Religious Liberty: A Council Ahead of Its Time?

Saturday, February 18, AD 2012

So much of the discussion in the public square of late concerns religious liberty.  Not to obscure the other issues involved in the recent HHS rule and its subsequent “accommodation”, for assuredly there is also the issues of natural law, the right to life, and others.  However, it is curious that the issue on the front line for Catholics and non-Catholics alike has been religious liberty.  I say “curious” not to express disapproval; quite the opposite, for I myself think this is the crux of the issue.  I say “curious” because it has caused me to reflect on the Church’s teaching on religious liberty, particularly those of the Second Vatican Council.

In discussions with various groups that are not in full communion with the Church (okay, let’s not beat around the bush – we mean SSPX here), no issue has caused more angst than that of religious liberty and Vatican II (except perhaps the validity of the Novus Ordo).  Now, there is a certain amount of irony to this, because the “conservative” apologists are now clinging (rightfully) to religious liberty in order to combat the rhetoric and actions of the Obama administration, but the “really conservative conservative Catholics” (e.g., SSPX) find themselves in a bit of a pickle.  For it is this teaching of Vatican II that they have rejected publicly.  (See my footnote below for an apology and explanation of my meaningless labels.*)  Yet we have seen in the last month just what happens when religious liberty is not protected.

With that, let’s have a look at what Vatican II said.  The document in question is Dignitatis humanae (“The Dignity of the Human Person”), and paragraph 1 begins,

A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man, and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty. The demand is likewise made that constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations. This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society … On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it … Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society.

It seems to me that the USSCB could use this paragraph as it mantra for the battle against the HHS mandate.  But let’s continue … from the next paragraph:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.  This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

Now this is where SSPX starts to get nervous.  They would claim that no-one has the “right” to adhere to falsehood, and the Second Vatican Council implies otherwise.  As for the first part of the claim, I agree.  I made the point in a previous post that nobody has the “right” to contraception, not just from a constitutional standpoint but also from the perspective of natural law.  However, with regards to “what Vatican II really said,” I read over this section at least three times, as well as the rest of Dignitatis humanae, and I simply cannot see how it implies that people have the right to adhere to falsehood, theological or otherwise.  It does say that religious freedom is essential for man’s search for truth, and that political coercion flies in the face of this necessary freedom, and that “the right to this immunity [from coercion] continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded.”  Yet nowhere do I see that people have the “right” to adhere to falsehood.

At any rate, I meant not for this post to become an occasion for dialog about the SSPX-Vatican disagreements.  I meant only to point out that the Vatican II “Declaration on Religious Freedom” may turn out to be a very useful document for those of the conservative political persuasion in the current climate, and that there is a certain amount of irony, because it was one of the documents of the Council that was most hailed by the “progressives” in the Church.

Certainly the declaration was written within the context of 1965, the year in which Paul VI promulgated it: a time when the world was still very concerned about the oppressive regimes of Communism and Nazism.  Yet I can’t help but think that (surprise, surprise) the Holy Spirit knew what he was doing, for we may well find in our own era the need for Dignitatis humanae.  The battle currently is in the medical field: the fundamental right to religious liberty being trumped by a fabricated “right” to obtain contraception and abortion services free of charge.  However, the battle lying just around the corner will inevitably involve the issue of homosexuality – here we will see a parallel conflict, but it will be the fundamental right to freedom of speech, either in religious or secular circles, being trumped by a fabricated “right” to live one’s life without criticism.  Consider all that is in front of us together with that which is to come, it warrants asking: was Vatican II a council ahead of its time?

 

*  I am at loss for labels here (as if this weren’t obvious in my use of “really conservative conservative Catholics.”  I inherently reject using the word “traditionalist” because all Catholic should be traditionalist – our faith is a faith of tradition, built on an original deposit that unfolds slowly overtime.  Yet “conservative” is a political term more than a religious term.  At the same time, politics and religious, while distinguished in concept, are not entirely separate.  (There is a reason why politically conservative people also tend to prefer more “traditional” liturgies.)  I hope that the point is not lost here … it seems obvious to me that the SSPC is a sort of “ultra conservative” group, clinging to a tradition that does not allow for any sort of unfolding, organic or otherwise, but rather is frozen in time (arbitrarily chosen as the middle of the 1900’s).  Then again, I write with a certain amount of trust that I am among friends who will understand the irony which I attempt to disclose, that, despite a lack of appropriate labels, the most “conservative” Catholics (so “conservative” that they have left the Church), are now in need of the one of the very doctrines they reject from Vatican II (the teaching on religious liberty) in order to be “conservative” in our current political battle.

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23 Responses to Religious Liberty: A Council Ahead of Its Time?

  • Very perceptive, Jake: “…despite a lack of appropriate labels, the most ‘conservative’ Catholics (so ‘conservative’ that they have left the Church), are now in need of the one of the very doctrines they reject from Vatican II (the teaching on religious liberty) in order to be ‘conservative’ in our current political battle.”

  • Before atheism drove the Person of God from the public forum, “the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth, so help me God” was an oath taken on the Holy Scripture in a court of law. So, too, was “and may almighty God have mercy on your immortal (rational) soul” heard in a court of law. Without acknowledgment of the Person of God, no person has any religious freedom because no person is free to exercise his faith if the Giver of faith is forbidden in the public square. When the TRUTH is outlawed, JUSTICE is outlawed. The newly conceived rational soul is the standard of JUSTICE, who is being aborted. That is to say, TRUTH, JUSTICE AND INNOCENCE, virtues of our constitutional posterity are discarded, without recourse to God, the giver of freedom and the Creator of the immortal, rational soul, leaving mankind at the mercy of the devil.

  • The problem with our documents is that they are our documents and, so, are unpersuasive to those not already adherents.

    Many Catholics have no sense of hierarchy of Truth and are therefore incapable of cataloging the sources of wisdom they encounter. The don’t know what the Constitution says and have turned the word “unconstitutional” into a sort of shorthand for the concept of “unfair.” Scripture is, for them, the specific words of Christ in the NT; to be interpreted, of course, as a merely humanistic affirmation of popular nicities. They haven’t read Augustine, know next to nothing of Classical thought or culture, can’t render Roman numerals into their Arabic equivalents, and don’t know what a bishop is, much less how he fits into the life of the Church.

    Against that backdrop, any use of Church documents by the bishops will affect only isolated discussions like ours.

    Unless and until we undo fifty years of modernist educational experimentation, we are “preaching to the choir.”

  • ‘Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society.’

    ‘No one owns the Church!’ Pollyanna said that (the movie was just on).

    Her town was dominated tyrannically by her aunt who disapproved the idea of building a new orphanage. Some few wanted to to fund one with a town bazaar. The rest didn’t want to rock the boat with any show of support. A discussion ensued about how to change stubborn minds. At first also reluctant, the Pastor was able to do so with a Sunday morning sermon. You’ve got to know that the bazaar was a success, that aunt Polly relented, and the town became a friendly place.

  • Jake, your title’s off: Ahead of Its Time, not Ahead of It’s Time.

    And it isn’t SSPX saying ‘error has no rights,’ but the popes up to the Council. If you do not have those sources, and the rest of the encyclicals, you could go here for the chapter and verse, quite concise and easy to read:

    http://www.dici.org/en/news/debate-about-vatican-ii-fr-gleize-responds-to-msgr-ocariz/

  • Janet, thanks for the catch – I fixed it. Regarding the post itself, I didn’t imply that error does have rights, and I specifically said that SSPX is correct (along with previous Popes) in asserting that one does not have the right to cling to error. Where I disagree with SSPX is in their assertion that Vatican II implies otherwise. I simply don’t see the contradiction in HD that they point to.

  • I am neither an SSPX supporter nor versed in the relations of the SSPX to the Church, but in the interest of precision, as I understand it the SSPX is not sedevacantist (unlike some other groups). Sedevacantism asserts that there is no Pope currently. I believe (someone correct me if I’m wrong) the SSPX acknowledges the papacy of Benedict XVI, but they reject the prerogative of the past few popes to do many of the things they have done.

  • Michael,

    I entirely agree, and I have changed my reference. I simple typed too hastily. Thank you immensely for the correction. You are correct that they are not sede vacante. They are also not even excommunicated thanks to Pope Benedict.

    I apologize for any confusion, and humble retract the original reference.

    – Jake

  • Michael Baruzzini: Tongue in cheek and don’t kill the messenger: This is why some of the Popes’ messages are called Papal Bulls.

  • “However, the battle lying just around the corner will inevitably involve the issue of homosexuality – here we will see a parallel conflict, but it will be the fundamental right to freedom of speech, either in religious or secular circles, being trumped by a fabricated “right” to live one’s life without criticism.” Thank you for this wonderful expose. In homosexual practice, one participant denies all the above mentioned freedoms to his partner by denying the partners immortal and rational soul and the partners freedom to seek truth. Each to the other refuses freedom of religion and the obligation to help the other know God. Wives are also called ‘helpmates ‘ in Genesis. ‘Helpmates” help not hinder man’s ascent to God. How does the lusting to satisfy one’s lust, love the other?

  • “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” Mussolini, 1937

    “We have buried the putrid corpse of Catholicism.” President Obama 2014

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  • This article is quite strange. All I have seen written against HHS is religious liberty, religious liberty, religious liberty. I am not associated in any way with the SSPX – I am in good standing with my diocese. You don’t need to be with the SSPX to see that religious liberty is a dead-end in this argument. Traditionalists are quite right to be avoiding arguments about religious liberty here – frankly I can’t see any reason to be using it. American Catholics are building themselves into a fortress, and traditionalists or ‘really conservative Catholics’ are looking by, shaking our heads in dismay. Arguments should be based on philosophy and natural law. Whether V2 teaches that is beside the point – we are in a concrete situation that needs to be dealt with. I have written this article on the matter:

    http://goldenstraw.blogspot.com/2012/02/avoiding-religious-liberty.html

  • You have the complete right to choose between the adherence to the parameters of either progressivism or the Magisterium; so, why is there an objection to others enjoying that same freedom of choice?

  • “so, why is there an objection to others enjoying that same freedom of choice?”

    Precisely Narob! So I assume that you are adamantly opposed to the Obama administration attempting to compel Catholic institutions to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees?

  • If Narob’s comment was addressed to me:

    Please read the blog post I linked. The objection is that the religious liberty argument is that, not only is it in a dubious position in the Magisterium, but it is also a dead-end fortress thing, and will cause more problems in the future. We cannot ask for conscience clauses for ourselves with things that are intrinsically evil. If we say it’s intrinsically evil but we’re happy for everyone else to do it, how can we be taken seriously about abortion etc? This is a matter of prudence.

  • T. Shaw says:
    Saturday, February 18, 2012 A.D. at 9:41pm
    “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” Mussolini, 1937

    “We have buried the putrid corpse of Catholicism.” President Obama 2014

    “We have buried the putrid corpse of Constitution.” President Obama 2012

  • Johannes,

    I am unclear of why you think this is not an issue of religious liberty. I have admitted in the past that it is not ONLY an issue of religious liberty, but an issue of religious liberty it certainly is.

    There is a really question about faith in a pluralistic world at stake here, one that I admit I don’t have a great answer to. The question, oversimplified, is this: at what point as Catholics do we think that something we see as immoral should be made illegal. I *think* that most will agree that abortion is serious enough that it should be illegal; after all, we would all (hopefully) agree that murder is serious enough to be made illegal. The question of contraception is a curious one. Of course, those who would, like myself, criminalize abortion, would also criminalize contraception that involves abortifacients, but the more interesting question is about contraception that doesn’t. Should, as Catholics, we support and call for laws that make condoms illegal? What about missing Mass on Sunday? What about divorce? These things are not that clear to me.

    What is clear, however, is that the government should not force me as a practicing Catholic to participate in any of of the above activities, not should I be compelled to pay for other to do so, and the defense of this position is nothing if not religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

    You are correct in asserting that these issues are primarily issues of natural law, a point I have made repeatedly before. Yet that doesn’t mean that they are not also issues of religious liberty.

    Now, I will agree that the way to change hearts is through arguments of natural law – but they way to win this political battle is through the defense of religious liberty.

    Besides, is not the ability to not be coerced in matters religious also a matter of natural law itself?

  • Gun control is not about guns. It is about control.

    This HHS mandate crisis is not about birth. It is about control.

    This crisis is not about religious liberty. This is about liberty denied.

    What would a political scientist call a state which dictates the terms for its drones’ (as in apiaries, not Obama unmanned assassination machines: that’s next!) ) health insurance?

    And, apiary drones don’t procreate, either.

  • “is not the ability to not be coerced in matters religious also a matter of natural law itself?”

    Well according to St Thomas Aquinas and all of the Popes until the 1960s… no. Co-ercion of the baptised in matters religious – be it through physical, fiscal or other means – has always been understood as a prerogative of the Church.

    This is a matter of religious liberty as defined by the constitution, but that concept is not our friend and we should be avoiding it.

  • We are not talking here about the intervention of the Church in order to convert her people. heretical or otherwise. We are talking about government intrusion and coercion. There is, it seems to me, a clear difference. Perhaps my statement should have clarified that: “is not the ability to not be coerced by a government in matters religious also a matter of natural law?”

  • I don’t know that the topic is so difficult as folk are making it.

    Distinguish first between “natural right” and political right”:

    A “natural right” is something morally positive or neutral under God’s Moral Law. That which one has a “natural right” to do is that which God won’t, under any circumstances, send you to hell for doing.

    But “political rights” is a larger set of actions, including some things which are not “natural rights” on account of them being morally wrong:

    There are some things which are wrong, but which do not merit (either because of their non-forcible character, or their low degree of wrongness) anyone pointing a gun at you to deter, halt, or punish you doing them. Gossip and using bad language and voluntarily having sexual relations while wearing a condom fall in this category.

    While it is true that these are moral evils, no other human being has a natural right to point a gun at you to prohibit you doing them (or punish you for having already done so). Other human beings don’t have that natural right, because doing so would be an outrage against God’s Moral Law, which strictly prohibits one’s use of force against other human beings to very limited circumstances (typically defending the innocent against some wrongful forcible attack).

    Since no human being has a natural right to use force against you over condoms or gossip, no human being may delegate the duty of using force against you (over condoms or gossip) to an employee or proxy or representative. (You can’t delegate authority you don’t even have.)

    Since the government of the United States of America is, in its own words, self-defined as an organization which derives its just authority from “We The People” by an act of delegation (see Amendment X), we know that the government of the United States is in fact a bunch of employees, representatives, and proxies for “We The People.”

    And “We The People” equals the sum of a lot of individuals, none of whom, under God’s Moral Law, have just authority to point a gun at you for using a condom. (It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s just that it’s not the kind of wrong for which God approves the use of force.)

    Since “We The People” are individually not authorized to use force against you for condoms, gossip, et cetera, neither are “We The People” collectively. (One doesn’t gain a new kind of authority by merely assembling together a large group of persons who all lack that authority.)

    If “We The People” aren’t authorized to use force against you on those matters, neither are our employees, the government.

    Therefore, while it’s still immoral to do those things, those things fall in a category of immoral things which no man may justly prevent you from doing by force.

    Therefore they are “political rights” even though they are not “natural rights.”

    What, then, about “error?”

    Well, the odd thing about that is that the Catholic faith has long had a tradition of assuming that God does not damn a person for what that person had no way of knowing was wrong. (Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.”)

    So, there’s some reason to suspect that error is, in God’s eyes, sometimes a “natural right” in the sense that He doesn’t count you guilty of sin for merely being invincibly ignorant.

    If error might possibly be a “natural right,” who can doubt that it’s certainly a “political right?” I do not think that “political rights” is an overlapping set with “natural rights”; rather, I think that the entire set of “natural rights” is contained within the set of “political rights” and that “political rights” equals “natural rights” unioned with the set of all moral wrongs which the government lacks just authority to oppose through force.

    So, if I am right about this, the government has no just authority to prosecute Mormons for believing that the Book of Mormon is inerrant, or to prosecute Jehovah’s Witnesses for believing Jesus and Michael are the same being, or to prosecute Wiccans for taking their teen-years collection of Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks a mite more seriously than Gary Gygax intended.

    And if I’m wrong about this, then I presume the SSPX will prosecute me for it, whenever they eventually rise to power. (I’m not holding my breath.)

  • It comes down to three words: “et in publice.” While DH rightly stated that “that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs,” and further that “nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately…” the Council added the words “or in public.”

    This was the radical change: the notion that there is a natural right to be free from restrictions on the public dissemination of error, including proselytization and use of the media.

    You can’t square a circle. The Church perenially taught that states have an obligation to acknowledge the one true Faith, and that this entails the prerogative to curtail the attempts of individuals or groups to lead the populace away from that Faith. That this doctrine is ignored or impractical in the modern world does not mean it is no longer a doctrine.

    Now comes V2 with the claim that these people and groups have a natural right to be free from such restrictions on their publication of error and attempts to proselytize believers.

    Of course, the Church always admitted the principle that maintaing public order and peace might suggest or even require (as in the US) that such pluralism be permitted. Permitted, not promoted, as the Council does, as a human right.

    With respect to the current crisis about the HHS mandate, it has no relation to DH whatever, but is rightly viewed as an attempt of one administration to usurp the clear mandates of the federal constitution regarding 1) free exercize of religion; and 2) the doctrine of enumerated powers, which prevents the federal government from attempting such a comprehensive re-ordering of contracts between employers and employees.

Food, Guns, and Contraception: A Random Followup to Some Random Thoughts on the HHS Rule

Sunday, February 12, AD 2012

Instead of responding to comment on my previous post in the proper place, I decided to do a followup of sorts to clarify two issues and to expand on a few of the initial thoughts and their reactions.  As a starting point, I want to consider the following comment left by “Mary”:

What about an employer forcing their religious beliefs onto their employees? My daughter is a nurse and works at a catholic [sic] hospital. She is not Catholic and feels birth control should be a woman’s decision. The woman has the right to decide when she wants to start a family. She was surprised when she found out that birth control was not part of the insurance program. She has been buying it on her own, and it is not cheap. What about those who can not afford to purchase birth control? Viagra is covered under the insurance program, and that is health care? Don’t think so. I’m not surprised that the article and comments here are all by men. It is not your body and you should not make the decision for women who want to use birth control.

It seems to me that this misses the point I was initially trying to make, and I take responsibility for any lack of clarity in my presentation.  To make up for this, I want to consider Mary’s argument from two perspectives.  Both perspectives will consider Mary’s assertion that women have the right to use birth control.  First, I will temporarily grant Mary this assertion and re-present the argument that it still does not make it right to force Catholic hospitals, Catholic-owned businesses, or Catholic-run insurance companies to cover contraception.  Second, I will challenge Mary’s assertion by arguing that women don’t in fact have the “right” to oral contraceptives.

1.  What if Mary is Right?

What if we temporality lend credence to Mary’s statement that women have the right to use birth control?  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will direct you back to my initial analogy of gun ownership.  I firmly believe in the right to bear arms, but this in no way means that I believe the government should purchase a gun for me, still less does it mean that the government to force my employer to purchase a gun for me.  There is a difference between the right to posses and use something and the “right” to have it at no cost to ourselves.  This distinction has been lost in the national conversation.  Even if Mary is correct that women have the right to use oral contraceptives, it still leaves me wondering why the cost for this should come out of the employer’s pocket or the pocket’s of the insurance companies.

Allow me to illustrate this point with another analogy.  I think all of us can agree that the human person has the fundamental right to eat food.  Should our employers then be required to provide us with our weekly groceries?  Should they be required to give us vouchers with which we can obtain meals?  Correct me if I am wrong here, but I thought the point of employment was to provide labors with a fair and honest wage, and the wage earners then get to decide how to spend those wages.  Think here for a minute how you would feel if instead of providing you with a paycheck, your employer gave you vouchers for very specific kinds of food.  Is this not a restriction of freedom rather than its expansion?

Actually, when you see the contraceptive coverage in this light, I think you will come to see that having the employer/insurance company forced to cover it is actually the more inequitable scenario.  Allow me to explain.  First, understand that contraception itself is not “free.”  It is a product, and as such it has a cost associated with its production.  If an employer is forced into providing this coverage for all employees, the cost of the plan will be effected somehow.  I will leave it up to the actuaries to weigh in on how this cost works out, but the fact remains that the cost needs covered in some form or another.  Contrary to popular belief at the moment, money cannot be arbitrarily created out of thin air.  (This is a more complicated way of putting the age-old adage, “Nothing in life is free.”)  Now, once the employer has this cost added to the plan, his budget must take that into account somehow, which will translate eventually into wages in some form or another.

Why is this inequitable?  Because it effectively means that all employees will suffer the economic effects of some people choosing to use contraceptives.  Of course, I am not naive enough to think this is a dollar-for-dollar transaction.  Rather, the costs will be spread out through actuarial means.  Nevertheless, would not a more “fair” system be to not cover contraceptives, to pass on the savings in the form of wages and salaries, and to allow those women that choose to use oral contraceptives under Mary’s claimed “right” to do so?

This is precisely what happens with both food and guns.  The employer pays the employee, and the employee then decides what to spend his or her wages on: food, guns, or oral contraceptives.  I would think that the advocates of “choice” would prefer this system anyway, for in taking money in the form of wages and then making an active choice how to spend the money, is that not a more powerful statement than having an employer (by means of government coercion) tell you how you have to spend your wages?  Said differently, the problem with Mary’s “right to contraception” plan is that is actually takes away the right not to purchase contraception – it results in less choice, not more.  If the insurance plans are forced to cover it, all employees are forced to purchase it, although some will choose to leave their supply at the pharmacy counter.  In effect, Mary’s argument actually reduces choice and freedom.

Two other points are worth considering here.  First, Mary claims that contraception is expensive, and that is why insurance companies should provide it “for free.”  The problem with this is the illusion of “free.”  It is basic economics here, something that seems to be absent from the Obama administration’s manner of administrating.  As I pointed out above, the production of contraceptives costs money, and to think that this cost will not be passed on eventually to the employees is naive at best.  The insurance companies are not going to take this “bottom line” hit – their very bright actuaries will work to makes sure that the cost is covered in the premiums charged.  The employer won’t take the “bottom line” hit either.  They employee likes to think of wages and benefits in two separate categories, but to the employer they are both part of a compensation package, and they both cost money.  Whatever is added to the cost of medical insurance will necessarily be made up for in salaries.  Of course, it won’t be right away, but it will be reflected in future salary negotiations.  Anyone who has been a part of contract negotiations knows that it is never simply about salaries and wages.  The “bottom line” will eventually be covered by all employees.  Thus, Mary’s daughter will end up paying for the contraception anyway through lower-than-would-be salaries.  When insurance plans cover something like contraception, it does not “save” the employee money, it simply forces them to spend some of their money in a particular way.

An analogy here is a local collect some years back that “gave” all entering Freshman an iPod.  On the surface, it seems like a “free and generous” gift.  However, the university is mindful of its finances, which means that the cost of this iPod is somehow or other figured into the cost of tuition.  Seen in this light, it is not a “free gift,” but rather forcing all entering Freshman to purchase an iPod.

Returning to the forced purchase of contraception, even from a women’s dignity perspective, I would think that most would find this reprehensible.  It is as if the government is saying, “We don’t trust that you will spend some of your money on contraception, so we are going to force you to spend it just to be sure.”  Once more, apply this to something like food.  It would be like your employer, under government coercion, withholding part of your wages and instead giving you food vouchers for specific items that the government deems “essential” to “healthy eating.”  (Actually, the more I think about it, the more fitting this analogy is.)  Wouldn’t it be better to have the money passed on in the form of wages to allow the individual the right to choose how to spend it?  Once you understand that you will be paying for the contraception in some form or another, does not the whole thing sound rather insulting?  In fact, I do something similar with my kids allowance: I give them a certain sum of money, and then I mandate that they put a portion of it in the Church basket on Sunday.  Why?  Because without the mandate, they won’t do it.  Why?  Because they are children.  When it comes to the forced purchase of contraception, the government is treating women as if they are children: they don’t trust that you will purchase contraception on your own, so they are going to make you purchase it.  (This is what they are doing with the health care mandate itself, by the way.)

