Tuesday, December 16, 2003

"Shameless Acts in Colorado: Abuse of scholarship in constitutional cases by Oxford law professor John Finnis, detailing misleading, even perjurous statements in abortion and homosexual rights cases. I linked to a cached version of this article on Fr. Johansen's blog, but Cwnews.com has posted this as well.

Also of interest: Reason, Faith and Homosexual Acts
This is a sad day for the freedom of speech. Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002), tobacco advertising, Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525 (2001), dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001), and sexually explicit cable programming, United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., 529 U.S. 803 (2000), would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government. For that is what the most offensive provisions of this legislation are all about. We are governed by Congress, and this legislation prohibits the criticism of Members of Congress by those entities most capable of giving such criticism loud voice: national political parties and corporations, both of the commercial and the not-for-profit sort. It forbids pre-election criticism of incumbents by corporations, even not-for-profit corporations, by use of their general funds; and forbids national-party use of “soft” money to fund “issue ads” that incumbents find so offensive.

-Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent in MCCONNELL V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMM’N

Paul Cella's Take on the ruling

Monday, December 15, 2003

Father Rob Johansen takes on the popular notion that the ancient Greeks approved of sodomy in this post.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

This Claremont Review of Books piece discusses President John Quincy Adams and Islam. I think it errs at the end, when the writer says:
Perhaps Islam and the West may find common ground in the idea that all the Abrahamic faiths share, that God created all of us in his image, and for that reason no man is born a slave.

As far as I know, Islam does not teach that all men are created in the image of God. And I don't think there's an Islamic equivalent to that line in the Gospels where Christ says "You are no longer slaves, but friends."

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

"On the House floor, Nick Smith was told [by GOP Whip] business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. "[money presumably for his son's campaign] from Hammering Fellow Republicans

I'm shocked, and not in the ironic Casablanca French officer way.
Are Just-War Principles Enough?

Monday, November 10, 2003

"Shakespeare thus places himself between utopian totalitarians and libertarian fundamentalists. He provides us with no easy answers to the questions that confront us now and that will always confront us. His is a call neither to draconian severity and repression, nor to utter leniency and permissiveness, the two temptations of those who like to argue from first principles. He calls us to proportion, that is to say to humanity. We must both recognize the limitations imposed upon us by our natures and at the same time not give up striving to control ourselves. If we fail to do either, we shall succumb to ideological or instinctual beastliness—or (the curious achievement of our own age) to both."

-Theodore Dalrymple, Sex and the Shakespeare Reader

Friday, November 07, 2003

It fortuned before the matter of the said matrimony brought in question, when I, in talk with Sir Thomas More, of a certain joy commended unto him the happy estate of this realm, that had so catholic a Prince, that no heretic durst show his face, so virtuous and learned a clergy, so grave and sound a nobility, so loving and obedient subjects, all in one faith agreeing together: "True it is indeed (son Roper)," quoth he, and in commending all degrees and estates of the same went far beyond me, "and yet (son Roper) I pray God," said he, "that some of us, as high as we seem to sit upon the mountains, treading heretics under our feet like ants, live not the day, that we gladly would wish to be at league and composition with them, to let them have their churches quietly to themselves; so that they would be content to let us have ours quietly to ourselves."

"But if I should speak of those that be already dead (of whom many be now saints in heaven) I am very sure it is the far greater part of them, that all the while they lived, thought in this case that way that I think now. And therefore am I not bound (my Lords) to conform my conscience to the council of one realm against the General Council of Christendom."
-Roper, Life of Sir Thomas More

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Canadian Muslim deported to Syria by US govt, tortured.

No doubt the uberhawks will start quoting Lenin's line about breaking eggs to make omlettes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

St. Almachius
d. 400 Feastday: January 1

Also called Telemachus, a martyr and hermit who died in a Roman arena. He lost his life for protesting against the inhuman practice of having gladiators fight to the death for entertainment. During one of the events, Almachius entered the arena in Rome and demanded an end to the barbaric custom. He was promptly stoned to death by an irate crowd. His actions prompted Emperor Honorius to put end to the gladiatorial duels across the Roman Empire.

Theodoret of Cyrus, The Ecclesiastical History

Book V, Chapter XXVI: Of Honorius the Emperor and Telemachus the monk.

"Honorius, who inherited the empire of Europe, put a stop to the gladitorial combats which had long been held at Rome. The occasion of his doing so arose from the following circumstance. A certain man of the name of Telemachus had embraced the ascetic life. He had set out from the East and for this reason had repaired to Rome. There, when the abominable spectacle was being exhibited, he went himself into the stadium, and stepping down into the arena, endeavoured to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another. The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the triad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.

When the admirable emperor was informed of this he numbered Telemachus in the number of victorius martyrs, and put an end to that impious spectacle
Porcupines at the University and other Donald Barthelme stories

Friday, October 31, 2003

"What TV is extremely good at--and realize that this is "all it does"--is discerning what large numbers of people think they want, and supplying it. And since there's always been a strong and distinctive American distaste for frustration and suffering, TV's going to avoid these like the plague in favor of something anesthetic and easy."

-David Foster Wallace

This obviously affects our politics as well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The Immaculate Conception as the Decisive Confutation of Pelagianism

from Pattern of Redemption: The theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar by Edward T. Oakes, SJ

..."Answer," then, is quintessentially feminine, and this is why it was so "fitting," as Thomas Aquinas says, that the consent to the incarnation come from a woman.[7] Moreover, not only was Mary predestined to be the Mother of the Savior, whose consent to the incarnation would inaugurate the drama of our redemption, she would do so entirely by the power of the grace of God.[8] Only this realization, enshrined in the infallibly defined dogma of the Immaculate Conception, can preserve the essential feature of our theodramatic redemption: that God has in his infinite freedom decided to save us in a way that respects our finite freedom but which also demands his infinite power of grace to fulfill:

In the course of unfolding these implications, two difficulties were encountered that have occupied theology right up to medieval and modern times. The first arose from the realization that God's action in reconciling the world to himself in the Cross of Christ is exclusively his initiative; there is no original "collaboration" between God and the creature. But as we have already said, the creature's "femininity" possesses an original, God-given, active fruitfulness; it was essential, therefore, if God's Word willed to become incarnate in the womb of a woman, to elicit the latter's agreement and obedient consent... God could not violate his creature's freedom. But where did the grace that made this consent possible come from--a consent that is adequate and therefore unlimited--if not from the work of reconciliation itself, that is, from the Cross? (And the Cross is rendered possible only through Mary's consent.) Here we have a circle--in which the effect is the cause of the cause--that has taken centuries to appreciate and formulate, resulting in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the exact reasoning behind it.[9]

Many of the objections of Protestantism to the so-called "innovations" of Roman Catholicism, its "departures" from the truths set forth in Scripture, would vanish with a proper understanding of this circular movement of understanding. Marian dogmas naturally flow from theological reflection on the few(but crucial!) scenes in which Mary appears: above all, the Annunciation, the wedding at Cana, her presence at the foot of the Cross, and her fellowship with the apostles and disciples on Penecost Sunday. These scenes, coupled with a basic reflection on the meaning of Mary's motherhood of the Savior, lead naturally to the unfolding of all the doctrines of mariology.


[7]"Non enim invite tantum beneficium praestari debebat" (De Veritate, q 12, art. 10, ad 6): "For it was not right that so great a benefit be granted without consent." Although Thomas Aquinas also denied the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, I think Protestants do not sufficiently realize how much a denial of this doctrine contradicts their own views on the necessity for prevenient grace if one is to give assent to God: far from glorifying the creature at the expense of God's grace, this doctrine is a witness to the overarching and ever-present necessity for God's grace.

[8]Which is why the patristic and medieval theologians liked to contrast her free and conscience consent with Adam's sleep: "The Virgin was not visited by sleep(like Adam) but by an angel sent by God... to make known to her this great mystery.... Moreover, God wished not only that she should know of this but also that she should cooperate so that he could give his Mother the greatest privilege of honor and grace." (William of Newburgh, Explanatio sacri Epithalamii in Matrem Sponsi, text ed by JC Gorman

[9] von Balthasar. Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol 3, 296-297.
It is in this tangle of an effect being the cause of the cause that Aquinas went astray; but if as part of the logic, the Cross itself is made possible only through Mary's consent(which is clearly the case), then the heretical implications of a denial of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception should be obvious: for it makes our salvation dependent on the power of one human creature, Mary, to say Yes to God on her own power. Denial of this dogma therefore not only leads to Pelagianism, but even makes the whole drama of salvation hinge on a human work! Denial of the Immaculate Conception, then, is the very apogee of the Pelagian heresy!
"The ideal of scripture is not independence. It is community. The independent individuals of today confront in scripture a very different ideal of human relationships. They confront God's desire to form one body out of many different self-willed, selfish individuals. They confront the call of Jesus to lose their lives so that they can gain them. The contemporary world demonstrates little real community. This is no accident, because the principles by which so many people live do not allow real community. Contemporary people need a conversion to a whole new ideal, to the call of God to lose one's life and to be united with other members of the body of Christ. They must be ready to subordinate their lives to the Lord and to other human beings."

-Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, Chapter 2
Affirmation Generator. Funny.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Eureka Street, apparently the Aussie Jesuits' equivalent of America
The Gift Economy. Lots of silly stuff along the lines of "the future will be a very different place" cliche, but some interesting analysis of human life. "'Tis better to give than to receive."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"I am driven to observe of the ultra-Darwinists the following features as symptomatic. First, to my eyes, is their almost unbelievable self-assurance, their breezy self-confidence. Second, and far more serious, are particular examples of a sophistry and sleight of hand in the misuse of metaphor, and more importantly a distortion of metaphysics in support of an evolutionary programme. Consider how ultra-Darwinists, having erected a naturalistic system that cannot by itself possess any ultimate purpose, still allow a sense of meaning mysteriously to slip back in. … Third, as has often been noted, the pronouncement of the ultra-Darwinists can shake with a religious fervour. Richard Dawkins is arguably England’s most pious atheist. Their texts ring with high-minded rhetoric and dire warnings – not least of the unmitigated evils of religion – all to reveal the path of simplicity and straight thinking. More than one commentator has noted that ultra-Darwinism has pretensions to a secular religion, but it may be noted that, however heartfelt the practitioners’ feelings, it is also without religious or metaphysical foundations. Notwithstanding the quasi-religious enthusiasms of ultra-Darwinists, their own understanding of theology is a combination of ignorance and derision, philosophically limp, drawing on clichés, and happily fuelled by the idiocies of the so-called scientific creationists. It seldom seems to strike the ultra-Darwinists that theology might have its own richness and subtleties, and might – strange thought – actually tell us things about the world that are not only to our real advantage, but will never be revealed by science. In depicting the religious instinct as a mixture of irrational fundamentalism and wish-fulfillment they seem to be simply unaware that theology is not the domain of pop-eyed flat-earthers."

Conway Morris, Life’s Solution, pp. 314-316. Quoted by Edward T. Oakes, SJ in a response delivered at a Harvard conference on "Biochemistry and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe."

This is doubly delicious, for Morris is not a theologian but an evolutionary paleobiologist.
Man and Woman in Christ, an on-line theological study by Yale sociologist Stephen B. Clark. Thanks to the_spacemouse.
Speaking of porn, Fr. Bryce Sibley directed me to an article on how internet porn affects relationships. Here's an editorial by Naomi Wolf, saying much the same thing:
For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.

JPII's Theology of the Body actually predicts this. I might make the effort to track down some relevant sections later on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Cornelis has posted an exerpt from Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, dealing with music. The chapter titled Music: A Runaway Train on the Rails of Adolescence is a searing attack on rock music, declaring it all pornophony. Following Plato, Bloom sees our music as the mark of a disordered society. Many have, like Eve Tushnet, attacked this as an overgeneralization. Nobody I've read, however, acknowledges the obvious pornophony that's all over the music industry, say Nine Inch Nails' I Want to **** you like an Animal or even less salient works like U2's Discotheque.

Complaining about raunch in pop culture has all the effect of beating back the Pacific with a table sponge. But if virtue is indeed habituated, listening needs as much formation as any other human faculty, which means subjecting it to the right training, the right music. Indeed, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that, just as pornography dulls the person to real sexual intimacy, pop music enervates the person's capacity to enjoy all but the most exaggerated tunes.
Prometheus Unbound: The Musical

Monday, October 13, 2003

An old essay arguing against women's suffrage, would be useful to Carrie's upcoming speech against women in combat. It does provoke the question, though: does opposition to women in combat necessitate opposition to women's suffrage? via Zorak
An Essay on Ralph Waldo Emerson via Cacciaguida

Saturday, October 04, 2003

As is the case with all collective enterprises, the social sciences have many more practitioners than they do ideas and principles. I would even argue that they rest upon one sole principle, the separation of facts and values, which sets them apart from philosophy and testifies to their scientific character. The demise of political philosophy is of a piece with the triumph of this principle. I admit that generally such sweeping statements are better avoided. Nevertheless it is a fact that the fact/value distinction has become not only the presupposition of present–day social science but also the prevalent opinion in society at large. In present conditions, a teenager proves his or her coming of age, a citizen proves his or her competence and loyalty, by making use of this principle.

[...]To put it in a nutshell: while previous societies organized themselves so as to bind their members together, while they extolled the ideas of concord and unity, our democratic society organizes itself so as to untie, even to separate, its members, and thus guarantee their independence and their rights. In this sense, our society proposes to fulfill itself as a dis–society. An extraordinary phenomenon indeed!

[...]We have seen that predemocratic societies were "incorporated" societies, rooted in the fecundity of the body, culminating in the King’s body. As for democratic societies, while they are not particularly religious, they are politically and morally spiritualist, even otherwordly. Electing a representative, unlike begetting an heir, is the work of the will—of the mind or the soul.

[...]It might be argued that this heterogeneity is adequately taken care of through the public acknowledgment of the legitimate plurality of human values. Nothing could be more mistaken. As Leo Strauss once tersely remarked, pluralism is a monism, being an –ism. The same self–destructive quality attaches itself to our "values." To interpret the world of experience as constituted of admittedly diverse "values" is to reduce it to this common genus, and thus to lose sight of that heterogeneity we wanted to preserve. If God is a value, the public space a value, the moral law within my heart a value, the starry sky above my head a value . . . what is not? At the same time, for this is confusion’s great masterpiece, the "value language" makes us lose the unity of human life—this necessary component of democratic self–consciousness—just as it blurs its diversity: you don’t argue about values since their value lies in the valuation of the one who puts value on them. Value language, with the inner dispositions it encourages, makes for dreary uniformity and unintelligible heterogeneity at the same time.

-Pierre Manent, The Return of Political Philosophy

Friday, October 03, 2003

The Onion interviews Whit Stillman. Money quotation:
It's okay in our country to be bigoted if it's heading in a slant we consider upward.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Zorak links to a fascinating essay titled The Progressive Era and the Family, by Murray N. Rothbard. It outlines the influence of pietistic Protestantism on the progressive movement. Not only were public schools, prohibition, women's suffrage, and the eugenics/birth control movement choice examples of the moralizing pietistic impulse, they were also intensely nativist. Public schools, of course, were means of subduing the Popish menace, attempting to convert Catholics' children. The birth control movement was a similar means for reducing Catholic and other immigrant influence. Women's suffrage was a key blow struck by the pietists, for the women in more ritualistic forms of Christianity tended to leave politics to the menfolk. And where did the men gather for political association and argument? In the saloons, of course--which was another reason why Prohibition was implemented. This last fact makes me so mad I'm tempted to start up a political saloon of my own--which of course would promptly fail, the old ethnic neighborhoods having been destroyed by suburbanization. And suburbanization itself, some would argue, was an intended result of desegregation.

A few excerpts:
The pietist doctrine was essentially as follows: Specific creeds of various churches or sects do not matter. Neither does obedience to the rituals or liturgies of the particular church. What counts for salvation is only each individual being "born again"—a direct confrontation between the individual and God, a mystical and emotional conversion in which the individual achieves salvation. The rite of baptism, to the pietist, therefore becomes secondary; of primary importance is his or her personal moment of conversion. But if the specific church or creed becomes submerged in a vague Christian interdenominationalism, then the individual Christian is left on his own to grapple with the problems of salvation.

[...] In contrast, the Northerners, particularly in the areas inhabited by "Yankees," adopted a far different form of pietism, "evangelical pietism." The evangelical pietists believed that man could achieve salvation by an act of free will. More particularly, they also believed that it was necessary to a person's own salvation—and not just a good idea—to try his best to ensure the salvation of everyone else in society.

