Something for the weekend. We are Coming Father Abraham, written by Stephen Foster in 1862. Few songs better conveyed Northern determination to win the War. However, by August 1864 that determination seemed to be wearing thin.
With the War stalled both East and West Union morale was faltering. On August 22, 1864 Lincoln received a letter from Republican party chairman Henry J. Raymond suggesting that Lincoln offer peace terms to Jefferson Davis on the sole term of acknowledgement of the supremacy of the Constitution with slavery to be dealt with at a later date. Lincoln’s morale remained unshaken, but he was a veteran politician and could read the political tea leaves as well as any political prognosticator. That he read defeat in the tea leaves is demonstrated by what has become known as The Blind Memorandum. Lincoln sealed this document and on August w3, 1864 asked his cabinet officers to sign it unread. They complied. Here is the text:
This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.
A. Lincoln →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Well, PopeWatch believes that the Ice Bucket challenge, to raise funds to fight ALS, phenomenon has indeed gone viral when he witnessed it occurring across the street from his office yesterday. Now someone wants the Pope to get into the act.
Puerto Rico resident Juan Sepulveda Laracuente suffers from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known as ALS) and lacks mobility. The neuromuscular disease has paralyzed his vocal chords, and he’s connected to machines that keep him alive.
So with the help of a speech synthesizer he tells the audience on YouTube: “Tengo la terrible enfermedad de ALS, o mal de Lou Gehrig. Soy de Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, y reto al Papa Francisco al ice-bucket challenge.”
It translates in English to: “I suffer from the terrible disease ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I’m from Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, and I dare Pope Francis to take the ice-bucket challenge.”
Then you see his aid pull away his voice synthesizer and pour a small bucket of water on him, eliciting a grimace from his face as the cold water pours over him. The shock of the cold was enough stimuli to elicit the expression of a gasp on Juan Spulveda Laracuente‘s face. This brave man has already taken the challenge to the next level even if the Pope doesn’t participate. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Lincoln, six feet one in his stocking feet,
The lank man, knotty and tough as a hickory rail,
Whose hands were always too big for white-kid gloves,
Whose wit was a coonskin sack of dry, tall tales,
Whose weathered face was homely as a plowed field–
Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down
The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers,
And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay
As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine
Plutarchan sentences carved in a Latin bronze;
The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,
The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,
State-character but comparative failure at forty
In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,
Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,
Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,
And a self-confidence like an iron bar:
This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,
Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches
Which make the monumental booming of Webster
Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.
Stephen Vincent Benet
(I originally posted this on February 9, 2012. The comments it contains regarding my late son Larry reminds me that in this Vale of Tears we can never know the ending of our personal history, but we can do our best to make it a tale worth reading when we come to our end, something that I think both Mr. Lincoln and my son accomplished on vastly different scales.)
Today is the 203rd birthday of the Sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The above video is an interesting and imaginative interview of Lincoln, if the film technology of the Thirties of the last century had been available in 1860.
Lately I have been reading a book on Lincoln with my autistic son. I point at the words and he reads them, an early morning ritual we have carried out for the last 14 years. Young Lincoln’s struggles against the poverty of his early years, and his lack of more than one year in total of formal education, strikes a chord with me in regard to my son’s struggles against his autism. One of the many reasons why I find Mr. Lincoln’s life endlessly fascinating is the theme throughout it of the most extraordinary possibilities in all of us, no matter the cards that Fate dealt to us initially. more
There is an unspoken commonality between the two big domestic news items of the past week. The first, of course, involves the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. The second is the (farcical) indictment of Governor Rick Perry. The former has sparked outrage and continued discussions over items ranging from racism to police brutality. There has been a much needed discussion of whether the police have become more confrontational, and whether they have become overly militarized. Though the wizards of smart at such venerable institutions as Vox may not realize it, this has actually been an ongoing conversation for some time in conservative and libertarian circles. Even some on the right have attacked armies of strawmen in claiming that conservatives in general are reflexively defensive of the police. While we certainly are less quick to call for prosecutions before all the evidence is in (unlike certain governors), that doesn’t mean we automatically awesome that the police are in the right whenever a civilian is shot and killed.
