5 Responses to To Be Pitied More Than All Men

  • Hello,

    You say, “You also are not going to feel compelled to hold back on poking fun at the “Believers” who are pretty silly taking ‘tooth-fairy’-like beliefs into adulthood.” I’m not sure about this. Is it true that, if Christianity were not true, it would be not only false, but silly? I don’t, for example, believe that Islam is a true revelation, but it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to believe that it is. Reading the Koran, I certainly feel that it’s a message that deserves to be taken seriously. I could say the same thing about a number of other religions and philosophies I don’t hold.

    No, I think that finding Christianity not only false but ridiculous is a sign of some sort of serious mental deficiency.

  • I agree that there is a range of reaction among non-Christians out there- I do see that much in the entertainment sector involves ridiculing Jesus and modern day wanna-be disciples- look at some of the most popular comedies- The Office, Simpsons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Daily Show/Colbert, South Park etc.. any character that is explicitly Christian is going to be made to look either simple, ridiculous, or hypocritical- and Jesus is constantly parodied- so this reaction must be reflective of something popular- I absorbed a lot of this over the years to the point where it didn’t really impact me- but lately I’ve taken more conscious notice of it and it is quite depressing to note the regularity. I remember a couple of years ago browsing comedy books and two prominent displays had George Carlin’s book where he is mocking Christ, and the guy named Black from the Daily Show had a cover shot of him mocking Jesus and Mary- now this sort of thing is just so commonplace it has to be a deeper statement on the state of our nation- the fact that we collectively are more likely to be entertained by images mocking Christianity than mocking Atheism is very telling. I would argue that we should expect the hits, and hit back but not in kind- but in a different way- one that reflects The Way- it gives the scorners an opportunity to think about their cruelty instead of just getting into another round of angry attacks back and forth- everyone establishing just how much they hate the other. I would rather pity the non-believer than react angrily- for the fact is that Christ is Real and as such those who mock Him and His Church a la Saul are at great spiritual peril- we needn’t get sucked down to their level, we should be trying to pull these poor souls up by the bootstrings- give them opportunities for conversion, not more excuses to stay on the other side of heaven.

  • One more quick note- for those who are religiously-inclined, it is pretty reasonable that they should demonstrate a measure of respect for other believers of other faiths- especially for Catholics who are taught that religion is a natural virtue, and other religious faiths have rays of truth- even as we believe that Catholicism has the fullness of truth. Someone who is agnostic/atheistic will not have this baseline of generally positive views of Religion in general- and so goes about the mocking and scorning much more intently on average.

  • Tim,

    You mention our most popular comedies in your follow up post: “The Office, Simpsons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Daily Show/Colbert, South Park”

    The level of criticism and mockery in these shows is nowhere near the same. I don’t watch The Office, so I can’t speak to that. But The Simpsons has always struck me as respectful of Christianity, if occasionally crossing the line – and I think much of that happened in the later seasons as bad writers ran out of even mediocre ideas.

    Consider how Ned Flanders was always portrayed. His family is shown arguing over who will be the first to “anoint the sores” on a homeless man’s feet – its poking fun, but I think, in a good way. It shows the Flanders family going out of their way to live up to an ideal that few Christians actually reach. As Homer says in Ned’s defense in one episode, he hurled endless abuse at Ned, who in response “turned every cheek on his body.” He goes on to say that if everyone were like Ned Flanders, heaven would already be on Earth.

    Now, in later seasons the writers used Flanders as a punching bag, and especially his boys, who were portrayed as repressed weirdos. But Ned still retained his dignity as a Christian for the most part, even if a Protestant. And speaking of that, even the latter-season episode dealing with Catholicism directly was pretty good!

  • I’ll give the Simpson’s writers kudos for this one!

    http://najo.multiply.com/video/item/1

The "Heresy" of Worldly-Contentedness

Saturday, November 14, AD 2009

Lukewarm means death to the spirit, death to the Church, death to Hope. It is often disguised as a worldly contentedness which seems to suffice until tragedy strikes- then you know you should’ve given your all – instead of taking the ones you love for granted, instead of assuming that Christ is ok with lip service comm…itments- if you want it All, you have be ready to give your all. I’ve been down that Half-Assed Christian path, and it is a loser. Who wants a half-assed husband, a half-assed father, a half-assed teacher, a half-assed disciple of Love and Truth???? Well, not my wife, not my children, and not my Lord Jesus Christ- my students don’t seem to care most of the time but that doesn’t mean the seeds I’m planting are a waste of my efforts. Spending your time spreading love and truth is never a waste of time.

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7 Responses to The "Heresy" of Worldly-Contentedness

  • I’m trying to ‘read more’ but there’s a problem with the link.

  • Visitor- there is no more material to be read- I’m not sure why the “Read More” is activated- sorry about that-

  • I removed the “Read More”.

  • In case anyone is offended by my use of the word “half-assed”- I reference St.Francis who called his body “Brother Ass”- so for me going about life and faith in a “half-assed” manner is like using only a half (or less) of your God-given potential for good.

  • It is so true. Every time I think I’ve improved, I realize how slow, lazy and unholy I am. Lukewarmness sucks. Today’s Gospel reading is a good, swift kick in the half-ass, or even the whole-ass. There may not be a tomorrow. We can’t waste time going through the motions.

    “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 13:32

  • No, I’m not offended by your use of ‘half-assed.’ I’m only offended by my own half-assedness.

  • Fair enough that there’s no more to read. But don’t you think there ought to be??? Not enough is said of lukewarmness.

    And I agree that it sucks.

Save Your Marriage!

Wednesday, November 11, AD 2009

Emotionally riveting song and video for me- I have been blessed to discover the value of my own family- and I vow everyday not to screw it up and make the little ones pay the price for my mistakes. Hang tough little families out there- prayer is like a rock that anchors me to what is good and holy in my life. My wife and kids are the highlight of my day, my nightmare is to think of my life right now without them.

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4 Responses to Save Your Marriage!

Church and Health Care

Sunday, October 25, AD 2009

I have been on the sidelines in the huge health care debate, I find so many good and bad effects in all the proposals I have seen up to now. The first thing to note is that I am swamped by health care bills- one-third of my gross income goes straight to United Health, and then add in co-pays, and some recent Mayo Clinic extra’s, and you get the idea- “Help!”.  I can see how many good people with fulltime jobs and HMO health insurance coverage, are still at risk of bankruptcy if they or their kids get struck down with anything approaching serious or chronic medically.

The problem is compounded by the very real situation of how almost all of us are in some or a lot of danger when it comes to being laid-off from that full-time work- and many Catholics like myself- have wives that are home by choice to better nurture our kids. Ugh! Lose your job, lose your insurance or pay for COBRA which you can’t afford because you don’t have a job- Double Ugh!

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9 Responses to Church and Health Care

  • That is a really interesting idea.

    The K of C has developed a remarkable life insurance program that strikes me as a reasonable model for your idea. Add to your idea the existence of so many hospitals, hospices, facilities for the aged, and counseling centers and you have a significant start already.

    Hmmm…

  • I would favor insurance being totally divorced from employment. With that in place, there could be other ideas at work. It could be a part of severence if laid off. It could be included in unemployment insurance by the government so that you wouldn’t lose it between jobs.

  • You miss an important point. The bishops want greater government involvement in health care so they can back out of it and spend less money and resources on it themselves – and if the names and identity of “Catholic” is still attached, all the better. They don’t *want* to be more involved. It’s expensive and bothersome and a liability.

    Bishops are not go-getters and innovators. They are protecters and retreaters.

  • Surely much confusion would be cleared away were one to refer to the proposals as “insurance for health care”.

    It is about money, not about health care.

    Where are the provisions for new hospitals, new medical schools,more doctors, more nurses. Nowhere.

    And the efforts to control liability suits have gone nowhere. The trial lawyers are among the biggest donors to the Democratic Party.

    I am uncertain that our bishops should be involved. They can barely control “their” own efforts. Consider the years of donating to such outfits as ACORN. And Catholic Charities is [rightfully] spurned by parishes throughout the country.

  • Mark,

    You have a good point about the bishops — but why should the bishops be the ones behind it? Why not a lay initiative? Why not expand the KoC program to be open (for only slightly higher fees) to non-Knights? Or why not start an entirely new program on our own?

    The trick is to get a handful of laypeople with the capital and the know-how to get it done. Any takers?

  • P.S. I know the Christian Brothers run an insurance-type thing for a number of religious congregations. Maybe we should look at them, too, to see what the possibilities are.

  • “Big gov” vs “Big HMO’s” is a HUGE misunderstanding. The HMO was forced on America BY the US Congress.

    I think focusing on “ObamaCare” is not only foolish, but hands the victory over without contest. All argument about it has focused on public funding of abortion and euthanasia.

    The reality is that any kind of a government run system will make not only health insurance worse, but health care overall worse. America’s health care system is the envy of the world.

    The focus on abortion funding amounts to arguing over whether we should gut the best health care system in the world WITH abortion funding or WITHOUT it.

    That said, yes, health insurance SHOULD be divorced from employment, which is yet another reason government should be forced to stay out of it entirely.

    Government regulation is the entire reason that health insurance is employer based, and the reason that it is nearly impossible for people to find & get decent health insurance on their own.

    The root of the problems we see today are based in the fact that health care costs are ever increasing, while the “cure” is always new ways to try and hide the cost. There are a few alternative health plans out there (like that would actually start addressing some of the core problems that drive up the cost of health care, such as H.R. 3400.

    That’s not the only alternative bill out there, either. There have been more than 2 DOZEN health care proposals made in Congress & the Senate, all of which have been repeatedly buried because they have been Republican proposals that would not ruin the health care system in America by nationalizing it.

    Here are just a few:
    H.R. 77, H.R. 270, H.R. 502, H.R. 1086, H.R. 1118, H.R. 1441, H.R. 1468, H.R. 1658, H.R. 1891, H.R. 2520, H.R. 2607, H.R. 2785, H.R. 2786, H.R. 2787, H.R. 3356, H.R. 3372, H.R. 3400, H.R. 3454, …….

  • The idea of an organizational (Catholic Church) based insurance entity is very appealing to me as it could answer both the availability and affordability problems with health care today. Additionally, It could be a model of non-profit status and could lower administrative costs significantly if it were really treated as a new way of doing health care insurance.

    The availability solution could be built into the plan’s charter with no pre-existing exclusion and open enrollment.

    How it charges for coverage could also improve availability and level the playing field for individual buyers with group buyers. For example, right now groups are usually priced by the major health care companies on the basis of an employee census as to age. Then the health care company may apply certain actuarial credits to reflect wellness programs, etc. or in some cases just to be competitive. The rate then is averaged and the 25 year old pays the same as the 62 year old in terms of what comes out of their pay. If the same 25 year old got individual coverage they would pay probably 10% of what the 64 year old pays. The new group could work the same way as a large group plan works now and eliminate or ameliorate the built in old age “tax” of individual coverage. Just as an aside, this may seem unfair to the 25 year old, but they will reap the benefits as they age much like social security.

    More importantly non-profit status would allow cost savings and with a new entity costs could be cut significantly with real simplification of contracts and no or little paperwork. As it grows in size it would be able to really negotiate with providers to lower costs which are currently sacred cows to government (because of lobbying) and major health companies because of kickbacks and deals (sorry if it sounds paranoid, but it is real life). An example would be prescription drug costs – if Canada can do it the new group should be able to also if it can stay independent.
    THE OTHER SIDE
    Unfortunately, there is a lot working against the idea. Some of the problems have been mentioned above as cultural within the church but there are some other things that could hurt on a macro basis.

    To be really effective and wring costs out of the system the current employer based system would have to be replaced largely with an individual based system. This creates some substantial problems as a large portion of the workforce is not going to take kindly to losing these benefits. Longer term this may become more viable as more and more employers are dropping or reducing benefits but the last holdouts may be the government sponsored autoworker unions.

    The current health insurance companies may not be overjoyed at this prospect either. At first the new group would probably have to use the current markets unless they are capitalized in some different form and can work out their own discounts with healthcare providers. Eventually, though, they will know that they are going to be removed from the equation. I suspect they will put up many roadblocks.

    The government could also be a major hurdle as there could be some definite constraints based on the “not invented here” concept. We’ve seen how this works when government forms an insurance carrier and does not allow competition such as Workers Compensation Insurance in several states such as Ohio.

    To be really effective there would also have to be a few other things that may only be able to come from government such as mandatory coverage and Tort Reform (assuming this can be done without being overturned by the Supreme Court). Additionally, regulations would have to be changed to allow for interstate operations and possibly establishment of specialized insurance entities.

    Overall, I like the idea and it is something that I have suggested before although not in the context of a faith based group. It is a major alternative to government plans and could eliminate much of the inflated medical costs that are overburdening us now. Real life, though, is that it has some significant hurdles and few real advocates.

  • Thanks Paul for the detailed consideration- I am hoping against hope that instead of having our church and the bishops taking a position of negativity toward the inevitable government “reform” of health care coverage, we should take the bull by the horns and provide an alternative that doesn’t require government takeovers or bow to the powerful private for-profit interests – you overcome evil with good, not mere rhetorical complaint.

Chivalry: A Personal Definition

Sunday, October 25, AD 2009

Chivalry to me is the call for men/boys to respect women/girls even if they apparently don’t respect themselves, or even aggressively market themselves as mere sex objects. The visual hardwiring for males is tough to short-circuit since it is there for some very excellent reasons- but a boy in-training to become a good man, must develop the capacity to say “No” the same as for the girls- and he must learn to divert his eyes rather than feasting on the nearly ubiquitous female forms in various stages of undress parading by our senses. It is no wonder that St.Paul said it was better to marry than to burn, and Jesus laid out some very high standards when He said that lusting for a woman in your mind was adultery- pretty clear advice from someone whose opinions form my own.

I know that girls who don’t have close and affectionate relationships with their own fathers will act out sexually at earlier ages to try to fill in a spiritual hole in their hearts. I hope that with my own girls I can reinforce their beauty and worth in the world by showering them with my attentions, my hugs and kisses, and all the verbal and non-verbal affirmations of their excellence and my love for them- with the added bonus of giving all praise and glory to God for them as gifts to me and their mother and the world. They should never have to feel that they “need” some sexually-charged teen to give them the idea that they are special and deserve physical and spiritual affection from a male in their life. I hope and pray that this gives them some invisible support to make the correct choice to wait until marriage for the very special gift of their physical selves to another.

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6 Responses to Chivalry: A Personal Definition

  • I’m also under the impression that how the father treats his wife affects the perception of young little boys and girls. Especially when they mature themselves, they mimic, imitate, and follow many of the same traits and behaviors their parents act out towards each other when they have spouses of their own.

  • I like your definition, but why do you subjectivize it? Why is it “chivalry … to you”? Why isn’t it just chivalry?

  • Zach-
    Because too many folks have re-defined “chivalry” for their personal use, meaning everything from “oppressing women” through “treat women like smaller, weaker men” and up to more sane definitions.

  • It is a “personal” definition in the sense that I take what I know about chivalry and describe it in my own words and way. Additionally, I add some personal detail by bringing it home to my own relationship with my daughters- so I am not saying that one can view chivalry apart from it’s classic definition- but in application to modern society and one’s own family experiences, there is bound to be some individual touches in the description of one’s personal definition.

  • “Chivalry to me is the call for men/boys to respect women/girls even if they apparently don’t respect themselves…”–Tim Shipe

    …or men and boys.

    Thanks, Mr. Shipe, for re-affirming that the expression “male chivalry” is redundant. And oh, does a female counterpart to chivalry even exist?

  • I think it’d be “polite.” Possibly “being a lady” or “decent.”

    I can think of a lot of examples of things that violate it– from false rape accusations through chewing someone out for holding the door, all the way up to demanding concessions for being female while demanding that everyone ignore that fact….

6 Responses to Catholic View of the Political Community (Part 5)

  • “Careers and reputations are often deemed more important than what the natural law and common good would demand (witness the Supreme Court).”

    Good post. THough I perhaps differ with some specifics you put it. I am a NAFTA supporter(it might need to be tweeked) but I think it is on the right path. I am not sure being pro NAFTA is anti Catholic but perhaps I am reading too much into your comments.

    I am curious if you would elaborate on your Supreme Court Comment. IS there a “Catholic” way to look at Const law? If so if this goes beyond the intent of the founders is it correct that the Court take power that is not delegated to them to enforce a common good? I think Archbishop Chaput would disagee looking at recent comments. I am not saying that natural law cannot be a jurisrudence for the Const. But again the court operates in the realm in the power that is given them.

    Again I am curious about that comment

  • Actually, Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus in his book “Civilization of Love” seems to hold a somewhat similar position, jh, in regard to NAFTA.

  • “Actually, Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus in his book “Civilization of Love” seems to hold a somewhat similar position, jh, in regard to NAFTA.”

    What postion is that? Again just curious. I think NAFTA needs to be tweeked as I said but it get tiresome for me to deal with Catholics on the Far Right( the horrible NAFTA Highway conspiracy) and other conspiracy theories and those on the left with their protectionist theories.

    I am saying when we are dealing with something as complicated as the NAFTA agreement there is not one “Catholic” position.

    I very much like the above post but while it speaks of looking to the Catholic commom good it seems to imply that there is a common Catholic true response to the Federal Reserve to Iraq to Nafta.

    I think that cuts off discussion and sort of lets say undermines the true intent of his post.

  • Anderson supports NAFTA but thinks reforms are necessary. I read the book when it first came out. I would have to check.

    On the other matter, I think a distinction needs to be made. And I hope my clarifications are there. I think there is such a thing as a ‘true’ Catholic response — objectively speaking. I do not believe that all moral judgments to a given situation are equal, that would be relativism. While reasonable minds may disagree on matters of prudential judgment (and none of us are barred from receiving communion as with advocating direct intrinsic evils), the fact that we can disagree often leads in my mind to a sort of relativism where our positions on other matter are almost entirely left to our discretion. I’m not saying this is anyone’s conscious thinking, but discussion of it almost seems to suggest that.

    I think there is a ‘true’ Catholic position to the war in Iraq. I’m not prepared to say what it is. The Church does not declare definitively on it for a number of reasons, but the moral principles given to us should allow us to reach a conclusion. Who is right and who is wrong at the end of the day, we will know when we die. But this does not mean that good intentions and one’s reasons simply because one thinks them derived from church teaching and principle make them a Catholic position or a “Catholic response.” I think the true Catholic response is the one *most* in accord with objective moral norms and I cannot think that even with the diversity of Catholic positions we take, all of them are ‘true’ Catholic responses. They cannot be. Again, that would be relativism.

    Because of the lack of unbiased facts, presentation, and many factors prevent the Church from definitively saying what the Catholic position is on matters where the morality is not so obvious. As it so happens, our church leadership is just as ready to divide on what is and what is not the Catholic position on some matter. And even moreso, it is not a prudent idea pastorally to tell everyone what to think on every issue and not allow some intellectual freedom as well as attempt, in the form of trial and error, to develop in moral virtue.

    In that sense, no, there is no ‘true’ Catholic response dogmatically put forward for us to readily advocate. We have to come to the best judgment we can make that we deem best in accordance with church teaching and dialogue about it and present our case the best we can. For me, in many circumstances, it tends to be a Democratic position. It seems obvious to me in a lot of cases this best reflects the teachings of the Church. This is not the case with other Catholics. While open to being wrong (and I have adapted my opinion on a number of issues because of dialogue), I think my view is profoundly Catholic and the ‘obvious’ Catholic position until I see credible reason to think otherwise.

    I’m not accusing you of thinking a certain way. I’m just commenting in general that I think that the phrase “matters of prudential judgment” which refers to non-intrinsic evils leads to some sort of relativism among Catholics where since the Church has no “official” position, we can adapt almost any view as long as we can give it a Catholic spin — or at least this is my perception of it. Whereas, I think while there is no “official” position because it is humanly impossible to verify because of the question of the source of facts, dispute about circumstances, et al, thus all are left to prudentially come to a conclusion — which in my view means that we are all seeking the Catholic position, though, we cannot precisely say what it is — and whatever position any number of Catholic positions taken are “Catholic approaches” insofar as they are based on Church teaching, but I don’t think all views necessarily take everything into account at the proportionate level they are meant to be.

    It’s just one of the things that bother me when people talk about “non-negotiables” and matters of “prudential judgment.” I hope I articulated it well enough.

  • My own personal take on the application of general principle and worldview as presented by the more-or-less complete Catholic social doctrine- is that NAFTA-economics is flawed, not in that there is a trade agreement between nations, but that economics must involve true freedom which is not merely contractual, but moral, representative of true human freedom which is connected to the ends of Man (of all mankind)- which is the proper return to God. Economics is about more than mere cumulative desires/supply-demand- but how are all the people in the chain of economic transactions affected- be it the producers/workers, the sellers, the consumers. A good critique of this kind of critique is found in William Cavanaugh’s book – Being Consumed- and it is supported by what I have read over the years in official Catholic teachings- right up to the current encyclical.

    So- if NAFTA-economics can be generalized to say that it does not include provisions that look after the welfare of workers/farmers/small communities with the rights of subsidiarity, and the environmental health – then it is a flawed approach to trade and relations between nations. The fact that Mexico was quickly abandoned as a source of cheap human labor when China opened wide- to provide huge access to cheap and hardly “free” laborers- exposed the false myth promised by NAFTA- and we see how the Mexican people feel about NAFTA as they have voted with their feet in fleeing their country for America.

    As for the Supreme Court- I resoect Archbishop Chaput very much and haven’t read his take on how we should expect our Highest Court to involve natural law reasoning and common good outcomes into their daily work- but it seems to me from reading the social doctrine that there can be no mere positive law theory of interpretation that can replace the demands of justice inscribed in the natural laws given us by God and accessible to all, but there is a big help given us by the Church- I would recommend Prof. Rice’;s book on the Natural Law, as a good application of what the Church teaches. I would compare strict contructionist interpretation theory to a Fundamentalist reading of Scripture- not a perfect analogy of course given the uniqueness of Scripture and Catholic Magisterial guidance

  • I don’t think there can be, or ought to be, a defined “Catholic” position on EVERY single political or economic issue, for the simple reason that the Catholic Church, by definition, crosses economic and political boundaries — it’s universal; that’s what the name means! The kind of political or economic or military policies that “work” for one nation, or at one particular time in history, aren’t necessarily going to work in another nation, another culture, or at another time. So there has to be some flexibility.

    What the Catholic (Universal) Church does is set forth universal principles –protection of innocent human life, of the poor and vulnerable, of the family as the basic unit of society, and of human dignity (including religious freedom). How these basic principles are best applied at a given time and place and in a given situation is what lay people are called to figure out, and to do.

    Although the “non negotiable” issues with absolutely no room for compromise like abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage get most of the attention, it seems to me that the vast majority of economic and political issues are matters of prudence about which faithful Catholics are free to disagree, and to change their minds — and this is as it should be.

7 Responses to Changing the World

  • Excellent! I think Benedict has been developing the theme of the priority of the spiritual in his three encyclicals. This is not to deny the need for social action. Merely that spiritual rootedness must preceed any action.

  • Indeed.

    And regardless of the topic of one’s blogging, if one allows it to take a place in one’s life disproportionate to any other hobby, it’s probably a good idea to cut down. Real life beckons.

  • A welcome reminder to the Catholic blogosphere….

  • As I have stated many times over the years, I blog solely for amusement. If any good comes of it well and good, but if it ever ceases to be fun I will stop doing it. Having just put in 12 hours at the office and in court, how I wish I could do the same thing regarding the law!

  • Mr. McClarey,

    As “Amuse thyself” is your self-confessed guiding motto of all of your blogging activities, I must apologize for all of my complaints that assumed that truth and Christian charity were your guiding lights.

    Now I understand you better, I think.

  • Wrong as usual Mr. DeFrancisis, but feel free to try again.

  • I am new to this blog and welcome the possibility of constructive dialog regarding important issues that face our society and help us to continually form our souls so as to be pleasing in the eyes of our heavenly Father who loves all of us and only desires the best for us. I promise that I will always do my best to adhere to “The Code of Conduct” rules and I ask all of you to please remind or reprimand me if I disrespect any of you, my pride often times gets the better of me. From reading the above replies to the words of Pope Benedict regarding how important prayer is to sustain our faith, and how prayer gives our actions true merit, it is easy to see that we have all been given gifts from God(Our Father)that we can use to assist one another on our journeys of on-going spiritual formation. Your brother in Christ, Scott

"Taken" Some Life Lessons

Saturday, July 18, AD 2009

I saw the movie with Liam Neeson entitled “Taken”, the other night. It is the ultimate ‘Dads protecting daughters’ fantasy. It plays on a whole lot of primal emotions- particularly the temptation to give oneself over to extreme violence to protect the lives and sanctity of one’s children. Every father wants to imagine himself capable of defending his beloved children from any and all threats- and the father in “Taken” was that ultimate fatherly force. He represented more of a divine Angelic father who slays spiritually evil forces, than a realistic earthly dad- and as such I was able to excuse the incredible violence as something of a parable of ultimate accountability for those humans who perpetrate the evils of human trafficking and slavery.

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3 Responses to "Taken" Some Life Lessons

  • I think you make a key point here about how deeply pornography is connected with the breakdown of the family and the exploitation of women in our society.

  • Can you tell me what definition of “consumerism” you’re applying to the sex-slavery industry which is thousands of years old?

    It seems a stretch to me, but I’m interested to hear.

  • ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
    TO THE MEMBERS OF THE
    “CENTESIMUS ANNUS – PRO PONTIFICE” FOUNDATION

    Clementine Hall
    Saturday, 13 June 2009

    “Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
    Distinguished and Dear Friends,

    Thank you for your visit which fits into the context of your annual meeting. I greet you all with affection and am grateful to you for all that you do, with proven generosity, at the service of the Church. I greet and thank your President, Count Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, who has expressed your sentiments with fine sensitivity, giving an overview of the Foundation’s work. I also thank those who, in various languages, have wished to express your common devotion. Our meeting today acquires special meaning and value in the light of the situation that humanity as a whole is experiencing at this time.

    Indeed, the financial and economic crisis which has hit the industrialized, the emerging and the developing countries, shows clearly that certain economic and financial paradigms which prevailed in recent years must be rethought. Therefore, at the international congress which took place yesterday your Foundation did well to address the topic of the search for, and identification of, the values and rules which the economic world should abide by in order to evolve a new model of development that is more attentive to the requirements of solidarity and more respectful of human dignity.

    I am pleased to learn that you examined in particular the interdependence between institutions, society and the market, in accordance with my venerable Predecessor John Paul II’s Encyclical, Centesimus annus. The Encyclical states that the market economy, understood as: “an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector” (n. 42), may be recognized as a path to economic and civil progress only if it is oriented to the common good (cf. n. 43). However, this vision must also be accompanied by another reflection which says that freedom in the economic sector must be circumscribed “by a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality”, a responsible freedom, “the core of which is ethical and religious” (n. 42). The above-mentioned Encyclical appropriately states: “just as the person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all” (n. 43).

    I hope that by drawing inspiration from the eternal principles of the Gospel it will be possible, with the research inherent in your work, to elaborate a vision of the modern economy that is respectful of the needs and rights of the weak. My Encyclical dedicated to the vast topic of the economy and work is, as you know, due to be published shortly. It will highlight what for Christians are the objectives to pursue and the values to promote and to defend tirelessly, if we are to achieve a truly free and supportive human coexistence.”

    Consumerism, as I use it, is not the positive business economy that is supported by Catholic social doctrine, but the destructive misuse of business models that overemphasize the commerce angle at the expense of the human beings who are on the giving and receiving end of some business transaction. It is the inadequate juridical framework that allows for such things as pornography and adult entertainment businesses to flourish under a false idealism associated with “Free Speech” and corporations being legally defined as “persons” with rights we normally associate with actual human beings. These modern-day abuses of what true freedom is really all about, help foster the modern situation of sex-slavery/human trafficking. The legal pornography helps to fuel the destructive fires of lust in boys and men of all ages, the freedom of advertisers to use sexual appeals to the lowest common denominator in human- particularly male human nature- also makes the pursuit of sex seem to be an overriding concern in everyday life. The rise of female entrepreneurs in the adult video industry and prostitution lends to the notion that women are getting good money for lending their bodies to men for illicit sexual purposes- so there is no victim in the process, when in actuality everyone involved and women in general and humanity at-large is harmed by the social sins associated with the weakening of public morals, and the encouragement of promiscuity with all the physical and spiritual damage that that entails.