The other more obvious problem is that this also forces women who chose not to use contraception to carry plans that cover it, thereby essentially purchasing it themselves (one the cost of the plan is passed to the employee in the form of not-as-high-as-they-would-be wages).  In this way, then, the whole issue is not about the right to obtain contraception, it is about the right not to purchase contraception.

Further, Mary brings up the idea of Viagra coverage.  There is an obvious difference, pointed out by one commenter, in that Viagra is correcting a bodily system that isn’t functioning as it should (and is thus much closer to actual “health care”), whereas birth control is doing nothing of the sort.  However, I will say that in this case I agree with Mary.  I also think that the government should not force insurance companies to cover Viagra, but that the employer should simply pay salaries and wages to its employees  and allow them to choose how to spend their money.  The difference here is that, to my knowledge, the government is not doing this in the case of Viagra.  In fact, it may help to clarify the outcry over the contraceptive mandate to imagine the vitriol reactions that would surface if the HHS mandate required the coverage of Viagra.

2.  But in the End, Mary is not Right.

All of the previous argument is null and void however, if Mary is not correct in her assertion that women have the natural “right” to use oral contraceptives.  In order to address this, we must first re-think the whole notion of “freedom” and “rights.”  The problem with our pluralistic society is that everything is couched in terms of “rights,” and further that this terms is never fully defined.  Even so, a discussion bases solely on rights, defined or undefined, could never actually be consistent, because “rights,” understood in simple unqualified terms, will necessarily lead to situations of “competing rights.”  In this case, we end up arguing over which has precedence: the “right” to religious liberty or the “right” to use oral contraceptives.  When we find ourselves at the inevitable impasse of unqualified and competing rights, the only thing left to decide a “winner” is pure power.  Whichever “party” finds itself in control will force its priority on the populus, and this is exactly what we see happening with the Obama administration.

The difficulty here is that freedom is not the random ability to choose between contraries.  Rather, it is the ability to choose the good.  Servais Pinkaers gives a great illustration of this in his book Sources of Christian Ethics by giving the example of a well-trained piano player.  An individual who has no respect for the “rules” of music and the instrument is “free” to bang randomly on the keys (a “freedom of indifference”), but a trained pianist who has been taught the “laws” and “nature” of the piano is able to create music, a freedom that is much more authentic (a “freedom for excellence”).

The moral life is not much different than the musical arts.  We are created with a purpose, a sort of definition of what it means to be “fully human”, what the Greeks called a telos.  We are “free” insofar as we act in a manner consistent with what it means to be human.  In a dilapidated view of freedom, we are of course able to act arbitrarily.  But such a view is not authentic freedomAuthentic freedom is found when we act according to our design, according to the natural law inscribed on our hearts.

Understanding the natural law is the only way to avoid the inevitable conflict of arbitrary and competing rights.  The only “right” we have is the right to act according to our design, to act in a way that is authentically human.  Religious liberty falls generally under this one “right” because we know that we need to freely pursue and accept God.  One can never be coerced into faith (even if the “faith” into which they are coerced is objectively “true”).

The question then is, does an individual have the “right” to use artificial contraception?  Does the use of contraception allow an individual to be more “fully human.”  From a Catholic perspective, the answer is clearly, “No.”  Now, it is not my intent here to defend the Church’s teaching on contraception – numerous arguments far better than what I could produce have been written about this already.  My point here is much simpler: we cannot approach this argument purely from some abstract and ill-defined notion of “freedom” and “rights”, but rather must conceive (pun fully intended) of “rights” and “freedom” under their proper telos of natural law.

I will give only one attempt at an argument against the “right” to oral contraceptives.  I mean this not as the only, and maybe not even as the best, but I do think is it the most important one to publicize: oral contraceptives are abortifacient.  It is in the very design of the pill that on the off chance (the measure of which is hotly debated) that fertilization occurs, the lining of the uterus is renders unstable so as to prevent implantation.  In this case, a newly created human person is destroyed – a life is ended.  Now, the fundamental “right”, if we are to speak in these terms, is the right to life.  Understanding the notion of “freedom for excellence,” the path towards fulfillment as a human person, or the ability to choose the good … none of this is possible without the possibility of living in the first place.  (Another “silver lining” to this tragic situation in which we find ourselves is the mere mentioning of this fact on national television by those members of the Episcopacy (un)fortunate enough to land an interview.  It is about time the terrible truth about abortifacients in oral contraceptives gets more press.)

This is not the best argument against the “right” to use oral contraceptives, because it is conceivable (there is nothing worse than the same pun twice in one article) that someday the pharmaceutical companies will develop an effective oral contraceptive that is not abortifacient.  Even then, seen in the light of Catholic teaching, there will still not be a “right” to use such medication to prevent pregnancy, the prevention of which drives a wedge in the very definition of marriage which by its nature is both unitive and procreative.  In doing so, contraception thereby does not allow a couple to strive towards their fulfillment as human persons in their marital vocation.  (For marriage, after all, is a vocation, and hence a “path to fulfillment.”)  Nevertheless, it the abortifacient argument is an effective argument here and now, because oral contraceptives here and now are abortifacient.

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15 Responses to Food, Guns, and Contraception: A Random Followup to Some Random Thoughts on the HHS Rule

  • Jake,

    Most liberals like Mary and her daughter have neither the patience to read your logical analysis, nor (if they do not lack the patience) the ability to follow the logic. I do not necessarily say this of either Mary or her daughter because one cannot necessarily deliver an accurate judgment in a specific case where so few details are missing, however, as someone so aptly commented, “Sin makes you stupid.”

  • Nevertheless, I hope in some way it adds to the conversation.

  • I agree, Jake. I like your essay. Good job. I shared it on Facebook and at my blog.

  • Aside from the contravention of Catholic Moral teaching,or the debate on whether this is actually health care or a lifestyle choice, what astounds me is the compulsion in this legislation.

    This is the iron hand of Totalitarianism – Soviet Union, Communist Chinese, here we come – Obama is leading Uncle Sam to join you.

    This is not the America that the world has known.I wonder how many Kentucky Long rifles have been kept oiled up in the closet?

  • As a matter of fairness, and perhaps Mary can answer this, but why should I be compelled at the point of IRS asset seizure, to subsidize the promotion of sexual activity in any context. I suppose in a pun loving way one might say I’m getting (rhymes with rude) …nuff said. Perhaps this is the illogical destination of the 60s culture of “free” love.

    As a matter of policy, the contraceptive culture, and the availability of contraceptives, is responsible for the total breakdown of sexual mores. In turn, the promotion of the contraceptive culture has lead to the increase of both “unwanted” pregnancies and of course abortions, as well as STDs. Again, I would like that addressed by (and I’m not picking on Mary) perhaps by Mary.

    Finally as a matter of simple economics, and being an employer, the greater my costs for providing a subsidy for sexual activity (I trust that it is obvious to Mary et al that this will not be free) by way of higher premiums means that salary increases and bonuses and other benefits will be affected. Employees like Mary’s daughter will be paid less, but so will others who want no part of this nonsense. So again, as a charitable invitation to civil discourse, I’d like to know why employees who choose to live differently than Mary’s daughter must pay for the “free” love.

  • All of the previous argument is null and void however, if Mary is not correct in her assertion that women have the natural “right” to use oral contraceptives.

    I would say moot rather than null and void.

  • Let’s bring the discussion back to basics.

    Is the Obama/state-control solution optimal for the lethal (It could be tragic: Mary’s daughter may be diagnosed with a fetus! – sobbing in background) health care crisis?

    Why did Pharaoh not follow precedent and copy the state solution to the starvation crisis: provide need-based health care vouchers?

    I bet a silver dollar that was not an option. It leaves control over people’s health care with people.

    That would never do!

    Don, Please pray for the conversion of sinners and America.

    Altogether approximately 200,000,000 weapons in citizens’ possession. The libs have been trying to disarm us. They don’t like the thought of us slaves shooting back.

  • Good points! Do not let those who choose to use contraceptives force everyone to pay for it. In the end all it actually is a gift from the government to a few companies. What’s worse than stealing from the working (and working poor) to pay for the “luxuries” of corporate execs at drug companies and their rich democrat buddies??? Just like the democrats: steal from the working man and woman and give it to the rich! Check their record they specialize in it while saying they are helping the poor. There have been no increases in Social Security for several years but there have been plenty of huge government give-aways to the wealthy during the Obama administration.

    Another point I would like to make is that Viagra treats a disease (impotence) and could therefore be considered treatment for a disease. Contraceptives don’t treat a disease but sure can cause some diseases and some nasty ones too!!!!

  • Cthemfly raises a really frightening specter, the ability of the IRS to seize private property. Obama’s Executive Order 13575 Rural Councils gives the government the power to seize private property. Obamacare gives the government the excuse to seize churches and schools and turn them into Mosques for non-compliance. This explains why Obama is so hardened to reason. 200,000,000 guns will not be enough to face down military weapons. Remember Tienenman Square. the only thing the Chinese had not counted on was that the information about the attack was outside China in eight minutes via the internet which now Obama controls, but who is left on the outside anymore?. Only the Pope and the Vatican. Tell Mary, she will not need contraception in the grave and they will not give her any in the concentration camps er nursing homes.

  • Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of Pompeii, pray for us.

  • Or pharm-aoh.
    The era of ‘free love’ liberals is over and done. Their experience and education credentials serve to contort ‘love’ into ‘sex’ual activity of any kind as a norm. They are imposing such ‘free’dom upon working adults now with HHS, as they have done with welfare population and public school children – with money they don’t have.

    To the detriment of Honor, The Constitution of the United States, The Catholic Church, other religious groups and institutions, and private enterprise.

    A proverb (source forgotten): To change and to improve are two different things.
    Someone is profiting, the only motive behind calling conception a disease to prevent.
    They can’t or won’t see blood on their hands. If they do: first probably visiting psychiatrists, finally churches.

  • The defenders of the HHS mandate want to put The Pill on the same level of “preventive” health care as, say, vaccinations against deadly and crippling contagious diseases such as polio, rubella, diptheria, etc. This overlooks two glaringly obvious facts:

    1) pregnancy is not “contagious” in the same sense as polio — you don’t get it simply from breathing the same air or drinking the same water as someone who has it; you can only get it by engaging in a very specific and (the vast majority of the time) readily avoidable activity;

    2) most vaccines, antibiotics, etc. are the only means available for preventing or controlling the disease they target, whereas oral contraception is NOT the ONLY means available for avoiding pregnancy.

  • Contraceptives!

    Contraceptives!!!

    Once you are over 70-whatever-years, whatever your expiration-date the Death Panel decides, no soup for you!!!

    No Life, no hope.

    No liberty, no faith.

    No property, no charity.

    It ain’t about birth control or about health. It’s about control.

    “The brave new world begins when every man is paid for existing and no man pays for his sins. ” Kipling, “The Gods of the Copy Book Headings.”

  • I would like to commend you for a very well written article covering this topic. I’m not Catholic, I use contraceptives (although not the pill) to prevent my family from growing until we are somewhat ready for it, and I do not believe that this is an attack on the Catholic or religious freedoms. (Stay with me, here.)

    That being said, I would like to say that the arguments you put forth make sense. It makes me step back and take a look at the whole thing from a different perspective. My knee-jerk reaction to this whole situation has been to try my best to ignore it, and to ignore those who are shouting from the rooftops that this is religious persecution – because I do not agree. I also had the immediate reaction that no one should be exempt from laws, because otherwise what is the point?

    I had to start paying attention, however, when I heard the president say that if church-run organizations still had moral objections to this ruling, then they could opt out, but the insurance provider had to provide the contraceptives free to the person who was requesting it (did I get that right?). That makes me go, whoa, wait a second, for exactly the reasons that you laid out in the first point. It seems as though many people, especially my generation and younger (I’m an 80s baby), seem to have forgotten the very salient point that nothing in life is free. Someone somewhere has to account for the cost in the contraceptives. It makes sense that it would be rolled back into the premiums and accounted for.

    Now that I am beginning to pay attention to this whole debate, it is starting to seem to me, especially in view of the points laid out above, both economic and religious, that this is a case of the government interfering too much. No, women do not have a “right” to have birth control provided to them by the government, by hook or by crook. I believe that we have the right to obtain it for ourselves (but again, I’m not Catholic). I believe that if the pill is too expensive, switch to something else less expensive. You can’t tell me that a nurse can’t afford the $7 or whatever it is for a box of condoms. I also believe that birth control (in whatever form) should be made available at a cheaper cost, but that is an argument with pharmaceutical companies that has absolutely no bearing on this discussion.

    Thank you for bearing with me as I ramble in my reply, somehow trying to figure out a way to let you know, Jake, that I have read your article, and it touched a chord with me. It gave me something to think about. I’m not going with my knee-jerk reaction anymore on this debate, even if it isn’t for the reason that you might wish. It was a very well written, cogent article that did not simply attack someone who had a differing opinion than yourself.

    And to the commentor Paul, who equates being liberal with being stupid or incapable of following a well-reasoned argument, I say to stop painting everyone with the same brush. I am more moderate than liberal, but I still am imminently capable of following a logical argument, as long as one is presented to me. It’s when the debate breaks down to name-calling and mud-slinging, with whoever shouts loudest being heard, that I lose patience.

  • Becky, thank you for sharing your perspective. It helps to know that people other than “traddie” Catholics can and will listen to rational arguments against this policy. There are, as you point out, other valid objections to the HHS mandate besides the religious freedom issue.

    It seems to me that the mandate is a prime example of a solution (“free” birth control for women) that demanded a problem (an alleged lack of access to affordable birth control), even if the “problem” had to be created from scratch (by attacking the Church for not providing it via health insurance).

Random Thoughts on the HHS Rule

Saturday, February 11, AD 2012

So much has been written about the HHS rule and its “compromise” that I hardly think I have much to add to the conversation.  Nevertheless, there are a few points that I think have been missing form the debate, even in Catholic circles.  Allow me to take a brief moment to give a relatively disconnected trio of issues that just may help to spark some more conversation.

1. Religious Liberty is an Individual Freedom.

It seems to me that the focus of the national Catholic conversation has been on the Obama administration’s violation of the freedom of religion by forcing Catholic institutions such as hospitals and universities to provide employees with contraceptives and sterilizations, a practice that is in clear contradiction to the teachings of our faith.  While this is certainly deplorable and the most overt violation of the First Amendment, what has been relatively missing from the dialog is that religious liberty is not merely a liberty granted to religious organizations.  First and foremost, religious liberty is an individual liberty.  Each and every citizen of our nation is guaranteed under the Constitution the freedom to practice one’s religion both publicly and privately and to not be coerced into violating our consciences by acting in a way contradictory to the tenants of one’s faith.

Thus, the HHS rule is not simply a violation against specifically religious organizations.  It is also a violation of the religious liberty of the individual business owner, Catholic or otherwise.  As a Catholic, the owner of a private business cannot, under the Constitution, be compelled by the government to pay for “medical” services that violate his or her faith, including contraceptives and sterilizations.  This applies not only to those companies that have a religious mission, such as EWTN or the Knights of Columbus, but also to the owner of a chain of restaurants, a manufacturing form, or an publishing company.  Further, it also applies to the faithful Catholic owner of a medical insurance company.  Forcing the insurance company to provide coverage for these services despite religious beliefs, is a clear violation of the protection guaranteed under the First Amendment.

My fear is simple.  If the conversation focusses exclusively on those organizations for which Bishops have direct involvement, we may very well see further “compromise” between the Obama administration and the USCCB, but tens of thousands of other Catholic business owners will be lost in the shuffle.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that even if the HHS does a complete 180 on the current issue, i.e. incorporating Catholic hospitals and universities in the exemption clause without the bogus compromise that forces the insurance companies to cover the costs and services … even then, the fight is not over.  Because even then there will be thousands of businesses who are not included in the exemption clause because business activities have no specifically religious purpose.  Yet these owners too have the right to practice their religion, and hence should not and cannot be compelled to act in a way contrary to their faith.

That being said, there is admittedly a certain advantage in focussing on overtly Catholic organizations like hospitals and universities.  First, they are the most obvious cases of government intrusion in the religious sphere.  Second, they have high profile leaders, i.e. the episcopacy, that will be forced to take a stand.  Yet still, we should not for a minute think that the battle ends with these organizations.  Each and every one of us is entitled to religious liberty as an American citizen, and forcing a Catholic (or other religious) business owners to pay for plans that include contraception and sterilization is very much a violation of this liberty.  The problem is compounded, of course, if the business is a medical insurance company.

2.  There is a Silver Lining.

The felix culpa effect never ceases to amaze me.  God can bring good out of the most heinous evils, the case and point being the crucifixion.  The silver lining to the current HHS tragedy is the unified effort of the Catholic Episcopacy.  While the thought that the Obama administration feels that it can abuse its power in this manner terrifies me, the response by the Bishops has given me great cause for joy.  When the Bishop’s letter was read from the pulpit two weeks ago, the congregation applauded.  It is a powerful moment for the Church.

Our Church, after all, thrives on persecution.  It is precisely in the midst of being “kept down” that we can rise up against tyranny.  Such is the lesson of the Cross.  There is a quote from 2010 that has been circulating recently, in which Cardinal George of Chicago says, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”  Whether or not the Cardinal is prophetic remains to be seen, but such an “exaggeration” may not be so exaggerated after all.

In light of this, I would encourage those whose Bishop was one of the hundreds that wrote a letter and had it read to send a note of gratitude.  Yes, it was a coordinated effort, but it was the coordination that made it so powerful and effective.  While Friday’s “compromise” is manipulative and nothing really close to a compromise, it seems clear that even this minimal response would not have happened had it not been for the organized outcry.

3.  “Health Care” is Being Redefined.

My final point has been mentioned by several others, but it warrants reiteration.  There is a not-so-subtle redefinition of “health care” in this whole debate.  There is a certain amount of irony that under the president’s health care bill and the accompanying HHS ruling, I will not be able to receive Tylenol or toothpaste for free, but women will be able to receive birth control and abortifacients for free.  Tylenol is a drug that actually tries to cure something that is “wrong” with the body, and toothpaste is authentically “preventative” in terms of dental health problems.  Yet birth control and abortifacients have little to do with the health of the body.  In fact, they are often used for reproductive systems that are otherwise heathy.  They are designed to take a perfectly healthy and well-functioning bodily system and stop it from functioning how it should.  Since when did fertility and pregnancy become a disease?  Since when is birth control more “preventative” than toothpaste and abortifacients more of a “cure” than Tylenol.

Whether we agree or disagree on the morality of birth control is not the relevant question here, nor is whether or not we agree or disagree on the “right” of a woman to take these drugs.  The Catholic Church has always been clear on this, but it seems to me that there is something else at issue here.  Even for those who condone the consumption of these drug, it is a rather large leap to insist that someone else pays for it.

Let me give an analogy.  I believe firmly in the right to bear arms.  However, I do not believe the the government should provide a gun to every citizen who wants one.  Moreover, I don’t believe that my business owner should be forced to provide each of its employees with a gun.  Yet this is precisely what is happening with the HHS rule.  Even if an individual thinks they should have the right to use oral contraceptives, how does that translate to insisting that the government forcing employers and insurance companies to pay for it?  The only answer is to misclassify the contraceptives as “health care.”

I have two clarifications before I sign off, mostly to ensure that I am not misunderstood.  First, I understand quite clearly that oral contraceptives are occasionally prescribed for reasons not having to do with birth control.  This is emphatically not what I am talking about, and such an issue requires a separate conversation.  For my own part, I am of the firm belief that non-contraceptive methods such as NaPro technology have had far more positive results at a cost that is a fraction of many of the contraceptive techniques in dealing with serious medical issues.  Yet again, this is another topic for another time, and is not my intent here.  However, the media has successfully and unfortunately recast the debate in this light, causing a decent amount of public confusion over the issue.  (In a way it reminds me of a person who believes in abortion on demand up until the cutting of the umbilical cord who insists of focussing the debate on the “hard” cases of rape and incest.  In the HHS debate we have people who believe that the government can force employers to cover contraceptive for every purpose but insist of focussing just on those cases where they are not being prescribed for contraceptive purposes.  It is both misleading and disingenuous.)

Second, I am in no way claiming that an individual does have the right to use contraceptives (for reasons of birth control), less so abortifacients.  For my own part, given the objective immorality of such acts, such a “right” would be in direct contradiction of the natural law in which we were created.  My point was only that even if one believes in the right to birth control, it still doesn’t mean that employers or insurance companies should be forced to provide it anymore than they should be forced to provide their employees with firearms.

The main point is simple: birth control is not health care because fertility is not a disease.

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33 Responses to Random Thoughts on the HHS Rule

  • Very well written, Jake! Thanks!

  • “My fear is simple. If the conversation focusses exclusively on those organizations for which Bishops have direct involvement, we may very well see further “compromise” between the Obama administration and the USCCB, but tens of thousands of other Catholic business owners will be lost in the shuffle”

    This is my fear as well.

  • Excellent post, Jake.

  • What about an employer forcing their religious beliefs onto their employees? My daughter is a nurse and works at a catholic hospital. She is not Catholic and feels birth control should be a woman’s decision. The woman has the right to decide when she wants to start a family. She was surprised when she found out that birth control was not part of the insurance program. She has been buying it on her own, and it is not cheap. What about those who can not afford to purchase birth control? Viagra is covered under the insurance program, and that is health care? Don’t think so. I’m not surprised that the article and comments here are all by men. It is not your body and you should not make the decision for women who want to use birth control.

  • Your daughter is a nurse, an educated woman, and did not know the stance of the Catholic Church on contraception before she hired on to a Catholic hospital? Hello! As to your daughter’s desire not to present you with more grandchildren, I would suggest she either get a new job that will supply her with “free” contraceptives, or she simply pay for it out of her own pocket. As a nurse I would imagine she is earning between 50-70k a year and the contraceptives should cost your daugher between $15-50 a month, assuming she is using birth control pills. I think religious liberty is somewhat more important than the fact that your daughter has to cough up the cost of eating out at a restaurant once a month to make certain that there are fewer people around the table when you eat together at Thanksgiving.

  • Mary,

    A woman has no more right to contracept than a man has a right to commit fornication. No one has a right to do evil, and there is only one standard for determining good and evil – God’s.

    BTW, no sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman. This applies to both sexes. No adultery. No fornication. No homosexual intercourse. None. Zero. And if a man gets a woman pregnant, then he is obligated to support woman and child for the next 18 years and nine months.

    Furthermore, neither woman nor man is a mindless baboon to be given over to the lust of the flesh. God gave us brains, and He expects and requires that we use them. Saying “I am so scientific and logical and rational”, and then surrendering to the lust of the flesh, contracepting and aborting with complete abandon is exactly the same as acting like a wild animal without responsibility or accountability. If I don’t want a baby, then I ought to refrain from the titillation of my genitals. The same applies to you and everyone else. God made His Law equal for everyone, and that, my friend, is true equality because it demands personal responsibility and accountability. Contraception is the abdication of responsibility and the evasion of accountability. And abortion is murder most foul indeed.