[...]Specifically, it was clear to the pietists that the role of women in the liturgical "ethnic" family was very different from what it was in the pietist Protestant family. One of the reasons impelling pietists and Republicans toward prohibition was the fact that, culturally, the lives of urban male Catholics—nd the cities of the Northeast were becoming increasingly Catholic—evolved around the neighborhood saloon. The men would repair at night to the saloon for chitchat, discussions, and argument—nd they would generally take their political views from the saloonkeeper, who thus became the political powerhouse in his particular ward. Therefore, prohibition meant breaking the political power of the urban liturgical machines in the Democratic party.

But while the social lives of liturgical males revolved around the saloon, their wives stayed at home. While pietist women were increasingly independent and politically active, the lives of liturgical women revolved solely about home and hearth. Politics was strictly an avocation for husbands and sons. Perceiving this, the pietists began to push for women's suffrage, realizing that far more pietist than liturgical women would take advantage of the power to vote.

[...]A laboratory test of which women would turn out to vote occurred; in Massachusetts, where women were given the power to vote in school board elections from 1879 on. In 1888, large numbers of Protestant women in Boston turned out to drive Catholics off the school board. In contrast, Catholic women scarcely voted, "thereby validating the, nativist tendencies of suffragists who believed that extension of full suffrage to women would provide a barrier against further Catholic influence.”

[...]One way of correcting the increasingly pro-Catholic demographics was to restrict immigration; another to promote women's suffrage. A third way, often promoted in the name of "science," was eugenics, an increasingly popular doctrine of the progressive movement. Broadly, eugenics may be defined as encouraging the breeding of the "fit" and discouraging the breeding of the "unfit," the criteria of "fitness" often coinciding with the cleavage between native, white Protestants and the foreign born or Catholics—or the white-black cleavage. In extreme cases, the unfit were to be coercively sterilized.

[...]Many observers, indeed, reported in wonder at the strongly religious tone of the Progressive party convention. Theodore Roosevelt's acceptance address was significantly entitled, "A Confession of Faith," and his words were punctuated by "amens" and by a continual singing of Christian hymns by the assembled delegates. They sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and finally the revivalist hymn, "Follow, Follow, We Will Follow Jesus," except that "Roosevelt" replaced the word "Jesus" at every turn.

[...] Thus the foundations of today's massive state intervention in the internal life of the American family were laid in the so-called "progressive era" from the 1870s to the 1920s. Pietists and "progressives" united to control the material and sexual choices of the rest of the American people, their drinking habits, and their recreational preferences. Their values, the very nurture and education of their children, were to be determined by their betters. The spiritual, biological, political, intellectual, and moral elite would govern, through state power, the character and quality of American family life.

[...]It has been known for decades that the Progressive Era was marked by a radical growth in the extension and dominance of government in America's economic, social, and cultural life. For decades, this great leap into statism was naively interpreted by historians as a simple response to the greater need for planning and regulation of an increasingly complex economy. In recent years, however, historians have come to see that increasing statism on a federal and state level can be better interpreted as a profitable alliance between certain business and industrial interests, looking for government to cartelize their industry after private efforts for cartels and monopoly had failed, and intellectuals, academics, and technocrats seeking jobs to help regulate and plan the economy as well as restriction of entry into their professions. In short, the Progressive Era re-created the age-old alliance between Big Government, large business firms, and opinion-molding intellectuals—an alliance that had most recently been embodied in the mercantilist system of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries.

Other historians uncovered a similar process at the local level, especially that of urban government beginning with the Progressive Era. Using the influence of media and opinion leaders, upper-income and business groups in the cities systematically took political power away from the masses and centralized this power in the hands of urban government responsive to progressive demands. Elected officials, and decentralized ward representation, were systematically replaced either by appointed bureaucrats and civil servants, or by centralized at-large districts where large-scale funding was needed to finance election races. In this way, power was shifted out of the hands of the masses and into the hands of a minority elite of technocrats and upper-income businessmen. One result was an increase of government contracts to business, a shift from "Tammany" type charity by the political parties to a taxpayer-financed welfare state, and the imposition of higher taxes on suburban residents to finance bond issues and redevelopment schemes accruing to downtown financial interests.

[...]In every case, we see the vital link between these intrusions into the family and the aggressive drive by Anglo-Saxon Protestant "pietists" to use the state to "make America holy," to stamp out sin and thereby assure their own salvation by maximizing the salvation of others. In particular, all of these measures were part and parcel of the long-standing crusade by these pietists to reduce if not eliminate the role of "liturgicals," largely Roman Catholics and high-church Lutherans, from American political life. The drive to stamp out liquor and secular activities on Sundays had long run into successful Catholic and high-church Lutheran resistance. Compulsory public schooling was soon seen as an indispensable weapon in the task of "Christianizing the Catholics," of saving the souls of Catholic children by using the public schools as a Protestantizing weapon. The neglected example of San Francisco politics was urged as a case study of this ethnoreligious political battle over the schools and hence over the right of Catholic parents to transmit their own values to their children without suffering Anglo-Saxon Protestant obstruction. Women's suffrage was seized upon as a means of increasing Anglo-Saxon Protestant voting power, and immigration restriction as well as eugenics was a method of reducing the growing demographic challenge of Catholic voters.

Of course, Pietism found its international expression in the form of Wilsonian diplomacy. It's not a suprise that today's neo-Wilsonianism walks hand in hand with pietism.

The Von Mises Institute has a blog.

A sample, which provokes fantasies of greed even in indifferent little me:

The New Yorker Magazine this week features a review of two investment classics, Benjamin Graham's The Intelligent Investor and Burton Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street. Benjamin Graham, one of the teachers of billionaire investor Warren Buffert, comes down on the side of financial entrepreneurship. Based on simple mathematical models using the future profits of a business, he provided analytical methods for estimating the "intrinsic value" of its securities - the price that an informed investor would pay to purchase the asset. The intelligent investor will apply Graham's methods to company financials, looking for bargains: companies selling for less than their intrinsic value.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Sex and Consequences (FR Thread): An Anthropologist vindicates the traditional family

Monday, September 22, 2003

Catholic University's Claes G. Ryn has provided an interesting examination of US neo-Wilsonian foreign policy. Here's a gem of a quotation:

‘‘Over the past 60 years, the United States has consistently
combined its military superiority with moral and political leadership."

-Richard C. Holbrooke, former US Ambassador to the UN

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Our Prostate Cancer Awareness Week Video is ended.

Let us go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Every time I attend Sunday mass at my home parish, I say a little prayer that goes something like this:

Help me not to wince profusely during atrocious hymns,
those insipid peans to Emersonian self-worship;
Keep me from sniggering during the sermon,
with its cheap crowd-pleasing tricks
and empty platitudes.
Preserve me from being a prig.

Alas, the prig's prayer is in need of amendment. Just after Holy Communion, at the close of a liturgy better than most, the priest told the congregation to remain seated for an important announcement. And what announcement might that be? Why, prostate cancer awareness week! With a Prostate Cancer Awareness Week Video!

Talk about cognitive dissonance. I suppose I should count my blessings. The video never did show what a prostate exam looks like.

Monday, September 15, 2003

"The Senate in particular is rhetoric's cemetery."

-ERIC GIBSON, You, Sir, Are a Bore

Friday, September 12, 2003

Orthodoxy’s Call for a More Radical Diversity, Inclusion, Tolerance, and Empathy

The modern idea of diversity is less diverse than the ancient ecumenical idea of eccumene. The classic concept of eccumene. (universal, the whole world) spans many generations—even milleninia—while the modern idea of diversity spans but a single century (or more likely only a slice of that – one generation, or one subset of on generation, such as a particular coterie of youth culture). Because modern diversity has no time to listen to other generations it risks a massive loss of wisdom.

Likewise, the modern idea of inclusion is less inclusive than the classic Christian understanding of inclusion. The classic understanding rises from the more radical inclusiveness of God’s mercy toward all, as creator of all, redeemer of all, and consummator of all history. God’s work in creation is given to all, even if some refuse the gift. God’s action on the cross is offered for all, even if only some accept it. God’s promise for the futre of history encompasses all, even if some will voluntarily reject grace. The modern version typically focuses on only one particular disenfranchised interest group.

The contrast continues: the modern conceit of tolerance is less tolerant than the ancient ecumenical ethic of long-suffering forbearance. Modern tolerance depends on a relativism that gives up on the search for truth before it begins, whereas classic Christian forebearance seeks the highest common denominator: our human participation in the divine-human covenant (as represented in repentance, humility, and cross-bearing). Out of this call for participation comes a higher-level energy for social reconstruction unburdened by illusions.

