White Privilege, the Police and Good Manners

Tuesday, May 23, AD 2017

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved…. After all we have been through. Just to think we can’t walk down our own streets, how humiliating.

Jesse Jackson, November 27, 1993

Very, very strong content warning as to the Chris Rock video above.  Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts has a post on the concept of white privilege:

Courtesy of National Review.  I notice that most who beat the drum of white privilege are, in fact, white.  A common trend today.  Of course the most popular criticism of those questioning the dogma is to call them racists.  An oldie but a goodie.  Still, since I know many people who have missed the good ship White Privilege, and furthermore dismiss the idea that a white person starved to death is better off than a non-white person starved to death, it’s worth the read for a dissenting view.

Continue reading...

8 Responses to White Privilege, the Police and Good Manners

  • Privilege is just another word for family.”

    I think when it comes down to it, when we talk about privilege, we are usually talking about parents who try to help their children succeed. They provide safe homes, teach their children social skills, ingratiate them with valuable connections, and submerge them in a culture in which they will learn how to get to and through college, and into the workplace. Of course, it’s more than a one generation phenomena. Parents are enabled to privilege their children in part because of the privileges they themselves have received. Privilege moves from parent to child from generation to generation. And the web gets very thick. But at its heart, privilege is family.

  • Don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this here before or not. If so, pardon the repetition.

    Near as I can tell, the only privilege there is to being white is you get to be responsible everybody else’s mistakes along with your own.

    That goes double if you’re male and white.

    Triple if you’re heterosexual, male and white.

  • That Chris Rock video has been out for several years now. Even though I must have watched it hundreds of times, it still cracks me up. Those rule apply equally to whites as well as blacks. The cops in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn had no compunction in face planting any white kid stupid enough to get froggy with the fuzz. At least that’s the way it was 35-40 years ago when I was growing up in Detroit.

    The kind of “privilege” I experienced as a white kid in an inner city Detroit public high school back in the early 80s consisted of getting my face kicked in, as well as being terrorized, because of the color of my skin. The race hatred of these blacks toward whites I saw firsthand was ginned up by the white left. And the harm it has done to blacks has been irreparable.

  • “The race hatred of these blacks toward whites I saw firsthand was ginned up by the white left. And the harm it has done to blacks has been irreparable.”


  • I have pointed out several times that I used to work in Washington, DC for over five years. On a daily basis, I commuted through the parts of the District that no tourist ever sees…or has any business ever spending any time in. I drove by a welfare hotel . The parking lot was covered in litter. Small children could be seen wandering about and this was at the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. A station wagon with three black passengers tried to run me off the ramp from the never finished Southeast-Southwest Freeway to Pennsylvania Avenue. On the Baltimore Washington Parkway there was a car with two black men who insisted on driving in front of me at a speed about 15 miles an hour under the speed limit and when I attempted to pass they cut me off. I had to wait to get to an exit ramp, fake passing on the left and floored it turning right. i drove on the berm and on the grass to get away from them.

    For 17 years I have taken the bus to work. There is one stop in a black neighborhood. The worst behaved people on the bus always use this stop.

    I don’t have the awful stories some people do, but I can tell you it can be very hard not to blame the problems black people face entirely on them and mentally wash my hands of it all. God, how I loathe political correctness. There is nothing correct about it and it can be suffocating.

  • Political correctness is virtue signaling. Its aim is to divide the country, to shame anyone who disagrees with progressive ideas. Even to question them is bigotry. But mainly it is to acknowledge those who hold them as the rightful rulers of the country.

  • Here you go, Penguins Fan, a classic article the Rush from Judgement.

  • I don’t have the awful stories some people do, but I can tell you it can be very hard not to blame the problems black people face entirely on them and mentally wash my hands of it all. God, how I loathe political correctness. There is nothing correct about it and it can be suffocating.

    The thing is, you have a large population of wage-earning blacks who live in slums or in sketchy neighborhoods where security is poor. (The homicide rate in central Rochester is 35 per 100,000). The cultural dynamics of the black population are such that the interests of these people is never articulated and seldom addressed. You have a stable equilibrium between suburban interests, white progrtrash, black politicians, and the business-as-usual elites within the Democratic Party that leaves these people in the lurch. Rudolph Giuliani and Wm. Bratton are among the few people that matter who ever cared about their interests in an effective way. The vociferous element among black politicians is very concerned that the police and courts treat hoodlums delicately. For whatever reason, this sort of asininity does not cost them their careers.

    DC is a great deal safer than it was a generation ago, with a homicide rate about 1/2 what it was during the period running from 1970-85 and a quarter what it was during the period running from 1986 to 1998. It’s still over 30 per 100,000 in the black section of town. There’s more work to be done toward a restoration of public order. Instead, Democratic Party lawfare artists, media frauds, and salaried rabble-rousers are attempting to trash the accomplishments law enforcement have had to date. (And, of course, they receive the endorsement of the adolescent crew commonly called ‘libertarian’).

Don’t Insult Their Sacrifice

Sunday, December 21, AD 2014

27 Responses to Don’t Insult Their Sacrifice

  • I pray this cowardice attack on the patrolmen doesn’t lead to national copycat murderer’s targeting law enforcement.

  • Precisely what I am concerned about Philip.

  • These are days of deadly, rotten politics, when the criminals are deemed victims and their protectors targets. The words spoken about ‘poor’, rights, ‘profiling’, and ‘freedom’ have been changed into opportunities for sensational lunacy and have given no inspiration to people to use their time helping one another in community as happened until a decade ago. Sounds like a composition that is orchestrating control of the non-exempt ‘classes’ by cynical use of each their own to react . The hoodlums want to bully in a big way.

  • Would not revolt against local police be exactly what Obama wants so that he can send in the Feds to re-establish order and racial / gay equality?

  • Pray for these two early widows and a son missing a dad…Mrs. Liu married only two months….now broken hearted and alone….as is the Ramos mother and son in another way. Fatherlessness…not long past slavery…produces mayhem subcultures. The murderer probably never worked one good month in his whole life let alone picked cotton in the heat of day.
    It’s decades ago in a college summer job on the night shift on the Jersey City waterfront Post Office warehouse. I walk out on the platform to a waiting train filled with mail along with one elder black and seven young blacks. The white supervisor comes out as we sit by the wall and announces we are now to unload the whole train tonight. The young blacks don’t move one bit. I get up and enter the train. Within a minute, the elder black enters, comes right next to me and starts helping me unload….then says to me…” if they didn’t want to work…why did they take the job?” A minute or two passes….all the young blacks entered and started working. It could have gone bad….it didn’t. The elder black was key in it going in the right direction.

  • Sadly I don’t think we’ve seen the end of violence in NY. I heard from my sister, a freshman at West Point, that a fellow cadet was attacked because of his uniform in NY. The crowd started throwing bottles at him. They mistook him for a police officer, or they were just so mad that any uniform is provocation. Cadets have been told not to wear their uniform in the city in breech of a long standing tradition that freshman must always wear it when arriving and departing campus. I hope this dies down soon, but we may see a lot more innocents harmed in the crossfire.

  • I recall that back in 2011, when Jared Loughner killed 6 people and wounded
    14 others, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the left did not hesitate
    to blame the right for the shooting. We were even breathlessly informed that
    Sarah Palin, because her website used target symbols to mark congressional
    districts where incumbents such as Ms. Giffords needed to be unseated, bore a
    responsibility for Loughner’s unhinged attack. The presstitutes of the main-
    stream media and their Democrat fellow-travellers were united in affirming
    that it was the right, with its ‘overheated rhetoric’ like the use of target symbols,
    that created the climate where Jared Loughners would come out of the woodwork.
    We won’t see the left engage in an examination of conscience over the deaths
    of these NYPD officers. The “Reverend” Al Sharpton long ago demonstrated his
    indifference to the mayhem and loss of life he’s incited– only recall the Crown
    Heights riots, or the fatal fire at Freddy’s Fashion Mart. That such a one is
    not only given a bully pulpit at MSNBC but is also treated as a serious voice on
    race and policy by congressmen and the White House tells me all I need to
    know about the left’s supposed commitment to civility in public discourse.
    Sharpton, Obama, Jesse Jackson, de Blasio– to these men, it’s always been
    about exploiting the crisis, and i doubt they care too much about who gets hurt.

  • I had not heard a peep about the murdered NYC police officers.

    The GOP has numerous faults and often nauseates me (but rarely disappoints, since I have low expectations when it comes to the GOP) but the Democrats inspire in me the kind of rage I used to experience when reading about Communist atrocities. The Democrats are not a political party – they are organized crime.

  • The ulitimate responsibility rests with Obama and secondly with AG Holder. These two assasinations are the result of their inflammatory speech and actions. I hope that the letters make Mayor DeBlasio understand what he has unleashed by betraying his city’s law enforcement. I pray that there will not be any vigilante payback in NYC or other parts of the country in response to the murders of P.O.s Liu and Ramos. This craven Obama Administration’s agenda, I believe, is to incite provocations so that this country will be under martial law with a national police force.
    Blessed Mother, protect and comfort Mrs. Liu and Mrs. Ramos and family.

  • Penguins Fan.

    I don’t see much of a difference between the Dem’s and the Communist Party. Sorry but they have earned that similarity. What a shame.

  • Obama and North Korea. One in the same.

  • The animal rights extremists funded and fought tooth & nail to get De Blasio elected because he promised to do away with the beautiful horse drawn carriage rides in NYC saying that having a horse draw a carriage is animal abuse (NO I AM NOT KIDDING.) The animal rights extremist movement is filled with charlatans getting rich off of poor needy animals (a mixed breed dog shipped North and/or West from the South is being sold -I mean “adopted” – for between $300-$1000 an anImal–sight unseen. Pure breds are stolen and sold for $3000+ a pop,) The animals are taken and are out of the state before the owner has a chance to defend themselves and never sees the animals again.

    However back to the point at hand of the crazy Bill De Blasio and those he supports politically. The animal rights extremists movement is also filled with Socialists/Anarchists/Communists who literally intent on destroying the legal precept of privately owned property (in this case animals,) the value of human life (people = animals–so what does it matter if 2 cops are killed in these nuts’ logic? and these nuts are intent on destroying the very fabric of American society as well as the American economy. I said at the time that De Blasio was running that the people of NYC deserved what they got if they elected this nut–however if I remember correctly, all of those running for NYC mayor this last time were absolute psycho nuts.

