… and history:
Hollywood’s Trumbo appears to be something of a whitewash of Stalinist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Portrayed as a victim of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a closer investigation of history reveals that he did his fair share of censoring and “blacklisting” himself — against anti-Communists within the industry.
- Hollywood’s Missing Movies: Why American films have ignored life under communism, by Kenneth Lloyd Billingsly. Reason June 2000:
if Comintern fantasies of a Soviet Hollywood were never realized, party functionaries nevertheless played a significant role: They were sometimes able to prevent the production of movies they opposed. The party had not only helped organize the Screen Writers Guild, it had organized the Story Analysts Guild as well. Story analysts judge scripts and film treatments early in the decision making process. A dismissive report often means that a studio will pass on a proposed production. The party was thus well positioned to quash scripts and treatments with anti-Soviet content, along with stories that portrayed business and religion in a favorable light. In The Worker, Dalton Trumbo openly bragged that the following works had not reached the screen: Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar; Victor Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom; and Bernard Clare by James T. Farrell, also author of Studs Lonigan and vilified by party enforcer Mike Gold as “a vicious, voluble Trotskyite.”
- The Stalinist Ten–A True Story About Communists in the Movie Industry, by Allan H. Ryskind. [excerpt from the newly released book, Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler, by Allan H. Ryskind]:
Trumbo is less well known for a script that never made it to the screen: An American Story, whose plot outline, in the words of film historian Bernard F. Dick, goes like this: North Korea finally decides “to put an end to the border warfare instigated by South Korea by embarking upon a war of independence in June 1950.” (In his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Trumbo says he “dramatized” Kim Il-sung’s supposedly righteous war for a group of fellow Communist screenwriters, including at least two Hollywood Ten members.)
Trumbo also seemed to think that Stalin needed a bit of a reputation upgrade. So one finds in his papers a proposed novel, apparently written in the 1950s, in which a wise old Russian defends Stalin’s murderous reign as necessary for the supposedly grand achievements of Soviet socialism.
Those celebrating Trumbo today as a sort of saintly curmudgeon do not feel obligated to mention this aspect of his Red ideology, nor do they point to his writings during the Soviet-Nazi Pact, when he was excusing Hitler’s con- quests. “To the vanquished,” he airily dismissed the critics of Nazi brutality, “all conquerors are inhuman.” For good measure he demonized Hitler’s major enemy, Great Britain, insisting that England was not a democracy, because it had a king, and accused FDR of “treason” and “black treason” for attempting to assist the British in their life-and-death struggle against the despot in Berlin.
- Hollywood Celebrates Another Stalinist, by Allan H. Ryskind. CNSNews.com 01/05/15:
… The evidence of Trumbo’s Red activities is hardly secret. He came clean, sort of, to his biographer, Bruce Cook, a writer of the upcoming Trumbo screenplay. He told Cook in the 1970s that he joined the party in 1943 (some FBI informants think he joined in the 1930s), that some of his “very best friends” were Communists and that “I might as well have been a Communist 10 years earlier….” He also says, about joining the party: “But I’ve never regretted it. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to say I would have regretted not having done it….”
He said he let his party membership lapse after his HUAC appearance, possibly finding it difficult to pay his party dues after he was blacklisted, but he never publicly turned his back on communism or Stalin. Indeed, in his private papers he admits that he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954,” apparently his passion for a Communist America burning brightly as ever. So, by the historical record and his own account, he was in tune with the Soviet Union for nearly a quarter of a century, when Stalin was in his prime killing years.
- Will the new Trumbo movie rehash old myths?, by Ronald Radosh. National Review 11/02/13:
[Trumbo] bragged how he had used his position to stop anti-Communist films from being made. Stalin, he said, was “one of the democratic leaders of the world,” so he used his position to stop Trotsky’s biography of the dictator from being filmed, and did the same with anti-Communist books by James T. Farrell, Victor Kravchenko, and Arthur Koestler, all of which he called “untrue” and “reactionary.” As he explained in 1954 to a fellow blacklisted writer, the Communist party had a “fine tradition . . . that whenever a book or play or film is produced which is harmful to the best interests of the working class, that work and its author should and must be attacked in the sharpest possible terms.”
Two years later, when many Communists learned some of the truth about Stalin from the Khrushchev speech, Trumbo wrote a comrade that he was not surprised. He explained that he had read the books by Koestler, George Orwell, James Burnham, Eugene Lyons, and Isaac Don Levine, who all had exposed the truth about the Soviet Union. These, of course, were the very books he had made sure would never be turned into movies. Trumbo supported Stalin, all the while knowing that he was a monster.
- Flipping Hollywood’s Blacklist Narrative, by Ron Capshaw. Library of Law and Liberty 01/25/15:
… All in all, Ryskind’s work is a welcome addition to the anticommunist corrections to the blacklist legend. He has written a convincing and well-sourced follow up to the pioneering effort of the Radoshes. Moreover, he has refused to play the warped victim son of a writer who was much maligned in his time and may have been black-listed (Morrie never got another script accepted after 1945). Instead he has focused on disputing how Hollywood then and now has rehabiliated what in essence were Stalinists.