  • Post Script: it is very disturbing when a mother thinks her daughter has the right to contraception, and that that right ought to be paid for by the Catholic Church or its institutions through insurance premiums. Here is what Pope Paul VI said would happen as a result of our contraceptive mentality in Humanae Vitae, section 17:

    (a) Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

    (b) Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

    This exact thing is happening now. The Obama government is doing item (b) above, and the consequences of item (a) were shown to us in full force when able bodied men escaped from that Italian cruise ship which recently crashed, abandoning women and children to their fate. Why should I help you as a woman who declares herself equal in function to a man?

    That a mother’s daughter would embrace such a contraceptive mentality is cause for grave concern. Much prayer and fasting are needed because sadly, a majority of Catholic women of child-bearing years think exactly this way.

    I shouldn’t quote Robert Heinlein, but I shall (and no, I don’t necessarily agree with his “universal morality”, but his point is well taken):

    All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplus age, excrescence, adornment, luxury or folly which can–and must–be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a “perfect society” on any foundation other than “women and children first!” is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly–and no doubt will keep on trying.

  • Oh how I wish I could “Like” Don’s comment a hundred times. 🙂

    Perhaps Mary should reread Jake’s post where he ably dismisses the notion that birth control is health care.

  • Mary, as Don points out, birth control is not that expensive. And as a woman, I find it tiresome in the extreme when women play that whiny “you’re all mean men, you don’t understand!” card. (Also, may I point out that you seem to have missed all the comments written here by women.) Your daughter is an adult – she has the choice to work at or not work at a Catholic hospital (nice of you to spit on the organization that employs her), she has the choice of having or not having sex, and if she wants to use BC, it’s not like the stuff is rare or unaffordable and as a nurse, she certainly understands the medical pros and cons of each method. It’s not like Fr. Flynn or Sr. Margaret are going to follow her to the drugstore and physically prevent her from buying it.

    She’s a big girl – she can pay for her own fun (or – here’s an idea- how about her sex partner chipping in, if she’s so strapped for cash and such a godawful manager of her own money she can’t afford $20 for pills every month). Demanding that BC be paid for by others, and particularly by others who have a religious objection to it is childish. But then, that is what many Americans have become circa 2012 – entitled little brats who want everything for “free.” And you’re “oppressing” them if you don’t want to pay their way, just as a 3 year old feels oppressed when Daddy doesn’t buy him the Snickers bar in the grocery store line.

    It’s people like Mary who make me despair for the future of this country. Quite honestly, I wish all of these whiners could be sent to live in Saudi Arabia for a month or so, so they would get a taste of what real religious oppression feels like.

  • “birth control is not health care because fertility is not a disease.”

    Succinctly put and well said. Same argument applies to abortion.

    As to the Silver Lining, no doubt push has come to shove and since Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword, it is long past time for the Church Militant to don her armor and advance as Christians soldiers ought.

  • Mary,
    Viagara is covered because it addresses very real physiological disfunctions. Don’t you care about the women who benefit from its use? And if you’re going to insult the men who post here why don’t you point out the real chauvinists. You know, the ones who only want to see an end to the slaughter of male babies (roughly 50%) in the womb. What’s that? Can’t find any? Didn’t think so.

  • I would note that I think insurance paying for viagra is absolutely ridiculous, although perhaps not quite as ridiculous as old goats of my vintage attempting to pretend they are 18!

  • Mary, how about a reversal in the women/men scenario? On Thurs., I had network problems with my printer and needed one copy to be edited. A lifelong friend retired from NYC and has settled back nearby. He is also vehemently ‘pro-choice’ and anti-Church (bunch of old men … one of which he has a;so become). I called and asked him to print the attachment to my email which I needed by 6:30 meet. He called back and said, among other hurtful, opinionated things, that he wouldn’t waste the ink. I finally figured out an answer to all who wondered about why he wasn’t my ‘the boy next door’. Protecting a belief system vs imposing an ideology for free contraception and a chance to bully liberty. Your problems could be more serious.

  • Intrinsic to this discussion is the question whether or not universal health care is a right. The USCCB, in a letter dated 1/26/11, was supportive of government health care and lauded the Obama Administration’s efforts for comprehensive health care reform. They failed to recognize that where life is arbitrarily taken away, as is done every day through abortion; all other rights are in jeopardy. In the Declaration of Independence, life is listed as the first of the rights Our Founding Fathers believed unalienable. This is because they understood that one cannot pursue happiness if one does not have liberty. Yet, to possess liberty one must first have life. Thus, life is the RIGHT upon which all other rights are contingent. The USCCB should be neither aghast nor surprised if an Administration that disregards the sacredness of life would also disregard the right of people to adhere to the principles of their conscience. The USCCB supported the government’s attempt to take more power over the lives of men than God Himself takes in this life. God permits men to exercise their free will. The Health Care Law makes government equivalent to God Almighty. The law is designed to give to government unprecedented jurisdiction over the lives of individual persons and makes the government omnipotent without respect to a person’s free will. Jesus Christ mandated the Catholic Church to perform corporal works of mercy, not government. To this end, in my opinion, the USCCB has failed Christ, His flock, and their mission to serve the poor.

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  • “Old goat?” Don, you make it sound like you’re in assisted living! One would think you personally witnessed the Gettysburg Address, the way you talk! That can’t make your good missus feel like a spring chicken! You’re not that much older than me and we’re not that darned ancient yet! Of course, my definition of “ancient” has changed since I was 12, when I thought of my 25 year old teacher as an old fellow. Since I turned 40, old is now “15 years older than whatever my current age is.” Not that I am going to tell anybody what my current age is….;-)

  • Mary and Mary’s daughter need to grow up and get off of their “gimme” mentality. What a pair they are! Next they will want the Church to fund Planned Parenthood – if they don’t already.

  • Covering Viagra or covering BC – what’s the diff? Look, sexual intercourse has 2 purposes – 1. procreation, and 2. pleasure. If you are using BC, by definition you are only having sex for pleasure. That’s wonderful and good, but why should the RC church or ANYBODY else, for that matter, pay for your fun? Chemo, yes. Major surgery, yes. But Viagra? BC? What’s next? What is the next “freebie” we have an inalienable right to? Boob jobs? Penile implants? Botox to get rid of the crow’s feet?

    I work for a Catholic healthcare system. That doesn’t necessarily make me an expert on healthcare costs (I do not work in billing or reimbursement) but I do understand that one reason costs have exploded is because insurance has expanded from being something used to cover major expenses and now covers routine “wellness” exams, Pap smears and so forth. As P.J. O’Rourke once said, “If you think healthcare is expensive now, just wait until it’s free.”

  • “Don, you make it sound like you’re in assisted living!”

    I think my secretary and my wife Donna think on some days that I am already in it, and they are rendering the assistance! 🙂

    As for witnessing the Gettysburg address, I missed that. I was actually born in 1796, taught that whippersnapper Abe Lincoln how to prepare writs, saved the Union by not enlisting in the Union army, taught Theodore Roosevelt dirty fighting, slept through both of Wilson’s inaugural addresses, ended a brilliant political career when I challenged the wheel chair bound FDR to a footrace, served in World War II as fifth assistant briefcase holder to Douglas MacArthur, forgot to vote for Wendell Wilkie in 48, didn’t like Ike, thought that Nixon was more photogenic than Kennedy, got into a fist fight with Barry Goldwater over a parking space, ran the White House “Carpenters” under Nixon, voted for Billy Carter, instead of Jimmy, appointed Secretary of Historical Oddities under Reagan, got George Bush senior to wear a Ross Perot mask to a Skull and Bones reunion, lost a fortune in Whitewater, and then got into blogging. 🙂

    As long as we can laugh at ourselves, none of us are too old, even me!

  • Don, I laughed so hard at your post I think I pulled a muscle! That was terrific, thanks!

    I am quite glum and depressed these days, as I watch my beloved country embrace dependency and decadence. Again, this is why I have become quite the sports fan in middle age – it’s pure escapism. Don, your post reminds me that humor is always a welcome relief and release, even in dark times.

  • “saved the Union by not enlisting in the Union army, taught Theodore Roosevelt dirty fighting, slept through both of Wilson’s inaugural addresses, ended a brilliant political career when I challenged the wheel chair bound FDR to a footrace, served in World War II as fifth assistant briefcase holder to Douglas MacArthur”

    OK, that right there is brilliant!! Kudos, Donald!

  • “In a way it reminds me of a person who believes in abortion on demand up until the cutting of the umbilical cord who insists of focussing the debate on the “hard” cases of rape and incest. In the HHS debate we have people who believe that the government can force employers to cover contraceptive for every purpose but insist of focussing just on those cases where they are not being prescribed for contraceptive purposes. It is both misleading and disingenuous.” This is a matter of Justice, Divine and social Justice. In both, cases of rape and incest, there are two victims and one criminal. The woman and the innocent child she has conceived are victims and the perpetrator of the crime. To punish the innocent child conceived for the crimes of his father is an atrocity of an injustice, miscarriage of justice. I am afraid that Cardinal George may be right. Jesus Christ was martyred in the public square when He was denied His religious freedom. I appreciate the opportunity to vent and enjoy the comraderie amongst and between people of the same mind. This piece is very informative. I like the analogy of gun ownership. In my day, threads were new clothes.

  • Great article – one more thing I would like to add. The “compromise” offered by the administration and hysterically accepted by Sr. Keehan attempts to absolve the participating organization of moral culpability by shifting responsibility to the insurer, who has to provide contraception at “no cost.” In other words, there is no active participation by the subscriber – let’s call it a Catholic university for the sake of an example – in the decision to purchase contraceptives as part of the health plan offered to the employee. Here’s the rub, though. Surely, what this really means is that the insurer offers contraceptives at no CHARGE to the insured, meaning they can’t collect a co-pay or a deductible. So they will simply increase the overall price of the bundle to cover the losses.

    “Ah,” some would object, “but contraceptive services actually cost less than coverage for pregnancy, so they won’t charge more.” I would invite the actuarials among you to weigh in, here. What we need to remember is that the insurer calculates price not for an individual, but for a population. They care about the distribution curve, not the points in the curve. In other words, what they are comparing is not cost for contraception vs cost for pregnancy and delivery for one individual, but the EXPECTED costs for the entire population. They know that (and this is a scandal, but it’s true) MOST participants would elect contraception if it were offered, but only some would get pregnant, regardless of whether it were offered or dropped (even if it were dropped, they know that many individuals will pay for their own contraception). The TOTAL expected expenditure in both scenarios is what they care about. Unlike the Democrats, insurers know that money doesn’t come from trees. The compromise plan will result in increased total cost, even if we don’t see charges specific to “women’s health coverage.” This is a classic shell game, and I expect that Sr. Keehan her organization are not falling for it. They are satisfied with the APPEARANCE of moral acceptability, because it diminishes the scrutiny on their betrayal of the Catholic faith. Either way, the insurer will be compensated for these services, and the administration’s “compromise” is forcing Catholic institutions to be complicit in the violation of their consciences.

  • The contraceptive, sterilization, and abortificant mandate bothers me on many levels, the constitutional problems it spawns of the greatest concern. I want to address the concept of “free medication” separately though.

    The mandate is that health providers provide for “free” contraceptives and abortificants. I have a problem with characterizing the medications as “free” because the insurers will not eat those costs, they will pass them off to their customers. It is, therefore, duplicitous to state that insurers will provide any “free” services under their plans. In reality, women receiving those drugs for free will be paying more for different services under their same plans. It is, essentially, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

    My bigger problem is that it opens the door to government mandate that more and more medications be provided for “free” and threatens to undo the pharmaceutical industry on which modern health relies.

    It is odd to choose contraceptives and abortificants if your concern is that women aren’t able to afford necessary medications. Surely, if there is a state interest in providing low-cost or free medication, the medications mandated should be those that relate to life itself: heart, diabetes, depression, etc. If the concern is “women’s health” diabetes should be pretty high on the states’ list of concerns, much higher, indeed, than contraceptives.

    But why “women’s health,” specifically; or, more to the point, why “women’s health” for women of childbearing years? Men die of heart problems in droves. Women die of diabetes-related conditions at an increasing rate. And what about Mental Health? Surely, providing depression medications is a state’s interest on par with contraceptives?

    Let us assume, for a moment, that the Administration gets exactly what it wants and all health providers have to provide contraceptives and abortificants for free. How long will it be before Congress adds other medications to the list of “free” drugs? Having the model for mandating low-cost or free pharmaceuticals, each advocacy groups will quite rightly petition for their members to receive a similar boon. Does anyone believe that HIV Advocacy will stand by and let their members remain uncovered? Will the AARP stand by and let older Americans struggle to pay for heart medication? And on and on…

    The result must be that either the government will have to step in and pay a premium to offset the losses or the pharmaceutical industry will collapse.

    Pharma will not eat the cost; indeed, they cannot.

    To my reckoning, insurers will not continue to pay full price for medications that they must provide for “free.” They will collectively squeeze Pharma for less and less costly drugs. Pharma will either have to recoup those losses from government subsidy or will have to cut back on research and development to balance their books. However flush Pharma is with cash now, those resources must fail as the income from their drugs falters.

    I assume people in power to be at least as smart as I am. Coupling their intelligence with their specific industry knowledge, I must conclude that the folks over at HHS know at least as much about the consequences of this decision as I do.

    So, what in God’s name are they thinking?

  • Perhaps this can be the Vox Nova creed. Paraprhased of course:

    “The word “Social Justice” is God’s Word! Whosoever understands this is released from all theological conflicts. This is Social Justice: deny the American experiment and leave behind egoism and your feelings of abandonment. …Christ has come to us through radical redistribution and the egalitarian social state. …Obama has taken root in us; through his strength, through his honesty, his faith and his idealism we have found our way to paradise.”

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  • G-Veg – I wouldn’t worry about pharma collapsing. This is a shell game. Of course the manufacturer will be compensated for the drug – there simply will not be a corresponding charge to fill the medication that is transparent to the subscriber. As you rightly point out, the insurer will simply bundle this cost into the total expected program costs, and this will be reflected in the premium price. Copay’s don’t magically disappear – lower/no copays and lower deductibles always mean higher premiums. And so, as before this brilliant “compromise,” the employer will continue to pay for contraceptives, although thru indirect pricing, rather than direct charges. It’s not a compromise, and it’s not “accomodation” – it’s an illusion.

  • Jaha Arnot – It think your analysis works for the short-term but I’m missing how it could continue as more and more drugs are added to the list of “free” or “low cost” medicines. Doesn’t your answer depend on how much money insurers lose in providing the pharmaceuticals and, so, pass on to Pharma under a government mandate?

    I’m out of my element here so I may be missing something.

  • G-Veg – the drug manufacturer won’t lose anything, nor will the insurer, either in the short-term or the long term. They (the drug manufacturer) will simply be compensated directly by the insurer, who will not be able to charge a co-pay for the medication, and will collect thru premium pricing adjustments. There might be an issue about price elasticity in this pricing model, but I doubt it – drug pricing is already negotiated by the insurer, not by the individual consumer. The point is that costs will be fully passed on to the insured – insurance companies and drug manufacturers won’t see any negative economic impact.

  • JA and GV – the end game: insurers will be seized, er, bankrupted, and pharaoh will control all. Best case (for them) scenario, pharaoh’s cash bundlers make billions and serve pharaoh.

    Camus: “The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.”

  • I am shocked to read Mary’s response and indignation that her daughter is being forced to buy contraceptives. Sheesh!!! when did fornication become acceptable in your country???? Are you people Christians at all – never mind Catholics????? And, Donald, may I ask yet again, for the tenth time: When did PREGNANCY BECOME AN ILLNESS TO BE COVERED IN MEDICAL INSURANCE????? We are all praying that your Bishops and the Faithful Catholics remain firm and refuse to bow to the Graven Image called Obama….. and thank you, Jake for reminding us that there are many, many more Catholics who are under the hammer of Obama, not just the Catholic Institutions. Once again, I urge you, my beloved American Catholics : Fight gallantly like the Martyrs of old. We are with you all the way, with Prayers and fasting. Lent is just around the corner. Let us dedicate our Penances for the victory of America and the crushing of the Culture of Death Satan who is stranding your Country cheering Obama

  • I could not agree with you more. however, I think the legal definition of pregnancy, which written in healthcare coverage as “the same as any illness”, needs to be redefined. Thirty five years age, some insurance policies did not cover pregnancy. Eager to support pregnancy, many accepted the description of pregnancy as “the same as any illness”. Consequently that route lead into protective coverage from pregnancy. Everyone knows pregnancy is not an illness. I think we took a short cut in the 70 and 80s that has lead to this issue. Of course there are other things that have. Ontributed to this as well.

The Triple Meaning of Epiphany

Sunday, January 8, AD 2012
The Visit of the Magi

The Feast of Epiphany is preceded in importance by only three other feasts during the liturgical year. (As a good exercise, see if you can name the three feasts in order of their liturgical importance.) The connection between Epiphany and Christmas is not only in the fact that it is twelve days after the celebration of Christ’s Nativity, but also in its modern emphasis on the visitation of the Magi to the Christ Child. Historically, however, the connection is stronger still. Laurence Paul Hemming, when describing the history and theological significance of Epiphany in his book Worship as Revelation, reminds us that the feast of Christ’s birth was originally celebrated on January 6th rather than the current date of December 25th. “[F]ollowing the arguments of Sextus Julius Africanus … the actual birth of Christ was redated to December 25th …. So important was the date of the feast of the 6th January, however, that the established feast of that date remained, in both the East and the West.”


The Wedding at Cana

Once the feast was redated, what was the purpose of reserving January 6th as a day of particular reverence? It might seem at first that the date of January 6th was kept for purely historical or nostalgic reasons. On the contrary, Hemming indicates that the Feast of Epiphany originally had a triple significance: The Nativity (together with the visitation of the Magi), the Baptism of the Lord, and the commemoration of the Wedding at Cana. Thus, even with the transference of the Nativity to December 25th, there were two remaining significations of the feast of Epiphany: the Baptism of Jesus and the commemoration of the Wedding at Cana. Interestingly enough, “[t]he least of the significations of the feast (so much so, that it gets no mention in the liturgies of the East) is the appearance of the wise men of Magi from the East, the so-called ‘three kings.’”

The connection between these three significations is evident in many elements of the liturgy, but perhaps the antiphon for the Benedictus on Epiphany shows this most clearly: “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”
The Baptism of the Lord

The connection the Nativity shares with the Baptism of the Lord is more profound when we recall that the sacrament of Baptism is a celebration of heavenly birth. While Christmas Day is the celebration of the Incarnation, the earthly birth of Jesus, the Baptism of the Lord (as seen by Origin) is a celebration of the heavenly birth of the Savior, not in a temporal sense of course (because the Second Person of the Trinity is an eternal procession from the Father), but in an eschatological sense. There is, then, a connection between the Christmas-Epiphany cycle and the hypostatic union. The Christmas-Epiphany pair celebrates the union of the divine and human natures in the one person of Jesus Christ. Liturgically, we hear this celebration of the hypostatic union and its importance in our own lives in the Opening Prayers from Christmas, Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord.*

From Christmas – Mass of the Day: 

O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

From Epiphany: 

 

O God, who on this day
revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star,
grant in your mercy, that we, who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.
From the Baptism of the Lord:

 

Almighty ever-living God,
who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan
and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him,
solemnly declared him your beloved Son,
grant that your children by adoption,
reborn of water and the Holy Spirit,
may always be well pleasing to you.
The last example is reminiscent of the silent prayer the priest offers when pouring a drop of water into the chalice filled with wine: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” With the wine representative of divinity and the water representative of humanity, the connection between the wine and water of Cana and Christ’s hypostatic union is made explicit.  (For a more detailed explanation of the signs involved at the Wedding at Cana, see a this commentary on the thought of Fr. Robert Barron.)
It should now be clear that “[t]he central importance of the Feast of the Epiphany is that liturgically we are brought to see the connections between the Incarnation and the Resurrection” (Hemming). In a certain sense, this feast recalls for us the entire Paschal Mystery. It is for this reason that in Rome (and in many other church’s throughout the world) it is on this day, the Feast of Epiphany, that the Deacon, after chanting the Gospel solemnly proclaims in sacred chant the dates of the next Ash Wednesday, Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and the following First Sunday of Advent.
The Feast of Epiphany, then, calls us to contemplate our own creation and its orientation to our new creation in Christ Jesus. While we may at first be drawn to thoughts of the three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the true gift of Epiphany is Christ’s gift of himself for our salvation. Therefore, the three gifts offered by the Magi should only be representations of our own gift of self to the Lord. As proclaimed in Gaudium et Spes (24), “[M]an, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”
The universal call to holiness means that the mystery of Christ must become the center of our own existence. As with all things liturgical, the event of Epiphany effects what it signifies. While signifying our own divinization, the liturgy also brings about that divinization. Truly, through our Eucharistic participation in his incarnation-death-resurrection, we do “come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” However, like all sacramental effects, we must dispose ourselves towards the reception of the grace offered. Our attitude towards our Creator must first and foremost be that of openness to the gift, an attitude that recognizes the transcendent reality beyond us, that sees with the eyes of faith that we are actors in the great drama being played out in the cosmos. Let us pray for this disposition so that Jesus Christ might become an Epiphany in our own lives.

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5 Responses to The Triple Meaning of Epiphany

  • The Eastern Church, quite logically celebrated the Epiphany on 6 January, the western naturally joined the Jewish Temple Festival of Lights, Hannukah, to celebrate the Winter Solstice.- which for them was noted on 25th day of Chislev. The Fathers noted the connection between the tri-partite epiphanies, birth, baptism and Cana. Inextricabl tied as paschal mystery, the birth story, the Myrrh for burial as a gift from the Magi recall the Herod, Pharaoh, Egypt of His death as shown by John’s reference to hIs HOUR at Cana. The west has sentimentalised the Baby Jesus and missed the full sifnificancxew that this Child was recalled in light of His later death and rising as the Beloved Son who opened the Kingdom and Temple to those baptised in the Name of the revealed Tinity

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  • The triple meaning of the Epiphany is explicit in the Antiphon to the Magnificat at Second Vespers, which refers to three miracles: Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus; hodie stella Magos duxit ad praesepium; hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias; hodie in Iordane a Ioanne Christus baptizari voluit, ut salvaret nos, alleluia.

    The Novus Ordo gave prominence to the Feast of Our Lord’s Baptism by celebrating it on the Sunday after Epiphany, which is another reason why the latter feast should not be transferred.

  • It is unfortunate that Christmas is always on Dec 25, and thus falls on a weekend some years which crowds out the feast of the Holy Family/Epiphany/Baptism. The good news is that more regular worshippers pray those mysteries that do fall on a Sunday, the less favourable is dropping either Epiphany or Baptism. We in Europe observe Epiphany on the sixth, and then we get mixed up when EWTN follows the US calendar after we have prayed with the Pope on EWTN for Epiphany on the sixth. Same for Easter, following the lunar calendar there is a huge swing in the dates, there should be a move to assist the merchants to fix a date fir Easter as has been suggested. Same for Christmas, note it on a mid-week day – give Wal Mart (and all the rest!) advance time to mark the actual day even if the secular culture starts Easter and Christmas way ahead and the actual day or next day are for sales and returns!

  • The vatican celebrates/honors the Epiphany on the actual traditional calendar day Jan 6th. The American Catholic church chooses to move the date (too inconvenient) and in effect be in disharmony with Rome and the holy father.
    Ok, with that logic, shouldn’t the date of Christmas day be moved to the nearest Sunday so not to inconvenience people’s busy lives and commerse in a pluralist society of many religions?

My Official Protest – A Two Part Announcement

Sunday, December 18, AD 2011

Part I.  In gratitude for the authorial opportunity granted to me by The American Catholic, I would like to use this forum to host my official “Announcement of Protest.”  Let it be forth known that from this point forward, I am protesting.  The status quo has become too much of a status, and as for the quo … well, who knew what that ever really meant.  Yes, I am protesting, and as such, I am a protester.

