The Great Awakening?

Thursday, December 10, AD 2015


Sociologist and Historian Rodney Stark thinks so:

Many intellectuals insist that a worldwide triumph of secularization is inevitable, and they applaud whatever is interpreted as a sign of religious decline. Religious believers, meanwhile, lament these same signs. The crucial point is that both sides accept the premise that the world is becoming more secular.

Well, they are both wrong.

The world is not merely as religious as it used to be. In important ways, it is much more intensely religious than ever before. Around the globe, four out of every five people claim to belong to an organized faith, and many of the rest say they attend worship services. In Latin America, Pentecostal Protestant churches have converted tens of millions, and Catholics are going to Mass in unprecedented numbers. There are more churchgoing Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else on earth, and China may soon become home of the most Christians. Meanwhile, Islam enjoys far higher levels of member commitment than it has for many centuries, and the same is true for Hinduism.

Despite all this, the media regularly report new “proofs” of the rapid decline of religion in America and abroad. In May, the Pew Research Center released its latest Religious Landscape Survey. Pew’s director of religion, Alan Cooperman, summed it up by saying, “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.” Pew followed up with another survey in November, trumpeting its findings with the headline “U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious.”

But, despite these confident proclamations about the decline of religion, Pew’s findings were certainly misleading and probably wrong, for reasons you’ll soon see. The decline of religion elsewhere is merely wishful thinking and entirely at odds with reliable data.

Every important claim that I make in my book The Triumph of Faith is based on carefully reported solid evidence. The empirical backbone of my book is provided by the truly remarkable Gallup World Polls, which began in 2005 and consist of annual, national surveys conducted in 163 nations that by now add up to more than a million interviews. Never before has a scholar had access to such a body of data.

And what do the data tell us? Quite simply, that a massive religious awakening is taking place around the world.

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4 Responses to The Great Awakening?

Mark Shea, Pro-life and Religion as Politics

Tuesday, November 25, AD 2014


Mark Shea has taken his agree-with-me-on-these-issues-or-you-are-not-really-pro-life routine to the pages of the Jesuit rag America:

But weirdly, when the topic is not the unborn, many allegedly pro-life people often forget their wisdom. Result: on many issues ranging from war to torture to refugees to the death penalty, it is extremely common to run into people who are anti-abortion, but not pro-life.

And so self-identified pro-life people, in a solid majority, favored the launch of the Iraq War, despite the fact that it failed to meet a single criterion of Just War teaching, was sternly denounced by Pope John Paul II, warned of by the world’s bishops, and dismissed as folly by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who famously remarked that the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church” and who warned that it would result in catastrophe—as the destruction of the Chaldean Church, the deaths of at least 100,000 people and the transformation of Iraq into chaos eloquently attests.

Relatedly, self-identified pro-life Christians supported, in greater percentages than the general U.S. population, the use of torture against prisoners. Indeed, along with Evangelicals, self-identified pro-life Catholics may constitute the single most enthusiastic supporters of torture in American public life. This is despite the fact that the church describes torture as gravely and intrinsically immoral—exactly the same terms in which she describes abortion.

Similarly, the death penalty is sometimes treated as an issue in which the church’s guidance to inflict the punishment only if absolutely necessary is rejected on the theory that God “commands” rather than reluctantly permits the death penalty. Some even go so far as to declare the church, not merely entitled to an opinion from which they dissent, but actually “wrong” and work to execute as many victims as possible.

Finally, there is the strange spectacle of some Catholics opposing pre-natal help for low income women (thus increasing the likelihood of abortion for poor families who fear they cannot afford another child) and the even stranger spectacle of self-identified pro-life people brandishing guns and screaming for desperately poor refugee children from Central America to be sent back to the extreme dangers of rape, sex slavery and murder.

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30 Responses to Mark Shea, Pro-life and Religion as Politics

  • I guess Shea also needs to re-define “illegal immigrant” into “refugee.” Otherwise he is not supported by JP II:

    “Illegal immigration should be prevented, but it is also essential to combat vigorously the criminal activities which exploit illegal immigrants.”

    “4. When no solution is foreseen, these same institutions should direct those they are helping, perhaps also providing them with material assistance, either to seek acceptance in other countries, or to return to their own country.”

    Now if they were real refugees escaping Central America and “the extreme danger of rape, sex slavery and murder…” then international law is quite clear that Mexico should have taken in these “refugees.” But they were no such thing. They were illegal immigrants encouraged by lax enforcement of just laws. Of course Shea needs to redefine the term as “refugees” otherwise he is not consistent with Church teaching. Now I thought he was against such word play.

  • I also thought (though am willing to be corrected on this point) that he initially supported the invasion of Iraq.

  • Oh, that is correct. Shea later turned against the War when no WMD’s allegedly were found. (They actually were found, but that is another post.)

  • Mark Shea’s absolutism excommunicates so many from the church of Mark Shea it may have a membership of one. But not to worry, if individuals somehow fit through the eye of the needle in agreeing with him on those points he will find others to toss them out.

  • He of rural Washington context ( no crime to encounter ) actually gave me the laugh of the morning …does Romans 13:4 from the Holy Spirit sound like reluctant death penalty to anyone who is not doing mushrooms from Oaxaca…..” not without reason does it carry the sword…it is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who does evil”. So very very filled with sensitive reluctance and indecision….and Jesuitical feminized theologizing. Then Shea quotes a very unfortunate passage of Benedict in which Benedict seems to see the catechism as something inerrant on preventive war and a catechism removed from Benedict who oversaw its editing….lol. Pope Benedict didn’t believe the herem of the Old Testament were ordered by God ( Verbum Domini,42). And all Christians prior to the historico-critical school did believe they were from God. And people now who notice that Christ predicted the worst one….70AD….know that God brings them about actively…not through karma.

  • I once had a tangle with Mr. Shea over the issue of waterboarding. It left a rather bad taste with me.

    Let me start by pointing out that many people assume that any torture involving water is waterboarding. James Bradley had a photo of an American soldier using water torture on a Filipino insurgent in his book The Imperial Cruise: The Secret History of Empire and War; the caption read that the Filipino was being waterboarded. The movie Zero Dark Thirty had a ‘waterboarding’ scene in which the victim spits up a significant amount of water. This is inaccurate – there is no ingestion of water in waterboarding. Senator John McCain has stated that in World War II, the United States military hanged Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American prisoners of war – again this is inaccurate, the Japanese used methods that were much more invasive than waterboarding.

    Point #2, and the most critical one, is that waterboarding is not torture under U.S. law. Why? Because it is used by the U.S. military in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training. U.S. law prohibits the torture of its military personnel during its training. At some point in the past a decision was made in the SERE curriculum development that waterboarding did not constitute torture, and so could be used in training. It may have involved legal hairsplitting, but the precedent was made.

    Point #3 is that it is hard to say that waterboarding is not torture. One of Bush’s Assistant Attorney Generals [sorry, forgot who] and writer Christopher Hitchens both supported waterboarding of al-Qaeda bigwigs, volunteered to be subjected to it so they could defend it’s use, and changed their minds after being subjected to it. My opinion is that I would hate to see the SERE program lose whatever benefit waterboarding gives to the ability of our military personnel to resist torture, but that loss would be outweighed by reclassifying it to be torture under U.S. law and ending this controversy.

    None of this history mattered to Mark Shea. He believes he is entitled to his own facts: U.S. law prohibits torture, waterboarding is torture, therefore waterboarding is prohibited. I pointed out this history to him online; he ignored my conclusion – which was basically in agreement with his conclusion – and he proceeded to rip me a new bodily orifice. You see, he wants the defenders of waterboarding to be evil men deserving of his ire, and not ordinary men under pressure who grasped onto a legal precedent created for other circumstances. He could have defended himself with a “Thanks for the history Tommie, but it is obviously torture, so the Bush guys shouldn’t have grabbed that precedent”, but he didn’t. He responded with “You’re another supporter of torture”, because my sin was to not agree with his labeling.

    I’ve written this before: if I were to write Mark Shea’s epitaph, it would read “Here lies Mark Shea, Catholic writer. No man was ever so wrong about so many right things than he

  • I’m pro-innocent life, just like I’m anti-unjust war.

  • Shea’s a demokrat party operative masquerading as a Catholic crank.

  • BTW, when it comes to “Render unto Caesar…” I particularly like the words of Soviet dissident Sister Nijole Sadunaite, who told her judges “What is due to Caesar is but the remains of that due to God”

  • Mark is an interesting case study in someone who attempts to turn his religion into his politics.

    Perhaps. Or perhaps a case study in how we get to be caricatures of ourselves as we age (except in his case the act is not the least bit amusing).

  • I once had a tangle with Mr. Shea over the issue of waterboarding. It left a rather bad taste with me. .

    Gosh, no kidding.

    “Torture” or capital sentencing or proper responses to illegal immigration or disaster relief in New Orleans or the utility of psychotropic medications. Different issues, same behavior.

  • “formerly a conservative”. Don, are you sure he was ever a conservative in the first place?!

  • “…on many issues ranging from war to torture to refugees to the death penalty, it is extremely common to run into people who are anti-abortion, but not pro-life.”

    “Indeed, along with Evangelicals, self-identified pro-life Catholics may constitute the single most enthusiastic supporters of torture in American public life.”

    “Some even go so far as to declare the church, not merely entitled to an opinion from which they dissent, but actually ‘wrong’ and work to execute as many victims as possible.”

    “Finally, there is the strange spectacle of some Catholics opposing pre-natal help for low income women…”

    I never realized what a true idiot Shea was until reading this!

  • “One of Bush’s Assistant Attorney Generals [sorry, forgot who] and writer Christopher Hitchens both supported waterboarding of al-Qaeda bigwigs, volunteered to be subjected to it so they could defend it’s use, and changed their minds after being subjected to it.”

    Ok. Here is the problem that I have with water boarding being called “torture.”
    1. Does the person experience physical pain?

    2. Is there any permanent physical damage done?

    3. What is it specifically that makes this torture (supposedly?)

  • ProLife by the numbers: [feel free to add any other category with number of victims and/or dead]

    Persons lynched in the history of the United States: 5000; but let’s err on the side of questioning history and say 100,000; add whatever number you like for beatings, torture etc not resulting in death

    Persons dying of hunger each year in the United States: a few thousands, but let’s go with 100,000 [this is way outlandish]

    Persons tortured in the US and/or by US officials each year: supply your own number-mine is 10,000 -no basis for this

    Persons executed since the death penalty reinstatement: about 2000, but let’s go with 4000

    Persons killled by abortion, including RETA, daily in the United States: 3500-4000.

    Persons killed by abortion since Roe in the US: approx 56,000,000

    Minority members victims of abortion since Roe [Black + Hispanic]: approx 29,000,000

    Mothers of minority abortion victims: less than 1/3 total population

    RETA = Racial Eugenic Targeted Abortion

    Guy McClung, San Antonio

  • Here is a military-doctrine/economy of force analogy to Shea’s and all liberals’ ineffectual pro-life positions. It’s like ordering an infantry division against the enemy’s drummer boys while ignoring the infantry.

    Every soldier knows that in a fight you must first destroy the heaviest weapons shooting at you.

  • Is there an ounce of sympathy for the soldier on the Bataan Death march who has his appendix ripped out on a dirty trail? How about beautiful young Harold John Smith who fought in VN and was literally burned to death after being put on point during one of the war’s fiercest battles? War is hell. Abortion is hell! Who started these wars. We react. Who forced abortion on demand on us. Who has not been as strong as they should have been during this last 40 years? A very liberal church. A church infested with vermin who have robbed this church of billions of dollars to cover their deviant behavior, while Catholic schools are forced to close by the thousands. Give me a break. I am so sick of the two faces of blather. The entire congress of this country is overwhelmingly “Christian” and this is what we have to deal with. CINO(Christian in name only) to get themselves a few pukey votes at the expense of millions. Oh now, Billy Graham “advisor” to all the presidents speaks out about abortion on demand. Do you ever hear a word out of Joyce Meyer’s mouth as she is preaching to thousands in the big arena’s about action. I haven’t heard one word about IsIs or what is happening in Iraq and Syria and wherever about the persecution of and praying for Christians suffering so at any Mass I have attended in the last 6 mo . I am sick of getting the “Diocesan” newspaper and reading about the bishops dog! Good God Almighty, people I might be a measly farmer but even I can see that most “catholics” are reading these rags and that is why they know nothing of the real truths of the faith. Someone better tell the pope and a few of these other ding dongs that someone will be held accountable for this diabolic (confusion) of the faith that they are perpetrating. People are so mixed up.

  • Comment of the week Jeanne! Take ‘er away Sam!

  • Mark Shea needs to be locked up in the Octagon with Chris Ferrara, Texas Death Match style.

  • “Sam the Eagle sounds like Yoda.”

    Hmmm, I have never seen them in the same room together. Sam, have you been holding out on us?

  • ‘Enhanced interrogation techniques’ which included waterboarding were widely used on terrorist suspects (both republican and loyalist) in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, mostly by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the interrogation of suspects was seen as a police rather than an army responsibility). Many of these interrogations were carried out at the Castlereagh detention centre by teams of detectives specially trained in such techniques. Following a campaign by Amnesty International the European Commission ruled that this constituted torture, but following an appeal by HMG the European Court of Human Rights downgraded this to ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’. The adverse publicity led to its being discontinued, although it had had some success in eliciting confessions which were not later retracted in court.

    The paramilitaries themselves routinely tortured (in a much cruder way) those whom they suspected of being informers although ironically PIRA had ‘traitors’ at the highest level – it has recently emerged that one of its most senior figures agreed to act as a government agent in return for escaping prosecution for sexual offences against children.

    The point is that fighting terrorism is a dirty business since the adversary acts without legal or moral constraints whereas the authorities must be seen to act within the law. One man’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ are another man’s ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ and a third man’s ‘torture’.

  • “One man’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ are another man’s ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ and a third man’s ‘torture’.”

    This is my point exactly.

    I have never had to use physical force in my entire adult life on another person. And I have been in some very stressful, threatening situations. If I ever decide that physical force is necessary–it will not be pretty.

    If I decided to torture someone physically, no one would have to question wether or not it was torture.

    Amensty International has done some good things. However, they have also done some whacky things.

  • PS. The reason that I specified not using physical force in my “adult” life is because before I turned 21, I used some physical force on some folks. Lol

  • But they were no such thing. They were illegal immigrants encouraged by lax enforcement of just laws. Of course Shea needs to redefine the term as “refugees” otherwise he is not consistent with Church teaching. Now I thought he was against such word play.

    Nah, Mark is only against “Lying for Jesus” on minor, secondary issues of no real import, like abortion. When it comes to serious, unambiguous areas of the Faith like the moral imperative of giving amnesty to an unlimited number of illegal immigrants no matter what, he’s okay with it.

  • Deuce,
    Exactly, Shea considers breaking into a country illegally, stealing its resources, overwhelming it’s health and educational systems, and disturbing the peace of its legal citizens as simply a matter of not having the right “piece of paper”. Or as liberals like to classify them, the “undocumented”. When I pointed out to him the hypocrisy of his consequentialism, I was just deleted and banned.

  • “Shea’s a demokrat party operative masquerading as a Catholic crank.”

    No, actually, Mark Shea is a Paul-bot, as in Ron Paul disciple. Or, at least he was, a few years ago, when I got banned (he didn’t like being shown the absence of logic in his positions).
    I haven’t read him much in the past couple of years, so, maybe he’s changed.

  • Mark Shea needs to be locked up in the Octagon with Chris Ferrara, Texas Death Match style.

    Why Christopher Ferrara? Mr. Ferrara may be wrong on some issues and overly astringent on occasion. His viewpoint is not, however, largely reducible to irritable mental gestures.

  • when I got banned (he didn’t like being shown the absence of logic in his positions). –

    In my last attempt at conversing with him, he was in a state of rage against any countervailing opinion. Everyone’s remarks to that end were deleted.

  • Art, it was an attempt at humor. Ferrara is what Mr. McClarey calls him – a crank, but unlike Mark Shea, Ferrara has truth on his side.

Does Jesus Hate Our Religion?

Thursday, January 12, AD 2012

I encourage my students (past and present) to ask questions and seek the truth, and sometimes some will take up the challenge. Last week we saw the challenge of prior Myths to our belief in the historical Jesus Christ.  This week we have a Christian challenge to Christian religion. I would like to again tap into the collective genius that is American Catholic blogosphere to see what shakes out. I don’t think Christianity could have survived as a loose-knit band of solo believers/wanna-be disciples.  Surely the Bible would never have been standardized. I see Jesus as one who puts all religious persons on notice- to not be hypocritical or without compassion. But in my read He doesn’t throw out the baby of religion with the bathwater of failing pharisees.  I am pointing my students to this blog to consider your arguments and thoughts- so be polite and thoughtful regarding those who may be reading who are young questing souls- not sure of the spiritual landscape just yet.

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21 Responses to Does Jesus Hate Our Religion?

  • Okay, I understand the desire to put out thought-provoking pieces that challenge our beliefs, but I made it through about 48 seconds of this video before clicking off. The very first sentence “What if I told you that Jesus came to abolish religions” is an out and out lie. If that were true, then Jesus would not have lived his life as an essentially Orthodox Jew. He would not have said that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. The stuff about building Churches but not feeding the poor is clearly wrong, as Churches are at the forefront of charity. No one suggests (seriously) that God doesn’t “love” divorced people. Jesus himself – whom the narrator purports to love – explained the purpose of the Old Testament allowance for divorce (Read Matthew 19) before himself saying that it is forbidden.

  • How would the Bible come as far as being put into a canon w/out organized religion?

  • This dangerous video has gone viral. I look forward to more replies before sending out a message to my parish youth group.

  • The heart’s in the right place, but it’s not well thought out. It’s a less mean-spirited version of Anne Rice’s Christ-without-Christianity stuff.

    I’m inclined to point out that it’s no coincidence this came from a 20-something 21st Century American. It’s incomprehensible outside of that localized worldview. It’s a product of pure individualism, and the idea that big churches = not feeding the poor merits the Billy Madison moderator response.

    Ultimately, the failure of the religionless Christianity is that it self-amputates the adherent from the Body of Christ, along with the hard-won wisdom of the past generations who passed the Faith on to us. That bad ol’ “religious” structure of Christianity serves a vital purpose–it reminds us that we and our experiences aren’t all there is.

    “To live entirely in the present, without any of the wisdom that a broad perspective on the past provides, is to live a life of idiocy, vapid distraction, and ingratitude.”

    –David Bentley Hart.

  • Well, first off, like Paul, I frankly kind of found this hard to watch. Maybe this is a function of being in my mid thirties rather than my mid teens, but trying to parse through a bunch of statements that were at times vague or in sentence fragments and “respond” is kind of hard.

    Still, trying to hit the most basic elements:

    There’s a bit of a word game being played here. The makers distinguish “religion” from following Jesus the way they do basically as “them bad, we good”. Those guys fight war because of their beliefs? Oh, that’s religion. Those guys seem (to the speaker) to be building big churches while ignoring the poor? Oh, that’s religion. Those guys act like they’re all holy because the go to church on Sunday but the rest of the time they’re addicted to porn? Oh, that’s religion. Well, what is it that the makers are engaged in if it’s not religion? They’re “following Christ”? Well, go ask an atheist: that’s religion. Instead of talking about one thing as “religion” and the other as “Jesus” — not about not playing word games and admit that “following Jesus” is religion, but like anything else some people do it badly. Some people play basketball and it makes them team players. Some people play basketball and it makes them total jerks. We don’t need two words for basketball as a result, we need to tell people to be good players. Don’t tell people that Jesus came to get rid of religion, tell people that Jesus told people to start faking religion and start practicing it. After all, Jesus says in Matthew 23:3 that people should do as the Pharisees say, they just shouldn’t be hypocrites like the Pharisees were.

    The makers also have a radically individualist view of faith. The speaker claims that religion is man looking for God, but that Jesus is God looking for man. Do we really think that Jesus (who was God) was totally incompetent and didn’t know what he was doing, though? Jesus didn’t just give people some encouraging words and leave them where they were, he said, “Come follow me.” He built an organization while on earth, and his followers lived as an organization after died, rose again and ascended into heaven. If Jesus didn’t intend for there to be “organized religion”, he did a terrible job of explaining that to his followers, because they formed a “religion” in the sense of an organized community of believers right away. And Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:15 that the pillar and foundation of truth is the Church. Jesus comes to us through religion because we’re not meant to all be loners (or to use his phrase “lost sheep”), we’re together in this.

    Finally, the video several times tries to contrast the “rules” of religion with Jesus. But clearly, the makers of the video themselves think there are rules. If there were not rules (what we who are part of a religion call “morality”) then why the criticism of people who don’t feed the poor, who treat single mothers badly, who act of hypocrites, etc.? Moreover, Jesus himself didn’t say “it is finished” to the idea of rules. This is the guy who said (Matthew 5:48) “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” and (John 8:11) “Go and sin no more.” Jesus was big time into rules. What he criticized the Pharisees for was making a big deal about rules that didn’t matter and ignoring the most important ones.

    Hope that helps!

  • “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”H. Richard Niebuhr

    The person behind the video desperately needs to read Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood:

  • See, just because we’re called to be more than religious doesn’t mean that we’re not called to be religious. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The ritual and the rules are where we begin. They’re our soil. We don’t cease to need the soil even as we grow upward.

    No one wants to be religious. We all know intuitiviely that religion is limited. And anyway, religion isn’t as much fun as faith. Faith is self-confident; religion is fear and trembling. But Jesus calls us to both, the hard work and the joy.

    Jesus condemned the Pharisees. He also said that they were doing everything right. That’s the trick. We’re called to be worthless servants. The servant has to do his work every day, then recognize that the work isn’t enough. Being a worthless servant takes a lot of work. What must I do to attain salvation? It starts with obeying the commandments – that’s religion – then we’re supposed to build on it.

  • God’s Only Begotten Son by His life, death and resurrection purchased for us the rewards of eternal life.

    He named Peter the rock on which to build His Church. The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and Mary and gave them insight. The Church is faithful, unbroken successor to the Apostles.

    Jesus prayed all the time and observed all the rituals. He came to fulfil the Commandments not to abolish them.

    Jesus is True God and True man. He is like us in all ways except sin. He does not sin. Hate is sin.

    Did Jesus hate those that tortured and crucified him? No, he did not.

    Seems the hit TV series, “The Big Bang Theory” is on air all the time. One re-run depicted a budding relationship/marriage which ended because one was “bundle” matter theory adherent and the other was “string” theory (whatever any of that means). The issue was over how the raise the children (heh): bundle or string. One said, “Let them decide.” The other said, “You can’t. They’re children.” That was the end of that. I thought it was profound for farce and likely why young people have little religious inclination.

    How does one receive Objective Trurth if it is not specifically safeguarded and passed on?

    Of course, yer video-boy-genius likely disbelieves there is such a thing as objective truth. Not to mention divine revelation (not the Book of) . . .

  • The video is an insult. The young man, however sincere he thinks he is, is seriously misled. Conversion and repentance, righteousness and holiness come first, and nothing the young man pontificates on reflects that.

  • Maybe there is some truth in what he’s saying that needs to be gleaned. Just as Bahurim cursed David and threw stones David’s men wanted to cut his head odd. David did not allow it and considered that he may have been sent of from the Lord.
    Christ’s seven woes in Matthew 23 against the Scribes and Pharisees I think summs up his problem with “religion.” But he does say in verse two and three of that chapter, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. ” So right before his indictment of them he says to listen to them.
    Sometimes the pedulum swings too far either way. And I think this is the case with this young man.

  • Difficult to really glean what he means by religion. Seems he does not see following the “rules” or things such as structure as important as actually doing something. Understandable. But ignoring the “rules”, or tossing away the structure in favor of activity is much like trying to run a marathon without training for it, or playing an instrument without any instruction or learning the notes, etc. You may do ok for a mile or two, but then fatigue kicks in. Much like your physical conditioning, your spiritual life needs spiritual conditioning to make it over the long haul. Religion (rules, heirarchy, structure) provide this training and direction, like good coach or music instructor to correct your form when you are off a bit.

  • What is really disconcerting about the video is the immense ignorance on display and the self-righteous vehemence with which it is preached. This so prevalent in our culture now and it is getting worse. This is the precursor of persecution. The ignorance displayed is almost impenetrable.

  • “But if Jesus came to you church would they actually let him in?”

    For the Catholic Church it isn’t a matter of letting Jesus in, we bring Him in….and then eat Him.

  • Here’s another good Catholic response from the “Bible Geek” Mark Hart of Life Teen-

  • Tim,
    A few questions. How old are the students? Is this a college class? What is the purpose or theme of the class? How many students? What do you want your students to learn?

  • We’re talking high schoolers and this isn’t part of the structured class- this was something a student emailed me to find out more about what the orthodox Catholic perspective might be- I want to give them more than just my own take and coax them out into some safe blogging zones where the Church is not going to be trashed and is given a sympathetic hearing by more or less faithful thinking Catholics who aren’t going to be talking way over their heads for the most part.

  • Here is a Catholic priests rap response on you tube title Spoken Word made Flesh.

    It has some excellent talking points such as the 50 year spiritual dryness experienced by Mother Teresa. The line that stood out for me was- Jesus said, don’t be a Church hater, the weeds and the wheat, the get separated later.
    Also check out a blog on this video at Bad Catholic

Environmentalist Proponents Jump The Shark

Friday, October 1, AD 2010

An environmental confederation in the UK got the talented screenwriter Richard Curtis to produce a short film, ironically called No Pressure, for the 10:10 campaign, an effort to remind people to do their part in reducing carbon emission 10% by 2010 AD.

Unfortunately for the environmental movement the film backfired because it reinforced the image that beneath the surface environmentalists will do anything once in power to make it compulsory to follow their vision for the future, which includes violence.

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15 Responses to Environmentalist Proponents Jump The Shark

  • ++ Pretty hilarious. I was sure it was some kind of comedic jujitsu, an anti-enviro-mental send-up. It’s not available at 1010’s website which made me more suspicious. But Richard Curtis’ wikipedia entry says that he in fact did make the video in support of the group, but they had to take it down from their website because of outrage over its gory “no pressure” message.
    ++ Either way, great comedy always has an element of believability – you just know the enviro-mentals secretly wouldn’t mind the rest of us disappearing in a pink cloud of goo.

  • Thomas,

    I can’t believe it got past the writing stage!

    These guys live in a world of their own.

  • I cannot fathom how anyone with the 10:10 campaign could possibly have believed that this ad would have benefited their cause.

  • I was shocked that it was that bad…that’s unbelievable.

  • Maybe Curtis watched Monty Python’s “How Not To Be Seen” video a few times too many?

  • Elaine: The MP videos are very funny, but that is because they are not espousing any particular political viewpoint. So I (or anyone) can simply accept them as absurd.

    Showing children and employees and soccer players blown up because they do not subscribe to a particular political philosophy moves the 10:10 video into a universe of its’ own. The Python skit was a lark – this commercial descends into radical evil. The message is: “Conform or be killed.” Lovely. I have no problem imagining the teacher hectoring the students to believe in the importance of one child per couple (for the environment, dontcha know!). A couple of children object and are blown up.

    This illustrates liberal fascism better than Jonah Goldberg’s book does.

  • That’s horrifying. How could anyone but a psychopath find that funny?

    It’s worth a look though (for adults who have been forewarned) because I think it gives us a glimpse into the mind of the film’s producer and undoubtedly the minds of eco-fascists in general. They hate humanity.

  • You gotta admit that this is much more efficient than what the Nazis had going on. To these 10:10 people the real travesty of Auschwitz was its unspeakably huge carbon footprint.

  • You gotta admit that this is much more efficient than what the Nazis had going on.

    Yeah, the device used to blow up dissenters just magically knows who the naysayers are.

    To these 10:10 people the real travesty of Auschwitz was its unspeakably huge carbon footprint.

    Well, in all fairness, the Nazis did “recycle” hair, gold teeth, and skin. That should win them some points among the 10:10 crowd.

  • Pretty darn passive-aggressive, if you ask me.

  • I agree that 10:10 is infinitely more offensive and less funny than “How Not To Be Seen”. At least Monty Python had the good sense not to show their victims’ blood and vital organs splattering everywhere in graphic and stomach-churning fashion. However, I cannot help but wonder if the 10:10 creators weren’t, shall we say, “inspired” by Monty Python but took the premise way too far.

  • Remix time!

  • In the 21st century Environmentalism and radical Islam are what the Communists and Nazis were for the 20th century.

  • Pingback: Environmental Culture of Death « The American Catholic

Benedict at Westminster

Friday, September 17, AD 2010

The text of Benedict’s keynote speech on his trip to the UK is here; video of the speech can be found here.

Obviously, you read or watch the speech in its entirety, but I will present a few highlights for readers:

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

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One Response to Benedict at Westminster

Glenn Beck: Evangelical Outreach Coordinator?

Tuesday, August 31, AD 2010

I’m on record as not being a member of the Glenn Beck fan club. I don’t like his overly emotive mannerisms, his politics, or his theology. I’d rather the president of my alma mater was more circumspect in praising him, and I’ve written to the university to that effect. At the same time, I’m somewhat fascinated by the accounts of his rally in DC this past weekend. For instance, here is David Weigel (erstwhile Washington Post reporter and Journolist member) reporting on the event:

“It’s about as angry as a Teletubbies episode….The Democrats who pre-butted Beck’s rally by predicting an overtly political hateananny were played for suckers. They didn’t pay attention to Beck’s “Founder Fridays” episodes on Fox, his high-selling speaking tour, or his schmaltzy children’s book The Christmas Sweater. It’s not his blackboard that makes him popular. It’s the total package he sells: membership in a corny, righteous, Mormonism-approved-by-John Hagee cultural family. The anger is what the media focus on, he says, joking several times about what “the press” will do to twist his words.

Beck’s rally ends just as he said it would—without incident, political or otherwise. He’s just taken the world’s most derided TV audience, put them in the National Mall, and presided over the world’s largest megachurch. “Bring out the bagpipes,” he says. Bagpipe players then walk onto his stage, and the sound of “Amazing Grace” fills the mall.

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85 Responses to Glenn Beck: Evangelical Outreach Coordinator?

  • I’m more or less on the fence about Beck, though perhaps a little less critical than you. I watched a few minutes of the event on Saturday, and am mainly glad I didn’t wade through Metro and/or traffic in order to get down there myself.