The modern version of absolute equality embodies less empathy than the ancient ecumenical idea of compassion, which puts a neighbor’s need above one’s own. The modern idea of absolute equality survives on the thinness of passing human sypathies, whereas the classic Christian understanding of compassion radiates the full depth of God’s own compassion for all humanity, as shown in God’s willingness to become flesh and die for our sins. Classic Christianity is not a substitute for democracy; it is the leading progenitor of it.

-Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, p. 115. Courtesy of KC Burke

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

While reading through Eve Tushnet's Judica Me Deus, I paused at a scene where the title character recalls a Good Friday service, where the people of God shout out "Crucify him! Crucify Him!." My mind turned to the passage from Matthew where the crowd of Jews shout "His blood be upon us and upon our children." Doesn't this have a completely different, even ironic understanding in light of what we are told about the blood of the Lamb in revelations? And might not all the handwringing over Gibson's film be completely redirected?

Thursday, August 14, 2003

In Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1689), John Locke gives an intricate account of the role that education plays in inculcating the moral and intellectual virtues that equip individuals for a life of liberty; and in Locke’s view, it is parents, within the confines of the fundamental association of the family, who have the responsibility to ensure that children receive this education.

-Peter Berkowitz, The Liberal Spirit in America

In this essay, Berkowitz discusses the tensions in American political thought. He obviously prefers the word "tension" to "contradiction."

Friday, August 08, 2003

In other words, sexual "freedom" is really a form of social control. What we are really talking about is a gnostic system based on two truths.

The exoteric truth, the one propagated by the regime through advertising, sex education, Hollywood films and the university system, the truth, in other words for general consumption is that sexual liberation is freedom. The esoteric truth, the one that informs the operations manual of the regime, in other words the people who benefit from "liberty' is the exact opposite, namely, that sexual liberation is a form of control, a way of maintaining the regime in power by exploiting the passions of the naive, who identify with their passions as if they were their own and identify with the regime which ostensibly enables them to gratify these passions. People who succumb to their disordered passions are then given rationalizations of the sort that clog web pages on the Internet and are molded thereby into a powerful political force by those who are most expert in manipulating the flow of imagery and rationalization.

-E. Michael Jones, Eyeless in Gaza: Sexual Liberation as Political Control

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later.

The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.

U.S. Adopts Aggressive Tactics on Iraqi Fighters

A little hostage taking, in nice violation of the Geneva Convention and US Military Law?

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

"Modern democratic theory has been an attempt to give an account of democracies as just, without the people that constitute such a society having the virtue of justice."

-Stanley Hauerwas, "How Risky is _The Risk of Education_", Communio, Spring 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

""I have a ceremony to attend," quoth one, "at dawn to-morrow, in the Quirinal valley." "What is the occasion?" "No need to ask: a friend is taking to himself a husband; quite a small affair." Yes, and if we only live long enough, we shall see these things done openly: people will wish to see them reported among the news of the day. Meanwhile these would-be brides have one great trouble: they can bear no children wherewith to keep the affection of their husbands; well has nature done in granting to their desires no power over their bodies. They die unfertile; naught avails them the medicine-chest of the bloated Lyde, or to hold out their hands to the blows of the swift-footed Luperci!"
-Juvenal, Moralists without Morals

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Thursday, May 29, 2003

On Kantian Aesthetics, and its relevance for JPII's Theology of the Body

Kant: 'Taste is the power of judging of an object or of a way of representing it through an entirely disinterested satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The object of such a satisfaction is called beautiful'[The Critique of Judgement]

"By saying that aesthetic appreciation is 'entirely disinterested' (ohne alles Interesse) Kant does not mean, ,of course, that it is boring: he means that it is contemplative. In terms of the theory of taste the aesthetic judgement implies that the object which is called beautiful causes satisfaction without reference to desire, to the appetitive faculty. A simple example is sufficient to convey an idea of what Kant means. Suppose that I look at a painting of fruit and say that it is beautiful. If I mean that I should like to eat the fruit, were it real, thus relating it to appetite, my judgment would not be a judgment of taste in the technical sense, that is, an aesthetic judgment; and I should be misusing the word 'beautiful'. The aesthetic judgement implies that the form of the thing is pleasing precisely as an object of contemplation, without any reference to appetite or desire." -Copleston, _History of Philosophy_, vol VI p. 357

"Further, [Johann Gottfried] Herder attacks the idea that history should be interpreted as a movement of progress towards the modern State. He implies at least that the development of a modern State had little to do with reason, and that it was due rather to purely historical factors. The members of a tribe may very well have been happier than many inhabitants of a great modern State, in which 'hundreds must go hungry so that one can strut and wallow in luxury.' And Herder's dislike for authoritarian government is plain enough. When he published the second part he had to omit the statements that the best ruler is the one who contributes the most to making rulers unnecessary, and that governments are like bad doctors who treat their patients in such a way that the latter are in constant need of them."
-Copleston, _History of Philosophy_, vol. VI p. 175

Monday, May 26, 2003

A note on Tolerance: According to Roger Kimball's _The Long March_, Herbert Marcuse is the inspiration for the Leftist virtue of tolerance. In his 1965 essay "Repressive Tolerance" Marcuse declares: "Liberating tolerance would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and tolerance of movements from the left." Knowing full well that a text without a context is a pretext, I still think this is a perfect description of the toleration dispensed at my almae matres.
Natural Order and Human Goods

This ties in to my previous entry covering Kimball on Descartes. While lurking on a discussion thread that had shifted towards Catholic apologetics, some confusion arose over the phrase “against the natural order.” The atheist had no clue what natural order meant, while the apologist couldn‘t explain the phrase, taking the meaning to be self-evident. “Natural” is terribly vague. It can be contrasted with the supernatural, the artificial, and the cultural. It can be interpreted in the monotheistic sense, as the reflection of the will of a benevolent Deity; in the Darwinian sense, as a struggle for existence; and in the nihilistic sense, as a blank slate upon which man may work his will.

So here’s my shot at a clear definition: the “natural order” is the proper hierarchy of human goods.

Papa Wojtyla says something similar: “The normative truth of "Humanae vitae" is strictly tied to those values which are expressed in the objective moral order according to their proper hierarchy.”

Frederick Copleston documents a homologous line of thought in the Anglican bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752):

…It may be objected, of course, that happiness is something subjective, and that each individual is the best judge of what constitutes his happiness. But Butler can meet this objection, provided he can show that ‘happiness‘ has some definite and objective meaning which is independent of different persons‘ various ideas of happiness. And this he tries to do by giving a definite objective content to the concept of nature, that is to say, human nature. In the first place he mentions two possible meanings of the word ‘nature‘ in order to exclude them. ‘By nature is often meant no more than some principle in man, without regard either to the kind or degree of it.’ But when we say that nature is the rule of morality, it is obvious that we are not using the word ‘nature‘ in this sense, namely, to indicate any appetite or passion or affection without regard to its character or intensity. Secondly, ‘nature is frequently spoken of as consisting in those passions which are strongest and most influence the actions.’ But this meaning of nature must also be excluded. Otherwise we should have to say that a man in whose conduct sensual passion, for instance, was the dominating factor was a virtuous man, acting according to nature. We must look, therefore, for a third sense of the term. According to Butler, the ‘principles,’ as he calls them, of man form a hierarchy, in which one principle is superior and possesses authority. ‘There is a superior principle of reflection or conscience in every man, which distinguishes between the internal principles of his heart, as well as his external actions: which passes judgment upon himself and them; pronounces determinately some actions to be in themselves just, right, good; others to be in themselves evil, wrong, unjust…’ In so far as conscience rules, therefore, a man acts according to his nature, while in so far as some other principle other than conscience dictates his actions, these actions can be called disproportionate to his nature. And to act in accordance with nature is to attain happiness.”(History of Philosophy, Vol. V p. 187

So conscience, by which I understand Butler to mean moral reason, is king of the human goods, and the neglect of moral reason is contrary to the natural order.

But I wonder: is such an approach to natural order a distinctly modern one, or is it something the ancients could have accepted as well?

