25 Responses to Why I am Filing for Separation from the Democratic Party

  • Welcome to the world of independent idealism. Good to have you on board. It’s still (maybe especially) possible to be a good citizen being off the party rolls. I encourage the strategy.

  • I know exactly how you feel. I live in Washington DC, where it’s all politics, all the time. For a few years now I’ve answered the question “Are you a Republican (Democrat)?” with “I’m a Catholic.”

  • I simply must repeat what I said when you mentioned this to me privately — this is a great loss for pro-life Democrats, but God as you seem to have discerned may need your gifts and talents elsewhere for the sake of His Kingdom and, temporally speaking, for the common good.

    I need not ask to know whether I still have your support and you need not ask if you have mine. Have faith, there are sincere pro-life Catholics in the trenches my friend. You have simply chosen a new battlefield; there is only one Enemy.

  • Congratulations to you, and welcome aboard, Tim! But one question: am I completely imagining this, or didn’t you announce/decide this a couple of months ago? I thought I remembered reading a post you had written to that effect, but without all of the outlines for an independent party based on Catholic moral teaching and the Natural Law.

  • What’s wrong with the US Constitution Party?

    It’s platform is the closest to Chrcuh teaching:

    http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php

    I understand, however, that it doesn’t fit the false gospel of the common good, social justice and peace at any price.

    It seems like the writer just wants a socialist party that can call itself pro-life and be Christian in name instead of advocating for a return to the truly Christian Constitutional Republic we once were.

    Why not read and study what this country was founded at insteda of trying to invent some socialist utopia. The common good didn’t work for the Church in the time of Ananias and Sapphira. It won’t work now. And I (along with many, many other Constitutionalists) shall never, ever support it.

  • Paul, it is quite arrogant to assert that people whose views are different than yours and do not think that the U.S. Constitution Party is the closest reflection of Catholic social teaching in the U.S. are merely socialists who want a “socialist party.”

    I think it is an unfair judgment of our Catholicism and our commitment to the teachings of the Church, which requires on some issues much prudential judgment that naturally creates a discussion — and not clear-cut policy positions or views we must embrace.

    Moreover the idea that the United States was ever “truly” an explicitly “Christian” constitutional republic is quite arguable. I find it hard to believe that an authentically Christian society had legal slavery rooted in irrational hate of ethnicity; other points could be made, but I think you are romanticizing history and my argument need not be taken as saying the current situation of America is better or superior but simply that the U.S. was never a “truly Christian constitutional republic” in the sense that you seem to suggest.

    Lastly the idea that people who fail to subscribe to what you have suggested have neglected to “read and study what this country” was founded on “instead of trying to invent some socialist utopia” is nonsense.

    I was not even aware that any sort of disagreement (at least it seems that way in the way you frame your argument, there appear to be only two options) with the position you offer logically implies subscription to socialism. Moreover, it is nonsensical for you to appeal to Catholic social teaching — from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI — and say that the “common good” does not work.

    It would be more credible to argue that what the political left, by and large, presents as the common good is (in your view) a pseudo-common good and the actual common good is something much different — and you could detail it with what you think would work better. But to say the common good “did not work” and will not “work now” while appealing to Catholic social teaching where that very concept is integral to the whole body of the Church’s social doctrine is unbelievably dubious. Honestly, I am not saying this to be harsh; it simply is the case.

    I suppose it is a way to look at things but it is a perspective that I would never, ever support. The political left often gets attacked for claiming to have the correct political translation of Christian values in action and I, to a considerably large degree, can concur that in the current political situation criticism is very warranted. But the political right in the GOP and in my view in conservative third parties, at present, in my view, cannot lay claim to Christian values in their entirety. Many questions are again prudential and need not be dogmaticized — perhaps it is time that we Catholics, particularly those of who choose a specific political avenue or entity, whether it be a party or some other organization, stop trying to box the Church’s teaching into acceptable political language and contrived concepts that derive primarily from secular schools of thought. It is telling when what we call “Catholic social teaching” begins to look conveniently like our party’s platform. Indeed, the Gospel easily transcends all these things.

  • Eric- thanks for your eloquent defense and support- Kevin in Texas- I have been hinting at such a move but I retained my position as vp of florida dems for life until this week- my good friend at the organization- a Catholic- had asked me to take some more time before I made a formal decision- out of respect for this great friend, I decided to wait, pray and see if the Spirit would reveal more- at this point, I really feel that being a non-partisan will be advantageous as a Catholic teacher and in trying to open channels of dialogue working on specific issues rather than risk being written off as a Democratic Party operative or Republican mole inside the Dem party. This decision just feels like a spiritual breath of fresh air- something rare in the political trenches:)

  • Tim,
    Blessings… I too left the party of my youth, however, I came from the opposite side and have landed at Independent as well.
    Eric,
    Wonderful defense.
    Peace

  • Tim,

    Interesting post. It reads to me like you are not rejecting the Democratic party so much as you are rejecting politics per se. I think this is OK; not every Catholic is meant to act in the political sphere. But I do not think such a position can be normative. It is part of the lay vocation to transform our politics from within, and to the extent that you did this as a pro-life Democrat it was a good thing.

    I think generally speaking it is good for Catholics to consider themselves unwedded to any political party. Catholics are wedded to the truth and must understand themselves as Catholics first and then Republicans or Democrats. A Catholic can be a Republican or a Democrat, but they must be a Catholic first.

    Although I’m not thrilled that there is yet another good person giving up on American politics, I am happy to hear that someone is leaving the Democratic party, which in my opinion is virtually unsalvagable. The Democratic party is in principle the party of death.

  • Eric,

    “I find it hard to believe that an authentically Christian society had legal slavery rooted in irrational hate of ethnicity;”

    Slavery had nothing to do with “hate” as we think of it today. It was certainly based in an erroneous view of race, but it was no more hateful in 1788 than it was in 300 B.C. or so when Aristotle was justifying slavery. It was seen as a part of the natural order.

    A lot of the founding fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, struggled with the issue. So, avoid blanket condemnations in the other direction. The northern states abolished slavery right from the beginning. The southern states had “rational” economic reasons for wanting to keep it – but “rational” does not = morally right.

  • The democrat and republican parties are not the same.

    If more people voted for McCain, we’d have a chance overturning Roe v Wade with the nomimation of more good supreme court justices like Roberts and Alito, but no, we get Sotomaer and Kagan.

    Thanks alot 54% Catholics who voted for Obama or Indepedants! Like you really care about the unborn…rightttt.

    A Catholic with a well formed conscience can not in any way vote for the party of death.

  • Zach- I don’t think you are reading me correctly- I’m not giving up on American politics- I am just backing out of the Democratic party since I could not find any traction for pro-life Dems in my geographic area- I tried through offering a viable candidacy and having a presence in the local media and making contact attempts- but it didn’t happen. I decided it was best for me to purify my own end of things and come clean as an Independent who will work with partisans on the various issues of importance- but will be a non-partisan about it. In a way I am following the lead of Archbishop Chaput who was once one who identified more closely with the philosophy of governance represented by the Democratic Party, but because of the emergence of social liberalism and hardcore secularism in the heart of Democratic Party activism- he has chosen the Independent political path- and since I am a Catholic teacher myself, I think it is prudent to stake out non-partisan territory myself- not to avoid the political fight over the important issues of our times, but to be taken more seriously and to be seen as more consistent than those who seem to allow their Party loyalties to determine their political consciences. We’ll see if this decision makes sense over the longer haul- I am a Catholic first- that is my core message in all this.

  • I pray a lot and the Holy Spirit reveals a lot to me.

    When he talks to me, he starts with “Shaw, love humility, live the Gospels, obey the Ten Commandments, and adhere to the teachings of Holy Mother Church handed down from The Apostles and today from the Pope.”

    He revealed to me “Shaw, you can’t be both a democrat and be pro-life.” And, “You won’t be getting into Heaven if you vote democratic.”

    Early in 2008, this Pope gave four non-negotiables. Despicable dems are 180 degrees, and violently (47,000,000 exterminated unborn), opposed to each and every one.

  • I agree with Jasper and I’m ashamed of being a (cradle) Catholic these days, when 54% of them voted for Barack Obama, a pro-abortion and pro-infanticide politician. As a matter of fact, the Democratic Party has become the party where the Culture of Death has taken hold, and I’m glad I abandoned them over 10 years ago.

    Jasper is correct in that with the GOP, at least we got two solid, pro life, conservative Supreme Court Justices, but with Obama, we’re getting rabidly pro-abortion ones. Way to go, my brothers and sisters in the Church. Next time, please use the God-give reason you were born with and LEARN the candidates’ record on abortion!

  • Paul – Pope Benedict doesn’t agree with you

    Pope calls for ethics in world economy

    “Benedict said the search for common good must inform globalization and be the goal of progress and development, which would otherwise merely serve to produce material goods.”

    http://tinyurl.com/29d528y

  • Non-partisan? Transpartisan?

    I think there’s room for a Christian-Democratic political and social presence in the United States, and it can grow if it plays by the populist playbook, particularly the experience of the Non-Partisan League.

    Perhaps you can take the whole matter up with Oscar De Rojas? I have a hunch he has an interesting perspective on this whole thing.

  • Putting one’s faith in a political party will inevitably lead a sincere Catholic to a sense of disillusionment with politics in general. However, as a means to an end, parties may be used as an imprecise apparatus and like an imprecise apparatus they more often than not accomplish the task with less success than we would like.

    I have yet to see a practical way out of the 2 party system we have in the US that does not, as a by-product, result in one party dominance, after the other party fractures it’s base.

  • Dear Mr. Shipe,
    I was very touched by, and sympathized with, your declaration. I would like you to know that a group of citizens are forming a new centrist political party: The Christian Democratic Union of the United States (CDUSA). We are in the process of redesigning our webpage, but please use my address for any additional communication or request for information. We invite you to please advise us and be in touch with us.

    Our basic political philosophy is quite straight-forward: we are “center-left” (i.e., agree with many Democratic party positions) on most economic and political issues, while we are “center-right (i.e., agree with many Republican party positions)on most social and cultural issues. We are, essentially, the OPPOSITE of what libertarians and Tea-Party groups stand for. Indeed, we reject the labels of “liberal” or “conservative”, because these can have different meanings, depending on what standpoint you look from.
    We do hope to hear from you and your friends, and, in the meantime, remain, sincerely yours,
    Oscar de Rojas
    Executive Director
    Christian Democratic Union of the United States

  • “We are, essentially, the OPPOSITE of what libertarians and Tea-Party groups stand for.”

    That’s unfortunate. Are you sure you know what they stand for?

  • we are “center-left” (i.e., agree with many Democratic party positions) on most economic and political issues, while we are “center-right (i.e., agree with many Republican party positions)on most social and cultural issues.

    That sounds agreeable as stated. The difficulty is that ‘center-left’ on economic matters (at this time and in this country) means the continuous multiplication of patron-client relations between politicians and lobbies, in which the politician is a broker who supplies constituency groups with the fruits of the state’s extractive capacity in return for the fruits of the constituencies’ fundraising, labor, and brand-loyalty. You could call it crony capitalism, but the beneficiaries are not merely favored business sectors but also the social work industry and the public sector unions and provincial and municipal politicians. Call it crony capitalism, crony philanthropy, crony syndicalism, and patronage.

    That’s unfortunate. Are you sure you know what they stand for?

    Joe, it is somewhat disconcerting that ‘TEA’ is an acronym for ‘Taxed Enough Already’. The focus should be on the ways in which the public sector might be circumscribed. Once you have come to an understanding of the appropriate boundary of the public sector, the tax rate is implicit. Complaints about taxation per se enhance the stupidity of the political culture. One can address complaints about tax rates by reducing them, but without a willingness to circumscribe the public sector, you just get deficits. The federal government’s statement of income was in far more parlous shape when Mr. Obama took office than was the case when Mr. Reagan took office, so we no longer have the margin for an extended game of let’s pretend.

  • Thank you for the interesting comments.

    What I mean by center-left in the economic area is that we do believe in a necessary and appropriate level of government regulation of the “free market” to avoid situations of abuse such, as for example, the financial disaster that we still have not gotten out of. And, yes, we are for more progressive taxation — meaning taxing the really reach -not the middle class, certainly not the poor- to further the common good.