    That said, I think he gave his critics very thin gruel indeed. I don’t know that this will mark a turning point as much as he claims it will, but really, what was the harm? And I’m not sure those that were there were there for the man or for the message. Perhaps a bit of both, but I think it was more an opportunity for these folks to come out and celebrate together,

  • Goes to show you how out of the loop I am with the rest of the “well-organized, narrative-shaping right-wing smear machine” that I didn’t even know about this thing on the Mall until I read after-the-fact accounts about it online yesterday.

  • The often crazed Beck, no Woodrow Wilson was not the fount of all evil, is not to my taste; most of the people who attended his rally are. They had a good time and are motivated to change the country come November. It does not surprise me that it was not overtly political. Beck has always been far more concerned about making cultural points than political ones.

  • I’ve got this theory bouncing around in my little brain, that we’re seeing a turf war between the evangelicals and the non-religious for control of the Tea Party movement. I think the Beck event was a deliberate show of force by the religious branch.

    When the dust settles after November’s elections, any victorious Republicans are going to have to figure out to whom they owe their loyalty. The party will have less claim than usual. Right now, an argument could be made for the traditional fiscal/social conservatives, or the fiscally conservative independents. Some people like Palin straddle both groups. Not many do.

  • no Woodrow Wilson was not the fount of all evil

    Nah, just most of it it. 🙂

  • I really don’t care what I think. And, you shouldn’t either.

    It seems that a segment of the “cognitve elites” and assorted liberal brahmans react to Mr. beck with malice.

    He has got to be doing something right.

  • John Henry, I think you hit the nail on the head, especially for the last part. Increasingly, the Catholic Right is sounding like the Catholic Left, moving, as C. S. Lewis warns, from political activism in the name of Christ to Christianity in the name of activism.

    Beck infamously called on his followers to reject any church that teaches “social justice,” which either means “reject Catholicism” or “Catholicism is a collection of churches that believe different things, and you don’t have to follow the Pope.”

    For many Catholic Republicans, the meaning of “pro-life” has been lost into “voting Republican at all costs” the way “helping the poor” and “protecting minorities” have become “voting Democratic at all costs” for the Left.

    This weekend, I had a brief exchange on Facebook with a woman who had attacked one of my FB friends for criticizing Beck. She said Beck is a “good and decent man.” I pointed out her that the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding apostates is abundantly clear, and that Beck cannot be “a good man” because he’s on the fast road to Hell as an ex-Catholic. I also pointed out that Beck supports artificial contraception and opposes conscientious objection rights for pro-lifers in the medical profession.

    She replied with some ecumenical gobbledygook, and said, “I am pro-life, and that’s all that matters to me, and Glenn Beck is pro-life, and I’ve never heard him say otherwise,” and of course she said he’s her friend. I reiterated that no one who leaves the Catholic Church intentionally can be saved, and that no one who supports contraception can claim to be pro-life. She replied, “You, sir, are an evil man,” and she blocked me.

  • I reiterated that no one who leaves the Catholic Church intentionally can be saved, and that no one who supports contraception can claim to be pro-life. She replied, “You, sir, are an evil man,” and she blocked me.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call you evil, but you have a rather novel interpretation of Church teaching as regards to those who leave the Church.

  • I reiterated that no one who leaves the Catholic Church intentionally can be saved,

    It’s important to be precise here. If someone – fully knowing that the Catholic Faith is true – decides to reject it, then that may be accurate. But none of us can assess with regard to any individual person whether that is true, and it seems rather unlikely that it happens very often (if, for no other reason, than that catechesis in the United States is abysmal). As it is written, your statement is inaccurate, presumptuous, and implies a knowledge and authority to judge that you do not have.

  • @GodsGadfly – I enjoyed reading your comment. I feel that as a Catholic there is no good option when it comes to choosing between Democrats and Republicans. I suspect that Glenn Beck is probably more of a “humanist” than a Mormon. Humanists whether of the deist type or the atheist type think that morality should not be tied to religion. That makes morality a subject of endless debate since they claim there is no absolute Truth. I think Beck is just a right-wing humanist who uses religion as a shield to hide behind. For comparison there is Obama who is a prototypical left-wing humanist. (No wonder people are confused about Obama’s religious affiliation.)

    So anyway, I wrote an article that deals with some of these issues in relation to so-called gay “marriage”. I think you might find it an interesting read. I’d be interested in getting your comments.

    Here’s an excerpt:
    “Even though many conservatives claim to be motivated by religion, they are so thoroughly indoctrinated by the rationalist (atheistic) philosophies that they steadily lose ground to the so-called liberals. In fact there is little difference between most conservatives and liberals. They are mostly just engaged in a battle between themselves for power over who will reap the economic benefits of the increasing secularism of society.”

  • John Henry,

    Are you so certain that your own statements don’t imply too great of a desire to appear tolerant and inclusive to those who are always slamming Christianity for being intolerant and exclusive?

    You said his statement may be accurate, then inaccurate. Your “but” doesn’t change the substance of the statement.

    And talk about presumption… catechesis may be abysmal indeed, but there is some personal responsibility involved; if the condition of sufficient knowledge is some first class catechism course, then few are going to make it.

    Don’t underestimate the will, the desire, for things that are evil in turning people away from the Church. It isn’t all about what you know or don’t know, but what you value and devalue. If you really value goodness and truth, then you will make an effort to learn what the Church truly teaches. If you really don’t value it, then a few superficial disagreements will serve as all the pretext one needs to go one’s own way.

    This was hammered home to me quite recently in a long and drunken debate with old high school friends who are proud and vulgar apostates.

  • Joe,

    There are a few basic issues here that I want to separate out:

    1) Are people who reject the Church, knowing that the Catholic faith is true, rejecting Christ and salvation?

    I think the answer is yes, and agree with the commenter.

    2) What level of knowledge is necessary for such a rejection to be a rejection of Christ?

    I tend to think this level of knowledge needs to be pretty high; most people don’t really know that much about the Church or even basic philosophy/theology, much less have an opinion on its truth. You may have a lower standard of necessary knowledge.

    3) Should we assume that individuals we know who leave the Church a) had that level of knowledge; and b) rejected Christ and the Church in this way?

    Here I think charity demands that we assume they did not, absent strong evidence to the contrary (‘judge not, lest ye be…” and all that). We don’t know the hearts, minds, motivations, or level of knowledge of most other individuals, and so it is presumptuous, in my view, to judge them in this regard (and inaccurate to imply, as the commenter did, that our judgment is definitive).

  • There’s also the lack of sacramental support to consider. An individual who leaves the Church, even out of ignorance, loses access to the established channels of grace. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like I’m just barely functioning as a Christian, and that’s with the graces of the sacraments. I can’t imagine what I’d become without them.

  • Pinky, I’m with you 100% on that one. We are all spiritual infants in this society.


    Perhaps I’m reading you wrongly, but it seems to me that you’re saying that a person basically has to have the equivalent of a college degree in Catholic theology before they become culpable for their choices.

    But, if, as you say, people don’t even have a “basic” knowledge, then naturally it doesn’t need to be pretty high, unless you consider even this basic knowledge to be attainable only through rigorous and prolonged study.

    At the end of this road is gnosticism.

    And it doesn’t even apply to someone like Glenn Beck, quite honestly, because the man has enough material and intellectual resources to fully understand what he is accepting and rejecting spiritually. Now of course no one can “know” anything for certain, nor judge another’s soul.

    But you’d have to shut your brain off to look at someone like that and not have a pretty strong inclining as to where he’s probably headed. There is no excuse for apostasy, and I include my own as a child.

  • I mean, after explaining the “basic” teaching of the Church about God, Christ, and our reason for existence, my apostate friend said, “f— that, I don’t want that.”

    What level of knowledge do you think he needs before that becomes a mortal sin?

  • For those who may be unaware of the many odd twists in the life of Glenn Beck.

    I truly believe that the man is loosely wired to put it mildly.

  • I truly believe that the man is loosely wired

    ‘fraid we are everywhere.

  • Drugs and alcohol will do that.

  • That was in response to Beck’s history. No assertions about Art Deco’s youth.

  • Does everyone agree that this country and its citizens need to return to God and/or Godly principles? Would everyone agree that there is an encroaching secularism that challenges Christianity and those principles every day? So, if you said “yes” to either or both of those questions I don’t understand why anyone would take issue with Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally.

    There are some Catholics that believe that helping the poor can only be achieved thru socialism and that the Church is in favor of socialism, when the Church has consistently condemned socialism.

    Plus, there is a difference between the Church’s definition of “social justice” and liberals or progressives definition and implementation of “social justice”. The Left has perverted the meaning of social justice and called for “economic justice” and are promoting class warfare against any wealthy or “rich” person who have earned more income than lower income families due to their hard work and success. The economically disadvantaged feel that they are owed or have a right to a healthy sum or large portion of his income to achieve “equality”. The Church also teaches against progressive taxation.

    Here is a post I have written covering this subject:

  • I deny a history of heavy drinking.

  • Joe,

    Just my $0.02, but I’d tend to say it’s not so much academic study/knowledge which is the determining factor, but whether rejection of the Church is the result of a “I prefer my way” decision or an honest (though clearly mistaken) belief that the truth is elsewhere.

    The trick is, it’s awfully hard to tell from the outside which of these has gone on in any given circumstance. We really have no idea how the final encounter between sinner and God will go.

    That’s why I think it’s generally better for Catholics not to go around speculating (or even stating flatly) where particular people are headed.

    This is not meant as any particular defense of Glen Beck, whose show I’ve never even seen, but it is something that very much bugs me about the behavior of some of the more rigorist Catholics one runs into.

    (Of course, on the flip side, I love Dante, who put some rather big name people into hell. On the other hand, he put some surprising people into purgatory and paradise as well — and he’s just too beautiful a writer for me to object to.)

  • “The Church also teaches against progressive taxation”

    Huh? That’s news to me. Does this mean the Church endorses only flat taxes (everyone pays the same dollar amount) or flat rate taxes (everyone pays the same percentage of income, property value, etc.)? Does this also mean that the Church opposes Earned Income Tax Credits and other means that effectively enable the poor to pay little or no tax, which has the same effect as a progressive tax?

    “it’s not so much academic study… but whether rejection of the Church is the result of an ‘I prefer my way’ decision or an honest (though clearly mistaken) belief that the truth is elsewhere.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself there Darwin.

  • Elaine,

    When I stated progressive, I was referring to excessive progressive taxation and not referring to the concept that people who earn more in income should pay what is considered to be a reasonable higher percentage in taxes of their earned income than lower income persons do. The key question is what percentage of taxation should be considered “reasonable” and what should be considered “excessive”?


    15. “And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.”

    47. “Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For, the result of civil change and revolution has been to divide cities into two classes separated by a wide chasm. On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth; which has in its grasp the whole of labor and trade; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is not without influence even in the administration of the commonwealth. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sick and sore in spirit and ever ready for disturbance. If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence will result in the great abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life. These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair.”

  • No one who leaves the Catholic Church can possibly be saved regardless of the level of knowledge they have for two reasons:
    1. The gift of Faith is imparted at Catholic Baptism and is lost through the sin of “Rejecting the Holy Spirit” which can not be forgiven.
    2. All Catholics have the duty to know their Faith, so ignorance is no excuse.

    No one who is so dead wrong about eternity as Glenn Beck is could possibly be right about the infinitely less important field of politics.

    Read the Bible Republicans. It says among other things “The poor are entitled to their alms.” “The man who defrauds a laborer of his hire is brother to the man who sheds innocent blood.” What do you think a minimum wage below subsistence is? “Thou shalt not muzzle the oxen while he treadeth grain.” Yet the Republicans attack unions.

  • “No one who is so dead wrong about eternity as Glenn Beck is could possibly be right about the infinitely less important field of politics.”

    Rubbish, or Christ would never have said Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars. I can think of countless great leaders who were wrong about religion by my lights. I can also think of countless great saints that I most definitely would not have wanted setting economic policy or defense strategy.

  • Agreed Don. Jefferson comes to mind as an example of the former.

  • I think the common thread that runs through Bob DeClue’s comments is a misunderstanding of the Catholic view on the relationship between grace and nature. Grace builds on nature; it does not obliterate it.

  • OK, Teresa, that makes sense. The Church is not in favor of taxation that promotes class warfare or punishes the rich simply for being rich.

    It’s one thing to see the goods other people have and resolve to obtain them yourself through honest work and wise investment; it’s quite another to decide that whatever you don’t have, no one else should have either. The first kind of “envy” is not sinful while the second kind is.

  • “I can also think of countless great saints that I most definitely would not have wanted setting economic policy or defense strategy.”

    Although she is not officially a saint and may never be, Dorothy Day comes to mind here. I think she was unquestionably holy, and SOME of her economic ideas made sense (she was, for example, no fan of nanny-state liberalism), but I sure would never have wanted her to be Secretary of State!

  • @Teresa – You quoted from Rerum Novarum which was written by Pope Leo XIII in the 1880’s. I’ve been going through and reading some of the encyclicals by Pope Leo XIII and have become a huge fan of his. He clearly states the importance of private property. He also believes that the State has a role to play. And he admonishes the rich for not giving more to the poor. But I think what is most central to his teachings (and the teachings of the Church in general) is that these things can only come about when the laws of the State are based upon the laws of God. And when society accepts the Truth taught by Jesus. Charity cannot be legislated through the income tax system or any other set of laws. Charity must be a basic principle that is embraced by individuals in society through their devotion to Jesus Christ.

    While the majority of Americans at the time of the American Revolution were devoted Christians, many of the “founders” were not. People like Jefferson were deists. Today we would probably refer to them as “humanists”, although not “secular” humanists (which is really just a form of atheism).

    If you want to get a good idea of what people like Jefferson really thought about Christianity and the Bible, read “Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine. (It’s available online.)

    “Age of Reason” is really quite shocking, including suggesting that Mary was a woman of low character. Humanists believe (or at least pretend to believe) that morality does not need to be based on religion. We’ve seen what comes from this sort of thinking, and the bar just keeps getting lower over time as people become conditioned to a particular level of “morality”.

    Anyway, I think Beck is just using religion to further his political agenda. The founders did this by making some oblique references to God in the Declaration of Independence. But when it came time to write the Constitution it doesn’t talk about God at all – only “we the people”. This is placing Man above God! Only the devout Christianity of the population has kept America from falling into disbelief in the past. Today’s humanist are waging a cultural war against religion using the same tactics as marxists. In this struggle we Catholics will need all the allies we can get and I think this includes other religious groups like Mormons and even Muslims. But not people like Beck, who has some of the characteristics of an anti-Christ.

  • Paul,

    What I wrote is *not* “novel.” You can find it, among many other places, in Karl Adam’s _The Spirit of Catholicism_, a book highly regarded by both “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics (and converts like Hahn and Howard) as anticipating Vatican II. Adam gives the best explanations of extra ecclesia nulla sancta and baptism by desire that I’ve ever read. His book was vetted by the Holy Office and criticized for being a bit too liberal in some of his views on other religions, and he edited them according to the Holy Office’s corrections.

    And that’s not the only place I’ve read it. But if people would spend time reading actual Catholic theology instead of watching FOX News, maybe the teachings of the Church wouldn’t seem so novel.

    In any case, Catechism 818 says that those born and raised outside the Church cannot be charged with the “sin of disunity”, implying that those who are born in the Church and leave Her *can*.

    Culpability rests on the reasonable ability to know something. If one has the ability to learn the truth and is not blocked by practicality or invincible ignorance, and one does *not* know the truth, one is culpable for that lack of knowledge. A basic knowledge of the teachings of the Church is all that’s required for culpability.

  • Beck presents himself as a knowledgeable man. He associates regularly with Catholics. He has plenty of access to know the teachings of the Church.

    He teaches a masonic concept of religions “working together.” He teaches that contraception is OK. He teaches that conscientious objection is wrong. He teaches that “social justice” = socialism (and is literate enough to have studied and learned the difference),and calls on his followers to reject any church that teaches it. He even says gay marriage is OK. I think it’s safe to say he’s consciously rejected the teachings of the Church.

  • But if people would spend time reading actual Catholic theology instead of watching FOX News, maybe the teachings of the Church wouldn’t seem so novel.

    Well, so much for intelligent discourse from GodsGadfly.

  • 500,000+ conservative voters rallying on the Mall… if I were a Leftist I’d try to marginalize Beck, too.

  • 87,000 people were at the mall. I am not a leftist. I am a Catholic and that is why I am marginalized by Glenn Beck. You can not serve two masters. The Left and Right are artificial constructs with random positions that force people to accept some type of evil with each regime change. Abortion and sodomy, promoted by the Democrtats are so obviously evil I did not find it necessary to list them, but oppressing the poor is the same as committing murder according to Ecclesiasticus, a book Protestants, the original Republicans before Vatican II, conveniently purged from the Bible. They invented capitalism, not Catholics, whose social order, and yes, justice, built western civilization. They legalized the gravest sin of usury, stole the churches property in their revolution,created both despotic government (with Luther’s divine right of kings doctrine) and a permanent poor class of Europeans and are happy to have their enemy, Catholics, serve as their useful idiots as they use fraudulent paper money and purchased politicians to rule America for their own gain. It irks me to no end that Catholics have enough people to start their own political party where they can have a 100% moral platform but instead split themselves between Democrats and Republicans as the lesser of two evils, and then begin to follow political leaders instead of church doctors.

  • Glenn Beck is not the problem for anyone here. The noose around the neck of the Church, tenaciously held there by the grasping hands of our own bishops, is the tax exempt status that stops all Christians short of our obligations to society.
    As long as the Church refuses to speak for Christ in the public square, it leaves the podium open to whoever chooses to ascend to it; Glenn Beck, Barack Obama, or Adolph Hitler. Whining about Beck doesn’t put Father Pacwa or bishop Take-your-pick in front of a microphone. Then again, considering what we often get out of our bishops when they do speak in the square, maybe we should accept Beck as the lesser of two evil effects.

  • They legalized the gravest sin of usury

    A discussion of the ambiguities and contingent circumstances to be considered in assessing whether it is moral to put a price on credit can be found here:

  • @Bob DeClue – When that other culture war against Catholicism, Kulturkampf, was launched by Otto Von Bismarck in 1800’s Germany, the response was to create the Catholic Centre Party which became a powerful political force and eventually forced Bismarck to back down.

    In Europe there is still the Christian Democrat movement which was founded on the idea of giving Christians a political voice. Wikipedia says, “In practice, Christian democracy is often considered conservative on cultural, social and moral issues (social conservatism) and progressive on fiscal and economic issues.” That sounds like what you and I are looking for. But in Europe they have a parliamentary system which gives power to minority parties, whereas in the US our “winner takes all” system insures that only two parties will dominate.

    There is also the practical problem that the Church cannot get too involved in politics because of its non-profit tax status. I was doing some reading and apparently this was not enforced very strictly until the abortion issue came around, at which time the pro-abortion groups started pushing for tighter regulation of the political activities of religious groups.

    Ultimately, we need to realize that politics reflects the culture. We need to work from the bottom up to re-evangelize America. We need to become like St. Paul and preach the Gospel throughout the (American) Empire. We have to come to terms with the fact that we are no longer living in a Christian nation. If St. Paul were alive today, he would be doing everything possible to come to Washington (Rome) to spread the Gospel. Remember though that his message was not political, and he taught that all Christians should be model citizens. It took hundreds of years, but eventually Christianity triumphed in Roman society.

  • I find most these musing about Beck to be quite interesting, often hilarious and relatively misguided.

    Mr. Beck is a commentator. He is an entertaining radio/TV personality who engages in presenting his editorial view of things. He has never claimed to be otherwise.

    He is not a teacher, preacher, religious or political leader. The reaction that he gets from the left and the right and just about every other ideological position in between is amusing because it betrays more about the opposing view than it does about Beck.

    Beck is a recovering addict. Beck felt that the Mormon Church was a good home for him to turn to God. We all know that Mormonism is a false religion. Most people, including most Mormons, don’t know that and don’t know all that much about Joe Smith’s mental delusion. What I know about Mormonism makes me sick, not the least of it being that it is stealth Masonry. What I know about Mormons is that most of them are moral people who adhere to the commandments as best they can. I also know that in practice it may be the best religion for an addict. They are certainly far more disciplined than main line Protestants and Catholics too.

    Beck calls it as he sees it and he has responded to God’s call to vocation. I don’t think he wants to be the catalyst for a religious revival in the USA, yet God gave him the biggest microphone and it seems Mr. Beck said yes.

    Unlike those who saw some of this on TV or read about it on some blog, I was at the restoring honor rally. It was wonderful. No, not because it was a particularly moving spiritual experience. We often forget how blessed we are – I can assist at Mass or go to Adoration and have a real spiritual experience. It was not wonderful because I particularly like Gospel music, the way Protestants pray or even some of what Beck talks about.

    It was wonderful because I was able to stand on the cross of the Mall and pray with other believers. The National Mall is in the shape of cross. That sort of renders the idea that we are NOT a Christian nation void huh? I was standing there with over 500,000 other Americans who believe in God and want to do His Will. People who want our country to realize that we are supposed to be a nation under God and we are supposed to act like it. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem and Amazing Grace and prayed. Sure, the prayers were a little odd, but they were good and directed to the One Triune God (despite the fact that Mormons are polytheists – the only Mormon I could identify was Beck).

    Imagine what would happen if more Americans prayed to God in public! First, the lefties’ heads will explode – that’s not only fun to watch but could be quite purging too. Perhaps God will continue to favor the USA – I say continue, because no matter how bad things are now, and they are quite bad – relativism is the religion of the modern era – yet, in all the West (Christendom) the USA alone remains strongest in adherence to God’s Will – no, not our government or our leaders – the American people.

    That is a sad comment because we are not doing a very good job – especially Catholics. Of the 70,000,0000 Americans who self-identify as Catholics – over 90% are NOT. Most of us can’t even keep 6 precepts, let alone 10 commandments. I’d rather pray with a believing heretic than a lying Catholic.

    Before any one goes and criticizes this event, especially because you may not agree with Beck – think about what you are criticizing. You are denigrating hundreds of thousands of Americans who think our country, our culture, our way of living is in such dire straits that they traveled to the capital to stand for hours on end, some over 36 hours, in the excruciating heat and humidity of DC in August to pray together. Knowing that the only answer is God. To celebrate the three theological virtues – sure, they don’t understand the virtues the way we do – that is not an opportunity for Catholic-arrogance; rather it is an opportunity to teach those who are receptive what Faith, Hope and Charity really mean. As for honoring those who serve in their vocation with Christ in their hearts, including our military men and women and the merit badge honorees and a healthy dose of patriotism – what exactly is wrong with that? Patriotism with humble acknowledgment of God is awesome; rather than some hollow nationalism that is practiced by the Republicants and the Demoncrats.

    I find it distasteful that something as monumentous as this was is denigrated simply because one has a problem with the messenger. You don’t have to like or agree with Beck in order to acknowledge that this was a healthy, necessary and wonderful event.

    Do any of you think we could get over 500,000 Catholics to have a Eucharistic procession and pray the Rosary on the Mall? Sadly, probably not.

    If Our Lady gave the West a victory at Lepanto, what do you think she would obtain for us if we did that.

    Instead of attacking Beck, how about heading his call. Get up and pray. Would any of you come to DC to Adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and pray the Holy Rosary so that God may spare us from relativism, secularism and all the other modern ills we are facing?

    That would be something to witness.

  • Two masters? Cute. You’re preaching to the wrong choir, I don’t worship Obama.

    The CBS number of 87,000 is debatable. That Glenn Beck was able to rally 500,000+ people who are rightfully concerned about the path that Obama and the Leftists Democrats are taking this country is something to be admired. Two and a half years ago the MSM was having an orgasm over Obama and believed that the entire country felt the same way. NO – we don’t like what Obama and the Left are doing to this nation.

    And who exactly are you accusing of oppressing the poor? Your statement makes no sense. I did not attend the rally, did Beck call people to oppress the poor? Resource link please.

  • “I am not quite sure what to make of this particular event, which I had assumed would be political,”

    The key word here being ASSUMED. Usually best to investigate & get some facts, don’t you think? The only effort that’d require on your part is turning on FOX for an hour in the afternoons & watching Beck’s show.

    Then you wouldn’t have been at all surprised at what happened on the Mall last Saturday.

  • A friend of mine went to the rally and was talking about it at a homeschool party last night–can you say “awkward”. He decided to go at the last minute when Chris Matthews ticked him off berating and insulting the SC Tea Party director. He said of all the buses the SC Tea Party had organized to go, they only had 6 remaining seats when he called. So it would seem that the best way to estimate would be to see how many organized groups went.

  • Paul,

    How was that not an intelligent comment? You accused me of expressing a “novel” idea, and I explained that it wasn’t. The obvious, logical conclusion is that you’re not very well-read.

    It is quite an intelligent comment to point out that people are better served reading books than watching the news, and that is my gripe with overly political Catholics of either side, and also the temptation I myself struggle the most with.

  • I truly believe that the man is loosely wired to put it mildly.

    Well, perhaps, Donald. I have watched Beck’s show twice and was not terribly impressed. ( I think I was put off by the fact he cried both times. Haven’t seen such weepy males since the ’70’s 🙂 His radio show is much funnier and sharper.)

    I knew nothing about Beck’s background or upbringing before I read the Wikipedia entry you posted. Really, as someone who didn’t go to Mass again for 25 years after leaving Marquette, can I blame Beck for leaving the Church after a Jesuit education? My goodness, given my education (Daniel McGuire), I’m thankful Beck and I didn’t run off to join the Shining Path under the impression that we were being good Catholics by doing so:-)

    Actually, Beck’s story confirms that this country is still great. A guy with a high school education, a guy with drug and alcohol and family problems, a guy who was at the bottom of the barrel in 1994 managed to climb out, embrace faith (I’ll take a Mormon over an atheistic addict any day), and achieve fame and fortune. Only in America!

    I didn’t like his show much and yet I was moved by the man when I saw Chris Wallace interview him on Sunday. He doesn’t strike me as insincere. He seems like a guy who is willing to admit his foibles and errors, who knows he’s very far from Presidential material, and whose populism is tempered by the knowledge there are things he doesn’t know – and he wants to! He’s searching for knowledge and he sometimes embraces spurious cranks – well, I still prefer Beck’s mistakes to the arrogance of our ruling elites, who think they don’t need to learn anything. The astounding fact is that a high school grad put F.A. Hayek on the Amazon bestseller list a few months ago – how many college grads have read Hayek? I never even heard of Hayek or the Austrian school until the mid-90’s.

    So, Beck is frequently mistaken, and sloppy and goofy – but he brought good people out on the Mall en masse to pray and reaffirm their traditional values. Are we Catholics really going to turn up our noses at him and say “Yes, we want allies in the culture war – but not those allies…not people of that faith or that background.” I’ve seen that attitude from fundamentalists. It’s no more attractive when Catholics display it.

  • The obvious, logical conclusion is that you’re not very well-read.

    Because I had a different interpretation of Church teaching than you? Yeah, that obviously follows.

    No, it was an unintelligent comment because you relied on a lazy trope rather than engage in substantive argument. Frankly it’s boring at this point to hear the “Fox News” talking point echoed back by some “independent” parrot who thinks he is above everyone else.

  • Lisa,
    I listen to Glenn Beck frequently and I almost never see a show of his where he isn’t oppressing the poor verbally. I heard him call unemployed Americans unAmerican, I heard him scream at a woman begging for a job, and I don’t need to give further examples. People have different opinions, and they always will. The fact that somebody disagrees with you or me on an issue doesn’t make them evil or unAmerican.

    I am 56 years old, and never in my life, including the Vietnam years, have I seen such an orchestrated campaign of hate, fear, and terror directed against the legally elected, in a landslide, president of the United States. I was raised in a Conservative Republican family and thought, as Glenn Beck does, that the Left was unAmerican. By the third time I read the Bible I was forced to admit that I had been wrong most of my life about politics. That doesn’t mean I think that right wing people are evil, and it doesn’t mean I think the left wing is always right. A logical analysis of either party’s so called “philosophy” reveals no consistency in either one. Me, I pray for the day that God returns Saints to rule our church, and Catholic Kings to rule the world.

  • I am 56 years old, and never in my life, including the Vietnam years, have I seen such an orchestrated campaign of hate, fear, and terror directed against the legally elected, in a landslide, president of the United States.

    You have not been paying attention. He was not elected in a landslide and I would wager you a content analysis of media would show he is treated more agreeably by the political opposition than three of his eight immediate predecessors.

  • Baba,
    I believe you are correct, the Christian Democrats are closer to Catholicism than anything in America. About the fear of losing tax exemption I think Vatican II is the real problem. Before Vatican II, legalized abortion was inconcievable, sodomy was a crime people went to jail for, and the threat of removing the Catholic Church’s tax exemption would have brought down the government quicker than a no confidence vote in the British Parlaiment.
    My wife is European, so I have an inside look at the life that the right wing demagogues are always trying to scare us with, and it really doesn’t sound so bad.
    I read a book called “Life and Work in Medieval Europe” by Pierre Boissinade. I recommend it for anyone who has never been exposed to anything but the two establishment sides of the same economic coin, capitalism and communism. In it you will find systems in both empires totally different, yet providing stability and sustaining growth for centuries.
    I submit that a stable economy is the most important function a government can perform. I remember life before LBJ debauched the currency and Richard Nixon floated the value of the dollar on the world marketplace. What I grew up in is a different world than what it is today. When I grew up crimes against nature were punished. People bought their homes and had no fear of losing them. Women stayed home to raise their children. People were secure in their families, jobs, and homes.The communities were knit together. Now we hardly ever see our spouses and our children are raised by day care, and we never know when the economic axe is going to fall on our jobs. That is no way to live. If anyone is interested I will tell you what I think caused this situation, but won’t offer it if it isn’t asked for.

  • Art,
    I am spammed with shocking, racist and worse stories, jokes, and cartoons about Obama every single day of the year. The Democrats victory in all three houses was most certainly a landslide and was a clear mandate to the president, one he seems unwilling to run with. This hatred and attack is coming through the internet more than the TV media, but it is there, it is unrelenting, it is orchestrated, and it has the purpose of bringing down our government. Since so many Republicans blindly hate Obama (Who is the most conciliatory and compromising president I have ever seen)this anti American campaign, which quite possibly could be orchestrated by radical moslems, will never even be investigated.

  • Bob,

    Some of what you say sounds good; however, some the undefined terms could cause confusion.