- Exclusive Author Interview with Allan Ryskind, Author of “Hollywood Traitors”, by Christopher N. Malagisi.
- Who was Dalton Trumbo, Screenwriter and Stalinist?, by Ron Capshaw. The American Spectator 01/06/15.
- Dalton Got His Gun, by Stefan Kanfer. City Journal 02/27/15. “The lodestar of the Hollywood blacklist was all that his fans said he was—and less.” [Review of Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo, and Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters, Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H. Ryskind].
In today’s news, the Vatican seems to be entertaining the notion of condoning military force in Iraq to stem the tide of Christian persecution at the hands of “The Islamic State” [“IS”], (formerly known as “ISIS”). John Allen Jr. explains:
For anyone familiar with the Vatican’s recent history of bitter opposition to any US use of military force in the Middle East, Rome’s increasingly vocal support for the recent American airstrikes in Iraq may seem, to say the least, a little disorienting.
On Monday, the Vatican’s previously tacit approval for the American intervention turned explicit, as two senior officials offered what amounts to a blessing through official communications channels.
Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the pope’s ambassador to Baghdad, told Vatican radio that the American strikes are “something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State forces] could not be stopped.” …
In a similar vein, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio that “military action in this moment is probably necessary.”
Coming from the Vatican’s prior adoption of a functionally-pacifist and “abolitionist” stance on military action in modern times, this is huge. Compare the above with Cardinal Martino (of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace)’s declaration in the National Catholic Register, circa 2003:
Question: “Are you suggesting there is no such thing as a just war anymore?”
Archbishop Martino: “Absolutely. I think with modern weaponry, there is no proportionality between the offense and the reply. It makes much more damage. War is so destructive now. It is not just a fight between one person and another.”
But what’s the reason for this sudden “about face”? Continue reading
On the 6th of June, 1944, when the landing of the allied troops in German-occupied France commenced, a signal of hope was given to people throughout the world, and also to many in Germany itself, of imminent peace and freedom in Europe. What had happened? A criminal and his party faithful had succeeded in usurping the power of the German state. In consequence of such party rule, law and injustice became intertwined, and often indistinguishable. The legal system itself, which continued, in some respects, still to function in an everyday context, had, at the same time, become a force destructive of law and right. This rule of lies served a system of fear, in which no one could trust another, since each person had somehow to shield himself behind a mask of lies, which, on the one hand, functioned as self defense, while, in equal measure, it served to consolidate the power of evil. And so it was that the whole world had to intervene to force open this ring of crime, so that freedom, law and justice might be restored.
We give thanks at this hour that this deliverance, in fact, took place. And not just those nations that suffered occupation by German troops, and were thus delivered over to Nazi terror, give thanks. We Germans, too, give thanks that by this action, freedom, law and justice would be restored to us. If nowhere else in history, here clearly is a case where, in the form of the Allied invasion, a justum bellum worked, ultimately, for the benefit of the very country against which it was waged.
To Europe was given, after 1945, a period of peace of such duration as our continent had never seen in its entire history. To no small degree, this was the accomplishment of the first generation of post-war politicians — Churchill, Adenauer, Schuman, De Gasperi – whom we have to thank at this hour: We are to give thanks that it was not punishment that was fixed upon, nor again revenge and the humiliation of the defeated, but rather that all should be accorded their rights.
Let us say it openly: These politicians took their moral ideas of state and right, peace and responsibility, from their Christian faith, a faith that had undergone the tests of the Enlightenment, and in opposing the perversion of justice and morality of the party-states, had emerged re-purified. They did not want to found a state upon religious faith, but rather a state informed by moral reason, yet it was their faith that helped them to raise up again a reason once distorted by, and held in thrall to ideological tyranny…. Read the rest
[Excerpt from “In Search of Freedom; Against Reason Fallen Ill and Religion Abused” Logos 4.2 Spring 2005.
[Via David Mills @ First Things Friday December 6, 2013]:
Father Edward Oakes, S.J., distinguished theologian, gifted writer and teacher, generous ecumenist, and our friend, has died, of pancreatic cancer, at 8:00 this morning. The announcement from the Academy of Catholic Theology, of which Father Oakes was president, reports:
Father Oakes entered the Society of Jesus in 1966, and was ordained a priest in 1979. He received his doctorate in theology from Union Theological Seminary in 1987. He taught at New York University, Regis University, and Mundelein Seminary, where he was deeply loved and valued by his colleagues, students, and indeed everyone on the staff as well.
He was a major contributor to the ecumenical magazine First Things on theological and scientific topics, and a longtime close friend of Father Richard John Neuhaus. For close to two decades he was an influential member of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. He was a founding member of the Academy of Catholic Theology and was elected president of the Academy in May 2013.
A deeply cultured man, Father Oakes enlivened everything of which he was a part by his penetrating intelligence and warm, friendly spirit. He was an esteemed translator of the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar and others. He was the author and editor of important works such as Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar.
To say that Father Oakes will be sorely missed is a profound understatement. Let us pray for his soul as he enters into the infinitely loving communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as an adopted son in Jesus Christ!
Goodbyes and Remembrances
- Edward T. Oakes, R.I.P., by David Mills. First Things “First Thoughts” 12/06/13.
