Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas!


by G.K. Chesterton

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly…it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(…We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.

One Year In

Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

-John 12:24

On December 17, 2003, my health took a turn for the worse, and has yet to recover. I've become habituated to the constant nausea and vomiting, but the fatigue is really getting to me. Fortunately, brain cancer has just been ruled out, but the doctor is otherwise stumped and it looks as though I am afflicted with an anti-miracle, a disease--and not a cure--with no known natural cause. If my doctor followed Paracelsus, perhaps he'd classify my affliction as an ens deale, an affliction sent by Providence.

Thankfully, I came to terms with human dependency long ago, and I know what to do with suffering. I'm fortunate enough to have the support of a caring family, though my future is quite uncertain. So much for law school.

Pray for me, all you saints.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Berdiaev on Dostoevsky

Berdiaev reads Dostoevsky's work in all its complexity as one continuous, spiritually intense struggle to answer Ivan's arguments. His novelistic version of theodicy, just like Berdiaev's own philosophical praxis, begins and ends with the attempt to justify the human personality in the light of Christ's mysterious gift of freedom. Berdiaev writes: "I would sum it up in a paradoxical form, thus: The existence of evil is proof of the existence of God. If the world consisted wholly and uniquely of goodness and righteousness there would be no need for God, for the world itself would be God. God is, because evil is. And that means that god is because freedom is."

Slanting the Debate

Amy Welborn notes how political television shows work:
I was once interviewed at length for an article profiling pro-life and abortions rights advocates for a 1/22 piece. My section of the article was cut in favor of an imprisoned direct-action protestor because, I was told, "They wanted someone who was more intensly committed." I once heard...I can't remember her name off the top of my head, but she's an African-American woman who was for several years the main PR person for National Right to Life. It got to the point, she said, at which the networks (this was really before cable) stopped asking her to represent the pro-life position - why? Because once they heard that she would be there, folks like Faye Wattleton and Kate Michelman would routinely cancel their end of the appearances, not wanting to argue their point with a young African-American woman, but preferring, as they ended up getting, to do so in opposition to a middle-aged white man.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Death is not the Solution, Death is the Problem

The first officially sanctioned infanticide in Germany occurred in 1939 after the father of a disabled baby, “Baby Knauer,” wrote to Chancellor Hitler seeking permission to have his son euthanized. Hitler, believing the time was ripe to begin eradicating the “defectives,” sent his physician, Dr. Karl Brandt, to inform Baby Knauer’s doctors that there would be no legal consequence for killing the infant. This was done, so pleasing Hitler that he issued a secret directive licensing doctors to kill disabled infants.

In The Nazi Doctors, Robert J. Lifton quotes a 1973 interview in which the father of Baby Knauer recalled the reasons Brandt and Hitler agreed to the killing of his son:

He [Brandt] explained to me that the Führer had personally sent him, and that my son’s case interested him very much. The Führer wanted to explore the problem of people who had no future—whose [lives were] worthless. From then on, we wouldn’t have to suffer from this terrible misfortune, because the Führer had granted us the mercy killing of our son. Later, we could have other children, handsome and healthy, of whom the Reich could be proud.
-Wesley J. Smith

The Netherlands now has the blood of four Baby Knauers on its hands. See Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies

For more, see Hugh Hewitt here and here and also Dawn Eden

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Someone to check out

Robert P. Kraynak refers to Hungarian political philosopher and conservative critic of liberalism Aurel Kolnai in this review of John Hittinger's Liberty, Wisdom, and Grace: Thomism and Democratic Political Theory.

In chapter ten, Hittinger gives further consideration to Kolnai's "metaphysics of political conservatism" and tilts in favor of this approach over Maritain's and Simon's democratic progressivism and defensive neo-Thomism. Kolnai contrasts conservative metaphysics, which views life in terms of "hierarchy, privilege, and liberty," to democratic metaphysics, which views life in terms of "identity, sameness, and rebellion." Kolnai defends conservative metaphysics against democratic metaphysics because the former is more noble than the latter and accords with the natural order of things. The problem with this judgment, of course, is that conservative metaphysics point toward an aristocratic order of politics while democratic metaphysics point to the mass culture of the common man, neither of which is entirely acceptable. Kolnai tries to solve the problem by combining the two orders in a view of "constitutionalism" that separates limitations on power from individual rights and connects "liberty under God" with dispersed centers of power based on privilege and corporate hierarchy. It is unclear, however, if Hittinger completely accepts this political solution because he senses that Kolnai's spirit is at odds with the Second Vatican Council and with the views of Pope John Paul II, a champion of the rights and dignity of the human person.

I'm sympathetic to dispersing centers of power, but the advocacy of privilege triggers egalitarian suspicions I didn't even know I had. Granted, this is a prejudice on my part; but as Edmund Burke has noted, there is something to be said for prejudices.

There's more informaton on Kolnai in this brief review: - A neglected political thinker

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy

The Liberty Fund has made Henrich Rommen's excellent natural law study available on-line.

From the introduction:
Heinrich Rommen is known in the United States primarily as the author of two widely read books on political philosophy, The State in Catholic Thought: A Treatise in Political Philosophy (1945) and The Natural Law (1947), and as a professor at Georgetown University (1953–67). Yet, before 1938, when he fled the Third Reich for the United States, Rommen was neither a scholar nor a university professor, but a professional lawyer—trained in civil and canon law—who had devoted considerable energies to Catholic social action during the dissolution of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazi Party. The two books that secured his academic reputation in the United States were written in Germany in the midst of his legal and political work, for which he was imprisoned by the Nazis.

Although The Natural Law displays erudition in a number of academic specialties (law, philosophy, history, theology), the reader will appreciate that the book was written by a lawyer in response to a political and legal crisis. As a practicing lawyer, Rommen watched with alarm as the Nazi party deftly used German legislative, administrative, and judicial institutions to impose totalitarian rule. “Our modern dictators,” he remarked, “are masters of legality.” “Hitler,” Rommen concluded, “aimed not a revolution, but at a legal grasp of power according to the formal democratic processes.”

Every generation, it is said, finds a new reason for the study of natural law. For Rommen and many others of his generation, totalitarianism provided that occasion.4 As he put it in his book on the state, “When one of the relativist theories is made the basis of a totalitarian state, man is stirred to free himself from the pessimistic resignation that characterizes these relativist theories and to return to his principles.” Rommen’s writings were prompted by the spectacle of German legal professionals, who, while trained in the technicalities of positive law, were at a loss in responding to what he called “Adolf Légalité.”

What caused this loss of nerve, if not loss of moral perspective? Rommen points to the illusion that legal institutions are a sufficient bulwark against government by raw power—as though a system of positive law takes care of itself, requiring only the superintendence of certified professionals. “Forgotten is the fact that legal institutions themselves can be made the object of the non-legal power struggle. Who does not know that in a nation the courts or the judges themselves are subject to the power strife, showing itself in the public propaganda of contradictory social ideals?”

The Constitution of Liberty within Christendom...

is the title of a brief essay by Paul Rahe on liberty in the middle ages. It's lifted in part from Volume I of his _Republics Ancient and Modern_, my current read. Rahe links the evolution of political liberty to the Canon Lawyers' reinterpretation of the Roman Law principle "What touches all must be approved by all."

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Two Essays on War

Ecumenical Councils of War, reviewed by David B. Hart, outlining the just war tradition in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. Hart raises a key problem in contemporary just war reasoning:
More importantly, by beginning his account of just war theory by bothering to recognize the legitimacy of a state not explicitly bound to divine law—however much he may urge that Christians must attempt to make the state conscious of that law—Cole puts himself in the odd position of having to argue that Christians must both obey the principles of just war and also resign themselves to fighting at the behest of a political order that has not necessarily placed itself under the sway of those principles. It is, after all, the liberal state that gave us total war in the modern age and that has often, precisely on account of its liberal utopian abhorrence of all war (as Cole himself quite acutely observes), forsaken even the pretense of justice in making war.