    The fact that there is so much cronyism, lobbying, corruption etc. in the political system is somehting that we clearly have to tackle with, but hopefully, with a more just society, these things might also become more repugnant and begin to change.

  • Art,

    Give the people a break.

    “The focus should be on the ways in which the public sector might be circumscribed.”

    There is plenty of focus on that. If you don’t know it, you haven’t interacted with the people in the movement.

    “Complaints about taxation per se enhance the stupidity of the political culture.”

    No they don’t. Statements like this just reveal the extent to which you aren’t affected by taxes. You realize that over half of the tea party is made up of one of the most unjustly-taxed brackets of income earners in America, right? We’re talking people who make somewhere between 50 and 100 thousand or so a year. They pay through the nose.

    “One can address complaints about tax rates by reducing them, but without a willingness to circumscribe the public sector, you just get deficits.”

    Why would you assume this willingness isn’t there? It is.

    “The federal government’s statement of income was in far more parlous shape when Mr. Obama took office than was the case when Mr. Reagan took office, so we no longer have the margin for an extended game of let’s pretend.”

    Again, if you don’t think the tea party acknowledges and address this, you’re really quite out of the loop. Fiscal responsibility, dealing with the debt, stopping the spending and related issues are probably more important to it than the tax rates, I would say.

  • And, yes, we are for more progressive taxation — meaning taxing the really reach -not the middle class, certainly not the poor- to further the common good.

    Um, if, by ‘the rich’, you mean a class of rentiers or latent rentiers (along with senior corporation executives), I think you will find on inspection that you are speaking of around 2.5% of the population who corral about 15% of the nation’s personal income.

    If, by the poor, you mean individuals whose wage and private pension income (w/ salaries or proprietor’s income or annuities in some few cases) is below the cost of a basket of staple commodities as calculated by federal statistical agencies, that would be perhaps 20-25% of the population who corral about 4% or so of personal income.

    The ‘middle class’ (salaried employees and small proprietors) corral north of 45% of personal income and the more prosperous wage earners corral the balance of roughly 35%. You are not going to tax any of these people? Do you plan to finance the state with lotteries?

  • My comments were not derived from my personal fiscal situation (which does include considerable tax liability, though that is none of your business).

    Federal and state income tax codes are so rococo that it is simply impossible (with any degree of thoroughness) to say from descriptive statistics which strata are being ‘unjustly taxed’ and which are not.

    I did not name the ‘Tea Party’. I am not sure to whom the moniker is attributable. It does make me anxious, however.

    I am pleased if you can find a generous slice from among the miscellany of people who are protesting who are thinking seriously about the ways in which the public sector can and should be circumscribed. Any movement has quite a mix as regards its degree of sophistication and seriousness.

    I was a witness to the political discourse engaged in by Mr. Reagan and his acolytes during the period running from about 1978 to 1989. It is not a happy precedent and is one I hope the Republic can avoid. In general, it has not been my observation that an understanding of the relative size of the public sector and the distribution of expenditures between various categories thereof is (in schematic outline) well understood even among the quarter or so of the population who follow public affairs. If there are many counter-examples in the Tea Party, that is all to the good.

  • Tim –

    I’ve also thought about a party based on Catholic Social Teaching principles that could go by the name “The Common Good Party” – which has the great benefit of being shortened simply to the Good Party, with a membership of Good People.

    I’m not nearly as politically astute or experienced as you (or Oscar) though, and very much look forward to your thoughts on how practically to develop such a political force.

    If you want/need any help from the Pacific Northwest, do let me know, and I’ll do what I can!

Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 3

Thursday, May 6, AD 2010

The Catholic Church is the biggest defender and promoter of the large traditional family. This endorsement of large families is something that tests the loyalties of ideologues because the Church doesn’t conform to liberal or conservative political pressures.  The more-or-less typical liberal ideologue seems to take on the ideal of saving the global environment by way of discouraging the Church’s teachings on Life and Family issues.  The more-or-less conservative ideologue often takes on the approach to economic theory that goes something like- “you breed em’ you feed em'”. I don’t find much support for either of these hard positions in the actual teachings and guidance given us via Christ’s Church.

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12 Responses to Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 3

  • “The right to property is closely connected with the existence of families, which protect themselves from need thanks to savings and to the building up of property.”

    Perhaps also an argument against the Estate Tax.

  • Phillip- I think the estate tax is an interesting one in that it is – at the fed level- directed only at multimillionaire holdings, with exemptions for operational family farm estates and small businesses- and it is a tax that has strange bedfellows- I read a good book on preserving the estate tax by Bill Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins- Wealth and our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes- there are many who feel that extreme inheritances tend to create an aristocratic presence that undermines the meritocracy element in American society which was in part a reaction against the old Euro-aristocracies.

  • Actually I will defer as you may be correct. But you also may be wrong on how much businesses and small farms are protected. For example:

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/taxes/small-business-owners-face-estate-tax-dilemma/19349404/

    It might not be the Gates’ children only that are affected. But I will let others who have more expertise in this address.

  • Perhaps the ammendments to the law discussed in the bill above were passed.

  • Regarding the estate tax, I like Greg Mankiw’s thought experiment on it:

    Consider the story of twin brothers – Spendthrift Sam and Frugal Frank. Each starts a dot-com after college and sells the business a few years later, accumulating a $10 million nest egg. Sam then lives the high life, enjoying expensive vacations and throwing lavish parties. Frank, meanwhile, lives more modestly. He keeps his fortune invested in the economy, where it finances capital accumulation, new technologies, and economic growth. He wants to leave most of his money to his children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.

    Now ask yourself: Which millionaire should pay higher taxes?… What principle of social justice says that Frank should be penalized for his frugality? None that I know of.

  • I don’t want this entry to become all about the estate tax debate- I will just end it here with the recommendation to anyone wanting to go deeper with that one to find the Gate’s book I mentioned above and offer a critique of the many arguments and proofs he lays out there for that particular tax. So, if you want to debate the tax please someone write up their own entry and/or do a short critique of the book’s main points if you have time for the research.

  • Fair enough, but the estate tax is an instructive example of why it’s difficult to make blanket policy prescriptions based on CST. Clearly, the argument against plutocracy works in favor of the tax, but Mankiw’s horizontal equity illustration goes against it. CST does not cut neatly across party/ideological lines as some would have you believe.

  • Without getting into exactly what form(s) of taxation are best- what about the proposals from the Church on having subsidies for families to reach a true family wage, and having remuneration for domestic work- I’m thinking mostly of stay at home moms working hard taking proper care of the kids and abode- what about these specific ideas?

  • About the only safe thing that one can say about tax policy derived from CST is that taxes should not unnecessarily burden the poor. After that it is pretty much all prudential.

    The example of family farms regarding the EGT is a good one. Such farms are subject to the same exemption as any other estate assets. Until this year 3.5MM and back down to 1MM I think next year. Is that exemption too low? Why? Are farms different from other businesses, aside from all too common romantic attractions? Wouldn’t most Americans love to own a $1MM farm?

    The risk of plutocratic cross-generational wealth accumulation is belied by the real facts, which are that family wealth becomes less concentrated and generally diminishes over generations. Ask the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Kennedys, Dukes, etc.

    This is not to say that the EGT cannot be justified, but the arguments are less stark. It is true that there is something a bit unappealing about children and grandchildren living off the hard work of their ancestors, but those ancestors may well have under taken the initiatives they did precisely because of a desire to take care of their progeny. After all they choose their heirs.

    Similar problems abound with income taxes. While ability to pay is certainly a valid factor in the calculus of tax fairness, one cannot dismiss that disparities in that factor have a substantial choice component. While most everyone wants to be rich, few people are willing to undertake the combination of risk, hard work, and discipline required. It is easier to let the other guy do it and just slice off a piece.

  • I for one, as a hardworking mother at home, would most definitely like to see some sort of recognition that what we do is real work.

    Socializing and nurturing children; providing their earliest (and some would say most crucial) formation as human beings and citizens; guiding and directing their habits, hygiene, and studies; teaching them the fundamental skills to cope with danger, challenge, and the unexpected; watching over their nutrition, environment, and exercise … The list of what I do goes on and on. A day-care worker doesn’t do everything I do, and what she/he does isn’t done as efficiently because the time to do it comes only in pieces.

    These are important tasks. Stay-at-home parents should be able to do them without having to pay for the privilege.

    Finally, families create stability in a culture, and tax laws, just like all other laws, ought to recognize that fact and adjust accordingly.

  • Sibyl,

    I agree completely. In the abstract, the state should promote the traditional family structure. The larger the family, the greater should be the benefits. Special loans or grants should be given by banks for family businesses or any sort of family financial endeavor.

    Ultimately, though, Christian families must come to rely on each other. So the state should not enshrine the nuclear family, which in my view can become a restrictive fifedom for domineering parents.

    I hate to use that stupid line, but it is true that “it takes a village” – its just that it takes a Christian village, a Catholic village, a community and a parish rooted in traditional Christianity. It doesn’t take the socialist welfare state that Hillary Clinton was talking about.

    I’m not an old man but I’ve seen enough to know that many couples struggle financially in vain. If they would loosen their grip on “their property”, their territory, “their” children (which even good people in today’s society treat more and more like possessions or pets), then many of their problems could be resolved.

    This is how the Mexican community often operates; many families sharing resources. Of course the families are usually related. Its why they can be relatively poor and still out-breed blacks and Caucasians in the United States. They don’t have “more kids than they can afford” – they share burdens among themselves.

    We don’t need to rely on blood relations the way a lot of ethnic communities do. We have a spiritual community; the Body of Christ. But we don’t use it. We are all afraid of one another, afraid to “impose”, afraid to “overstep”, afraid to “offend”, afraid to offer ourselves. If you aren’t completely self-sufficient, you’re a “loser.” You can turn to the anonymous state for help without being judged.

    This is a problem in attitude we need to address. One day, if I have the resources, I will start my own Christian community. Nothing fancy – just encourage Christian families with the same values to live on the same street, send their kids to the same school (or possibly establish a private homeschool), maybe even jointly own a local business together, and see where it goes. It will have to be a community where people trust one another, where parents trust other parents to watch and teach their children for a day (and how much better would that be than some atheist from the teacher’s union pushing homosexual propaganda?).

    Sorry to ramble on. I just believe Christians should voluntarily renounce individualism and materialism.

  • Joe- I’m pretty much with you- I have been dreaming of starting or joining some kind of family monastic movement such as you described- I also wrote up a Catholic Education vision document which hasn’t made it very high in the food chain as of yet- where part of it is to create businesses in Catholic schools along the lines of lasermonks.com, I envision different types of consumer products being made and sold in Catholic communities and schools- bringing much needed monetary resources into Catholic schools which are reeling from steep tuition charges and an over-reliance on a few wealthy benefactors.

    As for the whole State welfare dilemma- I think it is made more complex by our embrace of the global economy whereupon the corporate culture has moved into highly mobile mode, picking up and moving around the country and world- the worker bees must keep up- and so we move about the country, pulling up stakes and putting more and more distance between immediate and extended family members- and one result has been that families and even neighbors are less likely to have formed the deeper bonds of friendship, trust and so forth, so we don’t feel comfortable asking for help from even our parish families because of that body-soul thing- grace builds upon nature- and though we share a spiritual communion we are simultaneously caught up in our cultural milieu that has us moving around, and busily attending to all the other time-takers in life- commuting time, kids activities, face time with our own spouses and children, and down time after stressful work days- what is lacking is the time to spend just hanging out in community at our parishes developing the purely human relationships where we actually know each other;s life circumstances and then feel the call to help or seek help in immediate things like financial crisis and so forth- as it is, if I get laid off chances are the house is put up for sale and the job search becomes a national one because you have to move with the tide of job opps- for good or ill this puts more of us into situations where government funded safety nets are very important- when you have more kids, you need more assurances- not everyone is going to have the call/vocation to start a business from scratch or have some unique talent that translates readily into a fabulous market position in the economy of the moment.