As for the Perry indictment – well, when even the editorial pages of the New York Times and Austin American Statesmen, as well as lefty pundits like Jonathan Chait, acknowledge (through gritted teeth) there is no there there, you might just have yourselves a completely partisan and unmerited prosecution. But the conversation surrounding the Perry indictment has centered around its frivolousness and the potential impact on Perry’s political future. What it has not sparked is a similar conversation about prosecutorial misbehavior that we are hearing regarding police misbehavior. And that is a mistake.
Before continuing, I want to make clear that the two cases are not of the same gravity. Michael Brown is dead, whereas at worst Rick Perry’s possible presidential ambitions have been hampered (though there is a possibility that in fact this has been incredibly beneficial to his presidential aspirations). In the grand scheme of things, I would gladly take wrongful prosecution over being shot and killed by a police officer. Yet, when we talk more generally about law enforcement and criminal prosecution, we should be just as concerned about bad DAs as we are about rotten police officers.
The Perry case has drawn notice, but it’s certainly not the first case of a political prosecution. Indeed, it’s not even the first case of a purely partisan, political prosecution of a Republican coming from a Travis County District Attorney (see Delay, Tom). In Alaska, prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated the late Ted Stevens. Now these are political prosecutions, so it might be somewhat more difficult to empathize with the wrongfully prosecuted. But there have been other noteworthy examples of prosecutors either disregarding evidence, or simply engaging in prosecutions due to political pressure, or to advance their own careers. The most notorious example in recent years is perhaps Michael Nifong, the Durham county DA who pressed forward with rape charge against Duke lacrosse players even after it became manifestly obvious that no crime had been committed. This past year we witnessed the George Zimmerman trial, an event which occurred it seems largely because the DA was fearful of the political fallout (and I acknowledge that I might be somewhat generous about her motivations) if there was no prosecution. Even the Michael Brown shooting could become a political prosecution if it is felt that the police officer has to be tried merely to appease the mob.*
*Again, let me emphasize that I am not saying that a trial would merely be a political witch-hunt. We do not have all the evidence in, and it is quite possible that Darren Wilson ought to be indicted once all the evidence is in. I am merely saying here that there is a potential for an unjustified prosecution based solely on political pressure.
These are but the most notorious examples that come to mind, but undoubtedly there are others that are just heinous, if not worse. The point is that some prosecutors – much like some police officers – are motivated by less than honest intentions, and their behavior can be just as destructive to a person’s life. Now, I’m not saying that every incorrect prosecution is a wrongful prosecution. Prosecuting attorneys are mortal and can honestly but incorrectly come to the conclusion that the suspect is guilty. We can only hope in those cases that the jury can realize the error. Prosecutors should not be maligned for honest errors in judgment. But what is dangerous and what does tear at the social fabric is a DA who marches on in spite of contradictory evidence, who intentionally stifles exculpatory evidence, and who refuses to relent all because they just so desperately need a conviction, and any conviction will do.
We don’t fear District Attorneys as we do police officers because District Attorneys don’t carry guns (as part of their jobs), and so they aren’t going to wrongfully kill anyone. But we need to demand the same level of integrity from them as we do the police precisely because they are guardians of law and order. When they use their office as a political weapon, they are making a mockery of the rule of law.
It’s an eye-popping headline: “Education Expert: Removing Bible, Prayer from Public Schools Has Caused Decline” (italics added).
An education “expert” has evidence that the decades’ long decline in public education has been caused by removing the Bible and prayer? If true, that’s something of which everyone should take note!
Recently, a professor at California State College in Long Beach and a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, William Jeynes, suggested to an audience at the Heritage Foundation the existence of a correlation between the decline of U.S. public schooling and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1962 and 1963 decisions that ruled school-sponsored Bible reading.
According to a CNSNews.com article, Professor Jeynes said:
One can argue, and some have, that the decision by the Supreme Court—in a series of three decisions back in 1962 and 1963—to remove Bible and prayer from our public schools, may be the most spiritually significant event in our nation’s history over the course of the last 55 years.
