Tolstoy and The Battle of the Will

Saturday, October 19, AD 2013

On audiobook, I’ve been wrapping up re-reading War & Peace, while in print I’ve been reading David Herrmann’s The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War, which is about the developments in military technology, army organization, tactics and the arms race in Europe during 1904-1914 and to what extent these led to the outbreak of World War One.

One of the things for which World War One is well known is that, at the opening, generals on both sides were deeply convinced that the essential means of winning a battle was the spirited attack. Making spirited attacks in the face of machine guns and rapid firing artillery could have deeply horrific results, and the resulting learning process has led, in retrospect, to the view of the Great War as being typified by useless slaughter.

French officer machine gunned down in a counterattack at Verdun – 1916
Bilderdienst Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich
Stepan, Photos that Changed the World, p. 31

The common wisdom is that in 1914 military leaders did not realize how much these new weapons had changed the modern battlefield.

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25 Responses to Tolstoy and The Battle of the Will

  • World War I trench warfare presented a considerable military problem: what to do when the defense is so much stronger than the offense? Two solutions were ultimately arrived at: one by the Allies and one by the Germans. The Allied solution was technological, notably the tank. If the War had gone on into 1919 the Allies would have disposed of a huge armored force which would have crushed the Germans. The Allies also became experts in rolling artillery barrages and the use of other artillery tactics which proved effective in breaking through trench lines. (The Germans also developed similar artillery tactics.) The German solution was non-technological. They developed special storm trooper divisions, carrying lots of machine guns and mortars, and trained to avoid enemy strong points. These troops had high morale and were taught to use their initiative down to the squad level. The storm trooper tactics proved quite successful and almost won the War for Germany in the spring of 1918. I have always found it fascinating that two solutions to a massive military conundrum were developed so swiftly. It is hilarious that World War I is regarded in the popular mind as simple slaughter with cannon fodder led by unimaginative generals. The reality was quite different as the War demonstrated yet again that in War any technology has a short shelf life of military dominance: defeats and disasters tend to light the way forward more than victories in the painful process of military learning and progress.

  • One tends to forget how very nearly the German offensive of 1914 succeeded. My great-uncle, a member of the BEF, was attached as a liaison officer to a French cavalry regiment bivouacked in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, on the Marne and his patrol encountered von Klück’s scouts. That is only 11 kilometres from Paris. The German advance guard was only some 10 or 15 kilometres behind. They were within 4 or 5 hours walking distance from the heart of Paris.

    Coincidentally, his family, the Scottish Seymours originally came from Saint-Maur-des-Fossés some nine hundred years earlier.

  • Yep MPS, the title given to the battle of the Marne at the time by the Allies, the miracle of the Marne, is warranted.

  • Actually, I wrote something quite close to this a few years ago. http://fpb.livejournal.com/424969.html

  • Donald, technical and technological advances were only the basis of the Western Allies’ victories in mid-to-late 1918. The essential element, I think, was Foch’s decision to implement a new strategy of limited but continuous offensives, each sector of the front in turn starting to move before the previous offensive had ran out of steam, compelling the Germans to fight all the time and wearing down their numerically inferior resources. The tanks and the rolling barrages were the instruments of this novel, more methodical system of “taking down the enemy castle one stone at a time”, and for that matter you might say that the enormous flat or lightly hilly expanse of France was the ideal place to enact it, since every spot from the North Sea to the Swiss border was equally suited for sudden attacks (unlike, say, the Italian Alps).

  • I agree Fabio that the continuous attack idea was essential in 1918. It was a fairly obvious plan, but until the Wehrmacht had shot its bolt in the Spring of 1918 I doubt if it would have succeeded. However Foch was able to sense that the enemy army had lost its fighting edge, an essential attribute of any good general.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    A miracle, indeed.

    My great-uncle always maintained that, had it not been for the eleven days during which the Belgian fortresses held out in what came to be known as the Battle of Liège, the Germans would have been in Paris in September 1914. Without that delay, there would have been no BEF in France and, understandably, he was not inclined to underestimate the rôle of the Old Contemptibles in preventing an Allied route.

  • I have always thought that there was something legend-like about that. Leopold II, the worst king in Europe’s whole nineteenth century – if murdering people by the ten of million to line one’s pocket makes a man bad – succeeded by his nephew, who is quite literally the type of a hero king married to a heroine queen. One wonders whether, had he lived to see the second frolic, he would have surrendered his country like his successor Leopold III did. And on the other hand, I have absolutely no doubt that if Leopold II had still been alive in August 1914, he would have made the deal with Germany, and perhaps also have taken advantage for a bit of comeback against the Parliament that had taken his murder fields of Congo away from him merely because he’d killed a few locals.

  • Fabio, King Albert was indeed a legend come to life. The Kaiser tried to bribe him by saying that Belgium would be entitled to a share of the spoils after a victorious war by Germany if it cooperated and allowed the German troops to march through it unobstructed on their way to France. Albert responded, “What does he think I am?” just before ordering that the bridges between Belgium and Germany be blown.

  • Some people really fit their roles. Abraham Lincoln was one. King Albert was another. Giuseppe Garibaldi was another – did you know (and this is a proven and certified fact) that in his civilian work as shipmaster, he saved at least twelve people from drowning in separate accidents? You could not make it up, Nor could you make up the kind of love Albert and his wife had for each other, the clarity of his vision for his country, his totally sincere faith, and last but not least that resolution that probably saved Europe. (For had the King not turned his whole country into the Thermopylae of the twentieth century, the Germans would probably have made it to Paris and knocked France out of the war. Let alone that, if Belgium had not declared war and called on the treaty signers to defend it, Britain would probably not have entered the war. Albert, like Charles Martel, like Jan III Sobieski, like Field-Marshal Pilsudski, and probably no other person, saved Europe. Nothing greater could be said.

  • If Belgium had not fought, the OCs would probably never even have been sent, for Britain would have had no compelling legal reason to enter an obviously horrible war. And without despising their contribution, Joffre and Gallieni would never have had the time to bring together up to a million French troops and swarm them through Paris and to the front by any means available – the famous taxis being the ultimate example. Even more to the point, had Belgium not fought, the obvious crime of its invasion would not have silenced what were potentially very strong pro-German parties in the USA, Italy and Spain. The USA would have remained neutral through what was left of the war, and Spain and Italy would probably have intervened on Germany’s side.

  • In the conditions of 1914 it is unlikely that the (modified) Schlieffen Plan would have succeeded. However, with further modifications it succeeded spectacularly in 1940.

  • Are you paying attention? The Schlieffen plan came within an inch of working in the conditions of 1914. We are postulating a situation where Belgium did not hold up Germany for eleven days, where Britain might not have intervened and certainly might have done so more hesitantly than it did, and where Italy and Spain might well be visibly considering intervention on the German side. Not succeeded? In such conditions, it would have been a miracle had it not succeeded.

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  • Fabio P.Barbieri

    It in no way diminishes King Albert’s greatness to recall that he undoubtedly had the complete support of the Belgian people. A generation earlier, in 1870, Catholic Europe had been stunned by the fall of the capital of civilisation to the barbarians from beyond the Rhine; nothing like it had happened since the sack of Rome by the Goths. The Belgians were prepared to resist at all hazards.

    Italy would never have sided with Germany. Too many Italians welcomed a war with Austria to liberate Italia irredenta. However, that is academic; one only has to look at a map of the French railway system, radiating from Paris like the spokes of a wheel to see that, had the capital fallen, the war would have been over in weeks. Not only that, but the whole of the country’s heavy industry was located in the North East.

  • Michael – I am WRITING a history of Italy as we speak, so that is not the right ground to challenge me. Italia Irredenta included Nizza (Nice), birthplace of Garibaldi himself, a city that had never had any notion of being French until taken by force and fraud, and which actually rose up against the French in 1872; Corsica (read Pasquale Paoli on Italian patriotism); and Malta. Italy also had an angry claim to Tunisia, which the French had literally snatched under our noses in spite of the fact that it was and is a natural Italian area of interest and that even throughout the French protectorate Italian settlers there outnumbered French; and it might, as Mussolini later did, have discovered a claim to Savoy – which was not Italy, but was not France either, to the point where the great anthropologist Van Gennep went there in 1904 when he needed to study a society that was really as alien to France as any Third World country. Finally, Italy might have been offered access to the Atlantic – via Tangier – and to the Red Sea, via the French shareholding in the Suez Canal, thus solving the great Italian strategic conundrum of being a natural naval power locked into the Mediterranean. What is more, Italy hated Austria – as much as they hated France – but they warmly admired Germany. Financially, Italy was a German protectorate, with its leading and only respected bank, Banca Commerciale, set up and staffed by Germans. The universities were centres of German influence, thanks to the natural admiration of struggling Italian academics for the immensely successful galaxy of academic bodies due north, where most Italian academics went for advanced studies. As it is, Italy did not declare war on Germany until some time in 1917. Had Italian public opinion not been revolted by the invasion of Belgium, Italy might well have decided to join Germany’s party. And so might Spain, whose king was pro-German throughout.

  • Darwin

    Good points.

    At the beginning of the war both the Germans and the British (I do not know enough about the Frenc to say.) While agreeing that an attack should be spirited, also insisted that one does not make frontal assaults. The British had earned a hard lesson in the Boer War. For the Germans Erin Rommels book “Attacks” tells of platoon level fighting in the first week and months of the war. The standard training was to look for flanks and bypassing.

    However, the development of the Switzerland to Channel trench system eliminated any flanks. The massive casualties amoung the career soldiers compromised the the ability to properly train new conscripts.

    On the large scale the there was disagreement, but at the small unit level both those armies were doing what the US Army would later call fire and and maneuver.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Italy did not declare war on Germany “sometime in 1917” but on 28 August 1916. Problems with logistics and communications would probably have thwarted the Schlieffen plan anyway. Had Schlieffen’s advice to keep the right wing strong been heeded, the logistical problems would have been compounded. There was a big gap between theory and practice.

  • In defense of Will (or perhaps, willful ignorance) there’s John Mosier’s The Myth of the Great War.

    And then of course, there’s Hanson, who argued that the willingness to accept casualties in pursuit of a decisive victory was intrinsic to the way we fight. At least in the West.

    For whatever it’s worth.

  • John Nolan, solvitur ambulando. “Problems with logistics and communications” did not prevent the German infantry to come within human sight of Paris, and that after the French had had the extra eleven days afforded by the sacrifice of Belgium to bring up everything they had through their very efficient railway service. “Problems with logistics and communication” are the mediocre general’s bugbear; the real generals know that, if once they get enough men moving in the right, direction, l’intendance suivra. And as someone else pointed out, if Paris had fallen, there would have been an end of trying to develop a coherent defence strategy for the rest of France, because there were no routes which bypassed the capital. All that would have been left for the Germans to do, if the French insisted on resisting, would have been to liquidate the resistance piecemeal, with the likely assistance of Spain and Italy.

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  • Even though you do not read much, you can still sound intelligent during literary discussions =p
    Here are some tips !!!
    http://goo.gl/WSYlvx

  • “As with many a wrong theory, this is of course quite a bit of truth in this, the problem is in seeing it as the whole truth.”

    Definition of heresy…

  • “It was developments in tactics (the creeping barrage, attack and defense in depth, storm tactics) and in technology (tanks, motor transport, air supremacy) which ended up being the key to victory in the Great War. ”

    Indeed.

    http://s0.geograph.org.uk/photos/35/67/356777_77f85db6.jpg

Should We Boycott People We Disagree With?

Wednesday, October 16, AD 2013

This piece over at The American Conservative about the fuss surrounding Guido Barilla’s statements about homosexuality and the traditional got me thinking about to what extent we should allow the opinions of company owners or management to influence our purchasing decisions. For those who didn’t catch the flap:

Guido Barilla’s … asserted that his company, now the largest supplier of pasta in both the United States and Italy, would continue to use only “traditional” families in its advertising and would “never” portray a “gay” family in its ads. His remarks led to worldwide efforts to boycott his company’s products to voice displeasure at the Barilla’s supposed bigotry.

We’ve seen this sort of drama play out before. Homosexual activists have repeatedly called for boycotts of Chick-fil-A because of the views and charitable contributions of its owners. On the flip side, a number of Christians called for people to refuse to own Starbucks stock or not buy coffee due to Starbucks’ continued support for gay marriage initiatives.
The AC article goes on to quote John Stuart Mill, making the argument that social sanctions (such as not buying someone’s product) because one does not like that person’s opinions is actually a more effective mode of repression that the kind of judicial repression we would more often think of when hearing the word:

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16 Responses to Should We Boycott People We Disagree With?

  • One possible exception would be Disney. An aspect of Disney’s self presentation is that it is producer of entertainment for children. Making gratuitous provision for the homosexual constituency on their staff or in the public is an attempt to make homosexuality and G-rated cartoons compatible elements in people’s minds.

  • We should boycott evil. The thing is: “What’s your definition of evil?” And then, “What does that “say” about you?”

    I gotta question your motives if you think a food company is evil b/c it wants to sell to 94% of the world’s families.

    I don’t read the NYT or watch MSM TV news.

    I don’t ride in NYC taxi-cabs or eat at street food carts b/c more likely than not those people are paying into terrorism. Zazi Najibullah, a terror suspect who planned to bomb my subway line, sold coffee and donuts on William Street. And, I get free coffee at work.

    The only good bug I ever saw was dead. Seriously dead . . .

  • FWIW, I boycott Starbucks because the guy in charge of the company said he did not want the money of those who believe the way I do; I choose to respect his preference, to a reasonable extent, and not darken the door of the 90-some percent of the locations he’s got control of, nor buy their products if it’s not a serious inconvenience to me. Trying to be polite, even if he can’t even act professional.
    (Big Foot Java is faster, less expensive, and tastes better; the Army wife down the road that bought a stand with her mom does an even better job. Both places have folks that can hold a conversation.)

  • I went out an bought an extra six boxes of Barilla pasta. It is called patronizing a decent man. I understand that Chic-fil-A made out better too.

  • I do not believe that large-scale boycotts involving demonstrations and fierce denunciations in the press, are tenable in that firstly it is wrong to deprive a person or persons of the means of livelihood especially through intimidation, and secondly there is an element of THINKSTOP and hypocrisy involved in the conduct of boycotts. For example I may be using products from Saudi Arabia which suppresses Christianity, while boycotting some cosmetic company for developing products tested on animals. That said, I too would not patronize Starbucks as a matter of course, since it is my right as a customer to take my custom wherever I choose (apart from the fact that it is too expensive for me).

  • When K Mart refused to put their pornography out of sight of children, The American Family Association of Tupelo, Mississippi, boycott K Mart. K Mart lost its credit rating and the CEO was removed. Now, It is the New K Mart.

  • I fear that this Barilla boycott could go as far as gay activists insisting that stores remove the offensive product from their shelves. And stores will scurry to do so.

    Money talks.

    Informally, companies are all having to promote a diversity and inclusion statement on their web site and in their marketing materials. They can’t just vote “present” out of respect for employees and customers who still believe in natural marriage.

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  • old girl wrote, “I fear that this Barilla boycott could go as far as gay activists insisting that stores remove the offensive product from their shelves…”

    Boycotts and protests have often been most successful when directed, not at the offending business itself, but at its suppliers. A boycott of furriers by animal rights activists would have had little impact; however, threatened boycotts of fashion magazines that carried their advertising were very successful indeed. The loss of revenue from the adverts was trivial in comparison to even a small drop in circulation. Their banks, too, quickly succumbed and asked them to close their accounts.

    Similarly, during the Apartheid era, the consumer boycott of Outspan oranges had only limited success. It was pressure on the National Union of Railwaymen and the Transport & General Workers Union to black them, so that no union member would handle them, that saw them disappear from the shops in short order.

  • It will be interesting to see how the movie, “Ender’s Game” does next month. The author of the book, Orson Scott Card, has been portrayed as a homophobe because he stands for traditional values. The book has been a huge success and has been around for years before the movie was made. It is only now that there is a movie that a reaction against Card has been fomented by the Left. The thing is nothing in the book, (or the movie I suspect), has anything to do with gay marriage. Kind of like pasta has nothing to do with gay marriage.

  • “I can imagine a situation which might push me to avoid buying from a company because I believed that their profits were being spent for something so heinous…”
    How about ABORTION? Is there anyone reading this that does not believe this would qualify? Of course, the MSM only publicizes boycotts that will cause harm to companies or individuals who hold conservative views.

    It really bothers me that the Catholic school districts in this country are so involved in putting profits in the pockets of pro-abortion companies like General Mills (through its Box Tops for Education program), who FUND Planned Parenthood through their $1m a year contributions to Susan G Komen, who gives millions to PP! The companies and “non-profits” who fund abortion SHOULD BE boycotted, and pastors should be calling for that from the pulpit. The names of these companies can be gotten at http://www.komen.org, and those that give directly to PP can be found at http://www.fightpp.org. The list of these companies is shocking!

    Most of the companies who contribute to Komen are not that interested in supporting finding a cure for breast cancer (there are other charities that do that without involving killing the unborn). Rather, they suppose that aligning themselves with this “charity” will help their bottom line. I strive to see that it does the opposite!

    Some very big contributors have dropped support of Komen recently. Whether this was done because I and others contacted them and protested, or not cannot be known. But I AM certain that at least a few did so for this reason.

    Do we not have an obligation to use every moral method at our disposal to stop abortion? Buying products or services from these companies, or donating to these charities, is very much akin to contributing to the campaigns of pro-abortion politicians.

  • It really bothers me that the Catholic school districts in this country are so involved in putting profits in the pockets of pro-abortion companies like General Mills (through its Box Tops for Education program), who FUND Planned Parenthood through their $1m a year contributions to Susan G Komen, who gives millions to PP!

    That’s a few steps too many for me- not very likely to be effective.

    Tactically, I’d suggest having all the data on how very little Komen pays to actually find a cure, and how much they pay the top few folks. That gets even emotionally squishy pro-aborts to oppose them. If someone tries to guilt you into supporting it, bring up that waste– and you can even rant a bit about how Komen is a nasty bully focused on the bottom line, suing other breast cancer groups that actually do good because they also use a pink ribbon.

  • I tend to be very pragmatic about boycotts. Call it an extension of the just war theory, if you’d like: only pick the wars you can reasonably win. The credibility of a group diminishes when it threatens what it can’t follow through on. That’s my usual complaint with Catholic League.

    I don’t like my position. But truth be told, it’s tough to keep track of these things. Does Gillette still advertize on trashy FOX shows? I don’t know. I think they used to. If they pulled back a little, well then good, but I don’t know, and the internet is full of contradictory information, and I’m not going to watch ads on trashy shows to find out. Does FOX still have trashy shows? Last time I checked, it was all reality singing competitions.

  • I believe that Free Will gives me the right – really the responsibility – to support in any and all ways those things that are my vore beliefs.

    So I do exactly that with my ability to influence those I am around – or in correspondence with – or with my purchases.

    There are always options for my purchases and I consider carefully both the maker and the distribution of products before I spend.

    Eason says it very well and the positions she outlines are also mine. Whether or not my tiny boycotts – some say my “pragmatic” approach affect makers or suppliers is of no importance to me.

    What is important to me is being true to my personal positions in all moral ways open to me, always.

  • At first glance, anyway, Mill seems to be operating from the idea that the culture of freedom of ideas obligates me to financially participate in ideas I don’t agree with. If that’s the case, I call BS.

    Whether I act on a boycott depends on a few things:

    1) the extent to which the idea I disagree with is entwined in the company ethos — in the case of Starbucks, they do seem to consider it part of their mission;
    2) their attitude toward people who disagree — again, with both Starbucks and Barilla, people are only respecting and complying with their stated wishes;
    3) the amount of money potentially involved — am I spending a couple bucks once in a while, or hundreds of dollars a year? Is it likely to make any difference? I was a gold card holder at Starbucks, so possibly;
    4) Is the product essential to my life? Few of them are (I find that the more aware I am of corporate positions like this, the less materialistic I am, which can only be a good thing at this point in my life). Of the few that are, can I turn them to my own purposes? Are there alternatives?

    If it is worthwhile to me, I am nevertheless relatively quiet about it and don’t consider it binding on other people. I’m not trying to punish people who work there (another consideration) or friends who just want a pumpkin spice latte. I don’t beat myself up about what is past and cannot be undone, or what cannot be done without in the present. I do wish that more of us would not just boycott, but go start alternatives.

    What concerns me more than Starbucks is the mass retail race to the bottom to turn Thanksgiving into “Black Thursday.” Would I be wrong in saying this is the least materialistic, most family-oriented holiday we have left in America? Just at the time when we need the concepts of both rest and gratitude the most, they are under assault by the Buy More Crap Brigade. This means I’ve already been avoiding the Wal-marts and Targets like the plague for probably a year and a half. There go the major brick-and-mortar retailers. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of stuff to boycott.

  • 2) their attitude toward people who disagree — again, with both Starbucks and Barilla, people are only respecting and complying with their stated wishes;

    I must object; Barilla did not say “I do not want homosexual money.” They said “We will not advertise using same-sex couples in our ads.”

    Additionally, Barilla answered a question when asked; for Starbucks, that was their response when challenged by an owner.

Being Christian and Being Pro-life Look The Same

Tuesday, October 15, AD 2013

There’s been a certain amount of solemn nonsense going around about what it means to truly live a Christian live and evangelize. Are hot button issues talked about too much or not enough? Do we emphasize the message that Jesus came to save us, or is proselytizing not meeting people where they are? Is what we really need to do as Christians just serve those I need and let our actions speak for themselves, or is that turning the Church into an NGO rather than the conduit of Christ’s gospel?

Myself, I don’t think our new pope’s messages have been that hard to follow if one reads them in context, but certainly there has been both a lot of worry and a lot of people attempting to rub other Catholics noses in things they image they won’t like.

Francis is a concrete thinker, it seems to me, and perhaps it works best to point to a concrete example. I read this piece by Abby Johnson the other day and it seemed to me that it summed up how evangelizing, pro-life activity and serving those most in need are not competing interests, but one “seamless” package of what it means to live out the Christian message:

One night over dinner, a friend of mine told me that he had seen a very pregnant homeless woman on the corner of a busy Austin intersection. I knew the intersection he was referring to…there is a huge non-denominational church on the corner. I felt confident that she had probably received some assistance from them. Maybe they were in the process of trying to help her find resources.

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9 Responses to Being Christian and Being Pro-life Look The Same

  • I doubt if Pope Francis meant much of anything when he declaimed that proselytizing is “solemn nonsense”. It was a throw away line in response to the atheist journalist who said that his friends feared that the Pope would try to convert him. That is precisely the problem. The Pope seems to me to be big on throw away lines, when he is speaking off the cuff, without much thought behind them. Then Catholics spend endless hours debating words that the Pope probably didn’t spend a minute thinking about. We have a Pope who is careless with words without a prepared text. Until we have more concrete actions from him, it is useless to argue about what his words in informal settings mean and attempt to fit them into the pattern of Catholic teaching.

  • It seems that in many circles the “solemn nonsense” line is being explained away by a definitional distinction between evangelization (good) and proselytization (bad). While at first blush it appeared to me that the distiniction relies on a rather idiosyncratic definition of proselytization, apparently that term carries with it a pejorative tone that informs a commonly understood meaning that escapes standard dictionaries. Perhaps, but it all seems weird to me.

    I’m more troubled by associating the word “obsession” with “abortion.” I wonder how the Holy Father would feel about associating “obsession” with “the holocaust.” I mean, can one be excessively critical or judgmental about genocide? I don’t for a minute believe that the Holy Father really means to suggest that abortion is not that big a deal, but his words are vulnerable to such a suggestion, and imprudently so in my view.

  • I would posit that most people mean things when they say something. Personally, it’s always struck me as pretty easy to understand what the Holy Father seems to be getting at, though I understand the frustration of people who are bothered by his tendency to talk casually and imprecisely. If I were to advise a pope on how to speak, Pope Francis’s style is not what I’d recommend. But that’s in part simply because it’s not my style or my culture.

    That said, to the extent that there’s confusion (or in the case of liberal Catholics, misinformation and deception) about what the pope says, I think there’s a value in orthodox Catholics doing what they can to control the message. If all that’s heard from faithful Catholics is “Who knows what the pope means here” and a lot of worrying about the pope putting the 70s liberals back in charge of the Church — then we basically cede the message game to those liberals and their agenda of distorting Church teachings. So while I have a lot of respect for guys like Dale Price, who’s written movingly about the way that he’s felt unsettled by various things the pope has said and the way they’re being interpreted by the wider culture, my own approach is probably going to be to continue pounding what I think is clearly the real message the pope is working on — and not ceding that ground to the liberals who want to turn this into a “victory lap”.

  • Darwin, I think we are going to discover that the Pope’s statements in black letters given the delicate condition of the Church matter less than what you take to be so much static. For one thing, one set of intermediaries is the parish clergy, who are amply studded with people who wanted to ‘do ministry’ but are lackadaisical about content and, truth be told, heretical. The clergy is also amply studded with company men. There is nothing wrong with company men in the right circumstances. In these circumstances, they may prove troublesome. (What’s the most salient reason liturgical practice in most places is suck-o? The man behind the alter).

  • “I would posit that most people mean things when they say something.”

    True. My point is that this was a phone conversation and the Pope was obviously winging it. He wanted to deny an effort to convert the 89 year old atheist and he said the first thing that came into his mind. I doubt it went much deeper than that. Many people express themselves fairly clumsily without a prepared text and I think Pope Francis is in that category. I think Father Lombardi’s bizarre comment about getting the general sense of what the Pope is saying and not looking for a word for word parsing was an admission of this current fact of papal life.

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2013/10/06/popewatch-father-lombardi-explains-it-all/

  • My point is that this was a phone conversation and the Pope was obviously winging it. He wanted to deny an effort to convert the 89 year old atheist and he said the first thing that came into his mind.

    Donald R. McClarey

    I winced when I heard the Pope’s remark because I’d rather he’d have said yes I’m trying to convert him. I’ve been weak myself, though, just as Pope Francis was in that phone conversation. But I expected a man who has been a priest, a Jesuit, a bishop, a cardinal and is now a Pope to have better skills at catching and fielding such a lob from the press. Sigh.

    What would Cardinal Arinze have replied? Double sigh.

  • FWIW, I don’t necessarily agree with:

    He wanted to deny an effort to convert the 89 year old atheist and he said the first thing that came into his mind. I doubt it went much deeper than that.

    I don’t think that the pope wanted to deny that he was trying to convert Scalfari, but was actually trying to make a distinction between a kind of “talking at” attempt at conversion versus a “talking with” attempt. I’ve got basically three reasons for this:

    1) He gestured at a distinction between proselytizing and evangelizing.
    2) This would tie in with other comments that he’s made about the importance of a type of evangelizing which involves meeting people where they are and understanding them as an essential first step of the process.
    3) Later in the interview he tries a couple different ways to get Scalfari to admit that the convictions that he does possess actually amount to something akin to belief in God (which if we take Aquinas’s five proofs for the existence of God as a guide is a good first step towards building belief.)

    So I think he did have a real point and a fairly deep one — however, what does seem to be fairly characteristic of Francis (and what I think Lombardi was pointing out in the interview you link to) is that he has a very casual and somewhat telegraphic way of expressing his ideas. He most certainly does not have the precision and thoroughness of Benedict XVI and John Paul II (which I dearly miss.)

  • While at first blush it appeared to me that the distinction relies on a rather idiosyncratic definition of proselytization, apparently that term carries with it a pejorative tone that informs a commonly understood meaning that escapes standard dictionaries. Perhaps, but it all seems weird to me.

    Thank you!

    Trying to figure out how to explain the implication– which, you’re right, doesn’t really show up on paper– a lightbulb came on over my head.
    The Pope’s whole thing is informality, right? Bypassing the stuff that gets between him and normal folks– much to the consternation of the folks who care about him, like his body guards… or random Catholics trying to prevent sometimes-willful misunderstandings….

    I like precision in theology, but some folks find it off-putting. He’s not too precise in his “getting folks relaxed and to start talking” mode.

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Did Jefferson Try to Abolish Slavery in the Declaration of Independence?

Thursday, October 10, AD 2013

Sometimes an article includes such a jarring historical claim that I find myself immediately questioning everything in the piece. That was precisely my reaction when I read a Commonweal piece today which claimed that Thomas Jefferson had originally included language in the Declaration of Independence abolishing slavery:

Jefferson realized that it made no sense to base a new nation on the principle of “liberty and equality for all” as long as some its people were enslaved by others, so the first draft of the Declaration also renounced slavery. Jefferson accused King George of waging a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.” Southern delegates representing the interests of slave-holders aligned with northern delegates representing the interests of slave-trading merchants, and together they succeeded in excluding Jefferson’s original language from the Declaration. Their motivation was obvious: eliminating slavery would diminish their wealth. They held up the vote for independence until they got their way.