Part II.  I would now like you to all join me in a round of congratulations.  Growing up in small-town Ohio, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”  It is humbling, of course, to be in the company of George W. Bush, Pope John Paul II, and Henry Kissinger.  When I receive my plaque from Time, I will be hosting a party, and all of you are invited.

Part II(B).  As an added bonus to using an online forum for my official announcement, it turns out I have post facto been named “Person of the Year” for 2006.  This secondary plaque will be occasion for a separate, but equally elaborate, celebration, to which all of you are also invited.

Part II(B)(iv).  It is unclear at this point whether or not I won the same award post facto for the 1969 prize.  While certainly a “Middle American,” I was not yet born.  I have sent a request for clarification to the good folks at Time.  I will await the official word before scheduling the third celebration.

Part II(B)(iv)(e).  My MacBook Pro is under the impression that it should receive the 1982 prize.  I tried to tell it that this was just plain silly, but now it is officially protesting me, thereby potentially qualifying it for not one, but two prizes.  It has sent a clarification Tweet to Time.  In the event that it is correct, the computer can plan its own darn party.

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Catholic Identity and the New Translation

Friday, December 16, AD 2011
The Collect for this Sunday should give us pause and a moment to think about Catholic identity.  Before giving you the new text, let’s take a gander at what we heard this past year:
Lord,
fill our hearts with your love,
and as you revealed to us by an angel
the coming of your Son as man,
so lead us through his suffering and death
to the glory of his resurrection,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Now, we could go through the Latin and point out the deficiencies in this translation, but there is something larger at stake here.  To see it, let’s look at the Latin, but more importantly the new translation.  The Latin text reads,
Gratiam tuam, quaesumus Domine,
mentibus nostris infunde,
ut qui, Angelo nuntiante,
Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus,
per passionem eius et crucem 
ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur.
Some people may already see the connection I am hinting at.  For the rest of us, myself included, reading the new translation brought the whole thing to light:
Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,
may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet
The above is the familiar prayer from the close of the Angelus.  The Angelus is the prayer of the Incarnation that has been recited by Catholics throughout the centuries three times daily: 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm.  The prayer itself goes back at least 700 years, but probably even to the eleventh century or earlier.  In times past, it was one of the most familiar and celebrated prayers in our Catholic heritage, and as such it provided a distinctive mark of Catholic identity.  A priest friend of mine has often recalled the story of his family’s restaurant/bar on the east side of Columbus.  Growing up, every day when the noontime bells rang out from the Catholic Church across the street, everyone in the bar dropped what they were doing and said the Angelus.  Even those who were not Catholic sat in silence during the recitation of the prayer because they know if they didn’t, they would not be served.  This story is an illustration of Catholic identity.  If the same bells were to ring today, how many Catholics would know why, let alone be able to rattle off the words to the Angelus?
Having the Collect from the last Sunday of Advent taken from this timeless prayer is important for establishing the link between the ritual liturgy and the lived liturgy.  In the spirit of lex orandi, lex credendi, if congregations were to hear the Angelus Collect in the context of Mass, those familiar with it would be immediately placed in the presence of the three-times-daily ritual.  Conversely, if the Collect were to be used, more people would become familiar with the Angelus prayer itself.
Unfortunately, until now, the prayer has been disguised beneath a mistranslation.  I am someone who is very familiar with the Angelus, yet I never realized that the Advent Collect was one and the same.  Of course, there are others who have.  It only took a quick Google search to turn up and article from Fr. Zuhlsdorf written in 2004 (and reprinted in 2006) on precisely this issue.
I am not one to debate these chicken-and-egg questions.  Has the mistranslation led to an abandonment of the Angelus, or was the Angelus abandoned long before, and therefore the “retranslating” of the traditional words for the purpose of the Mass Collect was not seen as such a big deal?  Quite frankly, it is probably both.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that the loss of the Angelus is both a symptom and a cause of the loss of Catholic identity, and recovering the translation in the Roman Missal can go a long way towards the process of its restoration.  At the very least, it provides an impetus for a stellar homily.  (Imagine, actually, if the priest on this Sunday were to give a homily that begins with the Angelus and ends with an explanation of the term “consubstantial.”)
Let’s put it this way.  When I read the words for the corrected translation of the Collect from the First Sunday of Advent, my eyes “perked” up from line one: “Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord…”  Imagine how much more will my ears do the same when, blessed be God, they hear the glorious recitation of this prayer this Sunday.  Who knows, maybe they’ll even hear the ever faint echo of the Angelus bells accompanying the text.
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A Funeral of Sorts: The Last of the Old Translation

Sunday, November 20, AD 2011
Last year on the First Sunday of Advent, I wrote a piece about the passing of the Propers in the soon-to-be-defunct translation of the Roman Missal.  While we had an entire year to say goodbye to the current Ordinary, each Sunday for the past year has presented us with a set of Propers that would never be heard again.  As we have journeyed over the course of the last fifty-two weeks through the new translation of the Ordinary, we didn’t give nearly as much attention to the once-a-year texts.  Yet these prayers, belonging mostly to the priest, are some of the most exquisite and exciting changes in the new translation of the Missal.

Today is the very last Sunday of the lame-duck translation.  Never again will we hear the translation with which most of us grew up.  While many parishes have already incorporated the people’s Ordinary into their Sunday celebrations, this weekend marks the end of the rest.  (Of course if you are one for “long goodbyes,” there is always the opportunity to go to Mass during this week for a series of last hurrahs.)

It seems timely, then, to visit the Collect (or the “Prayer-formally-known-as-the-Opening-Prayer”) for the very last Sunday in the liturgical year: The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  The current rendition reads:
Almighty and merciful God,
you break the power of evil and make all things new
in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe.
May all in heaven and earth
acclaim your glory and never cease to praise you.

As far as these things go, it is not all too bad.  Yet the new and improved version does quite a bit more to emphasize the majesty of our Lord and of this great celebration:
Almighty ever-living God,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
grant, we pray,

may render your majesty service

that the whole creation, set free from slavery,
and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.  


May we, too, be set free from the slavery of a translation that was in desperate need of being cleansed of its iniquities, and may we ceaselessly praise our Lord and Savior, the King of the universe, through this great gift that has been given to us: The New Translation of the Roman Missal.


As a complementary bookend to this last Sunday of the last year of the old translation, I give you the article written, nearly a year ago, on the first Sunday of the last year of the old translation:

****************************************


A Funeral of Sorts … every Sunday for the Next Year
November 28, 2010

I feel like each Sunday this year presents a funeral of sorts … a passing of Mass texts that will never be heard again.  Rather than mourning this passing, my heart finds solace in the assurance that these texts will rise again in a more perfect form with the “advent” of the new translation.  While we have a full year to pay our respects to the passing Ordinary, there is a rejoicing of sorts that the current Propers have reached the end of the proverbial line: their days are numbered, their time has passed, and blessed be God for that.


Today, the First Sunday of Advent, provides the first example of such a passing.  The Collect, in Latin, reads:
Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
hanc tuis fidelibus voluntatem,
ut, Christo tuo venienti iustis operibus occurrentes,
eius dextrae sociati, regnum mereantur possidere caeleste.
The current, Lame Duck Translation (to borrow the phrase from Fr. Zuhlsdorf) … what we all heard at Mass this morning … reads:
All-powerful God,
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven.
The new translation will read,
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
The Mickey Mouse rendering of 1973 lacks a certain dignity when compared with the more new and improved translation.  The later is more faithful to the Latin, but more importantly, it has an aesthetic quality that leaves the Lame Duck version grounded, or perhaps six feet less than grounded.
Let us not prematurely break into the Dies Irae for the passing of the old, decrepit, 1973 translation, for while it seems to have met its certain death with the passing of today’s Sunday liturgy, it pains me to say that its ghost will live on.

Those who regularly pray the Liturgy of the Hours know that the Collect from Mass is often used in the Proper of Seasons and Proper of Saints for the Divine Office.  This is done deliberately, of course, and provides the faithful a perfect opportunity to unite the sanctification of the day found by saying the Liturgy of the Hours with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source an summit of the liturgy.  If one is faithful to all the hours, the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent is recited four times today (Office of Readings, Lauds, Daytime Prayer, and Vespers), as well as once yesterday (Vespers for the Vigil).

Once the new translation takes effect, there will be a disconnect between the Collect from the Sunday Mass and the Collect found in the breviary.  I sincerely hope that the Bishops allow the new translations to be used during public recitations of the Liturgy of the Hours in order to remedy this disconnect.  Is it possible that new breviaries are printed?  Possible, yes.  Plausible, no.  In the absence of a new printing, a supplement of Collects could be printed to be used alongside the Psalms and Readings from the breviary until such a time that ICEL decides to retranslate the Liturgy of the Hours.  (Don’t hold your breath, by the way.)

All things considered, however, this should not distract us from the burial of these texts that we experience this year.  At least in terms of the Holy Mass, the 1973 “Opening Prayer” for the First Sunday of Advent has met its maker, kicked the bucket, bit the dust, bought the farm, breathed its last, and indeed … croaked.  This is not a cause for mourning, but rather a looking forward to the day of resurrection; for the Latin soul of this prayer is indeed filled with grace, so when it rises again as the 2010 Collect, it will be gloriously triumphant.  We could, in fact, say that that new translation renders the prayer “worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.”

One Sunday down, 51 more to go.   UPDATE: 51 Sundays down, 1 more to go.
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2 Responses to A Funeral of Sorts: The Last of the Old Translation

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  • Oh my, it was a sad day indeed, when the pastor warned the little girl acolytes to go home and pump iron in order to be able to carry the BIG book next Sunday. And if we in the pews think we have it bad, he has for every 1 word we have to learn, at least 50 that has to be reprogrammed. And this is the only translation he has ever known, and gosh darn it, he is going to miss it and it is a lot of work for him and we should feel grateful that we are not clergy and blah, blah, blah….

    Grow up and claim the Church as having wisdom and grace. Please stop the whining already.

The Paradoxes of Economic Measures

Thursday, September 29, AD 2011

I am not an economist, and I don’t claim to have anything close to useful knowledge in the area.  However, like many areas in which I have little knowledge, I find that I have lots of question.  Economics is a particularly interesting field in that two “experts” can examine the same problem and come up with solutions that seem diametrically opposed.  I put “experts” in quotes because I sense that the discrepancy of opinions lies more in politics than it does in the discipline itself.  By its very nature, the science of economics intersects the arena of politics, hence the phrase “economic policy.”  The down side of this is that even the “orthodox” positions, those on which nearly all economists agree, can be colored for political purposes.  In general, it seems that any social science has something of this.  For whatever reason, the “hard” sciences produce less public controversy.  Perhaps this has to to with the relative ease of experimentation in the hard sciences when compared with the social sciences.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the social science have as their subject the human person, which by nature cannot be reduced to overly rationalistic or mechanistic behavior.  Not being an expert in either hard sciences or social sciences, I can only speculate.

Yet despite my near total lack of experience and absolute total lack of expertise, it strangely enough doesn’t seem to hinder me from thinking about paradoxes in the field, or at the very least “perceived” paradoxes.  One such paradox that has kept me up at night, (well, let’s not go that far), is the obsession that political economics has with using GDP/GNP for measuring the health of the nation’s economy.  Now, let’s not go off the deep end here; I am not saying to toss the measure out the window altogether.  But consider the following relatively useless mental exercise.*

We all have household tasks to perform: mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, cooking meals, even watching our children.  We do perform these tasks willingly, and no one pays us to perform them.  The services themselves don’t contribute to the GDP.  Now, one day, my neighbor and I become concerned about the GDP and decide to do something to help it out.  We agree to take some of these services, say mowing the lawn and washing the dishes, and hire each other to do them.  I pay him $20 to mow my lawn and an additional $30 to wash my dishes every week.  Thus, I am hiring him for $50 a week, or $2600 per year.  Now, let’s be honest, with five kids, I can hardly afford to pay someone to do these menial tasks for me, so I get my neighbor to agree to pay me $50 per week to mow his lawn and do his dishes, coincidentally just enough to cover my new annual $2600 expense.  In total, we have collectively contributed $5200 per year to the GDP.  Yet our lives have not changed in the least, neither in income or standard of living.  Further, our workload has not really changed at all.  Yet we have now contributed to the GDP.

To make the mental exercise even more absurd, after a month of doing this, we decide that it is a real inconvenience.  My neighbor simply doesn’t want to walk across the street to mow my lawn and do my dishes.  However, he doesn’t want to give up his new-found $2600 profit.  He decides to subcontract this work out to a poor soul who will be willing to do the work for half the price, $1300.  That poor soul ends up being me.  In other words, I am paying my neighbor $2600 a year to mow my lawn and do my dishes, and he in turn is paying me $1300 to do this work for him.  I, in turn, play the same game with him.  He pays my $2600 a year to mow his lawn and do his dishes, and I hire him for $1300 a year to do his own work.  The net result of this is as follows.  We have added $5200+$2600 = $7800 a year to the GDP, yet the net change to my fiscal situation is $0 (likewise for my neighbor), and the net change in my workload is 0.  (I am mowing my own lawn and doing my own dishes, just like I was before we had our brilliant idea.)

To exaggerate this even further, because we have now become obsessed with our own brilliance, my neighbor and I decide to up the ante by multiplying all of our payments by 1,000,000.  (Of course, we will have to take out loans for this, but once the banks recognize our raw intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit, they will be fighting to give us loans.)  We have now contributed to the GDP $7,800,000,000, or 7.8 billion dollars, all for mowing our own lawn and doing or own dishes.

While I am admittedly unclear on the exact accounting of such an experiment (for instance should the subcontracting fees be deducted from the profits), something of this already exists when trying to compare the GDP in the United State over long periods of time.  In the last two-hundred years, the GDP in our county has grown enormously, yet the figure overstates the growth in production over the that time period.  Two-hundred years ago, far more people (most people?) produced their own food and many of their own possessions (clothing, etc.).  As self-produced, these activities and products were “off the ledger” of the GDP, so to speak.  Perhaps the biggest change came when many women moved from the home into the workforce.  Activities once done for no monetary exchange were now part of the GDP calculation: housekeeping, child care, cooking, etc.  The affect of this was essentially one of accounting: much of this activity moved from “off the ledger” to “on the ledger.”  The activity itself didn’t necessarily change, nor did the production of goods and services (yes, this oversimplifies the situation), yet the GDP was grossly affected by the accounting move.

The same sort of game can be played with unemployment rates.  The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by the size of the labor force.  An “unemployed individual” is defined as someone who is not currently working by is willing to work for pay.  In the midst of our recession/double-dip-recession/ whatever-the-experts-are-calling-the-current-situation, no number has been tossed around the news media more than the unemployment rate.  However, this number is just as easily manipulated.  For instance, let’s take every household in which one of the two parents stays home decides simultaneously, “I want a job.”  All of a sudden, even though the financial situation of the country has not changed, the unemployment rate goes through the roof.

On the other hand, suppose every one of these parents decides to engage in a deal such as between me and my neighbor.  Maybe they decide to pay each other to watch their own children for the day.  Now we have the opposite effect: the unemployment rate goes down.

In the interest of attempting some sort of pseudo-rational analysis, I suppose that these numbers are not entirely absurd if only because people don’t act in ways proposed by my two mental exercises.  Nevertheless, it does make one question how much stake we put into a system that relies almost solely on quantifying economic behavior, which is essentially human behavior.  I want to be careful here to once again separate the discipline of economics from the politics of economics.  I cannot in good conscience speak for a discipline of which I have so little experience, but I can speak to the way in which numbers such as GDP and unemployment rate are used (and abused?) by the news media which makes its way into my living room.

In the interest of giving the discipline itself the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that it has as its goal to both measure and increase the well-being of citizens.  (Actually, does not every discipline have this as a sort of telos, each with its own methodology?)  If so, should not the measure of economic well-being somehow take into account how well the beings actually are?  And surely this is a larger question than one of just exchange of dollars and cents.

Further, even if the discipline limits itself to the question of economic well-being (however that is defined), surely the two mental experiments show that the current methods are not at all adequate, despite their preferential treatment in popular conversation.  I have a sneaky suspicion that respectable economists realize this in their theoretical work, yet because it is theoretical and altruistic (I use that word as a compliment), the message is drowned out in the overly-pragmatic popular press which likes to grab on to easily digestible but often misunderstood or misused measurements such as GDP and unemployment rate.

In the current climate in which we find ourselves, there seems to be an inherent contradiction in terms.  More than any other time in my short history, folks are talking about not spending money, about being responsible with their finances.  In short, people are quite concerned about being economical with their resources, financial or otherwise.  Yet according the measure such as GDP and unemployment rate, acting in a way we deem “economical” is one of the most un-economic things we can do.  I speak here not form the level of an individual consumer, for the act of “not spending” often involves investing, even if it be in something as simply as a savings account, which by any measures grows the economy.  As a good friend wrote to me, “Rather than focusing on wisdom, responsibility, and prudent management of resources, the popular discussion focusses single-mindedly on improving questionable measures of national well-being;  As a result, gimmicks rule the conversation and common-sense gets lost in the commotion.”**

I beg you not to misconstrue my point – I am not suggesting that there is no place for numerical measures in the life of the economy.  I am not even saying that there is no place for the specific measures of GDP and the unemployment rate.  Rather, I am suggesting that such measures not “rule the conversation.”  The conversation should instead be ruled by solid philosophy.  And as a good Aristotelian, I suggest we begin with the highest ideas, such as the “happy life”, or “fulfillment.”  Rather than measuring raw dollars and percent growth in spending/income, perhaps we should be thinking about how fulfilled people are, how much closer (or farther?) are they from being “fully human”, and how economic policy can work to bring about the “happy life”.  Did not the philosophers of old define a good society as one in which the greatest number of individuals are able to achieve their telos as human person?  Surely economic measures and policies should keep the proverbial end in sight if they are to be anything that remotely resembles a success?

 

Soap box abandoned.

 

*  This exercise was not of my own creation.  It is a modified version of a situation describe by Joseph Pearce in Small Is Still Beautiful: Economics as if the Family Matters.

**  I am highly indebted to Bill M. for reviewing this post for me.  Unlike myself, Bill actually does have some background in economics, and my ideas, while more than likely still flawed, are at least clearer because of his input, much of which made its way into the final version.  In some cases, I have used his wording.  Nevertheless, any errors in perception or thinking are still mine and mine alone.

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11 Responses to The Paradoxes of Economic Measures

  • In the interest of attempting some sort of pseudo-rational analysis, I suppose that these numbers are not entirely absurd if only because people don’t act in ways proposed by my two mental exercises.

    But people do act this way! Perhaps not with a net outcome of zero, but the behavior is very similar. How many mothers have to pay someone to watch her children while she goes to work to watch other mother’s children? There are examples of this exact behavior all over the country. The result is not a real increase in productivity, but an increase in the cost of that productivity. You know, the ole dual income trap.

  • Jenny,

    Yes, I agree. Later in the post I wrote, “Perhaps the biggest change came when many women moved from the home into the workforce. Activities once done for no monetary exchange were now part of the GDP calculation: housekeeping, child care, cooking, etc. The affect of this was essentially one of accounting: much of this activity moved from “off the ledger” to “on the ledger.””

    Your point is well taken. Thanks for reading!

  • There’s a reason to thinking that the amount of paid commercial work going on (as opposed to people doing work themselves without pay) is some sort of indicator of how much work is getting done in that generally when you hire someone to do work this results in specialization, which in turn creates efficiency, which means that more work is actually getting done in the same number of hours.

    So, for example, if instead of hiring a neighbor to mow your lawn, you hired a professional lawn service, it’s moderately likely that they’d get the law mowing done faster than you would. (Both from experience and from having bigger/faster mowers, etc.)

    The which is to say that while something like GDP can, as you point out, be gamed, it’s going to tend to be the case most of the time that when GDP goes up more stuff is getting done.

    That said, it’s clearly a rough measure and acting as if it’s some sort of measure of “good” is clearly way off.

    There have, incidentally, been a lot of attempts by economists over the last 10-20 years to look at things such a “total happiness” in order to get a more human view of the economy. Of course, the problem is that measuring happiness much, much harder than measuring dollars, so while it may in some sense get more at the heart of the matter it’s so hard to measure that most “happiness research” is a little hard to do much with.

  • I would rather deal with paradoxes in quantum physics than the paradoxes of economic measures.

  • Perhaps the biggest change came when many women moved from the home into the workforce. Activities once done for no monetary exchange were now part of the GDP calculation: housekeeping, child care, cooking, etc.
    -Jake Tawney

    Then perhaps the second biggest change came when, in the first half of the 20th century, many women moved out of the workforce (as housekeepers, governesses, cooks, etc. in the homes of the professional and upper classes) and mostly back into their own homes.

    Yes, measures such as GDP are only approximations of what most people, including economists, would really like to know. Dr. Anthony Ricci, in his book The Science Before Science, exhorts his reader to remain aware of the limitations of a science’s methods and what is being abstracted away in order to obtain an answer to a question. We’d much rather know if total happiness has gone up or down but the sum of monetary transactions is so much easier to measure. Those monetary transactions do tell us a lot about people’s preferences – their genuine preferences in a world that requires choices and trade-offs as opposed to mere expressions of wishful thinking.

    Still, cultural changes can rock the GDP. Suppose millions of young American adults decided to live in smaller homes, drive fewer and more modest cars, and acquire less ‘stuff’ in order to have more family time and one stay-at-home parent for the benefit of their kids. GDP would fall yet, because people are following their choices, an economist can’t say there’s less happiness. Maybe econometricians would begin to borrow from cosmologists and physicists and talk about invisible “dark value”, yes?

  • I myself am a living economic paradox in that I manage to maintain a household, purchase many goods and services, and provide others with information for free that they then utilize to make far more money than I do, in a job that supposedly produces nothing and creates no wealth. I speak, of course, of government (state) employment.

    Yes, I understand that government cannot create wealth in the same way that the private sector does, and that everything government gives with one hand (including my own paycheck and insurance benefits) is taken away from someone else via taxes with the other — all the more reason why I work hard to insure I am really earning those benefits. And I understand that relying on government to provide everyone with jobs will never work and will cause more harm than good.

    Still, when hardcore economic conservatives/libertarians get really insistent about the notion of government NEVER creating wealth, I can’t help but at least chuckle a bit… if that were absolutely literally true, then D.C., state capitals and public university towns would be some of the poorest places on earth.

  • “if that were absolutely literally true, then D.C., state capitals and public university towns would be some of the poorest places on earth.”

    And so they would be Elaine if they did not grow fat, parasitically, from tax dollars.

    In regard to public universities, I spend some $27,000.00 a year to send my son to my alma mater the U of I, so there is plenty of private money also going to those institutions. If they did not have the privileged position as gate keepers into various professions in our society, I doubt if private money would flow to them in such quanities, since my son, for example, seems to be learning far more from from his private reading than from his classes. I had a similar experience during my college years, although back in those days it was possible to raise the funds for college through part time work, and my parents did not have to contribute to my college expenses. For the value received, higher education has become immensely over-priced. I hope that higher ed scandals, such as the one currently besetting the law school I attended, also at the U of I, will help cause the bursting of the education bubble which has now become expensive beyond belief.

    http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2011/09/illinois-reported-.html

  • Very good! I am an economist and have also thought about these things. GDP, income, employment, etc. are not the best measures of well-being but as Darwin pointed out, they are the best we have to work with.

    There are many measures and all need to be looked at and discussed before drawing major conclusions such as…GDP went down, our economy must be failing.