It is a curious thing indeed, then, for Cole to begin his defense of the just war tradition by arguing on behalf of a political system that is in its essence intractably post-Christian. If the most for which Christians can hope is that they have a “voice” in the political determinations of a government that does not otherwise acknowledge the spiritual and moral supremacy of the Church in worldly affairs, what remains of just war theory but a collection of axioms by which individual Christians must try to ascertain for themselves whether they may or may not consent to a particular war being waged by their government?

But surely just war theory is not supposed to function as a private calculus, but as a social and political rationality. In the age of the liberal state, what authority may Christians trust in times of war, if the state cannot—by its own constitutional logic—speak under the clear guidance of the Church?

Second, an essay by the Rev. Michael Baxter, CSC, Just War and Pacifism: A "Pacifist"
Perspective in Seven Points

The Nation-State and the Common Good

Via Verbum Ipsum, we find the essay Killing for the Telephone Company: Why the Nation-State is not the Keeper of the Common Good,(PDF Format) in which William T. Cavanaugh makes a very contrarian argument. He holds that the nation-state never claimed to look after the common good, that "society," in its unitary sense, is actually a creation of the modern nation-state, and, echoing Simon Schama, claims that a potent state is the enemy of vibrant communities.

A few quotations:
"Globalization is, in part, the hyperextension of the triumph of the universal over the local on which the nation-state is founded."

"The nation-state may be understood theologically as a kind of parody of the Church, meant to save us from division."

He also has a revealing quotation from a political scientist named Michael Budde, on his encounter with the ecclessial bureaucracy:
Once upon a time, I was hired as a consultant for a public-policy arm of a state-level Catholic bishops’ conference. The bishops, according to the institution’s staff people, wanted to engage in rededicated efforts to confront the realities of poverty in their state.
What the church bureaucracy had in mind was something on the order of a new lobbying initiative in the state legislature or perhaps an expert conference on poverty in the state.
I told them that they should attempt to take every Catholic in their state on an intensive retreat, with follow-up programs upon their return. Nothing the Church could do would benefit poor people more, I argued, than to energize, inspire, and ignite the passion of larger numbers of the faithful. Without attempts to “convert the baptized,” in William O’Malley’s phrase, the stranglehold of self-interest, isolation, and religious indifference would continue to throttle the church’s attempts to deal seriously with poverty in a global capitalist order.
My advice, to put it gently, was unappreciated. I was fired. They had an experts conference. As far as I can tell, poverty in their state remained indifferent to their efforts.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Political Philosophy and Science Envy

"For just as Galileo could look at the path of a cannon ball and see it as the resultant of the force of gravity and linear velocity, or Priestley look at a chemical reaction and see it as an exchange of atoms, so the new social theorists looked at the state and saw it as the resultant of the actions of all the individuals who make it up. But note please that these individuals who are the primary constituents of the state and the elements of reductive analysis of society are not individual human beings. They are social atoms, totally denuded of individuality, of character, of emotion(except fear and greed) and ov value. The individual, in this mode of analysis, is not a real human being but an abstract quantity, comprehensible because of his abstract nature and ultimately manipulable by social controls. The relevance of the reductive mode of analysis for modern politics should be immediately obvious, for in the ideologies of modern totalitarian movements, we can see this method of perceiving human beings as abstract quantities in the full light of practice."
-John C. Caiazza, Modern Science and the Origins of Our Political Discontent(PDF File)
Intercollegiate Review, Fall 1977

I am beginning to better understand Chantal Delsol's suspicions of essentialism, since the "essentialism" of modern theory posits a reductive nature of man in order that man can be manipulated by a technocracy, in contradistinction to the essentialism of classical and Christian philosophy, where human nature is not a thing to be manipulated but a norm to be fulfilled.

Caiazza also notes how modern science follows the Cartesian route, moving away from experience and into abstraction. Modern political philosophy, in its envy of the promises and accomplishments of physical science, tries to follow suit: "Just as it becomes the mark of an educated man to say that the physical universe is not as it appears to be, so it becomes possible to say that the phenomena of politics are not what they appear to be; are not what our experience tells us they are." He critiques social contract theory as one such abstraction. "Hobbes based his idea of the state on the contract theory not because he was committed to the idea of individualism, but because he was modeling his analysis on the reductive method of science." Obviously, this preference for abstraction over experience engenders the rabid anti-traditionalism of modernity.

Truth and Freedom

A ruminative essay by Joseph Cardinal Raztinger on the relationship between truth and freedom. I read it years ago, but I only just now noticed that its critique anticipates that of Chantal Delsol in Icarus Fallen. Delsol is more wary of "essentialist" philosophy than Ratzinger, but I think Ratzinger goes further in providing the anthropology that Delsol so pined for.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Tumor growing in Democratic Party by Fran Maier, the chancellor of the Catholic Archiocese of Denver.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A bit of Capitalist Messianism

Former CEO of GE Jack Welch writes
Last but not least, the leader of the United States must love business, because a thriving economy is the free world’s last, best hope.

So much for "In God We Trust." Most money is digital now, anyway.

Something else they don't teach in schools

Social Darwinist excerpts from the book under question in the Scopes trial, via Eve Tushnet.

Addendum 7/22/05: More excerpts

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The New Pantagruel, Winter Edition

I have a review essay covering Claes G. Ryn's _America The Virtuous_ in the latest issue of the New Pantagruel. I fear I'm a bit out of my league, being in the same issue as excerpts from Eric Voegelin and two superlative essays on place and locality. Still, one doesn't learn to swim by staying out of the water. My thanks to Caleb Stegall and the other TNP editors for the opportunity.

A few links on Voegelin

First, the essay What is the Metaxy? analyzing the concept in Plato and in Voegelin's interpretation of Plato. The author provides some useful guidelines for interpreting Plato.

Second, a handy Dictionary of Voegelinian Terminology, found via The New Pantagruel

Sunday, October 31, 2004

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

-John Jay, Federalist #2

Jay is, of course, citing a putative American unity in a persuasive, even propagandistic manner, to support the cause of Union. But it is telling to note that the diversitarian multiculturalists among contemporary activists do not take the supposed diversity of America as a reason to split, or at least decentralize the Federal government. Perhaps it is because it is easier to turn one central, homogenized government to the multiculturalist cause than fifty recalcitrant state governments.

Friday, October 29, 2004

On the French Revolution

From Simon Schama's Citizens:
"Very often the eager theatergoer could pay for his place by signing on with one of the organzied claques, paid to cheer or jeer at actors and plays, depending on the commission. And because of the license expected in the parterre, it was here that the tone could be set on first night for the success or failure of the play." p. 137

"On March 6 the article[of the playwright Beaumarchais] was brought to the King's attention and, presumably still smarting from his wishes being thwarted, he took the reference to wild(rather than verminous) creatures as a personal attack. It was enough to put Beaumarchais in prison. And Louis, full of silly pique, decided that the most crushing reproof he could give to an ironist would be comic humiliation. That evening, while at the card table, he scribbled on the back of the seven of spades that Beaumarchais should be confined not in the Bastille(the usual detention for insubordinate writers) but in Saint-Lazare, the correction center for delinquent boys. In the short term, this facetious humiliation took the wind out of Beaumarchais' sails. Refusing to emerge from the prison, knowing he was the butt of jokes, he never quite regained the breezy confidence which had sustained him through many misfortunes. In the very last years of the old regime he himself became the whipping boy of radicals and reactionaries alike." p. 144

Incidentally, Beaumarchais' play The Marriage of Figaro in fact found an eager patron in Marie Antoinette, contra the Austrian Emperor's concern about Mozart's operatic adaptation depicted in Amadeus.