But the phrase “all men are created equal” remained, and debate about its meaning has dominated American politics ever since.

The rest of the article is a piece of political hackery in which economics professor Charles Clark of St. John’s University goes on to lay out an interpretive framework for American history and the current political situation in which there is always a group of powerful elites which successfully dupes a portion of the ordinary people into supporting the elites’ interests above their own.

The claim that Jefferson (himself a slave holder who never freed his slaves) sought to “renounce” slavery in the Declaration of Independence struck me as wholly implausible, so I researched the question further. The phrase Prof. Clark quotes was indeed in Jefferson’s draft, but he leaves out the crucial second half of the quote:

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73 Responses to Did Jefferson Try to Abolish Slavery in the Declaration of Independence?

  • Clark should stick to the Dismal Science, Clio is most definitely not his muse. The Declaration of course would not have abolished slavery as you noted, even if the passage hilariously, and ahistorically, blaming King George III for slavery had been left in. The Declaration’s purpose was to declare American independence and to state American aspirations regarding freedom. As Lincoln noted, the Declaration did not end slavery, just as it did not put all white men on a standard of equality, that was not its purpose, and Congress had no power to do so in any case. It gave Americans goals to shoot for, and in that it was quite successful.

    In regard to Professor Clark, some of the comments about him at Rate My Professor are instructive:

    “i hate this class. i like economics but this is far from an economics class. all he does is get off track and preach his dumb, excessively liberal views. i would think someone with a doctorate would know better than to cite information from better sources than msnbc.”

    “he’s the worst public speaker ever. if you like the word “uh” then take him. laugh at his cheezy jokes and you’ll get a better grade. i actually thought his jokes were funny. but some people wouldnt think so. he’s a big liberal who wants to raise taxes though. but what eco college professor isnt?”

    “He isn’t THAT bad. I mean, he does suck. All he does is talk about Ireland and illegal things. His essays are really easy though, just follow the rubric and you’ll get a 100. Don’t do anything in class, just study for the test. I DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN CLASS. gives a lot of extra credit, DO THEM.If you have a choice, don’t choose him but hes ok”

    http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=173141

  • Jefferson certainly did not intend to free the slaves via the Declaration. And it does seem odd that Jefferson would on the one hand condemn King George for imposing slavery and then turn around and condemn King George for freeing the slaves, but two things are worthy of consideration:

    (1) Joseph J. Ellis does an excellent job of discussing this in his biography of Jefferson, American Sphinx (which is actually more of a character study than it is a traditional biography). Ellis concludes that Jefferson was a contradictory figure for whom it was not out of character to hold contradictory views with equal vigor and not view them as contradictory. Ellis writes that what Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration had to say about slavery “was symptomatic of a deep disjunction in his thinking about slavery that he never reconciled.” Ellis continues:

    With regard to slavery itself, Jefferson’s formulation made great polemic sense but historical and intellectual nonsense. It absolved slaveowners like himself from any responsibility or complicity in the establishment of an institution that was clearly at odds with the values on which the newly independent America was based. Slavery was another one of those vestiges of feudalism foisted upon the liberty-loving colonists by the evil heir to the Norman Conquest. This was complete fiction, of course, but also completely in accord with Jefferson’s urge to preserve the purity of his moral dichotomies and his romantic view of America’s uncontaminated origins. Slavery was the serpent in the garden sent there by a satanic king. But the moral message conveyed by this depiction was not emancipation so much as commiseration. Since the colonists had nothing to do with establishing slaver – they were the unfortunate victims of English barbarism – they could not be blamed for its continuance. This was less a clarion call to end slavery than an invitation to wash one’s hands of the matter.

    (2) Darwin notes ” It most certainly does not unequivocally condemn slavery (otherwise, why the anger at slaves being offered freedom) …” That can be answered by asking the question “What do you suppose was one of the greatest fears of Southern plantation families when they went to bed at night?” It was the fear that their slaves might rise up and kill them in their sleep. Fears of the type of slave rebellion that Nat Turner would eventually organize (but which ultimately failed) were widespread throughout the Southern colonies. Even non-slaveowners were fearful of being murdered in such an uprising. What Dunmore’s Proclamation did was play upon the worst fears of those living in the Southern colonies (even before issuing the Proclamation once hostilities had actually broken out, Dunmore had used the threat of encouraging a slave uprising to get the Virginia colonists to back down from demands that Dunmore return the colony’s gunpowder that he had confiscated).

    In short, it would not have been necessarily inconsistent to be wholly ambivalent about slavery – or even to be an abolitionist on the matter, but still be angry and fearful over a proclamation that made every household in Virginia a target for a slave uprising.

  • It is not logically incoherent to argue (1) that the introduction of African slaves was a great evil and (2) that the presence of a large, inassimilable population of alien stock makes the maintenance of slavery, or something very like it, a necessary measure of police. This was precisely the argument used for the re-impossition of slavery in the French colonies by the Consulate in 1802, after its abolition by the decree of 16 Pluviôse An II

  • Didn’t this also come up in the movie 1776? I think the language was a little different in the movie.

  • Thomas Jefferson, like the later Dreamer John Lennon, was an extreme hypocrite and a Deist. I’ve long ago rejected him as having any value at all to my faith, and given the way his words are interpreted in our day and age, consider his philosophy to be theologically incompatible with Catholicism.

  • @Darwin Catholic: You have done a fine piece of investigative writing.
    Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence defined the sovereign person endowed with unalienable rights by an infinite Creator and made a listing of all infringement of those unalienable rights by King George, as he was asked to do and as was necessary for our fledgling nation. Jefferson busied himself with trying to prevent “The Reign of Terror” as he saw happened in France with independence. The War for Independence was still going on in the valleys and culverts of the rural farms, with Tories, those friendly to King George, killing the colonial farm workers while they worked. Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox, forgave the Tories the property they had stolen for war to heal the nation. Benjamin Franklin broke relations and did not associate with own son who, as governor of New Jersey was a Tory. “We shall all hang together, or we shall all hang separately” said Franklin.
    In the creation of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson established the college to come when you willed, study what you willed and leave when you willed. However, grades and degrees were not conferred.
    Slavery was not to be abolished in Jefferson’s lifetime, but respect for the human being was a trademark of his character. Let us forgive his short comings and human failings.
    “Each time an elite, whose advantages often entail a disadvantage for someone else, promises to disrupt everything unless their interests are protected. This method of obstruction works only if the elite is able to persuade large numbers of the nonelite that their own well-being depends on preserving the elite’s privileges. So the small landed aristocracy in the South convinced thousands to fight and die to preserve “their way of life” in the Civil War.”
    I thought Clark was talking about the government shutdown. Clark’s first line is not a sentence. The students ought to get their tuition back.
    Ted Seeber: All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. Not since the Magna Carta were all men’s civil rights inscribe in perpetuity and ratified. I often forget who wrote the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence and imagine the freedom with which they are written and the freedom they bring forth.

  • Mary de Voe wrote, “Jefferson busied himself with trying to prevent “The Reign of Terror” as he saw happened in France with independence”

    Jefferson’s attitude towards events in France can be seen from his comment on the September Massacres in Paris in the summer of 1792 “Many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as anybody. But—it was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree—was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood?”

    Whether one dates the American Revolution from the first agitation in 1761, the outbreak of war in 1775, or the Declaration of Independence in 1776, it ended with the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1783. That is six years before Louis XVI summoned the States General in 1789, the same year that the US Constitution was ratified.

    Now, the Terror began with the Law of Suspects of 17 September 1793, following the defeat and defection of Dumouriez, the loss of the frontier fortresses and revolt in Brittany, Toulon and the Vendée, the Spanish crossing the Pyrenees and the Sardinians crossing the Alps; it ended in the reaction of Thermidor and the fall of Robespierre on the 9 Thermidor (27 July 1794) , following the victory of Fleurus on 26 June 1794. Seventy-five per cent of executions were for evading conscription, desertion, hoarding, price-gouging and currency speculation; it was a form of martial law and it was directed by Carnot, the War Minister, with Robespierre as his spokesman in the Assembly. Circumstances in American were so different that a reign of terror was neither necessary nor possible.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour :
    What you write I retain. In my (very often not so humble) opinion as an unlearned person, Jefferson was a statesman and patriot and therefore: “Circumstances in American were so different that a reign of terror was neither necessary nor possible” Hindsight is 20 20. Jefferson sought to prevent what he saw in France after Independence at that time. Martial law does not and ought not include the massacre of civilians. My mind is oveshadowed by the Obama administration and Obamcare as your writing so aptly describes what is happening in America right now.
    “Seventy-five per cent of executions were for evading conscription, desertion, hoarding, price-gouging and currency speculation; it was a form of martial law”
    In Hitler’s Germany, if you did not have your papers you went to the gas chamber. Hoarding, price gouging and currency speculation would have put all of Wall Street to the guillotine. These are not capital one offenses demanding execution. Obamacare will send many to the invisible gulag, perhaps even execution.
    Thomas Paine (sp), pamphleteer and supporter of the War for Independence, wrote that constant vigilance is the price of freedom. Colonists fought for freedom, while Jefferson and the patriots watched over the nation. Washington refused to be king and a third term as president. As I wrote, Francis Marion forgave the Tories their taking of farmers’ food and supplies and refused to hear civil lawsuits after the war ended. Efforts to heal the nation ensued, Not so with the Reign of Terror, government made war against the people. Jefferson noted that there was less innocent blood shed in the Reign of Terror than in actual combat with cannons and artiliary, the lesser of two evils.
    Again, I thank you Michael Paterson-Seymour for the history lesson, I found it most edifying because I wondered about the time frame for Jefferson’s stay outside the country and how it impacted his ownership of slaves.

  • “Thomas Jefferson, like the later Dreamer John Lennon, was an extreme hypocrite and a Deist. I’ve long ago rejected him as having any value at all to my faith”

    With all due respect, that seems to be the flip side of the “X can’t be so bad if ‘basically good’ or ‘nice’ people do it” argument related in an earlier TAC blog post. The other side of that coin is: “X is so evil that anyone who does it or tolerates it is, ipso facto, an entirely evil person and everything they say or do is thereby poisoned as a result.” Ideas must be judged on their own merits; stupid or even evil people can come up with good ideas and good or even saintly people can come up with really bad ideas.

    Also, at the time of the Declaration there seemed to be a general acknowledgement, even among Southerners and slaveholders, that slavery was at best a necessary evil that hopefully would be abolished someday, it just couldn’t be done right now or in one stroke of immediate emancipation (kind of like St. Augustine’s prayer to be made chaste, but not yet). Slavery still existed in some northern colonies/states but was being eliminated through gradual emancipation measures such as freeing all slaves born after a certain date when they reached a specified age, and banning importation of new slaves.

    Only after the invention of the cotton gin and the rise of a cotton-dependent economy in the South did Southerners dig in their heels and begin arguing that slavery was actually a good thing and should be defended at all costs. In 1776, however, I don’t think the Founding Fathers quite comprehended that delaying the abolition of slavery would ultimately make it harder, not easier, to get rid of.

  • The rest of the article is a piece of political hackery in which economics professor Charles Clark of St. John’s University goes on to lay out an interpretive framework for American history and the current political situation in which there is always a group of powerful elites which successfully dupes a portion of the ordinary people into supporting the elites’ interests above their own.

    A framework he cribbed from Howard Zinn.

  • @Elaine Krewer: “X is so evil that anyone who does it or tolerates it is, ipso facto, an entirely evil person and everything they say or do is thereby poisoned as a result.” It is said that Thomas Jefferson treated his Negro slaves as family.

  • Contemporary attitudes to slavery are instructive.

    In Scotland, there was the case of Knight v Wedderburn. In 1762, Wedderburn had purchased Knight, then aged 12, in the West Indies from the captain of a ship engaged in the African trade. In 1769, Wedderburn returned to Scotland, bring Knight with him as a manservant. In 1774, they quarrelled and Knight tried to quit Wedderburn’s service and Wedderburn had him arrested on a warrant from the local justices of the peace. The justices found “the petitioner entitled to Knight’s services, and that he must continue as before.”

    Knight petitioned the Sheriff (who is a judge in Scotland) to suspend the warrant. The Sheriff-Substitute (John Swinton, 27th laird of that ilk) treated it as an open and shut case. He repelled Wedderburn’s answers without a proof in a short interlocutor, stating that “the state of slavery is not recognized by the laws of this kingdom, and is inconsistent with the principles thereof”; that “’the regulations of Jamaica, concerning slaves, do not extend to this kingdom”; and repelled “the defender’s claim to a perpetual service.” Mr. Wedderburn having reclaimed, the sheriff found, ‘That perpetual service, without wages, is slavery; and therefore adhered.” Knight went on to win in the Court of Session, where Lord Kames declared, “we sit here to enforce right not to enforce wrong” and the court emphatically rejected Wedderburn’s appeal, ruling that “the dominion assumed over this Negro, under the law of Jamaica, being unjust, could not be supported in this country to any extent…”

  • “Contemporary attitudes to slavery are instructive.”

    Contemporary in the Eighteenth Century in Scotland perhaps, although Scots at the time were well represented in the slave trade. Slavery was quite legal in the British Empire and would remain so for some time after this case until Wilberforce and his allies brought about its end.

  • Donald R McClare

    Public opinion in Scotland, and in Britain generally, at the time of the Declaration of Independence was opposed to slavery. Lord Kames, of course, was a leading figure of the Enlightenment; a bonnet laird, like Swinton was anything but. No one supported it as part of a « mission civilisatrice. » Curiously, the Enlightenment and the Evangelical Revival were united in opposing it. In England, in Sommersett’s Case (1772), a slave who had been brought into England was discharged under a Habeas Corpus by Lord Mansfield CJ.

    Slavery was, as you say, established in the West Indies and a considerable amount of money was invested in slaves and lent on the security of them. The abolitionists adopted a gradual approach, abolishing the slave trade in 1807 (and using the RN to suppress it). Compensated emancipation, on generous terms largely secured by the London bankers, came in 1834. There was opposition from particular interests, but no resistance, either at home or in the West Indies.

  • In Great Britain slavery long had effective advocates in Parliament, the chief among them Banastre Tarleton, infamous in American histories of the American Revolution:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=lzuEzmO81GwC&pg=PA516&lpg=PA516&dq=banastre+tarleton+slave+trade&source=bl&ots=GCdfm1UVNP&sig=1ZRyiFeDPs_ztJkx3SGR05ETk-o&hl=en&sa=X&ei=64taUoiTD4askAeUx4CYAw&ved=0CE4Q6AEwBTgK#v=onepage&q=banastre%20tarleton%20slave%20trade&f=false

    The advocates of abolition in Great Britain were greatly helped by the fact that domestic slavery did not exist in Great Britain and London, as the Americans learned and which led to 1776, tended to give short shrift to colonial concerns and wishes in any case. Additionally, with the success of the American Revolution the main slave holding areas, except in the West Indies, were now outside of the Empire. With the ending of the slave trade in 1807, the great merchants of England now had little reason any longer to support slavery. The slavery abolition act of 1833 abolished slavery in most of the British Empire with compensated emancipation.

  • The Commonweal article does seem to be a serious overreach. Yet I think that Mary De Voe is basically correct.

    The concept of a right as being “inalienable” – not subject to voluntary surrender to government or other authority – is something that we tend to forget in the 21st century. Jefferson must have understood at some level that his description of inalienable rights would subvert slavery. He was not a stupid man. If he wanted to remain a slaveowner his only options were to 1) be a hypocrite and think that liberty would come to the slaves, but just not yet, or 2) conclude they were less than human, and so their rights were not inalienable. I don’t know about Jefferson, but it is obvious that many of his contemporaries went with #2.

  • @Tom D. ” 1) be a hypocrite and think that liberty would come to the slaves, but just not yet, or 2) conclude they were less than human, and so their rights were not inalienable. I don’t know about Jefferson, but it is obvious that many of his contemporaries went with #2.”
    When slaves were freed, they were given the choice of leaving or staying as was their situation. The plantation or estate provided for them and very often they became members of the family. Jefferson may have offered his slaves freedom and they chose to stay. This is a possibility.
    The Catholic Church has always preached the dignity of the human being made in the image of God with unalienable rights endowed by an infinite God. Thomas Jefferson said that: “The rights the state gives the state can take away”. The finite state cannot guarantee unalienable rights simply because the finite state constituted by the unalienable rights of its citizens can and may, and in some cases ought to be coming to an end.
    There are many individuals today who would enslave their neighbors. Those who deny the rational, immortal human soul and “their Creator” endowed unalienable civil rights have theoretically already enslaved the human race by imposing their invalid beliefs of the existence of no God (and/or the world is flat, and the moon is made of green cheese) on man’s response to the gift of Faith from God, called freedom of religion, and speech to God and peaceable assembly with God. Once the principle of separation of church and state is breech, man does not have any chance of survival. The gulag or other form of slavery is imminent.

  • Mary De Voe: If Jefferson had offered his slaves their freedom, they would not have ended up in his estate sale.

    I was agreeing with you on your view of inalienable rights, and I’d agree with you on future slaveries, but I don’t think I’d agree with you on Jefferson.

  • Tom D. I believe that Jefferson did offer his slaves freedom and many of
    Jefferson’s slaves chose to stay on with him especially and because they, the slaves, were running the estate as a community with Jefferson’s absence. When Jefferson returned, he was rather a solitary man consumed only with books. Once Jefferson died, of course, inheritance laws took effect and the slaves were legally listed and sold as property. This ought to have been foreseen and ameliorated by Jefferson. Perhaps Jefferson had already been physically and mentally incapacitated by the many cases of wine which he had brought back from France.
    Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826, only four hours apart, with John Adams saying “Thank God Jefferson still lives.”
    George Washington did free his slaves.

  • So much for my attempt to widen the conversation to the subject of the vast difference between Jeffersonian definitions of Liberty and the Church’s definitions of Liberty:
    “and given the way his words are interpreted in our day and age, consider his philosophy to be theologically incompatible with Catholicism.”

    Everybody ignored the 2nd half.

    Liberty is not “do what you want”. Liberty is “Do what you Ought, under God”. Deism is philosophically the first, Catholicism is philosophically the second. Slavery is a problem under the first, because it prevents men from doing what they want. Slavery is NOT a problem under Catholicism by itself, unless the slave owner prevents his slaves from knowing Christ and God.

  • Ted Seeber

    Freedom means, quite simply, the right of self-government. As the Scots told Pope John XXII in the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, “Quia quamdiu Centum ex nobis vivi remanserint, nuncquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subiugari. Non enim propter gloriam, divicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit.” [as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself]

    That is why the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen declares, “in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being” that “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation” and that “Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents” and that “Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.”

  • As for Jefferson “treat[ing] his slaves like family” … well, yeah, some of them he may have been quite … intimate … with. Others, it is said, bore a strong family resemblance to Mr. Jefferson. Not sure that’s what you meant, though.

    For the record: Jefferson did NOT, as a general matter, offer his slaves freedom. Among the only handful of slaves that Jefferson freed were the children of Sally Hemings. (The other two freed slaves were related to Hemings.) It is speculated that this act of emancipation was because of a promise that Jefferson made to Sally Hemings to entice her to return to Virginia with him rather than remaining in Paris as a freed woman (there was no slavery in France, so Jefferson had no way to legally compel Hemings to return with him).

    At Jefferson’s death, he made no provision in his will for any other slaves to be freed other than Sally Hemings’ children. Not even Sally Hemings herself was freed by Jefferson – she was ultimately freed by Jefferson’s daughter, Martha (who was, of course, Sally’s niece) when the rest of the Monticello slaves were put up for auction to pay off Jefferson’s extensive debts.

    Don’t take my word for it, though. This is from the website at Monticello:

    “Jefferson freed two men in his lifetime and bequeathed freedom to five men in his will. All were sons or grandsons of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings. At least three others were unofficially freed, when he allowed them to run away without pursuit (Beverly Hemings, Harriet Hemings, and James Hemings, son of Critta Hemings Bowles).

    “A single paragraph cannot do justice to the issue of Jefferson’s failure to free more than a handful of his slaves. Some of the possible reasons include: the economic value of his human property (at certain times, his slaves were mortgaged and thus could not be freed or sold); his lifelong view that emancipation had to go hand-in-hand with expatriation of the freed slaves; his paternalistic belief that slaves were incapable of supporting themselves in freedom and his fear they would become burden to society; his belief in gradual measures operating through the legal processes of government; and, after 1806, a state law that required freed slaves to leave Virginia within a year. Jefferson wrote that this law did not “permit” Virginians to free their slaves; he apparently thought that, for an enslaved African American, slavery was preferable to freedom far from one’s home and family.”

    Before anyone takes me as a Jefferson detractor, I am a proud graduate of Mr. Jefferson’s university, and the library in my home contains no fewer than 6 portraits of Mr. Jefferson, a life-size bust of Mr. Jefferson, as well as other Jeffersonian memorabilia (my library could probably qualify as an annex of Monticello – where my mother-in-law works, by the way). But, while I may be a fan of Mr. Jefferson, I see nothing gained by sugar-coating his record on slavery. One of the more recent, and quite harsh, assessments of Jefferson the slaveowner is Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves by Henry Wiencek. It does not paint a pretty picture.

  • Jay Anderson

    You touch on a very interesting point, namely, the status of the emancipated slave. In Roman law, an emancipated slave automatically acquired citizenship; indeed, one of the forms of manumission was “censu,” enrolling him as a citizen in the Census.

    Laws restricting manumission in the early Empire, like the Lex Furia and the Lex Aelia Sentia did not prevent the slave obtaining his freedom de facto, for the Praetor protected him against his former master, his heirs and creditors and allowed him actions against third parties. They did prevent him acquiring citizenship.

    During the Revolution, the National Convention followed the Roman mode; the Decree of 16 Pluviôse An II. It declared everyone domiciled in the colonies to be French citizens, a sort of manumission censu en masse.

  • “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation.”
    The Supreme SOVEREIGN Being WHO is GOD and in WHOSE image man is made endows sovereignty to each and every human soul at creation. Innocent and virgin, the sovereign person comes into being and is visited by the sins of his parents, the sin of Adam, concupiscence. The sovereign personhood of the human being constitutes the nation (state) from the very first instance of his existence and is the state’s compelling interest in the newly begotten. His sovereign personhood makes of him a citizen. That of being a citizen and having a nation is not a requirement of being a sovereign person.
    “Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.” Every citizen is a public agent and incumbent upon him is the social order, he is not elected, but sent by Jesus to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

    @Jay Anderson:
    “his lifelong view that emancipation had to go hand-in-hand with expatriation of the freed slaves; his paternalistic belief that slaves were incapable of supporting themselves in freedom and his fear they would become burden to society; his belief in gradual measures operating through the legal processes of government; and, after 1806, a state law that required freed slaves to leave Virginia within a year. Jefferson wrote that this law did not “permit” Virginians to free their slaves; he apparently thought that, for an enslaved African American, slavery was preferable to freedom far from one’s home and family.”, ” At least three others were unofficially freed, when he allowed them to run away without pursuit (Beverly Hemings, Harriet Hemings, and James Hemings, son of Critta Hemings Bowles)
    Jefferson did care about the people who lived and served on his estate. There were no whippings, no cripplings, no harsh treatment. Perhaps the condition of the slaves under the law is what caused Jefferson to over indulge. At the time, the law forbade anyone to teach a slave how to read and write. A school teacher broke the law and taught Frederick Douglas how to read and write.

    “Master of the Mountain” was a nickname Thomas Jefferson acquired when he studied on the mountain and later built Monticello there. Jefferson’s lofty expression of the eternal truths of man, that man is created equal (not born equal) and endowed by “their Creator”… and among these rights are the “unalienable” Right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” will not be abridged or abrogated by any finite law. Jefferson still speaks for “We”, the people.

  • “… There were no whippings, no cripplings, no harsh treatment…”

    I don’t believe that to be accurate. This is from a Monticello historian defending Jefferson against Wiencek’s book (even in defending Jefferson, she acknowledges that whippings took place):

    “Jefferson actually ordered the manager of the nailery to refrain from using the whip, except ‘in extremities.’ And there were no ten-year-olds in the shop at the time; most were fifteen to eighteen, with two others about to be thirteen and fourteen.

    “Whipping boys of any age is terrible to contemplate, but we all know that the whip was the universal tool of slave discipline in Virginia. The more interesting point, which Wiencek does not explore, is that Jefferson was experimenting with methods of discipline that might help minimize use of the whip.”

    http://www.readthehook.com/108605/wiencek-misled-readers-jeffersons-record

    So, perhaps Jefferson was more humane than the average slaveholder in not wanting his slaves whipped indiscriminately, but it would be a stretch to say that his slaves were never whipped and never received harsh treatment.

    Again, don’t get me wrong. I consider Jefferson a great man who, as you say, is the voice of our “National Creed”. BUT, he’s a great man DESPITE his record on slavery, and certainly NOT BECAUSE of it.

  • @Jay Anderson: “BUT, he’s a great man DESPITE his record on slavery, and certainly NOT BECAUSE of it.” It might be said that Jefferson was a victim of circumstances. I must confess that I am jealous of you intimate knowledge of Jefferson, and I thank you for what I learned.
    Thomas Jefferson understood and inscribed personal sovereignty and national sovereignty, intrinsic freedom and extrinsic freedom into our founding principles: The sovereign personhood of the newly begotten individual of the human species is endowed by “their Creator”, the Supreme Sovereign Being. The first act of the human being’s sovereign free will is to give consent to come into existence as a human being. This first act of sovereign free will in giving consent to be, that is, to come into existence, is made by the human being’s sovereign, rational, immortal human soul, and is, in addition, an act of sovereign FREEDOM. This free will act of sovereign FREEDOM constitutes the sovereign nation. There are no nations who constitute themselves without this free will act of sovereign FREEDOM made by the human soul.

    “Human existence is the criterion for the objective ordering of human rights.” Francisco Suarez.

    Francisco Suárez, by name Doctor Eximius, Spanish theologian and philosopher, a founder of international law.
    His principal study in philosophy is the Disputationes Metaphysicae (1597). In this work, which treats especially the problems of human will and the concept of general versus particular phenomena.
    He wrote apologetic works on the nature of the Christian state. Among them were De Virtute et Statu Religionis (1608–09) and Defensio Fidei Catholicae (1613), opposing Anglican theologians who defended the claim of kings to rule as God’s earthly representatives. This theory, the divine right of kings, was advanced in England at the time by James I, who subsequently burned Suárez’ Defensio on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. On the question of man’s ability to effect his own salvation by his works, Suárez, in his De Vera Intelligentia Auxilii Efficacis (1605, pub. 1655), supported the view of the Congruist movement, which held that God gave man sufficient grace to achieve the virtuous conduct congruent to, or in harmony with, his own will.
    Suárez expounded his political theory and philosophy of law in De Legibus (1612; “On Laws”) as well as in the Defensio. Having refuted the divine-right theory of kingly rule, he declared that the people themselves are the original holders of political authority; the state is the result of a social contract to which the people consent. Arguing for the natural rights of the human individual to life, liberty, and property, he rejected the Aristotelian notion of slavery as the natural condition of certain men. He criticized most of the practices of Spanish colonization in the Indies in his De Bello et de Indis (“On War and the Indies”). The islands of the Indies he viewed as sovereign states legally equal to Spain as members of a worldwide community of nations. (Britannica)

  • @Ted Seeber:
    And who gets to say who is a man with The Rights of Man?
    That is why the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen declares, “in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being” (uses God to bear witness to heresy. The Second Commandment prohibits man from using God’s name in vain.) that “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. (“This theory, the divine right of kings, was advanced in England at the time by James I, who subsequently burned Suárez’ Defensio on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. On the question of man’s ability to effect his own salvation by his works, Suárez, in his De Vera Intelligentia Auxilii Efficacis (1605, pub. 1655), supported the view of the Congruist movement, which held that God gave man sufficient grace to achieve the virtuous conduct congruent to, or in harmony with, his own will.” This is called man’s sovereignty over himself or discipline, if you like, but the word “sovereignty” and “sovereign personhood” endowed by God, “their Creator” is a more distinct word.) No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation” (personal sovereignty be damned.), (communism usurping the sovereignty of the human soul and the free exercise of the free will.) and that “Law is the expression of the general will.(except when the law is not the expression of TRUTH and the virtue of Justice, a virtue that ought to be expressed in the general will.) Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation.(If the law expresses TRUTH and JUSTICE. and his representative practices TRUTH and JUSTICE. Otherwise the citizen is disenfranchised.) It must be the same for all, (in TRUTH and JUSTICE) whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, (Here, the state makes no distinction between the people who choose to belong and those who choose differently, by giving all the citizens “equality” in the eyes of the law. “Equality the state gives, the state can take away” Thomas Jefferson), being equal in the eyes of the law,(“in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being”), are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, (to work for the state for free) according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents” and that “Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.” (No. Society does not have a right to require of every state appointed man as a public agent an account of his administration. A private person serves God alone and does not answer to the state unless he is a subject to the state without freedom. Here the Declaration makes of all people, subjects to the state. The Declaration slips from citizens to society, from the individual person to the group. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen slips from the Rights of Man to the obligations of the citizen to the state, all using the auspices of the Supreme Being, completely ignoring the sovereignty of Man endowed by and under the auspices of the Supreme Being) This Declaration on the Rights of Man sounds like it was written by Lenin. FREEDOM
    “Human existence is the criterion for the objective ordering of human rights.” Francisco Suarez.

