we have journeyed through our first year.
    When we have done this for ten years, at our 10th. Birthday, we have lived for one decade.

    Similarly, in 2010, we have lived through that number of years since the agreed Anno Domini.

    2010 is therefore the end of the old decade, and therefore the commencement of the new.

    BTW, we had a Blue Moon on New Years Eve.

    Does that portend anything cataclysmic for the future? 😉