17 Responses to Prudential Judgement

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  • The realm of conscience (properly understood) is coextensive with that of prudential judgment.

    As Newman says, “conscience is not a judgment upon any speculative truth, any abstract doctrine, but bears immediately on conduct, on something to be done or not done. ‘Conscience,’ says St. Thomas, ‘is the practical judgment or dictate of reason, by which we judge what hic et nunc is to be done as being good, or to be avoided as evil.’”

    He goes on to observe that “conscience cannot come into direct collision with the Church’s or the Pope’s infallibility; which is engaged in general propositions, and in the condemnation of particular and given errors.”

    All principles are general and all action is concrete and particular; it is prudential judgment that mediates between the two.

  • Catholic Democrats use “caring for the poor” as their reason to remain Democrats even though the Democrat Party is solely responsible for the continued murder of unborn babies now at 52,000,000 dead. And to “care for the poor” they support sinning against the 10th Commandment; they support “coveting their neighbors’ goods.” And Catholic Democrat legislators like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and DickDurbin are in the lead promoting that morally warped thinking which enables them to sin even more by “slandering their opponents” claiming they don’t care about the poor and want to “do them harm.” And that position enables the lay and clergy Catholic Democrats to commit “the sin of pride thinking they are ‘better,” i.e., morally superior, than their political opponents.

    I’m so glad the Holy Spirit led me out of that sinful party a long time ago. I have never heard anyone in the party I eventually joined ever speak and act that way towards Democrats. In fact, it is said the main difference between the two major parties is that “Democrats think Republicans are evil; Republicans just think the Democrats are wrong.”

    The Democrat Party survives on the psychological illness of “projection;” which is “the attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people, especially the externalization of blame, guilt or responsibility as a defense against anxiety.”

  • This article helped me pinpoint something that I’ve been noodling over for awhile.

    You say that abortion is an intrinsic evil and therefore not subject to prudential judgment. I agree with the intrinsic evil part, but not necessarily the prudential judgment part. Let me explain.

    Most Catholics will agree that abortion is morally wrong because it kills a baby. However, if you were to ask those same Catholics whether abotion should be criminalized, I think a fair number of them (myself included) will balk at the idea. Why the discrepancy? If abortion is homicide (and it is: when I’m in my snarky moods I use the term feticide in its place) then the perpetrators should be penalized, should they not?

    Except… we live in a world where the popular culture and mainstream media are openly hostile to our point of view. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to anticipate that, if abortion were to be criminalized, there would be outright contempt of the law, and certain factions would be encouraging women to flaut the law in order to stick it to the man.

    So, if abortion is criminalized, we know that there will still be abortions taking place. But abortion, although much safer than it was at the turn of the last century, still has a complication rate. And, if abortion is criminalized, women who are suffering from post-abortion complications will hold off on seeking out medical attention for fear that they will be penalized. Infections will turn septic. It is hard to escape the conclusion that, if abortion is criminalized, women will needlessly die. Nobody wants to see that.

    So, is there not room in the Catholic Faith to say that how we deal with abortion is somewhat a prudential judgment?

  • Because abortion is an intrinsic evil, one cannot argue that it is good in some circumstances. So, for instance, although one might support efforts to ban abortion except in cases of rape and incest because one believed that was the best one could accomplish at the moment, one could not hold that abortion is okay in cases of rape and incest, because the principle of the dignity of human life holds regardless.

    Now, the argument I presented above was that because abortion is an intrinsic evil, one may never, though prudential judgement, come to hold as a Catholic that abortion is a “right”. From a Catholic understanding, one cannot have a right to do something which is always evil.

    One might (though I don’t) come to a conclusion that banning abortion in some particular time and place would cause more harm to the common good than not banning it. This would be analogous to Aquinas’ claim that banning prostitution (a commercial form of fornication, and thus also an intrinsic evil) caused more harm than good to society. However, I don’t tend to think that the argument that people would still get abortions and they would be less likely to seek treatment when there were complications is a good argument for not banning abortion. As the history of abortion rates in America shows us, abortion was far less common in America when abortion was illegal. The rate of women being injured in illegal abortions was also very low (contrary to exaggerated claims by abortion providing organizations such as Planned Parenthood.) I think it’s very hard to make the case that the small disincentive to seek treatment due to injuries suffered is worth failing to save the huge number of lives involved. Even by the most cautious estimates banning abortions would save hundreds of thousands of lives per year.

  • @melissa, you are right that the question of whether an intrinsically evil act should be criminalized is a matter of prudential judgment. Adultery is intrinsically evil but there are prudential reasons for not criminalizing it in today’s America. But in the case of abortion, at least two things should be considered. First, laws against abortion prior to Roe v. Wade did not criminalize mothers but abortionists. They closed down or prevented the opening of abortion mills. It would mean that Planned Parenthood would have to get licensed to and actually perform the mammograms with which the President and others erroneously credit them, instead of killing fetal babies.

    Second, current law makes it a right of mothers to have their babies ripped apart or poisoned while still in the womb, should they choose to do so. Repeal of the almost unlimited abortion license would leave it to the states to decide democratically what restrictions should be placed on such acts and what right such babies should have not to be killed. I would argue that law should recognize the same right not to be killed as it does for newborns or children or adults without discrimination. Even after repeal of Roe, I would still have to join with others to persuade fellow citizens of my state. Let the law be repealed and the debate begin!

  • I do not see how this can be said, “But abortion, although much safer than it was at the turn of the last century…”

    It is like saying, “But murder, although much safer than it was at the turn of the last century…”

    Furthermore, while a majority of women having abortions now survive the procedure while their offspring of course do not (that is the whole point), they are plagued with a variety of chronic physical and psychological problems that hardly make the procedure “safer”, the higher propensity towards breast cancer and depression being two of them.

    The wages of sin are always and everywhere death. There is no such thing as “safer” sin. The term is simply illogical.

  • Anyone who remembers France before the Veil Law of 1975 will know how criminalising abortion would work.

    Pretty well every village had its « faiseuse d’anges » or “angel maker.” Everybody knew it, nobody talked about it and the police considered it “women’s business” and ignored it. It was only when, occasionally, a woman died that the Parquet, like Captain Renault in “Casablanca,” declared themselves shocked, shocked to discover that such things went on and there was a brief flurry of prosecutions.

    Medical practitioners were never prosecuted; it was simply too easy for them to claim that they had simply performed a D & C to remove the placenta, after a spontaneous miscarriage.

    Finally, the offence was a mere « délit » tried before magistrates, as juries simply refused to convict

  • Thank God MPS that the entire world isn’t France.

  • “We shall go before a higher tribunal – a tribunal where a Judge of infinite goodness, as well as infinite justice, will preside, and where many of the judgments of this world will be reversed.” Thomas Meagher

  • Melissa raises a fair and important point. Just because something is intrinsically evil, even seriously so, does not necessarily mean that it should be criminalized. That question is generally one of prudence properly understood. Accordingly, I think that it is technically possible for a faithful Catholic to abhor abortion, concede its seriously evil nature, but nonetheless oppose its criminalization. That said, such a prudential conclusion would in my view require the prudential acceptance of certain factual assumptions that are probably pretty far-fetched.

    In addition, the prudential calculus to which Melissa refers rests with legislators informed by the will of the people, which will is in turn informed by their sense of moral gravity, life experience, practical culpabilty and appropriate punishment; not with federal courts discovering and announcing fabricated rights out of thin air.

    Finally, while Catholic teaching generally does not dictate how all governments should or must address intrinsic evils, it does emphasize that one of the first roles of any legitimate government is to protect the weak and innocent from violence and physical harm. No government can do this perfectly, no matter what laws it chooses to enact or enforce. But a pretty strong case can be made that criminalization of the intentional killing of unborn children, like born children, is not negotiable — at least as an aspirational goal.

  • The Catechism calls for the criminalization of abortion:

    “2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

    “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80

    “The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.””

  • Don,
    I do think that the Catechism leaves room for disagreement and uncertainty as to how best to bring civil law into conformity with its teachings. But without question supporting a contrived constitional right that disables legislatures from prudently pursuing that conformity is unconscienable for Catholics. This is why the professed Catholicity of Biden, Pelosi et al is a scandal.

  • Mike Petrik wrote, “In addition, the prudential calculus to which Melissa refers rests with legislators informed by the will of the people, which will is in turn informed by their sense of moral gravity, life experience, practical culpabilty and appropriate punishment; not with federal courts discovering and announcing fabricated rights out of thin air.”

    I absolutely agree. I should certainly like to see abortion criminalised, but, unless the law reflects public opinion, the best-crafted laws will remain a dead letter. Even the attempts of the Vichy government in 1943 to curb abortion by having cases tried by military tribunals and lopping off the head of Marie-Louise Giraud, a laundress who had performed 27 abortions and a typical “angel-maker,” were singularly ineffectual. The abortion rate shy-rocketed during the war years.

    Now Donald McClarey is right that the entire world isn’t France, but I fancy that the attitude to abortion that existed in France before 1975 has become much commoner throughout the West. It certainly has in my native Scotland, where, even amongst the poorest class there was an unreflective but powerful assumption that “Once you’re pregnant, that’s it – It’s your baby.”

  • Thanks, Michael. I agree that laws that do not reflect social consensus are usually problematic, though perhaps not always. Federal civil rights laws were certainly enforced on parts of America where they did not reflect majority opinion. Nonetheless, public opinion eventually followed in part because the law has some teaching effect. That said, laws that are forced onto a community that disagrees with those laws often lead to backlash or other unintended consequences. It is precisely the unpredictable nature of social response to laws that generally make them an exercise in prudence.

    I take a back seat to no one in regard to my pro-life views. Yet, I am willing to acknowledge the possiblity of faithful Catholics disagreeing with questions pertaining to how far how fast. This does not mean that I accept at face value the assertions of those Catholics who dismiss the pro-life movement as imprudent while claiming “personally pro-life.” With rare exception this is lying nonnsense. In truth these people simply don’t care much about the murder of unborn children notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary.

  • The quote from the catechism, that Don McClarey kindly pointed us to, teaches a most important principle which should, perhaps, be more clearly stated: it is deadly for the state to carve out a subset of society which is to be denied the most fundamental right to life, even if this is to avoid most serious inconvenience. That way lies gas chambers. The outcome of legalized abortion is this, that I, at 69 years of age, know how I will die. I will be murdered. There will come a time when it is seriously inconvenient for society to keep me alive. Making life a discretionary choice of another allows no defensible distinction between the fetus and the geezer. Even if a law against abortion is largely unenforceable, maintaining the principle that life is not subject to discretionary choice is the only protection that any of us have when we cause inconvenience.

  • Sirlouis

    The case of euthanasia is very instructive. In the Netherlands, the legalisation of euthanasia in 2002 was generally recognised as the legal recognition of what had been the practice of doctors and prosecutors for twenty years, going back to the Postma case in 1973. Indeed, the Postma case itself reflected what doctors had already been doing discreetly, with the support of patients’ families and of a large number of the leaders of public opinion.

    The law of 2002 was a (largely futile) attempt to regulate what was already happening on the ground.

    In other words, legislative changes tend to be symptoms not causes of changes in public attitudes.

    Michael Petrik

    The Fifteenth Amendment, which had rusted in idleness for nearly 90 years, proved a very useful weapon when public opinion in the country at large invigorated the Federal government to enforce it.

Now Who Is Second Guessing the Polls?

Tuesday, October 9, AD 2012

Last week, before the debate, I noted that Democrats were mocking Republicans for trying to explain away Romney’s poor performance in recent polling (while themselves showing a certain lack of reality in their assessment of the economy.) The debate came and Romney routed Obama on the debate stage in a way that exceeded my wildest hopes. Now we see an unprecedented post-debate surge for Romney in the polls, with Gallup and Rasmussen both showing Romney in a tie with Obama and a post-debate Pew poll showing Romney beating Obama by 4% among likely voters, a twelve point swing from Pew polling a month before in which Romney trailed Obama by 8%.

And just to show that the desire to fight the data is bi-partisan, now Democrats are trying to explain away the polls, with Jonathan Chait arguing:

Polls have very low response rates. Sometimes short-term events that dominate the news cycle excite partisans and make them more likely to answer pollsters — it happened when Romney picked Paul Ryan — but they don’t reflect a deep remaking of the public opinion landscape, which remains fairly settled.

Of course, that’s true. Polling is a very uncertain science, and there are lots of unknowns like partisan differences in response rates. Of course, that’s equally true whether your candidate is ahead or behind, but it’s something that people usually only emphasize in the latter case.

Romney certainly doesn’t have the race in the bag. There’s a month to go, and the Democrats will be going for Romney’s metaphorical jugular with everything they’ve got. But there’s enough polling floating around right now to suggest that the candidates are now even or else Romney is ahead. (As I go to hit “post”, I see a PPP poll sponsored by DailyKos and the SEIU is out showing Romney up 2% over Obama among likely voters.) It may not last, but I’m hoping it does and enjoying it while I can.

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4 Responses to Now Who Is Second Guessing the Polls?

  • Imagine how the Lefties would howl if they could actually point to polls giving Romney an R-8 to R-11 advantage rather like the polls that routinely gave Obama a D-8 to D-11 advantage. Some of the polls that show Romney ahead still have a D-7 to D-8 advantage which means that in these polls Romney is winning the independents going away.

  • Hmm. I was expecting DarwinCatholic to explain the process by which the U.S. electorate is evolving toward a Romney win.

    My working hypothesis is that Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Obama’s bungling of Bengazi, Romney’s debate knockout win over the incumbent, and (to a lesser degree) his recent well-received foreign policy speech at VMI has had the effect of giving permission to fence-sitters that voting for Romney is an ok thing to do. This is what’s reflected in Romney’s recent rise in the polls.

    Watch the Obama campaign for the rest of this week as they desperately attempt to head off the formation of a pro-Romney preference cascade among fence-sitters, low-information voters, and low-affinity elements of the Obama bandwagon.

  • Ed Morrissey notes a trend that has been consistent in almost every poll: independents are leaning heavily towards Romney. It’s difficult to fathom any way in which Romney loses if he has a 10-point advantage among independents. There is no feasible way the Democrat advantage on election day can swing the election to Obama if Romney wins the independents by a considerable margin.

  • Yeah, if independents do indeed break heavily for Romney, I find it hard to imagine how he doesn’t win.

The Reality Gap

Monday, October 1, AD 2012

We’ve reached the point in the election where the press decides to mostly report on how the election is being perceived rather than on any particular events, and since the president is doing well in the polls this results in a lot of “desperate Republicans do foolish things” stories. The flavor of the week seems to be the media’s discovery that somewhere out there in the right-leaning internet, there are people who have made a hobby of “re-weighting” polls in order to reflect what the re-weighters think is a more likely partisan composition of the electorate come election day.

There is, yes, a certain sad desperation about this. Now that election reporting is often more about “the race” than about issues or events, being behind in the race is crippling and so people come up with way to try to explain it away. Those with long memories (eight years counts as long in our modern age) may recall that when Bush was so rude as to be ahead of Kerry in the 2004 race, Michael Moore and those like-minded rolled out a theory that all the polls were wrong because an army of voters who only used cell phones and not land lines (and thus couldn’t be polled) were out there ready to vote against Bush.

However, just as everyone’s getting ready to announce that Republicans, in their constant flight from the “reality based community” have decided they don’t believe in polling, we find out that the left has its own reality problem: They’re convinced that the economy has been getting better over the last couple months, despite the fact there’s little reason to believe this. Gallup and the Pew Research Center both have data out showing that Democrats’ opinions of the economy and the job market have suddenly started improving, despite almost universally bad news over the last several months.

As you can see, partisan affiliation wasn’t much of a dividing factor in assessments of the economy a year ago, but now that a bad economy might mean President Obama not being re-elected, Democrats obediently come to the conclusion that the economy really isn’t that bad. According to Pew, the same divide now exists on the job market, consumer prices, the financial market, real estate, and even gas prices. You would think that at least people could agree on what the level of gas prices is, but no, apparently not, though the gap is narrower there than elsewhere: 89% of Republicans say they hear mostly bad news about gas prices while 65% of Democrats do.

The trope goes that you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. However, as the political divide has become wider and more entrenched opposite sides increasingly do have their own facts, as reality become filtered through a partisan lens.

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8 Responses to The Reality Gap

  • The polls have tightened now that we are in October. In one day the poll average has fallen from 4.0 advantage Obama to 3.2 advantage Obama on the Real Clear Politics Average:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/us/general_election_romney_vs_obama-1171.html

    This happens almost every presidential election cycle. A cynic might observe that the closer we get to election day the more that pollsters want their polls to be accurate.

    As for some of the wilder polls that we saw in September showing Democrat turnout in states highers than 2008, the best election for Democrats since 1964, Jay Cost explains why they were bogus:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/morning-jay-are-polls-tilted-toward-obama_653067.html?nopager=1

  • As for the economy, it takes a special type of mindset to view it and not regard it as a disaster. I can barely understand someone thinking that Obama has done a bad job but Romney would do worse so they are sticking with Obama, but to deny the evidence before their eyes, what we have all been living through the past four years, is simply delusional.

  • Here are two answers to skewed polls: “Caller ID” and “voice mail.”

    About 91% (see Instapundit post) of us that have caller ID and see a number we don’t know let the call go to voice mail; the lying liberal poll organization hangs up; and we delete it. I let it happen about six times a day.

  • Certainly, I hope that Rasmussen has been more accurate overall than a lot of the one-off polls, and I can believe that polling is tricky because it’s likely to be a low turn out election where victory relies primarily on who shows up to vote — but I think the efforts to do amateur poll re-weighting based on party affiliation are, while well intentioned, kind of silly. Party identification is one of the things you seek to measure in the poll, not one of the things you should weight it by. If you get way too many people of one party, that may indicate your sample is bad. But polls should only be re-weighted to fit non-changing demographics (sex, income, age, race) not changing demographics like party identification.

    That said, I have a certain sympathy, at least, with the desire to fight the polls. Polling is necessarily imprecise and hard to understand, and it’s used far too often as a way to shape the vote. Insisting that the economy took a sudden turn for the better during the late summer, on the other hand, is fairly crazy.

  • Regarding the polls, I agree that Rasmussen is probably the best but even he is using a D+3 model which is why Obama is coming out on top in his calculations. Do people really believe that the democrats will have that much of an advantage on election day? Sorry – I’m not buying it. If Romney holds on to the independents, and the republican/conservative/libertarian/tea party people come out in big numbers and draw even with the democrats, which I think is very likely, than Romney wins. Better yet, if they match the 2010 election which was a R+1, then Romney wins comfortably. Even if you bring it down to a D+1, Romney still wins. Why don’t they start presenting polls that reflect this possibility? I would like the media to say: People, this is what we think will happen if the turnout is D+3, D+2, D+1, even, R+1, etc., etc. Some honesty from them would be refreshing.

  • I think what you neglect in all the controversy about polls is some problems with the sampling frames not as severe in previous years:

    1. Low response rates generally.

    2. Difficulties in contacting people who lack landlines.

    3. Variable methods among pollsters which produce divergent results (manifest now in a way it was not thirty years ago).

    4. Odd and novel biases in propensity to respond (manifested in exit polls eight years ago).

    And, yes, the curious partisan balance in some published polls is an indication there could be problems with the sampling method used. We are not going to find out how serious the problems have been for another month.

  • I wonder how much the local job market colors these responses, especially with various industries doing better/worse. Prior to leaving Seattle, things seemed ok (not great, not horrible) with regard to employment (aerospace was ramping up). Here in Waco, things seem better. Heck, we are having a hard time filling new positions at my current employer. On top of that, the local politics are very different too.

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Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

Friday, September 21, AD 2012

One of the many divides among modern Catholics is between what we might call the “moralizers” and the “justice seekers”. “Moralizers” are those who emphasize the importance of teaching people moral laws and urging them to abide by them. “Justice seekers” seek to mitigate various social evils (poverty, lack of access to health care, joblessness, etc.) and believe that if only these social evils are reduced, this will encourage people to behave better.

Moralizers tend to criticize the justice seekers by pointing out that following moral laws is apt to alleviate a lot of the social evils that worry the justice seekers, arguing, for example, that if one finishes high school, holds a job and gets married before having children, one is far less likely to be poor than if one violates these norms.

Justice seekers reply that the moralizers are not taking into account all the pressures there work upon the poor and disadvantaged, and argue that it’s much more effective to better people’s condition than to moralize at them (or try to pass laws to restrict their actions) because if only social forces weren’t forcing people to make bad choices, they of course wouldn’t do so.

(I’m more of a moralizer myself, but I think that we moralizers still need to take the justice seeker critique into account in understanding where people are coming from and what they’re capable of.)

One area in which the justice seeker approach seems to come into particular prominence is the discussion of abortion. We often hear politically progressive Catholics argue that the best way to reduce abortions is not to attempt to ban or restrict them, but rather to reduce poverty and make sure that everyone has access to health care. There’s an oft quoted sound bite from Cardinal Basil Hume (Archbishop of Westminster) to this effect:

“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”

You’d think that it was obvious, but I’m suspicious of the idea that having more money or resources makes us better or less selfish people (an idea which strikes me as smacking of a certain spiritual Rousseauian quality that doesn’t take fallen human nature into account) so I thought it would be interesting to see if there’s any data on this.

I was not able to find data on the relationship of abortion to health insurance, but I was able to find data on the relation of abortion to poverty, and it turns out that the Cardinal, and conventional wisdom, are wrong.

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39 Responses to Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

  • “Having more money and resources does not make us better people. Those who are better off are just as capable of doing wrong than those who are less well off. Indeed, in this case, it appears that people who are better off are more likely to do wrong than those who are less well off.”

    The poor usually have not had the “advantage” of a politicized college education where abortion is viewed as a sacred rite. It usually takes much such “education” for a woman to convince herself that the child within her womb has no more moral worth than a piece of disposable garbage. Most faculties, including at many Catholic institutions, might as well have a sign outside the faculty lounge saying Sophists-R-Us!

  • In addition to being wrong on the facts, there is also an either/or attitude that always irks me. There is no reason we can’t push for illegality of abortion and support for pregnant women.

    As for more money and resources making people morally better, when has that ever been apparent? Many “elites” are the most vile people in the world.

  • To Don & the A.C.

    Two Weeks ago I found your site via Spirit Daily.
    I wish to thank you and your research talents.
    This post is most interesting and is being bookmarked for further education purposes.
    God bless you and the members of A.C.
    Sincerely,
    Philip Nachazel.
    M.I. (Militia Immaculata)

  • I think the relevant statistics are comparators of abortion rates as a function of household income. As such, it is pretty evident that abortion rates for poor pregnant women and their babies is multiples of women making more money.

    The intended vs.unintended pregnancy doesn’t start the relevant question, but simpler questions do: does income level impact the decision to abort? For this one has to evaluate all pregnancies vs. income level. There seems to be a relationship.

    In fact considering the high rate of abortion at or below the poverty line, that it is multiples of the rate of abortion above the poverty line, and that these may be intended pregancies often (by the above statistics), one has even more concern as to the perceived compulsions to abort intended pregancies.

    Household income factors seems to factor into these choices, or at least be very closely related, as it has for millenia.

  • Dan C,

    The reason why “abortion rate” data that is discussed is deceptive is that the “abortion rate” is the number of abortions per 1000 women per year. By that measure, yes, poor women do have a higher abortion rate than other women.

    The thing is: In order to make a decision whether to abort or note, a woman has to actually be pregnant first. This is called the abortion ratio, the percentage of pregnancies that end in abortion.

    Poor women (under the poverty line) abort 42% of their pregnancies (that’s ignoring the intended vs. unintended question.)

    Women living at more than 2x the poverty line abort 59% [corrected] of their pregnancies.

    In other words, a woman making more than 2x the poverty line is more than 40% more likely to abort if she gets pregnant than a woman living below the poverty line.

    Now, it’s true that when asked why the abort, women often cite financial concerns. But the numbers are stark. Poor women are less likely to choose abortion when they are pregnant than better off women.

  • Darwin,
    You should add in another very big variable: those just above 200% of poverty can be insurance less as to hospital bills ( making $30,270 plus but working for a small business that doesn’t cover them) ergo they must pay for prenatal, delivery, and post partum care out of small funds.
    Those exactly at 200% above FPL and lower are covered in New York by medicaid that covers pre natal, delivery, and post partum.
    In other words, medicaid is helping the poorer opt against abortion while those just above 200% of FPL have an additional sinful temptation of increased bills compared to a $400 abortion at 10
    weeks…and compared to poorer women who are covered by medicaid.
    Here is NY’s chart:
    http://www.health.ny.gov/community/pregnancy/health_care/prenatal/income.htm

    Therefore Ryan’s desire to greatly reduce Federal medicaid can have abortion increasing results.
    That is not his fault before God IF he sees national bankruptcy as probable and as a greater evil if medicaid is not reduced. It’s the fault of those below 200% if they choose less expensive abortion if faced with medicaid cuts. But the Eisenhower Research Institute just tallied the full long term cost of the Iraq war as 4 trillion dollars and no candidate seems to be seeing that as a waste even if
    well intentioned at the time by Bush. Knowing what we know now, would we have spent lives and 4 trillion on Iraq as critical to US defense?

  • Is the 42% vs. 49% a statistcally significant difference? And by how much?

    Also, the poverty line is about $10,000? So at the massively enormously different income of $20,000, we are ok with these folks as being described as financially secure? The 200% number is an interesting number, however, the individual at this income level will only be insured through state-sponsored programs, since most jobs providing this level of income are without benefits. The point: this is not a secure position economically despite the apparent astronomically increased income (200%!) over what counts as really and truly poor.

    Finally, comparing 42 vs 49 percent, I do not get the 40% more likely to abort. The increased likelihood would be the 49 – 42 divided by 42? I get 17%.

  • Just looked it up: poverty level for 2012 for single woman is $11000.

  • So…the better terminology: financially insecure vs. desperately poor. The financially insecure person likely works, likely works without benefits in what would politely be termed, unenlightened work environments. This group will likely be in and out of employment- laid off, fired, etc. The person at the poverty line or lower is likely 100% surviving on government support.

    Does this offer any further insight into the dynamic of those desperately poor vs. very financially insecure?

  • Bill,

    I would really love to see data by insurance situation, I just wasn’t able to find a detailed breakdown, though Guttmacher clearly has some data on it. All they provide is a general statement that women with private insurance have a lower abortion rate than women with no insurance or with public insurance.

  • Dan C,

    First off all, I mis-typed when copying from Excel: Women who make more than 2x the poverty rate abort 59% of their pregnancies. (Thus they’re 42.6% more likely to abort when pregnant than women below the poverty line.)

    I agree that making 22k is not much, though since this is individual income we could be talking about a woman making 22k with a boyfriend who’s making and additional 22k. But more importantly, keep in mind that Guttmacher is splitting all women in the US into three groups: Those making less than the poverty line, those making 100-200% of the poverty line, and those making more than 200% of the poverty line.

    Thus, when we talk about women (between 20 and 29) making more than 200% of the poverty line abortion 59% of the their pregnancies, we’re talking about women making 22k but also women making 50k or 100k or $1mil. The whole range.

  • Darwin – There’s a lot of merit to your analysis. But the abortion ratio is higher for unmarried women, and a higher percentage of lower-income women are unmarried. What you’d need to do is control for marital status. I note that the report you linked to doesn’t have the necessary split. If I get a chance, I’ll see if the numbers are available on the site.

  • What this argues, for me, is that we need to attack both ends. Women need to be paid to be mothers and the best way to do that is to tax abortions to the point they are no longer afordible to even the rich. If an abortion cost 4x as much as a pregnancy, you would see those numbers change drastically and we could fully fund WIC.

  • I suspect one reason women at the higher income levels have abortions more often than lower income women is that they feel they have more to lose from an unplanned pregnancy. A poor teenager living in an environment where unwed motherhood is pervasive and few women attain higher education or professional jobs may not see an unplanned pregnancy as “the end of the world” in the same way that, say, a middle-class woman working toward a degree or professional career might. It is for this very reason that Mary Cunningham Agee (google her name to find out more) founded The Nurturing Network to assist college/professional women in choosing life.

    As for Ted’s idea that abortions should be taxed heavily (at least as much as tobacco and liquor), I’d suggest, only partly in jest, a reverse Hyde Amendment requiring ALL abortions to be paid for by Medicaid — because there would probably be no better way to drive abortionists out of business, given the months-long payment delays Medicaid providers (at least in Illinois) endure.

  • Seems some people care more about social evils (poverty, lack of health, unemployment) than about moral evils (abortion, class hate, fornication, sodomy, violent crime, etc.).

    Can the BLS measure the amounts poverty and unemployment that are caused by sloth, gluttony, lust, wrath, etc.?

    Anyhow, money is the root of all evil. Vegas casinos and many liquor stores are awash with food stamps.

    Recently, a NYC deli clerk was knifed for refusing to accept food stamps in payment for beer.

  • I like your division of moralizers vs. justice seekers.

    For the moralizer, I note the following, and this delves into all aspects of education to promote behavior change, in engineering, or patient safety or catechism: very clearly, education is the weakest form of promoting change. Forcing functions is the best.

    I also think some judicious language will help.

    I would like to note that voluntary poverty has much merit. Involuntary poverty must never be seen as desirable or normative. Certainly, few would desire involuntary poverty for oneself.

    I do like your argument, although I clearly find it arguable. Itbis hard to make sense of pro-lifism’s discussion of the impact of poverty, because sometimes when one is talking about abortion, one hears the movement’s line: poverty has no impact on the decision. This has been a clear notion for years, repeated. But then everry new statistic like the rate of African American abortion in NYC or the rate of abortion in the ghetto and pro-lifism makes noise inconsistent with the previous argument.

    Just an observation.

  • “Poverty” isn’t always just economic.

  • Ted Seeber: Both Hitler and Musollini paid women to bear children to become taxpayers and soldiers. America needs to replace 54 million aborted people to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterty.

  • I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.

    Anyone who remembers France in the 1950s and 1960s, before the Veil law will know that every village seemed to have its «faiseuse d’anges» [angel-maker]. Everyone knew it; nobody talked about it and the police regarded it as “women’s business,” and largely ignored it. Occasionally, a woman died and the Parquet, like Captain Renauld in “Casablanca,” would be “shocked, shocked to discover” that such things went on.

    Now this, remember, was before misoprostol or other abotifacient drugs became widely available. Banning them would probably be about as effective as the current laws banning marijuana.

    Catholic involvement in the quest for social justice may, as Blondel thought, lead persons of good will to respect Christianity and “to find only in the spirit of the gospel the supreme and decisive guarantee of justice and of the moral conditions of peace, stability, and social prosperity.”

  • Most of these studies (for practical reasons of data collection) are limited to correlational analyses rather than proving causal relationships. Also bear in mind that the imprecision of most such statistics makes only the largest differences worth analyzing (as Dan C alludes to). I prefer looking at the contingencies or results (sometimes referred to as decision theory) in following a course of action (or inaction). For example, Income would have a causal relationship with abortion frequency if abortions were very expensive And only performable in an accredited hospital And no one subsidized it. Since abortion is heavily subsidized and can be performed in a variety of settings, we would Not expect income as a Direct factor to play the major role. Without writing a term paper, it’s safe to say that in the US, abortion is more prevalent where there are (at least initial) economic and social benefits to the Individual making that decision. Since it is an individual making the decision here, there can be many idiosyncratic factors affecting that decision. All one could do is find those factors, if any, in common with large numbers of these individuals. Then those factors would have to be varied (through policies) to see if there were changes in abortion frequency. In practical terms, usually there have to be many different kinds of bad outcomes to the individual to prevent them from making decisions that would provide them some perceived benefit. (Recall how strictly the work requirement in welfare reform had to be written to get any effect).

  • Sacred Scripture is very clear about moralizers vs social justice types:

    If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2nd Chronicles 7:14

    If we don’t behave morally, then we don’t deserve social justice. In fact, what we deserve (since we murder unborn babies just as King Manasseh made his children to walk through the fire in sacrifice to Molech) is exactly what God gave rebellious Israel and Judah: deportation and enslavement.

    It’s the Gospel of repentance and conversion – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto thee as well.” Murder babies and expect the consequences – “The wage of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

  • See the UPDATE on the post above, I got to thinking about how these percentages added up and took a second look at the report, and realized that although it’s not super obvious, it must be the case that the table is showing abortion ratio by demographic breakdown for the sub-group of unmarried women only. The top of each table breaks down overall pregnancy rates for married and unmarried women. Then all the other groups discussed (breakdowns by age, race, income and education) are for unmarried women only.

    I’ve re-written the post to reflect this. I think in some ways it strengthens the case a bit (since we’re now clearly talking about women in the same situation: unmarried women below the poverty line vs. unmarried women making more than 2x the poverty line) but it does mean that we’re not seeing the effect of the current social trend towards the poor marrying far less than the better off. If we looked at all women making more than 2x the poverty line, we might see a lower or equal abortion ratio to that for women who are below the poverty line, because women who are married abort far less than women who are unmarried. Unfortunately, Guttmacher doesn’t provide that data, only the comparison of unmarried women to unmarried women.

    That said, I think that reinforces the point that for women in the same position (unmarried and in an unplanned pregnancy) are actually less likely to choose abortion if they are extremely poor (below the poverty line) than if they are better off (making more than 2x the poverty line) which is exactly the opposite of the common wisdom on the topic.

  • JACK is correct.

    The most massive, most widespread poverties confronting America are in Faith in Jesus and His Holy Church; Hope in eternal life (not in this World); and Love of God and Neighbor.

  • “I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.”

    Well laws against abortion certainly had an immense impact on the number of abortions in this country MPS before abortion was judicially legalized by Roe.

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3502503.html

    I think the Guttmacher numbers on pre-Roe abortions are inflated (based on the deaths from illegal abortions I suspect their estimate on pre-Roe abortions are at least 50% too high), but even using their figures the number of abortions post Roe doubled. Beyond that, there is a world of difference between living in a society where abortion is condemned as a heinous crime, and one in which it is celebrated as a constitutional right.

  • Mary De Voe @11:04am, too, is correct.