  • Michael Patterson-Seymore and Mary DeVoe- yes, the French adopted the Americanist definition of liberty, which is equally heresy from the Catholic point of view, and as such, the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” has no more reason to it than anything Jefferson wrote.

    Freedom to do what one WANTS, instead of what one OUGHT, is nothing more than slavery to sin.

  • Ted Seeber:“The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” uses God to uphold the divine right of kings and the serfdom of the ordinary man. The Declaration of Independence declares that all men are kings. Jesus Christ true God and true man is King of kings.

  • Properly ordered, all government should be reporting to the Vatican. God first. Religion first. I am a Catholic American, not an American Catholic.

  • Well, I’m a Catholic first, which is why I’m an American Catholic. My citizenship is the adjective, my faith is the noun.

    But I’m skeptical of any one world government, even one run by the Vatican, which is what any agency would be if all government reported to it. We should know from history that the Church works better when it is the spiritual guide of governments and institutions, rather than a government itself.

  • Right now, thanks to Jefferson and his ilk in France, it’s neither. Everything the Pope says, the governments do the opposite.

  • Ted Seeber: This is the finest definition of the principle of separation of church and state, I have ever read. From John Henry Cardinal Newman.
    ” Lastly, he, (the Pope) is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”
    “…in all things morally permitted” is the cornerstone of a just society, which as you know, has been eradicated from our culture. Human sacrifice in abortion, the lie about human sexuality in pornography, the lie about marriage in homosexual behavior, the lie about love in contraception and on and on. Only TRUTH WHO is Jesus Christ has freedom under our Constitution. Jesus Christ is a sovereign person and a citizen of the world, a citizen exiled, maligned and crucified.

    Israel was a theocracy. The Law of God, the Ten Commandments ruled. Jesus was put to death for blasphemy. The divine right of kings allowed king Herod to put twenty-five innocent children to death. Crime happens when the principle of separation of church and state is violated and citizens are not recognized as sovereign persons.

  • Jesus Christ was executed for challenging the power of Caesar, and Herod followed Caesar, not God.

  • As Christ said, His kingdom is not of this world. He also said Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and unto God the things that are God. The Church controlling governments is an impossibility and against Scripture. When the Church was hand in glove with officially Catholic states, it was normally the state that called the tune and the local Church danced to it. The Gallican heresy, which predated the French Revolution, by centuries, is a prime example of this. Additionally, considering that the Vactican has been repeatedly unable to get the Vatican Bank to behave in a way that does not scandalize the faithful and leave the Vatican perpetually teetering on bankruptcy, I’d say there was good evidence that the Vactican simply lacks the expertise to execise secular power.

  • “Jesus Christ was executed for challenging the power of Caesar, and Herod followed Caesar, not God.”

    That is what His false accusers claimed. Christ challenged no earthly monarchy. His movement did challenge the religious authority of the temple priests and that is what the true motivation behind His execution was.

  • Jesus Christ was not executed for what he did. And Thomas Jefferson was no Jesus Christ.

    Deists are one step away from atheist. And any government that allows the mass murder of 55 million people in the womb, is not a legitimate government.

  • Donald R McClary

    There has been an inevitable tension between the spiritual and temporal authorities, for as long as there have been Christian rulers. Theodosius the Great, the last ruler of the undivided empire underwent church discipline at the hands of St Ambrose after the massacre of Thessalonica. In spiritual matters, Theodosius was Ambrose’s subject, just as Ambrose was Theodosius’s subject in civil matters. We see the same thing with Gregory VII and Henry IV at Canossa and with Boniface VIII and Philippe le Bel.

    It is this that underlies the insistence of the “Throne and Altar” conservative that the ruler of a Christian people must be a faithful son of the Church. Chateaubriand was typical of this school, when he described Christian Rome as being for the modern what Pagan Rome had been for the ancient world—the universal bond of nations, instructing in duty, defending from oppression.

  • P.S. Religious freedom is what Lenin promised the 79 Bolsheviks who assassinated the Czar and executed the Bolshevik Revolt which changed the world into communism for over a century. When the Bolsheviks came to Lenin and requested their religious freedom, Lenin laughed them out of his office. Lenin imposed the divine right of kings using God to repel God just as the atheists do in America. In FREEDOM the individual is acknowledged as a sovereign person with civil rights. In communism, the group or state or “community” is all that matters. When an individual becomes useless to the group, he no longer is recognized or acknowledged. He literally ceases to exist and may be killed or ignored to death. In FREEDOM the individual person is acknowledged. In communism, only the group matters, bringing about death. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen has an excellent video on religious freedom and communism from which I have loosely quoted. My question to you is: With abortion and euthanasia at the gates is any individual really enjoying freedom in America? Wanton disregard of human life does not qualify as FREEDOM. Obama does not qualify as having a divine right of kings, especially since Obama has removed conscience protections from Obamacare. Lenin is still laughing.
    No. Ted Seeber: Atheism and Deism are exactly opposites.

  • What government has power is the wrong question. I’m for Apostolic government, not government by fallible men who will always disappoint.

    And individualism? How is that different than paganism? All you have done is replace God with yourself- turned the individual into an idol.

  • Your concept of religious liberty leads to the legitimization of other religions, including Satanism and the Moloch-worshiping eugenicists of Planned Parenthood. I don’t see any good that comes from legitimizing non-Catholic religion. The Protestant Reformation was a mistake.

  • “I’m for Apostolic government, not government by fallible men who will always disappoint.”

    When the popes were secular rulers of the Papal States they often made a complete hash out of it. Outside of their charism of infallibility, popes are just as fallible as secular rulers, perhaps more so as the average pope, at least today, has no experience with ruling a secular polity.

  • Really? Outside of moral issues it seems to me that most Vatican proposals regarding secular government tend to replicate European socialism, actually worse than that since it is easy to make proposals when one has no responsibility for carrying them out. The Vatican solution to most secular problems since Vatican II has usually been to call upon government to conjure more money out of thin air and to increase its size. That is not an improvement over the type of government that is leading most of the world off a fiscal cliff. Once again however it is ludicrous to expect secular government expertise from the Vatican. That is like someone going to a carpenter for a legal opinion, or someone asking me how best to fix their leaky bathtub.

  • I agree, Don. And I would add that ours is indeed a legitimate government insomuch as it operates with the consent of the governed. No government makes perfect decisions, and its imperfections are apt to reflect and resemble those of the governed. Legal abortion is certainly a horrible moral wrong, and I worry that God’s patience with us is limited. But the problem is not our government as such; the problem is citizenry that elects that government.

    For the reasons Don suggests, it is doubtful that government by the Church would improve society generally. It is certain that it would not improve the Church.

  • ” . . . it is doubtful that government by the Church would improve society generally. It is certain that it would not improve the Church.”

    You are 100% correct on both counts.

    B/C the Church’s mission is to fiercely exercise zeal for the glory of God and zeal for the salvation of souls, not to create a heaven on Earth, which always results in Hell on Earth.

  • You consider a government that has produced a holocaust of 55 million dead to be legitimate? And you would rather have heaven on earth and hell for eternity than hell on earth and heaven for eternity?

    Truly I say, Americanism is short sighted and incompatible with Catholicism.

  • You confuse government and religion Ted. Trying to turn a religion into a government is always a tragic error, just as much as trying to turn government into a religion. The idea that abortion delegitimizes the government is as wrong now as was the argument made by the abolitionists in the 19th century that slavery delegitimized government. Government is always a necessary evil since men are not angels. That governments will often commit evils arises from that same fact. Attempting to transform the Church into a government, something that goes against the intent of Christ, would be no solution to the problem and would probably worsen it by adding religious antipathies to partisan disagreements.

  • Catholicism is unique among religions in that it asserts only ONE holy, CATHOLIC, and apostolic Church. THAT should be our guiding principle for all of mankind; that is, after all, what the word Catholic means. A government that supports the dehumanization of the unborn is no more legitimate than one that supports the dehumanization of the negro or the dehumanization of the Jew. Such a government needs to be replaced with one obedient to the Church.

    The fact that you would support a government which has no right to life, makes me question your theology. There is nothing that is good in such a government. It can only be converted, not supported.

    One cannot serve two masters.

  • As for religious antipathies, there is a simple solution to that: monocultural society. Pluralism is evil.

  • Ted, need we remind you that when Paul told believers to submit to governing authorities it was to a governing authority that legalized infanticide AND slavery? (oh and so much worse)

    And you would rather have heaven on earth and hell for eternity than hell on earth and heaven for eternity?

    But the “heaven on earth…” part is exactly what you’re advocating. 1) Just as in heaven, all will be forced to worship & acknowledge God (because He’s right there!). 2) Yet to force people to worship Him you will transform yourself into such a devil & tyrant that Herod will seem a saint in comparison.

    God calls us to love Him. The only problem is, only by having the freedom to not love can there be real and true love. (thus why there was a tree in the garden) Thus for Christians, only by having freedom of religion can there be true religion. Yes some might abuse that freedom and turn away from where they ought, but take it from them is to reduce the humanity they were created with and make their worship of God a sham. To not bring Him sons, but slaves.

  • Between 1870 and 1939, the spiritual mission of the Church was gravely hampered, by the open hostility of most Catholics to the Republic, which neatly matched the anti-clericalism of the bouffeurs de curé. Leo XIII had exhorted Catholic to “rally to the Republic,” explaining that a distinction must be drawn between the form of government, which ought to be accepted, and its laws which ought to be improved, only to be accused by the Catholic press of “kissing the feet of their executioners.” In 1940, alas, too many Catholics rallied, not to the Republic, but to Vichy. After the Liberation most of the Catholic politicians were in jail, a few were shot and the rest fled abroad. It was De Gaulle and the Fifth Republic that began to heal the divisions.

    The state of the Church in France today owes much to this bitter legacy of turning faith into faction.

  • Individual faith is needed for true religion, but that does NOT mean we should tolerate immorality and heresy. Rome was a far more more just government than America is.

    Abandoning justice and morality to achieve freedom is very profitable and easy for the short term- but the billions you would condemn to the everlasting fire becuse you are afraid to preach truth and have the governnment subserviant to God is horrifying.

  • “As for religious antipathies, there is a simple solution to that: monocultural society. Pluralism is evil.”

    How would you suggest that we deal with the three-quarters of our society who are not Catholic?

  • Rome was a far more more just government than America is.

    Oh I’m dying to hear your reasoning on that one. *gets popcorn* Go ahead. You have my undivided attention.

  • “How would you suggest that we deal with the three-quarters of our society who are not Catholic? ”

    That’s why no government, society, or market should have more than 100,000 citizens.

    Let them have their own cities.

    As to the just Roman (pagan Roman) government: Everybody, slave and free, was guaranteed their daily bread, the earliest welfare program. If the rich wanted governmental power, they needed to pay for impressive public works projects to gain the support of the people (some of which are still around today). And at least they didn’t define freedom by killing off the unborn.

  • That’s why no government, society, or market should have more than 100,000 citizens.

    Yeah, in America it’s called Federalism. aka the 10th amendment.

    As to the just Roman (pagan Roman) government: Everybody, slave and free, was guaranteed their daily bread, the earliest welfare program.

    What, like the EBT card today?

    Of course that’s not even looking whether these programs actually worked or were effective (else, how were there starving people in Jesus’ day?) nor whether that ultimately brought down the Roman empire when the money ran out. (then who had daily bread?)

    If the rich wanted governmental power, they needed to pay for impressive public works projects to gain the support of the people (some of which are still around today).

    In other words, the old world equivalent of billboards. Or pork projects if you’re actually in Congress.

    So nothing different there.

    And at least they didn’t define freedom by killing off the unborn.

    No, they just killed off the already born. In fact, it was christians leading against this practice that led to the creation of orphanages.

    So at best, you’ve merely made the point that Rome was as just as the current USA, certainly far from “more just”.

  • The state of the Church in France today owes much to this bitter legacy of turning faith into faction.

    About 85% of the members of the French National Assembly voted to delegate plenary authority to Marshal Petain. Marshal Petain was a roue, Pierre Laval was a freemason who made his career in the Radical Party, Pierre Pucheu had no religious affiliation, Jacques Doriot had no religious affiliation, and the Croix de Feu was among the first to take up arms against the Germans.

  • The 10th Amendment was eliminated by the 14th Amendment, and neither even began to touch Article I Section 10, which makes subsidiarity illegal in the United States.

    Federalism is the problem, not the solution.

  • By the way, in the general elections held in France in Oct. 1945, the ballots were evenly divided between the Communist Party, the Catholic MRP, the socialist SFIO, and various other parties. There is no Christian democratic party of any consequence in France anymore, just a small incorporated faction of the UPM led by Christine Boutin. You will recall that UPM was the omnibus concoction of crooked hack Jacques Chirac, led for some years by the satyr-popinjay Nicolas Sarkozy.

  • I think Mr. Seeber is troll-bating everyone. Time to ban.

  • More Mr. Seeber is demoralized, in despair of ever living under a moral government, and has lost all faith in man.

    Holding Jefferson up to be a hero over Christ is as bad as holding him to be a scoundrel. Give me the Gospel, not utopian visions of “Freedom”. Sacrificing Truth for Freedom leads only to slavery.

    Though, of course, Standford Nutting would agree with you guys:

  • The 10th Amendment was eliminated by the 14th Amendment, and neither even began to touch Article I Section 10, which makes subsidiarity illegal in the United States.

    This coming from the guy who said that Rome was more just because they didn’t “define freedom by killing off the unborn”. Sorry, I can’t get over that. Let me quote from the linked article:

    But what is most chilling is that it was openly practiced. Pagan society approved of the practice and encouraged it. “Not only was the exposure of infants a very common practice, it was justified by law and advocated by philosophers.” Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, page 118. See also Durant, op. cit., page 56. In Greece and ancient Rome a child was virtually its father’s chattel-e.g., in Roman law, the Patria Protestas granted the father the right to dispose of his offspring as he saw fit. In Sparta, the decision was made by a public official. The Twelve Tables of Roman Law held: “Deformed infants shall be killed” De Legibus, 3.8. Of course, deformed was broadly construed and often meant no more than the baby appeared “weakly.” The Twelve Tables also explicitly permitted a father to expose any female infant. Stark, op. cit., page 118.

    Leading pagan leaders and philosophers also encouraged the practice. Cicero defended infanticide by referring to the Twelve Tables. Plato and Aristotle recommended infanticide as legitimate state policy. Cornelius Tacitus went so far as to condemn the Jews for their opposition to infanticide. He stated that the Jewish view that “it was a deadly sin to kill an unwanted child” was just another of the many “sinister and revolting practices” of the Jews. Histories 5.5. Even Seneca, otherwise known for his relatively high moral standards, stated, “we drown children at birth who are weakly and abnormal.” De Ira 1.15.

    Federalism is the problem, not the solution.

    This coming from the guy who said: “That’s why no government, society, or market should have more than 100,000 citizens. Let them have their own cities.” That’s LITERALLY what federalism is!

    So… you have a solution, that you then call the problem. Just… you’re mad. You’re absolutely and completely stark raving mad that’s the only answer.

    Or you’re ill-informed and thinking that “federalism” has something to do with the federal government. Which is wrong. Here’s the money quote from the above link:

    “Federalism — the process whereby you push most political questions to the lowest democratic level possible”

    And note: lowest would mean by population. i.e. States would be “lower” than the federal government. Counties would be lower than states, etc.

  • Article I Section 10 of the US Constitution reserves all economic and military power to the federal government. The 14th Amendment reserves the rest to the Federal government. THAT is your vaulted federalism- not a collection of city states, but a centralized economy and centralized government no different than the Kremlin.

  • Article I Section 10 of the US Constitution reserves all economic and military power to the federal government. The 14th Amendment reserves the rest to the Federal government. THAT is your vaulted federalism- not a collection of city states, but a centralized economy and centralized government no different than the Kremlin.

    No, that’s not federalism, that’s centralization.

    For someone who claims to be so committed to truth, you’re sure arguing against it. (like if we were talking about a blue pen and you started shoving it in our faces screaming “no, it’s a red pen!”)

  • Actually the Romans routinely practiced abortion and infanticide. See one of Juvenal’s satires for the details. Christians were noted for not practicing abortion and infanticide. The bread ration was only for the citizens of the city of Rome. The rest of the empire could go hang. The people lost what little voice they had in the State with the coming of the Empire and only the residents of Rome in any case, due to the necessity of being in Rome to vote for the major offices of the State under the Republic, had any realistic franchise, and that was weighted so that the votes of the wealthy usually controlled the elections. The subura slum dwellers in Rome lived in a misery which would appall most moderns and none of our welfare state recipients would wish to change places with them.

    The country is never going to dissolve into city states of 100,000.

  • The bread ration was only for the citizens of Rome.

    D’oh, another factor I forgot, thanks for the reminder Don. Something we forget in America is that while many were “subjects” of the Roman empire, not everyone was a citizen.

    So Rome provided bread for a fraction of the total population living within its borders. Anyone have estimates on how many this was?

  • Around about 150,000 out of a population of circa 25,000,000

  • Thanks Don.

    So by my math, that means according to Ted, the Romans were “more just” than us because they provided daily bread to 0.6% of the population?

    So let’s see here… per http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/SNAPsummary.htm the total population receiving USA “daily bread” in 2012 (latest numbers) is 46,609,000. Total US population? A little over 313,000,000. Meaning that the USA provides daily bread to 14.89% of it’s population.

    Just… like I said: madness. By the very standard chosen, the USA is more just than the Roman empire. This would literally be a case where Ted called evil good and good, evil.

  • The 25,000,000 for the population estimate of the Empire is a low ball estimate. Other estimates range up to 120 million.

  • Justice is predicated on intent. The intent of the free bread might have been to prevent starving bodies on the streets of Rome, or to get reelected or to prevent riot. “Truth, Justice and the American Way” to paraphrase the Superheroes, requires men of good will and men of good will must acknowledge free will, that part of the sovereign person who accepts eternal TRUTH an seeks the TRUTH of God every instance of his life. This requires the acknowledgement of the rational, immortal human soul. A great government requires great people.

  • Justice is predicated on intent. I suppose the “intent” of the free bread was so that the city of Rome would not be filled with the starving bodies. The free will of the sovereign person chooses to seek for the TRUTH. The TRUTH may not be indoctrinated as exhibited by Kevin O’Brien and refused by his students. The TRUTH may be found in the hearts of people of good will. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all else will be added”

  • Mary de Voe

    The free bread is easily explained. As Talleyrand observed, “Governing has never been anything other than postponing by a thousand subterfuges the moment when the mob will hang you from the nearest lamp-post, and every act of government is nothing but a way of not losing control of the people.”

Basically Good People: The Great Modern Heresy

Tuesday, October 8, AD 2013

There’s an odd backwards moral reasoning to which our modern age seems particularly susceptible. Surely you’ve heard it:

Y does X. Y is a basically good person. Therefore, X must be okay.

You hear it from all sides of the cultural divide.

“Joe and Fred are married. They’re good people. How can you say that that kind of relationship is wrong?”

“Cindy does that. She’s a good person. So how can that be racist?”

Think back a bit, and you’ll see that a huge number of the casually-made moral arguments one hears these days boil down to this.

There are a couple big problems.

For starters, what exactly is a “good person”?

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42 Responses to Basically Good People: The Great Modern Heresy

  • “We restrict sin, you know, bad sin, to being something done by “people not like me”. Like Nazis, everyone’s favorite example of sin. We all know that’s “evil”. And if that’s evil, and I’m not a Nazi, then surely whatever I do can’t be evil, right? -”

    The SS often prided themselves, at least before the War, in that they were not like the swinish, brutal SA. Many of the SS officers were highly educated and they rejected the boorish and clumsy tactics of the SA. Of course their dire sins were rather more scarlet since they had less excuse for them than those they looked down upon. Accurate self assessment is usually difficult and accurately assessing groups we belong to, and love, only slightly less difficult.

    In one of the Lincoln Douglas debates Douglas noted that some of the finest people in the country owned slaves. Perfectly true, and perfectly irrelevant in regard to the morality of slavery.

  • One probable contributing factor in this twisted notion of “basically good people” is the virtual canonization of Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl,” particularly the passage written less than three weeks before the family’s betrayal and arrest by the SD: “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

    I’ve always doubted that this opinion survived to the end of Anne’s journey at Bergen-Belsen. While typical, understandable, and to a limited extent excusable in a middle-class adolescent, it is inexcusable when held by anyone pretending to rational adulthood. But that is our problem, is it not? We are in many ways immured in a culture whose direction has been allowed to devolve onto an elitist tribe of arrested adolescents — the sophomoronocracy that now governs us and tells us what we must do and believe.

  • Hmm… you’re on the right track but still a little off I think. Let’s back up a minute.

    And yet, the way the argument is deployed, once someone is determined to be a “basically good person”, every action that person takes in now “basically good”.

    What’s an example of this?

    “Cindy does that. She’s a good person. So how can that be racist?”

    That alone disproves the thesis. Just consider George Zimmerman. He really did just about every thing against racism that a person in modern society could, yet how were things read when he was arrested? Evil… racist… etc.

    The fact of the matter is, that actions are excused by a person is not something we see today. Rather I think actions AND people are excused by the cause (or movement, think political not philosophical in this case). Things and people that help what’s seen as “a good cause” are thus good actions and people. Anyone and anything which doesn’t help said cause or helps a cause seen as “bad” are thus bad.

    So let’s return to the conclusion:

    Like Nazis, everyone’s favorite example of sin. We all know that’s “evil”. And if that’s evil, and I’m not a Nazi, then surely whatever I do can’t be evil, right?

    You’re… partially right. First of all, I think your statement assumes a lot more self-reflection than goes on with a lot of people. Second, the principle is more one of “I’m not as bad as…”. I’ve seen plenty that believe in evil and doing bad things, but comparisons are always made to extremes. One of the downsides of the internet is that it’s made all of us a lot more susceptible to the pharisee’s syndrome when praying with the tax collector. We might admit we are bad, “but we’re not as bad as [them over there].” What we do may be a little fishy, “but at least we didn’t kill a guy” (or worse: be racist).

    In other words, I think you have the cause/effect somewhat backwards. People don’t see actions as good because good people do them. They see actions (and people) as WORSE and then conclude that other people and actions must be good because they’re not that bad. So just as we all seem poor when compared to Bill Gates, everyone seems like saints when compared to Hitler or Stalin.

  • I hear you, Nate, but still agree with Darwin. The dominant psychology at work is “I’m a good person; I do or want to do X; therefore X must be ok.” I see it every day.

  • And I think the basic problem is pride. People cannot bear to think of themselves as fallen sinners.

  • Well of course it’s pride. It’s been pride since day 8. 😉

    But I also think that for a lot of people, the very meaning of “sin” and “sinner” has been lost. Thus things like the ‘moral event horizon’ and such in popular culture.

  • But sin no longer exists in our world; there are only good choices and less good choices. To condemn the act is to condemn the person; and if the person is perceived as a good person, then to condemn the act is to condemn the good person. And, of course, we should not judge….anything.

    This is where our relativist culture has taken us.

  • Nate,

    Just consider George Zimmerman. He really did just about every thing against racism that a person in modern society could, yet how were things read when he was arrested? Evil… racist… etc.

    Actually, in some ways, I think that’s a good example. It seemed like in the wider media everyone wanted to go to one of two extremes: Either Zimmerman was a hero faced with a drug crazed thug, or Zimmerman was a racist out hunting darkies and Martin was an innocent little child we’d never start a fight. Few people seemed able to land in between.

  • Everyone knows the bit from Screwtape Proposes a Toast, right?

  • The GZ story is the opposite of the “basically good . . . ” issue.

    The Prez, AG and their media cheerleaders needed a distraction to energize black, racist voters.

    So, they distorted, fabricated, and omited, as necessary, to taint GZ as the first Hispanic racist.

    PS: the MSM and liberals hate FOXNEWS for the same reasons that high school cheerleaders hate the girl that isn’t “sleeping with” the entire football team.

  • And to be clear: the myth is not that everyone is basically good. It’s that “people like me” or “people I like” are basically good. The flip side of that is to believe that “evil” is not something that everyone does when they sin, but rather something that only “bad people” do. People who are pretty much completely evil.

    Ernst,

    Exactly.

  • Actually, in some ways, I think that’s a good example. It seemed like in the wider media everyone wanted to go to one of two extremes: Either Zimmerman was a hero faced with a drug crazed thug, or Zimmerman was a racist out hunting darkies and Martin was an innocent little child we’d never start a fight. Few people seemed able to land in between.

    Yes, but aren’t we arguing over HOW people decided to sort him in either camp? 😉

    And to be clear: the myth is not that everyone is basically good. It’s that “people like me” or “people I like” are basically good. The flip side of that is to believe that “evil” is not something that everyone does when they sin, but rather something that only “bad people” do. People who are pretty much completely evil.

    Oh ok. Well that makes a bit more sense, though I still think the thought needs more refinement. After all, in the Zimmerman case, George was “most like” the people who considered him a demon while “least like” those who considered him an angel. (oversimplifying, to be honest, I saw a wide variety of coverage)

    So again, we must ask how these things are sorted. I think you’re selling short the phenomenon pointed out by Jonah here. It’s almost consequentialism cranked up to 11 (thousand): What is good for good causes is thus good itself.

    It’s the consequence of “the personal is political”. That is, politics drives out the personal, eventually personhood itself.

    I think, still a lot to be hashed out IMHO.

  • This calls to mind Pelagianism, which is based on the same notion, and so that in that sense, the heresy is not so modern.

    It is also one of the reasons Islam seems, on the surface at least, a much more appealing religion than Christianity. Whereas the latter faith (thanks to the Greek philosophy it incorporated) wraps itself up into knots over what it means to be good, and to live a good life, classical Islam takes a much more basic approach: as long as one follows a small set of rules rigorously, one is indeed good enough to be assured of heaven.

    I suspect that in future generations, Islamic apologists will blame the latter-day obsession with violent martyrdom blowing up those who are lesser or tainted as having been caused by excessive proximity to angst-ridden Christians who for the most part can never know how they stand with God, so that Christianity is to be blamed for all that violence. Surely, liberals and secularists the world over will cheer that notion. It will all be a lie of course, but when one is talking about Islam (and secularism and liberalism), that can hardly be avoided.

  • Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

    Jeremiah17:9-10) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”

    Romans 3:10-12: “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.'”

    Ephesians 2:1-3 “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.”

    Mark 10:18 “Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. ‘”

    —–

    This idea that we human beings are good has got to be smashed. Left to our own devices, without the grace of God, we are utterly depraved and we all deserve to burn in hell forever and ever. It is only because of our Blessed Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross that we do not get what we deserve. We all – myself most of all – fall down on our knees in the Confessional begging for mercy on our pitiful souls, because by our own individual sins we have put the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet, and thrust the spear in His side.

    Good people? With God’s grace there aren’t any.

  • Correction to last sentence. Change

    “Good people? With God’s grace there aren’t any.”

    to

    “Good people? Without God’s grace there aren’t any.”

    Thanks!

  • I do not have such a dim view of humanity Paul. People are neither all good nor all evil, but a bundle of choices that determine their ultimate fate. There is much good done by people on this planet each day, including among those who do not have the light of Christ, just as there is much evil done each day. I share the view of humanity expressed by Lincoln in my favorite passage of his many speeches:

    “These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.”

    Man has much to be ashamed of, but much also to be proud of. God deems us worthy to share His love, and even died for us. We cannot be completely worthless creatures if the Lord of the Universe lavishes such care upon us.

  • But I also think that for a lot of people, the very meaning of “sin” and “sinner” has been lost. Thus things like the ‘moral event horizon’ and such in popular culture.

    The MEH is a rather good dramatic tool– X does Y so that the cheap seats know, unequivocally, that the character is bad. It symbolizes that they’ve gone all the way.

    Poking at it, could it be said that a large part of the problem is people taking dramatic tools and using them as accurate representations?

    Everyone is the star of their own private story– some people just forget the scenes they put on the cuttingroom floor.

  • To Paul’s list of scriptures, I would add the parable of the widow’s mite that surpasses the gifts of the rich, the virtuous tax collector, the good thief of the Crucifixion, the forgiven adultress, the Prodigal Son, Lazarus, and the repeated admonition that the last will be first (and vice versa) and many others. Christianity is indeed replete with doubt and uncertainty as to who is and is not worthy.