  • DeBlasio needs to be forced out of office if he refuses to resign.

  • The behavior of di Blasio and Judge Shira Sheindlin (as well as a mess of sociologists drawing salaries from CUNY) is a reminder that much of the left adheres to self-aggrandizing social fiction. Their collision with reality is unpleasant and when it happens they respond with misdirection and obfuscation (see most of the press) or the manufacture of new social fictions (those same sociologists amplified by the press).

  • The headline of the NY Post the day after DeBlasio was inaugurated mayor: “Red Dawn.” DeB worked for the reds in Nicaragua.

    It was race war in the 70’s when dozens of policemen were killed nation-wide. Obama, Holder, DeBlasio and the Clintons are heirs of the ’60’s/70’s radical left, e.g., black liberation army and weather underground: Obama’s BFF Bill Ayers. Only thing, now they’re running regimes that once were the US government and NYC.

    Hope and change.

  • Say what you will about Rudy Giuliani being a RINO and all that, stuff like this would never have been allowed to happen on his mayoral watch.

  • By “stuff like this” I mean all the anti-police protests and lack of trust among the force being allowed to fester to the point where cops are preemptively disinviting the mayor to their funerals. No mayor can entirely prevent cops from getting killed in the line of duty.

  • Mr. P. W. Primavera, you “hit the nail squarely on the head!” I have said for many years that Obama wants chaos in the streets so he can declare as “State of Emergency”. Lord knows what the “Communist in Chief” will do then!

  • Officer shot and killed in Florida.
    No release yet if motivated by HATE.

  • Put it this way – the Democrat Party is a combination of Communism and La Cosa Nostra.

  • Penguin’s Fan: I basically agree. only quibble: you insulted La Cosa Nostra: The men I know in that “businness” are angels compared to those mass baby-murdering, tyrant-wannabe, racial-racketeers.

  • “We won’t see the left engage in an examination of conscience over the deaths
    of these NYPD officers.”

    Too many of them lack a conscience to examine.

  • CAM: “This craven Obama Administration’s agenda, I believe, is to incite provocations so that this country will be under martial law with a national police force.” This is possible but premature to conclude. they appear so far to be too pusillanimous for such an audacious enterprise. There are ominous and inexplicable observations which trouble us. Why are so many pencil-pushing federal agencies stockpiling arms and ammunition? The Democratic Party has moved far to the left since the days when m uncle and my father could have a friendly political argument on a Sunday after Mass. My uncle would find his old party affiliation incompatible with his religious faith. It’s quite clear that the party having the jackass mascot has no use at all for the principle of subsidiarity. Rather, they would accumulate pervasive power within the federal oligarchy and relegate the states to the status of mere departments. Is there a concrete plan to accomplish radical goals through social upheaval? I do not know. I can’t know what goes on in the hearts of these people so I’ll leave the judging to God while keeping a wary eye open. Nonetheless, Obama should have admitted the obvious truth about Brown’s attempted murder of the police officer or at least keep his federal mouth shut about local affairs. And, stop inviting the rabble-rousing-tax-evading Mr. Sharpton to the people’s White House.

  • La Cosa Nostra….well I haven’t thought of that combo before but it applies.
    The linkage; Planned Parenthood-George Soros-Bill & Milly Gates-The Clintons-Al Gore…just a few of “da-good-fellas.”

  • Giuliani: “Obama propaganda pushed people to hate.”

  • William P. Walsh, Agreed. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men. If only the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown had been left to the local authorities without premature comments or opinions period voiced by the press, president and other federal officials.

  • Merry Christmas CAM et al. On a light note, when I was a kid, the radio had an answer to the question: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” The Shadow knows. I had the ensuing laugh down pat. 🙂

Police or Blue Army?

Monday, August 19, AD 2013

A retired Marine Colonel speaks truth to power, in the trite Leftist phrase.  The militarization of the police in this country is a dangerous trend.  Law enforcement is not warfare, and to treat it as such is to open the door to domestic tyranny.  Swat teams were initially for emergency situations.  Now the swat team mentality seems to be the first resort for law enforcement.  The police are becoming a well-armed military force and that is perilously close to the fear of standing armies that would be used domestically for political purposes that helped lead to the American Revolution.

Continue reading...

7 Responses to Police or Blue Army?

11 Responses to Defense of Self Against Unlawful Attack

  • Did you notice that according to that law and probably many such laws, a person cannot use force if the bad guy is escaping after stealing? Now this contradicts the ever prudent sage, Axl Rose inter alia…” you can take anything you want, but you better not take it from me.”…from the yesteryear tune, “Welcome to the Jungle”. You according to law have to watch the criminal leave with your goods….( in your fav blue athletic bag no less.) My bad. But I retrieved by force a lethal weapon that likely would have been used later in a street murder. Aquinas…”the lawgiver cannot foresee every situation”…ergo, epikeia is needed. The law literally means that a gunstore owner coming upon a thief leaving his store with 30 Taurus pistols in a sack….cannot use force to stop him despite the imminent distribution of said guns to thugs. Lawyers….help me out with this.

  • Bill, I’m pretty sure that if you run into a thief coming out of a gun store with guns, you can reasonably be expected to conclude he’s an imminent threat to life and limb.

  • Foxfier,
    I hope you are correct but if the bag were closed and like many burglars (for sentencing reasons) he carried no loaded weapon himself outside the bag, I wouldn’t bet on the outcome in court if the owner fractured the guy’s skull with a gun butt.
    On your topic of the police, there have been cases of home invaders announcing themselves as police. Awful dilemna….whether you have a gun or do not. What do you do outside Indiana? Amazon sells great adjustable door braces (knob to floor white metal pipes with rubber ends) that you place in position in a second.
    Very good for big city life.

  • If more Gentlemen and good willed citizens owned guns Criminals would think twice more often and people would not have to wait ten minutes for cops to arrive to arrest a man who left eight minutes before, The problem of Mexican drug smugglers killing ranchers in the Southwest would not happen as often because criminals get guns whether it is legal or not, your average Joe on the other hand tends to obey the law.

  • Bill whether someone is a cop or not it is still wrong for them to kill someone innocent.

  • Atleast in Newark Delaware a lot of cops act like totalitarians I know a story about a young girl who was taken to the Police station because she was looking for a balloon for her birthday with her friends in the middle of the day and the way the cop got her to go to the station was by threatening to send her parents to Jail. All because people are so freaked out about security when no one was doing any harm to them except the po po pig that took her away to the station on her birthday.

  • The common law rule was very simple and straightforward. A householder could use force against an unlawful intruder, but he acted at his peril: if the entry was authorised, then killing the officer was murder.

    Just as the entry was either lawful or unlawful, so was the killing. As far as justification went, the householder’s state of mind was immaterial. The fact that the householder believed the entry was lawful, when, in fact, it was not, would not turn him into a criminal for killing the officer. Likewise, his belief that it was unlawful, when it was not, was no defence.

    This meant that no enquiry as to his state of mind was necessary at the trial. The test was purely objective, which makes for simplicity and certainty.

  • Michael, I think you have it backwards, but you’re right– up to that court decision, the common law was perfectly fine.

  • I am not sure why a guy who you don’t know, probably doesn’t live in your neighborhood, and makes a living sending people to jail somehow is the exception to the rule of people not being allowed to barge into your house. I think neighborhood guards who are local and morally upright are more trustworthy than a lot of police officers.

  • I find it odd for police officers to be surprised when someone their putting in shackles fights back, I think something which Christ tells to Peter is “Those who live by the sword die by the sword” one of the things that means is that if you punch someone or spray mace at their eyes don’t be surprised to get a hay maker in the jaw.

The Vocation of a Soldier is Next in Dignity to the Priesthood

Sunday, February 28, AD 2010

There are some whom denigrate soldiers and policemen and the plan God has for them in Salvation.  I disagree completely and there are many examples of saints and popes who have honored the soldier and policeman in defense of justice and peace.

I found this quote by Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen‘s Wartime Prayer Book:

“The great French Lacordaire once said the vocation of a soldier is next in dignity to the priesthood, not only because it commissioned him to defend justice on the field of battle and order on the field of peace, but also because it called him to the spirit and intention of sacrifice.”

Continue reading...

105 Responses to The Vocation of a Soldier is Next in Dignity to the Priesthood

  • I was given this book just before my 1st deployment to Iraq in 2003 (the initial surge). When I came back to the states I decided to finally get confirmed. The great bishop is and will always be an influence in my spirtuality.

  • Thank you for your great service to our country.

  • The Church fathers had a radically different view. I think it was St. Basil who advised soliders to abstain from communion for a fixed period of time.

    And even today, the Church supports the conscience protections in the military – just as no Catholic medical practioner should be forced to engage in immoral acts, no Catholic soldier should be forced to fight an unjust war – and the Iraq war was patently unjust. Where the the Catholic military consciences? Where those people calling loudly for conscience protections in other areas? Silent.

  • Christ, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”
    – Tertullian

    “If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver.”
    – St. Clement of Alexandria

    “Murder, considered a crime when people commit it singly, is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse.”
    – St. Cyprian

    “Christians, instead of arming themselves with swords, extend their hands in prayer.”
    – St. Athanasius

    “I am a soldier of Christ and it is not permissible for me to fight”
    – St. Martin of Tours

    “For certainly it is a greater work and much more marvelous to change the minds of opponents and to bring about a change of soul than to kill them…”
    – St. John Chrysostom

  • “Do not think that it is impossible for any one to please God while engaged in active military service. Among such persons was the holy David, to whom God gave so great a testimony; among them also were many righteous men of that time; among them was also that centurion who said to the Lord: I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed: for I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it; and concerning whom the Lord said: Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Matthew 8:8-10 Among them was that Cornelius to whom an angel said: Cornelius, your alms are accepted, and your prayers are heard, Acts 10:4 when he directed him to send to the blessed Apostle Peter, and to hear from him what he ought to do, to which apostle he sent a devout soldier, requesting him to come to him. Among them were also the soldiers who, when they had come to be baptized by John,— the sacred forerunner of the Lord, and the friend of the Bridegroom, of whom the Lord says: Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist, Matthew 11:11 — and had inquired of him what they should do, received the answer, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. Luke 3:14 Certainly he did not prohibit them to serve as soldiers when he commanded them to be content with their pay for the service.