    I put a lot of emphasis on unemployment because I think it is a better indicator of well-being than GDP. If someone is unemployed and looking for work but can’t find it, they are denied the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, expresses their dignity through self initiative/creativity, contribute to society, etc.

    You point out correctly that this can be gamed and unemployment doesn’t take into account the family’s total income or well-being, but unlike GDP (which is a national aggregate and doesnt indicate the allocation of that income/production), it indicates that there are people who want a job but can’t find one–a sort of direct measure of unhappiness or lack of well-being/development.

    But, I whole-heartedly agree that well-being can hardly be measured by what is essentially money or money-denominated figures.

    How would you propose we measure how well our economy is doing? or how would you measure more well-being more broadly such as fulfillment or achieving telos?

  • Also, Elaine:

    Gov’t doesn’t spend our tax dollars. Tax dollars are destroyed. Spending creates dollars. Gov’ts tax in order to give their currency value, if they didn’t nobody would accept them or use them. If they tax too little, their value would also go down, but that does not mean that taxes must equal spending, in fact, that will rarely be the case.

    It is good that you wish to be a responsible employee because our gov’t MUST spend its dollars wisely in order to be effective, but you are not earning your income from other people’s taxes. Your income is literally created out of nothing.

    That is unless you are a state or local government employee, in which case you are earning other people’s taxes because state and local governments must use the national gov’ts currency. They do not issue their own.

    Also, the gov’t doesnt create “real” wealth, but it does create financial wealth which directs resources toward the creation of real wealth. It can spend its money to direct labor and capital toward the creation of lets say roads and bridges which are real wealth, but the actual creation of that real wealth is done by people and capital (also created by people) who are paid by the government (directly or indirectly).

    Sorry, I don’t mean to be nit-picky, but understanding it properly does have major implications, such as, the ‘government can’t go bankrupt’.

  • Sorry for the typos, I need to proof read my comments.

  • “Your income is literally created out of nothing, that is, unless you are a state or local government employee”

    I am a state government employee. And I agree that tax dollars can be inflated and misused. But destroyed? Sorry, but that money HAS to be going somewhere, it isn’t just being tossed in a giant incinerator. It may not be going where it ought to, of course, but it’s going somewhere (even if simply into the pockets of corrupt contractors, lobbyists, etc).

    This kind of reminds me of the old arguments against spending money on the space program on the grounds that the money needed to “stay on Earth.” Well, the money DID stay on earth — it was spent on contracts to build the various space vehicles, on technology research and development, etc. Money spent on the space program was not literally launched into orbit or dumped on the moon where it could never be used again.

    Also, if “too little” taxation means that the value of dollars goes down, why then do so many fiscal conservatives think tax cuts stimulate the economy?

Calculating Divorce

Monday, September 19, AD 2011

Several days ago, Creative Minority Report posted a video interview with comedian Steven Crowder on the state of marriage in our country.  Before I get on with my own comments, I should say that Crowder makes several good points, and overall his spiel is very pro-marriage.  Give it a watch if you haven’t already seen it.

The “myth” that caught my attention is the one about a 50% divorce rate.  If it is indeed a myth, then I have certainly been taken in by it.  For, not only have I believed it for several decades, but I have found myself irresponsibly quoting it without having an actual source.  (Such is the case with myths, yes?)  I suppose the purpose of this post is not much better, because still don’t have a source.  However, the mathematician in me go to thinking about how one might go about “measuring” the rate of success in marriage at a given point in time.  Rarely do numbers lie, but people (and people’s lack of basic statistical understanding) often lie with numbers.  I made a similar point a while back with the the myth of the “99% effectiveness” of Natural Family Planning.

In other words, studies are often perfectly clear on their methodology, but most people have no idea what the studies actually measure, and they misapply the end results.

Let’s think about two different methods one might use to measure the current “divorce” rate.

The first method is the obvious one.  It is entirely accurate, but altogether impractical.  If we want to know the divorce rate for marriage that occurred in the year 2011, we take all those who were married and wait until one of two things happen: the couple divorces or one of the spouses passes away.  The marriage in which a couple passes away are deemed “successful”, whereas the ones that divorce are not.  With a simple division, we have our divorce rate.  Unfortunately, this means we have to wait until at least a half a decade in order to report on the success of marriage in any one given year.  For, although it is unlikely that a couple who is married past fifty years will end up divorcing, we cannot be sure – so we must wait it out.  (Of course, at any given moment, we could count the number of divorces and say, “The divorce rate for 2011 is at least x%.”)  This method seems to assume that divorce is a product of cultural attitude at the time of marriage.  In other words, we blame the failure of marriage on the year in which the marriage occurred.

The second method is the flip side of the first method.  It is quite easy to do, but perhaps not all that accurate.  We count the number of marriages that occurred in 2011, and we count the number of divorces that occurred in 2011, and we divide.  The upside is that all the information is available at the close of the year.  The down side is that we are comparing apples to oranges.  (Additionally, in theory very strange results could occurs, such as divorce rates above 100% .. unlikely, of course, but in this scheme, theoretically possible).  This method assumes that marriages fall apart based on current cultural attitudes, not on the attitudes in the year in which the couple was married.  Perhaps that is better, yet there still seems something wrong with counting divorces and marriages with an entirely different set of couples and then attributing the result to that particular year.

To illustrate how these calculations might differ, let’s come up with some hypothetical data.  I admit that I am over-simplifying the situation, but the goal is to point out the difference that results between the two calculations, not to give an accurate description of divorce in our country.  Because it is easier to begin with method one, we will assume that we have a 40% divorce rate that never changes.  Further, we will assume that 10% of the marriages end within the first year, 10% in the second year, 10% in the third year, and then 5% per year in years 4 and 5.  After year 7, no more divorces occur for that cohort.  (We attempt here to model the phenomenon that marriages that last tend to last!)  We will also assume for the sake of simplicity, that the number of marriages climbs by 10% every year.  Finally, we have a hypothetical starting data for the year 2000.  In order to compare results, we will need to wait through at least one cohort length, but we will extend it to two cohorts, or ten years.  Thus, our data looks like this

(My apologies for the small image.  Open it in a new window to see the full calculations and results.)

I have only totaled the years after 2004 because this is the first year we have all the divorce information (due to our assumption that no divorce takes place after five years of successful marriage).

Let’s look at the year 2005.  We know from our assumption that Method One yields a 40% divorce rate.  What does Method Two yield?  Method two suggests that we divide the number of divorces by the number of marriage in that year.  This gives us 505,510/1,610,510 = 31.4%.  There is quite a difference, yes?  (An 8.6% difference to be precise.)

Let’s see what happens as we progress through 2010.  Remember, we decided to keep a constant “Method One” divorce rate of 40%.  It turns out, and I’ll leave the reader to check this, that the 31.39% rate continues into the subsequent years.   (As a challenge, can you prove that a constant “Method One” rate yields a constant “Method Two” rate?)  Why is Method Two lower?  Because it is counting divorces with a higher cohort than might be appropriate – a number that ends up in the demoninator.  Of course, this is because the number of marriages is increasing throughout the years.  (Again, as a challenge, can you prove that if the number of marriages stays constant, there is no difference between the Method One rate and the Method Two rate?)  If the number of marriages decreases, then the Method One rate is less than the Method Two rate.  As an example, suppose that the number of marriages decreases by 10% rather than increases.  The Method One rate is still 40%, but the Method Two rate comes out to be 53.2%.

If you are savvy with a spreadsheet or a programming language, you can play around with the Method One rate and the way in which it is broken down (I broke 40% into 10%, 10%, 10%, 5%, and 5%) to see just how far apart the two method can get.  For instance, when I broke down the 40% into 10%, 10%, 5%, 5%, 5%, 1%, 1%, 1%, 1%, and 1%, the Method One 40% rate came out to a Method 2 rate of 30.1%.  The farther into a marriage that divorce is allowed to go in our model, the farther apart the two calculations get.  (Incidentally, that was with a 10% growth in marriages every year.  With a 10% decline, the 40% rate led to a 57.4% Method Two calculation.)

There are, of course, all sorts of auxiliary points.  For instance, the comedian seemed to suggest that people were afraid to get into marriage at all, in which case the rate we are really interested in is the divorce rate for first time marriages.  This will clearly be different than when we take into account all marriages.  Further, while it might be true that divorce numbers (in any calculation) might be dropping, let us not conclude that this means that marriage itself is becoming more successful.  It could mean that the number of marriages itself it dropping (or at least not growing as much as it once was).  With an increase in cohabitation, I would have to imagine that we are experiencing less marriage than perhaps would have been predicted given the rate of growth of population.  More to the point, those who chose not to get married are also those that would have been more susceptible to divorce.  (This is my intuition, not the result of actual data.)

Completely tangental, perhaps a more interesting number, especially as an educator, would be to look at the percent of the population who are the children of either a divorce or an out of wedlock relationship.  Conversely, this would mean looking at the percent of the population whose parents are either still together or have suffered the loss of a spouse.  If we are talking about the impact of divorce on future society, this seems like a valuable number to know, and the calculation is much more straightforward the the divorce rate.

I can’t say that I have read the research in front of me that proposes a near 50% divorce rate.  Likewise, I haven’t seen the research that backs up the numbers quoted by Steven Crowder.  What I can say is that it is not altogether unthinkable that both numbers were arrived at in scientific papers, each calculating the rate of divorce differently.  What this means for our casual conversation is this: try to understand what a statistic means before quoting it, and I include myself in this docile chastisement.

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16 Responses to Calculating Divorce

  • Forgive me please if I missed it, but why not simply take the total number of marriages of any given year that subsequently was terminated with a civil divorce? Statistically you could then average out the rate over the entire population by comparing ALL marriages with living partners with the total number of all divorces. It would give you a number, but it wouldn’t reflect reality with any degree of sophistication or accuracy.

    Either way, I believe your argument is sound. It is certainly evident to me as a clergyman with 22 years experience under my belt that the 50% figure was never representative of the situation, at least in this corner of Canada.

    Fr. Tim Moyle
    Mattawa, Ontario

  • Fr. Moyle,

    Once you find “the total number of marriages of any given year that subsequently was terminated with a civil divorce”, what do you propose to do with it? If you props to divide it by the number of marriages in that year, then I believe you have described what I referred to as “Method One.” In terms of accuracy, it is wonderful. The difficultly is the amount of time that needs to pass in order to get an accurate count. How long do you wait until you think your number is stable? (Statisticians play this game, by the way. They use what they call “Life Tables,” and typically estimate how long it takes for, say, half the divorces that are “going” to happen. They then extrapolate based on this number.)

    Yours,

    Jake

  • Jake: Thank you for your kind response. That’s the point that I was trying to make. Any statistic that professes to be the ‘divorce rate’ is like a quantum measurement. It’s a number that doesn’t really mean much. (apologies to Einstein)

    Fr. Tim

  • Excellent post.

    I’ve known this for a year, but never got around posting about it.

    I’m glad you did!

  • Here’s how I’d explain it. The notion of a 50% divorce rate is based on the fact that the number of divorces in any given year is about half the number of marriages that take place in the same year.

    If you applied the same assumption to birth and death rates, since the number of deaths in any given year tends to be roughly half the number of births in that same year, one would have to conclude that only 50 percent of those children will ever die and that the remainder are immortal.

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  • Elaine,

    While agree that the method of calculation is misleading at best, I am not sure I understand the analogy you offered. The conclusion for marriage/divorce is not that the marriages outside of the divorce rate will never end, but that they will end of “natural causes”. Perhaps a better analogy would involved murder rates and death by natural causes.

    The real issue is the comparison on entirely different cohorts. A different analogy might be the following. Suppose that I have been given 100 gold coins over the course of the last 50 years. It takes me a while, but I am interested in finding out which of these are counterfeit. I go through several of these every year. It turns out that this year I was able to discover that 10 of them are counterfeit. (By the way, this doesn’t mean that these are the only counterfeits, just that ten of them were discovered this year.) It also turns out that I was given 20 more coins this year. Because I was given 20 new coins and I discovered 10 counterfeit coins in my existing collection, I report this as 10/20 = 50% counterfeit rate. It simply makes no sense. First, the counterfeits are from an entirely different collection that the current collection. Second, the counterfeits discovered this year are not even constitutive of all counterfeits in the original 100 coins (some may have been discovered in previous years, some may yet to be discovered).

    Now, the (10,20) pair is not entirely useless. It does tell us the net gain of “good” coins (or rather, “not yet discovered as bad” coins, depending on whether you are a half-full or half-empty kind of person). It tells us that we gained 20 coins and tossed out 10, so there is a 20-10=10 net gain in “good” coins. The same can be said with the marriage-divorice numbers in Method One. It tells us how many marriage have been gained in society during the course of the year.

    I would like to emphasize, however, that if the number of marriages stays constant, this faulty method does actually give a correct result. Bad-reasoning, perhaps, but a correct rate nevertheless. This is true because the “incorrect” denominator being used just happens to be the right “number”, even though it was collected from the wrong data. It is only if the number of marriage begins to change radically (either decreasing or increasing) that the two Methods begin to diverge. The greater the change in marriages, the greater the discrepancy in the two Methods.

  • Why not simply divide the total number of married couples (new and existing) by number of divorces each year? So instead of option 2 using only new marriages that year as the numerator, you’d use all (existing) marriages. It would be something like per capita income; call it per couple divorce rate. It could be viewed for each year going back to discern trends. This would not tell us anything about the attitudes of marriage and/or divorce based on the year of marriage, or falsely give an impression about how many married this year will ultimately divorce at some point in the future. But it would wash out any significant jumps due to an aberrantly large number of marriages or divorces in any given year. So if there is a general societal openness toward divorce that is increasing, this statistic alone would be useful over time. (Of course, it would be way below the 50% myth and its publication would risk headlines declaring “Concerns about divorce found to be highly exaggerated,” etc.)

    To perhaps have something more useful and get closer to a “true” divorce rate, we could use probability to make assumptions about when the ending marriages had taken place. So even without the married year datum tied to the divorced year datum, we could say that 60% (or whatever it is) of all divorced couples have been married between 0 and X years (based on some single good study or average findings of multiple studies). Then you could count back to the range when those marriages would have taken place, and use the new marriages for each of those years to get a total, which you would divide by X years and call it M. Take 60% (or whatever the factor is) of the current year’s divorces call it D. Whatever D/M is each year could be a kind of moving divorce rate, call it estimated rate for couples married this year to get a divorce in the next X years. This stat would, better than the per couple divorce rate, reflect any societal and generational trends toward increased marriage instability.

  • Erich,

    I think you have presented two different takes on the two Methods I outline. I actually agree with your first method, which is an alternative to “Method Two.” It simply changes the denominator. There is nothing wrong with this, and in some ways is preferred. I think you hit the nail on the head in indicating that we would have to describe what the measure actually measures, which in this case is decidedly not “how likely a marriage is to end in divorce”, but rather “the per capita number of divorces” among married people. This certainly reflects a society’s attitude towards marriage and divorce, and in a way reminds me of my call to calculate the percent of the population that is a child of a divorce or out of wedlock birth. It tell us something about the current state of marriage attitudes and impacts.

    Your second suggestions is very close to what statisticians call “life tables.” Think of it this way. I said, in describing “Method One” that one could potentially have to wait upwards of fifty year in order to know the final outcome of marriages that occurred in any one given year. However, past (I am guessing here) twenty years or so, the number of marriages that end is very low, perhaps low enough to not effect the actual rate by any statistically significant measure. Thus, maybe we only have to wait twenty years. Of course, this is still not feasible, so statisticians like to predict how long we would have to wait in order for half of the divorces that eventually will occur to actually occur. They wait this long, and then they double the number of divorces. Because marriages that break up are far more likely to do so earlier, this turn out to work pretty well. However, it is all based on probabilities, which in turn are based on past data. Essentially, this is what you are suggesting, though in a modified version. The upside is, it is doable, even in the short term, and it actually reflects what people think of as a “divorce rate” (i.g., the likelihood that a marriage will last/fail). The down side is, the result is only as good as the working probabilities. I don’t know the research enough to comment on their confidence intervals. Do they reach the 95% that we usually look for? I’m not sure.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • Thanks for your response, Jake. I agree the probability factor used in my second suggestion would have to be fairly certain. Also, I imagine you’d preferably want it updated every year, so you are not making assumptions based on the probability rates from marriages ten years ago. As people get married later and/or people chose not to get married, it could affect the probability for divorce within a certain number of years. I don’t really have a sense of any studies or annual measure for this, as I was only “thinking out loud.” It makes me want to look a little deeper though. And to see if anyone has been calculating the per capita divorce rates; if so, I haven’t run across them. Your article really does a good job of discussing the issues in not only calculating divorce rates, but also in being precise in telling people what exactly is being measured. Thanks again!

  • Jake, it’s been a long time since I’ve studied demography, but it looks to me like your article is correct. You see the same problems in total fertility rates (your type 1) and crude birth rates (type 2). The best you can do is apply the current rates of divorce for each year into a marriage across the current marriages. It’s an approximation.

  • Pinky,

    Yes. Actually, in the end, I would not disagree so much with the method as I do with how it is used (misused)? Using divorced versus marriage in a particular year does tell us something … it tells us the net gain of marriage in society. If we were to look at that in a per capita sort of way, as suggested by another commenter, it would tell us something about the change in attitudes towards marriage over time. What it doesn’t tell us is how likely a marriage in a particular year is to last.

    I made very similar points a while back in a post on NFP effectiveness ratings. I have no problem with the ratings themselves (which often boast upwards of 99%), so long as people understand what they mean. They are calculated over a period of only one year. The problem is that people misunderstand this and think that the 99% is a “life long” success rating. That number is decidedly lower than 99%.

    This is tangental, of course, but confirms the original point. Numbers don’t lie, but people can lie with numbers (either purposefully or inadvertently).

  • Jake,

    Survival analysis with right censored data?

  • Unfortunately, there is no way of gathering divorce statistics that are entirely accurate. Even if there were, they would still not reflect just how successful marriages are as quite literally thousands of couples separate but do not proceed with a divorce.

  • J.,

    (I had a student named Jason Christian when I was teaching at the seminary.)

    Yes, this is the technical term for the process describe by Erich (okay, in fairness, his was a modified version of this), and the process with which I used the phrase “life tables” as a summary. It seemed to me not prudent to go into the Calculus of probability distributions for the average reader. The difficulty, as I am sure you know, with survival analysis is that it requires the survival function, or the lifetime distribution function (its complement). This is the “probability” to which Erich refers (again, in a modified way). It begs the question, how we we construct such a function? The answer: Life Tables. It is based on data from the past and being sued to predict data in the future (hence “right censored”). This all begs the same concerns, though. Just how accurate is it?

    Here is where I have to admit that I am not an expert. (I try …emphasize “try” … never to speak past the point where I know what I am talking about.) While I understand the method, I have not had the opportunity to see what confidence intervals come out of the calculations. Are they 95%? 99%? Perhaps you are more familiar with the literature.

    In the end, the main point stands. Numbers are fine – measurements are great – so long as we know what they are measuring and using them out of context.

  • Divorce Blogger,

    Yes, this is true. However, coming up with a reasonable and consistent calculation can at least show us societal trends.

    Blessings,

    Jake

The Holy War: Mac versus DOS

Saturday, August 27, AD 2011

With the resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple Corporation, it seems timely to revisit a classic piece of prose from Umberto Eco.  Many have seen this, some have not.

For my own part, I have always been an Apple guy at heart.  My family’s first computer was an Apple IIGS, purchased in 1986, retailing at just under $1000.  My first personal computer was a Power Macintosh 5260 during my Freshman year at college.  (By the way, had I taken my $2000 and invested it into Apple stock rather than buying the computer, it appears that the stock  today would be valued over $100,000.)   Shamefully, I admit that I went through a three year stint on a Sony Vaio that I obtained as a gift.  To this day I still question the decision that a free PC was better than a paid-for Apple.  Nevertheless, I returned to Apple when the Vaio crashed and burned, and needless to say, Steve took me back with open arms and a big smile of forgiveness.  Yes, folks, I am a revert.

Umberto Eco wrote “The Holy War: Mac versus DOS” on September 30th, 1994, for the Italian weekly publication Espresso.  I altered his title in my post as we are seemingly past the point where the three letters D-O-S mean anything to the average consumer.  His piece, however, is brilliant, and confirms what I have always suspected.  Moreover, with the stepping down of Apple’s “pope” and the “election” of his successor, Tim Cook, the nostalgia of this article that I read years ago was fueled by its recent mention by Whispers.  (Yes, I am well aware that I am taking the analogy entirely too far.)  Enough of all that, though.  Without further delay … Umberto Eco:

The Holy War: Mac versus DOS

by Umberto Eco

Friends, Italians, countrymen, I ask that a Committee for Public Health be set up, whose task would be to censor (by violent means, if necessary) discussion of the following topics in the Italian press. Each censored topic is followed by an alternative in brackets which is just as futile, but rich with the potential for polemic. Whether Joyce is boring (whether reading Thomas Mann gives one erections). Whether Heidegger is responsible for the crisis of the Left (whether Ariosto provoked the revocation of the Edict of Nantes). Whether semiotics has blurred the difference between Walt Disney and Dante (whether De Agostini does the right thing in putting Vimercate and the Sahara in the same atlas). Whether Italy boycotted quantum physics (whether France plots against the subjunctive). Whether new technologies kill books and cinemas (whether zeppelins made bicycles redundant). Whether computers kill inspiration (whether fountain pens are Protestant).

One can continue with: whether Moses was anti-semitic; whether Leon Bloy liked Calasso; whether Rousseau was responsible for the atomic bomb; whether Homer approved of investments in Treasury stocks; whether the Sacred Heart is monarchist or republican.

I asked above whether fountain pens were Protestant. Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It’s an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach — if not the kingdom of Heaven — the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.

Naturally, the Catholicism and Protestantism of the two systems have nothing to do with the cultural and religious positions of their users. One may wonder whether, as time goes by, the use of one system rather than another leads to profound inner changes. Can you use DOS and be a Vande supporter? And more: Would Celine have written using Word, WordPerfect, or Wordstar? Would Descartes have programmed in Pascal?

And machine code, which lies beneath and decides the destiny of both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that belongs to the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic. The Jewish lobby, as always….

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6 Responses to The Holy War: Mac versus DOS

  • What are DOS, Grandpa?

  • Not anymore. Today it would be more accurate to say that Windows is secular humanist/agnostic and Apple is a bizarre cult. “Here are the only 3 options we’ll let you toggle on this application. Now go away and drink our Kool Aid.” No, thank you.

  • I always thought that Macs were Kali worshipers! 🙂

  • While it may be legal to use Windows is it moral ? Didn’t Microsoft kind of “steal” that interface concept from Apple ? PC’s were more laborious to use before the copycat move, unless you were a real technogeek.

  • I figure using Windows at work and Macs at home (my family got its first Mac in 1986 — long before it was cool) I’m in a moderately good place to judge, and I have to say that whether you’re a casual user or a serious developer, the Mac is far superior. Especially now it’s running on the BSD kernel, and thus makes it very easy to log into Unix and Linux servers, run MySQL locally, etc.

    The one area in which Microsoft is arguably superior is in using MS Office — the Windows version is better and there’s not really a desktop relational database as handy as Access available for the Mac. There are some very fluffy databases you can run locally on the Mac, or you can get serious and run MySQL or one of the other real databases, but there is utility to having that middle ground.

    Given developments since Eco’s piece, I have to wonder if Linux is a sort of Eastern Orthodoxy in the religious schema of computer operating systems.

  • Linux is Buddhism – a lot of people claim to be into it, because they think it puts them above the fray, but it’s only really practiced by a small group of fanatics in California.