- Edward T. Oakes, S.J.: An Appreciation First Things “On The Square” 12/07/13.
- Eloquent Critic Of Creationism Passes Away, by John Farrell. Forbes 12/07/13.
- Goodbye, Friend, by R. R. Reno. First Things‘ “First Thoughts” 12/06/13.
- Fr. Edward T. Oakes, SJ, Requiescat in pace The distinguished theologian and professor dies after a battle with cancer. Catholic World Report. 12/06/13.
- Jesuit theologian remembered for scholarship, joyfulness, by Kevin Jones. Catholic News Agency. 12/06/13.
The Catholic blogosphere is atwitter with discussion of a recent dustup between Mark Shea and Michael Voris regarding the latter’s criticism of Fr. Barron, over Barron’s continued receptivity toward a theory advanced by Hans Urs Von Balthasar that it is acceptable to have good hope that Hell may be empty. Boniface at Unam Sanctum has the blow-by-blow for those interested.
Appropos of the topic, I have just finished reading Ralph Martin’s Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Eerdmans, 2012).
The question of whether and how people who have not had the chance to hear the gospel can be saved goes back to the beginnings of Christian reflection. It has also become a much-debated topic in current theology. In Will Many Be Saved? Ralph Martin focuses primarily on the history of debate and the development of responses to this question within the Roman Catholic Church, but much of Martin’s discussion is also relevant to the wider debate happening in many churches around the world.
In particular, Martin analyzes the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the document from the Second Vatican Council that directly relates to this question. Contrary to popular opinion, Martin argues that according to this text, the conditions under which people who have not heard the gospel can be saved are very often, in fact, not fulfilled, with strong implications for evangelization.
I was very impressed by Martin’s survey of the subject and the praise from Timothy Dolan, Francis Cardinal George, Peter Cardinal Turkson and Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, O.P. seems to me warranted.
After a detailed explication of the doctrinal development and scriptural basis of section 16 of Lumen Gentium, Martin proceeds with a detailed analysis and criticism of Rahner’s “anonymous Christian” and the larger part of his book to Balthasar’s Dare we Hope that all may be saved?.
Martin’s negative evaluation of Rahner’s theology was to be expected, howbeit what I found interesting was how Rahner in his later years admitted to some critical reservations about his earlier position — as well as a “too euphoric” evaluation of humanity and the human condition at the Council. Likewise,
So the Council’s decree Gaudium et Spes can be blamed, despite all that is right in it, for underestimating sin, the social consequences of human guilt, the horrible possibilities of running into historical dead-ends, and so on.
Martin’s devastating critique of Balthasar, however, comes as more of a surprise. For even with figures as highly esteemed as Avery Dulles, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict giving a stamp of theological toleration (and/or approval) to Balthasar’s hope for universal salvation — Martin’s detailed exposition of Balthasar’s tendency to ignore, misquote or mischaracterize his sources (whether from the Scriptures, the Fathers or the mystics) as well as his questionable theological reasoning should give pause for all. …
Dr. Ed Peters’ response to the fact that Nancy Pelosi took communion at Pope Francis’ Mass bears quoting in full:
Communion time in St. Peter’s is, for the vast majority of lay persons (not heads of state, and not folks chosen to receive from the pope), pretty much a mob scene, so there is nothing to be gleaned from the fact that Nancy Pelosi took holy Communion at Pope Francis’ installation Mass — nothing, that is, except that either Pelosi suffers from one of the most malformed consciences in the annals of American Catholic politics or that she is simply hell bent on using her Catholic identity to attack Catholic values at pretty much every opportunity. Certainly, Pelosi’s taking the Sacrament is not, in the slightest, a Roma locuta on pro-abortion Catholics and Communion.
Nancy Pelosi is America’s problem, not Rome’s, and it is obvious that, if left to her own lights, she will never mend her ways. For her sake, therefore, and for those confused by the chronic scandal she gives, Pelosi needs to be formally warned against taking holy Communion for so long as she promotes, as consistent with our Catholic faith, a variety of gravely immoral policies (per cc. 916, 1339); ministers, meanwhile, in her environs need to be directed to withhold Communion from her till advised otherwise by the competent ecclesiastical authority (per c. 915).
Dr. Ed Peters, In the Light of the Law March 20, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI Says He Will Resign (New York Times) February 11, 2012:
After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement that reverberated around the world on the Internet and on social media, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics. …While there had been questions about Benedict’s health, the timing of his announcement sent shock waves around the world, even though he had in the past endorsed the notion that an incapacitated pope could resign.
“The pope took us by surprise,” said Father Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address. Italy’s prime minister, Mario Monti, said he was “very shaken by the unexpected news.”
According to the Associated Press, “The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.”
Love him or hate him, the “future of the Republican party”, new poster-boy for conservative Catholic politics and vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan is in the news. A roundup of serious (and not-so-serious) commentary from recent days …
- Assertion without Evidence Paul Zummo (The American Catholic) finds that “When it comes to Paul Ryan and his evil Randian ways,” the usual requirement to marshal evidence for a serious argument is cast aside.