"Startling as it may seem, the court and the high nobility were prime customers for the works that did most to damage their own authority. The town of Versailles had a number of shops where the most professional hawkers(colporteurs unloaded their stock. Delorme, for example, who used Dunkirk as a port of entry for his books, had his own outlet at Versailles and he was by no means alone. The appetite of the court for daring literature--both political and erotic--may be gauged from the fact that similar outlets were located at towns to which the court seasonally moved... In an only slightly less direct manner, the immunity of the great aristocratic families from search and seizure meant that the colporteurs used them shamelessly to smuggle their goods. The coachman of the Duc de Praslin was a virtual colporteur in his own right and in 1767 six bales of clandestine books were discovered in a wagon bearing the arms of the Marechal de Noailles. Even the King's youngest brother, Artois(who as Charles X was to take a censorious line with seditious literature), was said to be protecting hawkers of libels.
These stories seem to vindicated de Tocqueville's view that th eold regime brought about its own undoing by irresponsibly flirting with ideas it only half understood, but which it found diverting: the literary equivalent of the Figaro syndrome." p. 175

"It could be argued, though, that the French Revolution was as much the interruption, as the catalyst, of modernity. Not in all respects, since in its most militant phase, the Revolution did indeed invent a new kind of politics, an institutional transference of Rousseau's sovereignty of the General Will that abolished private space and time, and created a form of patriotic militarism more all-embracing than anything that had yet been seen in Europe. For one year, it invented and practiced representative democracy; for two years, it imposed coercive egalitarianism(thoguh even this is a simplification). But for two decades its enduring product was a new kind of militarized state." p. 184

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Old Irish Arete

"Now, many and divers were the magic virtues that were in Cuchulain that were in no one else in his day. Excellence of form, excellence of shape, excellence of build, excellence in swimming, excellence in horsemanship, excellence in chess and in draughts, excellence in battle, excellence in contest, excellence in single combat, excellence in reckoning, excellence in speech, excellence in counsel, excellence in bearing, excellence in laying waste and in plundering from the neighbouring border."

-The Cattle Raid of Cooley

An Ominous Parallel?

"The fact remains that in all democratic nations the person of the
"politician" is treated with contempt, and "politics" are looked upon
by a healthy public opinion as a cocktail of deceit, lying, treachery,
double-dealing, graft, theft, insincerity, perjury, imposture,
dishonorable compromise and other vices. There is, however, a
time-lag between the disappearance of the general respect given to the
human organs of the constitution and that given to the constitution
itself. In countries where the constitution is not a mere "armistical
arrangement" but the survival of a grand, but defunct, republican
order, we often find a very considerable difference between the homage
paid to the constitutional order and the enthusiasm accorded to the
deputies and other elected representatives of the nation. Of this
discrepancy the citizens are sometimes not only conscious, but even proud.

To the historian this antithesis is neither new nor particularly
encouraging. After two hundred years of cheerful and ironic
anti-clericalism the Reformation came after all, and destroyed the
fabric of the Church in a number of nations."
-Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty Or Equality p. 120 in the chapter "A
Critique of Democracy"

Monday, October 11, 2004

Evangelizing the Theologians

I earlier referenced an essay by my former teacher, Rev. Edward T. Oakes, SJ, that suggested using the phrase "pod people talk" to describe the skewed language of theological liberalism. It has now been published on Crisis magazine's web site, under the title Reconciling Judas: Evangelizing the Theologians.(FR Mirror)

The editors at Crisis cut a very provocative paragraph, reproduced below:

The situation is especially grim among professional theologians, where the Body Snatchers are working their sci-fi magic with impunity. In the first volume of Jaroslav Pelikan’s Christian Tradition, whose fifth volume was already cited above, the author mentions in passing that in the first several centuries of the Church most theologians were bishops, while in the Middle Ages most were monks, but in the modern period most theologians have been professors. This seemingly irrelevant factoid from the sociology of history actually reveals something important—and dangerous. Liberalism in religion first drew its strength from the Wars of Religion in the wake of the Reformation and then gained strength in the multicultural global setting of vastly different religions and cultures. In order to avoid a repeat of the Thirty Years War, but now on a much worse global scale, governments must regard each religion as equally valid and worthy of rights before the law. But validity before the law is by no means the same thing as validity before the bar of the truth, and when the liberal ethos enters an intentional, believing community constituted by a particular revelation, havoc is bound to follow. Especially in the United States, the values of tolerance and non-discrimination have become more than a mere litmus test for citizenship but are now enshrined in the laws that govern how universities may operate. Combine that ethos with the fact that more and more theology professors owe their allegiance more to norms of academic “respectability” than to the politically incorrect gospel of St. Paul, and suddenly the Pod People have a legally safe redoubt.

Fancy that...

I have just been "push-polled" for, of all things, the Colorado State Senate race. Strangely enough, I was polled just after sending a letter to the Republican candidate, Jessica Corry, who was in my class in high school. My parish had just held a forum hosting these candidates for the state legislature, so I was actually fairly well informed about their stands on the issues.

At first, it sounded like any other poll, asking about my vote in the presidential and national senatorial elections, plus the Colorado Senate race. Then the pollster asked some questions like who has the right position on abortion and who would best secure affordable health care. Such questions were, in retrospect, obviously testing the water to determine how the poll would proceed. Then the loaded questions began. "How would knowing x about candidate z affect your opinion of them?" The question I specifically remember was "Jessica Corry has only voted in half of the elections held since 1998. Does that give you a positive or negative view of this candidate?"

Now that fact is so ambiguous and out of context that nobody can give an honest opinon. She might have been disgusted with the whole idea of voting, or perhaps she considered herself too uninformed to vote responsibly--cases in which not voting is the better choice. Perhaps there were no important referenda in the off-year elections, or she had a wedding to rejoice at or a funeral to grieve over. The pollster obviously wanted to imply that she was too lazy or unconcerned to vote--perhaps a strategy dictated by my earlier description of myself as one certain to vote this November.

I'm disgusted by such tactics, and I'm letting the incumbent Senator Sue Windels know about it.

Irecconcilable Differences

"In their own persons, Lafayette and Talleyrand embodied the split personality of the French Revolution. For while it is commonplace to recognize that the Revolution gave birth to a new kind of political world, it is less often understood that that world was the product of two irreconcilable interests--the creation of a potent state and the creation of a community of free citizens. The fiction of the Revolution was to imagine that each might be served without damaging the other and its history amounts to the realization of that impossibility."

-Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

More on Piercing the Veil

The Japery has more to say about recent arguments in favor of collapsing the public-private distinction that has entailed some legal protection--and some legal curtailment--of religious practice.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bahaus Architecture?

"....... In another of his books, "Living Machines: Bauhaus as Sexual Ideology" he address the peculiar psycho-sexual worldview of Gropius and his circle. The self-confessed purpose of Bauhaus architecture was to create a world where man is a sexual nomad, completely uprooted from family, God, and even sense of place...." (source)

Friday, September 24, 2004

[PA]Democratic House candidate's book argues merits of sterilization

WASHINGTON - A Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania wrote a 1991 book that calls for government sterilization of some mental patients, welfare recipients, alcoholics and parents of diseased or deformed children.

Steven Porter, running in the 3rd Congressional District, said Tuesday that the arguments presented in his book are based on "hypothetic" cases and only recommend sterilization on a voluntary basis. Porter is running against Rep. Phil English in a race the five-term Republican is expected to easily win.

Porter's book, "The Ethics of a Democracy," argues that the state has a right to sterilize people who cannot care for their children. It also offers sterilization as an incentive for immediate release of parents who are incarcerated for endangering their children, including by alcoholism or poverty.

"We're going to have to deal with these questions - that the right of having a child does not end with a parent, but there are responsibilities that people are going to have to have toward the children who are born, and toward the societies in which they live," Porter said Tuesday. "And I will stand by that."

He challenged English to a three-hour discussion on the merits of sterilization as raised in his book, which he described as a discussion of "what might be ethical, and what might not be ethical in a democracy."

Paul Lombardo, professor at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia, said the idea of state-sponsored sterilization lacks mainstream support because, in part, "we got a little insight about how badly that kind of thing could be used with Hitler."

