Tolerance and Graciousness in the Gay Marriage Debate

Thursday, March 6, AD 2014

A blogger named Dennis Sanders has written about the recent controversy in Arizona from the perspective of a gay man (“married” and “a man of the cloth”, he says). There are two main ideas in his piece, one that is the centerpiece and another that is peripheral but also important. The centerpiece is that “marriage equality” advocates (I will call them same-sex marriage, or SSM advocates) ought to recognize that the refusal of orthodox Christians to participate in gay weddings is not necessarily or even often attributable to hatred and bigotry. Though SSM advocates may not understand or condone the religious and philosophical arguments we put forward, it would be better for society if people on both sides could stop assuming the absolute worst of one another. The peripheral argument is that this proposed change of tone and behavior on the part of gay marriage activists is necessary if they are to be gracious winners in the culture war. It is Sanders’ belief, shared by many on his side of the argument, that they have won this war even if we on the other side have not surrendered yet. His language is civil and conciliatory, though one still cannot help but feel that the main point here is “let the babies have their bottles.”

As far as the first argument goes, I am all for it. Though I am sure that Mr. Sanders would be deeply offended or perhaps just annoyed at my refusal to recognize his relationship with another man as a marriage, I have always been a proponent of true and authentic tolerance. Sanders quotes another writer on tolerance, and both he and this writer agree with me: tolerance is only possible in relation to something or someone we dislike. I dislike the “marriage equality” movement immensely, not simply because of some passages from the Bible, but because of its concentrated philosophical and political attack on the natural law foundations of Western civilization. Its incessant self-comparison to black civil rights struggles is as fallacious as it is nauseating; its core assumptions, taken to their fullest implications, are anarchistic and nihilistic. It is precisely because the vast majority of ordinary people rarely take their stated beliefs to their logical conclusions that I am able and willing to tolerate most of those beliefs. I believe we can have a pluralistic society, governed by the 10th amendment of the US Constitution, in which different people in different polities can establish different laws and customs by which they live. Furthermore, they can and should peacefully co-exist within the same American nation. Such was, I believe, the vision of our founding fathers.

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15 Responses to Tolerance and Graciousness in the Gay Marriage Debate

  • I agree with every word in your essay, Bonchamps. Now, if we can only prevent the Supreme Court from rewriting natural law, our constitutional posterity will be spared much harm.

  • I agree with you in the long view Bonchamps. Those today treating believing Christians as pariahs will face the children, and grandchildren of those people, with ever waning ranks as ours wax. Philosophies at war with reproduction are doomed to be ephemeral.

  • I do not see the Russian government ever kowtowing to the homosexualist movement. Russia has a long distrust of the West – with some good reason, seeing how often Russia has been attacked through its history – Napoleon, World War I, and Hitler are just three of these events. Homosexualism is seen as a Western threat against Mother Russia and its Orthodox Church.

    I don’t see Hinduism and homosexualism ever getting along. Radical Hindus often attach Indian Catholics. They won’t put up with homosexuals demanding marriage.

    Islam will NEVER officially tolerate homosexualism. The stronger the movement grows in the West, the angrier the Muslim on the street will become, riled up by Muslim clergy who hate the US to begin with.

    The West seems to be hell bent on destroying itself. It will be the Church, the Remnant, that picks up the pieces and starts over again – just what happened when the Roman Empire collapsed.

  • So his idea is that they should recognize that we are not haters, and that they should be gracious winners.

    The law of nature says that eventually the tide will go out. People can only deny the truth for so long. I think people long for, reach for, aspire to Goodness and Truth and Beauty even if as individuals and communally we take long circuitous routes. Because I love some of those SSAttracted people I hope that when the tide goes out on them that we will truly be gracious.

  • I don’t think Hindus or Muslims or Russians or anybody else is immune to the type of emotional manipulation and thoroughly integrated and institutionalized propaganda we have been soaked in since the time of Kinsey if not before. Read “After the Ball..”

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  • What’s tragic about this is that 58% of RC’s support gay marriage. Check this article out –WHY DO A MAJORITY OF CATHOLICS THINK GOD IS WRONG ABOUT MARRIAGE?

  • “[A]nd no, it is not in Leviticus – those passages, as I have often argued to the point of exasperation, should never be used by proponents of traditional marriage”

    Bravo, Bonchamps!

    I have always contended that it was a dreadful mistake to conflate arguments over the morality of sodomy with the analysis of the legal and social rôle of marriage.

    The enormous opposition to SSM in a country so committed to the principle of laïcité as France can be accounted for by this exclusive focus. There, the Code of 1804 contains no formal definition of marriage, but jurists have always found a functional definition in the provision that “The child conceived or born in marriage has the husband for father,” which mirrors the doctrine of the Roman jurist, Paulus, “pater vero is est, quem nuptiae demonstrant.” [Marriage points out the father] (Dig. 2, 4, 5; 1). In other words, marriage establishes the juridical bond between fathers and their children and ensures, as far as possible, that the legal, biological and social realities of paternity coincide.

    There, for opponents of SSM, the important moral question has been the defence of the ethical principle, enshrined in the law of France, that a child cannot be the subject or source of a transaction. They can see that every jurisdiction that has introduced same-sex marriage has also permitted human gametes to be treated as articles of commerce or tolerated a market in babies, bespoke or prêt-à-porter, through surrogate gestation, assisted reproduction and joint adoption by same-sex couples. I would add that those Americans who have viewed with equanimity the development of this form of human trafficking by opposite-sex couples have cut the ground for a principled opposition to SSM from under their feet. Instead, they have allowed their opposition to appear both sectarian and homophobic.

  • Well said Bonchamps! I, too, am exasperated when I hear people fall back on back on “the bible says so.” Natural law arguments are accessible to every mind. Even the obstinately closed minded people don’t find good reasoning against natural law, so they are forced to dismiss what they know to be obvious. The obvious fact that man and woman, for example, are designed for each other.
    It is also irritates me when somebody says they believe it because they are Catholic. No, we believe what is true and Catholics are called to pursue truth aided by natural law. The radio host, SH, frequently makes statements that weaken the clarity of our case for the truth.

  • Kevin: “the clarity of our case for the truth”
    The truth of SSM is that no man can become a wife and no woman can become a husband by wanting to. The reality of SSM is that “We, the people”, who are all created equal, and therefore, ought to be treated equal and equal treatment is only possible in the truth, are being subjected to falsehood, perjury in a court of law, and being forced by the law to discriminate against the truth and allow the social lie that same sex orientation, an act of God and creation, legitimatizes and allows the free will act of sodomy and or masturbation and other self abuse. Sodomy is assault and battery of another person. One cannot consent to commit crime and remain in the truth. Sodomy is a crime, an assault and battery of the human body, and a violation of the truth of another person’s immortal soul.
    The truth of another person’s immortal soul is our truth, as truth belongs to all people, for all time.

  • Penguins Fan
    I do not see the Russian government ever kowtowing to the homosexualist movement.

    Russia is desperate for more people– especially young ones. Quoth a good doctor, Russia needs Russians.

    Similar mindset, different point of the process.

  • The problem with natural law arguments is that, as far as I know, they can’t really be argued. They are presented, and the person hearing them accepts them to the extent of his capacity. They can remind people of what they already know, or make them realize what they intuitively know, but they can’t touch those who dismiss them either out of lack of understanding or obstinance.

  • There’s an excellent First Things article out there that you should read, Bonchamps, if you have not done so already –

  • Thank you Jonathon for that article.

  • Very welcome, Anzlyne – I think it makes some excellent points.

The Forgotten Men & Women of America

Monday, November 26, AD 2012

In 1883, William Graham Sumner published an essay titled “The Forgotten Man” (originally titled “On the Case of a Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of” – not quite as catchy) which is as relevant today as it was when it was written. The essay is a great exposition of the laissez-faire understanding and approach to social problems and articulates what I believe many on the libertarian right and within the Tea Party believe today. From a Catholic point of view, there is much I find agreeable within it, though there are certain tangents, unnecessary to the main argument, that I would take issue with.

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14 Responses to The Forgotten Men & Women of America

  • “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – CS Lewis

  • Bureaucracies, militaries, etc. are unproductive but necessary to varying extents.

    No, the civil service and the military perform useful services. They are not, however, services that emerge from market transactions, hence the resort to public agency.

  • Useful does not = productive. Unproductive does not = useless.

  • ” . . . the civil service and the military perform useful services.”