    It’s politically incpoerrect so agenda-driven ideologues, that call themselves economists, will never report that lack of popuation growth (replacement rate less than one) is a massive problem contributing to rump Europe’s economic, cultural and poltical problems.

  • Maybe I missed it in all of this but, is there any data on why the women had abortions?

    A poor woman may have an abortion but for reasons other than being poor.

  • I haven’t used my handy-dandy, HP-12 financial calculator yet today – hmmmm.

    Anyhow, I just did a quick calculation.

    Since late 2008, the FRB printed and gave away about $2,900,000 millions.

    Since late 2008, fedreal deficits added up to about $5,000,000 millions.

    The population of the USA over that near four-year period is, say, 310 millions.

    That comes to just under $255,000 for each man, woman and child since late 2008.

    Where’s the money?

    If someone can find our piece of the action and send it to me, my wife and our three sons, we’d be truly virtuous!

  • MPS, RU486 requires multiple visits to medical clinics. (And is it really your thesis that the drug laws have no effect on the prevalence or incidence of drug use?)

    A couple of points you do not make which Edward Banfield might have suggested:

    1. Impulsiveness and circumscribed time horizons tend to be associated with ill considered sexual encounters and with various sorts of behavior that diminish one’s earning power. Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).

    2. Education, marriage, &c are all very well and good, but they may just be correlates of the sort of dispositions and behaviors which enhance one’s earning power. They are ‘answers’ to problems in the social economy only if so doing enhances one’s human capital (and thus one’s wages) in sum and/or vis-a-vis other social strata. As a rule, all strata of society in 1948 behaved quite well in certain spheres. We were, however, a materially poorer society (something which applies as well to the lower economic strata).

    —-

  • Art says “Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).” This is a golden statement and memorable.

    However, risk taking behavior (which includes impulsiveness) is not that correlated with socioeconomic level. Bill Clinton was certainly prone to frequent ill considered sexual encounters but mainly because there were no serious consequences to it (outside of a thrown object by Hillary once in a while.) Lack of planning with money is certainly associated with lesser economic outcomes, if for obvious reasons. However people with good financial planning skills don’t necessarily have good planning skills with anything else.

  • I am perplexed that when this discussion arises there is no mention of adoption as a solution to the unintended pregnancy. There are millions of couples who want to adopt, yet there are few babies available for placement. My husband and I tried for 5 years to adopt and were unsuccessful. Adoptive couples cover expenses for the birthmother which certainly would help with the financial issues during and immediately following the pregnancy. Clearly there is another alternative.

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  • It is impossible, of course, to determine the number of abortions before legalisation, but some statistics are suggestive. In the century or so from the battle of Waterloo to the outbreak of WWI, the French population rose, in round figures, from 31 million to 41 million, or about a third. During this period, there was little or no access to mechanical or chemical means of contraception. Over the following 98 years, from 1914 to 2012 the population rose to 66 million, again about one-third. Now, during the first 50 odd years, up to 1971 of that period, the policy of “Republican Natalism” severely restricted access to contraception. These figures confirm anecdotal evidence that abortion was not uncommon throughout a period of nearly two centuries.

    In the very different ethos of Victorian England, between 1815 and 1914, the population trebled, from 11 m to 33 m; this in a country with much higher rates of emigration. Between 1914 and 2012, the population increased from 33m to 52 m. an increase if one half, a period during which contraception became much more common.

    There is nothing in the mortality rates of the two countries to account for this stark variation. It is the result of the birth rate alone.

    Hence my contention that social attitudes play a much more significant role that legislation.

  • Michael,
    You may have to adjust your concept though for coitus interruptus in France. John Noonan in his book, ” The Church That Can and Cannot Change” cites the fact that the French Jesuit Theologian, John Gury, writing in 1850 wrote:  “In our days, the horrid plague of onanism has flourished everywhere”.  

  • Bill

    Making every allowance, I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    I cited the demographic figures as lending support to the widely-held perception and the wealth of anecdotal evidence to suggest that abortion was common throughout the period in question.

    As for social attitudes, the pro-natalist legislation of the 1920’s fixed the penalty for abortionists at 5 years; more would have given the accused a right to trial by jury and juries were notoriously unwilling to convict

  • I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    MPS, the figures you quote make for a four-fold difference in the rate of increase. Since France’s population was increasing during that century, it is a reasonable inference that the total fertility rate exceeded replacement rates. Even in societies with exceedingly low infant and juvenile mortality, that is still 2.1 live births per mother per lifetime. Somehow I doubt British women were popping out 19 babies a piece.

  • Art Deco

    I apologize for the unfortunate slip of the pen.

    What I meant to say was that the French population increased by 33% from 1815 to 1914 and the English by 300%. That is the nine-fold difference I was referring to.

    Of course, in each case the increase is spread over three to four generations, taking 25 to 30 years for a generation.

  • The formula is as follows:

    ln(Rg)/ln(Rf); Rg=3, Rf=1.33.

Romney and Voters Who Don’t Pay Taxes

Tuesday, September 18, AD 2012

It seems like leftist pundits have decided that remarks by Romney at a fundraiser that were secretly taped and distributed by Mother Jones constitute the latest “now Romney has lost the election” moment. In the video, Romney tells supporters that Obama starts out with a huge base of 47-49% of voters who pay no income taxes, are dependent on government, and thus cannot be reached by Romney’s low tax message.

Of course, for those whose memories go back further than the most recent “Romney is finished” moment declared by Andrew Sullivan and Co., the obvious comparison to this is when Obama famously announced back in 2008 that the big difficulty for his campaign was that it was difficult to reach people who are see no evidence of progress in their daily lives and so they become bitter and cling to their guns and their religion.

Both comments spring from a degree of party mythology. It’s not the case that all 47% of people who don’t pay income taxes are Democrat supporters. Because our tax code is so progressive and because of the hefty child tax credit and earned income tax credit (both of which are things Republicans generally support) a lot of middle income families do not pay taxes. That certainly doesn’t make them default Obama supporters. Many of them are in fact die-hard Republicans, because they don’t participate in the modern Democratic Party’s vision of government dependence and social engineering as the solution to their problems.

That said, I think this particular media tizzy is particularly silly, and the pundits declaring Romney to be badly hurt by this are mostly reflecting the beliefs of a bubble in which the GOP is already hated.

Obama’s remarks were, if anything, far more offensive to potential swing voters. He categorized whole sections of the country, demographically, as being given over to bitterness because they hadn’t seen progress and explained that this bitterness came out in their becoming attached to guns, religion, hating minorities and immigrants, etc. There are a lot of small town people who like to hunt and go to church and don’t think of themselves as racist who nonetheless were potential Obama swing voters in 2008.

By contrast, Romney’s analysis may be off (and I don’t think that does him any credit) but it’s really hard for me, at least, to picture someone saying, “Gee, I was really thinking Romney might have some answers on the economy, but now I heard this clip where he says that people who don’t pay taxes and want to be dependent on the government are in the bag for Obama, and I’m proud of the fact that I don’t pay taxes and depend on the government, so forget about him! I’m supporting Obama.”

A lot of people who don’t, on net, pay taxes don’t really think of themselves as not paying taxes. The tax code is complex enough to make it tricky to tell in some ways. (And they pay other taxes even if they don’t pay federal income tax.) Nor do many people who are potential GOP voters think of themselves as dependent on government. If anything, the argument that Obama already has a huge advantage because he’s bribing voters with lots of government handouts seems to fit with Romney’s overall campaign message. Whether that’s a winning message I don’t know (I hope it is) but it’s hard for me to see how this is actually all that damaging.

Thoughts?

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37 Responses to Romney and Voters Who Don’t Pay Taxes

  • It’s damaging because it’s being spun as Romney “despises” the 48%.

    As for the other question, remember to think in terms of the economic life cycle. Many of the people who aren’t paying taxes are young or old. The youth are more likely to vote Democratic, but have a poor turnout rate. The old are more likely to vote for the party they’ve always voted for, and have a high turnout rate. It’s a big (but common) mistake to think of the poor or the non-taxpayers as a permanent underclass, urban with low education.

  • It was dumb. Some people on social security did back breaking work their whole life like beef luggers and meat cutters back in the day but were paid at such a level as to need social security when they aged and they now in retirement hear Romney picturing them badly. I think the comments will do real damage in the debates wherein moderators will bring it up and by then, factcheck dot org will estimate the other taxes everyone is paying. Cigarette taxes (Federal $1.01 a pack), half of which are paid for by low income people, are paying some real bills in the Schipp programs. Everyone pays sales tax and even renters pay property taxes indirectly in the exact price of their rent. Ultimately even the welfare check does not stop in the welfare person’s wallet but moves on to the Bodega and the landlord who pay taxes.

  • I think Romney’s comment will resonate positively with most Americans, especially those who are picking up the tab for the rapid expansion of the Welfare State under Obama. Romney should take advantage of this to launch an ad offensive attacking Obama’s policies as directly leading to more and more dependence on government by an ever increasing share of the population. I don’t think Romney will be hurt among Americans who do not pay income tax and who do not receive government benefits and that is a fair amount of the 47% who do not pay income tax.

  • Bill,

    What I’m wondering, though, is: Will a retired meat cutter who hears this Romney clip here on the news going to think, “He despises me because I’m dependent on the government?” or is he going to think, “By golly, that’s right. I worked hard my whole life, paid my taxes, and I live on the Social Security that I paid into my whole life. I don’t want to support people who aren’t willing to take care of themselves!”

    At least among those likely to vote Republican anyway, I don’t think most people on Social Security and MediCare think of themselves as being “dependent on the government” or not paying taxes (actually, a lot of them do pay taxes, even though their income is very low, because they don’t have dependents and they often don’t have mortgages).

    I may well be wrong. I’m just not sure that many people who could be persuaded to vote for Romney in the first place are likely to think of themselves as being insulted by this remark. (Though I think it was slip on Romney’s part, because it’s clearly not the case that all people who don’t pay taxes support Obama.) It seems like a remark that’s callibrated to pretty much only offend those who are already die hard Democrats.

    That said, if it adds to the “Romney is an out of touch rich guy” meme, it could well end up hurting him. Sadly, elections in the US don’t tend to be decided by the people with any real kind of political awareness (they mostly have their preferences already set) but by the sort of people who don’t have strong or clear political beliefs and base their decisions of vague ideas of “what sort of person” each candidate is.

  • I think Romney can salvage this one by expanding on his point. It’s not just the poor who don’t pay income tax who are government dependent. It’s the fat cats in academia who live off of public university subsidies, the public sector unions who depend on laws from state governments mandating union dues be collected automatically and who get their pay from the government, the fourth rail (the media) who live on insider access to beltway folks, the big investment banks that Obama bailed out with Federal funds, and all the rest who live on government pay and therefore have stake in government remaining unsustainably large.

  • and the pundits declaring Romney to be badly hurt by this are mostly reflecting the beliefs of a bubble in which the GOP is already hated.

    That bubble of GOP-haters includes large sections of Republicans, including the likes or Karl Rove, who live in a perpetual state of pessimism and despair.

    Pinky might have a point that this could be spun by a complict media in a way that Obama’s comments were not. That said, the post-9/11 “gaffe” did no apparent harm to Romney, and I think this will largely be a kerfuffle only in media circles, but will have no lasting impact one way or the other on the campaign.

    Finally, as one who has been – to put it mildly – no fan of Mitt Romney, I have to say that this Mitt Romney is someone I could have gotten behind (or at least disliked less) in the primary season. I will say this in his favor: he hasn’t exactly run to the middle as I thought he would once he secured the nomination.

  • The greatest insult to another, in terms of the Left, is to be insensitive (or even perceived as insensitive) to another’s feelings, unless those feelings are couched in either orthodox Christianity or non-intellectual turn of life (hunting, Nascar, etc.). Therefore, Romney is being insensitive to the poor, the lower classes, etc., and must pay for his insensitivity.

  • This would be a great time for the Romney campaign to remind them of the Obama campaign’s Life of Julia, that celebration of reliance on government:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/05/07/julia-backlash/

    The Obama campaign has not been subtle: Vote for us and we will give you freebies! (Sandra Fluke, that is your cue!) When it comes to giving away things Romney can’t compete with Obama, but when it comes to pointing out that this Welfare State on steroids is sending the country off a fiscal cliff, Romney can make that case very effectively if he has the intestinal fortitude to do so.

  • Darwin,
    In an extraordinary situation of 8+% unemployment, 45 million people received food stamps in 2011 according to Judicial Watch. But that’s 12% of the country not 47% which tells me and others that Romney is dissing anyone getting a check and not paying income tax. And that is the meatpacker on social security. But it’s also every young widow with children because each of them gets a social security check for the children. A Merrill Lynch manager with a wife and three children was stabbed to death on the train platform in Jersey City four years ago by an insane person off his meds. That widow just to roughly keep that standard of living would have to accept social security. I presume she lost her home given the loss of income involved. TV showed a woman living in a shelter with her three children and working two low paid jobs. She receives
    medicaid for medical coverage because privately that would be $12,000 for the four of them. She is in Romney’s 47% as perhaps is the Merrill Lynch widow….receiving government help…earning too little to pay tax since three children and no real career in perhaps both situations.

  • The comments undercut Romney’s “the President is dividing us” theme. Now, I don’t know if that theme was resonating, but Romney would have been better off going into the debates with that theme intact. It would have made a great rebuttal. But now, Obama can dismiss any such criticism with a single reference.

  • The upside is that lots of members of the 47% who don’t pay income tax probably don’t realize it and may even be upset at the thought of so many people not paying taxes.

    On the other hand, writing off 47% of the American public, for whatever reason, is generally not a good idea for a presidential candidate.

  • I definitely think the worst part of it is the optics of apparently writing off 47% of the electorate. Sure, it’s highly unlikely that Romney could squeak out of win of more than a couple percentage points, but it never looks good for a presidential candidate to say that he just can’t reach nearly half the country (even if it’s true.)

    Bill: Again, I think it’s mostly only people on the left who are going to take the comment in those terms. I’ve known plenty of tea party sympathizers who due to their individual circumstances don’t pay federal income taxes, but aside from the fact that many people who don’t pay taxes don’t realize that they don’t pay taxes (after all, even people on Social Security pay taxes on it — though if they have low enough total income and enough deductions they may get it all back and more), people aren’t necessarily consistent in their political impressions. It’s not at all unlikely that someone who doesn’t pay income taxes would at the same time be angry at the idea of “freeloaders” not paying taxes and being dependents.

  • This “tempest in a teapot” is meant to distract the unoffocial Obama re-election camaign flaks/MSM and the OWS crowd from Obama’s lethal failures in foreign policy and GWOT and the fact we are being run into the poor house.

    Obama and his people gave us the “Julia” vids.

    This re-states the same theme.

    Vote for Obama. He will take care of all your needs.

    Hope and change: will 197,000 new, August food stamp recipients largely vote Obama?

    Will 96,000 that got jobs in August largely vote Romney?

  • Hi GOPers.

    I’m surprised none of you have made a post about the LUNACY of Paul Ryan’s economic plan.

    Cutting govt spending to 20% of gdp its currently just under 40% removing that much money is large scale austerity and would make things absurdly tight in the states plus would have alot of negative consequence also a tax system of just two rates 25% and 10% isn’t something that could ever work.

    Margaret Thatcher’s austerity programs, British government spending never went below 40% of GDP. 20% of GDP would lead to mass unemployment and even starvation.

  • Darwin – You reminded me of something. Romney’s statement uses tea party phrasing. It may alienate some people, but it’s going to energize the tea partiers, who are potential contributors and volunteers. They haven’t been particularly vocal so far this election.

  • Pinky,
    The whole tape is being released later today as per his request by Mother Jones. Who knows what lurks therein. Boredom is not an option in U.S. elections now that cameras with speakers rule.

  • Coolio,

    Your numbers are wrong. According to White House numbers (table 1.2) federal spending was 24% of GDP in 2011 and federal tax receipts were 15% of GDP. The Ryan plan is to get both of those numbers to around 20%. That’s far from crazy, it’s the post WW2 norm for the US.

  • How exactly does that link support your numbers?
    I clicked on it and it’s just a bunch of more links.

  • bah!
    I’m an idiot.

    I see you mentioned table 1.2.

  • Hmmmm.
    if I’m reading this right was fed spending well below 20% of GDP in the past?
    My prof is saying that going under 20% of GDP is absurd.

  • Your prof is, well, a college prof. Private-sector folks have a different perspective.

  • If hunting in non-intellectual, it’s only seen that way by people who have never bothered to go hunting.

  • Coolio,

    If you go back to before the Korean War, and certainly before WW2, federal spending was way under 20% of GDP. Back then, the federal government did a lot less (Dept. of Agriculture didn’t have all the subsidies it does not, welfare didn’t really exist, nor did Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid, there weren’t appreciable Federal education subsidies, even the military was a lot smaller.) Since the late 60s the federal budget has pretty consistently been 20% of GDP. The main reason it’s higher now is that with an extended recession the GDP hasn’t grown as much as usual and the government has spent more than usual both trying to help people directly (unemployment, foodstamps, etc.) and also via stimulus spending (spending programs, GM bailout, Wall Street bailout, etc.)

    It may be that your professor was thinking of the total government spending number (federal + state + local) for which I think I’ve seen some numbers that approach 40% of GDP, though I don’t know how good those numbers are. However, obviously, the Ryan budget wouldn’t cut state and local spending.

    Whatever one may think about the details of the Ryan budget, the overall size of it in relation to the economy is pretty much the same as what existed under Clinton.

  • We didn’t hit double digits until World War I (Civil War excepted). Generally federal spending as a percent of GDP was in the 5% range, and then has continually ramped up since the rise of the Progressives. But Darwin’s correct – the 40% number must encompass all government spending, not just federal.

  • “Watch this “campaign-changing gaffe” become a nonstory as soon as the press decides it’s hurting Obama instead of helping him.” Instapundit

  • Gallup: 54% of voters think government does too much and 39% think the state doesn’t do enough. Go figure.

  • Generally federal spending as a percent of GDP was in the 5% range, and then has continually ramped up since the rise of the Progressives.

    I believe federal spending stood at ~1.4% prior to the 1st World War. It was ~1.7% as of the fiscal year concluding in June of 1929 (while state and local spending stood at ~9%). It increased to around 3% by 1933 as nominal federal spending was maintained while nominal domestic product declined severely. During the period running from 1933 to 1940, a plateau of 6.5% was reached. Over the course of the period running from 1947 to 1974, proportionate federal spending and state and local spending was on an upward trajectory (initially from an increase in the baselines devoted to the military). The sum of these reached a plateau around about 1974 and then fluctuated around a set point of ~ 33% of domestic product until 2008/09.

  • That bubble of GOP-haters includes large sections of Republicans, including the likes or Karl Rove, who live in a perpetual state of pessimism and despair.

    If the topic is the dynamics of an electoral campaign, Rove is about as informed an opinion as you are likely to find. One of the annoying features of those insipid things called Presidential campaigns is the amount of kibbitzing from people who know little or nothing of either promotional campaigns or the mechanics of electoral politics.

  • What I’m wondering, though, is: Will a retired meat cutter who hears this Romney clip here on the news going to think, “He despises me because I’m dependent on the government?” or is he going to think, “By golly, that’s right. I worked hard my whole life, paid my taxes, and I live on the Social Security that I paid into my whole life. I don’t want to support people who aren’t willing to take care of themselves!”

    Bingo.

    A lot of doom-and-gloom-there-is-no-hope stuff requires that one believe most people are idiots.
    The retired folks that I know who would give Romney anything like a chance are bright enough, if pressed, to say something like “Sure, I don’t pay federal income taxes and would probably be in the forty whatever percent, but it’s just silly to expect him to say ‘the 40-something-percent minus people who were charged their whole lives for social security and may or may not be paying income tax part of the population that is getting free money from the government isn’t going to vote against getting their free money,’ what kind of loon are you? Now, about my medicare cuts and how none of the doctors I use can take it anymore because filing the paperwork costs more than the government will give them—”

    The retired folks that I know who wouldn’t do that are the same ones that blocked me when I pointed out that a 19 year old married woman having a kid isn’t proof that religious states have too many high school kids getting pregnant.

  • Foxfier,
    But in 2005, those totally dependent on welfare in the U.S. were 3.8% of the population. Another 11+% both work and receive food stamps etc. based on low wages for family size.
    A majority then of Romney’s 47% of the nation are already taking responsibility and care for their lives and he said he could not convince 47% to do so. At best Romney can’t convince 3.8% of the nation not 47%.
    Federal checks go to retired military, retired federal workers and pols, disabled on ss, elderly on ss, widows with children on ss, and all federal workers and active military if you go beyond
    entitlements.
    Bottom line, Romney actually was trying to lower the polling hopes of the rich donors he was speaking to so he was explaining away the Obama voter base as 47% of the nation that doesn’t care for themselves when at best that figure is 3.8% and only if you are totally exacting on that group.

  • Because American’s median household income is down $2,000, or 4%, lower now than at the June 2009 end of the Great Recession.

    Because QEternity might raise the price pf an ounce of gold to $2,400 (Thank you, Ben!!!) and oil $190 a barrel.

    Because mortgage lending hits a 16 year low.

    Because food stamps unexpectedly hit an all-time high.

  • Rove is about as informed an opinion as you are likely to find.

    When it comes to analyzing political data and understanding the dynamics of each district – heck, each county – then yes, few are as savvy as Karl Rove. When it comes to taking the data and offering good political advice, Rove is no better than a snake oil salesman.

  • Bill-
    your response doesn’t have anything to do with what I wrote, and even goes on to conflate having any other source of income with not taking more than you give.

  • The networks are rabid about Mitt Romney’s simple objective observation about part of the entire population. People from all sectors hear the daily bias, and aren’t seriously listening to constant one-sided childlike whining.
    It seems as though DNC media is counting on idiots and trying to create some more.

    I wonder whether the DNC is giving prizes to the reporters and newcasters who best spin facts.

    Demerits when they don’t forget the President’s insulting those for clinging to religion and morals, his fruitless spending excesses and corporate bailouts, his promises to be flexible for Russia next term, his pandering to terrorists in countries where his Americans are slaughtered, and his racial bigotry division troublemaking, and his contrasting attitude to Muslims versus Christians. Or his wife’s video about the ‘damn’ flag last year. Or question or address his backing of law to let babies born alive after a failed abortion attempt to die on the table. Or the fact that radicals in the middle East and worldwide want to kill Americans due to things in his own immoral Democrat platform. Or his altering traditional references to and denial of his Creator to whose church he went with his family. Or a slew of other outrageous gaffes, facts and figures that no one else could ever live down. Symptoms of severe amnesia over the fact that as Governor, Mitt Romney helped better the lives of people on gov. aid by using responsible management. No one wants demerits for doing honest work.

    Anyway some neighborhood kids were bemused by his Presidency of the 57 states of America!

  • “many people who don’t pay taxes don’t realize that they don’t pay taxes”

    In the world of sound bites, I don’t know that too many people who would otherwise have been inclined to vote for Romney are going to connect themselves with the 47% who allegedly “don’t pay taxes” (or more accurately, do not OWE federal taxes under current law) and consider that such an egregious insult that they will run out and vote for Obama. However, this kerfluffle points out the weakness in this meme that the Tea Party has been flogging for some time and which I have always found particularly irritating.

    If you are told that a particular person or group of people “doesn’t pay taxes,” what do you immediately think? If you’re like me, the first thought that comes to mind is that they must be doing something wrong — that they are evading tax liability through deliberate action, or that they are failing to file tax forms or fill out W-4 forms to have taxes withheld from their wages. That’s why I would be extremely hesistant to equate not having a tax liability with “not paying” taxes.

    However, a good chunk of the 47% consists of people who do have taxes withheld from their paychecks every week (or 2 weeks, or month) and who file tax forms every year in order to claim a refund. How can they be accused of “not paying taxes” if they go through the hassle of filing income tax every year? What are they supposed to do — let Uncle Sam keep their refund, which they effectively lent him interest-free for the previous year?

  • I would say Rove has the point of view of Beltway Repubs. This is how he could support immigration “reform”, big entitlements and lavish spending. He also has their myopia so he could convince Bush in 2006 that they had no need to worry about the possibility of Dems taking over Congress. Rasmussen has consistently shown almost inverse opinions between the Northeast elites and the rest of the country on many topics.

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Tax Dishonesty

Tuesday, August 7, AD 2012

I’ve been listening to music via Pandora a lot recently (while writing) and the result is that although I’ve been hearing more than my usual share of political ads. (Since I don’t watch television or listen to commercial radio, I’m normally exempt from these despite living in Ohio.)

One thing that particularly struck me is the rampant dishonesty in regards to tax policy that’s going around, in part due to the both party’s bad habit of making tax breaks look more affordable by enacting them only for short terms, thus necessitating frequent renewal.

The first bone of contention is the “Bush tax cuts”. These tax cuts, which affected taxpayers all across the income spectrum, are estimated to have a “cost” of $3.3 Trillion over ten years (this “cost” is the combination of foregone theoretical tax revenues and the cost of servicing the debt resulting from federal spending not going down by a similar $3.3 Trillion.) Democrats like to refer to the “Bush tax cuts” as “tax cuts for the rich” and to quote the full “cost” of $3.3 Trillion as being the cost of those cuts. What this ignores is that two thirds of that $3.3T actually went to what President Obama refers to as the middle class (families making less than $250,000 per year.) So while it’s true that the “Bush tax cuts” had a “cost” of “over three trillion dollars”, the attacks against this ignore the fact that two thirds of that total is “tax cuts for the middle class” which Democrats support.

Just to make it even more confusing, Democrats like to call extending the Bush tax cuts “massive tax cuts for the rich”, despite the fact it is simply an extension of tax rates which have already been in place for some time. Republicans, on the other hand, like to refer the potential expiration of the tax cuts as a “massive tax increase.” This is accurate, to the extent that people would indeed experience their taxes going up, but it ignores the inconvenient fact that Republicans wrote the tax cut in such a way as to expire (in order to avoid having to make hard budget decisions to ‘pay for’ the tax cut.)

As if one set of expiring tax cuts that everyone talks about in different ways were not confusing enough, there’s also the Obama payroll tax cut: a cut of 2% in the payroll tax that pays for Social Security. This was never meant to be a permanent tax cut, but rather a short term economic stimulus. Social Security has financial problems to begin with, it doesn’t help to make a significant cut in its funding. (And that’s ignoring the fiction that the money you put into Social Security is the money you’re get out again.)

However, even though both parties have signaled that they’re essentially willing to let the temporary payroll tax cut expire at the end of this year (though both parties hope to see this done as part of a broader overhaul of taxes suited to their own priorities) that hasn’t stopped some commentators and advertisers from characterizing Republican support for letting the cut expire as “a tax increase on the middle class”.

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6 Responses to Tax Dishonesty

  • We are running 1.6 trillion deficits annually and we think taking 330 billion out of the private sector is going to improve things? Let me see real cuts in spending, say 1.3+ trillion annually, and I will accept a tax hike. i

  • “I can be influenced by what seems to me to be justice and good sense; but the class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie.” – John Maynard Keynes

    We are all “Keynesians.”

  • Here’s a metaphor (I think from Ron Paul).

    You arrive home and find that the septic system has backed up and is filling the living room.

    It’s about six-feet deep (eight-foot ceiling).

    What do you do? Obama will raise the ceiling. He’s done it before.

  • Let me see real cuts in spending, say 1.3+ trillion annually, and I will accept a tax hike.

    That would be north of a third of current annual federal expenditures. Again,

    1. About 12% of current expenditures are devoted to debt service; you do not want to experiment with stiffing bondholders;

    2. Around about 35% or so of current expenditures are devoted to benefits for the elderly and disabled, who have a limited capacity to adjust to changes in financial circumstances.

    3. Around 3.5% are devoted to veterans’ benefits. Taking a cleaver to these would be less than tasteful at this time.

    4. Close to 25% are devoted to military expenditures, reduction in which are the occasion of some skepticism in Republican circles.

    The sum remaining is less than the $1.3 tn you want to cut.

    People need to think this through.

  • The numbers in this article are not what I’ve come across. More middle class people were affected. Each saving small amounts. Fewer rich were affected, yet saved great amounts. This is due to two facts. First, there are more middle class people. Second, most of the money is made by a small number of rich.

  • Proteios1,
    Seems like you are getting bad information. Feel free to post a link.

Is The Public Crazy Not To Support Gun Control?

Monday, July 23, AD 2012

A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they “feel that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict” dropped from 78% to 44% during the period from 1990 to 2010.

Some of the more hyperbolic has claimed this is because the US is seized by a “death cult” or that it “worships violence”, but I think the actual reason is quite rational.

If we look at the percentage of people supporting stricter gun control in relation to the percentage of people who say they own guns (also from Gallup) and the US homicide rate, we see that the homicide rate dropped by 49% from 1990 to 2010 while gun ownership rates have remained fairly flat.

Since people readily perceive that gun ownership remains common, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly since the height of the ’80s and ’90s crime wave, people seem to implicitly believe that restricting gun ownership is not necessary in order to deal with crime.

We can get a somewhat longer term view of this if we look at an older Gallup question which is available in the same study, the percentage of Americans who say they support a ban on civilian handgun ownership. The question has been asked somewhat sporadically by Gallup, so we have only a few data points from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but the pattern is still very interesting.

Gallup first asked the question in 1959 when the murder rate had just gone up from 4.1 in 1955 to 4.9 in 1959. Support for a ban was quite high as 60%. Support for a ban dropped rapidly while crime increased. In 1979 31% of Americans supported banning handguns and the murder rate was 9.8. Support for a handgun ban then rebounded, reaching a recent high of 43% of American in 1991, which was also one of the worst years for violent crime with a murder rate of 9.8. However, violent crime then fell sharply and has continued a gradual decline, and support for banning hand guns has declined along with it with only 29% of Americans supporting such a ban in 2010.

This suggests to me that Americans actually have a pretty reasonable approach to the question. Despite the occasional headline grabbing catastrophe, the current murder rate is down at the same level as the 1950s, despite the availability of Glock handguns and “assault rifles”.

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34 Responses to Is The Public Crazy Not To Support Gun Control?

  • Thank you, Darwin Catholic, for this post.

  • “A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control.”

    The attempt by some Leftist pundits to use this tragedy by either a very insane, or very evil, man to promote war on the Second Amendment is as predictible as it is contemptible. Norway has fairly strict gun control laws, and they did absolutely nothing in preventing a far worse massacre a year ago:

    http://world.time.com/2012/07/21/trying-to-forget-breivik-one-year-after-the-norway-massacre/

  • Far more guilt is to be laid on the people who removed the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” from the public square.

    Guns do not kill people. People kill people.

    The Right to Life fair was a miracle and a blessing. The woman approached the table and stated that “babies of crack mothers ought to be aborted.” Charles said: “My wife and I adopted a crack baby and she is doing fine”. Last year a woman approached the table and said: “Disabled children ought to be aborted.” David, the man born blind who goes to work on the train to teach others with his disability said: “What kind of disability are you talking about?” and the weather held up. Thank God. One Hail Mary

  • Forks kill!

    Millions are dying horrid deaths from obesity.

    Ban forks.

    Correlation is not causation. Since the 1950’s, liberals have added layer upon payer of gun control laws restricting access of law-abiding people to firearms. And, year after year, we have seen horrid increases in violence.

    Americans outside the welfare states on the fringes/coasts, realize that criminals employ guns and they don’t obey gun laws.

    We understand that banning guns won’t stop violent predatory criminals.

    “So, if the USA follows Australia’s lead in banning guns, it should expect a 42 percent increase in violent crime, a higher percentage of murders committed with a gun, and three times more rape.”

    Plus: “The International Crime Victims Survey, conducted by Leiden University in Holland, found that England and Wales ranked second overall in violent crime among industrialized nations. Twenty-six percent of English citizens — roughly one-quarter of the population — have been victimized by violent crime. Australia led the list with more than 30 percent of its population victimized. The United States didn’t even make the ‘top 10? list of industrialized nations whose citizens were victimized by crime.”

  • Oddly, by choosing guns, this man avoided the McVeigh route and killed very few people RELATIVE to what his science trained mind could have done with fertilizer etc. Twelve is awful.
    Hundreds would have been worse. If we cannot stop 12 million illegals from entering the country, I suspect prohibition of guns would create a highway from Taurus pistols in Brazil right to our cities. Then only bad guys would have them and our probable cause restrictions would prevent cops from searching houses in the worst neighborhoods….as obtains now.
    We do need to de-glorify violence though. Example: It’s absurd that there are fist fights in professional hockey and none in Olympic hockey. A bar brawler gets time in jail for the very thing that hockey takes pride in while the municipal governments hosting the hockey games look the other way because of the money brought to surrounding culture by hockey.
    Secondly…we are still not as a culture identifying those who are moving into states of true oddity…whether of mental illness or of homicidal evil inclinations which they signal on the internet.
    Thirdly the papal Swiss guard is better equipped than our security guards in large venues to kill a mass murderer wearing body armor because they are given Heckler and Koch PDW’s ( smaller than submachine guns) with armor piercing bullets…the 4.6 mm in MP 7’s which Heckler and Koch probbly donated to Vatican city. So our anti death penalty Vatican is realistic off camera. It’s not impossible that Al Qaeda one day sends someone with body armor into St. Peter’s. The Swiss Guard are actually ready whereas our security in movie theaters are probably unarmed normally.

  • A little further on what Bill said. We have to consider ourselves lucky that Holmes only used guns and he was not well trained in using them – it could have been much worse.

    Lets face it. If only 1/10 of 1/10% of our population in America is truly insane enough to perpetrate something like this that is still 30,000+ individuals. In most cases we are lucky they choose less massively lethal ways of killing people.

    In this particular case the bomb making skills were in evidence and could easily have been used but weren’t. I won’t go into the many, many ways to make bombs, biological or chemical agents out of the proverbial “household items”. Suffice to say that we can ban everything but wooden spoons and one of those 30,000 will still find a way.

    At least with guns there is a chance for members of the public to actually defend themselves if they can legally carry. It is really hard to defend yourself against an IED.