"Most people in the ethics world will agree - and we won't agree on most things - but they agree that governmental programs of sterilization are a bad idea," Lombardo said. "Fortunes change, and in this country we believe in the notion that people can improve their lives, and overcome their challenges - medical and otherwise."

English's campaign manager Brad Moore called Porter "a dangerous radical."

"I thought this kind of thinking went out of style in the 1930s," Moore said. "Frankly, a lot of people died on the beaches of Normandy to fight against these kinds of policies."

In the case of a mental patient, "Jane," for example, Porter wrote: "Not able to care for children, does she have an ethical right to bear them, an ethical right to inflict the costs of bearing and raising them on the state? And if Jane continues to have sex, does the state not have the right to prevent that infliction?"

"If she wishes sex, she must face sterilization because no individual has the ethical right to force society to take responsibility for his or her own acts," Porter wrote.(source, FR Thread)

At least even the most slimy fiscal conservative Republicans couldn't make it past the primary with this sort of thinking. Too bad the dems have too small a population of social conservatives to weed out this warmed-over eugenic garbage.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Now Open for Comments

Just so my blog doesn't become another pitiful exercise in onanism, comments are now open. Hopefully I won't regret this.

Some pieces on liberal individualism

They blame Hobbes. I reposted the Carlson piece, "Individualism and its Discontents" here.

"Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother?" -Edmund, King Lear

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Unprincipled Exception is not so Unprincipled After All

The basic reason for the "liberal" double standard has already been alluded to. It is that today's "liberals" are really leftists who have rejected the older liberal belief in a shared equality of citizens before the law and have embraced the socialist vision of "equality as a fact and equality as a result," as Lyndon Johnson famously put it. Since people are unequal in their ability to accumulate property, as Hayek argued in the Mirage of Social Justice, equality of results can only be pursued by treating people unequally. This is the origin of the double standard.

-Lawrence Auster, How to Oppose Liberal Intolerance

Monday, September 13, 2004

Harry Jaffa: The American Founding as the Best Regime

Leo Strauss comments in his Natural Right and History that Cicero's embrace of Rome as the Best Regime was ironic, at best. I wonder if the same can be said for Jaffa's embrace of America. A few sections sounded like pod-people talk: some phrases were just ever-so-slightly askew. Take his statement
The laws of Moses regulated all aspects of human life, mental as well as physical, private as well as public. If we think of orthodox Judaism today, we think of freely chosen personal obligations. But in ancient Israel, these laws were inescapable.

The authorial "we" glides over a crucial distinction. To paraphrase Tonto, "Whose 'we', Straussian man?" Only doctrinaire Liberals think of religious adherence as freely chosen and personal. Christians, following John 15:16, see God's choice as paramount.


Hence Jesus never meant to characterize all political authority as that of Caesar. When he spoke of "Caesar" he was not speaking symbolically; he meant the conqueror of his people, whose regime rested upon force alone. Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed is no more properly characterized as "Caesar" than is the government of ancient Israel under the laws of Moses. Nevertheless, it was the transformation of the Rome of the Caesars into the Holy Roman Empire that ended the ancient world and created the distinction — and opposition — of church and state.

I can grant that the judges of Israel would not have been considered Caesar, but why should not a republic be categorized as Caesar?

Jaffa also has a throwaway line about Christian salvation being individual, whereas I and, to my knowledge, all Catholics, consider salvation to be literally corporate--we must become part of the Body of Christ, the Church, to be saved. It's not so much the abandonment of all family and human relations as the transfiguration of the family and human relations.

The Declaration of Independence recognizes, as did the medieval church, the divine government of the universe. But this government, while providing a pattern for human government, does not cause any divided allegiance in one's political obligation here on earth.

The Kingdom of Heaven in perfect harmony with human government? Perhaps in paradise, but alas an angel bars our way back there.

Jaffa throws bones to traditional religion throughout the piece, but the differences like those noted above make me wonder just what kind of animal those bones came from. I better understand now why the Straussians have a reputation for equivocation. And I worry about the future of a republic whose conservative thinkers see no dual loyalty between God and Fallen Man.

Olavo de Carvalho, Portuguese Thinker

Some texts of his, which I'll look through in more detail tomorrow.

Now they want to Euthanize Children

Wesley J. Smith on Dutch Euthanasia. (FR Thread) via Amy Welborn

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Secret Path: A Catholic Response to the New Age

Stratford Caldecott's essay is chock-full of reflections on Christian gnosis, theosis, spiritual knighthood, and Wisdom.
In the West, the virtues we normally think of as foundational for the Christian Way are the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. What emerges from the texts I have been quoting is the importance of a virtue we have tended to neglect. Chastity, or purity, or spiritual virginity, turns out to be the very key to the knowledge of God. In a certain way, it integrates the other seven virtues, as white light includes within itself the colours of the rainbow.


This is, in the end, the main reason why "Christian esoterism" is so hard to detect or distinguish. It is morally demanding. It has hidden itself in the exterior, in the practice of virtues and the service of justice, the visiting of prisoners and the care of the dying, faithfulness in marriage, the resistance of oppression and the offering of friendship to all those whom God places on our path. It is too easy to speak of theology and mysticism (as I am doing here), and at the same time to neglect these things, which are objectively more important. The mysteries of Christianity reveal themselves to the pure in heart, to the poor in spirit, to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness... not necessarily to those who read the Philokalia.

The Pornography Culture

David B. Hart analyzes the pornocratic impulses of (post?)modern liberal democracy.

...the gradual erosion—throughout the history of modernity—of any concept of society as a moral and spiritual association governed by useful ethical prejudices, immemorial reverences, and subsidiary structures of authority (church, community, family) has led inevitably to a constant expansion of the power of the state. In fact, it is ever more the case that there are no significant social realities other than the state and the individual (collective will and personal will). And in the absence of a shared culture of virtue, the modern liberal state must function—even if benignly—as a police state, making what use it may of the very technologies that COPA was intended somewhat to control.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

An Obvious Lacuna

Just noticed: National Review On-line doesn't have a letters to the editor section. So how does a reader make known their errors, which any publication will have? Troubling.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Discussion on the Natural Law

I wanted to mark a thread on which I commented, where I think I made some progress in my own understanding of natural law arugmentation. In the process of making my argument, I also discovered that the concern with making men fit to rule exhibited in Greek authors(Plato's Republic, Xenophon's Memorabilia 2.1) is also reflected in the Old Testament deuterocanonical book of Wisdom.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Riotous Behavior

I'm considering writing an essay on the consumeristic passivity of theater and movie audiences. As a hook, I'd like to start off with an account of some of the riots provoked by artistic works. A few confirmed theater riots: The Playboy of the Western World's first performance, and the first performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

A few rumored riots: the performance of Lillian Hellman's play The Children's Hour, and Mozart's _The Magic Flute_. The Simpsons' Kent Brockman referred to it as a joke after a cartoon rock concert riot:

Of course, it would be wrong to suggest this sort of mayhem began with rock-and-roll. After all, there were riots at the premiere of Mozart's ``The Magic Flute''. So, what's the answer? Ban all music? In this reporters opinion, the answer, sadly, is `yes'.

I looked for my Die Zauberflote libretto to confirm , but thankfully I've lost it. Besides, The Magic Flute sounds so much better if you don't understand what they're singing.

Montesquieu and Natural Law

Natural Law, Natural Rights and Classical Liberalism: On Montesquieu's Critique of Hobbes by Michael Zuckert (PDF)

Apparently Montesquieu followed Decartes and Locke more than traditionally Catholic natural law theories. Though he decries the legal positivism of Hobbes, intending "to attack the system of Hobbes, a terrible system which [makes] all virtues and all vices depend on the establishment of laws made by men," he argues more for natural right than natural law.

Friday, September 03, 2004


So I see a link to a trailer of the upcoming movie Constantine, right next to the Alexander trailer, and my heart leaps. A movie about the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity!