    Truth. The military destroys things and kills people in order to prevent such evils from being inflicted on the citizenry. It does not (since they stopped issuing letters of marque) produce wealth, goods, or servicers. It takes assets, economic resources, wealth from the producers. Similarly, the civil service/bureaucrats do not produce but take from the productive sectors.

    And, above the two are politicians that deal in coersion and fraud; and have devolved into latter-day Gracchi trading bread and circuses for votes.

    Some thoughts:

    This rewards bad behavior.

    See Zerohedge, PA has issued a study showing how a family of four on various welfare entitlements has higher disposable income than the similar family that grosses $69,000 a year.

    There is no such a thing as a free lunch; or something for nothing. Someone pays for it.

    It’s always other people’s money.

    Nations reach breaking points when producers/taxpayers become outnumbered by dependents/tax takers.

    Symptoms of national disaster include the tax-taking segments growing more rapidly than the wealth-producing sectors, they call it “The evil, unjust private sector.” In 2011, the US national debt grew by more than did the evil, unjust private sector GDP, and that is just one part of the increases in government taking.

    Voting for abortionists, sodomists, and class hate-mongers (they promise to take more from somebody else that you hate whom they charge isn’t paying his “fair share”) to feed the Obama-voting moron bloc is not one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.

    Let’s have some fun. List the public utils produced by various bureaucracies.

    I’ll start with the EPA: higher prices for elecricity, gasoline, home heating oil; and shortages to boot.

    Feel free to jump in.

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  • Seeing as salty truth-tellers of old are the elixir of choice in these parts, I offer, for your edification, from 1872…

    Michael Muller, while a favourite of some (what are now thought to be) fringe Catholic groups, has in his other works great insights into prayer and the faith. Well worth a read, IMHO. Deeply rooted in the 32nd Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori.

  • “Vice is its own curse. If we let nature alone, she cures vice by the most frightful penalties.”

    He ignores the penalties inflicted on the innocent bystanders. No man is an island. No action happens in a vacuum. Every vice has a societal cost. The idea of victimless crime is non-reality.

    You read Sumner’s quote and see an affirmation of natural law. I see a justification of natural selection, which wouldn’t be surprising since such thought was rising to the forefront of academic thought in his time.

  • Darren O.,

    I’m familiar with Michael Muller. He’s the theological equivalent of 90-proof alcohol – drink it only if you’re sure you can handle it.


    Some things labeled “victimless crimes” really do have victims. Others really are harmless. Marijuana does not post a greater risk to society than alcohol; both should be prohibited or both should be legalized. In my opinion, both should be legal, not one person ought to ever be molested by the state for possessing or indulging in them. We can and should still punish crimes resulting from intoxication, but not everyone, not even the majority, will abuse these substances to the point that they pose an actual threat to someone else (to the point where the police need to become involved, that is).

    Sumner’s point and mine is that you cannot save people from themselves, and that what motivates the majority of intervention by the state is not so much a concern for society as a self-righteous delusion that enlightened elites will save the lower classes from themselves and elevate them. I reject this fantasy on moral and practical grounds.

  • “Marijuana does not post a greater risk to society than alcohol; both should be prohibited or both should be legalized.”

    There is a point when risks becomes too costly for society. While alcohol comes with its costs, introducing another intoxicant into the market will simply increase the harm incurred. And while the one indulging won’t be prosecuted in a legalize all vices society, everyone else would be punished in some form.

    This is the problem I have with the Ron Paul crowd and its obsession with legalizing narcotics. It is their belief in the license to participate in vices as the ultimate example of real freedom. Their freedom is embracing the worst habits of us and not the free exercise of what makes us a great citizen, community and country.

    “Sumner’s point and mine is that you cannot save people from themselves”

    It’s true the decision to do good or bad ultimately lies with the individual. However, law can have a positive effect in deterring one to do harm to him or herself. Absent the law, the tempted individual sees license to partake of legal activity without a true understanding of serious, even dire, consequences.

    You acknowledge there is a risk to legalization, but your interpretation of Sumner’s point makes risk evaluation pointless. For no matter the risk, you can’t save people from themselves. The result is a society where there are no personal limits. All narcotics are legalized, and no societal costs until harm to another party is done. That’s a difficult argument to make to a mother crying over a child killed by a school bus driver who showed up to work hung over from a crack high.

  • Kyle,

    I question whether or not the costs of prosecuting people for marijuana are greater than the alleged harm that these people cause society. It is a grave thing to take away a person’s freedom, or to otherwise interfere in their life, and it is all done at the expense of the taxpayer (i.e. forgotten man). Is it justifiable to cause real and lasting harm to moderate drug users? Because that is what happens when the state arrests, prosecutes, fines, monitors and ultimately imprisons a man. It is harm to a real individual, who may have dependents, who may be a worker paying taxes, who may have any number of social roles.

    So when you say that the “harm incurred” would be increased, I see that it would be decreased.

    “It is their belief in the license to participate in vices as the ultimate example of real freedom.”

    That’s really just not true. I think Ron Paul and many of us supporters would be the first to acknowledge that those who sin, are slaves to sin, that those who are addicts are not really free. This isn’t about suggesting the best means to personal freedom, but rather defining the role and the limitations of the state and the rights of the individual. We believe people ought to be free to make bad choices, though I honestly don’t see the substantial difference between having a drink (which we all regard as morally neutral, not being Puritans) and smoking a joint.

    It is also about, again, the forgotten man – the taxpayer, who has to cough up the dough to finance the criminal justice system that prosecutes all of these people for their own good. I don’t want my tax dollars spent on this. America was fine when marijuana wasn’t a controlled substance, and it will be fine again when these absurd laws are finally scrapped.

    “However, law can have a positive effect in deterring one to do harm to him or herself. ”

    Whenever you use the word “law”, I see “coercion”, because that is what we are really talking about, and in my view the use of force against a person requires a much greater justification than “they have a bad habit we need to stop for their own good.” And I have to tell you, from personal experience, that I’ve known maybe one, two at the most people who were afraid to smoke marijuana because it was “against the law.” It is a non-factor for most normal human beings. Many more people I knew refused to smoke because of drug tests or even lie detector tests that current or potential employers might subject them to.

    Believe it or not, freedom does work. Because freedom includes the rights of employers not to have potheads for employees, especially when people want to join the police or firefighters or military. This idea of the coercive state as our nanny, telling us what is best for us, though, is a degradation of human dignity. We have enough people throwing away their dignity all on their own, and we don’t need the state adding to it.

    “Absent the law, the tempted individual sees license to partake of legal activity without a true understanding of serious, even dire, consequences.”

    What I just said really proves this false. People lose their jobs, their friends, their money, their homes due to drug addiction. These are punishment enough, and they are all imposed by organic social institutions, not the artificial Leviathan. On the other hand, people who use drugs and can retain all of these things have demonstrated that they have a handle on it, and it is stupid and vindictive to punish them for it.

    “That’s a difficult argument to make to a mother crying over a child killed by a school bus driver who showed up to work hung over from a crack high.”

    She should be mad at the school for not screening their employees. Do you really think a crackhead cares that crack is against the law? To even become a crackhead you would have already have to have broken dozens of laws. Crackheads should be removed from the streets and put in rehabilitation facilities (not prisons where they can be gang-raped by unchecked prison gangs), not because they violated some absurd Puritanical rule against intoxicants, but because they do pose a threat.

    But a casual pot smoker is not a crackhead, and less of a danger than an alcoholic.

  • Hi Bonchamps. Had to step away and get some things done. Back to the discussion…

    You and I agree there are reasonable limits on freedoms. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can yell fire in a theater. Right to bear arms doesn’t mean you can possess a nuclear missile in your backyard. The debate is where to draw the line.

    You mentioned the costs to enforce the drug laws as a justification to cease the prohibition. It is my belief that the rightness or wrongness of a law is never based on its enforceability or its costs.

    If we, as a society, decide sex trafficking is wrong and should be illegal, does it matter the cost to enforce it? At what budgetary line does a harmful activity became non-harmful? Is sex trafficking bad when enforcement is $1 million but licit when enforcement costs $1 million + $1?

    How much has been spent on stopping and prosecuting murder? By the legalize narcotics standards, we should cease those laws. They are simply ineffective and too costly. Murderers will murder anyway. Or, is it possible the very existence of the law provides a beneficial deterrence to would be murders?

    You say the drug user’s addiction is punishment enough. If you have known, worked with, lived with, been the victim of, etc. an addict, you know that person is not the only one punished. Those people are the real forgotten men, the trail of victims the addict leaves behind. Those who have to live with the costs incurred by an addict’s habit. Don’t forget those forgotten men.