Okay. That’s a fair enough assessment. But, what objective evidence supports the assertion? That so-called “correlation.”
Citing data from the federal government (Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services and the U.S. Census Bureau) as well as research conducted by the advocacy groups Bibleasliterature.org, the Bible Literacy Project, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, and California educator Nader Twal, Jeynes identified five negative outcomes since 1963 that have evidenced themselves in public schools across the nation:
- academic achievement has plummeted, including SAT scores;
- increased rate of out-of-wedlock births;
- increased illegal drug use;
- increased juvenile crime; and,
- deterioration of student conduct.
Yes, those negative outcomes have evidenced themselves in government schools, no doubt about it.
But, that’s a pretty slippery statistical slope onto which Jeynes is venturing, unless he’s merely stating his personal opinion and citing alleged “research” to support his opinion. Why? There’s absolutely zero “proof”—no scientifically demonstrated causal relationship—that those negative outcomes are related to the removal of the Bible and/or prayer from government schools. They may be, but that’s different than demonstrating that they are. After all, aren’t most of those negative outcomes also associated with nongovernment schools—where Bible study and prayer have been present all of those decades—though perhaps not in the same magnitude?
Now the question is, given that there is a movement to put the Bible as literature back in the public schools and a moment of silence and so forth, can we recapture the moral fiber—the foundation that used to exist among many of our youth?
To that end, Jeynes cited the movement to reinstate the Bible as literature in government schools, with 440 school districts in 43 states currently teaching this type of course. In addition, 10 states have passed a law or resolution to bring the Bible as literature in the public schools statewide.
Forget that slippery statistical slope. Jeynes’ proposed solution has absolutely no foundation in careful research nor the careful analysis of objective data. Reintroducing either the Bible and/or prayer into government schools may be a very good idea, but Jeynes fails to establish any scientific correlation or causation to support what in reality is only a hope. Yes, having hope may be better than doing nothing. But that’s not good social science research.
Moreover, much of the alleged “research” Jeynes cites to support his conclusion is not careful research and analysis of objective data. They are policy proposals based upon religious ideology. Once again, as good as that ideology may be, it must be subjected to rigorous research and analysis of objective data to determine its veracity.
Religious conservatives do themselves a grave disservice when they suggest that correlations “prove” causation. The former indicate some type of relationship (positive or negative) while the latter demonstrate a hypothesis (“if…then”) given a pre-determined level of probability of error for analyzing objective data.
Implying causation may play well with the ignorant (that is, those who do not know better for a variety of reasons), but it doesn’t with liberals who know better and will use such “research” to make conservatives look stupid (that is, those who should have known better). It also besmirches the stellar reputation of conservative organizations, like the Heritage Foundation.
In the end, the kind of homily Jeynes offered his audience is better preached in a church than peddled as social science at the Heritage Foundation. Want the Bible and prayer returned to government schools? Organizing like-minded folks to mount a grassroots political effort doesn’t require “research.” It requires political will.
To read the CNSNews.com article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
“At a moment of great crises in the history of the world, he gave of himself,”
Archbishop Justin Rigali at funeral mass for Michael Blassie
Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie’s life came to an end at age twenty-four on May 11, 1972 when the A-37B Dragonfly that he was flying in support of South Vietnamese troops in An Loc was shot down. His body could not be recovered because the North Vietnamese had control of the area where his plane was shot down. The Saint Louis native, a 1970 graduate of the Air Force academy, had a short military career but an illustrious one: earning a Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. Thanks to the air support he and his colleagues gave, the North Vietnamese did not take An Loc.
Five months later partial skeletal remains were recovered from the crash site. Initially identified as being Blassie’s, the remains were later reclassified as being unknown when it was erroneously determined that the height and age of the remains did not match with Blassie. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Three Laws of Transhumanism:
1) A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.
2) A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently as possible—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First Law.
3) A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws.
Truly, this earth is a trophy cup for the industrious man. And this rightly so, in the service of natural selection. He who does not possess the force to secure his Lebensraum in this world, and, if necessary, to enlarge it, does not deserve to possess the necessities of life. He must step aside and allow stronger peoples to pass him by.