  • Anybody that disagrees with the elites and their liberal narrative is both crazy and dangerous.

  • T. Shaw, I shall proudly join you in being both crazy and dangerous. 😉

  • Here is a curious autobiographical fact. On three occasions, I have been in the near vicinity of a bomb explosion.

    The first time, on Monday 22nd January 1962, aged 16, I was on the embankment of the Seine, in front of the French Foreign Office at Quai d’Orsay, when the OAS plastiqueurs set off a bomb there. Three 5 kg (11 lb) charges of C-4 were used, packed into the mouldings of the facade. Hundreds of windows were blown in. One woman was killed and thirteen people injured.

    The second was on Thursday 8th March 1973, when the IRA set off a bomb () outside the Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey in London. The bomb, about 14 kg or 30 lb of Semtex, was in a car across the street from a public house called the Magpie & Stump. One bar faces the street and the other is behind it, reached from an alleyway called Bishop’s Court. I was in the back bar, when the front of the building was blown in. In the street, one person died and one hundred and forty were injured

    The third was on Saturday 17th December 1983, when the IRA planted another car bomb, similar to the Old Bailey bomb, in Hans Crescent, at the back of Harrods’s, the London department store. I was going there to do some Xmas shopping and had stopped to chat to a friend in Sloan Street. I would have used the Hans Crescent entrance. Six people were killed, including three police officers who had just arrived and were still in their car. One of the dead was an American visitor. Ninety people were injured.

    It is worth noting that, in each case, the bomb was small enough to have been carried with ease in a suitcase or back-pack. From 1973 onwards, the regulations and licensing procedure governing the possession, storage and use of explosives, especially plastic explosives, have been tightened considerably. Terrorists in the UK now tend to use hydrogen peroxide based bombs.

    I have never been shot at.

  • Michael,
    So in your cases, 1,1 and 6 were killed. In the USA, lapsed Catholic Timothy McVeigh killed 168 of whom 19 were children with one very big bomb in a truck. According to reports, he received the Catholic Extreme Unction/ Anointing of the Sick… prior to execution.

  • I am not familiar with the current level of gun control, but aren’t there things such as waiting periods and backgrounds checks already in most states, not to mention licenses for concealed carry?

  • Besides, my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals. Even if there is a crime/gun ownership correlation, that would seem to be irrelevant to a 2nd Amd analysis (in other words, the Framers determined the trade off was worth it).

  • “…aren’t there things such as waiting periods and backgrounds checks already in most states…?”

    In North Carolina I bought my mini-14 rifle and ammunition by just walking into the gun store and picking and choosing what I wanted.

    But there are mandatory training courses and background checks for conceal and carry handguns which a close friend of mine has. He let me see his handgun one day and by goodness, it’s ammunition would do worse damage than what my mini-14 uses! 😉

    Again, what terrorists like James Holmes and dictators like Barack Hussein Obama fear more than anything else is a well-armed citizenry able to defend its right to life, liberty and the private ownership of property.

  • “…my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals.”

    Doesn’t matter, C Matt. Everyone has the moral right to defend his life and that of his loved ones against aggression. The Maccabean brothers knew that.

  • “Besides, my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals.”
    Is there a difference?

  • No, Mary De Voe, not in today’s government where the criminal is the President.

  • “The Swiss Guard are actually ready whereas our security in movie theaters are probably unarmed normally.”

    Like the body guards of Ronald Reagan, the Swiss Guards are to throw their bodies down on the Pope as shields against the Pope’s harm. There were several men, real men, who saved their beloved ones.

    Our culture needs to return to the love of man for the love of God.

    While walking home from the fifth grade, my son was shot at with a bb gun. I picked the bbs out of his hood. He could have lost an eye. It is a law of physics: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Let the punishment equal the crime. Bring the power of God into the public square.

  • People don’t stop killers.

    People with guns stop killers.

  • Amen, T. Shaw! Another lesson from the Maccabean brothers, except they had only swords, spears, and bows and arrows to use.

  • Technical point of order for Mr. Primavera (whose points are right on):
    The .223 in your Mini-14 can do a lot more damage at the equivalent range than your friend’s handgun, can, unless he’s got one heck of a handgun. It’s the energy that determines stopping power. Remember that E=1/2mv^2. The .223 has low mass, but – coming out of a rifle barrel with a pretty good charge behind it – has a lot higher velocity. Your rifle will yield about 1100-1200 ft-lbs muzzle energy, depending on the round; a .45 handgun delivers way less than half of that.

    I would reccommend, however, trying to avoid being hit with either 🙂

    Rules for a gunfight (traditional):
    1) Bring a gun
    2) Bring more guns
    3) Bring all your friends with guns

  • Hey! A guy who knows Newtonian physics. Hooray! Thanks, Mike the Geek!

  • Because I’m a stodgy and un-fun kind of guy (and I authored the post) I’m just going to stick my nose back into the threat briefly and say that I don’t think it’s remotely accurate to describe the current president as a dictator or a criminal. I most certainly want to defeat the guy in November, but we’ve been blessed to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents, and I think it’s worth keeping that in mind. Otherwise I’d feel like I was following in the path of so many of my liberal acquaintances who spent eight years suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

  • Agreed Darwin. Obama is not a criminal or a dictator. He merely is a President giving James Buchanan a run for his money in regard to Buchanan’s title of worst President of the United States! 🙂

  • *dryly* Yeah, let’s have more gun control, especially gun free zones– they work so well for preventing a large number of deaths.

  • I suspect that one reason support for gun control has dropped so dramatically over the past 20-30 years is the spread of concealed carry laws to the majority of states. The doomsayers who predicted that concealed carry would lead to constant Wild West-like shootouts have, for the most part, been proven wrong. As gun ownership and carry permits become more common– every state except, you guessed it, Illinois has some provisions for civilians to carry concealed weapons, though some states make the rules so strict that they might as well be no-carry states — more people learn how to use guns properly, and more people successfully use guns to defend themselves or their families, they lose their fear of them.

  • Donald R McClary

    There is a street market for second0hand books in Farringdon Street in the City of London, where second-hand books are sold, usually for coppers. I once saw a copy of “Mr Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion” there, rather handsomely bound and gilded. It had one of those engraved heraldic book plates on the inside front cover, of the kind rather pretentious Victorians used to put in their books. The man wanted £5 for it, but accepted £3.

    Of course, I checked the arms in Papworth and it turned out it had belonged to Sir Edward Gray, who was British Foreign Secretary from 1905-1916. He obviously acquired it before being created a Viscount in 1916, as there was no coronet or supporters on the arms. It is now in my old college library.

  • What a coincidence MPS! I have a copy of one of the volumes in the Cambridge Ancient hstory that had once been in Grey’s library! He lived until 1933 and I assume his lbirary, or portions of it, must have been sold off after his death.

  • Did it have a book-plate?

  • Yep. And the spine in gold leaf states that it was part of his library.

  • I most certainly want to defeat the guy in November, but we’ve been blessed to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents, and I think it’s worth keeping that in mind.

    I think you can make a case for the criminality of some (I would be cautious with that – there’s a whole ‘investigative reporter’ subculture which has for forty years or more been manufacturing literature contending each and all were) and Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt were certainly severely and unjustly abusive to swaths of the domestic opposition and to people who just happened to be in the way. However, I do not think there has ever been a time where public policy could be made on the President’s whim.

  • Elaine,
    New Jersey allows concealed carry but to the absolutely rare person as per your remark. NJ is the most densely populated state per square mile so it makes sense vis a vis the probability of a distant bystander being hit by an errant self defense shot. P.A. is actually an open carry state except for large cities, Federal buildings and state parks; and concealed carry seems very possible there to almost anyone normal since many towns probably prefer that people don’t open carry for tourism reasons. Visiting my brother in Shippensburg PA, I never saw a person open carrying because not crime but bad teenage driving seems to be the greater danger in some rural areas. What should be allowed and is not in big NE cities is the .410 pistol that shoots a shotgun shell that quickly dissipates in power past the criminal’s space. So far though these pistols also shoot the .45. Where’s the creativity? Make a .410 only pistol which would stop criminals but dissipate as to far away bystanders in populous states.

  • Art,

    I’m an idiot. That was meant to read, “we’ve been blessed NOT to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents.”

  • Police don’t stop killers. People with guns stop killers.

    NY Daily News: “The evidence is clear: Massacres are stopped by legally armed citizens.”

American Exceptionalism

Thursday, July 5, AD 2012

It’s typical of me to be a day late in a 4th of July related post, but given that I’ve been reading through a fair amount of non-US 20th century history lately, I wanted to write about three aspects of my country that are (fairly) exceptional, and for which I am distinctly grateful.

The US has a real history of separation of church and state. Yes, many of the individual colonies had established churches, but the US never did, and even the established churches within the colonies were comparatively small and did not control major portions of the wealth in those colonies. Yes, this means that we Christians in the US have never had the kind of totally integrated experience of religious and secular life that existed in some of the societies of the old world, but it also means that we have been spared the ills that seem necessarily to follow eventually when the church functions as a quasi (or official) government or when it is one of the largest and richest landlords in an area. The more I read of European (and to a great extent Latin American) history, the more it strikes me that we in the US simply have no frame of reference for the levels of anti-clericalism and government hostility to religion which resulted from the breakdowns of these old church-state partnerships.

The US is not defined by cultural or ethnic nationality. When intellectuals warn about “nationalism” in the US, they seem to think that nationalism is a matter of holding parades and thinking your country is a nice place. It’s hard to see how this could be a bad thing, mainly because they aren’t bad things. The nationalism which has been at the root of most 20th (and many 19th) century conflicts is another and wholly darker animal: the belief that a cultural/ethnic group by virtue of its existence deserves to have a country that is distinctively its own. It sounds all very idealistic to say that a people deserves to have its own country, but if a country is defined as belonging particularly to one ethnic or cultural group, the necessary follow-on is that it does not belong to any other. This is why, to cite the most famously intractable conflict, the situation in the Holy Land is so poisonous: because Israel is intended to be a country of and for the Jews, while the Palestinian Arabs desire a country occupying the same space that is of and for the Arabs. Neither group can have what they want so long as the other group exists in the same area. The United States, by contrast, while it is vaguely a member of the Anglosphere, is as Chesterton put it “the only nation in the world founded on a creed.” Because is the American idea which is considered central to America, despite all too much prejudice directed against whatever is the most recent wave of immigrants, not to mention the even more shameful history of slavery in the US, the country has remained notably free of the kind of nationalism which has made ethnic cleansing a nation building tool through much of the world.

The US has a noble history of a non-political military. For this we simply cannot give enough thanks to General Washington, a man so universally revered for his service in the Revolutionary War that he could very easily have made himself President For Life, and set the US on the road which is standard for virtually all countries which have their origins in revolutionary wars. Washington truly followed in the ideal of the Roman hero Cincinnatus, fighting for and ruling his country, and then stepping aside. 236 years into the American experiment, the idea of generals seizing control of the country and replacing the government is virtually unimaginable, and yet for many countries this has happened multiple times just in the last 100 years.

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47 Responses to American Exceptionalism

  • “For this we simply cannot give enough thanks to General Washington,”

    Indeed! We should also thank Oliver Cromwell, first of the modern military dictators. His rule by the sword in England aroused such horror that a total rejection of military rule seems to have been imprinted in the political DNA of all English speaking peoples.

  • if a country is defined as belonging particularly to one ethnic or cultural group, the necessary follow-on is that it does not belong to any other. This is why, to cite the most famously intractable conflict, the situation in the Holy Land is so poisonous: because Israel is intended to be a country of and for the Jews, while the Palestinian Arabs desire a country occupying the same space that is of and for the Arabs.

    What you are describing is peculiar to that particular conflict. National states commonly do tolerably and the dominant population works out some sort of modus vivendi with its minorities.

  • I think America is exceptional in some sense, yet we can grow complacent like any other people and experience a very unexceptional demise.

  • Sadly the military is becoming more political. Still not as political as other places like Pakistan or Egypt, but the way that various politicians and political groups have used it as a political football creates a dangerous trend.

  • You have some valid points, but consider:

    (1) Massachusetts was founded as a haven for Puritans, Rhode Island for Baptists, Pennsylvania for Quakers, Maryland for Catholics, and Utah for Mormons. When Florida, Texas, New Mexico, California and Louisiana were first colonized, Catholicism played an important role in the colonization efforts. Obviously, Maryland and Pennsylvania championed religious toleration, and Thomas Jefferson gave Virginia her Religious Freedom bill. But as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, America is a nation with the soul of a church.

    (2) From the very beginning, non-Catholics have always been suspicious of us Catholics. For some reason, we had the reputation of trying to permeate every aspect of life with our Catholic values. Maybe in 21st Century America, we ought to start living up to this reputation.

  • A very instructive post

    On the subject of nationalism, there are really two kinds in Europe, the French and the German model.

    In Germany, nationality was defined by descent and birth, and it is neither revocable nor is it attainable at will. A German may lose his citizenship but not his nationality. The term nationality, as it is defined in German legal practice, does not refer to citizenship and legal status, but to ethnic characteristics that are transmitted through descent. Underlying this is the assumption that the German nation is a unit of common descent and blood and not of voluntary adherence and of association. From this, the legal definition of minorities as permanent aliens logically follows.

    In France the model is different. The Revolution was a revolt by the unprivileged majority (the Third Estate) against their own ruling class (the Nobility and the Clergy), whose privileges placed them above and outside the nation. Accordingly, in French legal theory, , the nation is the community of all those who are not exempt from taxation, military service and other public duties, and it includes all those, and only those, who are willing and capable of sharing in the service of the country. The national community, declares Renan, resides in the voluntary and revocable loyalty of its individual citizens. In this sense the nation is based on a “plébiscite de tous les jours” – on a daily vote of confidence. This philosophy has become the basis of French legal practice. The French citizen is defined as a person who is born on French soil, shares the cultural heritage of the country and gives evidence of loyalty to the French commonwealth. Populations of alien stock or culture who are born or living on French soil are either potential Frenchmen or else they are aliens by resolution, but they are neither aliens nor Frenchmen by birth alone.

    “ the idea of generals seizing control of the country and replacing the government is virtually unimaginable” A cynic might say that this is because there is no American embassy in the United States. In France, by the by, the army is commonly referred to as « la grande muette » [the big mute] – It never speaks about politics.

  • A cynic might say that this is because there is no American embassy in the United States

    Not a cynic. An ignoramus.

  • Art,

    if a country is defined as belonging particularly to one ethnic or cultural group, the necessary follow-on is that it does not belong to any other. This is why, to cite the most famously intractable conflict, the situation in the Holy Land is so poisonous: because Israel is intended to be a country of and for the Jews, while the Palestinian Arabs desire a country occupying the same space that is of and for the Arabs.

    What you are describing is peculiar to that particular conflict. National states commonly do tolerably and the dominant population works out some sort of modus vivendi with its minorities.

    I’d agree that the Israeli/Palestinian situation is uniquely poisonous, but I don’t think it’s hugely unique. Other examples would include:

    -Greece and Turkey’s mutual expulsion of ethnic Turks from Greece and ethnic Greeks from Turkey,
    -The huge population transfers (and violence) that centered around the partition of India and Pakistan.
    -The expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries after WW2 (and the expulsion of ethnic Poles from eastern Poland which was incorporated into Ukraine and Belarus)
    -The second-class-citizen status accorded to Jews in various European nations as national consciousness became a major force in the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to the perceived need for a Jewish national state (and thus eventually the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.)
    -The various colonial/post-colonial struggle for national dominance (Algeria, South Africa, etc.)
    -The ethnic tensions that made “Balkanize” a verb in some quarters.

    In milder forms, we see it in situations like Belgium’s political crises in recent years over tensions between Flemish speakers and French speakers.

    While I may have over-stated a bit, I think it’s at least a moderately pervasive problem in the modern world.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour,

    I’m not sure that the French model is as totally distinct from the German model as you suggest. After all, one of the things that had this top of mind for me at the moment is that I’m finishing off Alstair Horne’s A Savage War of Peace about the Algerian War, one of the major causes of which was that although Algerian was incorporated into the French state (rather than just being treated as a colonial possession) Arab residents were distinctly not treated as French citizens in the majority of cases. This meant that Arab nationalism was strongly (and eventually exclusively) focused on an exclusively Arab Algeria (and thus the expulsion of the Pieds-Noirs population, which at the time was about 1/10th of the total.)

    Also, I guess I’m a bit less sympathetic to the division in that the French basically taught Europe nationalism (in the course of conquering it and spreading French revolutionary ideas in the wake of the French Revolution.) So while one might distinguish between French and German strains of nationalism in some sense, the French are the ones who taught the Germans nationalism.

    “ the idea of generals seizing control of the country and replacing the government is virtually unimaginable” A cynic might say that this is because there is no American embassy in the United States. In France, by the by, the army is commonly referred to as « la grande muette » [the big mute] – It never speaks about politics.

    Actually, after perhaps Spain and Portugal (which are moderately peripheral to 20th century geo-politics, having sat out the two big wars) France is probably the biggest Western example of a politicized army. Obviously, the French army was incredibly politicized in the Dreyfus era, and it became perhaps the major totem of national consciousness during the Great War as France gave everything in its eventually successful struggle against Germany. There’s a tendency in the Anglo world to see the French as un-military pushovers in the latter half of the 20th century, due to the rapid collapse of the French military in 1940, but this, I think, misses the real complexities of what was going on. One thing I’ve increasing come to think as I read more 20th century European history is that the “cheese eating surrender monkey” myth could not be more wrong.

    And, of course, De Gaulle himself straddled the political and military realms: an officer who stepped in to re-found the republic after liberation, then left in disgust. However, it was the army (in Algeria and elsewhere) throwing its political weight around which was to a great extent responsible for bringing De Gaulle back to found the 5th Republic when the 4th collapsed in 1958, and in the lead up to his return to power De Gaulle not quite subtly hinted that if he was not invited back to form a new government, a military putsch would likely put him in instead. Once he was in, he had to deal repeatedly with the highly politicized military (primarily the leadership intent on winning the Algerian War at all costs) including the Generals’ Putsch of 1961 which (with more competence on the Generals’ part and less solid instincts on De Gaulle’s) could quite possibly have brought down the 5th Republic.

  • When I hear the term “American exceptionalism” I almost want to cringe because it implies the notion of superiority. The late Seymour Martin Lipset, considered a foremost authority on the term who was influenced by de Tocqueville, George Washington and Aristotle, wrote “Those who only know one country know no country.”

    The vast majority of Americans are insular, ill-educated and ignorant of history and of other cultures and typically believe that foreigners are inferior. Americans are probably the most patriotic people on earth, quick to believe the propaganda dished out by their leaders and worship the flag rather than question the sacred tenets colored by the red, white and blue.

    Ask a Frenchman, Greek or Israeli, for example, whether they believe their countries are “exceptional” and they will say they do.

    The Declaration outlined a vision of equality, egalitarianism, freedom, etc., but it took 200 years for slaves to be freed and another 50 before women were considered first-class citizens. Thousands of Indians were slaughtered, land stolen and tons of blood were shed in a Civil War that came about in part because of the same grievances by southerners who echoed those that Founders made against King George.

    Yes, I like living in America even though I believe the “unalienable” human rights I have are available in many other countries. However, dissent from majority opinion is likely to be me with the simplistic: “Love it or leave it.”

    Paul wrote in Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    The American Catholic or Catholic Americans? Which is the modifier? Are you Catholics first or Americans first?

  • You’re cherry picking. Spain, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, most of the Anglo-Caribbean states, the Baltic states, Thailand, &c. have ethnic minorities of one sort or another. They make do. It is difficult to see how defects in political society would be addressed in any of these places by disposing of national identity and amalgamating with some larger unit. Truly multiethnic states are generally tense, whether they have imbibed European nationalism or not.

    The expulsions in question all occurred consequent to generalized warfare in the loci in question. Your invocation of Belgium is bizarre. It is not a national state and never was. It is a refutation of binationalism.

    The United States has an associative understanding of belonging. That is something peculiar to countries composed of migrants. Another model of affiliation is fealty to a common dynasty. That is an organic growth, however. The most salient example would be the Hapsburgs. Somehow I do not think a political program of attempting to replace national particularism with allegiance to whomever (the Windsors, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy, &c.) is the best investment of one’s time.

  • “Those who only know one country know no country.”

    Something only an intellectual could think up. It makes as much sense as saying that someone who only knows one religion knows no religion. Too many intellectuals mistake being glib with being true.

    “The vast majority of Americans are insular, ill-educated and ignorant of history and of other cultures and typically believe that foreigners are inferior.”

    Americans are more well-traveled than almost any other people in the history of the globe. Americans are not ill-educated in comparison to the vast majority of people who have ever lived. Knowledge of other cultures of most Americans due to their exposure to other cultures in their own nation and from browsing the internet is probably higher now than at any point in our history. The United States is usually regarded as one of the friendlier nations on earth to foreigners traveling or living in it. I have encountered this personally when meeting with foreign Rotarian groups traveling in the US. They almost always remark upon the friendliness and helpfulness of the average Americans they have encountered.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethgreenfield/2012/01/06/the-worlds-friendliest-countries-2/2/

  • “The vast majority of Americans are insular, ill-educated and ignorant of history and of other cultures and typically believe that foreigners are inferior.”

    Joe, do you honestly believe that if you get in a roadster and tootle around Belgium or Moravia you will find masses of people with a serious appreciation of the regional cultures of the United States or Argentine folk music or Japanese religion? People have a passable understanding of their trade or their local business. Some are intellectual hobbyists, but you only have so much time to learn something. The more you know about Uzbekistan, the less you know about carpentry. Americans are not bibliophilic in the way they are in France or Iceland, bilingualism is quite uncommon here, and popular political discussion lacks a comparative sense, but every society and culture has its vices.

  • The usual model for dealing with a minority is slaughter. It’s somewhat less common than it used to be, but it’s been used in all parts of the world. And while I’m as patriotic as anyone, I think the article overlooked the treatment of the natives during American expansion. It’s possible to be proud of one’s country but realistic about its failings.

    This was something I noticed on a recent trip to England: a patriotism without defensiveness about the past. Now, I’m sure you can find both blind national pride and blind national loathing in England, but I got the impression that they were pretty willing to admit that they’d had some honorable and dishonorable moments in their many centuries.

    As for the American knowledge of cultures, I remember hearing that Europeans know their history deep but not wide. They can tell you everything about their native land bu aren’t particularly well-informed about their neighbors or the rest of the world. Now that, too, is a generalization, but I suspect that there’s some truth to it.

  • Dang it, I hate to look at a comment of mine and realize that I failed to complete the thought.

    My point was that there’s a lot of near national-worship in the US, and a lot of national shame. It seems to match the rural/urban or conservative/liberal divide. I don’t think the original article was written to blindly praise the US – it was a historian’s musings on the Fourth of July – but it’s very rare to find the two-cheers mentality among Americans.

  • The usual model for dealing with a minority is slaughter.

    No, it is not. Stop it.

  • Art – I’m not endorsing it. And maybe it only happens once every hundred years. You live in the same land with the ethnic minority for a couple of generations, getting along well enough but not equally. Then one day tempers flare and half of their males end up dead, and most of the remaining minority people get deported. Call it what you want, but history has a lot of examples of populations suddenly becoming less genetically diverse.

  • And maybe it only happens once every hundred years.

    Then it is not the usual model.

    but history has a lot of examples of populations suddenly becoming less genetically diverse.

    That it may. Outside of Africa (where communal boundaries can be hazy and subject to considerable evolution), you would be hard put to find too many examples in the last 500 years. You do have examples of sparse aboriginal populations being demographically overwhelmed (in North America, in Brazil, in the southern cone of South America, in the Caribbean, in the Antipodes, and in Siberia), but that is a different phenomenon. You also have examples of aristocratic elements dispossessed and expelled, but the nobility is always a small minority in most any society. The Young Turks and Joseph Stalin moved people all over the map at great human cost and Nazi Germany systematically slaughtered 2/3 of the Jewish population of continental Europe. These are not routine behaviors in the life of any nation, nor even one which returns with infrequent periodicity.

  • Art,

    You’re cherry picking. Spain, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, most of the Anglo-Caribbean states, the Baltic states, Thailand, &c. have ethnic minorities of one sort or another. They make do.

    Well, yeah, though Spain had a pretty huge amount of fighting relating to regional/minority nationalism during their civil war, and continues to have Basque separatist fighters, and Israel has the aforementioned issue of being a definitionally Jewish state with a lot of Arabs who are convinced they live there. And the Baltic states have had conflicts over the years with Poland and Russia over territory and minority populations.

    My claim is not that countries defined by nationality inevitable collapse into nationalist strife, but rather that it is far more healthy (less potentially self destructive) for a country to be defined by geography or by ideals than it is to be defined by ethnicity and culture — that being defined by ethnic/cultural national identity give a country a large amount of potential energy which can find itself activated in nasty ways. So while a number of countries may define themselves around a cultural and ethnic nationality without breaking down into nationalist conflict, nationalist conflict has been at the ignition point of most wars in the 20th century, and in general it seems like an unsafe thing to have around.

    Also, just to be clear to all: I certainly wouldn’t claim that the three characteristics that I listed are unique to the US, as in that no other country has any of them, though I think the US is comparatively exceptional in having all three. (For example the UK has a non political military and a geographically-based identity — to an extent also an identity centering around English common law and its unwritten constitution — but does have an established Church, thus giving it 2 out of 3.)

  • Well, yeah, though Spain had a pretty huge amount of fighting relating to regional/minority nationalism during their civil war

    There were ethnic disputes in Spain at that time. There are all manner of disputes at any time. The drivers of the Spanish Civil War were social and cultural, not ethnic.

    and continues to have Basque separatist fighters,

    Never a large problem and unimportant at this time.

    and Israel has the aforementioned issue of being a definitionally Jewish state with a lot of Arabs who are convinced they live there.

    The Arabs actually do live there. Israel’s ineradicable problem is not with its domestic Arab population but with the West Bank, Gaza, and the UNRWA camps.

    And the Baltic states have had conflicts over the years with Poland and Russia over territory and minority populations.

    Of what severity and consequence?

    it is far more healthy (less potentially self destructive) for a country to be defined by geography or by ideals than it is to be defined by ethnicity and culture

    Darwin, how collectivities ‘define’ themselves is not open to some sort of conscious choice. People have the sense of affinity they do. These are not quite fixed, but they are not fluid either. The implication of your remarks is that national self-definition incorporates some sort of pathology and is properly ignored in political decision making. The implication of that is jerry-rigged contrivances like Belgium and Canada, which are wretchedly inhibited in conducting public business because ethnic questions keep intruding on the usual disputes advanced occidental societies have (and will continue to do so whether or not you think it ‘healthy’).

    Honestly, what is your alternative? Whether it is at this time ‘healthier’ or not, Australia was produced by a specific historical process. That process did not occur in the Baltics. Estonians, Letts, and Lithuanians have to make arrangements derived from their own past, not anyone else’s. Advocacy of self-extinguishment does not cut much ice with most people.

    About 25 years ago, a British writer named Stephen Spender wrote a piece of commentary for which magazine I cannot remember advocating a restriction of immigration into Great Britain, saying extant levels were stoking additional social conflict therein. That provoked a reply in high dudgeon from the literary critic Leon Wieseltier, whose position was that if the British proles do not like it they are blameworthy and it is the job of Britain’s high-minded literati to tell them to suck it up in the name of whatever principle of affiliation beings like Wieseltier favor. (Wieseltier is a passionate Zionist who evidently believes that communal self-preservation and common life are commodities only properly enjoyed by a favored few). This sort attitude is asinine.

  • Actually Basque desire for autonomy determined Basque support for the Republic which was a pretty important event. Separatism, both Basque and Catalan, were immensely important issues just prior to the Civil War and during the War, with Madrid and Barcelona in effect running separate wars. Separatism in Spain has always been a major issue.

    In regard to the Baltic States and Poland, bloody episodes of ethnic cleansing occured in the aftermath of World War I, with the Russians tossed into the mix.

  • That I knew. Regional and ethnic questions were a source of conflict, but that’s not why Gen. Franco et al put all their chips on the table and that was not a central concern of the regime, either.

    And I am still not understanding why separation or accommodation would be or would have been less desirable solutions than attempting to manufacture some sort of all-Iberian self-concept (or attempting to suppress minority language and self-governance, which Franco did to the consternation of the Carlists).

    I cannot but help note in this context that we are seeing aspects of the project of a synthetic European superstate (complete with Ode to Joy as the national anthem) come completely a-cropper. It has always been a fancy of the political class at a variance with the majority of public sentiment here, there, and the next place and relying on courts and bureaucratic agencies in Brussels for its imposition. Sounds awfully familiar. Is it ‘healthy’?

  • One of the pillars of the Nationalist cause Art was that Spain was one. They were against granting autonomy to any of the regions of Spain. The supporters of the Republic made the granting of autonomy one of their prime goals. I don’t think you can say that the struggle over regional autonomy was not one of the major factors in bringing about the Civil War. In regard to separation it all comes down to how one viewed Spain: one united nation or a mere assemblage of squabbling petty states that should go their own ways. The comparison of the artificial European Union with Spain highlights the flaws of attempting to argue by analogy. Spain has enjoyed political and economic unity since the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, and the cultural similarities of the regions of Spain dwarf their differences.

  • When I think of the world I think of an order that is, in the words of Paul, passing away. We look to a new heaven and a new earth when this earth yields to the kingdom of heaven. The present configuration may change many times over. We will no doubt continue to witness the rise and fall of many peoples. But it is New Jerusalem to which we look forward with eager hope, because that is our destination: our home.

  • Speaking for myself, I am an American Catholic. I am Catholic and my faith shapes my civil participation.
    I like that boy scout pledge- it puts God first.
    “On my honor, I will do my best
    To do my duty To God and my country”

    There is a difference between patriotism and nationalism. I choose patriotism.

  • One of the pillars of the Nationalist cause Art was that Spain was one.

    I think you are confounding Franco and the professional military with the whole Nationalist panorama. Advocacy of regional autonomy was a signature of the Carlists.

    The comparison of the artificial European Union with Spain highlights the flaws of attempting to argue by analogy.

    Please see above. My complaint against Darwin concerns the utility and advisability of ethnic demarcations for national states generally. Spain is an example you all brought up.

    Spain has enjoyed political and economic unity since the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, and the cultural similarities of the regions of Spain dwarf their differences

    There are four mutually unintelligible vernacular languages spoken in Spain and there have been autonomist and separatist movements active both during the period running from 1930 to 1939 and during the period since 1975. It is not like the problem could be ignored.

  • The Carlists during the Spanish Civil War had no love for the Basques who supported the Republic, Art. After the War, Franco abolished all of the regionalist privileges except in Navarre as a reward to the Carlists, his shock troops during the War. What the Carlists were aiming for and what the autonomists were aiming for were completely different. The Carlists never doubted that Spain had to remain one nation.

    “There are four mutually unintelligible vernacular languages spoken in Spain and there have been autonomist and separatist movements active both during the period running from 1930 to 1939 and during the period since 1975. It is not like the problem could be ignored.”

    As I indicated Art, separatism has been a problem in Spain for centuries. As to Spain and vernacular languages I am turning this over to my wife for the remainder of this comment as she speaks both Spanish and Catalan!

    Spanish (AKA “Castilian,” as speakers of the other vernacular languages prefer to call it) is the language of the Spanish national government, and the birth tongue of residents of most parts of Spain. Children throughout Spain learn Castilian in school and are exposed to it in everyday life throughout Spain, and thus the vast majority of people in the regions where the other vernacular languages are spoken are effectively bilingual in their birth tongue and Castilian.

    Catalan is spoken in the 4 provinces of Catalunya (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona), and also in the “Valencian Country” (Valencia and Alicante/Alacant provinces), the Balearic Islands, the principality of Andorra, the French border region immediately adjacent to Girona & Lleida provinces in Spain (the Rousillon region), and (to a certain extent) in the provinces of Aragon (which once ruled Catalunya) and the environs of Alghero(?) in Italy (once part of Aragonese holdings in Sicily and the Naples region). Provencal (the language medieval southern French troubadour poetry was composed in) is closely related to Catalan.

    Galician is spoken in the provinces of NW Spain, and to a certain extent along the N coast of Spain to the immediate E of Galicia proper. The first vernacular poetry to be composed in Christian Spain was composed in Galician (f.ex. the Marian hymns and miracle stories of King Alfonso X “the Wise” of Castile), not Castilian. Galician is closely related to Portuguese (and probably mutually intelligible).

    Basque is spoken in the 3 Basque provinces at the W end of the Pyrennees along the Spanish-French border, in the province of Navarra immediately to the E of the “Basque Country,” and in the French provinces across the border from those areas. Basque is linguistically pretty unique. The Basques as a people have long had a reputation for being feisty (scholars say it was actually the Basques, not the Moors, who gave Charlemagne’s rearguard a drubbing, as told in “The Song of Roland”).

  • Art,

    FWIW, I certainly don’t think that groups with strong nationalistic aspirations should be forced into some sort of larger country not based on national characteristics. Indeed, once nationalism takes hold, pretty much the only way to satisfy it seems to be to acquiesce to a country defined by nationality. I just think it’s a poisonous way of looking at the world which has led to a huge amount of bloodshed and suffering over the last 100 years, so I think it’s generally a bad sign when a country is based on that — especially when it’s a larger country which is has one more more regional minorities who will, naturally, come to have their own national aspirations.

  • Anzlyne

    I think there is an important difference between patriotism and nationalism, in that patriotism is a sentiment, whereas nationalism is a political philosophy. Nationalism was well summarised by Fichte, when he said that “frontiers should be determined, not by dynasties and treaties, but by language and nationality.” It plays a prominent part, for example, in Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points.

    One of the driving forces behind German nationalism was the belief that it could overcome the confessional divisions between the German states brought about by the Reformation. Many of the leaders of the Irish uprising of 1798, a number of whom were Protestants, thought the same.

  • Don wrote, “Americans are more well-traveled than almost any other people in the history of the globe. Americans are not ill-educated in comparison to the vast majority of people who have ever lived.”