Benjamin Wiker (National Catholic Register): The Paul Ryan-Ayn Rand Connection: What’s a Catholic to Think examines Ryan on Rand, and Rand herself, and finds that:
Ayn Rand’s philosophy, then, is a mix — good and bad. But the bad is really bad, so that whatever good there is would have to be carefully extracted.
To be perfectly frank, I find Ayn Rand to be deeply repulsive — the dark side is, again, really dark. So, if Paul Ryan wants to attract Catholic voters, he’s going to have to make much clearer what he’s taking — and even more, what he’s leaving behind.
As Ryan said recently in his own words:
I am nothing close to an objectivist, but I do think Ayn Rand did a service, did a great job of outlining the morality of capitalism, of making the moral case for freedom, free enterprise and capitalism. You don’t have to buy into all the objectivist stuff to appreciate what she did on that front.”
Personally, while Ryan’s professed appreciation of Ayn Rand extends well beyond “when he was young”, if he now repudiates Rand’s “objectivism” and atheism, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last on this topic and it will be interesting to see what Ryan himself has to say in the months ahead.
- Dolan: Ryan Is a ‘Great Public Servant’ Kathryn Jean Lopez (National Review) talks with Cardinal Dolan of New York about his friendship and correspondence with Rep. Paul Ryan.
- Responding to Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter), Linda Bridges (National Review) on Paul Ryan’s alleged “dissent” from Catholic social teaching.
- Robert Costa on Paul Ryan’s Mentor. (NRO, 8-15-12). (And no, it’s not Ayn Rand).
Paul Ryan on Abortion
- On the matter of abortion – here is Ryan himself: The Cause of Life Can’t be Severed from the Cause of Freedom (Paul Ryan’s congressional website, September 10, 2010):
… after America has won the last century’s hard-fought struggles against unequal human rights in the forms of totalitarianism abroad and segregation at home, I cannot believe any official or citizen can still defend the notion that an unborn human being has no rights that an older person is bound to respect. I do know that we cannot go on forever feigning agnosticism about who is human. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.” The freedom to choose is pointless for someone who does not have the freedom to live. So the right of “choice” of one human being cannot trump the right to “life” of another. How long can we sustain our commitment to freedom if we continue to deny the very foundation of freedom—life—for the most vulnerable human beings?
- And here is a detailed survey of Ryan’s voting record on abortion. (Ryan carries a 100% rating from the National Right to Life.
On Reforming Medicare
- The Return of Mediscare (The Editors, National Review)
- Grasping the Medicare Distortion, by Yuvan Levin (NRO, 8-12-12):
Medicare will not be the central issue of this fall’s campaign — economic growth and jobs are far more important to voters. But President Obama and his supporters seem intent on distracting voters from the failed economic policies of the past four years by scaring them about the Romney-Ryan Medicare reform. And it is already perfectly clear that their criticisms of that reform are based on either a misapprehension or an intentional misrepresentation of the actual proposal, and of the very significant ways in which it differs from past Medicare-reform ideas (including those proposed by Ryan in the past). So it is worth taking a moment to understand the proposal — generally known as the Ryan-Wyden reform after its originators, Paul Ryan and Democratic senator Ron Wyden of Oregon — and to see what its critics are missing or misrepresenting. …
- Fact-Checking the Obama Campaign’s Defense of its $716 Billion Cut to Medicare, by Avik Roy (The Apothecary). Avik’s blog has been a recent discovery and proven to be interesting reading, unpacking — for the non-statistically and economically minded like myself — the difficult topics of Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), and consumer-driven health care. (Full disclosure: he’s a fellow of the Manhattan Institute and an outside consultant to the Romney campaign).
- More Mediscare, by James Capretta and Yuval Levin. (Weekly Standard) A Harvard Journal of the American Medical Association study “turns out to offer one of the strongest cases yet published in favor of premium support.”
- The $6,400 Myth: Breaking down a false Obama Medicare claim (Wall Street Journal 8-19-12):
One of President Obama’s regular attacks on Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform is that it would force seniors to pay $6,400 a year more for health care. But merely because he keeps repeating this doesn’t mean it’s in the same area code of accurate.
- The Republican Medicare Equation: The Best Defense = A Good Offense + Lots of Paul Ryan – Pete Spiliakos (Postmodern Conservative) believes the best thing the GOP can do to counter Democrat criticism is to let Ryan be Ryan.
… and on a comical note
- Admit It, I Scare The Ever-Loving S*** Out Of You, Don’t I? – a faux-editorial to The Onion 8-13-2012 . . . cutting a little too close to reality for some Democrats. [Warning: profanity]:
Face it: I’m not some catastrophe waiting to happen, like a Sarah Palin or a Dan Quayle. On the contrary, you have the exact opposite fear. I’m a solid, competent, some might say exceptional, politician.
- Democrat Erskine Bowles praises Paul Ryan And His Budget Plan – A video of former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, Democratic co-chair of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, praising Ryan’s budget plan.
- HEY GIRL … IT’S PAUL RYAN.
In articles, interviews and addresses, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan is defending — not without controversy — his 2013 budget proposal (see “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal”) as an application of Catholic social teaching, inspired by his Catholic faith.
In an April 10 interview with CBN News, Ryan responded:
To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that’s how we advance the common good. By not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities.