"Poor Grendel's had an accident. SO MAY YOU ALL!"
Theology and Science without Dualism

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Envoy's Carl Olson has written an excellent overview of divine adoption, titled Called to Be Children of God. Theosis, by another name.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

"The point is that the ambivalence we feel about Descartes is a reflection of the ambivalence we feel about modernity. Despite the prattlings of contemporary academic "humanists," New Agers, and other intellectually handicapped persons, no one can in good faith utter a simple "no" to modernity. The affluent protestors who chat on their cell phones and jet around the world to demonstrate against "globalization" embody in their lives the very things they pretend to reject. Still, an unqualified "yes" to the modern world is also impossible. Descartes' dream of a philosophy that would render us the "masters and possessors of nature" has been all but realized. The question is whether we can really inhabit the world that we rule over with such thoroughness. Advances in genetic engineering, in nanotechnology, and other frontiers of science, pose deep challenges to any traditional notion of humanity and moral order."

-Roger Kimball, "What's Left of Descartes?" Lives of the Mind

Very intriguing. To what extent can one say "no" to modernity as an ideology, while accepting its benefits? I suppose in the exact same way one can say "O Felix Culpa!" to the fall of Adam and Eve or to the American economy's exaltation of greed.

I've long been pondering the various theories of nature. In contrast to the ancients and medievals, moderns see the natural no longer as man's superior and an ordered reflection of God's creative will. Rather, it is subject to the absolute domination of man. And so man is faced with the awful indignity of being an existentialist: he has no place in nature, but must nonetheless give meaning to a meaningless universe.

Even in the medieval Christian worldview, man never really fit within nature. Aquinas declares that man's happiness consists in no created thing, but rather in God. Yet there was a sense that nature was man's teacher, rather than man's slave, that man was part of the created order. The Dumb Ox also states "the order of nature is from God Himself: wherefore in sins contrary to nature, whereby the very order of nature is violated, an injury is done to God, the Author of nature." The Cartesians have obliterated both the magisterial quality of nature and its image of God's will, and in so doing, have undermined the "traditional notion of humanity and moral order."

What then? Is there "no returning to the pre-Cartesian"? Is Nature's slavery permanent?

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

A Review of Pieper's _The Concept of Sin_, translated by my favorite Jesuit, Edward T. Oakes
Newman, too, believed that Liberalism functioned as a peace treaty:
Next the liberal principle is forced on us from the necessity of the case. Consider {68} what follows from the very fact of these many sects. They constitute the religion, it is supposed, of half the population; and, recollect, our mode of government is popular. Every dozen men taken at random whom you meet in the streets has a share in political power,—when you inquire into their forms of belief, perhaps they represent one or other of as many as seven religions; how can they possibly act together in municipal or in national matters, if each insists on the recognition of his own religious denomination? All action would be at a deadlock unless the subject of religion was ignored. We cannot help ourselves.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Aristotle on Deification, courtesy of Cornelis:

Here is something from the Nicomachean Ethics Book 10.7 1177b (from the Crisp translation)

Such a life is superior to one that is simply human, because someone lives thus [in complete happiness], not in so far as he is a human being, but in so far as there is some divine element within him. And the activity of this divine element is as much superior to that in accordance with the other kind of virtue as the element is superior to the compound. If the intellect, then, is something divine compared with the human being, the life in accordance with it will also be divine compared with human life. But we ought not to listen to those who exhort us, because we are human, to think of human things, or because we are mortal, think of mortal things. We ought rather to take on immortality as much as possible and do all that we can to live in accordance with the highest element within us; for even if its bulk is small, in its power and value it far exceeds everything.
Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss carried on an interesting exchange of letters throughout their careers. Cornelis has posted several of these letters on FreeRepublic.com. Here's one on Locke from Voegelin

Dear Mr. Strauss,
Many thanks for your offprints of "Walker's Machiavelli" and "Locke's Doctrine of Natural Right" . . . The Locke piece interested me greatly . . I have a slight uneasiness in light of your handling of Locke as a representative of natural law . . . I ask myself can . . . Locke be treated as a philosopher of natural right? And even more: Is Locke still a philosopher?

Lockean reason.

[The Lockean ratio is actually opinion, no longer participation in the ratio divina. With that, the question arises, essentially for the whole Age of Reason, whether a ratio that, unlike the classical and Christian, does not derive its authority from its share in divine being is still in any sense a ratio? For Locke, it is clear on the strength of your excellent study that it is no longer that. In the concrete realization he must drop the swindle of ratio, and in the last instance refer to desire.

The deliberate destruction of spiritual substance occurs throughout Locke's political work. In three places it becomes decisively visible. You have dealt with two of them. The first act of destruction concerns ratio. The second, man as imago Dei. From this second destruction, the specific Lockean idea of man as "proprietor of his own person" should follow, on which the theory of ownership through incorporation of work into natural matter is based. This definition of the essence of man as property of oneself always seemed to me to be one of the most terrible atrocities in the so-called history of philosophy--and one perhaps not yet sufficiently noticed. The third act of destruction comes in the Letter on Toleration, on the occasion of a separation from a church community. Locke askes himself if, on such an occasion, conflicts over property could ensue that would make necessary the intervention of the state. He answers in the negative for the following reasons: the sole question of property could emerge from contributions to provisions that are consumed during the sacrament of communion. The contributions are too trifling to lead to a suit under common law. This conception of communion as a consumption of staples that cost money always fascinated me as much as the conception of property of oneself. Beyond these three main points, I believe, the systematic destruction of symbols can be demonstrated as a continuous feature in Locke.

The right of concupiscentia substituted for natural right.

This destruction leads now inevitably to conflict between the language of symbol, which is still used, and the new meanings that are substituted. It is not a conflict in Locke's theory (there you are quite right; he is consistent) but instead in the verbal construction. In the Second Treatise, the conflict is expressed in the fact that Locke must try three times to establish finally a political order that he wishes to have as the right one. The three attempts are (1) the natural state of pioneer squatters with approximate economic equality ("in the beginning all the world was America"), (2) the same egalitarian state, protected by state organization, (3) the consent of inequality (through money) in the context of state organization. The ultimate stage will then be protected by the new definition of consent by the fact of residency and by the exclusion of a state-run social policy. This final protection could refer, in a concrete historical sense, to the attempts of the politics of the Stuarts (Stafford and Laud) to protect the farmers of N. England and the slaves in Bermuda against extreme exploitation by the landlords and merchants, the attempts that were the material motive for revolt of the upper classes against Charles I.

It is a brutal ideological construction to support the position of the Enlgish upper class, to which Locke belonged through his social relations. The construction is consistent, insofar as the concupiscentia is maintained from the beginning as the driving motive; it is inconsistent, insofar as the introduction of the vocabulary of natural right forces a repeated redefinition in the concept of nature.

Lockean camouflage

And this leads, now, to the problem on which you have for so many years worked: the camouflage of the philosopher who wishes to protect the uncomfortable theories against the conventional protests. If I understand you correctly, you see also in Locke such an effort at camouflage--and I believe you are right. But only then, when you considerably extend the problem of philosophic camouflage.

I mean the following: you follow completely legitimate problem when you state that philosophers (I think for example about your Arabic studies) take precautionary measures to protect their philosophizing against disturbance by the unqualified. But: Is an ideological constructor, who brutally destroys every philosophical problem area in order to justify the political status quo, a philosopher? Is this not precisely the opposite case of a nihilistic destroyer, who wishes to cover his work of destruction from the attentiveness of the qualified? What difference, I ask myself, actually exists between Locke and that series of types that Camus deals with in L'Homme révolté? Isn't that which may still appear as camouflage of a philosopher already the bad conscience of a "modern" man, who doesn't quite dare to declare the knavery that he actually intends; and so he hides it not only from others but also from himself, by the ample use of a conventional vocabulary? That possibility recalls the words of Karl Kraus; such a person knows already what he wants, only subconsciously. What is the political philosophy of Locke other than the roguery of which Anatole France in the Ile des Pengouins makes fun: the majesty of the law that forbids eaully the poor and the rich to steal. Finally, when one considers the development from Locke to Marx, what is this Lockean ideal picture of political order but the picture of bourgeois society that Marx believed he had to produce with laborious research and had to unmask. If England had not in fact been better than Locke, and had not again elevated itself through the Wesleyan Reformation, this nasty caricature of human order would have brought about some interesting revolutions.

Excuse the length of this letter. But when it comes to Locke, my heart runs over. He is for me one of the most repugnant, dirty, morally corrupt appearances in the history of humanity. But back to our technical problem: it seems questionable to me, at least where it concerns Locke's political work, whether it still falls within the area of philosophizing; and following from that, it seems questionable whether the substance of Locke's political work becomes accessible by attending to the question of philosophical camouflage. Perhaps what is involved is a phenomenon of completely different order; Locke was one of the first very great cases of spiritual pathology, whose adequate treatment would require a different conceptual apparatus.