    What do you mean by poor? Are you referring to the poor in spirit? Because that would be most of us, including Beck. Or, are you defining the materially poor? If that is the case, then it is highly unlikely that you’ll find any poor in the United States of American. Those who our twisted government bureaucrats define as poor have far more material wealth than most of the people on the planet, more than the wealthiest of the wealthy had 200 years ago and they have more than most of us in the so-called ‘middle-class’. I am not attacking what you stated, I am simply trying to understand who the ‘poor’ that you allege Beck is oppressing are. Especially since as a TV/Radio commentator I am not sure he has any power to oppress.

    As for the rally, from my vantage point, in the middle of it, it seemed that Beck was calling the poor in spirit to pray on our knees to God for forgiveness, for virtue, for character because he recognizes that the problem in American today is a moral problem and that politics is merely the practical application of our moral state. I would also argue that we are very, very poor – morally speaking. Though I suspect we are still far better off, dismal as that is, than the rest of the Western world.

    Me thinks thou doth give Mr. Beck too much credit – he isn’t that powerful. In fact, he seems to do nothing but humbly tell us what he thinks. He also encourages his viewers/listeners to think for themselves and research his postulations on their own. That hardly seems oppressive, right wing, or even wrong. If we are too lazy to actually think for ourselves and do our own research we certainly can’t blame him.

    Additionally, I grew up in Europe and the Middle-East, not in theory, but I actually lived there, and I can tell you – it sucks. The Middle-East has been plagued by the Moslem heresy and Europe is plagued by the same heresy, albeit, without reference to God. For all of those who think that social justice is better defined by Communists/Socialists/Fascists and other collectivists rather than the Church, I will be happy to buy you a one ticket to Europe. If it is so good, go live there and leave the USA with our ‘unjust’ Constitutional Republic – we like it and the option you’d rather change it to already exists. Last I checked we don’t secure our border, so one can leave just as easily as all of those ‘poor’ Mexicans can come. Gee I wonder why the ‘poor’ from south of our border keep coming here, I mean it sucks so bad, you’d think they’d just go to Venezuela or Cuba.

  • Whoa!

    Wait a minute. Beck is now an instrument of the destruction of the American Republic that has Obama as its champion, and he’s working for the Moslems! I had no idea.

    That’s it – I’m turning him off. Thanks for pointing out this deep conspiracy. Obama is such a nice guy and has everyone’s interest at heart. Especially the millions of pre-born children he wants to kill, the US Constitution and Jesus Christ. I expect Obama to walk on the reflecting pool just to show Beck up, I HOPE he can do it and then maybe he can CHANGE water into wine – wouldn’t that be cool.

    Seriously? Please tell me that last post was an attempt at humor.

  • “This hatred and attack is coming through the internet more than the TV media, but it is there, it is unrelenting, it is orchestrated, and it has the purpose of bringing down our government.

    Gee… why would we want to attack or fight against Obama when we disagree with approximately 99% of his policies? I know you would just lie down and make nice if the president was conservative and implementing policies that you believed were hurting both America and the American people? The Left are still a bunch of hateful cranks even with being in control of both Houses of Congress as well as the presidency. I would love to know what will make the Left happy? It seems nothing at this point. Well, maybe, having absolute control over our lives — being able to tell us what and when we can eat, what kind of energy products (wind, solar, etc.) that we can use, infringing on our free speech, and removing all things related to Chistianity? This sounds a lot like socialist or communist policies.

    Since so many Republicans blindly hate Obama (Who is the most conciliatory and compromising president I have ever seen)this anti American campaign, which quite possibly could be orchestrated by radical moslems, will never even be investigated.”

    Excuuuuse Me!!!! I think I just became sick from entering the twilight zone at warp speed. What reality have you been living in? Obama is the most divisive President in American history!!! What edited clips have you seen of this president crossing the aisle? His idea of reaching across the aisle is reaching across the aisle, is reaching around with his arms, grabbing the person and dragging them across to his far leftist side of the aisle. This president has a “my way or the highway approach” to his policies. He has NOT compromised one iota!!

    He wouldn’t do what is right for the American people when it came to health care reform. He had to bribe congressman to get this debacle passed. The GOP had an alternative health care plan and gave suggestions but he refused to compromise. It was all about he and the Democratic Congress having more power and control over our lives, and nothing to do with lowering costs of health care or making health care more accessible.

    First, the Libs got a hold of our education and that has gone downhill in a big way and now there will be more bureaucracy with our health care, making it much harder for our doctors to treat us properly, higher costs, and health care rationing. Obama tries to act as a referee when speaking but then changes the rules midway during his speech by slamming the other side and violating the rule he imposed at the beginning, that obviously applies to everyone except himself.

  • Hi Bob,

    I agree that economic and job stability is very important to maintain strong families and communities. We just don’t have that in today’s economy. Maintaining the pace of “progress” dictates that this will not happen.

    I hope you’ll reconsider your opinion of Vatican II. I love the Church and it saddens me to see people in conflict over Church policies or doctrine.

    From what I have read, the US Bishops did all they could to oppose abortion. In fact they were taken to court for their pro-life positions, and pro-abortion groups demanded that the Catholic Church be stripped of its tax exempt status. This case went to the Supreme Court in 1988. (The case was United States Catholic Conference v. Abortion Rights Mobilization. The ACLU supported the coalition of pro-abortion groups.)

    We need to strongly defend the Church because she is under attack from all sides. I can’t imagine a world without the Catholic Church. I’m fortunate to be a member of a great parish with great priests.

    Peace be with you,

  • “Not quite sure what to make of this.”

    …at least some poeple are sure, such as Glenn Beck.

    Shall we just see the face? Must we dissect every creature of God? Maybe just Bob.

  • American Knight,
    Thanks for the thoughtful response and question. I am glad to see a few people on this website that still retain a Catholic sense of honor.
    Poor is a relative term and in some respects even subjective. Objectively speaking, we have teenagers in this country who live lives as luxurious and hedonistic as any Satrap in Ottoman Empire. At the same time we have a society in which much of the blue collar class are six paychecks or less away from losing their home. By contrast even the poorest serf ( a slave class) in Europe could never be evicted from his home, and his children inherited it. State constitutions in the Old South required slave owners to provide homes, food, and medical care to their slaves. In that respect many Americans are poorer than antebellum slaves.

  • Teresa,
    I am sorry, I just find no possible way to respond to what you wrote.

  • Baba,
    I know the American bishops fought abortion, but the public dissent that Vatican II encouraged with its ambiguous doctrines destroyed the Church’s appearance of solid unity and thus its political power. Before Vatican II, when a bishop spoke to a government official, the official heard millions of Catholics, now he hears just a single bishop.

  • Teresa,
    I didn’t mean to sound as abrupt as what I see when I posted to you just now. I just don’t see from rereading your posting again that there is any common experience, belief, interest, education, or personality between us that could be a basis for any type of meaningful communication.

  • Anyone,
    I am new to this website. How do you get your photo to display with your name?

  • Bob DeClue,

    Here is the link:

    It should be easy to follow. If you have any problems, just post another message or contact via email and I’d be happy to walk you through it.

  • Bob DeClue,

    I don’t blindly hate Obama. I hate him for very clear reasons: 1. He single-handedly shot down the Illinois Born Alive Protection Act. Even Hillary Clinton and NARAL dare not actively oppose Born Alive Protection. Illinois tried to pass a law making it illegal to suffocate or starve a baby born from a “botched” Abortion, and Obama called it a threat to the “right to choose.”
    2. Obama said that if one of his daughters made a “mistake” (ie, committed the sin of fornication), he wouldn’t want her “punished” by having a baby!
    3. Obama said he believes Jesus is just one of many great moral teachers.
    4. Obama is endorsed by every major New Age Guru from Chopra to Oprah.
    5. Obama says his greatest mistake was voting in favor of the Terri Schiavo Act.

    You asked for more Catholic teachings and not politics?

    How about this: “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope”–John Paul II
    “How can you say there are too many children; that’s like saying there are too many flowers.”–Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.

  • Paul, I don’t think I’m above everyone else, and one man’s “parroting” is another man’s catechesis.

    A person who is Catholic and rejects the faith is an apostate and cannot be saved. You say that this is a “novel interpretation” of mine, but it is not. You claim not to know something I’ve read in numerous Catholic texts.

    And I’ve already said that I said it in part because listening to too many secular sources and not enough Catholic ones is a fault with which I convict myself.

    I’m not “independent.” I’m conservative. I don’t like FOX News because it paints conservatives as idiots, and all the “Catholics” on it are pro-contraception and otherwise oppose a consistent life ethic. Also, there’s what Rod Dreher found out at the 2002 Bishops’ Conference, when a FOX News correspondent told him there were orders from the highest levels of NewsCorp NOT to talk about homosexuality in the Sex Abuse Scandal.

  • God’s Gadfly,
    What you wrote about Obama is true. It is also, I fear, now true of a large percentage of Americans, if not the majority. I don’t hate Obama, or other Americans for their errors, or their truths if I am the one in error. As I get older and more relatives and friends pass away, the horror of God’s justice fills my soul. Ignoring hell and its eternal pains does not make it go away. If there actually is any global warming, it is caused by the millions of souls a day who are cast into hell and increase its heat accordingly. Meditating on the four last things helps to cleanse hatred from the soul because God’s punishment on the unrepentant is greater than anything our hatred can dream up for our enemies. I know it is a joke to say “Can’t we all just get along”, and we can’t because to get along according to Christ we have to be what the politically correct call “intolerant”. We can, however, try to imitate Jesus, who hated none of his enemies, even the former Lucifer.
    On your response to Paul, there is a clear division of thought between pre and post Vatican II Literature, perhaps this accounts for different perception in some of the church’s more esoteric doctrines. I limit my trust in Catholic authors to pre 1900 writers, because the Early Church Fathers stressed fidelity to Tradition, even St. Paul who said listen not to a different Gospel, even if preached by an Angel of Light.
    I presume you have political views akin to Conservatives who liken themselves to Jeffersonian Democrats, as I once did. I was truly astounded when I discovered that this was the Liberalism condemned by the Catholic Church. It required 20 years and an entire library of Catholic saints and doctors for me to finslly understand the Catholic position and I now have no political ideology at all, except that I judge every issue independently of the party that proposes it, and in light of my own imperfect understanding and guess of what Jesus would do. I rarely vote for candidates for public office in elections because I believe there should be no compromise with evil and as a man of honor will not vote for the lesser of two evils. I did however work as a campaign volunteer for Patrick Buchanan, which will probably surprise the two people here who attacked me as Liberal and Communist in their posts.

  • Hi Tito,
    Thank you. I had 3 pictures on my computer. I used all 3 at Gravatar and two show up solid black. This one is 40 years old.

  • @GodsGadfly

    Those are the main reasons I cannot support Obama in good conscience. Abortion is murder and by supporting or voting for those politicians who support the murder of the most vulnerable innocents, catholics are supporting a grave and intrinsic moral evil.

    Yes, I do believe that in God’s eyes he sees a big difference between a terrorist who is trying to kill us, has murdered, is trying to destroy the West (yes, even from within via mosques) and an innocent baby who is an innocent human being and a “surprise” for some people due to their promiscuity, and who has committed NO crimes, and how the two are treated accordingly. There is love. But, then there is “tough love” and loving the person and hating their actions, and it seems like a decent number of catholics have totally discounted “tough love” and how that can be implemented for the common good. PLus, there is the whole defense of nation or national security issue at hand also. Our Congress and President took an oath to protect and defend this country’s citizens and they must not quash their duty to fulfill that pledge, by totally discounting the necessary use of “harsh” methods in extraordinary circumstances to achieve that goal.

  • …a bit off topic but…

    I’m a Glenn Beck fan. He makes me laugh and he’s very entertaining. I agree with many things he has said.

    But I’m getting tired of his attacks on Social Justice and the Catholic Church. And now he’s berating Dorothy Day as a “Marxist” and un-American.

    Someone needs to contact him or his people and explain to him how wrong he is about Dorothy Day.

    He isn’t that bright if he thinks Dorothy Day is pro-big-government and a Marxist.

    Has anyone tried to explain that to him?

  • Tito,

    Have you?

    Perhaps Beck can’t reconcile her involvement with socialist organizations, although I think she may have been a Episcopalian at that time.

  • I will be next week.

    Pat Gray who co-hosts the radio program with Glenn Beck ripped into Dorothy Day and that was the last straw.

    Pat Gray used to have his own local Houston talk radio program and I like him a lot, so I’ll be seeing if I can talk some sense into him.

    As far as Dorothy Day, like many saints and other people of holiness, they made mistakes prior to their conversion.

    Does anyone hold Saint Augustine’s libertine behavior prior to his conversion against him each time he is quoted?

  • @Tito

    I am a Glenn Beck fan also. I think Beck is mistaking distributism for Marxism.

    But I’m getting tired of his attacks on Social Justice and the Catholic Church. And now he’s berating Dorothy Day as a “Marxist” and un-American.

    The type of social justice that has been passed down from the Time of Jesus is not the form of social justice that Beck is attacking. He is attacking the liberal/socialist distorted version of social justice that says “spread the wealth” as well as promoting class warfare between the rich and the poor.

  • Tito,

    Most people don’t consider St. Augustine a saint. They like his ‘literary’ works and sadly, some like what he has to say precisely because he was a libertine. We live in strange times.

    Also, remember, Beck is trying to be a good guy and I like him and think he is doing a lot of good, but, he is an apostate and a Mormon – pray for him.


    I think you’ve got it right and Glen did explain that to his viewers/listeners, but without a Catholic worldview, it was somewhat inarticulate. I got what he meant, so did you, others, maybe not so much.

    The devil is cunning. Look at the words used by those who promote inequality, favoritism, theft, plunder and are the architects of the culture of death: Progressive, liberation, tolerance, choice, peace, giving back and, yes, social justice.

    Everyone of those words is ‘good’, yet in the context commonly used all stand for very, very evil things.

    Even before Glen talked about it, the words ‘social justice’ cause me to cringe. Social Justice is only valid as understood by the Church and orthodox Catholics – most of the time and in most common use, they do not mean what the Church teaches, they mean the opposite. See Isaiah 5:20.

  • AK,

    Most Catholics do consider Saint Augustine a saint.

    He’s borderline besmirching the Church with his outlandish comments about Catholic Social Justice and Dorothy Day.

  • It appears to me that Glenn Beck supporters are believers in our current form of economics they generically call Capitalism. Capitalism is as equally condemned by the church and is as intrinsically evil as communism.
    I see the following points his supporters seem to make and will respond:
    1. They grant an inordinate importance to what is called private property. This is warned against by the original apostles in the “Didache”. The Catholic concept of material goods is that they belong to God and that man is steward of them and they are to be used in the service of God. The Catholic teaching of distributism is simply that God gave the Earth to mankind as a whole so that all of us could have some of it, not so that some of us could have all of it. Conservatives have been hoodwinked into calling this redistribution and have not been taught by their appointed leaders how capitalism based on a debt money system redistributes wealth from those who produce it to those who control the paper.
    2. A belief that people own whatever they can get their hands on by whatever means they do so. This is not true. The ruling elite have consolidated the world’s wealth into their hands through the mortal sin of usury. The primary function of the Church’s inquisition was to hunt down and exterminate usury. The penalty imposed by the church for almost a thousand years was to seize all assets of the usurer and distribute them to the community he preyed off. The Bible itself clearly grants absolute ownership to the fruits of one’s labor and toil “under the sun”, and very little else. Defrauding the laborer of any portion of his fruits is one of the four sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. I spent fifteen years of my younger days as a fur trapper. I wonder now why every bird had a nest, every groundhog had a den, every living animal I came across had a home, but for some reason conservatives think that humans are the only life on this planet without a God given right to a piece of this Earth.
    3. A belief in the capitalist principle that something is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. This is not true. A “laborer is worth his support”, for instance. The “Philokalia” warns monks to always use lay brothers to procure goods for the monastery because it is almost “impossible to buy or sell without committing sin”. The reason for this was the Catholic concept of something having a fair value. To pay less than the fair value when a sellor is distressed, or to require more than the fair value when a buyer is desperate are both violations of the 7th commandment.
    4. A belief that government regulation in general is wrong. This belief can not be supported by Catholic Tradition.
    5. A belief that Samuel Adams economic theories are actually laws and not just theory. I would be happy to correspond in depth with anyone concerning any economic principles or theories. Also an agreement with his conclusion that Laissez-faire economics(basically economic Darwinism)produces the most wealth. This is a debatble point.
    6. A tendency to quote sophisms given to talking heads by their masters as if they are facts. Please, somebody throw me a sophism and ask me to respond.
    7. A belief that because the Republican Party figured out how to perpetually milk the pro-life cow while never feeding it that they are right about everything they believe and that because the sexually amoral who want abortion took power in the Democrat party when Catholics deserted it that their platform is wrong about everything.
    8. A belief in seperation of church and state. I do not believe in seperating them.
    9. No understanding of the difference between the Free Market System our government created in this country based on Adam’s theories and the modern capitalism that the Rothschild-Rockefeller cabal replaced it with.
    10. A belief that unions are bad. Unions are the modern day incarnation of the medieval guilds. Guilds were created by the Catholic Church in the dark ages. They were structured on the old Roman Corporations which created centuries long economic growth and stability for the Roman civilization and in turn guilds created the material half of Christendom.
    11. I believe Glenn Beck supporters as a whole have a tendency to worship the founding fathers and the United States Constitution, but possess limited knowledge of them, especially the Catholics.
    12. No belief whatsoever in the laws God the Father set forth for the just government of people when he authored the Biblical books “Numbers”, “Deuteronomy”, and “Leviticus” through the hand of Moses.
    13. No knowledge that any economic systems other than Capitalism and Communism ever existed. It is not entirely their fault. I attended 6 colleges and universities after high school and none offered any courses in alternate economics.
    14. No knowledge of the Jewish and Protestant heresies that created capitalism and how the Catholic Church fought them.

    I would be very happy to enter a dialogue with anyone in depth on any of the points I listed, or any of Glenn Beck’s points I did not list.

  • Tito,

    I agree with you, most Catholics, both the Protestant and orthodox type consider St. Augustine a saint, most of the rest of the world does not and our culture is overwhelmingly secular and not Catholic.

    Beck, being an apostate and a Mormon, is going to have a problem with many, if not most of the doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church. Yet, he also seems to recognize the ‘mere Christianity’ that C.S. Lewis talked about. I agree that he sometimes does seem to border on anti-Catholic bigotry – perhaps that betrays a subconscious animosity to the Church, or it could be a more subversive Mormon/Masonic thingy.

    I must admit that I agree with his attack on ‘social justice’ and I don’t think it is a problem for orthodox Catholics. The type of ‘social justice’ that Beck seems to be attacking is steeped in liberation theology, Communism and other collectivist schemes designed to destroy humanity while veiling the destruction in ‘good works’. ex. the Shriners have hospitals for children, which is good and no sane person would argue against; yet, their purpose is to spread the Lucifarian religion.

    Granted the Masonic influence of the Mormon heresy may have perverted Beck, yet I see no evidence of that – yet, and hopefully never will.

    I also think that we can agree with Beck on those perspectives and issues that are in line with Catholic teaching and reject those that do not. There needs be no compromise and Beck is merely a commentator and not a theologian. It seems many people, regard those of us, like you, me and Teresa as blind followers of Beck; rather, than free-thinking individuals who happen to agree with Beck on some things based on our own criteria, which hopefully is Catholic thought.

  • Bob,

    I can’t say I agree with everything you stated; however, a couple of points ring true. Often, when we begin to escape the mass delusion perpetrated by mass propaganda, advertising and other psyops control devices we find many more points of agreement than division with each other, yet, some of our preconceived prejudice stemming from the false left-right paradigm still exist. That being said, some of what I perceive as your views stemming from the left, give me pause.

    A few comments on your points, solely from me perspective:

    1. Private property is absolutely necessary in this world to secure personal freedom and the good of the community. The truth is that the world is one giant estate and it all does belong to God. Stewardship, without temporal regard for private property, is currently impossible. Without private property no natural free market can exist – I believe God intended us to have a natural free market after the Fall and that a natural market can be redemptive.

    2. Usury is one of the gravest ills conceived by man and may have been the chief sin that gave a fertile ground for the spread of Mohammadism because it correctly condemns usury, although the Islamic definition of usury is mostly incorrect. Capitalism/Communism are essentially slightly different means to the same evil end. However, what most people in the West, when referring to ‘capitalism’ mean is a natural free market. Capitalism is effectively corporatism and will lead, if it hasn’t already, to the control of resources, wealth and people by a very few individuals and they do not have good intentions. Communism will lead to the same goal. I think Beck is grasping, imperfectly, at this idea.

    3. The price mechanism is the best way to determine the temporal value of material things. Business ethics based on Moral Truth will manage that system in justice as far as is possible for fallen man.

    4. In principle government regulation is NOT wrong and is, in fact, necessary. The problem is that Communist/Socialist government regulation benefits the few at the cost of the many and so does Corporatist/Capitalist government regulation. Until such time as we restore limited Republican (format not party) government, I believe it is a virtue to oppose government regulation because it is for the purpose of subjugation and not an authentic attempt to make things regular.

    5. I think there is a difference between creative destruction and economic Darwinism. Capitalist/Corporatist machinations are predetermined economic Darwinism; however, a natural free market will destroy the less efficient and effective actions of man for the benefit of the whole community. The elimination of horse-carriages by the automobile is a benefit. Sure the horse-carriage drivers and dung disposers lost out, but cab drivers and mechanics did not (simplistic example.)

    6. & 7. Although true to some extent, are gross generalization and I don’t think they deserve a comment in this context.

    8. It depends on what is meant by separation of Church and Sate. I think that the State should not encroach on the Church, yet the Church is designed to be the moral compass of the State. I think the original intent of the Founders is correct, I think the modern perversion is the worst thing we are facing in politics today.

    9. On this point you actually agree with Beck. The usurious, debt-paper money system is not natural, it is not free, it is not moral and it is very, very destructive. I think that is beginning to change. We need to end the Fed.

    8. Again, unions, as a concept, are NOT bad. Unions as they are in practice only benefit the money-power and the political opportunists.

    9. To paint all of Beck’s audience as ‘worshipers’ of men and a legal document, is unfair, condescending and not constructive.

    10. Ignorance may not be intentional and perhaps beyond someone’s control, but it is a bad excuse. If someone wants to be educated the knowledge is available and corporatist, liberal educational institutions are not the place to get a good education, or even a practical one. As Fr. Corapi often says, most ‘intellectuals’ have been educated into imbecility. Mr. beck is uncredentialed (although he recently received an honorary doctorate), yet he is educated.

    11. Secular Jews and Calvinists are in large part responsible for the Corporatist Capitalism & Socialism/Communism we are subjected to and the solution is quite obvious, the only question is do we have the courage to stand against the status quo.

    From your points, I am quite surprised that you do not find more in common with Glenn Beck. The beauty of knowing what orthodox Catholics have been given is that Truth is absolute and much, certainly not all, can be deduced through human reason. Beck is capable of being correct about many things, totally wrong about others, simply because he is trying to be a truth-seeker. This makes him no different than most of us and we need to be very grateful that we have the graces of Christ received through His Church, most people don’t. We also have to check our hubris, because being Catholic gives us no right to be arrogant.

  • American Knight,
    Very good. Thank you for responding. I have further comment on some points.
    5.I don’t believe the natural free market exists anymore and we are now in the C/C phase. When Reagan deregulated the financial industry the Wall Street Robber barons decimated the free market. Through gambling machinations on the stock market they drove the stock price of almost all small and midsize manufacturing concerns in the country one at a time to a price significantly below the value of their capital assets. At that point they initiated a hostile takeover and immediately liquidated them pocketing the profits but leaving a decimated rust belt behind. This concentrated the means of production into the hands of a few multinational corporate elites. Although there are many companies in the Fortune 500, they are controlled by a few interlocking directorates. As you pointed out, the net effect is the same as Communism. Modern mass media has eliminated efficiency and quality as the primary factors of product success and replaced it with marketing.
    8. After a century of struggle, unions in the US have brought us labor laws and practices almost as elightened as those King Phillip II promogated in New Spain in 1547 (?), so in practice they have benefited us all.

    Not much in common with Genn Beck:
    The corporate elite wage a class war against the produers of wealth and we are on opposite sides. In 1999 I left upper management in a fortune 100 company with the statement that “the executive board’s arrogance is exceeded only by its incompetence”. From my experience in the corporate world, I do not believe that company very different from most. I owned a small business for a while and now belong to a union and work side by side with others building the offices these pompous jackasses sit in when they call us lazy, ignorant, smuggle in illegal aliens to take our jobs and then sneer at us and tell Amwerica we don’t want to work. Art, I sat in board rooms where the air literally dripped with the contempt they held the little people of the company in. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Glenn Beck says the rich create jobs, and his listeners don’t even remember Economics 101: Demand in the marketplace creates jobs. He says the rich earned their millions and implies if your not rich you are lazy or stupid, when all their incomes are by definition unearned income. I believe God gave a few of us extra intelligence so that we could elevate our fellow man, not enrich ourselves at his expense.

  • Bob,

    I am not sure we are listening/watching the same Glenn Beck. He is a libertarian leaning conservative with a nod toward acknowledgment of politico-economic conspiracies and recognizes that America is a nation under God (of course, I am not too sure that he means the Blessed Trinity because he is an apostate Catholic and a Mormon.) As for his statement that the wealthy create jobs, I think he is referring to the entrepreneurs (small business) and not the uber-wealthy trans-nationalists. In a true free market it is the consumer that demands production, hence the creation of jobs, yet it is the entrepreneur that manages the market risk and innovates products and services, hence the creator of jobs.

    Additionally, I don’t see Reagan as responsible for the consolidation of the corporatists and neither does Glenn Beck. Beck favors blaming both Roosevelts, Wilson, Johnson and other progressives along with the trans-nationalists (Rothschild, Rockefeller, et al.)

    Reagan was a brief light in the darkness of the last 100 years of political leadership in the these United States. The machine is just too big for any one man to overcome. Reagan desired to reduce government, to promote a natural free market, to end the Federal Reserve and other than JFK, another president who fought against the money power, was shot. I am not necessarily saying they were shot because they both opposed the trans-national financiers, but it is suspicious.

    Unions may have provided benefits in the past; however, they are instruments for the Communist/Capitalist pincer movement now. That does not disparage union members, who are as much victims as the rest of us. The problem is with the opportunistic union leadership, the corruption of a criminal-political nature and the danger that union power poses to what little free market, if any, we have left. These days, unions are tools of division, class warfare and political consolidation.

    Again, I think, a more objective, second look at Mr. Beck, might show you that you do have more in common with him than you think. You just have to watch out for the misuse of words that we are all victims of – Newspeak has been slowly implemented for so long, we often get caught up in terminology rather than intent and context. In any event, none of us need agree with everything he says, but there is no denying that he has a big microphone and that for the most part he is doing more to stem the corporatist/communist tide than most.

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  • American Knight,
    I understand that it is Mormon belief that when the males die they become gods and rule over their own planets, and that females can only be saved by marrying a Mormon man, but I don’t know what saved means in their context. Do his harem serve him the way the Moslems 40 virgins do? I have no interest in learning any more of their cult. Was involved with trying to save Jehovah’s witnesses at one time and no far more about them than I want to. It is better to follow the admonition of the Apostles:”
    Speak to heretics once, maybe twice, and then have nothing further to do with them.”

  • American Knight,
    Some entrepeneurs actually take risks, start businesses and make money. As a general rule they become wealthy by some definition after doing this, not before. In a free market system, profit is the reward one receives for taking risk, and I have no objection to that. I do have objection to the biggest profits being made by companies who take no risk.

  • Wallace fought against the money system. He too was shot. You may be right about a connection.

  • Bob,

    Mormonism is a strange, twisted heresy. What we have to keep in mind is that like Freemasonry and to some degree Mohammadism, it has secret levels of initiation and most Mormons don’t know the dark secrets of the heresy. Like Masonry and Islam, on the surface and at the lowest levels of initiation it is presented as good, of course, we know that demons often appear as angels of light. Most Mormons follow the moral precepts of the heresy, which are based in truth. No heresy can get started unless it roots itself in the ancient and true doctrines of our Church. Many Mormons are ‘good’ people, in the secular term. I am not sure what they mean by ‘saved’ either. Keep in mind that most of Beck’s audience listens to him regarding practical matters and not theology.

    My only interest in discussing religion with Beck would be to address the common secular religion of the West, based on the doctrines of the Church, and also, to attempt to witness to the Truth in order to be a tool to bring him back to the Church.

    As regards risk-taking, the only way a business can avoid risk, which is inherent to business, is to use the force of the government to eliminate it through the burdensome ‘regulation’ of its competitors, through the enforcement of cabals and cartels and by socializing their loses through bailouts. The problem here is the greed of certain ‘wealthy’ individuals and the parasitic nature of politics and government. The US Constitution created an authentic free-trade zone within the United States and a protection of that zone from without. Today we have the opposite, the trans-nationalists, through our general government, control trade within the US and we are afforded little to no protection from without. See Isaiah 5:20.

  • “Wallace fought against the money system. He too was shot. You may be right about a connection.”

    So did Lincoln.

  • To all: I will leave the reading of what is written upon this mans heart and the judgment of his soul to you. Additionally, I will not be the one to bring up his past faults or make fun of his sensitivity – perhaps y’all are in a position to cast that stone, I am not.

    Respectfully, the Divine Destiny Event on 8/27 was a truly inspiring event that brought together Christians, Jewish, and Muslim leaders from across the country, for the single purpose of finding points of unity and methods for education and tolerance across the nation.
    I am mystified that so many can find fault with that noble effort, regardless of who’s in charge. Check out the Black Robe Brigade if you are truly interested in the truth about what happened that evening when over 2,000 religious leaders came together. Then take a moment to think where such a movement can lead.

    The Restoring Honor Rally was awesome!

    Not only did he manage to raise a ton of funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a group that steps in to assist families and specifically children after the loss of their parent, but, more importantly showcased these contributions were duties as defined by the Lord in James 1:27. How can we argue with that message? Because of the man who orchestrated the event? I applaud him for his efforts. His message all along was that charity is a God inspired selfless gift to others. I don’t find anything wrong with that message.

    The Rally itself was filled with inspirational speakers from various faiths, gospel songs, and badges of honor given out for faith, hope and charity. At the end of the rally over 200 clergy stood arm-in-arm on the stage – I cried like a baby and felt a presence in my heart that I had never felt before.

    His presence filled my heart and soul – it was a truly amazing day and event. I still tear up when I see a video of the geese flying overhead – the whole event was a testament to the unifying power of the Lord.