    Interestingly, despite the numerous Old Testament teachings with a similar theme, the ne plus ultra Jewish scholar Maimonedes, who lived in an Islamic society, took a decidedly Muslim approach in quantifying worthiness (in the sense that he considered worthiness to be quantifiable). The number of rules he specified (613) is considerably larger than the five pillars Muslims need to navigate, but both criteria are far more definitive than Christianity when it comes to knowing who is and is not good enough.

    Conversely, Freud, another Jewish scholar, but one steeped in the Catholic culture of Vienna, gave us a philosophy that has more angst and self-recrimination than a Pietist confessor’s manual (and far less in the way of party-on conviviality, which is saying something).

  • @foxfier – Beautifully put. (btw, I find it funny I keep running into you all over the web… like according to hoyt… john c wright… you have good tastes :D)

  • Bravo, PWP!

    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, teach us!

    See the story of the publican (tax collector) and the pharisee (holy man).

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .”

    “No one is good except God alone . . . ” See Matt. 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:19.

    Jesus says that, in addition to obeying all the Commandments, we must sell your wealth and personally give the money to the poor, not to the state; then we must take up our crosses and follow Him. The disciples were completely amazed and asked Jesus, “Who, then, can be saved?” To which Jesus answered, “This is impossible for man, but for God everything is possible.” (Matt. 19: 16-26; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30).

  • Folks,

    I understand Donald’s point. However, I know what I did in my life, and I know perfectly well what I deserve. Thank God for Confession and Penance. If, however, I have done anything good, then that is only because of God’s grace. No one without God’s grace is worthy because ultimately only One Person is worthy – the man Christ Jesus. That doesn’t mean we sit and flagellate ourselves in eternal remorse, bewailing and bemoaning our sad fate as unworthy creatures. It means rather that we take up our cross and follow Him, and that we do so joyfully NOT because we are good (we aren’t) but because He is good and He so loved us in spite of our unworthiness that He died on that Cross to save our souls from the fires of hell.

  • @Paul & Donald

    I think there’s truth to both of you, perhaps a parable of a seed there.

    Any man can be good, there is a spark of the Creator within him after all, like a beautiful flower is waiting within a seed. But this side of the veil, there is naught for planting of that seed but rocky ground and fetid soil, such that flowers never bloom on their own but grow into choking weeds.

    It takes the care and tending of the Gardner to make the soil good, clear the rocks, pull the weeds and do everything else He can to ensure that the seed becomes the most beautiful flower it can ever be. You might see the bud of a bloom on an untended plant, or even the shriveled form here and there. These are but small reminders of the glory and beauty that can be found out there, but it takes the work of the Gardner to get the full majesty and color to come forth.

    So I would say, there is some good in people, but it takes God for us to be the best that we can be.

    And if He helps us be our best, well maybe we’ll get others to be just a little better.

  • “You will know them by what they do.”

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  • Nate’s articulation seems closer to my experience.

    There is a strong sense in the West of “good enough is good enough.”

    I can’t remember the last time that I talked intimately with someone and they didn’t acknowledge their faults. In a post Freudian age, I’m not sure that there is a lot of room for rampant egoism. Rather, there is schizophrenic existence at work in which it is both desirable to be publicly bold and privately vulnerable.

    Senses of right and wrong are determined in degrees, not absolutes.

    I know a guy who beats himself up regularly for having cheated on his wife when she was eight months pregnant but, now that his kids are off to college, he doesn’t think anything is wrong with going to strip clubs. Same impulse, similar results, completely different assessment of how wrong the act is.

    Taking that over to the culture as a whole, we recognize ourselves as being flawed and, so, similarly culpable acts put those people on the same plane as us. Since we can’t conceive of a God who would doom “everybody,” we figure that wrong acts that are on our plane are not a big deal and acts that aren’t are a bigger deal.

    So the guy who cheated on his wife during her pregnancy all those years ago is truly concerned – not enough to return to the Church but concerned nonetheless – that that aged sin is a deal breaker. However, all of the strip clubs isn’t a big deal… He’s not a “good guy” because of what he did back then but, if he hadn’t done that, he would be “good enough” and, well, “good enough is good enough for salvation” because God is merciful.

  • I agree with Nate too that “everyone is the star of their own private story– some people just forget the scenes they put on the cuttingroom floor” is one of the most accurate observations I’ve read.

  • A good sacramental confession will wipe clean all sins. Take a half hour on Saturday; unload the burden, receive Christ’s absolution, and do your penance.

    Christ did not intend for us to dwell on sin. He died to overcome the spirit of this world and give us life everlasting.

    Oh, and it would be great to thank the gracious priest who selflessly sacrifices his life to stand “in personam Christi” to listen to your confession and bestow upon you God’s absolution. There is no more freeing act than Confession to help one move on with one’s life. And the Church is always glad to see you even if you have not been back to Confession in 35 years.

  • Excellent advice Sharon and something I’ve shared with him in the past. It has been a while so you inspire me to call.

    One of the things I’ve noticed about confession is how different it is from one priest to the next. I prefer those who acknowledge the sin and “dig deep.” That helps me firm up my resolution “to avoid the near occasion of sin.” I’ve had some priests echo what we are talking about here, sort of a “don’t be too hard on yourself, everybody makes mistakes but it is good that you are here.” The sins are wiped away of course but the sacrament has less “punch” – if you will… for me anyway.

  • It seemed like in the wider media everyone wanted to go to one of two extremes: Either Zimmerman was a hero faced with a drug crazed thug, or Zimmerman was a racist out hunting darkies and Martin was an innocent little child we’d never start a fight. Few people seemed able to land in between.

    Which wider media? Did Sean Hannity offer that view? As far as I can recall, the only defenders of Zimmerman with an established reputation were Alan Dershowitz and Jeralyn Merritt. Neither is part of the media and neither assessed Zimmerman as a hero or a thug.

  • After all, in the Zimmerman case, George was “most like” the people who considered him a demon while “least like” those who considered him an angel.

    Zimmerman defended himself with a licensed pistol, participated in a neighborhood watch program, worked for an insurance agency, was married to a beautician, lived in an inelegant suburban development (with a gate!), and wasted someone who would commonly be on the client list of a social worker. I will wager very few Zimmerman haters looked at him and saw themselves.

  • He and his wife are both fat, her makeup is unsubtle, his father is retired military (Sgt. Major, I believe), his mother is an athletic coach. Zimmerman was not part of those Thomas Sowell called “the anointed”. He is everyman, and liberals do not care for everyman.

  • I think underlying much of the urge to identify “basically good people” and excuse their actions from being any serious kind of sin is that by “basically good people” we tend to mean “people like me”.

    You have not emphasized the degree to which people value agreeable social interaction or get their moral understanding from convention, or are influenced by their aversions. They do not necessarily mean “people like me”, but “people who entertain me”, “people who put me at ease”, &c. I could have introduced you to a woman who had from her late 40s a pronounced fondness for the company of homosexual men. She also did not care for her father, her brother, her husband, or the older of her brothers-in-law. Her dealings with her sons were abrasive too. She trashed most of her friends’ husbands as well. I think the two sets of attitudes have a functional relation.

  • Matthew 7:21-23

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”

    —–

    Being a good person doesn’t get anyone into Heaven.

  • You have not emphasized the degree to which people value agreeable social interaction

    Well, thank goodness you don’t have THAT problem.

  • That is exactly right Paul and the reason – at least to my mind – that “good enough is good enough” is so awful. By reinforcing the idea that not doing really terrible things – because I think that is what people mean when they say that someone is a “good” person – means that, if there is an afterlife, we’ll be saved.

    I think that some of Pope Francis’ teaching is being used to reinforce this idea and that concerns me. His affirmation of God’s mercy and his concentration on the pastoral roles of the hierarchy are being interpreted by people that I know as “you’ll be OK. It is all those judgmental folks that are in trouble… and the really bad people of course.”

    We know this is a road to hell but do our social justice sisters and brothers – the ones who are earning their way to heaven by acts of charity? What about the “spiritual” Vatican II crowd?

    Acknowleding that “No man is good, no not one” includes us is absolutely essential to being disposed to cry out for His mercy and saving Grace. “Good enough is good enough” isn’t good enough because it can’t be because NO good act or combination of acts can be good enough.

    Please correct me if I’ve got this wrong or am missing something.

  • Another way of saying “basically good” is “decent,” and decency is a social or civic virtue, not a moral one.

    For example, I’d rather have a quiet, keep to themselves couple like Joe and Fred for neighbors than a couple of swingers like Dick and Jane with their “parties” going on every weekend all summer long.

  • Art,

    Which wider media?

    By “wider” I intended to include not just the mainstream media but the informal (mostly online) punditry. I didn’t bother keeping links, but I read a number of pieces on conservative blogs of the more exuberant sort insisting that Zimmerman was a model for all.

    I think the reality doubtless lay in between.

    You have not emphasized the degree to which people value agreeable social interaction or get their moral understanding from convention, or are influenced by their aversions.

    To the extent that people identify with and like people who are not like them, then sure. Though unless people dislike themselves, I think they in general like people whom they perceive as like themselves in whatever aspects they consider most important.

  • Nate-
    well, I did end up over at your place, so of course.

  • As an almost Catholic (in RCIA) I though that people, while “basically good” are fallen and if anything lean towards sin/sinning.

    I had never even heard this ” ‘basically good person’ is the apology for bad behavior” argument before.

    I had heard that ‘people are basically good but every culture has its own ways and who am I/are we/are you/ is anyone to judge someone else’s behavior – that’s G-D’s purview – argument. The moral relativity position. But never this action defined by my opinion of the actor argument.

    So if someone is “basically bad” then all their actions are naturally tainted and evil. Pretty lame if you ask me.

  • “I’m basically a good person” is actually a pretty sorry admission.
    To me it means “I’m not a killer or bank robber or child molester- but I feel free to do all the stuff ‘everybody does’ like cheat on my taxes, use others for my own pleasure, cheat my employees (or employers for that matter).”
    This is hardly a character reference.

    A companion phrase to “I’m a good person” that drives me nuts is “I’ve got a right to be happy” often used in reference to divorcing a loyal but now middle-aged wife.

    Anyone convinced he IS a good person (even non-Catholic) might avail himself of a guide to making an examination of conscience — something I usually find depressing & educational.

  • What does the Lord require of you? To love mercy, do justly, & walk humbly with your God. POWERFUL STUFF for daily living. Requires God’s empowering grace & strong knowledge & application of His word to accomplish. But a great short hand method of determining what is “good” in our individual lives & knowing when we are pleasing to God. Are w showing love of God’s mercy toward ourselves & others? If not, repent & ask for God’s help–He will run to our aide & give us the wisdom & ability to do better! Are our actions just? If not, repent & ask for God’s help–He will run to our aide & give us wisdom & ability to be just. Are we showing proper humility in our thoughts & actions? If not, repent & ask for God’s help–He will come to our aide as He has promised & through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit & the resurrection power of His Son (who conquered Death, Hell, & the Grave) –He will enable us to be properly humble. What an AWESOME God we serve!! Hallelujah!!

  • Thanks for addressing this issue of: “but s/he/I am / is a ‘good’ person” topic, which is just a rationalization for sin and sinful actions/ behavior. Recently, (I can’t remember who or where) addressed this topic by asking the question, “You (s/he) might be a “good” person but are you/ s/he HOLY?” According to Vatican II, we ALL are called to “Universal HOLINESS”, which is the avoidance of sinful behavior. I also think this heresy of : “but I /s/he/ is a ‘good’ person” relates to our “politically correct” culture where everyone is afraid to name sin for fear of being accused of being “judgmental”, “racist”, homophobic”, etc…. but that is a topic for another blog.

Pope Francis and the Catholic God

Monday, October 7, AD 2013

Pope Francis’s interview with atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari may not have grabbed secular headlines in the US the way that this interview with Jesuit publications did, but it has caused some stir in Catholics circles. I can certainly understand a certain amount of this. We’ve had two very intellectual popes who have lead the church for the last thirty years, taking it from a time in which even orthodox Catholics felt unsure and adrift into a new dynamism and evangelism. In addition to being towering intellects, John Paul II and Benedict XVI (Benedict even more so) were popes hailing from central/northern Europe. Encountering a Latin pope for the first time in my life (Francis is, after all, not just from Argentina but also the son of Italian immigrants, so he’s at the confluence of two southern European cultures) and one who is not a theologian, I’m realizing how much the emotive and more casual aspects of southern Europe and South America (primarily colonized by southern Europe) are not mine. Culturally and intellectually, John Paul II and Benedict XVI are simply much more my style.

That said, I don’t necessarily follow how it is that certain statements become points of controversy. One of these is from this “second interview” and it comes after Francis asks Scalfari what he believes in. Scalfari responds, “I believe in Being, that is in the tissue from which forms, bodies arise.” And Francis says:

And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being. Do you think we are very far apart?

(Scalfari says they are, and in the next interchange Francis pushes him to explain, if he believe in “Being” but doesn’t believe in God, what does he mean.)

Now, apparently this has caused some unease in Catholic circles because of the phrase “not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God”. Does this suggest some kind of indifferentism in which the Catholic understanding of God is no better than any other? A generic God without qualities that everyone has some insight into?

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6 Responses to Pope Francis and the Catholic God

  • Well done, Darwin.

  • When this came out, interview, Al Kresta gave what I believed to be a fair overview. He did his homework and brought to light the gifts that Pope Francis was sharing with Scalfari.
    This was heard on Catholic radio, Baragra broadcasting in my neck of the woods.

    Thank you Darwin for confirming what Al had viewed this to be.

    Peace of Christ as we walk through this valley of tears.

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  • @Darwin Catholic “Culturally and intellectually, John Paul II and Benedict XVI are simply much more my style.” Fine for a religious intellectual, but we peons are able to understand Pope Francis perfectly. As my old,late priest taught us in bible study….even the Indians who pray to the great man in the sky….are praying to the same God as all people do. There IS ONLY ONE GOD, WHATEVER ONE MAY CALL HIM.

  • “Catholic God” gave me pause for thought, so I indulged myself by writing out these little thoughts:
    In pagan cultures people would make gods out of wood or clay or something, set it up in a place, and ascribe certain traits and responsibility to this god or idol. The Hebrews by contrast, grew in the understanding that instead of man making god, God created man. God IS, prior to man’s definition.
    When we use the term “Greek god” we are talking mythology: man-made gods. “Norse god” or “Germanic god” may cause us a bit more trepidation that there is some spiritual reality addressed there— something occult— still we keep the “g” in the lower case, recognizing that this is not THE God. As Jews and Christians, and as Catholics we know something of God because He has revealed Himself. We can’t be afraid to say that, or should not act to pantheists and atheists like whatever their thoughts are are just as good as what God has revealed.
    We can call God “Catholic” because He is really universal. “Catholic” describes God’s catholicity— always everywhere.
    “Catholic God” also describes His relationship to HIs Church. “As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body.” (Catechism #669 ) HIs Body is Catholic. “Catholic” describes the Actual/Mystical Body of Christ/God,
    For the pope to say God is not Catholic makes one wonder if all the gods or definitions of gods are equal with him. Who is he to judge?
    God is a person, not a force or an energy or “being”. God revealed Himself to us as a person: “I” “Who”
    There is not God separate from Jesus. God is One. Allah is not Trinity. God is Trinity. Allah is not only not Catholic, Allah is not God. Vishnu is also not Catholic and not God. Allah would not enter the human race. The Catholic God does. Jesus is God. Jesus became Man and He is a Catholic God/Man.
    Was St. Peter a Catholic?
    The Catholic Church is a sacrament, a mysterious work of God, a visible sign of the invisible.The Church is eternally created by God Jesus; the Church is implicit in Israel B.C.. took it’s earthly form after Christ’s incarnation, and will continue eternally.
    As a matter of fact, I think we we get to heaven we will all be Catholic.

  • You were talking about God not being just relevant to Catholics and I agree with you as I said because of His catholicity. But the Church is not just a human response to Him
    In the old covenants there was a kind of treaty that required agreed upon responses and they met with failure
    In the new covenant God joins our human race that our end of the Covenant can be upheld. Christian covenant is not like any other covenant because of Who the Covenanters are. “Christian” . “”The Christ” has meaning. The Church of the Christ, rightly called Catholic, takes its Identification marks from its Head. It is important that that identification not be blurred into equation with smooshy agnostic ideas ( or even “we are not so far apart) agnosticism monism are worlds away from faith in the living person of Jesus The Christ Head of the Catholic Church
    The Pope, his Vicar is called as Moses was, to governance. You remember from Exodus that Moses sat in a Chair to judge and give definitive teachings.

Pope Francis on St. Francis

Friday, October 4, AD 2013

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and Pope Francis was in Assisi to celebrate his namesake’s feast day. His homily is out on the Vatican website and is both short and worth reading.

This central section struck me in particular:

What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?

1. The first thing he tells us is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.

Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate.

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9 Responses to Pope Francis on St. Francis

  • A post on TAC about Pope Francis that isn’t Chicken Little running around with his head cut off is a nice change

  • A comment from Greg Mockeridge where he isn’t bellyaching about the blog, now that is refreshing!

  • I haven’t “bellyached” about anything. What I have done is point out how ridiculous your Chicken Little screaming about the Pope’s recent comments, especially when you consider how you 1) Whitewash some of the worst behavior of certain prominent Catholics and 2) Gush like a tween girl at a Justin Beiber concert over the USCCB’s Operation Defining Religious Liberty Down (err, Fortnight for Freedom)) which equates opposition to illegal immigration to an attack on religious liberty.

    Now, one can raise valid criticisms of the Pope’s comments in recent interviews, none of what the pope says comes anywhere near bastardizing Church teaching or the sin of slander.

    When you can muster the guts to clean up your own act and stop defending things that actually do rise to the level of a scandal, you might have a moral right to pitch a bitch about Pope Francis. But until then…

  • Well Greg, you can always go check out Mark Shea’s blog. He’s been incredibly uncritical of the Pope, so maybe he’d be more your speed.

  • Greg and Mark, the two valiant defenders of the Pope! I like it!

  • First of all Paul, I am not the least bit “incredibly uncritical” of the Pope’s comments. If you have read what I said with an honest eye, you would have seen that. What I am saying is this “the pope is gonna take us back to the 1970’s” kind of hand wringing is a bunch Chicken Little crap. To that extent, I agree with Mark on that.

    And Donald, I wasn’t the one who publicly whitewashed some of Shea’s most despicable behavior, you were!

  • I call ’em like I see ’em Greg. Your problem with me is that I gave Shea the benefit of the doubt when he publicly apologized for his bad behavior. Since that time I have criticized Shea when I thought he warranted it, but you have an obsession about Shea that I do not share, and as a result I am in your bad guy book. I will soldier on nonetheless.

  • If I am reading the worry correctly; that some might take what Pope Francis has said and twist it to their agenda which is opposed to Catholic doctrine, then might we take comfort in Jesus Christ.

    If this method of Pope Francis is bringing in dialog from wayward society and opens the door to “speaking of the real relationship with Jesus,” then as long as the Holy Father doesn’t change Church doctrine then YES….Let him Sheppard. The disengagement that plagues worldly souls from conversions might be lessened by a simple Leader, namely the poor aspect of Francis.

    I do feel Donald and others angst regarding this engagement of worldly interviews, and the possible blow-back by dubious opportunist, however the gains to be made by conversions I Hope will outweigh the losses.
    Praise be Jesus Christ in HIS Angels and His Saints.

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You Have a Duty To “Ban” Books

Saturday, September 28, AD 2013

This weekend marks the conclusion of Banned Books Week, a festival of moral preening in which students, librarians, teachers and others congratulate themselves for bravely demanding that various books not be removed from library (typically school library) shelves.

The event ties in to basic modern tropes of progress and freedom. After all, says the common wisdom, who burned books? Nazis. And crazy people in the middle ages who were afraid of progress. We don’t want to be like them, do we?

Of course, choosing not to have a book in your collection is not really “banning” it (as in making it forbidden to own) nor is it “censoring” it (removing parts). So to start with much of the furor over the “banning” of books is overwrought.

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  • A pandora’s box of a post subject! 😉 Whose ox is being gored, who is doing the banning or the selecting, where lies the moral authority?
    (“moral responsibility to populate that collection with books which are suited to its purpose” )
    I’m guessing it ultimately belongs in the home? In my own Catholic home, all 5 of those pretty sharp offspring loved Life of Brian– although you know how our beloved Church felt about it.
    Maybe that is going to someday be revealed to me as the cause of the downfall of faith in at least one of them.

  • My wife has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the American Library Association has been left wing since I began paying attention to it after my bride and I were married in 1982. This stunned me since growing up the librarians I knew were very sweet and apolitical older ladies who loved books. (Perhaps one of a myriad of reasons why I was attracted to my very sweet, apolitical, when I married her, young librarian who loved books!)

    Here is a link to an article which gives a good overview of the bias from a decade ago, and the situation has if anything gotten worse:

    http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/thelonelinessofa.html

    http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2012/03/08/the-blaze-magazine-a-once-stealth-progressive-group-that-targets-children-is-now-exposed/

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/02/the-latest-addition-to-the-obamacare-army-libraries/

    Banned books week is a classic red herring. The ALA opposes parents and taxpayers having any control over books purchased with public funds. That is to be left to “neutral” gatekeepers like the ALA. Of course technology is prying this prized position away from the ideological think-a-likes that control the ALA. It has been years since I borrowed a book from a library. When I was growing up and as a young adult I would always have 5 or 6 books from a library that I was reading. When my kids were young in the nineties, before we were connected to the internet, we would take them to our local library regularly. With the internet, amazon, kindle, etc, the public libraries days, at least in their present configuration, are numbered, which both saddens and gladdens me. Saddens me from nostalgia for the role libraries played in my earlier life, especially my childhood, and gladdens me for readers, now more than ever, being able to decide for themselves the “books” they will be exposed to.

  • Thomas Sowell in 1994 called National Banned Books Week National Hogwash Week!

    http://safelibraries.org/bbw/National_Hogwash_Week.html

  • „Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen. „ – Almansor, Heinrich Heine (1821)

  • Thank you Michael
    shttp://www.journeytoberlin.com/content/dort-wo-man-bücher-verbrennt-the-memorial-at-bebelplatz

  • Michael,

    I’m not talking about burning books, though, nor am I talking about real book bans in which the government seeks to keep a book from being published or distributed. The bans being protested by Banned Book Week are simply the decision not to stick a book in a given library. I maintain that’s not only acceptable but is at times a duty. Further, I suspect that the advocates running Banned Book Week don’t actually disagree with me — they support exerting control over book collections, they just have different standards than the people they object to.

  • How many titles on building your own AR-15 are sitting on these same “censored” shelves?

    as for protection – you can throw a book or hide behind it (if it is really big or you are small) if someone decided to shoot up the library, but I think the girl sitting on the left has a better shot at making it.

Pope Francis Excommunicates and Laicizes Dissident Australian Priest

Wednesday, September 25, AD 2013

Mr. (formerly Fr.) Greg Reynolds of Melbourne, Australia expressed “shock” at being the first priest to be excommunicated by Pope Francis for advocacy of women’s ordination, homosexual marriage, and other offenses.

The letter, a copy of which NCR obtained and translated, accuses Reynolds of heresy (Canon 751) and determined he incurred latae sententiae excommunication for throwing away the consecrated host or retaining it “for a sacrilegious purpose” (Canon 1367). It also referenced Canon 1369 (speaking publicly against church teaching) in its review of the case.

“Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff having heard the presentation of this Congregation concerning the grave reason for action … of [Fr. Greg Reynolds] of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, all the preceding actions to be taken having been followed, with a final and unappealable decision and subject to no recourse, has decreed dismissal from the clerical state is to be imposed on said priest for the good of the Church,” read the document, signed by Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect for the congregation, and his secretary, Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria.

Excommunication refers to the severest measure of censure for Catholics and forbids an individual from participation in any eucharistic celebration or other worship ceremonies; the reception or celebration of sacraments; and holding any ecclesiastical or governing role in the church.

The document, dated May 31 — coincidentally Reynolds’ 60th birthday — provided no reason for the excommunication. However, a separate letter sent Friday from Hart to his archdiocesan priests indicated Reynolds’ support of women’s ordination was a primary reason.

“The decision by Pope Francis to dismiss Fr Reynolds from the clerical state and to declare his automatic excommunication has been made because of his public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church and his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest,” [Melbourne Archbishop Denis] Hart wrote.

But Reynolds said he believes the excommunication also resulted from his support of the gay community. He told NCR that in the last two years, he has attended rallies in Melbourne advocating same-sex marriage and has officiated at mass weddings of gay couples on the steps of Parliament — “all unofficial of course.”

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  • Thank you for the post and link to the “dog” article in the Aus. paper. Looking at the photo in that story made me realize just how common these little dissident groups are! looking at them felt so familiar—I feel like I know those people. I do know so many of those who are well intentioned but still just “orbiting” around the teachings of the Church, who can’t quite accept that everything isn’t OK, and that it may hurt somebody’s feelings, people just have to accept the hard truth about life. They are so often very intellectual people who can explain away and justify and prolong discussions without ever making it to the bottom line.
    It is too bad how they keep reinforcing each other and keep each other from accepting the truth. They obfuscate and persist in spinning their way through life disoriented, unwilling to just stop spinning, get a grip. and realize that you don’t have to be an observant Catholic to know that SS activity doesn’t work, is not satisfying and is in fact hurtful to the practitioners. You don’t have to be an observant Catholic to see that dogs are not human, or that women, even in the most liberated communes of the 1960 and 70 era , as in the group led here by the man formerly known as Father, are still following their womanly role of making the name tags for the gathering.

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  • I would like to request a correction. Pope Francis DID NOT excommunicate this Priest, the Priest excommunicated himself. Excommunication is not an act of the Church or Vatican, it is an act of the free will of the person. The person freely chose to go against Church teaching, therefore putting himself outside of the community of the Church, or excommunicating himself.

Moral Laws vs Moral Fashions

Monday, September 23, AD 2013

Well-known atheist Richard Dawkins managed to grab himself some less than positive reactions a couple weeks ago when he gave an interview in which he dismissed the “mild pedophilia” which was common in the English school system of his youth as not being such a big deal if one considered the climate of the times. Justifying this attitude Dawkins explained:

I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.

The points most people drew from this are:

– Actually 18th and 19th century racism was pretty bad, many at the time did recognize it, and we should in fact condemn it.

– Identifying “mild pedophilia” as some kind of okay thing is something only a sick person with no morals would do.

I don’t disagree with these points. Nor is this new territory for Dawkins, who has something of a history of trivializing child abuse. He’s the one who argued, “Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.”

But I think there’s a more general tendency to be seen in Dawkins’ comments which is worth discussing as well. As a thoroughgoing materialist, Dawkins doesn’t recognize the existence of objectively real moral laws. Rather, what he sees is a sort of moral fashion. In the 18th and 19th centuries, racism was common and socially acceptable. Even “good people” who you’d want to have in your drawing room were often highly racist. (After all, it paid to be racist: slaves were the most valuable capital assets in some whole countries, including the US.)

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The Martyrdom of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion

Monday, September 23, AD 2013

Brandon over at Siris has a post upon on a saint story that I had not heard before (which isn’t saying much, there’s a huge number of saints and I don’t claim to be the world’s most well read about them):

It won’t get celebrated in any liturgies today, since it is Sunday, but today is the memorial for the Theban Legion. The Theban Legion, as its name implies, was originally garrisoned in Thebes, Egypt; but, it is said, they were sent by the Emperor Maximian to Gaul to try to keep things in order there. This is very plausible historically, although not all details of the Theban Legion legend are. The commander of the Legion was Mauritius, usually known as St. Maurice, and a lot of the officers, at least, were Christians — here, too, it was not an uncommon thing for soldiers in this period to be members of an eastern religion like Christianity, particularly on the borders of the empire. The Theban Legion, according to legend, was given the order to sacrifice to the emperor, and St. Maurice and his officers refused. Given the close connection between legions and their officers, it is perhaps not surprising that the entire legion followed their lead. In response the legion was decimated — every tenth man killed — as punishment; and when the legion still refused to sacrifice, it was repeatedly decimated until all were dead.

The plausibilities and implausibilities are interesting here — it’s implausible that there was an entire legion that was Christian to a man, but soldiers sticking with their captains is not implausible, and the Gaul campaign is perfectly historical, although our information about it is somewhat sketchy. Our earliest definite reference to the Theban Legion is about a century and a half afterwards, which leaves time for embroidery, and some historians have concluded, on the basis of what other information we have about that campaign (how many soldiers seem to have been involved, etc.), that if it occurred, it was probably a cohort, not an entire legion, that was martyred, or to put it another way, probably several hundred men rather than several thousand. That’s a plausible way in which legends form around historical events.

There are various works of art showing St. Maurice and the martyrdom of the Theban legion.