    5. They occupy indeed a higher place before God who, abandoning all these secular employments, serve Him with the strictest chastity; but every one, as the apostle says, has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 1 Corinthians 7:7 Some, then, in praying for you, fight against your invisible enemies; you, in fighting for them, contend against the barbarians, their visible enemies. Would that one faith existed in all, for then there would be less weary struggling, and the devil with his angels would be more easily conquered; but since it is necessary in this life that the citizens of the kingdom of heaven should be subjected to temptations among erring and impious men, that they may be exercised, and tried as gold in the furnace, Wisdom 3:6 we ought not before the appointed time to desire to live with those alone who are holy and righteous, so that, by patience, we may deserve to receive this blessedness in its proper time.

    6. Think, then, of this first of all, when you are arming for the battle, that even your bodily strength is a gift of God; for, considering this, you will not employ the gift of God against God. For, when faith is pledged, it is to be kept even with the enemy against whom the war is waged, how much more with the friend for whom the battle is fought! Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as a necessity, and waged only that God may by it deliver men from the necessity and preserve them in peace. For peace is not sought in order to the kindling of war, but war is waged in order that peace may be obtained. Therefore, even in waging war, cherish the spirit of a peacemaker, that, by conquering those whom you attack, you may lead them back to the advantages of peace; for our Lord says: Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 If, however, peace among men be so sweet as procuring temporal safety, how much sweeter is that peace with God which procures for men the eternal felicity of the angels! Let necessity, therefore, and not your will, slay the enemy who fights against you. As violence is used towards him who rebels and resists, so mercy is due to the vanquished or the captive, especially in the case in which future troubling of the peace is not to be feared.”

    Saint Augustine to Count Boniface (418AD) Boniface was governor of the diocese of Africa and a Roman general.


  • The soldier is next in dignity to the priesthood? Well, so much for all the holy monks and nuns.

  • Henry,

    I guess you know better than the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

  • MM

    Notice how they idolize the makers of death, and follow through with the errors they claim is had in liberation theology.

  • Tito

    Well, I guess you think he knew better than St Basil the Great? It is interesting to see how you go about this. What about Servant of God Dorothy Day? Seriously, Fulton Sheen did good work, but I am sure what I say about him being able to make mistakes is how you would respond to St Basil. But the fact remains, the Christian tradition doesn’t raise soldiers to this status — but they have consistently called those who are holy virgins to this level of sanctity. Take that as you will.

  • Henry,

    Leaving all that aside, the point of this post is to show soldiers that God has a place in salvation for them.

    To many times do well-meaning Catholics denigrate solider and police officers for their vocations. Without them we would have anarchy.

    The hate that comes from those that put down soldiers is unwarranted and not Christian.

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

    – Holy Gospel of Saint John 15:18

  • Plus, if you want to go further, Sheen is quoting someone else — though it seems in affirmation, it does leave him room for correcting it as well. It is not his statement — and indeed, it seems to be a rhetorical flourish that is being quoted, which also suggests something of the value of this quote. Again, it is interesting to see how you use might for the sake of salvation, when Scripture consistently suggests otherwise. That says much.

  • “Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation”, and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.”

    Pope Benedict April 16, 2008


  • Tito

    If you wanted to say “they too can be saved” and “we can honor the good they have done,” I would have no problem. Indeed, I did a post on that theme several years back: http://vox-nova.com/2007/11/12/for-veterans-monday/

    To suggest “they are like priests” and “they are saving us” is I would say dangerous — very dangerous.

  • Donald’s typically selective, and equivocal, quotes to the contrary, Pope Benedict has been consistent that true freedom is in Christ, not war. Pope Benedict recognizes, of course, the temporal realm, but he would not equivocate this to priesthood and soteriology.

  • Henry,

    Bishop Sheen was quoting the Abbe Lacordaire. Remember Bishop Sheen said “next in dignity”, not the next best thing. Next in dignity in the context of spiritually sacrificing themselves for justice.

    I also agree with your quotes in context, nuns and monks are next in spirituality. There is room for many in God’s Kingdom.

  • Donald wasn’t contradicting Papa Bene. He was showing that soldiers have a place in God’s kingdom through their vocations.

  • for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but thy right hand, and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance; for thou didst delight in them. (Psalms 44:3)

    1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine; and who make a league, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin; 2 who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation. 4 For though his officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, 5 every one comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.” 6 An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the viper and the flying serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of asses, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them. 7 For Egypt’s help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her “Rahab who sits still.” (Isaiah 30:1 -7)

    1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! 2 And yet he is wise and brings disaster, he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. 3 The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together. (Isaiah 31: 1-3)

  • Karlson, unlike you Pope Benedict understands that peace and freedom in this fallen world can often be had only through the lives of soldiers:

    “On the 6th of June, 1944, when the landing of the allied troops in German-occupied France commenced, a signal of hope was given to people throughout the world, and also to many in Germany itself, of imminent peace and freedom in Europe. What had happened? A criminal and his party faithful had succeeded in usurping the power of the German state. In consequence of such party rule, law and injustice became intertwined, and often indistinguishable. The legal system itself, which continued, in some respects, still to function in an everyday context, had, at the same time, become a force destructive of law and right. This rule of lies served a system of fear, in which no one could trust another, since each person had somehow to shield himself behind a mask of lies, which, on the one hand, functioned as self defense, while, in equal measure, it served to consolidate the power of evil. And so it was that the whole world had to intervene to force open this ring of crime, so that freedom, law and justice might be restored.

    We give thanks at this hour that this deliverance, in fact, took place. And not just those nations that suffered occupation by German troops, and were thus delivered over to Nazi terror, give thanks. We Germans, too, give thanks that by this action, freedom, law and justice would be restored to us. If nowhere else in history, here clearly is a case where, in the form of the Allied invasion, a justum bellum worked, ultimately, for the benefit of the very country against which it was waged.”

    I realize this is all very galling for a Leftist ideologue like yourself, but facts are stubborn things.

  • “A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””


  • Henry,

    As much as I disagree with some of your perceptions and interpretations of Catholic teaching and its implementation, I see the fruitfulness of charitable dialogue and engagement on issues pertaining to the Church.

    Thank you for all your comments!

  • I argued in a paper that is currently under review for publication that the u.s. military is seen by many americans to be another type of priesthood. Tito, Donald, et al. make that view explicit when they place u.s. soldiers inside the hierarchy of the church. This combination of u.s. militarism and Catholicism is PRECISELY fascist.

  • At the root of this idolatry is a profound misunderstanding of the reality of Christian sacrifice. Tito, et al. substitute a secular, pagan, nationalistic understanding of sacrifice for the understanding we have of sacrifice as following the non-violent way of the cross.

  • Donald R. McClare-
    Now that is classy. Would that I could come up with a response like that on the fly!

  • I’m always amazed that people who denigrate the military are oblivious to the fact that they only possess that right because someone somewhere gave their life in order to preserve our freedom of speech.

  • Truth be told – I have said in the past and live by it – I would gladly die for a person’s freedom of speech.. Sad to me that they usually do not rescipicate that feeling…

  • Michael,

    I am quoting both Servant of God Fulton Sheen and Lacordaire. Where have I said that soldiers are an institutional vocation?

    As to the second approved comment, review what I typed above.

    Please argue the substance of the posting and stop denigrating the writers of this website and anyone else that doesn’t fit into your bizarre construct of Catholicism.

  • I’d say ‘next in dignity’ is taking it a bit far.

  • John – Good to hear. I like the distancing going on at this blog.

  • Soldiers and priests can be good, bad or mixed, usually mixed, depending upon the soldier or priest. What is clear however, is that Catholicism has recognized a role for both of them. There has been an attempt over the past few decades by some Catholics to contend that the profession of arms is dishonorable and contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. That is simply not true as even a cursory look at the history of the Church reveals.

  • “Donald R. McClarey
    Now that is classy. Would that I could come up with a response like that on the fly!”

    Thank you Foxfier! Coming from such an able combox warrior as yourself that is high praise!

  • John Henry,

    Take it up with the Abbe.

    I know he’s gone, just getting punchy this evening. It’s been a looong week.

  • What is clear however, is that Catholicism has recognized a role for both of them. There has been an attempt over the past few decades by some Catholics to contend that the profession of arms is dishonorable and contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. That is simply not true

    I agree, Donald. I think we can over-praise the military, and that doing so can have very real harms. At the same time, the denigration of soldiers that takes place in some quarters contradicts a great deal of the Christian Tradition.

    To be sure, I think there is an honorable place for pacificism also within that Christian tradition, but I don’t think either pacifists or soldiers have the right to excommunicate the other.

  • I don’t think Donald was excommunicating pacifists (at least not in this thread).

  • I don’t think Donald was excommunicating pacifists (at least not in this thread).


  • Michael,

    It’s called constructive dialogue.

    Something of which you are incapable of.

  • After chaplains John Henry, my highest esteem goes to pacifists who have served as medics. This gentleman especially:


  • Soldiers, firefighters and policemen put their lives at risk every day for other people. This is part of their job description. Putting your life at risk for another person only a daily basis is a noble thing. I think this is probably what Sheen meant. At the root of his comment is a simple understanding of self-sacrifice; there is no deep evil; there is no understanding of the soldier as priest; there is no militarism; there is no paganism. And I hope every person’s life’s work is placed in the hierarchy of the Church. Everything ought to be for God.

  • Henry,

    As I recall, a week or two ago, you wrote a post arguing against moral rigorism in regards to “cooperation with evil” by pointing to the example of St. George, who was a Roman soldier in close service to Emperor Diocletian. Now you’re arguing, from the example of St. Basil that the Church Fathers held soldiering to be immoral. Which is it?

    Is it, perhaps, that St. Basil was adhering to ideas regarding the purity required for receiving the Eucharist which would seem beyond Jansenist to us today? After all, he also held, if memory serves, that married couples should not receive the Eucharist after performing the marital act, for a similar period. If you want to hold the one as normative, would you similarly hold the other?

  • “I was given this book just before my 1st deployment to Iraq in 2003 (the initial surge). When I came back to the states I decided to finally get confirmed. The great bishop is and will always be an influence in my spirtuality.”

    Robert thank you for your service. Most Americans greatly appreciate it and honor you for it.

  • I’d say ‘next in dignity’ is taking it a bit far.