    ———————————————————————

    Let us review one revealing fact of American education:

    In 1882, many fifth-graders were reading the works of William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, Sir Walter Scott, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan and others like them, according to the Appleton Reader.

    Although illiteracy was still fairly widespread at the time in America, those who could read and write generally excelled. Jumping ahead to 1940, the literacy rate for all states rose to around 90 percent and the classics were still popular.

    Today in 2011, two-thirds of eighth-graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently, says the U.S. Department of Education. Compared to their counterparts 120 years ago, many kids today are struggling with “Green Eggs and Ham” while back then youngsters were absorbing Daniel Webster, Emerson and Twain.

    Facts and figures don’t lie. Literacy rates in America have plunged in the past half-century, starting notably in 1955 when Rudolph Flesch penned his best-seller “Why Johnny Can’t Read” lamenting the perceived decline in reading skills. Back then you went to a library to study, do your homework or take out books. Nowadays, it seems most kids go there mainly to check their email, play computer games or chat online.

    Surveys find less than half of American adults read “literature” (poems, plays, narrative fiction) although most are functionally literate.

    Today, the U.S. ranks 46th in literacy, well behind such countries as Barbados (4th), and Slovenia (3rd). Georgia and Cuba are 1 and 2, respectively and virtually 100%. The figures come from the U.N.

    Unlike Don, I’ve been to Europe and found many people to be bi-lingual or multilingual, especially in Germany and the Scandinavian countries where many are taught and speak English fluently in addition to their native language. Many Germans know Spanish, French and even Arabic. When I was in Italy, my Italian was much worse than most people’s English. While spending two years there traveling around Germany, Italy, France and Austria, I also discovered a deep appreciation of history and knowledge of the fine arts overseas, where the museums and places of historical interest put America to shame. At the Louvre, many Americans, fairly easy to identify by their goofy t-shirts and hats, rush to see the Mona Lisa and then leave to go to McDonald’s as soon as they can rather than taking hours to explore the other art treasures that most famous museum houses.

    ExxonMobil runs TV ads complaining that the U.S. is 24th in the world in science and math and it’s time to “solve this.” Many of the smartest kids in America come from Asian or Indian stock as is evident by their winning dominance at spelling bees, science fairs and the like.

    Take your average U.S. college student who, when he or she is not guzzling beer or engaged in orgies, can’t find most countries on a world map, much less name the Supreme Court justices or say what’s in the Bill of Rights.

    An example: A study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.”

    Thomas Jefferson wrote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

    YouTube and the late night comedy shows are rife with “man/woman on the street” random interviews showing Americans as dullards while the audience yuks it up as if ignorance and stupidity were badges of honor. Here’s an example:

    http://youtu.be/LVz4VweMqFE

    Enough already about how “exceptional” we are.

  • Joe Green

    To be fair to the US education system, America is a world leader in mathematics, with 13 Fields Medallists since 1950 and 6 Abel Prize winners, since its inception in 2003. In the nature of the case, these must be the tip of a very large pyramid of talent and learning.

    The French, who treat their mathematicians as national heroes, has only managed 10 Fields Medals and 2 Abel Prizes over the same period. Of course, the US has a population five times as large, but its achievement is still impressive.

    No other country in the world comes anywhere near these totals

  • What a Jeremiad Joe! It is a pity however that you didn’t respond to what I actually said. Your reliance on the literacy statistics of the UN is charming in its guileless simplicity. The fact that Cuba is number one on the list might have given you a clue that the UN relies on self-reporting of member states in compiling such statistics.

    In reference to comparing US students today against the US students of yesteryear, the concept of keeping most students in school for twelve years is a rather modern one. Schools until fairly recently had no use for students who did not wish to be there or could not master the material. When making comparisons it is best not to compare oranges and rock salts. A survey of letters written by soldiers and sailors during the Civil War, World War I and World War II would quickly reveal to you that your appeals to the Halcyon days of yore is somewhat misplaced. The favorite reading material of our troops during World War II was comic books for a reason.

    Your mention of multi-lingualism in Europe is not surprising. If you are close to people who speak a different language you will pick up some of it, just as many Americans pick up Spanish for example if they live along the US Mexican border. From my interaction with Europeans, unless they use a language frequently, they retain about as much of a foreign language that they learned in school as Americans do of a foreign language they studied. My wife traveled in Europe twice as a college student and that was what she observed, and she speaks Catalan, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian and a little Danish. (She has relatives in Norway who write to her in English and she writes back in Norwegian!)

    America has always had an over-all healthy attitude of being hyper critical in regard to the shortcomings of its people. The attitude is healthy as long as it does not give way to undue pessimism and you crossed that threshhold long ago.

  • Don, pretty hard to read Shakespeare in a foxhole.

  • Pocket editions of Shakespeare and the classics were produced for the troops Joe, and some made use of them, although I shudder to think how many of the books might have been used for kindling and other purposes!

    http://artofmanliness.com/2011/02/20/literature-on-the-frontlines-the-history-of-armed-services-edition-books/

  • Good morning
    Yes. although “sentiment” doesn’t do justice to “love”…people live and die for love, not for sentiment!

    Yes- nationalism has been used to unite people for cause; but the top- down imposition of ideals or goals from “above” leaves some who don’t necessarily feel united — many Germans left the culture war and established German towns in Ohio for example. They retained their love of their family heritage (and their faith) in the American melting pot because in America you can do that. And Irish too

    The new national identity in the US was achieved in the Revolution; won and welcome, and continued and still continues to grow. This was not the case for the Hungarian soviets– whose nation was only represented in the United Nations as soviet- though the people who lived within those boundaries retained their true patriotic identity .

    There is lots of history about both top-down and bottom-up national identities– the german prussian russians, the germans in the ukraine, nazi sympathizers in German settlements.. and of course the southwest of Europe discussed here.

    Our sense of our American identity is being refined and, I think, strengthened, through all the current debates not only about language and borders,but also about ideals, about rights and about faith. Is American still the land where you can celebrate and practice your faith and patrimony?

  • Don, I was born in ’42 when my dad was in the Army overseas. He later told me he didn’t have much time for reading.

  • Michael, France has “only” 10 Fields, while the U.S. has 13. Well, since France has 65 million people and the U.S. 320 million, I’d say proportionately they’re way ahead. But what does that prove? The Jews have 20% of Nobel Prize winners and are only 0.02% of the world’s population. What inference from that?

  • I just think it’s a poisonous way of looking at the world which has led to a huge amount of bloodshed and suffering over the last 100 years, so I think it’s generally a bad sign when a country is based on that

    A poisonous way of looking at the world????? Again, what alternative way of ‘looking at the world’ do you have in mind? The western hemisphere and the Antipodes are composed of societies of migrants, but that is unusual anywhere else. You are left with the option of negotiating transactional difficulties and rivalries in multi-ethnic states or segregating the nationalities and establishing some sort of accommodation for minority populations (the difficulty of which is local to each situation).

    Why not compare the ‘bloodshed and suffering’ since the from ethnic particularism to that with sources in any other cause to be found in the latter modern period? Messianic movements (the Taiping rebellion), power politics (World War I), imperial ambition conjoined to power politics conjoined to ideological crusades (Napoleonic France and Stalinist Russia), confessional distinctions (the partition of India), geographically bounded disputes over social economy (the American Civil War). Compared to these, the White Terror in Hungary in 1919-20 or the Finnish War of Independence (1919-20) or the interminable Arab-Jewish conflict in the Levant are fairly penny ante.

    You can haul up Nazi Germany as an example of pathological nationalism, but why forget that France and the Netherlands and Denmark were also national states? Ethnic particularism is not necessarily or even usually a revanchist particularism.

  • Pocket editions of Shakespeare and the classics were produced for the troops Joe, and some made use of them, although I shudder to think how many of the books might have been used for kindling and other purposes!

    On a semi-related note, the 1900 edition of the Oxford Book of English Verse (one of which I sought out, for historical reasons) was a pocket size book on India paper. It was the second most carried book among the British soldiers of the Great War, after the Bible.

    Of course, given the educational and economic barriers in English society at the time, those sales may have been heavily driven by officers.

  • I owe Joe for giving me an idea for a post on Armed Services Editions, Inc which published some 123 million copies of paperbacks, 1332 titles, for free for the US troops in World War II. It is a fascinating vignette of the War that most people are unaware of today. I have the post prepared for Almost Chosen People for next week and I will probably also run it on TAC.

  • A poisonous way of looking at the world????? Again, what alternative way of ‘looking at the world’ do you have in mind? The western hemisphere and the Antipodes are composed of societies of migrants, but that is unusual anywhere else. You are left with the option of negotiating transactional difficulties and rivalries in multi-ethnic states or segregating the nationalities and establishing some sort of accommodation for minority populations (the difficulty of which is local to each situation).

    I think it tends to be a lot healthier to base a country’s identity on geography and shared ideas (as in the US) or history (as in the UK) than it is to base it on ethnic/cultural identity. Since Wilson’s 14 Points (and to a lesser extent, since the first explosion of nationalism during the Napoleonic Wars) the idea that each national grouping deserves its own country has been a the root of a number of incredibly nasty wars (WW2 with its roots in German nationalism among them) and to a great extent the Great War itself was a result of a collision of German nationalism with Russian and French nationalism, touched off by the death throws of the Austro-Hungarian empire which was being torn apart by local nationalist movements (notably that of the Serbs.) Italy’s own utterly insane part of the war (both of them, actually) was to a great extent a case of Italian nationalism looking for some sort of outlet to express its newfound national unity through some sort of military quest for greatness.

    The alternative is simply that of taking the country one has and making the best of it, rather than embarking on a course of “national liberation” and the building of a national identity which will virtually necessitate the exclusions of minorities, who will then in their turn start seeking national liberation.

    Perhaps it’s the utter conservatism of the “make do with what you have rather than seeking salvation in something new” creed that appeals to me, but given that nationalism has given us the Napoleonic wars, the two world wards, and innumerable post-colonial (and post Communist) wars for national self determination, with the ethnic cleansing and oppression which seems necessarily to follow these, I don’t think it’s a bad ideal to have.

  • I have the post prepared for Almost Chosen People for next week and I will probably also run it on TAC.

    Looking forward to it!

  • (WW2 with its roots in German nationalism among them) and to a great extent the Great War itself was a result of a collision of German nationalism with Russian and French nationalism, touched off by the death throws of the Austro-Hungarian empire which was being torn apart by local nationalist movements (notably that of the Serbs.) Italy’s own utterly insane part of the war (both of them, actually) was to a great extent a case of Italian nationalism looking for some sort of outlet to express its newfound national unity through some sort of military quest for greatness.

    No, no, and no.

    1. You are confounding Italian nationalism with Italian imperialism. These are correlated phenomena but they are not identified phenomena. Britain, Russia, the United States, and Belgium all had imperial excursions sometime between 1840 and 1914 no driven by the particularism of the dominant nationality in each.

    2. With regard to World War I, I think if you offer that power politics is inadequate to explain the commencement of hostilities, you are making the lesser argument. The maintenance of the conflict and aspects of its resolution certainly partook of national rivalries. World War I and (in France at least) the Napoleonic Wars were wars of general mobilization, not chess games played by dynastic elites with professional soldiers. The thing is, mass mobilization is mass mobilization. Look at Spain (1936-39) or the United States (1861-65). You had 600,000 dead in one society which had about 31 million people and 600,000 dead in another with about 26,000,000 people. In neither case was any sort of ethnic (as opposed to more generically cultural) rivalry the main motor of the war.

    3. World War II had its sources in German revanchism. You could say Germany’s collective identity was implicated in this. The thing is, the political geography of the bulk of Europe during the inter-war period was ordered along ethnic lines, but only one country was bound and determined to put all its chips on the table to re-order the map. That was the country which had been subject to a number of contrived exactions and humiliations. This does not mean that the optimal political society is some sort of salad like the Hapsburg dominions. It means you ought to follow one of Winston Churchill’s dicta: “in victory, magnanimity”. This was done in western Europe after 1945.


    but given that nationalism has given us the Napoleonic wars [wrong], the two world wards [sic. and sic.] , and innumerable post-colonial (and post Communist) wars for national self determination

    They are not innumerable. You can list them.

    1. Viet minh revolt (1945-54)
    2. Dutch East Indies revolt (1945-49)
    3. East Timor revolt (1976-99)
    4. East Pakistan revolt (1971-72)
    5. Tamil Tigers revolt (1983-2010)
    6. Kurdish revolts (sporadic, 1958-Present)
    7. Arab-Israeli wars (sporadic, 1948-present)
    8. Nigerian Civil War (1967-70)
    9. Sudanese civil wars (multiple, 1955-present)
    10. Mau Mau rebellion (1952-59)
    11. Rhodesian war (1972-79)
    12. Mozambique rebellion (1966-75)
    13. Angola rebellion (1961-75)
    14. South-west Africa rebellion (1966-90)
    15. Portuguese Guinea rebellion (1968-75)
    16. Eritrea & Tigre rebellions (1962-90)
    17. Ogaden war (1977)
    18. Karabakh war (1991-94)
    19. Trans-Dneister conflict (1991-)
    20. Chechen War
    21. Yugoslav wars (1991-2000)
    22. The Troubles in Ulster (1969-98)
    23. Terror campaign in Basqueland (1973-?)

    I did not include the horrors in Rwanda (1994) or Burundi (1972) because these concerned rivalries between subpopulations sufficiently inter-mixed that the formation of national states is not an option. Also not included are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, because there are a number of confounding issues there aside from communal rivalries.

    If you look at the above list, you see with regard to examples 4, 5, 6, and 9 a history of severely provocative behavior on the part of the central power. It was not just ethnic self-assertion, but the common liberty of local communities and their lives they were defending.

    In examples 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 the object was not a national state but a territorial state not under the tutelage of a colonial elite. Implicated in all these was not merely ethnic questions but the question of the boundaries of the political society within the society as a whole (a question very much alive within European national states in the 19th century and in the United States as well). You see a kindred problem with regard to number 1. Those in number 3 were actually resisting a conqueror who treated them shamefully.

    Numbers 18 and 19 took place in the context of political ferment rendering boundaries quite fluid anyway. One might also note that 18, 19, 20, and 21 were much exacerbated by territorial possessiveness, another phenomenon correlated with nationalism but distinct from it.

    Regrettable as nos. 22 and 23 are, the scale of the violence there renders them not very important.

    Perhaps it’s the utter conservatism of the “make do with what you have rather than seeking salvation in something new”

    Enoch Powell might have agreed with that. Hmmm…

  • Darwin

    The Napoleonic wars, which were round two of the Revolutionary Wars, had nothing to so with nationalism or imperial ambition. As Robespierre said, “the French are not afflicted with a mania for rendering any nation happy and free against its will. All the kings could have vegetated or died unpunished on their blood-spattered thrones, if they had been able to respect the French people’s independence.” A grand coalition of Prussia (who was very much the prime mover) Austria and Britain were determined to put down the Revolution, because they feared the contagion of its example. Having sown the wind, they reaped the whirlwind, when the armies of Napoléon gave a code of laws to a continent and restored the concept of citizenship to civilisation. Hence, G K Chesterton’s sardonic remark that “The British fought like lions, to keep themselves in chains.”

    That the defeat of Jena led to the rise of modern German nationalism is true enough.

  • Art Deco

    WWI & WWII was really a game of two halves: Europe’s second Thirty Years War

    In part, it was a clash of civilisations. To most of Europe, the fall of Paris to the Prussians in 1870 had been a thing of horror; the fall of the capital of civilisation to the barbarian from beyond the Rhine. It was a calamity unparalleled since the sack of Rome by the Goths.

    Prussia was a wholly lawless power. Under Frederick, it had stolen Silesia from Austria and instigated the partition of Poland; under Bismarck, it had robbed Denmark of two provinces and it had robbed France of two provinces; by intimidation and fraud, it had absorbed the Catholic South Germans into a servile alliance..

    In 1914, with its own population stagnant and Germany’s growing, France could not hope to win back the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine it had lost to Germany in 1870, if it allowed another generation to pass.

    As for nationalism,

    1. Austria could not keep its fractious ethnicities within the empire if it did not castigate Serbia.

    2. Russia could not maintain control over the industrialized western part of its empire – Poland, the Baltic States and Finland – if it appeared weak by allowing Austria to humiliate its Serbian ally, and Russia depended on these provinces for the bulk of its tax revenues.

    3. Italy wished to recover” Italia irredenta” (Trentino, Trieste, Istria and Dalmatia) from Austria.

    The two remaining causes were

    Germany, sandwiched between two hostile powers, France and Russia, could not concentrate its army on a crushing blow against France, if it allowed Russia to complete its internal railway network.

    England could not maintain the balance of power in Europe, if Germany crushed France and it was already in a naval power race with Germany.

  • The Napoleonic wars, which were round two of the Revolutionary Wars, had nothing to so with nationalism or imperial ambition. As Robespierre said, “the French are not afflicted with a mania for rendering any nation happy and free against its will. All the kings could have vegetated or died unpunished on their blood-spattered thrones, if they had been able to respect the French people’s independence.”

    The self-justifying opinion of an obnoxious historical figure justly executed in 1794 does not cut much ice in making sense of historical events occurring over the period fron 1793 to 1815. The Directory and the soi-disant Emperor of the French established client-states over the Low Countries, over all of Italy, over the territory where Polish is spoken, and over every square mile of German territory not ruled by the Hapsburgs or the Hohenzollerns. Then Napoleon sunk vast sums into an unsuccessful effort to manufacture a client kingdom in Spain and then put all his chips on the table in an effort to conquer Russia. I am just not seeing the lack of ambition here.

Why The Government Can’t Get Out of the Marriage Business

Wednesday, May 16, AD 2012

As the US continues it’s “national conversation” on same sex marriage, it’s fairly standard for someone to suggest that it’s time for the state to get out of the marriage business and have marriage be a strictly religious/personal arrangement. This seems like a fairly neat way to sidestep the issue of having to reach a state consensus on what marriage is, with the inevitable one-side-tramples-the-other problem that suggests. However, I’d like to suggest that it’s an impractical and illusory solution.

To start with, I think we need to look at why the state is involved in marriage in the first place. I’d suggest that the reason has little to do with managing morals or family values, it has to do with the essential function of government: being an arbiter in disputes, primarily about property. In this regard the state ends up needing to define marriage and know who is married in order to answer two questions: who owns what and whose kids are whose.

Say two people have been spending a lot of time together for the last five years. Now they’ve had an argument and want to not see each other again, but one of them claims that some things in the possession of the other are actually his. Are they? The state gets pulled into these questions because its job is to arbitrate disputes rather than leaving people to solve them the old fashioned way (which was by raising themselves up on their hind legs and bashing each over the head with flint axes.)

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33 Responses to Why The Government Can’t Get Out of the Marriage Business

  • You have made a good argument for bourgeois gay marriage. This seems to be the argument for keeping marriage and allowing homosexuals to partake in it.

    I’m not sure I buy your Judge Judy argument. It seems child support has obviated the necessity of marriage. The poor typically don’t have any real financial burdens or assets after that. Most assistance programs have accounted for the absence of marriage. They account for household income and define the household as anyone living under a common roof. The only tangible thing a marriage gets a poor couple is the opportunity to spend money on a divorce attorney at dissolution.

    I’m not really sure of the historical argument for marriage. From all appearances, most cultures made marriage a private arrangement for the poor. The Church doesn’t crack down on the practice itself until Trent, and the reasons behind that crackdown have little to do with the poor.

  • I don’t think it’s an argument in favor of bourgeois gay marriage — just that the issue can’t be side-stepped.

    On the Judge Judge argument: I’d say that the extent to which courts end up settling child support and property issues of people who aren’t married pretty much underscores that the state invariably gets involved in issues of who does and does not have a relationship, regardless of whether we change the definition of marriage or not. The fights exist, and the state ends up intervening in fights as a preferable alternative to letting people hash them out themselves.

    From another viewpoint, this might point the way towards how things will work out if we don’t legally recognize gay marriage: the world won’t end for people in same sex relationships, they’ll just fight out their disputes in courts exactly the same way other people who have relationships but not marriages do. Arguably, this is probably what would happen most of the time anyway, since even in European states in which same sex marriage does exist, most people in same sex relationships don’t choose to get married.

  • Mandatory civil marriage was first introduced on 9 November 1791, in France, by the same National Assembly that had just converted 10 million landless peasants into heritable proprietors. This was not a coincidence. No wonder that, in France, the Pécresse Report on the Family & the Rights of Children (2006) noted that “in this country, the model has long been the peasant family, structured around a patriarch and expanding from hearth to hearth. Children were raised within an expanded
    group and not by two parents.” I fancy the same was true in the United States, at least until 1914.

    In his evidence to the Pécresse Commission, André Burguière observed that “as the officialisation of an alliance between a man and a woman, but more than that between two families … marriage exists
    in practically all societies.” The Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, gave a summary of the Christian understanding, “Even though it has not taken the modern form familiar in our civil legislation, there has always been a means of handing things down from generation to generation, which is the very basis of continuity and stability in a society. This transmission between generations is primarily effected by the family. It is the legal framework of family life that structures the transmission of life and shapes the future of society.”

    Interestingly, Martine Segalen told the Mission, “Studies show that when a member of a family lives with a partner outside marriage, that person is considered to belong to the family only from the birth of a child on.”

    Witness after witness stressed the vertical dimension of the family.

  • It seems child support has obviated the necessity of marriage. The poor typically don’t have any real financial burdens or assets after that.

    Most people are not poor at any given point in time. The abidingly poor are a small minority.

    Most assistance programs have accounted for the absence of marriage. They account for household income and define the household as anyone living under a common roof. The only tangible thing a marriage gets a poor couple is the opportunity to spend money on a divorce attorney at dissolution.

    Your argument is that we repair poorly structured programs by larding on another layer of ill-wisdom?

  • Darwin– another wrinkle occurs to me, which is unique to marriage: children. That makes inheritance and financial responsibilities a lot more complicated!

  • “From another viewpoint, this might point the way towards how things will work out if we don’t legally recognize gay marriage: the world won’t end for people in same sex relationships, they’ll just fight out their disputes in courts exactly the same way other people who have relationships but not marriages do.”

    Bingo. Heterosexuals don’t get married but do have kids: paternity cases explode over the past four decades and are precisely as hard fought and contentious as divorce cases. Heterosexuals don’t have kids but are shacked up and acquire property in common: legal fights over property. About 23 states recognize palimony arrangements for unmarried couples based upon a contractual agreement of the parties either oral or written, and either express or implied. The idea that people can simply walk away from a living arrangement without legal consequences if they are not married is a charming fiction for those who have little to do with courts.

  • Donald– isn’t that why the concept of “common law marriage” exists? I know not everywhere has it, but it is out there.

    The idea that people can simply walk away from a living arrangement without legal consequences if they are not married

    As I understood it, that isn’t the idea– as much as something so big can be “an” idea. The idea was that there’s not the assumption that everything they have is co-mingled, no matter whose name is on what; just because people can go to court about something isn’t the same as it being part of the basic splitting up.

    The palimony thing is interesting, but I must wonder if it’s tied in to common law marriage, or the depressingly common long engagements that are closer to decades than months, or the bed-and-business partnerships, etc….

  • Your argument is that we repair poorly structured programs by larding on another layer of ill-wisdom?
    No argument was offered. That is how benefit programs operate in my area.

    Most people are not poor at any given point in time.
    I qualified poor previously as having “[almost no] financial burdens or assets [except children.]” That would be more inclusive than grinding poverty and hit a number of people we consider middle class. A couple making $60,000 combined gross with under $5,000 in liquid assets and two vehicles worth a combined $25,000 is not considered poor by other measures, but they don’t have a financial situation that screams court intermediation required.

    Darwin,
    While courts are brought forth in property disputes, I would speculate that the preponderance of private relationship dissolutions are handled outside of the courts. As for courts and children, I have my own views of remedies in this area that aren’t germane to your post. But I will say I do think it is a problem that the courts helping mediate the lives of so many children.

  • I qualified poor previously as having “[almost no] financial burdens or assets [except children.]”

    No, you described them that way, you did not qualify anything. (And the description is not accurate, either).

    That would be more inclusive than grinding poverty and hit a number of people we consider middle class.

    Who is the ‘we’ doing the considering? There are salaried employees and small proprietors who are net debtors, but they generally do have assets as well as liabilities (and bar a modest minority generally do not have haphazard domestic arrangements).

    Wage-earners are commonly net debtors, those with lower income streams more than higher income streams.

    they don’t have a financial situation that screams court intermediation required.

    People can fight over bloody anything and there are still custody issues and the distribution of earnings to consider.

  • The obvious point has been missed by the entire debate. Anything having to do with property or wealth – Mammon – is the province of Caesar. This can be shelved under “equal protection,” i.e., it is of no consequence with whom one shares a home or a bed – the law says that all citizens have an equal right to self-determination and equal contractual obligation.

    Taxes? Everybody ought to be taxed individually anyway – is there a “married rate” sales tax? A “married rate” capital gains tax? A “married rate” excise tax? No – therefore a “married rate” income tax is hypocritical. The state has no need whatsoever to know “who forms a household” unless it has designs on that household’s wealth. All it needs to know is whose signature is on the deed, lease or other contract.

    Arbitrating disputes entails a much larger set of circumstances than those which could ever be considered “marriage” so to say that such a responsibility gives sanction to The State to dictate that arrangement is illogical. If that were so, The State could also dictate who were neighbors, landlords, salesmen and business partners.

    There is nothing at all in a State-defined marriage regarding property or familial obligations that a State-defined civil union could also not entail, Thus, none of that provides any cause to regard State intrusion into marriage as legitimate. When one considers the equally glaring fact that people of the same sex cannot be natural parents of the same child, such contrivances become even more flimsy. There MUST be some kind of legal manipulation to construct a scenario wher two people of the same sex are “parents.” The argument destroys itself recursively.

    Per se, the responsibilities of The State are exactly as you describe them; on that count, you are perfectly correct. But none of that existed before Cana, so it is irrelevant to the estate of marriage; the only exceptions would like those in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but in these cases it was God’s law and not a government of men calling the shots.

    Saying that the government has no business getting into defining marriage is sidestepping nothing. It is stating the most obvious fact available: Marriage is an estate ordained by God. It is a Holy estate, created to conjoin Man and Woman in order that Life be brought forth under His design. It existed before any kind of “state,” and therefore no “state” has any business trying to impose its paltry will upon the Estate of Marriage.

  • “Per se, the responsibilities of The State are exactly as you describe them; on that count, you are perfectly correct. But none of that existed before Cana, so it is irrelevant to the estate of marriage; the only exceptions would like those in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but in these cases it was God’s law and not a government of men calling the shots.”

    Actually it did exist long before Cana. Almost all human societies have heavily regulated marriage. Roman marriage law was very intricate for example. The idea that the State can ever be gotten out of this area is amply refuted by history.

  • Alright *sheepish grin* – point given, and mea culpa on exuberance.

    But by that same token, because we include traditions of Roman law, should we also include traditions of Roman morality?

    The question at hand is: What, essentially, defines our Western Christian concept of marriage? What is its raison d’etre? If it is, at its core, a purely civil construct, made only for the ease of The State in its efforts to govern and control, then we cannot discriminate against anybody, for all are equal under law. All are equally able to appoint hiers, spokespeople, representatives and executors. They are free to give to whom they wish, what they wish. They cannot be prohibited from moving into a house together and calling themselves anything they want, except by what amounts to either legal fiat or tyranny of the majority.

    On the other hand, if, at its core, marriage is a sanctified estate, made by God at the same time that He made Man and Woman, then it does predate any “Imperial” formula. If so, then certain applications cannot be made regardless of whatever any assemply, cuncil, Congress, Duma, or Parliament may decree, popularly or otherwise.

    If I tape cardboard wings to my back, wear a white robe and put a ring of aluminum foil around my head, it does not make me an angel. Angels and Men are created by God, and no law, saying either that I can be one if I want, or I can’t no matter what, will change that.

    Quite simply: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” To whom does Marriage belong, Caesar or God?

  • ” My wife can claim title to a portion of the car or the house even if it is my name that appears on the deeds. My friend cannot.”

    Well, if you and your friend had bought the car together and had signed some sort of agreement stipulating joint ownership of the car, wouldn’t that suffice?

    I don’t understand why these things can’t be worked out privately. Properly married men and women have the privilege of presumption, of course – they share all things, unless otherwise stipulated by some sort of agreement like a pre-nup.

    Unmarried men and women, and gay couples, are not entitled to such a privilege – but they are not denied the right to enter into contracts stipulating joint ownership of property, if they so desire.

    Given the extremely high rate of “divorce” among gay couples, if they ever get their wish and force the rest of us to regard them with the same honor and prestige as actually married couples, they may find that to be a significant drawback. All of the sudden they can’t just take off and start over with someone else – they have to worry about the kind of things that really ought to only concern dedicated families, and not adults throwing temper tantrums because not everyone approves of their lifestyles.

  • It is important to keep in mind that the government is for the people not the people for the government.

  • M.Z. Where did you get the idea that the Church didn’t care about marriage for poor people until after Trent? That’s simply not true.

    I don’t understand this discussion at all. Western societies have always regulated marriage, long before Christianity came on the scene. Regulating marriage is one of the basic functions of government. Any government. Getting government “out of the marriage business” will not work.

  • I recently heard someone say that families with children should not be able to have a tax deduction for their dependants.. said that the family is none of the State’s business, why should the State subsidize kids, if parents want to have kids, that is their personal choice and responsibility.
    Reading this post makes me think of that– like there is someway the State can disavow the family…or another way, like a State could disavow it’s future. Marriage and families are what the State is made up of,

  • state getting out of the marriage business pleases who?
    it would be a capitulation.

  • Bonchamps

    Civil marriage is obviously something more than a contract, for it creates rights and imposes obligations on third parties.

    As le doyen Carbonnier, rather amusingly explained, “No doubt, marriage can be viewed as an agreement between the spouses, but there is nothing contractual about the obligation of a (solvent) mother-in-law to aliment her unemployed son-in-law It is an obligation imposed by Article 206 of the Civil Code, based on the mere fact of marriage and nothing else. She may detest the man and she may have opposed the marriage, but her duty arises from the mere fact of his status, as her son-in-law, a member of her family. Now this obligation ceases, if her daughter is dead and there is no issue of the marriage alive. Why? Because he is no longer a part of her family, extending through time. The same, of course, holds true of the reciprocal obligation of the son-in-law to aliment his mother-in-law.”

    Why the obligation should exist in the case of an intrinsically sterile union is not easy to justify.

  • I recently heard someone say that families with children should not be able to have a tax deduction for their dependants.. said that the family is none of the State’s business, why should the State subsidize kids, if parents want to have kids, that is their personal choice and responsibility.

    Aficionados of libertarianism are often adepts at a sort of reductionism that triggers a saving gag reflex.

  • “Why the obligation should exist in the case of an intrinsically sterile union is not easy to justify.”

    The nature of the being exists even if its actualization is frustrated. A severely mental retarded person remains a person, even if he has no rational abilities. Just as a fetus is a rational before there is the neurologic framework for rationality.

  • “Marriage and families are what the State is made up of”

    In all decorum, I must respectfully disagree. The State is made up of bureaucrats, politicians and, most importantly, sanctioned force. The State is the reservoir wherein we keep those aspects of our society that are too uncontrollable to be allowed access by all; prior comments amply describe the “dispute resolution” aspect, to which would be added criminal law enforcement and defense. Roads, education energy policy, etc. can be argued elsewhere, as can health care.

    “Marriage and families” are an integral part of what constitutes The People. We live our lives and go about our daily tasks, informed, ideally, by a moral structure that guides us in our interactions and pursuits. We are guided by laws not written by human hands, but rather by the internal guidance that has long been inculcated by tradition and participation in civil society. Until quite recently, and with, church and community sufficed to bring about the necessary behavioral mores that precluded State intervention in daily affairs. We have seen, with much consternation on our parts, this structure weaken and list.

    So to be clear, the People and The State are NOT the same. The statement “We are the government” is a false, empty, baseless and indefensible notion whose origins are in Marxist philosophy. It runs completely counter to the idea of the American Republic, wherein Government – The State – is removed, enumerated, limited and quarantined from the lives of The People but for that small list of circumstances wherein it must be employed.

    To reiterate: the strength and breadth of a society’s moral structure determines the extent to which a State must impose order. A moral and just society needs little State imposition. An amoral, selfish and imbalanced society will require the imposition of harsh rules. It is the strength of a society’s morals that keeps The State at bay. A nation of citizens who can govern themselves as individuals does not need a State to govern them as a mass.

    The Progressive Left has long sought to supplant traditional American morality with a State-centered, humanist order. Thus, over generations, it has infiltrated education, entertainment and government so that we, as a people, no longer perpetually reinforce our moral standpoints through familial and community inculcation. Thus eroded, they give way to the imbalance that yields to the Progressives’ goal of a fascist, top-down, humanist State. Since it is the nature of The State to perpetuate itself, to gain power and to become Leviathan if left unchecked, by yielding more and more moral questions to legal answers, Leviathan grows, ounce by ounce. So to say that “marriage and families are what The State is made up of” is to fly the Progressive flag and proclaim that Caesar is the center of our lives. It has abrogated what should be the business of The People, and placed it under the dictates of The State.

    I very much doubt that was the intent of the statement, so I am not making that accusation at all. I would simply point out that even innocent confusion of State and People represents just how far the lines that were once so clearly known among even the dustiest of workingmen in this country have blurred.

    If we are to regain our heritage, we must return to the rule set that generated it in the first place. “Who can marry whom?” or perhaps more accurately, “Who can be considered married?” is a question for The People to answer, and not The State. All of what I said previously about God and Caesar applies right here, so I won’t repeat it all, but to believe that The State has the power to assume control over what God has made for The People is to lose the very foundation of our rights, our responsibilities and our souls as Americans.

    PS: “Aficionados of libertarianism are often adepts at a sort of reductionism that triggers a saving gag reflex.”