3 Responses to Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 1

  • Just a word of caution on the authority of the Compendium. Even the Compendium itself recognizes that some of what is in it does not partake of infallibility:

    “In studying this Compendium, it is good to keep in mind that the citations of Magisterial texts are taken from documents of differing authority. Alongside council documents and encyclicals there are also papal addresses and documents drafted by offices of the Holy See. As one knows, but it seems to bear repeating, the reader should be aware that different levels of teaching authority are involved.”

    Also Catholic Social teaching as you point out, does not fit any particular political position. Fortunately, CST also notes that it does not propose any particular political solutions. That is in fact left to the prudential judgment of the laity (yes it is up to the use of prudence – the practical application of moral norm to a specific problems.) Thus CST also notes that Catholics in good faith can disagree on particular solutions. To say otherwise is in fact to act contrary to Catholic Social Teaching itself.
    Now it seems you are not doing so but you do head near the shoals of Ultramontanism (as some other Catholic blogs do) by thinking that by reading the Compendium you will come up with a specific solutions. You won’t. Specific moral principles to apply – yes. Particular solutions that all are called to adhere to as good Catholics – no.
    I agree that one has to avoid ideologies that reduce the truth to sound bites. But there is a distinction between ideologies and ideas. Long, hard, cold thought out ideas that have internal coherence and which can provide specific political solutions. These ideas which form from the understanding of history, politics etc. have internal validity as expressions of human reason and if solidly based are a valid means of approaching problems of the world today. Even you admit to some with your FDR approach. This is okay.
    Its okay to have internally consistent ideas that propose solutions to political problems as long as one is open to new understanding as the study of history, politics, etc. develop. Even the Church (in one of JPII’s social encyclicals which is lost on me now) admits this much. That some of what is in CST is based on current understanding of history, economics etc. and can develop as these disciplines and as human understanding itself develops (see my first admonition above about differing degrees of authority.)
    So the bottom line is, I don’t have a problems with Conservative/Liberal etc. But let all come forth with solid, reasoned arguments and not the raw emotionalism that Charity in Truty decries. Let the best current understanding of social problems be presented with solid economic, historical etc. understanding. Then let Catholic laypersons with solid ideas (and not ideologies) make solid, prudential decisions.

  • Appreciate the insights Phillip- I suppose my goal is not to replace a brother/sister’s ideology with another one- but to get every serious Catholic who makes a big show of being a out and proud “conservative” or “liberal” and so forth- to think again- not to convert to another ideology, but to just leave off the self-labeling when saying you are Catholic- a Christian disciple- should suffice. I recall cringing at Sen. Brownback after receiving Father Pavone’s personal endorsement for President, going around saying that he was the “true Conservative”. Is that a good public witness for Christ, given that Christ is giving us a social doctrine that doesn’t lend itself easily to ideological adherences? Personally, I don’t see how an honest reading of all the social doctrine materials can lead me to voluntarily accept the imprisonment of any merely political ideology. I have tendencies toward the FDR Democratic party mold, but I recognize the fallibility of such to address all issues for all time- I won’t suggest that it wasn’t surprising that so much of the Catholic Church faithful were inclined to the FDR-Dem party – even in the Hierarchy- given the connections people were seeing between the social teachings and the political visions offered at the time. Of course times change, and appeals to FDR are not what I am much concerned with.

    I believe we are living in a bit of a new Barbarian Age- more subtle than before, very high-tech, but also very deadly to bodies and souls- I see the Barbarian movement in the establishment Left and Right- with abortion killing millions and a serious lack of global solidarity leading to unnecessary military conflicts and unjust economic situations. America is part of the problem and part of the solution- I’m focused on getting my nation to get out of the business of being part of the problem.

    As for the Compendium- I realize that differing levels of teaching authority are in play- but the fact that they are now given new circulation in the Compendium which is a concise rendering of the entire corpus of our social doctrine should be cause for new appreciation for all of it’s contents. At minimum what is in there must be taken deeply into our developing consciences- to say that only the most explicit detail of a particular principle of social teaching is worth reading would be a major error in prudential judgment. I figure if the Magisterium or Church leader puts something down on paper for our consumption, we should attempt to take time to consume it, let it work through our minds and imaginations, so that when we set about proposing specifics on major issues, or vision statements- we will have the benefit of all of the Church’s vast wisdom. I think that too many Catholics abuse the notion of prudential judgment to simply short-circuit the papal words that don’t mix well with their chosen ideological adherences- I’m not making a personal accusation to you Phillip or anyone in particular- but I am suspicious of everyone who clings too closely to something like what Brownback said “I am the true Conservative” I’m very suspicious of true believers in political ideologies.

  • Thanks for your reply. Will respond more fully after Easter. Quick reply is that I appreciate and look forward to your insights also.

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!

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

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

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

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

    Again I am curious about that comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support the Troops- Here's One Way

Monday, July 13, AD 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • It’s the military, not social services.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bingo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • E,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    WILLIAMS
    That’s more than we know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I tried to cover this in some detail here:

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

  • Joe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ————–

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • E,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Darwin,

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

    I’m sure most of them would not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “The list could go on for considerable length.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Fox,

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

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

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

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

    🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Darwin,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Again, what conspiracy theory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Darwin,

    Would you say that about any other country?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    YES.

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

  • Friends,

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

    Your friend,
    m

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Joe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I concur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • (…continued…)

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

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

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

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

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

  • E,

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

    I will remind you that I said:

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

    That’s all.

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

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

  • E,

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

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

    Is that an apology?

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

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

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

  • Joe,

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

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

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

  • There is no calumny here.

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

    Is that not a calumny?

  • Joe:

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

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

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

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

    …and even the more recent:

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

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

    God help us.

  • Alright E,

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

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

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

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

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

    Please tell me you understand the difference between these things.

    Furthermore,

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

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

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

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

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

  • Joe:

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

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

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

  • Fine with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tim Shipe:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • E,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A couple points for consideration:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Your hatriotism towards America is legendary in Saint Blogs.

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

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

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

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

    Chapter Eight
    The Political Community

    III. Political Authority
    c. The right to conscientious objection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Michael,

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

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

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

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

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

    Your dedication to the pro-life cause is underwhelming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Your dedication to the pro-life cause is underwhelming.

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

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

    Jabs = hate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Enjoy the ego trip, kid.

  • Joe said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Predictable as always, kid.

  • Shall we close this thread on a positive?

    Looks like Dale ain’t into that idea.

Catholic View of the Political Community (part 4)

Sunday, June 28, AD 2009

We continue the test of our Catholic worldview on the subject of the role of the Political Community- drawing upon Chapter 8 in the authoritative Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. We have looked at the Old Testament (#377-378) and Jesus’ interaction with political authorities #379) to see the development of doctrine relating to how we are to regard the political community. Now we turn to “The early Christian communities”.

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9 Responses to Catholic View of the Political Community (part 4)

  • Criticism of rulers is not necessarily being anti-government. Criticism of govt. that one prudently believes violates subsidiarity is also legitimate. While the govt. does look after the common good, as you read the Compendium you will find that all persons are responsible for the common good even if they are not directly involved in legislation. Thus subsidiarity. Nor do I believe most people here think govts. only role is a strong military. Poor strawman argument.

  • Rulers are singled out for special prayers in Christian circles for good reason- just like political leaders getting opportunities to have private meetings with the popes- it is because there is an implicit recognition that these people have a special role to play in securing the common good- even though we all have some role in the mix.

    And my own criticism is directed I suppose more generally at the harsher critiques of governing authority as a necessary agent for establishing societal rule based upon natural law- I don’t know who reads American Catholic, I don’t write as if I know everyone who is going to come across these posts- I know that there are many Grover Norquist fans out and about- with his talk about having government shrunk down to a size where it could be drowned in a bathtub ( thanks for that reminder Joe!). That definitely sounds like it is out-of-bounds for Catholics to believe such a thing.

    I find it interesting that even a post that is written as a general instruction like this one, somehow finds a way to be viewed as a personal attack on some here at American Catholic. I am too busy to keep up with who’s who even around here- I have an impression from many things I read and see, and from people I know and argue with in my daily life- I know that people exist who really and truly hate pretty much all government “interference” and believe that taxes are theft, and see government’s role as being military and police almost exclusively- these aren’t straw men, these are people I know, people I consider friends to some degree even, some are Cathlic- maybe these people aren’t you- but they exist- and they aren’t limiting themselves to simple criticism of rulers.

    I think there is a danger in that streak of anti-authoritarianism that many Americans attribute to our Revolutionary beginnings- but my central thesis is that authority is necessary and good as all authority ultimately derives from God- and we mustn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater- we shouldn’t undermine the true nature and role of the political community as taught by the official Church by denying the fact that those in authority have a special responsibility to ensure the common good by applying the natural law according to the virtue of prudence.

  • Fair enough. It seems we agree that govt. itself is a good. At the same time there is a small group that sees all govt. as evil, there are also those (probably larger group) that sees govt. as the solution to all problems. Thus the authoritative teaching that subsidiarity must be observed and the govt. to intervene only when more immediate bodies cannot address the problem.

    This is because the political community is not govt. Govt. is part of the political community but the political community is broader, encompassing social, cultural, professional communities etc. These communities, through the human persons involving them, have a profound role in shapine the community as a whole.

  • To correct. The political community does not exhaust the community as a whole. The community as a whole comprises other human societies which the political is obliged to respect. Thus the role of subsidiarity.

  • I have often wondered why Catholic conservatives don’t call more attention to the principle of subsidarity, which is urgently needed as a balance between nanny-state big-government liberalism and the rigid anti-government philosophies like Objectivism or libertarianism.

    Subsidarity, properly understood, does NOT leave the poor or disadvantaged out in the cold, or treat all government as evil or all taxation as theft. It simply assigns responsibility for meeting the needs of the vulnerable to the lowest level of societal organization that is capable of meeting those needs.

    As I see it the individual is the lowest rung on this ladder, followed by the family, the religious/cultural community to which the family belongs, larger voluntary organizations (i.e. private charities, fraternal or social organizations), then up the ladder of government from the smallest unit (town, city, school district) through state and finally federal govt.

    The next highest level of organization steps in when the one below it cannot meet the need, and ONLY then. Now there will be times when this balance shifts or changes due to economic or social conditions — i.e. families or private charities can’t handle taking care of the poor so government steps in. However, the goal should always be to get needs met at the lowest possible level and to shift that responsibility back down to the local level when and if conditions allow.

    Now I haven’t done an extensive study of the concept of subsidarity so if I’m getting off base here feel free to correct me. Subsidarity doesn’t regard any layer of society (private or government) as superfluous or evil or unneccessary, it just insists that they keep their proper place in the scheme of things. It also recognizes that all these spheres are interdependent upon one another to some extent, and don’t function in a vaccuum.

    I think some of the debate going about about how to deal with state budget crises and social services would be a lot more sensible if people had a proper grasp of this concept.

    Instead of pitting private sector workers against government employees, or the family struggling to pay rising income/property taxes against the family with a disabled child who relies upon tax-funded programs to pay for the child’s care, in some kind of imagined fight to the death which one must win and the other lose, maybe EVERYONE would realize that we are all ultimately in the same boat. And instead of being at each other’s throats or insisting that someone else must do without so that I can have more, we might be willing to work together for a truly responsible government, which benefits everyone. Well, at least I can dream about that.

  • The complexity in dealing with subsidiarity right now is that we have all of these global forces in operation- multinational banks and corporations- they aren’t shy about exerting pressure on local, state, and federal governments- if one level holds strong they seem to be able to go over their heads- and I’m troubled by the legal person status given to corporations in this country- that can’t be good when you start treating a corporation as a minority with human rights in a community of real persons who don’t want that corporation to be or to stop doing something that is harming the community in some way.

    So- subsidiarity must be seen in the context of the universal common good, and global solidarity- we are one human family because we have One Father in Heaven, and His Son our Christ the King has commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that has to have political implications when you have political and economic systems setting the conditions of life for children and families everywhere. And if we are Americans, we know that our collective influence is quite profound globally. We have to make sure we are being guided by natural law and not imperial drive- that is the great challenge for all of us- of course we have differing levels of personal power, so we are to be judged only by what we do with what we have. Like in the talents parable.

