Theft, Charity and Virtue Signaling

Friday, March 24, AD 2017

Hattip to commenter Nate Winchester.  This is absolutely brilliant by Dystopic at the bog Declination:


Competitive morality requires that you trumpet your moral achievements to the world. Stephen Colbert shows us how it is to be done:



Here Stephen Colbert is telling us that we are not Christians, and do not follow Christ, if we don’t want to give our earnings to the government. This is designed to wound a genuine Christian, by calling him a poor follower of Christ, and elevate himself as a superior agent of morality at the same time.

Mr. Colbert would be well-advised to read Matthew 6:2:

Therefore when you give your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Stephen Colbert and his ilk are revealed for what they are: hypocritical trumpeters of their charity.

So long as one man in the world has less than another, men like Stephen Colbert will find cause to call us selfish and uncharitable for not giving all of our wealth to the government, to spend as it sees fit.

Those same people say that churches don’t do enough to help the poor. This meme is a great illustration:


Give all your money to government, and not churches, because it is better at helping people. Right.

These people know that charity and taxation are not the same thing, and yet they continue to make these insinuations, continue to trumpet their moral superiority. “I’m better than you,” says the liberal. Sometimes they imply that they are more moral in sarcastic, passive-aggressive fashion. “I worked for Greenpeace, did you?”

My first instinct would be to say “no, I prefer to donate my time and money to the parents of kids with cancer in my hometown, because charity starts at home.” But that’s actually a bad reply. It’s a form of trumpeting your own charity right back at them. More importantly, it doesn’t work.

That is their heresy, not ours. We’ve no need for that sort of thing. Instead, explain how their charity really isn’t charity. If you’re taking someone else’s money, grabbing a cut for yourself, and passing along some of it to another in exchange for his vote, you’re no Mother Theresa. You’re an asshole.

The Clinton Foundation was more interested in ensuring Chelsea Clinton’s dress fit right than whatever was going on in Haiti. Whenever massive amounts of money are moved from place to place, these people get a slice of it. They can also determine who it goes to, and under what conditions.

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12 Responses to Theft, Charity and Virtue Signaling

  • Since the conscience of man has been repudiated by the atheist and the government; involuntary charity is extortion.

  • Heard a great name for virtue signallers like Colbert: “fake liberals”. It really gets the going…

  • Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. Helping the poor is important, but having faith is by far the greatest gift of all as it will lead us to an eternal life with God. Given the very poor moral and religious state of our modern world, I would say that the true tragic crises of poverty is of one in faith.
    So Steve, you may want to recalibrate your catholic message and forego the easy talking points of the low hanging fruit.

  • Some really great “encapsulation-phrases”, describing very effectively the current moral-shaming argumentation that many Catholics cannot stand up to, and so are cowed into submission:

    “Competitive morality”; “Virtue-signalling”; or “Aggressive morality” (that last one is my fusion/improvisation).

    Here in the SF Baytheist Area it is a rich vein of all the above. So many noses in the air, so much aggressively superior morality.

  • My understanding is that surveys indicate Liberals give far less to charity than do Conservatives. Personally, I would like to see the Federal Government completely out of the charity business and that it become a local community obligation so that charity is seen a a personal and close to home obligation. The other thing about close to home charity is that we would be more motivated to find work for those on welfare. Welfare now is a way to maintain the Democrat voter base and is morally evil as it encourages the recipients to stay on the dole.

  • I don’t take virtue lectures from evil people that think murdering 57 million babies is a “choice.”

    If President Trump or I tried to say, “The US is a Christian Nation,” we’d be called homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, white-supremacist, xenophobic.

    Simply put, liberalism and social justice are stealing from your neighbor with the government as middleman.

    Finally, since I’ve been paying taxes and doing good works, say, the 1960’s, the US government has spent tens of trillions of real dollars on poverty, is now $20 trillion in unsustainable debt, and yet there are millions more poor Americans.

    If the federal government took over the Sahara Desert, in five years, there would be a shortage of sand (Milton Friedman).

  • A recent poster from a counter protester at a Defund Planned Parenthood rally stated;. “Planned Parenthood Saves Lives!”

    When asked to compare his tally to the death toll racked up thus far by abortion on demand, he couldn’t give an answer.
    All he could do is smile.

    This is liberal justice mush.

    Killing the innocent is Saving Lives.

    And Jesus continues to weep…

  • When churches and charitable organizations of 19th century were faced with (swamped by) the poverty of urbanization and industrialization and migration- not just international but also within the US- it was thought that having a more organized approach that could be offered by a centralized system would be helpful. It does seem the devil presents solutions which sound good, but he remains in the details.

  • We lived in a third world country for three years in the late 80s so I’ve seen poverty. Each time I visit downtown San Francisco to housesit for my eldest I am appalled and saddened at the ever increasing numbers of homeless men and women. Sleeping in door ways and up against buildings like the Ritz in the bone chilling cold and rain from dusk to dawn. By morning they’ve disappeared leaving behind trash, their nest of clothes and the smell of urine. Rarely are they middle aged or seniors. Mostly they are able bodied young adults. Maybe they are down on Market Street panhandling during the day or have gone to the Tenderloin to score drugs. I never see any homeless in Chinatown. The churches have many programs, free meals and some shelter. The city government hands out cash on a certain day and that is what keeps them there. There are shanty towns beneath the freeway over passes. The city looks the other way it appears. Just hand out the checks and look the other way in liberal San Francisco.

  • CAM.

    They pay so they don’t have to look.
    They have done their duty.
    The crumbs they have given, and the crumbs they shall receive.

  • Right on schedule… Mark Shea has to prove the post’s point.

    Myself I keep wondering how we have an obesity epidemic if nobody’s feeding these kids.

  • People want to feel good about themselves, but don’t want the oppression of religious affiliation. By “virtue signaling” they think they can assuage that nagging feeling something is missing. Secularists use Christian values to nudge people into handing over charitable works and fellowship into the hands of government.

I Contributed

Monday, April 20, AD 2015

4 Responses to I Contributed

One Response to Bread Upon the Waters

One Response to Loyal Like a Dog

  • Aww, that’s a Brittany Spaniel. I don’t know why, but I’m surprised they have them in Japan. They’re not super popular even here but are known for being great bird dogs and family pets. I’m not surprised to see the loyalty and apparent affection though. They’re all around nice dogs but very dedicated to their master and family.

Jefferson Davis and Pio Nono

Friday, August 13, AD 2010

Jefferson Davis was always a friend to Catholics.  In his youth as a boy he studied at the Saint Thomas School at the Saint Rose Dominican Priory in Washington County Kentucky.  While there Davis, the only Protestant student, expressed a desire to convert.  One of the priests there advised the boy to wait until he was older and then decide. Davis never converted, but his early exposure to Catholicism left him with a life long respect for the Faith.

When the aptly named anti-Catholic movement the Know-Nothings arose in the 1840s and 1850s, Davis fought against it, as did his great future adversary Abraham Lincoln.

During the Civil War, Pope Pius wrote to the archbishops of New Orleans and New York, praying that peace would be restored to America.  Davis took this opportunity to write to the Pope:

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27 Responses to Jefferson Davis and Pio Nono

  • Thank you for this post.

    I am reading (again) Sears’ Gettysburg – slower this time. I had never thought of this possibility. Sears mentions that the South could have called for a Constititional Convention instead of firing on Fort Sumter. In that way, the North would have either negotiated or been the first to open fire on fellow Americans.

    Has anyone else seen that interesting concept?

  • I’m reading again (for the fourth time) Bruce Catton’s “The Coming Fury” and it seems clear that the clamor for secession overcame any voice of moderation after Lincoln’s election, which was seen as doom for the hopes of the south to have new territories come in as slave states (which would maintain a balance in Congress between slave/non-slave states).

    Even better than a constitutional convention (at which the south would not be able to prevail) it would have been better if South Carolina had let Ft. Sumter be… and if Lincoln had not insisted on calling up troops from the states for invasion of the south, Virginia, Tenessee, and N. Carolina would likely not have seceeded, and the common wisdom is that a confederacy of only deep south states would not have lived long.

    In short, there were alternatives to the revolution that was the civil war, but alas– firebreathing secessionists and firebreathing abolitionists would have none of it.

  • Secession would not have happened except in an atmosphere of crisis. If southern representatives and senators had remained in their seats in Congress, they could have blocked any legislation they feared with the help of Northen Democrats. They would have quickly realized that no, Lincoln wasn’t going to take away their slaves, put them in jail and have their slaves and carpet baggers from the North running things in their states. Secession was a completely over the top reaction to the election of Lincoln, and like many over the top reactions it ultimately brought about what was feared.

  • I’ve often been asked for citations of Davis’s correspondence with Pius IX (and wondered myself about how extensive it was). I’ve heard that he wore the brown Scapular and was ultimately given last rites by a Priest.

    In any case, thanks! I found this post because WordPress told me I was linked in it, but it must have been one of those transitory “Related Post” links.

    I’ll be linking this to my existing work on Davis!

  • Thanks, I knew you gents would be on top of this.

    I was always more interested in the military and armchair-general aspects. So many years out of school: the politics/causes give me brain-freeze.

    Once the guns started, it was a fight to the death – tragic.

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  • In Supremo Apostolatus
    Apostolic Letter of Pope Gregory XVI on the Slave Trade. Promulgated on December 3, 1839

    PLACED AT THE SUMMIT of the Apostolic power and, although lacking in merits, holding the place of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who, being made Man through utmost Charity, deigned to die for the Redemption of the World, We have judged that it belonged to Our pastoral solicitude to exert Ourselves to turn away the Faithful from the inhuman slave trade in Negroes and all other men. Assuredly, since there was spread abroad, first of all amongst the Christians, the light of the Gospel, these miserable people, who in such great numbers, and chiefly through the effects of wars, fell into very cruel slavery, experienced an alleviation of their lot. Inspired in fact by the Divine Spirit, the Apostles, it is true, exhorted the slaves themselves to obey their masters, according to the flesh, as though obeying Christ, and sincerely to accomplish the Will of God; but they ordered the masters to act well towards slaves, to give them what was just and equitable, and to abstain from menaces, knowing that the common Master both of themselves and of the slaves is in Heaven, and that with Him there is no distinction of persons.

    But as the law of the Gospel universally and earnestly enjoined a sincere charity towards all, and considering that Our Lord Jesus Christ had declared that He considered as done or refused to Himself everything kind and merciful done or refused to the small and needy, it naturally follows, not only that Christians should regard as their brothers their slaves and, above all, their Christian slaves, but that they should be more inclined to set free those who merited it; which it was the custom to do chiefly upon the occasion of the Easter Feast as Gregory of Nyssa tells us. There were not lacking Christians, who, moved by an ardent charity ‘cast themselves into bondage in order to redeem others,’ many instances of which our predecessor, Clement I, of very holy memory, declares to have come to his knowledge. In the process of time, the fog of pagan superstition being more completely dissipated and the manners of barbarous people having been softened, thanks to Faith operating by Charity, it at last comes about that, since several centuries, there are no more slaves in the greater number of Christian nations. But — We say with profound sorrow — there were to be found afterwards among the Faithful men who, shamefully blinded by the desire of sordid gain, in lonely and distant countries, did not hesitate to reduce to slavery Indians, negroes and other wretched peoples, or else, by instituting or developing the trade in those who had been made slaves by others, to favour their unworthy practice. Certainly many Roman Pontiffs of glorious memory, Our Predecessors, did not fail, according to the duties of their charge, to blame severely this way of acting as dangerous for the spiritual welfare of those engaged in the traffic and a shame to the Christian name; they foresaw that as a result of this, the infidel peoples would be more and more strengthened in their hatred of the true Religion.

    It is at these practices that are aimed the Letter Apostolic of Paul III, given on May 29, 1537, under the seal of the Fisherman, and addressed to the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, and afterwards another Letter, more detailed, addressed by Urban VIII on April 22, 1639 to the Collector Jurium of the Apostolic Chamber of Portugal. In the latter are severely and particularly condemned those who should dare ‘to reduce to slavery the Indians of the Eastern and Southern Indies,’ to sell them, buy them, exchange them or give them, separate them from their wives and children, despoil them of their goods and properties, conduct or transport them into other regions, or deprive them of liberty in any way whatsoever, retain them in servitude, or lend counsel, succour, favour and co-operation to those so acting, under no matter what pretext or excuse, or who proclaim and teach that this way of acting is allowable and co-operate in any manner whatever in the practices indicated.

    Benedict XIV confirmed and renewed the penalties of the Popes above mentioned in a new Apostolic Letter addressed on December 20, 1741, to the Bishops of Brazil and some other regions, in which he stimulated, to the same end, the solicitude of the Governors themselves. Another of Our Predecessors, anterior to Benedict XIV, Pius II, as during his life the power of the Portuguese was extending itself over New Guinea, sent on October 7, 1462, to a Bishop who was leaving for that country, a Letter in which he not only gives the Bishop himself the means of exercising there the sacred ministry with more fruit, but on the same occasion, addresses grave warnings with regard to Christians who should reduce neophytes to slavery.