    In regards to Ron Paul supporters, I know very well how they think and what issues are important to them. The Paulistas rally around narcotic legalization as the ultimate example of freedom. Yet, finding such fervor about the rights of the unborn and religious freedom is virtually silent. They claim to be freedom fighters, but their motivations are really selfish. “Let me smoke my pot. Erase my debts you evil big banks.”

    I could go on and on about the problems of Paulistas. I have 2 in the family and have seen endless postings by them and their friends. You are the sanest one I’ve ever met, probably the only sane one.

  • “You mentioned the costs to enforce the drug laws as a justification to cease the prohibition. It is my belief that the rightness or wrongness of a law is never based on its enforceability or its costs.”

    Well, I don’t share that belief. I think it is morally wrong to not consider the practicality or the costs, because if they are worse than the problem that the policy claims to address, you are imposing unfair and unnecessary burdens on people. Costs matter, especially when you are proposing to confiscate people’s private property to pay them. There is rightness and wrongness to consider every step along the way. When you say you don’t care about costs, you’re basically saying that you don’t care about the consequences of your actions. How is that anything other than sociopathic?

    “If we, as a society, decide sex trafficking is wrong and should be illegal, does it matter the cost to enforce it? ”

    Yes, it does matter. It absolutely matters. There is a hierarchy of needs and priorities. I don’t know exactly where sex trafficking falls on that hierarchy, but I’m pretty sure that there are things higher than it that need to be addressed before that issue can be addressed.

    “How much has been spent on stopping and prosecuting murder? By the legalize narcotics standards, we should cease those laws. They are simply ineffective and too costly. Murderers will murder anyway. Or, is it possible the very existence of the law provides a beneficial deterrence to would be murders?”

    The state exists to protect natural rights. Laws against murder reflect the fact that we have a natural right to life that no man is justified in violating. Laws against marijuana, on the other hand, prevent people from engaging in behavior that AT BEST might theoretically cause someone else harm. At worst they are proposed to save people form themselves, which is a violation of human dignity and free will.

    The law does not exist to “instruct.” It does not exist to make us better people. That is the role of religion, of society, of our families. The law exists to protect our rights against would-be violators. That’s all.

    “You say the drug user’s addiction is punishment enough. If you have known, worked with, lived with, been the victim of, etc. an addict, you know that person is not the only one punished. Those people are the real forgotten men, the trail of victims the addict leaves behind. Those who have to live with the costs incurred by an addict’s habit. Don’t forget those forgotten men.”

    First of all, I have.

    Secondly, the state doesn’t exist to help those people. That is what families, churches, and local organizations are for. The state shouldn’t have a thing to do with what ought to be a private matter.

    “I know very well how they think and what issues are important to them. The Paulistas rally around narcotic legalization as the ultimate example of freedom.”

    Well, this is at stereotype. I am a Ron Paul supporter, and I don’t believe that. Neither does Judge Napolitano, Tom Woods, Chuck Baldwin or any number of conservative religious Ron Paul supporters.

    “You are the sanest one I’ve ever met, probably the only sane one.”

    Check out the guys I mentioned.

  • Again, and with reference to Blackadder’s contention, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has a budget of $6.9 bn, of which the Department of Justice attributes $3.5 bn to the cost of incarcerating people for whom the top count was a drug charge. Federal prisoners account for about 11% of the nation’s inmates, but a much higher share of those incarcerated for street drugs (~30%). The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has a budget of $2.4 bn. Overall, around 20% of the sum of costs for law enforcement at all levels of government is attributable to the gross costs of enforcing the drug laws. Not 10% of all public expenditure is lavished on police, courts, and prisons. About 2% of all public expenditure can be fairly attributable to drug enforcement.

    (While we are at it, libertarians, around 15% of all public expenditure is allocated to the military, and somewhat under 30% of all soldiers are billeted abroad, so “the empire” accounts for just north of 4% of public expenditure).

Non Negotiable Political TV Program To Debut In 2012

Monday, October 10, AD 2011

There are a slew of politically based TV talk shows on network and cable television. Have you ever had the desire to see a conservative oriented talk show that wasn’t full of gimmicks, one that brought in guests from the conservative and liberal sides? Sadly the current state of affairs seems geared for conservatives to either engage in name calling, a tactic often used by liberals, or worse yet negotiate away the conservative truths in which we believe. There is a better way; announcing the television program Non Negotiable; a new type of political program hosted by Dave Hartline and Damon Owens.

Both Hartline and Owens have appeared on various national television and talk radio programs. In addition they have written national and web based articles.  Non Negotiable was  created and will be produced by television and movie producer Christian Peschken who himself hosted Radio & TV talk shows in Germany , before he came to America some twenty years ago. Peschken has produced a variety of television programs and feature films. In addition, he has produced a number of programs for EWTN.

Non Negotiable will have seven truths rooted in the ideas of the US Constitution and Natural Law. The hosts of the show will discuss what can and cannot be negotiated with regard to these seven time honored principals. If after a discussion the idea proposed doesn’t fit the 7 Point Criteria, the hosts will simply announce; “This Non Negotiable.” The program will debut in 2012. Currently Peschken is in negotiations with several cable networks with regard to purchasing airtime to reach 90 million potential households nationwide.   

In 1996 the fledging Fox News Channel and their CEO Roger Ailes was laughed at by conservatives for putting Bill O’Reilly the host of a TV tabloid Show called Inside Edition as their number one Prime Time focus. Fifteen years later most political talk shows still try to copy O’Reilly’s The Factor. The point being that Ailes didn’t use conventional wisdom, his gut told him that Americans wanted something different, and so it is today with Producer Christian Peschken.

In 2012 the new political oriented TV talk show Non Negotiable will air in this pivotal election year. However, it is not just any election year but an election that comes against the backdrop of the most serious economic crisis since the Depression. Add to that a growing political movement called the Tea Party juxtaposed against a resurgent but as of late crestfallen liberal revival that first surfaced in 2006. These combustible ingredients parlay themselves into an attentive television audience the likes of which has never been seen in the modern, internet, social media age.

As this show’s production ramps up, there certainly are some of you out there, and you know who you are, who could help the investors get this show immediately up and running.  Investors are being sought now to procure the necessary funds for this program series.  Please keep this show in your prayers and look for updates as the fall of 2011 turns to winter.

To Contact Christian Peschken e-mail to [email protected]

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Scalia on Natural Law

Wednesday, September 28, AD 2011

I think Justice Scalia is right on target regarding his comments on the difficulty inherent in judges attempting to apply natural law in this country.  Natural law, as a legal concept to be used day to day by judges in the cases before them, only works if people are in agreement on basic morality.  Then a law writ by God on the hearts and minds of men and true for all times and true for all places is possible of discernment in application to particular cases.  Such a civilization Western Europe enjoyed from around 1000 AD to the time of the Reformation.  Our time bears little relationship to that period in history.  Now we live in a time of moral chaos, where even the right to life of an unborn child is denied by law.  In such a time of moral collapse, giving to judges the power to make determinations based on natural law is simply giving them the power to make it up as they go along, even more than they not infrequently do currently.  Bad enough results obtain when judges are supposedly bound by the text of written constitutions.  Give them a warrant to use something as vague and amorphous as natural law, and the results are completely predictable.

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Pope Benedict’s Address to the Bundestag: God, Law, History and Politicians

Sunday, September 25, AD 2011

In the history of the Church we have had brilliant Popes, and not so brilliant Popes, an agile mind not necessarily being first on the list of priorities of the Holy Spirit when it comes to choosing Pontiffs.  Without a doubt, our current Pope is brilliant, his acute intelligence shining through his writings and his speeches.  This attribute of Pope Benedict was on full display when the Pope addressed the German Bundestag (national parliament) this week.  He gave a truly fascinating lecture on how what we mean by law has changed in modern times.  I suspect it went over the heads of most of his immediate audience, but it deserves study by all Catholics, and particularly those Catholics who, as I am, are connected with the law professionally.  Here is the speech of the Pope, interspersed with color commentary by me:

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9 Responses to Pope Benedict’s Address to the Bundestag: God, Law, History and Politicians

  • God bless Pope Benedict.

  • Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Don.

  • ‘Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he listens to his nature, respects it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.’

    A lot there to parse, as well as the entire speech, which “sails over most of our heads,” I believe. This is a speech that needs to be studied and cannot be absorbed in one hearing or one reading. If nothing else, Benedict provides a lot of food for thought. I’m not sure he is right in saying, “Man does not create himself.” In a way, we all create ourselves and as for “listening to nature,” it’s never been clear to me what nature is saying except that it is totally objective and cares not a whit about mankind.