Nope, just a supernatural thriller starring Keanu Reeves. I don't know what I was thinking. Really, if Hollywood makes a movie about a Roman emperor, it'll probably be about Julian the Apostate or Nero or Little Boots.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Pod People I

“It is because of views like these that I hold that the first task of the New Evangelization is to evangelize Christians. This task, as I say, is daunting and requires, among its other skills, that the orthodox be alert to what I call Pod People Talk, using here an analogy drawn from that classic sci-fi flick, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the famous cult movie about aliens who try to take over the planet by kidnapping hapless humans and forcing them to spend a night in large pods the size of body bags. Upon awakening from these awesome contraptions, the earthlings would have been zapped into alienhood: they emerged from their pods still looking and acting exactly as their past humanity would lead one to expect; but in essence they were aliens, fully intent on taking over the planet. For me the fascination of this plot derives from the way the loved ones of these newly alienized beings came to suspect something might be amiss. For although the Los Angeles English of the aliens was completely idiomatic and accent-free, there was yet something vaguely unsettling about their demeanor and sentences. A kind of subtext to their ordinary communications made their loved ones edgy and uneasy, until finally one or another of the disguised aliens would say something so utterly out of character that there could be no doubting their new identity.
In the course of forty years of adult life spent in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, it has gradually been borne in upon me that most students attending our elite divinity schools must have spent a night in the theological version of these Pods. For although they seem to talk real English, unaccented and fully idiomatic, there is yet something strange and unsettling about the lingo that comes out of their mouths. At first their sentences are merely unsettling and ooze with a slippery vagueness that sounds wrong but which can—with those patient hermeneutical transpositions that so many theologians have made their stock-in-trade—be explained away. But then along comes a Roger Haight or an ex-priest caught on tape with a reporter, and suddenly the orthodox wake up with the queasy feeling that the Body Snatchers have entered the ancient precincts of the Church.”

–Rev. Edward T. Oakes, SJ, “How to Evangelize Christians”*

I had an Invasion of the Body-Snatchers moment while reading through last Sunday’s parish bulletin(8/22/04). The parish Justfaith group placed a quotation full of pod-people talk in the bulletin, “from Fr. Richard Rohr’s wonderful book Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount”:

"When Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, he was talking about an utterly different way of relating with one another than human society as we know it. Yet we have failed to understand the coming of Jesus as the dawn of a new age. For most Christians, life in the new age has been business as usual… We keep worshipping the messenger, keeping Jesus up on statues and images, so we can avoid what Jesus said. It’s the best smokescreen in the world! We just keep saying “We love Jesus.” The more we talk about Jesus, the less we’ll do with what he said. And in this case, it’s the way culture, nations, and even the churches have fooled themselves.”

This is wrong on so many levels. That line about the “utterly different way of relating” with people is misleading at best. For one thing, Our Lord came “not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” For another, the phrase implies a radical dualism between sinful nature and supernatural grace: in the classic Christian formula, “Grace does not abolish nature, but perfects it.” The order of grace then, can’t very well be “utterly different” from the natural order—especially since there is a sort of natural grace in the world.

Rohr’s sentence “We keep worshipping the messenger” is especially troubling—as though we should stop worshipping at some point, or as though worship were a tedious, interfering burden to be lifted, rather than a foreshadowing of the saints’ worship in heaven! “Messenger” is a dubious demotion for the Son of God, who after all is more than a mere aggelos(angel). What’s more, a Catholic priest has no business belittling worship, when most Catholics don’t even attend Sunday Mass.

Rohr’s semi-iconoclastic denunciation of statues and images, standard fare in any variety of low church Protestantism, only provokes cognitive dissonance in Catholic ears. Besides that, the whole statement makes no sense as a matter of logic. “We worship Jesus so much, talk about him, and put reminders of Him everywhere, therefore we pay no attention to his words.” Psychologically speaking, perhaps familiarity breeds apathy, but (especially if the familiar is as beautiful as all Christian worship and images should be) such familiarity can just as easily lead one further into the work of God. And again, a Catholic priest like Fr. Rohr shouldn’t disparage “God-Talk” when his flock is woefully uninstructed in the Faith and when his society is so secularized that people speak of God in embarrassed, ironic tones—if they speak of Him at all. I myself am so poorly catechized that I can’t name all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, though I do remember that two of the spiritual works of mercy are counseling the doubtful and instructing the ignorant—both of which involve talking about God.

Checking out the first few pages of Rohr’s book on Amazon only magnified my concerns. There is a lot of talk about revolution, which is so appealing to people who have never known a revolution. Having been something of a revolutionary wannabe myself, I’m prone to let this slide as rhetorical hyperbole. Of greater concern to me is Rohr’s questionable equation of Our Lord with everybody else who died under an oppressive society: “When we Christians accept that Jesus was killed for the same reasons that people have been killed in all of human history(and not because he walked around saying “I am God”), we will have turned an important corner on our Jesus quest.” (p. 3)

Talk about an alien soteriology! Our Lord Himself said “No one takes my life from me, I lay it down freely!” Our Lord died not because he was another anonymous victim of man’s inhumanity to man-—as though God can be a victim!--but rather in order to reveal God’s love to man.

What’s even more troubling, the Amazon reviewers indicate that Rohr quotes with approval several “scholars” from the Jesus seminar, which markets its “discoveries” of atheistic scholarship via major secular weeklies like Newsweek and Time. With compatriots like the Jesus Seminar apostates, and with ambiguous rhetoric that provokes dissonance even in the ears a young man like me with so little theological training, I wonder: what in the world is Rohr doing being quoted in a parish bulletin?

*Father Oakes' essay will be appearing in Crisis magazine. I have permission to distribute it samizdat, so if you want to see the whole thing e-mail me.

Monday, August 30, 2004

4dW4R3 is t3h SUXX!

A little hacker lingo to express my frustration with Adware and technical support. Little Sister's computer lost all network connectivity on Thursday. I make the hour's drive to her apartment on Saturday, go out to an early dinner with her, and spend six hours trying to get the thing working. A brief sign of hope when the network is back after a system restore. Then while running AdAware the system goes into auto-shutdown mode and reboots. I run adaware again, system goes into auto-shutdown again. Set up Adaware to come on before everything else as the system is counting down to reboot. Adaware runs after reboot. Finds something like 320 instances of adware. Poor little sister is so trusting. She didn't even think anything was really out of the ordinary when five ads popped up as soon as she opened Internet Explorer.

So I zap adware like mad. Then after Adaware closes: NO NETWORK CONNECTIVITY! System restore can't see far back enough to restore the network, either. It's 10:00 pm, I call it a night and take her computer home with me. Finally found the solution last night:

Problem: The computer has lost network connectivity.

Symptom: When entering ipconfig /renew at the command prompt, one receives the message "An operation was attempted on something that is not a socket"

Diagnosis: Adware or another program has inserted another layer between the user and the TCP/IP Winsock system. If the installation or removal of the software is bug-prone, network connectivity can be lost.

Solution: Download WinsockXPFix.exe from the internet on another machine and run it on the broken machine, after backing up said machine's registry as a precaution. Network connectivity will be restored.

Both Comcast and Dell technical support didn't realize the problem after they were told about the wierd ipconfig error message. I'm sending them e-mails informing them of the problem and the solution.

As for little sister? She's going to be running Adaware very often from now on. And maybe Opera instead of Internet Explorer, too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A Little Something on Game Theory

From Newsweek, a description of economic behavioral studies and what they have to do with game theory:

For all its intellectual power and its empirical success as a creator of wealth, free-market economics rests on a fallacy, which economists have politely agreed among themselves to overlook. This is the belief that people apply rational calculations to economic decisions, ruling their lives by economic models. Of course, economists know that the world doesn't actually work this way; if it did, you wouldn't need a financial adviser to remind you to save for retirement. But until recently the anomalies were chalked up to the pernicious influence of emotions, emanations from the primitive regions of the brain, a kind of mental noise interfering with the pure, rational expression of economic self-interest.