    In our time Pius VII, moved by the same religious and charitable spirit as his Predecessors, intervened zealously with those in possession of power to secure that the slave trade should at least cease amongst the Christians. The penalties imposed and the care given by Our Predecessors contributed in no small measure, with the help of God, to protect the Indians and the other people mentioned against the cruelty of the invaders or the cupidity of Christian merchants, without however carrying success to such a point that the Holy See could rejoice over the complete success of its efforts in this direction; for the slave trade, although it has diminished in more than one district, is still practiced by numerous Christians. This is why, desiring to remove such a shame from all the Christian nations, having fully reflected over the whole question and having taken the advice of many of Our Venerable Brothers the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We warn and adjure earnestly in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to vex anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favour to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, are, without any distinction, in contempt of the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold, and devoted sometimes to the hardest labour. Further, in the hope of gain, propositions of purchase being made to the first owners of the Blacks, dissensions and almost perpetual conflicts are aroused in these regions.

    We reprove, then, by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, all the practices abovementioned as absolutely unworthy of the Christian name. By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter.

    Note: This Apostolic Letter was read during the 4th Provincial Council of Baltimore, December 3, 1839.)


    EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, February 28, 1861.
    Gentlemen of Congress: With sincere deference to the judgment of Congress, I have carefully considered the bill in relation to the slave trade, and to punish persons offending therein, but have not been able to approve it, and therefore do return it with a statement of my objections. The Constitution (section 7, article I.) provides that the importation of African negroes from any foreign country other than slave-holding States of the United States is hereby forbidden, and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same. The rule herein given is emphatic, and distinctly directs the legislation which shall effectually prevent the importation of African negroes. The bill before me denounces as high misdemeanor the importation of African negroes or other persons of color, either to be sold as slaves or to be held to service or labor, affixing heavy, degrading penalties on the act, if done with such intent. To that extent it accords with the requirements of the Constitution, but in the sixth section of the bill provision is made for the transfer of persons who may have been illegally imported into the Confederate States to the custody of foreign States or societies, upon condition of deportation and future freedom, and if the proposition thus to surrender them shall not be accepted, it is then made the duty of the President to cause said negroes to be sold at public outcry to the highest bidder in any one of the States where such sale shall not be inconsistent with the laws thereof. This provision seems to me to be in opposition to the policy declared in the Constitution – the prohibition of the importation of African negroes – and in derogation of its mandate to legislate for the effectuation of that object. Wherefore the bill is returned to you for your further consideration, and, together with the objections, most respectfully submitted.


  • “In any case, thanks!”

    You are entirely welcome GodsGadfly!

  • Good grief, slavery was enshrined in the Confederate Constitution. You couldn’t become a member of the ‘Confederacy’ unless you endorsed and embraced slavery. No amout of neo-confederate embroidery will change those historical facts.

    “We reprove, then, by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, all the practices abovementioned as absolutely unworthy of the Christian name. By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter.”

    These words have meaning. You should read them.

  • Trevor, you calling me a neo-Confederate is rich. As the thread linked to below indicates, I have long been engaged in combox battles with neo-Confederates.

    I will assume that you are not a faithful reader of this blog, or you would not be confused on this point.

    In any of my posts dealing with historical topics, I try to be as accurate as possible and to give the subject his or her historical due. You brought up the slave trade and I cited a Davis veto on the subject that indicated, accurately, that the Confederate Constitution banned the international slave trade. I think you need to grind axes less and read more, lest you become a mirror-image of the neo-Confederates you oppose who are afraid to simply let the historical record be examined, warts and all.

  • Donald – Can you write an article addressing the following: Why do many blacks have Irish last names? Did Irish Catholics have plantations in the South and what happened to the Catholics in the South since it seems that they largely disappeared until recently? (recently re-appeared due to Catholic moving from the North)

  • Here is a discussion of the topic John.

    With all due respect to the fictional Scarlett O’Hara, Irish Catholics tended to be underrepresented among plantation owners in the antebellum South. I assume that most of the Irish names are from slaves adopting the names of Scot-Irish who owned them, not an uncommon occurrence, or through unions, in matrimony and out, between blacks and whites.

  • Thanks Donald – That makes more sense. Catholics in the South didn’t disappear, rather, they were never there. The names of black people can be explained by non-Catholic Scots-Irish.

  • Donald,

    The 1839 Apostolic Letter which was read at the 4th Provincial Council in Baltimore makes no distinction between domestic and international slave trading, it condems the practice in its totality.

    Yet Jefferson Davis’ veto twenty one years later doesn’t uphold a ban on all slave trading, only on international slave trading. Did it matter to the Catholic Church whether the slaves were traded from Ghana or Maryland when it issued the letter? Did Pope Gregory XVI have inernational politics or basic human rights on his mind when he wrote it?

    Perhaps you should read the letter again, this time to gain a fuller understanding what the Vatican was trying to convey, before continuing your defense of Jefferson Davis.

  • And perhaps you should try reading what I have written Trevor. In your fierce grinding of the ax you have a death grip on, you have failed to notice that I said nothing about whether the veto was in accord with the text of the letter, nor am I defending Jefferson Davis. You are the mirror image of the obsessed neo-Confederate.

  • Quoting Mr. Davis: ” . . .we desire none of our enemy’s possessions, but that we fight merely to resist the devastation of our country and the shedding of our best blood, and to force them to let us live in peace under the protection of our own institutions, and under our laws, which not only insure to every one the enjoyment of his temporal rights, but also the free exercise of his religion.”

    First, I admit to being a little biased since I am the descendant of people who were enslaved in these United States. But it seems to me that Mr. Davis is being a little bit dishonest here since he supported an institution which took possession of people’s bodies and treated human beings as cattle. Slavery, especially as practiced in the United States, was an ongoing assault against human dignity. How Mr. Davis could possibly claim that southern laws and mores “insure to everyone his temporal rights” is beyond me. This repesents a severe disconnect from the reality he was well acquainted with as a slaveowner. I strongly urge you to read some of the books detailing the internal slave trade before romanticizing the ante-bellum south. (I especially recommend “Slave Trading in the Old South” by Frederic Bancroft. Then, just to put a human face on the suffering, read “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northrup.) It’s an ugly chapter and no amount of correspondence between the Pope and Mr. Davis can obscure that.

    Also the opposition to the international slave trade was a form of protectionism since it kept the prices of slaves in the U.S. high. Virginia plantations made fortunes in meeting the demands for slaves as new slave territories to the west opened up. Re-opening the African slave trade would have lowered the prices of slaves.

    The anti-slavery movement was laregely spearheaded, both here and in England, by Protestants and had an explicitly religious grounding. They absolutely refused to play footsie with this institution. To my mind it was Protetantism’s finest hour and certainly one of the jewels in the crown of the west. (I am not claiming that all Protestants opposed slavery, merely that the most agressive and active opponents of slavery were almost invariably Protestant; there was no sustained Catholic presence in the movement to eliminate slavery.) Islam resisted the abolition of slavery into the 1960’s.

    Finally, I can only presume that the Irish names which some African Americans have were taken from Scots-Irish since, with the exception of Louisiana and possibily Mobile, Alabama, there were very few Catholics in the South. Even today the American South is overwhelmingly Protestant altho the influx of Latino immigrants is changing this.

    By contrast, Africans in Latin America are largely Catholic, the religion of those who enslaved them. And we don’t want to get started on the Catholic slave regimes in Latin America, which were arguably much more brutal than those of the Anglosphere.

  • “It’s an ugly chapter and no amount of correspondence between the Pope and Mr. Davis can obscure that.”

    No one here is attempting to do that Denise.

    “there was no sustained Catholic presence in the movement to eliminate slavery.”

    Actually Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator in Ireland, supported abolition in the British Empire and America. He served as the model for William Lloyd Garrison. Father Theobald Matthew, the famed temperance priest, was quite active in abolition in this country. You are correct in that no bishop publicly supported abolition in this country prior to the Civil War.

    “And we don’t want to get started on the Catholic slave regimes in Latin America, which were arguably much more brutal than those of the Anglosphere.”

    That is debatable depending upon the country in Latin America, and what part of the Anglosphere is being used for comparison. In any case in Latin America slavery had been abolished prior to our Civil War except I believe in Cuba and Brazil.

    “Islam resisted the abolition of slavery into the 1960?s.”

    I’d say de facto slavery still goes on in many Islamic countries.

  • ” In your fierce grinding of the ax you have a death grip on, you have failed to notice that I said nothing about whether the veto was in accord with the text of the letter, nor am I defending Jefferson Davis.”


    What other purpose would posting the Davis veto memo have than as a rebuttal to the Vatican letter? You’re clearly defending Jefferson Davis here whether you want to or not. Who’s next on your Cavalcade of Confederates seeking redemption, Benjamin Judah?

  • Trevor,

    It seems to me that Donald was just defending truth and making appropriate distinctions. Donald wrote a post about an exchange between Davis and Pio Nono. Best I can tell it is accurate in its account of facts and the little personal commentary is benign. For reason unknown except to you, you posted the Vatican letter condemning the slave trade with no commentary accompaning it. It is left to the reader to divine why you posted it. The observer would not find your cite relevant to the post unless you were somehow trying make the Pio/Davis exchange irrelevant to history.

    Unfortunately, the cudgel you chose wasn’t as relevant as you you hoped. One doesn’t have to defend the Confederacy, slavery, the slave trade, or Davis except to the truth. i.e. Hitler was a horrible human being and caused countless deaths and much more suffering. However, I know of no information that he liked to eat puppy dogs for dinner. Too accuse him of that just because he caused so much evil does not serve truth.

    Davis was president of the Confederate states. He supported the institution of slavery. He opposed reopening the international slave trade. He had a pleasant exchange with Pope Pius IX. It is what it is.

  • “Donald,

    What other purpose would posting the Davis veto memo have than as a rebuttal to the Vatican letter? You’re clearly defending Jefferson Davis here whether you want to or not. Who’s next on your Cavalcade of Confederates seeking redemption, Benjamin Judah?”

    I posted it Trevor to help show how complicated history tends to be and to give another factoid about Davis. As I have indicated clearly in the link that I posted above in this thread, which I doubt you have bothered to read, I have taken to task time and time again neo-Confederates who attempt to pretend that the Civil War was not all about slavery. Indeed I have noted several times that at the onset of the Civil War Davis said the Civil War was all about slavery.

    Not all my posts have to mention that fact, since they are simply slivers of the lives of my subjects and not full blown bios usually, and normally deal with some particular incident or incidents.

    The usual criticisms of my Civil War posts on this blog have been that I am a Lincoln worshiper and a Yankee of the deepest blue, so having you come at me from the other angle is refreshing in addition to being hilarious.

    In regard to Judah P. Benjamin, ante-bellum Senator from Louisiana, and the Jewish member of the Confederate cabinet, married to a Catholic, he was a truly fascinating character and will, in the fullness of time, be the subject of a post. He once responded to Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio calling him a “Hebrew with Egyptian principles”, with this memorable riposte: “It is true that I am a Jew, and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate Deity, amidst the thundering and lightnings of Mt. Sinai, the ancestors of my opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain.” Thank you for the suggestion Trevor!

  • Donald, I’ve read your piece in regards to secession being avoidable if the Democratic party had kept its head in regards to Lincolns win at the polls [1860 Prest elect]. your argument has no basis what ever in this assumption ,for one the Democratic ticket was split asunder. with Stephen Douglas a proponent of popular sovereignty and John C. Breckinridge anti Douglas and anti Douglas’s creed.The contest pre war was the the rights of states. Davis seen the States as sovereign , the federal gov acting on their behalf. the question remains do sovereign states legally have the right to secede from a union of states?.

  • Tom, I have to disagree with your analysis in regards to the clamour for southern Independence or succession.The election of Abe Lincoln in itself was not the catalyst of the rebellion or revolution the problem was inherited by Lincoln, the decline of southern power in the senate, as you rightly pointed out was the basis for separation. As john C. Calhoun once said “The union is a partnership that sectional parity guarantees tranquillity for the nation”.The union changed that configuration by admitting free states whilst keep slave -holding states in check.

    As to Confederate forces firing on FT Sumter, this was exactly what Lincoln had engineered “they fired the first shot”.So much for his promise, where slavery existed so shall it remain unmolested the south had nothing to fear from a Rep adim. It was always in Lincoln’s eye,the horror of slavery although he was never an out and out abolitionist he truly hated slavery.

    As i have alluded to before the civil-war was not fought over slavery, but for Union. as for Va it could not let the Lincoln war machine use her native soil as a land bridge to attack the deep south. While the North fought for Union, The South fought for the Republic.

  • Noleybo, you are mistaken. Secession occurred in a state of crisis that was completely unfounded. Lincoln had pledged to do nothing in regard to slavery in the slave states. Acting with Northern Democrats, Southern representatives and senators could have bottled up any legislation they feared. Instead Secession led to the death of the Peculiar Institution and a fratricidal war that devastated the South. Rarely have a braver people been more poorly led by their leaders than the white Southerners in the Secession Winter of 1860-61.

  • Donald.I must again disagree with your understanding of the crisis as you call it in 1860 in regards to the election of Abe Lincoln.But before I discuss Lincoln and the crisis that you allude to as in 1860, let me draw your attention to compromise after compromise to prevent succession. Missouri 1820, Mexican cession 1850, Kansas Nebraska 1854, all attempts to settle disputes on sectional lines of course not to mention a last ditch effort to advert succession by Davis and other which is general known as The Crittenden Compromise, Lincoln ignored it, he showed utter contempt and disrespect for their efforts.Of course the expansion of slavery was on the table but it showed Lincoln in a true light he’d have no truck with slavery but still he should have had common courtesy to attend.The man was transparent,this pledge that the South had nothing to fear was a total lie. Slavery was safe where it remained was a hollow promise.The Harrison’s Landing[ Genl McClellan] letter proved Lincoln true intent in regards to the slave states when again he showed contempt for the author.