    I would assume that the logic behind the quote is that just as the consecrated life required the denial of self for the world of the Church, so the vocation of soldiering involves the risk of one’s life on behalf of the lives of others.

    In this sense, I can see how the vocation taken in its essentials would be seen as next in dignity to the consecrated life — and at the same time I don’t think that would necessarily be a claim that soldiers as individuals possess superior moral virtue. Indeed, clearly, soldiering is a vocation with rather extreme moral risks built into it. That said, however, it is singular in the sense in which soldiering involves potential sacrifice on behalf of others — which is why being a soldier is so frequently used as a metaphor both in the Scriptures and in the writings of the saints.

    It is, I must admit, a bit confusing to me how pacifists (if they are really serious about pacifism and believe soldiering to be thoroughly evil, as Michael seems to claim to do) fill this rhetorical and literary gap. Looking at the canon of literature, mythology and history, it seems a rather sparse shelf once one has rejected everything that involves violence.

  • Listening to a German woman speak about her experience as a ten-year old at the end of WWII, she told me that her family could hear the American guns and hoped they would reach their house before the Russian soldiers. She, as well as others, are grateful to the American soldiers for defeating Nazi Germany.

    We all owe our service people gratitude for their protection.

  • Darwin-
    Might one say that Priests offer their lives, and Soldiers offer their deaths?

  • Henry is right. Economic justice is prohibited because we live in a fallen world, but military action is not. Why?

    Is there such a thing as a just war? I think so, but the bar is set really really high. There must always be a presumption against war. As John Paul called for in Centesimus Annus, we must all say “never again war” and move on to different ways of solving conflicts, and by treating underlying issues of justice that often cause war.

    Or, as Benedict put it, nothing good ever comes from war. War is the ultimate last resort, the ultimate sign of failure. It is a time for mourning, not rejoicing. The kind of military glorifiction on display here should be offensive to all followers of Jesus the Christ. It embodies a pagan ethic. Consider again the quotes from the Church fathers from my earlier comment – these men knew what it was like to stand up against the pagan mindset.

  • Actually Tony Pope Benedict in his D-Day quotation I cited above said that a very good thing, liberation, came for the people of Europe from the victories of the Western Allies in World War ii, including his native Germany.

  • The kind of military glorifiction on display here should be offensive to all followers of Jesus the Christ. It embodies a pagan ethic.

    What military glorification? The quote from Fulton Sheen? For real?

    Come now, you can’t let the fact that a blog you don’t like prints something make you respond irrationally.

  • Just curious about what this would mean for Christian soldiers in Iraq during the most recent war. Would it have been their Christian duty to country to fight against the armies that invaded in a pre-emptive war?

    Cathy – I have a simliar story. A good friend of mine told me recently of the liberation of his village from the Soviets by Germans in World War 2. He was just a child at the time, but he remembers the German soldiers re-opening their churches (shut down by the communists). The men were more than happy to join the German army and fight for their liberators against the Russians and Allies, as was their Christian duty.

  • DC

    Re-read my comments. Take care to read them and the context. And take care to do what they told you to do. Then you will see your comment (and Donald’s) are completely offbase.

  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom and a force for liberation. In recent years, this essential truth has become the object of reflection for theologians, with a new kind of attention which is itself full of promise.

    Liberation is first and foremost liberation from the radical slavery of sin. Its end and its goal is the freedom of the children of God, which is the gift of grace. As a logical consequence, it calls for freedom from many different kinds of slavery in the cultural, economic, social, and political spheres, all of which derive ultimately from sin, and so often prevent people from living in a manner befitting their dignity. To discern clearly what is fundamental to this issue and what is a by-product of it, is an indispensable condition for any theological reflection on liberation.

    Faced with the urgency of certain problems, some are tempted to emphasize, unilaterally, the liberation from servitude of an earthly and temporal kind. They do so in such a way that they seem to put liberation from sin in second place, and so fail to give it the primary importance it is due. Thus, their very presentation of the problems is confused and ambiguous. Others, in an effort to learn more precisely what are the causes of the slavery which they want to end, make use of different concepts without sufficient critical caution. It is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to purify these borrowed concepts of an ideological inspiration which is compatible with Christian faith and the ethical requirements which flow from it.

  • You want a quote. How about this quote from a Roman Centurion found in the third edition of the Missale Romanum:

    “Lord, I am not worthy
    that you should enter under my roof,
    but only say the word
    and my soul (my servant) shall be healed.”

    And unlike the woman taken in adultery, no follows on orders to soldier no more.

  • “Poison.”

    What does a hair band from the 80’s have to do with anything here?

  • “Just curious about what this would mean for Christian soldiers in Iraq during the most recent war. Would it have been their Christian duty to country to fight against the armies that invaded in a pre-emptive war?”

    Yes. Because American’s invasion of Iraq did not fall under the criteria of a just war, the only Christian soldiers deserving praise (from Christians) for fighting in that war are any Iraqi Christians who were defending their homeland against the unjust invader. This is not to say that American Christian soldiers can be held subjectively culpable for participating in the war; only that their participation in what was in fact an unjust action should not be described as something it was not–i.e. virtuous, etc.

  • WJ-
    you do realize that there’s a case for Iraq being a just war, and that such a determination is for the nation’s leaders, not folks who want to drag comboxes off topic?

  • “I’d say ‘next in dignity is taking it a bit far.”

    Anyone intimately familiar with the sacrifices the men and women of a nation’s military make – not for glory, but for love of country and countrymen – should not find fault with the sentiment expressed in Archbishop Sheen’s book.

    “Greater love than this no man hath than to lay down his life for his friends.”

    My family has a close relative who just returned from Iraq and suffers terribly from PTSD. He left 4 years ago a vigorous young man, full of life. He returned a broken man … physically, mentally, and emotionally. No one intimately familiar with the physical, psychological, and emotional toll that war often (if not always) takes on those who fight it could EVER “glorify” war. There’s nothing glorious about it.

    But the soldiers themselves who fight those wars are due our honor and esteem, and I will place them very high among those worthy of such. It is no stretch to me, at all, to find the dignity of the vocation of those who sacrifice so much for so many … something for which there is no true recompense beyond recognizing and honoring said sacrifice … to be ranked among the highest of vocations.

  • At the risk of being despised by both sides of this lively debate, might I offer a philosophical point that appears overlooked? I hope the length of this comment does not deter all the fine minds on this stream.

    The question is this: What is the nature of a soldier?
    This seemingly simple question might appear simple to answer as well. But how this is answered reveals part of what appears to be, what MacIntyre once termed, a “conceptual incompensurability” between the two sides of the debate here.

    If we look to Archbishop Sheen, we could define soldier as one who is “commissioned by the spirit and intention of sacrifice to defend justice on the field of battle and order on the field of peace.”

    Now, this definition is, rightly, quite generic enabling its universal application. All of its elements (sacrifice, justice, field of battle, order and peace) are in no way simple and universally accepted elements, i.e., much of how these elements are understood will depend upon the cultural context that ‘thickens’ them. I’m not denying an ‘objectivity’ to them, but asserting that the objectivity is in excess of any one definition (which is why they are defined, thought, examined etc. over and over.)

    This generic and universal definition of ‘soldier’ is necessary to any ecclesial advocacy of its ‘vocational’ component. I think all would agree that were the Church to say “being a US soldier,” or “being a British soldier,” is next in dignity to the priesthood, something would clearly be amiss.

    But if this term soldier is generic and universal, then it is applicable in any number of ways. Didn’t Dorothy Day “defend justice and order” and was hers also not a “field of battle”? Doesn’t the nurse who sees her work as a Christian Calling also not “defend justice and order” on a “field of battle”? Doesn’t a teacher? A mother, father, grandparent?

    So, in this broad, universal sense of soldier, there ought to be nothing overtly offensive – for it describes every lay Christian in the Church Militant.

    If one is unhappy or unconvinced by this analogical use of ‘soldier’ and believes that these ecclesial voices (Sheen, JPII, John XXIII) clearly intends a military application of the term (where ‘military’ means an association with the the armed forces of modern nation states), then, it appears to me, one faces the unhappy consequence of finding a way to defend the post’s interpretation of its three citation without exposing an a priori allegiance to a particular nation state’s military that the citations did not – indeed could not – intend.

    In other words, it seems that when the nature of the term ‘soldier’ and its use in the post’s citations are taken into consideration, one can endorse the idea only when the term ‘soldier’ is taken analogously to include the likes of all Christians whose vocation is intrinsically to “Defend justice and order on the field of battle called by the intention of sacrifice.”

    Sure, this may also include members of the armed forces who do look at their role as somehow serving God. But here we would have to include all members of all military machines, including those we in the West find unjust.

    At the risk of violating the Godwin principle, and because it makes the point quite clearly, this would have to include even the Nazi soldier who, firmly buying into the propaganda, is willing to sacrifice his life for the defense of justice and order. Denying this claim would require one to invoke the particularities of the Nazi context that are not intrinsically included in the universal sense of soldier. But refusing these particulars is precisely what allows one to endorse the term. So one runs into an inconsistency.

    If this last point is not conceded, then any endorsement of the citations in this post betray a form of American Exceptionalism which, clearly, the citations do not intend. One may very well admit to being an American Exceptionalist, but one ought not suggest that Sheen, JPII, or John XXIII were also.
    Consequently, in this case, the interpretations of these citations would be in error, inferring upon the words of these fine upstanding members of the Church (Sheen, JPII, John XXIII) meaning that they did not intend.

    One might argue that John XXIII is clearly speaking about the soldier of a military, since he himself is referring to his own experience as such. But it seems that in this case, his experience, which does indeed invoke his own personal particular experience with a military, is the concrete ground upon which his universal, more generic, endorsement of ‘being a soldier’ is founded. In other words, it is not the particularities of his military experience he is praising, but the way that it enabled him to understand the deeper meaning in all sacrifice for the good, which also shines in the works of lay people in general. Otherwise, John XXIII would have declared his own military a key part the definition of soldiering.

    And here is the conceptual incommensurability I spoke of: the objection to the use of soldier in this post may be directed to a particular thickening of the term within a given context (e.g., the current US military actions) while those defending it seem to be defending the universal idea of self-sacrifice for justice and order. The debate will go on and on if this is the case because there is no conceptual common ground.