This looks promising. Could economists be rediscovering how culture, and not only emotion, plays a role in checking economic self-interest? Alas, as reported by the article, not really:

The new paradigm sweeping the field, under the rubric of "behavioral economics," holds that studying what people actually do is at least as valuable as deriving equations for what they should do. And when you look at human behavior, you discover, as Camerer and his collaborator George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon have written, that "the Platonic metaphor of the mind as a charioteer driving twin horses of reason and emotion is on the right track?except that cognition is a smart pony, and emotion a big elephant." The fMRI machine enables researchers in the emerging field of neuro-economics to investigate the interplay of fear, anger, greed and altruism that are activated each time we touch that most intimate of our possessions, our wallets.

Altruism, in this case a stand-in for the virtue of charity, is lumped in with emotions and vices that are called emotions.

Economists have many ways of demonstrating the irrationality of their favorite experimental animal, Homo sapiens. One is the "ultimatum game," which involves two subjects?researchers generally recruit undergraduates, but if you're doing this at home, feel free to use your own kids. Subject A gets 10 dollar bills. He can choose to give any number of them to subject B, who can accept or reject the offer. If she accepts, they split the money as A proposed; if she rejects A's offer, both get nothing. As predicted by the theories of mathematician John Nash (subject of the movie "A Beautiful Mind"), A makes the most money by offering one dollar to B, keeping nine for himself, and B should accept it, because one dollar is better than none.

But if you ignore the equations and focus on how people actually behave, you see something different, says Jonathan D. Cohen, director of the Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior at Princeton. People playing B who receive only one or two dollars overwhelmingly reject the offer. Economists have no better explanation than simple spite over feeling shortchanged. This becomes clear when people play the same game against a computer. They tend to accept whatever they're offered, because why feel insulted by a machine? By the same token, most normal people playing A offer something close to an even split, averaging about $4. The only category of people who consistently play as game theory dictates, offering the minimum possible amount, are those who don't take into account the feelings of the other player. They are autistics.

Well, we're back to "feelings, nothing but feelings" again. Would I "feel insulted" if I were only offered a dollar when my would-be benefactor has a largesse of $10? Perhaps. I would more be concerned with the state of his soul, however, a charitable concern that emotivists will simply lump in with anger, hate, and fear. Offering the bare minimum necessary to make a buck isn't the way to habituate oneself to the charitable life. Such stinginess belies a disregard for one's fellow man, but even more, for one's own salvation.

And speaking of disregard for one's fellows, I wonder why these scientists haven't gone the Dawkins/Randian route and described every action as self-interested? By a certain definition of self-interest, it's in everyone's interest to have everyone else, strangers included, be cheerful givers. In a cultural climate of hospitality, everyone will have somebody to lean on when they need a hand. Personal habits displayed in game-theory games are likely reflective of habits in the game of life, after all, and perhaps that intuition is what provokes "insulted feelings" and a refusal to play little games with someone who will likely abandon you on the stage of the world.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A Chilean Scholar of Natural Law

"osolestro," a Chilean acquaintance of mine from an internet forum we both frequented a few years back, informs me of a Chilean scholar of natural law, Joaquin Garcia Huidobro. One of his works is "LA TRADICION ARISTOTELICA DEL DERECHO NATURAL Y SU RECEPCION HISTORICA," not yet in English.

Pentacostal Telford Work on Postmodern Christianity

The gate back to modernity is wide (though it is closing), but it leads to hell. As I watched a couple of leading postmodern evangelicals squirm under questioning at a recent Wheaton Theology conference, I realized that evangelicals have invested so much of our apologetics in Enlightenment structures that once we return to embracing theological tradition we have no leverage against classically Catholic and Orthodox notions of it. We have traded convictions of holy tradition like justification by grace through faith for convictions of individual autonomy and universal reason. That's not Protestant; that's modern. A considerable share of "conservative" enthusiasm for modernity and suspicion of postmodernity is coming not from faithfulness to Christian tradition, but from obedience to the demands of modernity. Being an opponent of that particular ideolatry makes me a vocal proponent of postmodern Christianity. (more)

Via Eve Tushnet

On The New Pantagruel forums, I speculated that the secular pomo derision of religion as "a social construct" is a reaction to Christian apologists who frame their arguments in neo-Cartesian rationalist form. Since the social construction of reason is emphasized as a counter to Cartesianism, would-be postmodernists think they can refute all religion in the same way they counter Descartes.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Queen Bathilde, Emancipatrix

The history of Queen Bathilde, revealing how slavery was restricted in Dark Age France. via Quidnuncs, the defunct blog of Austin Bramwell, heir apparent to National Review, and of his then-fiance, now-wife, Sarah, who works in Governor Owens' press office. via The Philadelphia Society.

Work in Progress: Claes G. Ryn's America the Virtuous

(Since I never got around to blogging my notes on Strauss's _Natural Right and History_, and I think Ryn's work even more worthy of being blogged than Strauss, this will be an unfinished review until I get it done, hopefully before the book is due back at the library)

In his recent book America the Virtuous Catholic University professor Claes G. Ryn makes the alarming case that for many of the ideals held by traditional
Americans, there's a revolutionary interpretation of that ideal. Consciously or not, the new revolutionaries, whom Ryn calls neo-Jacobins, are using new meanings cloaked in old terms to achieve their goals. The old ideals Ryn mentions are those like virtue, democracy, liberty, and the free market. For example, Virtue for Old
America(to use Rumsfeld's taxonomy) meant things like humility, self-restraint, and love of neighbor. For "New America," virtue means things like loving the oppressed of the world(without ever doing too much about the lonely poor guy down the block), believing that the principles of democratic capitalism will save them, and
supporting sending the US State Department and DOD all over the world to spread belief in abstract American principles.

Further, Old America thought democracy meant constitutional, decentralized government and loyalty to all the little platoons of life, like family, church, the rotary club, and the town hall--all of which helped cultivate the virtues necessary for living freely. New America thinks of democracy as "plebiscitary," the expression of atomized and decultured individuals who care about their rights, the
Federal government as defender of those rights, and not much else. They also think democracy the best form of government under any circumstances, regardless of the "unwritten constitution" of the people who have to live and govern under that democracy.

Here's an analysis of how the "free market" can be interpreted in a revolutionary way, from Ryn's chapter titled "Jacobin Capitalism":

"It should be carefully noted that there is a sense in which a free market would become a reality only if the movement of goods and services were wholly unrestricted, unfettered not only by "external," legal, or institutional checks but by "inner" restraints, such as the inhibitions and tastes of civilized persons.
A Rousseauistic, Jacobin desire to destroy traditional moral and cultural restraints and corresponding sociopolitical structures can thus be said to aid in the creation of a truly free market. It is not far-fetched but entirely consistent to be a moral, intellectual, and cultural radical and a strong proponent of the free market--by a
certain definition of "free market."" (p. 147)

This reveals a whole new meaning to the slogan of the libertarian magazine Reason, "Free minds and free markets." And in fact the motivation for a particular implementation of the free market is precisely to unleash "gales of creative destruction," clearing away the accumulated detrius of culture. This is a rather Marxist understanding of capitalism, and I worry that this is precisely the
capitalism that many ex-Trotskyite neocons are working hard to advocate and to implement around the world, having by and large successfully implemented it here at home.

Ryn's work also made me more conscious of the debate surrounding exactly what America is. He makes the case that the rebellion which separated the American Colonies from British rule was in fact a "War of Independence" and not really revolutionary at all. He claims that the war was arguably counterrevolutionary, and insists on calling those who established the Federal government "Framers" and not "Founders." He doesn't explicitly say why, but his word choice is presumably because "founders" has the connotation of making something new, and in Ryn's view the states' governments pretty much continued on as they used to do. Moreover, the
American Constitution itself is more a continuation, rather than a break with, the Anglo-Saxon and European legal tradition.

Disability Rights as a club against Religious Freedom?