    One could say that “consumerism” is that approach to economics and business that tries to separate the Christian Humanism of which the Pope speaks, with the freedom of individuals to pursue many kinds of “businesses” which contribute to the market demand for young girls and boys to be available for sexual exploitation- which is what drives the sex-slavery “market”. I found this to be the case when I attended local city council meetings where the topic was responding to the demands of adult entertainment business owners to have certain areas of town zoned for adult entertainment lest they take the city to the higher courts, where the findings have been in favor of the adult businesses via the “free speech” rationalization. The small cities must come up with ample sites for adult entertainment or else they risk heavy legal fees to challenge something that right now favors the purveyors of porn in the higher courts. Even though the numbers of speakers from the community who were outraged and against such businesses was very substantial- the juridical framework isn’t developed to address the morality questions in these areas. If we have the human person as our primary consideration in determining how to regulate businesses and their affairs, then this would be something more or less easy to fix. But our system is not set up with the common good/natural law as the guiding light for legal renderings- which is what is lacking in the juridical frameworks so often called for by the Magisterium.

Who Controls the Money?

Thursday, July 16, AD 2009

In trying to answer the big questions about the central banks and global economy- I think it is important to note these historical facts and ask what their relevance might be:

Paul Volcker was appointed by liberal Jimmy Carter to be the head of the Fed, and was re-appointed by conservative Ronald Reagan. Alan Greenspan was appointed to head the Federal Reserve by Reagan, and then was re-appointed by President Bush I, Clinton, and again Bush II. This begs the question of how such a powerful position in managing our nation’s monetary policies can remain so “above” all the political cat-fighting between so-called “liberal” politicians and so-called “conservative” politicians. Shouldn’t there be a real difference of opinion when it comes to who should hold such key positions of power in the overall economy? I will add that Paul Volcker was named by President Obama to be “First Chair of President’s Economy Recovery Advisory Board”- so the musical chairs continues- is this some kind of a game?

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11 Responses to Who Controls the Money?

  • Well, “bipartisan gentleman’s agreement” is a bit of a conspiracy theory, isn’t it?

    Your observation regarding the Fed chairman and other high level operatives playing musical chairs says to me that long ago the financial interests in the United States adopted a policy regarding politicians that would ensure their continuity. “Liberal” or “Conservative” means nothing to them as long as those they support for office protect their control over money.

    After all, how many times has it been noted that financiers often contribute to opposing campaigns? President Obama received support from GoldmanSachs did he not? And Goldman has had not a few of its employees and leaders end up in government.

    This is why it is so incredibly important to open the books at the Federal Reserve.

    How should these facts play out in our politics? It should bring about a debate as to whether or not our economy is really “free”. Just as many would argue that government has no right to command the economy, so too should it be true that corporations should not collude with the government in order to steer the economy according to their interests. Only moral hazard can result, yet thats precisely the system we live under with the Fed.

    The Fed right now is very frightened, as its claiming that any effort to force open their doors is an attack on their “independence”. Actually, given the powers they have thanks to Congress, “independence” really is code for “secret behind closed-door deals”. If they desire the independence of the free market, then they should relinquish the power to create money out of thin air.

  • If you were to have the monetary system you want, what would it be, and how much discomfort to the economy and those living in it would you be willing to inflict in the transition?

  • I’d take it to mean that at the expert level there’s been very little disagreement since the 1970s over what the monetary policy ought to be.

    To the extent that those kind of experts maintain membership in one party over the other, it’s because of issues other than monetary policy.

  • Yes- and that begs the question as to whether monetary policy is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room whom no one is really talking about- if in fact these monetary policies (Federal Reserve Board) and the foreign aid administration (IMF/World Bank) are really huge in their impact on the general economy, the conditions of life for the poor and vulnerable and so on.

  • Well, in terms of under-rated positions of influence, I tend to think Chairmen of the Federal Reserve pretty much tops the list. Setting monetary policy has a substantial impact on the economy; far more, in fact, than most of the policy tools available to a sitting President.

    As far as the direct impact on the poor and vulnerable, I think the poor are disproportionately impacted during periods of economic downturn and disruption, but I think there is incentive alignment here insofar as all of the parties concerned wish to minimize the effects of economic downturns and recessions. Congress has the authority to enact legislation to provide increased support for poor Americans, and Presidents can go along with or resist such legislation. But I don’t think there is anything specifically related to the poor or vulnerable that a Fed chair can do, other than what they are already inclined to do – try and use the tools at their disposal to maximize long-term prosperity.

  • I’d like to investigate the possibility of a commodity-backed competing currency within the U.S along side the dollar. It doesn’t have to be gold or silver, though those metals are constitutional and tend to be used. Considering that we are now hearing calls for a new global reserve currency, the American people must have an escape route to protect their political independence. While the dollar lasts, at least people can have a period of time in which to “transition”.

    I would also take a second look at the virtues of allowing local currencies. Lots of people freak at the thought, but I think in today’s age people would naturally gravitate to “major currencies” and there would not necessarily be the complications some fear as long as the money is “honest”.

    Granted, I’m not an economist by any means so maybe I’m crazy.

  • One need not engage in Conspiracy Theories to have a distaste for the DC-NYC power axis that wishes for as little sunlight onto their activities as possible. Ron Paul, who I only sorta like, is quite right about that.

    The concept of a “deep state” – which exists in solid form in Turkey as elsewhere – is useful.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_state
    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/06/deep-state.html

  • The World Bank/IMF have had a huge role in deciding the economies for the poorer nations- there is this misconception among some conservatives that aid from rich countries to poor ones is necessarily counter-productive- I would offer that the interests of the World Bank/IMF have not been primarily with the poor- they have been guilty of either extremely poor judgment or worse. Perhaps you have heard of the notorious IMF Conditionalities? In any case the World Bank would seem to be a very unsuitable place for men like McNamara and Wolfowitz who had shown zero compassion for the poor and vulnerable who would become the victims of their wars.

    Aid is not the enemy- it is the type of aid and the way it is administered and monitored that is the problem. A huge reform needs to take place, but we don’t wash our hands of the plight of the global poor- not when you are living in the singular global superpower anyway- try telling Jesus- “hey the best thing we rich nations could do for the poor is to let them alone- give them nothing” Huh? I think that we can do things that don’t encourage passive entitlement- we just haven’t done those things because we allow the World Bank et al to work behind the scenes dominating the aid programs. I know people who operate successful small-scale aid projects- if they had more money they could better more lives of more poor people- but these people aren’t getting the global funding from the big players- it isn’t the aid workers who have the most knowledge and life experience close to the people they serve who are getting the resources for the most part- and this is why I believe the Church continues to urge for more development assistance from rich countries to poor ones- while criticizing the way this aid has been implemented for the past few decades.

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  • Aid is not the enemy- it is the type of aid and the way it is administered and monitored that is the problem. A huge reform needs to take place, but we don’t wash our hands of the plight of the global poor- not when you are living in the singular global superpower anyway- try telling Jesus- “hey the best thing we rich nations could do for the poor is to let them alone- give them nothing” Huh?

    I’m not clear at all that conservatives or even libertarians are suggesting that those in rich countries should ignore the plight of poor countries. For example, the somewhat libertarian-leaning podcast EconTalk that I listen to each week, which has strongly criticized the “throw money at their leaders” approach to aid has also done several interviews with people working on funding networks for small scale projects.

    Similarly, Dambisa Moyo whose book Dead Aid has been getting a lot of attention on National Review and such doesn’t advocate abandoning Africa but rather stopping the flow of large checks to corrupt rulers. From the interviews with her that I’ve read, she is very much in favor of funding micro projects and funding infrastructure.

  • Good deal Darwin- and not because of your flattering close! Before we abandon the notion that aid is a bad thing inherently for the developing world- we need to re-direct the flow as you indicate- micro-loans, projects that make sense for the local communities according to the principle of subsidiarity, no more greasing the palms of the third world dictator/oligarichical class, if someone wants help for their country then the aid will come with lots of oversight, sunshine provisions, media scrutiny, great input by local populations and so forth- we need to be sure that we are in some cases giving the poor fishing poles, and teaching them to fish, and having succeeded there, leaving them in peace as we develop true friendships between peoples the same way we build true friendships between people. If I’m down and out, I like some help, but I don’t want to become totally dependent, and I don’t want to be someone’s lacky either.

Support the Troops- Here's One Way

Monday, July 13, AD 2009

The idea of supporting the troops is not one where you find a whole lot of argument. Of course in the Vietnam era there are the stories of how hippies used to spit on servicemen, calling them “baby killers”. I’ve heard that scenario repeated so many times, I’m starting to wonder if this reaction was really so widespread, or if it got an urban legend boost at some point. I’m sure this type of thing happened, I was too young to take in the riots, the protests against the Vietnam War to fully appreciate the dynamic of the times. But in any case, we are now pretty much united in the notion that while a given war may be unjust, we don’t blame the average man or woman in uniform. In fact, we seek ways to honor or show respect for them, even if we are seeking to end the conflict in which they are engaged. This is a good thing on the whole.

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109 Responses to Support the Troops- Here's One Way

  • I think anyone who suspects they might have moral qualms about fighting in a war is crazy to sign up for our all volunteer military. Best if they choose another career. As for spitting on troops, yes, it did happen.

    http://www.bizzyblog.com/2007/03/01/the-vietnam-no-spitting-on-soldiers-occurred-myth-jim-lindgren-piles-on-yours-truly-adds-a-little/

  • It’s the height of hypocracy to disagree with the war but to “support the troops” at the same time. The troops are the ones conducting the war! As we learned at the Nuremburg Trials, the excuse, “I was just following orders”, is not valid, especially from a Catholic perspective, as it negates an individual’s conscience in making decisions.

    There is also a HUGE difference in national defense and what is currently happening today, waging aggressive, interventionist wars that have nothing to do with legitimate self-defense.

  • Here’s the thing- someone may sign up for the armed services after something like 9-11 with the comprehension that the nation will probably go to war with an aggressive state or terrorist organization- and then the political class decides to divert or take advantage of the chaos to start up an unjust war that has nothing to do with the original pretext for which the young soldier signed up for action.

    This is pretty much how I see what happened with the Iraq invasion- it was a betrayal on many levels- but on one level it was a betrayal of those men and women who signed up for military service after 9-11, and then somehow found themselves in Iraq, not Afghanistan chasing Bin Laden. There must be some provision for the conscience in such circumstances, if we are a Nation under God, we must respect that if our soldiers have the right to their conscience, they will be another check on the powers that decide to war or not to war. It is then the responsibility of the elders, to take cues from Mother Church, and educate the young and help form their consciences correctly, so they may see through the sometimes wicked designs of those in power.

    So no- I disagree that someone who even suspects they may have moral qualms about fighting in war is crazy to sign up in a volunteer military- if that is the case then no one in their right mind and heart should ever sign up for the military- if their conscience is to be forfeited so completely. There is a higher contract between Man and God- to deny our soldiers a conscience-clause at any point in his/her career is to make that person into a mere weapon of the state- too often a weapon in the hands of one man- the president (and his chosen advisors). How dehumanizing.

  • I’ve heard that scenario repeated so many times, I’m starting to wonder if this reaction was really so widespread, or if it got an urban legend boost at some point.

    Three uncles had it happen to them, when they got off the plane home. One of them was on his way back because his swift boat had been blown up, and he was the only survivor– woke up holding his buddy’s hand. The rest of his buddy was on the other side of the river.

    It wasn’t hippies. It was normal looking people, mostly.

  • Ok- I accept that the stories coming out of the Vietnam era are accurate- that was a side point setting the stage for my central thesis- any takers pro or con on my proposal- and if anyone has information on the legalities currently in play for service members who refuse immoral orders or who chose to conscientiously object to a new conflict that comes up after they have volunteered and signed a contract with the Armed Services- I would appreciate that update.

    I would only add that instead of just terminating the contracts of those soldiers who disagree with the moral status of say the invasion of Iraq for example- that they may continue on in public service- for example to serve out their time helping the nation or internationally with disaster relief, fighting fires, and the like- I believe that those who join the military are usually motivated to no small degree by a solid sense of patriotism and public service- the fact that they want nothing to do with an unjust military conflict is actually a big indicator of their moral fortitude, not some failure of patriotic duty- quite the opposite- unjust military actions only undermine the health and well-being of any nation.

  • It’s the military, not social services.

    If folks can claim a “moral objection” to fighting and thus get out of fighting, you’ll just have leaches sign up to get the bennies without the danger. Same thing happened when they use to have the policy of female sailors with children never having to work on ships.

    Those who refuse unlawful orders have to be very, very sure they’re unlawful– if they’re right, they’re in the clear; if they’re not, they’re in jail.
    If you’re sure enough to risk the lives of fellow soldiers, sailors and Marines in refusing an immoral order, you’d better be sure enough to risk some jail time.

  • No one is addressing the source point of my proposal- the Catholic social doctrine- it seems there is no meeting ground in Catholic circles if there is no coherent attempt to base one’s views on a Catholic principle derived from natural law or divine revelation. I’m not talking about “unlawful orders”, I am talking about immoral orders- the law is what needs to be changed to address the right to conscience protection- for the sake of us all. And the military does more than just fight, they are often called to do things like disaster relief- see the National Guard, and how in international crises many times it is military personnel performing “social services” to those in desperate need.

    Yes, you have the possibility of individuals abusing the spirit of selective conscientious objection- but the alternative is one that removes a critical right and responsibility to follow one’s developed Catholic conscience- if one is Catholic- I thought this was supposed to be a Catholic forum?

  • The irony, of course, is that some of the same people who called US troops ‘baby killers’ were also most vocal for legal abortion.

    That said, our soldiers did engage in atrocities in Vietnam. To look the other way is not patriotism, but moral cowardice.

  • Some atrocities Joe, but consideration should be given that for the enemy we were fighting, the NVA and the Viet Cong, My Lai type massacres were an everyday occurence. Unlike our opponents, American troops were subject to prosecution for such activities. It should also be kept in mind that the vast majority of Americans served honorably in Vietnam and more than a few helped the civilian population of South Vietnam in building schools, churches, temples, bridges, hospitals etc.
    http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq67-5.htm

    Of course the Catholics of Vietnam suffer from bitter persecution still from the Communist government, something that would not be occuring today if the US and South Vietnam had won the Vietnam War.

  • Yes, you have the possibility of individuals abusing the spirit of selective conscientious objection- but the alternative is one that removes a critical right and responsibility to follow one’s developed Catholic conscience- if one is Catholic- I thought this was supposed to be a Catholic forum?

    I think that the tension we’d see here from a Catholic point of view (and which people are expressing above) is between the need for the rule of law balanced against the primacy of the conscience.

    On the one hand, “I was under orders” is not an excuse for committing a grave moral evil. On the other, if people only obey orders when they think it’s a good idea, then the whole concept of authority breaks down completely.

    Theologians have struggled with this over the centuries, include St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued that one was generally required to obey even wrongful laws and orders — the fault landing upon the giver of the law. In truly grievous matters, however, one must refuse to obey and suffer the consequences.

    Here is where, I think, the legitimate argumentation on how these issues should be replied in regards to the military come in. On the one hand, the military will at times involve situations where immediate obedience is very important to preserving the lives and safety of many other people. It is, thus, very important that authority itself not be broken down.

    And yet, clearly, from a Catholic point of view it’s is not desirable that people be forced to do things contrary to their conscience.

    While different people are going to his different balance points on this, I think it’s certainly not out of line for a Catholic to argue that it is acceptable for the potential consequences for disobeying orders to be very severe — and rely upon the judgment of a court of inquiry as to whether the soldier in question was indeed being ordered to do something wrong.

  • Theologians have struggled with this over the centuries, include St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued that one was generally required to obey even wrongful laws and orders — the fault landing upon the giver of the law. In truly grievous matters, however, one must refuse to obey and suffer the consequences.

    While different people are going to his different balance points on this, I think it’s certainly not out of line for a Catholic to argue that it is acceptable for the potential consequences for disobeying orders to be very severe — and rely upon the judgment of a court of inquiry as to whether the soldier in question was indeed being ordered to do something wrong.

    Bingo.

    I really wish folks would stop assuming that those who don’t agree with them were ignoring the Catholic Church’s teachings, though– unless it’s as black and white as the abortion issue, it’s a heck of a big assumption. It really doesn’t do anything but make folks less likely to listen to what I really hope are your good-faith arguments.

  • Good- The post by DarwinCatholic is getting to the higher ground. I can see the twin demands of justice for the need for authority lines to be intact and for the individual conscience to be a check on that authority. Now how do we string together these two demands in a functioning society?

    I do think that there should be an opt out when it comes to a new war scenario that pops up down the road from when a young person signs up to serve in the military. Like I said, if Catholics had stood up within the military to beg off participating in the Iraq invasion- wow- what a witness to the nation and the world that would have been- but few have access to good parents, teachers and pastors, who would deliver the Magisterium views to the young- and most “elders” are simply afraid to be seen as unpatriotic- so the political elite have little problem in pursuing wars good or bad- at least in the beginning.

    So- I do think that there should be a pretty open process for selective conscientious objection to going to particular war- and they should have the option to serving in some capacity that is of benefit to society like I mentioned above with disaster relief or prep, fire fighting, etc.. This could be a clearly written law.

    As for choosing to disobey specific commands in a war that the soldier agrees is just, this would have to be handeled much, much more delicately- given that someone might pull out the conscience clause out of cowardice or some other negative motivation. So- what to do? There needs to be a thorough list drawn up of possible scenarios that may apply for conscience protection- the rules of engagement should be clear for all soldiers- from the top-down. There is nothing new under the sun, so with all the wars fought in the past, we can foresee most if not all the kinds of things that must never be done- not even in war. Targeting civilians is terrorism- the grey zone is when you have cold calculations of civilian deaths as collateral damage- this is something that requires a lot more soul-searching than we have had as a nation up to now. As well the use of landmines and weapons of mass destruction need to be addressed. And of course- torture- and what constitutes torture from a practical application point of view. Geneva conventions, international law and such are relevant here.

    Now if someone disobeys and order that is the result of his/her laziness or fear or some such thing, there must be a tribunal that can sort that out- and be well known so that individual soldiers are clear about what the conscience protections are all about- and what they are not about. All of this is premised upon an educated populace and sophisticated military command and informed rank and file service men/women.

    I would compare this to the conscience protections we demand for health care professionals- they shouldn’t be told- hey abortion and contraception is perfectly legal- if you want to be a doc, a nurse, a pharmacist et al, you better be prepared to dispense/perform/refer these type of medical options to patients. Well- we don’t agree with this as Catholics do we? Well, I would put soldiering in a similar category- we shouldn’t be excluded from the ranks of the military just because we may have some real objections to some future order or war the rest of our brethren are being charged with carrying out. Catholics are the Salt- we must be a stinging example for the community sometimes- we are not to hide out in the woods, the Church has citizenship status now, and all that comes with it.

  • You assume we all agree with you that the Iraqi war is immoral. (we being Catholics in the military at the time of the Iraqi war)

    That’s a very big assumption, especially as it has now been over six years– the longest standard contract I know of– and there hasn’t been a huge number of Catholics leaving the military “because the Iraqi war is immoral.”

  • You are right – but I don’t get it- and I am not proud that Catholics are no different from the rest of the population when it comes to wars like Iraq, or abortions, contraception, or whatever- all it proves to me is that there is a huge disconnect between the Church’s teachings and official leadership, and the majority of lay and religious Catholics in this country. If I am wrong I hope to God that Jesus Christ will show me through the purgatorial process how I got off-track and should’ve seen that invading Iraq was the honorable thing to do, and that maybe abortion reduction policies were enough, and fighting for national legal status for the unborn was imprudent and unconstitutional- if I am wrong- I want some indication from above- I don’t want to be alienated from the packs on the Right and the Left- but at present my conscience does not feel clean if I don’t disagree publicly with many things going on in our society. I do like Joe Hargrave for the most part however!

    On some issues we can agree to disagree- but when innocent human lives are ended as a consequence to some policy decision or another- you can expect that the agreement will be one made through clenched teeth, and the fight for the truth will go on until Jesus himself will have to separate us and instruct us on who was right and who was wrong, and why, and how much culpability we each have for the decisions we made in this life. I don’t want to win arguments, I want to save lives, and address injustices past and present- to improve the world for the next generation.

  • I have yet to understand the gall of such Catholics who go to the extent of visciously characterizing the Iraq War as something so heinous and immoral when you consider the fact that it essentially overthrew an abominably ignoble regime which committed unspeakable acts of murder not only countless innocents of its citizenry but also family members too.

    Just because for certain Catholics, it didn’t satisfy the formal requirements of the Just War doctrine doesn’t necessarily mean that the toppling of such tyrannical forces inimical to Good and wont to take hundreds of innocent lives is itself an atrociously immoral act.

  • E,

    When two of those “certain Catholis” include the current and former pope, I think we have grounds for thinking such.

    “I have yet to understand the gall of such Catholics who go to the extent of visciously characterizing the Iraq War as something so heinous and immoral when you consider the fact that it essentially overthrew an abominably ignoble regime which committed unspeakable acts of murder not only countless innocents of its citizenry but also family members too.”

    By this criteria it is more immoral to not intervene in any number of places in Africa or Asia where the dictators are actually worse and the loss of life more severe.

    In any case, basic Catholic morality says that evil may not be done even if good will come of it. If the reasons for going to war are wrong, then the good side-effects can’t later be invoked as a justification.

    And if I’m wrong then the Catechism as I understand it makes no sense and I’m in the wrong religion.

  • I think you’d find, Joe, that the same Catholics who don’t have any problem with serving in the Iraq War would have little problem with following orders to liberate any of those other dictatorships as well.

    It strikes me that one of the basic disagreements among Catholics at this time is whether a war failing to meet the just war criteria necessarily means that participating in it as a soldier is immoral. Shakespeare answers the question thusly:

    KING HENRY V
    …methinks I could not die any where so
    contented as in the king’s company; his cause being
    just and his quarrel honourable.

    WILLIAMS
    That’s more than we know.

    BATES
    Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know
    enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if
    his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes
    the crime of it out of us.

    WILLIAMS
    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
    a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
    arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
    together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at
    such a place…

    I think there’s a great deal to this, though I’d adopt something of a middle position:

    There are, it seems to me, to different ways one might argue a war fails to meet just war criteria:

    – the war’s aims are actively immoral (e.g. exterminate the Armenians)
    – the war’s aims are essentially admirable, but there is dispute as to whether there might still be some distant hope that the issue could be resolved through other means, or whether the evil being righted is in fact greater than the likely evils of fighting a war, or whether one’s country has the “standing” to be the prosecuting power in a war.

    If the former, I think it would pretty much be one’s duty to be a consciencious objector, and accept whatever suffering came as a result of this.

    If the latter, however, I don’t see that soldiers serving in the war would be morally at fault, though it might be that God’s judgement would rest heavily upon the ruler who made the decision to go to war.

    Now, it seems to me that the US wars in the 20th century over which there is controversy among Catholics as to their justice (WW1, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq War) fall very much into this latter category — and so I’m not sure that it’s appropriate to be shocked that there aren’t more Catholic consciencious objectors.

    I tried to cover this in some detail here:

    http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com/2008/02/is-fighting-in-unjust-war-evil.html

  • Joe,

    When two of those “certain Catholis&”; include the current and former pope, I think we have grounds for thinking such.

    With all due respect, the consensus between Two Popes don’t make a right; if such provides a remarkably compelling case, would you want me to submit herein the same between not just two but even a number of morally decadent midiaeval Popes, whose agendas which seemed to serve more worldly matters dictated papal policy and thought then?

    In other words, such things which are not strictly a matter concerning Faith and Morals are those where there can be legitimate diversity of opinion amongst Catholics.

  • I do wish you’d refrain from accusing those of us who disagree with you on the Iraqi war of being in the same level as those promoting abortion.

    It is not, as then-Cardinal Ratzinger even pointed out:
    Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

  • Tim – I think we see very clearly from the reaction to your thoughtful post that folks like Donald simply do not take Catholic just war teaching seriously.

  • Selective conscientious objection is not allowed. I think it’s nothing short of scandalous that this haven’t been an issue in the Iraq war.

    It wouldn’t necessarily render the armed forces ineffective. There’s lots of ways to get around the problem. You can have financial or promotional incentives or adjust the length of service.

    The way I see it, if you can’t get someone to fight voluntarily, it probably isn’t worth fighting for.

    ————–

    I don’t like how “support the troops” is thrown around. What does it mean? If by “support” we mean that we pray that they aren’t killed or maimed and that we should care for the wounded and the families of those killed, then I agree that it’s not controversial. But if by “support” we mean success then I proudly did not support the troops in Iraq. I say that in the past tense because I do support the rebuilding of Iraq.

  • No Catholic Anarchist, “folks like Donald” simply come to a different conclusion when applying the just war teaching. For an application of just war teaching to a conflict by me, I would refer readers to this post:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/07/06/a-just-war/

  • From your comments, Catholic Militarist, it is clear that you want Catholic soldiers to leave their consciences at the door when they join up, or that if they foresee themselves as having any “qualms,” they should not join.

    Having moral qualms about killing is part of what makes us human, Catholic Militarist. You want to dehumanize soldiers. Great way to “support the troops,” eh?

  • Catholic Anarchist when you have an all-volunteer military people who have qualms about fighting in wars are not compelled to do so. I think that is great. People who join up on the other hand should clearly realize that there is a very good chance that they will have to go to war. They should not be able to weasel out of their commitment by suddenly proclaiming themselves as opposed to fighting in a war when it is their turn to go. If they feel conscience bound not to do so, they should be willing to be subjected to the legal penalties that apply to such disobedience. The military Catholic Anarchist is not grad school where someone can merely ditch a course if it proves tough. The military is for adults who understand what a commitment is and who are willing to stand behind the oath they took when they joined up.

  • E,

    “In other words, such things which are not strictly a matter concerning Faith and Morals are those where there can be legitimate diversity of opinion amongst Catholics.”

    I never argued otherwise. You were the one who said you didn’t “understand” why so many Catholics were opposed to these wars.

    I’m simply saying that the opposition of the last two Popes probably has something to do with it.

    As for this “faith and morals” line, it is quite tiresome, and I mean no offense. War is a moral issue. Economics is a moral issue. What the “morals” part of “faith and morals” apparently means for some people – and this may or may not include you – is personal morality.

    I say that is an erroneous and narrow understanding of what is encompassed by “morality”. And I think Lumen Gentium, paragraph 25, removes any excuse for not taking the positions of the Papacy seriously:

    “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

    Does this mean you may not ever disagree with a Pope? I don’t think so.

    What I do think it means, however, is that it is not the people who agree with the Papacy whose Catholicism ought to be questioned. The burden to reconcile one’s Catholicism with a position one has taken on a political issue ought to rest with the person who is dissenting from the opinion or the teaching of the Church. I think that is reasonable.

  • Michael I. : you once bashed military chaplains and scoffed at Servant of God Fr. Capodanno because the man gave his life in Vietnam ministering to Marines on the battlefield. You would deny soldiers dying on the field Holy Communion and Last Rites. Apparently, they’re unworthy of spiritual solace during the last moments of their lives – they should just die like animals in the mud. And you accuse others of dehumanizing soldiers?

    Like foxfier, I have no idea how a military in which each soldier could pick and choose his own fights could possibly function. It’s a completely untenable idea.

  • Darwin,

    “I think you’d find, Joe, that the same Catholics who don’t have any problem with serving in the Iraq War would have little problem with following orders to liberate any of those other dictatorships as well.”

    I’m sure most of them would not.

    But I reject the notion that the long-term goal of the US government is to “liberate” various peoples from oppression. The history of the 20th century does not support that thesis. The history of US involvement in Iraq does not support that thesis.

    Our own ambassador intimated to Saddam Hussein, before the first Gulf War, that the US would not take a position on a future invasion of Kuwait. Getting Saddam out of the way and securing control of the world’s second largest oil reserves has been a goal of the US government since the Carter Doctrine.

    Before I hear the usual replies, no, securing the oil supply has little if anything to do with oil profits and oil companies, and everything to do with maintaining “full spectrum dominance” as outlined in the Project for a New American Century.

    This is not conspiracy theorizing. These folks are openly and proudly American imperialists, and they were in positions of power for 8 years. Nor is this leftism. Many on the right understand and acknowledge this, such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan. This is an acknowledgment of the stated imperial ambitions of the US government and a rejection of them as entirely incompatible with any theory of a just war.

    Even, I must say, an unjust war that inadvertently ends up causing a good thing (the overthrow of a dictator).

    Consider, for instance, if one group of robbers decides to murder and plunder a rich drug dealer. The act is still intrinsically evil, even though it means that the drug dealer will be put out of business, which is in itself a good thing.