    Such aficionados are called “Libertarians” and if one believes that reductionism involves defining the boundaries between Fascism and Liberty, then so be it. The State can only subsidize kids by either giving back what it has already taken from the parents, or by giving to the kids what it took from somebody else’s parents, or from kids not yet born who survive State-sponsored eugenics. If The State didn’t confiscate wealth to such an enormous degree by taxing, deficit spending and over-regulation, there would be no need for either deduction or subsidy, as there would be no income tax to begin with. Shall we defend the candy given to us by the tyrant who with his other hand takes the bread from the tables of others? “As long as I get mine” is a morally indefensible strategem for citizenship.

    The time has come to declare – there is no more room for obfuscation or waffling – one is either with Caesar or with God, and to defend defend Caesar’s toe is to defend Caesar’s right to stomp you with it.

  • Foxfier,

    another wrinkle occurs to me, which is unique to marriage: children. That makes inheritance and financial responsibilities a lot more complicated!

    Yeah, I’d originally hoped to tackle that as well, as determining who is responsible for children and who inherits is also one of the major historical purposes of marriage, but the post was getting too long and wandering so I cut that.

    WK Aiken,

    I don’t think the radical distinction you’re seeking to make between “the People” and “the State” works. Certainly, it would be inaccurate to reduce the people in a state to the state, suggesting that they are nothing more than a part of the state. (This was one of the many evils of national socialism, to hold that the folk were the state and the state the folk.) That said, “the state” is simply the exercise of a certain set of powers and functions over the people in the state. In a representative or democratic state, it is fairly accurate to describe “the people” as being the ones who, at least by proxy, wield this power, and thus the state is something owned and run by “the people”, not some outside force imposed upon them. From a more traditional point of view, this would be applied even in non-representative forms of government. Thus, Aquinas does not see the monarch’s power as being an outside or parasitic force imposed upon society, but rather the necessary governing function of society executed by those members of society suited to do so.

    On taxation and dependents: I think it’s entirely reasonable and just to base a household’s tax liability on some balance of that household’s income and its reasonable expenses. One of the key elements of this is obviously the number of people in the household. A family of seven with a total income of $60k/yr is obviously in a very different financial situation than a single person making $60k or a couple with no children living off a shared income of $60k. Even if one thinks (as I do) that the government as a whole should be smaller and taxes should be lower, I think it’s far more just to tax people in a way based on their ability to pay (some formula of income divided by size of family) rather than taxing each person equally. (And the old fashioned approach of trying to make all the state’s money of tariffs is an even worse idea, since it hurts everyone by slowing down trade.) In this regard, while the whole system of deductions and per child credits is complicated, it’s honestly a pretty good system.

  • The time has come to declare – there is no more room for obfuscation or waffling – one is either with Caesar or with God, and to defend defend Caesar’s toe is to defend Caesar’s right to stomp you with it.

    I think this falsely suggests that one can (per the progressive Catholic dream) create the City of God here on earth. Again, the proper way to understand Caesar is as a legitimate exercise of authority within society for the good of society.

    As you rightly point out, there are other ways that society organizes and and polices itself: subsidiary organizations which guide behavior in a more human way. When families, churches, neighborhoods and other subsidiary levels of society break down or abandon their responsibilities, the state starts to step in to try to tamp down the chaos that forms in that void — and when the state moves in it tends to squeeze out those subsidiary actors.

    But while the over-growth of the state is a problem, and also a symptom of problems, the state is not an enemy in and of itself.

  • In this regard, while the whole system of deductions and per child credits is complicated, it’s honestly a pretty good system.

    I think it could be simplified greatly by removing the value of what someone has from the figuring, and only taxing when things are bought or sold, based on the actual amount bought or sold. Also, simplifying deductions.
    “Married families with children” is about the least controversial deduction I can think of!

  • Hegel points out that
    “If the state is confused with civil society, and if its specific end is laid down as the security and protection of property and personal freedom, then the interest of the individuals as such becomes the ultimate end of their association, and it follows that membership of the state is something optional. But the state’s relation to the individual is quite different from this. Since the state is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality, and an ethical life. Unification pure and simple is the true content and aim of the individual, and the individual’s destiny is the living of a universal life. His further particular satisfaction, activity and mode of conduct have this substantive and universally valid life as their starting point and their result.”

    This is what Aritotle meant, when he defined man as a political animal; the polis is to man what the hive is to the bee.

  • “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force; like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington, Farewell Address

    And, politics essentially is coercion, force, and fraud.

    Foxfier: I’m putting on my Obama-worshipping idiot tin-foil hat: “If you think you pay enough taxes, you hate jesus! Why do you think the governments money should subsidize you and your children?”

  • THAT’S why it sounded familiar! Hegel is the guy Marx ripped off, right? (Well, “the” guy might be a bit too generous to Marx….)

    From that quote, Hegel could be right, or he could be horrifically wrong, depending on the definitions used and the assumptions brought to the table. Sometimes both… the idea of the state as a separate thing from those in it can be a useful fiction, but it’s still just collective action. (here and now, anyways; European gov’ts these days give me a headache, let alone way back when)

    From the boots-on-the-ground view, the idea that a person is only truly free, good and right when he’s subsumed into the gov’t is freaky, wrong and a perversion of religious impulse to the state. I’m sure Hegel intended something different from that, though– I’m just over sensitive to loopholes that big for fascism. (speaking of words that depend on how you define them)

    Darwin-
    I forgot to share my purpose-of-civil-marriage reasoning! I know you’re heart broken, so let me fix that:
    Marriage is the best way to make high quality citizens, so the gov’t has an interest in promoting it.

  • T. Shaw-
    I’ve been practicing for when we eventually have more than just the two girls:
    Be nice! My kids will be paying for your retirement!

    (Which has the grain of truth that, even without SS and Medicare, they are the future, and I hope my girls are good enough to help even those who were horrible.)

  • yes WH A marriage and families are the basic ” building block cells” of the community that forms the state

    and i also think of Pogo again with a little adaptation “We have met the State and it is us.”
    I know this is horrifying for some of you– may make your gag reflexes go, but I find it difficult to reconcile being truly libertarian and being Catholic… you can help me out with that

  • Not all jurisdictions link income tax, either to marriage or children.

    In the UK, married person’s allowance was abolished, except for couples where at least one of them was born before 6 April 1935. Where the couple were married before 6 April 2005, the husband qualifies; if they were married after that date, the higher earner qualifies.

    Their reintroduction was part of the Conservative party manifesto. The legislation would have had to address the question of polygamous marriages of citizens or former citizens of countries where such marriages were lawful, at the time they were contracted.

    Parents or other carers do not receive a tax allowance for a child, but all carers do receive Child Benefit, a universal cash benefit paid regardless of income. The amounts are trivial, about $32 a week for the first child and $21 a week for each subsequent child.

    Children with their own income (under a will or settlement) are taxed in the same way as adults, except where the income is deemed to be a parent’s income, under some very complicated anti-avoidance provisions.

    This is before we get on to means-tested benefits, such as working tax credit.

    The French system, by contrast, reflects Republican Natalism. Income tax is steeply graduated in five bands from 0% to 41%. Total household income is divided into a number of parts ( parts familiales.) or shares, one share each for the spouses or civil partners, half-a-share for the first and second child and a full share for each subsequent child. The graduated rates of tax are applied to a single share and the tax payable is that amount, multiplied by the number of shares.

  • Hi again WH A! Thank you.
    L’etat c’est moi! just kidding…

    I have made this mistake before! a bit of a slow learner… the other related mistake I made was to use my kitchen table terms when talking with people who are more careful with their words than I. In the other instance I mistakenly said that Mary acquiesced in her fiat– I had no IDEA!
    I hesitate to speak of a small part of a body as a cell because of the Marxist implications 🙂 a word like “progress” can be misunderstood; but we can use the word phrase that B16 uses: “organic growth”

    I want also to say how much I enjoy the opportunity to discuss these important matters with you all! Hard to find thinkers like this just anywhere!

    “So to be clear, the People and The State are NOT the same” prob right – not the same, but still, made up of many of the same people. The “government” is not a group of people somehow sequestered from the rest.
    Our idea of hierarchy sometimes upside down– the state gets its life from the people. We can take the reins; not withdraw, not capitulate, not give up what Christianity has wrought in the western world and, in fact, in politics.
    I agree that our State in this time and place has assumed WAY too much… and we need to take back our position of authority over it. In our historic American Republic the participation of the people is necessary and is protected from what may (prob) go awry since government is run by concupiscent people.
    The state is not our enemy, but can be our useful tool. I don’t think of Caesar the way you do because is Caesar was a foreign occupying force, not self governance.

    I am not flying a progressivist flag on purpose–my thinking about life and human societies is conservative… that is because I am Catholic. When I think of good governance, I look to what we can learn from our Faith.
    I do recognize progress in the sequence of history, and also in the growth in our understanding of our relationship to God and with each other. God first covenanted with Adam, (an individual), then Noah (family) Abraham (tribe), Moses (the people of Israel), David, (the nation).
    These various levels of human relationships have varying levels of organization, and there seems to always be a necessary hierarchy. The Bible shows us order and the necessity of authority, at the same time it teaches personal love and responsibility. Of course also the primacy of a good conscience. All the way through we are called to grow individually, socially, morally. You and I agree: society can’t be moral if the individuals aren’t.
    The obedience of faith that St Paul talks about is obedience to Truth… which always works out for our good. like obedience to gravity. That obedience to truth would, as you say, make an extraneous government unnecessary.
    Government bureaucrats too are an integral part of what constitutes The People. That part of our body politic that we entrust with sanctioned force- the bureaucrats, politicians, judges, police etc– probably need to be the BEST among us. wise, prudent, good.

    here’s a quick interesting essay.
    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/06/hegel-and-john-paul-ii

    .

  • Such aficionados are called “Libertarians” and if one believes that reductionism involves defining the boundaries between Fascism and Liberty, then so be it. The State can only subsidize kids by either giving back what it has already taken from the parents, or by giving to the kids what it took from somebody else’s parents, or from kids not yet born who survive State-sponsored eugenics. If The State didn’t confiscate wealth to such an enormous degree by taxing, deficit spending and over-regulation, there would be no need for either deduction or subsidy, as there would be no income tax to begin with. Shall we defend the candy given to us by the tyrant who with his other hand takes the bread from the tables of others? “As long as I get mine” is a morally indefensible strategem for citizenship.

    1. The reductionism I refer to was seeing children as consumer goods.

    2. ‘Liberty’ is a characteristic of a political order that exists in degrees. ‘Fascism’ is a descriptor of a particular type of political economy (albeit a fuzzy descriptor). There is no ‘boundary’ between them. Nor is ‘fascism’ a threat to you and yours that you need to have an interest in apart from a general interest in history or political theory. There are only a short list of countries which ever had that sort of political economy, mostly during the interwar period.

    3. As for the rest, I cannot figure your hostility to a tax exemption or general credit computed as a function of family size, given that an undifferentiated exemption is as old as the income tax itself.

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Has Rome Overreacted to the LCRW?

Tuesday, April 24, AD 2012

So, you think you’re a calm and balanced guy, and you read all these news stories about how the nuns are just “stunned” that Rome would investigate them. I mean, “stunned. How could the mean old Vatican investigate nuns?

Well, Thomas L. McDonald of God and the Machine gives us a little bit of an idea. He takes a look at the upcoming LCWR Assembly 2012 (to be held in August), and notes the keynote topic: “Mystery Unfolding: Leading in the Evolutionary Now” which will be delivered by Barbara Marx Hubbard. He takes a look at Barbara Marx Hubbard’s site and finds the following:

It has become obvious that a creative minority of humanity is undergoing a profound inner mutation or transformation. Evolutionary ideas are not only serving to make sense of this change, but also acting to catalyze the potential within us to transform. (Thought creates; specific thought creates specifically.)

It is the planetary crisis into which we were born that is awakening our sleeping potential for transformation. Planet Earth has given birth to a species capable of choosing whether to consciously evolve ourselves and our social forms, or to continue the course we have set toward our own extinction. And the choice is clear.

All great spiritual paths lead us to this threshold of our own consciousness, but none can guide us across the great divide — from the creature human to the cocreative human. None can guide us in managing the vast new powers given us by science and technology. None of us have been there yet.

What we can envision

The enriched noosphere, the thinking layer of Earth, is now replete with evolutionary technologies that can transform the material world. Within the next 30 to 50 years, we could transform our physical bodies, our minds, our social structures, and set in motion the emergence of a new civilization.

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24 Responses to Has Rome Overreacted to the LCRW?

  • She sounds like a Scientologist.
    “Planet Earth has given birth to a species………”
    I thought God, not planet earth created us – “Gaia, we thank you for our being” [sarc]

    We are told that he did not die.
    Nup, Jesus died alright – otherwise he could not have had His victory over death.
    I should just leave it at that.

    Yes, this one is certainly one for the men in white coats to take away.

  • So she’s saying we didn’t really NEED Jesus, He was just pointing the way toward the brave new future awaiting us. He didn’t REALLY suffer death and rise from the dead. And we, the human race, will someday achieve this here on earth. But the question at the back of my mind, after those future humans come to the natural end of their 600 year lifespan, is what will they find? Endless death or endless life with Our Lord?

    Perhaps what the good sisters need to hear at their conference is someone who will preach Christ crucified. Surely they didn’t vow their lives to their Bridegroom to betray Him by filling their minds with this scifi trash. Their leaders should be ashamed of themselves.

  • I only hope that its not too late to bring back the sisters from the abyss. We need to pray and fast for their reversion to the Faith.

  • “Planet Earth has given birth to a species capable of choosing whether to consciously evolve ourselves and our social forms, or to continue the course we have set toward our own extinction. And the choice is clear.”

    Now there’s a real Social Darwinist.

  • To your question, my answer is NO.

    But I wish Rome would listen with respect to other things as well.

  • After Obama’s election, Barb the snakeoil saleswoman delivered herself of this gem on November 21, 2008:

    “Our recent presidential election clearly reflects the evolutionary shift that we have been talking about and sensing. Many of us appreciate that President Elect Obama is already a universal person, transcending race, and striving for a world that works for everyone. This could not have happened if there was not a rise in consciousness in the United States and throughout the world. The 33% of “cultural creatives” that Paul Ray speaks of are acting now, making this the time for our greater connectivity and cocreativity.

    This Thanksgiving, as we continue to move forward in our evolutionary transformation, let us give thanks together for being alive at this precise moment of moments. It is my prayer that enough of us will join together in this season of thanksgiving to continue to support the evolution of America that is now underway.”

    http://www.barbaramarxhubbard.com/site/blog/archives/category/cotc

    Two observations:

    1. The powers that be at LCWR obviously have long ago surrendered any belief in what the Catholic Church teaches for Leftism with an incomprehensible New Age wrapper.

    2. They are too dumb to see an obvious charlatan when they come across one.

  • Does that “evolution” talk have anything to do “Social Darwinism”?

    And, isn’t “Social Darwinism” one of them liberal swear words?

    In the sense that the LCWR is a small, heretical cliche nearing extinction, Rome likely is overreacting.

    This morning’s suggested reading: St. Paul, “Romans.”

    The Saint writes about wrong-headed people who do not worship The God of creation but idolize the creation of God.

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  • I didn’t think anyone did Teilhard anymore. I know the fear was always that his stuff wasn’t sufficiently grounded in othrodoxy. But I’m sure this lecture would resolve any lingering wariness.

  • I too had heard that Teilhard was frowned on for being doctrinaly unsound. (I tried to read a bit of his stuff at one point, being interested in evolution-related issues, and honestly found him fairly unreadable.) That said, the new-age transhumanist stuff that this speaker has going on is very much of the now, now something she got from Tielhard.

  • This stuff from the keynote speaker’s website makes me think of, I don’t know, maybe Battlestar Gallactica kind of stuff. This stuff is choice material for a TV mini-series like that. OH MY GOODNESS!

  • Commander Adama captaining the Galactica would hopefully know better than to give credence to freaks like this. The gnostic heretics should simply be publicly excommunicated and the LCWR handed over to orthodox women religious. They aren’t going to repent. They are simply too full of themselves. PS, why don’t they just go to Bishopress Schori in the ECUSA (or TEC as it’s otherwise known) where they belong?

  • Paul, you’re absolutely right ~ Commander Adama wouldn’t abide with this garbage. I agree they should just be excommunicated, those who will willingly agree and adhere to this kind of stuff. EVERYONE within that group should be asked to assent or not to the truths of our Faith; then be done with it. You’re in or you’re out. They’ve been given YEARS of leeway apparently. Enough is enough, with these supposed nuns as well as heretic priests and bishops.

  • Are you sure that Oprah didn’t write this?

  • I think that we all need to take it on ourselves during this time of the Vatican looking into the “sisters” that we all not only PRAY but do MAJOR PENANCE for them! It’s God’s timing to uproot the weeds growing in his “transformative” garden!

  • I dunno. I’ve sat in auditoriums where speakers babbled nonsense. I wouldn’t want to judge the individuals who attended these conferences. You go to a conference for the expressed purpose of meeting people and drinking wine in the mid-afternoon, not to listen to speakers. I do think that the schedulers of this stuff shouldn’t be allowed to schedule any more conferences, though.

  • When one attends Mass and the priest gives a homily on “our mother, God” they need to be corrected, now, not later. By the way, Gaia is goddess earth and people are considered parasites on the skin of mother earth. In another post unborn babies are considered parasites. LCWR are parasites on the faith of the people, whom they lord it over. I am embarrassed for them.

  • Hey, if my religious community had the LCRW’s median age, I’d be hoping to transcend my animal self and live for 600 years as well.

  • Pinky,

    I’ve sat in auditoriums where speakers babbled nonsense. I wouldn’t want to judge the individuals who attended these conferences. You go to a conference for the expressed purpose of meeting people and drinking wine in the mid-afternoon, not to listen to speakers. I do think that the schedulers of this stuff shouldn’t be allowed to schedule any more conferences, though.

    I think there’s a bit more of an expectation that the annual conferences of a conference of the heads of Catholic religious orders would actually be substantive, but I would not be at all surprised if many who are members of the LCWR don’t buy into any of this silliness — it’s just that their orders have belonged to the LCWR since it was founded 60 years ago, and they don’t have the time and energy to kick out those who make of hobby of running the thing.

    Hopefully with the bishops the CDF asked to keep an eye on things now being in charge of supervising publications and speakers, there won’t be any more of this silliness.

  • The Vatican is not over reacting. Given that it has take the Vatican 30 years to act I think it is safe to say that the Vatican has greatly under-acted.

    It is truly sad to see how far these nuns have drifted into the New Age heresies. Satan never sleeps! Personally I would require them to either recant in public, renew their vows to God and Church, and move back into actual religious life or I would show them the door.

  • “I dunno. I’ve sat in auditoriums where speakers babbled nonsense.”

    I was in a Diaconate program where the faculty babbled this nonsense. They gave us books to read that were similar nonsense.

    These people know what they are doing. And its not God’s work.

  • The smoke of Satan. I was thinking this morning after Mass, and I had been once lost in the folly of drug induced mysticism and eastern religion, that the smoke of Satan is in that Gnostic pride which makes us think we are among the “chosen” with special more highly evolved knowledge, remember Genesis”you shall be as god”. I believe it is much better for us to consider ourselves as blind, stupid and in need of God’s mercy and His grace to show us His way or we may be tempted to, as Jesus said, to follow other shepherds. As for those in LCWR who are deluded, let’s pray for them as I was once lost, stupid and blind too.

NFP: Not Just Natural Birth Control

Wednesday, April 18, AD 2012

If you think you’ve found the key to a better life, the most natural thing in the world is to want to rush out and convince everyone else to do likewise. We want to shout from the rooftops, “Hey! Better life to be found here! You can too!” As someone who finds significant meaning and happiness in the Catholic understanding of sexuality and prohibition of contraception, this view (and the approach to natural family planning that springs from it) is indeed something that I think other need to hear — but as a result it’s doubly frustrating when it seems like it’s being “sold” wrong.

This is why my teeth went a little on edge when I ran into what ought to have been a very encouraging article to see in the Washington Post detailing the efforts of young and faithful Catholic women to re-explain the Church’s teachings on contraception to the modern world. Here’s the section that threw me off:

Yet the images the church uses to promote its own method of birth control freaked her out. Pamphlets for what the church calls natural family planning feature photos of babies galore. A church-sponsored class on the method uses a book with a woman on the cover, smiling as she balances a grocery bag on one hip, a baby on the other.

“My guess is 99 out of 100 21st-century women trying to navigate the decision about contraception would see that cover and run for the hills,” McGuire wrote in a post on her blog, Altcatholicah, which is aimed at Catholic women.

McGuire, 26, of Alexandria is part of a movement of younger, religiously conservative Catholic women who are trying to rebrand an often-ignored church teaching: its ban on birth control methods such as the Pill. Arguing that church theology has been poorly explained and encouraged, they want to shift the image of a traditional Catholic woman from one at home with children to one with a great, communicative sex life, a chemical-free body and babies only when the parents think the time is right.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that my limited experience of dealing with interviews is that what you say and the way you come off in the article are often very, very different. So I don’t want to suggest that McGuire was misrepresenting NFP. It may well be that the WaPo writer talked to her for a long time, wrote up the article in good faith, yet ended up infusing it with an attitude that’s just — off.  (And indeed, I see that Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary (quoted elsewhere in the article) feels like what came across in the article is not exactly what she was trying to convey.)

That said, I think the message that the article conveys is problematic in that it simply doesn’t reflect all that accurately what it’s like using NFP, and when your advertising message doesn’t fit the reality of your “product”, user dissatisfaction is sure to follow. Emily Stimpson covers this well in a post titled Truth in Adverstising:

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100 Responses to NFP: Not Just Natural Birth Control

  • So… how does this differ from birth control?

    Every line of that excerpt from Emily Stimpson makes it sound like NFP is primarily a “birth control” method, sans the chemicals.

    How many NFP practicioners understand that they need grave reasons to utilize NFP? 1%? Does that make them better people than condom users? Seriously?

  • So… how does this differ from birth control?

    There’s no form of artificial birth control that I’m aware of that people use in order to get pregnant.

  • Paul, how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    I would put the under 30 crowd at about 90/10 avoiding pregnancy rather than getting pregnant.

  • how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    Um, well, we did. Moreover, what’s your point?

  • I think that what JVC is trying to say is that NFP is often used with a selfish mentality and that using it for the wrong reason is potentially sinful. Note please, that that is what HE means and I am not agreeing or disagreeing with him.

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  • JVC,

    So… how does this differ from birth control?

    Every line of that excerpt from Emily Stimpson makes it sound like NFP is primarily a “birth control” method, sans the chemicals.

    The difference between using NFP to avoid pregnancy and using artificial birth control to avoid pregnancy is that NFP involves not having sex because you don’t want to get pregnant at the moment, while artificial birth control involves using artificial means to strip the sexual act of its procreative character (allowing you to have sex anyway without worrying about the act’s procreative implications.)

    How many NFP practicioners understand that they need grave reasons to utilize NFP? 1%? Does that make them better people than condom users? Seriously?

    Using NFP to avoid pregnancy is fundamentally different from using a form of artificial birth control such as a condom, because it involves not having sex — something which is always licit even between married couples. (Thus, for instance, if I rushed home right now and had sex with my wife, we’d almost certainly get pregnant. That does not, however, mean that I am morally required to do so, or that I need “grave reasons” to remain at work for the rest of the day.)

    I addressed this in detail a while back in a series of posts dealing with the question of the “contraceptive mentality” and whether one can accurately characterize the use of NFP as participating in the contraceptive mentality.

    http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com/2010/07/real-sex-vs-contraceptive-mentality.html

    Certainly, it is possible for people to use NFP in a manner that is selfish, but that remains fundamentally different from using artificial birth control which is an inherently sinful act. Not having sex is not an inherently sinful act (or sin of omission.)

  • Ive heard a lot of comments about NFP being de facto birth control. Probably, in the attempt to then make the next step to ‘just take a pill’. But wht I have only heard from my wife and never in comments sections, is the result of NFP. Which aside from not taking the well established health risks, but the fact that (my wife) has learned so much about observing her body, that go beyond just ovulation. She has shaped my opinion as a scientist who studies cancer, yet is a male who will never know what it’s like to give birth or deal with women’s issues. Does one suppress their bodies with drugs or does one listen to their body and make adjustments if,when needed to maintain health. If drugs are medically necessary for ones health, then we should consider the benefits, and not assume there are no costs.

  • how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    Um, well, we did.

    Ditto.

    I would put the under 30 crowd at about 90/10 avoiding pregnancy rather than getting pregnant.

    “42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.” — Steven Wright

  • Does one suppress their bodies with drugs or does one listen to their body and make adjustments if, when needed to maintain health.

    Mark, my wife and I share a similar experience here. And really, it has shaped our approach to medicine and nutrition. The human body is amazing.

  • Using NFP deliberately to avoid pregnancy without a grave reason is in fact tautologically
    birth control. Call it natural birth control, if you want. Does it carry the same moral sanction as someone who has sex but uses contraception? Obviously not. But let’s not pretend like the intent is not identical: acting in a certain way as to strip sexuality of its procreative nature.

    I can’t tell if you quoted Emily approvingly or disapprovingly, but that is the exact vibe I get from that excerpt. She cheers on the notion that there is a way to control a person’s fertility in the same way as contraception but without the moral consequences of chemicals or a condom. Totally absent from her comments is any context discussing the Church’s position that NFP must only be used for grave reasons.

    The fact that NFP cultists refuse to entertain the possibility that the Church proscribes that NFP must only be used for certain circumstances is exactly what causes NFP to be little more than “natural” birth control for most of its users.

  • Paul, you have a difference experience among young Catholics? Pray tell. What portion of the under 30 crowd that you know is using NFP to get pregnant rather than avoid pregnancy, on end, for years?

  • An “in truth very wide” latitude to use NFP to space births is Magisterial, FYI: http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2008/04/broadband-nfp.html

  • 63.576% Jvc.

    I don’t know, I don’t run polls among my friends to determine these figures, nor am I that much of a busybody. All I know is that my parish is nicknamed St. Baby’s for a reason, and it’s not because the parishioners there are making an all out effort to delay pregnancy.

    Although if I had to guess, if a married couple is Catholic, using NFP, and under the age of 30 – the proportion using it as a means of avoiding pregnancy is far, far less than nine in ten. Of course I’m just guessing – as you are. I’m just not pretending my guess is authoritative fact.

  • JVC,

    Using NFP deliberately to avoid pregnancy without a grave reason is in fact tautologically birth control. Call it natural birth control, if you want. Does it carry the same moral sanction as someone who has sex but uses contraception? Obviously not. But let’s not pretend like the intent is not identical: acting in a certain way as to strip sexuality of its procreative nature.

    But this is precisely the thing: NFP specifically does not strip sexuality of its proceative nature. That’s why using it to avoid pregnancy involves not having sex through a good portion (quite often the majority) of the cycle.

    What the Church teaches is not that one must get pregnant with some given frequency, but rather that sex is intimately tied to reproduction, and that if one is trying not to get pregnant this means a huge disruption (and diminution) of one’s “sex life” (to use that most modern of terms.)

    That one can use periodic abstinence to avoid pregnancy for a period of time and can also use artificial birth control to avoid pregnancy for a period of time is a red herring. It’s like arguing that because eating a healthy diet in the first place and gorging and purging can both result in being a healthy weight, that they are therefore functionally the same thing. (After all, either way you’re not obese!)

    I can’t tell if you quoted Emily approvingly or disapprovingly, but that is the exact vibe I get from that excerpt. She cheers on the notion that there is a way to control a person’s fertility in the same way as contraception but without the moral consequences of chemicals or a condom.

    I am quoting her approvingly, and precisely because I think she provides a good corrective to the WaPo piece (which does suggest that NFP is just natural birth control.) For instance, Emily points out:

    At the same time, rejecting contraception in general requires trust—trust in God’s will and God’s provision. It requires generosity—a willingness to put others needs before our own. It requires a spirit of poverty—detachment from the extras our culture says are essentials. And it requires a heart that delights in pictures of fat smiling babies, that believes babies are precious gifts from God, not a reason to run for the hills.

    Basically, it requires that we be everything our culture has programmed us not to be.

    And also

    NFP is not Catholic birth control. It’s the Catholic world view…lived out in the bedroom.

    Now, you’re correct, she does not specifically state that couples should only avoid pregnancy for “grave reasons”, but frankly I think that this is a term which people at times go a bit overboard on. As Bob notes, it’s not as if the popes have suggested that one must be in a “all our children will starve to death if we have one more” or a “my wife will die if she gets pregnant” situation in order to space pregnancies using NFP.

    “Therefore, in our late allocution on conjugal morality, We affirmed the legitimacy, and at the same time, the limits — in truth very wide — of a regulation of offspring, which, unlike so-called ‘birth control,’ is compatible with the law of God.” – Pius XII, Morality in Marriage (emphasis mine), from Papal Pronouncements on Marriage and the Family, Werth and Mihanovich, 1955

    Paul, you have a difference experience among young Catholics? Pray tell. What portion of the under 30 crowd that you know is using NFP to get pregnant rather than avoid pregnancy, on end, for years?

    Like Paul, I don’t take polls, by my observation among other young married Catholic couples (though we have now crossed over into our early 30s) is that most couples use NFP to lengthen the natural spacing they would normally experience between children out from 12-18 months to something more like 2 or maybe 3 years. Other than those struggling with infertility (or who did not find a spouse until late in life) I know very few NFP using couples you don’t have significantly more than the average number of children. (And that’s probably fairly natural, since having to abstain from the marital act most of the time — and often the times when the wife is most interested — is a very good incentive to give having more children another thought.)

  • It looks like there’s actually a pretty good article on the USCCB website dealing with the question of “When can we use NFP?”

    http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/seriousq.shtml

  • NFP specifically does not strip sexuality of its proceative nature.

    By definition, excluding the possibility of procreation stripes sexuality of its procreative nature. This is what regular practitioners of birth control do, whether it is artificial or “natural.” Are they both morally evil? No. But the intent is the same. Your food example fails. The method is obviously very different, but the intent is identical.

    I am amused at how NFP enthusiasts cheer one quote from Pius while ignoring another. Have at it. What are those wide limits? It is amazing how the term “wide” for NFP enthusiasts somehow means “literally anything you can come up with.” Are there ANY restraints that you can think of? How about for most NFP users? Have the vast majority of NFP users ever restrained from using NFP due to the reasons Pius gives?

    Darwin, I don’t get the sense that you aren’t a level headed person. Including on this issue. I don’t know how old you are. But the sense I get from the majority of practicing Catholics in my age group (under 30) is that NFP is a perfectly acceptible form of natural birth control. I don’t think older Catholics have a clue to what extent this is the case.

    Paul, nice smarmy response. Have a nice day.

  • Darwin, thanks for the link. I will take a look — I have appreciated Mary Shivanandan’s writings in the past.

  • jvc,
    Frankly, I think you are wrong. If you care read through the article Darwin linked regarding our bishops’ input on this, you might scroll down and see the section on Grave and Serious:
    Paul VI in his encyclical, Humanae vitae (1968), while condemning the use of all contraceptive methods for even grave (gravia) reasons declared licit the recourse to the infertile periods if the spouses have good (just and seria) reasons to postpone even indefinitely another pregnancy.
    I think you are conflating two concepts here: Contraceptives are not permitted for even grave reasons. Also, recourse to infertile periods (periodic abstinence, NFP, etc…) is permitted for just and serious reasons. Just/serious has a different connotation than grave.

  • JVC,

    By definition, excluding the possibility of procreation stripes sexuality of its procreative nature. This is what regular practitioners of birth control do, whether it is artificial or “natural.” Are they both morally evil? No. But the intent is the same. Your food example fails. The method is obviously very different, but the intent is identical.

    The distinction I would make here is that I don’t think it’s the intent that is the actual problem from a moral point of view. (For instance, if a woman is unmarried, I’m sure she wants to avoid getting pregnant. That is good! So long as she achieves this by not having sex.)

    Similarly, I think we’d probably agree that if a couple were to decide to avoid pregnancy for a year by not having sex for that entire year, this would also be morally acceptable, even though their intent would clearly be the same (not get pregnant) as that of a couple using contraception and having sex frequently.

    Using NFP is simply a means of engaging in selective abstinence. The fact that its selective rather than total gives the couple a means to express their unitive love for one another via the marital act — which is a good of marriage — though obviously less frequently and less freely than if they were not selectively abstaining. And since they are not attempting to actually strip the fertility from the act itself, they of course realize that if they’re wrong about this being an infertile time in the cycle, they may very well get pregnant.

    What are those wide limits? It is amazing how the term “wide” for NFP enthusiasts somehow means “literally anything you can come up with.” Are there ANY restraints that you can think of? How about for most NFP users? Have the vast majority of NFP users ever restrained from using NFP due to the reasons Pius gives?

    Well, obviously the Church states that the bearing and raising of children is an end of marriage, to clearly it would be unacceptable for a couple to marry while intending to never have children by using NFP.

    I guess I don’t see that I’m competent to sit down and make our a list of what would or would not be a just and serious reason not to have another child at the moment. I imagine it would vary a lot from person to person. My own experience (my wife and I are both 33, we got married at 22, and we have 5 kids) is that practicing NFP strictly enough to actually avoid pregnancy is sufficiently frustrating that it’s a pretty good way of causing us to reexamine on a very frequent basis whether we are ready to stop using NFP and see when the next child will come.

  • From my perspective, there aren’t enough Catholics using NFP for me to get my boxers in a wad about the motivations of the tiny minority of the faithful who do. Honestly, I don’t get the need to get up in the face of those who practice it (“cultists”–nice) This discussion–which recurs with great regularity on the internet (if almost nowhere else) is a prime example of the circular firing squad in action.

    See also, “Gnats, Straining at.”

    My experience is the same as Darwin’s. Speaking from my own experience, our six-month old is the result of a re-assessment of our reasons for using NFP.

  • I read the piece by Mary. She seems to have a nice summation of the issue without providing a lot of answers. Here, as anywhere, it would be nice if the Church provided more leadership and more answers so we don’t have to argue over language from documents 50 years old.

    Darwin,

    The distinction I would make here is that I don’t think it’s the intent that is the actual problem from a moral point of view.