And on Karl Popper:
Leo Strauss: May I ask you to let me know sometime what you think of Mr. Popper. He gave a lecture here, on the task of socioal philosophy, that was beneath contempt: it was the most washed-out, lifeless positivism trying to whistle in the dark, linked to a complete inability to think "rationally," although it passed itself off as "rationalism"--it was very bad. I cannot imagine reading, and yet it appears to be a professional duty to become familiar with his produtions. Could you say something to me about that--if you wish, I will keep it to myself.
Dear Mr. Strauss, The opportunity to speak a few deeply felt words about Karl Popper to a kindred soul is too golden to endure a long delay. This Popper has been for years, not exactly a stone against which one stumbles, but a troublesome pebble that I must continually nudge from the path, in that he is constantly pushed upon me by people who insist that his work on the "open society and its enemies" is one of the social science masterpieces of our times. This insistence persuaded me to read the work even though I would otherwise not have touched it. You are quite right to say that it is a vocational duty to make ourselves familiar with the ideas of such a work when they lie in our field; I would hold out against this duty the other vocational duty, not to write and to publish such a work. In that Popper violated this elementary vocational duty and stole several hours of my lifetime, which I devoted in fulfilling my vocational duty, I feel completely justified in saying without reservation that this book is impudent, dilettantish crap. Every single sentence is a scandal, but it is still possible to lift out a few main annoyances.

1. The expressions "closed [society]" and "open society" are taken from Bergson's Deux Sources. Without explaining the difficulties that induced Bergson to create these concepts, Popper takes the terms because they sound good to him[he] comments in passing that in Bergson they had a "religious" meaning, but that he will use the concept of the open society closer to Graham Walas's "great society" or that of Walter Lippmann. Perhaps I am oversensitive about such things, but I do not believe that respectable philosophers such as Bergson develop their concepts for the sole purpose that the coffeehouse scum might have something to botch. There also arises the relevant problem: if Bergson's theory of open society is philosphically and historically tenable (which I in fact believe), then Popper's idea of the open society is ideological rubbish . . .

2. The impertinent disregard for the achievements in his particular problem area, which makes itself evident with respect to Bergson, runs through the whole work. When one reads the deliberations on Plato or Hegel, one has the impression that Popper is quite unfamiliar with the literature on the subject--even though he occasionally cites an author. In some cases, as for example Hegel, I would believe that he has never seen a work like Rosenzweig's Hegel and the State. In other cases, where he cites works without appearing to have perceived their contents, another factor is added:

3. Popper is philosophically so uncultured, so fully a primitive ideological brawler, that he is not able even approximately to reproduce correctly the contents of one page of Plato. Reading is of no use to him; he is too lacking in knowledge to understand what the author says. Through this emerge terrible things, as when he translates Hegel's "Germanic world" as "German world" and draws conclusions form this mistranslation regarding Hegel's German nationalist propaganda.

. . . Briefly and in sum: Popper's book is a scandal without extenuating circumstances; in its intellectual attitude it is the typical product of a failed intellectual; spiritually one would have to use expressions like rascally, impertinent, loutish; in terms of technical competence, as a piece in the history of thought, it is dilettantish, and as a result is worthless.

It would not be suitable to show this letter to the unqualified. Where it concerns its factual contents, I would see it as a violation of the vocational duty you identified, to support this scandal through silence.

Leo Strauss is in the news.

First, a hatchet-job attack from the Asia Times: Neocons dance a Strauss waltz....The New Liberal Mantra?

Then a better article from the Boston Globe: The Philosopher of Neoconservatives

(This link contains an intriguing interview with one of Strauss' students)

Finally, there's this year-old article from Newsmax.com: Leo Strauss, Conservative Mastermind, which is perhaps the fairest presentation of Straussian thought of all three articles.

I've read very little of Strauss; I didn't understand his Natural Right and History very well, though several people I respect tell me he has written some excellent commentaries on Plato.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

An article on Theosis by an Eastern Orthodox priest. Good guidelines at the end.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

"All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government . . . in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body."

-John Stuart Mill, 1859, quoted here

Friday, May 09, 2003

Friday, May 02, 2003

Bush the Blasphemous and his Messianistic Nationalism

"Ours is the cause of human dignity: freedom guided by conscience, and guarded by peace. This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope drew millions to this harbor. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness will not overcome it." -Speech on September 11, 2002

""There is power – wonder-working power – in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people." -State of the Union Address, 2003

"There is power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb." -Evangelical Hymn from the turn of the Century

So what are we to make of this conflation of America with the person of Jesus Christ? Theological illiteracy, as in the comment of the putative Christian Tony Blair: "I wonder what Jesus would have made of it?" The cynical abuse of religious language for the purpose of national aedification? Idolatry of the state?

The Romans prided themselves on warring down the proud and sparing the conquered. We have assumed a similar role in our recent "liberation" of Iraq. Augustine declared this attitude "the inflated ambition of a proud spirit." All our rhetoric about Liberation arrogates to ourselves the qualities of the Prince of Peace

Thursday, May 01, 2003

St. Paul's Suite is a wonderful short work by Gustave Holst, incorporating several Irish jigs. Download it here
The Common Good and Christian Ethics

Sunday, April 27, 2003


After working temp for a credit card company, I've tried to assuage my moral scruples by learning exactly what usury is. No such luck.

Hillaire Belloc held that usury is taking interest on a non-productive loan. Belloc's example of a usurious relation is if a farmer's field is let out, only to be rendered useless by river which has changed its course. While still paying interest on the property, the tenant would have no means of making a return on his investment. This has a great deal to be said for it. If I loan somebody $100 for food and charge them 5% interst, they're out $105 with no chance to make it back. But if I loan somebody $100 at 5% interest, and he puts it to productive use, then we're both ahead, and there's no transfer of wealth from the poorer to the richer. Yet there are a few difficulties: for instance, what if the loan is potentially productive, yet the loanee botches the use of his capital?

The author of the usury article in the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions those who share Belloc's theory, while neither approving nor condemning it.

Interest in the Catholic Tradition

John Paul II on Usury, from the Italian Jesuits.

An excellent resource on Theosis
Cornelis makes a very acute observation on the statement "Space/time is part of the creation and not something in which the Creator exists."
Erik von Keuhnelt Leddihn selections, posted by Askel5
The Illiberalism of Democracy
The Present is Largely Leftist-Inspired
A Leftism to End All Leftism
"We have no disposition to dissemble, that, in our judgment, the evils to be remedied come from the natural and inevitable developments of the democratic principle, against which the convention of 1787, that framed the federal constitution, aimed to guard the republic, but did not provide sufficient safeguards, especially in case of a people recognizing no divinely constituted spiritual authority capable of commanding their reverence, and disciplining them into submission to the law of God. We ask for no king, no kaiser, no titled aristocracy, but we do want the people to understand that they are nothing without leaders, and that the mass of them are born to follow, not to lead, and that nothing is worse for them than to be led by fanatics, hypocrites, traders, business men, and unscrupulous demagogues. Yet in a community like ours, under a pure or a representative democracy, such are sure to be our leaders, and equally sure to lead us to political destruction,- as all would see and admit if they were not blinded by their unfounded conviction, that a democratic government is the best of all possible governments; or if they had the courage to look the facts, daily occurring before their eyes, full in the face, and draw from them their strictly logical conclusions. Democracy is the best of all possible governments to make the many tax themselves for the benefit of the few, or to build up a burgher aristocracy, or, in our day, an aristocracy founded not on capital, but on paper, or the paper evidences of debt. The journalists tell us the country is rich, and we count our millionaires by thousands, if not by hundreds of thousands; and yet, if called upon suddenly to pay its debts or to redeem its bonds of every sort, it would be found to be hopelessly insolvent, and the reputed wealth of the millionaires would vanish in smoke. Our present wealth is chiefly in evidences of debt, that is, created by mortgages on the future.