  • Yeah, because we went in and took their oil….

    Um…wait, no, we spent blood and gold, and they got to keep the oil.

    Dang, we’re incompetent at this taking over countries thing!

    I suppose the rebuilding in Japan and such is part of our crafty plan? (It did result in some pretty dang cool allies, and we got anime and access to Pocky from the deal, so maybe….)

  • “Our own ambassador intimated to Saddam Hussein, before the first Gulf War, that the US would not take a position on a future invasion of Kuwait.”

    Are you contending Joe that we lured Hussein into invading Kuwait so that we could conquer Iraq? If so, why didn’t we do so at the end of the Gulf War when his army was falling apart?

    As to your argument that the policy of the US was not to liberate people in the last century I beg to differ. Germany, Italy and Japan are functioning democracies. The people of South Korea are not subject to Dear Leader. Iraq is a functioning democracy, albeit with a rocky road ahead of it. The people of Eastern Europe are free of Soviet hegemony. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark were all freed from the Nazis. China, whatever its other problems, is not a colony of Japan. The list could go on for considerable length.

  • “Yeah, because we went in and took their oil….”

    If you don’t think we have ultimate control as to which companies from which particular countries will have access to that oil, I’d say you were wrong.

    As I clearly said, it is not about oil profits. It is about controlling a vital geostrategic resource, a plan that dates back to – again – the Carter Doctrine.

    “Are you contending Joe that we lured Hussein into invading Kuwait so that we could conquer Iraq?”

    It is a possibility. There is a lot of speculation about April Glaspie’s meeting with Saddam Hussien – different versions of transcripts all suggesting more or less the same thing.

    “If so, why didn’t we do so at the end of the Gulf War when his army was falling apart?”

    Who can say? It is obvious that by the war’s end, the US government decided it wanted Saddam to stay in power, standing by while Saddam suppressed Shiite and Kurdish uprisings (I suppose that all had something to do with “liberation” as well).

    My guess is that it was decided that the destabilization of the area would prove to be more trouble than it was worth. I think the goal has always been to control who has access to the Persian Gulf oil reserves, not necessarily direct appropriation. We know that some of the same people who encouraged the invasion in 2003 also had a better idea of what would happen back in 1991 (they weren’t talking about being greeted as liberators then, but assuming what actually did happen, a decade of sectarian strife).

    Tactics change, but the strategy, I believe, has remained consistent over time.

    “As to your argument that the policy of the US was not to liberate people in the last century I beg to differ. Germany, Italy and Japan are functioning democracies.”

    That is an effect of the war – it was not the purpose, nor the aim of the policy. There is a difference, as I have tried to make clear. Italy went fascist in the early 20s. Japan militarized in the 30s. Conquering them had nothing to do with bringing them democracy. It just so happens that the conqueror imposes his system on the conquered.

    That said, I wouldn’t begrudge WWII – Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan posed serious threats to the future of humanity. Some might disagree but I would call it a just war. I wouldn’t say, however, that it was a war waged with the specific aim of bringing democracy to the conquered countries.

    “The people of South Korea are not subject to Dear Leader.”

    The US supported its own dictator in South Korea, Syngman Rhee.

    “The people of Eastern Europe are free of Soviet hegemony.”

    And the US free of its number one military rival. Effects do not equal policy aims. It’s a lovely coincidence, but there are enough examples where the effects weren’t democracy, but things far worse.

    “The list could go on for considerable length.”

    So could the list of countries and peoples that have suffered terribly as a result of US imperial ambitions, beginning with the Native Americans and ending with the couple million Iraqis that died as a result of sanctions and the invasion.

    No one asked them if they wanted to be liberated. Just like no one asks an unborn baby if it wouldn’t mind a shot at life in spite of having say, an abusive drunk for a father.

  • If you’re utterly wed to the notion that we’re every conspiracy leadership rolled into one, there’s clearly no way I’ll sway your mind.

    If you think that bringing democracy to Iraq was the only reason we went there, I clearly cannot sway your mind.

    If you’re willing to ignore the affirmations that Saddam was a danger that have come out since the end of the war, as under-trumped as they have been, how could I hope to sway your mind?

  • Here is a good on the April Glaspie-Hussein interview prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Glaspie

    Here are the declassified cables that Glaspie sent back to the State Department about the meeting.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/glaspie1-13.pdf?sid=ST2008040203634

  • Our own ambassador intimated to Saddam Hussein, before the first Gulf War, that the US would not take a position on a future invasion of Kuwait. Getting Saddam out of the way and securing control of the world’s second largest oil reserves has been a goal of the US government since the Carter Doctrine.

    Well, that was Hussein’s version of the interaction. I don’t know that I’d consider him a very reliable source on the topic.

    I’d agree that political instability in the Middle East is treated more seriously in other parts of the world, since the ability of some antagonistic regime to choke off the world’s oil supply is seen as a major threat to peace. However, I don’t really by the theory that what we’ve just seen is the wind-up of a twenty year long campaign to set up a puppet regime in Iraq. That fits the facts very poorly indeed.

    This is not conspiracy theorizing. These folks are openly and proudly American imperialists, and they were in positions of power for 8 years. Nor is this leftism. Many on the right understand and acknowledge this, such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan.

    As I’ve written in the past, I think there’s some truth to the description of the US being imperial in a certain sense — much the same one as the Roman Republic was. (Nor do I necessarily see that as a bad thing.) However, forgive me if the fact that a theory is endorsed by Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul does not necessarily remove it from the realm of conspiracy theories for me. 😉

    However, even taking it that the US, like the Roman Republic, is imperialistic in the sense of constantly moving on to secure a further horizon, I don’t necessarily see how that makes all its wars unjust.

    Also, I’m not sure that it really works to judge the justice of a war by the motives which a leader may theoretically have at some unspoken level, rather than the stated and obvious aims of the war. For instance, there’s the theory out there (as I recall, at least dallied with by Pat Buchanan) that FDR basically provoked the Japanese into attacking us so that we could get into WW2 and thus become a dominant world power. However, whether this is true or not strikes me as of little relevance to whether WW2 was a just war to participate in — though it might, if true, have something to do with how FDR himself was eventually judged.

    For those of us who are not the ones actually making the decision, the most simple war aims would seem to me to be the relevant ones. In this regard, toppling the Baathist regime in Iraq strikes me as a fairly admirable goal — even if the dark reason for it was in fact that Dick Cheney was once rejected by an Arab girl he asked on a date during college.

  • Fox,

    I’m not some sort of rigid ideologue, ok?

    But I don’t think there is a conspiracy. I think anyone with enough interest can research the development of US foreign policy and its geostrategic thinking, and come to their own conclusions. You can read what PNAC has written – its public.

    It’s sad that we come to think of certain concepts as “conspiracies” only because the majority of the people have not taken the time to simply check what is public knowledge. There is no conspiracy, just an epidemic of ignorance, and I don’t know how to say that without it sounding insulting, though I really don’t mean it to be. Ignorance is simply an absence of knowledge that has nothing to do with intellectual capacity. Very intelligent, thoughtful people support the Iraq war. I don’t think they are bad because of it. But I do think that knowledge of the aims and goals of a series of US administrations cannot be brushed off as paranoid conspiracy wankery.

    Are you open to that idea? Or are you “utterly wed” to the notion that US policy is always benevolent in both intent and consequence? If you are, I just don’t know how I’ll be able to sway your mind!

    🙂

    “If you think that bringing democracy to Iraq was the only reason we went there”

    Did I ever say that? What would give you the idea that I believed such a thing? I’m simply responding to those who see the democratization of Iraq as a justification for the war – whether it was intended, or whether it is a coincidental benefit. In either case, and for somewhat different reasons, this motive and/or effect cannot make an unjust war a just one.

    “If you’re willing to ignore the affirmations that Saddam was a danger that have come out since the end of the war,”

    We throw out evidence that is obtained illegally all the time, because we have a system of justice, not arbitrary power. There is also an international system of justice, which the Papacy has given pretty strong support to. Many have argued, and I’m inclined to agree, that the US invaded Iraq unilaterally because it could not convince the world that its cause for war was just.

    But you can ALWAYS hope to sway my mind. Always. 🙂

  • “Who can say? It is obvious that by the war’s end, the US government decided it wanted Saddam to stay in power, standing by while Saddam suppressed Shiite and Kurdish uprisings (I suppose that all had something to do with “liberation” as well).”

    No Joe, what it actually means was that, contrary to paranoids like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan and their soulmates on the Left, there was no grand scheme. Hussein took us by surprise in invading Iraq and we liberated it, and Joe that is how the Kuwaitis viewed it, and there was no invasion of Iraq because we had not gone to war for the purpose of taking the Iraqi oil. If you are going to toss out conspiracy theories Joe, have some facts to support them.

  • Like foxfier, I have no idea how a military in which each soldier could pick and choose his own fights could possibly function. It’s a completely untenable idea.

    Yet this is precisely what the Roman Catholic Church calls for: selective conscientious objection. Take it up with the Church.

  • Darwin,

    How about I forgive you for mixing up what I said. I invoked Buchanan and Paul to show that it is not leftism.

    I invoked the public nature of the statements made in favor of empire to show that it is not a conspiracy.

    “However, I don’t really by the theory that what we’ve just seen is the wind-up of a twenty year long campaign to set up a puppet regime in Iraq. That fits the facts very poorly indeed.”

    Perhaps I will forgive this strawman as well, and remind you that even the most powerful nation in the world cannot snap its fingers and make things happen, like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. Iraq holds the worlds second largest oil reserves – that is worth more than a few decades of waiting and planning. Oil is still the life blood of industrial societies and those that wish to industrialze further. Saddam was doing business with all of the US rivals – “Old Europe”, Russia, China, etc.

    “In this regard, toppling the Baathist regime in Iraq strikes me as a fairly admirable goal — even if the dark reason for it was in fact that Dick Cheney was once rejected by an Arab girl he asked on a date during college.”

    And so we throw what I understand to be a basic understanding of Catholic morality, to say nothing of the more specific just war theory, right out the window?

    If something as frivolous as what you suggested happened to be an additional motive, it would be one thing. If the real motive is in fact imperial ambition, however – something I do not believe is justifiable – that a good thing will also result cannot make it morally right.

    I respect you Darwin, but your trivialization of my arguments is not appreciated in the slightest.

  • “If you are going to toss out conspiracy theories Joe, have some facts to support them.”

    Again, what conspiracy theory?

    I don’t think it is crazy at all to say that the specifics of the strategy changed over time. Rumsfeld and Cheney knew in 1991 what overthrowing Saddam would entail – prolonged sectarian violence.

    As I said, the real concern was to ensure that the world’s second largest oil reserves did not fall entirely into the hands of a major rival of the US. In 1991, it didn’t seem as if that would happen. But under the sanctions, and this simply is a fact, Saddam sought to deepen his business ties with all of America’s major international rivals, including Russia and China.

    I think it was Saddam’s developing ties with US rivals that served as the catalyst for the invasion. And if someone wants to make a case that that is a reason for a just war, fine. But when even Bush was making stand-up jokes about the “missing WMD” and getting laughs from all the Washington insiders, don’t tell me that that was the reason…

  • “Conquering them had nothing to do with bringing them democracy. It just so happens that the conqueror imposes his system on the conquered.”

    Japan attacks us Joe and we utterly defeat them, as we utterly defeated Germany and Italy with the assistance of our allies. We then establish democracies in Italy, Japan and in West Germany. In just a few years each of these nations have their sovereignty restored to them and receive massive assistance from the US. Calling this a simple imposition of a system by a conqueror gravely understates the generosity of what the US did after prevailing in the most savage war in history.

  • Also, as much as I love you guys, I’m not going to argue with three at a time. So I’ll leave at that.

    I’ll also say this: I don’t think anyone’s position on this war makes them a better or worse person. So my respect level for each of you doesn’t change a wit. This will be an issue where we disagree, but hopefully that doesn’t mean we all can’t still get along.

  • Joe, we would have to disagree about far more than foreign policy for us not to get along. Now if you were to contend that Jerry Lewis is a genius for the ages—then things might get serious!

  • I’m sorry if I came off as trivializing your points. I disagree with them, but my lightheartedness was simply that — an attempt to be lighthearted.

    Perhaps I will forgive this strawman as well, and remind you that even the most powerful nation in the world cannot snap its fingers and make things happen, like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. Iraq holds the worlds second largest oil reserves – that is worth more than a few decades of waiting and planning.

    Well, I think we pretty clearly could have rolled all the way to Baghdad in ’91 — and indeed, the main reason I support the recent Iraq War is that I very much thought that we _should have_ rolled all the way to Baghdad. While I do, indeed, accept that one cannot simply roll in all of a sudden to right the world’s wrongs, once Hussein handed us a just cause to remove him on the metaphorical silver platter, I think we should have taken the chance to get rid of him, as one of the more oppressive current dictators.

    Like I said — I agree that the US is far more sensitive to unstable regimes in the Middle East than elsewhere because oil is a strategic resource (and thus in effect a major weapon in the hands of any regime there.) What I disagree with, unless I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying, is the idea that the US has been gradually working towards setting up a subsidiary regime of sorts in the Middle East. I’d put it rather lower level than that: The US is highly sensitive to possible threats there (more so than elsewhere) since a regime in the Middle East can hurt us by cutting off oil without having the ability to actually strike at North America. So whenever trouble has come up on the Arabian peninsula, the US has tended to react fairly quickly. However, like Republican Rome, once the US has done whatever minimum is necessary to assure a secure horizon there, it tends to back off and let things run their course until the next problem arises.

    And so we throw what I understand to be a basic understanding of Catholic morality, to say nothing of the more specific just war theory, right out the window?

    Again, the Cheney example was intended to be humorous (the FDR one was serious) but the basic point was serious: It doesn’t seem to me that from a just war point of view we’re required to search about for what the “real reason” for the war is likely to be, but rather look at the declared and obvious aims and judge those.

  • I have to admit I’m torn between two contradictory ideas here. On the one hand, I tend to agree with the notion than in an all-volunteer military you shouldn’t be able to pick and choose when and how you will fight — you made a commitment, you stick to it. But on the other hand, Tim raises an excellent point about how we don’t want that kind of “commitment” demanded of all medical personnel with regard to abortion or euthanasia.

    I note with some interest that back in the early Clinton administration (1993-94), when a ban on abortions being performed at overseas U.S. military hospitals was lifted, the military had a VERY hard time finding doctors willing to perform them! Although they were not ordered to perform abortions, I am sure these military doctors would have had no problem refusing such an order which they found to be gravely immoral, even if it meant losing their rank or being less than honorably discharged.

  • 503. Every member of the armed forces is morally obliged to resist orders that call for perpetrating crimes against the law of nations and the universal principles of this law.[1056] Military personnel remain fully responsible for the acts they commit in violation of the rights of individuals and peoples, or of the norms of international humanitarian law. Such acts cannot be justified by claiming obedience to the orders of superiors.

    Conscientious objectors who, out of principle, refuse military service in those cases where it is obligatory because their conscience rejects any kind of recourse to the use of force or because they are opposed to the participation in a particular conflict, must be open to accepting alternative forms of service. “It seems just that laws should make humane provision for the case of conscientious objectors who refuse to carry arms, provided they accept some other form of community service”.[1057]

    Let’s not forget where this post began- with commentary attempting to apply something from the authoritative Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. I don’t see how faithful Catholics can simply duck this type of resource- how does one get to thinking as Christ and His Church does on something as important as War, and not take in something that is comprehensive and authoritative such as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church- which states up front that it is rendering the complete body of social doctrine in conscise form.

    If you have read the chapter on promotion of peace from the Compendium, and disagree with my application and conclusions- I can respect you and your views as a fellow Catholic- I will still press ahead with my own case- but at minimum we have to be formed similarly in conscience as Catholics- or else we might as well make this blog a generic the-american.com. I don’t see how the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas can simply trump the social doctrine of the Church as presented by the current Magisterium. And who better to apply the Just War principles than this same Magisterium- I don’t believe that the previous popes of the past century have been naive about the global conditions- particularly not the last two popes- and their views were reaffirmed by the U.S. Bishops as a body, and most every other Hierarchical national sources as I read on Zenit.org in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.

    On a side note- I am no genius, but my own reading and travel had indicated that a Muslim population in the Middle East is not going to take kindly to American or European military conquest and occupation in their homeland- you may have some unique communities like the Kurds, but the history of the “Great Game” has pretty much ruined the idea that foreigners are going to come into the Middle East and transform things for the sake of the common man in those places. An excellent clinical study on this is David Fromkin’s A Peace to End all Peace. The Middle East is not the place where Americans can set up shop and be trusted by the native populations- no matter how bad the leadership is there- especially when we have had a hand in helping most of the bad guys in the region- I recall in basic training in 1981 how we would get periodic updates on how our “friend” (seriously- that is how he was described) Saddam Hussein was doing in his war with Iran. Of course, he wasn’t a nice guy then either. The problem here is that the “Great Game” is really just a huge social sin- there isn’t a Game, there are people who have been getting it from every end as Fromkins details. And if you want even more information I recommend Steve Coll’s huge book detailing how we nurtured the Jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight the Soviets- at first just to bloody them- kill as many Russians as we could through proxies- there was little sense that these Jihadists could actually win. How does that fit into Just War and any idealism for the poor people of Afghanistan- Ghost Wars is the title of that book.

    One should look to the Compendium’s chapter on the International Community for more guidance on how we should be behaving in a global community. The social doctrine is solid, it is consistent, it doesn’t veer off on the whims of a particular pope or two- it is the clear signal of truth amidst all the ideological noise from the Left and Right.

  • A young service member- probably with kids at home- you all expect him to just pay for his conscience by going to jail or being punished in a way that would jeopardize his ability to support his family- you are so sure that this cruel state of affairs is the only way to proceed with our military? Really? How many of you wanna-be saints (and I am one myself) would be so willing to disobey immoral orders or refuse to go off on an unjust military action- if your wife and kids were going to be the ones to pay for your conscience? What do you think the Pope would advise you on this issue? Is your solution really that no one with a potentially Catholic conscience ever sign up for the military in the U.S.? How could anyone predict whether the next war pushed for by an American president and a gutless Congress will be close to being just? Who can predict just who the president is going to be in election cycles?

  • A young service member- probably with kids at home- you all expect him to just pay for his conscience by going to jail or being punished in a way that would jeopardize his ability to support his family- you are so sure that this cruel state of affairs is the only way to proceed with our military?

    I think that people’s reaction to this has a lot to do with how important they consider order to be, and also how likely they think it is that Catholic soldiers will be given immoral orders or be ordered off to a war which they consider it immoral to participate in.

    In regard to the latter concern, I would suspect that a further area of disagreement is the issue I mentioned above as regards to whether it is immoral for a soldier to participate in any war he thinks may not or does not fully meet the Church’s just war criteria, or whether the necessity of conscientious objection only applies in those cases where the aim of the war is actively evil.

  • In regard to the latter concern, I would suspect that a further area of disagreement is the issue I mentioned above as regards to whether it is immoral for a soldier to participate in any war he thinks may not or does not fully meet the Church’s just war criteria, or whether the necessity of conscientious objection only applies in those cases where the aim of the war is actively evil.

    If a war does not “fully meet the Church’s just war criteria” then it IS “actively evil.”

  • Donna V. : agreed.
    A United States soldier is required NOT to obey an unlawful order. A Catholic is required not to obey an immoral order (as clearly taught by Holy Mother Church). Hopefully the incidence is rare, and the crossover considerable, in our military.
    The system for dealing with conscientious objection has been in place for awhile.
    If a serviceman objects to a particular assignment (say, Iraq rather than Afghanistan), the military reserves the right to deny the objection if it is judged to be spurious, and deploy the soldier as planned, in which case I think a Catholic man or woman—rather than deserting, for example, or acting in a subversive manner—could with clear conscience serve in that theater honorably, in a spirit of obedience to lawful superiors. And, upon returning home, not be excoriated for said service, especially by fellow Catholics.
    If the objection is accepted, then it would be up to the military authorities to deem whether a service member is suited for other duties or training (likely with demotion and reduction in pay), or not fit to continue wearing the uniform of his particular branch. This latter case may be where wider options for “supporting the troops,” as originally suggested by the post, come into play: funds raised for a needy family, perhaps, or loans to assist with education in another line of work. I would not favor creating a giant safety net, which might encourage objections for less than honorable reasons, but there is no cause to deny those individuals who wish to extend charity to discharged objectors a means of doing so on a case-by-case basis.
    Now, in terms of a conflict in which US Military participation is universally condemned by the Catholic Church, which I pray never materializes, then the difficulties would be extreme indeed. For all American Catholics, and most particularly those in uniform. But I’m not losing sleep worrying over future wars. (And if I was a young and able wanna-be saint, that concern would not keep me from signing up, because the future belongs to God.)
    It seems rational to assume that the many thousands of Catholics serving in our country’s forces over the last several years (or decades) do not have malformed consciences, but are fighting for what they believe is a just and honorable cause: the protection of the United States of America (specifically) and the promotion of liberty worldwide (generally—but with an eye to the future security of the USA).
    On a closely related topic, now that Treats For Troops has had to shut down, does anyone here know of a reliable source for sending care packages to soldiers? Thanks.

  • “It doesn’t seem to me that from a just war point of view we’re required to search about for what the “real reason” for the war is likely to be, but rather look at the declared and obvious aims and judge those.”

    Darwin,

    Would you say that about any other country?

    It often astonishes me that some of the same people who are nothing but skeptical of the government’s intentions when it comes to welfare or some other domestic program often dismiss the notion that anything other than the official story of the government could possibly be true.

    Governments lie. They have lied throughout history. They lie even more today because it has become more and more unacceptable to resort to war to achieve policy aims.

    I mean seriously, the Nazis claimed they were invading Poland because it posed a threat to their security. So did the Soviets when they invaded various Eastern European countries. The US never accepted those claims at face value, but by this argument, their citizens ought to have accepted them and then marched off without complaint in “defense” of their countries.

    It really, really bothers me when the US is somehow set above and apart from the general flow of history. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex – was that conspiracy theorizing too?

    No, Darwin, with due respect I totally reject the notion that we do not have some obligation to investigate the historical circumstances of a given war, of the government that wages it, and whether or not the claims it makes are either true or moral.

  • It often astonishes me that some of the same people who are nothing but skeptical of the government’s intentions when it comes to welfare or some other domestic program often dismiss the notion that anything other than the official story of the government could possibly be true.

    YES.

  • Joe, spot on! I read somewhere you supported Huckabee in the GOP primary. So did I! You’re going for some sort of agreement award, or something. I’m not sure if it’s because I agree so much or not, but I think you are so reasonable. 🙂

  • Friends,

    I have another comment that is stuck in moderation. It contains a true statement. I’d appreciate it if you would release it.

    Your friend,
    m

  • Eric, well, I think you and I come from a very similar place, having read your conversion story. We walked down a similar road, you might say.

  • “A young service member- probably with kids at home- you all expect him to just pay for his conscience by going to jail or being punished in a way that would jeopardize his ability to support his family- you are so sure that this cruel state of affairs is the only way to proceed with our military? Really?”

    I certainly do. Let him make his case at his court martial. Let him complain to his representative in Congress. In short, let him convince people of the rightness of his stance, and be ready to pay for the consequences of his disobeying orders. To do otherwise creates buffoonish situations like this:

    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=104009

    You cannot have any sort of military if the members get to pick and choose what wars they will participate in. Each member cannot be their own Secretary of State. No one forces people today to choose to be in the military and they should only do so if they are clear on the purpose of the military which is to fight in conflicts ordered by the political leadership of this nation. If that bothers them there are multitudes of career paths in the civilian world.

  • The soldier, like everyone, is bound by their conscience, but that is of little comfort when one is struggling with an issue and there aren’t clear lines. Conscience does make room prudence, however. One can by bothered by a thing, but his conscience will/must examine and weigh the alternative. It’s not a perfect world and making the moral choice isn’t always cut and dry. God knows what you were confronted with and knows your will. It’s entirely possible to come to the conclusion that doing the thing that troubles you results in less evil than the consequence.

    Soldiering is a noble profession but it is wrought with danger, physical and spiritual. All the more reason to appreciate those who take on that burden. Now I can’t say with surety that this is the way to think of it, but it is the way do. I think when it comes to matters of jus ad bellum the soldier has a lot of leeway, that it’s not his call, nor is he culpable if the military action is objectively unjust. And I use the word objectively unjust, because people of good will and properly formed consciences can come to different conclusions often times.

    Where I think the soldier is held particularly morally liable is in his actions while serving – matters of jus in bello. This is where the stakes of conscience are raised in degree and the alternative choice, regardless of their consequences can become more necessary.

    Take Iraq for example. Let’s say a soldier was troubled by it, that he thinks it was or may have been an unjust action. He can reasonably decide that he will continue to honor his word and follow orders from his superiors, embark to Iraq, and do whatever good he can in a bad situation and serve as a good example for his comrades. He may get there and find that he is indeed doing great good for others. He may find that he is ordered to do (or asked to participate in) something immoral. This is where his conscience becomes critical. Where the moral choice is his and directly effects his soul and his relationship with God. And it is in a case like this that he has a duty not to obey AND to escalate the situation any way he can.

    I actually hate these threads because there always seems to be something important missing. It seems one side never considers it, and the other side takes it for granted and doesn’t acknowledge it. It’s all well and good that we have centuries of thought and teaching to draw upon, and that principles and considerations can be somewhat reduced to a formula. Thing is, entering values into that formula isn’t so cut and dry, there values needed are derived from, and limited by, the inputs and the human person. But it’s the human person that gets lost when we focus on the formula.

    The soldier in the field is a real live person with a soul. God loves him as much as he loves combox pontificators (perhaps more if we’re to weigh Jesus’ words and relationships with the Roman soldiers). Whatever choices and events led to that soldier standing where he is, God is there. A soldier in battle is often times scared, in a struggle, perhaps even feeling like a victim. His heart is aching and most are praying. Nothing moves you to get closer to God than desperation, and God is always there. The soldier praying to make it through combat is being heard on the terms of his and God’s relationship, that the evil W. started an unjust war is of no consequence to God and that soldier.

  • No, Darwin, with due respect I totally reject the notion that we do not have some obligation to investigate the historical circumstances of a given war, of the government that wages it, and whether or not the claims it makes are either true or moral.

    Joe,

    I’m not rejecting whether one has any obligation to evaluate the historical circumstances and the truth of the justifications made — I’m arguing that one doesn’t need to take into account secret and unstated motives of the rulers of the country.

    Thus, I’d hold that the US invasion of Iraq was justified because removing the Baathist regime was, given the historical realities of that regime, an object worth fighting a war to achieve.

    I would not hold that the German invasion of the Poland was justified, because Poland was clearly not a threat to Germany and anyone paying any attention at all to the rhetoric coming out of Berlin at the time could tell that Poland was being taken simply to provide more land and resources to the east.

    Now, if the US were to suddenly announce that it was going to invade some completely run-of-the-mill country in order to “liberate” it (Canada, Hungary, South Africa, etc.) or because it was a regional threat, I’d clearly not take the claim at it’s face value.

    However, there are a small number of incredibly brutal and oppressive regimes around the world which, if the US or UN or some other major country or coalition had cause and reasonable chances of success to liberate, I would be very strongly inclined to support the operation. And Iraq was one of these. Indeed, Iraq was fairly unique among these in that it was routinely violating the cease fire that ended the Gulf War, had previously invaded one of its neighbors and had a nearly successful nuclear program, we had incurred (and failed to fulfill) a moral obligation to the people who had risen up against Hussein in 91, we had troops in the region which the Iraqis were routinely taking pot shots at, and the attempt to use the “peaceful means” of sanctions had caused, by most accounts, more suffering on the part of the actual Iraqi people than either war did.

    Really, the only thing I can see wrong with the Iraq war is that it was eleven years late — and caused a huge amount of suffering among the Iraqi people (and much greater religious and ethnic conflict) as a result.

  • “Really, the only thing I can see wrong with the Iraq war is that it was eleven years late — and caused a huge amount of suffering among the Iraqi people (and much greater religious and ethnic conflict) as a result.”

    I concur.

  • Neither Jesus nor His predecessor, John the Baptist, ever insisted that the soldiers or other government types they met (tax collectors) give up their professions. While Levi/Matthew the tax collector did quit his job to follow Jesus, Zacchaeus didn’t — he simply promised to do his job honestly, give to the poor, and repay fourfold anyone he had cheated.

    Christ did not insist that the centurion quit the army, instead He praised him for having greater faith than any of the Jews He’d met.