Why the Youth are Rioting

Saturday, August 13, AD 2011

I beg your patience over my absence, and I ask for your prayers.  In June I accepted an administrative position with a new school district.  While this is a very good opportunity in so many ways, I have never in my life found myself so overwhelmed.  I can only say this: teaching was so easy!

At any rate, while this post is not original by any means, I couldn’t help but share the content of an article I ran across today.  The liberal left often likes to pin social unrest on the ills created by the conservative right.  You know how the goes … the economy is in the pits because of right wing policies put in place by George W. Bush … because people don’t have jobs they become socially discontent … because they are socially discontent they rise up “against the man”, so to speak.  Rarely are people actually held accountable for their actions.  Instead, we live in a culture that seeks to pin people’s actions on something external to the human will, something other than sin (dare I even use the word).  Actually, this is nothing new.  It is merely a modern version of ancient Christian heresies that seek to separate the body and soul, in this case to separate the external actions from the internal person.  How often as a teacher did I hear a student explain their dishonesty with, “I know I cheated, Mr. Tawney, but I am not a cheater.  I am a good person.”  The danger in separating our actions from our persons will be catastrophic for the world.  The Christian principle of sacramentality, understood here in its most general sense, says quite the opposite: the external is a reflection of the internal, and at the same time the external forms the internal.  This is true whether we are talking about the words of consecration (which are externally symbolic of the underlying reality and are simultaneously efficacious in bringing about the internal reality) or whether we are talking about the moral act.  Friends, we are how we act, and we act how we are.  When we stand before God, we will not be able to pin our sin on the social policies of one party or another.

I have rambled enough … more than I intended.  With that, I give you the motivation behind these thoughts: an article on the London riots.

The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of us would call ‘lives’: they simply exist.

Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community. They do not watch royal weddings or notice Test matches or take pride in being Londoners or Scousers or Brummies.

Not only do they know nothing of Britain’s past, they care nothing for its present.

They have their being only in video games and street-fights, casual drug use and crime, sometimes petty, sometimes serious.

The notions of doing a nine-to-five job, marrying and sticking with a wife and kids, taking up DIY or learning to read properly, are beyond their imaginations.

Read the rest here.

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91 Responses to Why the Youth are Rioting

  • Take away Christian morality and what’s left is the Lord of the Flies.

  • The terrible truth. From Mark Steyn (a notorious terrorist): “Big Government debauches not only a nation’s finances but its human capital, too. . . . While the British Treasury is busy writing checks to Amsterdam prostitutes, one-fifth of children are raised in homes in which no adult works – in which the weekday ritual of rising, dressing and leaving for gainful employment is entirely unknown. One-tenth of the adult population has done not a day’s work since Tony Blair took office on May 1, 1997.”

    That will be America after Obama and the liberals, who call US terrorists, are finished with America.

  • “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

    Edmund Burke, 1791

  • “The politics of envy was bound to end in flames.”

    Scott Johnson: “What would liberals do without gaps to close? I think they’d pretty much have to go out of business. You’ve got your education gap. You’ve got your power gap. You’ve got your jail gap. You’ve got your income gap, perhaps the granddaddy of them all.”

    The widest gaping maw would be the virtue gap.

  • One-tenth of the adult population has done not a day’s work since Tony Blair took office on May 1, 1997

    If their age structure is similar to that of the United States, about 17% of the adult population (at any one time) is older than the median retirement age and another 3% of the adult population has been adjudicated as disabled. I do not think these populations have many dependent children.

  • Why beat around the bush, no pun intended. Multiculturism and plurialism have proved to be disasters for all societies. Most of the rifts in society, past and present, are due to racial, ethnic and religious conflicts that are insoluble and always will be. Learn from the animal kingdom. Go to a zoo and you’ll see that each species lives in harmony with itself and is segregated from others. If commingled, conflict arises.

    Much of what happened in London was racially and religiously based. It is a portend of what is to come in America, where race riots are nothing new. Recently, roving blacks attacked whites at the Wisconsin State Fair for no other reason than they were white. Such is the “payback” that slavery engendered and now “the chickens are coming home to roost,” as the liberals like to say.

    It is not PC to say these things, I know. This is not an argument for racial superiority, merely an argument that any time that you mix races, religious and ethnic groups, along with cultural differences, you will wind up with tensions that would not be there otherwise. Japan, which is largely a homogenous society, does not experience these types of civil disruptions nor do most Scandinavian countries and those where ethnic, racial and religious minorities are very small.

    As the “browning” and “muslimization” of America increase and by 2050 whites will be a minority, the frictions will only increase. A black president was the first step toward assuaging the “guilt” over the past. That was the only reason Obama was elected, notwithstanding a weak opponent; it was white Americans doing collective penance for the sins of slavery. Affirmative action for presidents.

    I likely will not live out the decade and am glad I won’t be around to see the ultimate collapse of America, largely due to its destruction from the “vandals within,” as Lincoln warned.

  • Moscow by the Hudson elected its (less glib) Obamateur/exercise in electoral racist quotas in November 1989.

    NYC has not elected a democrat mayor since then. Racists!!!

    Again, “The politics of envy was bound to end in flames.”

  • Joe’s post is so over the top wrong I’m wondering if it is satire. America has since its inception been a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures. The melting process necessarily involves a robust measure of pluralism and has never been easy. Indeed it has always included elements of racism, extremism, discrimination, resentment, and violence. Notwithstanding these difficulties (or perhaps because of them) this process has made our nation stronger, not weaker. Comparing humanity’s different races, cultures, or ethnicities to different animal species is vile and should have no place in an intelligent forum as this one. The “browning” of America is probably as inevitable as is the “browning” of worldwide humanity (due to a combination of natural intermarriage and travel — the world is getting smaller — and genetics), and there is nothing dangerous or sinister about that at all.
    If the stresses of diversity are in some ways greater today it is because the organic social forces that used to assume and encourage sociological assimilation now encourage sociological amalgamation — i.e., progressive forces have been and are trying to replace the melting pot with the “salad bowl” as they imprudently obsess over cultural differences rather than on the more important common elements of our humanity. These forces are wrong — multiculturalism is not really compatible with e pluribus unum — and will not succeed in the long run (races will eventually disappear altogether for instance), but they are making the process more difficult and acrimonious than it needs to be.

    If America collapses it won’t be because we let too many “brown” people in the door; it will be because we lost so much confidence in our traditional values that we no longer felt them to be important enough to expect their acceptance by our immigrants and pass them on to our children.

    I have too much to do to be spending time writing blog comments today, but Joe’s post should not go unanswered in a blog that is normally as intelligent and civilized as this one.

  • The riots in England had little to do with race and a great deal to do with a womb to tomb welfare system that has created a completely dependent under class that has little interest in work or obeying laws. I will have a great deal more to say about this in a forthcoming post. It should be noted that some of the prime defenders against the riots, after an almost complete abidcation by the police, were ethnic shop keepers, including Sikhs and Turkish Kurds, something that Darwin noted in an earlier post.

  • You are correct, Don. What progressives don’t seem to understand is that as multiculturalism works to retard social advancement, the welfare state serves to retard economic advancement.

  • From my position as a public school teacher and very-semi-part-time Director of Religious Education for my Church parish: I truly believe that the disintegration of society and culture is in direct proportion to the decline of sacramental Baptism.

    We are living in a society that is becoming de-Sacramentalized at an alarmingly accelerating rate. In the public school where I teach, I’d say that easily 70% of the students are not baptized. Without the infusion of salvific grace into the souls of the members of our society, we are descending into the pagan darkness.

    As T. Shaw says, the problem is the “virtue gap”. Without the graces from the Sacraments, there can be no closing of this gap.

    N.B. – While I single out the Sacrament of Baptism, I do not mean to neglect the continued reception of the Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. It’s only that Baptism is the entry-point into the Sacramental life.

  • Mike Petrik:

    If nothing else, history vindicates my position that so-called “diversity” weakens rather than strengthens America. Yes, it has such a warm and fuzzy connotation — “the melting pot, the salad bowl” — which are little more than euphemisms for a mishmash of races, religions, cultures and ethnic tribes that have splintered a foundation that was formed by Western philosophy and civilization solely.
    One prime example, from the Bible itself: In Rameses’ time, the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews and kept them solely for economic reasons. They were never true “brothers,” and as separate religions and cultures, they were dissimilar in virtually all respects. Along comes Moses, who leads them to the “Promised Land,” wandering first for 40 years before finding their homeland, which today is largely modern Israel. Neither Moses nor his charges wanted to stay in Egypt, but rather were told by God Himself to get the hell out of there; which is what Moses and his heirs down through history have done. The Jews wanted and still want their own nation. As a people, they did not mix with others; secular history bears this out as well. They always were apart from Gentiles, a separate people, “chosen,” if you buy their raison d’etre, for a certain destiny.
    The negroes in America would have done well to follow Marcus Garvey back to Africa, like Moses did, leading themselves back to the lands of their birth, back to their “natural” environment; a continental of unmatched natural resources and one for which they are well suited and one that represents their racial heritage.
    I don’t know what you mean by “natural intermarriage.” Neither the Jews nor many other groups believe in intermarriage because they know it presents special problems including clouding the identities of children who grow up not knowing who they are. Inevitably, internal conflict arises. Some of these unions have been successful no doubt just as legal immigration has added to a flourishing nation, but the vast majority of these people were from Europe and were able to much better assimilate into America than others who crawled under fences illegally, refused to learn English, kept their own cultures and traditions and did not nor ever will become “Americans” but are merely here to either make money or start their own new tribal enclaves.
    Lastly, I see no “vileness” in comparing the human animal to those of a lower order because nature has much to teach us about human behavior. You view stems from the questionable position that animals, other than humans, lack a soul and have no concept of God. How do you know that? I have owned dogs all my life and have received more love and kindness from them than from most human beings. And God, if we are to believe Genesis, made the animals first and although we were given “dominion,” that does not equate to superiority.
    Everything great about America is drawn from Western Civilization, whose cradle was Europe, from the ancient Greeks and Romans down through the ages.

    I quote Seymour Martin Lipset who wrote: “The histories of bilingual and bicultural societies that do no assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension and tragedy.” Which is excerpted from Pat Buchanan’s book, “Day of Reckoning.”

    Pat wrote, “The United States, the greatest republic since Rome, and the British Empire, the greatest empire since Rome, may be said to have arisen from the three-cornered fort the Jamestown settlers began to build the day they arrived. But that republic and that empire did not rise because the settlers and those who followed believed in diversity, equality and democracy, but because they rejected diversity, equality and democracy…they believed in the superiority of their Christian faith and English culture and civilization. And they transplanted that unique faith, culture and civilization to America’s fertile soil. Other faiths, cultures and civilizations — like the ones the Indians had here or the Africans brought, or the French had planted in Quebec, or the Spanish in Mexico — they rejected and resisted with cannon, musket, and sword. This was OUR land, not anybody else’s. Buty today American and Britain have embraced ideas about the innate equality of all cultures, civilizations, languages and faiths, and about the mixing of all tribes, races, and peoples that are not only ahistorical, they are suicidal for America and the West.”
    An inconvenient truth, but the truth.

  • Joe, I find your comment a bit ironic in view of the fact that today’s Mass readings were all about how Christ expanded salvation beyond just the Jews to include the Gentiles. The Gospel was about the Canaanite woman who repeatedly begged Jesus to drive a demon out of her daughter, even though He rebuffed her twice, the second time saying that it was “not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” Even so, her persistence was rewarded and Jesus granted her request.

    Obviously the issue of whether or not God intends to offer salvation to people of all cultures and nations is a separate issue from whether or not a particular nation ought or ought not to defend its own culture. And while Christ offers salvation to all, all have to accept it — they can’t just remain pagans or atheists. Nor can they cling to aspects of their native culture that are in direct opposition to Christian faith and morals (e.g., polygamy, voodoo, child sacrifice). Likewise, immigrants need to show loyalty to the laws and customs of this nation over the one they came from. Still, I think the Catholic faith, and the American way of life, offer plenty of room for people of different cultures to preserve what is good and unique about their culture or nation of origin.

  • The direction these comments have taken are especially interesting given today’s Scripture Readings:

    http://new.usccb.org/bible/readings/081411.cfm

    Now I am not one to believe that different cultures are equivalently good, equal in morals and virtues. That would make a mockery of what it means to be a Christian and to have a Christian culture. If one doesn’t believe that Christianity is infinitely superior to Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, etc., then is one a Christian?

    Of course now some will point out that culture is more than mere relgious affiliation, a sentiment with which I would agree. But to be Christian one must be wholly Christian, and it is this that gives rise to a culture that enabled the former greatness of Western Civilization, and it is its abandonment that now leads to our sad demise.

    Yes, there will inevitably be differences in the expression of what once was Christian culture – a European expression, an African expression, an Indian expression, a Japanese expression, etc. But the underlying root that makes Christian culture unique remains the same. Welcoming the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD (Isaiah 56:1-7), and serving the needs of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) are but expressions thereof. However, a multi-culturalism that equivocates Islam or Buddhism or Taoism as equal to Christianity is bound to fail, and it is such a multi-culturalism that the liberal left supports to the exclusion of the principles of Christianity. Indeed, Jesus said to the Canaanite woman, “…great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” He didn’t make the paganism of her culture (from which the demon who tormented her daughter had likely come) equivalent to Judaism, and she even KNEW which was superior, hence her faith in seeking out Jesus.

    Sorry, folks. I don’t buy into the idea that all cultures are equal in dignity. If that were the case, then we may as well sacrifice humans as the Central and South American Indians did so long ago. Oh, I forgot – we ARE doing such sacrifices and we call them “the right to choose.” Silly me!

  • Opps, Elaine said it better – darn cross-posting again.

  • Paul, just goes to prove that great minds think alike 🙂

  • Elaine, Beethoven would have “all men as brothers,” which he longed for in his great 9th Symphony. However, but for there to be the “brotherhood of man,” then what necessarily follows is “the fatherhood of God.” And those who do not believe in the same father cannot ipso facto ever be brothers in any sense of the word.

  • ‘The riots in England had little to do with race …’

    Really, Don?

  • Don, the London riots began in Tottenham described as having “a multicultural population, with many ethnic groups inhabiting the area. It contains one of the largest and most significant populations of African-Caribbean people. These were among the earliest immigrant groups to settle in the area, starting the UK’s Windrush era. Soon afterwards West African communities – notably the many Ghanaians – began to migrate into the area.”

    Connect the dots.

  • E. K., From our homilist, the Canaanite was not only persistent she evolved in Faith to which our Lord led her by his earlier rebuffs.

  • “Soon afterwards West African communities – notably the many Ghanaians – began to migrate into the area. Connect the dots.”

    If being of African descent were the problem, then Philip’s message to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 would have been fruitless and useless. But unlike the Ghanaians who immigrated to Britain, the eunuch wanted to learn. What made the difference was attitude and responsibility.

    As others have said, Britain has abandoned any pretense at being a Christian nation, and has willy-nilly opened its doors to all manner of paganism. The result is inevitable: a whole class of people without history or dignity utterly dependent on largess from the public treasury. Thus the plebians riot in the Roman forum, and thus Caligula tosses out gold coins to appease the masses. This is ancient history.

  • “Really, Don?”

    Yeah, really Joe. The rioters were of all races just as their victims were of all races. You can see that for yourself on You Tube videos of the looters.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNh-fTv1Gm8&feature=related

    Trying to make this about race misses completely the point of the riots. What the point of the riots is I will address in my post tomorrow.

  • C’mon, Don. The vid proves nothing; show about 10 people out of thousands who rioted, most of whom were from Tottenham, which is heavily black and muslim.

  • You are deeply wrong about this Joe. These were not race riots. What type of riots they were I will explain tomorrow. Stay tuned.

  • Don, I disagree, but look forward to your analysis.

  • The riots in England had little to do with race and a great deal to do with a womb to tomb welfare system that has created a completely dependent under class that has little interest in work or obeying laws.

    Long term doles for working-aged people do create social problems. However, per Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the descriptive statistics he was studying ca. 1965 indicated that an abiding dependent class emerged around about 1958. Prior to that, the population on relief rolls tracked unemployment rates closely. The underclass was a novelty during the riot mania of 1964-71, and continued to exist after rioting ceased to be common.

  • Mike’s 12:06 comment is one of the best things I have read on the internet in a long time.

  • Should note that there were masses of riots in the United States around about 1919, when common provision consisted mostly of institutional care and such (public schools, orphanages, asylums, sanitoriums, poorhouses, veterans’ hospitals). IIRC, outdoor relief was limited to benefits for veterans and their dependents.

  • Anyone want to guess the date of the deadliest urban riot in U.S. history? Let’s see, was it L.A. in 1992 (Rodney King)? How about Newark in ’67, or Watts in ’65? Was it Detroit in 1943, or even Chicago in 1919? Nope, not even close. The worst urban riot ever was the NYC anti-draft riot of 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in which at least 120 people died, and some estimates put the death toll as high as 2,000. According to Wikipedia,
    “The rioters were overwhelmingly working class men, resentful, among other reasons, because the draft unfairly affected them while sparing wealthier men, who could afford to pay a $300 commutation fee to exclude themselves from its reach.” Obviously, this was long before dependence on a government welfare state became an issue.

  • Elaine, the point being?

  • Actually the New York City draft riots of 1863 were a prime example of a race riot with largely Irish mobs murdering free blacks throughout the riots. A good overview is here:

    http://www.mapsites.net/gotham/es/_alexblankfein_es.htm

    There were other factors, such as the ones that Elaine mentions, but the racial element was unmistakable.

  • “Actually the New York City draft riots of 1863 were a prime example of a race riot with largely Irish mobs murdering free blacks throughout the riots.”

    Were those Irish mobs Catholic? I am sure that this is the very thing which today’s liberal atheists would love to point out.

  • Overwhelmingly so, and Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes did his best to bring the riots to a close, in spite of the fact that he was nearing death.

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/11/honest-abe-and-dagger-john/

  • Thanks, Donald! From:

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/7_2_a2.html

    In 1863, with construction of the cathedral suspended because of the Civil War, the worst urban rioting in United States history broke out among the Irish in New York. Over 1,000 people were killed in three days. The Irish were enraged that the Union army was drafting them in disproportionate numbers because they could not afford the then legal practice of buying their way out of military service. Irish boys, who made up about 15 percent of the Union army, were suffering horrific casualty rates since they were commonly used as frontline troops against better-trained and better-led Confederate soldiers. In addition, rumors spread that once the slaves were freed, they would take Irish jobs or live off taxes on the Irish. The rioting Irish attacked blacks, nativists, and, on the third day, anybody who was around.

    A then-dying Archbishop Hughes summoned the leaders of the rebellion to meet with him. However disturbed he might have been that the Irish were being called on to do so much of the dying in the struggle against the South, he supported the war and was totally opposed to slavery, having preached against it since his ordination as a priest in 1826. He told the riot leaders that “no blood of innocent martyrs, shed by Irish Catholics, has ever stained the soil of Ireland” and that they were dishonoring that impeccable history.

    The riot leaders went back to their neighborhoods, and the violence melted away. The riot saddened the dying archbishop: he felt he had failed as a prelate. His friend and loyal subordinate, Bishop McCloskey, was saying the prayers for the dying when the end came for Hughes on January 3, 1864.

    —–

    Sadly, it seems that London, Liverpool, Birmingham and elsewhere are lacking in heroes like Archbishop Hughes.

  • The youth are rioting because of right-wing greed. Taking away regulations so that the wealthy become wealthier and the poor become poorer.

    ” …I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    Parallel versions appear in Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25, and Luke 18:24-25.

  • “The youth are rioting because of right-wing greed. Taking away regulations so that the wealthy become wealthier and the poor become poorer.”

    Yeah, looting a shop in Brixton is a stand against right-wing greed.

  • “The youth are rioting because of right-wing greed. Taking away regulations so that the wealthy become wealthier and the poor become poorer.”

    We’ve heard that story before – John 12:1-6:

    Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.

    —–

    Note the phrase: “Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.”

    That’s what every liberal leftist wants – the same thing that Judas Iscariot wanted: the money. They care not and have never cared for the poor.

  • “That’s what every liberal leftist wants – the same thing that Judas Iscariot wanted: the money. They care not and have never cared for the poor.”

    The taxes do not go to liberals, they go to programs to help the poor meet minimum living standards. The Gospel of Judas by the way shows that he was simply fulfilling a role to make Jesus’ prophecy complete.

  • “Yeah, looting a shop in Brixton is a stand against right-wing greed”

    It is a direct correlation. If today’s children (and adults for that matter) did not have to compete with slave wages-a direct result of corporations outsourcing their manufacturing and customer service, they would have no need to riot.

    Republicans/Cons do not understand that just because it increases profits does not make it the right thing to do, greed has repercussions on everyone.

  • The Gospel of Judas is heretical and NOT a part of the Canon of Sacred Scripture. Period.

    Now every so often an offensive is mounted by the proponents of the false gospel of social justice and peace at any price – in other words, liberal leftists. These proponents rarely if ever talk about God’s justice in the manner that Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, St. Peter, St. Paul or St. John talked about God’s justice. To them mercy is feeding the belly, not saving souls from eternal damnation. So when these offensives occur it becomes necessary to repeat what the TRUTH is.

    When the crowd which had been fed the loaves and fishes followed Jesus around the Lake of Galilee to Capernaum, what happened? John 6:24-27 tells us:

    “When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ Jesus answered them and said, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.'”

    The crowd, having gotten free food without working for it, expected a continuation of the same. But Jesus told them NOT to seek the food that perishes, but the Bread of Life, and that is EXACTLY what the crowd did NOT want. Indeed, John 6:66 records that even many of Jesus’ disciples refused to follow Him any longer. The same is true today. When the mindless, faceless collective – that is to say, the crowd – doesn’t get its free food for the belly, then it abandons the very One from whom all good things come. It is time to see things as they are: get people used to handouts, and they won’t work for themselves.

    In the Church at Thessalonica, some parishioners became so enamoured with the promise of Christ’s Second Coming that they stopped working for a living. They expected that the rest of the community, being so imbued with a sense of social justice, would continue to provide for their needs, food as well as medical, without them earning a darn thing. What did St. Paul say about this kind of behavior? 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 says, “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” St. Paul’s social justice was very simple: get off your lazy behinds and get back to work.

    Now yes, we all know that there are a great many sad situations in life, e.g., where a single mother hasn’t enough money for herself and her children, or an elderly person is without enough money for food and heating in the winter, or a thousand other examples. In situations like these we the members of the Body of Christ – NOT the Federal Government – are called to do our God-given duty, and every time we abdicate our responsibility to Caesar to provide for the poor, the destitute and the disenfrancised, then we surrended our authority and our freedom as children of the Living God Almighty. Caesar and his politicians can never ever be trusted to meet the needs of the poor. That is our job. The story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 was given to the disciples, NOT the Senators in Rome, nor the advisors and lawyers and accountants surrounding Tiberius at the Imperial Palace. The story is for US the members of the Body of Christ. But that little fact is never mentioned by the proponents of the false gospel of social justice and peace at any price.

    Let us now take the story of the rich man who came to inquire of Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. The story is in Mark 10:17-23. Jesus told him he had to obey the law and the prophets. The man replied he had done so all his life. Jesus then said that he lacked one thing and had to sell all his belongings and give the proceeds to the poor. The man went away sorrowful. Jesus commented, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The point clearly had nothing to do with feeding the poor; rather, the point was the idol of possessions that the rich man had placed between himself and God. Never once did Jesus tell the disciples to confiscate the rich man’s belongings to acheive some kind of social justice. Never once did Jesus say Tiberius Caesar and the Roman Senate had tax the rich and redistribute that tax money to the poor. So where do these adherents of the false gospel of social justice and peace at any price derive their sacrilege of advocating the Federal Government to steal from those who earn to give to those who don’t. I have a feeling that it’s really because these liberal progressives don’t want to get their personal hands dirty feeding the poor, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and visiting the imprisoned. That’s for someone else to do. After all, these advocates of social justice are the elite and can’t possibly be bothered with the hard work of actually helping out those in need.