    Still, the Pope’s comments are always worthy of reflection. Thanks, Don, for posting.

  • Thank you Mrs. Z and Joe. In our soundbite and videoclip age, the Pope reminds us that the need for thought and analysis of complex matters has not disappeared.

    I join whole-heartedily in your sentiment T.Shaw.

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  • I’m surprised there were no direct references to Communism.

  • Governments, especially of the U.S.A., could consider this address/appeal for action as well.
    “The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, …”
    “If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture.”
    “The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding that is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason strictly understood. Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field, and they remain extraneous to the realm of reason in the strict sense of the word. Where positivist reason dominates the field to the exclusion of all else – and that is broadly the case in our public mindset – then the classical sources of knowledge for ethics and law are excluded. This is a dramatic situation which affects everyone, and on which a public debate is necessary. Indeed, an essential goal of this address is to issue an urgent invitation to launch one.”
    “In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.”
    “I think that, even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart – the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace. Thank you for your attention!”
    we are blessed by God to have Pope Benedict XVI so able to discern between good and evil, to teach us about our situation, and urge us to remember, question, debate, and defend, and establish true law. And to pay attention.

  • I liked the reference to positivist reason to a windowless bunker, while speaking several hundred meters from the site of the Fuehrerbunker at the Reichs Chancellery.

Civil Dialogue Between a Darwin Evolutionist and Natural Law Theorist

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

On Blogging Heads TV, Robert Wright discusses how we reason about the human good with Robert P. George of Princeton University, a leading scholar of modern natural law theory (with whom readers are no doubt familiar).

Subjects discussed:

  • Chapter 1: Natural law vs. utilitarianism (12:01)
  • Chapter 2: Why exactly is friendship good? (14:03)
  • Chapter 3: Euthanasia and human dignity (7:22)
  • Chapter 4: Natural law and conservativism (5:02)
  • Chapter 5: What can be done in the name of the greater good? (12:28)
  • Chapter 6: Just war theory (6:17)

Robert Wright is the author of The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, and The Evolution of God.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of the Task Force on the Virtues of a Free Society of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His books include In Defense of Natural Law and Clash Of Orthodoxies: Law Religion & Morality In Crisis.

I’ve watched a few episodes of ‘BloggingHeads’ — video debates between leading bloggers/authors — but this was the first with Dr. George, who is very adept at getting right to the point and crystallizing the respective positions of each side. Likewise this may serve as a good introduction to viewers who aren’t generally accustomed to analyzing moral situations from a (Catholic) natural law perspective.

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Anti-Catholic Bigotry Alive and Well at the University of Illinois

Friday, July 9, AD 2010

I am an alum of the U of I.  I obtained my BA in 79 and my JD in 82.  My wife is also an alum of the U of I, obtaining her MA in Spanish in 82.  Our eldest son will be entering the U of I as a freshman in August.  I therefore found the news that  Professor Kenneth Howell, an adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois, has been fired for teaching in a course about Catholicism  basic Catholic doctrine on homosexuality quite alarming:

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39 Responses to Anti-Catholic Bigotry Alive and Well at the University of Illinois

  • Looking at the e-mail from the student to the administration, and the original e-mail from Howell, two things seem clear:

    1. Neither the student nor his “friend” have a clear understanding of the purpose or content of Howell’s e-mail. They clearly cannot distinguish between advocacy and presentation of a fairly standard-issue argument in Catholic moral theology. I might expect this of high school students. College students should know better.

    2. This supposed college student’s grasp of standard English is most distressing. “Anyways”? Yikes!

    I am forced to question the Department Chair’s ability to notice the above.

  • In other words: Teach Catholicism, but don’t teach that it has anything to do with reason and reality. We must continue the lie that faith and reason are at odds, that the Church opposes gay marriage solely as a matter of religious faith, and that religion is purely a matter of private opinion, not public action.

    And this is supposed to “promote independent thought”? I’d wager that those students have never encountered any though quite so radical as Prof. Howell was exposing them to. He was doing exactly what they say they wanted.

  • Elena Kagan demonstrated how liberal pandering to any special interest group trumps your right to freedom to exercise your religion.

    Kagan on Whether Catholic Church Could Recruit at Harvard Law

    This is precisely how Hitler took over Germany. It began with politically correct “thinking” which led to politically correct “law” and everything Hitler did was “legal”. This “judge” who never met a politically correct cause she didnn’t love and support (regardless of it’s standing the law) is about to take a seat on the highest court in the land.

    Yet she is touted for her “brilliance” and legal scholarship. They teach you all about the law in law school – they don’t teach you a thing about JUSTICE.

    “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    ~ President John Adams

    “Authentic democracy is possible only in a state ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the “subjectivity” of society through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility. Nowadays there is a tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and the basic attitude which correspond to democratic forms of political life. Those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that truth is determined by the majority, or that it is subject to variation according to different political trends. It must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”

    ~ Pope John Paul II – Centesimus Annus

  • theory of Catholicism

    So now Catholicism is a theory and not a faith?

  • Just read the emails. I’m no natural law philosopher, but wasn’t the professor’s explanation of natural law a little weak? It was more about biology than teleology. Nor was his description of utilitarianism exactly correct.

    Still not grounds for dismissing him, however.

  • Does anyone else see the immediate bias by Kaler when saying “the theory of Catholicism.” This sums the issue up. Another situation of higher education punishing the religious guy.

  • I hope that it is starting to dawn on the “Catholic Church” that when you sleep with dogs you wake up with fleas. Amen!

  • TonyC,

    Are you referring to the U of I as dogs?

  • Do you think if he had taught what Islam tenets are in the Koran on morality and homosexuality and the handling of those of that orientation, he would have lost his post.

  • “When I joined the military it was against regulations to be homosexual, then it became optional. I’m getting out before it becomes mandatory.” GySgt Harry Berres, USMC

  • Guys, guys! Remember, you’re free to talk all you want about Catholicism, as long as you don’t believe it!

  • Very, very troubling indeed! May God have mercy on us. It is so hard for me to see the radical decay all around. May I work to be faithful, to pray for the Catholic Church and for men like this, punished harshly for speaking of their religious beliefs, that were once protected by the very Constitution that is now used to persecute them.

  • This is just awful. Kenneth Howell, in case you don’t know, is a former Presbyterian minister who converted to the Catholic faith — which of course, forced him to give up THAT job — and who has written several books on Catholic doctrine. He converted well BEFORE he took this job. He was hired by the U of I specifically to teach classes on Catholic doctrine, which have been offered, for credit, for decades. It should not surprise anyone that he agrees with Catholic teaching on homosexuality and other issues.

    What he said is not “hate speech” any more than, say, an observant Orthodox Jewish professor who teaches classes specifically on Judaism attempting to explain kosher dietary laws and having a student who raises hogs back home take offense at it.

  • Friend, huh? Might this ‘friend’ not be a student? Is it possible that someone just wants a politically correct elucidation of the theory of Catholicism without any of the truth of what the Church teaches?

    I am also curious, how does saying that sodomy is an unnatural act ostracize people with homosexualist proclivities? Any biologist would tell you that certain human orifices are for evacuation and not anything else, except in cases of medical testing. Should we outlaw the theory of biology?

    Apparently the school wants to teach the theory of Catholicism and disassociation themselves from what the Church actually teaches. Why? Does anyone really think the UI Religion Dept. is somehow associated with the Church or with Catholics in anyway? Why did his statement violate the ‘inclusivity’ policy? Was he banning homosexualists from his class? Did he tell them that Sodomites aren’t allowed to learn about the theory of Catholicism? Were they told they were not allowed to disagree with Natural Law? Since when does the Church or those who teach her truths believe that humans don’t have free will?

    Are we going to fire history teachers who teach the offensive act of killing Jews? How do you study Nazi Germany without addressing the wholesale slaughter of Jews, Catholics, etc.? You can’t. It is the truth. Nazis did kill Jews. It is offensive. It certainly isn’t inclusive. I seriously doubt that any history teacher worth their mettle thinks it is OK to kill Jews – but they teach it nonetheless, because that is what Nazis did and what they believed. No one has to agree with it. This is ridiculous.

    I wonder if its OK to teach about Nazism because most Nazis were Sodomites and not OK to teach about Catholicism because the Church teaches that Sodomy is not OK, despite the proclivities of a small number of her members – of course, we don’t talk about pederast priests, we talk about pedophile priests because if we addressed the real problem, we may have to indict Sodomy. Me thinks there is an agenda here and just like in the late Wiemar Republic it starts with the homosexualists.