    We will see in the next part what happens when government (good) is being run by bad person (s) doing very bad things- when you subvert something that God intends to be a Good for society, then beware- like C.S. Lewis wrote- “the higher, the more in danger”.

  • Subsidiarity is a fundamental principle as is the common good and solidarity. The lowest body capable of taking care of such issues must. If that is through an international body, so be it. But that is an argument to be made and not self-evident from the current economic crisis per se. And that is consistent with love and charity in Christ. As the Church authoritatively teaches.

  • I am anxiously awaiting Pope Benedict’s take on the situation as it stands today with the Encyclical to be released in the next week or so- I am sure it will reflect the same worldview as previous social encyclical, but it will have the most direct application of that worldview to our current socio-economic conditions. It should be an excellent starting point for dialogue among the orthodoxy and with all those of goodwill.

  • As I’ve noted before on this blog, I don’t like paying taxes any more than anyone else, and there does come a point when the burdens of taxation outweigh the benefits, leading to economic stagnation or collapse as businesses and families stop spending money or move elsewhere. Tax hikes should be a last resort only when all other means have failed.

    However, I also have little if any sympathy for rabid anti-tax folks like Norquist who display indifference at best and contempt at worst for the real human beings who rely upon government services or who work for the government. I agree with Tim that his “drowning government in the bathtub” analogy is pretty disturbing when you think about it.

    Arguing against tax hikes on reasonable grounds such as their potential effect on future business/employment growth, or the need to foster self-sufficiency and personal responsibility at a lower level of society, is good. However, to insist that society can be neatly divided between parasitical “tax eaters” and long-suffering “tax payers,” as if the two groups have no interests in common and never overlap, is in my opinion a gross distortion or oversimplification of the issues involved.

Party of God/Party of Satan?

Monday, June 22, AD 2009

I am not interested in having future fruitless arguments over whether or not the Republican or Democratic Party is pure evil or not. It is like the old canard comparing some contemporary American politician to Adolf Hitler- it is a deal-breaker. I am one who believes that truth in politics is pretty spread out among the various major and minor political parties- there are some huge moral gaps in all, so the choice of party for me is not based on trying to find the perfect Party of God here in America.

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12 Responses to Party of God/Party of Satan?

  • …but I also don’t believe that the mainstream Republican strategy of framing abortion rights as a state’s rights question is a legitimate pro-life solution.

    Hardly a fair assessment of the Republican strategy. The Republican platform calls for a Constitutional amendment to protect the right to life of the unborn from the moment of conception.

    Good luck with your project of bringing the Democrats around on the abortion issue, really.

  • Paul- three quick points- first thanks for the good will to wish me luck- prayers will do even better!

    Second- I am aware of the official platform, but to be honest I don’t think these platforms really drive the operations in the parties- they are nice and symbolic, and if I had seen the kind of energy from the national Republican leaders to push for such an Amendment during the 8 years of the Bush Admin, my heart might have been won over- but alas- it seems that all I hear from the actual candidates and reps during elections is that they have their personal beliefs about abortion being wrong, but really all they intend is to send it back to the states to decide- taking the Scalia/Thomas road to pro-State’s Rights, not natural law/pro-life. So, yes it is a few hairs more than the Democratic sell-out of the unborn, but it doesn’t cut it if we want to make the right to life a universal human right someday. There is sometimes a tyranny in popular opinion- and right now abortion is something that requires national leaders to take up their godly role, not pass the buck. Again, I am convinced that many of my friends who support the State’s rights approach to abortion are genuine in their position- they don’t see a way clear to what I propose without undermining the Rule of Law- I respect their reasoning, but I don’t accept it. What I propose will require a big turnaround inside the Democratic Party, which is why I am focusing my energies there. I will leave the Republican CAtholics to do the heavy lifting inside their chosen party. The big point in this submission is simply to say that there can be no debate or common ground if one is simply to assert that the Democratic or Republican parties are just pure evil and anyone associating or working within one or the other major Parties is in grave sin. That is the only point of no return for me when it comes to having a dialogue. I don’t view the parties as hopeless, just major basket cases- if I decide to break with the Dems it will be to go and try to form a Natural Law/Common Good Party- but right now that seems like a strategy that would give me pleasure, but I’m not convinced it would actually help reform American politics to help on the major issues of my discontent.

  • Great post. I agree with a good bit of it. I am really glad that certain people are not in charge of RCIA programs. One gets a sense that Republicans would have to repent in public of many supposed sins before being allowed to enter 🙂

    I am hoping the Church (in all its facets) does a better job of engaging both major parties

  • …if I had seen the kind of energy from the national Republican leaders to push for such an Amendment during the 8 years of the Bush Admin, my heart might have been won over- but alas- it seems that all I hear from the actual candidates and reps during elections is that they have their personal beliefs about abortion being wrong, but really all they intend is to send it back to the states to decide…

    Here, I wish I could contradict you, but I can’t. I share your frustration, the moreso because I am a Republican. So many missed opportunities.

    The only solution I can see is to find more pro-life candidates at every level of government; which is why I am running for the Illinois legislature.

  • I suspect the GOP would push it if the average pro-lifer in the pews would push it more.

    I mean I rarely hear about it.

  • “Good luck with your project of bringing the Democrats around on the abortion issue, really.”

    That’s precisely the problem. “Good luck with YOUR project.” Why is it only OUR project? Call me an idealist, but I thought we were in this together and I hardly see how we’re going to get that constitutional amendment, overturn Roe v. Wade, or get any federal pro-life legislation without the Democrats who are pro-life. Even with the GOP control of Congress, no pro-life legislation has ever passed without the 40 or so pro-life Democrats who get on board.

    I’m not justifying the actions or cowardliness that many pro-life Democrats have taken. But it seems that hardly any can rise because the funding isn’t there nor is the support.

    If I ran for office right now, health care and environmental lobbies won’t give me funding because I’m pro-life. Pro-life groups won’t give me funding because I’m a Democrat. In a Democratic primary, pro-choice groups and Democratic groups will back my opponent(s) and I would be outspent terribly.

    The problem for pro-life Democrats is not the general election. It seems that to me, a pro-life Democrat more often than not beats a Republican and solidly too. It is not the general that we have to worry about. We have to survive primaries and the party machine is set up in such a way that, that is an enormous, almost insurmountable task. What’s even worse is those who should be our true allies, don’t support us. And I’m not talking pseudo-pro-life Democrats — Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson etc — I’m talking the Robert Caseys who don’t quite get into the game, like Mr. Shipe here.

    I’m not all too sure if there’s ever really a second glance at a Democrats’ pro-life credentials once you see the “(D)” after his or her name. Maybe I’m wrong. I pray I am. But this “buck your party” and “then give us a call” business is beyond unfair.

    For every missed Republican opportunity, for every time the GOP machine has taken advantage of pro-lifers, or has failed on its promises, I would love to see a swarm of angry letters in the mail to Congress or a threat to not vote for them. But, oh….we can’t. If we vote against them, we get the opposition which is rabidly pro-abortion. So we’re locked in the box with no one to vote for except for the GOP…and they’re going to give this strategy up, why? For justice? I think that’s delusional. Sure, there are some sincere pro-life Republicans, but I don’t think the machine is selling the votes anytime soon.

    So if I can ask myself as a pro-life Democrat, why should I vote eagerly for the party establishment if they will not even consider my views? If the Democratic machine knew it could get my vote no matter what positions they took, they would have no reason to change it. In the same way, if the GOP does in fact take advantage of pro-life votes, if it does in fact pay “lip service” to the unborn and do minimal work to end abortion, then in fact, why sell your vote to an establishment that is at best lukewarm? I’m not saying vote for a pro-choice opponent. Vote for a different candidate in the primaries, at least abstain from voting for one (or however many) on the ballot, or at least raise awareness about that candidate. I don’t see the party getting more serious unless something is done.

    I hardly see as much energy spent at developing and maintaining real energy on abortion than I see on other issues and throwing the word “socialism” around. Like Mr. Shipe, had I seen one bill like the Right to Life Act or fetus-personhood bill, even make it off of committee for a vote I’d be in a different party. The Democrats are using the “reconciliation process” so that they ONLY need 50 votes to get a health care bill through the Senate. Why could the Republicans have not done that? I don’t see half the energy in fighting it than I do in talking about it or pointing to the failures of those on the other side. And this is hardly the point of pro-life Republican criticism.

    Again and again, we are told vote for “pro-life candidates.” Why is it then, there seems to be a distinction? It often strikes me as unspoken or perhaps unrealized. “Pro-life candidates” are Republicans. There is a distinction made for “Pro-life Democratic candidates” as if they were a whole and separate category.

    So, the project of voting for pro-life Republicans is an obligation to the unborn (one of which I am not disputing). But the possibility of crossing partylines to help gain a broader pro-life coalition across parties is not an obligation. It is a problem only for pro-life Democrats to worry about. The solidarity seems to break down here.

    How many pro-life Democrats have positions of leadership or head committees? The problem is, as long as they are the “freshman” and can’t form a meaningful coalition, the pro-abortion majority won’t see any reason to take them seriously.

    This isn’t helped by pro-life Democrats without so much as a blink voting for pro-abortion candidates. However, neither are we helped by those from the other side who wouldn’t so much as lift a finger.

    We talk about double standards a lot in politics. Is this not a double standard?

    Forgive me here, but at least I can acknowledge and blatantly point out the obvious failures of pro-life Democrats. We have some serious issues that need to be worked out. However, I sure as hell don’t think we’re the party that is going to end abortion. I don’t think Republicans will end abortion. Pro-life American people will end abortion.

    Pro-choice Americans are marching in lock-step. The pro-life house is divided against itself. Can we not find some consensus on this? Lord, Have Mercy On Us.

  • Just a few points here, Eric…

    That’s precisely the problem. “Good luck with YOUR project.” Why is it only OUR project?

    Because I’m a Republican; I have no capacity to reform the Democratic Party. I’m working on the reform of the GOP. Race you?

    It seems that to me, a pro-life Democrat more often than not beats a Republican and solidly too.

    That’s because so many people assume that the “pro-life” Democrat doesn’t really mean it. Does the name Bob Casey, Jr., ring a bell?

    I’m not all too sure if there’s ever really a second glance at a Democrats’ pro-life credentials once you see the “(D)” after his or her name. Maybe I’m wrong.

    And maybe you’re not. When I see the “D” after a name, I want to know what’s wrong with a person’s pro-life sensibilities that they would be part of the party of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Kathleen Sebelius, and the rest of the crowd who lie about abortion and about pro-lifers in order to keep abortion money coming in. My suspicion is, I think, understandable.

    But, oh….we can’t. If we vote against them, we get the opposition. So we’re locked in the box with no one to vote for except for the GOP…and they’re going to give this strategy up, why?

    And the Democratic Party is going to make a home for these disappointed pro-life voters… when?

    Both parties are becoming increasingly pro-abortion. The GOP can only abandon the pro-life issue because the Democrats did so long ago.

    But the possibility of crossing partylines to help gain a broader pro-life coalition across parties is not an obligation. It is a problem only for pro-life Democrats to worry about. The solidarity seems to break down here.

    In my area, my state rep is a pro-abort Republican. If the Democrats were to put up a pro-life opponent, I would support that candidate. But last year, they ran no one in the primary, and slated a pro-choice accountant for the general, whom the incumbent succeeding in getting removed from the ballot on a technicality.

    But let the Dems offer me a real choice, and I’ll take a good look.

    This year, with no rumors of an opponent in the (Feb. 2010) primary, I have entered the race myself, unprepared and inadequate though I may be.

    We talk about double standards a lot in politics. Is this not a double standard?

    Not that I can see. I want the best pro-life candidate I can find. After that, I want the candidate I think is best on other issues, too. A pro-life Democrat isn’t likely to get my vote over a pro-life Republican.

    I personally have never seen a ballot that had a pro-life Democrat against a pro-choice Republican. I suspect that pro-life Dems run against pro-life Republicans for purely partisan reasons. I rarely see much Democratic opposition to pro-choice Republicans.

  • Paul,

    Together, we uphold the status quo quite nicely.