Adolph Hitler, December 18, 1940
Surveying our contemporary world, it is easy to reach the assumption that Adolph Hitler was simply born a century too early. Many of the ideas he embraced have become completely mainstream, especially in Europe. His view of eugenics for example, which he summarized in his look at Sparta in the book he wrote after Mein Kampf and which remained unpublished during his life:
Sparta must be regarded as the first Völkisch State. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject, and indeed at any price, and yet takes the life of a hundred thousand healthy children in consequence of birth control or through abortions, in order subsequently to breed a race of degenerates burdened with illnesses.
After becoming dictator of Germany, Hitler implemented his beliefs in his T4 program which killed the mentally ill and all others who, through mental or physical defect, failed to measure up to Hitler’s master race dreams. “Life unworthy of life”, the German phrase is “Lebensunwertes Leben”, was the verbiage that substituted for the simple term, murder, which accurately described the brutal reality. Realizing that this policy would be controversial, Hitler did it as much in secret as possible, although critics, especially Bishop Von Galen, the aptly nicknamed Lion of Munster, did speak out. Go here to read Von Galen’s take down of this murder of the innocents.
Now, Hitler’s policy is being given a trendy new repackaging in the erst-while Libertarian UK branch of Wired magazine, by “transhumanist”, and atheist, writer Zoltan Istvan:
The philosophical conundrum of controlling human procreation rests mostly on whether all human beings are actually responsible enough to be good parents and can provide properly for their offspring. Clearly, untold numbers of children — for example, those millions that are slaves in the illegal human trafficking industry — are born to unfit parents.
In an attempt to solve this problem and give hundreds of millions of future kids a better life, I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a driver’s licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children. Those applicants who are deemed unworthy — perhaps because they are homeless, or have drug problems, or are violent criminals, or have no resources to raise a child properly and keep it from going hungry — would not be allowed until they could demonstrate they were suitable parents. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Pope Francis reminds us that the Grim Reaper is not subject to papal authority.
“Some theologians may say this is not right, but I think this way,” he said in a lighthearted exchange with reporters returning to Rome from a trip to South Korea. “Let us think about what [Benedict XVI] said, ‘I have got old, I do not have the strength.’ It was a beautiful gesture of nobility, of humility and courage.”
He added: “But you could say to me, if you at some time felt you could not go forward, I would do the same.” Asked about his immense popularity, the 77-year-old joked that he would probably die soon so should not get too proud: “I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father.” Pope Francis also said he had some nerve problems that he treated with a South American tea-like drink called Mate, and that he had not taken a vacation away from home since 1975. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Christianity is not the creed of Asia and Africa at this moment solely because the seventh century Christians of Asia and Africa had trained themselves not to fight, whereas the Moslems were trained to fight. Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought. If the peoples of Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries, on up to and including the seventeenth century, had not possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing superiority over the Mohammedans who invaded Europe, Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan and the Christian religion would be exterminated.
May the soul of journalist James Foley, a Catholic, beheaded by the terrorists of ISIS, rest in peace. May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision. May those responsible for his foul murder receive justice to the full for this deed in this world and the next.
One of the services your humble servant performs for readers of this blog is to send to the trash the insane comments which we receive before you have to be exposed to them. However, for your amusement I will now reveal a comment we received under the Only Dead Christians post:
Of course, Israel and the U.S. are behind ISIS (which is not an Islamic group, but a satanist one hiding behind Islam to try to destroy it), and so they, the Anglo/American/Zionist Empire, and not Muslims, are behind the killing of Christians.
Once you realize that not one Muslim had anything to do with 911, rather, it was a CIA/Mossad operation, it all starts to make sense. The purpose is to demonize Islam, so Christians will go to war with Islam instead of its real enemy, Zionism. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, in an op ed in The New York Times wonders why there is silence over the slaughter of Christians by jihadists around the globe:
WHY is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.
The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries. The terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped and killed hundreds of Christians this year — ravaging the predominantly Christian town of Gwoza, in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, two weeks ago. Half a million Christian Arabs have been driven out of Syria during the three-plus years of civil war there. Christians have been persecuted and killed in countries from Lebanon to Sudan.