  • I was tempted to say that this development would make Msgr. Edward Duncan, the VERY longtime U of I Newman Center chaplain (over 50 years, from the 1940s to the 1990s), “turn over in his grave”, but after doing a quick google search on his name it appears he’s still alive, or was as recently as 2008. Anyone know his status? I don’t doubt he would have a LOT to say about this.

  • They would never have pulled this Elaine if Duncan were still in charge of the Newman Center. He was a formidable presence on the campus and not a man to brook any insult against the Church, as I noted when I was at the U of I. Judging from the spineless reaction of the Newman Center to this outrage, I guess the University decided that Catholics would just take this slap in the face lying down. Time to prove them wrong.

  • Will they fire Muslims for taking the same position?

  • “spineless reaction of the Newman Center to this outrage”

    I just hopped over to Thomas Peters’ blog and read the actual letter from Dr. Howell himself, explaining his side of the story.

    After reading it, I’m almost as ticked off at the Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria as I am at the university! It APPEARS that they told him “Sorry, can’t help you, and by the way, we no longer need your services either, so good luck and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.” What’s up with that?

  • Do I have this right? A man teaches the 2,000 year old teachings of Holy Mother Church in a U course on Catholicism and is terminated for hate speech.

    But Obama supporters call for murdering crackers and their babies; and that’s free speech.

    Go figure.

  • If the “Institute of Catholic Thought” for which Dr. Howell worked is structured in such a way that an instructor can no longer work for the Institute if they no longer work for the university, well, isn’t this living proof that the Newman Foundation and the Diocese had better do something about that? If they don’t, then I will have to take back all my past comments about the U of I being a more “Catholic” university (because of the quality of its Newman Center, and of the ICT classes) than some Catholic in name only schools are.

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  • As a no longer proud alum of U of I it shows me that the motto Learning and Labor has left the learning behind. Universities understand only one thing now and that is money. Don’t just write comments on blogs, write the president of U of I at [email protected] If you are an alumm tell him you won’t send them another dime until this is fixed. Send emails to all of your alumni friends. Post this on all of your blogs.

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  • Msgr. Duncan is still alive. His health isn’t so great anymore, but he occasionally makes appearances at St. Johns. I know he was there as recently as last fall for a special event.

  • This is simply further proof that the so-called Diversity Movement is about anything BUT diversity. It is about conformity to a set agenda with dogmas as entrenched as those of the Catholic Church with whom they are at war. Homosexuality and the praise thereof top the list of that agenda.

    I was particularly awed by the following excerpt taken from the email sent by the offended students “friend” and the mention of “independent thought” : “Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing,” the student wrote in the e-mail. “Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one’s worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation.”

    Who is genuinely aware of the meaning of true public discourse here? Who is promoting genuinely independent thought? Who is being ostracized? It certainly isn’t the Diversity Movement, not is it the offended student, who is still a student, while the good Prof. is beating the streets looking for a job.

  • Food for thought received in an email from the Manhattan Declaration group:

    ” . . . may be one of the gravest, most insidious threats to religious freedom I’ve seen in my lifetime: What may be an attempt, at the very highest levels of government, to RE-DEFINE the very meaning of religious freedom, from “free exercise” to merely private worship.”

  • “Will they fire Muslims for taking the same position?”

    No, only anti-catholic bigotry is allowed.

  • Is there any anti-Buddhism, anti-Hinduism, anti-Islamic, anti-protestant? Why there is anti-Catholic Bigotry? If there is answer please answer me. Thanks!

  • GM: I think (bombs away!) that there is anti-Catholic bigotry because Holy Mother the Church (the minority that actually adheres to its precepts) is a major safeguard against secular humanist cultural/societal hegemony.

    And, if one believes (as a small minority of so-called Catholics believes) that we are IN this world, but not OF this world, one is less easily controlled and, thus, one is a threat to the statist, fascist far-left liberals intent on controlling aspects of our lives.

    And, because the majority of bishops, nearly all so-called catholic scholars, catholic university regimes, etc. have sold out to Obama and the socilaists. In this rounnd the bowl of pottage is full of human dignity, peace, social justice, etc.

    I could barf!

  • T. Shaw,

    Food for thought received in an email from the Manhattan Declaration group:

    ” . . . may be one of the gravest, most insidious threats to religious freedom I’ve seen in my lifetime: What may be an attempt, at the very highest levels of government, to RE-DEFINE the very meaning of religious freedom, from “free exercise” to merely private worship.”

    That is why the Obama administration and many liberals continue to say “Freedom of Worship” instead of “Freedom of Religion”.

    They want to eliminate faith completely from the public square by redefining certain precepts of the U.S. Constitution.

  • You can say that Catholic bigotry is alive at the University of Illinois, but your church is a most dangerous foe of civil and religious liberty. The Catholic Bishops descended on Congress and pressured our legislators to pass Obama’s health care bill, even though the nation could not afford it and is on the verge to ruin and bankruptcy. The Bishops have no respect whatsoever for the U.S. Constitution. All across the board the church is pushing its’ agenda, seeking to dominate and control. The papacy is battering down the walls of church-state separation every where she can. She is pushing to enforce Sunday observance upon all of Europe, and is pushing for Sunday enforcement in the U.S. also. The Founding Fathers enacted safeguards, but these are being dismantled. Persecution is returning as sure as day. The words of John Adams, our second president, are proving true, as liberty of conscience is more and more threatened, “I have long been decided in opinion that a free government and the Roman Catholic religion can never exist together in any nation or Country.” “Liberty and Popery cannot live together.”

  • Logan,

    The Catholic Bishops are U.S. citizens.

    You need to brush up on the constitution.

    The last time I read it we all have freedom of expression.

  • Actually Logan the Bishops opposed Obamacare due to fear of it funding abortion. However I have found that anti-Catholicism and rank ignorance tend to go together so I am unsurprised that you are misinformed.
    As to your comment about the Church attempting to enforce Sunday observance, that is a fantasy you either got from an anti-Catholic website or dreamed up in your fevered imagination.

  • Logan, if you are some sort of Christian, then you should prayerfully read John 8:32.

    If you aren’t Christian, then you should pray, “God, if you really exist, help me understand what you are telling me in this Scripture reading.” and then read John 8:32.

    God and His Church do not impose, He proposes – the rest is up to you. Know that your Father loves you, despite any feelings you have otherwise.

  • Logan,

    The wall of separation between Church and States is from a letter Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists, a religious minority fearing that they would not be able to worship the way they were inclined and Jefferson was assuring them that the first amendment to the Constitution protected their religion from interference by the federal government.

    Jefferson was an adept diplomat and knowing his audience, Baptists, he wrote in terms they would understand. The wall of separation was drawn from a sermon by Roger Williams, whose sermons would have been known well among Baptists in 1802.

    The particular sermon is titled, “The Garden in the Wilderness” preached in 1644. He said, “When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the candlestick, and made his garden a wilderness, as at this day. And that there fore if He will e’er please to restore His garden and paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world.”

    Clearly Jefferson was referring to the fact that the wall separated the Church (the garden) from the State (the wilderness of the world) to protect the Church from the corruption of the political power. He was not even intoning that the State had a right to be ‘protected’ from the Church. In Jefferson’s time, even though it followed the Enlightenment, people of faith knew that religion formed men in virtue and virtuous leaders, men of character, were what was required to govern the Republic.

    Twisting this wall of separation to mean that religion has no place in public life is an atheistic Communist ploy. Probably concocted by the Communist front – the ACLU. It is a lie and intelligent people using the gift of human reason wouldn’t employ such a tired and weak argument.

  • “Will they fire Muslims for taking the same position?”

    An excellent question! Are similar courses in Islam being taught there?

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15,000 Pro-Family and Pro-Marriage March in Argentina

Thursday, June 24, AD 2010

Police estimated 15,000 peaceful marchers came out in defense of the family and marriage against militant gay activists in Argentina on June 19, 2010 rallying Argentinians to vote “in favor of matrimony between one man and one woman.”

Archbishop José Maria Arancibi marched along these peaceful protesters in defense of children.

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5 Responses to 15,000 Pro-Family and Pro-Marriage March in Argentina

Men Need to be Men

Tuesday, June 15, AD 2010

The King’s Men is an organization for Men to (re)discover what it means to be a man, a real man, a Catholic man as well as a manly Catholic.

As men we lead and protect the family.

We need to be active in the life of the Church.

We need to learn more about our Catholic faith and much, much more.