    I’m a Democrat because I feel profoundly that God wants to me sitting at a table with particular sinners for a particular reason–warring that sin as an “enemy from within.”

    I never imagined it would be easy or simple. I didn’t even think it would come without suspicion from others who disagree with me. I doubt that’s avoidable in this life.

    The more I think about it, the more I think I’m meant to do it. In fact, what convinces me that it is my vocation is that it scares the daylights out of me. The media will love the election of a homosexual Catholic who opposes same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnership, gay adoption, etc etc.

    So, indeed, Paul. Race you.

    I’ll continue to profoundly disagree with you on this, as on other matters (obviously).

    Good luck with your campaign. I’ll pray for you and probably, sooner rather than later, I’ll help fund it.

  • Thanks Eric, I’ll say a Hail Mary for you too.

  • One problem we have Eric is Democrats who run as pro-lifers and who then convert to the pro-abort cause after they get elected. Believe it or not, Dick Durbin, pro-abort Senator from my state, ran as a pro-lifer to win a congressional seat from Paul Findley, a Republican pro-abort. Durbin received a huge amount of support from pro-life Republicans around Illinois, and I have no doubt that Durbin would not have been elected in downstate Springfield without that support.
    http://www.illinoisfamily.org/informed/contentview.asp?c=27439

    Enough Democrats have pulled this trick to give many pro-lifers concern about the bona fides of a Democrat running as a pro-lifer. It is a shame that this impacts truly pro-life Democrats, but that is the situation.

  • If I held every single Republican politician accountable for my suspicion of a pro-life facade that I generally suspected, I wouldn’t vote for any of them and support third party candidates, or write-in candidates.

  • Eric, how many Republicans can you name that were elected as pro-lifers and then became pro-aborts?

5 Responses to Catholic View of the Political Community (Part 3)

  • I think the Catechism deals with the question of patriotism vs. what you call “My Country Right or Wrong abuse of patriotism”. The Catechism would call the latter nationalism. Patriotism itself is seen as a reflection of the virtue of justice as as such a proper duty for each person.

  • No argument there. Patriotism is a good thing, but is soured when it begins the process of excusing/overlooking/or outright supporting moral evils or lackings in a given nation. I use the term patriotism more than nationalism because most Americans are unfamiliar with the term nationalism to describe things here in the U.S., and find it convenient to hide behind the term- patriotism- as if you couldn’t go wrong being patriotic even to the extreme. What is that old saying- patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels- or something like that. I see this sort of thing in the drumbeat to war- in the debate on how best to “Support the Troops”. I will write a future article on my own decision to join the military in the early 80’s, and how my thinking goes today. Patriotism is something that we can all relate to, and it is a great discussion to have among serious Catholics. We don’t want to fall into the Zealots camp anymore than we want to become likened to the Pharisees- both missed Jesus bigtime!

  • C.S. Lewis in “The Four Loves” discusses the various types of love of country. To summarize what he said — which I have found very helpful — patriotism exists on several levels.

    At its most basic it is simply an attachment to your home and culture, to the things you grew up with (food, music, holidays, landscape, etc.) This type of patriotism, Lewis says, is usually not at all aggressive, but simply wants to be left alone, and respects other people’s right to enjoy their “homes” equally. I suspect that for many Americans, this kind of patriotism attaches to their home state or city as well as to their country.

    Another type of patriotism is pride in the legendary or iconic deeds and words of the country’s heroes and founders (e.g. the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving, Washington chopping down the cherry tree, Old West cowboys). Lewis says there is nothing wrong with this kind of patriotism or pride in one’s country, but it should NOT be confused with the actual, factual history of one’s country, which has to include the bad as well as the good.

    The last and potentially most dangerous form of patriotism is the belief that one’s country is inherently superior to all others. Attempting to remake other countries in the image of one’s own can be done aggressively through war, or commercially through colonization, or in more subtle ways. It is this kind of patriotism that corresponds most closely with “nationalism” in the sense that the Catechism uses.

  • Right on elaine- I have absorbed a lot of C.S. Lewis over the years- I really like the above description- thanks

  • Tim,

    Back from Father’s Day weekend. It may be that Americans may confuse the term but perhaps that is that it has not been used with them. Given that we are seeking to form the basis of the conversation for understanding political community it would also be good to start with proper terms. I agree with Elaine that C.S. Lewis has good insight to this though again it would be good to distinguish the terms. I find most Americans capable of learning this even given the status of Public Education. As for the Zeolots/Pharisees and Nationalism see:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11789b.htm

    Since we are trying to understand the political community I would also say that we do not think of Jesus in terms of “revolution.” Such a term has political implications all its own. Redemption is I believe a better Catholic starting point.

Catholic View of the Political Community (Part 2)

Monday, June 15, AD 2009

Here I continue with the slow build-up of an authentic Catholic worldview on the true nature of the Political Community- as outlined by the authoritative Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Chapter 8). This second paragraph contains more of the Old Testament outlook on Kingship, with the earthly kings of Israel finding their deepest fulfillment in Christ the King. But there is more to be said about the political community and responsibilities of citizen(s) and ruler(s). We will see the development in the social doctrine as we go forward through the Compendium’s teachings. We cannot point to one specific epoch in the history of the Church and the Chosen People, and make final assertions about things- we must look closely at how the current doctrines of the Church have developed, so we can see the consistent core principles. Here goes with paragraph 378:

Continue reading...

4 Responses to Catholic View of the Political Community

  • “10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle [b] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

    19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” ”

    I’d say that the warnings about Kingship (Government), are some of the more accurate prophecies in the Bible.

  • Belloc however noted that the president of the U.S. acted as a prince [his word for the executive] and the country was thus spared the corruption and weakness of parliaments.

  • This may be rather more of a libertarian reading than you were thinking of — but one of the things that had always struck me about the list of evils surrounding having a king (which Donald quotes above) is that it underlines the trade off which communities make as they move from a society of direct personal relationships, to one of rulers, to one of laws.

    There is no state of primordial social goodness, in that humans as we know them are fallen creatures drawn to take advantage of others, but in the most basic organizational level of society we see people interacting with each other as people with direct relationships. However, in order to martial the centralized resources to achieve a certain level of power and prestige, a society must establish some sort of ruling power — which in turn is invariably abused to some extent.

    Those weilding power (whether kings or legislatures) are always capable of doing things that increase the common good — but also capable of either bumbling or actively abusing. There is, thus, a constant search for balance, whether to give more power to the ruler[s] so that they may try to improve society, or restrict their power to curtail their ability to harm society.

  • A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.

    Gerald Ford

16 Responses to Importance of Natural Law

  • Tim

    I am not sure drawing some fire is accurate. I think the prior threads were dealing with must there be a Natural Law interpretation of the Const via a Catholic Judge.

    As I stated before I would like to see a robust Natural Law Jurisprudence. However I think you are putting too much on the Judical branch. What about the legislative branch where laws are made. No doubt there were anti slavery Judges. But they did not think they could outlaw slavery by Judicial fiat because their power and authority came by this compromise.

    The Supreme Court is the weakest branch. They have no power to tax and no armies to enforce their rulings. They must have the integrity of their work to make their rulings have a binding force.

    I read Rice’s book soon after I converted and it was great. It should be noted that the main guy that was attacking Thomas on this at the time is now our current Catholic Vice President. It should also be noted that on the “right” that the little toad Damon Linker that got a job at First Things has declared over and over in his book and in his forum at New Republic that Nehaus and others were trying to do a Catholic Theocracy through the back door through “natural law”.

    It has been on the most part Evangelicals I hate to say that have been saying that was silliness. Many Catholics because Neuhaus had the sin of liking Republicans have been silent and just yell chareges of NEO CON.

    I am all for Natural Law jurisprudence and I think it is happening. But there must be a very much big defense of it. That is not happening. The Thomas heraing were a great example of it. I watched that non stop. THe Catholic Church was largely AWOL. Maybe because he was a Bush Choice.

    THe point is if you want a Natural Law viewpoint then go to the legislature. If we know anything about this court whether conservative or liberal they give the legislative branch the benefit of the doubt 9 times out of ten. And that goes for the most conservative of Justices

  • Last summer I heard a talk by one of America’s most noted writers on Catholic social teachings in which he claimed that these teachings have never been codified in a systematic way. When I asked him about the Compendium, he brushed off the question with “Well, I suppose.” But in fact, his work never cites the Compendium.

    I suspect the problem is the organizational pattern of the Compendium which, following Gaudium et spes, puts family life before political and economic issues and argues that the natural family, founded on marriage, is the essential basis for a just social order. Too many Catholics who claim to favor social justice seem to reject that principle as out of keeping with modern life.

  • While natural law is true and is written on the hearts of me, the hearts of men are imperfect even assuming only the noblest of intentions. Thus, the discernment of natural law must be subject to a process with assigned responisbilities, lest it be determined simply by the strongest. In a constitutional federal republic that task is assigned to legislators, not judges. Judges who make decisions based on their understanding of natural law at the expense of the positive laws made by legislators are acting themselves as lawmakers and thereby usurping that function. Under the US system of governance and justice, it is the role of voting citizens to elect representatives who they believe are skilled at discerning natural law such that positive law can reflect natural law as much as humanly possible. Empowering judges to act as lawmakers is not only inimical to our system of government, it greatly limits the power of a citizen to work to ensure that natural law prevails through the legislative process. Roe v. Wade is a vital example. Judges, by ignoring positive law (the plain text of our Constitution), made horribly bad law and thereby removed from the people and their elected representatives the practical power to correct it. Natural law is a vital part of Catholic teaching, but the discernment process largely rests with voters and their elected representatives, not judges.

  • As usual, I will merely say put me down for what Mike Petrik said!

  • ron,

    I think many of our fellow Catholics don’t hold much for viewing the family as the foundational unit of society. Chalk that up to divorce and contraception.

    I think the central “problem” of CST is that much of it is influenced by current economic and sociological thinking. John Paul notes this in I believe Solicitudo Rei Socialis. Thus there are the limits on infallibility that the Compendium itself notes in its preface. However some take the Compendium as an infallible program for all of society.

  • Well- I don’t think you can sidestep the moral responsibility of Judges with the dodge that American law is set up for legislative action, not judicial. The Magisterium speaks over and over for a just juridical framework to guarantee as best we can the common good- to include even the global economy. The Church is far more in favor of international law for example than most of those I hear who are self-described “conservatives”. I really believe that those who ignore such things as the Compendium are really just the flip side of the liberal dissidents who ignore the Hierarchy and the social doctrine when it becomes inconvenient. The Left will trot out the popes when the subject is war, but then ignore or belittle the significanse of the popes when the subject turns to sexuality, for example. The Right likes to try to collapse the terms “conservative” and “orthodox”, but it seems that many such Catholics usually resort to the prudential judgment line, or they belittle the importance of such things as the Compendium because I believe any serious reading of the entire social doctrine will not make “conservatives” sleep easy at night if they are indeed going around claiming orthodoxy and conservatism simultaneously.

    I don’t think you can read what the Compendium says about the essential need to base our communities and legal systems on natural law reasoning- and then go ahead and claim that well yes, but this isn’t necessary to include our Judges or Supreme Court in all of this. You must be saying that the Catholic social doctrine is wrong because I don’t find that kind of wiggle room in the official documents. The Judges have always been on the hook since Old Testament days- basic justice gentlemen- don’t hide behind American Federalism- that is a Pontius Pilate strategy. I point to the Compendium as an orthodox Catholic, not as a liberal or conservative, how can any orthodox Catholic ignore something that is authoritative and not so vague as many would like to claim? It reminds me of a question I often ask of my students- which label is more important to you- American or Catholic? I know a lot of Catholics want to be successful in this world, they want to find a way to have it both ways- even in politics and law. Scalia, Thomas, Bork et al feel confident they have found a way to be good Catholics, but leave that Catholicity at home when they go to work as Supreme Court Justices- I wouldn’t take that bet, not with my eternal soul. Catholic justices should not recuse themselves on important issues, but they shouldn’t deny the political implications of being Catholic, anymore than Catholic politicians of the Left or Right should. This is the central problem as to why our American Church is in such disarray, with two petty warring liberal and conservative little camps grabbing for power and attention in the mass media and big time politics. I think it is time to be truly faithful to the Magisterium and the official teachings, and let the chips fall, let the persecutions happen, and just find a way to support our large families, and keep growing our numbers and influence.