  • “It is a direct correlation. If today’s children (and adults for that matter) did not have to compete with slave wages-a direct result of corporations outsourcing their manufacturing and customer service, they would have no need to riot.”

    Need to riot? No one needs electronic toys and high end sneakers and clothes which were among the targets of the rioters. Of course the rioters also destroyed the jobs of the workers who worked in the looted stores. None of this had anything to do with any Leftist delusional protest against Big Business and everything to do with greed, a facet of human behavior that was on full display by the looters. I do enjoy your forthrightness, however, in condoning rioting and looting. It is refreshing to see a Leftist come clean and stand up for mass criminality if it can be dressed up in ideological cant.

  • Based on what Donald just posted, I have to correct what I wrote. I said:

    “So where do these adherents of the false gospel of social justice and peace at any price derive their sacrilege of advocating the Federal Government to steal from those who earn to give to those who don’t? I have a feeling that it’s really because these liberal progressives don’t want to get their personal hands dirty feeding the poor, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and visiting the imprisoned. That’s for someone else to do.”

    I should have said that these liberal progressives won’t get their hands dirty helping others because they would rather steal from everyone else by rioting and committing other acts of violence. They create with their rioting the poor, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the naked and certainly the imprisoned. After all, this is only a natural extension of the violence that they legally commit against the unborn.

    Democracy: two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner, in this case, your store, your bank, your place of work, even your unborn baby.

  • @Paul

    The Gospel of Judas is heretical and NOT a part of the Canon of Sacred Scripture. Period. For one the Scrolls were not found until 1944 so of course they were not included, but we both know they wouldn’t have been anyway as anything that goes up against the propaganda by the orthodox church is oppressed-why do you think we have so many offshoots of Christianity even dating back to the formation of Christianity?

    Now every so often an offensive is mounted by the proponents of the false gospel (I can say the same of Catholic dogma) of social justice and peace at any price – in other words, liberal leftists (Jesus’ parables parallel those of modern day liberals, he was in no way a money hungry corporatist). These proponents rarely if ever talk about God’s justice in the manner that Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, St. Peter, St. Paul or St. John talked about God’s justice. To them mercy is feeding the belly, not saving souls (turning away from Greed must be done before you can turn to God) from eternal damnation. So when these offensives occur it becomes necessary to repeat what the TRUTH is (lets hear YOUR version…).

    When the crowd which had been fed the loaves and fishes followed Jesus around the Lake of Galilee to Capernaum, what happened? John 6:24-27 tells us:

    “When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ Jesus answered them and said, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life (replace the noun food with money and the meaning does not change), which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.’”

    The crowd, having gotten free food without working for it, expected a continuation of the same (nice try!). But Jesus told them NOT to seek the food that perishes (again replace food with money), but the Bread of Life, and that is EXACTLY what the crowd did NOT want (they wanted profits and thus power of others). Indeed, John 6:66 records that even many of Jesus’ disciples refused to follow Him any longer. The same is true today. When the mindless, faceless collective (the Tea Party?) – that is to say, the crowd (mob rule, gotcha!) – doesn’t get its free food (money off the back of others) for the belly, then it abandons the very One from whom all good things come. It is time to see things as they are: get people used to handouts, and they won’t work for themselves. (This is not the meaning of that verse whatsoever, do you really think Jesus was talking about being dependent on others for food? If so you need to retake a basic New Testament class).

    In the Church at Thessalonica, some parishioners became so enamoured with the promise of Christ’s Second Coming that they stopped working for a living. They expected that the rest of the community, being so imbued with a sense of social justice, would continue to provide for their needs, food as well as medical, without them earning a darn thing (ironic that Church’s are exempt from taxes do you think?) . What did St. Paul say about this kind of behavior? 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 says, “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” (First of all , no one is not willing to work, that is a lie. If you give someone a decent job at a livable wage they will and want to work but all the jobs continue to be outsourced by the wealthy so they can pocket the extra profits just like they did five years ago when they were told they would not be taxed on oversea profits-they did not trickle down the profits to their brothers and sisters, no they pocketed the change. That is what we have today an idle rich who cares only for themselves). St. Paul’s social justice was very simple: get off your lazy behinds and get back to work. (St. Paul’s social justice was to keep women in the household and subservient to men-see Michelle Bachman’s recent comments about her role to her (gay) husband).

    Now yes, we all know that there are a great many sad situations in life, e.g., where a single mother hasn’t enough money for herself and her children, or an elderly person is without enough money for food and heating in the winter, or a thousand other examples. In situations like these we the members of the Body of Christ – NOT the Federal Government – are called to do our God-given duty, and every time we abdicate our responsibility to Caesar to provide for the poor, the destitute and the disenfrancised, then we surrended our authority and our freedom as children of the Living God Almighty (its unrealistic and if this was so why do so many in the richest country in the world live in poverty and can’t afford basic healthcare?) Caesar and his politicians can never ever be trusted to meet the needs of the poor (Caesar didn’t live in a Democracy). That is our job (and hence why WE elect politicians in our proxy). The story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 was given to the disciples, NOT the Senators in Rome, nor the advisors and lawyers and accountants surrounding Tiberius at the Imperial Palace. The story is for US the members of the Body of Christ. But that little fact is never mentioned by the proponents of the false gospel (whose to say what is false and what is real-is it this or that version of Christianity, or maybe Buddhism, or even God forbid Islam!) of social justice and peace at any price.

    Let us now take the story of the rich man who came to inquire of Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. The story is in Mark 10:17-23. Jesus told him he had to obey the law and the prophets. The man replied he had done so all his life. Jesus then said that he lacked one thing and had to sell all his belongings and give the proceeds to the poor. The man went away sorrowful. Jesus commented, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The point clearly had nothing to do with feeding the poor; rather, the point was the idol of possessions that the rich man had placed between himself and God (fits the bill of modern day wealthy in American, no?). Never once did Jesus tell the disciples to confiscate the rich man’s belongings to acheive some kind of social justice (yeah, he kinda did-the Kingdom of God is right in front of you (i.e. we are living in it)-remember that? ). Never once did Jesus say Tiberius Caesar and the Roman Senate had tax the rich and redistribute that tax money to the poor. So where do these adherents of the false gospel of social justice and peace at any price derive their sacrilege of advocating the Federal Government to steal from those who earn to give to those who don’t (it is unreasonable to think that republicans would give to those who need it. Think about it..you guys would not have your giant military that you are so proud of if it wasn’t for forced taxes). I have a feeling that it’s really because these liberal progressives don’t want to get their personal hands dirty feeding the poor, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and visiting the imprisoned (that’s because liberals are all those things, can a poor man help another poor man?). That’s for someone else to do (everyone collectively). After all, these advocates of social justice are the elite (so the Koch brothers are not elite? You know the guys who funded Scott Walker to take away collective bargaining rights of the unions so they can make a modest salary and suppor their families?) and can’t possibly be bothered with the hard work of actually helping out those in need (because the rich in this country work so much harder than everyone else, pfft.).

  • @Donald
    ” It is refreshing to see a Leftist come clean and stand up for mass criminality if it can be dressed up in ideological cant.”

    You are right, looting bad-wars good (as long as we are killing farmers in other countries who want nothing to do with capitalism) no matter how much taxes they cost us (BY FAR THE BIGGEST TAX VACUUM in this country).

    Looting stores to prove a point bad-Killing hundreds of people for profit good! Right-wing hypocrisy at its finest!

  • @Paul:

    Democracy: two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner, in this case, your store, your bank, your place of work, even your unborn baby.

    Republican Democracy: the best money can buy!

  • My point, Joe, is that this riot took place long before the liberal welfare state and the collapse of the traditional family ever became an issue so we can’t say that continuing, or getting rid of, the welfare state will necessarily prevent riots from happening.

    Plus, the 1863 draft riots took place at a time when divorce and INTENTIONAL single parenthood as we know it today were not nearly as common. There were, of course, many fatherless/orphaned children but that was mostly a result of the high mortality rates of the day, not because vast numbers of women consciously chose to have babies outside of marriage or did not care whether or not their child’s father was marriage material. Yes, out of wedlock births did happen even then but I doubt they were anywhere near as prevalent as they are today.

  • “Looting stores to prove a point bad-Killing hundreds of people for profit good! Right-wing hypocrisy at its finest!”

    The left has murdered 60 million babies since Roe v Wade. That’s an order of magnitude more than the Jews whom Hitler murdered.

    As to the rest, truthfully I have neither the time nor the energy to debate a committed leftist. Neither one of us will change our minds. I will leave by pointing out that it’s not the job of government to be god, but that’s what liberals have always wanted since Judas Iscariot stole from the money bag. I have now said my peace.

    PS, Thank God we have a 2nd Amendment: the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. It’s a wonderful deterrent against rioters.

  • The recent riots in France demonstrate the problem European countries face where second and third generation immigrants still do not consider themselves French, German, or English. –Bobby Jindal

    If I’m not mistaken, Bobby is one of yours on the right.

  • The left has murdered 60 million babies since Roe v Wade. That’s an order of magnitude more than the Jews whom Hitler murdered. (That is just an ignorant statement).

    As to the rest, truthfully I have neither the time nor the energy to debate a committed leftist (because you can not win and it makes you question your own beliefs, hard to look in the mirror, easier to go on a right-wing blog where everyone agrees). Neither one of us will change our minds. I will leave by pointing out that it’s not the job of government to be god (nope its the job of the people to be God like Jesus said he is within us and us within Him), but that’s what liberals have always wanted since Judas Iscariot stole from the money bag (Again Judas was simply fulfilling the Jewish prophecy of the 30 gold pieces Zechariah chapter 11: Verse 12-13, 30) . I have now said my peace.

    PS, Thank God we have a 2nd Amendment: the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. It’s a wonderful deterrent against rioters. (how Christian of you, Guns and Jesus!).

  • Correction on that Judas comment, 30 silver pieces.

  • “You are right, looting bad-wars good”

    Please. The decline of the ability to reason on the Left continues apace. Wars come in all shapes and sizes, some just and some unjust. Rioting and looting are always per se evil. Any more non sequiturs you wish to toss out to defend the indefensible?

  • And this from Martin Luther King Jr.:

    The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.

  • You’re right – you do anger me. Leftism has destroyed just about everything that has made this country great. Leftism has so de-Christianized our society that murdering the unborn and sanctifying homosexual filth and destroying the family and adultery and fornication and pornography are all not just tolerated, but extolled as virtues. So yes, I do get angry when I see the nation I love ravanged by this godlessness. In cases like that, it’s best I hold my tongue and not say how I really feel because obviously I am not thinking with my head. I grieve for what you people are doing to this nation with your immorality and baby-murdering, and the grief is so great that it becomes anger; thus, I will let those more dispassionate than me explain.

    Now it’s time for me to pray the Rosary. I will pray for you.

  • “You are right, looting bad-wars good”

    Please. The decline of the ability to reason on the Left continues apace. Wars come in all shapes and sizes. Some just and some unjust. Rioting and looting are always per se evil. Any more non sequiturs you wish to toss out to defend the indefensible?

    Citizens don’t typically tend to have a standing army so they have to riot when they are being oppressed. Was the riots in Egypt wrong?

    Every single war in the United States was for strictly business purposes. Stealing land from the Indians and Mexicans (yes those illegals you guys hate so much whom were here before whites), World War 1 and 2 we didn’t want to get into but they were strictly business favors and support for them was only built on false flag operations just as Vietnam and the Iraq fiasco we are currently in.

    People on the right love war. It’s good business.

  • Post Script

    “how Christian of you, Guns and Jesus”

    There is nothing wrong in defending one’s self, one’s family and one’s home against mindless baboons rioting for a new pair of sneakers or the next iPod gadget.

  • Your understanding of American history is as minimal as your clarity on the concept of “Thou Shalt Not Steal”. Really, is this the best you can do to defend rampant criminality?

  • Don, cue up the Twilight Zone music for the guy on the left.

  • “There is nothing wrong in defending one’s self, one’s family and one’s home against mindless baboons rioting for a new pair of sneakers or the next iPod gadget.”

    So you agree that the people in Afganistan and Iraq are justified for killing American troops because they are invaded their land so we can sell them sneakers and iPod gadgets?

  • @Joe

    Ever hear about the Gulf of Tonkin? Before you start playing the Twilight Music perhaps you should http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_Incident

    Also, I find it ironic that the guy who believes in talking snakes, that God came down here born from a virgin and died to save us from our sins says I deserve the Twilight Music.

  • @Joe
    Twilight music for you and those who believe Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 or had “weapons of mass destruction”.

  • “So you agree that the people in Afganistan and Iraq are justified for killing American troops because they are invaded their land…”

    What about liberal Democrats who invade the womb to murder babies? 60 million innocent babies murdered. Far, far more than all who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    PS, no, I do NOT advocate blowing up abortion clinics or shooting abortion doctors in the head. I advocate prayer and peaceful resistance. But if I operated from the logic that liberals operate from, then I would feel entirely justified in so rioting.

  • Lefty, I’m the house agnostic so you’ll get nowhere arguing religion with me. As for the Gulf of Tonkin, I remember it vividly. I was sitting in Shea Stadium watching a Mets game when the message board lit up with the announcement and the whole stadium cheered. As Reagan said, Vietnam was a “noble cause” which cost 58,000 American lives and thousands more maimed. To denigrate their sacrifice by asserting that the U.S. fights wars solely for “business reasons” is the worse sort of calumny.

  • “Also, I find it ironic that the guy who believes in talking snakes, that God came down here born from a virgin and died to save us from our sins says I deserve the Twilight Music.”

    That is hilarious! Joe is our resident agnostic. Additionally he is probably as sceptical about the justification of most American wars as you are, but unlike you he can make intelligent arguments to support his positions and he does not attempt to justify criminality thereby.

  • “As Reagan said, Vietnam was a “noble cause” which cost 58,000 American lives and thousands more maimed. To denigrate their sacrifice by asserting that the U.S. fights wars solely for “business reasons” is the worse sort of calumny.”

    Well said Joe!

  • @Don
    “That is hilarious! Joe is our resident agnostic.”

    Well if not for him, he is for sure playing the twilight music for the wrong person!

  • P.S. I also proudly served in the U.S. Navy, 1959-63, during the Cuban missile crisis when JFK stood up to the Soviets. Had he not done so, Lefty might be drinking vodka these days instead of baby formula.

  • @Don and Joe

    “As Reagan said, Vietnam was a “noble cause” which cost 58,000 American lives and thousands more maimed. To denigrate their sacrifice by asserting that the U.S. fights wars solely for “business reasons” is the worse sort of calumny.”

    Reagan was a corporate controlled president (see the head of Merill Lynch telling him he had to hurry up and wrap up his speech at the opening of Wall Street http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/17/michael-moores-capitalism_n_289868.html

    It was a waste of time! Who cares if another country wants communism and not right-wing capitalistic pigs running their country! Are you serious? It is NONE of our business to go over there. That’s why we had riots in the 60s (there is a good riot reference).

    Republican thinking is crazy.

  • @Joe

    “P.S. I also proudly served in the U.S. Navy, 1959-63, during the Cuban missile crisis when JFK stood up to the Soviets. Had he not done so, Lefty might be drinking vodka these days instead of baby formula.”

    At least we would have universal health care instead of paying these health insurance crooks!

  • Michael Moore and the Huff and puff post — now there are two reliable, objective sources, both of whom are multimillionaires thanks to the capitalism you denounce.

  • “Reagan said, Vietnam was a “noble cause” which cost 58,000 American lives and thousands more maimed. To denigrate their sacrifice by asserting that the U.S. fights wars solely for “business reasons” is the worse sort of calumny.”

    You can try to justify their deaths all you want, the TRUTH is that they died for another worthless BS Capitalist war. I hope they are reincarnated and come back as liberal hippies, heck I may be one of them!

  • @Joe
    “Michael Moore and the Huff and puff post — now there are two reliable, objective sources, both of whom are multimillionaires thanks to the capitalism you denounce.”

    The clip is of Regan, they are simply showing it. If they showed a picture of the sky being blue you would mock it.

  • @Lefty, if there’s hope for an old sinner like me, there is for you, too. These folks on TAC are your best chance to regain your political and spiritual balance. Like you, I am a doubter and skeptic and the regulars here can attest to that. But keep an open mind and heart and some day you may find the answers. I’m almost there, but not quite…

  • @Joe
    Christianity is just a hodgepodge of various older religions with an emphasis on fulfilling old Judaism “prophecies”. If you want to save your soul you need to look at the truth, which is on the left ;).

  • “Reagan was a corporate controlled president”

    That is truly a laugh. Reagan was the insurgent Republican candidate, as he demonstrated in 1976 when he almost toppled in the primaries a sitting Republican president. In 1980 the establishment candidate for the Republicans was George Bush. Reagan was the candidate of Main Street not Wall Street.

    “Who cares if another country wants communism and not right-wing capitalistic pigs running their country!”

    Your lack of sympathy for the 100,000,000 your ideological soul mates murdered in the last century is only to be expected.

    If you are going to troll around this website we do have standards. Your arguments must be carefully thought out and fact based. Mere bloviation and repetition of meaningless talking points will not be tolerated. They violate the first rule of blogging: Thou Shalt Not Bore. If you can’t do much better than we have seen tonight you will be banned from this website as a service to our faithful readers.

  • @Lefty…If you want to understand Christianity you must look at at the person of Christ, the most unique person in all of history. “Never a man spake like this.” He and He alone is what keeps me from rejecting the faith. As Augustine said, we must have faith to understand, not understand to have faith.
    It’s a journey, my future friend, and we each make our steps in our own way.

  • Don, don’t give up on him. You haven’t on me and I’m still out there among the lost.

  • @Don on Regan (this was written in 1986):

    There is an interesting ideology maturing in Reagan’s Washington these days. It is best called “corporatism.”

    Here is an example. For years Ronald Reagan would speak against mandatory seat belt use laws and mandatory motorcycle helmet use laws. Long before he was president he would give these proposals as prime examples of a meddling Big Brother. I heard him orate this way during a debate with him in 1975.

    About two years ago, General Motors decided to reverse its policy and begin pushing state legislatures to pass laws requiring motorists to buckle up. The auto giant decided to launch this expensive lobbying drive in order to tap a provision in the federal standard requiring crash protection by stages in cars beginning with next year’s models. That provision says that if states with two-thirds of the population pass mandatory seat belt laws, the federal standard protecting all motorists would be revoked. Not surprisingly, GM was behind that provision as well.

    Voila, Ronald Reagan suddenly became a supporter of mandatory seat belt laws.

    But there is no corporate pressure behind mandatory helmet use laws. So Ronald Reagan, whose White House aides keep a tight control over Secretary Elizabeth Dole and her Transportation Department, shows no interest in restoring a federal requirement that could save at least 1500 motorcycle riders killed every year because they were not wearing helmets, along with rescuing a larger number of brain damaged survivors in such crashes.

    The corporatist imperative is not operating on Mr. Reagan to put life-saving helmets on motorcycle drivers and their passengers. Study after study concludes that motorcycle helmet use laws greatly reduce deaths and injuries in such crashes. Unhelmeted riders have 2 1/2 to 6 times as many critical or fatal head injuries as riders who wear helmets, according to a Department of Transportation report.

    The data also shows that motorcyclists overwhelmingly obey laws requiring that helmets be worn. Surveys of motorcyclists’ opinions conclude that from 40 to 81 percent favor helmet use laws, while the general public registers even higher rates of approval.

    The Transportation Department in 1967 issued a standard saying that if states did not enact helmet use laws, they would be penalized with a 10 percent reduction in federal highway funds. By 1975, 47 states passed the laws, saving many young lives and injuries all the way. The motorcycle fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled had declined 49 percent from 1967 to 1975 and hundreds of millions of tax dollars for disability payments were saved.

    Then Congress flipped. In a tragically quirky move it amended the law to repeal the financial penalty. Today only 20 states have use laws. Most of the rest repealed their requirement for riders above 18 years of age. Seven states have no requirement at all. Blood and brains hit the highway with sharply increasing frequency. Neurosurgeons became sick at the spectacle of youths lying before them in hospital surgery rooms. Last year, 4570 motorcycle riders lost their lives.

    The head injury rates, according to the Department, ranged from about 50 percent to almost 200 percent greater in the post-repeal period than in the pre-repeal period for the various states. Another Department study reported that “the use of a safety helmet is the single critical factor in the prevention or reduction of head injury.”

    Now, if the motorcycle manufacturers, led by Honda whose founder,

    Mr. Honda spends his retirement advancing traffic safety, were to demand that Reagan move on helmet use laws, the corporatists imperative would register once again. Off the handlebars would go the President’s conservative compunctions. Such is the variable that spells life or death for many young Americans and huge sums for the taxpayers to expend on hospital, rehabilitation and other costs. In the meantime the facts simmer.

  • “The great craze of the day, the sect of the theophilanthropists, the jiloux em, troupe, as Talleyrand used to call them, excited his bitterest ridicule. The founder of it was Haiiy, a brother of the wellknown physicist; but its most zealous apostle was the Director Reveillere. The latter submitted to the Institute a memorandum in favour of a confession of faith drawn up by him which enjoined the commemoration of the three great acts of life—birth, marriage, and death. Talleyrand listened to it attentively, and then said drily that he had only one remark to make: to found his religion Jesus Christ had been crucified and had risen from the dead, and he advised the would-be founder of this new religion to do the same.”

  • Picture this. The USA, figuratively, is a large row boat with 50 people. Obama is at the tiller. He shouts to the 24 people pulling at the sweeps, “Pull harder!”

    I bet imagine truthy is one of the 39% of Americans that report Obama is doing an “acceptable” job.

    Unlike St. Augustine, I don’t need to endure or answer such idiots.

  • @T.Shaw

    “I bet imagine truthy is one of the 39% of Americans that report Obama is doing an “acceptable” job.”

    Obama bends over to far for the right. He should have got us out of these two useless wars by now and should got rid of the Bush Tax cut. You guys want to lower the deficit (only when a Dem is in office, especially a half-black one at that-which is really the issue) then you should agree to end the wars and raise revenues by getting rid of the Bush tax cuts, especially on the wealthiest Americans (and also close corporate loopholes).

    Obama is being labeled as far-left but in fact he is a centrist. All you guys have to point to is the health care reform which you mock by calling it “Obama-care” when in reality it is exactly the same as Mitt Romney bill and I didn’t hear you guys whining about how unconstitutional that was. Fact is, we are the only first rate nation without universal healthcare because those on the right do whatever the rich want them to and think what they want them to think.

    The truth is that those on the right are easily manipulated by right-wing corporate controlled media such as Fox News and Tea Party Patriots (thanks for the downgrade by the way).

    If Obama wasn’t half-black no doubt he wouldn’t be getting it so bad from you guys.

  • “Don on Regan (this was written in 1986):”

    You got this from the Nader website. Pardon me if I doubt that qualifies as objective analysis.

  • @Don

    “You got this from the Nader website. Pardon me if I doubt that qualifies as objective analysis.”

    Irregardless of the source, the fact remains that Regan flipped flopped due based on what the corporate money masters told him to do.

    Also, how do I add a picture to this site for my profile pic?

  • In regard to the clip from Moore’s proganda fest, I assume that he does not understand that one of the jobs of a Chief of Staff, which is what Regan was at the time, includes trying to keep the President on schedule. Regan resigned in 1987 largely due to clashes with Nancy Reagan. Rather than a puppet master, Regan had less influence in the White House than Reagan’s wife.