    You again mentioned if the Northern Democrats along with their Southern brethren could have thwarted any legislation proposed by the Lincoln Adim.I put it to you, if they could have agreed on a single candidate the Democrats would have won in 1860.The sectional differences ran deep with Stephen Douglas a fervent support of Popular Sovereignty, animus of Douglas and his policy torn asunder any conciliation between Northern and Southern Democrats.So to contend that a union of both could bottle up Lincoln’s policy is delusional and without recourse to historical accuracy on your part.

  • Noleybo in regard to Lincoln and the Secession Crisis of 1860-61, the only things he was unwilling to compromise on were slavery in the territories and the preservation of the Union. Lincoln even supported an amendment to enshrine slavery in the Constitution if that would mollify the South. The amendment passed Congress and was ratified by three states before it became a dead issue due to the ongoing war. That such an amendment passed the Congress without most Southern senators and representatives being present is a clear indication of how willing Northern Democrats and many Republicans were to allay the fears of the South. Northern Democrats would have been happy to join Southern members of Congress in bottling up Republican legislation. After four frustrating years Lincoln would probably have joined the long list of one term Presidents which was the norm after Andrew Jackson. The South had absolutely nothing to fear from Lincoln. Instead, Southern fireeaters stampeded more moderate colleagues in attempting to secede from the Union by portraying Lincoln as a mortal threat to slavery. Instead, it was the secessionists, by provoking a war they were bound to lose, who signed the death knell of slavery. God must have enjoyed the rich irony.

  • Donald, according to the judgement and interpretations of the Constitution handed down by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case 1857. That Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in the national lands because that would violate the property rights of the Fifth Amendment.So the highest Judiciary in the land reaffirmed what Southerners always believed, that the Constitution guaranteed their property rights [Slaves ] in any territory.

    For Lincoln to support an amendment to the Constitution enshrining slavery is a nonsense because the the Dred Scott case had already stated that position. That slavery was protect by the Constitution.In fact Lincoln set about undermining the decision because according to the Reps and himself the analysis was erroneous. So what had Southerners to fear from Abe Lincoln?

The Church Loves The Homeless And Will Not Abandon Them

Thursday, February 18, AD 2010

Pope Benedict visits a local shelter in Rome and is moved to tears by woman who was once homeless and is now helping others with the same plight.

Here is the complete text of the above YouTube video:

Workers, volunteers and those who are served at  homeless shelter in Rome, were filled with joy by Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.

But it was the pope who was moved to tears while listening to what this woman had to say about over coming homelessness.

“When I got to the hostel I was desperate, but now I’m a changed person.”

She got help and after being rehabilitated she wanted to help others in her shoes and is now a volunteer at the shelter.

During the pope’s visit to Don Luigi di Liegro shelter he affirmed the Church’s commitment to helping the poor.

Papa Bene:

“The Church loves you deeply and will not abandon you.”

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2 Responses to The Church Loves The Homeless And Will Not Abandon Them

  • I hate to ask, but…who sets up the poverty line? I grew up well below the poverty line in the 80s and 90s, but we lived very comfortably and my folks didn’t go into debt.

    I’m all for helping out folks who really need help, I’d just rather not encourage envy from folks that just don’t have lots.

  • Probably some well meaning social worker who believes that not being able to afford a cafe latte and drive a prius is considered the poverty threshold.

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving is by Father Francis Fernandez Carvajal from his series on meditations In Conversation with GodDaily Meditations Volume Two: Lent and Eastertide, 1.2:

True conversion is shown by the way we behave.  We show that we really want to improve by the way we do our work or our study.  We show it by the way we behave towards our family; by offering up to God, in the course of the day, little mortifications which make life for those around us more pleasant, and which make our work more effective.  We can also show it by making a careful preparation for and going frequently to Confession.

Today God asks us also for a rather special mortification, which we offer up cheerfully: it is fasting and abstinence, which strengthens our spirit as it mortifies our flesh and our sensuality.  It raises our soul to God.  It gets rid of concupiscence by giving us the strength to overcome and to mortify our passions, and it disposes our heart that it may seek for nothing except to please God in everything.9

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4 Responses to Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

  • A friend who belongs to Opus Dei turned me onto these books during Advent at an Opus Dei Men’s reflection. I can’t say that I have read them everyday, perhaps 85% of the time since.

    Amazing. That’s all I can say. I take them to Mass with me and read them after the after Mass prayers. What a fantastic help. The insights and lessons are inspired. What a great place to get perspective from the Communion of Saints, the Popes and the Magestirium.

    I recommend In Conversation with God to anyone and everyone who wants to increase their faith and understanding (in that order).

    We are dust but if you own these books they won’t get any dust on them.

  • AK,

    I agree.

    The In Conversation With God series has brought me ever closer to God. It is worth someones while to pick up the book and start reading.

    A great way to do something for Lent!

  • Tito,

    I never thought about the statement from your last sentence until this Lent. We all give something up and when we think of it or desire it we turn to God; however, I don’t know too many people who DO SOMETHING for Lent as opposed to NOT doing something. Sure, we may give the money we save from our habit, whether it be beer, chocolate or whatever, but that is not necessarily the same as DOING something.

    I think it is helpful, and these books are great for it, to add something to our spiritual life during Lent and God willing it will become part of us in Easter and beyond.

  • AK,

    I remember the “spirit of Vatican II” rage of “doing” something for Lent instead of “giving” something up.

    In the end I decided to do both (just to be safe!)


Forgiveness, Mercy, and Charity for New York City Saint James Parish

Monday, January 25, AD 2010

[Updates at the bottom of this posting; latest update on 1-26-2010 at 12:24pm CST]

The Catholic blogosphere is currently in an uproar over an event that occurred at Saint James Church on Friday, January 15, 2010 A.D. when a Christian youth group requested and organized an event to draw more young adults into the Catholic Church.  This seemed as an innocuous request since the parish in the past held a classical piano concert in honor of the church’s founder Father Felix Valera.

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42 Responses to Forgiveness, Mercy, and Charity for New York City Saint James Parish

  • Why should there be any “events” at all in a Church? Did anyone bother to ask what the “event” – a word that can signify any number of things – would be?

    Did they know “music” was going to be performed?

    This is pathetic.

  • From the website evidence, the event was advertised weeks ahead of time.

    There was an advertised open bar for an hour and a half before the event, according to secular blogs written by people who were HAPPY about the event. That requires a liquor license, doesn’t it?

    The plywood stage that extended the sanctuary area was clearly pre-built for the event.

    The music was clearly not a piano concert.

    Even if, for the sake of charity, we grant that the fools who played made innocent mistakes concerning using the altar as a table, even if we grant that any kind of secular event (like a piano concert) is acceptable in a church, how did the parish staff and the pastor NOT know this was going on?

    Parish staff were certainly there DURING the event, right?

    I’ve worked in several parishes around the country. In EVERY parish, NOBODY could hold an event in the church without a parish staff member being present to open and lock up, help get last minute items, etc.

    THERE IS NO WAY this happened without the connivance of at least some members of the parish staff.

    It isn’t possible.

    I’m all for granting Christian charity, but there are limits to credulity.

    Sacrilege is worse than pedophilia.

    Someone needs to be fired here.

  • I forgot to add, of course, the kicker to the whole thing.

    This happened in New York City, the town that’s famous for being trusting, leaving doors unlocked all hours of the night, the gracious elegance and piety of the inhabitants, etc.

    Christian charity, remember?

  • Steve,

    I share your concerns about the mismanagement of this by the parish.

    Just one small point, they held a classical piano recital/concert two years ago.

    You may be confusing the concert of this year with that of two years ago.

    Nonetheless there was no one from the parish supervising the concert. The parish priest, Fr. Walter, doesn’t even reside there, he lives in downtown.

    It doesn’t excuse the behavior, just clarifying some points you made.

    As far as the pre-fab stage, I’ll assume your correct.

    Outside of my interview with Father Walter, my only other information comes from your site, which by the way is awesome!

  • Steve,

    I’m with you on this. The whole thing stinks. And just like the other issues I’m complaining about these days, we’re supposed to accept some official explanation from the authorities, some rationalization for their gross incompetence and failure.

    We can’t just admit that these people might have a) deliberately done something bad and b) lied about it.

    And if they didn’t lie about it, the degree of ineptitude is so severe that yes, as you say, someone should be fired anyway.

  • Joe, Steve & et al,

    Who do you fire?

    The priest?


    Monitor this thread if you can, I have to leave for Bible study.

    Everyone’s fired up!

  • It’s George Bush’s fault.

  • Mack,

    Why is everything W’s fault?

    Call a spade a spade, it’s a Freemason conspiracy.


  • I realize the piano concert was a couple of years back, but apparently that is being used as some sort of comparison/excuse for this event.

    I don’t see how it matches, but I was willing to grant that there could be a comparison just for the sake of discussion.

    I just don’t believe that a priest in New York City would allow an unsupervised event to take place at his parish without any staff being present.

    If a priest in Podunk, Nebraska wouldn’t do it (and I’ve worked in everything from a parish in the sticks to a chancery office), I simply don’t believe a priest in NYC would do it. The “explanation” is not just absurd, it’s insulting.

    How stupid does this priest think we are, to try such an outrageous explanation as “Well, I was misled! And so were all of my staff!”

    How about he gives US a little charity and tells the truth for a change? Or maybe he could fire somebody? Or ask for a transfer to administrative work? Or have the archbishop remove him?

    But, in perfect charity, he can’t honestly expect anyone to believe neither he nor his staff are ultimately responsible for the objectively evil act of sacrilege that was committed.

  • A desecration took place at that church. Mass is not supposed to resume until it is reconsecrated. Any news on that?

  • FYI:
    Declaration on Concerts in Churches
    Vatican 1987

    8. The regulation of the use of churches is stipulated by canon 1210 of the Code of Canon Law:

    “In a sacred place only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety and religion. Anything out of harmony with the holiness the place is forbidden. The Ordinary may, however, for individual cases, permit other uses, provided they are not contrary to the sacred character of the place.”

    The principle that the use of the church must not offend the sacredness of the place determines the criteria by which the doors of a church may be opened to a concert of sacred or religious music, as also the concomitant exclusion of every other type of music. The most beautiful symphonic music, for example, is not in itself of religious character. The definition of sacred or religious music depends explicitly on the original intended use of the musical pieces or songs, and likewise on their content. It is not legitimate to provide for the execution in the church of music which is not of religious inspiration and which was composed with a view to performance in a certain precise secular context, irrespective of whether the music would be judged classical or contemporary, of high quality or of a popular nature. On the one hand, such performances would not respect the sacred character of the church, and on the other, would result in the music being performed in an unfitting context.

    10. When the proposal is made that there should be a concert in a church, the Ordinary is to grant the permission per modum actus. These concerts should be occasional events. This excludes permission for a series of concerts, for example in the case of a festival or a cycle of concerts.

    When the Ordinary considers it to be necessary, he can, in the conditions foreseen in the Code of Canon Law (can. 1222, para. 2) designate a church that is no longer used for divine service, to be an “auditorium” for the performance of sacred or religious music, and also of music not specifically religious but in keeping with the character of the place.

    In this task the bishop should be assisted by the diocesan commission for Liturgy and sacred music.

    In order that the sacred character of a church be conserved in the matter of concerts, the Ordinary can specify that:

    a. Requests are to be made in writing, in good time, indicating the date and time of the proposed concert, the program, giving the works and the names of the composers.
    b. After having received the authorization of the Ordinary, the rectors and parish priests of the churches should arranged details with the choir and orchestra so that the requisite norms are observed.
    c. Entrance to the church must be without payment and open to all.
    d. The performers and the audience must be dressed in a manner which is fitting to the sacred character of the place.
    e. The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary. The greatest respect is to be shown to the altar, the president’s chair and the ambo.
    f. The Blessed Sacrament should be, as far as possible, reserved in a side chapel or in another safe and suitably adorned place (Cf. C.I.C., can 928, par. 4).
    g. The concert should be presented or introduced not only with historical or technical details, but also in a way that fosters a deeper understanding and an interior participation on the part of the listeners.
    h. The organizer of the concert will declare in writing that he accepts legal responsibilities for expenses involved, for leaving the church in order and for any possible damage incurred.

    11. The above practical directives should be of assistance to the bishops and rectors of churches in their pastoral responsibility to maintain the sacred character of their churches, designed for sacred celebrations, prayer and silence.

    Such indications should not be interpreted as a lack of interest in the art of music.

    The treasury of sacred music is a witness to the way in which the Christian faith promotes culture.

    By underlining the true value of sacred or religious music, Christian musicians and members of scholae cantorum should feel that they are being encouraged to continue this tradition and to keep it alive for the service of the faith, as expressed by the Second Vatican Council in its message to artists:

    “Do not hesitate to put your talent at the service of the Divine Truth. The world in which we live has need of beauty in order not to lose hope. Beauty, like truth, fills the heart with joy. And this, thanks to your hands” (Cf. Second Vatican Council, Message to Artists, December 8, 1965).

    Rome, November 5, 1987
    Paul Augustine Card. Mayer, O.S.B.
    Virgilio Noë
    Tit. Archbishop of Voncaria

  • Pingback: Update: What happened at St. James in NYC «
  • Contact the Thomas More Society ( and urge them to get involved. Contact the Archdiocese and St. James and urge them to contact the Thomas More Society. This group led by Panero needs to be brought up on charges and sued.

  • The indie groupies and fans who attended the event began predicting a huge lawsuit against Panero, the guy who organized the event, yesterday evening.