    You don’t think that there is a moral problem with having the same intent as the people practicing artificial birth control? I must be misreading you. Perhaps what you mean is, the primary moral problem is the method, which I would agree. But I don’t think that, given that the intent is identical, the moral position of those practicing “natural” birth control is oh-so-holier than those practicing artificial birth control.

    Similarly, I think we’d probably agree that if a couple were to decide to avoid pregnancy for a year by not having sex for that entire year, this would also be morally acceptable, even though their intent would clearly be the same (not get pregnant) as that of a couple using contraception and having sex frequently.

    I guess I can’t follow the rest of your analogy because I am not sure it would be morally acceptable for a married couple to avoid having sex for a year. That would seem fairly contrary to the intent of the marriage sacrament.

    And since they are not attempting to actually strip the fertility from the act itself

    I understand what you mean by this, that they are not stripping each occasion of the act of fertility. The problem that I have is that, when done over a sustained period of time without the reflection of serious or just reasons, they are stripping the overall purpose of that act within marriage of its fertile purposes.

    Can you see how this would run the risk of devolving into the same utilitarian errors of the culture on this issue?

    guess I don’t see that I’m competent to sit down and make our a list of what would or would not be a just and serious reason

    I would hope you are competent! You are or have practiced NFP, yes? The Church calls for you to consider whether there are serious/just/grave/whatever reasons to practice NFP. Surely you and your spouse at least discussed the reasons for this before launching into it?

    Most often today, a problem I see with my peers is that they dive into NFP as if it is the norm, precisely because they avoid or are ignorant of the fact that the Church requires cause to practice NFP. I think it is the failure to consider this that causes the practice to devolve into natural birth control and the utilitarian view of sexuality from our culture.

  • Darwin:

    What some are trying to say on this point is that the method is a secondary (though hardly unimportant) consideration in the matter. It’s the individual motivation we are talking about. If one is preventing pregnancy the motivation must be suspect, unless it is a genuine, unmistakably grave reason.

    What are those grave reasons? I’m not enough of a moral theologian to answer that question, but I do know that merely, wanting more money in the bank, a vacation every year, a second car, a 50″ tv set, the finest schools for my children, more free time between the spouses, a bigger and better house, my wife’s desire to work outside the home and many other reasons like that certainly do not qualify as “grave”. And that’s the rub. I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason and that is why many call NFP merely “Catholic contraception”, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become “Catholic divorce”.

    Sadly, most priests and Bishops are useless (worse than useless, really) when discussing NFP because many of them are so gutless and afraid to offend that they allow Catholic couples to practice NFP willy-nilly. This is certainly one of the causes of the extreme problems the Church is now facing, and will be facing as the years go on. The sooner we face up to the fact that NFP has been a disaster for the Church, despite some Papal encouraging words, the better off the whole world will be.

    Young, poor and foolish, my wife and I started using NFP after the birth of our first child. I cannot imagine how many little souls we didn’t bring into the world at that time that could now be a joy in our lives. It was a stupid thing to do.

  • Dale, you might not like my term cultists, but they are out there. I don’t think anyone blogging on this website qualifies, but you don’t have to look very hard to find blog after blog devoted exclusively to this issue, with many promoting it as another Solution To Everything.

  • I guess I don’t see that I’m competent to sit down and make our a list of what would or would not be a just and serious reason not to have another child at the moment. I imagine it would vary a lot from person to person.

    Bingo. The Church does not even provide such a list. This decision is between each couple and God, for every situation is unique.

  • I think DC is right; we can all agree that having sex during an infertile period is morally okay. Look at sterile people; their whole lives are infertile periods. Abstaining from sex during a fertile period seems okay too; every time we do something other than copulate we are abstaining. Doing both knowingly shouldn’t be a problem then.

  • Actually, the Solution to Everything is the Big Green Egg, which really does have a cult.

  • The Church does not even provide such a list? Did you actually read the article that Darwin linked to?

    PS- Darwin, please feel free to correct my HTML error above with the italics…

  • but definitely, NFP is not supposed to be the norm. It’s supposed to be the exception.

  • This decision is between each couple and God, for every situation is unique.

    This is the constant refrain of NFP promoters who dismiss any idea that there must be just/serious/grave/whatever reasons for using NFP. I would like Big Tex to provide a circumstance or a situation where NFP would not be proper.

    Or, rather, should NFP be the norm in Catholic marriages? Would it be ideal if every couple marrying in the Church use NFP? In other words, is NFP the ideal within every marriage? If not, why not?

  • . I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason and that is why many call NFP merely “Catholic contraception”, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become “Catholic divorce”.

    At the risk of being accused of being smarmy again, the plural of anecdote is not data. While I’m sure that there are people out there who do engage in the behavior you decry, but why are you so certain that this pertains to a majority of people practicing NFP? I keep hearing these rather generalized statements being thrown out there by you and jvc, but neither of you is backing these assertions with proof.

    Again, consider the population of people who use NFP. This is a subset within a subset of Catholics. As Dale said, the percentage of Catholics even using NFP is small (although the percentage among practicing Catholics would be much higher). Are these the type of people obsessed with acquiring 50 inch televisions? Perhaps your experience is different than mine, but where I am I do not see this type of behavior. Then again, maybe my experience is outside the norm.

  • Paul, it’s the majority of people I know who talk about it. You have your experience, I and others have ours.

  • Paul, it’s the majority of people I know who talk about it.

    Could you please clarify? Do you mean the majority of people you talk to about NFP, or the people you talk to and employ NFP?

  • And by the way, just so I am clear, I’m not suggesting that most people who have used NFP haven’t used it at some point to space pregnancies. I just doubt that a majority have done it for frivolous reasons.

  • The majority of people I know who a) talk about it and use it or b)talk about it with the intent of using it when they get married. In other words, the majority of people who talk about it and have an opinion about it. Hope this clarifies.

    Yes, I fully concede that this group of people may not be representative of the larger population. Nor necessarily would your social circle. It is my experience, though.

  • The Church does not even provide such a list?

    Meant to say exhaustive list. And no, the Church provides no list that details the situations in which it is and is not licit to have recourse to periodic abstinence to space children. Good luck trying to find one.

    This is the constant refrain of NFP promoters who dismiss any idea that there must be just/serious/grave/whatever reasons for using NFP. I would like Big Tex to provide a circumstance or a situation where NFP would not be proper.

    Or, rather, should NFP be the norm in Catholic marriages? Would it be ideal if every couple marrying in the Church use NFP? In other words, is NFP the ideal within every marriage? If not, why not?

    From whence did you ever get such an idea that I would dismiss the notion that there must be just/serious/grave/whatever reasons for using NFP? To your request, NFP would be inappropriate in saving up for a Porche or 747 or because mommy doesn’t look good in maternity clothes. On the flip side, NFP would appropriate in other situations. For one, a doctor may indicate to a woman that pregnancy is ill-advised based on her health. Or, an up-coming trip to visit relatives 2000 miles from home. Each family’s situation here is unique.

    I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage. It works rather well to space the little monkeys out, as well as when the doctor says no babies for a little while. Additionally, it’s a fantastic tool to aid in co-creating another one of those little monkeys we all find so precious (dirty diapers aside). The discussions that occur with each new cycle really develop the ability for a couple to pray together as well as communicate openly, honestly, and intimately. And as phase two approaches, and the attraction between spouses intensifies (as Darwin mentioned), said attraction really helps one cut through the B.S. on a couple’s reasons for postponing a pregnancy (i.e. Is this really a just/serious/grave/whatever reason?).

    So, jvc, I think you have taken the pendulum and gone far, too far to the right on this issue. For one, I think you are too easily dismissive of the intensified phase two attraction between spouses and how it can influence a couple.

    I also think you are doing yourself a disservice in equating grave reasons and serious/just reasons. Grave reasons insinuates finances/health issues. Just/serious reasons, which is the language used by our bishops, are broader and generally address (as does HV) situations such as the time in which we live.

    Lastly, I think you (and Ike) have an incomplete understanding of NFP and the Church’s teaching here. It sounds as if you believe we are supposed to be providentialists (think Duggars) when it comes to our family sizes and situations. Rather, NFP when taught with the mind and heart of the Church emphasizes prayerful discernment. The language used in the CCL course is specific: postpone/achieve pregnancy, as opposed to (what seems to be your main thrust in this discussion) prevent pregnancy.

  • I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage.

    Source?

  • Maybe the blog should stick to less controversial subjects like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? 🙂 I see 150 comments at least on this thread by midnight! Now I will scamper away from this particular minefield!

  • I got nothing.

    At my age, it is not an issue.

    It was once between my conscience, Father Confessor, and me. And, none of us spoke of it outside of our unique, little group: the Confessional.

    I attended pre-Cana so long ago they still had the wine.

  • I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage.

    Source?

    Do you understand what “I do think” means? Now, do you have a source that says it should not? Moreover, you and I have a different understanding what NFP is apparently:

    jvc: NFP = way to not get pregnant
    Big Tex: NFP = way to postpone kids if need be, AND way to aid/pinpoint conception

  • Don,

    Maybe the blog should stick to less controversial subjects like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    No kidding…

    JVC,

    In not particular order:

    I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage.

    Source?

    It seems to me that Paul VI’s section on “Responsible Parenthood” in Humanae Vitae does basically endorse the idea that couples should understand the fertility implications of the wife’s cycle and make prudent decisions about when to conceive accordingly (i.e. use NFP).

    With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. (9)

    With regard to man’s innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man’s reason and will must exert control over them.

    With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.

    Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.

    You don’t think that there is a moral problem with having the same intent as the people practicing artificial birth control? I must be misreading you. Perhaps what you mean is, the primary moral problem is the method, which I would agree. But I don’t think that, given that the intent is identical, the moral position of those practicing “natural” birth control is oh-so-holier than those practicing artificial birth control.

    I don’t think that the intent of “not get pregnant” is in and of itself morally good or bad. A nun does not intend to get pregnant. That’s fine, because her action is being celibate.

    The thing that a contracepting couple does which is sinful is “have sex while removing the procreative element of the sexual act”. This is wrong. The thing which a couple using NFP to avoid pregnancy for a time does is “not have sex during fertile time”. This is not wrong (so long as they are mutually agreed upon it.)

    I guess I can’t follow the rest of your analogy because I am not sure it would be morally acceptable for a married couple to avoid having sex for a year. That would seem fairly contrary to the intent of the marriage sacrament.

    I’m not sure how one could get to the idea that spouses not having sex for a period of time would be immoral. I’d have to go look up citations, but there are several instances of saints (other than Mary and Joseph, who were clearly a special case) who mutually made vows of celibacy with their spouses from a certain point on in their marriage.

    The problem that I have is that, when done over a sustained period of time without the reflection of serious or just reasons, they are stripping the overall purpose of that act within marriage of its fertile purposes.

    I don’t think you’re correct on why the Church would see a couple that avoided pregnancy for a long time without just and serious reasons would be behaving wrongly. It’s not that it would be removing the sexual act of its meaning, but rather that it would be a failure of generosity and openness.

    I would hope you are competent! You are or have practiced NFP, yes? The Church calls for you to consider whether there are serious/just/grave/whatever reasons to practice NFP. Surely you and your spouse at least discussed the reasons for this before launching into it?

    There are a lot of situations in which I think it is next to impossible to lay out specific and universally applicable rules on questions like “when is it okay to delay pregnancy” or “what is modest dress” or “what sort of art will elicit lustful thoughts”. I think I am pretty capable (with God’s help — and also with the help of very much enjoying sex and not wanting to give it up half the month) of figuring out whether my wife and I have, in a given set of circumstances, serious reasons to put off having another child. I don’t think that I’m capable of saying, “In all circumstances, X is not a good reason to postpone pregnancy” unless I pick something downright silly like “because the wife wants to pursue a hobby of skydiving” or “because they want to go on a cruise every year” or “because the husband wants his wife to stay thin all the time”.

    Similarly, I feel quite comfortable telling my daughters “you may not wear that outfit” even while I am not comfortable laying down some universal law of what is and what is not modest for all people in all places and times.

    Dan,

    Young, poor and foolish, my wife and I started using NFP after the birth of our first child. I cannot imagine how many little souls we didn’t bring into the world at that time that could now be a joy in our lives. It was a stupid thing to do.

    While I can certainly see why one would regret not having been more open to fertility at a certain point in one’s life, I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not accurate to think of there being specific little souls who get denied a chance at life because we don’t happen to have sex on the given night on which they would have been conceived. Souls are created by God at the moment that a human being actually comes into existence (at conception) and so while we might be guilty of a lack of generosity or openness at a certain point in our lives in regard to bringing new lives into the world, it’s not as if we have some sort of chute or quota waiting for us that we do or do not fulfill.

    Similarly, if a couple finds that they are afflicted with infertility, it is not as if God is denying them the little souls they so desperately want. As bodies, we just are what we are. Sometimes we conceive, sometimes we don’t.

    I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason and that is why many call NFP merely “Catholic contraception”, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become “Catholic divorce”.

    This appears to be a fairly wide chasm of experience. In my experience, Catholic couples using NFP are mostly just using NFP to have children every 24 to 36 months rather than every 14 to 20 months. They also have far more than the average number of kids. (Some NFP instructors we knew had 10.)

    Now, some people might see the desire to have children “only” ever 2-3 years instead of one ever year to be a failure to be open to God’s will. Maybe for a few people it would be. I think for the vast majority of families, however, that is simply a matter of prudence. Especially as one gets older and the number of kids mount, it helps for the wife to be not-pregnant for a year or two at a time. And that’s not even taking into account the people who have serious medical or financial reasons not to have more children at the moment.

  • Darwin,

    How do you make the connection between that quote from HV and the idea that NFP should be the norm? Of course couples should be familiar with the concept of fertility. How do you go from there to the idea that the Church mandates that couples practice something that regularly prevents pregnancy? Are couples that leave their family size up to God bad Catholics? Is it preferential for parents to determine the exact number of their children?

    NFP enthusiasts seem to be of the assumption that human marriage was somehow deficient before the advent of NFP. Something tells me that families got along just well before either artificial or natural birth control came along. When did we become so distrustful of the natural processes that God created?

    The thing that a contracepting couple does which is sinful is “have sex while removing the procreative element of the sexual act”.

    And they do this if they choose to practice NFP for the purpose of not getting pregnant when they have no serious or just reason to not become pregnant. Can you see that this is a possibility?

    I don’t think you’re correct on why the Church would see a couple that avoided pregnancy for a long time without just and serious reasons would be behaving wrongly. It’s not that it would be removing the sexual act of its meaning, but rather that it would be a failure of generosity and openness.

    So the Church would not have a problem with a couple engaging in sexual intercourse for utilitarian purposes, with the cover of NFP to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy?

    Do you think that it *could* remove the sexual act of its meaning, to use NFP just because a couple has no interest in having children?

  • I guess I can’t follow the rest of your analogy because I am not sure it would be morally acceptable for a married couple to avoid having sex for a year.

    Young people bug me.

  • Art, I could be wrong. I know there are plenty of saints who stopped having sex. But I thought there had to be some kind of reason, like you had to be beyond your childbearing years and you had to have the intent of permanently not having sex. Dunno.

  • But I thought there had to be some kind of reason

    Fifty years and fifty extra pounds. That’s two reasons.

  • Art,

    Young people bug me.

    The kids are looking at me funny and demanding to know why I’m laughing so loudly.

  • The kids are looking at me funny and demanding to know why I’m laughing so loudly.

    So it isn’t the scotch talking?

  • This is just my very humble opinion, but I personally believe that any couple with the commitment and motivation to practice NFP at all, for any reason, is already way ahead of the game as far as being open to life and conquering selfishness.

    To complain that a couple who is faithfully practicing NFP is not doing so for serious enough reasons is, to me, like complaining about someone finishing 10th in the Boston Marathon or “only” coming home with a bronze medal in the Olympics. Yes, perhaps they didn’t perform perfectly, but the mere fact they were in the competition AT ALL is a huge accomplishment!

    If a couple were really concerned only about making lots of money, having a nice home, preserving mom’s figure, etc. chances are they are not even interested in NFP in the first place. If they are really as selfish as the “typical” contracepting couple, they won’t even bother with NFP, or they will give it up and revert to contraception after a short trial period.

    There may be other cases in which ONE spouse is interested or willing to try NFP but the other won’t hear of it, or agrees only grudgingly to try it and eventually pressures the other spouse to give it up. In those cases, it may not matter how unselfish and open to life the faithful spouse is, if the wife or husband won’t go along, there isn’t a whole lot they can do about it other than threaten permanent abstinence, separation or divorce — none of which will facilitate being open to life!

  • Wow, a lot of riled up people her today. Some excellent thoughts. Here’s mine: (1.) When the first protestor to NFP called it “Catholic B.C.” and were not refuted loudly and strongly from the pulpit by our teachers – bishops and priests – that arguement belonged to the protestors and they only got louder as the years rolled by. In college debate I learned those many, many years ago – frame the debate, define the terms, win the debate. We did that and one season went 147-0. (2.) Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing.” For the first 4 years of our marriage we used NFP, then accepted the Lord’s gift of three beautiful baby girls born within 20 months of each other. Then, sadly, we gave into the “power of the pill” and had no other children. A couple years ago, at a couples retreat, we admitted to each other that that decision has afflicted out marriage for at least the last 20 years. Alas, we cannot recover those lost years and lost children. The Lord has forgiven us and renewed our love and marriage in Himself. So, my advice to anyone contemplating using NFP bring it to the Lord in prayer and as someone above said recognize that it is the Catholic lifestyle. And also remember it is called, after all, narural family planning not natural family avoidance. IMy wife and I wish we had had the fortitude to live as real faithful Catholics back then. If only we had bothered to really read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “On Human Life.”

  • “how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?”

    Again, we did as well–twice–both when we were under 30.

    Also, don’t discount what NFP does to your heart–starting out using it to avoid pregnancy might be opening the door to God for Him to work on your heart and your attitude about children and family size. I know I had “plans” for a much smaller family before I accepted the Church’s teaching on contraception but I’ve become open to having more children. I probably would not have even entertained the idea of having a larger family if I had used contraception, but I would not have even started using NFP if my instructor had not emphasized its efficacy for avoiding postponing pregnancy bc I wouldn’t have “trusted” it enough to get us through the end of school.

  • JVC,

    How do you make the connection between that quote from HV and the idea that NFP should be the norm? Of course couples should be familiar with the concept of fertility. How do you go from there to the idea that the Church mandates that couples practice something that regularly prevents pregnancy?

    Well, it seems to me that “responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions.” suggests that understanding how to tell when the wife is and is not fertile is okay (thus, understanding the workings of NFP.)

    When he says “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time,” it seems to me that he’s saying that “responsible parenthood” can mean either using that knowledge to have more children (should that be the prudent course) or to avoid having children for a time or indefinitely (should that be the prudent course.)

    Are couples that leave their family size up to God bad Catholics?

    No.

    Is it preferential for parents to determine the exact number of their children?

    I don’t think it’s necessarily preferable (nor necessarily bad) but more to the point it’s usually not possible. I don’t think I know any couples who have never conceived “by accident” while using NFP. (In that sense, I suppose it is a bit like birth control. A lot of my secular friends at work had at least one “accidental” child while using contraception.)

    NFP enthusiasts seem to be of the assumption that human marriage was somehow deficient before the advent of NFP. Something tells me that families got along just well before either artificial or natural birth control came along. When did we become so distrustful of the natural processes that God created?

    I think there were simply different pressures on couples at that point. Just because there wasn’t NFP and artificial birth control doesn’t mean that fertility didn’t cause strife between couples.

    So the Church would not have a problem with a couple engaging in sexual intercourse for utilitarian purposes, with the cover of NFP to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy?

    Do you think that it *could* remove the sexual act of its meaning, to use NFP just because a couple has no interest in having children?

    I’m not clear what you mean by “engaging in sexual intercourse for utilitarian purposes” — or at least, all the ideas I’m coming up with at the moment sound more like dirty jokes than serious possibilities.

    Let me see if I can sum up:

    – I do not think that periodic abstinence can ever remove the reproductive meaning from the marital act.
    – I do think that a couple might in some circumstances be guilty of a degree of selfishness in using periodic abstinence to avoid pregnancy without good reasons — and given that selfishness is sinful, I do thus think that it is possible to use NFP sinfully.
    – I think that for the majority if couples, using NFP will in and of itself prove a very good safety mechanism to prevent them from behaving selfishly, because at the age you’re most likely have cause to actively avoid pregnancy, abstaining during the fertile parts of the cycle is seriously un-fun.

    (And now I see that Elaine has summed it all up more concisely and better than me anyway, so I’ll just post.)

  • Very few individuals have sex using contraceptives because they are loving, cherishing and appreciating the other, or being delighted in each other and each other’s company, or being in love with the other person to whom they are promised. It is an abuse of another person to whom they may be married to work off uncontrolled sexual urges, frustration or need for exercise which is what most sexual activity is about with contraception. “Saint Teresa (Martin), the Little Flower’s parents Louis and Zélie met in 1858, and married on July 13, 1858. Both of great piety they were part of the petit-bourgeoisie, comfortable Alençon. At first they decided to live as brother and sister in a perpetual continence, but when a confessor discouraged them in this, they changed their lifestyle and had 9 children. (from Wikipedia)They intended to devote themselves to prayer and did so for one year. Devoting oneself to prayer is the intent of and reason of Natural Family Planning. To grow spiritually and come to realize in one another, each person as a gift from God, who may become another child or remain in a secret place in our hearts. My girlfriend told me she used to lie in bed and listen to her mother and father giggling affectionately most of the night, two friends who happened to be married. The expression of God’s love for mankind expressed in the conjugal act is a gift that remains ever present, ever fulfilling, never needs reworking unless one chooses to bring another person into creation through procreation. The two concepts of prayer and procreation that are the substance of NFP, whereas the use of contraception is an insult to God, to the other person and to oneself.

  • “families got along just well before either artificial or natural birth control came along. When did we become so distrustful of the natural processes that God created?”

    Well, people were able to prepare nutritious meals before vitamins, carbohydrates, calories and proteins were discovered. Does that mean that someone who reads the nutritional information on their food labels and counts the calories and carbs in their food because they want to lose weight, control diabetes, achieve maximum fitness ahead of a marathon, etc. is being “distrustful of the natural processes that God created”? Or does it simply mean they are exercising their KNOWLEDGE of those natural processes in a way that is best for their health?

    There are secular promoters of NFP, or as they prefer to call it, “fertility awareness” who practice it not for religious or moral reasons but simply because it allows women to work with their nature rather than against it — not only for purposes of avoiding or achieving pregnancy, but also as a means of knowing what their “normal” cycles are like and knowing when something is “off” or wrong. God created women to be fertile in cycles and NOT all the time, so how can it be wrong to know about it, and exercise that knowledge prudently? I think this knowledge would be valuable for no other reason than knowing exactly when you could expect “Aunt Flo” to arrive every month… but I digress.

    I’d like to run with the food analogy a little farther because I think it might help us understand how NFP differs from artificial contraception. To me, NFP can be compared to losing or managing one’s weight by proper diet and exercise. You still eat real food with real nutrients, and digest it normally, so you are still fulfilling the natural purpose of eating; but you are doing so in moderation. (Total abstinence would be like going on a permanent fast, with the difference that while YOU won’t die of starvation if you “fast” from sex permanently, your marriage might!) Contraception, on the other hand, is like resorting to bulimia or diet pills to lose weight. You are attempting to go on enjoying food as much as you want and whenever you want, but in a way that actively interferes with the digestive process and ultimately will be very bad for your health. See the difference?

  • Well, I’m a total noob about NFP, and we used the little I know to get pregnant…. Family friend asked for help, I made some simple suggestions to her; their firstborn is adorable and nearly two.
    So non-observant non-Catholics use it to get pregnant, too!

  • I hate these NFP arguments because it usually goes nowhere. Anyway, as I intend to write a book or article series on this issue someday, I guess this is the price I will have to pay …

    No one answered the thrust of jvc’s original objection.
    Basically, these NFP promoters are appealing to women who desire to practice contraception in an attempt to get them off ABC. Despite the fact that their goal is an openness to life, it is marketed in such a way as to convince these women that NFP is a better approach while running the risk that the women they are appealing to will be convinced to go natural, but simply as an alternate means to ABC. So they still do not have the openness to children that really is at the heart of what is wrong with contraception. Almost all the popes and saints who spoke of contraception said it was wrong because it is unnatural, but said that the consequence of that unnatural act was wrong too – it limits the number of children without “just” reason(s).

    It isn’t either/or. It’s both/and. It is not enough simply to practice NFP. You have to do it for “just” reasons, which Dr. Taylor Marshall demonstrates by quoting past Magisterial teaching – most Catholics only reference Humanae Vitae and interpret discontinuously from the broader Tradition (i.e. see Bob’s comment). He also says, drawing on that same Tradition, that the “just reasons” are not as many as we would like to believe (because most couples unwittingly use NFP selfishly too – something Dr. Marshall stated as well), and that there are some objective standards – it isn’t all left to the couple.
    cantuar.blogspot.com/2012/02/you-can-only-use-nfp-for-grave.html

    Btw, if it is true that the “just reasons” are very few, then that would make them also “grave reasons” – which would take the substance out of the semantic argument that NFP promoters often use.

  • @ Big Tex and Paul Zunno
    1. Most people use NFP more to avoid (or “space” or “delay”, if you prefer) pregnancy than to achieve pregnancy. No statistics necessary – just have to talk to enough people, read enough articles, and use common sense.
    2. Most of the NFP couples do have a lot of children – at least relatively speaking, but those families are still half the size of families 50-75 years ago, and half the size of some couples I know who I am guessing have used NFP seldom or at all. In other words, sure, most NFP couples are “open to life” – at least in the sense of not practicing ABC, but that does not mean they are not using NFP for “unjust” or mainly selfish reasons.

    @ Big Tex
    “The Church does not even provide such a list. This decision is between each couple and God, for every situation is unique.”

    An unfortunate necessity because, yes, every situation is different.
    The downside to this is it’s a lot easier to practice NFP without “just reasons”. And many do.

    @ Big Tex
    jvc: “I do think [not using] NFP should be the ideal within marriage”
    Big Tex: “Source?”
    Dr. Taylor Marshall, citing the Magisterium, with ensuing comments:
    cantuar.blogspot.com/2012/02/you-can-only-use-nfp-for-grave.html

    @Darwin Catholic:
    You say: “Not having sex is not an inherently sinful act (or sin of omission)”.
    Yes and no.
    Perpetual continence has always been highly praised.
    However, sexual union with the intention of avoiding children has always been condemned.
    The Church, being the common sense mother She is, says if you have “just reasons” for doing so, it’s okay, but if not, it is a sin – not of “omission” (abstaining during fertile periods) but of “commission” (consummating during infertile periods).

  • The four statements that pretty much hit the nail on the head on this issue:

    1. Dan: “I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason [I would qualify this by prefacing it with “sometimes”] and that is why many call NFP merely ‘Catholic contraception’, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become ‘Catholic divorce’”.

    2. “Sadly, most priests and Bishops are useless (worse than useless, really) when discussing NFP because many of them are so gutless and afraid to offend that they allow Catholic couples to practice NFP willy-nilly”. [Or because they don’t really understand the Church’s teaching themselves – or dissent from it]

    However:

    3. Darwin: “Practicing NFP strictly enough to actually avoid pregnancy is sufficiently frustrating that it’s a pretty good way of causing us to reexamine on a very frequent basis whether we are ready to stop using NFP and see when the next child will come”. [However, I would say that the more we talk about the spiritual benefits to NFP – and NFP promoters do that in spades – the more likely these will override the desire for sexual union]

    4. Dale Price: “There aren’t enough Catholics using NFP for me to get my boxers in a wad about the motivations of the tiny minority of the faithful who do”.

    Out of all these points, I think the one that is most pertinent is Comment #4.

  • Wade St. Onge,

    I’ve run into the Dr. Marshall piece before, but it strikes me as a flawed piece of guidance for the following reason. He (rightly) quotes Pius XII in his address to midwives in which the pontiff says:

    Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned. If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to tile full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles. [emphasis added]

    But what Dr. Marshall proceeds to do is to take the list of indications “medical, eugenic, economic and social” and define them so as to make them things that arise only very rarely.

    So, for example, on medical reasons, Dr. Marshall says:

    The women’s life is in jeopardy or a circumstance would endanger the newly conceived child’s life (eg, the mother is going through chemotherapy or other treatment that would damage or kill a newly conceived baby). In regard to serious medical reasons, Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae n. 16, also spoke of “reasonable grounds for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife.” So then, psychological problems could also be considered serious. If mommy is clinically schizophrenic, or clinically depressed, then I imagine a spiritual director is going to give the green light on NFP.

    The thing is, Pius XII and Paul VI don’t say things like “only if the mother or baby will actually die” or “only if the mother has severe, clinical psychological issues”. The popes say something fairly broad (Pius XII even specifies that the circumstances he’s speaking of are not rare) and Dr. Marshall seems to be at pains primarily to narrow things down a great deal. I don’t necessarily see him as performing a helpful service in implicitly telling people who may be suffering from scrupulosity, “Look, it may be that your wife is having a really hard time dealing with the two kids currently under two (not to mention the other four) and that her body is taking longer to recover from the last pregnancy than it did back in her 20s, but by golly if you don’t think she’d die if she got pregnant you just don’t have just cause to wait an extra year to get pregnant!” Dr. Marshall’s discussion of the other criteria starts to border on the silly. (For instance, when he specifies that “social” reasons would mean “Viking Invasions. Concentration Camps. Black Plague. Hiroshima.” but then backs down and suggests that “perhaps” if a couple were living under the brutally enforced one-child policy of China it might be okay for them to use NFP to avoid pregnancy.)

    If people actively feel called to be providentialist in their approach to fertility, more power to them. I just think it’s a really bad idea to “bind up heavy burdens for others to carry” when the Church doesn’t actually tell us that we have to.

  • What the hell is a “providentialist”? Is that the new NFP cult word for people who let God determine how large their family size should be rather than programmatically deciding for themselves the same way the ABC people do?

  • Oh, I see. Protestants. Nice slur. Yeah, the people not practicing artificial or natural birth control are Protestants. Right.

  • I just think it’s a really bad idea to “bind up heavy burdens for others to carry” when the Church doesn’t actually tell us that we have to.

    You mean like the NFP cultists who insist that a Catholic marriage is incomplete unless the couple is practicing NFP?

  • Oh, I see. Protestants. Nice slur.

    Aside from the fact that it’s not a slur nor the intention of the use of the word, would you have preferred Darwin use a term like, say, cultist?

  • Paul, do you actually deny that there is a cult following among many NFP-ers?

  • If by “cult” you mean “tiny number of adherents, routinely subjected to suspicion and ridicule,” then yep.

  • jvc, a providentialist is one who uses no means of fertility regulation whatsoever. There are Catholics and Protestants who take this avenue. The Duggar (you know, the one from the TV show) family is one such extreme example.

  • Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life.

    That’s a pretty important catch from the allocution–“such as those which not rarely arise.”

    Unless, of course, I was being a frivolous cultist for wanting to delay bringing a sixth child into a two bedroom, 880 square foot house with no basement, garage or even driveway.

    As they say, mileage varies.

  • And Darwin beat me to the punch on Dr. Marshall’s commentary. Good show, old boy!

  • “Psychological reasons” – sounds like the same clause upon which most of the annulments are granted today (apart from lack of form).
    Dr. Marshall gives examples because most NFP bloggers shoehorn every conceivable reason in to these four in order to use NFP – just as canon lawyers shoehorn every possible human defect into the “psychological disorders” clause in order to get an annulment. I don’t think his examples are too far off from the thinking of Pius XII – considering the examples orthodox moral theologians of the time gave.
    ….
    Perhaps Dr. Marshall is too strict – but then again, NFP bloggers are too lax – but they (you?) don’t acknowledge that as a possibility.
    ….
    If you’re scrupulous, it’s best to err on the side of the NFP bloggers. If you’re too lax, it’s better to err on the side of “providentialism”. That’s a good rule of thumb – coming from a scrupulant whose seminary run ended because of it.
    ….
    “I just think it’s a really bad idea to ‘bind up heavy burdens for others to carry’ when the Church doesn’t actually tell us that we have to”.
    So should I feel content to go to confession and Holy Communion only once a year during the Easter season?
    And should my priests quit urging me and my fellow parishioners to go to confession every two to four weeks?

  • Whoa there…

    Most providentialists I have known have been Protestants, but I have also known Catholic ones.

    I had certainly not been aware that the term was pejorative (other than to people who think having lots of children is in and of itself bad — and those people already think I’m bad). It’s not my intention to use it as such. I just needed a term to specifically designate people who make an active decision to simply have as many children as God gives them. Another term I’ve heard is “quiver full”, but to my knowledge that’s more an approach of actively trying to have the maximum number of children rather than doing nothing to space them out further and just waiting to see what God provides.

    You mean like the NFP cultists who insist that a Catholic marriage is incomplete unless the couple is practicing NFP?

    I’ve never heard anyone claim that — though I have heard people at least claim (reasonably I think) that Catholic couples getting married should at least know the rudiments of how NFP works so that they’ll be able to turn to it in more depth should they ever need it later. And yes, there are some (perhaps slightly odd) people who more or less make talking about NFP online a hobby. I think that’s a bit odd, but then I spend time online arguing about politics and talking about brewing beer and shooting antique military rifles, so what do I know?

    At the risk of being seen as playing the age trump card: I think you said you were in your mid 20s, which means I’m roughly ten years older and have been married a good bit longer. (At least, I’ve been assuming you’re married.) If I can speak from that vantage point for a minute: Because it’s so counter-cultural to be a young married Catholic these days (whether using NFP or just trusting in God in relation to family size) there’s a tendency of people to get very, very absolutist about their marriage choices. NFP, theology of the body, providentialism, whatever it is that they’re into becomes The Most Import Key To A Good Marriage. While the enthusiasm is well motivated and good, it often gets worn down quite a bit by the realities of 10-15 years of married life. Not that marriage isn’t good: it’s a constant source of joy to me. But there is something to the old saw of “I used to have five theories and no children. Now I have five children and no theories.”