Mosque Opponents: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It

Saturday, August 28, AD 2010

The debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York has raised public interest in, and opposition to, other proposed or recently built mosques and Islamic centers throughout the country.

In areas where Muslim migration or immigration has been significant, some citizens have attempted to discourage construction of new mosques. Few come right out and cite the threat of terrorism; more often they seem to resort to time-honored NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) tactics such as creative interpretation of zoning ordinances, claims of decreased property values, or claims of real or potential problems with traffic, noise, etc.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I understand the need to be vigilant regarding the potential for violent subversion, as well as the dangers of taking such a politically correct approach to militant Islam that people hesitate to report obvious suspicious activity for fear of being labeled bigots (as seems to have happened in the Fort Hood massacre case).

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45 Responses to Mosque Opponents: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It

  • Outstanding article — thank you!!

    Question (and please forgive this social-networking-backward-participant!):

    Why doesn’t American Catholic enable readers to SHARE this via Facebook? (Maybe I’m flunking the IQ test and missed the link??? I just did a “copy & paste” on the link above on my FB page . . . Sad to say, I am still trying to figure out this RSS stuff!!!)

    Thank you!

  • Elaine,

    You raise some very valid points. But, did Catholicism, or the perversion therof, and Catholics or any Christians for that matter murder 3000 innocents on September 11? Or have Catholics or Christians committed bombings in recent years or pose threats of bombings around the world?

    I think the problem here is that the Muslims who have proposed this mosque have displayed absolutely NO sensitivity to the families of victims of 9/11 while demanding all the tolerance in the world from those 9/11 families,as well as other citizens. These “moderate” Muslims claim that they want to build bridges but all they are doing by forcing the building of this mosque at this partiular ultra-sensitive location is burning bridges. Why is this location so important when there are over 100 mosques located in NYC already? How is this mosque being funded? By terrorist organizations or not? I believe in order for the community as a whole to benefit from this mosque our government and our citizens must be as certain as possible that this mosque is not funded by terrorist organizations and will not be used as a terrorist training center under the guise of religious freedom. If the mayor and others would be willing to look into the mosque’s financial funding I believe that this would allay many peoples’ fears.

    I do understand that the people behind the building of the mosque has a right to be built according to civil law. But, as Charles Krauthammer pointed out, if zoning laws and aesthetics can trump one’s right to build why could the sensitivity to those families who had loved ones killed by a single act of war trump one’s right to build?

    As to the issue of this mosque being two blocks away from the primary ground zero site: Would you agree that wherever the planes hit or any of its part on 9/11 should be considered Ground Zero? If so, then so should the Burlington building since a part of the plane hit that building.

    I think this whole controversy could have been avoided if the NYC commission had shown some prudential judgment and declared the Burlingtion building as a historical landmark.

  • I agree that it wasn’t a good idea for the mosque/Islamic center to be built so close to Ground Zero. I see nothing wrong with encouraging them to build elsewhere. The $64,000 question, however, is whether or not the local government has a right to explicitly FORBID them to build at the site. That’s where the danger of setting a bad precedent comes in.

  • Elaine a ban on construction of new places of worship would be clearly unconstitutional and would not stand up in court longer than the time it takes a Chicago alderman to pocket a bribe. No one has been disputing the right of the Flim Flam Imam and his Cordoba Initiative (Dhimmis Always Welcome!) to build this Mosque, but whether it is right for them to do so. I am keenly aware of the frequent divergence of a legal right and a moral right. My opposition might well not exist if a local group of Muslims had wished to put up a Mosque for local worship. I think the Flim Flam Imam clearly has an agenda that has little to do with worshiping Allah, and quite a bit to do with furthering his Cordoba Initiative which has one message for gullible Western elites and another message for his backers in the Middle East.

  • I thought this post by Bob Murphy about the Glenn Beck rally today was a propos:

    Of course Mr. Beck and his fans have every legal right to hold a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

    Nonetheless, we are asking that they hold their rally a few blocks away, and on a different date. There are 364 other days in the year; what’s wrong with them?
    Now look, we know full well that Mr. Beck and his supporters claim that they are trying to heal racial division. Intellectually, we black Americans know that just because we have been brutalized by angry white conservative males for as long as we can remember, that doesn’t mean that all angry white conservative males pose a threat to our physical safety.

    But this isn’t about logic or rationality. This is about sensitivity to our feelings. Surely Mr. Beck can understand why a majority of American blacks wouldn’t appreciate him holding a rally on the anniversary of Dr. King’s famous speech. If he goes ahead with his plans, he won’t promote racial unity. So we ask him to hold the rally in a different place, on a different date.

  • Teresa – Did you seriously just say that Christians have not bombed or killed significant numbers of people? Check the stats on our current wars sometime.

  • As usual, Blackadder mistakes cuteness for substance. By now Blackadder is aware that the objections to the Mosque are not grounded in a general objection to anything at all being built near Ground Zero.

  • “Teresa – Did you seriously just say that Christians have not bombed or killed significant numbers of people? Check the stats on our current wars sometime.”

    Our wars being the equivalent of Bin Laden’s murder of 3,000 innocent men, women and children? Moral equivalency: the opiate of the politically correct.

  • While I agree with Donald that the proposed ban shouldn’t pass constitutional muster (there’s a case that states you can’t ban all forms of religious speech-I think it’s Rosenberger v. Rectors & Vistors of UVA), you are absolutely right in stating that the opposition to the mosque establishes a precedent that is far more dangerous to Catholics than to Muslims insofar as some are advocating legal means to interfere with the building of the mosque.

  • “I think the Flim Flam Imam clearly has an agenda that has little to do with worshiping Allah, and quite a bit to do with furthering his Cordoba Initiative which has one message for gullible Western elites and another message for his backers in the Middle East.”

    Donald, I agree.

    If Alveda King has no problem with the rally I don’t see why any other person, of any color black, white, red, brown etc., should have a problem with Beck and others honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s message of equality for all. Yeah, and if he didn’t do anything honoring Martin Luther King the Left would make accusations about no person caring about blacks and spreading King’s message, so Your “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” according to liberalism.

    First, is that an admission that our nation is rooted in Christian values?

    Second, Did we really go to war as “Christians” or as a nation fighting against terrorism and for our nation’s national defense?

    Third, I didn’t know that a group of Christians not associated with the U.S. government went off on their own and specifically targeted a building or another location just to murder Iraqi inocents? I think your the person who is a little confused with reality, Martin.

    Fourth, Please name me one war in history that has had no civilian casualties?

  • I’m with Gen’l. (Vinegar) Joe Stillwell, “Don’t let the bastards wear you down.”

  • It isn’t even a matter of where the mosque is being built – replace the entire WTC site with the biggest mosque in the world, no problem – PROVIDED Islam changes its ways.

    I realize all the 1st Amendment issues involved here – but until I am no longer considered such subhuman filth that I cannot enter the precincts of Mecca, then I’m going to hold that Moslems must be curbed in what they do in the United States. Not stopped – not expelled; just carefully curtailed to ensure that everyone, especially in the Moslem world, knows that we have not lost our back bone.

    Tolerance does not mean going along happily with whatever someone wants to do – it is a two way street and it requires some compromise. We can easily tolerate a mosque in Manhattan – but we can’t tolerate it hard by Ground Zero…not now, and not until Islam changes its tune.

    Mark Noonan

  • Blackadder,

    I wonder if the author of that piece can find even a single black man brutalized by a conservative white man in the past 40 years.

  • We might just consider the possibility that these local pols want to limit the quantum of non-taxable property in that particular locality. Piggy, but unsurprising.

    It is not a novelty for houses of worship to face zoning tangles. Given the size of the metropolitan New York area, you will have to excuse me if I suggest that prohibiting the placement of a 13 story building of a particular character at a historic site of modest dimensions is a measure different in kind than prohibiting all construction of houses of worship in a given municipality.


    As far as I am aware, the Marine Corps does not have an icon of St. Michael on their weaponry and al-Qaeda does not do civil affairs projects.

  • Here’s my $64,000,000.03 question.

    If religious freedom/tolerance requires a $100 million mosque over the WTC site. How is religious liberty/tolerance served by denying the rebuild of THE Orthodox Church that THE muslim terrorists destroyed on 11 Sep 2001?


    No! It’s much worse than that! USMC heroes wear (gasp) US flags on their uniforms.

    Re AQ civil affairs projects: They’re helping make Americans good. They believe the only good American is a dead American.

  • Lot of assumptions in this post; the assumption that the REAL motive folks have is fear of terrorism, and that they can’t possibly object for the reasons they give:

    zoning ordinances, claims of decreased property values, or claims of real or potential problems with traffic, noise, etc.

    Evidence for this claim? I know that the blog Beers with Demo did the research to show a pattern of harassment against a church in his area, but a blanket claim that 1) Mosques are being unusually opposed and 2) it is because of fears of terrorism is a claim that requires more than just a claim to be taken seriously.

    There’s also the issue of using charged terms inaccurately. NIMBY, while meaning “not in my back yard,” also implies that something is not opposed in general. (Example, opposing wind power generators in your area while promoting wind energy in general.)
    People who are worried about Islamic terror risings from Mosques are going to be bright enough to remember the home mosques of the 9/11 terrorists were far, far away, and would appose them in general, not just specific.

    Your notion of equivalence between “there shall be no non-profit organizational buildings in our district” and “no, you may not build a triumphalist religious center on the ruins created by said religion” is mind bending.

  • Martin-
    Go troll someplace else.

  • Wow. Far-ranging discussion.

    First, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The religion piece really has no bearing on the discussion over the Cordoba Mosque proposed for Ground Zero.

    How many mosques are there in Manhattan? About a hundred? Sounds like pretty free exercise of religion to me.

    Second: I challenge any black person who reads this blogs, or any black person who’s a friend of someone who reads this blog, to tell me the date of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. I had to memorize parts of it as a child (stand down, racialists: I’m Black). Never knew what day it was given; barely knew it was in August. Glenn Beck planned this rally (which I wish I had had time to attend)for the last Saturday in August. An lo and behold, what date did that happen to fall on? Why, August 28! August the 28th, which happened to be an anniversary of Dr. King’s speech!

    Why should a mosque be built at the site of a murder committed by people motivated by Islam? Why should a church of any type be built at the site of the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people (and others, including Catholic Saints)? Why should the Japanese in Hawaii build a temple at the site of the sunken USS Arizona?

    Answer? None of them should. Because it’s disrespectful. Why is this so hard to grasp? And what does it tell those who truly hate us about whether we will truly resist them?

    It is not un-Christian to stand up for common politeness.

  • Gee, RR, why didn’t you link to this much more recent article on those idiots?

    Those morons were accused of racial hate crimes and seem to be gang related. Notably, not “conservative white men”– just idiot gang members. (is that redundant?)

  • What are you trying to prove by arguing that white people no longer attack black people? For one, it’s a sad, callous, and absurd battle to fight. Do you, like, remember this one time, in, like, 1992 in LA where, like, some white cops beat up this black guy named Rodney King? White on black violence occurs a lot, as does black on white, white on white, black on black, brown on black, brown on white, brown on brown, white on brown, black on brown, etc, etc, etc.

    Also, please STOP calling it a mosque. A mosque is specifically a Muslim holy place where only prayer can be conducted. This is a Muslim community center, similar to a YMCA. It will have a culinary school, basketball courts, etc. With a prayer room on one or two of the fifteen or so floors.

    I can think of Catholic terrorism pretty easily: the IRA. And that was specifically religio-nationalist.

    It is utterly absurd to demand that “Islam” renounce its terroristic ways before the community center is built, as Mr. Noonan said. A religion cannot change its ways. People can change their ways, but abstract nouns cannot. And the people behind this community center have no terroristic tendencies to modify. Furthermore, there is no central authority for Islam as there is for Catholicism. In fact, some radical sects of Muslims hate opposing Islamic sects more than they hate America. Like al-Qaeda. Bin Laden hates America not “for our freedoms” but because we prop up the (in his mind) heretical Saud monarchy in Arabia.

    Quite frankly, it’s astounding that a debate over a Muslim community center is occurring in 21st century America. As someone who would never have voted for George Bush, I will say that I am so grateful that he modeled Christ’s love to American Muslims by not targeting them after 9/11, as seems to be occurring now.

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  • I would like to ask everyone – Do you think that Islam can be a “moderate” religion? I am not saying Muslims cannot be moderates, but can the religion itself really ever be considered moderate since it follows Sharia law?

    If Sharia law is one of the precepts of Islam then why wouldn’t Sharia law fall under the guise of religious freedom and challenge the constitution in several capacities and force all of us citizens to respect and follow Sharia as well? Is Sharia law and the Constitution really compatible?

    If those who believe in the “letter of the Constitution” instead of the “spirit of the Constitution” with regards to religious freedom truly believe that religious freedom is absolute without taking into account our national security interests (as it seems to me) how could one deny Muslims the “right” to follow their “moderate” religion that includes Sharia Law which would also impose Sharia Laws on the non-Muslim citizens when that clearly clashes with our Constitution?

    You might want to look at a some things that Sharia law demands:

    1 – Jihad defined as “to war against non-Muslims to establish the religion” is the duty of every Muslim and Muslim head of state (Caliph). Muslim Caliphs who refuse jihad are in violation of Sharia and unfit to rule.

    2 – A Caliph can hold office through seizure of power meaning through force.

    3 – A Caliph is exempt from being charged with serious crimes such as murder, adultery, robbery, theft, drinking and in some cases of rape.

    4 – A percentage of Zakat (alms) must go towards jihad.

    5 – It is obligatory to obey the commands of the Caliph, even if he is unjust.

    6 – A caliph must be a Muslim, a non-slave and a male.

    7 – The Muslim public must remove the Caliph in one case, if he rejects Islam.

    8 – A Muslim who leaves Islam must be killed immediately.

    9 – A Muslim will be forgiven for murder of: 1) an apostasy 2) an adulterer 3) a highway robber. Making vigilante street justice and honor killing acceptable.

    10 – A Muslim will not get the death penalty if he kills a non-Muslim.

    11- Sharia never abolished slavery and sexual slavery and highly regulates it. A master will not be punished for killing his slave.

    12 – Sharia dictates death by stoning, beheading, amputation of limbs, flogging and other forms of cruel and unusual punishments even for crimes of sin such as adultery.

    13 – Non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims and must comply to Sharia if they are to remain safe. They are forbidden to marry Muslim women, publicly display wine or pork, recite their scriptures or openly celebrate their religious holidays or funerals. They are forbidden from building new churches or building them higher than mosques. They may not enter a mosque without permission. A non-Muslim is no longer protected if he commits adultery with a Muslim woman or if he leads a Muslim away from Islam.

    14 – It is a crime for a non-Muslim to sell weapons to someone who will use them against Muslims. Non-Muslims cannot curse a Muslim, say anything derogatory about Allah, the Prophet, or Islam, or expose the weak points of Muslims. However, the opposite is not true for Muslims.

    15 – A non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim.

    16 – Banks must be Sharia compliant and interest is not allowed.

    17 – No testimony in court is acceptable from people of low-level jobs, such as street sweepers or a bathhouse attendant. Women in such low-level jobs such as professional funeral mourners cannot keep custody of their children in case of divorce.

    18 – A non-Muslim cannot rule even over a non-Muslims minority.

    19 – H***sexuality is punishable by death.

    20 – There is no age limit for marriage of girls under Sharia. The marriage contract can take place any time after birth and consummated at age 8 or 9.

    21 – Rebelliousness on the part of the wife nullifies the husband’s obligation to support her, gives him permission to beat her and keep her from leaving the home.

    22 – Divorce is only in the hands of the husband and is as easy as saying: “I divorce you” and becomes effective even if the husband did not intend it.

    23 – There is no community property between husband and wife and the husband’s property does not automatically go to the wife after his death.

    24 – A woman inherits half what a man inherits.

    25- A man has the right to have up to 4 wives and she has no right to divorce him even if he is polygamous.

    26- The dowry is given in exchange for the woman’s sexual organs.

    27 – A man is allowed to have sex with slave women and women captured in battle, and if the enslaved woman is married her marriage is annulled.

    28 – The testimony of a woman in court is half the value of a man.

    29- A woman loses custody if she remarries.

    30- To prove rape, a woman must have 4 male witnesses.

    31 – A rapist may only be required to pay the bride-money (dowry) without marrying the rape victim.

    32 – A Muslim woman must cover every inch of her body which is considered “Awrah,” a sexual organ. Some schools of Sharia allow the face and some don’t.

    33 – A Muslim man is forgiven if he kills his wife caught in the act of adultery. However, the opposite is not true for women since he “could be married to the woman he was caught with.”

    The above are clear-cut laws in Islam decided by great Imams after years of examination and interpretation of the Quran, Hadith and Mohammed’s life. Now let the learned Imam Rauf tell us what part of the above is compliant with the US constitution?

  • Ryan-
    who are you talking to?
    NO ONE was talking about “whites never attack blacks”. Blackadder posted a quote of someone claiming that “angry white conservative males” have been brutalizing blacks for “as long as they can remember,” and someone else challenged him to find a single case of a white conservative assaulting a black person. RR then posted an article that implied but did not claim anti-Dem motives, and which five minutes of research showed to just be gang idiots.

    Secondly, go yell at the Cordoba House proponents, and even the initiative itself; half the time, they call it a mosque. (Generally when they want to drum up the religion side of it; when it’s more flattering to emphasize the “community center” side, it becomes a building that includes a mosque.)

    If the reading comprehension and careful consideration of the argument you’ve shown in this post is standard for you, no wonder you can’t see how this is a topic for valid debate. Straw men with only a nodding acquaintance to the topic aren’t very good aids to understanding.

    A wise lady once told me that if you can’t argue the other side of something, you have no business arguing your own side because you clearly don’t know enough about the topic. I try to keep it in mind, maybe you should try it?

  • In response to jihad etc…

    I am not sure where you are getting your information on what jihad and sharia is….but you have incorrect information. Jihad and sharia is much more complex then what you have stated. As I have reserached this extensively I will just point out very plainly and in layman terms what jihad is. Jihad means “struggle”.
    More commonly known in the Muslim world as an internal spiritual struggle to be better and serve God. It can also mean warfare where one needs to defend themselves when attacked- so it has two meanings to it. There are a lot of inaccuracies in your e-mail and I do not have time to go over them now…but one just to correct one is that bride money is not given for sexual organs. Bride money is called “mehr” and it is an obligatory gift that the groom must give his wife so that she is not left with nothing if he decides to leave her. It is the right of a woman and not a man. Actually in researching Muslims I found that there are a lot of similaries to Catholicism…and then there were differences as well. An interesting bit of information I came across was “Marriage helps men and women to develop along natural lines and head towards development and success through mutual co-operation. Marriage prevents immorality licentiousness and irresponsibility. The spouses in marriage agree to share rights and responsibilities to develop a happy family”….doesn’t that sound like something Catholics believe in as well? What happened on 9/11 was plain WRONG. I have friends who are Muslims and they beleive it is wrong…they say that the people who did this are crazy. So I have to think before I judge anyone and encourage you to do the same.

  • Sandy-
    please do not misrepresent your study, which seems to have been of the more modern and mild forms of Islam, as representative of Islam in general.

    Also, your definition of “mehr” is incorrect, (In Canada, it often functions like a pre-nup– often enough that a basic google will bring up a LOT of legal help boards.) as is your characterization of Jihaad.
    (links to, which is affiliated with Al-Mawrid Islamic Research foundation out of Pakistan.)

  • Foxfier, white conservatives can’t be in gangs?

  • RR,

    Gangs are color neutral, but I’m having a hard time picturing how a conservative could be in a gang since gang life and activities run counter to conservative values. My guess is that you’re perhaps angling toward skinheads because the media like to call them conservatives. However, conservatives have about as much appreciation for neo-nazis as they do racist gangs/parties typically associated with the left, which is to say none.

  • “Gang life and activities run counter to conservative values”

    Well, it goes without saying that violence, vandalism, drug use, other criminal activity, and intimidation of non-members go against conservative values (and probably even the values of most moderates and liberals I know).

    But, isn’t it true that gang membership, especially among urban teens, basically takes the place of the families they don’t have — giving them a structure, culture and sense of belonging that they don’t get from absent or incarcerated or unknown fathers, mothers who change boyfriends as often as they change clothes, being shuffled from one relative to another, etc.?

    So in that sense, gang membership does express (albeit in a perverted or distorted fashion) one very important “conservative” value: the absolute primacy of the family as the basic unit of society, and the consequences that result when it is undermined or destroyed.

  • I can think of Catholic terrorism pretty easily: the IRA. And that was specifically religio-nationalist.

    True to some extent. But it wasn’t expansionist.

  • Actually I think in a number of areas there are limits on, if not the building of churches, at least the size of churches. Where I once lived this limit made it impractical to build a Catholic Church as the size limit was too small for what was required to meet the needs of the Catholic population without building multiple small churches. Those restrictions were placed in the 90’s as I recall. No big First Ammendment concerns have been raised. Perhaps they should.

  • Mary Margaret Cannon,

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    Until recently, did not allow this function ( does I believe).

    But today I noticed this option was now available and I have just finished adding this particular function.


  • Hey, why not make a page, too? You can set it up to autopublish your blog with the “notes” feed, or us

  • Foxfier,

    We have ‘something’ on Facebook, not sure what.

    I’m going to investigate and get this set-up/streamlined for greater social-networking-optimization (SNO).

  • Scott Gentries might want to take a look at this:

  • …Might strike home if the primary arguments weren’t specifically related to the history and culture of Islam, Ryan.


  • RL, if conservatives can’t be in gangs by definition then sure there are no white conservatives in gangs. There are no Catholics in gangs either then.

  • i would like to point out that the proposal only bars new buildings, and not changing the use to of already constructed ones. the mosque near to us was once a church, a church was previously a synagogue, and the nigerian christian group uses a clothing warehouse.

  • Teresa, half of what you said is inaccurate / disinformation. if the USA followed the other half, maybe they wont have millions of inmates that the taxpayer has to support.

  • I would just like to point out a couple of things that are on point:

    1. It’s not a mosque. It’s a community center, and you can read here: the words of the chairman of the project, stating that one of the many goals of it is to include prayer centers for those of Christian and Jewish faiths in hopes that this will strengthen interfaith relations.

    2. I’m not usually a fan of Charlie Brooker, but he hit one point straight on the head when he said that being a 2 minute walk and around the corner is not at all the same thing as being AT the same location. He said something like, he’s used a bathroom 2 minutes away from Buckingham Palace, and has yet to be arrested for defecating on the Queen’s pillow. We’re talking about Manhattan, and if you’ve ever been there, it’s a crowded place. How close is too close, exactly?

    3. To the person who said Catholic/Christian extremists haven’t bombed or killed significant numbers of people in recent years, I ask: Have you ever heard of the Irish Republican Army? Visit Belfast or Glasgow sometime and ask around – just… be careful in which neighborhood you ask and what colors you’re wearing when you do.

  • 4. On the topic of how Muslim women are clothed, ask yourself if you’ve ever questioned the chaste garb (and lifestyle, for that matter) of nuns and priests. I bet you just take it as a matter of course, because it’s what you’re used to. Of course, there is spousal abuse and other unsavory activity that goes on among members of the Islamic faith, but again, look closer to home. Surely you cannot insist that no Catholic or Christian has ever abused another human being.

  • Brian,


    The IRA is a nationalist organization. To be more accurate, they are a violent Marxist nationalist organization looking to impose communism under the guise of being “Irish” and “Catholic”.

    Being Catholic has nothing to do with it.

    They don’t espouse anything Christian AT ALL.

    You’ve never heard them saying they are dying in the name of Jesus. Only in the name of Ireland.

    You need to do better than that to espouse your anti-Christian bigotry around here.

  • Brian,

    Again your bias is grossly revealing itself.

    Religious wear their clericals as a choice, not in being imposed.

    Whilst on the other hand Muslims force women to wear burkas, regardless of their religiosity.

  • Brian, you’re exposing your ignorance or willful blindness– the folks building it called it a mosque until their PR guys realized that was not so good. They also called it the Cordoba House, until word got around what that indicated, especially with the 9/11/11 opening date.

    Also, you’re pointing to an opinion piece in the NY Times. Not exactly hard, unbiased facts– I notice you didn’t bother to do the research Powerline did about another time that “chairman” spoke in the NYTimes.

    As Teresa pointed out above, a building destroyed by chunks of the plane on 9/11 is part of ground zero.

Inception's Leap of Faith: Christianity v. Neo-Conservatives

Sunday, July 25, AD 2010

My wife and I went to see Inception this weekend and I’ve been mulling over it the past two days. I’ve been looking through the internet to find a good analysis and, not finding one fully to my satisfaction, look Tolkien & Lewis’s advice and just wrote my own. If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t know why you’re reading this but rest assured you will be lost. For those who did see it, I’ll see you after the break.

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25 Responses to Inception's Leap of Faith: Christianity v. Neo-Conservatives

  • you may want to check out memento it could give you a deeper understanding on what nolan planned to do at the end of this movie, at-least with the open ending that requires your own interpretation and both answers are good answers

  • So yeah, I thought the movie was brilliant for quite a few different reasons. He, I’m assuming intentionally, sets the viewer up to WANT to make a decision as to what the meaning of the film is – interpreted through the glass of whether he truly was in a dream or not. But as I have pointed out (and you cursorily suggested here yourself), they BOTH have issues. Questions like how did the grandfather know to be there, why were the kids the same age and in the same position as in his dreams come to mind trying to indicate it is still a dream. And yet, at the same time, the top DID wobble, and it was not a scene of, “how did I get here”.

    Truth be told I think the genius of the movie was not in the fairly amazing cliff-hanger at the end, but rather in the VERY thorough representation that both sides have their defects. If you take this in light of your interpretation using Stauss, then it becomes apparent that somehow Stauss is both, simultaneously, right and wrong. I like the analogy you pulled here for a few reasons. It is CLEARLY a movie which will be interpreted by philosophers for years to come, and I think it was intended to be such. He raised a very difficult question, said which side is right, and then on a less superficial level says, “what if neither of them ARE?”

    I could ramble on much more about this movie as I thought it was downright brilliant in its acting, its casting, and its directing alike, but I think this is a set of questions that will continue to be “up in the air” so to speak for a long time to come. I’d love to speak with you in person about the movie if you’d like.

    Pax Christi

  • For those who may not know who the heck Leo Stauss was, wikipedia does a fairly good job at the link below.

    In regard to Strauss and religion I believe this passage in the article does a good job of correcting some of the misconceptions of the views of Strauss:

    “At the end of his The City and Man, Strauss invites his reader to “be open to the full impact of the all-important question which is coeval with philosophy although the philosophers do not frequently pronounce it–the question quid sit deus” (p. 241). As a philosopher, Strauss would be interested in knowing the nature of divinity, instead of trying to dispute the very being of divinity. But Strauss did not remain “neutral” to the question about the “quid” of divinity. Already in his Natural Right and History, he defended a Socratic (Platonic, Ciceronian, and Aristotelian) reading of divinity, distinguishing it from a materialistic/conventionalist or Epicurean reading (see especially, Ch. III: “The Origin of the Idea of Natural Right”). Here, the question of “religion” (what is religion?) is inseparable from the question of the nature of civil society, and thus of civil right, or right having authoritative representation, or right capable of defending itself (Latin: Jus). Atheism, whether convinced (overt) or unconvinced (tacit), is integral to the conventionalist reading of civil authority, and thereby of religion in its originally civil valence, a reading against which Strauss argues throughout his volume. Thus Strauss’s own arguments contradict the thesis imputed to him post mortem by scholars such as S. Drury who profess that Strauss approached religion as an instrument devoid of inherent purpose or meaning.”

  • Michael, did it remind you at all of a law school exam? Almost the same amount of factors for either interpretation are there, and you can interpret it either way. I kept thinking of the instruction: “It doesn’t matter which side you come down on, just pick one and argue it, but don’t forget about the other side”.

    The funny thing is, I still think my interpretation of the ending is right, and I’ll argue with anyone who picked the other one.

  • Interesting post, apart from the subtitle — I confess I’m really tired of seeing ‘neocons’ played as the token enemy absent — 1) a clear definition of who the ‘neocons’ were; 2) what ‘neoconservatism’ is.

    Likewise, as Robert Alter puts it, “it has become received wisdom that a direct line issues from Strauss’s seminars on political philosophy at the University of Chicago to the hawkish approach to foreign policy by figures like Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Bush administration.” Several books of late have challenged this: Steven B. Smith’s Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism (Excerpt); Straussophobia: Defending Leo Strauss and Straussians against Shadia Drury and Other Accusers and “Will the real Leo Strauss please stand up?” (Nathan Tarcov, American Interest).

    The movie does sound interesting, however. =)

  • Tim:

    I think I’ve been sold on seeing a few more Nolan works, Memento being at the top of the list.


    The grandfather being there doesn’t bother me too much. Now, as far the kids go, the article I link to states that according to the credits, there are two sets of kids: one with the girl at 3 and one again at 5. That would be consistent with the kids changing, and the ending being reality not a memory-unless of course the different actors were one for the phone call and one for the screen time. You can play these games all day; nothing is a solid argument.


    Now that you say that, it does remind me of a law school exam. Thank you for ruining the movie for me eternally.

    But what interpretation of the ending do you have?

    Don & Chris:

    You both may be right in that this isn’t Strauss’s worldview. As I said, I didn’t have the time to write an article about whether it is or isn’t his position. I do think however that people have ascribed it to him and that some who call themselves neo-conservatives have that viewpoint. I probably wouldn’t have used the term “neo-con” at all if I didn’t think that the Dark Knight represented a lot of things that the”neo-cons” approve of, but I agree with Chris that the term isn’t all that useful.

  • I want to know if the movie is worth watching for someone like me that has at best a rudimentary understanding of philosophy.

    That and I caught a snippet of a review that it was a pro-environmentalist film (didn’t hear the whole review though).

    So I pretty much decided not to watch it in order to save my soul.

    But if the movie is worth watching and I won’t lose my soul over watching it, tell me without giving away the plot (I haven’t read MD’s post).

  • I probably wouldn’t have used the term “neo-con” at all if I didn’t think that the Dark Knight represented a lot of things that the”neo-cons” approve

    Why not rummage through the writings of some folk associated with the Committee for the Free World &c. and tell us all why you think they were advocates of relgion-as-crowd-control? I’ll give you five names:

    Edward Banfield
    Midge Decter
    Joseph Epstein
    Jeane Kirkpatrick
    Robert W. Tucker

  • Tito,

    If there was an environmentalist message to Inception it slipped past me.