    When soldiers and tax collectors came to John the Baptist asking what to do, John didn’t tell them to quit their jobs; he told them to do their jobs honestly, not cheat or harass anyone, and be content with their pay. Obviously John did not think their professions were inherently immoral or treasonous, even though many Jews would have regarded them as such (since Rome was an occupying power).

    Jesus and John knew there would be plenty of “occasions of sin” in those professions, and that there would be times that soldiers or tax collectors would be ordered or encouraged to follow or support unjust government policies or do something wrong. Yet, neither insisted that their followers quit those professions.

    So I would guess the same is true of the Catholic soldier — he or she can serve and obey all legitimate orders, and need not avoid enlisting because he or she “might” at some future date be asked to fight an unjust war. And even if the U.S. did fight a war that was unjust from a policy point of view, the soldier could still serve in it honestly and obey all legitimate orders. Perhaps such soldiers could be a force for good and discourage their comrades from engaging in clearly immoral actions like abuse of POWs, attacks on civilians, etc.

  • I would think the people whom God would hold responsible for waging an unjust war would NOT be the soldiers but the government officials who made the decision to wage that war.

  • You cannot have any sort of military if the members get to pick and choose what wars they will participate in. Each member cannot be their own Secretary of State.

    You have said this repeatedly. But again, the Catholic Church insists that selective conscientious objection is a right that soldiers have.

    I would think the people whom God would hold responsible for waging an unjust war would NOT be the soldiers but the government officials who made the decision to wage that war.

    That’s a reasonable thing to think according to the logic of nation-states, but the Catholic Church teaches that soldiers are responsible for their actions, period.

  • I take it toppling a murderous regime like Hussein’s is just the most God-awful, immoral thing in the world; especially considering his atrocious record:

    But on the ground in Iraq, tha fall of Hussein is yielding an overwhelming human story of great loss. Families have become gravediggers, sifting through dirt with their fingers to recover every bone and scrap of cloth of Saddam Hussein’s legacy.

    While these scenes may bring closure to families, they are painful nonetheless. And the families are only now starting to flock to this site.

    “Be quiet. Slowly, slowly, that’s it,” says Fadil Sadoun’s cousin Hassan Sadran Hussein, as he directs men with tattooed hands and heavy-stoned silver Shiite rings on their fingers, as they feel through the dirt three feet down in the grave.

    “Search well, don’t leave anything,” Hassan says, when more of the skeleton is revealed, and more dirt clawed away with a shovel. “Take your time.”

    Bones pile up on a graveside blanket, making the sound of dry wood clattering together when more bones are added.

    Fadil Sadoun was first taken by security police in 1991, and held at Abu Ghraib prison for two years. When the overtly religious man was arrested again in 1996, he didn’t come home. Instead, he was executed in 1997, given a number, and buried.

    The loss seems unbearable for son Mustapha, who weeps uncontrollably a few feet away, his tears staining his pale blue shirt. Other family members try to comfort him, and finally have to carry him away, to the van that brought a wood coffin to collect the patricarch’s remains.

    “Oh my father, my father!” Mustapha chants with a broken voice. “You should be happy-Saddam is gone.”

    As dawn turns into a hot, blindingly bright and windy morning, more families arrive with scraps of paper scrawled with numbers, and with rudimentary coffins in tow. They walk purposefully along the rows of graves, scanning the markers as if searching for a familiar face in a crowd.

    Beneath their feet are the morbid secrets that will define the toppled regime. Bureaucratic efficiency was masterful here. Numbers of graves are finally being matched to names of missing political prisoners by custodians of the cemeteries, who can finally speak out.

    The executioners may be gone, but the cruel pain they inflicted endures.

    “These are the victims of the crimes of Saddam Hussein,” says Mohamed Hussein, who dropped upon grave number 288-of his brother, Ali Hussein-when he found it. He clenched the dirt in his fists, broke down, and leaned for support on a coffin that had clearly been used before.

    “Tell the world,” he says. “My brother prayed, and they took him from the street.” Ali’s coffin was carried to a truck, and placed alongside another coffin. That one held the remains of a pair of brothers of a neighboring family, found in a single grave.

    While Iraq’s modern history is being written today with freshly revealed documents, the opening of Hussein’s torture chambers, and the testimonies of officially sanctioned killers, it is the buried treasure here that tells Iraq’s true story.

    “This was to keep Saddam on his throne. He would do anything,” says Jassim Mohamed, whose 70-year-old uncle, in grave number 886, was killed with his militant Islamic son at their home south of Baghdad in October 2000. “Anyone who opposed him, he would kill them.”

    Among the staunchest of those opponents was Tariq Abu al-Hewa, a 27-year-old militant who lay 20 feet away, in grave number 834. He was arrested in 1999, executed in 2000, and operated with an Islamist group–even using a nom de guerre–that tried to kill senior members of the ruling Baath Party.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0428/p25s01-woiq.html

    Some ‘moral’, ‘Pro-Life’ Catholics y’all turned out to be.

  • (…continued…)

    “Saddam was a criminal, a dictator, and fascist,” says Khalid. “I thank the Americans a lot-we praise them for ending Saddam, with God’s help.”

    “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have found the corpse,” adds cousin Riath Idramis.

    And Hussein’s henchmen may have been waiting for the 13 bodies to arrive at the bleak, windswept cemetery about a mile away, possibly to put them into the 14 unmarked, empty graves that already had been dug there, beyond the last marker for grave number 993.

    Abadi Jabbar found himself there at those empty holes Friday, as he searched for the remains of tribal cousins. Already he had found five. Still missing, according to the scrap of paper gripped in his right hand: numbers 867, 974, and 977.

    When asked what this scene told him about Saddam Hussein, he replied: “You are the great witness. You have seen it with your own eyes.”

  • E,

    If you can’t behave yourself, I’ll behave for you. Your deliberate lie about my view of the Catholics who support the Iraq war has been deleted.

    I will remind you that I said:

    “I don’t think anyone’s position on this war makes them a better or worse person. So my respect level for each of you doesn’t change a wit. This will be an issue where we disagree, but hopefully that doesn’t mean we all can’t still get along.”

    That’s all.

  • Sorry, Joe, but to see how the Gore Vidals and Norm Chomskys now rule this so hapless modern world; suffice it to say, one can easily succumb to outright resentment, if not, bitter rhetoric.

    That said, in consideration of statements in toto (not necessarily even targetted at solely your own), I truly do not see how one can take the opinion of Rome or even the Pope, for that matter, and extend it far beyond its actual intent and even to the extent of seemingly infallible decree.

  • E,

    I deleted your second post because I’m not interested in your take on my actions or motives. You don’t like it, go post at another blog.

    “Sorry, Joe, but to see how the Gore Vidals and Norm Chomskys now rule this so hapless modern world; suffice it to say, one can easily succumb to outright resentment, if not, bitter rhetoric.”

    Is that an apology?

    “I truly do not see how one can take the opinion of Rome or even the Pope, for that matter, and extend it far beyond its actual intent and even to the extent of seemingly infallible decree.”

    If you aren’t including me in that “one” then we’re ok, because that’s not what I did. It never said it was infallible decree. You wondered why so many Catholics had a problem with the war, and I offered the opposition of two Popes as a possible explanation.

    That’s all – I never said their opposition meant you had to oppose it too, but I will say that if you want to criticize those of us who share the opinion of the Papacy, the burden is on you and not us to reconcile the position with Catholicism. And I don’t say that it is impossible to do so.

  • Joe,

    Quit it with your calumnies; unless, of course, you consider Catholicism nothing more than an abstraction to be admired as ideal rather than to be practiced at all.

    Again, I find it ironic that you should lecture me on motives and actions when you yourself were the one who notoriously imputed such malicious motives.

    If there was a misinterpretation on my part, you could have simply said so; instead, you prefer to engage in mere calumny.

  • There is no calumny here.

    You said I argued something that I didn’t, something so contrary and foreign to what I actually said that it could only be a deliberate misreading.

    Is that not a calumny?

  • Joe:

    Then why did you seemed wont to demonize my comments with the rather calumnous mischarecterization “deliberate lie”?

    You could have simply (and more charitably) called to question whatever egregious misinterpretation you might yourself seem wont to address in my cited comments; I would have more gracefully applied, in kind, a more fitting responsio that would have requested, in turn, certain clarification as to the manner of quotes eminating from your earlier comments.

    Still, I find myself at awe these quotes from you:

    What I do think it means, however, is that it is not the people who agree with the Papacy whose Catholicism ought to be questioned. The burden to reconcile one’s Catholicism with a position one has taken on a political issue ought to rest with the person who is dissenting from the opinion or the teaching of the Church. I think that is reasonable.

    …and even the more recent:

    I will say that if you want to criticize those of us who share the opinion of the Papacy, the burden is on you and not us to reconcile the position with Catholicism.

    So, in other words, opposing a murderous regime such as Hussein’s, whose innocent victims number in the hundreds, if not, near a thousand; is not only immoral but, above all else, anti-Catholic?

    God help us.

  • Alright E,

    It is simply amazing to me that you can, in the same post, complain about something and then actually do it.

    “So, in other words, opposing a murderous regime such as Hussein’s, whose innocent victims number in the hundreds, if not, near a thousand; is not only immoral but, above all else, anti-Catholic?”

    The first problem here is “in other words”. Meaning, in YOUR words, not my words – in your reinterpretation of my words.

    Is this not bearing false witness? Is this not calumny? If you want to know why I said “deliberate lie”, look no further.

    Why you bother to highlight in bold, I don’t know. I never said that holding a different opinion is “anti-Catholic” – a phrase you made up and put in my mouth. I said it isn’t impossible that your position could be reconciled with Catholicism, but that it is you who needs to show how it can be – not us.

    Please tell me you understand the difference between these things.

    Furthermore,

    You think supporting the Iraq war is all about “opposing a murderous regime”. But no one who opposed the Iraq war was actually in favor of Saddam’s regime.

    Lets say for the sake of argument that this war was really about “liberation”. A ridiculous argument in my view, but lets go with it for a minute.

    No one asked the Iraqi people if the loss of several hundred thousand lives (millions if we include the Clinton era sanctions) and the near total destruction of their social infrastructure was a price they themselves were willing to pay for being rid of Saddam. No one asked them, I surmise, because it had nothing to do with the reason for America’s decades-long involvement with the Persian Gulf.

    Only a sociopath does something for someone who didn’t ask for it and then insists that they thank them for whatever positive benefits it may have wrought. Some people may end up thanking the US – some Iraqis may believe it was worth it. I’m willing to wager that there are millions of who have lost friends and family who do not see it that way.

    I don’t know how old you are, but did you oppose US policy when it was in favor of Ba’athism as a counterweight to communism and to Islamic militancy in Iran? When the US and Europe armed Saddam with biological and chemical weapons in the 1980s? Did you oppose those policies? Would you in retrospect?

  • Joe:

    Clearly, as even made evident above, you bear remarkable hostility toward my person, which is perhaps why you continue to engage my comments as well as myself with such continud prejudice.

    The fact that I had even asked in the manner of a question did not even invite charity on your part; only a continued stream of subsequent uncharitable mischarecterizations and false accusations of “bearing false witness”.

    Rather than engage the topic any further (as it seems whomsoever should run contrary to a certain seemingly ‘infallible’ opinion; apparently, their catholicism must be called into question), I shall cease any and all responses in this regard and bid you adieu, less we truly forget what exactly it means to be ‘Christian’.

  • Fine with me.

  • Donald, et al. ignore Catholic teaching on soldiering and they ignore my comments on the same. Typical.

  • Catholic Anarchist, contrary to your obvious sincere belief, you and the Magisterium are not one and the same.

  • Catholic Anarchist, contrary to your obvious sincere belief, you and the Magisterium are not one and the same.

    No, we’re not. But I at least listen to them and incorporate them into my view. You ignore them, period. This thread is clear evidence of that.

  • Well- this post is nearing the end- a bitter end. I asked a non-Catholic friend to read through the post and the comments, and his reaction was interesting. He asked if it was normal for Catholics to argue with little or no reference to the Catholic leadership or official teachings? He said that while I seemed to be putting the challenge out to draw upon some official teaching of the Church, the reaction for the most part were arguments made from secular perspectives with no backing from official Church ideas or teachings.

    I have to agree- I run into this sort of thing all the time in Catholic Democratic circles- they are fine with bringing in the papal speeches, the encyclicals, and Compendium et al, if the topic is one where they feel that these sources agree with their position- but if not, then comes the distancing, the belittling, the side-stepping of anything coming from Rome, from the USCCB, is to be expected. And in that cafeteria of Catholic political thought and activism there is a left and a right side- apparently there is a line that everyone but a few Catholic politicos’ can see, that separates the two sections of the cafeteria. When one walks in and among the two sides, you can hear the such similar language and anger- only it is directed at those at the other side of the cafeteria. When you sit down for a chat, as long as the topic stays in a safe zone- like abortion in the right side of the cafeteria, or war on the left side of the cafeteria- the tone stays friendly as long as you agree and your use of official Catholic resources will be welcomed, or even praised. But dare not to draw upon those sources if you are going to argue an opposite point-of-view in this cafeteria.

    I can see that Joe (and a few others) and I are able and willing to walk around the cafeteria because there is good, healthy food scattered around rather indiscriminately. But it is a problem if you linger and strike up discussions- because you have entered a mine field more than a Body of Christ zone. There is a worldview that supersedes the worldview that comes from the Church teachings and the proposed application of those teachings/principles by the official leadership of the Church- that world is either Left or Right- all sun or all darkness. A place where demons like “Norm” Chomsky leave behind trails of lies to try to fool people into seeing through a type of patriotism that is better off blind. And there is another place where women who have had abortions try to spread lies about how traumatic abortion really is once you understand what happened to you and your child. In the Catholic cafeteria, depending on which side of the cafeteria you want to sit, you will have to pick one of these places.

    The problem here is that I presented a pretty clear suggestion from a pretty clear Catholic principle regarding the rights and duties of soldiers and those who send soldiers off to war, drawing upon the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. I added later in the thread that it would be appropriate for any Catholic commentator to read the chapter in the Compendium on the promotion of peace, and make some conclusions drawing from the larger chapter perhaps. No takers, the whole Iraq War came into the discussion and naturally, the right side of the cafeteria immediately started distancing themselves from the popes and official Catholic leadership- and so the arguments go back into the usual self-destructive circles. I wish there was a place outside of the pope’s speeches, the encyclicals, the official social doctrine resources, where I could just go and stay and find fellowship. But our world and our country is not that place- we have a Catholic American world that is either in love with Barack Obama, or Sarah Palin- ugh-

    At least here at American Catholic we do have some range- there is not much of an amen corner- but I would like all those who seem to find themselves very, very comfortable in their political parties, with their ideological heroes, to just remember that it is only in the Church’s official teachings, and in her continuing Apostolic leadership that we are able to transcend our times- the Church is the expert on humanity- she is our prophetic voice- do not look past her when advised by me or anyone- from the left, right or center- if someone tells me to read something from the catechism, the compendium, an encyclical, or even from a papal speech or a usccb document, to put a check on one of my public or private positions on such and such a topic- then I will do it- that to me is what being a faithful Catholic is all about- the obedience of faith- not in some minimalist interpretation, but in the fullness of realization that the Way in politics is very hard to find and stay with- so many ideological and nationalistic trap doors- but if we at least stay close to the Hierachical teachings and advice then we have a fighter’s chance. If one wants to ignore all the Catholic Hierachical advice leading up to the Iraq invasion, or the Gulf War/Sanctions prior to the latest- then it really is on you to find all the worldly sources that say that you and President Bush I and II really knew better than our Church’s leaders. That is not an attack, that’s a Catholic fact- I only address myself to those who would make claim to being orthodox Catholics- most liberal Catholics would not claim that title, but many conservative Catholics seem to want to collapse the two terms- conservative/orthodox. Not that being conservative would necessarily indicate support for the Iraq Wars- note Pat Buchanan/Ron Paul.

  • Very true, Tim. Which is why so many people have found many of the bloggers here to be utterly scandalous.

  • Tim,

    For what it’s worth, I think the reason that people are mostly drawing on practical reason or natural reason in this conversation is that the question is a fairly practical one: Should the regulations in the military specifically make provision for allowing service members to opt out of a specific war they have moral objections to. And as a related item, should there be a specific expection in the punishments for disobeying orders whereby someone is excused from obeying orders his thinks are immoral.

    Now clearly, from a Catholic point of view, it’s morally incumbant upon all of us to act according to our consciences. On that point, I don’t think you’ll find any disagreement at all. The disagreement seems to be around to what extent it makes sense to create provisions for difference of judgement between superior and subordinate in a war situation as to what is a moral action.

    If called on it, I’d be basically supportive (with a few reservations) of allowing people to request movement to a non-combat role or a different theater of operations when asked to go to a war they believe to be unjust — but in regards to refusing to obey orders I’m inclined to be reliant upon courts of inquiry to determine whether the order was, in fact, immoral rather than creating a situation in which people are actively encouraged to question every order.

    I think there’s fairly good Catholic precident for this. (For example, in his Rule, St. Benedict directs that the monks must obey their superiors even when they believe their superiors to be acting unjustly.) And since it is basically a question of implementation rather than the moral directive to obey one’s conscience, I don’t think it’s necessarily surprising that people are generally referring to natural reason rather than Church documents.

    That said, and at the risk of allowing Michael to continue to be utterly scandalized by people other than him daring to talk, I hope that you’ll continue to bring these kind of conversations into the square here so that people can have the chance to discuss them and be aware of the breadth of Catholic opinion. I don’t think I’m too optimistic to say that everyone here takes the teachings of the Church seriously, though working from different assumptions and tendencies, and it’s refreshing to have a forum where Catholics who are both truly serious about their faith and truly diverse in their political viewpoints can come together and discuss things.

  • I appreciate the summing up Darwin- I like your comparison to the directives to Benedict’s monks- that is in keeping with the specifically CAtholic spirit we invoke around here- which is the only point of spending time here among Catholics- I would say on that point that the call of a Benedicten monk is on a different order than someone like me at 18 signing up for the military. As a religious monk you are walking a very narrow path where you are putting everything into that religious call- so unusual obedience is to be expected as a sign of your serving God most directly. In joining the military we are not told that we are giving our souls over to the state- we are responding to the sense of duty to country to protect her, but not to lose our sense of obedience to God first and foremost. And this is the sticking point- the messy part of living as a good Catholic and as a good citizen. There is going to be tension points- and this “Support the Troops” post is my way to introduce some tension since it is my understanding that someone who believed as a CAtholic that the call to go to Iraq was not just, then he/she did not have legal recourse to selective conscientious objection- and this is a place where I think we should be making some noise as Catholic citizens.

    I think about things as the teacher I am, what if I don’t alert my young charges to the views of the Hierarchy on something like Iraq, because you know, you don’t want to stir up problems, people/parents/administrators questioning your patriotism- now what happens if you just look the other way maybe with the added justification that this is a prudential judgment of the Hierarchy- and so some of your charges go off to war blissfully unaware that there are any serious moral qualms coming from the leaders of their Church- since their parents, teachers, and parish priests never brought the Holy Father et al’s views to their attention.

    Suppose one of these young men or women comes home permanently and badly disabled from the fighting, and during the course of rehabilitation starts reading the Church documents, and the “Pope Speaks” and such things- and he/she comes across the many and consistent opinions coming from Catholic Hierarchies around the world, all saying in essence that the Iraq Invasion was not a good candidate for a just war- what if the reaction of that soldier is- “Wait a minute, I went to Mass every sunday, I went to Catholic high school- no one ever brought this information from our Church leaders out to me!”

    I went through these thoughts during the lead up to War in Iraq- when most of the mass media and both political parties were pushing for the Invasion- I collected all the info I could from Zenit.org at the time- the Pope’s words, the various Holy See reps, the CAtholic Hierarchies in the U.S., some from across the world. I collected them and copied them and distributed them to all my classes. I opened up the discussion with my students. I have no idea how many students took in the info or even cared- but I had to do it for the sake of my good conscience. And for the sake of my own good conscience, I need to press the case for this selective conscientious objection for the average servicemember- given that it will bring some headaches to central command- I still believe it is a necessary check on the powers that be who decide our wars for us- just like the conscience-clauses are necessary for our health care professionals.

    One is of course, free to dispute or disagree with the Catholicity of my views stated here- but I appreciate that there be some basis for your disputation coming from our shared Catholic social doctrine or applications thereof- natural reason cannot totally erase our need as orthodox Catholics to base our public views on something directly in our social teaching treasury. We may be able to make an appeal outside Catholic circles on natural law and reason alone- but the Church is our way of perfecting that natural reasoning- as such I think we should try to reference these sources as often as is possible- this should help calm the discussions since we will be reacting to something officially Catholic, and not just our personal riffs or sentiments.

  • “Very true, Tim. Which is why so many people have found many of the bloggers here to be utterly scandalous.”

    Catholic Anarchist, considering the fact that you voted for the most pro-abort candidate in our nation’s history, and have frequently been at odds with the teaching of the Church on any number of topics, I will consider that comment to be a feeble attempt by you at humor.

  • Tim, if my kids had been in your class I would have demanded equal time to present an opposing view. Schools, Catholic or not, should not allow teachers to propound their political views to a captive audience.

  • Tim Shipe:

    So, like Joe, you are of the shared opinion that those who do not share the same opinion as you do concerning the Iraq War should not even dare be called Catholic?

    Perhaps one should go further and proposed excommunication even on a matter such as this, which do not even reside on the realm of infallible decree?

    Are we then to suppose that every ordinary opinion of the Church, all Catholics must bind themselves to upon pain of loss of soul?

    And they thought the Age of the Homintern was over; God help the innocent Catholics who merely differ in the application of Catholic principles in matters not even close to being strictly within the realm of infallible decree concerning the matter of Faith & Morals; unless, of course, your admiration for murderous tyrants like Hussein is so remarkably profound, you feel it such a waste to let so saintly a man as he to expire as he did!

    While I personally submit myself with all fidelity to the infallible decrees of Rome; in matters where even the Vicar of Christ himself as well as the Church Universal allows legitimate diversity of opinion, you and your rather draconian cohorts do not even allow so much as difference and opinion and, indeed, even call into question the Catholicism of those who do differ.

    Perhaps I should, for my part, list several of the instances in history where previous successors of Peter had rendered their own ordinary opinions of certain matters that were based likewise on principle; would you similarly believe that those who differed from these deserved such remarkably damning treatment too?

    If we are to speak of bloody wars and seemingly just conflicts; do you really want to open the forum to such severe scrutiny as this?

    Again, for my part, I remain a loyal son of the Church; apparently, you, Joe et al. serve an entirely different Standard; one which would make hail not the actual prescriptions of the Vicar of Christ but substitute instead that which is pursuant to your own viciously draconian will.

    God forgive you and your comrades; there were those who were identical to yourselves in the past — these were the same who not only unjustly put to death the innocent of the Church but also her saints as well, merely because of their rather pernicious puritanism.

  • E,

    You complain about slanders and calumny and then you say something like this:

    “So, like Joe, you are of the shared opinion that those who do not share the same opinion as you do concerning the Iraq War should not even dare be called Catholic?”

    Veiling your deliberate misinterpretations of another person’s position in the form of a question doesn’t fool anyone. Absolutely nothing Tim or I has ever said would ever lead a reasonable person to conclude such a thing, or to even ask it.

    “Dare even be called Catholic”? No one even implied such an extreme position. Why, for the love of heaven, would you say such a thing?

    You have slandered us, E. If you have any dignity or conscience, you will apologize to Tim and to me.

  • I take it then “e” that you haven’t spent the time reading the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church? Why not just say so, and spare me the dramatics- all I asked was that if you are Catholic you would want to try to base your views on something of a Catholic basis if there was something out there- I already stated that if one did so and disagreed with my conclusions then so be it, that is hardly the same thing as trying to execute you like a “saint”. If ignorance of the Social Doctrine somehow makes you a better Catholic, I am lost in the logic. If you have a better approach that includes other Catholic teachings I’d love to read it for my own edification- but your current line of thinking is way over-the-top.

  • “If ignorance of the Social Doctrine somehow makes you a better Catholic, I am lost in the logic.”

    The “Comp-comp-comp-endi-um of Soc-soc-social Doc-d-Doctrine”? Apologies, but apparently only the gifted elites of Catholic soceity and, most especially, the cognoscienti of this blog read and, indeed, is capable of understanding such material.

    And, for your information, just because I differ on a rather ordinary matter as this (i.e., Iraq War) does not mean that I am ignorant of such teaching.

    First, in much of what Joe had written, he implies within the sections of his earlier comments that those who happen to differ in opinion as regarding the Iraq War; their Catholicism should rightly be questioned.

    Second, you come in with a subsequent comment with such remarkably perjorative tone that you condescendingly virtually call those who differ as Cafeteria Catholics.

    Now, allow me to elucidate on something that seems to escape the both of you:

    Just because I happen to differ on such a matter as the Iraq War does not mean that I am unaware of the Church’s social teaching; even further, it does not even mean that anything contrary to such opinion is, without question, erroneous.

    You and he would make it seem that (just as an example to illustrate a point) those who did not adhere to then Senator McCarthy’s Witch Hunt does not mean that I, myself, was not anti-Communism; indeed, it means, more precisely — or, at the very least, with those more endowed with cognitive ability, that while I agree with the principle of anti-communism so espoused, I do not myself agree with its application in the immediate matter.

    However, rather than waste my time, only to subject myself to the pettiness (“Norm”) and utter unrelenting persecution (questionable catholic by Joe, cafeteria catholic by Tim) simply for a difference in opinion as concerning something the lay outside the jurisdiction of infallible decree as the Iraq War; I shall take leave of this thread, as I had originally intended (my return was only due to Tim’s screed concerning we in the Cafeteria), less we show to the entire world in cyberspace just how ‘Catholic’ we all actually are.

  • Catholic Anarchist, considering the fact that you voted for the most pro-abort candidate in our nation’s history, and have frequently been at odds with the teaching of the Church on any number of topics, I will consider that comment to be a feeble attempt by you at humor.

    Catholic Militarist, the Church did not forbid me from voting for Barack Obama. You have no ground to stand on regarding that prudential judgment.

    I am not “at odds” with Church teaching on “any number” of topics. Once again you seek to misrepresent me.

    You would think that a self-proclaimed “pro-life” Catholic would take the Church’s teaching on soldiering seriously, as it potentially involves matters of life and death, particularly the deliberate killing of human beings. I’d suggest that you try applying JPII’s The Gospel of Life to military service, but it’s clear that for you military life in the u.s. is something unable to be criticized. Shut up, soldier, and kill. Do not ask questions, do not use your God-given moral agency — that which makes us human — in matters of war. Do not question your government (unless it’s a democratic administration, eh?). On this LIFE ISSUE, you are the one profoundly at odds with your Church and the Gospel of Life.

    If you truly respect soldiers, you would respect them as human persons, as moral agents. You clearly do not. You idolize soldiers so long as they do not act humanly. That is a profound dehumanization and shows them utter disrespect. We can now quite clearly see through your “love” of soldiers.

  • Catholic Anarchist you disagree with the Church on ordaining women, homosexuality, the just war teaching of the Church, just to name a few. Your allegiance has always been to your far left political agenda, as anyone who has any familiarity with your comments and posts would quickly realize.

    As to soldiers Catholic Anarchist, since I was one of them, a distinction I am sure you will never share, I have a great deal of sympathy for them. Anyone who wants to go to war is in need of a psych exam. However, some of us realize that in this imperfect world we will not remain free long unless we have those willing to serve in the military. Once you join the military you take this oath: “I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” The oath does not say if I agree with the war being fought, or if I feel like it. Those who cannot take this oath in good conscience should not take it. Those who do and violate it, must stand ready to defend their action and to take the consequences. That is what adults do Catholic Anarchist. They do not take oaths that they will not carry out when the going gets tough. Of course in regard to you this will make as much sense as a lecture on chastity to a cat. You think the US is evil and anyone who serves in the US military is serving evil. Thank God so few people join you in your totally wrong-headed world view .

  • I’m not clear if Michael has decided to abandon blogging for very subtle absurdist performance art or if he just has very poor reading comprehension.

  • Catholic Anarchist you disagree with the Church on ordaining women, homosexuality, the just war teaching of the Church, just to name a few. Your allegiance has always been to your far left political agenda, as anyone who has any familiarity with your comments and posts would quickly realize.