    Today, Catholics on the net are talking lawsuit.

    Videos of the event are quietly being removed from the internet in the hopes of destroying the evidence.

    The priest in question violated canon law by scheduling the event in the first place, just as he had violated it with the piano concert a couple of years ago. The difference here is that this violation is egregious, whereas the previous one was “in good taste” and therefore ignored.

    There’s only a difference in degree here, not in kind. This is what happens when pastors ignore or remain ignorant of canon law. The law exists for a reason. You break it, you own it.

    I’m sure the priest is quite repentant, I’m sure he’ll make a good confession over it. I certainly hope he and the archdiocese are successful in any lawsuits against the organizers.

    But there are temporal consequences to sin that has been forgiven. That’s the nature of sin.

    This kind of event has taken place far too often in far too many churches around the country. It needs to stop.

  • There seems to be no Podunk Nebraska. If there were, it is doubtful that such a “concert” would have proceeded under the watchful eye of Bishop Bruskewitz. They could happen only in hick places like Noo Yawk.

    Year ago Ned Rorem asked why churches would expect young people to come to mediocre concerts when they had good concerts of their own.

  • “Podunk” is a Midwestern technical term for “an extremely rural area.” I won’t name the exact town in Nebraska because it would identify the parish, and that’s not on point.

    As someone who worked in a parish that was under Archbishop Curtiss’ authority, let me assure you that this kind of event could only happen with the pastor’s approval. There’s no way it could take place unless the pastor or one of his staff were supervising the event.

    Pastors do not give out keys to the church to any Tom, Dick or Harry who wanders in off the street.

    The pastor, I am sure, is very remorseful, primarily because the video hit Youtube. If know one knew about it, and no one complained about it, he wouldn’t give a fig. The rule, whether in the parish or the diocese is “If no one complains, you have nothing to fear.”

  • I don’t get the problem. I mean, I do, but was this different from ‘Teen Life’?

  • I’m no lawyer, but it’s hard for me to imagine a lawsuit against the promoter having any success. Exactly what is the pastor supposed to in testimony? That he’s a chump who neglected even the most elementary standards of due diligence? Does the law indemnify for that? Can he make the court believe it?

    I appreciate the pastor’s remorse and his call for prayers of reparation, but face it: if you were Archbishop of New York, would you trust this man with the keys to one of your churches? If you do, Archbishop Dolan, can we expect the next underground concert to take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral?

    So far as I can tell, there’s no accountability at any level of the American clergy. Apparently the only way to get fired is for a bishop to point out that he and not the USCCB is the Ordinary of his see.

  • Yeah, LifeTeen has it’s own problems. The founder is not only no longer a priest, he’s no longer a practicing Catholic. I’ve seen rock bands during Mass – a clear and damnable violation of the rubrics, but neither priest nor bishop were opposed to it, so it happened.

    This is really just a logical extension of LifeTeen.

    And, I agree with Romulus. It’s going to be darned hard for the diocese to prosecute this because the pastor gave permission for an event. The best they would probably be able to do is recover physical damages (cost of cleanup), if any.

    I keep running through all the salient facts, because I really don’t want to be uncharitable, but every time I run through the facts, I get the same conclusion.

    I don’t see how – when all the facts are considered – this priest deserves anything but the firestorm he has gotten. If this had happened in the sticks, in a rural parish somewhere, then you could argue the priest was naive – but it happened in Manhattan.

    You could say kids just got out of control – but where was the supervision? Where was the pastor? Where were the cops?

    You can say the pastor got misled – but who gave out the keys that allowed them into the church to begin with, who cleaned up and locked up that night?

    The pastor’s story just doesn’t make any sense, no matter his contrition level.

  • I am a 63-year-old conservative Cathoilc Christian. Like most of us, I’ve done my share of really stupid things. Only by the Grace of God have I gotten beyond some of my past errors and sins.
    Since I was not present when all this happened, I can’t say this pastor was any more wrong in what he did than some things I’ve done in the past. Mistakes have been made, it’s time to forgive and get over it. If Archbishop Dolan is satisfied, so should we all be.
    However, considering the “kumbayah” hootenanny music from the 70’s so prevalent in Catholic services these days, It’s just a natural evolution of the current music styles we see every week. What’s wrong with a little Rock & Roll on a Friday night if we allow such trash on Sunday mornings?

  • “What’s wrong with a little Rock & Roll on a Friday night if we allow such trash on Sunday mornings?”

    Both should be driven out of the house of God with the same fury with which Christ cleared the Temple of money-changers.

  • Tito you write “Nonetheless there was no one from the parish supervising the concert. The parish priest, Fr. Walter, doesn’t even reside there, he lives in downtown.” Surely you know the church IS downtown and the priest lives DOWN THE BLOCK!!!

  • My point is why would you take the liberty of making that statement if you dont know the facts. And I would like to know did the priest just hand over the keys to the church to this band and tell them lock up when they were finished??? Its a small community tito i am sure someone was there and knew what was going on.

  • Grace,

    I do know the facts and reported what was necessary.

    Fr. Walter told me he lives downtown and is a pastor in another church.

    What is the point of your comment?

    The pastor recognized the problem and has dealt with it accordingly.

    Your comment makes almost no sense.

  • He is tha pastor of St. Joseph down the block which merged with St. James last year… I think my comment makes sense and you are not getting all the facts. And what does your reported “what was necessary mean”?
    Tito the pastor made a big mistake..

  • I know that and most importantly the pastor knows that.

    Again, what is the point of your comment?

    I understand your frustration and displeasure, but now is the time to pray for him and the parish in order for them to move on and not allow this to happen again.

    Believe me most of us are not at all happy about what has occurred. But now is not the time to continue to vent.

    If he ignored and refused to acknowledge what happened, then you have a point about being upset and reminding everyone what has happened.

    But he has acknowledged it and is rectifying the situation.

  • So the fact the he knew what really was going on, said he didn’t live in the area and was not the pastor of the church is all rectified by him saying a mass. Okay Tito guess you did get all the facts. thanks for staightening that out for me…

  • Grace,

    He did not know what was going on.

    But if you want to believe that he did know, then that is between you and God.

  • and if the priest wants to believe what he told you thats between him and God…

    Thanks for your time Tito.

  • Grace,

    You are now antagonizing and unconstructive.

    Be careful what you post next or you’ll be placed on moderation.

  • Sorry if I offended anyone I did not mean to be antagonizing i was just stating a fact. I do apologize.

  • Grace,

    No worries.

    Have a great hump day!

  • Will this church be reconsecrated or not?

  • Even though the concert was wrong, it wasn’t enough that the sanctuary needs to be reconsecrated.

  • I think the short answer is “no.”

  • Steve,

    Why not paste a cool Catholic pic as your avatar?

    Makes this website look spiffier!

  • What’s wrong with that nice geometric Muslim design?

  • Steve,

    It’s actually a mudejar design, but I’m not really interested in inter-religious exchange when it comes to icons.

    Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and gothic come to mind as superior replacements!


  • I am saddened of the individuals who believe it is ok to desecrate a church and take advantage of our Parish Priest. It is easy for anyone, believing that this is supposed to be a Christian rock concert to fall for such a lie. I forgive my Parish priest, for anyone can be innocent to fall for such a lie. It would have been a great thing if our Parish had had a Christian Rock concert performed by Kutless to bring our youth to its feet. Seeing the amounts of youngsters in the Parish, I believe, we would have benefited. God states we must forgive, we are human and we are bound to make mistakes, no matter what title we have. This is a wakeup call that we are humans and that we must stay vigilant.

  • Anyone who believes that what happened at St James was caused by a deliberate disregard for the sanctity of the church is making a terrible mistake. I have known Fr. Walter, personally, for over 30 years and he has done all manner of good for countless people every day of his life — but no one blogs about that.

    The parishes he pastors are not cathedrals with big resources and a “grand staff”. The “grand staff” is a few good hearted local people and volunteers who try their best. St James and St Joseph are two, poor, tiny parishes on the lower east side of Manhattan. They serve four culturally diverse communities; a Chinese community, dwindling Italian and English communities, and a Hispanic community. This is the reality of Manhattan. Parish announcements have to written in English, Fujianese, and Spanish. Organizing a simple parish function can range from difficult to nearly impossible due to language and cultural disparity.

    Let’s recap: four different communities, two different facilities — and how many resident priests to serve them?— ONE — Fr Walter. CEO’s of major corporations don’t work that hard. How long can anyone work 24/7 under these conditions without making a single slip in judgement? A week? A month? As far as I know, Fr Walter hasn’t been declared a saint, so I guess bilocation is out of the question. He can’t be everywhere at the same time and has to trust people at some point. Probably the only misstep he took — yes that’s right ONLY misstep — was to trust someone under these circumstances who, unfortunately, failed him. Why has the Archdiocese abandoned St James and placed the burden on one man? After all, St James is a diocesan parish.

    Ok, so let’s witch hunt, without knowing the priest or the parish or “the staff” or how it happened. Let’s gaze into our crystal balls and tell everyone the priest is lying, “the staff” is lying, and someone should be fired. — THAT is egregious; THAT is a lie; and THAT is unkind. We follow the letter of the law and somehow manage to violate the heart of it.

    NO ONE likes what happened at St James. Fr Walter certainly doesn’t, I don’t, and neither does “the staff”.

  • I apologize for bringing this topic back up again, but I just found out what happened in my old parish and would like to add my comment.

    “Why has the Archdiocese abandoned St James and placed the burden on one man?” Fr.Corniel was a one man show in St. James Church prior to St. Joseph’s taking it over. Given the little resources that he had, he did an excellent job of keeping the parish running and the feeling of community within the parish. The Archdiocese should have left him there. I’m not sure how priests are relocated nor who decides, but why doesn’t the Archdiocese equally divide the number of priests amongst the parishes?

    Also, what some people above may or may not know is that St. James has a church hall. Why didn’t Fr. Walter rent that space out instead of the church? When I was an active parishioner in St. James, the church hall was rented out with rules and regulations. During the event, either the pastor would stop by to check how things were going, or he would send an active parishioner.

    With events of such grave severity, there’s always a lot of should have, could have, would have, what’s done is done, and it can’t be undone. Now is the time to rebuild the St. James parish and pray that we can all move on and get past this.

14 Responses to Charity, Act Not Emotion

  • Did anyone ever say anything about an emotion when talking about love? No. More importantly, my post had nothing to do with being “progressive.” Anyone who has any understanding of the traditional role of government, instead of the free-market liberalsm, will know it is a traditional understanding to see the government enforces justice (which included regulating financial abuses to help society as a whole).

    More importantly, it is rather ironic to try to claim I am one who forgets the incarnation and we are to be incarnational. You entirely ignore the whole point of the post which is to look beyond economic charity — to be truly giving of oneself to another in love (not an emotion; in caritas) — to someone real, in front of you. To point out that real incarnational love is capable no matter what social position or status one is at. One should point out that Bill Gates himself needs charity — in the true sense, not the superficial “I give money to a cause” sense. Love indeed is to be given — and once we move beyond toe false “give money” sense of love (which is truly gnostic), we really can move on to true up-lifting modes of love. Where is the lack of incarnational theology in this? Nowhere. The fact of the matter is it is given to real persons before you — that no matter who they are, there is still room for LOVE for CHARITY– points to this.

  • I do not have any social statistics on the matter, but I think you need to consider certain qualifications with regard to your portrait of family care for the aged:

    1. It is atypical for the aged to live with their children, but it is not unusual at all for retired parents to move to be near one or more of their children. In my limited circle of acquaintances, I have seen the opposite as well multiple times: middle-aged people taking jobs near their elderly parents as a precautionary measure. The difference between residence with and residence near might perhaps be attributable to the general increase in affluence since my grandfather and his brother took charge of their mother and father between 1945 and 1949.

    2. I think if you investigated matters, you might discover that three-generation households of the sort you describe were typically not long in duration. (In the case above, four years).

    3. Sorry to be a repetitive bore, but custodial care supplementing and supplanting family care is not a novelty. The population of state asylums fifty years ago was 9x what it is today. Among their charges was not only people insane from schizophrenia and tertiary syphilis, but also the senile and the retarded as well.

    4. With regard to the homeless: the Urban Institute offered many years ago that there were 600,000 homeless. Given the increase in the general population since then, perhaps the number is now 700,000. Providing basic subsistence for a client population that size (with much volunteer labor) likely would not set you back more than about $10 bn. I think philanthropic donations in this country are typically around 2% of domestic product, or around $280 bn. Organizations like Covenant House can handle the homeless and might be more likely than public bureaucracies to supply the ministry necessary to move some of these folk back into workaday life.

  • Darwin,

    Thanks for the good post. Referring to Mr. Karlson’s Vox Nova post, I think it is a mistaken to think that the “what about charity?” argument seeks to keep people in poverty so that charity can occur. I really think it operates on the other side of the equation – how does charity occur when the resources that would be devoted to it are confiscated (taxed away)? In a perfect socialist world, the government would provide all basic necessities to those in need; however, I never see us reaching that perfection. The poor will always be among us, and will always require some form of charitable assistance. I hope the charitable among us will still have the means of picking up that slack.

  • “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

    Winston Churchill

    The problem with socialism is that sooner rather than later the socialists always run out of other peoples’ money, as the welfare states in Europe are demonstrating and Obama and the Democrats in Congress will soon learn.