    All of Nolan’s films are excellent. Insomnia doesn’t focus on deception vs. reality like the others, but is a fascinating reflection on conscience. And The Prestige involves the same themes as Inception and Memento.

  • Hmm.

    Since I’m bringing up neo-cons in my next post, I may as well link to a post where I discussed them before:

    One thing I never quite understand about people who take umbrage at the word “neoconservative” is whether or not they a) deny the existence of neoconservatism, placing it in the same category as the tooth fairy, or b) understand that it is a real tendency in political thought but is poorly understood.

  • BA,

    That’s enough for me!

    I’ll be catching this film later this week.

  • I admit to an appreciation of the original neoconservatives — Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz — discovered by way of the original ‘Catholic neocons’ (Fr. Neuhaus, Michael Novak) of First Things which I digested back in college.

    But since 9/11, ‘neoconservativism’ has come to mean everything from a Straussian-Jewish cabal covertly manipulating the Bush Administration to practically anybody who supported military intervention in Iraq (ex. Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld are all labeled such).

    The term has become so amorphous (much like “liberalism”) that, if used at all, I prefer context and clarification.

    (Apologies to Michael D. for getting off-topic).

  • One thing I never quite understand about people who take umbrage at the word “neoconservative” is whether or not they a) deny the existence of neoconservatism, placing it in the same category as the tooth fairy, or b) understand that it is a real tendency in political thought but is poorly understood.

    It was an intellectual circle of liberals disaffected with the run of political discourse in the Democratic Party, the media, and academic life. In some cases social policy was the primary source of disaffection, in others foreign policy and a general disposition toward the military and patriotism, and in others the degradation of the universities. Their views on most questions of public policy were variegated and a number (e.g. Penn Kemble) returned to the fold of the Democratic Party after the end of the Cold War.

    What was common to them was elements of biography and networks of personal association. Neither aspect includes an association with Leo Strauss. Norman Podhoretz’ mentor was Lionel Trilling, if it matters. The palaeobabblers who complain about ‘conservatism’ being hijacked by Trotskyists have likewise forgotten that the earlier cohort of publicists which assembled around WF Buckley was shot through with disaffected reds, Whittaker Chambers and James Burnham to name two.

    It isn’t ‘poorly understood’. It is a cuss word favored by the twits who don’t know crap from apple butter.

  • “It isn’t ‘poorly understood’. It is a cuss word favored by the twits who don’t know crap from apple butter”

    Precisely. This is a debate over foreign policy and has nothing to do with Leo Strauss and the handful of people who actually could be called neo-conservatives. What rankles self-proclaim paleo-cons is that most conservatives do not share their views on foreign policy. The neo-con charge is merely a tactic in the on-going debate and doesn’t say amything of substance in regard to that debate.

  • I have seen the movie the day before yesterday and I enjoyed it. Having said that, references to Christianity seem far-fetched to me.

    I can’t recall see anyone praying, or crossing himself; there is no sign of anyone of the main characters having any sort or organised religious life (going to Church, say), no single (serious) mention of Jesus in a film which obviously plays in the present days (the cars).

    ” The Book of Eli” was the last movie of which I could say that Christian themes were evident.

    I have seen more crossing oneself and faces put heavenward in prayer during the last Football World Championship than in a couple of years of films at the cinema. In a way, this is encouraging, we know Hollywood “doesn’t do God”, at all.

  • we know Hollywood “doesn’t do God”, at all.

    Hence why they are out of touch with society and are slowly becoming irrelevant with each new movie release.

    Look at the bombs that Hollywood continues to make and the only real successes they have are ‘family’ films.

    Yet they don’t ‘get it’.

  • Fully agree, Tito.

    The last movie with Jlo about the woman who wants an artificial insemination (how so very funny, not) has already disappeared from London’s screens. But a movie like “The Passion” becomes a worldwide success.

    It is the same with bookstores, at least here in England. The best selling books are Christian books but you find everywhere huge “gay and lesbian” section and not much (and that, often stupid) in the religion section. Often there is not even a religion section, but a “spirituality” section with a lot of new age bollocks for aging wiccans and, amazingly, books from atheist authors.

    Then they complain that Amazon & Co. increase sales whilst they go bust (here in the UK, “Books etc.” and “Borders UK” alone in the last 12 months).

  • Mundabor:

    While I agree with the idea that hollywood is shooting itself in the foot by not pursuing more Christian movies, I disagree with the way you evaluate whether a movie has “Christian themes.”

    I don’t think it’s necessary to mention Christianity explicitly to touch on a theme that is represented by Christianity. In this movie for example, they discuss how they desire to create their own world, their own cathedrals is out of a desire to play God and the movie shows how this desire ultimately is destructive.

    The point isn’t whether Inception is Christian; that’s debatable. But I don’t think it has to explicitly show someone praying or mention Jesus to be Christian. Tolkien actually thought that such mentions detracted from the message, and he managed to produce one of the greatest and most Catholic works of literature ever in Lord of the Rings. I just don’t like the idea that Christian works & themes are found only in the Christian section of the bookstore.

  • Michael,
    I agree with you that to have a Christian theme, a film does not have to be explicitly labelled as Christian. As you say, Tolkien but also C.S. Lewis, the Italians Manzoni and Fogazzaro, or in his own peculiar way G.K. Chesterton come to mind.

    But in my eyes a couple of phrases in a two-and-a-half-hour film do not really qualify for the film to be defined in that way, nor does it the general theme of the film. The theme of the Hubris leading to self destruction is very old and certainly pre-Christian; many atheists would instinctively agree with the concept without becoming an ounce more Christian.

    In my eyes, as we still live in a world shaped by Christian values it is very easy that some concepts shared by Christianity find their way in a film, but I think “Inception” stops short of the insistence and pervasiveness of Tolkien’s, Manzoni’s, Chesterton’s message.

    Just my two cents of course.

  • This movie is ENTIRELY about faith. Here’s how I interpreted the film…allow me to “enlighten” you: This movie is about Dom Cobb being stuck in purgatory. The movie starts with him there, washed up on the shore. He sees his kids, and falls alseep – from then on he is dreaming while in purgatory. God (Michael Caine) with the assistance of Angels (Ariadne, Arthur, Eames, Saito, Yusef) perform Inception on Cobb so that he may have emotional catharsis and accept his faith. So basically, Cobb is in purgatory, has a dream that allows him to forgive himself of his sin and take his leap of faith, and then wakes up on his plane “home” to Heaven with the angels. He is even greeted at the GATE by a guard (St. Peter) who says “Welcome Home.” God then personally escorts him to his children. That’s the true reason why it doesn’t matter if the totem keeps spinning or it doesn’t – since they are in heaven either outcome if justified. There is so much evidence of all this throughout the movie. Watch it again and find all of the religious references – there are TONS OF THEM! For instance, that scene where the walls are closing in on him?- Look at the screen right before he gets out. Everything is black, except for the BIG BRIGHT LIGHT at the end of the alley. He’s trying to get to it, but he can’t because he is not ready. When Cobb is training Ariadne why does she line up those mirrors that show them infinitely? She’s trying to show him eternity, but he’s not ready for it so it shatters. What is the basement where all the people who cannot dream go to dream? It’s hell. They are showing him what hell is like. Also pay close attention to Caine’s character who is simply seen as a father figure-it is never stated whether he is Mal’s Father, or Cobb’s. He is also a teacher, so: Teacher+Father to all=God. At one point Eames and Cobb were talking about how to perform inception. He then says that they need to start with the “relationship with the Father” (Cobb’s faith and relationship with God). ALSO, Fischer is Cobb’s subconscious. That’s why it’s so important that they make Fischer forgive his father and have his catharsis, since it really means that Cobb had his. Go see the movie again and you’ll realize that there are piles and piles of evidence that support this theory, and every single question gets answered. That’s why Cobb isn’t with his kids, because children get a pass from Purgatory. Mal doesn’t get to heaven because she committed suicide-which is an unforgivable sin, but in Cobb’s dream in purgatory, Mal is the devil taking the form of Cobb’s love, knowing that Cobb will just assume that Mal is his own mind’s projection. She then uses temptation and guilt to try and convince Cobb to stay in Purgatory. THIS IS JUST A TASTE of WHAT I”VE FOUND! SEE THE MOVIE AGAIN AND FIND MORE EVIDENCE ON YOUR OWN. Interpreting this film is a fulfilling adventure that just might help strengthen your own faith.

  • I’ve seen reviews comparing this movie’s worldview to Buddhism. Can someone explain that to me?
    I think one would have to BE a Christian to see any comparisons to our faith in “Inception.” The leap of faith references in the movie had nothing to do with religion, per se. I agree with the article’s explanation of the Christian “leap of faith”, which is NOT created from our dreams or imaginations or false beliefs. It is created by God through incarnate Christ. This movie was meant to be psychological, not religious.

  • I should add, I’ve seen the movie 3 times in a little over a week. It completely intrigues me!

  • We’ve gotten for the stage wherever a film that wanders remotely away the reservation stuns and wows us and leads us to believe it is terrific. “Inception” isn’t a terrible dvd. It’s definitely improved than something else Hollywood has to provide this year. Neither, having said that, is it wonderful.

  • Just one little point that you can discuss with your wife. The totem wiggles but we don’t see it fall But remind your wife that the point of having the totem is that it would only work if no one else touched it. They couldn’t be allowed to know the exact weight and shape and feel of it. In this case cobb’s totem was compromised when he washed up on the shore and the Asian man played with it.

    I think it was a dream because all the characters at the airport continued to look at him, like he maybe wasn’t suppose to be in that persons mind.

    In general i liked it and can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so i can watch it again. I just refuse to pay another $10 to see a movie in the theatre.

  • My two cents worth.

    I saw nothing Catholic about it.

    What I did see was a lot of Mormon theology.

    Being your own “god” kind of thing when they keep falling into a sleep.

SCOTUS: 6 Catholics, 3 Jews, Law, Scholasticism and Tradition

Wednesday, May 12, AD 2010

I read a comment[1] a few weeks ago on attempting to explain why John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant in the U.S. Supreme Court which simply said that Catholics and Jews have a tradition of being immersed in law (Canon Law and Halakha respectively for Catholics and Jews as an example).

This struck me as interesting because at first glance it kind of makes sense.

Of course there is much more to why the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, 6 Catholics, 2 Jews, and an Episcopalian, is as it is.[2]

But I thought it was an interesting enough topic to dive into.

Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe chimes in with her two cents worth [emphases mine]:

Evangelical Protestants have been slow to embrace, or to feel welcomed by, the elite law schools like Harvard and Yale that have become a veritable requirement for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for this, some scholars say, is because of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism.

As Ronald Reagan would say, there you go again, pushing the liberal theory that Christians are stupid (at least Evangelical Protestants).

Lets get beyond these stereotypes done by liberals to Christians.

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47 Responses to SCOTUS: 6 Catholics, 3 Jews, Law, Scholasticism and Tradition

  • The legalistic traditions would be the most obvious theory but I suspect that it’s too abstract to have this disparate an impact. Besides, sola scriptura is much closer to the originalism of the four conservative Catholic justices. The living Magisterium is more analogous to the living constitution that they reject.

    The anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism makes sense. Part of it may also be that Catholics make more reliable conservative judges and are therefore more appealing Republican appointees but I bet Catholics are overrepresented in the general lawyer population as well.

    Maybe religion is actually hiding an ethnic cultural difference. The legal field was one of the few fields that was relatively tolerant of Jews which is at least partially why they are overrepresented. Maybe anti-Catholic or anti-immigrant sentiment drove the Irish, Italians, and now the Hispanics into law.

    Maybe religion is hiding a regional difference. Five of the justices are from New York, two from California, and one from New Jersey. New York and California are the two biggest lawyer markets. They also happen to have the largest Catholic and Jewish populations. I can’t speak for California, but every ambitious New Yorker wants to be either a lawyer or a banker (another field where Jews, and maybe Catholics, dominate).

    Maybe Catholics and Jews can’t be lumped together. Maybe Jews are overrepresented for historic reasons and Catholics for religious reasons.

    Protestants do have their colleges, seminaries, and Bible study groups, similar to those of Catholics.

    But their emphasis is very different. I’ve heard one Protestant accuse Catholics of being too mechanical in their religious studies.

    Ironic that people got all hot and bothered when the fourth and fifth nominees for the SCOTUS were Catholic’s thus over-representing Catholics in the Judicial branch. But somehow the secularists are excited that the current nominee, Elena Kagan, a Jew, would make SCOTUS 1/3 Jewish.

    They were hot and bothered because Roberts and Alito were conservative Catholics. They had no problem with Sotomayor.

  • Let’s get beyond liberals. Liberals only have insults and lies; and fabricated/imagined crises meant to “grease the skids” for their destructive policy “solutions.”

    If we don’t stop Obama and his horde of liberal idiots (I repeat myself) in congress, and soon the Judiciary, they will cause a degree of economic devastation from which the private sector may never recover.

    Then, they will have succeeeded in making us all serfs, which was their (the two or three that aren’t gays/lesbians/puppy-lovers/morons) plan all along.

  • I take issue with the notion that the conservative justices’ approach is similar to “sola scriptura” and that the “living Constitution” approach is analogous to the living Magisterium.

    Instead, I would say the two approaches to the Constitution are rather more like the difference between how a traditionalist Catholic and a Voice-of-the-Faithful Catholic view the Magisterium.

    Conservative jurisprudence does not reject development in the law; conservative jurisprudence recognizes that the world today is different from the world 200 years ago and that matters will arise that were completely outside the imagination of the Framers. However, conservative jurisprudence also recognizes that developments in the law (1) are better suited to be addressed by legislative bodies rather than courts, and (2) to the extent the courts must develop constitutional doctrine to meet modern challenges, the development must be (a) an organic extension of the rights and values traditionally held by society and (b) be bound to the text of the Constitution as originally enacted and intended by the Framers.

    Justice Scalia famously discussed this view in the Michael H. case, in which a putative father (from an extra-marital affair) sought to use the Court’s “substantive due process” jurisprudence (see, e.g., Griswold and Roe) to overturn a state’s codification of Mansfield’s Rule, which protects the children of a marriage from outside claims of paternity. Scalia, in his majority opinion, attempted to limit the extension of “substantive due process” to those instances where society had traditionally protected such rights:

    1. The § 621 presumption does not infringe upon the due process rights of a man wishing to establish his paternity of a child born to the wife of another man.


    (b) There is no merit to Michael’s substantive due process claim that he has a constitutionally protected “liberty” interest in the parental relationship he has established with Victoria, and that protection of Gerald’s and Carole’s marital union is an insufficient state interest to support termination of that relationship. Michael has failed to meet his burden of proving that his claimed “liberty” interest is one so deeply imbedded within society’s traditions as to be a fundamental right. Not only has he failed to demonstrate that the interest he seeks to vindicate has traditionally been accorded protection by society, but the common law presumption of legitimacy, and even modern statutory and decisional law, demonstrate that society has historically protected, and continues to protect, the marital family against the sort of claim Michael asserts.

    Scalia explains further:

    In an attempt to limit and guide interpretation of the Clause, we have insisted not merely that the interest denominated as a “liberty” be “fundamental” (a concept that, in isolation, is hard to objectify), but also that it be an interest traditionally protected by our society. [Footnote 2] As we have put it, the Due Process Clause affords only those protections “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.” Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U. S. 97, 291 U. S. 105 (1934) (Cardozo, J.). Our cases reflect “continual insistence upon respect for the teachings of history [and] solid recognition of the basic values that underlie our society. . . .” Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479, 381 U. S. 501 (1965) (Harlan, J., concurring in judgment).

    This insistence that the asserted liberty interest be rooted in history and tradition is evident, as elsewhere, in our cases according constitutional protection to certain parental rights. Michael reads the landmark case of Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U. S. 645 (1972), and the subsequent cases of Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U. S. 246 (1978), Caban v. Mohammed, 441 U. S. 380 (1979), and Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U. S. 248 (1983), as establishing that a liberty interest is created by biological fatherhood plus an established parental relationship — factors that exist in the present case as well. We think that distorts the rationale of those cases. As we view them, they rest not upon such isolated factors but upon the historic respect — indeed, sanctity would not be too strong a term — traditionally accorded to the relationships that develop within the unitary family. [Footnote 3] See Stanley, supra, at 405 U. S. 651; Quilloin, supra, at 434 U. S. 254-255; Caban, supra, at 441 U. S. 389; Lehr, supra, at 463 U. S. 261. In Stanley, for example, we forbade the destruction of such a family when, upon the death of the mother, the State had sought to remove children from the custody of a father who had lived with and supported them and their mother for 18 years. As Justice Powell stated for the plurality in Moore v. East Cleveland, supra, at 431 U. S. 503:

    “Our decisions establish that the Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

    Thus, the legal issue in the present case reduces to whether the relationship between persons in the situation of Michael and Victoria has been treated as a protected family unit under the historic practices of our society, or whether, on any other basis, it has been accorded special protection. We think it impossible to find that it has. In fact, quite to the contrary, our traditions have protected the marital family (Gerald, Carole, and the child they acknowledge to be theirs) against the sort of claim Michael asserts. [Footnote 4]…

    That’s hardly a “sola scriptura” approach to jurisprudence and, in fact, I would argue that Scalia was relying upon his own Catholic understanding of the Magisterium in formulating that approach.

  • Thanks, Jay, for beating me to it. I owe you.

  • Ditto what Mike said. I’ve written that comment before (although probably not as well).

  • Three comments:

    First, I would not dismiss the existence of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelical Protestantism as mere liberal rhetoric. Certainly there is some of that, but the anti-intellectualism in evangelical Protestantism is well documented, especially by scholars such as Mark Noll, who is himself an evangelical Protestant. It is a part of evangelical Protestantism that many adherents are putting aside, but its historical existence could be a factor.

    Second, we can’t ignore social trends. Mainline Protestantism has been declining in numbers and influence for some time. The lack of mainline Protestants that “percolate up” to the upper echelons of the law is a consequence of that. At the same time, Catholic numbers and influence increased during the same decades. Also, Catholics and Jews during the last century emphasized education, assimilation, and becoming part of the “establishment.” That too, had implications. I would expect the same to happen with evangelical Protestants in the decades to come.

    Third, both Jewish and Catholic teaching has not emphasized, as much as mainline Protestants, a radical separation of church/state and politics/religion. Mainline Protestants, some have argued, emphasized it so much that they made religion irrelevant in the public square.

  • It’s not a perfect fit but there are elements of originalism that more closely resemble sola scriptura. Sola scripturists would also agree that the world is different today. Jay, I don’t think anything you said is inconsistent with sola scriptura.

    It’s funny you mention Michael H. I was just rereading my notes on the case a few days ago. None of the justices objected to Scalia’s view to traditional rights. Brennan’s dissent also looks to traditional rights. But a majority didn’t join Scalia’s footnote 6 for a very different reason. I, along with most the justices, think he’s wrong in his application, if not his approach. Contrary to his assertion that broader classes are more susceptible to conflicting interpretations, Scalia’s approach allows judges to pick conflicting specific classes. Scalia puts Michael H. in the class of “cheating fathers.” One can also place him in the class of “biological fathers.”

  • No, Scalia does not place Michael H. in the class of “cheating fathers”; he places him in the class of those who society and the law don’t want breaking up intact families by challenging the paternity of the children within those families. He’s unwilling to create out of whole cloth a “fundamental right” to do something that society has not traditionally seen fit to give sanction.

    And while one may also place Michael H. in the class of “biological fathers”, that says absolutely nothing regarding the “fundamentalness” of his “right” to have Mansfield’s Rule struck down as unconstitutional. And that’s what’s at stake. The liberal would throw out a centuries old common law rule over some imagined “fundamental right” to claim the child of an intact marriage as one’s own. That’s not akin to a “development of doctrine” – that’s changing the rules to suit one’s own personal view of how the law SHOULD be and fits more in line with how the VOTF crowd view the Magisterium.

  • Furthermore, the reason the “sola scriptura” analogy is inapt is because it an ahistorical reading of how originalists have actually behaved on the Court.

    Protestants whose approach to religion is based on “sola scriptura” reject authority and tradition as having any sway over how they apply their Faith to their lives. They reject developments in doctrine (even while unconsciously accepting such developments as the Trinity and the compilation of the Bible itself). The “sola scriptura” mindset – especially when it is of the fundamentalist variety – is a back-to-the-basics approach with only the Bible and the Holy Spirit as a guide.

    The originalist, in contrast, doesn’t reject authority or tradition or developments in the law that have occurred in the intervening years since the founding. The originalist doesn’t seek to “refound” the American republic as it existed in 1787. In fact, the originalist approach to jurisprudence is actually quite limited in scope by comparison to the Protestant Reformation and the approach of the “sola scriptura” practitioner.

  • Jay,

    Protestants whose approach to religion is based on “sola scriptura” reject authority and tradition as having any sway over how they apply their Faith to their lives. They reject developments in doctrine (even while unconsciously accepting such developments as the Trinity and the compilation of the Bible itself). The “sola scriptura” mindset – especially when it is of the fundamentalist variety – is a back-to-the-basics approach with only the Bible and the Holy Spirit as a guide.

    Thanks for fleshing out what I said in one sentence.

    I’m no law expert nor a lawyer, but I too could see that sola scriptura was an impediment towards doctrinal development for Protestants.

    And with that, originalsim and sola scriptura have no similarities with the respect to doctrinal development.

    Also appreciated your first comment as well…

  • Finally, let’s be honest about why those Catholics opposed to Constitutional originalism try to stigmatize it with the taint of “sola scriptura”: they know that most Catholics, especially conservative ones, take a dim view of “sola scriptura” in the context of theology, so they use the analogy to paint Catholic constitutional originalists as unthinking (in relying on the same intellectually inferior practice as protestant fundamentalists) and/or hypocritical (in doing to the Constitution what they criticize the protestants for doing to Christianity).

    The problem, as I’ve noted above, is that the analogy is inapt. But it is inapt not only because it fails to describe what originalists actually believe and how they actually behave, but because it is a comparison of two completely different institutions established for two completely different reasons and under two completely different sets of circumstances.

  • Evangelical Protestants who take their faith seriously go to any law school they can find that’s conducive to their faith. Catholics just go to the highest-ranked school that will take them – even if that school is not particularly religious. Of course, I am speaking in general terms.

  • Jay, I see that you are anticipating in advance the charge of being trapped in a Calvinist (and very Protestant) dualism by virtue of defending originalism. But you cannot escape; in order for the intellectually cramped Calvinist-Catholic dualistic system to work, any disagreement must be described as an outgrowth of individualism/Calvinism/liberalism.

  • Evangelical Protestants who take their faith seriously go to any law school they can find that’s conducive to their faith. Catholics just go to the highest-ranked school that will take them – even if that school is not particularly religious. Of course, I am speaking in general terms.

    I am not sure how true that is. I have friends and co-workers who are evangelicals that went to Harvard Law, and the Christian (not Catholic) law student group at my school (t-10 or so) was fairly sizable and active. But, of course, these anecdotes don’t really add up to data. You could be right about the general trend.

  • I’d consider myself a Catholic originalist. Sola scriptura (or some weak version of it) can be an perfectly defensible way to interpret the Constitution but not Scripture.

    Originalists reject any develop of new doctrines not grounded in the law as understood at the time of its enactment. They accept tradition only up to the point of enactment. They do not accept the idea that later traditions that could not reasonably be anticipated, can add to the law. On the other hand, Catholics accept that later traditions can add to existing “law” in ways that could not reasonably have been anticipated.

    Even the process of development differs. Originalists reject abstract unifying doctrines and prefer to judge new situations as fitting or not fitting into specific laws or enumerated rights. Catholics, I would argue, work in the opposite direction. Starting with abstract unifying doctrines (e.g., dignity of man), then judging whether the situation falls within an exception (e.g., double effect).

    As for the Michael H. sidetrack, Jay, you demonstrate exactly why Scalia’s methodology is wanting (I’d like to note that this is a different argument than the one over originalism). I described Scalia’s classification of Michael H. as a “cheating father.” You described it as “someone trying to break up a stable family.” Which one are we supposed to use? You also dismissed the implications of classifying Michael H. as simply a “biological father.” Traditionally, biological fathers have rights over their biological children. An appeal to tradition doesn’t work here because both sides can, and did, argue it. If Scalia’s methodology is correct, it’s incomplete, at the very least.

  • Centinel, you wrote:

    Evangelical Protestants who take their faith seriously go to any law school they can find that’s conducive to their faith. Catholics just go to the highest-ranked school that will take them – even if that school is not particularly religious. Of course, I am speaking in general terms.

    That goes beyond generalization, friend. Generalization, philosophically, means abstracting a feature true of each instance of a class, e.g., “Houses have roofs.” Generalization, popularly speaking, means abstracting a feature true of most or even many instances of a class, e.g., “The students at Catholic University are Catholics.”

    What you’ve managed to do is pluck out of a bag of prejudices and biases a dazzling example of complete ignorance EXCEPT of perhaps one or two cases that you know, and a few more that you know of.

    I am close friends with a woman who, as an Evangelical, went to Yale Law School because it was “the highest-ranking school that would take” her, to use your words. Not too shabby. Granted, it’s not the University of Barbados, but I suppose Yale Law will do for her sort. She’s a Catholic now, though. Did you know that there are numerous law schools at Catholic universities bursting at the seams with… all sorts of people?

    Do you think it possible that Catholics might be serious about their faith and go to a law school conducive to it?

    Do you think it possible that an Evangelical might be serious about his faith and yet go to an ungodly school bearing in mind that it is not the law school’s job to nurture his faith, and that he will continue to seek spiritual nourishment through the means he always has – prayer, reading the scriptures, attending a good church?

    C’mon. Your “observation” was entire facile.

  • “Traditionally, biological fathers have rights over their biological children.”

    Not biological fathers who aren’t married to the child’s mother. That’s a very recent development.

  • And I’m sure you’ll say that my last comment illustrates your point about classifications.

    But there will always be classifications when talking about defining rights under the Consitition. The key is to find the classification that does the least amount of damage to the constitutional order, and this is done by limiting the interference of the judiciary into the democratic process by defining the “fundamental right” narrowly enough as not to remove a broad category of activities from democratic oversight (not to mention creating out of whole cloth “rights” that have no basis in the text of the Constitution).

    Scalia’s appeal to tradition is to look at the behavior that society has traditionally valued and protected and determine whether the particular case before the Court meets – with specificity – the activity society has sought to protect.

    The liberal will look at “tradition” and try to broadly define the activity that is “fundamental” to ordered liberty so as to include as much activity as possible and remove it from the democratic process. Thus, Brennan et al looked at Michael H. as a “biological father”, and relying on some very recent precedent (and ignoring other recent precedent – i.e. that “biological fathers” have very few if any rights when abortion and birth control are at issue), tried to make the argument that he had a “fundamental right” to interfere in the inner workings and relationships of an intact family unit.

    What’s “traditional” about that? Nothing. Maintaining Mansfield’s Rule was based on tradition – the tradition of protecting the family, as society has sought to do for generations. The Court’s “fundamental rights” jurisprudence – of very recent vintage – regarding a biological father’s “reproductive rights”, not so much.

  • While not remotely an expert on law, the sociological/historical aspect interests me in regards to biological fathers’ right. It seems to me that the accurate characterization would be that in Western Culture, a biological father can assert paternity rights over illegitimate offspring by effectively “legitimizing” or recognizing them. This, however, assumes that the illegitimate offspring are otherwise simply “fatherless” and unacknowledged.

    The rights of the pater familias as a husband typically include having paternal rights over all children he chooses to acknowledge. So if his wife bears a child which is not, in fact, his, he can effectively make the child his by acknowledging the child as his regardless of actual paternity.

    The idea that a biological father could assert paternity rights over a child he fathered on a married women over the objections of her husband (who is willing to raise the child as his own) would be distinctly un-traditional.

  • Darwin,

    You’re right. It IS distinctly un-traditional. And for over 200 years, under Lord Mansfield’s Rule, such claims cannot be heard.

    Okay, I realize I’ve dominated this thread, so just one last thing on the classifications in Michael H. and how they relate to “tradition”:

    As Restrained Radical notes, both Scalia and Brennan appealed to “tradition” in reaching opposite conclusions in the case. However, a closer examination of the arguments and what respective “tradition” was being sought to be preserved by the opposing Justices, will reveal that one of the Justices was ACTUALLY concerned with remaining faithful to and preserving an established tradition, while the other Justice’s feigned appeal to “tradition” was a complete load of BS from one of the most successful bu11$h**tters who ever sat on the Supreme Court.

    Let’s start off with the fact that the rights of “biological fathers” – the “tradition” to which Justice Brennan appealed – are, as I noted above, a recent development in the law, and there is no long-standing “tradition” of “biological fathers” having legal rights over their offspring outside the context of the marital relationship. Even the parental rights of divorcing parents have always been based on the fact that the parents were married in the first place.

    So, let’s dispense with Brennan’s nonsensical claim that he was appealing to “tradition” and cut right to the chase. Were one to follow his constitutional jurisprudence to its logical conclusion, here’s Bill Brennan’s take on the “rights” of biological fathers:

    * A “biological father” has absolutely NO LEGAL RIGHTS to protect the life of his child should the mother choose to abort the child; HOWEVER …

    * A “biological father” has a “fundamental constitutional right” to interfere in an intact marital family relationship by asserting paternity over a child born inside that marriage should the mother choose to raise the child with her husband.

    * A “biological father” has a “fundamental constitutional right” that overrides an over-200-year-old common law rule – a common law rule known to and explicitly accepted by the drafters of the Constitution – meant to protect marriages from outside attack and children from bastardization.

    That’s Bill Brennan’s definition of “tradition”.

    On the other hand, under Justice Scalia’s approach, here is the state of the law:

    * an over-200-year-old common law rule that was on the books at the time of this Nation’s founding is preserved;

    * the sanctity of the marital family unit is preserved from outside interference by claims from a stanger to that marriage that he is, in fact, the father of a child born to that marriage;

    * the original intent and meaning of the text of the Constitution is preserved from the violence done to the constitutional order whenever a newly created “fundamental right” is used to strike down as “unconstitutional” a law that was fully known to and explicitly acctepted by those who drafted the Constitution.

    Now, which one of those approaches is TRULY concerned with tradition?

  • Personally, I always thought the tradition of offering sympathy to orphans should have helped the Menendez brothers


  • Jay, your putative domination of this thread has enriched it, and is greatly appreciated at least by me.

  • Agreed, I’ve enjoyed your explanation on this stuff, Jay.