    If something is taught by the ordinary Magisterium then there is an obligation of religious assent, one should never openly disregard or publicly negate that teaching.

  • Tim, you really haven’t offered a concrete way for Catholic Judges to approach the issues and apply the natural law. You dodged my questions about homosexual actions and contraceptive use. Is a judge simply to disregard the Constitution and apply simply his or her own conception of the natural law, even if said conception may in fact be out of whack with the natural law? Non-Catholic Justices may believe that the 9th Amendment is a grant of natural law, and as such may feel inclined to uphold abortion rights as being a part of the natural law.

    As Mike alluded to above, our conceptions of the natural law are hardly uniform, even amongst Catholics. The Constitution, while admitting of various interpretations itself, is still a concrete written law visible to all. Where is the justice in submitting our Constitutional rights to the hands of nine Judges, whose conception of the natural law may differ mightily from mine? My legal recourse is much more limited when I’m basically trusting that the Justice is well-trained philosophically and theologically.

    Now, again, it’s true that we can have differing interpretations of the constitutional text, but that is a clearly written text that admits of less ambiguity (unless your William O. Douglas, and the thing means whatever you think it means).

    Your rhetoric is also fairly insulting in its implication that anyone who doesn’t exactly see the issue exactly as you do is, in a sense, heretical and opposed to the Magisterium. No, we just don’t see the Compendium as an affirmative grant that judicial bodies should ignore the written text of the law. Furthermore, it’s not a dodge to say that the focus of our attention should be on the legislative branch. I think our focus on the Courts is rather unfortunate. We should not constantly seek the Court as a last refuge against an out-of-control legislative branch.

  • Tim,
    You are simply ignoring the importance of process. It is true that CST requires that societies adopt legal frameworks that are in accord with natural law, but in the end we still need to determine who gets to decide. Under our system that responsibility rests with the legislatures representing the citizenry, not judges. One might create a system under which judges made laws in accordance with their natural law discernments, but that is not our system. For example, judges could just consider their understanding of natural law as a kind of super-constitution under which all other laws must yield. While certainly not the system envisioned by our nation’s founders, including the constitution’s framers, it could be done. I think, however, you would be appalled at the result. Think Roe.
    In any event, the decision as to where lawmaking responsibility (and the corresponding responsiblity to ensure that such laws are in keeping with natural law) is a prudential matter, with the most important prudential question being which system is most likely to yield good and just laws in the long run. You may disagree with my prudential application (and also the view of most principled legal scholars), and that is your right. But it is not a dodge, and I resent the accusation.

  • I meant to type “… the decision as to where lawmaking responsiblity (and the corresponding responsiblity to ensure that such laws are in keeping with natural law) *should best rest* is a prudential matter, ….”

  • Originalism *has* to include Natural Law, since Natural Law is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and in the Bill of Rights.

    The question is whether the Natural Law is enforced at the state or federal level. For example, the 14th Amendment guarantees that the right to life cannot be taken away without due process.

    However, murder is not a federal offense. The federal government’s job is to make sure the states are following Natural Law.

  • I think the thing to keep in mind here, Tim, is the difficulties of application in a real-world mass society with a diverse citizenry.

    In our modern world, with only 20% of US citizens even claiming to be Catholic (and fewer still thinking with the Church in any meaningful sense), clearly a lot of people would be making flawed assessments of what natural law is. The concept of positive law and it’s place in liberal democracy is based on acknowledging this doubt and attempting to work around it in such a way as to injure or outrage the fewest people possible. Rather than having every judgement be the result solely of the presiding judge’s personal understanding of what natural law demands, our system of government requires that citizens and the legislators they elect hash out what they believe to be justice, and then pass positive laws reflecting whatever compromise they reach. Judges are then required to apply those laws to individual circumstances — but not to ignore the laws, even if those laws violate their own ideas of justice.

    On the one hand, it’s very tempting to say, “If a judge has the power to right an injustice, why should he let the law stop him?” On the other, if we dispense with law entirely and simply rely upon judges to make the most just ruling in each circumstance (in effect, reverting to a village-wise-man order of society) we can still be sure that justice will not be done most of the time (because judges will frequently err in discerning the moral law) but not it will err in an unpredictable fashion that we have no ability to change.

    Essentially, the positive law compromise is one of admitting that not every judgement will be just, but giving the citizenry a means for bringing the positive law closer in tune with the natural law if only they can agree to do so. The other approach gives no means to the citizenry for bringing judgements more in tune with the natural law, but puts all reliance on the personal discernment of the judges.

  • Tim,

    First, while the Church teaches that men through the natural law can know right, there is no official Church teaching on exactly how natural law works in a speculative or practical way (see Rice 50 Questions on Natural Law #35)

    Second, not all teachings in the Compendium take part in the ordinary Magisterium. The quote from the introduction to the Compendium is:

    “In studying this Compendium, it is good to keep in mind that the citations of Magisterial texts are taken from documents of differing authority. Alongside council documents and encyclicals there are also papal addresses and documents drafted by offices of the Holy See. As one knows, but it seems to bear repeating, the reader should be aware that different levels of teaching authority are involved.”

    As there are differing levels of teaching authority (not all of the ordinary Magisterium) there will certainly be some where there can be legitimate questions by faithful Catholics.

  • Gentlemen- my goal is to get everyone reading from the same page so to speak- I understand that natural law interpretations can get a bit messy- in private life as well as public- but we must acknowledge natural law reality and the duty we have to attempt to discern the basic justice in every situation. If something gets to the Supreme Court then I expect the Justices to deal with it if there is a basic injustice exposed- recall how the Supreme Court “ocnservatives” established that the Gore/Bush election was a one time deal, not something to set a new “doctrine”- they took all the information into account I assume and rendered a decision based on a common sense of justice and what was for the common good.

    I don’t mean to insult anyone here- but I do think that all outspoken political Catholics should be “in love” with the Compendium of the Social Doctrine- I can’t relate to those who aren’t to be honest. My conversion came about in large measure due to my honest reading of the social encyclicals- I found the same Spirit that animates Scripture, continuing that work to help us navigate through the necessary social-political waters- where modern society has become so interconnected, it was reasonable that Christ’s Church would develop a strong social teaching doctrinal base. As long as all orthodox CAtholics are struggling with the actual teachings on the books then I am content- for my own vision is not perfect. I do think that even though the Compendium contains original teachings from various sources within the Magisterium, the fact that the particular teaching or advice has been chosen to be included in the official Compendium adds weight to that idea. I apologize for any insulting tone I may have taken earlier- my primary point of passion is the fact that our conservative Supreme Court members are dodging abortion as though their hands were tied- and I understand their logic, but reject it because I believe natural law in this case trumps the positive law of the moment.

  • Where in the NT is natural alluded to? It’s a passage something like: you knew right from wrong before I told you….etc.

    Anybody know?

  • I meant ‘natural law’ alluded to….

25 Responses to Obama and Notre Dame – a Belated Follow-Up

  • Agreed 150% on the PWSA as a good common-ground measure. Heck, it’s good legislation regardless of whether it brings folks together or not.

    But, if you google around a bit, you’ll find that there is a lot of resistance in left-wing circles to the Act, coming from the mindset of the “reducing pregnancies, not number of abortions” crowd. The PWSA forthrightly (and rightly) presumes that abortions are bad and discourages them, which is a no-no in those circles.

    Given that the President appears to share that mindset, I think the odds of him putting his clout behind the PWSA are vanishingly small at this point in time. If/when he needs pro-life Democrats to get something he truly cares about passed, then you might see the horse trading.

    Sadly enough, I think we’re much more likely to see Rep. Slaughter’s “Prevention First Act” than the PWSA. And, make no mistake, Slaughter is in the hard-core choicer camp.

  • Father Jenkins- surprise still in his job- received his 15 minutes of fame. Dear Leader received another day of adulation. Both care about the unborn about as much as the crumb sitting on my desk. By me. Lovely rhetoric about Dialogue and such. But no other significant issue- and this is as significant as it gets- is more polarizing. Designed to be no other way. Tim notes those rare creatures known as pro-life Democrats- endangered species who should receive legal protection. Perhaps Dear Leader will open up TARP money for Planned Parenthood and non-franchise clinics. Might have the same beneficial effect as to Ford and Chrysler. Oh, just to note before posting- Tiller The Killer’s big time abort business is shutting its doors. What a shame. Maybe it could have qualified for TARP funding.

  • (1) Scalia does not really believ ein Original Intent

    (2) I don’t know what you mean by the “American Right” wanting to wash it hands of abortion by sending it to the States. First many on the right are for the Human Rights Amendment. ALso the “AMerican Right” would be working in their respective State legislatures to prohbit abortion. Activity does not stop just because it does not happen in the District of Columbia

    (3) Archbishop Chaput said recently there was no “Catholic way” to the interpret the Const. I think he is right.

    (4) what you refer to as States Rights is more commonly know as Federalism that has not been abolished. I think if you are proposing that getting this issue back to the States is against Catholic SOcial Doctrine you need to flesh that out some.

    (5)THere are Natural Law folks on the right such as Arkes and Robert George etc etc that are trying to influence the Court and polticy

    (6) There is nothing to probhibit Legislators from legilsating based on the Natural law

  • Let me add the whole Subsidarity , Federalism, abortion issue was fleshed out in some detail in response to Kmiec.

    See this entry at America magazine

    http://americaelection2008.blogspot.com/2008/10/different-take-on-kmiecs-book.html

  • Yeah, I would say that States Rights is quite consistent with Catholic Social Teaching. Subsidiarity and all. That is a principle you know.

  • I will grant that labels like American Political Left and Right are very general- but I think that those who feel comfortable self-labeling themselves liberal or conservative, will fit those larger categories. I reject these labels for myself because I believe like Archbishop Chaput- I use his great book “Render..” in my classes- that there isn’t going to be a Catholic political party- as the Compendium states we are always to be critical members of any political party- that implies that there is always going to be an incompleteness in any purely political party.

    I don’t mean to take a cheap shot on those who take the Federalist position, that abortion can only be resolved at the state level because that’s how our Constitution was written- but I advise all Catholics to read Notre Dame prof. Rice’s book on Natural Law. He describes Justice Thomas as pretty much putting the idea of natural law reasoning to death, when he backtracked during his confirmation hearings on previous positive assertions on the role of such reasoning in juridical decision making. I do view Scalia and Thomas quite negatively for the way they come across in interviews when they seem proud to assert that their Catholicism has absolutely nothing to do with their work as Justices- I don’t think anyone in any position should say that- the natural law is everyone’s responsibility- especially those with juridical and political power- this is an intellectual dodge- even if it is an honest one- to come across as some kind of progressive, non-partisan in contrast with those who do use reasoning beyond the deciphering of the original intent of the Constitutional framers.

    Professor Rice says that on abortion we don’t even have to pull out the natural law trump card- it would be rare to have to do that given that much of positive law in the Constitution is already rooted in natural law reasoning- if we apply the 5th and 14th Amendments to the unborn, we would be good to go- but this is not on the radar in the Scalia/Thomas circles as far as I know- and I would say that these Justices are very well regarded in general by conservatives/ American Political Right.

    I am offering a critique that isn’t designed to play well to liberals or conservatives, I don’t think Jesus played to such narrow audiences, and I don’t find the complete social doctrine of the Church to be in conformity with any ideology that I’ve encountered thus far- so I work in both liberal and conservative circles depending on the issue- but sometimes neither camp seems to get it right- like on abortion- the liberal juridical approach is ice cold, while I grant the Scalia et al approach is luke warm- not sure I can get on board with lukewarm even if it offers a legislative endgame in every state. I want the unborn to be safe in every state, all over the world- the Law should reflect this- the Law must reflect this, and then all other aspects of society will need to reform to adjust to this reality- economically, culturally- all of it needs to upgrade to deal with the children we will be welcoming into the world instead of terminating.