    So underneath this debate is still a more concrete debate about the consistency of national interest with Christian teaching, really. Soldiers do not exist in the universal, generic sense; unless Christians are all strict Platonists, universals are not real even though they have, what Aquinas called, a ‘fundamentum in re’, a foundation in reality.

    So to sing the praises of soldiering, one must have in mind a particular soldier, upon a particular field of battle. This, it seems, redirects the whole discussion to these particularities rather than to the universal, generic truisms of the good of self-sacrifice for justice and order.

    For it seems we can all agree that the Christian laity, all of us soldiers for the Church militant, merit just as much dignity as the clergy, though in a different manner.

  • “you do realize that there’s a case for Iraq being a just war, and that such a determination is for the nation’s leaders, not folks who want to drag comboxes off topic?”

    Hitler determined his war was just. In fact, everyone on every side of a war believes there war is just. So we just listen to the leaders? No, that is not what the Church teaches.

  • And lest we forget, not all of those who fight the wars have the opportunity to return with physical, psychological, and emotional scars. Many pay the ultimate sacrifice.

  • “Just curious about what this would mean for Christian soldiers in Iraq during the most recent war. Would it have been their Christian duty to country to fight against the armies that invaded in a pre-emptive war?”

    Yes. Because American’s invasion of Iraq did not fall under the criteria of a just war, the only Christian soldiers deserving praise (from Christians) for fighting in that war are any Iraqi Christians who were defending their homeland against the unjust invader. This is not to say that American Christian soldiers can be held subjectively culpable for participating in the war; only that their participation in what was in fact an unjust action should not be described as something it was not–i.e. virtuous, etc.

    In other words, American soldiers battling on behalf of the Ba’ath Party / Tikriti clan meets the criteria for a just war.

  • Foxfier,

    Sadly, no. There is no plausible interpretation of Just War theory according to which the U.S. invasion of Iraq was just. I wish it wasn’t so. I supported the Iraq War on the basis of the facts as they were presented by “the nation’s leaders” at the outset of that war. Those facts have all been shown to be not facts at all, but distortions, half-truths, and lies. Indeed, *even if* one were to accept George Weigel’s cockamamie interpretation of JWT and how that theory applied to America in early 2003, that would *still* not be enough to warrant our calling the invasion just.

    By the way, our “nation’s leaders” don’t get to “determine” whether a war they begin is just or unjust, anymore than they get to determine whether a piece of legislation they enact is just or unjust.

    I’m sorry for dragging this off-topic. I was responding to Ryan Klassen’s question.

  • “In other words, American soldiers battling on behalf of the Ba’ath Party / Tikriti clan meets the criteria for a just war.”

    I think you must mean “Christian soldiers” in the sentence above.

  • Supposing that you do mean “Christian soldiers” in your response, I’d have to say that your formulation is unclear.

    “Battling on behalf of” is not precise enough of a descriptor, since one can easily imagine a Christian solider battling on behalf of Iraq during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which was of course unjust.

    Also, whether and to what extent any particular solider *identifies* his defense of Iraq with the defense of the Ba’ath Party is an empirical question, one which is elided in your formulation.

  • WJ-
    you make a ‘determination’ when you make a decision. As per Catholic Answers, “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

    WMDs? Mass-murder? Secret nuke program? Nerve gassing the swamp Arabs? Bah, why would soldier willing to fight against THAT be worthy of any respect.

  • Foxfier:

    The confusion of CA is that the evaluation of whether or not to engage a war is indeed in the hands of the leaders of the nation; but that is not what determines whether or not a war is just.

    Here is a statement from someone who has actual ecclesial authority: http://www.catholicpeacefellowship.org/nextpage.asp?m=2123

  • Brendan,

    I don’t think you will find both sides disagree with you — yes, the word soldier can have many implications and meanings, and that is an issue which I didn’t raise and you are right to do so.

    Nonetheless, I do think many people arguing against my views have only argued against something which I didn’t say (or believe), which is why I recommended my Veteran’s Day post. The context of my reply is with the glorification of military might as for the sake of liberation – something which is very dangerous indeed to hold to, as the Church has pointed out time and time again.

  • If you want to make it all a matter of ecclesiastical authority, Henry, it bears pointing out that while Catholic Answers is not an ecclesiastical authority, the Bishop of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton, OH likewise has no ecclesiastical authority over Roman Catholics, much less Roman Catholics at a national level.

  • Foxfier,

    I think you are confusing two distinct issues here. On the one hand, it is true that JWT gives political authorities the final responsibility for determining, in any given instance, whether a war they are about to embark *should* be embarked upon; on the other hand, in we are make any sense of what it means to “evaluate…conditions” and to make a “prudential judgment,” we have to allow for the possibility of *mis*evaluating this conditions and of making the *wrong* judgment. Otherwise whatever the political authorities decided was a just war *would be* a just war, and this is absurd.

  • Brendan,

    Very good point — though I think it’s fairly clear in the quotes that these are all refering to “soldier” in the military sense, it is clearly “soldier” as a universal, not the absolutizing of the cause of a single nation.

  • DC

    And while it is true he has no direct authority except over his flock, it is also clear that as a bishop, and a part of the Magisterium, he has far more authority than CA — CA when it gets beyond the realm of apologetics is sadly quite bad.

  • WJ,

    A question for you: You argue that because you think that just war teaching cannot possibly justify the Iraq War, that the only Christian soldiers fighting for a just cause in the war were any Iraqi Christian soldiers fighting for Hussein.

    However, is it not questionably whether fighting to protect the Baathist dictatorship is itself just even if one posits that the US did not at that time have a just cause to topple the regime.

    Further, it’s important to recall that not only did many in the US believe that Iraq possessed WMD, but many in Iraq did as well. There were a number of cases where groups of Iraqi soldiers surrended and immediately begged for chemical warfare protective gear, because they believed that their own army was about to launch a chemical attack on the Americans, and many of the units in the regular army hadn’t been given any protective gear to keep them safe from any chemical weapons used by their own side.

    The situation since 2003 is even more complicated, since one of the primary tactics of the insurgency has been to attack Iraqi civilians and the Iraqi government. American soldiers in the last seven years have primarily been asked to fight alongside the Iraqi military against tribal and foreign fighters seeking to destablize the Iraqi government. In such a situation, would fighting with the Americans not be the just course?

    And indeed, statements from the Vatican and USCCB since the initial invasion have essentially supported this — though many “peace advocates” still seem to favor the idea of immediate pull out, apparently because the number of Iraqis who suffer as a result do not matter so long as it is clear the the US “loses”.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    You make two good points here, let me address them in turn:

    1: However, is it not questionabl[e] whether fighting to protect the Baathist dictatorship is itself just even if one posits that the US did not at that time have a just cause to topple the regime[?]

    Granted that Iraq was an unjust regime, does this make it unjust for soldiers to defend that regime against an unjust attack? This is a tricky question. My sense of JWT (and I am open to correction here) is that the Justness or Unjustness of each regime, as it handles its own internal affairs, is insufficient by itself for determining, in any particular case, whether a defense action taken on behalf of that regime falls under a Just War properly understood. My sense is that the tradition is *very*, perhaps *too* conservative here, so that one could determine that, even *granted* that Iraq was an unjust regime, still, according to JWT, that regime has a right to protect itself against a foreign unjust action. I wonder whether your own sense of JWT fits with this, and if it does not, I’d like to hear an alternate view.

    Second, even granted that the Iraqi defense was a Just one, I agree with you that it is very likely that many of the soldiers fighting in its cause did so in an unjust way, insofar as their aim was the continued propping up of the “Baathist dictatorship” rather than a defense of their nation, or homeland, or families. But I think that this question is an empirical one: surely many Iraqis fighting against the US were motivated by duty to country, by a sense of wanting to protect their families, etc.; and many others had the “intention” of supporting the “Baathists.”

    I suppose my final, hesitant, answer would be that the U.S. invasion of Iraq at least allowed for the *possibility* of a just resistance to that invasion, without being sufficient for it.

    2: I agree that the years following the unjust invasion complicate things significantly, and that any decision in this area has to take into account what would befall the Iraqis if the U.S. were to leave as precipitously as we arrived. And I am much less sure of what the correct course here would be.

  • I think Darwin’s last paragraph gets to the heart of the pathologies of our political discourse.

  • Something tells me that Just War Theory in the hands of some has degenerated into a sterile intellectual exercise completely removed from the dilemmas that actual policy makers face.

  • Henry,
    You are correct, of course, that the question of whether a war is just cannot be collapsed into the question of who decides. That is, just because those who are responsible for making the decision do so does not render their decision correct. But I don’t think that there was any “confusion” on that point in CA. This is the nature of a prudential calculus. The consequence of this is that the Church normally cannot speak authoritatively as to the calculus’s outcome, which is why a Catholics may often differ as to their assessments and normally cannot be assumed to non-compliant with Church teaching even if they take a view that differs from that of their bishop or even the Holy Father (which does not mean that the views of Church leaders should not be very seriously considered, of course). All that said, the job of individuals to make such prudential calculuses cannot be used as an excuse for rationalization. Just because the Church may not be in a position to authoritatively object to one’s calculus, does not mean that one’s calculus is somehow protected from culpable moral error.

  • Art Deco,

    As I understand it, theorizing about just war is important just because “actual policy makers” are usually motivated by many different things, precious few of which concern justice. Is bioethics a “sterile intellectual exercise” that is completely removed from the “dilemmas” that actual scientists must face?

  • FWIW, I think the justness or unjustness of the current invasion of Iraq hinges on whether the one a decade earlier was just. A logical thought process would go like this: Iraq unjustly invaded Kuwait. Kuwait was just resist and ask for assistance for other nations. The US was just in taking up that cause. The US, Kuwait and a host of other nations succeeded in driving Iraq out of Kuwait and would have been justified in seeing it through until Saddam’s regine was toppled.

    They didn’t do it, they instead agreed to a conditional cease fire and withdrawl. Saddam Hussein violated those terms almost immediately. Everything from flying fighters in the no-fly zone, to locking on and/or firing at coalition aircraft to not allowing UN inspectors do their job. Most instances were dealt with directly and in a very measured manner even though they were cause enough to resume full hostilities. Note that Saddam also used the situation to severely persecute many of his own people.

    Barring any change in Saddam’s attitude and actions or an outright regime change a continuation of the hostilities were imminent. After 9/11 those in charge made the call that Saddam’s belligerence needed to come to end.