There is no people in the world so heavily taxed as the American people, and none who derive so little benefit from the taxes they pay. Were it not so, should we see the vast, the appalling amount of poverty we see in our cities and large towns, the movements of the laboring classes for higher wages, or hear the perpetual clamor for an adjustment of the relations of capital and labor? There is no country in the world where industry is more general, labor more intense, and the working men, in proportion to what they produce, are more poorly paid,- especially if we take into the account the additional expense imposed on the laboring classes by our miserable democratic doctrine of equality. Do our statesmen ever consider what it costs, and the terrible suffering it occasions, to maintain the doctrine, “I am as good as you”? The working men and women cannot, as a rule, escape the public opinion or the fashion of their country; and since by the democracy which asserts their equality, you elevate them, at least in their own estimation, in the social scale, you make it a moral necessity for them to maintain a higher or more expensive style of living, which demands in turn a higher rate of wages, and a rate beyond the ability of the average employer to pay. Hence, the most thriving class, if not the only thriving class, of simple laborers in the country, is composed of emigrants from countries where democracy, if it affects the dreams, has not yet formed the habits of the working classes, and has not yet taught the peasant to despise the state in which he was born, or to aspire to be the social equal of his lord. Consequently, they are less affected by the fashion, the tone, and the sentiment of the country, and are contented with a more simple and less expensive style of living, and can live and thrive on a lower rate of wages. If it were not for the migration hither of foreign labor, our industry, our vast enterprises, and internal improvements would come to a standstill. But it is only the generation that migrates hither that are more economical, more frugal, and contented to live plainer; their children, born here and brought up under the democratic influences of the country, are as extravagant, as aspiring, and as averse to labor at a responsible rate of wages, to say the least, as the children of old American families; and hence the children of foreign-born parents form an undue proportion of the dangerous classes of our cities and towns. The democratic tone and sentiment of our country, to a fearful extent, more than neutralize the influence of the example, instructions, and admonitions of their parents, who are regarded as old fogies or behind the age, by children hardly in their teens, or so-called “Young America.”

Everybody sees the evil, complains of it, is inquiring for some “Morrison pill,” as Carlyle would say, to cure it, but hardly anybody has the courage to look for its cause in the democratic doctrine and sentiment of equality of the country, which creates a universal discontent on the one hand, with one’s actual condition, and on the other, a universal striving or longing to rise in the social scale till one reaches the topmost round; for democratic equality cannot exist where one is higher than another, and nobody regards himself as his neighbor’s equal unless his acknowledged superior. Satan never sent from his region of smoke and darkness a grosser delusion than this ignis fatuus of democratic equality, for which the nations of the Old World are so foolishly and wickedly struggling, as a means of elevating or ameliorating the condition of the poorer and more numerous classes. It is for the people the greatest curse that could befall them. What is just is equal, but what is equal is not always just. It is the reign of justice, not of equality, that modern society needs, and which governments and nations should seek to introduce and sustain."

"The Republicans in congress show the same dearth of statesmanship in regard to what is called “labor reform.” That the relation between capital and labor, in an age when paper or debt serves as capital, is not well adjusted, there is no doubt; but your genuine Republican, where the question lies between white labor and capital, knows no remedy, but the maxim, “Let government take care of the capital, and capital will take care of the labor;” which means in plain English, “Let government take care of the wolf, and the wolf will take care of the lamb.” Their statesmanship arrives at no wiser solution of the problem, than to shorten the hours of labor without diminishing wages to appease the workingmen or gain their votes, and then to tax the whole people through what is called a protective tariff, to compensate capital or to enhance its profits. It forgets that its two measures neutralize each other, so far at least as the interests of labor are concerned. A rise in the rate of wages means a rise in all the commodities the laboring classes consume, which must be paid by the working classes, for they are the greatest consumers of their own wares. We do not adopt the free-trade policy as a policy for all nations, and for all times, and under all circumstances; but we cannot respect very highly the policy that lays a heavy duty on imported woolens for the benefit of the home manufacturer, and a corresponding duty on imported wool to encourage the wool-grower. It is simply a policy that gives with the one hand and takes away with the other, with no other effect than an increased tax on consumption, from which the laboring classes, as the greatest consumers, are the principal sufferers."
-Orestes Brownson "The Political State of the Country"

"He can say that logically, if he says that there is no wrong in slavery; but if you admit that there is a wrong in it, he cannot logically say that any body has a right to do wrong." -Abraham Lincoln, Fifth Lincoln-Douglas Debate

"oliticians may do as they please, so long as they violate no rule of right, no principle of justice, no law of God; but in no world, in no order, or condition, have men the right to do wrong." -Orestes Brownson, source unknown

I wonder who influenced whom.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

"Yet it is difficult to see how any theology but a Trinitarian one seriously affirms the personal nature of God. Personality, despite many shades of definition, is almost universally defined in terms of a capacity to relate to others. If God is an eternal Person, He must be in some eternal relation. A strict monotheism-God is one and only one-leaves unanswered the question, with whom or what does He have an eternal relation?"
Towards a Post-Appolinarian Theology

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Romulus makes some excellent comments about redemption and atonement and "blood satisfaction" theology.

Kant wrote an essay "Perpetual Peace" advocating a cosmopolitian world-state, foreshadowing some of the more ludicrous opinions in favor of this war. His section mandating that every national government be republican is especially relevant.

Warmonger Explains Iraq to Peacenik

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

"Just war deplores creating
false moral equivalencies: there is a big
difference between being paid low wages for
hard work; being denied the franchise; and
being tortured or gassed because one’s politics
is incorrect or because one is a member of an
ethnic minority that cannot defend itself
against a dominant and violent majority.
But the injustices of Saddam’s reign in and of
themselves did not constitute grounds for
forceful intervention, not within the just war
framework. Had Saddam been engaged in
gassing Kurds, a case for intervention in the
internal affairs of Iraq could have been
mounted. But the day-to-day, routine
inequities of a polity, short of such egregious
violations as systematic torture of political
opponents, targeting and destruction of categories
of persons within one’s own boundaries,
do not of themselves warrant the
upheavals and destruction of intervention
with force."
-Jean Bethke-Elshtain, Just War and Humanitarian Intervention

Friday, March 21, 2003

The Mystery of Being in the Shadow of the Cross

My father and I just returned from a delightful vacation in New Mexico. Stops in Taos, Chimayo, and Santa Fe. I viewed the definitely mysterious Mystery Painting called Shadow of the Cross in Taos's San Francisco de Asís Church, a painting far better in quality than any of those I saw hanging in various galleries around the town--an artist's haven, itself. Granted, I am a fan of the realist school--realism always reminds me of the Incarnation--and this was one of the few realistic paintings I encountered on my trip: it depicts a haloed Christ standing by the sea of Galilee, his eyes painted in just such a way that they follow one around the room.

Simple enough, it seems, even quotidian. But you see, the "mystery" in the Shadow of the Cross is only revealed in darkness. After the room darkens, the sea and sky of the painting radiate an astounding blue-white glow. The figure of Christ appears in silhouette, bearing a cross upon His left shoulder. The pulsating shadow appears to move outward, towards the viewer, as though Christ is slowly moving towards one on his way to Golgotha. It provokes one to wonder what exactly is the meaning of such a work?

This question, of course, runs into difficulties, because the painter denies having ever intended to create such an intriguing piece. But it seems a few bits can be discovered, like mystery being an integral part of reality.

Onward from Taos, dad and I stopped at the Sanctuario in Chimayo, a small 19th-century adobe church featuring wooden kneelers, a barely-fluent priest, and holy dirt. According to the locals, this earth has curative properties. There are two methods of application: a light sprinkling on the affected area of the body, or direct geophagy: that is, dirt-eating. Being in a rather desparate state on account of my alleged schizophrenia, I did both. It seems to have worked so far.

Finally, a brief stay in Santa Fe. We stopped in a beautiful small church and a hideously modernist cathedral, each within blocks of the other. Why did Catholics ever have to indulge in such terrible bad taste?

Bush went to war during our trip, and Arvada received 3 1/2 feet of snow while we were gone, so we returned to a different world. Still, it was some trip.

Lo! Many excellent freepers have migrated to Liberty Forum

Monday, March 17, 2003

Friday, March 14, 2003

I have been wondering if there is a natural law argument to be made for the goodness of the body. Sure, it's great to denounce meaningless views of the body, but some people need some further preparation before they accept that their body is meaningful because it is created by God. I was looking for an argument like Aquinas makes against murder: even murderers resist being murdered. But, being rather uncreative myself, I was struggling to establish one. Then I came across this sentence in Ephesians 5:

"For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."


Of course, there seem to be an objection to this: certain terminally ill people definitely come to see their body as a cage, and hate it. So have I really developed a natural law argument? Well, it seems my reasons are no more objectionable than Aquinas', and that's a pretty good standard.