  • The problem with so many responses here: nothing I said was about socialism — bringing out that social justice is the role of the state follows Catholic Social Teaching. To point out that the common good is to be met by the state is not socialism. To say this is not to say that everyone has to be at the same level — it is that there is a minimum level everyone has to be at. Once there, you can and should have a diverse society, but again, those who have more are expected to use it more as stewards, knowing that everything is given to their custody by God.

  • Henry,

    You may not have intended your post to be progressive, but I think it certainly displayed a strongly progressive sensibility in two senses:

    1) While it is true that traditional Catholic teaching holds earthly justice to be the responsibility of the state, it is indeed a new and novel understanding of “justice” to take it to mean assuring through statist social welfare programs that “there is a minimum level everyone has to be at”. In traditional Catholic countries, throughout the centuries, the material help of the poor was addressed primarily by Church institutions, not state institutions. Indeed, statist social welfare programs were initially pioneered in Europe by anti-clerical regimes in the 19th and early 20th centuries, having already done much to dismantle the Catholic institutions which had served a similar function. So at a minimum, I think it’s reasonable to take your reading of this as progressive both on the modern political spectrum and also as an interpretation of Catholic teaching.

    2) The idea, which you hint at (at least in apposition to the current state, whether or not you mean it to be seriously achievable), that it is reasonably achievable to reach a society in which all people truly receive an equal minimum standard of living via the beneficence of state programs, is certainly a politically progressive vision and quite arguably a humanisticly progressive vision as well, in the sense that we have never seen such a society in actual existence in history and positing that one is achievable seems to mean positing a change in basic human behavior.


    I certainly did not mean to suggest (nor have I ever heard anyone suggest) that charity has its only form in providing money directly to people or to some sort of fund. Indeed, I would think the examples I provided (parenthood, providing for aging parents, etc.) made it clear that charity is often expressed through and formed by some other more direct and personal act. However, I think it is very important to be clear that charity is nurtured through acts, not merely through some sort of general good disposition. In that sense, arguing that charity will take place regardless of whether the practical need for it is replaced by statist programs seems to deny the important of actual acts in developing, nurturing and expressing charity.

    For instance, to take your example, it is certainly true that Bill Gates is in need of charity, in the sense that he is, like any person, in need of having love expressed to him in relationship — primarily through acts. Obviously, in his case, the acts through which he needs charity to be expressed to him do not include providing food, shelter, money, etc. But that doesn’t mean that charity towards Bill Gates involves the amorphous good will of those disputing on the internet either. Bill Gates needs charity in that he needs those with whom he interacts to treat him in a loving fashion, though acts. The only way in which I can think of that any of us could provide charity to him would be to pray for him — which people are certainly welcome to do, I’m sure he needs the prayers.


    You say your primary point was indeed this, that charity is expressed primarily through loving acts towards real people whom we encounter, rather than simply proving them with money (often indirectly). I’m sorry that I missed this in the piece, as it’s a point I basically agree with. However, even so, I think it’s important not to draw an artificial barrier between charitable acts which provide a material help to people (food, clothing, shelter, money, etc.) and loving acts of some other sort.

    As I pointed out with the example about rearing children: it is often the providing of necessities which teaches us to love in the first place, and it is only as the love grows that we learn to provide love in other ways as well. When we purposefully sever all of the bonds of dependence within society so that we can live the individualist dream with the help of the state — our livings assured regardless of our interactions with other persons, begin to choke out the very personal interactions which teach us love.

  • Art,

    Certainly, as you point out, the fact that aging parents seldom now actually live with their children doesn’t mean that children don’t have any interactions with the aging parents. And for those with the means or opportunity, people often did seek others ways out in times past rather than providing care themselves. (My wife and I actually lived in a three generation situation for a while with my grandmother in her last months, and I can certainly agree it’s often not fun or easy.)

    Though also to shade the details a bit here: the situations I’m talking about with my Indian coworkers don’t necessarily involve frail parents needing care. It just seems to be standard practice that when a father retires, he and his wife start moving in their their children rather than paying rent. This usually ends up with them providing primary care for their grandchildren, while often both child and in-law work.

    Also agreed that some of the items I mentioned can be tackled quite handily (and perhaps better) by private organizations than by the government. I was just trying to think of a couple of highly visible forms that government “charity” programs often take which one wouldn’t necessarily see vanishing. Unemployment benefits and the FDIC were probably much better examples than food banks or homeless shelters.

  • The FDIC is an actuarial pool. It does not qualify as charity (unless you regard insurance companies as charities).

    It seems my point went by you, so I will re-iterate. I offer that elderly parents live in separate digs from their children because they have the disposable income to do so as part of the general improvement in levels of affluence over the years. The elderly often prefer not to live with their children, even when they are welcome to do so. In 1947, a bourgeois like my grandfather got to work with a mix of public transportation and long walks, owned one car which only his wife knew how to drive, suffered the summer months as he had all his life as a born-and-bred Southerner, heated his house in the winter with coal in a furnace he got up in the middle of the night to stoke, and had seen a good many of his teeth leave him behind. He also had his mother and father stashed in his little suburban house nine months of the year. His counterpart today has everything but those wretched wisdom teeth the oral surgeon took out, drives to work, wimps out with air conditioning, has a gas furnace he thinks about only when the bill arrives – and lives about a ten minute drive from his mother’s ducky garden apartment.

    What cannot be readily replaced by purchases is the labor and individual attention one’s children can offer, which is why you see both parent and child moving to be near each other even when such is not, strictly speaking, a necessity. Both are calculating that there may be (or will be) a time when such is necessary. Also, when your mother is in a hospital or nursing home, she needs an advocate. Which is to say she needs you, even though an institution is caring for her in most respects. It’s easier if you live right there.

  • Art,

    Agreed that the FDIC is not a charity — though I certainly wouldn’t consider other safety net programs to be charities either. For instance, the health care bill, which many liberal Catholics have insisted is a necessity for justice in our country, basically just forces people to belong to actuarial pools.

    I don’t think that any of the government programs which fill the place which closer social solidarity might otherwise cover count as charitable in the least. They’re programs which in some sense or another grant us more security to allow us to lead life individually. The FDIC is perhaps a reach, but I think that at least in how people experience its effects, it’s arguable. Since it guarantees deposits, it makes people far more inclined to save in banks rather than in hard assets such as family held valuables. By getting savings into banks, it helps overall circulation, and allows greater lending. If instead we lived in a world in which only those who thought they knew enough to be sure which banks were “sound” actually put their money into banks, while others hoarded cash or valuables, we’d probably have an economy in which people had to rely much more on extended family for large purchases rather than relying on credit. Etc.

    I don’t disagree with your point about living with parents. It’s something a lot of people don’t prefer to do if given the choice, so the simple increase in wealth would probably make it less common even without social security and medicare. That said, given that many people are not actually all that great at planning for the future, I would imagine that without those programs a lot more people would end up falling back on three generation familial arrangements, or a lot more money transfers within extended families.

    Though, of course, if those programs had never existed in the first place we might have a much heavier cultural emphasis on saving which would result in most people being in the same or better shape by retirement either way. Maybe the programs breed improvidence more than isolation.

    I wonder how one could try to examine the question…

  • Henry Karlson, above, seems to have said a lot of true things, while failing in the end to come to the correct conclusions because he neglects that force and charity are antitheses; that love which is forced is not love. Since government does absolutely nothing without exercising force (sometimes directly and strongly, sometimes indirectly and softly), much of what he’d advocate under the banner of incarnational and communal exercise of love turns out, in practice, to look a lot like a crowd of nine wolves and one sheep voting on how best to feed the hungry.

  • R.C. I have not argued that the government is acting in charity, only in justice. Justice IS the domain of government.

    DC actually, the state throughout history was also gave all kinds of help and aid to the poor, and enforced a level of justice which got undermined with the change into a capitalistic system. For example, they had rules such as one could “eat off the land” as long as one only took what one could eat and needed to eat from the land. That wasn’t a Catholic institution giving to the poor, it was the government forcing landowners to give. This is just one example among many. Again, Catholic Institutions, as always, and in any situation, would and should give in charity according to the time and place, so that it gives over and above what was being done by the government. This would always be the case, even in a more just society.

  • The FDIC is not an income transfer program either. It is a receiver of insolvent institutions. Its funds, as a rule, come from assessments on member banks, and it usually expends little from its funds. It typically administers haircuts to the creditors of the bank not subject to its guarantees and marries the bank off to a healthier institution.

    Social Security and unemployment compensation are income transfer programs and Medicare and Medicaid are collective consumption schemes. They are not actuarially sound pension and insurance programs. So they count as ‘welfare’ (though not, strictly speaking, charity). Military and civil service pensions may aspire to be actuarially sound programs predominantly financed by the contributions of their beneficiaries. They are, however, typically subsidized defined-benefit programs. You would not call that ‘welfare’, however. ‘Rent extraction’ would be a better term.

    Programs such as Social Security and Medicare induce people to save less than they otherwise would. I have never attempted to make a bibliography of the literature on this topic. IIRC, Martin Feldstein made his bones as an economist studying just this question.

    You do raise the point that time horizons vary according to social stratum. Edward Banfield built much of his interpretation of contemporary urban life on this observation and Gloria Steinem has also written on the question, but I do not think much discussion of this makes it to general audiences and no politician is likely to acknowledge it. It is the variation in time horizons over the community that (I think) makes a measure public provision of certain services (medical and custodial care) advisable. With regard to just about anything else, the circumstances of the impecunious can be improved by rectifying perverse features of the tax code. (Tax relief is not charity either).

    One thing you make a glancing reference to is the decay in relations between shirt-tail and collateral relatives. I think this is a much more severe change than that between elderly parent and adult child.

  • I was reading Aristotle’s Politics, and came across this passage which seems remarkably relevant (not just to this post, but in response to the ill-educated folks who claim that private property is a creation of the Enlightenment):

    Property should be in a certain sense common, but, as a general rule, private; for, when everyone has a distinct interest, men will not complain of one another, and they will make more progress, because every one will be attending to his own business.
    * * *

    And further, there is the greatest pleasure in doing a kindness or service to friends or guests or companions, which can only be rendered when a man has private property. These advantages are lost by excessive unification of the state.

    The exhibition of two virtues, besides, is visibly annihilated in such a state: . . . liberality in the matter of property. No one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action; for liberality consists in the use which is made of property.

    Such legislation may have a specious appearance of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody’s friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause- the wickedness of human nature. Indeed, we see that there is much more quarrelling among those who have all things in common . . . .

Pope Benedict Warns Against Marxist Liberation Theology

Monday, December 7, AD 2009

17 Responses to Pope Benedict Warns Against Marxist Liberation Theology

  • Leftist Catholics rightly identify Christ as the savior of human beings, body and soul alike. What they fail to understand is the consequences of Original Sin for the body, and the limitations on human life imposed by sin and finitude. They wrongly think that if everyone on Earth was a Saint, there would be no more suffering. Leftist Catholics think that there are no limits to human progress, which is to say they are very modern.

  • Some Leftist Catholics remind me of the Zealots who thought to bring about the Kingdom of God through the sword. A communist dictatorship though is a funny sort of Kingdom of God.

  • Such words for the “Catholic Left.” Then what is wrong with the “Catholic Right,” I wonder? Or does the “Right” comprise of the Catholics who “get it?”

  • Selective interpretation of the social teaching of the Church… which ultimately stems from liberalism as Leo XIII and Pius XI understood it.

  • In regard to the Catholic Right Eric, I can’t think of a comparable attempt by Catholic conservatives to trojan horse a body of doctrine completely inimical to Catholicism into the Church as has been the ongoing effort of some Catholics on the Left to baptize Marx. The nearest parallel I can think of predates the French Revolution with the unfortunate throne and altar doctrine of many clerics, although at least they could make the argument that the states they sought to wed the Church with were not anti-Catholic. In the case of Marxism, its overwhelming anti-Christian praxis should have innoculated Catholics from it without the necessity of papal intervention, but such was not the case.

  • Tito,

    No. 🙂

  • I think there’s a pretty strong throne and altar doctrine on the Catholic Right today, at least in the U.S., where the throne takes the form of military power.

    A case could also be made for a “‘Shut up, your Excellencies,’ he explained” doctrine, which denigrates the role of the bishops, individually and especially collectively, in developing social policies.

  • I read the Pope’s document carefully.

    Now I’m perplexed:

    1. Exactly what is objectionable in what he said?

    2. Has the Pope not condemned, in this very document, the arms buildup and the disgrace of military solutions? He only appears as a right winger if you’re looking from the vantage point of an extreme left wing ideologue.

    Maybe a few here ought to put down their Che Guevara coffee mugs read it again. The Holy Father is spot on.

    It is simply a fact of history that collectivist movements have enslaved the very people they promised to liberate.

    I am frankly a little more than concerned at the prideful inability of many leftists to acknowledge this fact of history, nay, the desire to whitewash this disgrace from history.

  • Who here is attacking the Pope?

  • MI,

    They participated and got deeply involved with Marxist governments. Dissidents such as Jesuit “Father” Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua who was involved with the Communist government then.

  • I’m always amused when people, especially conservatives who decry the tactic in others, appoint themselves the experts of All Things Liberal.

    I don’t think that Acts 4:32 is a bad things for which to strive. Certainly better than cuddling up to Pinochet or Cheney.

  • I’d rather cuddle up to Cheney than Karl Marx or Joseph Stalin any day of the week.

  • The early Christians quickly abandoned common ownership as completely unworkable Todd. Outside of monasteries and convents it has only been revived by Christians for short periods, usually with dire results. The Pilgrims tried it, and almost starved to death. William Bradford, the governor of the colony relates what happened next:

    “All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

    The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours and victuals, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”

  • Michael I.,

    Donald will delete it at his leisure.