    Rather than simply saying I “disagree” with the Church on women’s ordination and/or homosexuality, it might do you some good to consider that on each of those issues there are aspects in which I both agree and disagree with the Church. On the just war tradition, you are simply 100% inaccurate. And again, on just war teaching, you have some nerve accusing me of disagreeing with it considering your comments on this thread in which you clearly reject the Church’s teaching on war.

    For example:

    Once you join the military you take this oath… The oath does not say if I agree with the war being fought, or if I feel like it. Those who cannot take this oath in good conscience should not take it. Those who do and violate it, must stand ready to defend their action and to take the consequences. That is what adults do Catholic Anarchist. They do not take oaths that they will not carry out when the going gets tough.

    This comment simply does not reflect the mind of the Church. You have not dealt sufficiently with the fact that the Church demands that nations respect selective conscientious objection. This is part of the just war teaching that you claim to believe in. It’s yet another example of how you CLAIM to believe in Catholic just war teaching but do not take it seriously in the least.

    Your allegiance has always been to your far left political agenda, as anyone who has any familiarity with your comments and posts would quickly realize.

    Yes, being anti-abortion and attending the pro-life march is clearly a “far left” position. Again, all you can do is misrepresent people that you disagree with.

    You think the US is evil and anyone who serves in the US military is serving evil. Thank God so few people join you in your totally wrong-headed world view .

    I do not think “the US” is “evil.” Even if I did, one would not have to share that belief in order to take the CATHOLIC CHURCH’s view of selective conscientious objection seriously.

    Have you, Catholic Militarist, ever personally judged a war waged by the united states of america as unjust and unsupportable by Catholics?

  • The oath does not say if I agree with the war being fought, or if I feel like it. Those who cannot take this oath in good conscience should not take it. Those who do and violate it, must stand ready to defend their action and to take the consequences. That is what adults do…They do not take oaths that they will not carry out when the going gets tough.

    A couple points for consideration:

    1) It seems to me that the quote above overstates things a bit. For instance, a person may join the military, and then twenty years later find that they believe a given conflict is immoral. For a Catholic in that situation, I think it’s perfectly ‘adult’ and, in fact, virtuous to conscientiously object.

    2) I think the Catechism is helpful here, as it suggests both that the public authorities have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense,” and that “Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms

    This suggests to me that some level of deference is due to those entrusted to the common good, but that the deference due to civil authorities is far from absolute. It seems to me that a pacifist like Michael would tend to minimize the level of deference owed to public officials, whereas Don, who has served in the armed forces, is more sensitive to the importance of deference. As long as neither denies 1) the right of public authorities to impose duties of self-defense on their citizens, or 2) the right of citizens to conscientious objection in some form, then neither is outside the guidelines in the Catechism.

    That, of course, is just my reading of the Catechism; perhaps interjecting with yet another point of view will prove unhelpful. Here is the relevant section of the Catechism:

    2309 The evaluation of [just war] conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

    2310 Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense.

    Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.107

    2311 Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way.

  • “On the just war tradition, you are simply 100% inaccurate.”

    Catholic Anarchist I recall reading in a thread on Vox Nova you stating that all wars were unjust and that the Church should abandon the Just War doctrine.

    “This comment simply does not reflect the mind of the Church.”

    Rubbish, my comment does not reflect your mind. The military makes allowance for conscientious objectors. It does not make allowance for people who suddenly decide that they oppose a war just as they are called up to fight in it. Those individuals have to stand up for their beliefs at a court martial and in the arena of public opinion. To do otherwise would be to allow people to spit on their military oath whenever they found it convenient to do so for their own well-being. Those who believe that a war is truly unjust should welcome the opportunity to make their case.

    “Yes, being anti-abortion and attending the pro-life march is clearly a “far left” position.”
    While voting for the most pro-abort President in our nation’s history and constantly hectoring the pro-life movement. With “pro-lifers” like you Catholic Anarchist, who needs pro-aborts?

    “I do not think “the US” is “evil.” Even if I did, one would not have to share that belief in order to take the CATHOLIC CHURCH’s view of selective conscientious objection seriously.”

    Bravo Catholic Anarchist! That is the first time I can recall seeing you capitalize any reference to your native country. Your hatriotism towards America is legendary in Saint Blogs.

    “Have you, Catholic Militarist, ever personally judged a war waged by the united states of america as unjust and unsupportable by Catholics?”

    Asked and answered as we say in the Law Catholic Anarchist. “10. Has he EVER come to the conclusion that a war waged by the United States of America is unjust? Or have all of them, in his opinion, been just?”

    The Mexican War. In that I agree with Ulysses Grant.

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/05/29/miguel-diaz-claims-to-be-pro-life-is-he/

  • Catholic Anarchist I recall reading in a thread on Vox Nova you stating that all wars were unjust and that the Church should abandon the Just War doctrine.

    Your recollection seems to be flawed. The just war doctrine is a helpful tool, if taken seriously. And if taken seriously, the result is that virtually all wars (especially those initiated by the u.s.a.) are necessarily unjust. The Church’s teaching on war has moved to a place analogous to its teaching on the death penalty: that wars can theoretically be “justified” in the abstract, but very rarely, if ever, in real life. If just war tradition is not going to be taken seriously, and if it is only going to be misused by Catholic Militarists such as yourself, THEN it should be abandoned because it is not doing what it is meant to do. THAT is my position. You no longer have an excuse for misrepresenting me on this point.

    The military makes allowance for conscientous objectors. It does not make allowance for people who suddenly decide that they oppose a war just as they are called up to fight in it.

    It in fact DOES make the allowance for selective conscientious objection and insists upon it. It’s the only way to take the sacredness of the human conscience seriously, and the Church knows this. You are simply wrong. (Perhaps you not only misrepresent your opponents, you intentionally misrepresent the Church?) Your thinking here is driven by u.s. military “ethics,” not Catholic social thought.

    While voting for the most pro-abort President in our nation’s history and constantly hectoring the pro-life movement. With “pro-lifers” like you Catholic Anarchist, who needs pro-aborts?

    My hope is that the u.s. “pro-life” movement would become more pro-life by listening to what the Church teaches on the interconnectedness of life issues.

    Your hatriotism towards America is legendary in Saint Blogs.

    “Legendary” is a good choice of words, as legends involve both truth and exaggeration. My views on “america” are easily reviewable, and it would be difficult to make a strong case that I “hate” america. Much of the “legendary” position I hold on “america” is sheer fantasy, dreamed up by folks like you who need blog enemies.

    The Mexican War. In that I agree with Ulysses Grant.

    One war. Nice. You are a serious disciple of the Church’s teaching on war, I see. If only you ever agreed with the Popes on war.

  • From the Compendium of the Church’s Social Doctrine:

    Chapter Eight
    The Political Community

    III. Political Authority
    c. The right to conscientious objection

    399. Citizens are not obligated in conscience to follow the prescriptions of civil authorities if their precepts are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or to the teachings of the Gospel. [820] Unjust laws pose dramatic problems of conscience for morally upright people: when they are called to cooperate in morally evil acts they must refuse.[821] Besides being a moral duty, such a refusal is also a basic human right which, precisely as such, civil law itself is obliged to recognize and protect. “Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane”.[822]

    It is a grave duty of conscience not to cooperate, not even formally, in practices which, although permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to the Law of God. Such cooperation in fact can never be justified, not by invoking respect for the freedom of others nor by appealing to the fact that it is foreseen and required by civil law. No one can escape the moral responsibility for actions taken, and all will be judged by God himself based on this responsibility (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).

    From the U.S. Catholic Bishops, The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace: 10th Anniversary of The Challenge of Peace, 1993:

    We repeat our support both for legal protection for those who conscientiously refuse to participate in any war (conscientious objectors) and for those who cannot, in good conscience, serve in specific conflicts they consider unjust or in branches of the service (e.g., the strategic nuclear forces) which would require them to perform actions contrary to deeply held moral convictions about indiscriminate killing (selective conscientious objection).

    As we hold individuals in high esteem who conscientiously serve in the armed forces, so also we should regard conscientious objection and selective conscientious objection as positive indicators within the Church of a sound moral awareness and respect for human life.

    There is a need to improve the legal and practical protection which this country rightly affords
    conscientious objectors and, in accord with the just-war tradition, to provide similar legal protection for selective conscientious objectors.

  • One war. Nice. You are a serious disciple of the Church’s teaching on war, I see. If only you ever agreed with the Popes on war.

    Michael,

    It’s a mark of your usual disingenuousness that you ask specifically ask Donald to name one war, and then turn around and mock him for naming one war. Seriously, do you think you stand any chance of convincing people to accept your beliefs in regards to the requirements which Christianity places on people when you can never find it in your heart to react to people in a remotely Christian fashion? Read of your comment and Donald’s again and ask yourself: if someone who doesn’t know all the history between you two reads both comments, which of you two will they think has a truly Christian and human understanding of war and the demands placed upon soldiers?

    Also, I’m not necessarily sure you want to “go there” with your last sentence that I quoted. Donald doubtless agrees with a number of papal pronouncements on war — such as the calling of the crusades, the defense of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the defense of the papal states against the nationalist forces of Victor Emmanuel. You, of course, probably disagree with the popes on all of those.

  • Of course Catholic Anarchist what the bishops proposed in 1993 flies in the face of Pius XII’s Christmas message of 1956 in which he condemned selective conscientious objection, at least in democratic states.

    In regard to the teaching of the Just War doctrine Catholic Anarchist, I thank you for the clarification. You support it as long as it condemns wars you oppose, and you abandon it when it does not.

    Catholic Anarchist my statement in regard to the military and conscientious objection is absolutely correct. Conscientious objection is recognized, selection conscientious objection is not. As the statement of Pius XII indicates, selective conscientious objection is a doctrinal innovation in the Church. Actually support for any conscientious objection, except for clerics, is a doctrinal innovation of the last century. In that regard American law actually recognized the rights of absolute conscientious objectors before the Church did.

    Your dedication to the pro-life cause is underwhelming.

    As for your hatred of this country it permeates most of your writing. A good sample is set forth in the many jabs you make at America in your explanation as to why you were going to vote for pro-abort Obama.

    http://vox-nova.com/2008/11/03/why-i-decided-to-vote/

  • Darwin – Please, let’s not be silly. The Church of today has repented the sin of the Crusades.

    Of course Catholic Anarchist what the bishops proposed in 1993 flies in the face of Pius XII’s Christmas message of 1956 in which he condemned selective conscientious objection, at least in democratic states.

    Yes, it does. News flash, Militarist: Church teaching changes!

    In regard to the teaching of the Just War doctrine Catholic Anarchist, I thank you for the clarification. You support it as long as it condemns wars you oppose, and you abandon it when it does not.

    The fact is, I am with the Popes when it comes to their judgments of modern wars and you are not. That’s the bottom line.

    Catholic Anarchist my statement in regard to the military and conscientious objection is absolutely correct. Conscientious objection is recognized, selection conscientious objection is not.

    Only a fool or a liar could continue to parrot the mistaken idea that the Church does not recognize selective conscientious objection. You are deliberately choosing to ignore it, but it’s Church teaching.

    As the statement of Pius XII indicates, selective conscientious objection is a doctrinal innovation in the Church. Actually support for any conscientious objection, except for clerics, is a doctrinal innovation of the last century. In that regard American law actually recognized the rights of absolute conscientious objectors before the Church did.

    Sure, it’s an “innovation.” But it’s Church teaching nonetheless. And you continue to ignore it.

    Your dedication to the pro-life cause is underwhelming.

    As is yours. Not to mention your dedication to authentic Catholic social doctrine.

    As for your hatred of this country it permeates most of your writing. A good sample is set forth in the many jabs you make at America in your explanation as to why you were going to vote for pro-abort Obama.

    Jabs = hate?

  • I just reviewed my post on why I voted for Obama. Interesting that you did not quote anything from the post that would indicate that I “hate” america. But thank you for doing your part to contribute to the myth that I “hate america” and to draw attention to my writing.

  • 1.The Church of today has repented the Crusades Catholic Anarchist. You wouldn’t care to link to this precise apology would you?

    2.Church teaching Catholic Anarchist has to be considered as a whole. I believe a papal statement would require another papal statement to invalidate it. Would you care to point to such a papal statement, not a statement of a council, but a papal statement?

    3.Catholic Anarchist the opinion of a Pope on a war has never been binding on Catholics. If you understand anything about the Just War doctrine you would understand that. As it happens I do agree with most papal positions regarding conflicts over the past 1700 years.

    In regard to modern conflicts would you include the Spanish Civil War in that category? How do you view the position of Pius XI in regard to that conflict?

    4. Catholic Anarchist your reading comprehension really cannot be so low as to fail to discern that I was writing about the US military’s position in regard to conscientious objection? Please try to at least read what I have written and not what you imagine I have written.

    5. Catholic Anarchist, in addition to my political work for the pro-life cause I have also been a Birthright volunteer and a member of the board of the crisis pregnancy center in my country for the past decade. For the past five years I have been president of the board of the crisis pregnancy center. I will let our readers judge if that is underwhelming. I am sure I could have done more.

    6. Catholic social doctrine Catholic Anarchist is not far left political stances, no matter how much you wish it was.

    7. You want another example of your hatriotism? Here is your Fourth of July salute:

    http://vox-nova.com/2008/07/03/happy-4th-of-july/

  • I’ll only comment on #5. The rest I consider worthless to debate further. You are at the front of the Cafeteria line on the issue of war. american policy is your moral guide.

    On #5 – You obviously have a record of anti-abortion activity. But what i said was that your dedication to the pro-life cause (and I understand the term “pro-life” in the Catholic, not american societal, sense) is underwhelming. Your readers are able to judge that, I’m sure.

    Again, you see what you want to see in my posts. There is nothing in my 4th of July post that would indicate “hatred” of america, only an insistence that we reject american civil religion in our Catholic churches. But again, thanks for helping to make me “legendary”!

  • This is the oddly maddening thing about trying to talk to you, Michael. On the one hand, you say such incredibly and obviously badly argued things that one itches to respond — yet on the other you display fairly little interest in understanding what other people have to say and giving it a fair hearing, so at the same rational level there’s seemingly little point in responding.

    You say that you agree with the Church’s just war teaching, yet you reject nearly the entire history of it and say that what you agree with is one modern interpretation of it which suggest that war is almost never justified. When the fact that this is a minority viewpoint in Church history is pointed out to you, you exclaim, “Church teaching changes!”

    Yet if Church teaching changes drastically, then clearly at some times the Church is teaching what is true, and at other times what is false. And if that’s so, why should we be convinced (especially by your brief and acerbic comments) that your interpretation of the current teaching (based not on something like the Catechism of the Catholic Church but on a speculation Cardinal Ratzinger made a number of years ago in an interview) is correct?

    You say that we should agree with the popes in regards to what wars are just, yet when specific several wars endorsed by popes over the course of 800 years you brushed that off with “the Church has apologized for the crusades”. (Technically, that’s not true. Pope John Paul II expressed sorrow for a number of clearly wrong acts that were committed by the crusaders, but he did not actually say that the Church was wrong to call the crusades, nor that the various promises of plenary indulgences attached to crusading — in a proper state of contrition and sacrifice, obviously, as with any indulgence — were invalid.) Instead you follow up by saying you agree with popes about modern wars.

    Except as Donald pointed out you probably don’t agree with Pius XI in regards to the Spanish Civil War. Or with Pius XII in regards to the allied cause in WW2. Or with John Paul II in regards to the NATO campaign in Bosnia. Even with the US war in Afghanistan there were decidedly mixed messages from Vatican spokesmen and no statement either way from the pope, as I recall.

    So basically, you agree with some modern popes about some modern wars so long as they agree with you — and by golly someone is a terrible Catholic if they don’t share your convictions in that regard.

    You consider this a convincing argument? I have a lot of respect for people who think that the Iraq War did not meet just war standards (which as I recall includes roughly half the active contributors this blog) but your kind of foolishness draws neither respect nor belief.

  • You and Donald will not be convinced even if the Pope himself phones you. I’m not concerned about convincing you.

  • “Pope John Paul II expressed sorrow for a number of clearly wrong acts that were committed by the crusaders, but he did not actually say that the Church was wrong to call the crusades”

    A good distinction to make, as well. It isn’t very popular today to acknowledge that the First Crusade was a defensive war launched at the behest of an ally calling to the West for help.

    It’s off topic, kinda, but my ancestors, the Maronite Lebanese, benefited greatly from the protection of the crusaders. The Turks really were engaged in persecution of Christians, they had conquered many territories that were a part of the Christian Middle East and North Africa.

    The crusaders also did not try to impose Christianity on the local Muslim population, at least not on a large scale. So it was never a war waged to convert by the sword. I believe it was a legitimate defense of Christendom from an enemy that had been aggressive for a good 400 years or so prior to that point.

    I’m sure Michael and others will not only vehemently disagree, but accuse me of apologizing for religious imperialism or some other terrible thing. Well, I put up with it from the right when I criticize America’s wars, so I suppose I can deal with it from the left when I defend those called by the Church.

  • “I’m not concerned about convincing you.”

    You’re not concerned about convincing anybody. Posturing, tossing “treats” at your opponent like an alpha baboon and making sure everyone knows you aren’t like that conservative/”militarist” tax collector over there are your modus operandi.

    Enjoy the ego trip, kid.

  • Joe said:

    “A good distinction to make, as well. It isn’t very popular today to acknowledge that the First Crusade was a defensive war launched at the behest of an ally calling to the West for help.

    It’s off topic, kinda, but my ancestors, the Maronite Lebanese, benefited greatly from the protection of the crusaders. The Turks really were engaged in persecution of Christians, they had conquered many territories that were a part of the Christian Middle East and North Africa.

    The crusaders also did not try to impose Christianity on the local Muslim population, at least not on a large scale. So it was never a war waged to convert by the sword. I believe it was a legitimate defense of Christendom from an enemy that had been aggressive for a good 400 years or so prior to that point.”

    Too bad this little bit submitted by Joe above and other such points in fact is lost on the bigoted nitwits on the History Channel; if anything, their Two-Part indictment.. err.. special, “The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross“, maliciously produced an utterly insidiously dark, villainous portrayal of the Pope, the Church and all of Christendom then, attempting to make the Muslims nothing more but saintly innocent, peaceful people into whose hands the Holy Lands rightfully belonged and, even more, were perfectly governed thereby with only justice and remarkable virtue, unlike the vile Crusaders who didst anything except plunder, rape and heinously murder.

    The American Catholic should’ve sicced Joe on these wretched anti-Catholic bigots.

  • Ok- since this was my post -originally anyway- I feel some responsibility to wrap things up and attempt a little peacemaking- especially given the nature of the post in the first place.

    There are two main areas covered in this thread- with a third being the Crusades as a late entry- which I am going with Joe H.’s historical accounting of the basic facts.

    I quoted the Compendium’s teaching on the principle of conscience-protection for our troops- which I thought was a necessary reform for our U.S. military services- both for orders that would be immoral and for a selective conscientious objection option for situations where one has signed up in good faith to serve but gets thrown into a unjust war- I used the 9-11/Iraq Invasion as a controversial real-life example.

    The basic question over just how exactly we should or could enact some basic conscience protections for the troops got deep-sixed by the debate on the Iraq War’s justification- which brought out a mini-war among churchmen and their “pens”. I chose that time to bring out my Catholic Cafeteria parable of sorts- which was seen as being specifically targeting those who supported the justness of the Iraq invasion. It was meant to be a much broader statement on the American political situation of very clearly drawn lines in the sand between those who proudly proclaim their “liberal” or “conservative” bonafides. But the connection to the Iraq situation was unavoidable, and I should clear the air a bit.

    I do think that the Iraq invasion was immoral, but it isn’t something that is going to found in a permanent Catechism under “Iraq Wars”. It is an application of Just War theory, and the prudential judgment guidance offered by the Church Hierarchs, and by the facts on the ground. For me, Iraq was an easy call because what I understood of the situation from the facts on the ground to the guidance offered by the Hierarchy was a straight-line. And so, I took an early and strident opposition on moral and practical terms.

    This obviously isn’t how everyone Catholic took in this War- and while there is wiggle room on a prudential judgment of social doctrinal principle- when you are dealing with the life and death nature of warfare or not, you are going to have some life and death struggles in spirited debate. The tone is going to be war-like because we are talking about war- war which kills or saves depending on your perspective. Now I don’t think one is necessarily a bad or incomplete Catholic in rejecting a prudential judgment of the Magisterium or the various Hierarchical bodies of Bishops- but it is one where I believe we have to tread very lightly when taking a public position that runs contrary to the popes et al- even on prudential matters. One had better have an overwhelming amount of evidence from the ‘facts on the ground’ to overturn the assessment by our Church leadership. Am I wrong to make these kind of assertions of how good well-meaning Catholics should proceed as a matter of process in their decision-making and public statements? I open this point up to the forum.

    I am not a pacifist, I do believe that the Church has developed an appreciation for the idea that to err on the side of non-violence is a better option when in doubt. The Iraq situation was something clear to me, but the Afghanistan War is another thing- the facts on the ground seemed to support a war against the Taliban for harboring Bin Laden, and the Church leadership did not offer any clear guidance yea or neigh, so for me it has come down to a murky search through some of the recent history of Afghanistan and the whole building up of the Jihadist movement by Western and Saudi/Pakistani interests originally to bloody the Soviets and further internal Islamic competitions. Like I said, this war in Afghanistan is really murky for me in ways that Iraq was not.

    I do believe that when one supports a war, even though you are not fighting it, you are to some degree on the hook morally for it. So, I am a bit on the hook for what is happening in Afghanistan- the deaths of civilians keep me from maintaining a comfortable distance- and the growing risk to our troops as well. I look at these things as an elder, a middle-aged father who is past his days as a brash inexperienced youth without a strong stake in the global community. My kids are in the mix now- so all of this is very personal- how I (we) leave this world is of paramount importance- I don’t want to face Jesus Christ with a weak conscience either!

    So – yes- I will continue to challenge the judgment of Catholics who supported going into Iraq- I will not say they are bad Catholics, but it is in the nature of the debate of warfare to engage in polemics and heated rhetoric. We all need to check our consciences- all the time- me included of course. I tend to give extra-heavy weight to the Magisterium and other Hierarchical documents and commentaries/letters/speeches- this is in no small part due to the fact that these type of communications played a huge role in my personal conversion to Catholicism- so I am extra-sensitive when Catholics seem uninterested or not as impressed with Church sources of guidance and doctrinal formation.

    I apologize for using sarcasm at times in responding to others here- I hope this post will heal some rifts, and we can maybe find some common ground on my original posting to help our troops- particularly our Catholic troops to be able to serve our country militarily, but also to serve their Catholic-consciences, which may put them at odds with the political class at times of war, or with superior officiers during the heat of war. If there could be a listing of potential situations where conscience-clauses could be invoked by individual soldiers- so that we could minimize the abuse of conscience-clauses which could lead to a break-down of authority or encourage cowardice and sloth- this would be the way to proceed- if we agree in principle that soldiers, just like health care professionals, have a right to conscience protections so they can do the work they are suited for, but also be protected from punitive hardships should they need to invoke their well-developed consciences. Our Catholic soldiers, like our Catholic health care professionals, can help our nation by serving the front lines of our public conscience development. God Bless everyone, Christ’s Peace everywhere. Shall we close this thread on a positive?

  • Predictable as always, kid.

  • Shall we close this thread on a positive?

    Looks like Dale ain’t into that idea.

Pope John Paul II Doesn't Sound Like A Reaganite

Saturday, July 11, AD 2009

Here is a good portion of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis written in 1987 and is followed up by Pope Benedict’s most recent. It is a relevant passage because it deals directly with the subjects dealt with in the ongoing discussion on “Guatemala” et al, on the debated need for apology/examination of our American conscience for abuses- or some would argue not- by our American leadership and elite interests, in regard to other nations- particularly poorer, weaker ones. There seems to be the idea floating around in conservative political circles that Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were cut from the same cloth. I do not believe the approach to foreign relations by those who praise the Reagan/Bush years, holds up to Catholic scrutiny. But here are the words of our previous Holy Father- and no I do not accept the argument that we can distinguish where the Peace and Justice crowd at the Vatican is speaking and where the Pope is- that sort of treatment of these official Encyclicals is beneath my contempt. I will offer commentary on the latest encyclical after I have time to digest it, I refuse to rush my judgment on such important Church offerings. :

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4 Responses to Pope John Paul II Doesn't Sound Like A Reaganite

  • A letter from a “sandalista” (a non-Nicaraguan supporter of the Sandinistas) on her reaction to Pope John Paul II’s visit to Nicaragua in March 1983:

    “Katherine Hoyt
    National Co-Coordinator
    Nicaragua Network Education Fund

    Matagalpa
    March 16, 1983

    Dear Folks–

    Well, I promised to write about the Pope’s visit and so I guess I must even though I would rather not even think about it much less write about it! I feel that the visit to Central America as a whole has meant a return to a pre-1967 Church: before Paul VI’s encyclical “Popularum Progressio”–which specified the cases in which insurrection and rebellion would be justified–and the 1968 Latin American Bishops Conference at Medellin, Colombia, which gave the big push to liberation theology.

    On this recent visit John Paul II spoke in words easily understood by the Right as support for its cause: You peasants live in unjust and inhuman conditions but don’t be tempted to rise up in arms against your oppressors; and Archbishop Romero was a martyr but we must not allow his memory to be manipulated politically, etc., etc. But this I’m sure you know. What you’d like to know is our experience of his visit here.

    Well, the government and the Church working together made a tremendous effort to mobilize all means of transportation available in the country so that 800,000 people, approximately 36% of the total population, saw the Pope, either in Leon or in Managua. (Older people, children under 12 and pregnant women were asked not to brave the heat.) Everyone who wanted to go had the chance.

    Victoria [my 13 year old daughter] and I went on the bus to Managua two days ahead. We saw on television his arrival at the airport with Daniel Ortega’s very appropriate (but, I hear, badly received by the U.S. press) quotation from a 1921 letter from Bishop Pereira of Leon to U.S. Cardinal Simpson protesting U.S. intervention in his country. The Pope was even then quite cool and we could see that he lectured Father Ernesto Cardenal, but his airport speech was pretty good. The service in Leon went off quite well. The only objectionable thing that he said in his homily was about the “strict right of believing parents” to not see their children submitted in the schools to “programs inspired in atheism,” something that has never been contemplated here.

    Well, after watching all this on TV, we ate lunch, I put on my sunscreen and we (Victoria and I) took off walking on the prescribed route to the Plaza [19 of July]. It took us almost an hour, from 1:40 to 2:30, to get there. (Access to the Plaza was completely open, by the way.) First we got behind some people who had brought ice chests and stools so because they stood on the stools and blocked our view, we moved over to the right among simpler folk. (It turned out that that first group was composed of Archbishop Obando supporters–there were maybe 40 or 50 thousand of them all together right up in front.) Most of the crowd where we were was composed of simple Christian revolutionaries, women of AMNLAE [the women’s association], peasants of the ATC [farmworkers association] who had had their hopes falsely raised by all sides, church and state, that the Pope was going to say some words of consolation to the families which daily lose loved ones to the counterrevolution, especially since just the day before 17 outstanding members of the Sandinista Youth Organization, killed in an ambush, had been buried after a memorial program in this very same plaza. Certainly if the head of a foreign state visits a country the day after a busload of teen-agers killed in an accident have been buried, he is expected to make SOME sympathetic remarks. However, the Pope studiously avoided making ANY sympathetic words either publicly or privately to the Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs who gave him their petition for peace. He could have said a few words of sympathy and won over that crowd easily and satisfied the Sandinista leaders who weren’t expecting more than a crumb. Then it wouldn’t have mattered how strongly he spoke about Church unity under the bishops. Both sides would have been both satisfied and disappointed. But he was extremely careful not to give even a crumb to the revolution and I think no one expected this unrelieved bleakness.

    The Mass began at 5:00 and as the revolutionaries in the crowd began to get the idea of the way things were going, they began to demand “A prayer for our dead,” “We want peace,” and “We want a church on the side of the poor.”

    When that terrible sermon (which demanded that we abandon our “unacceptable ideological commitments” for the faith) was half over I began to feel sick as a result of two and one half hours standing in the sun in the crowd and extreme distress at the direction the Pope was taking. Victoria insisted that we move back to a place where the crowd was less dense and we could sit down and buy some water in plastic bags. By this time the sun had gone down, the horizon was red from so much dust raised on the outer edges of the Plaza, people were chanting “people power, people power” now, too, along with “We want peace,” and the Pope was having a hard time moving along with the Mass. At the silence between the consecration of the bread and that of the wine, a women broke in with a megaphone to say (in respectful tones, actually), “Holy Father, we beg you for a prayer for our loved ones who have been murdered,” or something very similar. The Lord’s Prayer somehow never got said and only a few people were given communion (one was the mother of Daniel and Humberto Ortega who was with the Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs, having lost another son, Camilo, in 1978). Finally at 8:00 p.m., the Pope gave the last blessing and was off while the vast majority of the crowd stayed at attention to hear the Sandinista Anthem.