Cacciaguida reflects on the possibility.

Abortions Illegal in the First Trimester?

From AfterAbortion and cross-posted at FR:

New Research Allows States to Regulate or Ban First Trimester Abortions
Springfield, IL (July 26, 2004) -- A recently published law review article suggests that a ban on abortion, even in the first trimester, may now be allowed under the legal standards established in the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v Wade decision. The team of authors, including medical researchers, physicians, and an attorney, argue that this shift in practice, arising from new medical evidence of abortion's risks, will not require a change in constitutional law.

The Supreme Court specifically grants that states have a "compelling interest" in regulating or banning abortion to protect women's health when the risk of death associated with abortion exceeds the risk of death associated with childbirth. When Roe was decided in 1973, it was commonly believed that mortality rates associated with abortion in the first trimester were lower than the mortality rate associated with birth. States were therefore allowed to regulate abortion to protect women's health only after the first trimester.

In the last seven years, however, four major epidemiological studies have shown that abortion is actually associated with higher rates of death compared to childbirth. (More)

Assuming that the epidemiological studies are solid studies, and not simply compilations of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies, studies of the American post-abortion mortality rate are probably unattainable. I remember Eleanor Clift being really mad at John Ashcroft on the McLaughlin Group for attempting to collect records of abortions(at the time, if I recall correctly, because of concerns statutory rapists and sex abusers were "getting rid of the evidence"). Though "a common belief" was enough to install legal abortion in all 50 states, it might take more than four foreign studies to give this argument political wheels.

Also, by framing the argument solely in terms of the health of the mother, one risks losing sight of the human rights of the unwanted unborn. (By the way, the amicus curiae brief in Roe v. Wade insisting on the alleged priority of the health of the mother in the history of American and English law was signed by scholars whose own research contradicted that allegation. See John Finnis, Shameless Acts in Colorado: Abuse of scholarship in constitutional cases.)

What's more, the idea that abortions are prohibitable only out of "concern for the health of the mother" still leaves the possibility that "safer" techniques of abortion will render any laws obsolete, or that a vague definition of health as mental well-being will continue to legitimize legalized abortion.

Further, I fear the "mystery clause" of Planned Parenthood v. Casey ("the passage that ate the rule of law") renders the qualifications of Roe redundant.

Another problem is that the GOP might never run with this information. Roe v. Wade has proven such a useful wedge issue for them, the GOP strategists might take the Machiavellian route and say "Let's keep committing to appoint judges to overturn Roe, that'll keep the vote harvest high for another decade!"

Still, this will make a useful debating point. A congresscritter could really get nailed in a dialogue like this:

A: "Do you support Roe v. Wade?"

B: "Yes, Abortion shoulld be Safe, Legal, and Rare"

A: "So you think if an abortion procedure is unsafe, it should be banned?"

B: "Of course."

A: "Then what about these studies indicating all abortion procedures are more dangerous than childbirth--which would mean we could ban all abortions under Roe?"

B: "Their findings are dubious, and not American studies, regardless."

A: "So do you support scientific research into the safety of American abortions?"

B: "No, because it's a personal issue. Such research will require the invasion of womens' private medical records."

A: "So if it's really a personal issue and not a public health issue, then why do you and your campaign supporters at NARAL claim that ensuring reproductive health requires federal funding for elective abortions?"

Article via E-pression via The Faded Sun, who notes that if the mortality rate really is higher for women who have abortions, then legalized abortion is also a method of getting rid of "unwanted" women.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Lost and Found in the Ephemeral Internet: Authors Most Frequently Cited by the Framers

Somewhere on the web is a putative ranking of authors most cited by the Founding Fathers. I found it before. Alas, I can't find it now. It may be related to another article, which keeps popping up in the sources for the web pages that do come up:

Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz, "The Relative Influence of European Political Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought," American Political Science Review 189 (1984).

The reason for my search is a quest to verify Claes Ryn's suggestion that Locke's influence on early American thought has been exaggerated because progressive advocates have found him congenial for their programs. Paul Cella wrote an essay arguing that Locke's influence is overblown for the American Spectator

UPDATE: Thanks to "Tailgunner Joe" at FreeRepublic, here's the page: Authors Most Frequently Cited by the Founders of the United States. I seem to remember a different ranking, one on a yellow background. As I suspected, it's from the Hyneman-Lutz article. St. Paul comes out on top at 9%, Montesquieu second with 8.3%, Blackstone at 7.9%, all far ahead of John Locke at #4 with 2.9%. Rounding out the top five is Hume with 2.7%.

To my suprise, Aristotle does not make it onto the list, while Plato does. I'd like to see the whole article on which these decontextualized results are based.

Monday, August 16, 2004

So *that's* Why Christendom had anti-heresy laws!

Anabaptists declare Muenster the New Jerusalem, turn it into New Hell. Via The Japery.

The Authoritarian Secularism of John Stuart Mill

I am constantly coming across new information that I should have been taught in college. For instance, my class covering European history from the French Revolution to World War I conveniently elided the atrocities of the Jacobins and the popular royalist uprising in the Vendee--despite the course being taught at a Jesuit university, with the fleur-de-lis everywhere. Such elisions were also common in how most of the original texts were taught. We were instructed in Plato's Republic without Aristotle's Politics, Rousseau's Social Contract without Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Alexander Hamilton's system of checks and balances without any thought at all given to the theory of the mixed constitution.

So I am not surprised when I come across enlightening interpretations and critiques of texts that would have been so helpful in classroom discussion, had I only known about them. Such an example is this riveting essay(in PDF format) by Georgetown's George W. Carey on John Stuart Mill's religious propensities and antipathies. It turns out that Mill was not a typical indifferentist British subject, but in fact believed in a version of Comte's "religion" of postivism. His writings, therefore, are truly to be read as fundamentally subversive of "that old-time religion." The contradictions within his corpus are but the inconsistencies of a propagandist who wishes to overturn gradually the order of things, without revealing his true sympathies in public.

In a paragraph that might make even the most stalwart Objectivist reassess his disdain for "altruistic" Christianity, we see Mill criticize Christendom for not being altruistic enough:

His most basic criticism of Christianity—one that fit in very well with his “strategic” plans for promoting the ascendency of his Religion of Humanity—was what he took to be its inherent selfishness. In Mill’s view, [Linda] Raeder writes[in _John Stuart Mill and the Religion of Humanity_], “Christian ethics, whose conception of divinely administered rewards and punishments, as well as its emphasis on personal salvation, taints moral action by encouraging self-interested behavior
or outright selfishness.” This selfishness, moreover, ran counter to the very goal he sought, namely, a society in which altruism, fueled by “social feeling,” would flourish. Indeed, she observes, he perceived a basic “moral dichotomy between the evil of the selfish (associated with Christianity) and the good of the social (associated with the Religion of Humanity).”

And here's Mill noting his explicit, though indirect, attack on regnant Christianity in Britain:

Raeder, it is important to understand, is not engaging in “secret reading”; she takes pains to document her charge throughout, using Mill’s own words. Her task in this regard is not at all difficult because Mill is quite open in his correspondence with Comte on this matter. On one occasion, he writes, “Today, I believe, one ought to keep total silence on the question of religion when writing for an English audience, though indirectly one may strike any blow one wishes at religious beliefs.” On another, “You are doubtless aware that here [in England] an author who should openly admit to antireligious or even antichristian opinions, would compromise not only his social position, which I feel myself capable of sacrificing to a sufficiently high objective, but also, and this would be more serious, his chance of being read.” Mill goes so far as to inform Comte not to take his treatment of “philosophical issues” in his soon to be published Logic at face value because he was “forced” to make “concessions . . . to the prevailing attitudes of my country.” In discussing the prudence of publishing one of Comte’s pamphlets in England, he again cautions: “The time has not yet come when we in England shall be able to direct open attacks on theology, including Christian theology, without compromising our cause.” The pamphlet’s message, he concludes, “would turn away a great number of minds from positivism.”