  • I spend the day in Bankruptcy Court and Jay leaves me nothing to say in regard to Constitutional interpretation. Rats! Ah well, I will merely say ditto to what Jay wrote and what Scalia says below:

  • Donald,

    I liked his Chestertonian quote:

    “Some worth doing, is worth doing terribly.”

    Or something to that effect.

  • I should’ve stated this early but I don’t necessarily disagree with the outcome of Michael H. And I do think originalism is the proper method of analysis (while I still maintain this is closer to sola scriptura). I only take issue with Scalia’s method of abstraction outlined in footnote 6. He defines classes that need not be defined in that way.

    Jay & Darwin, it all depends on how you’re defining the tradition and the specific case. The children of a married woman have traditionally been presumed to be the biological children of the husband. Is Lord Mansfield’s Rule designed to protect the husband or the biological father? In the absence of DNA testing, it would seem that it protects the biological father (usually the husband) from spurious paternity claims. Therefore, it appears tradition protects the rights of the biological father. Modern technology has eliminated the need for blunt evidentiary rules.

    Again, I’m not saying that’s right. Only that the very existence of what I think is an alternative reasonable interpretation, undercuts Scalia’s approach.

  • Don, that was a great vid. It would be interesting to see a liberal originalist on the court. Lawrence Lessig, a liberal and a broad originalist, says Kagan thinks as he does. I doubt it but if true, not only would Kagan be the most influential justice, it would also alter the course of American jurisprudence. I’ve believed that the best kind of judicial nominee would be a liberal pro-lifer. Perhaps even more important than overturning Roe is changing the way liberals view abortion.

  • “Is Lord Mansfield’s Rule designed to protect the husband or the biological father? In the absence of DNA testing, it would seem that it protects the biological father (usually the husband) from spurious paternity claims. Therefore, it appears tradition protects the rights of the biological father. Modern technology has eliminated the need for blunt evidentiary rules.”

    I suppose it provides an alternative interpretation to Scalia’s, but it is one that I believe to be ahistorical.

    The historical record will bear out that Lord Mansfield was primarily concerned with the children of marriages not being made bastards, which is a matter wholly unconcerned with determining actual biological paternity. In fact, it was an objective that was often in direct conflict with determining such.

    Preserving intact marital family units from such challenges was not for the purpose of ensuring that the husband’s factual biological paternity was protected from spurious outside claims, but rather to ensure that children were not delegitimized. For that reason, the law created an irrebuttable presumption that the children of a married woman were the legitimate children of her husband.

  • I suppose, from a sociological point of view, a lot has to do with how you interpret the purpose of established cultural norms. It seems to me that the purpose would clearly be that a pater familias be able to determine who he wants to call his children. If he want to acknowledge children he had by a woman other than his wife, he can. If he want to refuse to acknowledge those children, he can. And when his wife bears children he can either acknowledge them, or repudiate his wife and deny them.

    All this sounds rather negative and “patriarchal”, but it also has the effect of making the direct and extended family strong against outside assaults. Good or bad, though, I think it’s hard to deny that it’s “traditional”.

  • “I doubt it but if true, not only would Kagan be the most influential justice, it would also alter the course of American jurisprudence. I’ve believed that the best kind of judicial nominee would be a liberal pro-lifer.”

    I doubt restrainedradical that Kagan will be anything but an orthodox political liberal on the bench. However, the fact that she has no judicial experience on the bench should give her backers pause. Felix Frankfurter, the great advocate of judicial restraint, was a fairly conventional political liberal before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by FDR without judicial experience. Things can look quite differently after one dons the black robe, especially with a life time appointment, and Kagan, perhaps, could end up surprising everyone.

  • I would be astonished if Kagan does not prove to be “anything but an orthodox political liberal” cleverly legislating from the bench whey “necessary.” But I’m prepared to be astonished, and certainly hope that I am.

    In any event. I hope the confirmation process is a smooth one. I’m all for hardball politics, but Kagan is qualified and that should be the end of it. The Dems viciously changed the rules with Bork, and I believe that the temperament within the Senate has never been the same. I’d like to see the Republicans avoid scoring political and polemical points and just plain do the right thing.

  • I agree Mike that the Kagan nomination is not the one for the Republicans to put up a fight on, but one of the main reasons why the Democrats routinely engage in scorched earth tactics in regard to Republican judicial nominees is because the Republicans routinely fail to do the same to Democrat nominees.

  • Fair enough, Don, but it is worth remembering that both Roberts and Alito got through without the Dems resorting to scorched earth practices, which is not to say that they behaved perfectly. I’d rather try to ratchet the practices back to how they are supposed to work. I acknowledge that it is a judgment call as to whether exhibiting good behavior or returning bad behavior is the most effective way to do that.

  • In regard to Alito Mike the Democrats tried but failed to filibuster his nomination. The final vote for his confirmation was 58-42 which is astounding if one of the chief criteria is supposed to be judicial comptence.

    Obama of course voted against confirmation for both Roberts and Alito, two of the best qualified jurists ever nominated to the Supreme Court.

  • Forgot that, Don, thanks. I’d still support Kagan’s nomination, but would also score points by emphasizing the contrast between her treatment and that of Alito, and get lots of digs against Obama for voting against Alito and Roberts.

  • Roberts was confirmed 78–22. He got far more Democratic votes than Sotomayor got Republican votes. Alito had the misfortune of being second. Kagan has the same problem.

  • Wow. Such deep arguments!

    Still, I think a lot of folks are overthinking this situation. A president seeking a pro-life perspective on the high court appoints a Catholic. Another president seeking some pro-life cover also appoints a Catholic. Presidents who seek a reliably pro-abortion leftist or wish to appease leftist elements of their party often appoint a Jew.

  • Restrained Radical,

    There’s no comparison, democrats are far more emotional and vindictive when it comes to voting against well-qualified judges that happen to seem conservative.

    Case in point, Robert Bork who lost the nomination 42-58.

  • The Bork confirmation process was unprecedented. It broke with longstanding Senate tradition, and frankly the Senate has not been the same since. The Dems broke the rules and lied shamelesslessly while doing it. Mutual rancor, payback, and distrust have been the order of the day since.

    While not unopinionated, I am not given to immoderate commentary. In fact I sign my real name as a matter of self-discipline. But let there be no misunderstanding or doubt: Joe Biden made his bones in the Bork hearings and behaved like a consummate dirtbag. I expected such dishonest behavior from the cowardly Senator from Massachusetts, but this was when Biden showed his true character colors.

    Finally, let’s be clear. When the Left decides to play hard ball, you can ususally count on the subtext being their sacrament of abortion. It started with Bork and Palin has been the most recent manifestation.

  • Bork and Thomas are outliners. People like Bork with long controversial paper trails don’t get nominated anymore. And Thomas had to deal with Anita Hill. I don’t think either party has a monopoly on outrage. As I noted before, Roberts had an easier confirmation than Sotomayor who in turn will have had an easier confirmation than Kagan. I predict Kagan’s confirmation to be similar to Alito’s. Four Democrats voted for Alito. I predict 2 or 3 Republicans will vote for Kagan (Snowe, Collins, and maybe Brown).

  • It’s a straw man.

    Bork had the most difficult.

    You can continue to apologize for your democratic party, but facts are facts.

  • While, I do not disagree with the overall thesis expressed herein. I find the characterization of Reform and Hasidic Judaism to be off the mark. I contend that the divisions within Judaism that they represent a division with Judaism but that these division were the result not of dogmatic differences.

    Rather I view the divisions within Judaism as being similar to the differences that exist between religious orders with Catholicism.

    In the sense that each religious order agrees on the truth of the dogma espoused by universal church, their missions differ,and as a result there may exist minor differences within their devotions and practice.

  • Nathan Zimmermann,

    I would like to default to your position because I know very little about Judaism.

    But when I see “conservative” and “reform” Jews advocate for the death of the unborn in absolute violation of the Ten Commandments and then I see “orthodox” Jews express identical views with Catholics and stand up for the unborn, then your analogy does not seem to fit that of Catholic religious orders.

    Catholic religious orders differ in mission, but adhere completely to the teachings of the Church.

    I don’t believe your analogy falls into that category with all due respect.

  • Mr. Edwards,

    I based my analogy upon my experiences and interactions with the aforementioned communities within my native city where even the conservative and reform Jews tend to be more conservative and pro-life.

  • If the Republicans wish to Bork a nominee Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination may be the best opportunity. If President Obama had nominated Judge Merrick Garland, the ability of the Republicans to Bork the nominee would have proved less tenable because, Judge Garland’ nomination was openly advocated by Senator Hatch.

    As addendum to my two previous posts, and to throw a fox into a hen-house. While there is no doubt of the universal church on the subject of abortion and euthanasia, eugenics and Darwinism.

    It should be noted that there existed a split with the church on the subject of eugenics and Darwinism during the 1920s and 1930’s as is evident in the writings of Rev. Hermann Muckermann, the elder brother of Rev. Friederich Muckermann SJ.

  • Nathan:
    There has never been a split regarding either Darwinism or eugenics in Church teaching properly understood The fact that some Catholic priests and theologians have favored abortion rights, for instance (which of course is still the case) does not in any way impair the fact that the Magisterium has remained consistent, even as it develops.
    I have countless Jewish friends. Sadly I know none who consider themselves of the Reform stripe who favor laws forbidding abortions, even though I know many who claim they themselves would not abort a child.

Competing Magisteriums

Thursday, April 29, AD 2010

I give an incredulous salute to the liberal Commonweal for publishing a magnificent column by Kenneth Woodward where he discusses the New York Times Magisterium:

No question, the Times’s worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times unique—and what any Catholic bishop ought to understand—is that it is not just the nation’s self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church.

Like the Church of Rome, the Times is a global organization. Even in these reduced economic times, the newspaper’s international network of news bureaus rivals the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. The difference is that Times bureau chiefs are better paid and, in most capitals, more influential. A report from a papal nuncio ends up in a Vatican dossier, but a report from a Times correspondent is published around the world, often with immediate repercussions. With the advent of the Internet, stories from the Times can become other outlets’ news in an ever-ramifying process of global cycling and recycling. That, of course, is exactly what happened with the Times piece on Fr. Murphy, the deceased Wisconsin child molester. The pope speaks twice a year urbi et orbi (to the city and to the world), but the Times does that every day.

Again like the Church of Rome, the Times exercises a powerful magisterium or teaching authority through its editorial board. There is no issue, local or global, on which these (usually anonymous) writers do not pronounce with a papal-like editorial “we.” Like the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the editorial board is there to defend received truth as well as advance the paper’s political, social, and cultural agendas. One can no more imagine a Times editorial opposing any form of abortion—to take just one of that magisterium’s articles of faith—than imagine a papal encyclical in favor.

The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ. As the paper’s first and most acute public editor, Daniel Okrent, once put it, the editorial page is “so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.” Okrent’s now famous column was published in 2004 under the headline “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” and I will cite Okrent more than once because he, too, reached repeatedly for religious metaphors to describe the ambient culture of the paper.

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2 Responses to Competing Magisteriums

  • That’s a solid and well balanced piece.

    Which maybe explains why the majority of comments are incredibly negative over at Commonweal.

  • I can understand the negative responses of Commonweal readers. I am taking a course with my local diocese. Naturally 99% of what is taught is a variant of liberal (Enlightenmnet) Protestantism. Social justice for this course IS the Democratic platform.
    The teachers have been using the clergy abuse scandal to undermine the hierarchy. This to undermine official Church teaching. This scandal has been a useful club for liberals – of Enlightenment and American varieties.

Using Religion To Defend Slavery

Friday, April 16, AD 2010

My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute.  As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World  and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just.   Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position.  For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire?   If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white?  Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.

Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822.  A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755.  A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19.  An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.

A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies.  With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.

Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil.  By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”. 

It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster.  However, such is not the case.  He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike.  The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible.  The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter.  Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina: 

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17 Responses to Using Religion To Defend Slavery

  • Obviously I missed the recent headline describing any living person who can spell both words “moral” and “compass,” let alone put them together, actually defending slavery.

    Perhaps you intend to dissect the reverend’s presumably learned discourse? I’ll need the cliffnotes, or some other reason to waste my time on the concept of slavery as a moral undertaking. Does this apply to moral instruction needed by anyone?

  • Catholicism’s place in slavery was not the one of Catholic quick internet written versions and not the list (which they are based on) of anti slavery bulls that Pope Leo XIII and another Pope gave in the 19th century… with simply Catholic laity disobeying and Popes objecting.
    John T. Noonan dispels that myth in “A Church That Can and Cannot Change”/ Nortre Dame/ 2005. What Pope Leo XIII left out of his list of anti slavery bulls was the late 15th century Popes who gave perpetual slavery as a right to Spain and Portugal when new natives resisted them in the new world. One can clearly see the beginning of this turbo charge of imperialism online in “Romanus Pontifex” 1453 by Pope Nicholas V (a follow up to his “Dum Diversas” which it is referring to) in the middle of the 4th large paragraph…see words in caps for essence:

    “We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to REDUCE THEIR PERSONS TO PERPETUAL SLAVERY, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit…(then at the end of the bull a fateful voiding of future bulls for the Portuguese crown)…And if anyone, by whatever authority, shall, wittingly or unwittingly, attempt anything inconsistent with these orders we decree that his act shall be null and void…Therefore let no one infringe or with rash boldness contravene this our declaration, constitution, gift, grant, appropriation, decree, supplication, exhortation, injunction, inhibition, mandate, and will. But if anyone should presume to do so, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.”

    Noonan points out that three subsequent Popes in the latter part of the 15th century confirmed the above for Portugal after Pope Nicholas V passed on and Pope Alexander VI in 1593 repeated the same rights for Spain as that bull divided the world between Spain and Portugal. You will remember that Alexander VI was in some ways the worst Pope we ever had in terms of scandal.
    In the Catholic Universities, theologians had a number of just causes for slavery and unforetunately one was already in the decretals (born to a slave mother) and was mentioned by Aquinas in the Supplement to the ST on Marriage (of a slave):

    “children follow the mother in freedom and bondage; whereas in matters pertaining to dignity as proceeding from a thing’s form, they follow the father, for instance in honors, franchise, inheritance and so forth. The canons are in agreement with this (cap. Liberi, 32, qu. iv, in gloss.: cap. Inducens, De natis ex libero ventre) as also the law of Moses (Exodus 21).”
    Supplement to the Summa Theologica
    Question 52 article 4 (“I answer that” section).

    Religious orders had slaves as England was in the process of stopping slavery.

    Noonan: “In 1792, six French Sulpicians arrived in Maryland, and one of them,
    Ambrose Marechal, leased a former Jesuit parish in Bohemia, where among other business in 1793 he sold ?Philis and her infant 3 weeks old for 35 pounds, and a month later sold Clara, Philis other child, 4 years old for five pounds. Marechal thought the proceeds belonged to the Sulpicians as profits of the estate, like the crops, the increase of stock, and firewood not fit for building. The Jesuits (organized as regular clergy since their suppression by the Pope in 1773) objected: like timber the Negroes belonged to the landlord. No objection was registered as to the sales, not even that separating Philis and Clara.” …A Church That Can and Cannot Change?/ pages 91-92/ John T. Noonan Jr.

    Noonan goes on to note that Marechal later became archbishop of Baltimore and argued with the Jesuits over property and Marechal reported to the Vatican pertaining to the dispute that concerning the wealth of the Jesuits: “They have about 500 African men bound in slavery to them, of whom the mean price is about 200 scudi.” And he goes on to note in the next sentence the large number of animals they also own. He is saying all this to get Rome to side with his contention that the Jesuits have property that rightly belongs to the Diocese since the Jesuits at that time were not an order (suspended) but were in the interim regular clergy.

  • I’ll grant you, this day after Tax Day, that Obama is doing his best to make slaves of us all. Other than than, I fail to comprehend the value in the discussion.
    And given the decidedly autocratic, politically tone-deaf bent to our national legislature of late, I am not sure I want anyone reminded that at one time reasonable men could reach different conclusions about the matter of chattel slavery and still be considered reasonable!

  • Cardinal Dulles had a review of Noonan’s book in 2005 in First Things. Here is the portion of the review which dealt with slavery:

    “More than half of the book deals with slavery, a subject that Noonan has researched in considerable detail. Slavery was practiced by almost every known society until modern times. Throughout the biblical era, Noonan shows, slavery was taken as a given, although the Israelites practiced rather mild forms of slavery and did not permanently enslave their compatriots. Jesus, though he repeatedly denounced sin as a kind of moral slavery, said not a word against slavery as a social institution. Nor did the writers of the New Testament. Peter and Paul exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters. Paul urges Philemon to treat his converted slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. While discreetly suggesting that he manumit Onesimus, he does not say that Philemon is morally obliged to free Onesimus and any other slaves he may have had.

    For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law. St. Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were all Augustinian on this point. Although the subjection of one person to another (servitus) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, St. Thomas taught, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin.

    The leaven of the gospel gradually alleviated the evils of slavery, at least in medieval Europe. Serfdom did not involve the humiliation and brutality people today ordinarily associate with slavery. Moral theologians recognized that slaves, unlike mere chattels, had certain rights even against their masters, who no longer had over them the power of life and death, as had been the case in pagan antiquity.

    For St. Thomas, slaves (servi) had the right to food, sleep, marriage, and the rearing of their children. Provision had also to be made for them to fulfill their religious duties, and they were to be treated with benevolence. With the conquest of the New World and the enslavement of whole populations of Indians and Africans, theologians such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and Cajetan began to object to the injustices of subjecting conquered peoples and of engaging in the lucrative slave trade. Some prominent Catholics of the early nineteenth century, including J.M. Sailer, Daniel O’Connell, and the Comte de Montalembert, together with many Protestants, pressed for the total abolition of slavery.

    Throughout this period the popes were far from silent. As soon as the enslavement of native populations by European colonists started, they began to protest, although Noonan gives only a few isolated examples. Eugene IV in 1435 condemned the enslavement of the peoples of the newly colonized Canary Islands and, under pain of excommunication, ordered all such slaves to be immediately set free. Pius II and Sixtus IV emphatically repeated these prohibitions. In a bull addressed to all the faithful of the Christian world Paul III in 1537 condemned the enslavement of Indians in North and South America. Gregory XIV in 1591 ordered the freeing of all the Filipino slaves held by Spaniards. Urban VIII in 1639 issued a bull applying the principles of Paul III to Portuguese colonies in South America and requiring the liberation of all Indian slaves.

    In 1781 Benedict XIV renewed the call of previous popes to free the Indian slaves of South America. Thus it was no break with previous teaching when Gregory XVI in 1839 issued a general condemnation of the enslavement of Indians and Blacks. In particular, he condemned the importation of Negro slaves from Africa. Leo XIII followed along the path set by Gregory XVI.

    Although the popes condemned the enslavement of innocent populations and the iniquitous slave trade, they did not teach that all slaves everywhere should immediately be emancipated. At the time of the Civil War, very few Catholics in the United States felt that papal teaching required them to become abolitionists.

    Bishop John England stood with the tradition in holding that there could be just titles to slavery. Bishop Francis P. Kenrick held that slavery did not necessarily violate the natural law. Archbishop John Hughes contended that slavery was an evil but not an absolute evil. Orestes Brownson, while denying that slavery was malum in se, came around to favor emancipation as a matter of policy.

    In 1863 John Henry Newman penned some fascinating reflections on slavery. A fellow Catholic, William T. Allies, asked him to comment on a lecture he was planning to give, asserting that slavery was intrinsically evil. Newman replied that, although he would like to see slavery eliminated, he could not go so far as to condemn it as intrinsically evil. For if it were, St. Paul would have had to order Philemon, “liberate all your slaves at once.” Newman, as I see it, stood with the whole Catholic tradition. In 1866 the Holy Office, in response to an inquiry from Africa, ruled that although slavery (servitus) was undesirable, it was not per se opposed to natural or divine law. This ruling pertained to the kind of servitude that was customary in certain parts of Africa at the time.

    No Father or Doctor of the Church, so far as I can judge, was an unqualified abolitionist. No pope or council ever made a sweeping condemnation of slavery as such. But they constantly sought to alleviate the evils of slavery and repeatedly denounced the mass enslavement of conquered populations and the infamous slave trade, thereby undermining slavery at its sources.”

  • Donald
    Dulles does a neat trick which is to again leave out the late 15th century Popes and secondly Dulles studiously does not notice if the anti slavery Popes followed up with interdict when Catholic countries ignored them.
    I read that Dulles piece long ago in First Things and it is not good reviewing when you seem not to have read what Noonan wrote. Dulles simply copied from Leo XIII or a drivative thereof which was the problem all along. It is as though Dulles skimmed the Noonan book…missed the central point of the late 15th century and thus skipped from Aquinas to Las Casas who was early 16th century… and then went to Leo’s encyclical and took on the reviewing assignment thinking no one would really read the Noonan book with close attention.

    Dulles fails to mention and Noonan does mention that the Canary Island case was a Pope objecting to slavery on Canary islands because the people in question were baptized. You can see that from the document itself online. That same Pope,EugeneIV,later gave Portugal the right to conquer those Canary islands which were infidel in 1436 in a separate “Romanus Pontifex” from Nicholas’ fateful one of 1453.

    Dulles goes on to tell of Pope Paul III issuing a bull against slaving in 1537 in the new world but he fails to mention why it was necessary (the late 15th century Popes had given carte blanche to enslave if the gospel was resisted) and further Dulles misses (which Noonan had documented) that ten years later, that same Paul III praised domestic slavery within Italy.

    Read the Noonan book and you will have done more than Dulles did. You can see from my piece above that Noonan documented the sale of a woman away from her child by the Sulpicians with the Jesuits taking that conduct for granted while Dulles goes on in cover up style about how the gospel alleviated the details of slavery. Please read Noonan, a Federal judge…one used to evidence and not used to making things look better than they were. What we did on sexual abuse was not new. We have done it with history on topics like slavery.

  • Bill, in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race. One feature of the enslavement of muslim captives is that they normally had to be freed if they converted to Christianity. Romanus Pontifex was part of Nicholas V’s attempts to launch a crusade as the Ottoman Turks were finishing off Constantinople.

    There are many passages in Romanus Pontifex that indicate that the war against the Saracens, muslims, was the prime concern of the Pope:

    “Moreover, since, some time ago, it had come to the knowledge of the said infante that never, or at least not within the memory of men, had it been customary to sail on this ocean sea toward the southern and eastern shores, and that it was so unknown to us westerners that we had no certain knowledge of the peoples of those parts, believing that he would best perform his duty to God in this matter, if by his effort and industry that sea might become navigable as far as to the Indians who are said to worship the name of Christ, and that thus he might be able to enter into relation with them, and to incite them to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet, and to preach and cause to be preached to them the unknown but most sacred name of Christ, strengthened, however, always by the royal authority, he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole.”

    Removing the bull from its historical context distorts what the Pope was trying to accomplish: destroy Islamic power in Africa and Asia and convert the populations to Christianity.

  • Donald,
    You paint a prettier picture but you didn’t get it from Romanus Pontifex which is the cat’s meow on what Romnaus Pontifex was about.
    Giving it an exclusive purpose concerning Islam which makes it seem more religious is distortive when the text does not support that is what is happening? Imperialistic converting of all foreign peoples is what is happening by force of arms….something Vatican II now forbids in the strictest terms.

    Pope Nicholas discerned three groups as the document progresses and only one of those groups was the Saracens. He obviously saw slaves in person by that time and discerned that Blacks from lower Africa had zero to do with Saracens.

    The text shows that Pope Nicholas distinquishes between the Saracens and the people of lower Africa and…and… a group living between who also are not Islamists (third paragraph) and all are to be conquered even lower Africa which had no record of attacking Iberia as the Moors did so the self defense thing is not relevant with them.

    You will recurringly see a couplet…”Saracens and other infidels”…”enemies and infidels” and no where does Nicholas restrict slavery to male soldiers…prior to his reign, the decretals…Church law… as I showed above in Aquinas allowed for the slavery of women and their children who would then follow them in slavery.
    Throughout the centuries, this would be the loophole whereby slavery perdured…a canon law that said children followed the mother if she was a slave. The other just titles for slavery were capture in a just war/ selling one’s children to feed one’s other children (Tomas Sanchez)/ self selling of self to pay debt as with endentured servants. The loophole Portugal used was to buy blacks that were captured in a presumably just war in the interior of Africa.
    The sellers said the war was just. Your mutual fund tells you they never trade in and out of Playboy Enterprises; you are allowed to take their word for it.

    Romanus Pontifex first paragraph:

    “not only restrain the savage excesses of the SARACENS AND OF OTHER INFIDELS, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations, though situated in the remotest parts unknown to us, and subject them to their own temporal dominion..”

    second paragraph:

    “also to bring into the bosom of his faith the perfidious enemies of him and of the life-giving Cross by which we have been redeemed, namely the SARACENS AND ALL OTHER INFIDELS WHATSOEVER, [and how] after the city of Ceuta, situated in Africa, had been subdued by the said King John to his dominion, and after many wars had been waged, sometimes in person, by the said infante, although in the name of the said King John, against the enemies and infidels aforesaid

    Thrid paragraph which now talks of conquering three distinct groups which will be repeated near the ending:

    “to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet…he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole”

    paragraph 4…future undiscovered lands perhaps motivated by the very remoteness of Antartica mentioned mention of Saracens…just infidels and pagans:

    “all those provinces, islands, harbors, and seas whatsoever, which hereafter, in the name of the said King Alfonso and of his successors and of the infante, in those parts and the adjoining, and in the more distant and remote parts, can be acquired from the hands of INFIDELS OR PAGANS, and that they are comprehended under the said letters of faculty.”

    Next to the last paragraph then mentions the three groups while forbidding non Portuguese to bring things to those three groups:

    “that they do not by any means presume to carry arms, iron, wood for construction, and other things prohibited by law from being in any way carried to the Saracens, to any of the provinces, islands, harbors, seas, and places whatsoever, acquired or possessed in the name of King Alfonso, or situated in this conquest or elsewhere, to the SARACENS, INFIDELS, OR PAGANS…”

  • Bill, I think the document is clear that crusade is what the Pope had in mind. Of course it also helps to have some knowledge of the period and of the pontificate of Nicholas V. The encroaching threat of Islam consumed the pontificate of Nicholas V as it did the pontificates of most of the Popes of this time. Nicholas V viewed the explorations being undertaken by the Portugese as a prime opportunity to spread Christianity and make an end run around Islam. To attempt to read this bull as the Pope giving permission to found a slave trade or a slave empire is ahistoric. The Pope was attempting to encourage the Portugese in their endeavors, and hence that is why he granted them a monopoly in these territories.

    How Nicholas V would have dealt with long term slavery based on race is suggested by his bull in 1449 overturning statutes of the city of Toledo discriminating against Conversos, Catholics of Jewish Ancestry, on the grounds that “all Catholics are one in body according to the teaching of our faith.”

  • Donald,
    I’ll end briefly too. Were Pope Nicholas only about crusade, he would not have promised all the lands and assets of conquered countries to the Portuguese with the conquered people being perpetual slaves…unless there is a new definition of crusade that I never saw. And you then in your paradigm have the conquered males being slaves and the women and chidren as free as you and me. That is an odd picture of a conquered country with two classes of people…free women and enslave males. Sounds like the beginning of women’s lib. Romanus Pontifex said “perpetual slavery” not slavery til ransom as you said way above as you tried to subsume it under war practices.
    Pope Nicholas did not envision what the slave trade would become just as Henry Ford did not picture the New Jersey Turnpike and people being maimed in accidents… but he was responsible in great measure for giving slavery it’s license from Heaven prior to Protestantism and its justifications of slavery. And you are ignoring the text of Romanus Pontifex and its listing of two groups at first and its eventual listing of three groups of which Islamists were only one.

    A previous bull of “Unam Sanctam” mistook the two swords the disciples told Christ they had in the gospel… as saying that the Pope had both a secular sword and a relgious sword….power over the Church and power over the world. In the actual text of the gospel, scholars now feel Christ was exasperated with the two disciples taking His reference to swords as literal and so Christ says “Enough”. “Unam Sanctam” said Christ was saying that the “enough” meant that the two swords for the Pope are sufficient in the sense of over the Church and one over the world…the most dire misinterpretation of Christ that perhaps ever occurred.

    Pope Nicholas was the next step for the two swords; he actually carried that two fold purpose out with a nation. He saw himself capable of giving the world to Portugal due to his dominion over the secular sword and that they must convert others during that conquest as an integral part of conquest. Soon after Nicholas, in 1493, a Spanish Pope who had more children as Cardinal than the average NFP person today…Alexander VI… divided that entire world between Spain and Portugal each getting half of the world and that Pope gave the longitude they were to go by which oddly resulted in Brazil being Portuguese and the rest of South America being Spanish. It had nothing to do with Islam whatsoever. He was Spanish himself and was making sure the Portuguese did not get the whole world thanks to Nicholas. And the same rights of invasion and dominance and perpetual slavery were given Spain as were in Romanus Pontifex for the Portuguese (Noonan)…including the right of taking assets of those who resisted the gospel which Niall Ferguson of Harvard and Oxford in his recent best seller, “The Ascent of Money”, notes allowed a priest accompanying the conquistadors to hand a Bible to the leader of those natives in Peru as constituting preaching the gospel and see if he resisted the gospel; the leader did not open the bible…perhaps he could not read Latin and it was very lengthy. Anecdotes say that he threw it on the ground and that constituted resisting the gospel. Spain was subsequently to take that kingdom and all their silver for over 200 years from that area…at first with paid labor and later with local slaves and then after that black slaves….all of whom were easily maimed from falling stones in that type of mining and that silver and Mexico’s were 44 percent of Spain’s budget by the end of the 16th century and thus of the Inquisition’s budget…and Spain still waned before Britain due to her European wars. Ferguson quotes an Augustinian monk, Fray Antonio de la Calancha writing in 1638 AD: ” Every peso coin minted in Potosi(Peru)has cost the life of ten Indians who have died in the depths of the mines.”

    Historical context? Romanus Pontifex must be seen as the logical outgrowth of the mistake within Unam Sanctam…that the Pope literally owns the world in the name of Christ and so can give it to a nation that will conquer and convert under the threat of arms. That is how Filipinos and their country came to be named not after one of their heroes… but in honor of Phillip II of Spain who conquered them… much as Islam still threatens to conquer for God. God’s Providence removed throughout history land from the papacy… perhaps precisely in order to correct those several bulls.