Historians may look back at this period and wonder if people had lost their bearings. Few reporters have traveled to Iraq to bear witness to the Nazi-like wave of terror that is rolling across that country. The United Nations has been mostly mum. World leaders seem to be consumed with other matters in this strange summer of 2014. There are no flotillas traveling to Syria or Iraq. And the beautiful celebrities and aging rock stars — why doesn’t the slaughter of Christians seem to activate their social antennas? →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
It is sometimes easy for Catholics to forget that their popes have their own personal tragedies to endure, just as we all do:
Pope Francis was deeply grieved, the Vatican’s official broadcasting service said on Tuesday, after the deaths of three relatives killed when their car slammed into the back of a truck on a highway in central Argentina.
A nephew of the pope, Emanuel Bergoglio, who was driving the car was in serious condition following the accident just after midnight on Monday. The nephew’s wife, 35, and two children aged 2 years and 8 months died.
“The pope has been informed and is deeply grieved by the tragic news. He asks all those who share his pain to join with him in prayer,” said a statement on the website of Radio Vaticana. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
The City of Lights liberation by the Allies began seventy years ago today. It started, fittingly enough, with uprisings of Free French resistance forces throughout the city, launching attacks on the German garrison. Some 800 Free French fighters would die in these attacks. The Free French quickly held most of the city, while lacking the firepower to attack German strongpoints. The entry into Paris of the 2nd Free French armored division on August 24, along with the 4th US infantry division, caused the capitulation of the German garrison on August 25, and Paris went mad with joy.
General Charles de Gaulle, normally a rather cold and distant man, gave a speech in liberated Paris on August 25, 1944 that gave full voice to this rapture: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As predicted here, it is up fast and down fast for the ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, terrorists. Strategy Page continues to provide the best coverage of events in Iraq on the net:
August 19, 2014: Kurdish troops have forced ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) fighters out of the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River. ISIL seized control of the dam on August 3 rd. This is the largest dam in Iraq and because of shoddy construction during the 1980s requires constant maintenance to prevent it from failing. If the dam did come down over half a million Iraqis could die from the flood and subsequent water shortages. The Kurds had been defending the dam since the Iraqi Army ran away in early June. ISIL also seized two nearby Kurdish held towns as they went after the dam.
This ISIL advance was not unexpected because the Kurds stretched themselves thin by trying to replace the Iraqi Army while also building and defending a new fortified border to incorporate Kirkuk and nearby oilfields. The Kurds asked for air support from the United States but did not start receiving it until the 8th. The Americans had already shipped in ammo and light weapons and some additional American trainers and advisors.
ISIL hit the Kurds with multiple columns of vehicles carrying armed men. This force included some suicide bombers and there were more ISIL gunmen coming from more directions than the small Kurdish force could handle. After a day or so of holding off ISIL the Kurds were ordered to withdraw and they did that in an orderly fashion on the 3rd. The Kurds organized a counterattack force and moved to regain the lost territory once the U.S. agreed to resume air support. There are still some ISIL gunmen in the vicinity of the dam, as well as some mines and booby-traps the Islamic terrorists set before they left. Kurdish forces are taking care of this.
In the Euphrates River Valley, near the town of Haditha, local Sunni tribes have rebelled against ISIL to maintain control of another major dam. This is a major setback for ISIL, which expected the Sunni tribes to support them and take care of local security. It’s an old story being replayed. The local tribesmen are not happy with ISIL efforts to force a strict Islamic lifestyle on them. Iraqi and Syria Sunnis have come to prefer educating their daughters and enjoying TV and videos. There is even more tolerance for buying alcoholic beverages from local Christians who have long been allowed to sell this stuff because their religion does not forbid it (and their worship services actually use wine). Also unpopular is the ISIL attitude that anything they do is above reproach. The Sunni tribes that ISIL expected to be allies and take care of administering the newly conquered territories have increasingly refused to go along. While the Sunni tribes like the measure of law and order ISIL has imposed they are not willing to accept all the other features of ISIL rule. The secular Sunnis (mainly the surviving Baath Party organizations) initially believed they could work with ISIL but have since turned against the strict forms of Islam ISIL insists on. Meanwhile ISIL has antagonized many Islamic conservative groups by destroying shrines and even mosques ISIL considers heretical despite the fact that most Sunni Arabs tolerate these places because they are very popular, and bring in a significant amount of tourist business from foreigners and religious pilgrims. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Andrew Brown at The Spectator has some interesting comments about the money making potential of being Richard Dawkins:
But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’
The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.