    For the time being I’m just amusing myself by reading your comments, thanks!

3 Responses to Sounds like a plan.

They Only Donate Money

Thursday, September 24, AD 2009

Every so often, when dealing with Church projects and non-profit work in general, one hears someone who does a lot of volunteer work toss off a disparaging remark alone the lines of, “Oh, those people. They only give money. You’d never see them down here working.”

Sometimes this is used to support a claim as to “who really cares” about an issue, along the lines of:

“Sure, you’ll find lots of [members of group X] a pro-life fundraising banquets, but you’ll never see them working at a crisis pregnancy center.”


“[Members of group X] may give money to ‘charity’, but you’ll never find them filling boxes down at the foodbank or working with at-risk kids.”

This has always struck me as a somewhat unfair criticism, for reasons I will get into in a minute, but I was particularly reminded of this last week when I had to go down to the diocesan offices to be trained to count and report the collections for the diocesan Catholic Services Appeal. The annual appeal provides a about the third of the operating expenses for the diocese — and since I deal with financial-ish stuff at work and I’m going to be rotating off the pastoral council in a couple months, I half volunteered, half was dragooned, into helping out with the processing of the collection this year at the parish. At the training session, I was particularly struck by the numbers of where the money in the appeal comes from:

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39 Responses to They Only Donate Money

  • Folks who put down charitable people who simply donate money are just jealous snobs who could care less.

    I have often observed this kind of snobbery amongst those people who are more so jealous of the fact that such affluent patrons of a particular parish is capable of donating so much to such charitable causes for the Church, wherein the mere mention of their names seems to inflame a kind of covetousness on their part than anything else.

    All I know is that if it weren’t for their generous donations, so many poor centers within that very diocese and the homeless that depend on these would be found utterly wanting — even worse, their very shelters closed down.

  • DC,

    CSA is only a portion of the giving options that this Catholic has. Myself, I give quite a bit to the Church, and to charitable organizations, but not a thin dime to the diocese or anything it sponsors. I won’t until the chancery and it’s affiliates are cleaned of pro-aborts and cafeteria Catholics and the bishop stands firm for Catholic teaching and liturgical rubrics. Many Catholics are of the same mind as me on this.

    Another note on this question of volunteering vs. financial donation. I don’t think we are called to “volunteer” but we are called to care for the less fortunate. This can be financial in part, but MUST involve direct charitable work, face to face with those we are aiding. Writing a check, or stuffing boxes, or working on a committee do not replace direct acts of Charity.

  • Excellent point.

  • Matt,

    Leaving aside the merits of donating to one’s diocese, the CSA donation rate ties pretty well with what I’ve seen of how things work at the parish level too. At our parish, there are 3500 registered families, but only about 10% of those turn in any collection envelopes during a given month. Clearly, some people give without using envelopes, but give that the total weekly collections divided by the number of envelope users works out to <$50, it's pretty clear that again there's a minority of people providing the vast majority of the money — and not necessarily because they're writing vast checks.

  • So in a sense, donating time and donating money are actually exchangeable. This is further complicated by the fact that although all people have roughly the same amount of total time, their amounts of free time and the amount they’re paid for their working time vary. A professional who makes $90k/yr and spends 10-12 hours a day on work and work related activities has fairly little time for volunteering, and if he donates the money he makes for a few hours a week worth of his work to a charity, that money goes a long way. Someone who works part time for $8 a hour, on the other hand, has a lot of free time, but very little money. The amount of money that person could donate based on the same number of hours of working time would do a charitable organization comparatively little good (while taking away a lot of that person’s money.) Given these variances, it may well be that the professional giving a charity the pay he received for five hours worth of his work does the charity much more good (in regards to actually getting their charitable work done) than if he showed up and spent five yours helping out physically.

    Given how fungible time and money can be, you might also think of it this way:

    The generous money donated by a wealthy patron (e.g., $20,000) to Church can represent time devoted at work that was actually dedicated (i.e., volunteered) for that charitable cause (i.e., all those billable hours that comes to $20,000).

  • If I were to speculate, which I never fear doing, I imagine a lot of big hitters are contacted personally by the diocese and send the checks directly. It’s kind of annoying, but $100,000 is a lot of money, and there are people that can write those kinds of checks, and yet you have folks who want the bishops to play St. Athanasius on them. Obviously the rich can’t just get what they want, but a lot of budgets can be busted by angering the wrong people.

  • This is a great discussion. As a self-employed individual time away from my business costs me more than writing a check and if there is no margin, there is no mission.

    As e., pointed out, the money that I donate from my efforts in my for-profit business takes time to earn, that time is essentially being donated. Yet, the money costs me less than the time. Meaning if I were to devote time instead of money, I would earn considerably less and therefore my next donation would also be smaller. Most of my business activities (time) are not direct revenue generators (money) but they do build up to the generation of revenue and it is the increase in that revenue that allows me to donate more.

    Another point is that charity comes from Charity, Caritas, Love. It doesn’t mean feeding the hungry in a soup kitchen with my own hands or paying for the soup that another feeds them with only. Primarily it means loving others as Christ loves them out of love for Him. It is incumbent on us to love our employees, bosses, co-workers, clients and others and not necessarily because they are less fortunte but becuase they are human.

    Being remunerated for your efforts is good, maximizing your profit and ability to donate is good, loving eveyone, especially Christ while doing it is great!

  • As e., pointed out, the money that I donate from my efforts in my for-profit business takes time to earn, that time is essentially being donated.

    That’s something these folks seem incapable of deciphering.

    I myself might not be such a patron; however, it doesn’t take a genius to grasp the fact that the total dollar figure donated basically amounts to all those hours spent at work by the individual to make that money; hence, consider all those hours as virtually being volunteered to that charitable cause.

  • MZ,

    If I were to speculate, which I never fear doing, I imagine a lot of big hitters are contacted personally by the diocese and send the checks directly.

    In this case, the people who are writing $100,000 checks are included in that 2,500 people who are responsible for 50% of the collections. They are contacted directly by the diocese before the standard collection and invited to one of the regional receptions with the bishop (or at the moment, with the interim), but they’re given pledge cards to fill out as part of the main campaign so that their donations can be tracked back to the parish and the parish gets “credit”.

    That’s actually how I got into asking about the details of this 2500 households, because I was shocked to discover that I was part of the “big givers” group despite having given less than $1000 in the last annual appeal.

    Diocesan funding in the Austin diocese apparently comes in roughly equal thirds from 1) the annual CSA appeal, 2) the “tax” which all parishes send to the diocese — a portion of all their own collections, and 3) other. I would imagine there _is_ some big giver stuff going on separately in that “other” category, as well as fees for various diocesan programs, etc., but that’s separate from the whole CSA set of numbers I was discussing above.

  • This is good stuff, DarwinCatholic.
    A couple of thoughts: first, I volunteer with a number of organizations. In many cases, I am working on a board or similar administrative type responsibilities. Does that make my work less valuable, less worthy than if I was doing something face to face with an individual being served? I don’t think so.

    We each have different gifts. My gifts may allow me to serve 1,000 people, but, perhaps, not as intensely, not having as much recognizable effect, as someone whose gifts can serve 5 people but much more directly. On the other hand, my gifts may serve fewer people than someone else’s can serve, but, again, their service may not provide as much effect on a per person basis, even if their contribution (hours or dollars) is much more than mine.

    Second, there is a real trade off for the organization between hours of personal service and money. What I have seen over and over among volunteer organizations is that they start out with enthusiastic volunteers trying to make a difference in some area of interest to them. As they become more successful, the hours that the need demands tend to increase exponentially. The volunteers get burned out and the organization shrinks, or more volunteers are brought in. But that is self limiting, because there are only so many people out there with time available (and an interest in this organization’s goals, as opposed to something else’s). The only realistic alternative for the group to continue and to improve their service, to serve more people, is to professionalize. Paid staff.
    Frequently, these organizations have a difficult time adjusting to paid staff doing things that the volunteers used to do. Maybe there is now one paid staff person, an “executive director.” Lots of whining by the volunteers about how they wouldn’t have done things the way that new person is doing them. “All they’re looking for is the paycheck.” And so forth, while the executive director may sniff about how ineffective things are with the grunts doing so much of the work, “they aren’t here when we need them,” etc. But big needs require big organizations, if you truly want to have an effect, rather than just feel good about your personal heroic efforts. And the big organizations need full time people and that means that they need to raise money, not get five people to come down and mop out the warehouse, or whatever.

    Third, I give to a number of causes, Catholic and otherwise, but I also choose not to give to an even larger number of other organizations, Catholic and otherwise. So the people at the latter groups, volunteers or paid staff, can look down their noses at me for not supporting their worthy group. Sorry, there’s only so much time in my day and so many dollars in my pocket, even if I have more dollars than most people. I would submit that “you’re not doing enough” is an unchariable statement, whether made directly, made indirectly or only thought. How much I do and for whom is between me and God.

  • As e., pointed out, the money that I donate from my efforts in my for-profit business takes time to earn, that time is essentially being donated.


    The only difference I would see, is that (at least for me) it can be hard to keep in mind “and this is the percentage of each day when I’m working for my parish instead of my own bank account; and this is the time when I’m working for the crisis pregnancy center; and this is the time when I’m working for the monestary; etc”. Work pretty much feels like work to me, even if I’m aware at a certain level that I’m supporting not only my family but a raft of other things too.

    But overall, as I wrote, I think getting all worked up about the difference between giving time and giving money is out of place.

  • Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.

    It is good that you cannot count how much time you spent ‘donating’ — just do it. It isn’t our time and it isn’t our money. It all belongs to God, we simply get to use it for good or ill while we are in the Valley of Tears.

    I think the key point here is that we are all called to be Charitable and what that means for each of us is something different. Our part is in being receptive to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to know what we should, and should not do. So long as we don’t bury, waste, our talents.

  • Isn’t almsgiving a work of mercy?

  • Phillip,

    In the lean months it sure feels like it. 🙂

  • Not all volunteering is of the same net value, either, if we’re looking at dollars– I notice the folks who like to sniff about people “only” give money tend to have a lot of time on their hands, yes, but they’re also unskilled volunteers. (and stay that way)

    A trained carpenter’s five hours working on some old widows’ houses during a slow season is more “value” than Random Burger Flipper High School Kid #4 doing yard work for the same folks for ten hours, and the lawyer who has no time to offer but rented the van and bought the materials that they’re using for repairs and clean-up probably has a higher cash input.
    If they’re all doing it because they want to help older folks– that is, out of love– it’s rather unseemly for any of ’em to sneer at the others.

  • It seems to me that the point is being missed here. True Charity involves a giving of oneself, giving love. It is not just one’s “hours” or “cash”, and there aren’t any equations for it. If none of your charitable work involves direct contact with those you are trying to help, how could it be love?

    Charity is not just about seeing to material needs anyway, we must provide comfort, the kind of comfort that only comes from a friendly, face to face meeting. We can’t just hire people to do this for us.

  • If none of your charitable work involves direct contact with those you are trying to help, how could it be love?

    I’ll be sure to tell this to one particular person at a charity who practically volunteers all her time (at even the expense of time with her family) seeking out patrons to support it, so that all the homeless and battered women the charity supports could be accomodated as opposed to ever having direct contact with those folks directly.

    Or perhaps I’ll tell the same to an elderly person who happens to volunteer her time as secretary at the charity, who herself never actually has any actual contact with such homeless people. She probably just does so not in order to help these people (how can that be? she doesn’t even have contact with these people!), but to mock their existence!

    What cruel, selfish people! These are obviously devoid of love!

    In other words, for somebody who claims that there aren’t any actual equations for ‘True Charity’, you sure got some nerve to pronounce judgment on those folks who charitably donate their time/money to causes that actually help people.

  • Perhaps the example of the widow giving a penny to the temple? Christ saw love there.

  • e.,

    this is really not a personal issue, so don’t go getting all defensive and irrational.

    I didn’t pronounce judgment (an odd accusation coming from the likes of you).

    Ask those people you’re talking about if they never meet the people they help face to face, or do other acts of charity directly, I’m sure you’ll find that they are not so sheltered as your feigning on their behalf here.

  • You didn’t pronounce judgment?

    You essentially declared that it couldn’t possibly be love unless there was direct, face-to-face contact!

    You basically condemned these folks, judging these people who, although having charitably volunteered all their time at the charity, weren’t actually doing so out of love!

    How dare you!

    That elderly woman who basically volunteers most her time at the charity as a secretary isn’t much less a contribution, or even worse, should be judged as utterly devoid of “love”, simply for the fact that she’s never even had direct, face-to-face contact with those homeless people that the charity actually helps!

    Next time I see her, I’ll make sure to relay the truths of your Gospel:

    “What are you doing? None of your supposedly ‘charitable’ work involves direct contact with those people and, therefore, your contributions aren’t based on love!”

    And then show her the door!

  • e.,

    get lost.

  • The Gospel According to Matt declares:

    “If none of your charitable work involves direct contact with those you are trying to help, how could it be love?”

    You were the one who made “direct contact” a prerequisite to ‘True Charity’ and that anything that doesn’t (including the elderly woman who simply volunteers her time at the charity as a mere secretary) couldn’t possibly be considered as such and, worse, not even based on ‘Love’.

  • Matt,

    I hope you can understand why I find what you said not only disturbingly wrong but also quite twisted.