  • Presuming to know God’s providence is a tricky business Bill. But for the actions of the Popes in sponsoring crusades across the centuries I have little doubt but that Islam would have conquered Europe. Perhaps God had the Popes assume secular authority during those centuries in order to prevent this. The answer to these type of questions will be in the next world.

    In regard to my point about Nicholas V and his overturning of the decrees against Conversos, I would note that in 1462 Pius II condemned the enslavement of baptized natives in the Canary Islands, calling slavery itself a great crime. Sublimus Dei of 1537 can thus be considered an application of the teaching regarding baptized natives and applying it to the non-baptized. Since readers of this thread might be unfamiliar with the text of Sublimus Dei I quote it in full:

    “To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come, health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction.

    The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office ‘Go ye and teach all nations.’ He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.

    The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.

    We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.

    By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.”

  • Donald
    Paul III whom you quoted above was not quite as consistent as you would like. He did not want enslavement based on conquering as the previous Popes did (see below). Yet Noonan found a later motu proprio of the same Pope Paul III “Statutorum almae urbis Romae libri quinque (Liber bullarum 19 v.)1548…11 years later than 1537 which stated: “from a multitude of slaves,inheritances are augmented.” Remember that Catholic moral theology until 1960 (Tommaso Iorio,S.J….Theologia Moralis…5th printing 1960)still contained several just titles for slavery in general and I actually regret that but accept it and that Leviticus 25 does mean at minimum that in some eras of debilitated economy and political structure, it can be existent morally and that John Paul II erred in calling it “intrinsic evil” in section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” (the ordinary magisterium can err in morals…see Ludwig Ott/ end paragraph of section 8 of the intro to Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith) (see section 40 of Evangelium Vitae for John Paul’s rather unconventional estimation of the severe within the OT as not coming from God).
    The Jesuit Salvatore Brandi centuries later in 1903 said that Paul III in the above motu proprio praising slavery was referring to mild slavery but as Noonan noted…he offered no proof.

    And I would urge intelligent readers to look at that one sentence within the piece that Donald presented just above:

    “notwithstanding [[whatever may have been]] or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty”.

    Pope Paul III is referring in the double bracketed words above to a series of 5 Popes minimum at the end of the 15th century whom Leo XIII left out of his encyclicals on the papal history with slavery and which Dulles left out of his First Things piece.

    And it was not just Pope Nicholas V and Alexander VI but included Pope Calixtus III who incorporated Romanus Pnotifex and its “perpetual slavery” (not temporary) into his own Inter Caetera 1456 as did Sixtus IV 1481 and then Pope Leo X confirmed Romanus Pontifex in writing for the Portuguese in 1514.

    We…Leo XIII and Cardinal Dulles… leave that out much as we tried leaving out many things in modern times related to the present revived scandal in the media. Opacity is over for us and for Goldman Sachs and Toyota and for everyone. But it works as long as people do not read micro history.
    But that is what the media specializes in making people read.

    Gone for real. Slavery topics kill weekends.

  • Paul III in 1545 abrograted the ancient privilege of slaves claiming freedom under a certain statue in Rome. From what I can glean online this abrogation had much to do with his desire to reduce the number of vagrants and homeless who had flocked to Rome. In 1548 he allowed the use of Muslim slaves, recall the whole crusade idea, in the Papal states.

  • “in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race.”

    Bingo! Are we really supposed to be all torn up about this?

    It’s a commonplace that classical and chattel slavery were two different institutions, and that the sort of slavery resulting from war between Christendom and Islam was far more representative of the former than the latter.

    This obsession, moreover, with “INFIDELS AND PAGANS” has nothing to do with black slavery. Infidels meant Muslims. Pagans could have meant any number of non-Muslim ENEMIES of the Church.

    None of the people of Africa or the Americas were thought of in such a way, as is made obvious by the long series of Papal bulls that were for some reason summarily dismissed at the beginning of this discussion.

    The Church wouldn’t have condemned chattel slavery in the New World over and over again if she didn’t see a difference. There’s no “contradiction” and there’s no “mistake.” The mistake is on the part of those who fail to understand the difference between what an “enemy of the Church” is, and what they aren’t.

    The “mistake” is on the part of liberals and others with a political agenda attempting to re-open old wounds by judging the past by modern standards – modern standards which are hardly any better, given the 40 million plus innocent children this country has seen legally murdered since 1973.

  • Joe
    Read detail before you post on detail. Saracens, infidels, and pagans are separated by commas in e.g. the last paragraph of Romanus Pontifex and could not therefore be identical and below Pope Paul III will name them (“Indians of the West and the South”) within that generation as he corrects the earlier bulls.

    Secondly it is the Pope, Paul III, who contradicted the five above mentioned Popes during the same time in history (Paul III was the brother of Pope Alexander VI’s mistress, Giulia Farnese)and that presents a difficulty for theories like yours of that time having different standards.
    Paul III had different standards than the Popes who just preceded him immediately which means that at that time, there were two standards as to perpetually enslaving conquered blacks and native Americans if they resisted the gospel.
    So there is not one standard of enslaving in 1536 and prior; that is why Paul III wrote his bull in 1537. There were 265 Popes throughout history and relatively few took a stand against slavery and bulls in some centuries meant little beyond the immediate Pope unless they were backed up with interdict for those countries who ignored them and Paul III even did not interdict Spain or Portugal in their ignoring of him. Popes for centuries needed Kings just to have the papal territories survive and that made political bulls weak. Venice and its Bishops and priests totally ignored a papal interdict during that time of the Renaissance. That is why Pio Nono did not condemn France in the 19th century for the 2nd Opium war in China; he needed her to defend the papal territory which she did but then it was soon lost again anyway and France as papal rep within China in the second opium war both opened China to missionaries at the end of a gun but also forced the British opium trade on China simultaneously. Current Popes speak bravely against wars because current Popes get nothing from modern nations…ancien regime Popes were always dependent on nations and rarely backed up bulls with interdict so that a bull was permanent only if nations gained from what it said as in the case of Portugal and Spain who were not about to listen to an Italian Pope after a Spanish one had given them conquering rights and enslavement rights.

    And it is Paul III who further refutes your no blacks involved theory in Paul III’s own words regarding who the previous Popes gave permission to enslave. Here are the words of Paul III in 1537:

    ” The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.”

  • Pope Nicholas V by the way gave the right to perpetually enslave those who resisted the gospel. He did not say that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel so that Paul is also dealing with a further lower level of evil which had crept in since Nicholas…ie that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel. Apparently Spanish and Portuguese were running into an unforeseen problem:
    if natives accepted the gospel according to Nicholas, they were not to be enslaved and that meant that believers would interfere for example in Iberia taking specific land en masse since there existed believing natives on that land. Apparently the solution was to say that natives were too dumb to believe and thus the conquistadors were actually probably trying to undo even Nicholas V caveat that implied that natives accepting the gospel could not be enslaved or stolen from.
    Paul III did not issue an interdict to back up his words but he did issue a brief, Pastorale Officium, of excommunication mentioning the King of Castile and Aragon ….but Spain protested and so he rescinded it.

  • Bill,

    Ok. I’m going to try and be nice about this, because I admit, I could have some reading comprehension deficiency that isn’t allowing me to see your point.

    I would ask you to follow your own advice, and read the bloody details before you criticize others for not having read them.

    This is what you quote:

    “We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it.”

    First of all, what is the evil being done here? The evil is that there men – probably the Conquistadors and others, were trying to use the supposed idiocy of the natives to justify their enslavement. The whole purpose of this bull is to REFUTE THAT IDEA. He goes on to say:

    “Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters… that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.”

    Is there something about this that is unclear to you?




    Someone here has severe reading comprehension deficiencies. It could be me. But I think it’s you. And I don’t know if you are motivated by anti-Catholic bigotry or you really just don’t understand the plain and simple meaning of words. You work that out for yourself.

  • Joe

    Your first post criticized my reading of words from not Paul III who you cite immediately above but from “Romanus Pontifex” by Pope Nicholas V and the words were: “Saracens, infidels and pagans” which you sought to conflate into “muslims” only. I responded to that.

    Now your above and second post is talking about an entirely different bull by an entirely different Pope as though that is one you were writing about in the first post as to the detail problem that I alleged as to those words and it was not. Your first post was about the words “infidels and pagans” within the 1453 bull not the 1537 bull by another Pope.

    You now are quoting Pope Paul III in 1537 who was opposing two of the Popes and one of the conquistadors: A. the error of the Popes prior to him who gave the right of perpetual slavery IF..IF…IF… natives resisted the faith….and B. error two (the one you mention) of those (probably conquistadors)who even wanted to go beyond what Pope Nicholas V had given them: which was the right to enslave those who resisted the gospel. They wanted to also enslave simply all natives who seemed to them too dumb to accept the gospel.
    Why did the conquistadors want to go further than enslaving perpetually those who resisted the gospel?? Probably because too many natives with clergy help were not resisting the gospel which meant that according to Pope Nicholas V who gave them the right to enslave those who resisted…it meant that they could not enslave all natives and that would leave them with land distribution problems because historically the conquistadors took vast areas for themselves and their descendants…the best land tracts; and therefore allowing some natives to hold onto their homes because they did not resist the gospel would get in the way of that land system which was later referred to as the “encomienda” system and that system is the reason there is so much poverty in South America today according to some authors like Trevor-Roper I believe it was.

Supreme Court Justices and Religion

Wednesday, June 10, AD 2009

To ask some questions is to answer them, and via Commonweal, I see that UCLA history professor emeritus Joyce Appleby has penned a lovely exercise in anti-Catholicism entitled, Should Catholic Justices Recuse Selves On Certain Cases?. Here is an excerpt:

But because of the Catholic Church’s active opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and capital punishment, it raises serious questions about the freedom of Catholic justices to judge these issues. Perhaps the time has come to ask them to recuse themselves when cases come before their court on which their church has taken positions binding on its communicants…

…Recusal sounds like a radical measure, but we require judges to withdraw from deliberations whenever a personal interest is involved. Surely ingrained convictions exert more power on judgment than mere financial gain. Many will counter that views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty are profound moral commitments, not political opinions. Yet who will argue that religious beliefs and the authority of the Catholic Church will have no bearing on the justices when presented with cases touching these powerful concerns?

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46 Responses to Supreme Court Justices and Religion

  • Well, didn’t Scalia say the Catholic judges who are against the death penalty should recluse themselves? hmmm….

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  • Well, John Henry, as you rightly point out, there is a worldview of all the judges.

    What I find interesting is “justice” is not justice in the natural law sense. That is, having American positive laws in conformity with the natural and eternal laws. Alexander Hamilton put it this way: “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

    However, the American sense of “justice” is to uphold the letter of the Constitution and legal precedence. This can pose quite a dilemma. If I’m a Catholic sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, hypothetically dealing with a case prior to the 1860s regarding slavery, I would be obliged to rule to uphold what is, in fact, not just at all. My very obligation — according to “originalism, as I understand it — would be to to rule in such a way that contradicts the very title of “Justice.”

    Yet, it seems, to lax strict guidelines and open the door to some sort of “judicial autonomy” easily leads to what we call legislating from the bench.

    I’m not sure what the solution should be. Constitutional law is a matter where I’m simply agnostic and hesitant about most positions. To be sure, I do think the comments by Scalia and Thomas–no matter political orientation, or their purposes–are downright scandalous. The my “faith has nothing to do with my rulings” statements though situationally different than legislators reaffirms the separation of faith and life, religion and politics — all of which, I don’t support.

  • “He said they should resign.”

    He’s right. Just according to Catholic teaching. Shouldn’t be automatically discarded by a Catholic judge.

  • Eric

    I think as to Pre- Civil War Judges that were anto Slavery they would be hard pressed to ban slavery since theire power and authority came from an agreement among the States that involved the Slavery issue. It was part of the pact as it were.

    THere has been some talk in recent threads about Scalia and Thomas statements and if they are scandaleous. I really don’t think they are. However I wish they would have fleshed out what they mean more.

    I suggest this article that also has a helpful comment by Rick Garnett as to being what a Catholic Judge is

    That article also shows that Scalia had other thoughts that rarely get mentioned as to that statement

    “If he were not a textualist and an originalist, if he thought he ought to rely on substantive moral notions not found in the text, then, Scalia said, his Catholic faith would make a large difference in how he judges cases. Similarly, if he had to judge common-law cases¯cases that do not involve texts enacted by a legislature but only judge-made law, cases of the kind that sometimes come before state courts but rarely come before federal courts¯things would likewise be different. In making common-law decisions, a judge has to make normative judgments about which laws are best, and so the judge’s values are properly in play. So, too, in the voting booth. Indeed, when the question switches from which laws we actually have to which laws we ought to have, then a person properly relies on moral values, whether they be Catholic or anything else.”

    I think this is very correct and there is nothing really un Catholic about that.

    I suppose my question is why are Judges (Catholic or otherwise) criticized for not thinking they have a grant of authority to do X

    FOr instance if we take that standard then why do we not criticize a Pro-Life President for not sending out his Federal Marshals and closing down all the abortion Clinics by Fiat. The reason we don’t is because we know that would be a UnConst power grab. Society can not function in such an environment.

  • One other thought on Sclaia Statements as to State execution. THe media generally does a bad job of covering religious issues. The only thing they do worse is covering Supreme COurt matters and the people on the Court

    From a person that was there:
    I would note one (perhaps self-evident) thing in clarification of the Scalia
    argument as it has been described in this thread: Scalia’s view that a
    Supreme Court Justice should resign if he or she believes the death penalty
    is immoral is dependent on the further assumption, manifest in his speech,
    that a Justice does not (or ought not) bring personal or contemporary moral
    judgment to bear in deciding death cases or in establishing death-penalty
    doctrine: “[T]he Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living, but
    dead; or as I prefer to call it, enduring.” “Bear in mind that I don’t make
    up new constitutional rules.”

    Further from Rick Garnett that was also there

    As I heard him, Justice Scalia was careful to establish, as a premise to his
    “have to resign” conclusion, that his position as a Justice involves him to
    a sufficient degree in the application of the death penalty to make him
    complicit in the wrong done. That is, I don’t think he was suggesting that
    his disagreement, standing alone, required him to resign, but rather, that
    (a) he has a moral obligation not to “cooperate” with evil (assuming that
    the application of the death penalty is, in fact, illicit); and (b)
    participating in death cases constitutes “cooperation” with evil. For my own
    part, it is not clear that a Supreme Court Justice who, say, fails to vote
    to deny a stay of execution, or fails to vote in support of a habeas
    petition brought by a capital defendant is, in fact, “cooperating” with the
    (assumed) evil of the death penalty.

  • What is bizarre about this is its literal unconstitutionality. Article VI, Section 3:

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

    So under the guise of separation of church and state, something never mentioned in the constitution ironically, we are forced to ignore the actual words of the constitution.

  • For those interested I find the transcript of Scalia’s remarks so you see them in the full context

  • jh,

    That was precisely my point. I was arguing that, to begin with, we aren’t even starting with a natural law conception of Justice. It is fundamentally a social contract theory, which itself is the arbiter of what is right and wrong in a legal sense. In other words, I think the lack of natural law orientation profoundly obscures what is true justice and the essence of law.

    My other concern is being complicit. Regardless of judicial philosophy, I would not rule to uphold slavery as the law of the land because it isn’t true justice. I simply cannot imagine allowing such an evil to perpetuate because of such commitment to a particular judicial philosophy, especially, if hypothetically, it was a 4-4 and I was the “swing vote.” I would not vote to uphold it when I know, apart what may be philosophically ideal, when I knew that I could stop an evil immediately. In other words, I find it problematic that our judicial system is more concerned about the letter of the constitution and legal precedence than actual justice.

    I understand why we currently operate like this. There are alternate approaches that I wouldn’t say any better, e.g. the approach that got us Roe v. Wade.

    Even still, I am not satisfied or convinced by Scalias’ argument. I think so far, at least, it may be the do-the-least-harm approach and our best weapon against getting results like Roe, or even worse, Casey with its infamous “liberty clause.”

    If Catholics are right about law, about the nature of law, then the American emphasis on upholding whatever is the positive law on the books as long as its conformity with the framework of the Constitution is problematic, in my view, that is building a system on a false premise of law and justice.

    Thus, I think we should develop a different judicial philosophy. I wish I knew what it was. But with the status quo, I can’t say I am satisfied.

  • “I find it problematic that our judicial system is more concerned about the letter of the constitution and legal precedence than actual justice.”

    Perhaps, I should say more committed to…or more interested in, at the expense of natural law thinking.

    I don’t think Catholics should throw natural law under the bus for positive law. The West profoundly misunderstands law and I wish we currently were operating through some different, more acceptable (in my view) judicial apparatus but we aren’t…

    I suppose the problem is finding a way that one does not get into the “living Constitution theory,” as it is currently promulgated.

  • In other words, I find it problematic that our judicial system is more concerned about the letter of the constitution and legal precedence than actual justice.

    I understand why we currently operate like this. There are alternate approaches that I wouldn’t say any better, e.g. the approach that got us Roe v. Wade.

    I hate to say it, but your approach largely is the approach used in Roe v. Wade, only from a different perspective. The judges in that case thought abortion was a manifest right, the Constitution be damned, and so essentially made a decision based on their conception of what was wrong or right. Your approach is similar, only you’re arguing that slavery is morally wrong. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t get us very far if 5 Justices happen to disagree with you. So either we follow the written text of the Constitution or we follow the dictates of our conscience (hopefully the two are not in contradiction). 99% of the time the latter approach is the right one, but not when adjudicating in a Court of Law.

  • Eric

    As to Slavery the natural law sometimes must make an accomdation with a evil to help mitigate that evil. It should be noted that as a part fo this aggreement the International Slave Trade as to the USA was abolished. Again back then the theory was to strangle it out and even SOutherners thought it would die out of existance. The problem was people went back on the deal when they wanted it expanded.

    So I think Catholic Justices had no moral problem on the whole. Also lets be real here. Can you imagine if say in 1850 the Supreme COurt would have declared Slavery illegal. Well they would have just been ignored and thus set a dangerpus precedent

    I have no objection to a natural law jurisprudence. But again what is that? I can recall when Justice Kennedy came and taught my Const Law class. He asked a questions about rights and the rights listed in the Bill of Rights

    He said why don’t we have a

    Right to a Job
    A right to Health Care
    etc etc etc

    In fact this is where exactly many people that advocate a Natural Law Jurisprudence from the more Catholic left want to go. That is look at that rights that in the SOcial Compendium and have judges declare it.

    Kennedy pointed out the obvious. If these were “rights” on par with lets say the Freedom of Assembly there would be chaos.The Chaos he was talking about dealt with how in the world would Judges be able to deal with it and frame that right. You would in effect have a mini legislature in the Judicial branch and I suppose Law Clerks with no expertise in all these issues involved in all this.

    From a personal veiwpoint looking at How Federal Judges have run the East Baton Rouge Parish School system for 25 years while it was under the desegration decree I find trheir management skills quite lacking

    I can’t imagine what they would do to the Health system as Federal Judges come in and manage them in order that a “right to Health Care” could be had

  • Paul,

    Well, perhaps I’m liberal after all. Though, in some respect, I am not “reading” stuff in the Constitution that clearly isn’t there and pretending that the text of the Constitution is in alignment with my position.

    I’ll put it this way. In terms of maintaining social order and political stability, the “originalist” position is best, in that, it does the least amount of harm. In the end, I still think it’s flawed and there has to be some ways to address its flaws.

  • Eric

    I would also say as to Natural Law thinking that this could occur in the legislative branch. I am also still open to it in the Judicial branch.

    You might really enjoy this one hour podcast that Arkes had at the Making Men Moral COnference as he explains his attempts to get his Friend Scalia and others to recognize they can use the Natural Law.

    Scroll down to “Closing Luncheon with remarks by Hadly Arkes”

    That speech as well as a few others really address what you are talking about especially Arkes

  • “As to Slavery the natural law sometimes must make an accomdation with a evil to help mitigate that evil.”

    The principle of the Double Effect only works if the evil you are tolerating is not objectively evil in and of itself. The argument is basically proportionalist aka. utilitarian aka. consequentialist.

    “So I think Catholic Justices had no moral problem on the whole. Also lets be real here. Can you imagine if say in 1850 the Supreme Court would have declared Slavery illegal. Well they would have just been ignored and thus set a dangerpus precedent”

    That’s consequentialist reasoning. It is like the sin of omission, or not doing what is right because of the consequences that it would render. I’m afraid to say it strikes me like saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would cause a political backlash and cultural division even worse than it is now, thus, one should act to bring change slowly. It is the argument of the “white moderates” who wished to (allegedly) integrate blacks into society over time, as the culture slowly changed.

    The argument is basically pragmatist and only further convinces me that the machinery of our government places Catholics, particularly in this regard, in a dangerous place. You either cooperate with the machine and lose your ethics, or you “legislate from the bench” and cause tyranny.

    And again, I don’t think anyone has seen a natural law jurisprudence laid out because it’s in its early stages. However, I think the debate should be had.

  • Eric

    I don’t think the situation that lets say anti Slavery Catholic Judges found themselves in was at all consequentalist. Again part of the deal was in order for this nation to be formed some of the evils of Slavery would have to be minimized. Therefore the natural law made a accomdation with a evil to minimize it. What made the whole deal go off the rails was the South basically demanding a Right to Nationwide Slave code which was demanded by the SOuthern Democrats at their Dem Convention in Charleston.

    Lets use another example. That is the sex business. The Church has recognized that such things as Prostitution and brothals are evil and bad. Yet the Church has reconzied that such things as regulation of it to mimizew it evils (like red light districts) and such is ok in many regards.

    One can make a arguement as to abortion that a process of chipping away at it slowly and strangling it to death (like Slavery) is the way to go. If there is a all or nothing approach there would never be proress on the issue.

    Also in the end the Court again has no power to tax and really no way to enforce it orders. It must rely on its good name. At times they cash it in. Look at Brown vs the Bopard of Education. But if the COurt was issuing Society changing ruling like Brown every year then I predict they would be ignored. That is for instance the Executive Branch would disover Lincoln’s musings that he had a right to interpret the Const kust like the Court.

    This is one reason wehy for the most part the Court is slow in making dramtic changes

  • “Therefore the natural law made a accomdation with a evil to minimize it.”

    I understand that people made compromises that seemed unavoidable, e.g. compromises like we make on abortion to get as much restriction as possible. However, the natural law does not accommodate evil–it is the moral law of God and the standard of perfect justice. So, the language you’re using is problematic in terms of moral theology, hence I keep arguing against it.

    “Yet the Church has reconzied that such things as regulation of it to mimizew it evils (like red light districts) and such is ok in many regards.”

    Well, I think the Church would say restrict it as much as possible with the intention of ultimately obliterating. I’m not sure the Church would deem such immoral activity confined to a place as “ok in many regards.” As far as I know, there is no constitutional right to prostitution.

    “One can make a arguement as to abortion that a process of chipping away at it slowly and strangling it to death (like Slavery) is the way to go. If there is a all or nothing approach there would never be proress on the issue.”

    In regard to abortion, there is this interesting phenomenon. People who are conservative tend to oppose radical changes while liberals want changes to bring about immediate justice. You get a conservative Catholic and they’ll tell you let’s outlaw abortion. You get a more liberal Catholic, they’ll say we should do it gradually and get a greater social consensus. On the issue of abortion, the two sides flip — for the most part.

    I think the reason we’re not pulling an all or nothing on abortion, as was the case with slavery, is because the machinery of government has us in a tight spot. My only problem with the “slow” process is that meanwhile a great injustice casually continues and with abortion, it’s going at a rate of 4,000 a day and I’m not sure if we have the luxury of time insofar as we aren’t acting so imprudently as to compromise the cause and a swift as possible triumph.

    And Brown vs. Board of Education is a prime example. I think the problem here is I’m emphasizing achieving true justice because doing the good is a moral obligation that should not be considered solely based on the consequences, as that would be a departure from natural law moral ethics; whereas, you are emphasizing the need for stability and keeping social order lest the Court lose its authority and the actual good be lost to the jaws of defeat due to a swift backlash due to a wreckless dash for a short victory.

    My problem is, seeing my strident commitment to keeping natural moral ethics, is that, if in such a system, there is great tension for a Catholic sense of morality, I feel inclined to try to develop a judicial philosophy where Catholic ethics don’t conflict so readily with the process. That’s pretty much my whole deal with your approach. It might be the best we’ve got right now, but I can’t settle with it.

    I must depart for now. Thanks for the discussion…

  • Ms. Appleby is effectively arguing for the recusal of any save the most carefully-vetted agnostics from service as a judge.

    By what feat of special pleading would an Episcopalian not also be forced to recuse him/herself on the same issues? Actually, it goes further than that–any issue of “commitment” would force recusal. Consider the case of a vegan judge in a case involving Eckrich, for example.

  • It is curious that the matter of the Catholicism of Roger Taney was not raised. But Taney is an excellent example of accepting the law as it stands.
    He despised slavery [“those vermin who trade in human flesh”]. But he also recognized that it was lawful under the Constitution.
    Slavery is the great example that Chesterton uses tp point out that democracy is not perfect.

  • No, by the time of the Dred Scott decision Taney was an ardent defender of slavery. His views on “the peculiar institution” had done a 180 from his younger days. His opinion for the court held that slaves, or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States, and that Congress did not have the power to ban slavery in the territories. Neither proposition was supported by the text of the Constitution, and are a precursor to the type of jurisprudence that produced Roe.

  • Scalia on Taney: “There comes vividly to mind a portrait by Emanuel Leutze that hangs in the Harvard Law School: Roger Brooke Taney, painted in 1859, the 82d year of his life, the 24th of his Chief Justiceship, the second after his opinion in Dred Scott. He is all in black, sitting in a shadowed red armchair, left hand resting upon a pad of paper in his lap, right hand hanging limply, almost lifelessly, beside the inner arm of the chair. He sits facing the viewer, and staring straight out. There seems to be on his face, and in his deep set eyes, an expression of profound sadness and disillusionment. Perhaps he always looked that way, even when dwelling upon the happiest of thoughts. But those of us who know how the lustre of his great Chief Justiceship came to be eclipsed by Dred Scott cannot help believing that he had that case–its already apparent consequences for the Court, and its soon to be played out consequences for the Nation–burning on his mind. I expect that two years earlier he, too, had thought himself “call[ing] the contending sides of national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.”

  • Gabriel,
    You are wrong. Dred Scott was wrongly decided for a host of legal reasons, regardless of one’s position on slavery. Basically Taney’s reasoning was a foretaste of substantive due process, which is what eventually led the way to the loose reasoning seen in Roe. Seriously, if you are a constitutional scholar (I taught it at a law school for almost 10 years), I encourage you to carefully read Scott. It is appallingly poorly reasoned. There are cases where judges properly follow the law to make decisions that are either objectively distasteful or distasteful to them. Dred Scott is not an example of this, however.

  • Donald,
    I failed to see your earlier posts. Once again, we are in complete agreement.

  • As usual Mike! Scott is a prime example of the deadly impact a rogue Supreme Court can have on this nation. Taney and his cohorts reignited the slavery issue, convinced many moderate Northerners of a “slave power conspiracy” to spread slavery throughout the nation, strengthened Southern reluctance for any compromise as to slavery in the territories and vastly increased the likelihood that the debate over the question of slavery would eventually end in blood. When the Supreme Court steps in and attempts to act as a super legislature it always stirs up a hornet’s nest.

  • Exactly, Don. As much as I believe that our unborn should be legally protected, I similarly think it would be wrong for the Supreme Court to overturn state laws that permit abortion under some type of contrived right to to life enshrined in some penumbra. The lawmaking power rests with the people acting through their legislators; they cannot avoid this responisiblity by pretending that judges are empowered to do whatever they think is right and best. A judge’s authority is limited; Dred Scott and Roe are both testaments to what happens when he exceeds his authority just because he can.

  • About 2 years ago, I did a post about Taney, which also drew a Taney defender (who was clearly arguing from a misperception, which he later acknowledged) in the combox discussion that followed:

    Catholics need to stop feeling like they have to defend Taney and his egregious, unjustifiable, and activist opinion in Dred Scott.

  • jh Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 11:37 am
    “I think as to Pre- Civil War Judges that were anto Slavery they would be hard pressed to ban slavery since theire power and authority came from an agreement among the States that involved the Slavery issue. It was part of the pact as it were”.

    Which was Taney’s point. The way to settle the issue of slavery was to change the Constitution. This was done by the 13th Amendment. Thei demonstarted the truth of Taney’s argument.

  • Eric Brown Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 11:57 am
    “My other concern is being complicit. Regardless of judicial philosophy, I would not rule to uphold slavery as the law of the land because it isn’t true justice”.

    There in lies the nub. Whether slavery is true justice or not, it was the law of the land, of the U.S.

    There is, it seems to me, an idea that the U.S. is a perfect land. It is not. It was not from its beginning. As Jefferson wrote “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just”.

    Let us forget for the moment the issue of slavery. What about the ongoing treatment of the Indians in our country? the broken promises? the violated treaties?

  • Donald R. McClarey Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 5:06 pm
    “No, by the time of the Dred Scott decision Taney was an ardent defender of slavery. His views on “the peculiar institution” had done a 180 from his younger days”.


  • Donald R. McClarey Says Wednesday, June 10, 2009 A.D. at 5:12 pm
    “Scalia on Taney: “There comes vividly to mind a portrait by Emanuel Leutze that hangs in the Harvard Law School: Roger Brooke Taney, painted in 1859, the 82d year of his life, the 24th of his Chief Justiceship, the second after his opinion in Dred Scott. He is all in black, sitting in a shadowed red armchair, left hand resting upon a pad of paper in his lap, right hand hanging limply, almost lifelessly, beside the inner arm of the chair. He sits facing the viewer, and staring straight out. There seems to be on his face, and in his deep set eyes, an expression of profound sadness and disillusionment. Perhaps he always looked that way, even when dwelling upon the happiest of thoughts. But those of us who know how the lustre of his great Chief Justiceship came to be eclipsed by Dred Scott cannot help believing that he had that case–its already apparent consequences for the Court, and its soon to be played out consequences for the Nation–burning on his mind. I expect that two years earlier he, too, had thought himself “call[ing] the contending sides of national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.”

    Interesting aesthetic but irrelevant [i.e., not to the point] comments by Justice Scalia. I’d suggest that Taney’s unhappiness was caused by his realization that neither side would cede; that the Constitution was a compact with the Devil.

  • Mike Petrik Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 6:48 am
    “You are wrong. Dred Scott was wrongly decided for a host of legal reasons, regardless of one’s position on slavery”.