    In the process, a lot of people who can be annoying because they were talking about NFP all the freakin’ time realize that there’s more to life than charts and mucus (and that NFP is not as fun to use as they thought.) And other people who really felt like NFP was all a bunch of trying to ignore God’s will realize that when you have three kids under four and are out of seats in your car and have a mountain of consumer debt from a couple of family emergencies over the last year or two — you’re too tired to have sex most nights anyway. And that abstaining off and on in order to actually have two or more years between the next few children is not that big a deal.

    It’s from that perspective that I think it’s important to stick to the bottom line: The Church says that you may NEVER using contraception, but that spacing pregnancies using periodic abstinence is not a problem so long as you have a good reason.

  • One last thought: It seems to me (and I think this follows pretty naturally from Pius XII’s quoted statement) that the degree of seriousness one needs as a just reason is pretty directly proportional to the length of time one is seeking to delay pregnancy.

    Thus, for instance, “We have to make a major family trip in three months and I don’t want to be in the middle of morning sickness while we’re traveling” might be a perfectly good reason to abstain during the fertile parts of the cycle for a couple months, but “We like to go on a trip every year and that’s hard with a baby” is a bad reason to simply never get pregnant again.

    If I seem like I’m being fairly lax here, one of the contexts I’m working in that all the NFP users I know really just use it to get a 2-3 year spacing between children — a spacing which is totally natural for some couples, but those who are very, very fertile would otherwise find ourselves having children less than a year and a half apart. As the number of children mounts, that kind of spacing can become very hard, not only on one’s ability to raise one’s existing children well, but also on the wife’s body.

    If I thought most NFP users were using it to put off pregnancy indefinitely, I might be more interested in looking at when it’s acceptable to use. But the only people I know who are doing that are people who do have medical problems such that any pregnancy would end up being a major danger to both child and mother.

  • Wade St. Onge [However, I would say that the more we talk about the spiritual benefits to NFP – and NFP promoters do that in spades – the more likely these will override the desire for sexual union] Notice that a spiritual director instructed Louis and Zelie Martin to abandon their perpetual continence and bring forth children. A relief because there is one more capable and willing to assume responsibility for the decision in procreation.

  • Mary: “Notice that a spiritual director instructed Louis and Zelie Martin to abandon their perpetual continence and bring forth children. A relief because there is one more capable and willing to assume responsibility for the decision in procreation”.

    A relief – and yet a burden. They desired religious life but were not accepted, so sexual intercourse was a bitter-sweet thing – a good that brought forth children, but also a reminder of the greater good they were missing out on.

  • Mary: ““Notice that a spiritual director instructed Louis and Zelie Martin to abandon their perpetual continence and bring forth children. A relief because there is one more capable and willing to assume responsibility for the decision in procreation”.

    So then you would disagree with Dr. Taylor Marshall that decisions about whether or not to practice NFP should be done with a trusted spiritual director – and should not be practiced without his agreement?

  • Pingback: NFP: Not Just Natural Birth Control | St Anne Center for Reproductive Health
  • I used NFP to get pregnant with my second child. It took us 3 months to get pregnant with our first and 1 weekend to get pregnant with our second. My best friend tried unsuccessfully for 10 months to get pregnant and once I taught her how to chart, she took her charts into her doc who could tell her why it was taking a while to get pregnant (late ovulation in her cycle due to coming off of Norplant 10 months prior). She had scheduled a doc appointment to help with her fertilization and got pregnant the week before, thanks to using NFP and understanding her body.

  • Hey everyone. This is my first post here. I wanted to say DarwinCatholic and Elaine’s first post I agree with. My situation is a little different. So before I go on with my 2 cents I’ll tel lyou what it is. I’m single, 23 , in college, I read about NFP from many places so I know what I am getting myself into when I get married. I’m preparing for it now so when the “hardness” of it hit’s the pill may be less bittersweet. I trust in God and I’m doing what I can to be a good example of a young Catholic. When I get married I will probably still be in debt, live with my folks and just getting started out on a job if there are any left. My wife will be paying off her debts and be starting to work. I will also have a $500 truck payment.

    Are there people in worst cases than me I’m sure it is, but am I going to use NFP? YES! First any method is not 100% effective, I leave the other 2 percent up to God so he wants that 2% to kick in than so be it. BUT ABC is different it’s telling God to take a hike I don’t want any chance of being open to life. SO JVC that is the difference. It’s not about wanting to have a 60″ tv, a beach house, or a Porsche I don’t want any of those things. I want to be able to give a life, a life from God a good life, and in order to be established as such I would need and we would need as a married couple to postpone pregnancy. The cost of ABC and what it has down to society is way more important and worse than bickering about just/grave/ this that upside down and sideways.

    I know it’s going to be hard, Katie at NFPandME has said so. But I am not shutting out the potential for a life.

    Honestly JVC I think when people read your post who want to know more about NFP. They see that if they don’t have those grave reasons then say “well so I shouldn’t use NFP, than what are the options”? ABC is the option they’ll see and go for. I don’t like the bickering, and I’m not saying this in anger, and I’m not saying this like I’m an expert on the matter. Nor am I a Saint, I’m a hopeless sinner who found hope in Christ, and I want people to see the joy had in NFP. I know so many couples who don’t talk with each other or who when board have sex. We put a grand canyon between sex and procreation. NFP closes the gap. I think about it almost daily and make sure that I’m not doing it for me, I’d be doing it for my future wife. I’m the last of my family so Jesus knows that kids are on the docket for me, ideally 3-4 would be nice. So clearly postponing YES, plus if she wold decide hey Nate I can work part time and so I’d like to be a mom, then I’m all open to have kids, will it happen like that it could it could not, that’s why I’m not just thinking of me or something vain. Just wanted to give my two cents, not trying to start a fight. God Bless you all.

  • Wade St. Onge:
    The word I ought to have used is “counseled” instead of “Instructed”. “Instructed” carries the weight of obedience without consent, or cooperation. Persons willing to use NFP are usually more self-directed. God is missing from much of what is written. Thomas More wanted to be a priest, but was sent home, too. It is God’s will pointing the way. Accepting God’s will in all things, not only NFP, makes life joyful. Marriage, children are all gifts from God to help us to mature into the human beings we are supposed to be. The greatest good is doing God’s will in whatever He tells us. “Do whatever He tells you.” Our Lady.

  • Wade St. Onge:
    You are dealing with a person who believes that sexual surrender to a spouse is valid for the other only when there is a possiblity of another person being conceived and it is no more different putting off intercourse than waiting for heaven.

  • Your analogy does not work.
    Waiting for heaven is not a choice. Abstaining from intercourse is.
    Furthermore, it is not the abstaining that is a problem – it is the sexual intercourse deliberately only during infertile periods without just reason that’s a problem.

  • Wade St. Onge: Haven’t you answered your own question? “it is the sexual intercourse deliberately only during infertile periods without just reason that’s a problem.” 1) natural intercourse is ALWAYS open to children. St. Elizabeth, St. Ann, St. Camillis de Lellis whose mother was 68 years old when he was conceived. This is a fact, as doctor said once about popping an egg, or two after menopause. To those who expect to practice NFP, let it be known that the possibility of procreation is ever present. Although there may be less likelyhood, then when it is probable. Increased intercourse brings forth more likelihood. Not trusting in Divine Providence completely imposes the fear and anxiety. But what you are saying is that there are times when a couple is forbidden to have intercourse and that is not right, that the couple is not free to have intercourse during low fertility because the couple did not have intercourse during high fertility. A married couple is always free to have intercourse. A man’s conscience tells him when he has avoided doing God’s will.

  • Mary, you are contradicting Church teaching.
    If a couple practices NFP without just reason, it is a sin. That’s what the Church says, not just what Wade St. Onge says.

  • Actually Wade, I think Mary is closer to Church teaching on this one that you are.

    You appear to be claiming that if a couple didn’t have a just reason for abstaining from intercourse during the less fertile parts of the cycle, then it is immoral for them to have intercourse during the more fertile parts. As Mary points out, this is not true. It is not, immoral for a married couple to engage in the marital act, whether it is at a time likely for them to conceive or not.

    It is true that a couple may be guilty of selfishness and failing to fulfill the purposes of marriage if they tried to avoid pregnancy for reasons that were not just — but neither the act of abstaining from sex (during periods when conception was more likely) nor the act of having intercourse (during the periods when conception was less likely) would be the sin in such a circumstance. The sin would be a sin of the will — the resolution to try to avoid the gift of children for bad reasons.

  • What frustrates me here is the reduction of NFP to a mere method of birth control. Sheesh… NFP involves more than avoiding pregnancy. The thrust of the original article here is that NFP is NOT just natural birth control, but those here who seem to be down on it are indeed reducing NFP to natural birth control.

  • “What frustrates me here is the reduction of NFP to a mere method of birth control. Sheesh… NFP involves more than avoiding pregnancy. ”

    This is why I hate the term “NFP”. “Natural Family Planning” is not Natural (really, is it natural to temp every morning, stretch your cervical mucus, and chart?) and it’s not “Family Planning”, because let’s face it, a high percentage of the children conceived from NFP are marginally planned at best, frequently after a couple of glasses of wine on a night when the older children went to bed early.

    But seriously, I vastly prefer the term “Fertility Awareness” because that is what the couple is doing: Charting the woman’s symptoms to become aware of the couple’s combined fertility. The couple can use this awareness to achieve or avoid a pregnancy, or they can just not care. Whatever they do, this awareness is an excellent barometer of the woman’s help.

    While some people are worried about people using Fertility Awareness to improperly not become pregnant, this isn’t much of a worry. Although the “perfect use” rates for all methods of FA are quite high, couples have to be very highly motivated to actually avoid pregnancy using FA.

    You see, it is no longer socially acceptable to want more than 2.3 children, and we assume that this is the norm, but people have been having larger families for years. A couple who relies on merely FA and self-control to prevent pregnancy will have their motives tested every month. On one side is the rational mind of man and woman. On the other side is millions of years of evolutionary biology urging reproduction. Unless there truly are “serious reasons”, the rational mind has no chance.

  • There is one aspect of Natural Family Planning that ought to be heard but is dissociated from the whole. This is nursing an infant into childhood. A nursing mother does not ovulate and the chances of a nursing mother becoming pregnant while she is nursing a baby is not in nature’s plan. Pharaoh’s sister called for a wet nurse for the found child Moses and Moses’ sister brought the child to his mother. There is a note of a child being weened at four years of age and a celebration that the infant survived into childhood, and the mother is now ready to bear more children, spacing her children at five years apart, in the bible, but I do not remember who the child is. It may have been Isaac. But of course, in Israel, the men had many wives who would give them many children. In modern America, there are many voices who discourage nursing an infant and outright deny a woman’s right to freely practice her motherhood. I know several women who did indeed nurse their children as well as speaking of experience. After one year I was sidelined as a weirdo, and after a while I thought that the government was going to be called.

  • Paul, how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    I would put the under 30 crowd at about 90/10 avoiding pregnancy rather than getting pregnant.

    In response to jvc….I didn’t read all of the comments but I just wanted to say that I am under 30 and not only am I using NFP to achieve pregnancy but I live in a Catholic community with my husband (he is studying for his PhD) and every woman I know on the street (most under 30 or in their early 30’s) are also using NFP to achieve pregnancy. It’s only common sense that a woman would use NFP to also achieve pregnancy.

  • Mary,

    In the main, yes. The one thing I would point out,though, (from experience!) is that some women simply do not have much infertility after birth no matter how conscientiously they nurse. (The which I bring up only because for a while CCL tended to rather coy about this fact, but we’ve known a lot of other people who found themselves quite surprised by it.)

  • I’ve been thoroughly pooped out by this thread, so I stopped responding awhile ago, but I have to ask a follow-up to Katie’s comment.

    Out of curiosity, what do you mean by you live in a “Catholic community”? Like a Catholic university? A particularly Catholic town?

  • DarwinCatholic says:
    Thursday, April 19, 2012 A.D. at 11:40am

    Darwin, thank you for the clarification. Perhaps it would just be easier to describe them as non-NFP, non-ABC practicing Catholics? Seems like the most accurate description, especially if the term “providentialist” is an explicitly Protestant term.

  • What frustrates me here is the reduction of NFP to a mere method of birth control.

    Perhaps the problem is that this is exactly what every promoter of NFP that I have ever heard has sounded like. And it is always discussed in the context of how ABC is wrong. It wasn’t even until years after I heard about NFP that I found out that some people were using it to get pregnant.

  • Jim says:
    Saturday, April 21, 2012 A.D. at 9:22pm

    I agree with the jist of Jim’s comments. Making oneself aware of the nature of fertility is prudent. Making it out to be another solution to everything, which the term NFP and marketing of NFP fall into, is the reach.

  • Nathan, thanks for your kind words, and welcome to this blog! I’m encouraged to see a young Catholic man like you taking an interest in this topic. I think you are a good example of exactly what I was talking about… you wouldn’t even be interested in NFP if you were totally selfish and unconcerned about doing God’s will.

    As for all the “bickering” you see taking place about what reasons justify NFP, for what it’s worth… I seem to remember that the most accurate translation of the actual term used in Humanae Vitae is simply “serious” reasons — meaning, not frivolous or selfish, but it doesn’t have to be a life or death reason either.

  • Darwin: “It is not, immoral for a married couple to engage in the marital act, whether it is at a time likely for them to conceive or not … Neither the act of abstaining from sex (during periods when conception was more likely) nor the act of having intercourse (during the periods when conception was less likely) would be the sin in such a circumstance. The sin would be a sin of the will — the resolution to try to avoid the gift of children for bad reasons”.

    That makes no sense. This “sin of the will” is carried out in concrete action. How else do you “avoid the gift of children” than by limiting sexual intercourse to the infertile periods?

    You could say what you said above about any sin. You could say stealing is not a sin; rather, theft is “a sin of the will – the desire to possess an object that is not yours”. That is true, and that is what motivated the sin, but the actual sin that was committed was taking the object, just as with using NFP for unjust reasons the sin is committed when the couple limits sex to the fertile period. So the act of sex itself is sinful …

    Pius XII: “If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, ***while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality*** [i.e. having sexual intercourse only during the infertile periods], can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.”

  • Wade St. Onge,

    Pius XII is saying exactly the same thing that I am: “the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.”

    Now, while it’s true that all sins involve an act of the will, and that it is that act which is actually the sin, I don’t think your stealing analogy holds. The difference is that stealing something actually is wrong. Thus, while it is the act of taking something which is not yours that is the act of the will in relation to the sin, the taking of something not ones own is itself wrong. (The act of the will remains key in that if you stole something, believing you had not right to it, but in fact it was something you were free to take, your sin would be just as great even though your action, from an objective point of view, would not actually be wrong.)

    A man having sex with his wife is not wrong. Neither is a man not having sex with his wife at a given time — even if the purpose of not having sex at that time is to avoid the possibility of getting pregnant during his wife’s current cycle.

    I think your error here is in seeing that mis-use of NFP in order to treat sex as a strictly non-procreative form of sensuality is sinful, you’re trying to zero in on some specific act on which to locate the sin. Given that periodic abstinence consists of having sex during less fertile times and not having sex during more fertile times — the obvious options are 1) labeling abstaining from sex during more fertile times as sinful or 2) labeling having sex during the less fertile times as sinful.

    What the Church actually teaches is that neither 1) nor 2) is sinful. It is not wrong for a couple to perform the marital act or not to perform the marital act. Nor is the marital act made wrong because one believes it to be highly likely that conception will not occur (as is the case not only with certain parts of the normal monthly cycle, but also with couples who are afflicted by infertility or who have passed the age at which the wife is likely to be able to conceive.)

    What can be sinful is the desire/attempt to experience a “full sensuality” completely unconnected with procreation.

    Now, that said, I think, frankly, that one of the best ways to defeat this “false appreciation of life” that Pius condemns is the practice of NFP, which you seem so suspicious of, specifically because using NFP to try to avoid conception very much does not allow for a “full sensuality”. Trying to avoid conception via NFP means abstaining about half the time, and typically the time when the desire of the spouses (particular the wife) are much, much greater. As such, for the couple which starts out just wanting to space their children farther apart or put off having more children for a while, using NFP creates the awareness that it is impossible to have a “full sensuality” that is not procreative.

  • “I think, frankly, that one of the best ways to defeat this ‘false appreciation of life’ that Pius condemns is the practice of NFP, which you seem so suspicious of, specifically because using NFP to try to avoid conception very much does not allow for a ‘full sensuality’.”

    1. I am as suspicious of NFP as Pius XII was.

    2. NFP is just a subset of “temporary continence” – something that the Church has always encouraged and something that the Catechism of Trent suggested Catholics practice during Lent. Most Catholics who practice NFP today seem largely ignorant of the rich Catholic Tradition of temporary continence within marriage, which was encouraged as a fast from sex the way that we are also to fast from food and meat during specific days and seasons. Most people who practice NFP today do not realize that the benefits of NFP are simply benefits that come out of temporary continence or “fasting from sex”. Due to this ignorance, most Catholics think the only reason to practice temporary continence is to space children. But even if you are trying to conceive, temporary continence is still a good and beneficial practice that the Church recommends. How many NFP practitioners today know that and practice that? I would say the number is close to zero.

    3. You obviously did not read Pius XII in context, because he was specifically referring to an abuse of NFP in that quotation. How can the practice of NFP be the best remedy to an abuse of NFP? If it was, there would be no need for Pius XII to warn against it, because its practitioners, by the very practice of NFP, would defeat this “false appreciation of life”.

  • “A man having sex with his wife is not wrong.”

    Even if he wears a condom?

  • I have a feeling that we’re going in circles, so I’m going to give this one more response and then I’ll leave it to you to have the last word should you so wish.

    Most Catholics who practice NFP today seem largely ignorant of the rich Catholic Tradition of temporary continence within marriage, which was encouraged as a fast from sex the way that we are also to fast from food and meat during specific days and seasons…. I would say the number is close to zero.

    Well, FWIW:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/10/26/nfp-and-fasting/

    You obviously did not read Pius XII in context, because he was specifically referring to an abuse of NFP in that quotation.

    Pius XII talks about the danger of people seeking to “avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality”. My contention, based on experience and that of all other NFP users that I’ve had occasion to talk to, is that abstaining half the time (and because of the way in which women’s hormones work — the half during which their desire is much higher) is very much not “satisfying their full sensuality”. Yes, it’s a step up from the long periods of total abstinence which a prudent husband and wife might need to have were they not able to track the wife’s fertility, and were there serious reasons for them to not conceive at the moment, but it is very much not a satisfying “sex life” (to use the modern term). It feels incomplete.

    Indeed, the times that do tend to feel complete are when they are not engaging in periodic abstinence — either because they are hoping to conceive or in the few months right after having a baby. Thus:

    How can the practice of NFP be the best remedy to an abuse of NFP? If it was, there would be no need for Pius XII to warn against it, because its practitioners, by the very practice of NFP, would defeat this “false appreciation of life”.

    That is, in fact, exactly my point. And I would argue that it is because of the increasing realization of this over the last 50 years that the Church has come to promote NFP fairly actively: because it is to a great extent a self correcting system which, through experience, teaching Catholic couples the Church’s understanding of the nature of sexuality.

    This doesn’t mean that those who don’t use it (or any other way of spacing children) have a less perfect understanding. Rather, it is the best practical counter to the contraceptive mentality. Those who wish to space their children and commit to doing so through NFP (rather than succumbing to some immoral means of avoiding conception) learn at a very deep and experiential level the inextricable connection between sexual intimacy and procreation, and that the “fullness” of marital intimacy can only be achieved when the couple is ready to get pregnant.

    “A man having sex with his wife is not wrong.”

    Even if he wears a condom?

    Now you’re knowingly taking me out of context. You and I both know that to the Church’s mind there is no similarity between a couple having fully natural intercourse while knowing they are unlikely to conceive, and using artificial means to strip the marital act of its fecundity.

  • Darwin Catholic: While nursing a child may not have an impact on ovulation, nursing a child does make an impression on the husband who surrenders his wife to be the mother of his child. Perhaps that is what makes his wife so desireable. “To have and to hold” to remember that moment of procreation in each other’s arms….

  • Having sex while married is licit.
    A married couple agreeing to not having sex is licit.
    Becoming aware of your fertility so that the couple knows when sex is unlikely to lead to conception is licit.
    Using this information to make a decision about whether or not to have sex is licit.

    Therefore, using fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy is, in itself, ALWAYS morally licit.

    Like anything else, of course, it may be done for selfish or improper reasons. But the sin is the selfishness, not the means of how pregnancy is avoided. Still, the abstinence is difficult enough that this problem is often self-correcting in most couples. For those for whom it is not, there is usually some other relational, sexual, or emotional problem or the couple is sub-fertile and the abstinence is shorter and not that much of a burden.

    I think the idea that fertility can be pinpointed with 99% accuracy is “too good to be true” for some people and they are trying to find sin where there is none.

    As for re-marketing, Billings LIFE (Australia) http://www.thebillingsovulationmethod.org/ seems to have done a good job in marketing NFP (which they call “fertility education”) to a secular audience. They put medical information first, which is what fertility awareness is. Fertility education and Catholic theology are two different things and combining them weakens both. Often this leads to the absurdity of promoting something that is “99% effective at preventing pregnancies” as a way of being “open to life”.

Who Survived The Titanic: A Story of Chivalry Not Class

Tuesday, April 17, AD 2012

There’s something about the magnitude and timing of the sinking of the Titanic that makes it almost irresistible for people to turn it into a sort of fable. The sinking of the “unsinkable” ship, the largest ship of its kind built up to that time, seems like a perfect example of hubris, and the fact that the wreck occurred just two years before the outbreak of the Great War (which perhaps more than any event defines the beginning of “Modern Times”) allows the Titanic to serve as a symbol of all that was bad and good about the world before the world before the War.

One of the things that most people are pretty sure they know about the sinking of the Titanic is that many of the first class passengers survived while those traveling third class were kept below decks and perished in far greater numbers. This fits well with the image of rigid class stratification in the pre-War years.

It is certainly true that a much greater percentage of third class passengers died in the sinking than first and second class passengers, however, the images popularized by James Cameron’s movie of third class passengers being locked below decks by the viciously classist crew appear to be fiction. The question of whether third class passengers were actively kept from the lifeboats was examined during Lord Mersey’s official investigation of the wreck and his conclusions were as follows:

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13 Responses to Who Survived The Titanic: A Story of Chivalry Not Class

  • Astor was by far the richest man onboard. He left 150 million dollars in his will which would be 11.92 billion in 2011 dollars.

  • To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
    Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ‘and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout;
    But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill
    is a damn tough bullet to chew,
    An’ they done it, the Jollies — ‘Er Majesty’s Jollies —
    soldier an’ sailor too!
    Their work was done when it ‘adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you;
    Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ‘eaps
    an’ bein’ mopped by the screw,
    So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, soldier an’ sailor too!

    We’re most of us liars, we’re ‘arf of us thieves,
    an’ the rest are as rank as can be,
    But once in a while we can finish in style
    (which I ‘ope it won’t ‘appen to me).
    But it makes you think better o’ you an’ your friends,
    an’ the work you may ‘ave to do,
    When you think o’ the sinkin’ Victorier’s Jollies — soldier an’ sailor too!
    Rudyard Kipling

  • “it was seen as the duty of society as a whole to protect the lives of women and children in such a situation,” an authentic “Right to Choose”

  • …the images popularized by James Cameron’s movie… appear to be fiction.

    Almost the whole flick is fakery of one kind or another – most egregiously its attempt to woozily merge feminism with female privilege via the duties chivalry imposes on men alone.

  • Don,

    Thanks for remembrin’ the “Birken’ead drill.”

    More “mixed” sea stories: this date in 1942 a small group of daring airmen who took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet in B-24 (bombers!) and took the first counter-punch at Dai Nippon.

  • The 1958 film “A Night to Remember” , a far better film than Cameron’s absurd epic, and done when many of the survivors were still alive, also buys into the myth that third class passengers were deliberately kept below. Third class (not ‘steerage’ please note) on Titanic was as well-appointed as second class on most liners, and represented good value for money – then, as now, the class you travelled in depended on how much you were prepared to, or could afford to pay. In the 1950s, when traditional notions of social class were being eroded, it was fashionable to portray the pre-1914 era as class-ridden. The same film also belongs to the stiff-upper-lip British officer war movie genre of the time, exemplified by Kenneth More who played Lightoller in the film. In reality the ship’s officers had no clear idea of what they were supposed to do and Captain Smith seems to have had some sort of nervous breakdown. Costa Concordia anyone?

    Incidentally, Charles Lightoller came out of retirement to command one of the ‘little ships’ in the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

    BTW, does anyone have an explanation for the low survival rate among second class male passengers?

  • Pingback: archbishop charles j chaput titanic unicorns mexico | ThePulp.it
  • Just like on a plane, first class gets you more privileges/comfort. You get what you pay for.

  • No amount of truth can penetrate prejudice. Cameron’s “Titanic” was appalling. Drives me batty to see history (or even good novels, for that matter) gutted to serve somebody’s social agenda.
    God knows what heroes died that day, and why.

  • And the unsung ones were Wilde (Chief Officer) and Murdoch (First Officer) who saw all their boats away full, before going down with the ship. A rumour (no more than that) on Carpathia was that Murdoch shot himself in remorse as he had been the the Officer of the Watch when the berg was struck. The Cameron film had him shooting a third class passenger (Irish of course). No wonder Murdoch’s family objected. For all the millions of dollars spent on it the Cameron film was one of the worst I have seen in my life.

  • I don’t think Astor should be cited as an example of chivalry.
    He tried to finagle his way on (in place of who else but a woman or a child – who were to be given preference) and only when the powers-that-be put the kibosh on it did he accept his fate.
    His second wife (he divorced his first), a teenage girl 30 years his junior, was fine – she inherited millions and married her childhood sweetheart a few years later.

  • Good article. Minor nitpick to one comment. The Doolittle Raid used B-25’s, a twin engined medium bomber, not the 4 engined, B-24, a heavy bomber.

  • Mr. Onge,
    I think it is perilous to cast aspersions with respect to the actions of Mr. Astor since it is difficult to reconcile the account of Mrs Astor with that of Officer Lightoller. It is possible that Lightoller misconstrued Mr. Astor’s selfless efforts to assist his wife, just as it is possible that Mrs. Astor contrived a face-saving explanation for her husband’s selfish actions. We simply cannot know, although Mr. Garrett’s account gives one reason to want to favor Mrs. Astor’s rendering.

Arthur C. Clarke on How To Destroy Marriage

Tuesday, April 3, AD 2012

In Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End the aliens invade, and they mean us nothing but good. A space race between the US and USSR is about to lead to war in space when giant alien space ships settle over all of Earth’s principle cities, and an alien race, who refuse to show themselves and communicate only through the head of the UN, announce that they are taking over responsibility for enforcing peace on the planet. These aliens (called the Overlords) generally take a hands-off approach to humanity, saying they will reveal themselves in 50 years when humans are ready to see them, but in the mean time they provide two inventions: a 100% effective oral contraceptive, and a 100% accurate paternity test.

The result is that over the next 50 years, while peace and prosperity reigns due to the guiding hand of the Overlords, marriage, traditional morality and organized religion all vanish.

Of course, Clarke actually thought this was a good thing, and the rest of the novel is about humanity moving onto the next stage of evolutionary development: as a non-material group mind. But in a sense, that’s the really interesting thing, that as someone who saw traditional marriage, morality and religion as a problem back in 1953, Clarke say the two inventions most likely to get rid of all three as being completely reliable contraception and paternity testing.

Coming at things from a Catholic point of view, G.E.M. Anscombe saw the same trends, now well advanced, in relation to contraception, morality and marriage in her 1972 essay “Contraception and Chastity”. Some key bits:

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12 Responses to Arthur C. Clarke on How To Destroy Marriage

  • “Today, we can see pretty clearly that both Clarke and Anscombe were right.”

    Short term for part of the population. I rather think long term that demographics will hold ultimate victory for those who believe in marriage and cherish kids.

  • “I rather think long term that demographics will hold ultimate victory for those who believe in marriage and cherish kids.”

    Contraceptive, abortive liberals won’t breed. I am not saying that that is a good thing, but perversion brings with it its own inevitable consequences of decay and death – and perhaps it is a perverse justice that those who believe in Darwin’s selection and survival of the fittest will have selected themselves to not survive. God’s justice works in even perverse circumstances, as the Israelites deported by the Assyrians and the Judahites deported by the Babylonians found out to their dismay.

  • DC,
    Thanks for posting this. I am embarrasssed to say that I have been unfamiliar with Anscombe. I am now eager to read more of her work — at least the stuff I can get through.

  • If anyone says that the Catholic faith holds women back, all you need to do is point out Anscombe.

    Contraceptive, abortive liberals won’t breed.

    They don’t necessarily have to. As long as they control the culture, they can continue to spread their errors through the offspring of others. Simply outproducing them is not necessarily going to change things. It helps, certainly, but it is not a foregone conclusion that those who simply breed more, in this context, will ultimately win.

  • I read “Childhood’s End” when I was a teenager and I was horrified by the ending then. I hated that book. Who wants to be part of the “collective unconscious”? Even as a 15 year old, I thought the idea that we would lose the distinctive parts of ourselves and of our individuality gave me the creeps.

  • “but it is not a foregone conclusion that those who simply breed more, in this context, will ultimately win.”

    Their control of the culture is tenuous c matt. Public schools are visibly failing, few people listen to the news on television, college education is priced out of existence. As the old Soviet Union demonstrated, ideology can only triumph over reality so long.
    Walter Russell Mead at Via Meadia has been writing some prescient columns on the failing blue state social model:

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/category/blue-social-model/

    Times are changing the way they usually change: from necessity.

  • Clarke’s own marriage was failing following the publication of Childhood’s End.

    “Arthur’s views on marriage at that time were, I think, very vague,” says Mayfield. “It was almost like a hobby that he really didn’t want to get into. He wanted it to be a pastime, but it mustn’t in any way interfere with his work. I wanted a marriage. It was very difficult for me to try and adjust. Finally 1 could not cope with it.”

    The split between Arthur and Marilyn came as the Christmas season approached in 1953. A discussion about religion provoked the rift.

    “I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church” says Mayfield.

    “God, country, all that was important in my upbringing. We were talking, and he told me he didn’t believe in God and he didn’t believe in Christmas. Now, that shakes your basic structure, especially if you believe and you think that everybody else does. And at that age you tend to know it all. Now that I think of it, he may have been as profoundly shocked as I was. He may have considered my belief as much a taboo as I considered his not believing. But I couldn’t accept it then, and I kept waiting for God to strike him dead. I was just shocked. I couldn’t come to terms with it, so I left him.” …”The marriage was incompatible from the beginning,” says Clarke. “It was sufficient proof that I wasn’t the marrying type, although I think everybody should marry once. We just each married the wrong person, you see.”

    The experience, he admits, was enough to scare him away from every marrying again. “While we were together for only a few months before separating, we were legally married for some ten years.” The marriage, in fact, was not legally dissolved until December 1964.’

    Clarke moved to Ceylon and became a homosexual, although he downplayed that aspect of his life, as such liasons were frowned upon, to say the least, in Ceylon. Like most authors who attack traditional morality, Clarke practiced what he preached.

  • I am a relatively new Catholic. Most of the Catholics I know had pre-marital sex.
    They used, as they do now within their marriages, the natural approach to contraception; abstenance during cerrtain times of the womans cycle. However, just about everyone I know has sex, makes love for enjoyment and to share love. I presume, like most Catholics, there are people in the world that plan their families and have children when they are ready, again using the natural method. The problem is that too many don’t plan, don’t use ANY form of contraception and as a result either have abortions or unwanted children…both a travesty. So as we fight for Catholic rights (HHS, no abortions, etc.) we MUST also fight for improving the way we raise our children as a society and to ensure that we are caring for the unwanted children that are born into this world…they, btw perpetuate the same problem that worsens with generation.

  • So as we fight for Catholic rights (HHS, no abortions, etc.) we MUST also fight for improving the way we raise our children as a society and to ensure that we are caring for the unwanted children that are born into this world…they, btw perpetuate the same problem that worsens with generation.

    Which, very unfairly, assumes that this isn’t already the case.

    Heaven knows there’s a lot more “help those in need” (especially children) type works in every Parish I’ve ever been in than there are “fight abortion” drives, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard opposing contraception mentioned in a church.

  • “Clarke moved to Ceylon and became a homosexual…”

    I never knew that.

    “I read ‘Childhood’s End’ when I was a teenager and I was horrified by the ending then. I hated that book. Who wants to be part of the ‘collective unconscious’? Even as a 15 year old, I thought the idea that we would lose the distinctive parts of ourselves and of our individuality gave me the creeps.”

    I read most of Clarke’s works when I was younger. At the time I loved his writings. What horrifies me more now than what horrifies Maggie McT is how deluded I was about his cosmic consciousness idea – one that I thought he had borrowed from Olaf Stapledon. And yes, in my younger years I liked Olaf Stapledon as well: Last and First Men, Last Men in London, Odd John, Star Maker and Sirius I had read and re-read over and over by the time I was twelve. Neither of my parents had the educational background to understand these novels; they had no idea the philosophy behind Stapledon or the influence he had on Clarke, or what Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, etc., were all about. This is in part how the sickening philosophy of liberalism wormed its way in – as popular reading for youngsters.

  • Marriage saved Clarke from the degradation of homosexual behavior for a decade. How man’s separation from God has caused man to lose sight of his destiny. Children, in Israel, were a blessing and childlessness was seen as a curse. Children, our constitutional posterity, are we, the people, living out our lives on earth while being joined into the communion of saints in heaven. Can you read “collective unconscious” as subconscious, one of Freud’s discoveries?
    “You see, what can’t be otherwise we accept; and so we accept death and its unhappiness.” We accept death and have fallen in love with death through despair. Judas who betrayed Christ, fell into death through despair, but Judas had a choice, to freely embrace hope, or reject all hope. So, the heresy of predestination is a heresy. Children are our hope and our future.
    Love is the only virtue missing from Clarke’s definition of marriage. Marriage is, in the words of Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report, to cherish one another. When you would die and go to hell for the one you love and he would die and go to hell for you, you know that you are loved. Chastity happens, children happen, the joy of heaven happens when love happens. (Friendship and love are gifts from God) All the mechanics of contraception and paternity tests are not part of love. If someone does not love you enough to want more of you, it is not love. The Overlords did not want more of us and are aptly named.