Those principles are very very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life. Help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.
The U.S. Bishops Conference conveyed their thoughts on the FY2013 Budget and spending bills, which in their words “repeated and reinforced the bishops’ ongoing call to create a “circle of protection” around poor and vulnerable people and programs that meet their basic needs and protect their lives and dignity.”:
Bishops Blaire [chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development] and Pates reaffirmed the “moral criteria to guide these difficult budget decisions” outlined in their March 6 budget letter:
1.Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
2.A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
3.Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times…
Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.
In April 16 and April 17 letters to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee addressing cuts required by the budget resolution, Bishop Blaire said “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”
Marc Thiessen defended the congressman from “a bishop’s unjust attack” (Washington Post, 4/23/12) along with (Fr. Robert Sirico (of the Acton Institute) — the latter, however, disagreeting with Ryan’s equasion of subsidiarity with federalism.
This past week, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan further presented his case in a column for the National Catholic Register: Applying Our Enduring Truths to Our Defining Challenge, April 25, 2012):
As a congressman and Catholic layman, I am persuaded that Catholic social truths are in accord with the “self-evident truths” our Founders bequeathed to us in the founding ideas of America: independence, limited government and the dignity and freedom of every human person. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, I am tasked with applying these enduring principles to the urgent social problems of our time: an economy that is not providing enough opportunities for our citizens, a safety net that is failing our most vulnerable populations, and a crushing burden of debt that is threatening our children and grandchildren with a diminished future. … [read more]
On April 26th, Paul Ryan gave a lecture at Georgetown University, entitled “America’s Enduring Promise”, in which he once again addressed the challenge of America’s exploding federal debt, which he characterized as “the overarching threat to our society today”:
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are “living at the expense of future generations” and “living in untruth.”
We in this country still have a window of time before a debt-fueled economic crisis becomes inevitable. We can still take control before our own needy suffer the fate of Greece. How we do this is a question for prudential judgment, about which people of good will can differ.
If there was ever a time for serious but respectful discussion, among Catholics as well as those who don’t share our faith, that time is now.
Ryan’s appearance at Georgetown was prefaced by a scathing letter from some 80 members of the faculty irate over his alleged “continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.” An organized protest of Ryan on the actual day of the event was distinguished by a notable lack of participation. Continue reading
In an article for Slate.com, a mother — herself born with and survivor of a physical disability — expresses the wish that her son, stricken with an incurable disease, had never been born:
If I had known Ronan had Tay-Sachs … I would have found out what the disease meant for my then unborn child; I would have talked to parents who are raising (and burying) children with this disease, and then I would have had an abortion. Without question and without regret, although this would have been a different kind of loss to mourn and would by no means have been a cavalier or uncomplicated, heartless decision. I’m so grateful that Ronan is my child. I also wish he’d never been born; no person should suffer in this way—daily seizures, blindness, lack of movement, inability to swallow, a devastated brain—with no hope for a cure.
(Emily Rapp: Rick Santorum and prenatal testing: I would have saved my son from his suffering Slate.com. February 27, 2012.
In Australia, Academic philosophers Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have written a peer-reviewed paper, published in a journal of “medical ethics”, advocating the murder of newly born babies, substituting for infanticide the kinder, gentler euphemism, “after-birth abortion”. They assert that:
“If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.”
Source: “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” is in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
There was something in the confluence of those two news items in recent days that brought to mind a passage from That Strange Divine Sea: Reflections on Being a Catholic by Christopher Derrick, which — so aptly capturing “the Catholic perspective” contra that of the “modern world” — floored me upon reading it as an inquiring agnostic in college, and sticks with me to this day:
Human existence always involves suffering, and this can sometimes be bitter indeed, inescapable too: the life of man can certainly be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” But with the first words of the Bible in mind, in the first words of the Creed as well, we believe in the goodness of the Creator, and we therefore see all human existence and in fact all ‘being’ as an absolute and unquantifiable good. . . . it makes no sense at all to speak of some point (of poverty or cancer or whatever) beyond which life simply isn’t worth living.
This is the first principle and paradox of the Faith. It can be stated apothegmatically. It is not a good thing to be diseased and starving. But it is a good thing to be, even when diseased and starving.
A dear and terrible principle, and it’s what divides the Church from the world most centrally — most crucially.
A more specific picture will throw it into sharper relief, and (if considered carefully) may help you to decide which side you’re really on.
Imagine a young girl who lives alone in a tar-paper shack, in some frightful shanty town on the outskirts of the big city in — say — Latin America. She lives, of course, by prostitution; and eventually she has a baby whom she cannot feed. The big jets go fuming up from the airport nearby, tight-packed with steaks and martinis for the Beautiful People — that is, for you and me. But there’s little for this girl to eat, so she has no milk; and in any case, the baby has inherited some of her diseases. So he looks out, briefly and with unfocused eyes, upon God’s world, and then he curls up and dies. His mother borrows a spade, buries him somewhere, and goes back to work.
As you know, I am not being fanciful or morbid in outlining such a story: things of that sort happen all the time and in many places.
Was it a bad thing for that bay to die? It was an abomination, a blot on the entire human conscience: if you and I have any share in the responsibility for it, we must fear the Lord’s anger.
But was it a bad thing for that baby to live?
“Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority” – a roundup of reactions
On Monday, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published a statement on the global economic crisis: “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority” [click link for full text]
Suffice to say, reactions were spirited (and in many cases, predictable), reflecting “a tired pattern”, to quote Zach (Civics Geeks)
Everyone once and a while there is a news story about “the Vatican”. “The Vatican” issues a document of some sort. The document says something about current affairs. Immediately there are two very predictable reactions, depending on whether the person is inclined to agree with the Church or not.
- “Look! The Church teaches that Catholics have to think like I think! My opinions have acquired divine authority. The world would be a better place, and the Church would be a better Church, if every Catholic just obeyed Church teaching like I do.”
- “I don’t have to obey the Church – I can think for myself. It’s fine if some old white men in Rome think that, but I don’t have to and I am still a good Catholic.”
These are, of course, caricatures, but I think they express two attitudes that are quite common. They are alike in that they are both dogmatic and reactionary.
What follows then are some mostly thoughtful responses — fodder for a discussion here at American Catholic).
- “The Pope, Chaplain to OWS? Rubbish!” – George Weigel in a characteristic clarification from National Review‘s The Corner, on those who would imbue the document with too much authority:
The truth of the matter is that “the Vatican” — whether that phrase is intended to mean the Pope, the Holy See, the Church’s teaching authority, or the Church’s central structures of governance — called for precisely nothing in this document. The document is a “Note” from a rather small office in the Roman Curia. The document’s specific recommendations do not necessarily reflect the settled views of the senior authorities of the Holy See; indeed, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the press spokesman for the Vatican, was noticeably circumspect in his comments on the document and its weight. As indeed he ought to have been. The document doesn’t speak for the Pope, it doesn’t speak for “the Vatican,” and it doesn’t speak for the Catholic Church.
- Pope Benedict Calls For “Central World Bank” … Only He Didn’t. Here’s Why – Thomas Peters (American Papist) counters the spin of Fr. Tom Reese, who “seems perfectly happy to help the mainstream media fundamentally misunderstand the authority of teaching this document enjoys, [claiming] that the pope has “more in common with the people at occupy wallstreet” than the tea party.”
- “while economists are learning from the Vatican, perhaps the Vatican might learn a few lessons from economic analysts” muses Phil Lawler (Catholic Culture): “If you want to promote Catholic social teaching, don’t wander beyond your expertise. Stick to moral principles, and leave economic analysis to the economists.”
- Also weighing in from “The Corner”, Dr. Samuel Gregg with Catholics, Finance, and the Perils of Conventional Wisdom:
Plenty of other critiques could — and no doubt will — be made of some of the economic claims advanced in this PCJP document. As if in anticipation of this criticism, the document states, “We should not be afraid to propose new ideas.” That is most certainly true. Unfortunately, many of its authors’ ideas reflect an uncritical assimilation of the views of many of the very same individuals and institutions that helped generate the world’s most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression. For a church with a long tradition of thinking seriously about finance centuries before anyone had ever heard of John Maynard Keynes or Friedrich Hayek, we can surely do better.
(Samuel Gregg is research director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty: A Treatise on the Free Society, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy, and his 2012 forthcoming Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and America’s Future).
- Mark Brumley, President and CEO of Ignatius Press, on “Going the way of World Government” (Catholic World Report):
If the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is trying to make the Catholic Church sound as if she’s living in a fantasy world or trying to portray Catholic social teaching as completely irrelevant to real world problems, I’d say, “Mission accomplished.” If, on the other hand, the council wants people seriously to think about the problems of globalization, it’s going to have to demonstrate a much better grasp of political and economic practicalities, as well as the limits and dangers of international solutions. At the risk of sounding like an End of the World visionary, I suggest we should temper our enthusiasm for world-authority solutions by re-reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 675-677, and by consulting the Book of Revelation, chapter 13.
By all means, let’s discuss global problems and possible solutions. Let’s recognize the dangers of nationalism and the imbalances that exist between rich and poor nations. Let’s not overlook the weakness of international capitalism or pretend the free market has all the solutions. Let’s have a good philosophical discussion about world government, and its long-term prospects, if the world endures for a few more centuries. But let’s remember that, historically speaking, those who have tried to act on their talk about a world political order have wound up being tyrants.
- Jeffrey Tucker, editorial vice president of the Mises Institute, author of Sing Like a Catholic (2009) and Bourbon for Breakfast
(2010), and (familiar to many readers) as a daily contributor to The New Liturgical Movement — “Right Diagnosis, Deadly Cure”:
… the document’s identification of loose credit with market liberty is the beginning of the end of the good sense here. From this point, we plunge straight away into a full endorsement of a world central bank, a world political authority, taxes on financial trading, and heavy regulations. The document doesn’t actually call for an end to the free market. On the contrary, it imagines that enlightened world planners will protect, guard, and even “create” what it calls “free and stable markets.”
This is beyond naive. It seems to illustrate a near total absence of clear thinking. Centralization of money and credit caused this problem. Centralization of political authority caused this problem. Why would anyone imagine that more centralization is therefore the answer? This approach takes a terrible situation and makes it much worse.
- Over at Commonweal, “unagidon” asks “do we need a Global Public Authority to fix the economy?” — and answers in the negative.
- “The Vatican Renders Unto Caesar”, by Nicholas G. Hahn III (Real Clear Religion) 10/25/11:
Any sane person can recognize that the notion of another global civil authority flies in the face of subsidiarity. Simply because the Council says subsidiarity should regulate the relationships of authority, doesn’t mean it actually will.
In fact, global institutions do not often respect autonomy or individual freedom of their memberships. Perhaps even Pius XI, for all his griping against the “greed” of financial systems, might consider the creation of a new “supranational Institution” a “grave evil and disturbance of right order.”
And so, a question that must be asked is: does Rome want a king?
Dr. Robert Moynihan (editor, Inside the Vatican):
The positive thing: this document, in keeping with all of the Church’s social teaching, wishes to defend honesty, transparency, truthfulness and justice in financial dealings over against dishonesty, opacity false representations and injustice.
In this, the document is to be praised, and praised highly. We need honesty and truth-telling in a global economy that is seemingly careening toward a train wreck which will inevitably hurt the poor and weak most of all.
The negative thing: the global economy, and especially the global derivatives market, is big, enormous, in fact, so big, so opaque, so complex, that literally no one knows what the situation really is, or what measures to take to undo the financial detonator that seems ready soon to go off.
In this sense, the Vatican office’s policy recommendations are inevitably insufficient.
- John Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter), counters the critics by calling attention to “a southern consensus”:
Focusing on how much papal muscle the note can flex, however, risks ignoring what is at least an equally revealing question: Whatever you make of it, does the note seem to reflect important currents in Catholic social and political thought anywhere in the world?
The answer is yes, and it happens to be where two-thirds of the Catholics on the planet today live: the southern hemisphere, also known as the developing world.
It’s fitting that the Vatican official responsible for the document is an African, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, because it articulates key elements of what almost might be called a “southern consensus.” One way of sizing up the note’s significance, therefore, is as an indication that the demographic transition long under way in Catholicism, with the center of gravity shifting from north to south, is being felt in Rome.
- Disputations reflects on lessons of the Tower of Babel in the concluding paragraphs of the document:
… the story of Babel not only warns us that we are bound to lack concord if we don’t speak the same language, but — reading it in parallel with the story of Pentecost — that the concord upon which any global authority must be founded to thrive in virtue is nothing less than the peace of Jesus Christ.
As a practical matter, the world is some way away from establishing that foundation. Whether Christians possess the peace of Jesus Christ in sufficient fullness to serve as the cement which, when mixed with the world’s crushed stone, can form a concrete of sufficient strength to bear the weight of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s proposals is, I suppose, open to question.
- Notes on the Vatican Statement on Global Financial Reform – solid, section-by-section analysis by DarwinCatholic (American Catholic 10/26/11), revealing points that are congenial to both ends of the political spectrum (“There’s much in here that American conservatives and libertarians are not going to like, but there’s just as much that leftist Catholics (particularly populist ones) aren’t going to like either (if they read it.)”).
See additional responses from Rick Garnett @ Mirror of Justice (“many are (perhaps strategically and tactically) mis- and over-reading the Note in order to overstate the consonance between its vision and the current policies of the Democratic Party in the United States and its special-interest constituencies”); Michael Brendan Dougherty @ Business Insider (“WHOOPS! Vatican Lets Slip Plans For One World Government”); Fr. John Zuhlsdorf; Sean P. Daily of Gilbert magazine (“if there is one institution that could unite us, even if it unites [distributists and followers of the ‘Austrian’ school] only in opposition, it is the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace”) — and, now blogging for The American Conservative, Rod Dreher hosts a vigorous discussion on his blog here; here; here and here.
This post was prompted by Kyle Cupp’s recent reflections on the “inviolability of human life” (Vox Nova October 6, 2011). Insofar as it concerns a republication of an essay pertinent to the topic of Kyle’s post, I will confine my own introduction to three responses that came to my mind during the course of reading.
First, with regards to the assertion that “any direct killing is not only an attack on the creature but an attack on God, which is always and everywhere evil” — I have often wondered how do advocates of this line of thought address God’s summary execution of Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament (Acts Chapter 5)?
Secondly, it seems to me that the adoption of a stance of absolute pacifism in some Christian circles flirts dangerously with the heresy of Marcionism — in that its adherents seem all too willing to draw a sharp divide between the God if the Israelites in the Old Testament (who was not above ordering Israel’s kings, prophets and judges to use lethal force, to say nothing of His own actions) and the by-and-large peaceful and nonviolent God of the New Testament (to which, again, the story of Ananias and Saphira might constitute an unsightly and conflicting blemish). This is exemplified in one reader’s comment:
More proof, if any were needed, that the so-called “Old Testament” should be consigned to the literature shelf, along with Homer and the rest of the primitive, pre-Christian texts. The “O.T.” can be cited to justify virtually any kind of homicide one should want to commit, including genocide. All one needs do is think that he’s channeling God’s will and he can kill with guilt-free abandon. Some call it piety; some call it pathology.
Cardinal Dulles once observed that the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution, and that while Jesus refrained from using force in most cases (a notable exeption being driving the money-changers from the temple with a whip), “at no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment.” While he argued in opposition to the death penalty, he wisely saw that one could not do so in ignorance of, or opposition to, Catholic tradition. His example is worth emulating.
My third and final point has to do with the “dirty hands” perspective — the assertion that even in situations where killing is warranted (as a defensive measure), the mere act of taking human life itself is intrinsically immoral, the equasion of armed force with violance, and lethal force to murder, such that any resort to such is deemed necessarily sinful. Or as Kyle says: “Killing is always wrong, even when it’s right.” Curiously, I find this stance indicative of a distinctly Protestant mentality that dispenses with centuries of Catholic thought and tradition. (That said, we are in an age now where it seems that Protestant and Catholic voices have become indistinguishable on this very subject, with multiple fronts voicing indiscriminate condemnation of armed force without qualification).
This last and final point is best argued in the following essay, “War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning”, by Dr. Philip Blosser. (Republished here by kind permission of the author) — a discussion of which I hope will bear much fruit.
— Christopher Blosser Continue reading
Certainly some of the issues raises by the ongoing protests at Wall Street and various cities across America are worthy of serious discussion and debate: the disparity between economic classes, the government bailouts to the financial industry and cushy severance packages to failed CEO’s vs the majority of those who can barely scrape by month-to-month, or might have lost their jobs (and homes, and savings) with no such financial safety net (a discussion of such here with Rod Dreher).
If you want serious analysis of the events, I recommend this excellent coverage by Robert David Graham (Errata Security), providing the quality coverage lacking in the mainstream media.
At the same time, it’s hard not to see the whole gamut of political-ideological factions — anarchist, marxist, libertarian, “tea party” (although the latter are branded as infiltrators wishing to “co-opt” the demonstration) — assemble to voice to their righteous indignation, and observe the moments of unintentional comedy and occasional irony that result . . . if not for which we might take their message just a little more seriously: Continue reading
Proposed HHS regulations for “Required Health Plan Coverage” to be implemented next year will compel every employer to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and abortifacients, which Catholics (and perhaps other religious organizations) will judge as morally-reprehensible.
The Obama administration in their graciousness has provided some form of “conscience-exemption”:
Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).
but the guidelines here are drawn so narrowly that few, if any, religious organizations will actually qualify for exemption.
As Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB notes, in framing the definition of “religious employer” thus “the HHS has plunked itself right in the middle of the sanctuary. It is trying to define what a religion does and does not do.”:
Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions provide about $30 billion worth of service annually in this country. No one presents a baptismal certificate at the emergency room. The hungry do not recite the Creed to get groceries at the food pantry. Students can pursue learning at The Catholic University of America, Villanova or any other Catholic college without passing a catechism admissions test. The commitment to serve those in need, the sick, the hungry, the uneducated, is intrinsic to Catholicism. No federal rule (except now HHS’s) says the church must limit its service to Catholics if it is to be true to its teaching. HHS doesn’t get the parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped the stranger simply because he was in need.
Look at the numbers. Catholic hospitals admit about 5.6 million people annually. That’s one out of every six persons seeking hospital care in the United States. Catholic Charities serves more than 9 million people annually. Catholic colleges and universities teach 850,000 students annually. Among those served are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and members of any other religious or irreligious group you can name.
Indeed, it seems as though Jesus himself wouldn’t pass muster at the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services.
(HT: Wheat & Weeds).
To my Venerable Brother
The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
On this day my thoughts turn to the somber events of September 11, 2001, when so many innocent lives were lost in the brutal assault on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the further attacks in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones.
The tragedy of that day is compounded by the perpetrators’ claim to be acting in God’s name. Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism. Every human life is precious in God’s sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and peoples everywhere.
The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence. It is my fervent prayer that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future.
With these sentiments, I extend my most affectionate greetings to you, your brother Bishops and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and serenity in the Lord,
From the Vatican, September 11, 2011
- Declaration of Independance – read the transcript and the history of the founding document of our nation (Library of Congress) | learn more about the battle for its preservation (PBS NOVA)
- Catholic Sources and the Declaration of Independence by Rev. John C. Rager. The Catholic Mind XXVIII, no. 13 (July 8, 1930), looks at synergies between the thought of Aquinas and Bellarmine and that expressed in the Declaration, asking: “Did Jefferson know of Bellarmine?”? (In How Catholic is the Declaration of Independence?, Commonweal takes a look at the “Scholastic-roots-of-democracy theory”; and CatholicHistory.net provides a bibliography on Catholics and the American Founding).
- Carl Olson interviews Dr. Bradley J. Birzer, author of American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (Ignatius Insight) | Learn more about our Catholic founding father
- What do Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI think about the American Founding?.
- Discover the riches of The Federalist Papers – by way of a commentary by Paul Zummo (The Cranky Conservative), who maintains: “I absolutely believe that an understanding of the Federalist Papers is essential for understanding the U.S. Constitution and, therefore, understanding America.”
- Listen to Johnny Cash recite “I am the Nation”.