    I’m not 100% sure what to think because like the rest here I don’t have *all* the facts, but I reject the notion that no person of good will and informed conscience could come to the conclusion that the war was just.

  • In retrospect, I want to take back my too-strong claim that *only* Christian Iraqi soldiers could be described as behaving “virtuously,” or “with Christian honor,” etc. in the Iraq War. In making this claim I was trying to show that because the U.S. did not fulfill the “jus ad bellum” criteria of Just War, an American solider’s participation *in* that war was different from an Iraqi solider’s–since at least the Iraqi solider *might* be engaging in an activity that fulfills “jus ad bellum” criteria.

    What I oversimplified, and, unfortunately, may have misrepresented, was the principle of the moral equality of combatants, according to which a soldier is responsible only for his “jus in bello” behavior. The reasoning goes that because individual soldiers cannot be expected to have the knowledge or power to inform the political “ad bellum” decision, their moral status *in* war derives from their behavior within the war. This principle is not uncontroversial, but it is unsettled enough that I need to at least affirm the possibility that American soldiers *may* be praised for their conduct in the Iraq War, even granted that that war was unjust.

    I don’t have a settled opinion on the moral equality of combatants principle; good arguments can be found on both sides.

  • WJ,

    I would say no. But those practical dilemmas are what prudential judgments are formed from, not only from the moral principles. And that’s were scientists and physicians may come to different conclusions. Even more so it seems in deciding if a war meets just criteria.

  • This refers to WJ’s 10:54 am comment.

  • Phillip,

    I agree with you that practical dilemmas are where prudential judgments are made. I was only responding to Art Deco’s assertion that, because this is so, *therefore* thinking hard about the structure of moral action is a “sterile intellectual exercise.” Just the opposite, it is a *necessary*, if insufficient, to make clear to political actors and to scientists just what these moral principles are, and why they are important.

    Now I simply *must* get back to my real writing.
    Thanks for the conversation.

  • …lest I give my wife the grounds for a just military action…:)

  • This is not meant to be an insult, but it seems to me that most of you don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about. There’s ideal musings, and then there’s actual experience. God’s gave me an experience that very few will ever have: that of being a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The so called ‘tip’ of the spear.

    It is quite possible to have ‘served’ in the military, and never come close to experiencing what I did. It is even possible to have gone to war in Iraq, and never to have come close to experiencing what I did. For what I experienced was the raw spirit of modern violence, and in particular, the culture that such a spirit forms.

    Those who belong to the officer corps, or to non-combat units, or even to combat units of a lesser sort, these soldiers do not tend to experience the essential spirit of modern warfare. They get whiffs, but they do not breathe and eat the stuff.

    I want to tell it to you straight, apart from the doctrines, apart from the philosophies and the ideals: Modern warfare is demonic, and these demons savage the souls of those at the heart of it. It endangers a person’s soul to enter certain parts of the U.S. military – those units with the most responsibility for directly killing in close-quarters.

    Ideally, yes, perhaps saints with swords could kill enemies in a just-war via double-effect. Maybe it has even happened throughout history. But I tell you this – modern war, today, with its machines and dehumanization and propaganda and materialistic-totalitarianism . . . this type of war distorts the souls of those who really engage it. The demonic danger is real, and it is overwhelming. I do not blame the military, I do not blame the soldiers. I blame the fallen world, and I blame Satan.

    If we think the world is fallen enough to require war, we should be able to see that the world is too fallen to wage war without being destroyed by the demons such violence unleashes. God help the young men we place into such hell!

  • Thank you, again, for sharing your experiences Nate. The personal testimony of one person is not always the best basis for formulating public policy, but it certainly is more valuable than most of the abstract theorizing that takes place on these topics (including my own abstract theorizing).

  • Thank you, John. I agree – my experience is just one of many, and we should listen to them all. Most soldiers who have seen the real face of war (and I’m not sure I can include myself among them) do not want to talk about it. I’ve been agonizing over this all morning, honestly. I do not mean to offend anyone with a different opinion than mine, and if my words are strong, it’s a reflection of the intensity of what I went through, and my empathy for those who might have to endure the same thing.

    Catholics often scrutinize where they send their kids to school, what books their kids read, what friends their kids make, and so forth. But when it comes to the military – a government run institution – I find that we become blind believers. If a secular college is a dangerous place for a young Catholic, how much more a secular military?

    One small nugget: ‘cursing like a sailor’ isn’t just a phrase. F*ck was the word we used most often, about everything, in literally every other sentence. You might think I’m kidding about every other sentence, but it’s really true. The constant cursing is probably the ‘smallest’ thing I can think of, in terms of demonic influence, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

  • Nate,

    I appreciate your experiences and cannot relate to them. I don’t know if the modern battlefield involves more direct killing than the ancient. Can one begin to imagine the horrors of the Greek phalanx with the direct killing involved there. Siege warfare of the middle ages is also brought to mind. The Church was aware of these and still considered the place for a just war.
    Then there is the continued modern day demands on the police officer and the coarsening that can result from that. Yet police are still needed and their actions, when performed morally, are just.

  • One small nugget: ‘cursing like a sailor’ isn’t just a phrase. F*ck was the word we used most often, about everything, in literally every other sentence. You might think I’m kidding about every other sentence, but it’s really true. The constant cursing is probably the ’smallest’ thing I can think of, in terms of demonic influence, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    FWIW, that seems to be a fairly common thing among people our age (men in particular, but women as well) in situations where it’s not actively cracked down on. I’ve run into f**k-speak everywhere from archeology digs to forklift operators to sales teams — basically anywhere that “the management” doesn’t make it clear it’s not acceptable on business premises. We live in an uncivilized age. (Like just about all ages…)

    That said, I think you make an important practical point, which people would do very well to keep in mind at the same time they contemplate more abstract points. No matter how much the risk of self for others may bring an opportunity for saintliness and nobility to the calling, being a soldier is also going to mean seeing and being involved in horrible things, being far from home, being in fear, having at your hands the tools for intimidation and violence, and by turns being extremely bored — all things which provide ample opportunity for grave sin.

    While I think Sheens point has an essential validity, it’s clear that soldiering involves a host of temptations which young men far from home are often not good at resisting. While I continue to think that serving in the military is an honorable and necessary thing which Catholics should not universally shrink from (though clearly not everyon is not called to such a thing), one would be pretty foolish to think, “Oh, I better encourage my son to join the army. Clearly, he’ll never to be tempted to sin there.”

    And come to that, this is true (though in different ways) of other professions where personal sacrifice and helping others would seem to be central — as seen in alcoholism and other personal dysfunction rates for doctors, priests, policemen, etc.

  • I am generally quite sick of debates over issues that have absolutely no chance whatsoever of changing a mind or even getting one to bend a little. That’s why I haven’t said anything about this.

    I will say this: I oppose America’s foreign policy of the moment – and if the political sympathies and donations made by many of the actual troops themselves are any indication, so are the people who are being asked to die for it – but I also completely reject any attempt to denigrate American soldiers or patriotism in general as “fascist” or somehow immoral.

    So I am equally disgusted by two opposite viewpoints: 1) the view that to oppose the insane think-tank fantasies that have guided foreign policy is to somehow oppose the troops or be unpatriotic, and 2) the view that to support the troops in any capacity is somehow “fascist.”

  • My view of soldiers and public attitudes towards them was summed up by Mr. Kipling:


    I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
    The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
    The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
    I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
    O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
    But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

    I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
    They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
    They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
    But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
    But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
    The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
    O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

    Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
    An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
    But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

    We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

  • Rick Lugari – Great comment. That’s exactly the way I look at it.

  • “F*ck was the word we used most often, about everything, in literally every other sentence. You might think I’m kidding about every other sentence, but it’s really true.”

    Well that was certainly also true when I was in the Army back in the Seventies. It was also true of the English Army that fought against Joan of Arc. Their favorite expression was G-dd-mn. Some things remain true across the centuries when it comes to the military experience. I do not swear and I did not when I was in the Army. The swearing bothered me to some extent, although quite a few of my profane colleagues became good friends with me. In spite of their profanity many of them were good-hearted and men of honor. In regard to swearing in civilian life, that has radically increased since the Sixties, certainly when it comes to public swearing.

  • Don would probably know for sure, but I believe that back in the day the English Army was so enamored with “G-dd-mn that their French opponents routinely referred to English soldiers as the “G-dd-mns.”

  • Quite right Mike.

  • WJ & Mike Petrik,

    How about a nifty pic to go with your icon?

  • Mike,

    I remember reading that.

  • On the use of the F-bomb, remember: this about a decade old.
    (F* rap.)

    Men in their twenties also greet each other with “f*ker.”

  • I seem to recall reading that it was the Ausies who made f*ck military standard usage in the Great War. At which time its use are noun, adjective, adverb and verb all rolled into one was still comparatively new.

    Though my grandfather who began his 30-year career in the navy in 1945 (and past whose lips I never heard a single profanity pass) always insisted that when he was in the Navy profanity was not nearly as pervasive as in modern WW2 dramas like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers — the which are in turn far more clean-cut in their language than the Mamet and Tarantino-esque speech patterns of many ordinary civilians my age.

  • I recommend “No Victory, No Peace” by Angelo Codevilla.

  • “Lord, I am not worthy
    that you should enter under my roof,
    but only say the word
    and my soul (my servant) shall be healed.”

    And unlike the woman taken in adultery, no follows on orders to soldier no more.

    Argument from silence.

    Anyone intimately familiar with the sacrifices the men and women of a nation’s military make – not for glory, but for love of country and countrymen – should not find fault with the sentiment expressed in Archbishop Sheen’s book.

    You can’t be serious. You can say this about any person or group of people who is willing to kill and die for what they believe. You could say it about “the terrorists.” Sacrifice does not equal Christianity. Sorry.

    It is telling that all of you agree with Sheen’s comment about soldiers being just below priests. How about sisters? Oh yeah, it fits in with your sexism.

    Many pay the ultimate sacrifice.

    Last I checked, Calvary was the ultimate sacrifice. NOT U.S. SOLDIERS.

    2) the view that to support the troops in any capacity is somehow “fascist.”