  • I think I may have read one of his books, but I can’t remember which one. I was a fan of Azimov (sp?) and I liked Heinlien but felt uncomfotable about Stranger in a Strange Land – I didn’t know why (now I know)… I am glad I never read this book now that I know the concept. But what I am truely thinking of is that I grew up in the 70’s is that I grew up with the watered down version of Catacism. I had no depth in my religious education. I embraced the culture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. In Sci-fi books – I became a geek and saw how science was greater than any religion. I searched for meaning in everything but where the Truth actually was… In my devout mother I saw a righteous woman in a Church that only wanted her minimal money and didn’t care about her. She died young and God died to me with her… I wish someone would have given me C.S. Lewis to read back then but alas I accept my path and thank you Lord for bringing me home!

Voting With The Tribe

Tuesday, March 6, AD 2012

Last night found me trying to decide who to vote for in the Ohio primary, and so disillusioned with the options that not voting almost seemed tempting. Not exactly an auspicious start for my first time ever voting in a presidential primary that was still competitive. (In prior elections I had voted in Texas or California, neither a battleground state in recent primaries.)

In general, I think that Romney is likely to be most electable, but he’s been less reassuring in recent weeks — and given that the only thing I liked about his was his apparent competence that was nor reassuring.

I’d found myself quietly cheering Santorum’s victories, but not so much because I think he’s a good candidate (I think he lacks the instinct for when not to discuss a topic that only hurts him or sets him up to be mis-interpreted — a very dangerous lack in a social conservative) as because he is the candidate to which the social conservatives have gravitated and I like social conservatives.

Given my utter lack of enthusiasm for both candidates, I ended up letting that decide the matter and pull the lever (or rather, touched the screen) for Santorum. I don’t think he has much of a path to winning, and I’m not sure he’d be a better candidate than Romney, but lacking any other means to decide I wanted to throw my vote where it would strengthen the social conservative faction of the GOP when it comes to picking a VP and making other campaign decisions. And with the economy, for the moment, appearing to have bottomed too early (though I wouldn’t put it past Europe to pull us into a swirl down the drain come fall) and social issues currently taking the fore, I want the social conservative ing of the party to be as strong as possible going.

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37 Responses to Voting With The Tribe

  • No matter what, I am voting against Obama. At this point his defeat must become reality, else this country is doomed.

  • I voted for Santorum, too.

    Begrudgingly

  • “No matter what, I am voting against Obama”

    Amen to that Paul!

  • Thank you for voting! I pray a LOT of undecideds will vote for Santorum– I see he is not polished and smooth around the edges –unlike the way we typically think of a politician–but maybe he’ll’ be the best statesman after all

  • My concern with Santorum was well articulated by Douthat a few weeks ago: basically, a social conservative needs to be disarming (and non-threatening) to the media and the general public a la Huckabee. Santorum is not; he can’t resist making arguments on subjects that are sure losers for him. That, and any time he starts talking about Iran I get visions of mushroom clouds over Tehran.

    As for Romney, well, if he loses as expected in the general, no one will be able to claim that social conservatives were thereby discredited. I was talking with a friend the other day about Romney’s friendship with Ron Paul, and he pointed out that Romney can be friends with anyone because he doesn’t believe in anything…and that’s about all there is to say about Mitt.

  • It looks like Romney is going to take Ohio but only by a hair. Considering that he had momentum from Michigan and a four to one spending advantage over Santroum I find that a testament to what a weak front runner the Weathervane truly is.

  • Not bad, Donald, considering Rick failed to make the ballot in a few districts and that his war chest is not near the size of Romney’s. I recall the story on the radio today indicated that he was at a 9 delegate disadvantage because he was unable to garner enough signatures to make the ballot. Interestingly enough, one of those places was in the Steubenville area.

  • As for Romney, well, if he loses as expected in the general,

    Who is doing the expecting?

  • I think Romney is a very weak candidate and I think Obama will prove a far weaker candidate in the general election.

  • I expect Romney to lose, because I expect he won’t get the support of voters like me.

  • But maybe I’m a minority of one on that particular matter. I doubt it, though.

  • He certainly will not get your vote Jay, and with Virgil Goode running that may do serious damage to Romney in Virginia. However, come election day I expect this country to be enmeshed in a major war with Iran and gas prices to be hovering around $6.00 per gallon.

  • Re: war with Iran, let’s pray not. Not only for the fact that another war in central Asia is the last thing we need, but because a war could be the best thing to happen to Obama. The American people generally do not replace their presidents in the middle of a war. They will rally to their president. And Republicans, being what they are, will find it difficult to effectively attack a sitting president while there are troops in harm’s way.

    I’ve long believed that the odds were in favor of Obama’s re-election; but defeating a wartime president, who can also point to other successes such as bagging Bin Laden and Qadaffi and who will contrast that with the way his Republican predecessor prosecuted war, will be next to impossible.

  • but defeating a wartime president, who can also point to other successes such as bagging Bin Laden and Qadaffi and who will contrast that with the way his Republican predecessor prosecuted war, will be next to impossible.

    Get in your time machine and tell that to Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.

  • I don’t know if that’s a good comparison, Art. Neither was technically defeated in an election, but were driven out by deeply anti-war elements in their own party. Not sure what would have happened in the general election.

  • I expect Romney to lose, because I expect he won’t get the support of voters like me.

    Do you think we would be better off with Obama as president than with Romney?

  • If not being Obama is all Romney has going for him (and I’ll concede it’s the best, if not only, argument in his favor), it’s not good enough to get my vote. Not when there is someone else running for whom I prefer to vote.

    And before anyone accuses me of “wasting my vote” by voting for a 3rd party candidate, I can’t think of a better definition of “wasting my vote” than to vote for a candidate who I don’t like, who I don’t trust, and who doesn’t share my values and priorities merely because he’s NOT the other guy. Voting for Romney would be “wasting” my vote.

  • “Not only for the fact that another war in central Asia is the last thing we need, but because a war could be the best thing to happen to Obama.”

    Israel is going to attack Iran soon Jay, certainly before Summer. Netanyahu understands something that all Americans should realize: Obama can’t be trusted. He understands that Obama’s goal is simply to get past election day, and if that gives Iran the time to build a bomb so be it. After the attack Obama will back Israel to the hilt, because to do otherwise would be a disaster for him come election day. On the other hand, the war will enrage the far left of his base who will hate another war in the Middle East and, not to put too fine a point on it, are not overly fond of Israel. The people who will most likely back the war, will almost all be voting against Obama anyway. The price spike in gas will help remind people of just what a truly worthless manager of the economy Obama has been. Obama’s summit with Netanyahu this week was motivated largely by Obama’s desire to get the Israelis to hold off until after election day and Netanyahu was having none of it.

  • Not to vote for any of the three because they are not exactly correct, or even because they have wavered from a hard line– allows the bad guys to win.
    Shades of gray… gradations of evil… there is mortal sin and there is venial sin… being too much of a purist in this world may hand the reins to the worst of the worst.
    In this election we can’t step away from the knowledge that the evil taking place in this country in the agenda of the left – (DOJ, Education etc). means that this election is about more than the economic purity or lack of same in M. Romney.
    It is NOT just about Romney or Gingrich or Santorum ideas about how to govern the economy…the question is more about our ability to have a great economy to govern…a healthy economy depends upon a healthy culture. A third party vote by people on the right will enable the left.

  • were driven out by deeply anti-war elements in their own party. Not sure what would have happened in the general election.

    I do not think that is a fair description of the situation in 1952. The Henry Wallace wing of the Democratic Party had largely evaporated by that date and its political program repudiated by none other than Henry Wallace. I’m a Truman admirer myself, but said opinion was not shared by the electorate during most of his eight years in office. Even Jimmy Carter had better rapport with the public than did HST after 1949.

    If you are speaking of historical counterfactuals, you can never be sure. Given that Mr. Johnson nearly lost the New Hampshire primary and that his Vice President collared all of 42% of the vote in the general election, I tend to think it would have been heavy weather for him had he made the attempt.

  • A commenter over at Paul’s main blog concisely sums up Romney:

    “Mitt Romney must be the least electable candidate whose primary positive attribute is electability.”

    http://crankycon.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/dear-gop-drop-dead/#comment-5856

  • Jay Anderson, you are more in love with yourself than in the country hundreds of thousands have died for so you could have freedom. Freedom is under attack like never before by a man 54% of Catholics voted for, including the clergy at the highest level. That man is now attacking the Catholic Church directly as well as the free commerce clause of the Constitution, and also our right to pick our own doctors with whom we can consult and decide whether to have surgery or not based on our decisions, etc. There is only one man that is doing that because of his being President of the United States of America, and he is trying to turn us into the United States of Chicago the most corrupt city in the country.

    You and people like you are going to have people like me doing everything we can to get that man out of office so that our freedoms will be returned to us. We only have one chance to do that and that is this November’s election. If we don’t do that he will work even harder to destroy America and even more of our freedoms with a smile on his face because of mindless people who voted for him and by people like you who didn’t add your vote to those of millions for someone who has a chance to replace him. Whoever that replacement candidate is, I will be voting for even if I don’t trust him, because I will do that to save my own life and peace of mind, as well as that of my children and their children so they won’t have to give up their lives to restore freedom to this country – because that is what is going to take to get freedom back if we don’t defeat this President with our votes in this November.

  • Dial it down a notch, Stillbelieve.

  • Boy, you Romney diehards sure have a peculiar way of trying to gain converts. No wonder the guy is doing such a bang-up job in the primaries.

  • The Romney Panic Button argument is perfectly encapsulated by SB’s diatribe above.

    It assumes there is only one office up for grabs this December, that of the Presidency.

    The House will remain in GOP hands, and there’s a reasonable shot the Republicans take a Senate majority. The GOP has a stranglehold on the state houses and even a solid majority of governorships. Redistricting has hammered the Dems, even in places that tend to go blue nationally (e.g., Michigan–which is solid red in both state houses and all of the state executive positions).

    If these guys can’t organize a successful delaying action/resistance to a man who will be a lame duck the instant he’s sworn in in January 2013, then the country is in fatally-bad shape, a condition that won’t be fixed by Mr. Electable’s managerial tinkering.

    I’m not going to be stampeded by pro-Romney panic mongering, nor will he earn my vote by simply being the last man standing at the convention.

    By nominating Romney, the GOP would effectively endorse Obamacare, which is the tip of the spear assaulting the Church right now. I find that unacceptable. I also give a crap about high energy prices, unlike Governor Cap-n-Trade. Oh, and there’s that little matter of Mitt forcing Catholic hospitals to provide abortifacients, which tends to get ignored by his Catholic auxilliary.

    Which is not to say that there’s absolutely no chance I’ll vote for Romney in November. But he’s going to have to do something to earn my vote, and so far he’s not even close. After all, there are a lot of candidates who aren’t Barack Obama.

  • The typically insightful Jeff Goldstein has this to say about the race, in light of comments Mitt Romney had about the president not being responsible for the price of gas (a technically true statement, but also fairly tone deaf):

    Which, if he keeps going at this rate, the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate will have removed from the table as potentially clarifying GOP/conservative campaign issues TARP, the federal stimulus, individual mandates, First Amendment protections for individuals and religious institutions, Cap-and-trade, and the idea of an involved federal government setting minimum wage laws tied to inflationary rates.
    All of which must be intended to force the electorate to make a Presidential decision based on, like, hair or some such. Is what I think the plan is.

  • There is only one argument that I will make in favor of Romney if he is the nominee, and that is that he is not Obama. For some people like Jay that is insufficient, and I respect that, but for me it is suffient. Pro-Romney advocates should understand that a huge number of votes that he gets in November will simply be on that basis, and that basis alone.

  • DarwinCatholic

    “Dial it down a notch, Stillbelieve.”

    I did.

    And Romney is not my man, but if that is the only shot I got against Obama, then that’s the one I’m taking.

  • but if that is the only shot I got against Obama

    Not yet anyway.

  • For someone who “still believes”, you certainly give off a whiff of despair, desperation, and panic.

    And talk about having a high opinion of yourself, you’re the only one around here telling people that they MUST, simply MUST vote the way you tell them to or else risk all manner of calamity occurring all around us. As if voting the way you tell us we MUST is some magic pill that will make all the bad stuff go away.

    I know of only one Answer to all the world’s ills, and he’s not up for election. Of course, if you really “still believe”, then you already know that. How about acting like it rather than giving in to despair, desperation, and panic?

  • Which, if he keeps going at this rate, the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate will have removed from the table as potentially clarifying GOP/conservative campaign issues TARP, the federal stimulus, individual mandates, First Amendment protections for individuals and religious institutions, Cap-and-trade, and the idea of an involved federal government setting minimum wage laws tied to inflationary rates..

    1. Making bridge loans to distressed banks was a defensible idea, if haphazardly carried out. It has not worked out badly. It was proposed by a Republican president and the majority bloc in favor of it drew generously from both caucuses in Congress. I think we all might benefit if it was not on the table.

    2. The problem with ‘stimulus’ is that it was severely overdone and exploited as a vehicle for the Democratic congressional caucus to toss more bon bons at their favored constituencies. Criticism of that is very much on the table.

    3. Other than Dr. Paul, I think you would have a difficult time locating a national Republican candidate who had, in the last 35 years, advocated the abrogation of minimum wage laws. What Mr. Romney did say was that indexation of the minimum wage would be preferable to sharp legislated increases. I do not know that that commits him to a particular value for the minimum wage, and the value is what matters.

    4. Tradable permits is a tool for managing the commons. So are pollution control regulations, land use ordinances, and taxes on effluvia. There is no good reason to make the presence or absence of them a non-negotiable principle. Tradable permits were a generation ago being hawked by libertarians like S.H. Hanke as a partial alternative to environmental regulations.

    5. Since when is Mr. Romney an advocate of suppression of dissent?

  • “And before anyone accuses me of “wasting my vote” by voting for a 3rd party candidate”

    That may depend on what state you live in. If you live in a state whose electoral votes, on or close to the general election day, are pretty much in the bag for one candidate or the other, then your single vote probably won’t materially affect the outcome of the general election. In that case, your vote serves primarily as a means of self-expression or of doing your civic duty and you may have the relative “luxury” of voting for the person you personally prefer even if not a major party candidate.

    On the other hand, if you live in one of the hotly contested swing states like Florida or Ohio, where as little as one vote per precinct could determine the outcome, you may really need to think long and hard about voting for anyone other than the GOP candidate, unless you want Obama to win.

  • “That may depend on what state you live in… if you live in one of the hotly contested swing states like Florida or Ohio …”

    I live in THE swing state. High in the middle, round on both ends.

    And I STILL would not be “wasting my vote” by voting for a candidate of MY choice. No one and no party has any claim to my vote.

    But I WOULD be wasting my vote by voting for a candidate who I don’t like, who I don’t trust, and who doesn’t share my values and priorities merely because he’s NOT the other guy. Again, voting for Romney would be “wasting” my vote.

  • Wasting a vote is casting one that cannot possibly affect the outcome. If you don’t want to cast an unpleasant vote, that’s your decision. And if you want to claim that you’re effecting change by voting for a third-party candidate, you can make that argument that you’re not wasting your vote. But don’t confuse casting an unpleasant vote with wasting a vote.

    This analogy is going to be harsher than I intend, but it’s the only one I can think of: a child doesn’t eat his carrots and his mom throws them out, or he eats them with a frown on his face. In which scenario are the carrots wasted? Can the child claim the high ground, saying that eating the carrots would truly constitute wasting them? Should the mom give him Wonder Bread instead, which he would eat but would provide no substantive benefit?

  • Though I think one should be very sure that the vote in one’s state is not close nor potentially decisive for the election:

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=106938#FN3

  • The carrots aren’t being thrown away; they’re being given to someone else who is hungry and actually likes carrots.

  • hey all you American Catholics- I love you guys! where else would we talk so earnestly about the consequences, the utility, the proportional effect–

The Unmanly Bitterness of the Manosphere

Tuesday, February 21, AD 2012

[cross posted from the DarwinCatholic blog]

Sin has the tendency to inspire sin. The abused becomes the abuser, the person who believes himself oppressed begins to take on all the least likeable characteristics of his oppressor.

This has always been struck me with particular force when I’ve stumbled across the writings of the “manosphere”, a region of the internets in which men wail about how in the post-feminist age women are all money hungry cheaters with inflated senses of entitlement.  The solution to this is, allegedly, to use to the rules of “game” to dominate women by proving the practitioners to be “alpha males”. A highly technical process with all rigor of a pseudoscience behind it (perhaps some enterprising gamester can introduce the taking women’s head measurements into the process) practitioners council each other on how to deliver “negs” (negative compliments) which will cut women down to size by informing them of their SMV (sexual market value).  Then once the women feels like she needs to pursue since she isn’t being pursued, she melts when given “kino escalation” (he touches her).

You get the idea. I always get the sense of a couple rather mangy looking lions hanging around outside the pride talking about how they’re really more alpha than the lion who actually has all the mates and cubs. For all the acronyms and specialized terminology, you can tell that these boys’ manes are more than half weave.

As with most wrongheaded worldviews, there are some insights buried in there. The Sex-in-the-City feminist manifesto “from now on, we’re going to have sex like men” (which in feminist speak apparently means without thought or commitment) is most certainly something which has managed to make a lot of women (and men) unhappy — potentially for life. Once having correctly diagnosed this as seriously messed up, however, the manosphere solution appears to be that men should retaliate by turning into a bunch of whiny Carrie Bradshaws themselves. A group of guys supposedly outraged by the fact that many modern women demand special treatment and aren’t interested in marriage spend their time whining about how mean girls are and generally advocating an approach to dealing with women that seems guaranteed to make them singularly unattractive marriage material.

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57 Responses to The Unmanly Bitterness of the Manosphere

  • There is a neligent Catholic Magisterium piece to this mess that gets absolutely no coverage whatsoever from the Catholic press: the disappearance of the topic, wives obeying husbands. Try to find the topic even, in either Vatican II or in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you do, I need those new focus lenses…ala Lenin…because I find it in neither document despite a lot of Vatican II being about obeying clergy with Lumen Gentium 22 saying that whoever hears a Bishop, hears Christ (who knew Christ would stop talking about wifely obedience after Casti Connubii in 1930 and start calling the death penalty “cruel” in the 90’s despite His own Rom.13:4.)
    Yes you laugh but the Holy Spirit inspired a New Testament mandate about wifely obedience 6 times in the New Testament: I Cor. 11:3/ Eph.5:22/ Col.3:18/ I Tim 2:11-12/ Titus 2:5/ I Peter 3:1. Fr. Mitch Pacwa in a recent essay at NCRegister began the anti contraception tradition with the
    Didache. Heck….wifely obedience and the death penalty actually get explicit Holy Spirit coverage in the New Testament and no priest is writing about them at all.
    Dropping the dp issue though and appropo this thread, here is Casti Connubii supporting the 6 wifely obedience passages of the Holy Spirit which fortunately are in the Mass readings now and
    then and apparently no where else:
    Casti C. 1930
    section 74:
    ” The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected…”

    Judging by the Catholic press, contraception alone caused the divorce rate and the Magisterium ignoring promoting something the Holy Spirit explicitly said 6 times did not. Are there abusive bossy men that give headship a bad name? Yes. Are they 100% of Catholic men? No.

  • Clowns.

    The feminism that says “Women who do work equal to men should be paid equal to men,” is not feminism. That’s simple common dignity. Rephrased, “A job is worth its pay and a job well done is worth more.” That idea can be observed without regard to sex or sexuality. There’s nothing in there that hinges on genetic or biological construct.

    The feminism that says “We’re going to act like the worst and most irresponsible men out there do, to show we’re equal,” is feminism because it casts a distinctly sexual pallor over the actions.

    Simply put, men can’t get pregnant. The consequences of libertine and rakish behavior have always been less inescapable, outside of STDs, for men. Where there are no social consequences, a man who behaves in a sexually irresponsible manner has little to risk compared to women. All but two major STDs are curable and (although it might sound a little oxymoronic) a little discretion mixed in with the license can go far in avoiding even that.

    On the other hand, women, being the crucibles of life, have much to risk in behaving irresponsibly. They not only can become pregnant, but the string of subsequent events that follows is a lifetime of changes. Somewhere between abortion and decades of motherhood, the effects of pregnancy due to irresponsible sexual behavior impact women in ways that are orders of magnitude greater than men. This doesn’t even touch on the comparitive emotional damage suffered, or not, by each sex.

    Thus, the feminism that, by the sweep of a political hand, seeks to wipe those consequences away does infinitely greater damage to women that it does to men. The effects will still happen. Pretending they won’t, or worse, killing them off, does not make them go away, and destroying the cooperative, mutually assisting self-perpetuating bonds of Christian and moral marriage only exacerbate the effects.

    If you’ve ever read David Horowitz’ “Destructive Generation,” you know that the Progressive Left does not seek simple sexual equality, but the destruction of a moral, self-governing and God-fearing society in favor of a godless, social-fascist State ruled by an elite bureaucratic nobility, namely them. They know that in order to facilitate this, generations of moral and ethical erosion must occur, so that children raised in more “open-minded” times will have a more and more shallow foundation against which to gauge their moral depth, until such self-restraint and ability to act righteously disappear.

    The fact that such a thing as a “manospere” even exists represents the end product of years of such destruction. It is the recursive of the first corruption, completing the circle of shame and bringing those men down to the levels of those women who first abdicated their places of dignity and substance. As a Catholic man still striving to act Scripturally and with both humility and grace, I can heartily and risibly condemn The Manosphere to the garbage heap where it belongs.

  • to clarify: Women become wives with informed consent, full knowledge. Men become husbands with full consent. Spiritual maturity is required for full consent. Love, sacrifce and forbearance are required for the offices of husband and wife and these graces are readily available from our Creator. The mob mentality, the fury of the Harpees, the stampeding herd comes about when women and wives are conflated, when men and husbands are confused. When the gender of women and the office to wife is not understood and appreciated, literally, there is hell to pay. When being made a man and giving consent to becoming a husband is lost, so is the rational, immortal soul of the man lost. Becoming a mother and a father and a family is predicated on accepting the office, the duty, the vocation. Medical science has determined that the cells of a baby inutero seep into the mother’s body and with the baby’s cells come the father ‘s genes. Two literally become one. And when a parent passes into eternity, people mourn because a part of us dies, literally. Fascinating

  • There is a neligent Catholic Magisterium piece to this mess that gets absolutely no coverage whatsoever from the Catholic press: the disappearance of the topic, wives obeying husbands.

    Disappear? That comes up every couple of years, almost as often as the wearing-pants topic. Lucky you to have avoided it thus far.

    Generally goes with someone quoting bits of Ephesians 5 as saying women must do everything men want (either in support of the notion, or as a strawman to attack), someone responds by pointing out that husbands are called to be Christ-like, someone else points out that it’s the same theme of Christ and the Church as his Bride, and usually the first person throws a fit, calls them names, doesn’t change their mind and leaves. Here’s a pretty standard exchange.

    *****

    Yeah, they are just angry, bitter, full of spite– it’s sad. I know there’s other ways to respond, as Mr. Wright mused. It’s possible to feel pain and not seek to destroy in response.

    Of course, it’s a lot less “sad” when it’s my little sister who’s being “played”– then we go into psycho zone for a bit, and it’s sad when she’s not being abused. (Word chosen specifically; the tactics sound rather similar. Psychological damage until you get what you want. Yeah, real manly….)

  • The only real man I know is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.

    Desire the love of humility. Think of the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary when the Angel Gabriel greeted her with these words, “Hail, full of grace.”

  • Foxfier,
    Yes, it comes up on the internet. I was speaking of the magisterium preaching it….not the internet debating it. Hell….though also largely unpreached (another source of the divorce rate truth be known)… hell at least get’s into documents even if rarely into homilies.

  • Bill-
    So… basically, you don’t hear about it much? Heaven knows that it’s a common complaint– always salad, never meat and potatoes, but local priests not talking much about something is (redundancy alert!) a very localized issue. I do know that higher levels have said something on the matter, even if it does often seem like they’re more worried about being political….
    Here’s some of the higher-level stuff, just search for Ephesians 5 in the following links/documents:
    http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/love-and-life/upload/Love-and-Life-Glossary.pdf
    http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/awareness-week/upload/Redeemed-Sexuality.pdf
    http://foryourmarriage.org/catholic-marriage/catholic-beliefs/biblical-roots/
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/marriage/wivesubmis.htm
    http://www.ewtn.com/rio/T3.htm
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tbind.htm (includes a bunch from JPII)
    http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=6630 (episode 11)

    It is generally rolled into teachings on the theology of the body.

  • Foxfier,
    I read your first five links. They prove my point. Wifely submission is not in the first five links in the sense that the pastorals mean it with their abscence of Ephesian’s mutual submission. Normally in marriage a couple mutually submits in what might be called everyday matters. Ephesians which you pointed me towards as the link word so to speak was the only passage that contained that everyday tyoe of mutual submission and the only passage John Paul II would cite verbatim in discussing the issue while he alluded to the other epistle sources only, both in TOB and in “Dignity of Women”. He hinted that they were of the old way of the OT but the OT didn’t spell out “wives obey your husbands” as explicitly as the passages in the NT which John Paul would not cite verbatim.
    I can assume by now your final three links tell a similar story. Men in general like Ephesians’ “mutual subjection” clause because it does not require them to endure the loneliness of sometimes leading with a grimace on their wife’s face or worse in matters wherein a stalemate has been reached and someone must make a decision.
    John Paul believed rightly that Catholics would not know verbatim passages he was leaving out from the Bible. So when he talked about the death penalty in Evangelium Vitae with a view to de facto overturning it…he leaves out of the reader’s view Gen.9:6 and Rom.13:4 which suport it and talks rather about God excusing Cain from execution as the only really deep thing to worry
    about on the topic. Likewise on wifely obedience, he liked it about as much as he liked the Biblical death penalties, so he did the same hide from view routine on those epistle passages
    which simply say “wives obey your husbands”. This is not as shocking as it sounds when you realize that John Paul was no Aquinas. For Aquinas, every mandate in the Bible is from God as the Bible recounts that it is. Read section 40 of Evangelium Vitae where John Paul ascribes the biblical death penalties as really coming from an unrefined Jewish culture and where he sees the sermon on the mount as perfect refinement. It’s a catchy idea unless you know your Bible and know that the refined God of the mount actually proceeds thru an angel of death to kill Herod Antippas in Acts 12 and leave his body to be eaten by worms…and places Romans 13:4 in the Bible after the sermon on the mount. Likewise after Cain,the same God sends a death penalty to Gentiles and Jews for murder when that God knows He is about to establish the first government through Nimrod. The Cain exemption taught against private executions at least until governments could make rules for the a engers of blood.

    Your links then are very John Paul II…..only Ephesians counts….not the other NT passages on wifely obedience. Only Cain counts on execution….not Rom.13:4 or Gen.9:6. Follow that selective hermeneutic….and you’ll be at odds with Dei Verbum, Vat.II which said “both testaments with all their parts have God as their author.”

  • Bill Bannon-
    I can’t do anything about your dislike of how John Paul II taught on the subject; your complaint was that they didn’t mention it, not that you didn’t like how they mentioned it.

  • Foxfier
    You are doing this topic on the fly with google. Mentioning mutual submission is not mentioning wifely submission. Men love mutual submission. It saves them from lonely moments.
    Wifely obedience especially in serious stalemates gives them lonely moments.

  • No, Bill, I am not “doing this topic” at all; I was responding to your claim that the Catholic Magisterium had not touched on it. You claimed that they were silent, I showed they were not, you objected that it didn’t say what you wanted.

    I have no intent on “doing this topic” about your dislike of how the topic is covered because I don’t find it all that relevant to Darwin’s point on how bitter the “Manosphere” is; were the Magisterium actually silent on the topic, it would be a rather eye-opening point. As they are not, I don’t feel like arguing the merits of focusing on a single phrase vs the larger context, dragging the comments even further off topic, especially not with someone who went through several articles saying how the husband is to take the role of CHRIST means they never have to be a lonely leader.

  • I once checked out Roissy’s blog and fled after a couple of minutes. I was ensnared by a a “Roissy” when I was young and the memories can still sting. And I am sure he would be delighted to know that – that is, if he is the same man he was 25 years ago. If he is, he is to be pitied.

  • No, I’ve said mutual submission as the exclusive comment on couple interpersonal jurisdiction saves a husband from the lonliness. “Wives be subject to your husbands” are the epistle passages that can lead to the loneliness of Christ.

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  • Bill,

    I Tim 2:11-12 doesn’t even address the question of wives obeying husbands, it deals with how women should behave at church.

    Titus 2:5 is more about public comportment and family order and does not specifically talk about obedience.

    I Peter 3:1 is dealing with how women whose husbands aren’t Christian or aren’t obedient Christians should serve as examples to their husbands through their actions rather than nagging.

    So three of your quotes don’t even say what you’re looking for.

    Now, of the other three: I don’t see what the conflict is that you’re trying to set up between the one that says “submit yourselves to one another”, the one that says “wives obey your husbands, husbands love your wives” and the one that just says “wives, obey your husbands”. The fact that one says just “wives, obey” doesn’t means that husband and wife shouldn’t mutually submit to one another. I think you’re setting up an opposition here that needn’t exist. If any couple is doing a good job of fulfilling two of these, the third is going to follow naturally.

    I’m also a bit unclear how the whole thing relates to divorce. I’m not exactly picturing a situation in which a wife is all set to walk out on her husband, but the husband says, “I order you not to leave, and 1 Cor 11:3 says you have to obey me like you obey God,” and suddenly the wife decides not to leave. If the wife is already following the description of marriage that we get from the bible, she won’t be leaving in the first place. And if she is ready to ignore the direct command of Christ that once God has made husband and wife one, they shall never be separated by man’s law, I don’t see how priests preaching on the “obey” passages more often will stop her. These things are all tied together. If anything, emphasizing obedience alone separately from the full Catholic understanding of marriage is probably going to be more a turn of than an encouragement in our modern culture, because too few people have a good understanding of Christian leadership and Christian obedience, and most people have a very good understanding of bossiness and selfishness.

  • Darwin,
    You write: ” I Tim 2:11-12 doesn’t even address the question of wives obeying husbands, it deals with how women should behave at church.”

    Could you give me your version of that passage….even include what you think is context if a footnote led you to see verse 11 as still in a physical Church.

  • Darwin,
    You write also: “Titus 2:5 is more about public comportment and family order and does not specifically talk about obedience.”

    There also what are your actual words in your version?

  • “husbands love your wives” comes before “wives obey your husbands,” and it makes all the difference in the world.

  • I would rather be loved than obeyed any day! I might cite Timothy and Titus however the next time my wife asks me to take out the trash. (Don thinks about that.) No, I don’t think so! 🙂

  • Spoken like a man of experience and wisdom, Don. 🙂

    Bill,

    1 Tim 2: 8-12

    It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument. Similarly, [too,] women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds. A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet.

    That sounds to me like it’s all continuing with the discussion of how things should be conducted in church.

    Titus 2: 1-5

    As for yourself, you must say what is consistent with sound doctrine, namely,a that older men should be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance.

    Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited

    I don’t think you’d want to hang any claims about how marriage must be structured on these two, they’re pretty clearly about comportment (in church in the first and generally in the second) rather than about the command structure of a marriage. The first three quotes are the ones you want to hang your hat on, not the last three. (After all, take stuff like these as defining how marriage must be lived out and you’d also end up having to take Philemon as endorsing slavery.)

  • Darwin,
    I’m going to let readers judge the passages between you and I as to their not being about wives obeying their husbands….. “under complete control” and “under the control of their husbands” are, within all that context, still about wifely submission which is what I said in the first post…true of I Peter also in the word “subordinate”.
    Both exist….mutual submission and wifely submission. The former feels the nicest. Under especially duress, the latter can become the most apposite one, given human nature. It…the latter… is not preached in either Vat.II nor the C.C.C. Adios. I’m done. Let the readers each decide.

  • No wonder you didn’t care for my thumbnail sketch of the usual course of discussion….

    You may enjoy Wintery Knight’s place; he’s generally willing to play with most anyone and digress infinitely. Seem to remember he’s had similar discussions several times, as well.

  • I am not sure why you elected to write about this topic without discussing the characteristics of family law as it is administered in this country and without discussing the assumptions encoded in the commentary of a certain breed of social conservative. Figures such as Helen Smith or Glenn Sacks are most certainly not promoters of Roissy’s bilge.

  • Art,

    I elected to write the post because the Dalrock post I linked to massively teed me off, indeed, everything I saw on his site teed me off. And because I happen to know and like Betty Duffy and I pretty much saw red watching manosphere-bots call her a c**t in the Patheos comboxes for a couple days.

    I’m not familiar with Helen Smith or Glenn Sacks writing. If they don’t have to do with this “game” idiocy and the whole war between the sexes ideology that I’m addressing here, then they’re not what I’m talking about.

  • What boundary are you drawing around ‘manosphere’? Here is a critique of some writing of Kay Hymowitz

    http://badgerhut.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/obligation-masculinity-kay-hymowitz-and-her-clueless-brethren/

    Nothing in the piece refers to promoting strategies for manipulating women.

  • Art-
    I’m not exactly into that scene, but “manosphere” seems to be roughly equivalent to “radical feminist”, in the opposite direction; heck, I wouldn’t even count Whiskey’s Place as part of it, although some of the commenters come from that area.

    There’s a world of difference between identifying a problem and hammering away at it, and deciding that the solution is to copy those you see as the source of the problem.

  • Sigh. I’m dismayed by DarwinCatholic’s demonstration of the unmanly bitterness of the Catholic blogosphere.