Apparently some medieval artists assumed that since the legion was from Egypt, St. Maurice must have been black (this wouldn’t necessarily be the case, obviously), as shown in this statue from the Cathedral of Magdeburg:

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Do You Really Believe Pope Francis Said The Church Needs To Stop Talking About Abortion and Gay Marriage?

Thursday, September 19, AD 2013

Pope Francis has given an extended interview which was published simultaneously today by several Jesuit magazines around the world, with America providing the English version.

The interview is good and very much worth reading, and of course the noise machine (ranging from the New York Times to left wing, dissenting Catholics) has kicked into full gear, radically distorting the pope’s message to claim:

Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

Perhaps because the interview itself is long and wide ranging, a disturbing number of people, even ones who should know better, have taken the reporting of the NY Times and other biased sources at face value, and this is too bad because not only is the message these sources are giving untrue, but it obscures a very, very important point about the faith that Pope Francis actually is making.

The interviewer asks the pope, “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?” He replies:

I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.

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57 Responses to Do You Really Believe Pope Francis Said The Church Needs To Stop Talking About Abortion and Gay Marriage?

  • I just am floored that the Pope thinks our Pastors concentrate too much on these issues because quite frankly I have yet to hear an anti-gay marriage homily and abortion is barely discussed and forget about contraception—that too is barely mentioned or approached as a subject. The Church is dying because its role as a moral compass has been derailed. Our Pastors are embarrased to tell us the truth amd afraid of reprisals from liberals sitting in the pews waiting to pounce on them.
    As a conservative Catholic I would tell the Holy Father that I often feel unloved and rejected in my Church! When I think of last election, for example, the one person the Pastor really pounced on was a humble woman carrying a “Vote Prolife” sign at the end of the Church parking lot entrance.
    However you spin it, what the Pope said in his interview is enough to give our Pastors a more comfortable sense that they are on the right track and they will simply continue to be silent on all these issues which are hardly ‘small’ and insiginificant. The order Christ gave His Apostles was to preach repentence, but if sin is not recognized how does anyone get to that?
    Preach mercy and forgiveness after repentance, but when the Church loses its voice as a moral compass and guide than it has lost its’ mission to diagnose and say what is sin. We wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today if our Pastors had been doing their job and giving true moral guidance all along.
    I suggest everyone read the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia which discusses the rights of the laity in the Church to be given clear guidance from their Pastors. Somehow I feel the Pope is out of touch with what really goes on in our Parishes. Right now it is the conservative, orthodox Catholic who is feeling truly alienated.

  • Pope Francis’s approach reminds me of something the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière said in his famous dispute, just over a century ago, in his debate with the Jesuit, Pedro Descoqs. Descoques, still reeling from the 1905 Law of Separation, believed that the victory of Charles Maurras’s L’Action française would mean “the triumph of the Church in society.”

    “The triumph of the Church in society? That would be excellent. But then, it is necessary to examine by what means our religion permits us to pursue it. Moreover, it has not been promised us. And then, it is not, perhaps, the most pressing of our tasks.

    The Church is like Christ. To go to souls, she is, in her own essence, a soul of truth and kindness. And, if He needs a body to act in the world, it is by His soul and for His soul that His body subsists. And, if we wish His body to be beautiful and vigorous, if we wish it to be radiant, let us labour to enrich her soul with the faith and love of our souls.

    Her power does not consist in giving orders, to which external obedience is required, backed up by threats or favours. Her power is to raise souls to the life above. It is to give birth to and to cultivate in consciences the supernaturalising obligation to live for God and for others, through Christ, and to pass through temporal defeats to a triumph that is timeless.

    Do not indulge in childish dreams, when you have in your grasp eternal realities that invite you. Understand, all you who would triumph and reign on earth – Et nunc, reges, intellegite”.

    These last words would have been familiar to a French audience – the text of the sermon delivered by Bossuet over the tomb of the widow of King Charles I of England, which every French school child reads.

  • Thank you DarwinCatholic for shining a light on this for me- Yesterday I hadn’t had time to go to any original sources and was a bit worried by what I heard on the secular news. I did note that it was filtered to us through “America”
    I know God is good and has provided us a good shepherd. and thank you Michael P-S for this ; “Et nunc, reges, intellegite”. it seems the “and NOW” part jumps out at me. The time is Right Now to apply our faith and our reason-

  • He has been chosen as our pontiff so that we might hear what we are supposed to hear. There are those that will try and distort the message, just as they did with every other pope before him. Just as they do of Christ.

    I especially like his emphasis on confession which is so neglected a gift among most Catholics. (Partially because of so many bad or should I say misguided confessors.) And I agree that conversion, the acceptance of Christ must come first for the rest to follow. Much like Newman said about knowing when to point things out and admonish. Sometimes parents wisely accept the repentance and give the penance at a later time.

    With that said, it seems to me the obsession with the Church’s teaching on abortion, homosexuality, divorce and etc. does not come from the believers but rather from those who reject the truths. “Oh the Church is against homosexuals, or abortion or contraception” is more likely to instigate any conversation. I rarely hear believers actually bring it up outside of particular interests groups that champion their cause. As you pointed out, I have not heard a good discussion, catechesis or homily on any of these subjects in years within church walls in many years. Because of this omission there is a huge gap between the multitude who know what we teach and the few who know why we teach it. And for the most part, it does not happen in our Catholic schools where we are to presume they have accepted Christ. Ah, but that is a big presumption….

  • I think I see where the Pope is coming from. Without a personal encounter with Christ, the rest ultimately will rest on sandy ground. Christ is the only sure rock of salvation. This salvation ultimately is not earthy but heavenly. Then, with this encounter, we will live that life Christ has called us to. That of improving this earthly life with our eye always on our eternal life. That will include stopping abortion etc. I think JPII and Benedict XVI have said the like but in less blunt words.

    Before those on the left seek to abuse the words of the Pope, they should try this exercise. Instead of citing abortion etc., they should insert “social justice” or “serving the poor.” For example, one can say “A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. Only then we can talk about justice and the poor.”

    If those on the left do this -focus on the person of Christ and his ultimate message of eternal salvation – they then can provide their exgesis of the Pope’s words.

  • I agree 100% with Mary Zore’s comment, above.

    Increasingly, I feel that I am being told by the Church to sit down, shut up, and let others do what needs to be done. I should just write bigger checks.

    So I’ve stopped my blogging and my political activism, and I’m focused on making money, so I can write bigger checks.

    I don’t want to take the Holy Father out of context — not just the full context of his remarks on this occasion, but also the context of the past several years, in which bishops are reacting with evident fear to the TLM, pastors remain silent in the pulpits about the march of the gay “marriage” movement, and the thousands who die of abortion each year, both supported in the U.S. by a President who won the majority of the Catholic vote, and by a host of political leaders who themselves claim to be Catholic.

    I am scandalized; my faith continues to be undermined. More and more I feel that, in words of my favorite movie, “Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead,” “We only know what we’re told. And for all we know, it isn’t even true.”

    I hear so many conflicting messages from the Church, I no longer know what I can really believe.

  • Phillip is right. That is why Pascal says, “without Scripture, which has only Jesus Christ for its object, we know nothing and see only obscurity and confusion in God’s nature and ours.” Again, he says, “Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.”

    In Acts 17:18, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers thought St Paul was “a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. They seem to have thought that ἀνάστασις [anastasis = resurrection] was the name of a deity. How often do preachers speak today about Jesus and resurrection? They should remember they hold a prophetic office, not a chair of moral philosophy.

  • I have read the whole thing.

    Small point of dissent, from a woman’s point of view.

    The Church teaching on abortion has been an opening through which I grasp salvation.

    The inductive path looks approximately like,

    don’t kill your baby” = “and nobody should kill you, either” = “we are all children of God

    Then again, I’m not a mystic, and the pope clearly prefers the mystic to the instructional-ascetic.

    So I was disappointed to read that he grouped abortion with the issue of sexual orientation. My point would be, let’s get everyone born, first. Then talk about the other rules.

  • Thank you, Darwin Catholic, for your explanation. I get the message. I was on a road trip last night and my company was talk radio that only commented on the story in the NY Times. As soon as Mass and rosary this morning were finished I looked up the American Catholic for a true explanation and I was not disappointed. I shall endeavor to read the whole interview. It is sad that the issues you mentioned have been typed with political descriptions of “right wing” and “left wing”. Because of the latter misused by nominal Catholic professors and columnists, many Catholics voted for the most pro-abortion candidate ever, Barack Obama. The flawed rationale that by eliminating poverty and social injustices abortion would be rare was the excuse. I fear that the ill informed will be fooled by the NY Times and the like. I hope and pray that our bishops will write a letter or instruct our priests to correct the misinterpretations from the Sunday Mass pulpit.
    I take issue with Mary Zore that the Church is dying. It is not. In liberal dioceses it certainly is weakened. I am blessed to reside in a traditional diocese with many new parishes and many vocations. Now I must go and look up Bossuet and the text of the Pope’s interview.

  • I also agree with Mary Zore. It’s true that the press twists the words of popes, but Pope Francis’ actions and words make it especially easy. I’m in sync with his overall message, but I don’t think he communicates or clarifies well. He needs to shore up the “teacher” aspect of his position.

    “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

    Homilies never talk about these issue except abortion. Even then, they very lightly touch on why abortion is evil, no diving into the moral reasons why. “Abortion is wrong because it’s wrong to kill the unborn.” That’s about it.

    If you think the Church is still a powerful force for good in America, I give you exhibit A & B: the election of an infanticide supporting president not once, but twice!

    I know. I know Pope Francis. We need to preach “Jesus saves!” more. Salvation homilies are the easiest. Better steer clear of those touchier subjects which challenge us and society. Keep it to John 3:16, the football gospel, and we’re good. :-\

  • Give em an inch they take a mile! So do any of us not understand, “love the sinner, hate the sin?” Good God Almighty, You would think we were all a bunch of complete blithering idiots. Right is wrong and wrong is right. And double speak does not help give any clear direction. I was going to Adoration but that is so out of touch with the real world I think I will head out into the streets and try to give some good example finally!

  • FWIW, Pope Francis said today, in a talk to a group of gynecologists:

    “Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to be aborted, has the face of the Lord….Although by their nature they are at the service of life, health professions are sometimes induced to disregard life itself….If you lose the personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fiber and makes people capable of mutual help.”

    http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-calls-on-medical-professionals-to-spread-the-gospel-of-life

  • “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol.”

    Although Darwin has offered a well-written defense of Pope Francis’ remarks, I wonder if the “high cholesterol” reference was meant to trivialize and equate the mortal sins of abortion and gay marriage with high cholesterol, given that Pope Francis thinks the church obsesses on these mortal wounds. I am confused by these remarks and very wary of this pope.

  • Although Darwin has offered a well-written defense of Pope Francis’ remarks, I wonder if the “high cholesterol” reference was meant to trivialize and equate the mortal sins of abortion and gay marriage with high cholesterol, given that Pope Francis thinks the church obsesses on these mortal wounds.

    I don’t think that the pope is trivializing issues like abortion, but pointing out the basic issue that no one is going to obey a God that he doesn’t even believe in. No one is going to refrain from one sin if he doesn’t even believe that sin exists.

    In that sense, important though issues like gay marriage and abortion are, in an increasingly post-Christian world we need to bring people to accept Christ first — because only then will they understand that you cannot believe in Christ and yet murder the unborn or support sodomy.

  • I’m even more confused. One day, he says we mustn’t obsess over these issues, the next he makes a powerful (though of course much less-widely-reported) speech about one of them.

    And Darwin, I cannot believe you intend what I’m understanding you to say above: that the Church cannot teach morality except to Christians, and so we must first convert Christians, and then teach them morality. You appear to be saying that the Church has nothing to say to the secular world in the public square. That would be completely at odds with everything I’ve read by you, so perhaps you could restate yourself for me?

    It reminds me of this exchange from Shakespeare:

    DOGBERRY: This is your charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the prince’s name.

    Second Watchman: How if a’ will not stand?

    DOGBERRY: Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go; and presently call the rest of the watch together and thank God you are rid of a knave.

    VERGES: If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the prince’s subjects.

    DOGBERRY: True, and they are to meddle with none but the prince’s subjects.

  • I’m mostly astonished by the way some Catholic responders have “buried the lead” about this interview.

    First, let’s note that whenever a commentator says, “This is what the pope REALLY meant . . .” we are about to hear some “spin.” We seem to be reading such spin on a weekly basis now. Is this going to go on for decades? Are people going to continue to re-interpret his words to fit their notions of what he said, on a weekly basis, for years and years? Or is there going to be a tipping point after which people start to say: “No more re-interpretation. Just take the Holy Father at his word.”

    Second, so many Catholic commentators like to minimize the Pope’s words by claiming that he is hopelessly naive about Vatican procedures, and that he doesn’t understand how self-serving the vicious media can be, and that he doesn’t cautiously fall back on his “handlers.” This interview puts that nonsense to rest.

    The Holy Father knows exactly what he is doing, exactly what he is saying, exactly how it’s being read, and exactly the effect it is having. And his statements in this interview show that he understands all those things profoundly.

    In addition to his determination that too many of the faithful “obsess” over “small-minded rules” about abortion, homosexuality and contraceptives, and that he choosed to de-enphasizes those issues in his teaching role because he sees that we need to find “a new balance” and that such obsessing will cause the moral authority of the Church to fall like “a house of cards,” the real news of his interview is this:

    The pope acknowledged that he knows the kind of press he is getting. He acknowledged that even members of the Curia and the College of Bishops are alarmed about the lack of attention he gives to these issues (abortion, homosexuality and contraception — and by extension: divorce, and remarriage without losing the ability to receive sacraments), and that they “reprimand” him for it, and urge him to address these issues. But he won’t. And it is fine with him. He hears the controversy, he acknowledges it, and he understands it. But it doesn’t change how he sees his teaching role. He said that he knows that many conservative Catholics try to spin his statements differently than he means them. He said that many conservatives try to parse his words, and strive to look back to the more hardline authoritative, conservative teaching and governing approach he displayed as the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina. But he cautions those spin-doctors: he said that when he was appointed the head of the Argentine Jesuits, he was young (36 years old), inexperienced, and out of his element, and that he made authoritarian, conservative decisions because the conversative line was the path of least resistance. But, he assures us: he has found his governing and teaching bearings now, and he knows what he says and doesn’t say, and the effect it has. And he assures us, contrary to what conservatives wish, “I have never been a right-winger.” The liberal things he says are exactly what he means.

    Nevertheless, some people seem to be striving to minimize his words and his intentions. I think in doing so, they fail to comprehend the largest effect of his papacy. Within 6 to 8 years, he will, as all popes do, appoint, elevate and install a generation of bishops and cardinals who share and practice his governing and teaching vision, and will forever change the governmental and teaching force and focus of the Church.

    As to the proper context of these social issues relating to human sexuality, he makes the Church’s teachings very clear: Ours is a Church of relationships more than rules. Our goodwill is exercised by how we foster these relationships, not by how we strive to enforce rules.

    There are two relationships in the world that we must foster: our relationship to God (and thus to ourselves) and our relationship to others in the way that Christ modeled for us. As we approach any circumstance in which moral teachings are at play, we must as people of God be primarily motivated by mercy, and view the circumstances in the context of relationships more than rules. Christ’s display in the story of the adulterous woman is the perfect example of operating for the good of relationships first and rules second. Look what Christ did:

    First, in terms of the crowd’s relationship to the adulterous woman (reflecting our relationship to others) what did he say? We are all sinners. Sinners must be merciful above all else. Forgiveness is so paramount to our love of God and its corresponding salvation, that we should not even start to contemplate another’s sinfulness before we start forgiving. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Judging sinfulness doesn’t even enter the picture. Forgiveness so completely trumps judgment that we shouldn’t even see the sin before we start forgiving it. Put your stones down and go home.

    Second, Christ approaches the woman, and teaches us about our relationship to God and to ourselves. “Where are your accusers? Is there anyone here to condemn you?” “No.” “Then neither do I condemn you. Go in peace, and sin no more.” The message: We all sin. The graveness of the sin is no one’s concern but God’s. God loves. People of goodwill, in proper relation to God, do not accuse, do not judge, and do not withhold forgiveness. Live your life, he tells her, without condemnation and without feeling accused. And sin no more, a course of conduct made exponentially easier when we bask in a world of mercy, love and forgiveness, not judgment and condemnation.

    Relations to God, and to each other in a God-like manner. These are what’s important. If we foster such a world of forgiveness, love and acceptance, if we evangelize God’s mercy, love and forgiveness, the rules will take care of themselves.

    Pope Francis’s wisdom is this: Do you want to reduce the horror of abortion? Don’t do it by obsessing about the rules and the sinfulness of others (woman who abort, doctors who perform them, citizens who fight for its legality). Do it by displaying God’s love and forgiveness. Inspire others through your saintly example of love and forgiveness. Show that Christ’s example is so foremost in your heart and that your goodwill for others is so great and pervasive, that judgmentalness and condemnation never even enter your mind or find voice in your mouth.

    Put the stone down, assure the sinner that no one condemns him, and in doing so, create a world where people are aroused to goodliness and Godliness by your ceaseless example of mercy and forgiveness. Only then will the world shake off the desire to sin.

    These are not easy lessons. As sinners we are inclined to condemn others. As sinners we are inclined to judge others. As sinners we are inclined to withhold mercy and forgiveness. It is only when we stop our condemnation and judgment of others, and promote forgiveness above all things, that we create a world and a Church that improves the human race and makes sinfulness unattractive.

    Amen, Francis!

    Remember, he was elected by the Holy Spirit.

  • Remember, he was elected by the Holy Spirit.

    People really need to stop saying this, because this is not true. The Holy Spirit guides the Cardinal-electors, but they have free will and make their own choice.

  • Paul, Just This Guy, You Know?

    “You appear to be saying that the Church has nothing to say to the secular world in the public square.”

    Well, the Church’s message to all is “Believe and be baptized.”

    In a fallen world, the moral law has only one purpose: to make man inexcusable before God. Since it reveals itself in the dictates of conscience, conscience, too, serves only to deprive man of the pretext of ignorance and to condemn him before God.

    Now, this does not imply that unregenerate man can attain to a true knowledge of the divine will and still less that he has the ability to obey the moral law. That is the Pelagian heresy.

    The just are saved by grace, entirely free and gratuitous.

  • “In addition to his determination that too many of the faithful ‘obsess’ over ‘small-minded rules’ about abortion ….”

    Well, Jeff. I don’t think the Holy Father exactly made such a determination, but substitute “gassing Jews” for “abortion” and perhaps you’ll understand why.

    Those of us who work tirelessly to fight abortion do not think much about, let alone obsess over, judgment, sin, or condemnation. We want to save innocent lives because Jesus commanded us to love. We kind of obsess over that rule.

  • Jeff,

    No, sorry, your interpretation doesn’t remotely fit what Francis has said in this interview or elsewhere. It’s important to encounter the pope who actually exists in reality, not in your head.

  • If Jeff’s interpretation is right, then the Pope is fond of stabbing good and faithful Catholics in the back. That seems be an interpretation of the Pope that is both uncharitable and unlikely. Especially in light of his statement to Catholic doctors today.

  • Paul, Just This Guy,

    I’m even more confused. One day, he says we mustn’t obsess over these issues, the next he makes a powerful (though of course much less-widely-reported) speech about one of them.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind, though, the pope didn’t say that “we mustn’t obsess over these issues” he said:

    We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.

    and

    The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

    People who are against the Church’s teachings want to turn this into “we shouldn’t talk about these issues” but I think what he’s saying is that we can’t talk only about these issues, and we can’t present them in a way that seems like a disjointed collection of commandments but rather part of a comprehensible whole. So his strong statement on abortion isn’t contrary to what he said in the interview. He said we shouldn’t talk only about hot button issues, but he certainly didn’t say we shouldn’t talk about them at all.

    And Darwin, I cannot believe you intend what I’m understanding you to say above: that the Church cannot teach morality except to Christians, and so we must first convert Christians, and then teach them morality. You appear to be saying that the Church has nothing to say to the secular world in the public square. That would be completely at odds with everything I’ve read by you, so perhaps you could restate yourself for me?

    No, I wouldn’t say that the Church cannot teach morality except to Christians, but I would say that the Church’s primary duty is to convert people to Christianity, not to try to make non-religious arguments.

    One thing that strikes me here is that while we need to make secular arguments about moral issues in the public square, it’s often not all that effective. What seems to matter a lot more is whether there are more convinced Christians or more secularists in the public square, and then one of us wins by force of numbers, not force of persuasion. Secularists are pretty damn (literally at times) determined to reject God’s moral teachings, and while I would never advocate abandoning the struggle in the public square, I think it’s in many ways a defensive struggle not an offensive one — we can at best fend off attacks but we’re unlikely to make long term changes in the culture that way. The way we make long term changes in the culture is by getting more people to be Christians who actually accept the moral law at a deeper level.

    The other thing I’d say (and I seem to recall Benedict talked about this in one of his encyclicals but I’d have to look up which one and the way he phrased it) is that making that case in the public square is primarily the job of the laity. We’re the ones who have to take our convictions out into the secular square and try to make them the law of the land. The job of our pastors and bishops is primarily to bring people to Christ through preaching and the sacraments — to make people Christians. So to the extent that Francis it talking about preaching and church leaders specifically, I think it’s appropriate to say that their primary job is to convert people to Christianity first, and then once having got them to believe in Christ catechize them in what that means morally.

  • So which is it? The laity should talk about abortion, marriage, etc.? Or we shouldn’t? I’m still confused. I don’t know anyone who obsesses only over those issues. And I certainly don’t know any pastor of any parish who spends much time on them, in his homilies.

    I feel strongly that the Church is in a fight for its life, and the General of the Army is telling his front line troops not to fight back.

    I don’t understand who the Holy Father is addressing, or what he’s saying. And I’m quite sure I’ll get no guidance of it from my parish pastor when I go to mass on Sunday.

    This is what scandal looks like.

    But thank you, Darwin, for doing your best to clarify things. I’m just not getting it.

  • So which is it? The laity should talk about abortion, marriage, etc.? Or we shouldn’t? I’m still confused.

    I think that everyone should talk about it (though not exclusively about it) but that it’s primarily the laity’s job to make the secular case in the public square while the job of pastors and other religious leaders is first and foremost to bring people into the faith and then to instruct them in what living out that faith morally means.

    I feel strongly that the Church is in a fight for its life, and the General of the Army is telling his front line troops not to fight back.

    Running with the analogy, I guess I’d say that that General of the Army is saying: Our number one priority is to have a bigger army.

    The way I’ve been taking it is that the pope is looking around and saying: We’re reaching a point where fewer and fewer people even believe in God, or think that believing in God requires anything from them in terms of actual conversion of life. Our first message to people needs to start being that God exists and that they need to repent and follow him in order to have eternal life. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how brave a rearguard action we fight against the culture on hot button issues, soon there will be no army left.

  • At the same time, let me just say: One of the reasons I’ve been hitting this issue so hard is because some of the responses and summaries I’ve seen from leftie dissident Catholics have had me saying unprintable things and wanting to reach out through the computer screen to punch somebody. Some of these people hate us and hate the Church’s teaching, and seeing them use the pope’s words to try to drive people away from God’s truth has had me wound up all yesterday and today.

    So it’s not like I’m not feeling the frustration at a lot of the coverage we’re seeing out there.

  • “So it’s not like I’m not feeling the frustration at a lot of the coverage we’re seeing out there.”

    Bingo. The Pope’s statement on abortion today was excellent:

    “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57603897/pope-francis-denounces-abortion-after-decrying-churchs-focus-on-rules/

    I find it hard to imagine a statement more pro-life statement than that. However, I can see why many people are confused and find it easy to conclude that the statements from the Pope are contradictory. From a tactical standpoint I think the Pope is making a mistake. He is confusing and demoralizing his strongest supporters with his statements and delighting those who oppose Church teaching. Message control is always a problem at the Vatican, but Pope Francis seems to have more of a problem with it than most Popes. Off the cuff remarks of a Pope should never seek to convey complicated thoughts. Save the deep thinking for the encyclicals.

  • I just want to reiterate one point I made late in my earlier comment, because I earnestly believe that it is Francis’s real point.

    But first let me say: In no way during his Jesuit interview did Francis give any basis to the idea that moral issues and church doctrine have or will ever change, nor did he in anyway claim that the people who earnestly and passionately support and work for the Church’s eternal position on these issues of protection of life and sexual ethics are on the wrong side of the issue. Of course his statements didn’t do that, not would they ever. (It is worth emphasizing that today, before a captive audience of OBGYNs, he forcefully reiterated the Church’s doctrine on the evil of abortion. And I, myself, am thankful that he did so, and did so at the first available opportunity before the best possible audience.)

    Nevertheless, the things that he said in regard to contraception, homosexuality and abortion in the interview published yesterday are not devoid of purpose or meaning. Maybe some people want (or wish) that we can just dodge his statements, or refuse to accept that the Vicot of Christ in his pastoral role and as the primary and constitutional (small “c”) teacher of the faith, a faith that, as Christ proclaimed, plays an integral role in human salvation and the imposition of sanctifying grace, didn’t really say those things, and didn’t really use the words “obsess,” and “small-minded” and “The dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

    But he did say those things, and they are not without meaning and lesson.

    His most ardent detractors seem to be Catholics who are especially passionate about the scourge of abortion. I’m not seeing as loud a cry against his expressions about homosexuality (and to be fair, after reading the interview, the bulk of his “progressive” comments seemed to be aimed at issues related to homosexuality.) Nonetheless….

    Is he saying that we should dismissively retreat in our opposition to abortion? Of course not. Is he saying that we should cease to actively oppose abortion? Of course not. Is he saying that the proliferation of abortion and abortion rights in the world should no longer be a blip on our moral radar? Of course not.

    What his is saying is that people who are passionately consumed with these issues to the exclusion of others are not fully appreciating the Church’s pastoral ministry. Those eternal doctrines related to sexual ethics and issues of life do not exist in a vacuum. They are integral parts of a whole, but not the whole, in and of themselves. Those issues, Francis teaches, taint the moral edifice of the Church when they are pursued to the exclusion of the whole of Catholic social teaching. And equal time and dedication must be made for all the other issues related to Church’s social justice teachings (e.g. economic equality, an end to the “culture of money,” the right of workers to organize–a long held Church doctrine of social justice, passionate pursuit of the needs of the poor and the dispossessed, an emphasis on austerity and a rejection of materialism.) These things all are interrelated, philosophically and practically.

    I think that he is suggesting that if you spend your days fighting and rallying against abortion, or stigmatizing homosexual conduct, or urging an end to contraceptives–all correct positions of the Church–but you live in a million dollar house and drive a Cadillac, and ignore the plight of the homeless, the unemployed, people stricken with HIV, and others unable to access quality healthcare, you’re missing the real point of why abortion is evil and homosexual conduct is “gravely disordered,” as the Catechism puts it.

    Forgiveness, mercy, and charity are the foundation of ALL these social justice teachings of the Church, and must all be faithfully and forcefully emphasized in equal and appropriate measure by the Church as a whole, and each individual Catholic in his daily life.

    Is that so controversial and outrageous? Not in the least.

  • What his is saying is that people who are passionately consumed with these issues to the exclusion of others are not fully appreciating the Church’s pastoral ministry.

    If that’s what the Holy Father is saying, I think it’s a calumny against good Catholics.

    Pro-lifers are constantly being challenged by their opponents to think and talk about something else, such as crisis pregnancies, or poverty, or hunger, or overpopulation, or even global warming, or anything to distract them from their pro-life work.

    For the Holy Father to suggest that pro-life Catholics need to think less about abortion and more about other things makes him appear to be taking sides with abortion supporters.

    It’s a damn hard pill to swallow.

  • Jeff,

    What his is saying is that people who are passionately consumed with these issues to the exclusion of others are not fully appreciating the Church’s pastoral ministry. Those eternal doctrines related to sexual ethics and issues of life do not exist in a vacuum. They are integral parts of a whole, but not the whole, in and of themselves. Those issues, Francis teaches, taint the moral edifice of the Church when they are pursued to the exclusion of the whole of Catholic social teaching.

    No, actually, I don’t think that’s what he’s saying at all. What the Pope explicitly did not do at all in the interview is emphasize the need for a more seamless approach to social issues. Indeed, surprisingly, he barely mentioned poverty and justice in the interview, and not at all really in the section that everyone is fussing about.

    What he did emphasize is the priority of the basic message of salvation over any moral message — that as a church we need to be known first and foremost for preaching salvation through Christ and the sacraments, and the following from that for how to live out a moral life. His point about a disjointed multitude of doctrines is that if Christianity is presented to people as a behavioral checklist and not as following Christ, it won’t win converts.

    In that sense, his critique applies just as much to those who obsess over poverty or obsess over capital punishment to the exclusion of the basic message of salvation. And indeed, this is a real problem. I have many times had leftie Catholics tell me that atheist democrats have a more “Catholic sensibility” than their fellow Catholics simply because they have similar economic priorities. Francis’s comments are very much a broadside against that kind of thinking.