In today’s society and culture the role of men have been degraded, feminized, or ridiculed.  Our roles as men have been degraded to eliminate ‘gender bias’ by militant secularist humanists.  We have been feminized to the point of denying our natural gifts of being a leader, provider, and protector.  And we have been ridiculed by being attacked as misogynists.

This has taken such a toll on our role as men, we have forgotten what it means to be a husband, father, and a leader in the Church.

Mark Houck and Damian Wargo of The King’s Men apostolate explain this and much more in a 35 minute segment of EWTN‘s Life on the Rock.

Part 1 of 4:

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12 Responses to Men Need to be Men

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  • I simply don’t get Donald’s obsession with “manliness” and the military. Ain’t those two obsessions signs of fascism? That’s what I learned in my history class.

  • Why look, it’s the Catholic Anarchist who has been banned from this site, adopting the guise of “Ricky the Teenager” to call me a fascist yet again. I do have to give the Catholic Anarchist a half point on this post. His understanding of both fascism and history certainly never got past the sophomore level.

  • In all fairness, if Michael, oh , excuse me, “Ricky” really was/is an American public school student, it’s no wonder his understanding of fascism would be so flawed.

  • Fascinating… “Ricky the Teenager” and “TurnAroundDude” both share the same IP address, which originates in West Virginia…

  • Not that Michael doesn’t often have interesting things to say, but if we did ban him from commenting, shouldn’t we remove these comments? If we’re wrong, ‘Ricky’ and ‘TurnAroundDude’ can e-mail us from a legitimate e-mail address (rather than the obviously fake ones used those comments) and we can apologize for mistaking the user of that IP Address with Michael.

  • I have put the ban on the Catholic Anarchist’s ip of the day. Tito the post author can decide what he wants to do with “little Ricky’s” comment.

  • John Henry:

    There is no way I want to lose “Ricky the Teenager” from the records. It’s too funny if it is Michael I. He once made fun of me from trying to use a pseudonym (granted it was Aragorn but still…) and I’d like evidence of Ricky the teenager for posterity’s sake.

  • Fair enough, Michael D. I noticed some of Michael I.’s more outlandish posts and threads had disappeared over at VN. I suppose there is something to be said for posterity; and Ricky the Teenager is a much more original handle than Aragorn….. 😉

  • Happy to help with your record keeping!

  • Thanks Donald.

    He’s staying (at least the IP address) in the banned column.

George Weigel: Defend Religious Freedom

Tuesday, May 18, AD 2010

George Weigel wrote a timely article in National Review Online titled, Defending Religious Freedom in Full.

In it cites the extremist attacks in expressing our Catholic faith in the public square.

The forms of these attacks are egregious because they that attack us are also tearing apart the moral fabric of this nation.

Case in point is the Washington Post, and in my opinion they represent secular humanism, when it comes to natural law they painted those that hold to natural law as extremists:

This past October, in the heat of a political campaign, the nation’s political newspaper of record, the Washington Post, ran an editorial condemning what it termed the “extremist views” of a candidate for attorney general of Virginia who had suggested that the natural moral law was still a useful guide to public policy.

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Pope Speaks About Economics Again, "It's the Natural Law, Stupid"

Monday, May 3, AD 2010

After calling for Catholics to be liberated from their pet ideologies, Pope Benedict is helping flesh out a moral economic vision that puts the standard Left- socialism/Right- Free Markets debate into the dust bin for faithful Catholics.  The bottom-line seems obvious to me- you can’t demonize government and you can’t demonize business- both bring difficulties into play- over-regulation can harm economic development, but lack of regulation can lead to corporate dominance which is a problem when one considers that corporations typically are upfront about being in existence to pad their investor’s bank accounts, not being much concerned with the universal common good. Our Pope clarifies the inherent morality(read Natural Law) in the economy in this article from one of my favorite web sites

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8 Responses to Pope Speaks About Economics Again, "It's the Natural Law, Stupid"

  • I love the Holy Father.

  • The Austrian and Chicago school economists heads will explode.

  • I’m glad you posted this, Eric! Er… Tim. 🙂

    Sorry, this morning I saw Eric’s comment, and mistakenly typed his name, Tim. 🙂

  • I don’t think so, Jim. Both Austrian and Chicago school economists understand the limits of markets self-regulating. In particular they admit that the capacity for perfect self-regulation is inevitably inhibited by (i) imperfect information and (ii) imperfect rational behavior. As such the risk of errors and even so-called “bubbles” caused by deceit and simple mistakes is very real and in requires some government regulation. How much is a prudential question given that government regulation is also inherently very imperfect and one must recognize the reality that such regulation often makes things worse either by exacerbating a problem or creating new ones.
    The heads that would explode would be the Ayn Randians who view market theory as a dogma for how to live one’s life rather than simply a useful explanation of how resources are efficiently allocated. To be sure Randians are often greatly influenced by classical economic theories, but overall they represent a small subset of economists and thinkers who generally regard themselves as so-called Chicagoans or Austrians.

  • Here is Shaw’s ‘theology’ of the money: “You can’t take it with you. It will burn.”

    As St. Augistine wrote in The City of God: ” . . . the possession of those temporal goods which virtuous and blameless men may lawfully enjoy; still, there is more self-seeking here than becomes men who are mere sojourners in this world and who profess hope of a home in heaven.”

  • Tim posted this Chris. I’d be wrong to take credit.

  • I’m not sure why someone edited the title from It’s the Natural Law, – Stupid- to -Gomer- I was playing off the famous expression It’s the Economy, Stupid- I wasn’t calling folks out as being stupid if they didn’t agree with the Pope’s commentary- anyone know about this editing?

  • Should there be negative consequences for stupid decisions? Or should the market be regulated to make sure no one can make a stupid decision?

    I can’t tell from this teaching. What is the governments legitimate power, specifically? Isn’t that detail kind of important?

Exclusive Sneak Peek of Caritas in Veritate

Wednesday, July 1, AD 2009

Caritas in Veritate

[Updates at the bottom of this posting.]

The much anticipated new encyclical that Pope Benedict XVI recently signed, his third, on June 29th titled Caritas in Veritate, or Charity in Truth, will be released soon by Ignatius Press (the English version) on July  6th or 7th of 2009 A.D.  In searching for information regarding this encyclical I found bits and pieces here and there but nothing exhaustive or concise that came close to satisfying my curiosity.  So I’ve gathered all of my information and have presented it the best way possible in this posting.  With tongue in cheek I labeled this preview of Caritas in Veritate as an ‘Exclusive Sneak Peek’*.

Caritas in Veritate will be a social encyclical examining some of the social changes that have occurred since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, particularly globalization.  The encyclical will have Pope Benedict XVI articulating the need to bolster humanism that brings together the social and economic development of humans and to reduce the disproportionate gap between poor and rich.  One other major theme of this encyclical will be that of global justice.

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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.

    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?

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

  • 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”.

    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.


    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.



    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.

Catholics, The 2nd Amendment, & Subsidiarity

Friday, January 2, AD 2009

Ryan Harkins took an initial look at how Catholics should look at the question of whether there is a natural right to own guns in a post last week. The basic thrust of Ryan’s argument, and I ask him to correct me if I misstate this, was to examine the question of whether the benefits of private gun ownership outweighed the potential social evils. This is, in a sense, an obvious way to look at the question. If one is trying to determine the rightness of allowing people to own something potentially destructive, it would seem natural to take a “do the benefits outweigh the dangers?” approach.

I’d like to take a slightly different approach, looking at both the actual text of the second amendment and Catholic Social Teaching. The second amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The libertarian approach to this is to assert that an armed citizenry is required in order to provide a counter-weight to the power of the government. However, I’m not convinced that the thinking behind the second amendment was a merely a balancing of powers in this sense. Rather, it seems to me that to a great extent the US Constitution is written with the point of view that people possess certain natural rights and duties, and that from these spring rights and duties of the government. My understanding is that one of the major controversies in regards to the second amendment (one spoken to fairly definitely in last June’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision) has been whether it secures a right of state militias to have weapons, or a right of individuals to have weapons. While in effect my opinion on the matter lies closer to the individual right side, it seems to me that there is an important distinction which has been increasingly lost in our modern mass society:

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26 Responses to Catholics, The 2nd Amendment, & Subsidiarity

  • If one looks at Catholic social teaching (e.g. the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church), I can find nothing which directly supports the absolute right to own small arms. As far as I can see, all the places where such weapons are mentioned, it is heavily emphasized that (e.g.) “Appropriate measures are needed to control the production, sale, importation and exportation of small arms and light weapons”. This would support a conclusion that the ownership of such weapons is always a prudential matter, and thus not an absolute right.