    Daniel Ortega’s impromptu speech at the airport as the Pope left was enough to make one cry. He almost begged the Pope to make one solid proposal for peace in Nicaragua, to say one word, to give that one crumb that he was not willing to give. We heard only part of it as we were walking back to Toyita’s house, dirty exhausted and I, of course very distressed by the whole visit and certain we were headed for schism. One of the last slogans somebody had cried out as the Mass was ending was one of anguished defiance: “Because of Christ and His Gospels, we are revolutionaries.” That seemed to just about sum things up.

    While I showered, I turned the radio on to the BBC 9:00p.m. news. The British announcer, in typical understatement, said that the Pope had just finished saying the “most unusual Mass of his career in Managua, Nicaragua.”

    Of course it was a boost for the counter-revolutionaries and we are seeing an increase in the number of battles right now, some close to Matagalpa–near San Ramon and San Dionisio–and all anybody talks about is war. This has had serious repercussions in our Paulita who has developed a terrible fear of war and what might happen to us all. She starts crying when anyone talks about battles or civil defense measures in school.

    Write soon.

    Love, Kathy”

    http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/47/030.html

    John Paul II was a complicated man and he was often critical of the West, but in the confrontation between Democracy and Communism John Paul II was much closer to the position of Reagan than the Catholic Left of the time.

  • Here is a good portion of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis written in 1987 and is followed up by Pope Benedict’s most recent. It is a relevant passage because it deals directly with the subjects dealt with in the ongoing discussion on “Guatemala” et al, on the debated need for apology/examination of our American conscience for abuses- or some would argue not- by our American leadership and elite interests, in regard to other nations- particularly poorer, weaker ones.

    How does this stratospheric complaint about global political economy ca. 1987 have much to say about the parsing of responsibility between the U.S. Government and Guatemala’s political class?

    There seems to be the idea floating around in conservative political circles that Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were cut from the same cloth. I do not believe the approach to foreign relations by those who praise the Reagan/Bush years, holds up to Catholic scrutiny.

    Just out of curiosity, what aspects of that ‘approach’ do not? While you answer that, consider what discontinuities existed between the Reagan Administration and its predecessor. Increased military expenditure, promotion of democracy abroad, modernization of nuclear arsenals, confrontation with foreign reds (in El Salvador, &c.), and subsidy and training of insurgencies challenging communist governments were all policies that had been adopted by his predecessor, albeit more tentatively, by 1980.

    But here are the words of our previous Holy Father- and no I do not accept the argument that we can distinguish where the Peace and Justice crowd at the Vatican is speaking and where the Pope is- that sort of treatment of these official Encyclicals is beneath my contempt. I will offer commentary on the latest encyclical after I have time to digest it, I refuse to rush my judgment on such important Church offerings. :

    You quote an introductory paragraph, three paragraphs which are drily descriptive, one which locates the antagonism of the West and the East bloc in their dissimilar political economy (though blocs and mutual antagonisms are the rule with or without such dissimilarity). The equivalence drawn between Western media and that of the Communist bloc is foolish. The succeeding paragraph (“International relations, in turn,…” is again uncontroversially descriptive. The next (“Although at the present time”) is not much more so.

    Then…

    two concepts of the development of individuals and peoples both concepts being imperfect and in need of radical correction. This opposition is transferred to the developing countries themselves, and thus helps to widen the gap already existing on the economic level between North and South and which results from the distance between the two worlds: the more developed one and the less developed one.

    This is one of the reasons why the Church’s social doctrine adopts a critical attitude towards both liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism. For from the point of view of development the question naturally arises: in what way and to what extent are these two systems capable of changes and updatings such as to favor or promote a true and integral development of individuals and peoples in modern society? In fact, these changes and updatings are urgent and essential for the cause of a development common to all.

    Whether it be the Holy Father speaking or krill suspended in some Vatican dicastery, passages such as this do not provide even minimal guidance for the faithful policy-maker. What does ‘true and integral development’ mean? N.B. by 1987, ‘liberal capitalism’ was a fair description of the political economy of … Hong Kong. The occidental countries had with scant exception adopted some variation of what Paul Samuelson called the ‘mixed economy’, featuring considerable income redistribution, collective consumption, and ratios of public expenditure to domestic product north of a third.

    Countries which have recently achieved independence, and which are trying to establish a cultural and political identity of their own, and need effective and impartial aid from all the richer and more developed countries, find themselves involved in, and sometimes overwhelmed by, ideological conflicts, which inevitably create internal divisions, to the extent in some cases of provoking full civil war. This is also because investments and aid for development are often diverted from their proper purpose and used to sustain conflicts, apart from and in opposition to the interests of the countries which ought to benefit from them. Many of these countries are becoming more and more aware of the danger of falling victim to a form of neocolonialism and are trying to escape from it. It is this awareness which in spite of difficulties, uncertainties and at times contradictions gave rise to the International Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, which, in its positive aspect, would like to affirm in an effective way the right of every people to its own identity, independence and security, as well as the right to share, on a basis of equality and solidarity, in the goods intended for all.

    The first portion of this paragraph is again descriptive. The terminal portion, an endorsement of the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, actually was likely at a variance with the views of the Reagan Administration. It was incumbent upon the Holy Father to explain why he thought the Conference of Non-aligned Nations, that international gathering where Togo could weigh in on Timor, was significant to those not on the payroll of its secretariat. Now, if my memory serves me, one of the Conferences in this era (in 1983 or 1984) passed 11 separate resolutions attacking the United States and not a one attacking Soviet Russia, so it would not be surprising for anyone in American politics this side of Ron Dellums to find the Conference repellant. How does this jibe with the Holy Father’s carefully balanced complaints?

    22. In the light of these considerations, we easily arrive at a clearer picture of the last twenty years and a better understanding of the conflicts in the northern hemisphere, namely between East and West, as an important cause of the retardation or stagnation of the South.

    This is not a statement of discrete empirical fact, but it does presume a settled understanding of the dynamics of economic development that was not in fact the case in 1987 – or now.

    The developing countries, instead of becoming autonomous nations concerned with their own progress towards a just sharing in the goods and services meant for all, become parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel.

    The best sense that can be made out of this passage is that it is an endorsement of conceptions of the international economic order associated with characters like Immanual Wallerstein. That also would be at a variation with the Reagan Administration. It is also controversial quite apart from that; Efforts to empirically verify through statistical method the conceptions of this school of thought were not notably successful.

    This is often true also in the field of social communications, which, being run by centers mostly in the northern hemisphere, do not always give due consideration to the priorities and problems of such countries or respect their cultural make-up. They frequently impose a distorted vision of life and of man and thus fail to respond to the demands of true development.

    The referent here was contemporary efforts by UNESCO to erect a ‘New World Information Order’ incorporating controls on the Western press. The Reagan Administration withdrew from UNESCO at the close of 1984, in part for this reason and in part because the agency was internally mismanaged (“a third world kleptocracy” in the words of one critic). So, yes, this is at variation with the Reagan Administration, but with a great many others. Michael Kinsley had this to say about his colleagues in the press: “[UNESCO’s behavior] caused them to lose some of their cultural relativism, and their patience.”

    Each of the two blocs harbors in its own way a tendency towards imperialism, as it is usually called, or towards forms of new- colonialism: an easy temptation to which they frequently succumb, as history, including recent history, teaches.

    That is more Cyrus Vance than the Reagan Administration, ’tis true. It could use some elaboration.

    It is this abnormal situation, the result of a war and of an unacceptably exaggerated concern for security, which deadens the impulse towards united cooperation by all for the common good of the human race, to the detriment especially of peaceful peoples who are impeded from their rightful access to the goods meant for all.

    Bipolarity and the presence of weapons of mass destruction were certainly unusual, as was the ideological dimension of internationial conflict. We do need to ask the question as to whether ‘united cooperation by all for the common good of the human race’ really characterized previous historical era, as this comment seems to suggest.

    Seen in this way, the present division of the world is a direct obstacle to the real transformation of the conditions of underdevelopment in the developing and less advanced countries. However, peoples do not always resign themselves to their fate. Furthermore, the very needs of an economy stifled by military expenditure and by bureaucracy and intrinsic inefficiency now seem to favor processes which might mitigate the existing opposition and make it easier to begin a fruitful dialogue and genuine collaboration for peace.

    23. The statement in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio that the resources and investments devoted to arms production ought to be used to alleviate the misery of impoverished peoples41 makes more urgent the appeal to overcome the opposition between the two blocs.

    This is also at a variance with the Reagan Administration. The thing is, I doubt you will find many third world countries in 1987 who had a ratio of military expenditure to domestic product exceeding .03, bar those in the midst of internal insurrections or wars of national mobilization. IIRC statistics I was scanning at that time, such was particularly true in Latin America.

    Today, the reality is that these resources are used to enable each of the two blocs to overtake the other and thus guarantee its own security. Nations which historically, economically and politically have the possibility of playing a leadership role are prevented by this fundamentally flawed distortion from adequately fulfilling their duty of solidarity for the benefit of peoples which aspire to full development.

    It is timely to mention – and it is no exaggeration – the a leadership role among nations can only be justified by the possibility and willingness to contribute widely and generously to the common good.

    There are several problems with this statement. One, is there a well established means by which international transfers of public capital induce sustainable local development?; two, to what extent are such transfers inhibited by specifically military expenditures?; three, how is it that ‘global leadership’ can be said to be conferred by virtue rather than merely being the artifact of power politics – something that exists rather than something that is ‘justified’?

    If a nation were to succumb more or less deliberately to the temptation to close in upon itself and failed to meet the responsibilities following from its superior position in the community of nations, it would fall seriously short of its clear ethical duty. This is readily apparent in the circumstances of history, where believers discern the dispositions of Divine Providence, ready to make use of the nations for the realization of its plans, so as to render “vain the designs of the peoples” (cf. Ps 33[32]: 10).

    What exactly is its ‘clear ethical duty’ in the realm of international relation?

    24. If arms production is a serious disorder in the present world with regard to true human needs and the employment of the means capable of satisfying those needs, the arms trade is equally to blame. Indeed, with reference to the latter it must be added that the moral judgment is even more severe. As we all know, this is a trade without frontiers capable of crossing even the barriers of the blocs. It knows how to overcome the division between East and West, and above all the one between North and South, to the point – and this is more serious – of pushing its way into the different sections which make up the southern hemisphere. We are thus confronted with a strange phenomenon: while economic aid and development plans meet with the obstacle of insuperable ideological barriers, and with tariff and trade barriers, arms of whatever origin circulate with almost total freedom all over the world And as the recent document of the Pontifical Commission Iustitia et Pax on the international debt points out,42 everyone knows that in certain cases the capital lent by the developed world has been used in the underdeveloped world to buy weapons.

    See above on the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product. Here are some figures from 2004, courtesy Global Security. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm. I believe that global product is now about $60 tn, so the $1.1 tn devoted to military expenditure is less than 2% of the total.

    If to all this we add the tremendous and universally acknowledged danger represented by atomic weapons stockpiled on an incredible scale, the logical conclusion seems to be this: in today’s world, including the world of economics, the prevailing picture is one destined to lead us more quickly towards death rather than one of concern for true development which would lead all towards a “more human” life, as envisaged by the Encyclical Populorum Progressio.43

    Here we pose the question: in 1987, had median life expectancies been increasing, or decreasing? Was global food production per capita improving, or not?

    Tim, we have to regard the statements of our bishops on matters outside of faith and morals with the antecedent assumption that they understand of what they speak, and we should be taught by them. The thing of it is, they can and do adhere to conceptions of their social world the empirical reality of which is controversial and so for a reason so we are in conversation with them on these matters. That applies to the late Holy Father as well.

  • I don’t know if you are familiar with our site, the Catholic World Report, but we have a “Round-Table” wherein J. Brian Benestad, Francis J. Beckwith, Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., Richard Garnett, Thomas S. Hibbs, Paul Kengor, George Neumayr, Joseph Pearce, Tracey Rowland, Father James V. Schall, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico share their thoughts on Caritas in Veritate.

    It’s located at:
    (http://www.catholicworldreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=121:cwr-round-table-caritas-in-veritate&catid=36:cwr2009&Itemid=53).

"Guatemala: Never Again!"at

Friday, July 10, AD 2009

There has been an interesting discussion going on that began with a little mockery of Obama’s propensity for offering collective apologies around the world for various things out of the American past or present. I am a big proponent of apologies- but they must be prudent and truly repentant- not some mixed-motive posturing like former President Clinton seemed inclined. A great Catholic example of what I am seeking is found in a great book  entitled “Guatemala Never Again!”. This is no Leftist diatribe, this is (REMHI) the Recovery of Historical Memory Project. This is the Official Report of the Human Rights Office, Archdiocese of Guatemala. Let me quote from the back cover:

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22 Responses to "Guatemala: Never Again!"at

  • But it is a “leftist diatribe”…. or else so naive as to pass as one. We’re being overrun by Obama’s soft-Bolshevism and now asked to act like European-style intellectuals indulging in poseur hand-wringing and moral equivalency. Cut to the chase. The only meaningful point is that about Planned Parenthood. One doesn’t have to be a GOP hawk (I’m not) to think: what a waste of this blog’s space.

  • Tim,

    I agree with you, and I have no respect for anyone – whether they call themselves a Catholic or not – who cannot acknowledge historical truth and apologize for it when it reveals evil acts.

    Moreover, any “Catholic” who puts the word of right-wing propagandists above the testimony of bishops and priests and nuns and lay Catholics in the country in question is really doing a disservice to his own Church. I’ll stand with Oscar Romero before I’ll stand with the butchers who filled mass graves in Guatemala or the nun-raping contras in Nicaragua.

  • The Contras raped nuns Joe? Could you cite the incident you are referring to? My guess is that you are thinking of this incident in El Salvador:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Donovan

    As for the Contras and the Sandanistas, the Pope seemed rather pleased after the Sandanistas were voted out.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=56mgGxguT4EC&pg=PA104&lpg=PA104&dq=john+paul+violeta+chamorro&source=bl&ots=JQWYvaiSfJ&sig=hQQXVaja6EcDAsZf2hsl1FBitfE&hl=en&ei=on9XSrmkFo_gMY7kpZ0I&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5

  • The problem with your post is that is presumes the US is not now and has not been engaged in precisely the kind of inward looking self analysis for many years.

    We have beaten the subjects of Cold War drug experimentation to death. We have beaten up on the CIA, the NSA, and our military. Following Vietnam, we entered a generational orgy of self-loathing and doubt. There have been thousands of books, tens of thousands of articles, and hundreds of thousands of internet posts about every manner of evil the US did or is supposed to have done. We have granted Doctorates to thousands and thousands of professors who only too happily trot out America’s evils without ever mentioning her greatness. We produce text book after text book suggesting that early colonists were nothing less than thieves and murderers who drove noble, peace-loving, agrarian peoples from thier homes so that they could set up theocracies.

    Enough!!!

    Were America a person and were that “person” in therapy, she would be heavily sedated so that she didn’t do violence to herself.

    Anyone who wants to use America as an escape-goat for the sins of the world, rather than acknowledging that international affairs is a brutal, ugly game that requires walking a thin line between right and wrong to survive, is either naive or ignorant.

  • I don’t see America thriving as a nation or as a people for the long-run, because I don’t see how we are so very different from the Great Empires of the past

    I realize this is perhaps a characteristic hobby horse, but it’s worth noting that the great empires of the past did pretty well in many ways, and indeed the Church found itself much involved with them. Rome around 1000 in its Western form, and another 1000 in Constantinople. And the Church was very much connected with both the Christian empire and with later European empires that aspired to be successors: Hapsburgs, French, Spanish, etc. There’s an American mythology that all great empires immediately became corrupt and fell apart, but it’s not fully accurate.

    On your general point: I think there is at the same time a danger in spending too much time on other people’s sins. Sure, I would wax wroth all day about racism, eugenics, treatment of the Indians, or what have you, but it worries me that when we spend a lot of time on sins committed by other people that we feel no personal affinity to, we make ourselves feel good at others expense while doing very little to actually make ourselves better. Yes, it’s important to recognize evil for what it is, but if we spend too much time talking about evils that other people did in the past (especially when we do so in an un-nuanced and accusatory way) we end up unnecessarily pumping ourselves up.

    So for instance, I could write some scorchers about eugenics and the forced sterilization programs that many states (my home state of California most of all) had in the 20s and 30s, but since that’s basically going on about “bad things other people did” and to an extent also the connections I see between the eugenics of the 20s and the birth control and abortion movements of today — I think a lot of the people most tempted by those evils would simply be put off by my writing and feel that I’m unnecessarily characterizing them as participating in past horrors. And given the distance (and the fact I already recognize it as wrong) I’m not sure I’d be undergoing any moral development myself either.

    So while we shouldn’t sugar-coat the past, I think we also need to be wary about getting too involved in apologizing for wrongs that other people committed. It can become more a weapon and a tool for pride than an actual process of humility.

  • I have travelled and lived in several places abroad for extended periods of time- and there is a very real sense of being an ambassador for your country, at a deeper level we are ambassadors for Christ in every land. I lived and taught in the Czech Republic just months after the Velvet Revolution there and encountered many who had never met an American, and my views as an American carried a lot of weight as a consequence. I felt a certain burden to present opinions that were thoughtful and even diplomatic at times- on religious and political topics- as a Catholic I ran into many Czech protestants and agnostics, so I wanted to represent an American Catholic perspective as best I could.

    As for apologizing for the sins of other people- it depends- if people presently associate you with the actions of your government or elite interests past or present, then it may not be enough to say- “not my sins”. You may need to clarify that these abuses are part of your memory and you are committed to do better. That may be the way to move forward in the complicated relations of differing peoples of different national backgrounds. To confess and repent is freeing for good reason- if I limit my confessions to my nation’s past and present wrong doings, and bypass a careful examination of my own actions and lack of action- then you are right to criticize my preoccupation with past and present social sins. I can only give you my word that I am really trying to be humble in assessing my own spiritual state, and it is actually part of that process that inspires me to take on a more public role in speaking out for life and social justice as a very overt Catholic- shouting out from the rooftops as it were.

    I don’t broadcast my own past and present sins to the general public- I don’t think that is prudent- but for social sins I believe there is a social call to be public in discussing such things- Scripture seems to indicate that nations are judged in some capacity, and individuals are definitely judged- so I am trying to be both/and in my approach- and I find inspiration in the example of the church in Guatemala that I feel has application here in the U.S.

  • As for the Contras and the Sandanistas, the Pope seemed rather pleased after the Sandanistas were voted out.

    Presumably it’s possible to be pleased that the Sandanistas were voted out without necessarily being pro-Contras.

  • I have travelled and lived in several places abroad for extended periods of time- and there is a very real sense of being an ambassador for your country, at a deeper level we are ambassadors for Christ in every land. I lived and taught in the Czech Republic just months after the Velvet Revolution there and encountered many who had never met an American, and my views as an American carried a lot of weight as a consequence. I felt a certain burden to present opinions that were thoughtful and even diplomatic at times- on religious and political topics- as a Catholic I ran into many Czech protestants and agnostics, so I wanted to represent an American Catholic perspective as best I could.

    Good point, and I think certainly when someone is asked, “So why is it that you Americans did XYZ,” one’s duty is to answer in honesty and humility.

    And I don’t want to come off as saying that we should never talk about the evils of the past. It’s just that I think there is a frequently indulged in temptation to make a big show of denouncing the evils of the past (which one was never tempted to in the first place) and thus acquire a glow which allows one to ignore the evils of the present because “we’re not those kind of people.”

    A classic example of this would be the many young (and not so young) people who loudly denounce the racism and sexism of the past, but can’t see how abortion could actually be all that bad because, “Lot’s of women who get abortions are just ordinary, good people in bad situations.” Well, come to that lots of racists were ordinary good people in bad situations.

    Anyway.

    I’m not wanting to accuse you of these kind of sentiments, but I am wanting to outline why I’m leary of big apology projects for things in the more distant past, or things taken out of their fuller historical context. I’m not familiar with this book put out by the Guatemalan bishops, but they’re dealing with a situation which is very recently in the past — just 20 years before the book’s writing.

    I am very much in favor of looking unblinking at the truth, good and bad, of the past. But I’m hesitant about big apology projects — especially when they go far into the past and also when they’re taken outside of their original context to become a parade of horribles.

  • “Presumably it’s possible to be pleased that the Sandanistas were voted out without necessarily being pro-Contras.”

    It’s possible BA, although one would then have to ignore the fact that without the pressure of the Contras and the US the Sandanistas would probably have held a free election about the same time their hero Fidel did.

  • I would like to point out that the mass slaughter which occurred in the course of suppressing the communist insurrection in Guatemala occurred during a 32 month period in 1982, 1983, and 1984. There had also been a lot of killing in Army massacres in the four years previous to that. The thing is, the U.S. Government cut off aid to the Government of Guatemala at the end of 1977 and it remained in abeyance for eight years.

    There was a successful counterinsurgency conducted in 1966-70 which had a much smaller death toll. The insurgency, which had commenced in 1960, was dormant for the next eight years. IIRC, the Guatemalan government had offered in 1966 a window of amnesty for the insurrectionists before beginning the campaign.

    Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in 1954. It is rather de trop to argue that the course of the country’s political history over the next thirty years followed deterministically. The Guatemalan military, without the assistance of the United States, killed about 150,000 people in 1982-84. That is nothing for which the U.S. government should apologize.

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  • Well- after reading the Church’s Memory Project and the details of the U.S. involvement in the book – Bitter Fruit- and in other accounts like Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA- I would say there is a lot to be ashamed from a Catholic American point-of-view- I can’t be anyone else’s conscience, but I think the more complete story is one where we can’t just wash our hands a la Pontius Pilate. To be so neck-deep in coups and backstage manipulations of other sovereign nations is a terrible abuse of global solidarity, subsidiarity, and a host of other ills. Even if the ends sought were mostly good ones- and I’m not convinced our leaders were primarily concerned for the well-being of the world’s poor so much as they were looking out for #1- power politics and economic interests- it is still illict to do evil that good would come from it- that is bedrock Catholic principle and one we had better promote here in the U.S. if we are to represent our true faith. We have to be very wary of the philosophy of power that includes RealPolitick, Pragmatism, “The Great Game” and other moral compromising strategies and ways of thinking and acting on the world stage- we must be truthful, clear, and dedicated in word and deed to the Christian commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is the only worthy American foreign policy objective which I will accept. The war I am fighting is the one for my soul primarily, and secondarily I want to help build a civilization of love for my children and grandchildren- I don’t want God to have to shut down the human project before my great grandchildren are born- my greatest weapon is my integrity and my righteousness, I won’t allow my patriotism to be false or misleading and ultimately a detriment to my larger goals of sainthood.

    Certain Guatemalan individuals over time are the ones most culpable for the crimes against the many average Guatemalan people- that is for sure- just as certain American individuals are the most culpable for the crimes of abortion carried out against the unborn- but there is a measure of culpability that goes far and wide for many such things- perhaps if I try to deny what I have learned about the role of the U.S. in Guatemala, and refuse to allow myself pangs of disgust, and refuse to offer up my testimony, then I am also a little bit guilty of something here. And perhaps I am a bit guilty for the state of affairs here in America with rampant abortion- not just for my past where I can plead some or a lot of ignorance, but even today, with all that I know- maybe I am not doing enough, maybe I am not expressing myself as well as I could if I took more time, more effort, and above all, more prayer. The thing is that I am trying very, very hard to not become a minimalist when it comes to the moral questions- I take the state of the nation and the world personally to the degree that I can or should. There is always that open question for Confession- am I doing all I can? Help me Lord to know, to grow, to do what you will me to do.

  • Tim,

    What you are saying now sounds different from the characterization of your post in the thread above. Might I suggest that we have entwined two different threads: that individuals and institutions must study and learn from the past and that individuals and institutions should apologize to those who perceive themselves to have suffered?

    In your latest addition to the thread, you speak eloquently of the need to learn from the past. I do not dispute the necessity of doing so and I doubt many who opposed the original post for various reasons would. Indeed, learning from other than one’s own past has a noble heritage in human experience. It is the backbone and, arguably, the purpose of much education and training. I don’t think there is a dispute as to its utility and the proposition that it is also part of one’s duty as a person and a Christian would receive a negative response.

    However, apologies are different.

    Apologies have meaning ONLY when proffered by the one responsible for the injury and only when received by one who was actually injured. The more remote either party is, the more likely it is that a new abuse is being perpetrated – by which I mean that either the one apologizing or the one apologized to is manipulating others by the interaction.

    In the instant case, it undoubtably true that the US used Central and South America as one of several battle-grounds for our proxy war with the Soviet Union. Since the alternative was a direct war with the Soviet Union and, potentially, the destruction of all life on our planet, I hope you will forgive my conclusion that, whatever the injury on the Korean Peninsula, in the Congo, or in Guatemala, the world is better off with the way that history played out.

    Where the US causes injury and that injury can be made right, we should do so. However, as time passes and intervening causes confuse the culpability, an apology and remedy becomes less and less desireable.

    I am not reaching for the complicated here. When it comes to learning from the past and applying those principles to future action, I am solidly with you. However, when it comes to offering apologies and providing remedies, we simply MUST apply a case-by-case analysis.

  • Tim,

    Twenty-eight years separated the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz and the series of offensives in 1982-84 which cost so many lives. What is the point of conjoining a discussion of John Foster Dulles and the United Fruit Company with discussion of a counter-insurgency program which occurred a generation later?

  • The Memory Project goes into the history of connections- the abuse of human rights didn’t simply begin in 1982- the Memory project deals with what happened prior to 1982 as well as the period you are talking about- the historical links are there- you will have to read the report to see for yourself- the mass arrests, the lists of anyone who had even a remote connection to anything “communist”, the loss of habeus corpus- this all started up immediately after the coup- and no doubt was supported by our own leadership- even if the distancing took place much later- the unraveling of democratic rule of law really took off after United Fruit et al took matters into their own hands- there was a similar process in Iran which led to a chain of negative events- we can’t say that these coups and support for greater breakdowns in the rule of law and solidarity/subsidiarity had no lasting effect or damages which we need to take some ownershop of. Please read the books I recommended to fill in the necessary record- Wiener and Kinzer are solid investigative reporters, and the Church’s Memory Project is really above reproach.

  • I would add that according to the Memory documents the coup of 1963 either began after a meeting with president Kennedy and his political advisors, CIA director and ambassador to Guatemala- or it was something that had at minimum no objections from Washington and for the first time the military as an institution took over the government. The Paramilitary groups came soon after and developed into death squads operating usually with hidden hand control from official military leadership- it is estimated that upwards to 20,000 were killed in just a few years by these paramilitary- and the law was quite arbitrary and abusive leading to even worse conditions to come. So, the connections to the first overthrow and with American support overt/covert is to be considered as significant in my opinion.

  • There is significant problem with the left’s view of these issues, and it is quite apparent when they put scare quotes around the word “communist”, marginalizing the truly evil and powerful force that the US was trying to defeat. Just give “Uncle Joe” a big wink, and all will be fine, right? Well, it wouldn’t have been. If Communism had not been opposed at every turn, then the fate of the the millions upon millions who died at the hand Stalin and Mao would have been shared by countless hundreds of millions more…. many times worse than the often exaggerated numbers that the left puts out for every situation where the US might have been culpable.

    Now, that’s just the dead, what about those souls which would be lost being raised in a godless society which is the goal of the left? Don’t forget that a key goal of communism was to destroy the Church in every country that it conquers. Look at your cuddly Chavez and Castro! They do all that they can to suppress the source of salvation.

    “Communism”? Hell,yes.

  • I know I’m drifting away from the subject but I’m here addressing myself directly to Tim Shipe…I am MarkL of Inside Catholic. Have just read that 19 Dems Reps are trying to block abortion coverage in the Health Care reform bill. Now I don’t know if these guys are associated with Dems for Life; but anyway kudos for the good work in this case…I am not reluctant to praise people when praise is due, BUT however I will insist upon calling a spade a spade when necessary and “a bunch of teetotallers in an assembly of drunkards has never turned the lot into temperance activists”.

  • Tim,

    I do not care to be repetitious, but again….