  • “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.” Why did Pope Francis use the modifier “unjustly”? I’m hoping it’s a bad translation into English. Otherwise the statement could be interpreted that there are “just” abortions.

  • The Pope’s remarks about contraception and abortion, notwithstanding the pro-life statement he made today, may help pave the way for Catholic institutions’ capitulation to the HHS Mandate.

  • I agree with Darwin in substance. But I fear others are quickly using this to advance their agenda and will be very effective in their efforts. I fear this analysis will be correct:

    “Francis’s papacy may not so much move the Church into the future as back to the recent past, circa 1970. Quarrels over the proper interpretation of Vatican II are more likely to explode than end. Emboldened liberal bishops under him may seek a reform of the “reform of the reform,” and they may push for a revisiting of settled moral, theological, and disciplinary stances. None of this repositioning will take place at the level of official teaching but at the murkier levels of tone, emphasis, and appointment.

  • I have to say that when I read Francis, I feel I am reading the comments of an adult with ADHD. I think he is somewhat impulsive and imprecise in his comments. Thus later statements that clarify the matter (such as today’s address to physicians.)

    We have to remember also, that not everything the Pope says is infallible. So I think we can hold his comments here with some reserve.

  • “Those eternal doctrines related to sexual ethics and issues of life do not exist in a vacuum. They are integral parts of a whole, but not the whole, in and of themselves.”

    Or as St. Paul put it in 1 Corinithians 12:

    “15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

    The Pope is talking about the Church as a whole, not necessarily giving personal instructions or advice to every single individual or group within it. If you belong to a pro-life group or apostolate devoted to, say, full-time sidewalk counseling, obviously, you will be preoccupied with pro-life issues above all else. This does NOT, however, mean that people who do not take part in that particular apostolate are necessarily “less Catholic” than you are. Nor does it necessarily imply that you personally are inordinately “obsessed” with the abortion issue. It simply means that you are doing the particular task that YOU feel called to do, while others do other things. The Pope is NOT saying you should stop doing pro-life work, but simply to remember that it is not THE primary mission of the Church, which is to proclaim the Gospel and save souls.

  • “Do You Really Believe Pope Francis Said The Church Needs To Stop Talking About Abortion and Gay Marriage? ”

    Of course not. The MSM’s response to the pope’s interview was predictable. But equally predictable was our side’s response to the MSM’s response. It’s like our side spends more time responding to what the MSM said about what Pope Francis said that what Pope Francis said. Of course, this phenomenom long predates this pontificate. To wit, B16’s comments about condoms.

    Look, even the most ignorant knows no pope would say what the MSM said he said. But yet, they are still able to put our side on the defensive and drive the conversation.

    I think our side should simply talk about what the pope actually said and basically ignore the MSM.

  • Reading this article and the blog comments of good and thoughtful people (by which I mean everyone who has posted here) are causing me to be even more confused than I was when I first read the Pope’s interview.

    I would recommend that everyone watch the impressive interview of Fr. Matt Malone, S.J,, editor of America magazine that originated and published the interview in the U.S., and Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University, that aired on “The Charlie Rose Show” on Friday, September 20. It’s available on Hulu and on pbs.org. In the television interview, Fr. Malone relates some interesting facts about how and when the papal interview was conducted and how carefully it was personally reviewed by the pope and translated from Italian.

    I think this is clear: Pope Francis’s comments were not off-the-cuff or impromptu or improvised. The interview was conducted over three sessions all before World Youth Day. The printed article was given to Francis to review and edit before it was published. This wasn’t a “gotcha” interview. Francis had every opportunity he could have wished to change his answers, retract he statements, or omit his responses to any question. It is only fair to say that his interview answers were thoughtful, carefully made, and subject to any revision he would have wanted.

    But here is what confuses me: What do people believe the pope meant with the following statements? (He must have meant something by these statements.)

    1. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

    Imposed insistently? What does that mean?

    2. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

    A new balance? What needs balancing? And why does there need to be a NEW balance?

    3. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”

    We cannot “insist only”? What are we insisting on that we shouldn’t be, or what are we not insisting on that we should be?

    Particularly, with respect to that last quotation, what does he mean by “context”? What is the context in which these issue should be considered or discussed, and what is the present failure of proper “context” that he is addressing? And how would a proper context effect actual “feet on the ground” pastoral ministry?

    Thoughts?

  • Pingback: The Big Interview of Pope Francis (Saturday) | Big Pulpit
  • Jeff,

    I’ll do my best to respond to your questions in the thoughtful manner they deserve. (I apologize for the quick cut-and-paste methodology as I’m stealing time before I need to make dinner.)

    I think this is clear: Pope Francis’s comments were not off-the-cuff or impromptu or improvised. The interview was conducted over three sessions all before World Youth Day. The printed article was given to Francis to review and edit before it was published. This wasn’t a “gotcha” interview. Francis had every opportunity he could have wished to change his answers, retract he statements, or omit his responses to any question. It is only fair to say that his interview answers were thoughtful, carefully made, and subject to any revision he would have wanted.

    I would agree with this. I think that the interview was carefully asked and answered, and that Francis’s answers say exactly what he meant them to say. I don’t fault the interviewer or Francis for anything in there, though I do very strongly fault a lot of the media sources who have proceeded to cut small pieces of the interview out of context and try to make it serve their own ends.

    1. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
    Imposed insistently? What does that mean?

    I think that Francis sees Catholics as being in danger of retreating into a defensive crouch. The culture is increasingly post-Christian and strongly objects to our understanding of morality, and so we find ourselves under attack from every side. The culture calls what is evil good and what is good evil.

    Because our moral beliefs are constantly being contradicted and misunderstood by the culture, and so we naturally argue back and re-state our beliefs. However, what I think Francis is saying here is that we can’t allow ourselves to become known only for defense of these constantly assailed beliefs — not because we should not be stating these beliefs, but because if we allow the culture of unbelief to control the argument we will never articulate the reason for these beliefs, which is our faith in Christ and our need for his redemption. If we are only hear insisting on these moral doctrines, but we are not at the same time explaining the belief in Christ from which they stem, we will not make converts because people will hear from us only a multitude of rules and not an overarching belief in Christ and our need for his salvation.

    2. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
    A new balance? What needs balancing? And why does there need to be a NEW balance?

    Obviously, this is not a “new” balance in terms of changing Church teaching or ceasing to talk about it’s importance. Francis himself made this clear when yesterday he delivered some of his strongest anti-abortion rhetoric yet in an address to gynecologists. Nor is Francis saying that the Church has got things wrong in the past. He’s talking, rather, about perception and about the need for the Church to be heard differently, not to believe differently. The question from the interviewer that he is responding to is how he believes we must address people who feel themselves excluded from the Church because of homosexuality, abortion, contraception, etc. Francis is responding that if all people are hearing is “if you are homosexual, Catholics don’t want you” then a new balance must be struck in what those people are hearing. They need to hear first that their entire purpose as human being is to accept Christ’s redemptive grace, to become Christians, to seek forgiveness through the sacraments. Only once those people have heard this message that they need Christ will they be open to accepting Christ’s message as to how they must live their lives.

    3. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”
    We cannot “insist only”? What are we insisting on that we shouldn’t be, or what are we not insisting on that we should be?

    We cannot insist only that people must follow these rules, we must insist also (indeed primarily) that they must become Christians, that they must accept Christ, that they must seek forgiveness for their sins. That is what we must insist on more — so much more that we’re known even more for that than for our stand on “hot button” issues. Not because it’s nor important to oppose abortion, but because people who don’t support abortion still risk not enjoying eternal happiness with God if they do not embrace Christ.

    Particularly, with respect to that last quotation, what does he mean by “context”? What is the context in which these issue should be considered or discussed, and what is the present failure of proper “context” that he is addressing?

    The context is that we are not justified by following moral laws but by Christ’s grace. Thus, every call to good works (without which faith is nothing) must be made in the context of faith (without which works cannot save us.)

  • Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that this concern that the Church not become known only for proclaiming moral truths and not the central message of salvation is hardly new. Here’s Pope Benedict XVI back in 2006 saying something very similar:

    “We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity. I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion, and other such constantly recurring problems. If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.”

  • Here’s a good analysis, especially about all “teachings not being equivalent.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/359042/christ-centered-pope-george-weigel/page/0/1?splash=

    “I think that the interview was carefully asked and answered, and that Francis’s answers say exactly what he meant them to say.”

    I have to disagree. Clearly he could have said it differently so that it didn’t lead to the ability to distort his words in such a way. As you point out, Benedict said the same thing but in a much more nuanced, balanced and pastoral way.

    Francis’ words were not truly pastoral for he did not take into account the depth of the worldwide situations. As Weigel points out, in Argentina, such words needed to be said and in that way. But in other parts of the world, they smack those who are acting to end abortion who are acting out of a deep, personal relationship with Christ. It may have been for pastoral for a bishop in Argentina with its cultural context. But not for a Pope where his words go beyond that setting. This is something he will have to learn more (as every Pope does) about the exercise of his office. A man of bold gestures he is – impulsive ones at times that are not well thought out.

    Again, not every word of the Pope is infallible.

  • As noted on Vox Nova, Pope Benedict’s first homily as Pope had this:

    “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful.”

    Exactly the same, more poetic and, excuse the expression, less marginalizing of those who have taken up Christ’s relationship in defense of the unborn or real marriage.

  • Phillip, bingo! That’s what I’ve been expressing in a G+ thread. Some believe this is a slight on the Pope Francis. It’s not. Everyone has different gifts. Communications is not Pope Francis’ strong suit. He is more Moses than Aaron.

    I didn’t care for his “Who am I to judge?” answer on homosexuals. Implied in that response is we’ve been judging. That’s how the public and general lay Catholic is going to interpret.

  • I think the interview says what Francis wanted it to say — that it doesn’t represent an off-the-cuff statement or a “gee, that’s not quite what I meant to say” kind of thing.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was worded in the best possible way in terms of avoiding any possible misinterpretation. I may be wrong, but I’m starting to get the impression that Francis has decided that he’s simply not going to worry about cautious phrasing and trying to make sure that he’s not misquoted. He seems to have decided that he’ll say exactly what he thinks in the style that comes naturally to him and count on somehow the message getting through because he’s genuine and speaking from the heart.

    Now, I honestly don’t know if that’s the best approach. It’s certainly not how I would go about things. I’m root a very defensive communicator, and I’d much rather get mired down in all sorts of explanations and qualifiers than leave myself open to being misinterpreted. I would feel more of a connection with a pope who had that same approach — in part because I really, really hate hearing the truths of the Church perverted by people (both dissident Catholics and non Catholics) running around saying things like “Pope changes teaching on abortion and homosexuality!”

    But I think that, rightly or wrongly, Francis has clearly decided that the way that he’s going to communicate as pope is what he sees as simply and from the heart, without being careful, so I don’t think that we can expect to see him learn how to protect himself from the media. I think he’s decided he doesn’t care how the media interprets what he says and he’s counting on people to somehow get his real message — whether by inspiring the Catholics who do get the whole message to turn around and echo his message, or just because he’s convinced that somehow if he’s true to what he sees as genuine it will come through to people.

  • “But I think that, rightly or wrongly, Francis has clearly decided that the way that he’s going to communicate as pope is what he sees as simply and from the heart, without being careful…”

    As I said, that is impulsive. Not that impulsive always means off the cuff, but rather also without regards to the consequences.

    Whether that’s best or not I don’t know. But it is my point.

  • Wow! A lot has been said since I last checked. Please all of you, let me know your secret. I have three children and a wife, and as much as I am impressed by many of you comments, where do you get the time? Even when I disagree it is very heartening to see such interest about something other than football. In this case, something infinitely important. Now I’ll add just a few short comments:

    It might help to think of the Mary and Martha story. I think the Pope’s comments reflect the truth Christ was teaching us by it. I am not about to improve upon it.

    Joy. Where’s the joy? Some, too many sounded negative and nursing wounds. I’ve been in the pro-life trenches, even ran the pro-life office for an archdiocese, and nothing the pope said should discourage you.(No offense intended,) Here he reminds me of Cardinal Newman. We are called to live the whole truth, to balance it, and not the particular point that attracts or consumes us. It is not easy to do. It’s probably not easy for the Pope. Focusing in too exclusively on one truth can lead to many problems, from heresy to neglect.

    Another meaning I gleaned reminds me of Chesterton. It is time to paint the fence. Our beliefs aren’t changing but we need to give them a touch up job. One reason I like to call myself an Orthodox Catholic and not a conservative one. We don’t want the fence to stay the same – just what it is made of.

    Finally the prime objective is to get others to believe in Christ – then the rest can follow.

  • For all my cherished friends and fellow Christians that have read and posted on this blog:

    I have finally read a piece (from the First Things website) that I believe fully understands and beautifully articulates the meaning and wonder of the Pope’s interview.

    Whether you’re liberal or conservative, a fan of the Pope or cautious and concerned about the tone of his papacy, READ this!! I think all my brothers and sisters in Christ will be enheartened by it.

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/09/prophet-pope

  • So I open my Sunday morning paper today, and there is an article about the local AIDS walk. Olympic athlete Greg Louganis and his fiancé Johnny Chaillot were there. Apparently, Pope Francis’ comments about “Who am I to judge?” concerning homosexuals came up in conversation.

    There was also an article concerning the Pope lamenting the Church’s focus on the “small minded rules” concerning abortion and contraception, and then (hypocritically, of course) turning around and giving a harsh speech condemning the same to a group of Catholic doctors the next day.

    What matters more? What the Pope really said? Or what the majority of people think he said?

  • Pope Francis’ remark, “Who am I to judge?” was doomed to be taken out of context and he did those who oppose the abomination of homosexual unions no favors.

    The LameStream Media will take what any pontiff says and twist it. Benedict XVI was careful and measured with his words and still he got lambasted. What Pope Francis says to select audiences when he has a chance to explain himself is deep. His off the cuff remarks show a lack of sophistication and sort of a devil-may-care attitude.

    I don’t like when he does this…and I really don’t like how his pontificate handled the FFI.

  • “I didn’t care for his “Who am I to judge?” answer on homosexuals. ” Pretty much sets the homosexuals to be responsible for themselves for it is their free will choice and Pope Francis has been witness to nothing.

  • Some of these comments leave me flabbergasted. How quickly we turn on our own…I do not think our Pope is a naive or ignorant man.

    ““Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.” Why did Pope Francis use the modifier “unjustly”? I’m hoping it’s a bad translation into English. Otherwise the statement could be interpreted that there are “just” abortions.”

    Seriously? This seems to me to reach a new level of hair-splitting.

  • Mary de Voe

    The pope explained his remark very clearly in the present interview: “During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

    Thus, the prophet says, “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ez 18:31) but he also says, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” (Ez 36:26) This is the great mystery of grace and free will. Thus, St Paul says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” but he adds, “for it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him” (Phil 2:12-13) Not the ability only, but the desire too, for “the will is prepared by the Lord,” (Prov 8:35)

  • Sorry I am late in commenting on this post. Right after St. Paul condemns homosexual behavior in Romans 1:18-32, he writes the following in Romans 2:1-10 (it’s important to read Romans 1:18-32 and Romans 2:1-10 together as one reading):

    1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

  • “but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

    So stop praying for each other! 😉

    That quote sounds like this…
    “God gave us free will, so don’t try to interfere by advising turn away or admonishing one’s sin.” :-\

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour: If Pope Francis had said: “It is not possible to inspire others in their spiritual life.” It would have been wrong. “it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” “to interfere” is to bully, impose, and coerce and interference would be counterproductive. It is a matter and choice of words to express the Pope’s opinion, or it is my interpretation of the Pope’s opinion.

  • Kyle Miller wrote, “That quote sounds like this… “God gave us free will, so don’t try to interfere by advising turn away or admonishing one’s sin.”

    No, for in the preceding sentence the Holy Father says, “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people ”

    But only God can turn from sin, because, as St Augustine says, “God has mercy on no man in vain. He calls the man on whom He has mercy in the way He knows will suit him, so that he will not refuse the call.” That is why Scripture says, “”the will is prepared by the Lord,” (Prov 8:35)

  • I found an excellent article at Crisis Magazine about this whole issue of Pope Francis, homosexuality, abortion, etc. Here is the web link:

    http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/pope-francis-and-his-critics

Does Anyone Really Reject God?

Thursday, September 5, AD 2013

Kyle has written another post on hell, this one dealing with what he says, with at least some degree of accuracy, is the historically common belief among Catholics that many people will go to hell while few will be saved. (Personally, I have no opinion on the question of what ratio of people will go to heaven and hell, and other than warning people away from the one and towards the other, I can’t really think why one would have much of a position on the matter.)

It seems to me that there are two main points which Kyle martials to his cause. His first is that if many are damned, then God’s will has been frustrated, and unless we are prepared to think God a failure, we can’t think that many are damned:

If you say, as much of Christianity does, that God created the universe and specifically human beings–creatures made in his image and likeness–for the purpose of participation in the love life that is God, and you also say that most people will refuse this destiny, then logically you’re led to say that, overall, creation won’t achieve its purpose. Overall, it is a failure. Overall, the purpose for which God created goes unrealized. Overall, God’s desire and will are not done. This would seem to make God, as Creator, something of a failure, even if you can, through some dexterous theodicy, get God off the hook for the damning decisions of his hellbound creatures.

This is, as I recall, a complaint that many of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation (or Revolt, if you prefer) were big on.

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  • St Thomas distinguishes between the antecedent and consequent will of God.

    “Whatever God wills absolutely, is done (otherwise He would not be omnipotent), although what He wills antecedently (or only conditionally) may not be done,” for in this instance God permits the opposite evil for the sake of a greater good; thus He wills antecedently that all the fruits of the earth come to maturity, but He permits that many actually do not reach this maturity [ST Ia, q. 19, a. 6 ad I]

    It is similar in the matter of the salvation of men. St. Thomas goes on to explain this in the same article (ad I ): On consequent or unconditional will. “The will is compared to things according as they are in themselves; but in themselves they are individual. Hence we will something absolutely inasmuch as we will it considering all its individuating circumstances; this is to will consequently.” Thus whatever God (omnipotent) wills absolutely is done; although what He wills antecedently may not be done.

    Antecedently God wills a thing according as it is good in itself, for example, that all men be saved, that all His commands be ever fulfilled; but at the same time He permits to some extent the opposite evil for the sake of a greater good, and thus “what He wills only antecedently or conditionally is not done.” Hence it is said in psalm 134:6: “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done, in heaven, in earth.” And the Council of Toucy (PL, CXXVI, 123) adds: “For nothing is done in heaven or on earth, except what God either graciously does Himself or permits to be done, in His justice.”

    But those who observe His commandments are better than others and would not keep them in fact, had not God from eternity efficaciously decreed that they should observe these precepts. Thus, these good servants of God are more beloved and assisted by Him than others, although God does not command the impossible of the others. Furthermore, this very resistance to sufficient grace is an evil which would not occur, here and now, without the divine permission, and nonresistance itself is a good which would not come about here and now except for divine consequent will.

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  • I have a hard time understanding how as catholics we could be painted as judgementers of the damned. With our belief in purgation, where else can we be made perfect for the delight of our Lord? My time/process may be painful, but I trust and hope in His glorious justice and my eventual full entry into His realm.

  • If you say, as much of Christianity does, that God created the universe and specifically human beings–creatures made in his image and likeness–for the purpose of participation in the love life that is God, and you also say that most people will refuse this destiny, then logically you’re led to say that, overall, creation won’t achieve its purpose. Overall, it is a failure. Overall, the purpose for which God created goes unrealized. Overall, God’s desire and will are not done. This would seem to make God, as Creator, something of a failure, even if you can, through some dexterous theodicy, get God off the hook for the damning decisions of his hellbound creatures.

    So what would be an acceptable batting average? His record with the angels is “a third part”.
    And why did God go out of His way to make things even more difficult for us? When Satan and his angels rebelled why not imprison them in Hell permanently rather than leave them free to tempt us?
    As parents we would not leave our kids free to play in a mine field where some lunatic is encouraging them to dance a jig.

    As for “natural law written on men’s hearts” — um, no.
    Reason and common sense would seem to tell us that a baby with Tay-Sachs, condemned to a short life full of pain should be aborted; that a train about to run over 10 people should be diverted so that it will kill 2 people. There seems to be an instinctive bias toward consequentialst bias morality while “natural” law requires a lot of study.

    Last, God sees a bit capricious granting extra graces to some for their salvation while ignoring others. Recall Theresa the Little Flower’s constant prayers for a condemned prisoner who finally repented.

    I know I’m may be cutting close to blasphemy here, but I’m sure these questions have been asked before.

    Last question: having rejected God, would the sould in Hell even desire to be in Heaven?

  • Thomas Collins

    The followers of St Augustine, whom the Church has called “the doctor of Grace,” maintain that in the state of innocence, that is to say on the day of the Creation, God had had both a general and a conditional will to save all men provided they desired it, through the sufficient grace He would give them for their salvation, but which would not unfailingly lead them to persevere in good.

    But that Adam, having through his own free will misused this grace and rebelled against God through a pure and simple movement of his will and with no prompting from God (which would be a hateful thought), and having corrupted and injected the mass of mankind with the result that they are rightly the object of God’s anger and indignation, they make plain that God has divided that body of mankind, all equally culpable and which deserve damnation, into that part that He wanted to save through an absolute will based on his mercy alone, entirely pure and gratuitous, and thus, leaving the other part in the state of damnation in which it was, and in which He could justly have left the whole mass.

    God’s will for the salvation of his elect cannot be frustrated. St Thomas says in Ia, q. 20, a. 3: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, no one would be better than another if God did not will a greater good to one than to another.” Likewise, in article 4 of the same question and also in Ia, q. 23, a. 4: “In God, love precedes election.” Thus, Scripture says: “I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please Me” (Exod. 33:19); and “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.)

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  • i have not heard of a catholic teaching wherein the church teaches that there is some mechanism provided in creation whereby a soul that is unrepentant and defiant of God at the point the soul leaves the body (physical death) is able to reverse that defiance and repentant later. am i missing something. did Jesus teach us about be able to reverse our rejection of God after our deaths?

  • There is a sin against the Holy Spirit, that of final impenitence, which will not be forgiven in this world or the next. We cannot irrefutably identify any human person who committed this sin, not even Judas.

99 Years Ago: The Week The World Caught Fire

Tuesday, August 6, AD 2013

Certain historical events are remembered in terms of a single event which, in the course of minutes or hours, ushered in a new era. People who lived through Pearl Harbor could remember exactly where they were when they heard about the Japanese attack, a point when the course of US history (and world history) changed in the course of a couple hours.

Ninety-nine years ago, as the world plunged into the First World War, the experience was different. Rather than a single sharp event which plunged the world into cataclysm, there was a long series of events, at first not much noted, which in late July and early August of 1914 plunged all the major European powers into war over the course of a week.

There’s a certain tendency to look, with historical hindsight, at the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 as an incident very likely to lead to world war. There were hints of such a possibility. German Chancellor Otto von Bismark famously observed in the late 19th century that the next great European war would start with “some damn fool thing in the Balkans”. When Archduke Ferdinant was assassinated, some people immediately worried that this would lead to a general war. (H. G. Wells was among those with the dubious honor of predicting a general war was coming after hearing news of the assassination on June 28th.) However, there had just been two full fledged wars in the Balkans during the last ten years, and neither had led to general war. Indeed, the great powers, for all their diplomatic entanglements, had been able to negotiate satisfactory (at least to themselves) peaces to both prior Balkan wars.

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18 Responses to 99 Years Ago: The Week The World Caught Fire

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  • Europe had not known lengthy wars since the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Wars after Napoleon had tended to be fairly brief. One or two major battles, albeit bloody, and the issue was decided. Most of the leadership and populations of the warring nations assumed that a swift resolution would occur again. They failed to reckon on technological improvements since the Franco-Prussian War and the ability of modern nations to keep in the field vast armies that could inflict and sustain huge casualties that in earlier times would have broken a nation in short order. The Great War was our Civil War on steroids. The heads of state of Europe would have done better to pay heed to our Civil War in its length and casualties, but that type of study seems to have been limited to the military academies of Europe and the civilian leadership in Europe was ignorant of the subject with the exception of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty at the beginning of the Great War.

    Europe sorely missed a statesman of the caliber of a Bismarck, a Metternich or a Castlereagh in 1914. The Sarajevo assassination was the signal that it was time for another European council. Diplomacy, with time for cooler heads to prevail, might well have been successful in forestalling a general European war.

  • Serbia, anxious to avoid war, agreed to all but one point of Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum, however Austria-Hungary (which had withdrawn its ambassador as soon as the ultimatum was delivered) was determined to put an end to Serbia’s role as a regional destabilizing force and declared the concessions insufficient.

    The clause that Serbia rejected would have allowed Austro-Hungarian investigators free rein to find and capture those responsible for the assassination. Had they been allowed to do so, they would have discovered that the main instigator was the Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence (as you yourself pointed out in a recent post). That revelation would, if anything, have made war even more inevitable and as it was, everyone involved understood Serbia’s refusal as a tacit admission of complicity.

    Given all that, characterizing Serbia as a “regional destabilizing force” is euphemism of the highest order. Whatever one means by those words, they should hot extend to harboring (however unwillingly) court officials who assassinate opposing heads of state. Very few at the time would deny that that kind of skullduggery amounted to a de facto declaration of war.

  • HA,

    Certainly, the Serbians were and remain bad news. (Just how bad is arguably underlined by the fact that the only military use of force the Vatican has actually supported in the last 30 years was against the Serbs — though there are arguably other reasons for that as well.)

    I’m not sure that there’s strong evidence that the wider Serbian government knew about the antics of their intelligence chief ahead of time — he was, after all, also running a secret society which had at times acted against the Serb government. But certainly, I would agree that the Austro-Hungarians were right to see the Serbs as a serious (if regional) threat, as demonstrated by the fact that the head of the Austro-Hungarian general staff had been pushing for war with Serbia for a quite a while (mostly held back, before his death, by Archduke Ferdinand.)

    At the same time, one can at least see why the Serbs saw having Austro-Hungarian representatives come into Serbia and help run the trails of those involved as being a violation of sovereignty — something the Serbs were pretty sensitive about since they were so newly independent and overshadowed by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

    All in all, though, I certainly don’t blame the Austro-Hungarians much for wanting to go to war with Serbia over the assassination. (The way they behaved when they actually got into Serbia, on the other hand, is a whole other matter.) And the ones who engineered that very regional conflict into a general European war were clearly the Germans. The Austro-Hungarians wanted a regional war just between them and Serbia which would, they hoped, allow them to solidify the situation in the area and put down a disruptive local power.

  • Translations of the ultimatum and reply for those interested:

    http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/austrianultimatum.htm

  • so newly independent and overshadowed by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

    By this time, Serbia had been independent for about half a century, but your point is a valid one. While people these days tend to forget the rank barbarity that was then normal for the region – a memory lapse that anti-Catholics continue to make use of when it comes to the matter of Croatian Ustashe in the following war, who simply took a page from the Serbian playbook — it is worth noting that Serbia’s dysfunction was in some sense inevitable. Arguably, one cannot survive and overcome four centuries of Ottoman oppression by simply playing nice.

    Also, whatever the blame Serbia bears for the war, her people suffered inordinately for the misdeeds of their rulers. If I recall, half the male population was dead by the end, though as in much of the rest of the continent, disease was as much of a killer as bullets and bayonets.

  • I had not understood why Germany was blamed for WWI. I vaguely remember high school lessons suggesting that Germany was blamed because history is written by the victors.

    I am embarrassed to say that I have never had much interest in the First World War. Lessons in school blitzed through that section and I never picked it up again.

    Have you a recommendation for a general history of the Great War?

  • For a long time the First World War was neglected a lot in histories, and there’s been a lot of bad history of the conflict done. It’s one of those unusual periods where the historical analysis has been getting much better as we get further from the event, in part because some of the key documents relating to it are only now being de-classified by the involved governments.

    For a fairly short and readable general history, I’d recommend Hew Strachan’s The First World War from ten years back. There’s a paperback version that’s in print now, but it’s worth getting the hardcover from the library (or used) as it has a really good selection of pictures.

    For the longest time, I was fascinated by WW2 but pretty much ignored WW1, but it’s now become my main historical fascination. I’m hoping that it gets increasing attention and analysis with the 100th anniversary coming up.

  • Ah, Donald beat me to it.

    Keegan’s book is the first one I read when I started getting interested in WW1 again, and it’s also quite good.

  • Wow, twice today I have been greatly informed about world wars. Thanks guys!

    (this was the other fount of info in case you’re wondering*)

    *(Yes I am aware that the video is humorous. I just thought a lot of you history nerds would probably laugh at even more jokes I missed.)

  • It’s one of those unusual periods where the historical analysis has been getting much better as we get further from the event, in part because some of the key documents relating to it are only now being de-classified by the involved governments.