  • Subsidiarity is not to be viewed apart from the universal common good and solidarity- it also isn’t a replacement for the natural law requirements for all people- Catholic or not. This emphasis on natural law is found throughout the social doctrine and papal encyclicals

  • Thank you for a thoughtful diary. Another bill that I hope starts gathering support is the “Newborn Child and Mother Act”. Approximately 1500 mothers die in childbirth across Africa EVERY DAY. I gather most of their babies die, too.

  • TIm

    Let me say I am not saying that Natural Law Jurisprudence is forbidden. As Arkes says where in the Const does it forbit it? I am just saying that if lets say a Catholic Judge does that think that was part of the Document then I think he can in a valid way interpret it otherwise. I mean in the end his Power and authority come from the Document or the “Pact” as it were. So when Scalia looks at the text he does not that think he has the power to change it

    It is in a sense similar to the situation of the Federal Judges that lets say were anti Slavery. They might have been anti Slavery but because their power and authrotiy came from an agreement that made an compromise with this evil they very well could not just ban it nationwide.

    Again as to Natural Law and the Social Compendium what should Catholic Judges do. I can’t imagine that they would start citing the Comepndium of SOcial Justice. In fact what authority would they have to base Opinion on that at all.

    I am not sure Scalia or THomas for that matter have an agenda to end abortion nationwide. I think they probally think that is not their job but the job of the legislator. I strongly suspect that Scalia thinks Gay marriage is wrong. However I doubt he would think he ahd any authority to “ban” it in lets say Iowa.

    TO quote Chaput in Full
    “CHAPUT: The Supreme Court doesn’t make law, as we know. It interprets the law. I think it’s much easier from a moral perspective to be a justice – a judge – than it is to be a legislator. Legislators are the ones who make laws and change laws. But to interpret the law in its fidelity to the Constitution is a much less morally compromising kind of position to have, I think.

    I’d rather be a justice than a politician, in terms of dealing with my conscience, because if we write bad laws in this country that are constitutional, then the judges – the justices – have to interpret the laws as allowed by the Constitution, even if they don’t like them, even if they would think they’re not good for the country, it seems to me, even if they think they’re not moral. That’s what justices do. So I had the impression that Wendy thinks that the Supreme Court writes the law. Certainly that’s not my impression. I know it can’t write the law. In terms of not wanting all the justices to be Catholics, I agree with you, Michael. That would not be a good idea in the United States”.

    http://pewforum.org/events/?EventID=213

    Now I think Judical attitudes matter that is for sure. The attitude of the Iowa Supreme Courts Justices was frightening as they basically shot down arguments because they thought they could smell religous intent.

    I just think from a Natural Law standpoint that the key is if one wishes to adovcate that is to start in the legilatures. That is where the action is.

    As Chaput stated

  • “Subsidiarity is not to be viewed apart from the universal common good and solidarity- it also isn’t a replacement for the natural law requirements for all people- Catholic or not. This emphasis on natural law is found throughout the social doctrine and papal encyclicals”

    Well Tim I don’t think Federalsim gets rid of that. I mean what is changed or what is at issue is what branches of the Governements have the responsibility, power , and authority to act as to the common good or solidarity.. As to the abortion question is it the States or the Federal Govt or a combination of the two.

  • What other aspects of the natural law should the Justices be concerned with? Should a Catholic-based interpretation mandate that all homosexual acts be outlawed? Should a natural law view of the Constitution mean a ban of contraceptives? How far do we take this? And what do we do when we have a majority of Justices whose interpretation of the natural law leads to conclusions quite the opposite of our own?

  • Tim

    I think my other post did not go through for some reason

    Let me clear I am not saying that Natural law Juridprudence cannot be had. As Arkes says where in the COnst is it forbidden.

    I just think that if you really want Natural Law and to have it part of our system one needs to start with the legislature where the real action is at. THat is not to ignore the Judiciary. We should recall that Iowa Supreme Court mandated Gay marraige and in that argument they shot down opponets of it because they say said they could smell religious reasoning. That is a problem

    I am not sure at all that THomas and Scalia have a “plan” to end abortion. I suspect they don’t think that is their job but that of the legislature. Just Like how I think that Scalia is against gay marraige but I could never seem him overturning a state law allowing it because it goes against the natural law or because he does not like it.

    I suppose if we are going to get natural law more in the discussion first the Catholic schools nned to be teaching it more.Then we are going to have to have an discussion with our neighbors about it.

    Political parties are not going to be able to do that. In fact in GOP circles where such an approach has fans in some segments there would have to be some on the evangelical side that would have to embrace it. SOme are open others are wary.

    So as to Natural law principles I think there is a lot of work to be done before we can expect polticos to start using it. In fact we might need to breed a whole new generation of polticos that understand it.

    When I talk to Catholic about the natural law it sometimes seems like they look at me like I am from Mars. That has nothing to do with left, right, or center but just horrid Catholic education in the Puplit, in CCD , and in the schools.

    As to Catholic social justice concerns and principles I think there will be porgress till each “side” that is engaging this start talking to each other instead of yelling at each other.

  • Tim,

    Of course subsidiarity is to be seen in the context of the common good and solidarity. Just as solidarity is to be seen in the context of the common good and subsidiarity. The claim of solidarity does not rule out allowing more basic units of society tend to the common good. Catholic Social teaching never says this. In fact higher units of society are to take over only when lower units cannot meet a common need. States rights fits perfectly in this framework.
    When to allow higher units to take over from lower is a prudential judgement in many cases and you will not find such a criteria in the Compendium.

  • My impression from reading the social doctrine is that the common good is the only real reason for having governing authority in the first place- when this focus is lost then that authority can soon run amuck- I do not dispute or ignore the principle of subsidiarity but we are talking about abortion here, and that is something that cannot be left to even a popular vote- it smacks of the whole scene with Jesus being condemned by popular vote, and Pilate standing by, washing his hands of the affair, even as he seemed to side with Jesus on the level of basic justice- Pope John Paul II even used this comparison with abortion and Christ with over-reliance on democratic outcomes in determining all important matters- now Pilate has not gone down in history as a heroic figure- and I don’t think that a State’s Rights approach to abortion is going to be seen as the best we could do at the level of civil authority.

    We have a problem with subsidiarity as a primary principle to view abortion or the global economy through right now- with the power of multinational corporations usurping even the power of national governments- read Bailouts- it would seem that the local government powers have not kept up with the times- and Free Trade Pacts have taken economic decisions far afield from local control. With abortion, we simply have to have everyone doing what they can with whatever power they have to establish the legal and moral sense that an unborn child is worthy of our human rights. Natural Law reasoning does not have to be overused to the point where we have an effective theocracy- but we ignore the Natural Law to our own peril as a nation, as a people.

    Again- I cannot go into the detail here on this as Professor Rice did in his book- 50 Questions on the Natural Law- if anyone has read that book and has any comments I would love to hear of your thoughts. I think he represents the most orthodox Catholic position on the importance of Natural Law, and how we can promote it without having to force the nation to convert to Catholicism wholesale. There is something religious behind the Natural Law, and the Catholic social doctrine is a necessary guide- but the Natural Law is something reasonable and can be argued with non-believers and believers alike. We cannot continue to cede everything to the secularists- at some point we have to fight for more than merely symbolic gestures like Nativity Scenes on government property- we need Catholics willing to stand behind Natural Law reasoning and Catholic social doctrine- the Natural Law reasoning is all we need to use in public debates, and all the Justices need to make certain that Justice prevails when opportunity comes for them to render decisions that obviously offer life and death for many. Imagine if genocide came up for a vote? Abortion is a genocide of unborn, unwanted children- millions of them- if this doesn’t call forth a universal decision on the part of our Supreme Court- then they may as well pack it in, and leave our Capital empty of Justices and Justice.

  • Tim

    So a vote on the Supreme Court is legitimate but a vote in the Staer Houses is not. Also one can amend State Const a heck of a lot more easier than you can the U.S. COnst to show these natural law principles

    Again it is not a principle of “State Rights” but Federalism. I am not saying fight for a Human Rights AMendment. In fact I suspect that a HUman Ruights amendments would gain steam when it returned to the States.

    You know we can’t just blame nameless polticos in D.C. for not getting the pro-life cause done. It is suddennly much more in our faces where we must convince our neighbors

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  • Tim,

    Its not a problem of seeing subsidiarity as a primary priciple for in fact it is. As are the principles of the common good and solidarity. They are an organic unity. The problem becomes how do we apply these primary priciples to concrete situations. You have your problems with multi-nationals. I have a problem with strong (an ever increasingly stronger) national and international governments. The Compendium does not have a policy to address these. Catholics in good conscience apply the primary principles. At times Catholics in good conscience disagree, sometimes strongly. That’s life in the secualar for the Christian.

  • Honestly, Tim, I think your argument sets up a couple of straw men that you then proceed to effectively slaughter; I disagree with a couple of your premises, and must, therefore, disagree with your conclusions.

    First, I believe you fall victim to the same illogic that drives most who claim to not be “right-wing” Catholics: namely, you choose to lump all Catholic Social Teachings, and abortion, into the same mass and call it legitimately Catholic. I disagree for a couple of reasons:

    1. You mentioned that you would have invited neither PResident Obama nor President Bush to speak at Notre Dame, given the authority to make such a decision. You cite both men’s lack of conformity to basic principles of Catholic Social Doctrine as your reason.

    This comparison sufers for at least two reasons. first, abortion, and , say, the death penalty are not equivalent issues. The authority to make the decision to mete out a penalty of death rests with duly elected civil authorities. SOLELY with them. And while the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching may decry the occasional necessity to mete out such a sentnece, and while it may state that the circumstances which should require such a penalty are so rarae as to be almost nonexistent, in the end, the judgment of the circumstances lies SOLEY with those duly elected to exercise such authority.

    Similarly with the exercise of war powers. The Church rightly decries the use of military force in *any* circumstance; however, it recognizes the right of governments to enter into armed conflict against those nations or entities which pose a credible threat, and which cannot be subdued by other means. That right flows from the national leader’s responsibility to provide for legitimate defense of its territory and citizens. And the authority to make such a decision rest, again, SOLELY with the likes of President Bush and President Obama.

    Man, this is brain-wracking. I will amend my opening statement to include the thought that I can only respond to one at a time.

    But i fwe are goin gto use Catholic Teaching to justify our positions, it wold seem prudent…to use ALL of it, not jsut the parts that nicely fit our preconceived schema.

    God bless.

  • Totally apart from the extremely interesting issues and discussions in this thread, it occurred to me [somewhat belatedly] that Father Jenkins was greatly disingenuous in the reasons he gave for inviting Mr. Obama to speak at the Commencement exercises.

    Commencements they are meant to be – but commencements to the world wider than the campus in South Bend.

    Now if the graduating students had not pretty well covered the subject – personally and intellectually – in four years’ attendance at the school, what is the purpose of a dialogue about it just as they are about to leave? Surely their teachers must have discussed [dialogued?] the issues during the campaign a year previously.

    I said disingenuous; I repeat disingenuous.

  • And the authority to make such a decision rest, again, SOLELY with the likes of President Bush and President Obama.

    But it does not end there. The authority to pass judgment on the decision made by presidents lies with the Church and SOLELY with the Church.

  • Tim,
    I would go further in this line of consistent criticism of the American political Left and Right. I don’t believe that the state’s rights approach to abortion rights is truly consistent with Catholic social doctrine. The juridical philosophy called “Originalism”, which is championed by many Catholics supportive of the American political Right, is not one that is rooted in Natural Law.

    Conservative Catholics hold to the belief that the laws of the land should be rooted in Natural Law. They belief that the way to change those laws is through democratic processes which are established in the United States constitution and the constitutions of the several states which it comprises. There is nothing in Natural Law which states that a judiciary should act in contravention of the laws which are established.

    Professor Rice says that on abortion we don’t even have to pull out the natural law trump card- it would be rare to have to do that given that much of positive law in the Constitution is already rooted in natural law reasoning- if we apply the 5th and 14th Amendments to the unborn, we would be good to go

    I agree completely.

    but this is not on the radar in the Scalia/Thomas circles as far as I know- and I would say that these Justices are very well regarded in general by conservatives/ American Political Right.