    I am perfectly aware that the abuse of the population did not begin in 1982 and made explicit reference to what occurred in 1978-82 and 1966-70. Since the U.S. Government had cut off aid to the Government of Guatemala at the end of 1977, it is rather inventive to attribute the former to credit the goings on during that period running from 1978 through 1985 to the U.S. Government. You would have a better argument with regard to the former period, but it is complicated by the following: Communist groups elected to start an insurgency in 1960, Communist groups ignored a proffered amnesty in 1966, and any government has the responsibility to suppress insurrections. If you think it could have been done with less loss of life, you are probably right. If you think the U.S. Government was in a position to micromanage the Guatemalan military’s conduct in 1966-70, you may or may not be.

    You can argue that the U.S. Government should have intervened to prevent the overthrow of Pres. Miguel Ydigoras in 1963. One should recall that such interventions were not uniformly successful and a rash of elected governmnts were deposed in 1962 and 1963 to the Kennedy Administration’s dismay. One should also not advance such an argument while offering complaints about American intervention per se.

    It is not very credible that parliamentary government would have, absent the machinations of the CIA, continued merrily along in Iran after 1953. Mohammed Mossadegh had already instituted authoritarian measures and an ethnically heterogenous country with a literacy rate under 20% is a poor prospect for democratic institutions, most particularly in a region of the globe where parliamentary government failed in one country after another between 1949 and 1963. You have a better argument with regard to Guatemala, which had something resembling competitive electoral politics about a third of the time between 1838 and 1954. You should recall, however, that the only Latin American countries not experiencing a breach of constitutional order between 1954 and 1986 were Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. Colombia has suffered interminable political violence since 1948 and Mexico was a pluralistic party-machine state, not a democratic state in the European sense. Had the Marxism and praetorian populism of the Arevalo-Arbenz period morphed into a stable and well-rooted democratic order, that would have been unusual, but strange things do happen from time to time.

  • I live in Guatemala and I’m tired of all the navel-gazing guilt that American and European people seem so desirous of engaging in. I don’t feel guilty for things that I didn’t engage in and don’t support.

    More importantly, it seems to me Catholics have a great deal more to be concerned with than the social activism (and consequences thereof) of her episcopacy. The Church is in worse shape than it has been since the reformation-possibly the days of Arius-and everywhere in this region all I hear about is social justice. I have yet to enter a diocesan Church and hear about sin or the sacraments.

    We don’t need so much to open up our eyes to offenses of previous generations of American misbehavior as we need to remember our primary obligation-to God-and reorient our lives in that direction. The suffering all around us is a direct reflection of sin and a refusal to deal with that.

  • Liberation Theology was flawed by the failure to ensure that it was to be understood that the primary liberation offered by Jesus Christ was one of freedom from sin and death. It is always easy enough to fall into a Zealotry of the Left or Right- making politics the whole deal of one’s religiousity. Of course the reasons for this abuse are varied according to the individual- if one’s village was part of a government or rebel massacre, and my female loved ones were raped or killed- well I might be sorely tempted to spend my remaining time on a political or militant quest- there but for the grace of God go I. I do not want to judge the individuals who fall into zealotry too harshly- many well-meaning pro-lifers seem to be making similar decisions to those social justice leftists. But having said this, I think that when Christ commanded that we love God fully, and love our neighbor as our self, and offered the kingdom of God parables about what we do to the least among us, we are doing to Him. These are compelling items for me, and the fact of the Church’s social doctrine and all the ink the popes and VAtican produces over social and political sins and conditions- I feel it is an important part of being Catholic. We must be both/and- we must be prayerful, devoted to the Sacraments, and also taking those graces out into the street, marketplaces, and political gatherings, not just holding them inside of us. The social doctrine is an essential part of the Christian evangelization- so it is not a bad thing to have a social conscience, to have a memory of the past abuses, and to learn from those abuses of history to never again repeat them- to repent as a man and as a nation- we are meant to be social, we have social responsibilities coinciding with our personal life responsibilities- this is where the left and right tend to get divisive, but the Church stays with Christ, and I shall try to stay with Her.

  • @Dr. J:
    No we are nothing like European Intellectuals-we have learned nothing from 2 World Wars and still like to push our interests forward by means of war.
    You really sound like a big McCarthy fan. Obama and Bolshevism? Don’t make me laugh. I think the author of this blog did a good job in giving us access to important knowledge (which of course you would rather have hidden away because it is not patriotic).

Education Reform

Friday, July 10, AD 2009

Here is another proposal I set forth in my previous campaign for Florida State House- this was published as a guest column by Florida Today Newspaper. This was also the straw that broke the camel’s back in my bid to run again- as the Unions refused to endorse me- and liberal Democratic activists could not stomach a candidate who was pro-life and pro-private school options. I was especially disappointed with the teacher union reps since my proposal is one that is so totally win-win from a teacher perspective, and it is obviously something in the interests of parents and their children. Pope Benedict has recently commented that Catholic schools should receive some state funding given the benefit these schools offer society. Here is the text of my proposal:

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5 Responses to Education Reform

  • Interesting.

    I’m curious why I settled on a model of paying the salaries of a specific number of teachers rather than the more standard model of offering a voucher equal to around 80% of the money the state would allocate per child (while leaving the remaining 20% with the public schools to cover infrastructure overhead.) Was that aimed at finding a middle ground with the teachers’ unions, or is a separation of church and state provision? Or just a different economic model?

    I’d be concerned the effectively subsidizing the school rather than the child would provide less incentive for the school to cut tuition enough to be affordable, but I’m curious as to the thought process.

  • The Vouchers had been shot down by Florida’s Courts because of the Church-State issue- it is really bad here in the South due to the last effects of anti-Catholicism.

    I was trying to avoid the legal issue by paying teachers not schools directly- it would work a bit like a market in that only schools that attracted more students would get more teachers- see the 1:20 ratio- so if a private school tried to take advantage by hiking fees they would still have to be appealing to parents- the state would only kick in and kick in a set amount for teachers- of course- opening the door for ‘scholarship’ like monies for excellent teachers is something that private citizens and/or orgs could add into the mix- this is why I call my proposal pro-teacher in the extreme- and it exposed the true agenda of the teacher unions- it is about ideology and control, and thinking outside the box is not welcome- and this is how teachers represent themselves? Public and private school teachers should not be pitted against one another- we are all supposed to be motivated to instill something good and great in the young people- I’m sure many public school teachers would be more comfortable teaching in some private schools so this is actually a ‘pro-choice’ proposal ironically!

  • The demand for state funded Muslim school is in accordance with the law of the land. Muslim community is not asking for any favour. There are only ten state funded Muslim schools and the British Establishment are ready to fund all Muslim schools. Only less than five percent of Muslim children attend Muslim schools and at the same time, there are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools.

    Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. At higher levels, there is no need for a Muslim teacher.

    The medium of instruction in a Muslim school is English and all of them follow the National curriculum. Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in Arabic language for their spiritual and religious development. Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.

    Bilingual Muslim children in British schooling has led to a predictable response from the tabloids, which present these children as a problem for “others” children and teachers.This is both racist and wrong. British society must recognise that over 50% of the world now routinely use more than one language in their daily lives and some 85% are able to function at least two. In a global economy these “problem” children are infact, the norm, and in a global sense they are potentially an asset, not a drain. British society should be thankful that the highest achieving students are bilinguals.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org

  • Making private schools use unionized teachers would destroy the private school system. A significant advantage of private schools is that they are not beholden to the teachers unions which would force them to keep bad teachers and pay them the same as good teachers. In fact, the unions would probably use seniority to force the private schools to offer preferential hiring to “veteran” public school teachers no matter how bad they are.

    I would suggest the encouragement of private foundations forming for the purpose of rewarding teachers,

    a great idea, but the unions would not likely support such a program.

  • The teacher union leadership was hostile to the whole deal- but like I said the sister union idea would not be comprehensive beyond salary guarantees- since the state was paying the salaries for a certain set of teachers- if the private school wanted more teachers they would not be beholden to make those teachers part of the union deal for example- and hiring/firing would be an administrative perogative- separate from the public school set-up. Only salary and benefit packages would be the realm of union contact- and only for those teachers being payed for by the state to aid the private schools, not take over management. If the schools have no market interest in the community, they get no money because they need to have their act together to attract students- and only if they attract students will they get teacher assistance from the state- if they don’t want the teacher assistance they can still say no and go it alone. I am trying to find a comprehensive approach that harm’s no one’s interests here but allows for more options to spread the students out according to a true accounting of their parents’ wishes.

43 Responses to Common Good, Common Sense Economics

  • Is it possible that the frequency and destructiveness of hurricanes hitting Florida and the propensity for Floridians to build their houses “upon the sand” is a factor in the high cost of house insurance there?

    Just a thought.

  • ps. is house insurance REALLY a “necessity”??? Is living in Hurricane ravaged Florida when you can’t afford insurance or to rebuild out of pocket a “necessity”? Lot’s of low cost housing and jobs in Texas, come on over.

  • Unrestrained markets work really well when it comes to most products and services — if a restaurant is too pricey, you can just drive past it.

    But it’s different when we’re dealing with the things that all people must have to pursue their personal happiness in community with others.

    Those include infrastructure, healthy air, food and water….

    Don’t restaurants serve food?

  • Matt:

    You probably should get smacked for those comments. A few points:

    I’m pretty sure Texas suffers natural disasters (tornadoes, droughts, hurricanes, etc.) that you guys are quite thrilled to have the federal government and insurance companies come in and pay for. If insurance companies started preventing you from having insurance, so that you’re a disaster away from having nothing, I’m pretty sure you’d be a little upset.

    “Just move?” You say that so casually. Moving away from your home, culture, and family isn’t a joyful thing. It’s not a conservative thing either, unless you’re just pretending about all the stuff about community and family and tradition, etc.

    Every community has its dangers, but every person is born into that community. Whether it’s the blizzards in the north, earthquakes in the west, tornadoes in the midwest and texas, or hurricanes in the south people should be able to purchase insurance for their homes and possessions at a reasonable rate and have those companies treat them fairly.

    Telling them to move or live without insurance shows a lack of understanding and charity.

  • Michael Denton,

    You probably should get smacked for those comments. A few points

    just like a lefty, resorting to such behaviour when arguments fail.

    I’m pretty sure Texas suffers natural disasters (tornadoes, droughts, hurricanes, etc.) that you guys are quite thrilled to have the federal government and insurance companies come in and pay for.

    Well personally I’m generally opposed to FEMA, but I’m in favor of insurance companies paying out to those insured who have suffered losses. While we do have natural disasters, the overwhelming majority of Texans do not live in areas which are regularly inundated. Those that do wish to live upon the sand, should pay for insurance based on their risk, or pay for their own repairs.

    If insurance companies started preventing you from having insurance, so that you’re a disaster away from having nothing, I’m pretty sure you’d be a little upset.

    Insurance companies aren’t preventing anyone from doing anything. They are simply not offering services. DO you think every business should offer services to everyone regardless of the cost of doing so??? That’s absurd.

    “Just move?” You say that so casually. Moving away from your home, culture, and family isn’t a joyful thing. It’s not a conservative thing either, unless you’re just pretending about all the stuff about community and family and tradition, etc.

    I didn’t say it casually, but it must be said. If you can’t find work, or afford to live where you have been living, you MUST move to support your family, that is a MORAL obligation. It’s not the governments responsibility to make every region affordable so that you can live where you chose regardless of ability to pay. That IS conservative.

    Every community has its dangers, but every person is born into that community. Whether it’s the blizzards in the north, earthquakes in the west, tornadoes in the midwest and texas, or hurricanes in the south people should be able to purchase insurance for their homes and possessions at a reasonable rate and have those companies treat them fairly.

    Of course the companies must treat people fairly, but why do you think hurricane insurance is so expensive in Florida, and less so elsewhere? What is a “reasonable rate” for insurance? It’s the risk of loss * the amount of losses, simple as that, higher risk (such as hurricane’s in florida) means higher rates. Are you saying that people who live in the Mid-West should subsidize Floridians to be insured for losses in a hurricane?

    Telling them to move or live without insurance shows a lack of understanding and charity.

    Not in the slightest, it’s just common sense.

    ps. I’m not suggesting there aren’t legitimate gripes with how insurance companies deal with people, it’s the nature of the demands being made above that are erroneous.

  • Home insurance is essential if you want a state/nation of home owners according to how our mortgage system is set up- this is so that if catastrophe hits you don’t decimate whole neighborhoods by having destroyed homes left abandoned and rotting next door I suppose- if someone has a better idea for continuity for home owners then that might be worthy to hear about. But this post is really meant to connect up with the Pope’s encyclical, so try and keep your proposed solutions based upon something from that authoritative source.

    The exact list of what is essential to live a decent life here in America may vary- but what about the main points here?

  • Just move? You say that so casually.

    To be fair, there are those territories below sea level that most assuredly will suffer repeat disasters, where homes should never have been built in the first place.

    Is it really reasonable that billions of dollars be devoted to the rebuilding of homes, etc. in areas that will simply end up experiencing the same disasters all over again the following years?

  • just like a lefty, resorting to such behaviour when arguments fail.

    Did you just call me a lefty? If so, I am certainly not. I am proud son of the state of Louisiana, which is why i took offense to your ignorance and indifference. As it is attitudes like yours that have left many of my neighbors destitute, the adjoining neighborhoods abandoned, and the city of New Orleans struggling, allow me the indulgence of being upset.

    Well personally I’m generally opposed to FEMA, but I’m in favor of insurance companies paying out to those insured who have suffered losses. While we do have natural disasters, the overwhelming majority of Texans do not live in areas which are regularly inundated. Those that do wish to live upon the sand, should pay for insurance based on their risk, or pay for their own repairs.

    Without trying to wade into the mess of what “personally I’m generally opposed” is supposed to mean, the assertion that Texas is a utopian place immune to nature is laughable. Even not considering Houston, Galveston, and Corpus Christi which suffer from hurricane danger, Texas routinely suffers tragedy from nature.

    Insurance companies aren’t preventing anyone from doing anything. They are simply not offering services. DO you think every business should offer services to everyone regardless of the cost of doing so??? That’s absurd.

    Nonsense. You need insurance to get a mortgage; you need a mortgage to buy a house. No insurance=no mortgage=no house. If the insurance companies gouge prices, then they are most certainly forcing people to move.

    As for them offering services regardless of the cost, I’d think you’d be hard pressed to find that the insurance companies are really charging appropriate prices. After all, in the year following Rita & Katrina, the insurance companies made billions. They’re not hurting and they’re certainly making enough money to not have to raise prices they way they did.

    I didn’t say it casually, but it must be said. If you can’t find work, or afford to live where you have been living, you MUST move to support your family, that is a MORAL obligation. It’s not the governments responsibility to make every region affordable so that you can live where you chose regardless of ability to pay. That IS conservative.

    No, you sound so upset and heartbroken that families have to be torn apart and communities abandoned. Indeed, it is clear that you feel our pain.

    It is most certainly the obligation of government to preserve the community when it threatened by companies gouging prices. It is NOT conservative or Catholic to allow big corporations to become the arbiters of what is moral and to allow them free reign. It is is a legitimate use of governmental authority to step in and ensure that the insurance companies are charging appropriate rates.

    Of course the companies must treat people fairly, but why do you think hurricane insurance is so expensive in Florida, and less so elsewhere? What is a “reasonable rate” for insurance? It’s the risk of loss * the amount of losses, simple as that, higher risk (such as hurricane’s in florida) means higher rates. Are you saying that people who live in the Mid-West should subsidize Floridians to be insured for losses in a hurricane?

    I’m not saying the rates in Florida should be the same as in everywhere else. You live on the beach you have higher rates, just like if you drive more recklessly you have high rates. that’s understandable. The problem is when insurance companies are pricing out entire cities and communities. Not everyone “lives on the sand” as you fancifully put it.

    I think they should be reasonable and affordable. As far as what those rates are, I’m not an insurance adjuster, but I can tell you that a 100% hike is probably not justified, which is usually what happens after a storm. If it is, then the government should step in and make sure that they can subsidize those rates. After all, the people in Louisiana and Florida often live so close “to the sand” in order to provide oil for Texan Suburbans and shipping portals for Midwestern farmers. Louisiana gladly subsidizes other states when they have an emergency and it’s not unreasonable to expect the same kindness.

    So don’t give me this nonsense about your indignity about helping people pay for insurance or with the government making sure the prices charged are fair.

    I’m not suggesting there aren’t legitimate gripes with how insurance companies deal with people, it’s the nature of the demands being made above that are erroneous.

    Mention State farm or Allstate in any gathering space in the state of Louisiana, and you’ll understand “legitimate gripes.” For example, the insurance companies changed their mind about how high they wanted certain houses raised, so that all of sudden some people houses which originally met minimum requirements were now 2 inches too tall and were denied coverage.

    Communities and their heritage and families are more important than the profit-margins of insurance companies.

  • On the issue of home insurance, my question would be this: Tim says in his editorial that “the big insurance providers don’t truly compete against one another on price.” If this is true (and it would be interesting to hear how he knows this) the obvious question is why not? After all, presumably people would prefer to pay less on home insurance rather than more. Why doesn’t some insurance company reduce their prices and take all their competitors’ business?

    I used to live in Florida and in fact the area in which I lived was hit by a major hurricane while I was there. It was a gorgeous area and there were many beautiful houses right up against the beach. It was a nice way to live, but building so close to the water meant that the chances were greater you were going to get flooded or your house would be destroyed in a storm. If you are willing to pay for that in the form of higher premiums, I have no problem with that (and if you can’t afford to, then I’m sorry but owning beachfront property is not a human right). The problem comes when people expect others to subsidize their repairs and/or restrict the ability of insurance companies to charge them higher premiums based on their higher risk. At that point you create a situation where people in less desirable neighborhoods are effectively paying extra so that folks in good neighborhoods can keep their nice houses, which is not only unfair but also encourages more risky building.

  • “the big insurance providers don’t truly compete against one another on price.”

    I’ll only add that my actuary friends would be fascinated by this line of argument – and unemployed if it were accurate. A complaint about high housing insurance premiums is basically an argument that other people should be paying more to subsidize your residential choices; it’s nice when other people pay for stuff for you obviously, but it’s often unfair to them.

  • To be fair, there are those territories below sea level that most assuredly will suffer repeat disasters, where homes should never have been built in the first place.

    Those homes are not all the homes of the wealthy who want an ocean view, as view and Blackadder seem to suggest. Most of the homes affected are the homes of the poorer who are trying to be closer to the resources (fishing & oil) which the rest of the country depends upon.

    Is it really reasonable that billions of dollars be devoted to the rebuilding of homes, etc. in areas that will simply end up experiencing the same disasters all over again the following years?

    Unless you’d be happy to have the price of oil, fish, etc. factor in the increased cost of transportation for workers, then yes, it is. People rebuild in Tornado Alley all the time; the city of San Francisco and Los Angeles are begging to be destroyed by an earthquake, yet people only complain about New Orleans and Florida residents being selfish for wanting protection for insurance gouging.

  • Michael,

    I just don’t see the logic in committing billions of dollars to rebuilding efforts for homes built in territories below sea level since most assuredly (by nature) they’ll simply suffer the same catastrophes all over again the following year, with not only disasters wreaked on homes but lost of lives as well.

  • Unless you’d be happy to have the price of oil, fish, etc. factor in the increased cost of transportation for workers, then yes, it is…

    Is there any reason why these costs shouldn’t be factored in?

    People rebuild in Tornado Alley all the time; the city of San Francisco and Los Angeles are begging to be destroyed by an earthquake, yet people only complain about New Orleans and Florida residents being selfish for wanting protection for insurance gouging.

    So, are you suggesting that private insurance companies are acting irrationally? In other words, that they are either taking risks they shouldn’t be taking in San Francisco/LA/Tornado Alley or that they are irrationally conservative in protecting themselves from exposure in N.O. or FL? If so, it’s odd that you think you are better at predicting these things than the actuaries/etc. who do this full time. Maybe the difference is related to the actual risks involved…why do you think it isn’t?

  • With respect, earthquakes, while they do happen in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, do not happen with such assured frequency as do those disasters wreaked in places located in territories below sea level which seem to occur almost annually, if not every other year.

  • People rebuild in Tornado Alley all the time.

    True enough. And as I said before, if people are willing to accept the costs of doing this is the form of increased premiums, I have no problem. That goes for people in Kansas and California and Texas and Florida and Louisiana and anywhere else.

  • I want to build a house on the edge of a live volcano that is currently covered with snow; I plan to build right beneath an enormous snow flurry that would turn into the world’s largest known avalanche upon the slightest disturbance. This is a very delicate operation. Unfortunately, insurance companies are so mean that they want me to pay higher rates. I demand that someone else subsidize my insurance. It’s only fair.

  • The bit about how the big home insurers don’t really compete on pricing was something that was concluded during the Florida Today sponsered forum with experts- it was the conclusion drawn by the chief investigative reporter and no one challenged it- so I used that line in my column to see if there was any denial from other sources from within the industry or elsewhere- no one wrote in or blogged in to dispute it- so I don’t know- I’m not privy to the insides of the big insurance companies any more than I am with Big Oil- but it certainly has been the case in Florida that all the majors that were here had similar rate hikes and also made a lot of money even after the hurricanes hit- and I compare this to oil companies who seem to arrive at similar prices and then also set record profits- it would seem that with all the profit margins someone would take a big price dip to gather in more customers- but it hasn’t happened- it is very hard to prove monopoly abuses, but certainly there can be many unspoken agreements to keep all the big players extremely profitable while the average consumer is left with little of no choice. In Florida we have had Citizens insurance which is the place of last resort, but the rules were drawn up that Citizens could NOT be priced lower than the private companies.

    Now I am not claiming that all areas should be developed for homes- there can certainly be discretion when deciding whether permits should be granted in the first place- or second place when homes are repeatedly hit by violent storms predictably.

    Wow- this whole blog has turned into an insurance deal- I’d like to see some application of the pope’s encyclical for my own edification- I want to reflect an authentic Catholic worldview that is my goal- so let’s not bog down into a single issue complaint that has more to do with Florida living and politics than with the bigger picture perhaps. Though I do think I hit on an issue that has many people upset and looking for the right solutions- all of us who are homeowners anyway.

  • it certainly has been the case in Florida that all the majors that were here had similar rate hikes and also made a lot of money even after the hurricanes hit- and I compare this to oil companies who seem to arrive at similar prices and then also set record profits- it would seem that with all the profit margins someone would take a big price dip to gather in more customers- but it hasn’t happened

    I don’t know much about how insurance companies operate in Florida, but the average profit on a gallon of gas is less than $.10. You’d think that if oil companies were colluding together to set prices they would set it higher than that (an alternate explanation for the similarity in prices is that there is very little to differentiate gasoline other than price, and comparing prices is fairly easy).

  • Tim:

    Sorry to have helped hijack the post; I do think what you said has a lot in common with the pope’s encyclical.

    S.B.

    You’re embarrassing yourself. Your example has nothing in common with the situation of a functioning and productive community that has existed for hundreds of years. Moving on.

    Blackadder

    True enough. And as I said before, if people are willing to accept the costs of doing this is the form of increased premiums, I have no problem. That goes for people in Kansas and California and Texas and Florida and Louisiana and anywhere else.

    Yes, but just b/c we should have increased premiums does not mean all increases are justified and all levels are justified. If tornado or earthquake rates got to the point or pricing out large sections of Tornado Alley or Los Angeles, I’d have a problem and would like to see the government step in.

    e.

    With respect, earthquakes, while they do happen in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, do not happen with such assured frequency as do those disasters wreaked in places located in territories below sea level which seem to occur almost annually, if not every other year.

    I don’t think the frequency conceptions you have are accurate. New Orleans has been devastated by a hurricane so badly I think 3 times since 1900 (Katrina, Betsy, and what I think is the Labor Day hurricane in the 20s). That’s hardly “frequent.”

    One might argue that if global warming is created by human action, then the frequency is not the fault of location as the higher temperatures have led to higher hurricane numbers. One could also argue that the damage done has been increased the negligence of the farmers up north who allow the toxins in the fertilizer to drift down here and destroy our wetlands, which for centuries were natural barriers that minimized hurricane damages. These argues could say that the location has been made less suitable not due to the stupidity of the people of New Orleans but the actions of others.

    In short, I don’t think it’s terribly unfair for New Orleans to ask for help against price gouging from insurance hurricanes just b/c of their location.

    So, are you suggesting that private insurance companies are acting irrationally? In other words, that they are either taking risks they shouldn’t be taking in San Francisco/LA/Tornado Alley or that they are irrationally conservative in protecting themselves from exposure in N.O. or FL? If so, it’s odd that you think you are better at predicting these things than the actuaries/etc. who do this full time. Maybe the difference is related to the actual risks involved…why do you think it isn’t?

    Do I believe insurance companies are human and therefore can act irrationally and dare I say greedily? Let me think…YES!

    I mean, perhaps your actuaries are above sin but if they can figure out they can charge a much higher price and get away with it, even if it’s mostly just to increase their own wealth, then yes, I think they’ll do it.

    Companies acting greedily and needing regulation…it’s almost like I read that somewhere yesterday…something about Caritas in the title…

  • Michael — it’s just a reductio ad absurdum. The principle is the same, though, as the notion that people who choose to live in high-risk areas should have their insurance subsidized by folks elsewhere.

    For those of you calling for regulation: Are you aware of the existence of state insurance departments that already regulate rates and services quite thoroughly? For Florida, see http://www.floir.com/pcfr/is_pcpr_index.aspx and http://www.floir.com/pc/oir_pcfo_index.aspx

  • Do I believe insurance companies are human and therefore can act irrationally and dare I say greedily? Let me think…YES!

    I mean, perhaps your actuaries are above sin but if they can figure out they can charge a much higher price and get away with it, even if it’s mostly just to increase their own wealth, then yes, I think they’ll do it.

    Michael, that’s a silly distortion of my question. You are alleging insurance companies are acting irrationally: you’ve provided no evidence for this assertion, and, as far as I can tell, have no basis from which to make this determination other than you feel the premiums are too high. There are three interpretations of the fact of high premiums: 1) the insurance companies are right and you are wrong about the risk profile of the properties; 2) You are right, and they are mistaken – that N.O. is actually a wonderful haven of profit opportunity for a smart insurer who correctly evaluates the risk and prices out their competitors; 3) You are right, and the insurance companies know it; they are breaking the law, engaging in collusion, and overlooking a great opportunity for profit out of pure spite. You’ve selected option 3. Is there any particular reason why?

  • Why ascribe something to sin that might more readily be explained by probability? Just asking.

  • Michael,

    Trying not to focus on the insurance aspect here, but I wonder what you think of this. First let me say that I’m a big proponent of family and community, and of the common man being able to go about living his life. And not to seem cold hearted about the plight of those from New Orleans, but is it not a valid consideration that N.O. was an experiment that failed, that this is one part of nature that man shouldn’t try overcoming? I mean, do the people of Chernobyl have the right to demand that the region be scraped down 10 feet, the soil hauled out, and the city rebuilt? I don’t think there’s much difference, really. N.O. belongs just as much to the sea as it does the land. Perhaps society would have been better off letting her go.

    I have mixed thoughts on the matter, but i think it’s a valid consideration and if so, to what extent does the rest of society have an obligation to support it?

  • John Henry,

    Well said.

    Doesn’t option 3 seem highly unlikely given the scrutiny that state regulators place on insurance companies? If there is evidence of collusion, where is it? That’s a serious charge that requires more than “I just feel that premiums are too high.”

  • If tornado or earthquake rates got to the point or pricing out large sections of Tornado Alley or Los Angeles, I’d have a problem and would like to see the government step in.

    I’m not sure I get the logic here. Presumably you agree that there are some areas in which people just shouldn’t live because the costs of disasters that will befall people living there are too high. I would think that if the cost of insuring against such disaster in a particular place becomes prohibitively expensive for most people, that might be an indication that that place is in one of those areas.

    Do I believe insurance companies are human and therefore can act irrationally and dare I say greedily? Let me think…YES!

    There’s a difference between acting irrationally and acting greedily. Greed can’t explain why insurance companies would be undercharging people in California.

    To put it another way, my understanding is that while home insurance in Florida costs more than the national average, the cost of car insurance is not much higher than usual. Not only that, but in some cases it is the same companies selling the car and house insurance. It could be that these insurance companies are really greedy whenever they deal with house insurance but inexplicably become non-greedy when the subject turns to cars. But that seems unlikely. Another possibility is that the costs of insuring houses in Florida are just higher than average, and the higher insurance premiums are a reflection of that.

  • John Henry:

    You have no reason to assume that they are acting rationally yet you seem incredulous that I could postulate such a theory, so it’s not a distortion.