    Is this an example of the third manner of presenting an argument – bang on the desk?

    Much of the decision’s argument arises from the nature of legal property. Blacks were property, chattel, cattle, if you prefer, that could freely be moved from one state to another. The Dred Scott decision was the bearer of the bad news. Our polity is not the Heavenly City.

  • Donald R. McClarey Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 7:08 am

    “Taney and his cohorts reignited the slavery issue”.

    Not true. The issue of the Civil War was the Union. Could a state secede?

    [I like “cohorts”. Is this akin to fellow conspirators?].

  • Jay Anderson Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 10:48 am
    “About 2 years ago, I did a post about Taney, which also drew a Taney defender (who was clearly arguing from a misperception, which he later acknowledged) in the combox discussion that followed:
    Catholics need to stop feeling like they have to defend Taney and his egregious, unjustifiable, and activist opinion in Dred Scott”.

    I do not have a belief that I must defend Roger Taney [although his attitude and actions in defense of blacks are certainly admirable, as was his refusal to abandon habeas corpus and to knuckle under to Father Abraham, the sole decider of the War].

    I do not defend the decision. I merely examine it; and find that it admirably displays the law of the land at the time. He did not find unmentioned side laws and umbras in the Constitution, as did the justices in Roe v. Wade; and the overreaching justices in Brown v. Board, kin to the overreaching justices in Plessy.

  • On the other matter of whether Catholics should recuse themselves on matters on which the Church has spoken, would this apply to matters of charitable giving, to education, to the whole host of activities in which the Church is active?

    On this principle, should men recuse themselves when an issue of women’s rights is raised? Should blacks and whites [“Caucasians”] recuse themselves in civil rights matters?

    Only in the academy could such non-sense be spoken.

  • Okay, Gabriel. Defend these 2 propositions relying solely on the text of the Constitution:

    (1) That black Americans (regardless of whether they were slaves or not) could not be citizens of the United States, and
    (2) That Congress had no power to regulate “property” in the federal territories.

  • Jay Anderson Says Thursday, June 11, 2009 A.D. at 5:57 pm
    “Okay, Gabriel. Defend these 2 propositions relying solely on the text of the Constitution:
    (1) That black Americans (regardless of whether they were slaves or not) could not be citizens of the United States, and
    (2) That Congress had no power to regulate “property” in the federal territories”.

    This is not a class room. There is a tendency among some posters to believe it is.

    Citizenship depended on the state.

    “Property” is an issue with several hundred years of dispute behind it.

    A further note: Taney in the later Booth case vigorously denied that states had the right to ignore federal laws. Curiously, the Booth case was an abolitionist arguing for secession.

  • This is not a class room. There is a tendency among some posters to believe it is.


    You have attempted on several threads on this blog over the past few months to defend Taney’s decision in Dred Scott. If you do not have the sufficient understanding of the issues surrounding the case and are thus unable or unwilling to defend Taney in a meaningful manner, then it would be best for you to bow out of the discussion.

  • Sorry, the above comment was a bit uncharitable. What I am trying to get at, Gabriel, is that we’re having a discussion (partly) about constitutional law and the manner in which Supreme Court Justices ought to approach cases. The very nature of our conversation is therefore, in a sense, “academic.”

    The questions that Jay asked are central to an understanding of the Dred Scot decision, so you can’t just shrug them off if you are going to defend the opinion that Taney wrote and to which his associates signed onto.

  • paul zummo Says Friday, June 12, 2009 A.D. at 2:42 pm
    “This is not a class room. There is a tendency among some posters to believe it is.
    You have attempted on several threads on this blog over the past few months to defend Taney’s decision in Dred Scott. If you do not have the sufficient understanding of the issues surrounding the case and are thus unable or unwilling to defend Taney in a meaningful manner, then it would be best for you to bow out of the discussion”.

    Does that mean leave the room or go stand in the corner?

  • paul zummo Says Friday, June 12, 2009 A.D. at 2:52 pm
    “Sorry, the above comment was a bit uncharitable.

    It was not uncharitable. It was dense.

    “What I am trying to get at, Gabriel, is that we’re having a discussion (partly) about constitutional law and the manner in which Supreme Court Justices ought to approach cases. The very nature of our conversation is therefore, in a sense, “academic.”

    Academic, indeed. That was my point.

    “The questions that Jay asked are central to an understanding of the Dred Scot decision, so you can’t just shrug them off if you are going to defend the opinion that Taney wrote and to which his associates signed onto”.

    You have too many “to’s” there. [Sorry, couldn’t resist].

    I have had many discussions over the years with lawyers [Eliot Richardson, for example] and professors [Bernard Schwartz, for example].

    The basic issue is not slavery; it is property. It is a good question whether Taney despised slavers or abolitionists more. I think the latter. He was a strong federal union man. Having been law clerk to the Maryland representative at the Constitutional Congress, he know how difficult it had been to form “the more perfect union”. And how easy it might be to dissolve that union.

    But … that union was not perfect. It was not, and is not, the City of God on earth. It had and has many blemishes. It took a century before the rough equality of blacks was enforced by law. Cf. Douglas Blackamon’s Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II.

    [A propos, the opinions he cited about blacks were shared by Father Abraham].

    [Another a propos: slavery is not an absolute evil, like abortion].

  • I have had many discussions over the years with lawyers [Eliot Richardson, for example] and professors [Bernard Schwartz, for example].

    Oooookay, and this is relevant how?

    As for the rest of your comment – you’re still not even addressing the issue. Supreme Court decisions aren’t matters of feelings, but rather matters of concrete law. You still have offered no concise defense of the decision, which indicates you obviously don’t even remotely understand the case.

  • Apparently if you want to be on the U.S. Supreme Court it certainly helps to be Roman Catholic (six with the new appointment) followed by some distance by the Jews, and lastly the lone protestant. This hardly mirrors the religion membership of the population of the country, but who cares? The Supreme Court is never called upon to resolve the law and religious issues like under the first amendment or equal protection clauses. LOL Does the judicial appearance of fairness even matter in the face of political gains? LOL.
    Should the media discuss this on the Sunday talk shows? LOL

    Learning to Count Is Not a Sign of Bigotry.

    Should this be raised at this time?

    The First cannon of judicial ethics says:

    A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence,* integrity,* and impartiality* of the judiciary.

    I do not find any fault in the current nominee to the United States Supreme Court for being a woman, a Latino, for having made remarks on her qualifications as superior to the qualifications of any Caucasian. But I do find fault with her appointment violating the spirit of the first cannon of Judicial Ethics, that a judge should appear impartial. Litigants will be hesitant to turn to courts where the Justices appear stacked against them and this undermines the rule of law. Judge Sonia Sotomayor would become the sixth Roman Catholic justice on the Supreme Court. There are only nine of them, so that would mean that two thirds of the Justices, 66+%, would be Roman Catholic in a country where less that 25% of the population practices that religion. That religion predisposes its members, by life long training, faith, and in some cases, rule, to take certain positions that are likely to come up for hearing before the court. Any Appointee will not commit before they go onto the bench what position they may take in a case, but the appearance is there, however they may deny this will influence their rulings. The very appearance of six Roman Catholic Justices on the court gives the appearance to all litigants that if they appear on one side of those issues, be if choice, school prayer, school vouchers or other issues, they will not get a fair hearing. Of course, with the church’s and Popes stand on capital punishment, some might be inclined to support such a person in hopes of abolishing the death penalty. Only one Roman Catholic Justice on some of these issues has taken a position not supported by the church. I believe this is a far more important consideration than any other and should bar Judge Sotomayor from being confirmed by the Senate, no matter how good of a Judge she has been and how worthy of the position she may otherwise be. In fact, I believe it should have prompted her to decline the nomination at this time and should prompt her to withdraw. It is just not the appropriate time to appoint one more Roman Catholic to the court and preserve the diversity of the court in representing the religious views of this country. It appears to threaten the first amendment’s freedom of religion that is so much a bedrock of our society. I know these remarks are politically incorrect but feel they must be made. If you share these sentiments, please pass them on as I believe the general medial is wired not to touch this with a ten foot poll until finally forced to do so by the people.

    I made the following observations at the time of the appointment of Justice Alito in 2005 that I think are even more appropriate here.

    The following statistics are taken from Wikipedia, the free web encyclopedia.

    Take a look at the following statistics on the religious demographics of the population of the United States compared to its representation on the supreme court with the addition of Judge Alito. There is no correlation. Given that, together with the fact that at least 50% of the population is feminine and an Alito court will only provide for one female member, or just over 11% of the total court population, and it is clear that the current [Bush] administration has no intention of appointing someone to the court who may be called representative of most of the country or as moving the court to a greater parity of court membership with the population of the entire nation.

    U.S. as a Whole U.S. Supreme Court + Alito

    No Religion 15% 0%

    Christian 79.8% 78%

    Roman Catholic 25.9% 56%

    Other Christian
    54.0% 22%

    1.4% 22%

    1.3% 0%

    0.6% 0%

    0.5% 0%

    0.4% 0%

    Unitarian 0.3% 0%

    0.7% 0%

    Percentages of Religions and no religions with no representation on the United States Supreme Court 18.8%. Percentages of population represented by Christians other than Roman Catholics that are under represented on the United States Supreme Court is 54% of the population but only about half of its members are proportionately represented. It is clear that the membership of the United States Supreme Court, if each justice should represent approximately 11% of the population, is disproportionately allocated, with the Roman Catholics exceeding their fair representation by three justices with the appointment of Judge Alito. Even if the Jews were to be said to represent all those with no religion and all other religions (something that the Muslims and Atheists might well find objectionable) they only would be entitled to two members by carving into the non Roman Catholic proportions of the Christian religions, that would appear to be entitled to almost 5 members of the court by religious demographics. Now is this fair?? Is it fair to object to the appointment of a new justice because he or she further distorts the Supreme Court’s demographic representations of the beliefs of the population of the United States. Who is the bigot??? Is the Bigot the person who supports this further distortion of the United Stats population religious demographics, or the person who says, let us look to a fair representation of the beliefs of this nation as we can given the number of members we have on the court. It is very fair and unbigoted to object to the confirmation of Justice Alito because of his religion because his appointment does not fairly represent the people of the United States, no matter what his race or political affiliation is

    This is the current religious line up of members of the Supreme Court if the appointment of Justice Alito is confirmed.

    John Roberts (Chief Justice): Catholic
    Stephen G. Breyer: Jewish
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Jewish
    Anthony M. Kennedy: Catholic
    Antonin Scalia: Catholic
    David H. Souter: Episcopalian
    John Paul Stevens: Protestant
    Clarence Thomas: Catholic
    Samuel Alito: Catholic

    Supreme Court of the United States, highest court in the United States and the chief authority in the judicial branch, one of three branches of the United States federal government. The Supreme Court hears appeals from decisions of lower federal courts and state supreme courts, and it resolves issues of constitutional and federal law. It stands as the ultimate authority in constitutional interpretation, and its decisions can be changed only by a constitutional amendment.

    Nine judges sit on the Court; the chief justice of the United States and eight associate justices. The president of the United States appoints them to the Court for life terms, but the U.S. Senate must approve each appointment with a majority vote.

    The Supreme Court’s most important responsibility is to decide cases that raise questions of constitutional interpretation. The Court decides if a law or government action violates the Constitution. This power, known as judicial review, enables the Court to invalidate both federal and state laws when they conflict with its interpretation of the Constitution. Judicial review thus puts the Supreme Court in a pivotal role in the American political system, making it the referee in disputes among various branches of government, and as the ultimate authority for many of the most important issues in the country. In 1954, for example, the Court banned racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. The ruling started a long process of desegregating schools and many other aspects of American society. In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the Court overturned state prohibitions on abortion—concluding that the Constitution guarantees every woman a right to choose an abortion, at least during early stages of a pregnancy. The Court’s constitutional decisions have affected virtually every area of American life, from the basic ways in which business and the economy are regulated to freedom of speech and religion.

    The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of all the rules and decisions of the lower Federal courts, the United States District Courts and the Courts of Appeal. All judges look up to these judges. They are the featured speakers in the lucky law schools around the country who can persuade them to visit. The Court, outside of governmental clemency hearings and pardons, is just about the last arbiter on all death penalty cases in the Unite States. The judges are assisted by law clerks, a job that lasts about a year and a position once held, leads to the most prestigious choice of jobs in private practice and government after the clerk finishes his or her clerkship. A long term Justice may appoint 30 to 50 law clerks over the period they are on the bench, thirty to fifty or perhaps even more of the future leaders of the bar, the attorneys, in the United States. These are the people who handle the most influential governmental and private legal matters, may influence the various judicial appointments, making up many of the future judges (The most recent appointment as Chief Justice, John Roberts, besides formerly being a Judge on the Court of Appeals and high civil servant in the Executive branch of the government, was the law clerk of the former Chief Justice). These people set the tone of administration of justice in the United States not only in Constitutional Law, but in all federal law, which includes being the final arbiters in many, perhaps most disputes between citizens of different states and citizens and foreigners, matters concerning foreign and interstate commerce, trademarks, patents, copyrights, Federal taxes customs and duties, Indian (Native American) affairs, laws covering most securities and national banking, and many taxation matters and disputes between the states, such as boundary and water rights, just to name a few example. These are the people who apply or do not apply the law that may or may not be favorable depending on which side may win or loose in the courts. Their decisions dictate how future contracts will be drawn, how businesses will operate to comply with laws, and have an impact on the operation of every other governmental body in the United States. They are the interpreters of these laws as well as occasionally passing on constitutional questions. So you see, the power of the members of this court, while circumscribed as are supposedly the powers of all elected and appointed governmental officials in the United States, is enormous. They can only be removed by impeachment (like an indictment) by the House of Representatives followed by a trial and conviction by the Senate, a very seldom ever used procedure.

    Why doesn’t the media honestly report this very reasonable and certainly not bigoted objection to Judge Alito? We do not ask any one to abandon his or her conscience when accepting an appointment to the Supreme Court, and we should suspect any appointee who infers or promises to set his or her conscience aside when acting as a judge on this body. There are nine justices so we can be assured of a diversity of opinion while each exercises his or her conscience in interpreting, understanding and applying the law to individual cases before the court. We should work to preserve that diversity, fair parity and honesty in representation in that branch of the United States Government. The constitution is capable of many interpretations, as any honest student of history who has read the notes of the Federal Convention, the Federalist papers and the various Anti-federalist papers well knows. We may often not really fathom the original intent of the law as much of the Constitution was a compromise. The words strict construction is a coded political cry that has little to do with reality. what may be a strict construction in the eyes of one will be the most ghastly ;legislation form the bench in the eyes of others. We must go back to the very moral fiber as well as intellectual acumen of the nominees who are to sit on the bench, and their affiliations, including their religious affiliations, as they help us to achieve some parity on the court, are fair considerations for all of us and absolutely necessary consideration for each and every senator who must vote on the nominees and then go back to their constituents and tell them why they voted to confirm lopsided courts by race, gender, ethnicity or religion. No Senator can pass this test and vote to confirm Judge Alito.

    Ed Campbell.

    You may freely share this opinion. Afterthought:

    One would have expected a sensitive Judge would have anticipated this reasonable objection to more roman Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court at this time and would had declined the appointment for the good of the nation.

  • You may freely share this opinion.

    Only if one wants to seem vaguely unhinged.

    Have you been keeping this standard text going for three Supreme Court nominations, now?

  • Ed’s comment reads like comment spam, and I assume it has been posted at quite a few venues. By the way Ed, in regard to the phrase “First Cannon of Judicial Ethics” in your comment, I assume the word should be “Canon” and not “Cannon” unless there are judicial ethics rules that apply to the use of artillery pieces.

    Are you the same Ed Campbell out in Seattle who is an attorney and does palm reading?

    That is a unique combination to be sure! Perhaps some of the Catholic justices on the court are palm readers too? Would that cast a different light on the situation?

    Catholics come in all different shapes, sizes and ideologies as you would quickly find out by reading this blog and then reading the blog Vox Nova. So relax. We Catholics on or off the Court pose no threat to you, unless we are albino assassins, in which case all bets are off.

Bush, Orthodoxy, & Damon Linker

Thursday, April 16, AD 2009

From the always insightful and provocative Daniel Larison:

As I noted long ago, and as Ross has suggested again this week, it makes no sense to blame Christian orthodoxy or traditional Christianity for the religiously-tinged ideology of the Bush administration and the resulting failures of this ideology’s optimistic and hubristic approach to the world. It is no accident that the most strident and early critics of the Bush administration hailed from traditionalist Catholic and Orthodox circles that make Linker’s bete noire of First Things look like the relatively liberal, ecumenist forum that it is. Mr. Bush espoused a horrifyingly heterodox religious vision, one far more akin to the messianic Americanism that forms part of what Bacevich has called national security ideology than it is to anything that could fairly be called orthodoxy.

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12 Responses to Bush, Orthodoxy, & Damon Linker

  • Is there anything about Linker to take seriously? As far as I can tell he did an ideological about face in hopes of a fast buck, and that is the alpha and the omega of the analysis needed regarding that gentleman. As for Bush, I doubt if History will be as harsh in its judgment of him as Mr. Larison and his paleocon cronies would wish.

  • Bush was a Wilsonian, and Larison is right to call him “unconservative” and so on. The problem is that in the American context, Bush fits in the mainstream of what it means to be a movement conservative, and that is rooted very much in liberalism. Yuval Levin is good on this:

  • Agreed, Jonathan… what we mean by a “conservative” today is better described as a “conservative liberal” in the intellectual currents of the last three centuries, as you, Levin, MacIntyre and others have noted.

    Of course, there is a robust conversation among Catholics regarding the degree to which the broader liberal tradition (which would include what we normally call “conservatism” in the US today) is ultimately compatible with Catholicism.

  • I daresay that Burke during the period of the French Revolution with his calls for an all out war against the French Revolutionaries might well have been denounced by the spiritual forebears of the current paleocons who seem to look upon isolationism as a key conservative virtue. Of course, it is always dangerous to take conservatives of one generation and merely assume that they would agree with a particular faction of conservatism in a current controversy. As Burke was fond of noting, circumstance is everything. For most of his career Burke was considered by most of his contemporaries to be anything but a conservative, especially since the term wasn’t used in its modern sense until 1819. As a whig, Burke was normally considered to be in the avant-garde of political thought in England, until his Reflections on the Revolution in France. Of course nothing had changed about Burke or his thinking, but the circumstances of his times had.

  • I guess my question would be: Did the MTD vibe in some of Bush’s major speeches result from Bush being a morally therapudic deist at heart (and forming policies that were “deist” or “gnostic”) or is MTD is a sort of lowest common denominator of vaguelly religious discourse in our country, and thus something utilized by speechwriters on both sides of the aisle in order to draw on religious ideals without being hit with religious divisions.

    While I cracked a smile as Ross Douthat’s description of Bush’s second inaugural address as “moral theraputic deism goes to war”, I think Linker is taking it too far by failing to distinguish between rhetoric and action.

    Bush did lay out a universal semi-theological principle in that he argued that as humans we have a universal longing for freedom, and that as Americans it is both virtuous and in our interests to foster freedom and democracy throughout the world, but for all the hysteria that caused among those worried about “theocons”, this didn’t actually result in the US getting embroiled in any new wars or other foreign policy engtanglements in the second term.

    The big controversial foreign policy engagements of the Bush years were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to an extent the rhetoric used against North Korea and Iran. However, I’d really have to ask if moral theraputic deism was the main driver behind how we dealt with any of those areas. Perhaps the implicit theology of the administration controlled the tone a bit. But the most theology that I’d read into the various Bush commitments was a very general, “We should seek to support regimes we actually approve of rather than taking the old CIA ‘at least they’re our SOBs’ approach.”

  • I guess my question would be: Did the MTD vibe in some of Bush’s major speeches result from Bush being a morally therapudic deist at heart (and forming policies that were “deist” or “gnostic”) or is MTD is a sort of lowest common denominator of vaguelly religious discourse in our country, and thus something utilized by speechwriters on both sides of the aisle in order to draw on religious ideals without being hit with religious divisions.

    Well, I think Linker finds MTD attractive because he believes it is a lowest common denominator, and therefore a good candidate for the American civic religion. I don’t think Douthat and Larison are asserting Bush was a MTD, per se; heterodoxy is not necessarily the same thing as MTD, although they can overlap. They are making the more limited point that whatever Bush’s approach was, it wasn’t orthodoxy.

  • Perhaps I am dense, but what I think I am reading into both the article and the comments is some sort of assumption that President Bush acted as he did on the world stage out of some misguided Gnostic plan of action, in which only he was privileged to know and understand God’s divinely appointed plan for America, and which therefore drove him to foolish choices on the world stage. If I misinterpret, my apologies, and please disregard what follows.

    I would count myself among those Christian conservatives who hitched their hopes to President Bush. However, I feel not tainted in the least by any of his choices; I believe, instead, that President Bush was and is a man of character and integrity, who found himself in a position to be The Man In Charge of our nation’s response to global terrorism. I believe (and the record would seem to support) that Pres. Bush acted as the Just War political leader is supposed to: he analyzed the threats, determined which required what response, and he responded, while keeping just war principles at heart.

    Did he make bad choices? Certainly, because he (like everyone else) was operating from a human actor with human advisors. I don’t doubt his Christian orthodoxy (prosecuting a war fits into Catholic theological constructs); and I think it almost borders on scandal to presume to know his heart, and to denigrate him based on that knowledge.

    As, I think, Doug said, History will not be *nearly* as critical of President Bush as some have been, here and elsewhere. I, for one, am content to remain hitched to his bandwagon for now.


  • I have to admit I am a tad with Darwin on this. I like DOuthat but I think his arguments against Bush and this MTD need to be developed. I mean what is Douthat arguing post 2004 that Bush did that went as to this

    I mean are the Bush Actions in Africa that were incredible a part of this and now shall be tainted.

    If I agree with such things a the Trade pact with India, the Dubai Port deal, and the Columbia Free trade accord am I in some Gnostic heresy

    What about Missile defense.

    Was immigration reform a part of this that Bush tried to do twice?

    I mean besides Iraq what else is there to pin this on Bush?

  • As to Damon Linker I am still baffled how he is at a magazine Like the New Republic. I mean this is a guy that swears up and down there was some plot by Neuhaus and others to make this some Catholic Theocon Country. Even likely allies panned his book

  • John Henry,

    But here’s my question: In what sense is it being argued that Bush was “heterodox” in his theology exactly?

    I mean, as a Catholic I’d say he’s “heterodox” in the way that other Evangelicals are, but frankly I think that people aren’t doing themselves a lot of favors intellectually when they read a lot of serious theological content into mainstream political speeches and then try to analyze whether that theology is orthodox.

    So for instance, those into such things criticized Bush a great deal for talking about “forces of evil” and “evil doers” and an “axis of evil” and “defeating evil”. This, it was suggested, betokened a radical Calvinistic dualism (or Gnostic dualism — or both) and committed the US under Bush’s leadership to both the illusion that people were either wholly good or wholly corrupt, and the duty of fighing everyone judged to be wholly corrupt.

    The thing is, I’m not sure there was ever much evidence outside the minds of these critics that Bush actually believed “evil doers” to be wholly and completely evil, nor did the US in fact proceed to go on some sort of all out world-wide war against “forces of evil”. Rather, it continued plodding along with what it had been doing to start with — attempting to replace two strategically located hostile regines (one theocratic, the other bascially fascist) with friendly liberal-democratic governments.

    It strikes me that much of what was going on here was intellectuals taking marketing as if it were motivation, rather than looking at what was really going on.

  • In what sense is it being argued that Bush was “heterodox” in his theology exactly?

    I think that’s a good point, and jh and Deacon Chip articulated it well also. I should have been clearer in the post. Frankly, I have no idea how one is to evaluate whether Bush himself was ‘heterodox’. First because it’s unclear what that term even means in the contemporary U.S.(is Larison using it to describe any Christian who is not Orthodox or Catholic?). Secondly, because it’s not always clear what support for a specific policy actually conveys about a politician’s theological beliefs.

    That said, I think there is abundant evidence in Bush’s speeches of the ‘messianic Americanism’ Larison describes; a sort of hubristic optimism combined with a facile equivalence of U.S. policy and the forces of good in the world. The same could be said of many U.S. politicians.

    I agree with Douthat and Larison (contra Linker) on the more modest claim that it was not slavish devotion to Catholic orthodoxy that led to Bush’s most glaring failures (e.g. Iraq was opposed by the Pope and most bishops), and that the primary lesson to be drawn from the Bush years is not that orthodoxy and politics should be kept separate going forward.

    Frankly, I do not think orthodox Catholics had much influence in the administration. Bush was happy to use Catholic language when it suited him, but there’s little reason to believe he was familiar with the broader Catholic intellectual tradition from which it arose. As someone who thought the war did not meet just war criteria, I am of the opinion that a deeper reflection on that tradition might have prevented the war. I have a similar opinion regarding the Administration’s use of torture.

    To sum up, I would say Bush’s speeches often expressed a worldview that reflected either little or only a very shallow engagement with orthodox Christianity; I would probably accept heterodox as a description of some of them, depending on how heterodox is defined. That doesn’t mean he personally was heterodox, but it does suggest orthodoxy did not play a significant role in the failures of his Administration.

  • To sum up, I would say Bush’s speeches often expressed a worldview that reflected either little or only a very shallow engagement with orthodox Christianity; I would probably accept heterodox as a description of some of them, depending on how heterodox is defined. That doesn’t mean he personally was heterodox, but it does suggest orthodoxy did not play a significant role in the failures of his Administration.

    Exactly, though I think it goes much further than that; I think Bush is either not smart enough to understand the deeper aspects of his own religion, or he’s using said religion as a political tool, plain and simple. There is nothing orthodox about him or his decisions.

God or Government Spending: Choose One?

Sunday, April 5, AD 2009

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

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

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One Response to God or Government Spending: Choose One?

  • Hmmm…

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

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

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

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

Religion, Culture, & Politics

Monday, March 16, AD 2009

R.R. Reno reflecting on Fr. Neuhaus:

I have many fond memories of him, but many important and influential ones, as well. During the fall of 2006, I was in his office, expressing my anxious agitation about the upcoming congressional elections. I worried over the loss of  a Republican majority, linking my political concerns to the future of the pro-life cause, the dangers of unfettered bioengineering, and so forth. He sat back in his chair, puffing on his cigar while I prattled on. Then, with a wave of his hand, he dismissed my anxieties with a simple observation:

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7 Responses to Religion, Culture, & Politics

  • One of the fatal flaws of the libs. They have the equation turned around. Ooopsie. Won’t make it easier for Tiller the Killer in court.

  • Put not your trust in congressional majorities…

  • When you give Republicans free passes on unjust war (even cheerleading the Iraq War), torture, exceptions with ESCR funding et al., you should not be surprised if they are apt to betray you in the most important matters of life and death.

    And Ii am not saying the Democrats are any better.

  • I would argue those things are betrayals (maybe not Iraq if you accept the Just war arguments for it), rather than signs of betrayals, but that was one of my first thoughts also. I liked the oft-overlooked point about religion shaping culture and then politics – makes me wonder why I bother spending time blogging about politics.

  • JH,

    I concur with your qualification completely.

    As a personal note, I was an avid First Things reader until I became loosely privvy (sic?) to the challenges set forth to that group from David Schindler and the Communio crowd in the mid to late 90s.

    As I sided with Schindler from a distance, I stopped following Neuhaus, Weigel and that bunch.

    I only checked in with there writings during the buildup to the Iraq invasion in 2003. Needless to say, I was tremendously disappointed then.

  • I was whole-heartedly in favor of the Iraq war and still am, so of course I do not view that as a betrayal. In regard to ESR I was against the initial decision by Bush to allow any use of the stem cells. However, afterwards he stood like a champion against it.

    In regard to water-boarding, I thought it crossed a line into physical torture that I do not personally approve of, although I can see how reasonable people would disagree with my conclusion. One should also note the firm stance that Neuhaus took against Obama in the last election:

  • Obama’s record on abortion is a disgrace; I can’t vote for pro-abortion rights politicians for President. I’ll miss Fr. Neuhaus’s critiques next time around even if I disagreed with some of his other stances.

Religion in the U.S.

Wednesday, March 11, AD 2009

According to a recent study, the percentage of Americans who profess no religion has been increasing over the last 20 years:

The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest, while secularity continues to grow in strength in all regions of the country, according to a new study by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). “Thanks to immigration and natural increase among Latinos, California now has a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.”

In broad terms, ARIS 2008 found a consolidation and strengthening of shifts signaled in the 2001 survey. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points.

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5 Responses to Religion in the U.S.

  • In regards to question 2), I think the immigration does in indeed mask a similar hemorrhaging of members from the Catholic Church. While I think there’s a solid core of faithful Catholics, I think it is much smaller than the numbers suggest. I think in the near future, we’ll see an even greater loss of membership as the realities of the Church teaching and governmental policy butt heads.

  • Ryan, I agree with you that we are very likely to see the Catholic faith tested in America by the exact mechanism you suggest. I pray that God will change people’s hearts and that all Catholics will open themselves to the truth. I fear that large percentages of Catholics will formally depart the Church in the next 20 years. It is hard to say how big the faithful core is or will be in the end. I think the core is stronger in Faith than given credit for, but in numbers? I find reasons for hope, but certainly seems likely that we could lose up to 90% of the self- identified Catholics.

  • Point #4 deserves further scrutiny. In period when political/economic elites avoids all things religious, will be not only greater estrangement from the faithful but legislation like that swatted down in Connecticut. Could extend to our nation’s largest fudge factory. Note all the DC insiders who frequent Sunday morning chat shows. Not likely they will slip away to their house of worship. Thus the estrangement showing up in broad scale following the Porkapalooza Bill. Might be presenting the ultimate dilemma- God or Gummint as Ultimate Source of All That Is True And Good.

  • That unbelief is plateauing while membership in most churches is fallen suggests to me that part of what we’re seeing is a failure of established churches to reach people with anything compelling. There can be a laziness and self absorbtion to people who are “religious but don’t belong to a church right now” but I think a fair amount of it is also that far too often one can go to a church for years (sadly this would seem to be as true of many Catholic parishes as of protestant churches) without getting much to hold you in the way of real teaching, and explanation of what life means other than “community” or compelling liturgy. And so people often drift away into their own home-grown, wishy washy religious belief combined with non-practice.

    I suspect it would take a significant cultural shift to break this paradigm, because while at the same time people drift away from churches because they’re not compelling, there’s also a strong cultural prejudice against evangelizing and judging — which precludes most of the compelling things that could be said.

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