  • Paul,

    Point taken.

    And I tried to be clear that there is, to my knowledge, no specific Catholic treatment of how the natural right to self defense (which the Church does recognize specifically in the Catechism, 2263-2265) plays out in regards to the question of whether one thus has a right to the means to self defense. Similarly, I am not aware of any statement in Church documents (as opposed to the speculations of individual theologians) as to whether the duty to defend the common good and societal order springs from the rights and duties of the individual, or is a prerogative of “just authority” but never the people.

    However the passages such as you cite are invariably about the containment of various political ills associated with the arms trade and societal disruption, and I’m not clear that one can conclude from the existence of these passages (and silence on the above mentioned matters) that the Church thus teaches that the individual does _not_ have a right to the means to exercise his natural right to self defense.

  • I assume that “criminal record” comes with an “etc.” for other reasonable restrictions, e.g. mental illness, the existence of certain kinds of injunctions, etc.

    Sometime soon I have to ask your opinion on the catechetical series I’m using with Offspring #1, and some interesting assertions it makes regarding Church teaching on labor issues.

  • I assume that “criminal record” comes with an “etc.” for other reasonable restrictions, e.g. mental illness, the existence of certain kinds of injunctions, etc.

    Most definitely.

    Sometime soon I have to ask your opinion on the catechetical series I’m using with Offspring #1, and some interesting assertions it makes regarding Church teaching on labor issues.

    Some have claimed that when I discuss unions I should have my sanity license revoked, but I shall endeavor to behave myself. 🙂

  • I think that when most discussions of the second amendment get off track is dealing with the term “militia”. The founders would not have accepted a standing army (which would probably include the national guard as a part thereof) as dangerous to freedom.

  • Is there a right to self-defense that might be lethal? Yes: the Catechism certainly supports that (#2263-2264). But that is not the question at issue — but rather: Is there an absolute right to own a particular weapon that may be used in self-defense? We both see no teaching directly on the issue. In which case, we then have to look for indirectly related statements, to see what bearing they might have on the question.

    In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #511, it says: “Appropriate measures are needed to control the production, sale, importation and exportation of small arms and light weapons, armaments that facilitate many outbreaks of violence to occur. The sale and trafficking of such weapons constitute a serious threat to peace: these arms kill and are used for the most part in internal and regional conflicts; their ready availability increases both the risk of new conflicts and the intensity of those already underway.”

    It is very hard to read that and avoid concluding that, in the appropriate circumstances, a state might legitimately decide to ban the production or sale of small-arms, on the grounds that it would make an existing situation worse. If that conclusion is accepted, then, following on, it would seem that there could be no absolute right to own such a controlled weapon.

  • I would tend to agree with Paul and Ryan that this is a question of proportionality rather than a ‘right’ to firearms as a means of self-defense. There are significant limitations, for example, to individual property rights (e.g. taxes). A restriction on firearms in some contexts could similarly be a reasonable limitation on the right to self-defense.

    That said, I think a good argument can be made that there are proportionate reasons in the U.S. (as well as Constitutional support) for allowing citizens to own firearms.

    As an aside, I thought you were skeptical of additional Catholic ‘rights talk’ DC. Are certain commentators references to your ‘love’ of guns valid? 😉

  • Paul,

    We’re in agreement as to the legitimacy of self defense (and I assume to self defense being a natural right) which might some times be lethal.

    Is there an absolute right to own a particular weapon that may be used in self-defense?

    Actually, I would say: No.

    Come to that, the 2nd Amendment (which is what I’m trying to defend from a Catholic point of view here) actually doesn’t specify any particular weapon either — and I don’t dispute (though perhaps some of the founders would have) the Supreme Court finding that some kinds of weapons (all fully automatic firearms, for instance) can quite legitimately be banned.

    What I do think one can defend from a Catholic point of view is the claim (which would seem to be essentially a 2nd Amendment one) that since one does have a natural right to self defense and to defend and maintain order in one’s immediate community, that stemming from this would be a right to possess those weapons that might legitimately achieve those aims.

    Given that those are aims of limited scope, I would also see strong reason to restrict individual ownership of weapons that go beyond those needs. (After which I’d proceed to argue that given the wide availability of guns in modern American society, it would not be realistic to claim that a total ban on personal ownership of guns would be compatible with allowing people the tools for defense of themselves and their immediate communities.)

    Now, I take your point on the Compendium of Social Doctrine, however given that it p511 comes right between p510 which discusses the need to get rid of landmines (which significantly it goes on to call “a type of small arm that is inhumanly insidious”) and p512 where it strongly condemns the practice of recruiting child soldiers, I guess my big questions would be: Are the “small arms and light weapons” the sort of non-full-auto rifles, pistols and shot guns which are currently legal in the US? And, are we talking here about private citizens owning guns, or are we talking about local strongmen buying crates of AK-47s to hand out to their gangs of boy soldiers?

    Given that the second half of p511 says:
    The position of States that apply severe controls on the international transfer of heavy arms while they never, or only very rarely, restrict the sale and trafficking of small arms and light weapons is an unacceptable contradiction. It is indispensable and urgent that Governments adopt appropriate measures to control the production, stockpiling, sale and trafficking of such arms [1076] in order to stop their growing proliferation, in large part among groups of combatants that are not part of the military forces of a State.

    I guess I’d take it to be a pretty straightforward denunciation of countries making a policy of allowing unrestricted sales of everything from AK-47s to land mines and rocket launchers to trouble-makers in the third world. It doesn’t really strike me as addressing the question of whether households have a natural right to be able to own those weapons which, under the current technological and social conditions, would be sufficient to defend the household and its neighbors from harm.

  • John Henry,

    As an aside, I thought you were skeptical of additional Catholic ‘rights talk’ DC. Are certain commentators references to your ‘love’ of guns valid?

    Well, the specific examples I am concerned about in regards to “rights talk” pertain to claiming rights to be given something (a right to health care, a right to housing, a right to education, a right to a living wage) rather than a right to be able to possess something if you have the means to acquire it.

    I certainly would not say that a “right to bear arms” means that the state is obligated to give you a gun — simply that it may mean, if guns are the only culturally and technologically reasonable means by which you can defend yourself and your neighbors, that you should not be restricted from owning a gun if you choose to go out and take steps to acquire one.

    More generally,

    I recognize that I’m pushing a point here and trying to make an argument that may in the end not hold up. I’m going ahead and defending it strenuously in order to see how well the argument works (and try to make sure that I’ve presented my thinking thoroughly) but I recognize that this certainly is not “what the Church teaches”. At best, I’m hoping that it looks like a fairly reasonable conclusion based on what the Church teaches.

    So while I’ll continue to defend and clarify in an attempt to see how well this argument works, please understand that I’m not trying to simply assert, “The Catholic Church says you have the right to bear arms,” but simply to see if one can successfully make an argument for the personal right to bear arms within a Catholic context.

  • Startling how DC outright confesses his embrace of the rights to consume and possess, if one has the means, right as he rejects to the rights to be nourished educated, housed and paid equitably…

  • Mark,

    If you read my post a while back about “rights talk”, which is what I’m referencing there, I argued that the “right to housing” is not a natural right in the sense that if one is simply left to oneself and does nothing to create one’s own housing, one does not have any housing. The right to free speech, on the other hand, is a natural right in that one is fully capable of speaking until someone comes in and takes that right away from you.

    I am, of course, strongly in favor of people being free to obtain education, housing, and pay — but I don’t think it’s proper to describe something as a “right” which someone else has to come and give to you. That is properly described as a duty. As in: We have duty to provide shelter to the homeless, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, pay the worker, educate the ignorant, etc.

    To call those things rights, in my opinion, ignores the fact that they need to come from other people. They are not things that we naturally possess until someone else comes and takes them away from us.

    I’m not clear if you’re really unclear as to the argument, or you just enjoy a chance to characterize those you disagree with, regardless of whether your characterization bears any resemblance to the truth.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    While “small arms and light weapons” has no precisely agreed-on international definition, “small arms” would generally be reckoned to include revolvers, rifles, and AK-47s; and “light weapons” would be something like grenade launchers or two-person machine-guns.

    You say: “stemming from this [right to self-defense] would be a right to possess those weapons that might legitimately achieve those aims”. I think if that were changed to “… that would legitimately achieve those aims”, it would be defensible from a Catholic point of view.