    Yet you assume that they are quite reasonable. I see I’ll have to go back and look up some numbers, but the fact is that insurance companies had lower rates and were making plenty of money in New Orleans long before Katrina. It’s the same city; the protections are even better than before. Heck, until Monday when the levee broke New Orleans was in the clear. The risk is the same, yet the prices are now sky high or inaccessible. I don’t think it’s that unreasonable to think that the insurance companies saw an excuse to do a price hike that isn’t entirely justified by need or risk.

    SB:

    It’s not a reduction ad absurdum, it’s a false analogy. As for the insurance departments, I’m well aware of them. Louisiana has a long history of commissioner department being bribed by the rational and innocent insurance companies and going to jail for it.

    Rick:

    While I appreciate your effort at being kind, there really isn’t a way to not be cold-hearted when telling someone their city should be in the sea. But I do appreciate the effort, so I’ll answer your question.

    There’s a MR-GO canal, a federal project pushed by shipping interests that ended up providing a canal right for the water to flow into New Orleans East. That is an example of man not respecting nature, as is some of the projects that have damaged the wetlands. So man’s arrogance plays a part, but that does not mean NO is a failed experiment. NO has survived the British, fires, and hurricanes before. Other cities have been rebuilt before. They have been rebuilt

    1) b/c lessons were learned to help ward off the impact of future disasters. This is true in this case. The MR-GO is being closed and filled, more effort is trying to put into wetland conservation (LA had negotiate hard to get money from LA oil revenue that the feds were taking to pay for it, speaking of things that are not LA’s fault, but that’s another issue), the levees were rebuilt, homes in flood-prone areas are being raised. The levees have been restored and we’re looking into ways to further improve them.

    2) A city, especially New Orleans, cannot be replaced. It would be a great loss to the US if New Orleans is lost. Not only does it represent a different culture from anywhere in the US (part of why it’s maltreated as opposed to say Miami, which is in an even dumber spot), it represents a valuable culture. Especially for Catholics: how many other cities point to a cathedral as its main monument? Sure, Mardi gras has gotten out of hand but there is a rich Catholic culture here, one that preserves many things that ought to be preserved. Whether it’s London, Chicago, or Los Angeles, losing a city means losing a lot. Of course, I haven’t even begun to discuss the impacts on the economy losing NO would have. From the oil fields largely serviced by headquarters in NO to the shipping from the Mississippi, etc. NO is a valuable asset. Thomas Jefferson seemed to think so, at least.

    So yeah, I don’t think it’s a given that NO belongs to the sea.

  • Blackadder:

    You’re putting me in false position. I’m not arguing that NO rates shouldn’t be higher than other places; I’m saying that they’re too high.

    As far as insurance departments, 1) we have Republicans in office who is they want higher office try to look good big-business and 2) insurance companies threaten to leave the state, in which case LA has to take over insurance coverage. Maybe I’m not conservative enough for most of you, but I’d rather State Farm than the state of Louisiana be my insurance provider.

    In all, I don’t think many of you quite comprehend the scope of what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about some beachfront homes here; look up a map of New Orleans and see how large it is. 500,000 people before Katrina in new Orleans alone; 1.3 in the metro area I believe. Moving does not mean moving a mile or two to higher ground; moving means an hour away if you’re lucky. That you guys can’t understand or even try to sympathize that is amazing for a group of so-called Catholics who claim to practice charity.

  • So the regulators are not to be trusted, then. Therefore what we need is… more regulation?

  • P.S. to Blackadder:

    There’s a difference between acting irrationally and acting greedily.

    To sin is irrational according to Catholic conceptions of reason, therefore greed is irrational and in fact in long-term situations undermines the economic good. See Caritas in Veritate for details.

  • j. christian:

    we need stronger ethics codes which oh by the way Bobby Jindal got done last year while Palin was out looking at Russia from her house.

    Besides, I didn’t ask for another layer of bureaucracy; I’m not a liberal. I just want the people to do the jobs they have now.

  • Michael,

    A couple of points.

    First, if you want people’s sympathy, I’m not sure calling them “so-called Catholics” is a good strategy.

    Second, all greed may be irrational but not all irrationality is greed. In particular, if an insurance company is undercharging people in California, that may be irrational, but it’s hard to argue it’s motivated by greed.

    Third, you say that you’re fine with people being charged higher premiums based on risk but that the rates in New Orleans are too high. Okay. But so far as I’ve seen, you’ve offered no reason for thinking that this is so. Personally I have no idea how high a premium for a house in New Orleans should be. I know nothing about the costs, probabilities, or other factors that are involved. I do know, however, that the insurance companies employ people who do know about such things, and whose job it is to calculate how much a given policy is expected to cost. I also know that, if the calculations turn out to be wrong, the insurance companies stand to lose a whole lot of money. I’m therefore inclined to think that the market rate for insurance is about what it should be absent some reason to think otherwise (greed, you’ll note, is not a reason as it should make a company more desirous of getting the calculations right, not less).

  • The insurance rates on New Orelans are a issue. Sadly too many people see the area of New Orelans as the French Quarter and notheing more. It is a major port and is large part the start of the working Coast that stretches across Louisiana. When I say working Coast I am talking the fact that much of MAerica Seafoold inhustry, transport, and oli and gas needs are met by people that have to live on it. Itr can’t be done by robots.

    Louisina folks including those in New Orleans contribute much to the Economic and National Security of the United States. I hope this problem is dealt with

  • “I just don’t see the logic in committing billions of dollars to rebuilding efforts for homes built in territories below sea level since most assuredly (by nature) they’ll simply suffer the same catastrophes all over again the following year, with not only disasters wreaked on homes but lost of lives as well.”

    Most people do not relaize this but a nice boit of New Orelans is not belwo sea level. That being said this a working Coast

    THe consern should be immediate massive intervention to save the Coast which if not is going to be a huge econolic and ecological disaster for the nation

  • Blackadder:

    First, so called Catholics is a fairly gentle term for what was going through my mind, but I shouldn’t have said it. Regardless, I do not think it is a stretch to say that the indifference towards mass amounts of people having to uproot themselves does not show a strong Catholic example

    Second, allright, let’s give you a number. http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/closetohome/2007-10-29-new-orleans-housing_N.htm

    For a $175,000 home, a buyer will have to shell out $4,200 to $4,800 a year for insurance, says Lisa Heindel, an agent at Latter & Blum Realtors. Before the hurricane, the cost was about $1,200 annually.

    I believe Texas was around 1,000 for insurance.

    Maybe I’m crazy, but did the risk really triple or quadruple after the storm? Is is possible, just possible that the insurance companies took advantage of situation to make money?

    One course, one could ask if the rate changed so much and they’re right now, how they could screw up so badly before the storm? Maybe in fact, the market forces don’t quite work out all the time.

  • “After all, the people in Louisiana and Florida often live so close “to the sand” in order to provide oil for Texan Suburbans and shipping portals for Midwestern farmers. Louisiana gladly subsidizes other states when they have an emergency and it’s not unreasonable to expect the same kindness. ”

    Michael he hit ot right on the nose. FOr all the talk of environemnt Louisiana is rarely mentioned. And don’t get me started on the idiotic Corp of Engineers that drives me insane.

    Much of the flooding we can lay right at their feet. The Nation is served by things like the Intracoastal Canal which has a had side effect of tearing up the wetlands which has increased flooding. But the nations shipping sinterest still go through it while people go why do yall folks live down there

  • I’ll confess to not having followed this whole thread in detail, this having been a busy day, but the following two thoughts might be useful in regards to the discussion of homeowners insurance:

    – Speaking as a Los Angeles native: After the Northridge quake in the mid 90s, a lot of homeowners insurance companies operating in California dropped nearly all earthquake coverage and offer separate earthquake coverage at additional cost (if they offer it at all.) This means that many Californians are sitting on a potential economic time bomb.

    – As someone who deals with statistics at work all the time: the fact of the matter is that we are not nearly as good at predicting infrequent events as we think we are. Even now, with three data points in the last century, the fact of the matter is that insurance companies do not have a very good idea whether they are over or under charging for homeowners insurance in LA. They took a major bath with Katrina, and they’re hoping that they have it right now, but they really don’t know.

    – If you think about what insurance is, it’s a promise to replace a home and its contents. So insuring a 175k home is a promise to replace up to 200k in total value of house and possessions. So if it’s being priced at 4k per year, that means that the insurance company is betting they’d have to pay out roughly once every fifty years on average.

  • Somewhere out there is my lost posting! I do think this insurance discussion is a good one- it shows that there are many things to consider- the business end, the homeowner’s ability to pay for insurance, the profits of companies, the role of regulators, the development question in areas where nature is often very destructive, and the overall morality for all of those involved in these sorts of transactions, with the common good the ultimate focal point for Catholics and all people of good will.

  • “After all, the people in Louisiana and Florida often live so close “to the sand” in order to provide oil for Texan Suburbans

    What world do you live in? There is no oil or gas pipelines that flow into Texas from NO. We have plenty of oil and gas here thank you very much. Our workers live close to the cost, but mostly not on Galveston Island.

    Louisiana gladly subsidizes other states when they have an emergency and it’s not unreasonable to expect the same kindness. ”

    Yes, and, you may or may not recall it, but those Texans you’re dissin sent more of it then just about anyone else. We took the homeless in with deep generosity.

    The problem with New Orleans (and Louisiana) go way beyond being a bowl that wants to fill with water. It is deeply corrupt (though much improved of late). That’s the real reason that so many died, and so much was lost. Your mayor failed to act in evacuating his people, and so many were stranded, and all the buses destroyed. The governor failed to call in the necessary resources and grant authority to bring in the federal resources being offered. Many policeman deserted, some became looters, and not a few turned out to be not real at all, just a way for some corrupt individual to collect their paycheck.

    Before you respond. None of the corruption is by the hard workers in the oil, shipping and fishery industries, but they take some blame for continuing to put up with the problem.

    ps. who was that congressmen who had a freezer full of cash, and STILL got re-elected in LA?

  • t is deeply corrupt (though much improved of late). That’s the real reason that so many died, and so much was lost. Your mayor failed to act in evacuating his people, and so many were stranded, and all the buses destroyed. The governor failed to call in the necessary resources and grant authority to bring in the federal resources being offered. Many policeman deserted, some became looters, and not a few turned out to be not real at all, just a way for some corrupt individual to collect their paycheck.

    I would differ with you on the state of the police force (most did stay, there were a few who committed suicide, sadly). I think being abandoned in the middle of a natural disaster zone with precious few resources is a tremendously tall order, and while there were lessons learned I think most New Orleanians came away with a better view of the force overall.

    On the government side, while the buses was a terrible decision, just think about how much experience people have with evacuating entire cities. Something is bound to go wrong. Additionally, a lot of people just don’t leave. They don’t want to. They’d rather wait it out, despite warnings.

    The government should have been better, I’d agree.

    To your ps: William Jefferson, who was re-elected primarily b/c all the Republicans voted for him instead of his rabidly pro-abortion opponent. Of course, he was ousted in 2008 for Catholic Congressman Cao and his trial is happening right now I believe.

  • most did stay

    granted, and good for those who did! That, nor anything else you said disagrees with what I said.

  • For a $175,000 home, a buyer will have to shell out $4,200 to $4,800 a year for insurance, says Lisa Heindel, an agent at Latter & Blum Realtors. Before the hurricane, the cost was about $1,200 annually.

    Maybe I’m crazy, but did the risk really triple or quadruple after the storm? Is is possible, just possible that the insurance companies took advantage of situation to make money?

    Why is it hard to believe that would have gone up this much? Katrina, after all, was a fairly major event.

    Insurance companies are in the business of making money. If they aren’t constrained by things like competition or supply and demand in setting their rates, then why weren’t they charging four grand for a policy before the storm? If an insurance company could make money selling policies at a rate most people are willing and able to pay, why would they set rates at a level most people are unwilling and unable to pay? Why, in fact, would companies be refusing to write new policies in certain areas at all, regardless of price? If there motive is making money, then that doesn’t make much sense. You don’t make money by pricing all your customers out of the market. The idea that all the insurance companies would do this, and that no company would step in and offer lower rates to get these potential customers, is just implausible. Saying that the insurance companies are greedy and only care about making money makes it more implausible, not less.

  • the insurance company is betting they’d have to pay out roughly once every fifty years

    Thanks for the von Neumann-Morgenstern napkin calculation, Darwin. Very good point; this would be the “actuarially fair” zero profit premium, of course. And how many hurricanes have hit New Orleans in recorded memory? Three or four since the Louisiana purchase? Sounds like the new rates are probably closer to reality.

  • I have some differing views on the matter I suppose.

    I need food, water, and access to shelter. eating beens drinking well water and living in a shanty is sufficient to meet all of my needs. i don’t “need” electricity or a vehicle, unless I live real far from my job. and if my shanty gets blown over by a hurricane I can rebuild it out of my own pocket probably.

Pope John Paul II Comments on Rerum Novarum

Monday, June 29, AD 2009

I am going to provide everyone with a nice blast from the past- everyone I know respects Pope John Paul II- most orthodox Catholics refer to him as John Paul the Great. So I think what he thought officially as Pope on the question of Capital/Labor/State as part of the tradition deriving from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum- is incredibly interesting and relevant. Here is Chapter One of Centesimus Annus with no personal commentary- let the “man” speak without any interference from me:

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7 Responses to Pope John Paul II Comments on Rerum Novarum

  • The very existence of Rerum Novarum puts to shame the thesis that industrial capitalism, all on its own, either did or would have addressed the problem of poverty.

    I have seen this argument, from Tom Woods Jr., Robert Novak, especially when they critique Distributism, that critiques of capitalism are entirely baseless. They take it as an unquestioned article of faith that any life under industrial capitalism is better than any life in a non industrial capitalist society, that prior to capitalism only one word could sum up the human condition: poverty, and perhaps another: oppression.

    In this particular case criticisms of modern conservatism as nothing but the guardian of Enlightenment liberalism ring true. To make this argument, one has to essentially say at the same time that Rerum Novarum was unnecessary, that workers movements in general were unnecessary. It is the same logic that the neo-Confederates make: slavery would have been abolished on its own, so there was no need for a civil war. Capitalism would have cleaned up its act, so there was no need for a labor movement, government intervention, or the moral condemnation of the excesses of the system by the Popes.

    The problem is that neither of these claims is substantiated by the historical record. They are made with a sort of “faith” in what could have been. Here and there you have a General Lee or a Teddy Roosevelt who argue against the worst aspects of the system, and this is dubiously stretched out as an argument that the system would have reformed itself without any outside interventions.

    Counter-factuals aside, the reality is that the Papacy believed that the problems of industrial capitalism were not “self corrective”, that the workers had every right to organize and make economic and political demands, and that the duties of businessmen were not just to meet the economic demands made by consumers but the moral demands made by society and those who worked for them. Time and time again the Popes implored Catholics and society at large to find ways to increase the share of ownership of the workers in businesses.

    So, we can all thank capitalism for technical progress. Even Marxists do that. But moral progress was the domain of thinkers and activists well outside the capitalist class, people who did not share its goals, and often opposed them in certain respects. It is easy to take for granted the rights of workers today but a read through of Rerum Novarum shows us that they were in some question 120 years ago. In many places, they are in question even today.

    In the 21st century I hope we can move beyond the words “capitalism” and “socialism”. They are outdated and useless. The kind of economy I want to see is one in which there are still markets, but in which wealth and decision making power are not excessively concentrated, which is unambiguously subordinated to a moral hierarchy of values oriented towards the common good, and generally accountable to the direct will of the people (the eventual pressure of market forces is not and never will be enough).

  • Does Modern Conservatism actually make all those arguments.

    I mean Does modern Conservatism and I am talking the mainstream actually want to abolish Unions? I mean they talk about the problems with Unions and their excesses and are against things like Card Check but I rarely here modern Conservatism wishing to abolish Unions.

    GOvernemnt Intervention? I don’t here modern Conservatism want to abolish in the Food and Drug administration and the testing of meat? Besides for some tweeking I don’t here many modern conservatives want to abolish all child labor laws. Most Conservatives think having common sense Govt regualtion is a good thing.

    I often think that Modern Conservatism or Movement Conservatism is being confused with some Libertarian economic viewpoint.

    It is true that the modern conservatives think Govt is better if its lesser but I would contend that those conservatives that want no Govt intervention is very very small

  • JH,

    The problem is that both sides are reactionary. Conservatives may be fine with some government intervention but set against liberals who want more, they end up sounding as if they want none.

    It is hard to avoid this. I can’t always avoid it myself on issues important to me. But we must always try.

  • Joe I think you have a point. I think the problem is the internet draws lets say the extremes. I am on several boards I meet people that call themselves Conservatives and ranting about how the GOP is not really conservative. Of course when you examine their post they are far beyond conservative and rant about getting the Govt out of public education and almost toeing the Club for Growth line

    They are are same folks that call McCain a “liberal”. Or as we saw incrdibily go on a huge campaign against Huckabee and call him a Christian Socialist. Yet despite the internet astroturfing, the massive emails sent to everyone it turns out the average GOP and conservative voter liked Huckabee and McCain despite the gnashing of teeth from groups that have their monetary self interest in organziations direct mail and caging companies

  • I read the excerpt from RN almost with dread; I feared perhaps I would be reading something which, startlingly, would shake my confidence in my conservative outlook on the role of government. Much to my surprise, that didn’t happen!

    I think you absolutely *destroyed* the straw man set up in the firat comment: those rascally Conservatives would have to Repudiate The Pope Himself in order to deny the obvious truths set forth in RN! And JPG only echoed and reinforced RN, spo there!

    The problem I see with that statement is this: there are few, if any, conservatives who advocate totally unregulated economic activity. You see…being *against* the federal government taking a controlling interest in GM, for example, does NOT equal being *in favor* of eliminating unions, child labor laws, and OSHA.

    There is a proper role of government (which, in my view, involves the use of force against malefactors inside and outside of the country, and facilitating commerce among its people, to include appropriate regulation of said commerce). The problem many conservatives have with Governmentalists (to coin a phrase) is that the Governmentalist looks to Government and the solution to ALL ills. And it just doesn’t work!

    JPG’s and Pius XI’s calls in their writings are for *appropriate* government intervention, in those areas suited to government intervention.this paragraph grabbed me in particular:

    “This should not however lead us to think that Pope Leo expected the State to solve every social problem. On the contrary, he frequently insists on necessary limits to the State’s intervention and on its instrumental character, inasmuch as the individual, the family and society are prior to the State, and inasmuch as the State exists in order to protect their rights and not stifle them.37”

    This is ther precise concern of the conservative: thatGovernment *never seems to know its legitimate limits*. Consequently, the potential *harm* from *too much* government intervention (all together now: “stimulus bill, GM takeover, Cap-and-Trade, Hah!). Government that *thinks* it knows better than the free market usually ends up trampling its people under the weight of bureaucratic poppycock.

    The government can lay the groundwork for a just functioning society; it cannot (and *should* not!) be in the business of trying to redistribute wealth! It will fail. Miserably! And all the while, we will create a set of conditions that stifle innovation (say, Soviet Union) and allow people to settle for far far less than that of which they would otherwise achieve for themselves and their companies.

  • Here’s the thing.

    I am not setting up strawmen. I understand full well that there ARE conservatives who DON’T oppose government regulations and interventions. You know how I know? I consider myself one. At the least I would call myself a social conservative.

    Pointing out that there ARE ALSO people who DO make these arguments, however, is not making a strawman. I am differentiating between different kinds of conservative. Tim and I and others have heard enough talk radio and engaged in enough discussions to know that there are plenty of conservatives and even Catholics out there who do hold extreme anti-government, anti-regulatory views.

    I cited Novak and Woods because they specifically seek to absolve early capitalism of practically any and all wrongdoing – not only that, they seek to give it the sole credit for whatever prosperity we enjoy today. You WOULD have to repudiate Rerum Novarum to hold onto THAT argument.

  • Right Joe- I base my own reaction to “liberals” and “conservatives” on the way the politicians/media figures/and some real average folks I know, and in fact ran into quite often when I ran for public office- they just don’t talk about issues like the popes- they don’t talk about common good, they talk about freedom from taxes (rarely pointing out that taxes are not all bad or even a good thing- the impression they give directly or indirectly is that tax = theft by government, or they talk about freedom to choose- choose what- well for liberals it’s ususally about abortion or gay marriage- not all but many-

    Again it isn’t everyone who claims the title liberal or conservative, but it seems that the politicians running for office and the media talking heads and the many very outspoken citizens at meetings- they are the ones who speak out very forcefully and polemically, and they don’t sound to me like the social doctrine and popes to my ear- I try to use the language of morality and balance- it’s hard- I’m not the Magisterium- but I definitely try to base my argumentation and beliefs on my studies of the official teachings and documents, along with my life experiences and intuitions- and I find it difficult to see how one would embrace any ideology too narrowly- be it liberal, conservative, whatever- I do believe it necessary to be part of a political party- but we should be very critical members of such, because no party really is based upon our Catholic social doctrine, and as such is clearly deficient- either in theory or practice. When asked if one is liberal or conservative, I think it is better just to say I’m Catholic- straight-up- that’s my goal anyway

Catholic View of the Political Community (part 4)

Sunday, June 28, AD 2009

We continue the test of our Catholic worldview on the subject of the role of the Political Community- drawing upon Chapter 8 in the authoritative Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. We have looked at the Old Testament (#377-378) and Jesus’ interaction with political authorities #379) to see the development of doctrine relating to how we are to regard the political community. Now we turn to “The early Christian communities”.

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9 Responses to Catholic View of the Political Community (part 4)

  • Criticism of rulers is not necessarily being anti-government. Criticism of govt. that one prudently believes violates subsidiarity is also legitimate. While the govt. does look after the common good, as you read the Compendium you will find that all persons are responsible for the common good even if they are not directly involved in legislation. Thus subsidiarity. Nor do I believe most people here think govts. only role is a strong military. Poor strawman argument.

  • Rulers are singled out for special prayers in Christian circles for good reason- just like political leaders getting opportunities to have private meetings with the popes- it is because there is an implicit recognition that these people have a special role to play in securing the common good- even though we all have some role in the mix.

    And my own criticism is directed I suppose more generally at the harsher critiques of governing authority as a necessary agent for establishing societal rule based upon natural law- I don’t know who reads American Catholic, I don’t write as if I know everyone who is going to come across these posts- I know that there are many Grover Norquist fans out and about- with his talk about having government shrunk down to a size where it could be drowned in a bathtub ( thanks for that reminder Joe!). That definitely sounds like it is out-of-bounds for Catholics to believe such a thing.

    I find it interesting that even a post that is written as a general instruction like this one, somehow finds a way to be viewed as a personal attack on some here at American Catholic. I am too busy to keep up with who’s who even around here- I have an impression from many things I read and see, and from people I know and argue with in my daily life- I know that people exist who really and truly hate pretty much all government “interference” and believe that taxes are theft, and see government’s role as being military and police almost exclusively- these aren’t straw men, these are people I know, people I consider friends to some degree even, some are Cathlic- maybe these people aren’t you- but they exist- and they aren’t limiting themselves to simple criticism of rulers.

    I think there is a danger in that streak of anti-authoritarianism that many Americans attribute to our Revolutionary beginnings- but my central thesis is that authority is necessary and good as all authority ultimately derives from God- and we mustn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater- we shouldn’t undermine the true nature and role of the political community as taught by the official Church by denying the fact that those in authority have a special responsibility to ensure the common good by applying the natural law according to the virtue of prudence.

  • Fair enough. It seems we agree that govt. itself is a good. At the same time there is a small group that sees all govt. as evil, there are also those (probably larger group) that sees govt. as the solution to all problems. Thus the authoritative teaching that subsidiarity must be observed and the govt. to intervene only when more immediate bodies cannot address the problem.

    This is because the political community is not govt. Govt. is part of the political community but the political community is broader, encompassing social, cultural, professional communities etc. These communities, through the human persons involving them, have a profound role in shapine the community as a whole.

  • To correct. The political community does not exhaust the community as a whole. The community as a whole comprises other human societies which the political is obliged to respect. Thus the role of subsidiarity.

  • I have often wondered why Catholic conservatives don’t call more attention to the principle of subsidarity, which is urgently needed as a balance between nanny-state big-government liberalism and the rigid anti-government philosophies like Objectivism or libertarianism.

    Subsidarity, properly understood, does NOT leave the poor or disadvantaged out in the cold, or treat all government as evil or all taxation as theft. It simply assigns responsibility for meeting the needs of the vulnerable to the lowest level of societal organization that is capable of meeting those needs.

    As I see it the individual is the lowest rung on this ladder, followed by the family, the religious/cultural community to which the family belongs, larger voluntary organizations (i.e. private charities, fraternal or social organizations), then up the ladder of government from the smallest unit (town, city, school district) through state and finally federal govt.

    The next highest level of organization steps in when the one below it cannot meet the need, and ONLY then. Now there will be times when this balance shifts or changes due to economic or social conditions — i.e. families or private charities can’t handle taking care of the poor so government steps in. However, the goal should always be to get needs met at the lowest possible level and to shift that responsibility back down to the local level when and if conditions allow.

    Now I haven’t done an extensive study of the concept of subsidarity so if I’m getting off base here feel free to correct me. Subsidarity doesn’t regard any layer of society (private or government) as superfluous or evil or unneccessary, it just insists that they keep their proper place in the scheme of things. It also recognizes that all these spheres are interdependent upon one another to some extent, and don’t function in a vaccuum.

    I think some of the debate going about about how to deal with state budget crises and social services would be a lot more sensible if people had a proper grasp of this concept.

    Instead of pitting private sector workers against government employees, or the family struggling to pay rising income/property taxes against the family with a disabled child who relies upon tax-funded programs to pay for the child’s care, in some kind of imagined fight to the death which one must win and the other lose, maybe EVERYONE would realize that we are all ultimately in the same boat. And instead of being at each other’s throats or insisting that someone else must do without so that I can have more, we might be willing to work together for a truly responsible government, which benefits everyone. Well, at least I can dream about that.

  • The complexity in dealing with subsidiarity right now is that we have all of these global forces in operation- multinational banks and corporations- they aren’t shy about exerting pressure on local, state, and federal governments- if one level holds strong they seem to be able to go over their heads- and I’m troubled by the legal person status given to corporations in this country- that can’t be good when you start treating a corporation as a minority with human rights in a community of real persons who don’t want that corporation to be or to stop doing something that is harming the community in some way.

    So- subsidiarity must be seen in the context of the universal common good, and global solidarity- we are one human family because we have One Father in Heaven, and His Son our Christ the King has commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that has to have political implications when you have political and economic systems setting the conditions of life for children and families everywhere. And if we are Americans, we know that our collective influence is quite profound globally. We have to make sure we are being guided by natural law and not imperial drive- that is the great challenge for all of us- of course we have differing levels of personal power, so we are to be judged only by what we do with what we have. Like in the talents parable.

    We will see in the next part what happens when government (good) is being run by bad person (s) doing very bad things- when you subvert something that God intends to be a Good for society, then beware- like C.S. Lewis wrote- “the higher, the more in danger”.

  • Subsidiarity is a fundamental principle as is the common good and solidarity. The lowest body capable of taking care of such issues must. If that is through an international body, so be it. But that is an argument to be made and not self-evident from the current economic crisis per se. And that is consistent with love and charity in Christ. As the Church authoritatively teaches.

  • I am anxiously awaiting Pope Benedict’s take on the situation as it stands today with the Encyclical to be released in the next week or so- I am sure it will reflect the same worldview as previous social encyclical, but it will have the most direct application of that worldview to our current socio-economic conditions. It should be an excellent starting point for dialogue among the orthodoxy and with all those of goodwill.

  • As I’ve noted before on this blog, I don’t like paying taxes any more than anyone else, and there does come a point when the burdens of taxation outweigh the benefits, leading to economic stagnation or collapse as businesses and families stop spending money or move elsewhere. Tax hikes should be a last resort only when all other means have failed.

    However, I also have little if any sympathy for rabid anti-tax folks like Norquist who display indifference at best and contempt at worst for the real human beings who rely upon government services or who work for the government. I agree with Tim that his “drowning government in the bathtub” analogy is pretty disturbing when you think about it.

    Arguing against tax hikes on reasonable grounds such as their potential effect on future business/employment growth, or the need to foster self-sufficiency and personal responsibility at a lower level of society, is good. However, to insist that society can be neatly divided between parasitical “tax eaters” and long-suffering “tax payers,” as if the two groups have no interests in common and never overlap, is in my opinion a gross distortion or oversimplification of the issues involved.