The Cato Institute on War
After more consideration, I think there's more to my wartime foreboding than mere nostalgia. Despite the mantra that "everything's changed now" and that "new times demand new concepts," I suspect that we'll follow much the same modus operandi we followed during the Cold War. Proclaiming democracy and freedom, we'll install some attack dogs who promise to be tough on terrorists and never ever develop nuclear weapons. We'll turn a blind eye to their dictatorial excesses, then express shock when some of these attack dogs break their leash and turn on us like Hussein did, or when the locals turn on their harsh rulers.

Even if we decide to govern not by proxy but via the US military, we'll end up putting down various rebellions ad infinitum--until and unless we loose a Sherman-like campaign of annihilation on rebel areas. And that's just Iraq. The hawkish are clamoring for war on Iran, North Korea, plus Saudi Arabia and even China(!).

So how long will the US be able to keep annihilating, before a coalition rises against us?

Thursday, March 13, 2003

English Bishop who coddled pedophiles was sacked by JPII back in 2001. So.... Why aren't the rest gone?
Mozart was a Red

Monday, March 10, 2003

Andrew Sullivan's Just War article simply doesn't convince me.

He says First off, we are not initiating a war. We are not the aggressor. We are still in a long process of defense. It's hard to remember now but this war is not a new one. It's merely the continuation of one begun in 1990 by Saddam whe he invaded Kuwait.

I've made this argument myself, but I'm no longer convinced it's a good one. For one thing, I've never heard a Bush Administration official use it. What's more, it doesn't make for consistent foreign policy: we have not signed a peace treaty with North Korea, only an armistice.

The issue is therefore not whether to start a war. It is whether to end one by rewarding the aggressor and simply ignoring his infractions of the truce. Such a policy, in as much as it clearly rewards unprovoked aggression, is immoral and imprudent.

Not always. We can certainly tolerate an evil, should eradicating it cause a greater evil.

...finally a last attempt under U.N. Resolution 1441 to give Saddam a last, last chance to disarm. He was told three months ago by unanimous U.N. agreement that he had to disarm immediately and completely. He still hasn't.

It's a tad self-serving to argue that Saddam's non-compliance with the UN is somehow a casus belli when you yourself are completely indifferent, if not hostile to the UN. Oh, I know it makes for fine rhetoric to appeal to that superlatively august international body, but it's dishonest rhetoric.

A coalition of the willing - a majority of the states in Europe, the U.S., Britain and other countries - easily qualifies as a legitimate source of authority for launching war.

But, as authority is intimately tied up with its purpose, I must ask: war for what purpose? If we are wearing a certain hawkish hat, that which reads "Liberators of Iraq," we are effectively arrogating to ourselves jurisdiction over Iraq, which properly speaking belongs only to God and the Iraqi people.

Well, there is one obvious alternative to war: continuation of economic sanctions on Iraq. But these sanctions have long been abused by Saddam to allow him to finance his weapons programs, while leaving thousands of Iraqis, including children, to starve or die for lack of good medical care.

Another argument I once thought about using, but I knew I would only use it to score debating points against peaceniks, and not to reach the truth. Frankly, I often doubt the justice of economic sanctions on rogue nations. Such sanctions destroy the livelihood of people who have no say in how their government is run, while only increasing the looting of the tyrants who oppress them. And if sanctions are in themselves immoral, we only have ourselves to blame for imposing them.

No one doubts he would get and use weapons of mass destruction if he could.

I doubt he would use them. I would hope that I'm not nobody.

No one can guarantee he would not help Islamist terrorists get exactly those weapons to use against the West or his own regional enemies.

Well, this assumes Saddam has a death-wish, which "no one can guarantee." Sullivan demands certainty only from his opponents, and not from himself. He cannot guarantee that an occupied Iraq will be a safer Iraq, nor that our threats of invasion will not in fact push Saddam into the hands of terrorists. He can't even guarantee that Saddam is in fact collaborating with terrorists, unless the administration's case has improved since the Powell speech(which was once convincing for me, but has ceased to be so).

Unfortunately, recent US action is taking away all of Saddam's options. We are turning him into a man who has nothing to lose, and driving him to hardline Islamicists to shore up his weakened regime. But I doubt Saddam would have done this on his own; it is the fruit of our folly.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

After much pondering, I think I've finally realized one solid reason why some people are asking for UN approval before any military action against Iraq. Among the Bush administration's several caps on the hawkish hat rack, one reads "Defender of Universal Human Rights," while another reads "Liberator of Oppressed People and Exporter of Democracy." Now the US, being a particular, national government, can't really enforce universal rights anywhere than within its particular boundaries, nor can it replace an entire government the way it would replace a corrupt official within its own administration. Rather, that is the baliwick of local governments and people. Since, in the case of Iraq, the local government is none too respectful of personal dignity, some transnational body, like the UN, is the only body with anywhere close to the proper authority to impose such disciplinary measures, as a superior chastising a subordinate.

I'm not sure I believe it, but at least I think I understand it.
"[Anybody who] has the courage to raise his eyes and look sanely at the awful human condition…must realize finally that tiny periods of temporary release from intolerable suffering is the most that any individual has the right to expect. " -Flann O'Brien, quoted by Kevin Michael Grace

Monday, March 03, 2003

New Yorker article on the alleged Iraqi attempted assassination of Bush I in Kuwait, outlining the numerous flaws in the official story. via Unqualified Offerings

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Wicked Satire courtesy of LaBelleDameSansMerci:

Miz Scarlett! Miz Scarlett! How you gwain spread democracy and free markets all over da moslem world when you cain't even preserve da freedom on yo' own planatation?--

Oooo mammy! You let go of me! I want to roll--

But Miz Scarlett! Miz Scarlett! Da plantation is burnin' down around our ears! We got no money! Da teachers hate us and are makin' the chillun mo' stupid den when dey was born. Da field darkies hate you lily white folks like da' debil. Miz Scarlett you gots to mind yo' own plantation afore you go around da world givin' advice to da moslem masses!--

Ooooo Mammy! Let go of me! I'm goin to roll!--

Miz Scarlett! Miz Scarlett! How long you gwain stay over dere? How much of da' money you ain't got is you gonna spend over dere? How you gonna' put dat democracy into da' brains of folks who don't want it dere? You gwain put dat freedom on da tip of a missile and fire it into da brain of dem foreigners? --

Ooooh Mammy! I'll think about that tomorrow. Today I want to roll!--

But Miz Scarlett! What's gwain happen to da' plantation while yo is out rollin' around in da big wide world?

Ooooh Mammy! You selfish darkie! Don't you care about all the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of an evil mad man? Don't you care about UN resolutions?

Why Miz Scarlett, is we goin' in after North Korea and Pakistan and India and all dey other countries in violation of UN resolutions too?

Ooooh Mammy! You commie, nazi, islamofascist.---

But Miz Scarlett! If 'da UN tells 'da United States dat we has to do somethin' dat we don't wanna do, is we gwain do it?---

Ooooh mammy! You're so dumb. That could never happen.---

But Miz Scarlett! Does you want America to be gone with da' wind?--

Ooooh Mammy! You hate George Bush! That's what it is. Now you let go of me! I'm going to roll, if it's the last thing I do!

Thursday, February 13, 2003

"I got entangled in my own data, and my conclusion directly contradicts the original idea from which I start. Starting with unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism. I will add, however, that apart from my solution of the social formula, there can be no other." -Shigalyov, _Demons_

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Sursum Corda points to this excellent essay by Stanley Hauerwas, who echoes Alisdair MacIntyre in basing ethics upon submission to a discipline of life.

When Hauerwas says that "to learn to pray requires that we learn to pray with other Christians. It means we must learn the disciplines necessary to worship God." I fear that American Catholicism seems to have failed to provide such spiritual exercises. Perhaps there was no greater communal prayer than the exercise, that is, the askesis, of the Friday fast so hurriedly abolished after Vatican II. Besides Sunday Mass, how many Catholics actually pray together?

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

What is it that's good about "diversity."

It displaces the concept of organic community rooted in boring old things like shared culture, language, affinity, and family, and replaces it with pseudo-community, in which all members have nothing in common except their re-engineering as economic units of production and consumption. Government's attention-getting stunts and the corpocracy's imposition of frenzied economic activity meanwhile, are proposed as a fair trade for the suppression of authentic culture, tradition, memory, and the family's privileged zone of privacy and moral sovereignty.

Sounds like fun, dunnit?

-Romulus, on Free Republic

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

"Interestingly, recent biological works on Stopes perhaps confirms a Stopes whose real motives as a sexologist were more personal than scientific." From this essay on Muriel Spark's _The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie_.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Stumbled across JK Huysmans today, the decadent writer. An interesting article on him.