    Dunno. IIRC, there was a great mass of documents released very early on due to the controversy spawned by the war guilt clause. I think there were many early twentieth century diplomatic histories composed in various languages – I’ve held dozens in my hands.

  • A must-have for anyone interested in the Great War (as it is still known in the UK, the Second World War being simply “the War”) is the 26-part documentary of that name, broadcast by the BBC in 1964 to mark the fiftieth anniversary and drawing on over a million feet of original film, hundreds of exclusive interviews with surviving participants and contemporary diaries, letters and reports. It is, and will remain, the definitive film account of that conflict. The series editor was John Terraine.

    Darwin’s remarks about the Serbs is apposite. They were regarded as semi-civilized at best. In June 1903 the ruling dynasty was replaced in a bloody coup. A mob, led by drunken army officers, went on a murderous rampage through the royal palace in Belgrade. They eventually found King Alexander and Queen Draga hiding in a cupboard in the queen’s bedroom. They were shot, stabbed and mutilated, and their naked bodies hurled out of a window. The chief plotter, Col. Dragutin Dimitryevich, later founded the Black Hand terrorist group which assassinated Franz Ferdinand.

    Regarding the “Curragh mutiny” touched on by Darwin in his post – this was a declaration by some officers that they would resign their commissions if they were ordered north to impose Home Rule on Ulster. There was no question of anyone, particularly the rank and file, refusing to fight, and in any case the government was not planning to send them to Ulster. The Anglo-Irish families traditionally well-represented in the officer corps (Wellington is a famous example) were not Orangemen and would not have taken kindly to being so described.

    The Home Rule Bill had been passed by June 1914, but the Conservatives maintained it was unconstitutional. The Liberals did not have an overall parliamentary majority and in fact had only one more seat more than the Conservatives (272 as opposed to 271) and with a lower share of the popular vote (43.9% as opposed to 46.3%). They relied on the support of the 71 Irish nationalists in Parliament. They had used the new and controversial Parliament Act to override the House of Lords. Such a fundamental change in the make-up of the United Kingdom, opponents argued, needed a far stronger mandate.

    Winston Churchill, whose father Lord Randolph had famously “played the Orange Card” against Gladstone at the time of the first HR Bill in 1886, and who in 1914 was First Lord of the Admiralty, threatened to use the fleet to bombard Belfast into submission. To this day, he is not held in much esteem by NI protestants.

  • <i?They were shot, stabbed and mutilated, and their naked bodies hurled out of a window.

    Well, to be fair, there was the matter of Draga’s sham pregnancy that supposedly led to Serbian humiliation at the Russian court, and also the rumour that her brother would be appointed the heir (the mob murdered him as well). In any case, the Sicilians (yet another tribe schooled in Ottoman micro-statecraft) had nothing on these people. There may have been even a pet direwolf there, too, somewhere, but don’t quote me on that.

  • Art Deco,

    Dunno. IIRC, there was a great mass of documents released very early on due to the controversy spawned by the war guilt clause. I think there were many early twentieth century diplomatic histories composed in various languages – I’ve held dozens in my hands.

    Certainly, there have been a huge number of histories trying to get at the causes and conduct of the Great War. And there was indeed a large release of documents right after the war by Germany in order to try to make their case against the accusation of war guilt.

    I think that makes a lot of the earlier historiography problematic is:

    – In the diplomatic arena, part of the problem is that right after the war the people writing had such a huge stake in particular interpretations of what happened. Plus, the German release of documents was selective and intended to move guilt away from them. Fritz Fischer’s Germany’s Aims in the First World War in 1967 was one of the first works to start to get at additional documentation which showed pretty clearly that far more than any other great power, Germany was gunning for a general European war in 1914, but that from the very beginning there was a systematic attempt by German leadership to obscure the causes of the war. So we have Bethmann Hollweg endorsing war as a response to mobilization even while acknowledging that Russian mobilization is not an existential threat for Germany because Russian mobilization is not the kind of launch-a-war mobilization that constituted German plans. But you also have him stating that in order to avoid problems with the Social Democrat’s, it’s essential to at all times represent Russia as the guilty party. (Fischer covers this and also Fromkin more recently in Europe’s Last Summer: Why the World Went to War in 1914.) So I’d argue that as the documentary record has become more complete, the diplomatic history writing has become a lot better.

    – On tactics and strategy, I think part of the issue is that shortly after the war a lot of the people writing had a very strong agenda. Brock Millman has a book out called Pessimism and British War Policy, 1916-1918 which makes the case that while Haig believed he could win the war on the Western Front, after the Battle of the Somme a lot of the politicians (including Lloyd George) became convinced that the war could not be won, and instead were focused on winning strategic resources in the East and the colonies which would allow Britain to be successful against a still-strong Germany when the war kicked up again after a 5-10 year armistice. (I suppose arguably they were right on the resumed war part, though off on the length of time.) As a result, they’d quietly made things harder for Haig and the Western Front. When Haig went and unexpectedly won, it became necessary to defend those decisions which might otherwise be seen as having extended the war, and so it became necessary to emphasize a claim that Haig’s leadership had been inept and wasted lives. This account in works by Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, along with the works by disaffected veterans like Sigfied Sassoon and Robert Graves, provided grist for inter-war pacifism and then for the more class based critique of the Great War which became current after WW2. That too is something I think we’re finally starting to get behind in the last 10-20 years of scholarship.

    John Nolan,

    I’d have to go look this up, as I was reading it several years ago in William Manchester’s massive three volume Churchill biography, but I seem to recall that there was moderately good evidence during the home rule crisis that Unionist organizations were making some rather significant arms purchases — possibly with help (or at least winking) from Unionist officers in the British Army.

    And as you say, Churchill managed to get himself into rather hot water with the NI, with at least a credible danger of assassination. So depending how much Manchester is being influenced by his subject’s view of things, perhaps that’s an overly biased source.

  • Both the Ulster Volunteers and the Irish Volunteers were gun-running in 1914; the former via Larne and the latter via Howth. Interestingly, the Ulster gun-runners landed their arms under cover of darkness and attempted to evade the authorities, whereas the southerners ran their shipment of Mausers in broad daylight, with a large crowd present and under the noses of the military. The soldiers were taunted into opening fire and three people were killed; this incident at Bachelors Walk on 26 July has now acquired mythological status in the somewhat overblown annals of Irish republicanism. During the Easter Rising of 1916 the rebels were suspected of using dum-dum bullets, but the truth was that the ‘Howth Mausers’ were obsolete black powder weapons which fired a lead slug.

    The term ‘Unionist’ had a different connotation in 1914 than it has now. Since the defection of the Liberal Unionists to the Tories at the end of the 19th century, the Conservative Party was officially called the Unionist Party and indeed referred to itself as the Conservative and Unionist Party until the 1970s. Only later was the term used to describe those who wanted the separation of the Six Counties from the rest of Ireland.

  • On this day in 1918 began the Battle of Amiens, an offensive by Sir Henry Rawlinson’s 4th Army (British, Australian and Canadian) which Ludendorff referred to as the German army’s “Black Day”, and which was the start of the Allied ‘advance to victory’. The battle is noteworthy for a number of reasons:-

    1. The element of surprise. Men and materiel were moved into position under cover of darkness and radio silence was maintained (except for misleading radio traffic to make the Germans believe the Canadians were being moved to Ypres).

    2. A combination of sound-ranging and aerial photography enabled nearly all of the German batteries to be located and neutralized by ‘predicted’ counter-battery fire, i.e. without preliminary ‘ranging’. The troops could advance leaning on a creeping barrage, and the use of an instantaneous fuze enabled artillery to cut wire.

    3. Over 500 tanks were deployed; in addition to the much improved Mk V heavy tank there were light Whippet tanks and armoured cars. Tanks and infantry were well co-ordinated.

    4. Tactical airpower was used effectively; the RAF employed some 1,900 machines including dive bombers and fighter ground attack. Continuous wave radio made ground-to-air communication possible. The aim was to keep the enemy off-balance.

    Even cavalry played a part. It was the all-arms battle. The lesson was not lost on the Germans – they used it in a later war. Ironically, Rawlinson is usually remembered in connection with the first day of the Battle of the Somme, two years earlier, rather than as a pioneer of Blitzkrieg.

    Attached to the British 47th (2nd London) Division was an American unit – the 131st Infantry Regiment.

He’d Rather Reign In Hell Than Serve In Heaven

Tuesday, July 30, AD 2013

The more “friendly” modern formulation of hell is that hell consists of eternal separation from God and that no one goes to hell except through his own choice: choosing to remain separate from God rather than embracing Him fully in the union of the beatific vision.

The objection I normally hear to this is: In that case, then obviously hell is empty, because no one would choose an eternity of isolation rather than union with God.

This always strikes me as showing a profound lack of understanding of human character. Within our temporal lives, we often choose unhappiness in order to get our own way, and it’s hard to see how this sort of pride would fail to play a part in people’s eternal decisions. Perhaps part of the problem is that people often think of the afterlife in cartoon terms: Would you rather spend eternity boiling in a lake of fire or reclining in a cloud with a harp?

But if heaven is full and complete union with God, then I think it’s pretty clear that for the person who would much rather define God for himself than mold himself to God’s will, heaven would seem like something worth rejecting. C. S. Lewis, I think, does a very good job of showing this in The Great Divorce.

‘You think that, because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched.’

‘Well, really, you know, I am not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leav me the free play of Mind, Dick? I must insist on that, you know.’ (from The Great Divorce, ch. 5)

In religious circles, this pride seems often played out in the desire to make a God after our own image. From the same chapter of The Great Divorce:

‘But you’ve never asked me about what my paper is about! I’m taking the text about growing up to the measure of Christ and working out an idea which I feel sure you’ll be interested in. I’m going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. he would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience. I am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste… so much promise cut short. (from The Great Divorce, ch. 5)

A almost shockingly clear example of this made headlines last week, as Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu made headlines by saying that he’d rather go to hell than be in heaven with a God who considered gay sex to be sinful.

South Africa’s iconic retired archbishop, Desmond Tutu, said on Friday that if he had his pick, he’d go to hell before heading to a heaven that condemned homosexuality as sin.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said, by way of denouncing religions that discriminate against gays, in Agence France-Presse..

He added, AFP reported: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

Or as Milton’s Lucifer put it: Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.

If we must regret that Jesus died too young, before his views had had the chance to “evolve” enough to fit modern sensibilities, we may at least be happy that Desmond Tutu has lived long enough to provide us with a more enlightened savior.

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47 Responses to He’d Rather Reign In Hell Than Serve In Heaven

  • “When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”. It was, I imagine, at this stage in the interview that Our Father’s disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given rise to the ridiculous enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven.”

  • I reckon Desmond will get his wish, then.

  • Hmm… poses an interesting question. For what phobia am I willing to reject heaven?

  • When having a sensibility is distinguished from the practice of same by these “spokesmen” of religion, understanding will have a chance to replace emotional reaction in the masses. They seem to be playing to the self-indulgent more than teaching.

  • I profoundly agree with your post, Darwin. The reason pride has traditionally been understood to be the deadliest of sins is precisely because it is the sin most likely to permanently separate us from God. I can easily envision many smug and strident pro-aborts being unwilling to admit fault and ask for forgiveness even when facing God Himself.

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  • To quote Ronald Reagan, “Tutu? So so.”

  • According to some of the Fathers, such as St Isaac of Syria and St Maximus the Confessor, hell, like heaven consists in the presence of God.

    The “fire” that will consume sinners at the coming of the Kingdom of God is the same “fire” that will shine with splendour in the saints. It is the “fire” of God’s love; the “fire” of God Himself who is Love. “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) who “dwells in unapproachable light.” (I Timothy 6:16) For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the “consuming fire” of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same consuming fire” will be the cause of their “weeping” and their “gnashing of teeth.”

    Some identify this “fire” with the uncreated light of Tabor, shining from the Risen Lord.
    .

  • Donald R. McClarey reference to ” that Our Father’s disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given rise to the ridiculous enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven.” is either Satanist, Gnostic or Masonic – for there the belief is that God had two sons, Jesus and Satanail and the later, satan, was cast out of heaven. the ‘Our Father’ refered to in Mc Clareys’s comment is Satan (or Lucifer as he was called before his fall and lost the brilliance of light he had before it). The ‘enemy’ is God. This reversal of divinely revealed truth reveals the true origin of the comments and vindicates the orginal view stated in the article: some people prefer Hell to heaven by preferring the Lie to the Truth.

  • It is from CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters Jacquie. The speaker is Screwtape a senior demonic tempter in Hell.

  • Human nature never fails to perplex. I know my theology is flawed, but does that mean we cannot comment on others? My questions to the reverend tutu are these: Are you also telling us that gay sex should be without sin before gay marriage? Are you also telling us (and God) then that any premarital sex is good and righteous? Can an 18 year old lad have intercourse with a 17 year old lass, let the chips fall as they may, and this is all good? What have you learned from Job? Did not Our Lord say (paraphrase) “when you can account for all of the mysteries and explanations to life and the universe, then will I feel compelled to answer your demands?” Was God not saying be faithful, I have given all you need to know for salvation, your faith is now required to trust and believe me on all the rest? And why do you think those with gay tendencies are the only ones who struggle trying to remain chaste and faithful? We all have great crosses to bear.

  • Yeah, who wants to hang out with a homophobic, intolerant, anti-choice, opinionated God with unrealistic expectations about human behavior? With the “Other Guy” at least we can look forward to an eternity of him singing “I love you just the way you are!”

  • Michael PS, I really appreciated your comment which was a splendid explanation for hell. Without going into the details, I will say God the Father once made his presence tangibly known/felt by me during deep prayer. It was momentary, but it felt like a flood or rush passing all the way through my being. The first knowledge given to me of His presence was of His incredible creative love, which animated my soul to deep desire to participate – or better said – cooperate with him in creation. It was so powerful, there are no human words to describe it. Imagine then, when we see God face to face with the memory of how we resisted participation in the creation of a human being through birth control or abortion. This alone would be hell, I think, let alone all the other things we have done which were contrary to other aspects of God essence.

  • it always surpirises me when someone says that they would rather not be with a God that does not abide to ther view or belief! So instead of honoring the creator of us and all we love, we instead out of a rebelous state of mind, would throw it all away. Insanity! So we would rather be with haters, murderers, cheats, and the biggest liar who does not love but would rather torture us all for his amusement! Some believe that what all people love here that is sin, will be allowed there. Sinful pleasures. But that will not be the case, and the horror of finding out they will be condemed to terrifying suffering for ever, no relief, no stopping. Eternal. I feel so sorry for anyone who experiences it for the despair would be crushing. Even if they have done terrible things. Put yourself in their situation, too late to say you are sorry. In this life we want riches and imortality. God actually wants to give that to us, but we can’t bring sin and rebelion to heaven. It happened once and will not be allowed again, but with his mercy he allows it on earth and in our life. A testing period of time where we make our decison, while he tries to save us without compromising our free will. A man of God who would say that. How sad and he influences others, that makes his sin worse.

  • Jmtalk

    “… those who find themselves in hell will be chastised by the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be! For those who understand that they have sinned against love, undergo no greater suffering than those produced by the most fearful tortures. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart, which has sinned against love, is more piercing than any other pain. It is not right to say that the sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God … But love acts in two ways, as suffering of the reproved, and as joy in the blessed!” (St. Isaac of Syria, Mystic Treatises)

  • People are so ill informed when it comes to hell and it’s reality. When people go there they have full knowledge of why these sins, gay sex, etc… offend Our Lord so much. Gay sex goes against our very nature as procreative beings created in the image and likeness of God. We are all tested in life in order to be given the opportunity to either grow in holiness or fall deeper into sin, to move more closer to God and become more who we truly are created in His image and likeness or move further away from Him becoming more and more the image of the evil one whom we have chosen as our father, (The father of lies that is). What devastation and despair the soul will be plunged into when it realises all the missed opportunities it was given to grow in holiness and be it’s true self but because of pride and stubbornness of spirit persevered in sin, that which is in opposition to The Holy One in Heaven. When satan realises his victory in capturing your eternal lost soul, he will hurl you into hell like a piece of rubbish where he will torment you forever. How deeply hurt God becomes at the sight of each soul the evil one succeeds in bringing to ruination especially when He has always been ready and willing to offer forgiveness to the soul at every instant of its earthly existence, but cant interfere with its free will. God cant force a soul to ask for forgiveness because He wants us to choose life with Him forever or else our love wouldn’t be real. Free will makes our love for God pure, genuine and real. Free will can also make disposition toward God impure, false and self centred . It’s our choice, and He is who He is. God is love. He isn’t a homophobic as people would suggest, that is just pure and utter narrow mindedness, and misunderstanding of God. He loves us so much and only wants the best for us but wont force it on us. If we choose to be obedient to God, and His laws, there will be eternal bliss for those. If we choose to spend our lives in stubborn opposition to His laws through pride and narrow mindedness, then eternal pain is what awaits us, it is not God’s choice, its our. May God bless you all and especially Cardinal Desmond Tutu, may the lord remove the scales from his eyes to be able to see the truth of what human sexuality truly is as ordained and created by God, and be obedient to that. In Jesus through Mary our Mother. Liam

  • It becomes more and more obvious that there is only one Church.

  • In my all-too-limited study of the Our Father, I see that early texts had the last line something more like “And do not put us to the final test, but deliver us from
    the evil one.”

    Would that “final test” be the choice between eternity with God or not? Asking to be able to skip that part and be ushered into Heaven without exposure to Satan would certrainly be something a faithful person would want.

  • Our Church has always taught the primary good of the ‘marriage (sexual intercourse) act’, was for the procuration of Children, the secondary good was the communion or unity of the couple (the pleasurable aspect). in this way the secondary is the servant of the primary. in this light Pope Paul VI’s ‘Humane Vitae’ made perfect sense. In our Time, the 2 ‘goods’ have been reversed, and the result is utter confusion, and misunderstanding.

  • Agreed, Father. Another way to understand the phenomenon is —
    For centuries the Christian world has understood that marriage, sex, and children were interdependent — i.e., one really could not and should not try to separate them. Since the sexual revolution we now understand each to be an independent “choice.” The social costs this astonishingly quick transformation has wrought have been and will continue to be staggering.

  • This saying is trustworthy:

    If we have died with him

    we shall also live with him;i
    if we persevere

    we shall also reign with him.

    But if we deny him

    he will deny us.j
    If we are unfaithful

    he remains faithful,

    for he cannot deny himself.
    (2 Tim: 11-13)

  • “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Sad and delusional, and ultimately, eternally tragic for Tutu

  • Tutu has long played the clown. That having been said, I would be willing to wager he was quoted in a manner that made what he did say unrecognizable.

  • …tells me all i need to know about the Anglican church!…..

  • http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pro-abortion-archbishop-tutus-invitation-to-a-catholic-university-mind-bogg/

    http://frontpagemag.com/2010/alan-m-dershowitz/tutu-and-the-jews/2/

    Africa’s Anglican episcopacy has long been resistant to what was being peddled by the affluent Anglosphere. There is at least one exception. The Catholic Church in South Africa got saddled with the foul Reginald Cawcutt. Cry, the beloved country.

  • Something tells me TuTu is gonna get his wish! What a STUPID, STUPID man! I mean I knew he was a HERETIC, but to actually prefer Hell to Heaven, WOW, mere words DO NOT DESCRIBE the INSANITY of this man!

  • We haven’t been calling him Desmond “Tooty Frooty” for nothing! While he is an embarrassment to all religion, I’m so glad he isn’t Catholic.

  • Did I misunderstand what Tutu really meant? I want to go to heaven. I want everyone to go to heaven. God doesn’t hate a homosexual or lesbian. What he hates is the actions, the sins they commit. I am sure he will welcome everyone who wants to live with Him, whether or not they are “straight” or “gay.” But if one flaunts the fact that he or she is gay, then that’s another story.

  • I agree with you Anne Erdle. Thanks. God Bless.

  • Response to Anne Erdle, I agree with you. But ‘what Tutu really meant?’ The article said, “He added, AFP reported: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.” This word ‘homophobic’ describes a psychiactic condition using Latin and Greek respectively. ‘Homo’ in Latin is man as mankind, all men; ‘vir’ in Latin is the male gender. The application of this word homophobic by the leaders in society is saying what they arrogantly think of all not in agreement with them re homosexual activities or gay-marriage (sin) – that we all have a psychiatric condition. The lie of this accusation is revealed by the fact we do not act as those who have this phychiatric ‘phobic’ condition which is manifested by running away in fear and terror at the sight of men in the street. If we used the same languageof atheists ‘Fidephobia’ (fear of faith) or ‘Fidephobes’ imagine Richard Dawkins response. (By the way the Russians used such psychiatric jargon for putting Christians in psychiatric hospitals for drug testing. As Pope Francis said, “America will wake up one day and find itself communist”)

  • Jaquie

    I think you will find that “Homophobic” is formed, not from Latin “homo” but from Greek ὁμός = Same. It is found in such words as “homogeneous,” “homogenized” (as of milk) and “homologation” (if one is a Scots lawyer)

    “Homosexual” was first used in English in in C.G. Chaddock’s 1892 translation of Krafft-Ebing’s “Psychopathia Sexualis” He borrowed it from German, where it was first used a decade or so earlier.

    It was part of the medicalising of sexual inversion, rather drolly described by Michel Foucault, “Sodomy, that of the old civil or canon laws, was a category of forbidden acts. Their perpetrator was nothing more than the juridical subject of them. The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage: a past, a case history, and a childhood, in addition to being a character, a life-style and a morphology, with an over-inquisitive anatomy and, possibly, a mysterious physiology. Nothing that he was, escaped his sexuality… It was consubstantial with him, less as a habitual sin than as a singular nature…. The sodomite had been a lapse; the homosexual was now a species.” [My translation]

  • Revelation 20:15
    Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Mark 9:48 (NKJV)
    48 where‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’

    Ezekiel 28:18 (NET) 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, through the sinfulness of your trade,you desecrated your sanctuaries.So I drew fire out from within you;
    it consumed you,and I turned you to ashes on the earth before the eyes of all who saw you.

    ……………………..

    This lake of fire that those who rebel against God are thrown into seems to be all the Godless kept in one place. The fire comes from within them.

    All who say their sins are good and normal and come out in the defence of their sins or other peoples sins thoroughly have the fires of hell burning within them.

    Romans 1:26-32
    New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
    26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters,[a] insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

  • Pray for this mans soul. Satan comes to LIE AND DESTROY>He has bought the LIE, My people parish for lack of knowledge. In the Last days(end of an era/not world) people will not listen to sound doctorine and will go (Paraphrasing and you can pic it a part if you want) GO WITH THEIR FEELINGS. AND EMOTIONS AND WHAT TICKLES THE EAR! /wow is that our world today. The Warning and the Illumination of conscious is so close. St., Faustina’s Diary. Prophcies of Garabandal. Bishop is now looking into it. It was prophecied it would be when it was close to happening. I was there on good friday 12 noon staning at the pines. Seen many a miricle with my owng eyes as many did that day! God Bless. Pray for those who will stand before God soon in the WARNING. Many will die of fright. but the Lord will correct what is broken. If we do not respond to the Warning. Then very shortly after. The three days of darkness. Confession. Prayer and the Triumph of Our Lady is nigh. Who do you think the women is clothed with the sun. Hint. LOOK at the Tilma and see latest scientific evedince. I met Joey Lamengino. The Blind man who will be healed after the warning and the Great Mirircle soon to follow. It will be in March April or May. Following the WARNING. Joey Lamingino is now about 87 as best I can tell. I have been following Garabandal since I was about 12 yrs old. Im 51. I belive we will soon see the the warning with in a year two or three. then the rise of the antichrist. Its a war. It is allowed by God becouse of our sin. A deception is
    allowed upon the people becaouse of their sin. Isn’t it interesting to that in 2014 starts a tetrad of blood red moons and sackcloth moons that fall on God the Fathers Feastdays. Look what happenened on previous Tetrads. Lord was crucified on a elicipse. ETC. Just SAYING. Is the first one the breaking of the sixth seal, And the earth will shake like never before in time. Then the WARNING ETC. Just saying. God Bless.

  • It’s that Tutu, and the rest, worship the creature not the Creator.

    “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’” Matthew 16: 23

  • Perhaps what Archbishop Tutu understands is that there is a clear difference between Homosexuality and Homosexual Acts. There are homosexual people who choose to remain chaste so as Not to sin against God. You must educate your use on the use of the English language. Therefore, Homosexuality is “The state of being attracted to the same sex”. Homosexual Acts is “Engaging in sexual acts with those of the same sex”. Does anyone understand this??

  • G. K. Chesterton – “Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural.”

  • Tom,
    Pretty much everyone who visits this blog understands that rather elementary point, and you are correct that Tutu’s comment could technically be interpreted in that way; but if TAC is misinterpreting Tutu, then it is in good company. I’ve only heard of one person who has offered such an extraordinarily charitable interpetation — you.

  • Only God is good. We are all sinners. We sin because we are sinners, not vice versa.

    Hate the sin. Love the sinner.

    The Spiritual Works of Mercy. Charity and moral courage.

    Admonish the sinner.

    Bear all wrongs patiently. Carry your crosses without complaining.

    Counsel the doubtful.

    Forgive all injuries.

    Instruct the ignorant.

    Pray for the living and the dead.

  • JMJ Acts of homosexuality are the Sin not the Tendency. When ever we use the word gay, we are Condoning homosexual acts. The word Gay does not mean Homosexual acts are good, people who support homosexuals use the word (gay) in order to to get God and us to think they are not Sinful, their Problem is God Condems homosexual acts. No homosexual is gay, They Unhappily (sexual feelings are God given, out side of Marriage they are Evil, by the way so called same sex marriage is still Sodomy) are Sinful. When you call someone Gay who is Actively sinning than you support them in their Sin, they Are Sinful(Sodomites) not gay. Changing homosexual acts to gay acts doesn’t change the acts to gayness the acts are still EVIL! Homosexual acts are Evil not Gay! Not to good in trying to Explain the Sodomite groups changing Homosexual to gay. The Catholic churches Error (Sin ?) is accepting what is being done!

  • That God of ours—such a scandal.

  • And Jesus said, “Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.” Matthew 14:15

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  • I am sure God will grant him his ridiculous wish and then he will have wished he had never had said that statement.

  • “The Lord never tires of forgiving,”Pope Francis said March 17, before leading his listeners in praying the midday Angelus. “It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness. “The Lord, our God is merciful, compassionate and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. It appears that South Africa Anglican archbishop Tutu doesn’t know nor fully understand God. Hell, purgatory and Heaven are real. The retired Anglican archbishop would be a different man, if he would visit Medjugorje, Croatia where Mother of Jesus (Virgin Mary) appeared daily since 1981.

  • Michael
    Thank you for the correction on source of homo. ‘Homo’ was from greek somewhere along the line of transmission and into latin but homo in the Latin dictionary means “Human Being, man” plural people”. hence homocide, Pilate’s famous “Ecce Homo” singular, – behold the man, or, human being. The new Psychiatrics Diagnostic Manual V no longer uses the word ‘homosexual’ but G.I.D. Gids are those with a Gender Identity Disorder and the Manual adds to its description, in brackets, ‘some homosexuals have this’. However ‘homophobia’ is still a psychological condition wrongly attributed by society or governments to those who hold Judeo-Christian morals.

  • Jaquie

    Greek ὁμός (homos) comes from an Indo-European word somos (cf. Sanskrit “samah” = “even”) The Latin form is “similis,” whence English “similar.”

    The Latin word “homo” comes from “humus,” meaning “earth” or “soil.” It has nothing to do with the Greek word ὁμός.

    They are accidental homophones (another example of the Greek prefix homo-, meaning “same sound”) like “down,” meaning a hill (which is Celtic) and “down,” meaning feathers (which is Old Norse) They are quite unconnected.

Fake Pope Francis Quote Takes Internet By Storm

Thursday, July 25, AD 2013

If you move in Catholic circles on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the following quote, allegedly spoken by Pope Francis at World Youth Day this week, being passed around:

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints – saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change.

We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”

– Pope Francis (World Youth Day 2013)

The thing is, it’s a totally fake quote. There’s no evidence that Pope Francis ever said it.

Google around a bit, and you’ll find versions (some written as verse, many with slight variations) dating back to 2010. Some are attributed to Pope John Paul II, some to Pope Benedict XVI, some say that it is Pope Francis quoting John Paul II or Benedict XVI. One thing you will absolutely not find, however, is any quote of the text on the Vatican website or a reputable Catholic news source, because none of these popes ever said this.

If one gives it an extra moment’s thought, it seems particularly unlikely that Pope Francis would choose World Youth Day to give a shout out to global brands such as Coca-Cola and Apple, in saying that we need saints who use their products.