  • @ Don are you saying that Regan was a chief of staff? He was the President at that time and the guy telling him to move along was not a chief of staff but was the CEO of Merrill Lynch!

  • Lefty, in context, Regan was telling him to speed it up simply because the whole event was timed to coincide with the opening bell. Stop trying to make it into some grand conspiracy, and also you would improve your credibility if you would refrain from citing well-worn and hackneyed sources such as Michael Moore.

  • “Irregardless of the source, the fact remains that Regan flipped flopped due based on what the corporate money masters told him to do.”

    No actually it was due to strong opposition in Congress to Reagan’s crusade against mandatory seat belt laws. The story is set forth here.

    http://www.fiberpipe.net/~tiktin/Documents/seatbeltskill.htm

    As for a pic for your profile go to Gravatar:

    http://en.gravatar.com/

  • “He was the President at that time and the guy telling him to move along was not a chief of staff but was the CEO of Merrill Lynch!”

    Wrong. Donald Regan was CEO of Merrill Lynch prior to the Reagan being elected President. He was Secretary of the Treasury during the first Reagan administration, and Chief of Staff in the second Reagan administration until he resigned in 1987.

  • @ Don

    Ok he was chief of staff at the time, I concur. Chief of Staff from 1985 to 1987 in the Ronald Reagan Administration, where he advocated “Reaganomics” and tax cuts to create jobs and stimulate production.

    So we see the same rhetoric of tax cuts to create jobs was a corporatist slogan back in the mid-80s which we know didn’t work then and certainly do not work now.

  • Lefttwoofy:

    Yeah! Didn’t he promise the useless idiots he’d make peace?

    What do YOU call it when the government orders citizens to buy something?

    If Obama was not a low-life, socialist agitator we would not give it to him so bad . . . Moron

  • The whole point of Moore including the clip in the film was to give a wholly false impression that Regan was ordering Reagan about when Regan was actually just hired help. Reagan implemented economic policies that brought America a financial boom that lasted for decades. The contrast with the failed economic policies of Obama is stark. That the American people agreed that Reagan’s policies worked was signified in the 1984 election when Reagan recieved a 49 state landslide, Mondale barely winning his homestate of Minnesota.

Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century

Wednesday, July 6, AD 2011

The past couple weeks I posted a summary and brief commentary on an address given by Francis Cardinal George at the Library of Congress in June of 1999.  While it didn’t spark that much debate, several people have written to me asking if I could upload the document, which appears to be absent from the internet as it stands.  (Yes, it is hard to believe, but there are some things that are not yet on the internet.)  I was, and still am, apprehensive about violating any copyright laws, either in letter or spirit.  While I am fairly confident that it is okay for me to post this, I wish also to make it publicly known that if Cardinal George, or any other who claim rights to this fine essay, wish it to be removed, I will do so immediately and with sincere apologies.

That is the “fine print,” if you will.

What follows is the speech in its entirety:  Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century, an Address at the Library of Congress on June 16, 1999, by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George.

 

Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century

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Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra, Secunda pars

Thursday, June 30, AD 2011

The following is the second part to this post. It is recommended that you read the first part before reading the second part.  There has been some request for the original address given by Cardinal George.  I have been unable to locate it on the web and have not gotten around to scanning it in.  As soon as I get a chance, I will try to get to up and available, barring any unforeseen copyright issues.  For now, my humble comments and summary will have to suffice.

*******

While the time from Augustine to Aquinas embodied a realization of Cardinal George’s incarnation metaphysics, things began to take a turn for the worse with Duns Scotus, a contemporary of Thomas. Scotus radically separated God from the world, and in so doing separated grace from nature. Instead of a metaphysics of participation, Scotus promulgated that, “God is no longer that generous power in which all things exist but rather that supreme being next to whom or apart from whom all other beings exist” (George, 15). Scotus begins what Descartes (through philosophy) and Luther (through theology) would complete. “In both its Lutheran and Cartesian manifestations, modernity assumes a fundamental split between the divine and the non-divine and hence implicitly denies the participation/communio metaphysics that had shaped the Christian world thought the ancient and medieval periods” (George, 16).

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  • “It is here that Cardinal George begins his critique of John Courtney Murray. “It is no secret that John Courtney Murray’s thought was shaped by a neo-scholastic two-tiered conception of nature and grace,” a conception that is “a departure from the communio and participation metaphysics of the patristic and medieval periods” (George, 32).”

    It is not just neo-scholastic, but sholastic and in fact Thomistic. Communio theology of the 20th Century seems to flow from de Lubac’s thought which George seems to endorse. George’s critique of Murray then flows from this Communio theology.

    I think there are very good critiques of de Lubac at this point which render his view of nature and grace, and those who depend on this interpretation of nature and grace, doubtful at best. Following from that, critiques of Murray and the American experient are rendered less coherent also.

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  • What garbage. More pointless blackening of bl. Duns Scotus reputation by ignorant Thomists or at least their lackeys..

    1. What, Scotus didn’t believe in the Incarnation? What on earth is “incarnation metaphysics”? Scotus did in fact believe in the incarnation, and he has an extensive metaphysical discussion of it. Ergo etc.

    2. How did Scotus radically separate God from the world?

    3. The bit about participation is just plain false. I have read many hundreds of pages of Scotus in latin and he never explicitly rejects participation. (NB: “particpation metaphysics” as a “worldview” that everyone enjoyed before Scotus is itself a chimera of post modern theology). What does do is express puzzlement regarding how participation fits into the scheme of the Aristotelian four causes.

    4. The quote is misleading:

    “God is no longer that generous power in which all things exist but rather that supreme being next to whom or apart from whom all other beings exist” (George, 15).

    this article makes it sound like Scotus said this, but this is George’s own paraphrase. The scholastics have no conception of a “generous power”. It was a matter of dispute whether creatures existed in the divine power or divine intellect prior to their creation. Aquinas’ view, that they are contained in the divine power, was never the common opinion.

    The second part of this quote betrays the origin of this nonsense. The claim that Scotus made God just a being among beings is derivative of “Radical Orthodoxy”, who say that Scotus’ view of univocal concepts results in this. But this conflicts with George’s other claim that Scotus introduced a radical divide between God and the world. You can’t have both, buddy: either there is a radical divide between God and creation, or God is just like us.

    Of course, the usual reply will be that George isn’t trying to exegete Scotus, he’s just drawing a narrative that explains how things are in the present. Truth and falsity of the narrative doesn’t matter, because it’s a narrative, and what’s important is that we are relevant and engaging the contemporary culture.

    Fine, whatever. And people wonder why there are so many crises in the church?

  • I didn’t realize this was cardinal George; I thought it was Robert George. I might have been more temperate. But he should know better.

  • lee,

    Interesting your points on Scotus. Don’t know much about him but I thought George’s comments about him sounded simplistic. I also wouldn’t say that George is completely a Thomist. As I pointed out, most Thomists think that De Lubac was wrong in his interpretation about Nature and Grace. Thus De Lubac is a poor Thomist at best. George however runs with De Lubac’s thought as a given. Thus making George a poor Thomist?

    I think George is a faithful priest and bishop. But like you, I think his understanding of philosophy sometimes misses the mark. Thanks for your insights. And I don’t mind the force of your comments. Even bishops occasionally need a good argument back.

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Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra, Prima pars

Tuesday, June 21, AD 2011

The following is the first part of a gloss on an article I recently received from a friend. The second part will appear in a few days. I apologize for not having the full reference for it, but it appears to be an address by Francis Cardinal George given to the Library of Congress on June 16, 1999, titled “Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century.” In light of the missing reference, the citations below are paragraph numbers rather than page numbers. I apologize ahead of time for those who have read or plan to read the article. While I have tried to give the Cardinal credit where due, a reading of his paper will reveal my blatant plagiarism.

The Thomistic scholar Etienne Gilson describes in The Unity of the Philosophical Experience the inevitable demise of a philosophy that ignores the highest question of being, i.e. metaphysics. In “Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century,” Cardinal George argues for a specifically Christian metaphysics, or an “incarnation metaphysics.” This metaphysics begins with the “provocative claim” that is at the heart of Christianity. “In Jesus Christ, God has become a creature, without ceasing to be God and without compromising the integrity of the creature he becomes” (George, 3). The radicality of this Christian claim is evidenced by the history of heresies, most of which denied either the divinity or humanity of Christ, or in some cases, both, by arguing for a quasi-divine and quasi-human nature in the incarnated Lord. At least two Ecumenical Councils (Chalcedon in 451 and Nicea in 325) upheld the hypostatic union, the fact that, “in Jesus, the divine and the human unite without competition or compromise” (George, 3).

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The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Tertia Pars

Friday, June 17, AD 2011

This is the third and final part of a three-part piece. The first part is found here, and the second part is found here.

4. Commentary on the Kingdom and Poverty

There are two goals for this final section. The first is to investigate what is meant by Christ’s phrase, “the Kingdom of heaven,” and the second is a reflection on why the here-and-now-ness of the kingdom has particular relevance for the blessing of poverty in Luke’s Beatitudes.

As stated in the previous part, Christ’s promise, “yours is the kingdom of heaven” immediately harkens back to His own proclamation, “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). We have already seen the interpretation given by Origen/Pope Benedict, but let me diverge for a moment and examine one other interpretation. During the later half of the 20th century, a particularly secular view (held mostly in Catholic theological circles) of the Kingdom of God gained considerable ground (Benedict, 53). This position is motivated by the desire to apply Christ’s supposed message to the widest possible audience. It is a slow process of moving from any kind of specificity with regards to God’s people to a meaningless generality. Beginning with the rejection of Judaism in general (for in Judaism the focus is on a specific people), Christ, it is claimed, came not for a chosen subset of people, but for the individual; he came to establish a Church that is inclusive of all people. This desire for an all-inclusiveness is seen as violated by the Church in her so-called “pre-Vatican II nature,” a nature that was guilty of “ecclesiocentrism.” Thus, to continue this search for all-inclusivity there was a move towards “Christocentrism” (and away from the Church herself) which strived for a less “divisive” message. However, the next two steps were quick to follow. Since Christ belongs exclusively to Christians, perhaps we should be concerned only with the general idea of God, hence a “theocentrism.” The final step was a surrender of the very idea of God, since even God can be a cause of division among people and the various religions of the world. In the end, we are left only with man, and in this stripped down theology, the “Kingdom” is simply a name given for a world governed by “peace, justice, and the conservation of creation” (Benedict, 53). The task of religion, it is held, is to work in harmony to bring forth this kingdom on earth.

On one hand, this seems laudable; it finally allows all people to enjoy Christ’s message in harmony, to appropriate it in their own belief systems and world views. On the other hand, there is not much left of the message itself; it has been stripped down to what amounts essentially to secular humanism.

To rescue Christ’s message from such deprivation, we must first recognize that the Lord never preaches simply a “Kingdom” but instead preaches the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of Heaven.” “When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history, and is even now so acting…. The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now – this is the hour in which God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship” (Benedict, 55-56). This is consonant with the prior observation that the Hebrew word malkut and the Greek word baseleia are action words. It is also consonant with the use of the present tense in Luke 6:20.

To further our understanding of Christ as the Kingdom of God incarnate, let us examine Saint Thomas Aquinas’ observation that man’s final cause is identical with his efficient cause, i.e. from God we have come and to God we must return. Our fulfillment, our telos, is in nothing other than God himself. In order to be fully man, we must give our entire existence back to the very source of our existence. Man is unique in the world in that he alone can actively strive away from his proper telos. That is, man can, by the gift of free will, choose not to give himself back to God. To do so is to be in-human, to remain unfulfilled. Given that man’s proper end is God himself, we can understand why Vatican II says, “Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes 22). Finally, if what it means to be human is to give of ourselves to God and to possess God deep within our souls, and if the Kingdom that Christ promises is none other than His very self, we can conclude that the promise, “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven” can be understood as, “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is Christ,” or rather, “Blessed are ye poor, for you have already within you what it means to be fully human.” When understood this way, if it is true that the poor already possess within their being their own fulfillment, then is is abundantly clear why they are “blessed.” *

It remains now to try to come to grips with why poverty brings with it such blessing. What is it about poverty that is so authentically human? We must first make a critical distinction between poverty and destitution. All human beings are entitled to have their basic needs met. The fact that millions are living in our world in the state of destitution, where hunger and disease ravage entire cultures, is a great sin against humanity, and it cannot be ignored that Christ was relentless in his call for a preferential option for the destitute. Every time we withhold our cloak from the naked or our food from the hungry, we perform sin not only against the human person, but also against Jesus himself. Poverty, on the other hand, is not identical with destitution. The Latin word used in the Nova Vulgate is pauperes. It is true that this is best translated as “poverty,” but what is perhaps more noticeable is that the Gospel does not use the word egenus or the word inops, both of which could be translated as destitute (though inops is more often rendered as “helpless”). Nor did the author use a form of the verb destituo (forsaken). Poverty (pauperes), as opposed to destitution, is the state of having only what one needs. It is this state of simplicity that Christ calls “blessed” and to which he attaches the promise of the kingdom of heaven.

As the Fathers of the Church unanimously observed, to advance in the life of virtue, poverty must come first. This is due to the ontological difference between God and the world. It is the unique Christian distinction that God is absolutely other to the world. God is not part of the world, nor is the world as a whole equivalent to God. Because of this distinction and because of our call to return to God, this world becomes God’s gift to us to be used as a means for this return. Simply put: God is the end; things are means to this end. On one hand, when one is deprived of the basic needs of life, this physical state of destitution necessarily brings with the challenge of spiritual destitution (for the human person is a body-soul unity). This is precisely why we must work to eliminate destitution in the world, not primarily because of the physical sufferings, but first and foremost to allow God’s people the freedom to worship Him in health of body, mind, and soul **. On the other hand, the possession of goods beyond that of basic necessity brings with it the risk of using goods as ends in themselves. It is interesting that, while Christ cured the sick, made the blind see, made the deaf hear, to my recollection, he never once made a poor man rich.

Christ, in this first beatitude, does not say, “To those who are impoverished, I say to you, do not think that this most unfortunate state is permanent, for the day will come when I will relieve you of this poverty and make you rich.” Instead, he says, “Blessed are you poor.” Poverty itself bring with it blessing, or rather sanctity. If the possession of goods beyond that of basic needs bring with it the risk of treating this excess as an end in itself, then it follows that the more we possess, the further we find ourselves from pursuing our proper end: God. The further we are from our proper end, the less human we find ourselves. We are now in the position to reason our main thesis.

In proclaiming, “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven,” Christ is making an ontological observation. Poverty brings with it the simplicity to give oneself to God, which is the final cause of all of humanity. In other words, poverty provides a more authentic human experience. In this, there is blessing.

Of course, all of this is more pressing given the large percentage of humanity that are living in the state of destitution, a state that potentially hinders their ability to know, love, and serve God. It becomes all the more crucial for us to divest ourselves of our excesses to satisfy the basic needs of others. However, we must be careful to avoid misrepresenting the Gospel as a kind of call for a distributive justice. Virtue is always performed in the heart of the individual. We cannot expect political agendas and government policies to force virtue upon the hearts of its citizens. To do so ignores the authentic freedom that is at the core of the dignity of the human person. The ends of such policies can only be atheistic ends, as history has demonstrated. This does not mean that charity and generosity cannot be cultivated among groups of people, but the Church has consistently and wisely taught the principle of subsidiarity, that things are best handled by the smallest competent authority.

In summary, I would be remiss if I did not clarify one last thing. The state of poverty is not purely material; material poverty alone does not bring salvation. Recall Basil’s comment from the second part, “For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn.” On the other hand, neither is poverty is purely spiritual. There are those who want to reduce Christ’s call to poverty to the mere detachment from goods. This too is a distortion of the Gospel message. Recall also from the first part the two critical Greek manuscripts (Papyrus 75 and Codex Vaticanus) deliberately avoid the phrase “poor in spirit” and instead opt for simply “poor.”

Finally, there are many other aspects of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount that could enrich this discussion, such as the connection the Beatitudes share with the presentation of the Ten Commandments. Many writers far more learned than myself (Pope Benedict, Servais Pinkares, and Thomas Dubay to name only but a few) have already done so; thus, I humbly leave the reader to take up the various texts on this topic for further spiritual reading.

 

* As a side note, the present possession of our eschatological fulfillment is at the heart of the Christian virtue of hope. See Pope Benedict’s second encyclical letter Spe Salvi for a more lengthy discussion of this.

 

** In Pope Benedict’s first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, he warns against separating the preaching of the Gospel from humanitarian efforts to alleviate people from their sufferings. Primarily, we are called to preach Christ crucified.

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One Response to The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Tertia Pars

The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Secunda Pars

Thursday, June 9, AD 2011

What follows is the second part of a three-part piece. The first part can be found here.

 

 

3. Patristic Background from the Catena Aurea

Latin for “The Golden Chain,” St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea is the Angelic Doctor’s compilation of commentaries by the early Church Fathers on each of the four Gospels. What follows is a gloss of the provided commentaries for Luke 6:20-23.

We begin with Ambrose. While I have not said much about the first part of verse 20 (“And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples”), Ambrose asks, “What is lifting up the eyes, but to disclose a more hidden light?” Christ is calling his hearers to a deeper understanding of God and His plan for mankind. If I could, allow me to briefly return to the Greek for the word “Behold” (idou). An alternate translation of the imperative is “Look!” or even “See!” While Luke is using a common Greek word, this command to “See!” is reminiscent of Christ’s observation, “they have eyes but cannot see.” The Lord is not simply calling us to pay attention, but rather he is calling us to see with the eyes of faith. He is speaking directly to the heart of man. In a way, he is telling his listeners, “My friends, you have heard the Prophets, you have read the Scriptures, but you know not their fullness. I will, if you let me, show you the fullness of the heavenly mysteries. Everything you think you know is only the beginning. You have heard the ethic in the Ten Commandments, but I call you to the ethos of these Beatitudes.”

Ambrose next observes that Luke mentions only four blessings, while Matthew eight. Nonetheless, “those eight are contained in these four, and in these four those eight.” He ties each of the blessings in a specific way to a particular virtue. Poverty yields temperance because it “seeks not vain delights.” Hunger leads to righteousness in that he who is hungry suffers with the hungry, and this brings righteousness. In weeping, man learns to weep for those things eternal rather than those things of time, which requires the virtue of prudence to distinguish between the two realms. In “Blessed are you when men hate you,” one has fortitude, a fortitude which allows one to suffer persecution for faith. These virtues are then paired with Matthew’s Beatitudes in order to demonstrate continuity between the two Gospels: “temperance therefore brings with it a pure heart; righteousness, mercy; prudence, peace; fortitude, meekness. The virtues are so joined and linked to one another, that he who has one seems to have many.”

In both cases, each evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first. For Ambrose, this is indicative that “it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues.” In other words, the subsequent blessings depend on the condition of being impoverished. If one is overcome by the desires of the world, he “has no power of escape from them.”

In a similar fashion, Eusebius observes, “But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, ‘For yours is the kingdom of heaven.’”

Cyril agrees: “After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honor those things which follow from poverty.”

While Basil is consistent in placing the primacy of the blessings with that of poverty, he also warns that the blessing is not automatic but requires the correct disposition. “[N]ot everyone oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us.” Perhaps this is why Cyril notes that in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  I have noted above the textual variants in this regard, but it should be recognized that the Fathers in no way see “poverty of spirit” as mere detachment that can exist even in the absence of actual material poverty. Instead, they see material poverty as a pre-requisite for poverty of spirit, a disposition that must be had to convert the pre-existing material poverty into a blessing.

Each of the Fathers then shows how poverty leads to the other blessings in Christ’s sermon. Cyril says, “It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessities of life, and scarcely to be able to get food.” Continuing, “[P]overty is followed not only by a want of those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you that weep.’” Finally, Theophilus indicates, “He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is blessed. But much more blessed is he who does not shrink to maintain these virtues in adversity. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you when men shall hate you.’ For although men hate, with their wicked hearts they cannot injure the heart that is beloved by Christ.”

This gloss of the Catena Aurea is sufficient for examining the portion of the Beatitudes dealing with poverty. It is evident that each of the represented Fathers sees poverty as having a place of primacy among the beatitudes. This is indicated by both Gospel writers in their placement of the virtue first in their respective lists, lists that are renderings of the very words of Christ. However, we must not ignore the second part of the beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of God.” For patristic background on this, we depart from the Catena Aurea and take up Origen.

Origen referred to Jesus as the autobasileia, that is, the Kingdom in person. In other words, for Origen, the kingdom is not a geographical location; Jesus himself is the Kingdom, or rather the Kingdom is Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth insists (in light of his reading of Origen) that the phrase “Kingdom of God” is a “veiled Christology.” The Holy Father states, “By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence” (Benedict, 49). Delving deeper into the linguistic nuances of the word “kingdom,” Pope Benedict (quoting Stuhlmacher) says, “The underlying Hebrew word malkut is a nomen actionis [an action word] and means – as does the Greek word basileia [kingdom] – the regal function, the active lordship of the king. What is meant is not an imminent or yet to be established ‘kingdom,’ but God’s actual sovereignty over the world, which is becoming an event in history in a new way” (Benedict, 55).

It should be noted that the Holy Father is not actually speaking of the Sermon on the Mount when he makes these linguistic observations. Instead, he is engaged in exegesis of Matthew 1:14-15, when Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Nonetheless, the Greek word basileia that is used in Matthew 1 is the same Greek word found in Luke’s first beatitude. Therefore, not only are the linguistic observations still relevant for the current project, but establishing the connection (both spiritually and linguistically) between Christ’s Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Sermon on the Mount will be of prime importance in the final part. I will have more to say about Pope Benedict’s thoughts in this matter, but this mention of Origen and his interpretation of the phrase “kingdom of God” as the person of Jesus is sufficient for this section on patristic background.

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3 Responses to The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Secunda Pars

The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Prima Pars

Thursday, June 2, AD 2011

My life has been insanely crazy lately as I am in the middle of a major career change.  This in part explains my absence from these pages.  My apologies, but hopefully the following three-part piece will be of interest to the readers of American Catholic while my work schedule settles down into something more manageable, or at least something that allows for more time dedicated to writing.

 

1. The text and an introduction.
Douay-Rheims
Luke 6:20-26

20. And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples, said: Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21. Blessed are ye that hunger now; for you shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now, for you shall laugh.

22. Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man?s sake.

23. Be glad in that day and rejoice; for behold your reward is great in heaven. For according to these things did their fathers to the prophets.

24. But woe to you that are rich; for you have consolation.

25. Woe to you that are filled; for you shall hunger. Woe to you that now laugh; for you shall mourn and weep.

26. Woe to you when men shall bless you; for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets.

Thus begins the greatest sermon ever composed. These blessings are commonly referred to as the Beatitudes, which stems from the Latin word beati, meaning “Blessed.” Servais Pinkares writes, “[T]he sermon on the Mount has been one of the chief sources of spiritual renewal known to the Church through the ages. Its fruitfulness is amply attested by its constant reappearance. There are few passages in Scripture that touch the Christian heart more surely and deeply, or that have a greater appeal for nonbelievers. Then Sermon on the Mount was one of Ghandi?s favorite texts; he reproached Christians for their neglect of it” (The Sources of Christian Ethics, 135). As familiar as the words are to Christians and non-Christians alike, there is one word in particular that can very easily go unnoticed: is. In verses 21-23, every blessing promises a future reward for a present circumstance. Consider the first half of verse 21: “Blessed are ye that hunger now; for you shall be filled.” This indicates that those who experience hunger during their earthly time will be filled in the eschaton. The first beatitude (verse 20), however, seems to deliberately use the word is: “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

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