    For example, suppose in a particular country, two different large groups were close to being in violent conflict. It could, depending on the exact circumstances, be legitimate (along the lines of what the Compendium indicates) for a state to ban the private possession of small arms and light weapons, until the reasons for the conflict were eliminated. Though each individual could say “This weapon is for my personal defense”, the cumulative effect of everyone in both groups claiming that, and acting on it, could tip things over into open conflict, or cause any subsequent conflict to be much worse. The individual’s benefits in possessing small arms have to be balanced against the needs of society (since, after all, each individual is also a a member of society, and is affected by and benefits from it).

    Opinions as to what the 2nd amendment means obviously differ quite widely. I think that if it were taken in some sense like: “Provided it benefits society, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”, that would be consistent both with the Compendium, and with much of how the law has tended to be interpreted (though not by all!).

  • This is a statement by the American Bishops who make clear that people of good will are free to contradict them on the means to the end, but not the ends.

  • Eric,

    The ends in this case being?

  • Eric,

    Where do they say that people of good will are not free to disagree with them?

  • For example, suppose in a particular country, two different large groups were close to being in violent conflict. It could, depending on the exact circumstances, be legitimate (along the lines of what the Compendium indicates) for a state to ban the private possession of small arms and light weapons, until the reasons for the conflict were eliminated. Though each individual could say “This weapon is for my personal defense”, the cumulative effect of everyone in both groups claiming that, and acting on it, could tip things over into open conflict, or cause any subsequent conflict to be much worse. The individual’s benefits in possessing small arms have to be balanced against the needs of society (since, after all, each individual is also a a member of society, and is affected by and benefits from it).

    I would certainly see the compendium as saying that in such a situation both the local government and outside governments should work to keep military hardware from being poured into the country. Pouring crates of AKs and RPGs into a third world country with a failing government will certainly not do anything to help the common good.

    I’m more skeptical that it would necessarily be a good idea for the local government to ban gun ownership and confiscate the guns that private households already own. The question would be: who in such a situation is likely to use the power to confiscate weapons from private citizens for the common good rather than simply to confiscate weapons from everyone but their own faction?

    From what I’ve read about conflicts in places like Uganda and Somalia, the problem is not that many individual citizens are armed to the teeth and ready to burst into civil war, but rather that the general population is almost completely unarmed while local strongmen have crates of weapons which they pass out to their followers. This makes it far easier for local strongmen to inflict terror on the population, because the population is unable to exercise any form of self defense against them.

    So, I would certainly agree with the Compendiums prescription that when there is great civil unrest in an area shipping in weapons is an additional source of trouble. I also could theoretically see a situation in which an area was sufficiently unarmed or disarmed that it was not necessary for people to own firearms in order to legitimately exercise self defense and control of their own communities — but my concern with suggestions of a confiscatory ban on all guns or whole classes of guns (like the 70s era statement supporting a hand gun ban out of the USCCB) is that when done in the context of rising violence this merely serves to prevent ordinary citizens from defending themselves while leaving the elements of chaos (who aren’t following the law anyway) fully armed.

  • That said, Paul’s interpretation strikes me as being more in keeping with precedent than mine. There were, to my recollection, a whole series of papal statements in the high middle ages attempting to ban specific weapons (notably the crossbow) and ban fighting on certain days of the week and such. To my knowledge, not of this was particularly successful, but it is the approach with history to it.

    To get a Catholic understanding of a right to bear arms one has to assume a new development along the lines of the right to own ones property and own the fruits of one’s labor — which was itself in contradiction to a long history of statements which tacitly accepted the peasant system.

  • -he rejects to the rights to be nourished educated, housed and paid equitably…-

    This sounds like a right to be infantilized.

    I would rather be poor and free, as I am now.

  • Actually, the Constitution was not originally meant to interfere in any of our lives. The document was written to protect states from federal interference. The 2nd amendment meant, when written, that the feds would not be allowed to disarm or disband any state militia.

    It may be hard to believe now, when we think the government should tell us where to live, how to live and why to live, but the constitution was not meant to do any of these things and neither was the federal government. An early Chief Justice (Jay? I’m not sure. It was in the 1820’s or 1830’s), when asked if the Bill of Rights applied to state governments, said,without hesitation, NO! I.e., a state could infringe on your right to bear arms, your free speech, etc. The Bill of Rights only restricted the federal government from doing these things because the founders did not fear their own states (since they controlled them!). The Congregationalist church was the state church in one of the New England states until the early 19th century, Bill of Rights or no.

    The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments changed all this and activist judges began to “incorporate” the rights expressed in the Bill of rights and applied them to all people.

    Really unfortunate, as our states have just been pawns ever since, and not the free, cooperating nations they were meant to be. Under the original intent of the constitution, people in each state would not have their hands tied every time they try to solve a local problem (Wouldn’t it be nice if your state, with a government you elected, could declare certain areas, infested by drugs and gangs, free from guns without the federal hassle and without trying to do the same thing everywhere? And then later reverse the decision if it seemed wise to do so? They could restrict pornography without some ACLU scum breathing down their necks. The present interpretation of the constitution makes us all slaves to out-of-touch nitwits in Washington.)

  • Thoughtful post Darwin. I think it is clear there is a natural right to proportionate self-defense.

    It is also clear that guns are a part of our reality whether we like it or not. No amount of legislation is going to change this fact. What legislation does change is who has the guns, i.e., whether the guns are in the hands of the people, the government and criminals, or alternatively, in the hands of the government and criminals alone.

    I think you’re right about the natural rights case to be made for the second amendment, but I wouldn’t discount the Founders desire to limit the power of government.

    The 2nd Amendment is part of the very fabric of our democracy. It helps underscore and substantiate the essential equality of all the citizens in our Republic. It does this by ensuring there is no substantial power gap between the rulers and the ruled.

    I think this commitment to equality, made significant by limiting the power of the government over its citizens, is very much in accord with the Catholic conception of the common good. We all stand to benefit from there being no one group of people responsible for eveyone’s defense. After all, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The Founders were wise to diffuse power rather than concentrate it.

  • Blackdadder,

    The end is the “joint effort to eliminate the criminal and deadly misuse of handguns.” We all have the same goal, but differing opinions as to how to obtain it and part of that constitutes the regulation of guns.


    You misread me. I said people of good will are, in fact, free to contradict the Bishops on the matter. They aren’t exercising magisterial authority.

  • I’ll add that it is evident from their words that the Bishops believe people of “good faith” can and will oppose gun control measures they collectively support. However, it is implicit (thus, I made my comment) that we are not in fact free to disagree with them on an end. No person of good will, abiding by the natural law, can disagree with the Bishops on the end goal of curbing gun violence. The means — gun control laws or no gun control laws — can be debated. The ends are non-negotiable.

  • Oh, there is no disagreement then. I thought the “end” you were thinking of may have been something like a ban on guns.

  • No person of good will, abiding by the natural law, can disagree with the Bishops on the end goal of curbing gun violence.

    This is true, but since hardly anybody does disagree with this goal, I’m not sure how significant a truth it is.

  • If we have a natural right to self defense, wouldn’t that imply that we have a natural right to effective self defense?

    What I mean by this is saying that a cat has a natural right to self defense, but I’m going to de-claw him and pull his teeth. He has a natural right to self defense, but I have effectively removed the means of the self defense.

    This is important, especially in the case of women who are generally much smaller, physically weaker and less aggressive than men. This means that a woman can’t effectively defend herself against a much bigger, stronger and more violent attacker. Those “less than lethal” methods are generally used closer up, and by that time the attacker is usually within arm’s reach.

    I heard a great quote: “A man use two methods to make me do what he wants. He can either convince me, or force me. A gun guarantees that he stick to the first method”.

  • As an old saying says:

    “God created man, Sam Colt made them equal.”

    Clearly the natural law right to defend oneself in our current milieu would allow the ownership of semi-auto hand guns and (at the least) civilian long guns. It would seem the USCCB position is contrary to this in it’s approach (but not it’s end).

    It also seems to me that the “Compendium of Social Doctrine” and the USCCB (even sometimes the Holy See itself) are sometimes stepping outside of their competence when they start to make judgments about the acceptability of specific weapon systems. As regards the proscription of “indiscriminant” use of weapons which cause mass destruction, it is the ends which are objected to, not the means. It would not necessarily be immoral to use a nuclear weapon against a nuclear missile silo. By the same token, I don’t think it’s reasonable for the hierarchy to judge that there is no legitimate use for land mine technology, if they are be deployed applying the rules of just warfare. The same goes for hand guns in legitimate self-defense, this is just out of the competence of the bishops.

    God Bless,