    That elderly person has never laid eyes on those folks face-to-face, but I can tell you she loves them regardless, or else why would she volunteer most of her time at the charity’s headquarters?

    I can assure you: it is out of profound love that she actually does so!

  • e. & Matt,

    I think you’ve both made your points clear — and both have some validity — but please avoid rancor of I’ll have to shut things down.

  • Whenever I hear the “you only give money,” argument I think,”Okay, let’s see how you get without my check or Bob’s or Mary’s or Todd’s?” It’s nice to hand out sandwiches to the street people but somebody had to buy that bread and peanut butter.

  • Matt,
    Your requirement for personal contact is grounded in the notion that love is an emotion. It is not. It is a decision. We are all called to love those we have not met.

  • The rather virulent over-reactions to the suggestion that if you love someone you might want to ACTUALLY SEE THEM IN PERSON suggests to me a twinge of guilt perhaps of being isolated from the destitute.

    I will post the works of mercy here which may be instructive in the way that they are worded:

    The corporal woks of mercy are
    * To feed the hungry;
    * To give drink to the thirsty;
    * To clothe the naked;
    * To harbour the harbourless;
    * To visit the sick;
    * To ransom the captive;
    * To bury the dead.

    The spiritual works of mercy are:

    * To instruct the ignorant;
    * To counsel the doubtful;
    * To admonish sinners;
    * To bear wrongs patiently;
    * To forgive offences willingly;
    * To comfort the afflicted;
    * To pray for the living and the dead.

    A number of these works explicitly demand being the face of Christ for those in need, but the others imply such a personal connection that it seems to me an error to suggest that all human contact in Charity could be dispensed by temporal work on behalf of Charitable cause or financial donation thereto.

    It seems to me that working in isolation from those in need, leaving the face to face to those paid professionals best able to deal with such “horrors” yields an almost bureaucratic result, as is clearly the case with Catholic Charities in many places. The resulting corruption is devastating.

    Now, let’s be calm, I am in no way condemning to Hell some old woman who works hard for the poor but doesn’t have the opportunity to see them. I’m sure SHE recognizes the need for direct acts of mercy and performs them daily to those who she does encounter even if she’s not so crass as to list them for you.


    love is an action, not merely a decision. You completely misunderstand my point if you think it’s rooted in the false notion of emotion.


    I’m sorry, the most important element of charitable works is not material and so can not be fulfilled simply by writing a check. Frankly, if all of the large aid organizations that live on cash were gone, and charity began an ended in the parish hall with donated food and clothing distributed by those who sacrificed to provide them it would be, I think a much greater blessing, especially when dealing with the needs of those in our own communities. That certainly resembles more closely how Christians became known for their love.

    I’ll say it again to avoid repeated intentional misrepresentations… it is ALSO important for us to provide out of our wealth, and that should not be written off as useless has others have tried to suggest I was implying.

  • out damn italics.

  • Matt,
    The twinge of guilt that you perceive is the result of unfair, unChristian, and self-ighteous inferential liberties. You have no idea how your works of mercy, however defined, stack up to others here, and you won’t since only a jerk would discuss them with you.

  • The rather virulent over-reactions to the suggestion that if you love someone you might want to ACTUALLY SEE THEM IN PERSON suggests to me a twinge of guilt perhaps of being isolated from the destitute.

    The characterization of folks’ unfavorable response to the statement “If none of your charitable work involves direct contact with those you are trying to help, how could it be love?” suggests ya might be dealing with a bit of guilt yourself.

    For a very simple example, I know that the care packages I got when I was on the Essex touched me deeply, and that the folks who donated the cash to make them, the folks who carefully designed what went into each one so that there was variety but also good coverage of needs, and the folks who physically packed the boxes were all showing love for sailors like me– none of them had any physical contact with me.

  • Another example: cleaning up a common area when you’re done is showing care for the folks who will come after you– does anyone doubt that leaving a stinking pile of garbage and trash spread all around demonstrates a lack of care for those who will come after you? Even if you never see them face to face?

    The old “China Man Experiment”– I can’t remember the exact story, but a researcher told folks that if they pushed a button in a booth, it would kill a man in China, but they’d get some kind of small possible improvement, and nobody would know what they’d chosen to do; the researcher then kept track of how many people pushed the button.
    Anyone doubt that folks who believed they were killing a man, but did it anyways for some small benefit, were showing a lack of love?

  • Mike,

    The twinge of guilt that you perceive is the result of unfair, unChristian, and self-ighteous inferential liberties. You have no idea how your works of mercy, however defined, stack up to others here, and you won’t since only a jerk would discuss them with you.

    I think you’re proving my point by slanderous reaction. I made no claims about the quantity or kind of MY works of mercy or how they may stack up to yours or those of anyone else. I did not make this personal, it is an intellectual discussion. I’d be very happy to see you counter argue.


    The characterization of folks’ unfavorable response to the statement “If none of your charitable work involves direct contact with those you are trying to help, how could it be love?” suggests ya might be dealing with a bit of guilt yourself.

    I need only to point out Mike’s tirade above as ample evidence of the accuracy of my characterization.

    For a very simple example, I know that the care packages I got when I was on the Essex touched me deeply, and that the folks who donated the cash to make them, the folks who carefully designed what went into each one so that there was variety but also good coverage of needs, and the folks who physically packed the boxes were all showing love for sailors like me– none of them had any physical contact with me.

    I sincerely appreciate your service on board the Essex.

    I don’t know how things were there in terms of supply, but the months I spent in isolated army camps there was really no shortage of material goods, I truly believe what raised our spirits was the love with which those care packages where prepared, not the physical contents (though a pound cake or batch of 4 week old cookies can taste mighty good when you’re a week on IMP’s or MRE’s as they are known in the US).

    This is all very good and true, but it doesn’t respond to my point. I’m not saying that efforts which lack direct contact can’t be deeply appreciated, helpful, or even lifesaving. Only that if ALL OF YOUR WORKS OF MERCY are intentionally in isolation from those you seek to help because you LOVE them it is not a good thing. I would also suggest that the folks funding and preparing those packages NEVER missed an opportunity to cheer the Essex when she came to port, or the returning soldiers marching though town. I suspect they are the same ones who thank every servicemen they see carrying a rucksack through the airport bound for or returing from the Middle East or Central Asia.

    I will concede that there are certain things which go beyond the material even if done in isolation. Knitting sweaters, baking, writing cards and letters and perhaps carefully selecting comfort items for a distant stranger standing guard for example, I believe have a special way of reaching across the distance in a way that writing a check, or doing most forms of work do not.

    I wanted to point out regarding the word “almsgiving”, alms means “mercy” not “money”.

    It seems to me that virtually all the references to the Christian duty of alms-giving speak of serving the poor and acting directly, while very few imply any sort of detached assistance. I refer again to my above citation of the acknowledged corporal and spiritual works of mercy, there is a clear focus on personal acts, though not exclusively.

  • Matt McDonald-
    Nobody is debating the meaning of “almsgiving”– it was only mentioned once before your statement, and yet the very first sentence of your link supports the broader definition that the OP suggests: Any material favour done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity, is almsgiving.

    The habit of people to puff themselves up, because their act of charity is in a different and more public form, is not supported by your link.

    Simple reason tells us: what good is it to offer your time to hand a sandwich to the poor, if there is no bread, meat or cheese with which to make a sandwich?

  • Matt,
    When you accuse others of acting or reacting out of guilt you ARE making it personal. To pretend otherwise is hardly in keeping with an intellectual discussion.

  • Matt,

    You’re really something.

    I take it that all those people donating money to help sick & impoverished 3rd world children, who they haven’t even seen face-to-face and met personally, are but fiends who do so not out of any wholesome Christian goodness, and not even based on *True Charity* or even *Real Love*.


  • e.,

    what did i say that would support such an absurd notion? See my post about twinges of guilt.

  • On this related subject, since I heard it on Drew Mariani, Relevant Radio last week about CCHD (Catholic Campaign for Human Development), it seems we’ve got to be careful in donating to them. I see they cut off ACORN funds last year: . People to be wary of and become informed about: though I don’t mean to demean them, I know this subject has probably been talked about before. Sure, I give to CRS and would be hesitant about CCHD.

  • Matt,

    That absurd notion came from your absurd statement:

    If none of your charitable work involves direct contact with those you are trying to help, how could it be love?

    which was subsequently followed up by what was largely an attempt of justifying it:

    The rather virulent over-reactions to the suggestion that if you love someone you might want to ACTUALLY SEE THEM IN PERSON

    If anybody here has cornered the market on absurdity, it is you.

  • I think that all that ought to be said has probably be said at this point, and then a couple. I’m closing comments.

Letterman Apologizes, Palin Accepts

Tuesday, June 16, AD 2009

Governor Sarah Palin accepted David Letterman’s sincere apology which he gave last night on his CBS show regarding his crude joke at the expense of Governor Palin’s 14 year-old daughter:

Viewing the video I am impressed by his sincerity as well as his apology.  Anyone willing to continue to berate Mr. Letterman are probably doing it for political reasons as of now.  I for one appreciate that he took the time to say it during his show.

Others such as James Poniewozik of TIME magazine, Michael Russnow of the Huffington Post, and others continue to play political games and see in it more than a man expressing regret and contrition.  It is unfortunate that there are those still caught up in this scenario playing out their perceived grievances and political agendas.

Governor Palin has accepted and so should we, I do.

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24 Responses to Letterman Apologizes, Palin Accepts

  • Pingback: The Degenerate David Letterman « The American Catholic
  • A good apology and a gracious acceptance.

  • Yes, it was a good apology. It reminds me of the David Letterman of old which was (or still is) endearing.

    I’m impressed in this day and age of non-apologies and bipartisan bickering. He certainly impressed me.

  • This reminds me of the situation when a business caves from a boycott by dropping support for some element of the “homosexual agenda”, there’s nothing sincere about it, however, if we continue to boycott, there is no motivation to reform. Sometimes you have to settle for the best we can get.

    I think it is time to accept this apology based on the Palin’s lead, but let’s not get all blithery over Letterman.

    I am really curious about what he means by his “intent”.

  • I’m mystified as to why anybody watches Letterman. He’s not funny and don’t people have to go to work in the mornings? Who stays up that late?

  • “He’s not funny”

    Amen to that, although he has a loyal following…!

  • I remember a fairly decent SNL skit that parodied Letterman nicely 😉 Wish I could find it…

  • First, let me say I would much prefer Palin as the GOP presidential candidate in 2012 than Mitt “vapid pretty boy” Romney or Newt “my third wife has made me a good Catlick” Gingrich.

    But let’s face it I find it absolutely amazing anyone would continue to portray Palin and her family as the ideal for family values in this country: Sarah plays up her MILF image every chance she gets and then gets upset when she is refered to as “slutty”; prior to the presidential election it was emphasized how Bristol and her baby’s father were going to do “the right thing” and get married but after the election it was obvious that it was a shotgun marriage in that the father couldn’t distance himself fast and far enough from Bristol and her family; Palin is far from the ideal mother in that her children’s well being has obviously been sacrificed on the altar of her political career, i.e. maybe if she had been at home minding the kids one wouldn’t have gotten knocked up and her son wouldn’t have had to been shipped off to the miltary to keep him out of trouble.

    Poor Dave. Anybody with a lick of sense knew he was referring to the older Palin daughter of questionable morals, but Palin saw her chance to portray herself as a victim and jumped at twiting Leterman’s comment so that it appeared he was referring to Palin’s younger daughter. Republicans like Democrats are not above distoring the facts to create favorabble perceptions of themselves.

    I know I’ll take my lumps on this website from the Palin fan club, but to you I say that I recommend that you spend some extra time in the confessional dscussing the unhealthy amount of time you spend surfing the photos on the State of Alaska website.

  • Tito:

    As a college student myself, I can safely say that I know absolutely no one who watches Letterman. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report are the favorites, with a few Conan fans.

    Neither Leno or Letterman are big in the college community from what I can tell.

  • Michael,

    Intoxicated college students watch Letterman, hence why they can’t remember.

  • Michael Russnow writes “The media coverage was unfair”. A phenomenon known as the biter bit.

  • Tito:

    We at the proud institution of LSU are quite able to handle our alcohol at the relatively early time of 10:30, and so would be very able to recall whether or not we watched Letterman.

    Besides, if the stoned kids can remember watching Jon Stewart the drunk ones can remember Letterman 😉

  • Michael,

    LSU students start drinking at 10:30am? WOW, how times have changed.

    How about a WordPress pic ID?

  • Tito:

    I know, I know. Anti-drinking campaigns have worked wonders pushing the time back to 10:30. It’s weird having sober kids in the 8:00 classes. 😉

    In truth, I meant 10:30 pm, which is when those shows come on in the central time zone. By that point, the drinking has just begun.

    10:30 am is a bit early especially for a weekday, even in South Louisiana…unless it’s gameday. On gameday in the shadows of Death Valley…well, interesting things happen on gameday. Geaux Tigers!

  • On the WordPress ID, I need to sign up for a blog, but I use blogger. I have a pic ID there; I just haven’t dedicated myself to downloading wordpress to get the picture.

    Besides, I kinda like the blue square…ish thing I have right now.

  • Michael,

    “blue square…ish” is better than a “purple and gold tiger”?


  • Tito:

    You’re good. You’re darn good. Mentioning the prospect of promoting at a time when my LSU pride is high due to our performance in Omaha at the College World Series?

    You have skills.

  • “I know I’ll take my lumps on this website from the Palin fan club, but to you I say that I recommend that you spend some extra time in the confessional discussing the unhealthy amount of time you spend surfing the photos on the State of Alaska website.”

    Good one awakaman 🙂

    I admire Sarah Palin’s convictions. I am sure she was a good mayor and as far as I know, has been a good governor. Yes, she has a somewhat messy family life but so do a lot of good people. No family is perfect.

    But, that being said, I cannot believe she was really the best possible GOP veep candidate McCain could come up with, and it became painfully obvious to me during the campaign that she was in way over her head. I say that not to insult her intelligence or moral character, but as a simple statement of fact. And I do not think I am being a traitor to the pro-life or conservative cause to suggest this.

  • And all that being said, I think Letterman’s apology was sincere, Palin showed class in accepting it, and the matter should be considered closed.

  • End of the day it’s a nothing. He made a boorish crack. Went too far and caught some backlash. Apology (sincere or otherwise) is the end of it. He isn’t losing any audience over this issue as any of us who would be angered by his garbage weren’t likely to watch his show anyway.

  • I am really curious about what he means by his “intent”

    I believe all he meant was the fact that he was referring to the 18 year old troubled kid, not the 14 year old kid. His intent was to make a joke about the former, not the latter.

    awakaman – You’re right.

    Neither Leno or Letterman are big in the college community from what I can tell.

    Letterman was still pretty big when I was in college. Tito and I are showing our age. It does not surprise me that college kids are not watching Letterman. Leno is for older folks, of course. (And he is terrible. Also more offensive.)

    Besides, if the stoned kids can remember watching Jon Stewart the drunk ones can remember Letterman

    The effects of alcohol and pot are different.

    Letterman is obviously a moral giant — and the bigger person — compared to Sarah Palin.

  • Letterman is obviously a moral giant — and the bigger person — compared to Sarah Palin.

    I’m glad we have you here to tell us these things…

  • I’m glad we have you here to tell us these things…

    I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Charity and Knowledge

Tuesday, April 7, AD 2009

Charity is one of those words which, in Christian discourse, is often in danger of meaning everything and nothing. We use it in certain very concrete senses (“giving to charity”) and also in very broad senses (Faith, Hope and Charity). At times it is taken to mean simply giving something to someone — and some even take it in a negative sense in that regard: the rich giving some few spare pennies to the poor. At other times, drawing on the Latin root of caritas, it is taken to be love as a whole in all its senses.

Because as Christians we identify God as being love, love is clearly meant to encompass a wide range of Christian action and experience, and comes in many forms. Right now, I’d like to talk about love of neighbor, and specifically, that love of neighbor which involves providing for the physical needs of others. So for the purposes of this post, I’m going to call the use of “time and treasure” to perform the corporal works of mercy “charity”, and let’s leave aside the other meanings of that term for now.

Now to me, one of the interesting things about the virtue of charity is that it says a great deal about the sort of relationships we can have as human beings. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10, 25-37) we see a scholar of the law (quidam legis peritus) who cheerfully parrots back the great commandments of “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” but then wants to know “Who is my neighbor?”.

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God or Government Spending: Choose One?

Sunday, April 5, AD 2009

Correlation isn’t causation. That said, I thought this from the Wall Street Journal was interesting:

A recent study of 33 countries by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde found an inverse relationship between religious observance and welfare spending. Countries with larger welfare states, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, had markedly lower levels of religious attendance, affiliation and trust in God than countries with a history of limited government, such as the U.S., the Philippines and Brazil. Public spending amounts to more than one half of the GDP in Sweden, where only 4% of the population regularly attends church. By contrast, public spending amounts to 18% of the Philippines’ GDP, and 68% of Filipinos regularly attend church.

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One Response to God or Government Spending: Choose One?

  • Hmmm…

    I would be sad to discover that the only reason people ever went to church in the past was to get social services now provided by the government. That would be too simplistic, anyway.

    What I question is the direction of causality here. Did government programs simply push out private charity, or was private charity not up to the new demands of an industrialized society?

    I think it is true that material success tends to weaken religious conviction – in the US the more prosperous areas are the more liberal and less devout (if we measure this by church attendance) areas.

    This is because man gets in his head the notion that he “doesn’t need God” anymore – that he is entirely self-sufficient. Do people here remember Durkheim’s study of suicide, where he found that there was more of it in Protestant countries than Catholic due to higher levels of social integration in the latter? People have criticized the study but I think the essential finding is valid – where there is more social integration and community, there will be more religious devotion. People realize that they are not entirely self-sufficient or entirely alone, at the mercy of the state or the market. The presence of others, the feeling of being supported by something beyond one’s self, has a psychological effect.

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Monday, February 23, AD 2009

One of the great principles that tends to be ignored in our debates about economics, social justice, and governmental involvement in the lives of the people is solidarity.  We argue about how involved the government should be in our lives, what kinds of safety nets it should provide, and to what extent it should mandate and appropriate in order to provide for the most needy of society.  We argue about how well certain economic theories–capitalism, Keynesian economics, socialism, etc.–work in providing justice, or even providing just shelter and food.  We argue about subsidiarity, and how it should be practiced, and while that touches on solidarity, it doesn’t fully overlap.

One of the arguments about governmental involvement is how the aid provided is cold and distant.  By the time  the welfare check is spat out of the massive, convulsing, bureaucratic mess that is the government, any principle of charity has been rendered flat.  The recipient is a name on the list, judged worthy to receive a handout based upon an entry in a database.  At first this seems like an argument of aesthetics.  If a man receives a welfare check from the government rather than from friends in the community or local charities, he still receives the money he needs to survive.  Yet there is a deeper problem here than merely looking at from whom the money comes, or how much charity exists in the entity delivering assistance.  The continual reliance on the federal government to solve our problems aids in the breakdown of solidarity.

Is it any wonder that we have become so polarized, so factious, so estranged?

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5 Responses to Am I My Brother's Keeper?

  • Great post and I agree with much of it.

    Let me offer this thought though. Often because of the political emotion of the topics there is perhaps a tenedency to think things were better in the good ole days before the big ole Federal Govt came on the scene.

    This is of course is not exactly true. There are still a few people in my state that are alive that were kids in the days of Huey and Earl Long. I am at times floored by the real poverty and devastation so many people were facing. Were there good times ?yes but there are reasons while Huey and Earl were so loved with their massive govt assistance to the poor. For that matter there is a reason in the deep South and the nation FDR was viewed as a patron Saint by many common people for decades.

    So there were real serious flaws

    That being said I think you are on to something. THis country just economic wise is different than it was in 1800. However for many of the problems we face a heatlhy dose of Federalism can still be applied.

    THe communial bonds that you talk about must be reestablished. However you are right it is no easy task. Especially in a world where big families are looked at with scorn

  • Well, I’m not try to assert that the past times were the good ol’ days. Rather, I wanted to paint a picture of how we got to the current dilemma, which I think wasn’t much of a problem (or at least not as much of a problem) in the earlier decades of the 20th century (though I think the 1880’s to the turn of the century some some similar problems). Indeed, past days carried their own problems, their own great struggles. I believe that problems with solidarity have risen and fallen over the centuries, and that currently we’re seeing a drastic collapse of solidarity in our nation.

  • I completely agree. I have seen so many people refuse necessary help because of pride. I try to make people understand that it’s ok to need help sometimes and it’s necessary that we be willing to give that help. Best wishes.

    – Schev

  • I sense a strong impulse toward solidarity in much of the current valuation of non-judgmentalism and inclusivitiy above all else. This is the Freshman Dorm Mentality: Let’s erase our points of difference in the hope that we can all get along. Maybe we end up “getting along” just fine, but ultimately these are superficial bonds — we have many acquaintances but few lifelong friends. Though we still long for it, what we have isn’t solidarity or community, but something much weaker. Erase enough of our differences and all that we have in common is our DNA.

    Even as we try to erase our differences, more behaviors seem to rise to the level of moral categorical imperative. If I have a barbecue in my backyard, will my vegan neighbor ostracize me? I have to worry at every turn not only that I’m being impractical, but that I’m being *immoral.* How can we have solidarity when so few of us share a common view of the summum bonum?

    Maybe that’s the rub: we have a staggering lack of imagination when it comes to our ideas about the common good and what human flourishing means. There is no sense of shared telos that we can all turn to and demonstrate how this action flows to that good. This state of affairs probably follows from many of the historical/social trends that Ryan described. We’ve become atomistic individuals, making choices that are unassailable simply because they’re our own. It’s true that there was no “golden age” or good ol’ days when everyone agreed on everything; but at a minimum there wasn’t a sanctification of all paths no matter how outlandish. It seems for real solidarity and community to exist, there have to be at least a few axioms about ultimate reality and the ends of human striving shared among all persons.

  • I completely agree, Ryan 🙂

Blogging in the Grudge-o-sphere

Monday, February 9, AD 2009

In the last four years I’ve learned a great deal about a host of topics, including my Catholic Faith, while blogging, reading other people’s blogs, and participating in comment box discussions. And yet there are some notable dangers that come with blogging as well.

A few months ago, I did myself no great credit in a combox discussion on a friend’s post. Someone against whom I carried paper left a comment I disagreed with, and rather than sticking with a basic refutation I went all out: questioned motives, brought up old arguments, put words in his mouth, the works. An hour or two later I got an email from my friend. “Wow. Next time tell us what you really think…”

But I knew I was right. I hit reply and was pouring out the reason I’d been 100% justified in behaving that way at 70wpm. A year and a half ago, this other blogger and said such-and-such. And when I’d pointed out his obvious errors, he’d said that. And then there was that other time. And remember when over on that other guy’s blog he’s said this in the comments? And…

I took a moment to stare at the paragraphs I’d written and realized this would sound a lot more appropriate coming out of my six-year-old as an explanation for why she’d hit another kid than coming out of a thirty-year-old man who fancies himself intellectual.

As bloggers we sometimes live by the word in rather the same way that a duelist lived by the sword. And slights which, when explained to anyone else, would immediately sound small and petty, fester and become long term rivalries.

Given the source of my recent embarrassment, I’ve tried to make it a rule to think how I would feel writing an explanation of my behavior in any given conversation to a disinterested party. Given my pride, this is a strong incentive to charity, or at least calmness. Naytheless, the temptation remains. I suspect that it is a built in feature (or bug) in an avocation such as blogging.


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8 Responses to Blogging in the Grudge-o-sphere

  • I think I’ve deleted more comments without ever posting them than I have posted comments, all because I forced myself to stop and think, “Is this constructive? Is this charitable?” And yet, I know a few uncharitable remarks have slipped through my sensors. We seem to have this driving need to be right, and should anyone gainsay us, we take it as a personal affront.

    One of things I’ve found invaluable is to pay close attention to what people have to say, even if their comments seem to be filled with invectives that contribute little. Paying close attention to those who disagree with me, or hold a much different viewpoint, has actually helped me learn and grow (after the anger has cleared). To this, I have to extend special thanks to Michael Iafrate, for calling my attention to various errors I have committed, even if his means of communicating such errors is a little more abrasive than I’d prefer. I still don’t agree with him on a vast array of issues, but he has helped me learn by challenging me to make thoughtful and charitable responses.

    We need to be willing to accept criticism. We need to be willing to admit that we might be wrong from time to time, and we need to be introspective enough to realize when we are. When we start with the premise, “How could I be wrong on this issue, to have drawn such remarks?”, then we can start to formulate good responses. Because, as we argue out with ourselves our reasoning, we lay the blueprints for hopefully a strong argument, and if we still are convinced we are right, we at least have something intelligible to say in response.

  • This post only adds to the fire.

  • I’m sorry you feel that way, Mark. I don’t know, though, from your comment if you feel the post shouldn’t have been written at all, or if it was subtly offensive, or just missed the point. Frankly, DC’s frank admission of guilt in adding to the blogstorm now and then, with comments not quite thought out, is an important reminder to us all.

    I would like to know your thoughts specifically how the post adds to the fire. (Whether or not DC wants to hear it, I would. We’re always on the lookout for improving the quality of our blog.)

  • But…but…someone IS wrong on the internet…!

    All joking aside, a fine post.

  • I suspect that it is a built in feature (or bug) in an avocation such as blogging.

    I think that’s right. Alan Jacobs has a post up today about the limits of blogging, which I think is worthwhile. He points out that the infrastructure of blogs and comment threads is not very conducive to thoughtful, nuanced discussion. Ad hominems and sloganeering often become par for the course.

    It seems to me that this has a corrosive effect over time. I can think of many well-known bloggers who are almost unreadable at this point on certain topics. Like everything else, blogging has its benefits and its drawbacks. Here’s a link to Alan’s post:

  • Blogs help us to see clearly the restlessness of our hearts.

  • One of the emotional/spiritual dangers of too much blogging, for me, has been exposure to a lot of the toxic comments people make, which start spilling over into my general attitude toward life and even, regrettably, into how I talk to my husband and daughter. This is especially true of newspaper website blogs, particularly those that aren’t well moderated.

    With Catholic blogs, the danger for me isn’t so much uncharity and viciousness as it is temptation to despair and discouragement. Of course there are a lot of very serious issues going on out there with regard to pro-life, marriage, lay movements (e.g. the Legionnaires of Christ scandal), etc. They deserve attention and I do not mean to minimize them.

    Likewise, Catholic bloggers who promote particular lay movements or private revelations, or things like homeschooling which are praiseworthy but which I do not myself have the means to participate in probably do not intend to sound “holier than thou,” or make me feel like a second-class Catholic for not participating in them, but I may take them that way.