  • While I’ve worked jobs where people cursed – from janitors to cadets to high school students – I’ve never encountered the level of cursing that I found in the Ranger regiment. It’s a small thing, however. More startling is the open display of pornography, the constant boasting and announcements of masturbation (“I gotta go jack off – you got some porn?”), the songs of not only killing children and nuns, but of raping women, and so on and so forth. I should re-iterate that this is the experience of a private in an elite special operations unit, not the experience of a desk clerk in a non-combat unit. I would also add upon Donald’s comment that this didn’t make us bad. I’m only pointing out the cultural current and demonic activity, which I associate with the mission: killing other human beings like ourselves.

  • I think there are probably countless volumes of untold stories of heroism, sacrifice and compassion demonstrated by our American soldiers, stories that stay within the confines of family, only to be briefly revealed at the death of an old soldier. One such story was recently related to me — the story of an 18-year-old sergeant, serving in Italy during World War II, who was machine-gunned by a German soldier. The young American was able to shoot back and, while both were lying wounded on the ground, an American patrol happened upon them. The young American insisted that the German not be killed, so instead of firing a fatal shot into the German, the American troops took both wounded men to a hospital to convalesce. These untold stories demonstrate the character of our soldiers, character that has been instilled in our young men by their families, communities, country, and belief in Christ. So what if that utilitarian Anglo-Saxon word is used in excess — our soldiers are not attending tea parties and picking daisies.

  • It’s so sad how someone like Nate can so passionate share his experiences, here, at Vox Nova, on his own website, on the Catholic Peace Fellowship site, etc., yet what he is saying just does not sink in for some people. Instead, he gets “Oh but Nate, yours is just one person’s experience.” These people will praise a complete stranger on this blog who happens to mention his “service”, praising his heroism, etc., without knowing a damn thing about him. When Nate continually shares from his heart his very personal experience and his judgment about the nightmarish dimensions of the military, he is usually brushed off. Another flag waving post follows on the next day.

    Some of us listen, Nate, and refuse to remain on the level of abstraction that some of the bloggers here do. They have an image of the u.s. military in mind, not reality.

  • “Some of us listen, Nate…”

    Don’t confuse listening and agreement, Michael.

  • Thanks, Michael. And thanks to all who have patiently listened to me. Thanks be to God for those who have gone further, and agreed with me. Cuz’ I know it ain’t easy! 🙂

    Also, I really encourage everyone to read Michael’s paper once it becomes available. It’s an in-depth theological examination of what every new military recruit will be forced to face: an anti-Christ culture. Granted, anti-Christ cultures do abound in America. I think we should just remember that the military is (at the least) no exception.

Understanding the Police

Friday, July 24, AD 2009

The nation (or at least, that portion of it which follows the news cycle) suddenly found itself in one of these “national conversations” about policing this week, after President Obama accused the Cambridge, Mass. police of having “acted stupidly” in arresting his friend and supporter Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside his own home for “disorderly conduct”. The police report, minus some privacy data such as addresses, can be viewed here. The short version, is as follows: Prof. Gates returned from a trip to China and found himself having trouble getting into his house, so he and his cab driver forced the door open. A passerby saw this, feared a burglary was taking place, and called the police. Officer James Crowley of CPD arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, saw Prof. Gates in the house as he approached it, and though he looked to be a resident, but knocked, explained the situation, and asked for ID to be sure.

Here the two versions of the story diverge. According to Prof. Gates, Officer Crowley repeatedly refused to identify himself, lured him out onto the porch, and then arrested him. (You can read the Professor’s version in an extended interview here.) According to Officer Crowley, Prof. Gates did provide identification, Crowley was satisfied that he was the homeowner, but Gates had immediately taken an angry tone (repeatedly accusing Crowley of treating him this way because he was black) and that Gates followed him outside, accusing him of racial bias and generally shouting at him, until after a warning Officer Crowley arrested him for disorderly conduct.

Now, I think it’s pretty appalling to be arrested at your own house for yelling at someone, even a police officer. At the same time, the police report rings a lot truer to me that Prof. Gates’. And while even given that account, I don’t like the idea of arresting someone in front of his own house for being loud and rude towards the police, it strikes me that Prof. Gates violated a lot of the very basic rules that everyone knows about interacting with police. Perhaps I can best explain with an example:

Continue reading...

29 Responses to Understanding the Police

  • I have 2 reactions to this:

    (1) I believe you are being far too deferential to what has become a great abuse of authority by law enforcement agents — they will arrest you for simply not showing them the respect they think they deserve. It might have been imprudent for Gates to yell at the cop (though as a black man in the this country, I sympathize with him), but there is no law against being rude to a cop. We are all trained to be as polite as possible around cops, as even looking at them the wrong way might risk an adverse reaction. This is a daily abuse of power that attracts minimal attention. It’s even worse when they use weapons of violence such as “tasers”. As Josh Marshall put it, this particular cop should not have gotten into a “macho pissing match which ends up getting decided in the favor of the cop because he has the handcuffs and the gun”.

    (2) Your interaction with this particular cop arises from the lack of gun control in this country. Law enforcement agents could be faced by people with guns any time. The best solution is a complete handgun ban, and let is look forward to the day when we can have an unarmed police force, as is the case elsewhere.

  • The best solution is a complete handgun ban, and let is look forward to the day when we can have an unarmed police force, as is the case elsewhere.

    What color is the sky in your world?

  • The same color as the sky of the USCCB, when they called for a handgun ban.

  • Ah yes, the USCCB, always to be relied on in a pinch as the authoritative and final voice in any conflict.

    Unless of course you disagree with them coughNotreDamecough.

  • Heather MacDonald, who has done a lot of crime stat and police research for the Manhattan Institute, is worth reading here:

    Obama and Patrick are, I think, being pretty irresponsible here, especially given the police report and the strong support given by officers of varied backgrounds in the CPD.

  • (1) I believe you are being far too deferential to what has become a great abuse of authority by law enforcement agents — they will arrest you for simply not showing them the respect they think they deserve.

    Seriously, you should try reading Barker’s book — especially as someone who lives in the DC area and thus deals with another big city police department. You’re talking in stereotypes so incredibly broad that you’d mock them viciously if applied to any topic you knew anything about.

    (though as a black man in the this country, I sympathize with him)

    Interesting. I never knew you were black.

    (2) Your interaction with this particular cop arises from the lack of gun control in this country. Law enforcement agents could be faced by people with guns any time. The best solution is a complete handgun ban, and let is look forward to the day when we can have an unarmed police force, as is the case elsewhere.

    Given that the rising number of gun crimes in the UK has caused them to seriously consider arming their police now, years after enacting a total handgun ban, I’m not sure how this adds up. Also, your point about police elsewhere being unarmed doesn’t really fit with my experience of routinely seeing police carrying submachine guns in France and Italy.

  • Something tells me that cops will always be wary of whether the people they are approaching are armed.

    Anyway, my fiance got pulled over today for going 72 although she was in a 1994 Nissan Pathfinder that shudders at about 65. She was polite and nothing terrible happened (other than the ticket, but as the cop forgot to check her insurance, it was clear he was in a hurry to meet a quota). Still a BS ticket (it will be fixed), but I think cops do enough for so little payment that being polite is a reasonable thing. They’re paid too little to do too much, and they are human beings, after all.

  • The USCCB has a position on Notre Dame? I must have missed that. But while you are busy fighting symbolic battles, I care about the real world, and how policy decisions affect real people. And yes, the the “right” to own a firearm is *not* an unqualified right, and I belive it to be gravely immoral to support such an unqualified right in at atmosphere of such off-the-charts gun deaths.

    Darwin– I’m familiar with the UK debate. But let’s have some perspective– look at the gun deaths per capita here and there. Gun homicides per 100,000: 3.7, England/ Wales: 0.11. In Europe, you will often have an unarmed police force, with special divisions allowed to carry weapons (such as those dedicated to fighting organozed crime). That may be remote in the United States, but can….hope.

  • I would hazard a guess that poverty levels are a much greater influence on crime than access to guns.

    Anyhow, on the Gates affair–from everything I’ve read, it sounds like both parties behaved pretty badly, escalating it to a level where the cop took Gates into custody seemingly to avoid losing face.

  • I might suggest that constricted time horizons and the effect of same on self-control and personal discipline have an influence over poverty levels and crime rates in tandem.

  • But while you are busy fighting symbolic battles, I care about the real world, and how policy decisions affect real people. And yes, the the “right” to own a firearm is *not* an unqualified right, and I belive it to be gravely immoral to support such an unqualified right in at atmosphere of such off-the-charts gun deaths.

    Given that you have repeatedly argued that it’s appropriate for Catholics to essentially ignore the abortion legality issue in regards to politics because the issue is “dead” when only one party supports outlawing abortion, I’m not sure how arguing for a handgun ban is “real world” when neither party even remotely supports that.

    Even if one supported a total US handgun ban (which arguably would not achieve your stated objectives anyway), it is obviously a total political impossibility at this point. Why bring it up? (Note that the USCCB has not recently.)

    Besides, this is a total red herring to the topic of this post, which has to do with the appropriate interaction with police officers. In regards to which, I advise you to educate yourself if your above comments are representative of your knowledge level.

  • I advise you to educate yourself if your above comments are representative of your knowledge level.

    Seconded. How about a ridealong, MM?

  • Indeed, save the Second Amendment issues for another date; this Gates debacle has nothing to do with them and, as DC astutely observed, nothing more than a red-herring/baiting tactic.

    An irrefutable point remains that Obama acted irresponsibly and ignorantly by offering his opinion (even though he was “asked” by a pre-screened reporter), particularly in light of his own admission/preface that he did not have all the facts before him. He recklessly escalated a local, municipal issue into that of a national “race” issue.

    But, Obama has his own agenda and as has been discussed elsewhere at length, Obama’s relationship with Gates, Gates’ attorney Ogletree and Obama’s issues with (if not contempt of) the Cambridge Police Department are long-standing.

  • Gates received precisely the same treatmant a white man would have received who lipped off to the police. I have many clients who can sorrowfully attest to that fact. As I never weary of telling my clients who run afoul of the police, you treat them with courtesy, ask to see your attorney, and leave it to me to battle with them in court. This is not rocket science. Some cops are bullies, most are just normal people trying to make it through the day. Treat cops with courtesy and a situation almost always improves. Shoot your mouth off at them, and you end up paying expensive fees to someone like me to straighten out a completely avoidable situation.

    Personally if I had been Gates I would have been pretty ticked off too. However, I would have been smart enough to have treated the cop with courtesy, resolved the initial situation quickly, and then have a discussion with the States’ Attorney, the Police Chief, and the head of the police review board the next day. Of course I would also have had a word or two with local media outlets. Life goes so much smoother if you engage the brain first instead of the tongue.