Of course, one of the problems with a faux Francis getting so much attention is that it draws things away from the things that Pope Francis really has been saying at World Youth Day this week, such as:

“It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality.” [source]

and

Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us. As Benedict XVI said here, in this Shrine: “the disciple knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future” [source]

You can access all of Pope Francis’s addresses from World Youth Day on the Vatican website.

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8 Responses to Fake Pope Francis Quote Takes Internet By Storm

  • “The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy” -Abraham Lincoln, 1864

  • I thought I recalled you had a really good post on fake quotes, which I was going to link to, but I couldn’t find it at the moment.

  • Quotes falsely attributed to Mother Teresa are so numerous that the nuns set up an internet page just to correct folks’ erroneous assumptions.

    http://www.motherteresa.org/08_info/Quotesf.html

  • “I thought I recalled you had a really good post on fake quotes, which I was going to link to, but I couldn’t find it at the moment.”

    I have been meaning to do one for years although I have yet to get around to it. I have railed against fake quotes in the comboxes:

    “preach the Gospel always, if necessary, use words.”

    A good story G-Veg, but I wish to point out that Saint Francis never said that. That is a modern formulation from the 1990s.

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi

    This popped up in the 1990s and you now see it repeated endlessly throughout Saint Blogs.

    Fake quotes are abhorrent to me since they lend authority to a phrase to which it is not entitled. With the advent of the internet fake quotes gain credence because so many people repeat them. Three examples: “We sleep safely in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.” attributed to George Orwell is a fake quote that is repeated endlessly. “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” is a favorite George Washington quote that he never uttered. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” was never said by Edmund Burke. – See more at: http://the-american-catholic.com/2013/01/02/portents-of-doom/#sthash.OQFVeozf.dpuf

  • ““The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy” -Abraham Lincoln, 1864.” ” First good laugh I have had today.

  • “We sleep safely in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.” attributed to George Orwell is a fake quote that is repeated endlessly. “We sleep safely in our beds at night because generous souls stand ready to protect and defend peace. “edited.

    “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” is a favorite George Washington quote that he never uttered. “Government is the will of the people for the common good” edited
    “We are all called to be great saints. Don’t miss the opportunity.” Mother Angelica of EWTN.
    The quote refers to people as “that”. Persons must be referred to as “who”, because of the Holy Spirit in their souls. God is “I AM WHO I AM”. In days past, people were counted by their soul: 200 souls were aboard the boat.

  • This is a different question but related to possible false quotes. I heard on my local radio station this morning that Pope Francis was quoted on his flight back to Rome something in to the fact that he will not judge gay priests. Is this true?

Maybe World War One Generals Weren’t Idiots

Monday, July 22, AD 2013

I was interested to read this British opinion piece, making the case that British military leadership during the Great War was not the clutch of bumbling fools which has become the stereotype of the war.

In 1928, following the sudden death of Field Marshall Douglas Haig, more people took to streets to mourn his passing that had ever been seen previously or indeed since. The very public mourning as a result of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 was dwarfed in comparison to those that came out to pay respects to Earl Haig.

It took literature and some key individuals to change history. As one of my university lecturers once said to me, history does not happen, it is written, and that principle could not be applied more strongly to the case of First World War history.

With the publication of Alan Clark’s The Donkeys (1961) and the production of Joan Littlewood’s musical Oh! What a Lovely War (1963), a wave of popular history provided the foundation through which all subsequent knowledge of the First World War is filtered – precisely the problem with which we are now faced. Historians and thespians took the critical words of those men that had a grudge and an agenda to push, namely Lloyd George and Churchill, thus generating the idea that generals were both inept and callous.

But beyond the Blackadder episodes there is a raft of history that is desperate to break into the mainstream. No one doubts that there were a handful of poor officers at various stages of the command structure who made bad decisions that ultimately cost the lives of hundreds of men.

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30 Responses to Maybe World War One Generals Weren’t Idiots

  • Mud, Blood and Poppycock is an excellent revisionist history by Gordon Corrigan, who was a serving officer in the British Army:

    http://www.amazon.com/Mud-Blood-Poppycock-Everything-Paperbacks/dp/0304366595

    In World War I the British managed the considerable feat of raising a mass army for the first time in their history, bringing rapidly on line new technology of which tanks and fighter planes and bombers were only three examples, and slugging it out with the finest army on Earth. Mistakes were not uncommon in this process, sometimes grave ones, but they learned all the time and by the end of the War had a military force that was able to be the spearhead of the Hundred Days Offensive that broke the German Army in 1918.

    I think Douglas Haig, the British Commander in Chief on the Western Front from 1915-1918, has been especially badly maligned. Portrayed as a blundering cavalry officer, he was actually an enthusiast for new technology, especially tanks. Considered a completely callous butcher he was anything but. Early in the War his staff had to stop him from visiting hospitals because the sight of wounded and dying British soldiers was too much for him emotionally. When a painter came to his headquarters to do an official portrait of him, he told him to paint the common soldiers instead, saying that they were the ones saving the world and they were dying every day while doing it. He refused to take a viscountcy from the British government after the War, resisting even lobbying from the King, until financial assistance was approved for demobilized soldiers. Without his stand it is quite possible that the former soldiers would have been left to private charity. He spent the rest of his life helping the men who had served under him and forming the veteran’s organization, the British Legion, of which he was President until his death. When he died at 66 in 1928 endless lines of his veterans filed by his coffin to pay their last respects. British Legion halls almost always had a picture of Haig on the wall.

    Haig never deigned to reply to his critics, but his victory dispatch I think is an eloquent defense of what he and his “contemptible little army”, as the Kaiser referred to the British Army at the beginning of the War, accomplished with their French allies:

    http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/haiglastdespatch.htm

  • Darwin

    Actually the military staff’s British, French, and German were highly competent. If they weren’t they could not have put those mass armies in the field and kept them fed, equipped and attacking for four years. But – Breaking the stalemate with technology at hand would have required a level of genius that can’t be guaranteed to happen in any generation or profession.

    I saw a review a modern biography of Gen Haig (I forget the title.) The author, was critical of Haig, felt it necessary to first debunk the criticism of him from the 1920’s as worthless, so he could build an honest picture and point out his real failings. Much of that criticism came from political leaders deflecting attention from their own bad decisions, often made against Haig’s advice.

    Modern research is showing that the political leadership was highly involved in the decision process, agreeing and sometimes directing with most every major strategic decision, sometimes considering domestic political issues to over come adction that would have saved the lives of some of their soldiers.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Hank,

    Agreed. In case it wasn’t clear from the post itself: I am very much of the revisionist camp, not the “lions led by donkeys” camp.

    Don,

    From the author description: “The author was commissioned from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1962 and retired from the Brigade of Gurkhas in 1998. A member of the British Commission for Military History and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, he speaks fluent Nepali and is a keen horseman.” What else does one need to know! I’ll have to look it up. Philpott had a lot of great stuff attacking the census view, but in a restrained, scholarly kind of way. Corrigan simply sounds fun.

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  • Yes, i think it’s easy to make generals the scapegoats for what is usually politicians’ doing.

  • I agree with Jerry. The generals make an easy scapegoat. It’s the politicians who screw everything up. The so-called “Great War” was a war that should never have been fought in the first place.

    And the punitive “peace” that was imposed on Germany, as John Maynard Keynes foresaw in his work The Economic Consequences of the Peace (the subject of one of my Economics term papers in college), and as Churchill argued in the first volume of his 6-part history of WWII, created the conditions that led to another war that might have been avoided altogether had idiotic politicians not bungled the whole affair. Far be it for me to praise Keynes for anything, but he was correct in arguing, along with farsighted politicians like Churchill, that the reparations imposed on Germany following the Great War were a disaster in the making.

    When wars don’t go the way they should, and when the consequences thereof lead to undesired repercussions (see, e.g., the wiping out of long-established Christian communities in the Middle East following “democratization” efforts), it’s generally wise to look to the politicians for the blame, not the generals.

  • I think that the Great War is similar the US Civil War in that the generals were operating under principles and tactics that did not match the technological advances in arms and logistics.

    Plus, see Einstein’s defintion of insanity: doing over and over the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

  • Part of the reason WW1 generals have a bad reputation is the abject failure of WW1 strategies in WW2. France was well prepared to re-fight WW1, with their own corresponding WW1 heroes leading the preparation. As a result, it took Germany just over a month to completely defeat France.

  • It’s interesting how popular myth is virtually impervious to demonstrable truth. A lot of Americans still believe that the major cause of the Revolution was economic exploitation and oppression, which is utter nonsense. The (mostly expat) Irish still bang on about 800 years of English oppression whereas in fact Anglo-Norman influence didn’t extend beyond the Pale until the 16th century. The plantation of Ulster had exactly the same rationale as the plantation of Massachusetts, and with a similar disregard for the native inhabitants. One of the things that the Pilgrims gave thanks for at the end of 1621 was that 90 per cent of the indigenous peoples of New England had died of disease in the decade before their arrival, having – very considerately – tilled the land and buried stores of corn for the winter. As a result of massacre and introduced disease, the number of American Indians declined from an estimated 2 million in 1500 to a mere 325,000 in 1820. It doesn’t stop Irish-Americans from celebrating Thanksgiving.

    Another widespread American myth is that they were somehow victims of colonialism rather than colonialists par excellence. They colonized an entire continent, and whereas the Brits had the honesty to describe their efforts as imperialism, the Americans called it ‘manifest destiny’.

  • “It’s interesting how popular myth is virtually impervious to demonstrable truth. A lot of Americans still believe that the major cause of the Revolution was economic exploitation and oppression, which is utter nonsense.”

    The Revolution was all about the right of the Americans to rule themselves John, and that is always worth fighting for. Edmund Burke understood this:

    “Again, and again, revert to your own principles—Seek Peace, and ensue it—leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, not attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions; I hate the very sound of them. Leave the Americans as they antiently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. They and we, and their and our ancestors, have been happy under that system. Let the memory of all actions, in contradiction to that good old mode, on both sides, be extinguished for ever. Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it. Let this be your reason for binding their trade. Do not burthen them by taxes; you were not used to do so from the beginning. Let this be your reason for not taxing. These are the arguments of states and kingdoms. Leave the rest to the schools; for there only they may be discussed with safety. But, if intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of government, by urging subtle deductions, and consequences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in question. When you drive him hard, the boar will surely turn upon the hunters. If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. No-body will be argued into slavery. Sir, let the gentlemen on the other side call forth all their ability; let the best of them get up, and tell me, what one character of liberty the Americans have, and what one brand of slavery they are free from, if they are bound in their property and industry, by all the restraints you can imagine on commerce, and at the same time are made pack-horses of every tax you choose to impose, without the least share in granting them. When they bear the burthens of unlimited monopoly, will you bring them to bear the burthens of unlimited revenue too? The Englishman in America will feel that this is slavery—that it is legal slavery.”

    “The (mostly expat) Irish still bang on about 800 years of English oppression whereas in fact Anglo-Norman influence didn’t extend beyond the Pale until the 16th century.”

    The worst of the oppression occurred after the English Reformation, but I doubt if the English would have liked to put up with the type of invasions that the Irish had from the English from the time of Strongbow.

    “The plantation of Ulster had exactly the same rationale as the plantation of Massachusetts, and with a similar disregard for the native inhabitants.”

    Actually one of the main purposes was to introduce a large Catholic hating minority into Ireland. Mission accomplished.

    “One of the things that the Pilgrims gave thanks for at the end of 1621 was that 90 per cent of the indigenous peoples of New England had died of disease in the decade before their arrival, having – very considerately – tilled the land and buried stores of corn for the winter.”

    I would be careful John with accepting current demographic estimates of Indian populations based on no more than bad guess work. If the Indian population had declined so rapidly it had a wonderful rebound by the time of King Philip’s War

    “As a result of massacre and introduced disease, the number of American Indians declined from an estimated 2 million in 1500 to a mere 325,000 in 1820. It doesn’t stop Irish-Americans from celebrating Thanksgiving.”

    Same point as above John. Additionally, many Indians simply became part of the settler culture, including some of my Cherokee ancestors. There were probably around 600,000 unassimilated Indians in the continental US by 1820 around 250,000 by 1890. My Cherokee ancestors would not have been counted in 1890 since they were living in Illinois by that time, completely assimilated.

    “Another widespread American myth is that they were somehow victims of colonialism rather than colonialists par excellence. They colonized an entire continent, and whereas the Brits had the honesty to describe their efforts as imperialism, the Americans called it ‘manifest destiny’.”

    We live here John, instead of say the Brits claiming to own India back in the days of the Raj. A key difference.

  • General Haig isn’t remembered with much sympathy or kindness in this part of the world.
    Under his command, 5 NZ soldiers in WW1 were executed by firing squad for desertion when the poor buggers were so shell shocked, they didn’t know where they were. or even cognisant of the charges against them. One of the sad realities of NZ troops being still under the command of British officers.
    The Aussies were a bit better off. When the Australian troops were ordered to advance in the face of ridiculous overwhelming enemy forces and refused to, Haig wanted to line them up and shoot them for mutiny. Fortunately, the Aussies, after the debacle of being under the command of British officers in the Gallipoli campaign, had put their own command in place, their own officers denied Haig his wish, because they refused to allow volunteer troops to be executed. Fortunately, the NZ army adopted the same position after WW1, but too late to save the five volunteers executed by Haig.
    Its common knowledge down here, that Haig used the colonial troops as cannon fodder. To his amazement, the ANZACs achieved what his own forces could not, with only a fraction of the numbers.

  • I can understand why hard feelings still exist Don, but executions and Haig is another area where the reputation and the reality are at odds. British courtmartials handed down 3000 death sentences on the Western Front in World War I. They all had to be confirmed by Haig. He commuted all but 12% of the death sentences.

  • Don the Kiwi is in danger of perpetuating another myth, all too prevalent in Australia, and even to a certain extent in Canada. Incidentally “common knowledge” is almost invariably fallacious. The ANZACs were quite happy to serve under Sir William Birdwood until 31 May 1918 when he was promoted to command 5th Army and an Australian, Sir John Monash took his place. Birdwood toured Australia in 1920 to great acclaim, and would have been made Governor-General in 1930 had not the Australian PM, James Scullin, insisted on the post going to one of his political cronies.

    Similarly the Canadians greatly admired their Corps Commander, Sir Julian Byng, who led them to their great victory at Vimy ridge in April 1917. In June of that year Byng took over command of 3rd Army and the Canadian Sir Arthur Currie took command of the Canadian Corps. After the war Byng was a very popular Governor-General of Canada.

    The idea that Dominion troops were used as cannon fodder is not just myth but pernicious nonsense. Haig had great respect for their fighting qualities, and for the ability of Monash and Currie, despite the fact that neither had been a regular soldier before the war (so much for DH being hide-bound). They certainly punched above their weight, but they did not win the war on their own, and ordinary British divisions which made up the bulk of the BEF were capable of performing equally well.

    Most of the 300-odd executions carried out after general courts-martial were for desertion, and If you examine them on a case-by-case basis, you do find some examples of a miscarriage of justice. In most cases, however, those shot did not have the sympathy of their comrades. Shell-shock was a diagnosed medical condition (wrongly attributed to concussion caused by bursting shells) and was treated by hospitalization. Military justice is different from civilian justice in that wider considerations apply. Before confirming a sentence Haig would not only have to look at the individual case, but also consider the state of morale in the offender’s unit. If it was considered shaky, then it was more likely that the sentence would be carried out.

  • There is a wider sense in which mythological history is corrosive and damaging. If people in Australia and NZ really believe the nonsense that Don the Kiwi claims to be “common knowledge” (and those who actually fought in the war thought otherwise) then it can poison relations between countries. By the 1930s the pacifist argument that the Allies had not won the Great War was grist to Hitler’s mill. Recently an article on the British Empire posted on the BBC’s education website peddled a left-liberal Marxist line made worse in that it was grossly oversimplified. This re-writing of history (worse than anything that Soviet Russia could come up with) is hardly likely to improve race relations.

    A further aspect of mythical history is its Manichean character – one side good, the other bad. Real history rarely allows this dichotomy. This applies as much to the American revolution (where the mythical version is still taught to schoolchildren and tourists, to the despair of serious historians) as to everything else. Irish historians have criticized a national identity based on “blame everything on the English; we may act like savages but it’s not our fault” and thankfully they have made some progress. Ironically the present Irish hierarchy has succeeded in virtually eradicating Catholicism in Ireland, something the English failed to achieve in four-and-a-half centuries.

    Regarding Strongbow, memo to 12th century Irish kings; enlisting the help of Norman robber-barons to sort out your domestic problems is probably a bad idea. Too late now.

  • It’s not confined to the Commonwealth.

    During the Civil War, certain NYC newspapers editorized that the Republicans used the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, etc. to kill Democrat Irishmen.

    Anyhow, if Good Quee Bess and her parliament decided to invade Upper Slobovia, will Autralia, Canada and New Zealand be required to send grunts?

  • John and Don.

    Those writing history in the cold light of past battles and records may indeed give a more accurate account of events. What I have repeated – that happened nearly 100 years ago – were related to me by my maternal grandfather Don Piper, and his brother-in-law, my Uncle Eustace Nicholson; who were on Gallipoli and in the trenches in France; also my father’s oldest brother (who was gassed in France) George Beckett.
    What they recounted may have been partly untrue, and part rumour. However, these were the men on the ground in battle, and to them, the perception was reality. Rightly or wrongly, what they recounted has gone into folk- lore for the period and is unlikely to change. As the generations pass, so will the story – fact mixed with myth.
    However, to say that these things never happened is to indulge in revisionist history, which is equally corrosive and damaging.

  • T Shaw
    The Dominions (which then included South Africa) were not ‘required’ to enter either of the World Wars; they did so of their own volition, although Imperial solidarity was more important then than now. Commonwealth troops who fought in Korea did so in support of the United Nations, and Canadian troops are in Afghanistan because Canada is a member of NATO. In 1982 NZ offered naval support (a frigate) in the Falklands War, although the important behind-the-scenes support was from the US and Chile.

    Australia and NZ sent troops to Vietnam, whereas Britain refused LBJ’s request for even a token force (he asked for the Black Watch, and the Jocks would have jumped at the chance, better than smashing up bars in Minden) but Harold Wilson knew that the Labour Party wouldn’t countenance it.

  • Jay Anderson wrote, “The so-called “Great War” was a war that should never have been fought in the first place.”

    I am old enough to have talked to veterans of WWI. They all thought it was a national necessity and they all spoke of the same things – the Saverne incident, the march of the Strasburg students past Kléber’s statue, the Alsatians who gathered, year by year, to watch the great 14 July review at Belfort and the thousands of young men in the lost provinces, who, at the age of twenty, left home and family behind, knowing they would not be allowed to return and crossed the frontier to perform their military service in France.

    Some of them recalled how, after the first impetuous advance after Charleroi, soldiers returning on leave brought back the hated red, white and black frontier markers and piled them before the tomb of Déroulède, whose funeral in February of that year had been the largest and most imposing since Victor Hugo’s.

  • In my earlier reply to Don the Kiwi, I fell into the common error of conflating the Australian experience with the New Zealand one, for which I apologize. The commander of II ANZAC Corps, who was also the commander of the NZ Expeditionary Force, Sir Alexander Godley, did not have the same rapport with his soldiers as Birdwood did. A good administrator and trainer (he arrived in NZ in 1910 and prepared the army for war) he had an aloof manner and tended to favour British over NZ officers when making appointments. He performed creditably as a divisional commander at Gallipoli, but some of his actions on the Western Front were criticized, in particular the failed attack, in bad weather, on 12 October 1917 during 3rd Ypres. Plumer’s Second Army, of which his Corps was part, had had a run of successful actions, culminating with the battle of Broodseinde, which led Godley to underestimate German morale.

    There was a feeling in NZ government circles, and probably among the general population, that their troops were shouldering an excessive burden and that the Australians and Canadians were not pulling their weight. This wasn’t the case, but led to increasing criticism of Godley and British command in general. In April 1917 the Australians were badly mauled at 1st Bullecourt, as a result of an over-ambitious plan, using tanks for support, authorized by Sir Hubert Gough, the youngest of the five Army commanders. The Australians’ enthusiasm for the commander of I ANZAC Corps, Birdwood, was not shaken and a month later a follow-up attack, using artillery support and a creeping barrage (itself a technological innovation) was successful.

    More than anything else, it was the scientific use of artillery which unlocked the Western Front, including the use from 1917 onwards of an instantaneous fuze which was capable of cutting wire. A few years ago I attended a talk given by Gordon Corrigan in which he compared the careers of Haig and Montgomery, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. He does tend to overstate his case, but the case is a sound one and has been argued by military historians since John Terraine fifty years ago.

  • Michael PS:

    Jay Anderson’s comment, “The so-called ‘Great War’ was a war that should never have been fought in the first place,” most likely refers to the common perception of how it was started. As we commonly read it, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand would probably have been a footnote in the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had not the various European powers locked themselves into specific reactions by several decades’ worth of treaties and alliances. This too is a revisionist interpretation that needs to be torn down.

  • Or, you could’ve just asked me what I meant. I would’ve told you that, in my opinion, “the war to end all wars” was a war that cost too many lives and accomplished too little other than to create or exacerbate the conditions for future conflicts, from the Bolshevik Revolution to World War II right down to the Bosnian Conflict of the 1990s.

    In the end, I just don’t see the point of the Great War, from either a European or American perspective. From a strictly American perspective, Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916 partly by promising not to get the country involved in the war, and then promptly did so less than 6 months after the election. And I am by no means a pacifist but, again, just don’t see the point of it all. But let us not forget that there was a great deal of opposition, pacifism, conscientious objection, and outright civil disobedience associated with the Great War. I’m certainly not the first person to express the opinion that the Great War was unnecessary, and, given that such opposition to the war existed contemporaneously, nor can such opposition be dismissed as being based strictly on revisionist interpretations.

  • Jay, I apologize for misconstruing your statement.

    From a strictly American perspective, we might have avoided direct involvement had we stopped trade with the belligerents, especially France and Britain; this might have kept American ships safe when the Germans decided to pursue unrestricted warfare against shipping. As it was, our “non-intervention” was pretty superficial, and Wilson’s re-election was by the narrowest of margins — not everyone viewed his having “kept us out of war” to be a good thing.

    While WWI did exact a horrendous cost and springboard future conflicts, I’m not convinced that it was evitable and unnecessary, except in the theoretical, optimistic way that war is always avoidable and never necessary. Nor am I ready to grant the opponents of war/intervention any kind of prescience. The growth of nationalism amid the Balkan and Central European cultures, the imperialism of the major powers, the effects of colonialism on Africa and the Middle East, religious and cultural tensions spread throughout half the globe — the First World War may have sparked by any number of incidents and taken on any number of shapes, but I don’t think it could have been put off forever.

  • I think there were pretty clearly a lot of points after Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination and before it became a general war when the Great War could have been avoided — it certainly was not inevitable. Sure there’d been a huge arms build up and tensions were high in Europe, but we had that in the Cold War and there was never a general war between the US and USSR.

    – Austria-Hungary could have not attacked Serbia.
    – Russia could have let Austria-Hungary knock Serbia around for a bit without threatening to intervene.
    – Germany arguably bears the greatest blame, since it declared war against Belgium, France and Russia solely on the basis of Russia having mobilized (but not actually fired a shot.)

    – Belgium and France both arguably had virtually no choice in the war and had the clearest moral case for war. They were both given ultimatums that amounted to “allow Germany to invade peacefully or we’ll do so by force” and were simply trying to fight off occupation.

    – Great Britain was not itself attacked, so theoretically it could have sat things out on the sidelines. Arguably, Germany might then have ended up successfully beating France and Russia by 1916.

    Personally, given how bad German occupation of Belgium, France and Poland was, I think there was a very good case for opposing Germany rather than letting it become the permanent occupier in those areas. If we think that Versailles treaty was bad, it was downright gentle compared to the peaces imposed by Germany on Russia and Romania when they sought separate peaces.

  • “Personally, given how bad German occupation of Belgium, France and Poland was, I think there was a very good case for opposing Germany rather than letting it become the permanent occupier in those areas. If we think that Versailles treaty was bad, it was downright gentle compared to the peaces imposed by Germany on Russia and Romania when they sought separate peaces.”

    Completely agree. The Imperial Germans weren’t Nazis but life under the Prussian Eagle during World War I for those luckless enough to live in occupied territories was truly miserable.

  • Since the publication of Fritz Fischer’s ‘Griff nach der Weltmacht’ in 1961 the historical consensus is that Germany, and the German General Staff in particular, were mostly to blame. There was a perception that the window of opportunity for Germany to achieve her strategic aims (which could not be attained peacefully) would have closed by 1916. It was not so much a question of giving Austria a ‘blank cheque’ as keeping up the pressure on the ‘hawks’ in Vienna to declare war on Serbia after Serbia had accepted nearly all of the Austrian demands. Russian mobilization was intended as a warning to Austria, but the exigencies of the Schlieffen plan meant that as soon as Russia mobilized Germany had to declare war not just on Russia but on France as well.

    The international situation in 1914 was better than it had been in recent years. Britain and France had settled their colonial differences, and Britain had even reached a rapprochement with Russia. The Anglo-German naval race had been decided in England’s favour. The alliance systems, later much maligned, were essentially defensive.

    AS Layne has a point though – Ruth Henig in her 1989 book on the origins of the war identifies a feeling among most European governments by 1912 that war was probably inevitable, and perhaps even desirable. Whatever the cause, it was a disaster for European civilization.

  • It’s interesting to look at the kind of “peace without victory” terms that started being floated in 1915 and after by various parties (including Pope Benedict XV.)

    Peace advocates among the French and English were willing to accept a peace that didn’t involve beating Germany, but they insisted that it would only be fair that Germany fully vacate all conquered territory (and in some cases give back Alsace and Lorraine as well.)

    In other words, the peace terms proposed looked a lot like what the victory ended up looking like. Virtually no one on the allied side countenanced the idea of a peace in which Germany kept all its winnings.

    Similarly, German ideas for peace without total defeat of its enemies still involved Germany keeping many of its gains in both East and West.

    The Brits were the ones who had room for a pacifist stance of “let’s just go home”, but that partly just serves to underscore that it was very much a continental war.

  • In other words, the peace terms proposed looked a lot like what the victory ended up looking like. Virtually no one on the allied side countenanced the idea of a peace in which Germany kept all its winnings.

    Just to point out that by the Spring of 1916, Germany’s winnings included the loss of all overseas dependencies other than German East Africa.

    If we think that Versailles treaty was bad, it was downright gentle compared to the peaces imposed by Germany on Russia and Romania when they sought separate peaces.”

    Russia was compelled to convey a large bloc of territory inhabited by minority nationalities. However, I am not seeing anything about any indemnity, any contrived disarmament, or any insults like the war guilt clause.

    http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/government/foreign-relations/1918/March/3a.htm

    ==

    Although not a function of the treaty provisions itself, one might note that the Hapsburg dynasty lost its entire empire when all the subject nationalities departed (taking local German populations with them), not just their western march.

  • In the end, the Allies did not really have an option. A German army, undefeated in the field, (“unbesiegt im Felde” is the inscription on thousands of war memorials) was betrayed by cosmopolitan (and traditionally anti-Christian) elements at home, in an incident that historians call the “Dolchstoss im Rücken,” or “Stab in the back.” A compromise was inevitable.

  • The stab in the back myth is just that, a myth. The German army was thoroughly defeated.

    Wikipedia has a good run down on the myth:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stab-in-the-back_myth

    The Nazis made use of the myth later. They blamed Jews and socialists for the defeat of Germany. Jewish veteran groups noted that over 12,000 German Jews died fighting for Germany in World War I, a number in excess of what one would expect given the Jewish percentage of the population. Hindenburg and Ludendorff had been in effective control of the German state since 1916. They were the ones who laid the groundwork for German surrender when they became convinced that Germany was beaten in August 1918. After Ludendorff’s nervous breakdown, Hindenburg helped engineer the abdication of the Kaiser on November 9 and the coming to power of a civilian government to sign the armistice and to take the blame for the defeat of Germany. (Ludendorff and Hindenburg both seized eagerly on the stab in the back myth to avoid their responsibility for Germany losing the war.) Of course the truth and the Nazis were ever strangers.

  • Much as commentators like Liddell Hart in later years might have criticized the “continental commitment”, once that commitment had been made the British could not have unilaterally packed it in and gone home. Those who rush to criticize the British commanders tend to forget that for most of the war they were ordered by the politicians to comply with the demands of their French allies, who not surprisingly were unconcerned with British casualties. The Battle of Loos (September 1915) in which there were over 2,000 officer casualties, including three out of the six divisional commanders being killed, was fought over unsuitable ground, with inexperienced troops, a shortage of guns and shells, and against the advice of the C-in-C Sir John French and the Army commander, Sir Douglas Haig.

    In 1940 the British did indeed “go home”, but only after the collapse of their allies. Four years later they had to fight their way back in, fortunately alongside a more reliable partner.