Pope Francis was asked yesterday if he approved of the US airstrikes against the ISIS terrorists in Iraq:
“In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop’; I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: ‘Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?’ But only that, nothing more.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
History is not melodrama, even if it usually reads like that. It was real blood, not tomato catsup or the pale ectoplasm of statistics, that wet the ground at Bloody Angle and darkened the waters of Bloody Pond. It modifies our complacency to look at the blurred and harrowing old photographs — the body of the dead sharpshooter in the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg or the tangled mass in the Bloody Lane at Antietam.
Robert Penn Warren, The Legacy of the Civil War
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels for the Church so frequently that I have called him Defender of the Faith, has a very interesting post today which combines my two passions of the Civil War and the Catholic Church:
In 1961, at the start of the United States Civil War Centennial observances, LIFE magazine asked Robert Penn Warren for an essay about the effects of that war on subsequent US history. That essay eventually became a small book entitled The Legacy of the Civil War which is still in print and is well worth your time.
It’s slightly more than one hundred pages and if you’re not as glacially slow a reader as the Editor is, you can probably polish it off in an hour or less. Warren, a Kentuckian, is equally harsh with both sides, as he should be. But the curse which was laid upon the South as a result of that war was something that Warren labels the Great Alibi. I’m transcribing directly from the book so any errors are mine:
By the Great Alibi, the South explains, condones and transmutes everything. By a simple reference to the “War,” any Southern female could not too long ago, put on the glass slipper and be whisked away to the ball. Any goose could dream herself (or himself) a swan– surrounded, of course, by a good many geese for contrast and devoted hand-service. Even now, any common lyncher becomes a defender of the Southern tradition, and any rabble-rouser the gallant leader of a thin gray line of heroes, his hat on saber-point to provide reference by which to hold formation in the charge. By the Great Alibi, pellagra, hookworm and illiteracy are all explained, or explained away, and mortgages are converted into badges of distinction. Laziness becomes the aesthetic sense, blood-lust rising from a matrix of boredom and resentful misery becomes a high sense of honor, and ignorance becomes divine revelation. By the Great Alibi, the Southerner makes his Big Medicine. He turns defeat into victory, defects into virtues. Even more pathetically, he turns his great virtues into absurdities–sometimes vicious absurdities.
It occurred to me that one of the most terrible tragedies of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals is that it granted something like Warren’s Great Alibi to the Catholic left, the Christian left and other enemies of the Gospel.
For example. You’re a Catholic theologian of leftist leanings or a feminist nun. You have publicly written that not only should Katharine Jefferts Schori be allowed to preach in Catholic parishes, she should also be allowed to concelebrate the Mass.
The Vatican calls you out. How do you respond? Easy. You simply invoke the Great Christian Alibi in the same way as Sister Elizabeth Johnson [No relation - Ed] does here:
A nun who drew U.S. Catholic bishops’ ire with what they consider radical feminist writings fired back Friday (Aug. 15), saying their investigation of women’s orders is wasteful when financial mismanagement and sexual abuses are being covered up.
“When the moral authority of the hierarchy is hemorrhaging due to financial scandals and many bishops who … cover up sexual abuse of children, a cover up that continues in some quarters to this day, and thousands are drifting away from the church … the waste of time on this investigation is unconscionable,” Johnson said.
And debate is officially over. Who are you, you male member of the church hierarchy, to lecture me about anything at all, considering that the MALE hierarchy of this church covered up the sexual abuse of CHILDREN?
Leaving aside the psychological trauma of the victims, the Great Alibi freely provided to the enemies of both the Catholic Church and the Gospel may actually be the single most damaging thing to emerge from the sexual abuse scandals.
Because how do you answer it? →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading