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.”
Considering, however, that Joseph Ratzinger was already 78 — one of the oldest popes in history when elected — and had by the time of his election petitioned Pope John Paul II twice to resign his post as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (requests which John Paul II in his wisdom had denied), the Holy Father’s decision, while shocking, is to me also understandable, being the recognition, made with a clear mind, that he has reached a point in life where he no longer has the capacity to fulfill the requirements of the office.
Additional Reactions and Commentary
- Can the Pope Resign?, Fr. Thomas J. Reese, SJ. (Author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church):
Most modern popes have felt that resignation is unacceptable. As Paul VI said, paternity cannot be resigned. In addition, Paul feared setting a precedent that would encourage factions in the church to pressure future popes to resign for reasons other than health. Nevertheless, the code of canon law in 1917 provided for the resignation of a pope as do the regulations established by Paul VI in 1975 and John Paul II in 1996. However, a resignation induced through fear or fraud would be invalid. In addition, canonists argue that a person resigning from an office must be of sound mind (canon 187).
- B16 Resigns: The US Response Rocco Palmo, Whispers in the Loggia 2/11/12. Rocco also remarks:
Beyond the statement, no timetable or other parameters are currently known on the holding of a Conclave – we’re in very uncharted territory here, folks, so please be patient. The lone item of canon law to even mention a pontiff’s resignation is Canon 332, paragraph 2, which states that “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.”
Along the same lines, there is no protocol whatsoever for the titles or status of a retired Pope. …
Under the operative norms governing Conclaves in the wake of a Pope’s death, the voting college is to start the election between 15 and 20 days from the moment of the vacancy. In this case, however, the traditional novemdiales – the nine days of official mourning before the election – would not apply.
Now comprised of 118 voting members younger than 80, the College as a whole – retirees included – governs the church during a papal interregnum.
- According to Canon Lawyer Dr. Ed Peters, “There are presently 118 cardinals (a papally self-imposed limit of 120 electors is occasionally exceeded), some of them retired (emeritus) from their last posts, eligible to vote in the next papal conclave.” He provides additional resources on the next papal conclave here.
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