    I’m not so sure, have they ruled that way? If a case came before them which way would they rule? I think you’re mistaken. Those justices have consistently ruled in a way that would allow us to infer they do in fact believe that the unborn are human persons and are protected. Their Catholic faith (and basic empbryology) teaches them that, and there is no contradiction with the Constitution which would preclude them as “originists” in ruling that way.

    we simply have to have everyone doing what they can with whatever power they have to establish the legal and moral sense that an unborn child is worthy of our human rights. Natural Law reasoning does not have to be overused to the point where we have an effective theocracy- but we ignore the Natural Law to our own peril as a nation, as a people.

    Absolutely, but I think there is limits to what a Catholic is compelled to do given the restrictions of his office, especially if he has taken an oath to be bound by those restrictions. Now, no Catholic is permitted to commit an immoral act regardless of his office, but that doesn’t mean he is obliged to use their office illegally in their actions.

    Michael J. Iafrate,

    But it does not end there. The authority to pass judgment on the decision made by presidents lies with the Church and SOLELY with the Church.

    No. Wrong. While the Church has the authority to pass judgments when a public act is in objective violation of Church teaching, she does not make such judgements on purely subjective reasoning (sound thought it might be), nor does the Church pass judgement where she does not possess all of the relevent facts that the civic authority does. She may and often does issue opinions based on what is known and the preponderance of evidence, but that is not the same thing. Ultimately the judgement falls to the Lord God Almighty.

    Jh,

    I just think that if you really want Natural Law and to have it part of our system one needs to start with the legislature where the real action is at.

    exactly!

    Deacon,

    awesome! You nailed it.

  • No. Wrong. While the Church has the authority to pass judgments when a public act is in objective violation of Church teaching, she does not make such judgements on purely subjective reasoning (sound thought it might be), nor does the Church pass judgement where she does not possess all of the relevent facts that the civic authority does. She may and often does issue opinions based on what is known and the preponderance of evidence, but that is not the same thing.

    No, YOU are wrong. The Church has the right to make judgments on wars. Period. That it does not do so regularly with unambiguous force does not mean it does not possess this authority.

    Your mistaken view is precisely one of the results of buying into the americanist separation of secular and sacred authority. Too many Catholics (usually so-called “patriotic” ones) fall for it. What you do not realize is that you are contributing to the marginalization of the Church by promoting such nonsense.

  • “There is nothing in Natural Law which states that a judiciary should act in contravention of the laws which are established.”

    Because the Natural Law, i.e. the Law of Human Nature has no conception of “judiciaries.” However, the moral principles to which we’re oriented would suggest that laws that are not in accord with true justice–thus, not actually being laws should be contravened. Simple establishment makes no case in itself for not contravening it. Now you’ll argue that’s the role of the legislatior; I’m establishing that the Natural Law is not silent about the matter.

    “I think there is limits to what a Catholic is compelled to do given the restrictions of his office, especially if he has taken an oath to be bound by those restrictions. Now, no Catholic is permitted to commit an immoral act regardless of his office, but that doesn’t mean he is obliged to use their office illegally in their actions.”

    Well, I see your point. But this is again my problem with Scalia’s philosophy. I talked about it in a different thread. Effectively, I think the American conception of “justice” and “law,” at least in terms of judicial philosophy is based largely on positive law philosophy and Western Enlightenment philosophy rather than natural law thinking, and therefore, a proper notion of justice and law. Therefore, I think the “originalism and textualist” position might do-the-least-harm, it remains fatally flawed.

  • Eric,

    so how do you propose a “natural law” based judiciary should act? Do we need a legislature at all, just for administrative types of laws? Why not just a system of judges who base their rulings on their understanding of natural law? What reference documents for natural law would be used as a basis?

    I reject this idea because it is akin to anarchy. Each judge applying his own understanding of a very broadly contentious set of rather non-specific rules.

    I believe self-governance is in accord with natural law, and so the people guided by conscience establish the system of laws, the judges do not overturn them they simply apply them.

    There may be certain cases where heroic violation of laws will not cause more harm than good, that any moral person should stand up against them, this can not be the general case.

  • Matt,

    Well, I am no constitutional law scholar. However, I do think that the “originalist” and “textualist” position contradict, to some degree, my understanding of both law and justice because of the inherent lack of consideration of natural law principles. This, I think, is a built-in recipe for disaster. Granted, while the philosophy itself might be, relative to other theories, the “lesser of evils” because of its do-no-harm mantra, it still can create quite a few ethical problems for Catholics.

    I earlier used the example of pre-Civil War slavery. Hypothetically speaking, if there were a case regarding slavery before the United States Supreme Court, tied 4-4, and I’m a Catholic sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, I certainly would not rule to uphold slavery as the law—and with no apology. It seems that the American notion of “justice” is not whether or not a law is in conformity with the natural law, reflecting the eternal law of God. No, rather, “justice” means having laws conform immediately to the written letter of the U.S. Constitution strictly and legal precedence. While this is not immediately a problem (I’m not saying that the U.S. Constitution should be irrelevant), while it is not in and of itself wrong—it does give rise to ethical issues.

    From the originalist viewpoint regarding slavery, a Justice would have to rule in favor of an unjust law which contradicts the very essence of their title: Justice. An unjust law is not a law according to the scheme of the natural law. However, to an originalist, that point is irrelevant. If law is not meant to be in conformity with the natural law, which reflects perfect justice, then our inherent goal is not to uphold real laws at all but human decrees with no consideration or concern of objective conformity with the laws written into Nature. This, to me, seems to be clearly antithetical to Plato’s The Laws, Cicero’s On The Law, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law which are four of the most important works in the natural law tradition. There is a fundamental disagreement then about the nature of law itself, about the nature of justice, and therefore, the likeliness to reach just conclusions, while not impossible certainly, is more difficult.

    Alexander Hamilton put it this way: “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” Even the more secular-minded Thomas Jefferson agreed: The “only firm basis” of freedom, he wrote, is “a conviction in the minds of people that their liberties are the gift of God.”

    These words are clearly a natural law commitment (and I’m not suggesting they are advocating it be used by the U.S. Supreme Court). Yet contemporary judicial philosophy is based largely on the Enlightenment-borne philosophy of legal positivism—that is, there is no inherent or necessary connection between the law and ethics, but rather laws are rules made by human beings entered into a social contract with no regard for moral objectivity because the contract is inherently relative.

    If you consider such broad phrases such as “cruel and unusual” or “unreasonable searches and seizures,” it seems to me that the Founders presuppose that you would reference some sort of objective moral criteria that exists outside of the text of the Constitution to know what constitutes such activity. What is cruel? What is unusual? What is unreasonable? Unless there is some objective, unchanging standards that it is presupposed, that is known and can be known because of a common human nature with an unchanging law—the natural law—then it seems that the “concepts” of these things evolve and change with society; thus, this lends itself to the argument for a “living Constitution” that should be read in light of the relative values of the contemporary people. Yet the “originalists” pore scrupulously over the text for some criteria, the Founders (in a world yet to have fully abandon the natural law) may have presumed to be self-evident, or they commit to some legal precedence judged to be in conformity with their judicial philosophy versus what it may be the Founders actually intended. Again, to what do you reference as the criteria to define such “concepts” (cruel, unusual, unreasonable)? Their time period? Our time period? And barring natural law ethics, it becomes inherently relative, which requires one to inject their “personal values” into the constitutional text.

    Simply put, I cannot fully embrace this judicial philosophy and am rather interested in projects to rethink, reasonably, how to interpret the Constitution and develop an American legal system that is more harmonious with the ongoing project of Catholic legal theory. Though, I will add that originalism does guarantee some sort of consistency in judiciary judgments and protects Americans from arbitrary changes in constitutional interpretation. Moreover, to fully reject originalism there needs to be a ready, clearly articulated criterion for interpreting the Constitution, otherwise the matter of law will be solely at the discretion of political inclinations of sitting Justices. Perhaps, at best, originalism constrains the worse temptation of Justices to overreach.

    But it still remains that originalism isn’t perfect. It faces hermeneutic difficulties to which Justice Scalia admits, when he said, “It’s not always easy to figure out what the provision meant when it was adopted…I do not say originalism is perfect. I just say it’s better than anything else.” That is, anything else so far. So while I am not in favor of a hasty departure from originalism to an anything-goes Court, I’m not going to back the theory.

    I still think that it poses quite an ethical dilemma and I’m weary of the Catholic support it gets despite the fact that its philosophical underpinnings, i.e. legal positivism, are fundamentally contradictory to Catholic moral and social thought. While I am sympathetic to the intellectual commitment to protect the integrity of the legal system and the constitutional order, I don’t think that requires an immediate advocacy of originalism over attempting to find some other way to interpret the Constitution. I am not convinced it’s all or nothing—either originalism or the “living Constitution” theory.

    As Edmund Randolph set out at the Constitutional Convention, the goal was to “insert essential principles only; lest the operations of government should be clogged by rendering those provisions permanent and unalterable, which ought to be accommodated to times and events.” Now, this quote, granted, can be misconstrued and interpreted as advocacy of an “evolving” doctrine in regard to constitutional interpretation. However, it seems to me, that the U.S. Constitution seeks to create a government that recognizes and respects the natural, inalienable rights that are self-evident in the natural moral law which are enshrined within the text of the Constitution. While the “essential principles,” which are moral, cannot change—as the moral law does not change; positive laws, however can. Different situations, different circumstances, different cultural values may have a need for different positive laws to best accommodate and promote human flourishing and the protection of human rights. (I’m not saying these laws come from or should come from the Court.) Now how such a view could reasonably and practically be played out in terms of judicial philosophy is quite a debate.

    Nevertheless, originalism strikes me as too keen on preservation of the status quo, that is, order rather than on actual Justice, ifthe circumstances puts the two in contradiction. It brings to mind Machiavellian principles (which I think is the actual beginning of modern philosophy) specifically the re-definition of prudence as a purely pragmatist virtue oriented more toward some end, judging and weighing consequences, i.e. consequentialist and utilitarian ethics that masquerade as natural law thinking when it really is not. It seems the concern is not necessarily on what is moral, but to what works (pragmatist). Therefore, one of the Cardinal Virtues is employed in such a way that its immediate and direct concern is not necessarily intertwined with its sister virtue of Justice, real justice. And the divorce of the two, characteristic of modern thinking, is precisely what I am arguing against.

    Again, I’m not constitutional law scholar, but I do find it curious that the framers of the Constitution did not indicate, in the text itself, how the Constitution should be read. I have no idea why. Perhaps they could not agree on a method themselves, as we cannot.

    Though, I do wonder if one is arguing “original intent” or “original meaning,” does this include taking into account the fact that the words (diction), come from other common law traditions based largely around natural law thinking? Do you seek to understand the words in those light as to get a greater understanding of the words in light of the historical situation? This might be comparable to using the historical-critical method as a tool for scriptural exegesis. In other words, one would read the U.S. Constitution in light of the Declaration of Independence and the natural law tradition? Or, does one read the text strictly, isolated from such references?

    My question arises because of this: The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal. The Bill of Rights establishes natural human rights. Yet in the U.S. Constitution there is legalized slavery. A natural law thinker would see that as a blatant contradiction. If such a matter were before a Catholic on the Supreme Court, should the Catholic uphold the unjust law as a matter of originalist intent even if contradicts the natural law and say, the majority of the United States citizens refused to conform with natural justice and outlaw it legislatively. For instance, what if abortion was a right written verbatim into the U.S. Constitution. Would I have to be complicit with an intrinsic evil until such a time that society changed its mind? I know I certainly wouldn’t. I am not sure if any oath or commitment can exempt you from stopping an objective moral evil. Consequences aside, as judging whether or not to end slavery or abortion based on how the populace will respond is judging the rightness or wrongness of the act based on the consequences–which again, is consequentialism and not natural law morality. The problem again persists.

    This is the challenge and difficulty of natural law jurisprudence, of which, I am profoundly interested in. Perhaps, I should send Prof. Robert George, a proponent of the “New Natural Law Theory”, another email and ask him a few questions about the matter; he usually replies rather quickly.