  • I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a person can be arrested for “talking back” to a cop.

    In this age of video cameras we’ve seen instances where cops, not knowing they are being watched, at like fascist thugs. I saw one case where a cop taunted a man, saying, “I can say whatever I want and they’ll believe me instead of you.”

    It is because of the rash actions of police that some violent criminals get off on ‘technicalities’, while people who did nothing more than utter a remark some cop found annoying end up being harassed with court dates, fines, etc. Abuse of power is something that always needs to be taken seriously.

    That said, I couldn’t disagree more about a ‘handgun ban’. With due respect to the USCCB, I want to hear the moral reasoning as to why I, a responsible, law-abiding citizen, should not be allowed to purchase a handgun for home and self-defense. An approach that only looks at raw statistics misses the fact that it is precisely those people inclined to break laws already that are going to use guns for evil.

    I think it is possible that their reasoning is flawed.

  • Given that you have repeatedly argued that it’s appropriate for Catholics to essentially ignore the abortion legality issue in regards to politics because the issue is “dead” when only one party supports outlawing abortion…

    I never said that. I said that I believe it is deeply wrong to support the party in question, and that its tactics will set back the pro-life cause. That is my own judgment only.

  • “I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a person can be arrested for “talking back” to a cop.”

    Most states have fairly broad “disorderly conduct” statutes Joe. Here is a link to the Illinois statute:


    Now I can usually win these cases for clients as most jurors and judges tend to sympathize with the Defendant as long as only words were exchanged. However the client is still out my fee plus time off from work. I think that is a high price for venting spleen, but if people wish to do so I am always happy to represent them. After going through the legal system most agree with me that courtesy is normally a cheaper way to go.

  • In this age of video cameras we’ve seen instances where cops, not knowing they are being watched, at like fascist thugs.

    On the contrary, Joe, I think that the vast majority of those police cameras show that the police act with incredible restraint in the face of fairly regular hostile encounters. For every Rodney King incident there are hundreds of non-incidents. They don’t make the news, however.

  • My perspective on law enforcement tends to be favorable — most likely, because I am a white, middle class female whose only run-ins with the law have been a few speeding tickets, and who as a newspaper reporter for 2 years on a small-town police and court beat, had to treat them with courtesy and professionalism. I did not happen to encounter any blatant instances of police brutality or corruption on my beat, but if I had stuck with it longer, or covered a bigger city, I probably would have eventually.

    I agree with j. christian that for every instance in which a cop acts like a thug there are probably at least 50 other times when they don’t. Bad cops (like bad teachers, bad priests, etc.) always get more attention than good ones.

    As for gun control, I’ve never owned a gun, and only fired a gun once in my entire life (skeet shooting on a camping trip). But — I firmly believe that since people have a natural right to defend themselves, any adult should have the right to own a gun UNLESS a good reason exists to deny them that right (criminal record, mental instability, failing to be properly trained in the use of firearms, etc.) If someone uses a gun to commit a crime, punish them with an additional fine or prison sentence for the misuse of the gun, just as we punish motorists who drive drunk or reckelessly.

  • I have a few relatives who are cops. The thing to remember is when the police enter a home, they have no idea what to expect. It might be nothing or there might be one or more armed criminals in the shadows. How do they know? When you are dealing with a cop who is already on edge, the wise thing is to defuse the tension, not pour fuel on it.

    I can understand why it happens, but there are blacks who are too quick to assume that somebody of a different race who is being a jerk to them is doing so because they are black. I worked with a black woman once who was sure that the Greek sandwich shop owner in our building hated her because she was black. But he was rude to me, rude to just about everyone who came in the place. He was like the Seinfeld soup Nazi; he was nasty to everyone, and unlike the soup Nazi, it’s not like his food was so great that you were willing to tolerate abuse. The place eventually closed and let us hope he is making a living in some business that does not involve customer service. There are racists, and then there are just people with king-sized chips on their shoulders.

  • I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a person can be arrested for “talking back” to a cop.

    Well, obviously, as a person qua person, there’s no reason why talking back to a cop should result in being arrested, any more than it would be fair for me to be arrested for talking back to you.

    I think the key thing here, however, is that when an officer is attempting to do his job (investigating a potential crime) if people just talk back and yell at him and accuse him of being a racist and generally are disruptive, it prevents the cop from being able to do his job.

    When you’re the one being stopped by the police, and you know there’s nothing all that bad you were doing, it’s natural to be indignant. I’m sure the last thing that Prof. Gates wanted to deal with the day he got back form China was some police officer showing up on his doorstep wanting to know if he was supposed to be in the house. The thing to understand is, not only does the officer have no idea if you’re really innocent or not, but he very frequently deals with people who are not innocent and try to bluster or fight their way out of the situation.

    That’s why many states or cities have “contempt of cop” laws — so that people understand they need to cooperate or else face consequences. (Though often, the consequences are just hanging out in the cooler for a couple hours and then being released without charges.)

    Anyway, I know I must sound like a broken record on this, but I do strongly recommend Barker’s book, which you might be able to find at a decent library. It’s certainly not a “cops are always right” book but it both helps you understand what cops deal with and where they’re coming from — which often makes things more sympathetic, and in other cases at least helps one understand what the life of being a big city police officer tends to do to people. To understand all is not necessarily to forgive all, but it is useful nonetheless.

  • Police officers are trained to respond professionally to provocation. When an officer fails to do so, it is a serious problem.

    My guess is that the behavior in question was far more than merely “being rude.” (I make that assertion based upon the reputation of the officer involved.)

    In most of the arrests that I have seen “go wrong,” it is the failure to follow lawful orders that pushes officers up the “ladder of force.” It isn’t that the SUBJECT is merely rude but that an officer orders them to “show me your hands” or “stop where you are” and the SUBJECT continues to approach and refuses to comply. Officers then become all too aware of their vulnerability, particularly in enclosed spaces.

    There are a number of simulators that officers receive regular training on that provide reasonably close simulation of such incidents. It is disturbing to die in these simulations but virtually everyone does since correctly gauging the conditions is incredibly difficult. The inclination is either to be too aggressive or too reserved. Either one can get someone killed.

    As to the firearms issue… Whether or not handguns were illegal would not have changed THIS situation, as best I can tell. Officers will continue to assume the worst since doing otherwise will get you or your partner killed.

  • Interesting that no one here has law enforcement experience. Lots of first stones cast, though.

    I wonder how many people could do the job for one day, let alone a full career.

    Meanwhile, be sure to take such domestic tranquility as we have for granted.

  • I wonder if we are not overlooking one aspect: that of the tendency overpaid Harvard professors [whatever their color] to be rude and overbearing.

    I would be curious to know what would have been Prof. Gates’ reaction if, while he was in China, his house had been burglarized.

  • I am a family man and huge advocate of Law and Order- see my post “Take Back America Street by Street” from April 21 here at American Catholic.

    We need a really strong police presence, and we need really effective means of watchdogging police powers- to make sure abuses do not become systemic institutionally or along racial lines- for example. Targeting the bad neighborhoods to help break the cycles of crime and criminals, and fostering solid team values among police by bringing together mixed-race squads, with family wages to protect against corruption and add to the community prestige and role-modeling potential.

    With this must be very transparent policing departmental policies, and citizen board advisory and oversight committees- to make necessary reforms and weed out bad apples.

    How much of this is going on with the Cambridge police situation? If charges of racial abuse are being made, police should be trained to call for back-up quickly and to have minority officiers also prepped for responding to put more diverse perspectives at the scene asap.

    In an unfallen world, we wouldn’t need to do all of this, and after getting America under a better code of conduct, and breaking down many of the root causes of criminal behavior, we can begin then to cut back on the policing presence- but right now is the time to push forward not pull back to armed fortresses while the streets go more and more into the hands of the criminally-inclined.

    On the Gates particular situation- Obama was wrong to weigh in with only a partial set of facts- and if Gates was getting out-of-hand verbally, but not violently- that would have been the time to call for a racially-mixed back-up team to get that diversity check to ensure that there wasn’t something racial in the mix that was adding fuel to the fire rather like the firemen in Fahrenheit “451”? who start fires rather than put them out. I don’t have all the facts so I won’t go out on a limb and say one or the other parties was at primary fault.

  • Elaine,
    Though being a white female may help, it’s no guarantee (trust me) that you’ll never find yourself face-to-gun barrel with an officer (even when you’re not breaking any laws!) Prudence dictates not elevating the threatcon level.

    There’s been a lot of weighing in here on the appropriate way for police to deal with an unruly individual who has otherwise not broken the law. It was my impression that shouting and behaving in a threatening manner toward another person constitutes assault and is therefore grounds enough for arrest. I’d be interested to get the perspective of some of the legal eagles who write for or read this blog on that.

  • I am not a legal eagle, but I can tell you that there are provisions of the Penal Law of New York which define the crime of ‘Menacing’ and the crime of ‘Harrassment’. These are class b misdemeanors and more serious than ‘disorderly conduct’. I am not sure either would apply given the precise facts of the case. If Dr. Gates had brandished a truncheon as a weapon the former might apply and if he had followed the officer down the block shouting obscenities at him the latter might.

  • Tim: One of the officers on the scene at the Gates house was black. He backs Crowley’s account. And Crowley has taught courses on racial profiling. He has been praised by the other officers in his Department for being an excellent cop.

    That’s why the attempt to make this into an example of racist injustice has backfired. If Crowley had a record of harassing minorities in the past or was rumored to be a less than honest cop, I’d have a different take on it.

    Remember, Cambridge is not only wealthy but one of the most liberal of communities in a very blue state. I am finding attempts to equate this to Alabama in 1958 rather risible.

    Gabriel Austin: You make a good point. This is probably as much about class as it is about race. Haaavard professors of any color undoubtably get quite a bit of deference in Cambridge, which is probably why Gates thought showing the cop a Harvard ID (with no address on it) would be sufficient. When the cop was unimpressed, Gates played the race card.

  • What I find most irritating about this is Obama’s remarks. I recall that Nixon also put his foot into it when he publicly opined that Charles Manson was guilty – while the trial was still going on. The press, rightly, criticized him for that. I’ve not seen much press criticism of Obama – but then he is “The Won”.