And we see a foreshadowing of the humanitarian welfare-warfare state:
Mill even attributed the belief in life after death to the widespread recognition of the injustice of this world. For him, this irreconcilability was self-evident; it was the basis for most of his thrusts against traditional religion. It also justified massive human intervention, guided by a moral framework of distinctly human origins, to remedy the wrongs.

Claes G. Ryn, in his America the Virtuous(extensive post on Ryn hopefully coming soon), has alerted me to the unpleasant fact that for most putatively conservative ideals there are revolutionary interpretations thereof. Free speech is one ideal that, though it can be supported by conservative arguments, can also be supported by the most radical of agitators. Here's evidence that Mill speaks of freedom of discussion in the revolutionary sense:

While Raeder deals extensively with other arguments in Utilitarianism that bear upon Mill’s design, enough has been said to indicate that On Liberty must be interpreted anew. To understand one of its major purposes, Raeder believes, we would do well to recur to Saint-Simon’s belief that “liberty of discussion [is] an indispensable element of the transitional stage, essential for the destruction
of old beliefs and the engendering of new truths of the organic age aborning.” Along with Hamburger, Raeder sees Mill employing Saint-Simon’s tactic in On Liberty by advocating “the absolute freedom of discussion that would prove fatal to the preservation of traditional religious belief.” She also sees, particularly
in Mill’s criticisms of Christianity that abound, a veiled effort to advance his Religion of Humanity. Viewed from this perspective, the frequently noted inconsistencies in Mill’s argument vanish. For instance, Raeder observes, Mill championed “a general freedom not, as it appears and is generally thought, from the restraints of all social conventions, but merely from convention and custom derived
from traditional religion.” In this regard, and as we might expect from our knowledge of his ultimate goal, Raeder calls attention to the fact that he “was far from averse to employing the social sanction of public opinion in suppressing what he regarded as socially undesirable (‘selfish’) behavior and encouraging what he regarded as its opposite (‘altruism’).”

And Professor Carey notes the impact that Mill's fellow travelers have had in America:

Leaving to one side what Mill’s impact has been, it seems clear that the United States has, since the emergence of Progressivism, followed the path Mill marked out. Our politics has been thoroughly secularized; we now have, as Raeder puts it, “a centralized government charged with godlike power and duties and the thoroughgoing politicization of social life. Modern government has replaced God as the object of petition and the bestower of blessings.” The collective good and service for humanity have taken on all the force of “religious” obligations for the modern American liberal.

Mill's altruism, of course, has failed to materialize. His altruism is but a walking shadow of Christian love, and his works have only promoted the rise of a distant, impersonal governmental bureaucracy that cannot love at all.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

David Schindler on John Courtney Murray and Religious Freedom

Via the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club, we find a link to David Schindler's essay from the Winter 1994 issue of Communio, Religious Freedom, Truth & American Liberalism: Another Look at John Courtney Murray. He examines the most influential Catholic defender of the American Experiment, the Rev. John Courtney Murray, SJ. His thesis:
My contention is that liberalism just so far draws us into a con game: inviting us to dialogue within the (putatively) open and pluralistic market of religions, all the while that it has already, hiddenly, filled the terms of that dialogue with a liberal theory of religion. The liberal appeal to religious pluralism hides its own "monism"; the liberal appeal to religious freedom hides its own definite truth about the nature of religion. My proposal is that Murray, despite his intentions to the contrary, has disposed Catholics to share in this paradox of liberalism. The disposition has been created by two of his central theses: that the religion clauses of the First Amendment are "articles of peace" and that religious freedom is best understood for purposes of political order first in its negative meaning, as an immunity from coercion, and thus first as a formal notion empty of positive religious content.

The essay is chock full of insight. Here's a brief mention of the difference between Continental and Anglican separationism:
Continental liberalism understood the separation of church and state to imply the irrelevance of religion to the public order; Anglo-Saxon liberalism, on the other hand, distinguished between two kinds of societies, the church and the civil order, in a way that left intact the Catholic insistence on the public significance and necessity of religion.

Reminiscent of G.K. Chesterton's dictum that all political disagreements are essentially theological, Schindler persuasively argues that the separation between State and Church in itself is not an example of government neutrality on theological questions, but presupposes certain premises of Western Christendom. In a passage that has telling implications for our attempt to install liberal democracy in Iraq, Schindler writes:
But the matter is not so simple as this seems to indicate, for Murray's position here in fact leads to a dilemma. If really tied to a theological dualism, then his "articles of peace" interpretation already implies "articles of faith": it already and in principle favors those religious worldviews which subscribe to such dualism. If, on the contrary, his "articles of peace" interpretation really means to remain such, then Murray must detach it from his own theological dualism (i.e., from any definite theological content). Similarly with respect to Murray's primary definition of religious freedom: one cannot claim that such a definition is strictly formal-juridical ("freedom from"), while at the same time insisting that such a definition carries some implication of positive openness to God and the transcendent order ("freedom for"). Formal agnosticism in and of itself does not carry any positive implication of theism. Either the juridical definition remains purely formal, in which case one cannot rightfully claim that it implies positive openness to God; or the juridical definition does carry the implication of positive openness to God, in which case it does not remain purely formal.

This charge of equivocation on Murray's part might be judged trivial, were it not the case that American liberalism has traded on just such an equivocation. Liberalism characteristically insists that it is merely offering a formal-juridical freedom to all religions, while at the same time it (tacitly) mediates its appeal to freedom via a definite theoretical (if typically unconscious) dualism. The non-triviality of this maneuvre becomes especially clear when we note its implications with respect to any non-Western (or non-liberalized) religion—with respect to any country where a traditional (or non-dualistic) worldview still predominates. In countries, for example, where certain forms of Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Native American-Indian, or African religion still prevail, an invitation to adopt the juridical notion of religious freedom amounts to nothing less than an invitation to adopt the theological dualism of liberalism—albeit, again, only in the name of a purely formal commitment to the principle of freedom.

Relative to the non-trivial nature of Murray's equivocation, then, my first point is that it is in any case important to be accurate in one's description of what one is doing; and what Murray's liberalism does in effect is invite other countries to adopt a religious freedom, not which leaves a traditional religion intact but which on the contrary requires transformation of that religion: requires that it subscribe to an alternative religious truth. In exporting something like's Murray's sense of America's *novus ordo seclorum*, what one is doing is just that: exporting a new *order*, which always already carries an alternative religious worldview. Failure to be clear about this implies nothing less than the paradox of imparting a truth about freedom unconsciously and blindly—and just so far *unfreely*.

Schindler's section titled Secularism: America's practical atheism is especially troubling, for it is very on-target:

Note again the theoretical implications of Murray's primitive conception of religious freedom as an immunity from (coercion by the state), or again of the religious clauses of the First Amendment as absent of any definite-positive content of religion (religious truth). As we have seen, this conception of religious freedom as a matter of principle grants primacy to the negative rather than to the positive in man's relation to God. In so doing, it effectively replaces an understanding of the human act as constitutively oriented to God with an understanding of the human act as not constitutively oriented to God: "indifference" to God is placed (logically) before positive relation to God. Such a maneuver by implication changes the first and most proper meaning of religion: religion, insofar as its positive content is concerned, is now something which by definition is yet to be "added" to human nature.

[...]The distinctive claim of America, according to Murray, lies in its affirmation of the human act as juridically neutral toward, hence formally empty of, God. The human act in its basic structure, for purposes of the constitutional ordering of society, is understood to be silent about God (cf. "articles of peace"). But this means that, when theists go on to fill this silence with speech, they must now do so precisely by way of *addition* and in their capacity as *private* members of society. Non-theists, in contrast, have merely to *leave* the state's formally-conceived human act *as it is*, namely, in the primitive emptiness which has already been accorded *official-public* status. Worldviews that favor silence about God in the affairs of the earthly or temporal order therefore always retain an *official-public* theoretical advantage over worldviews that favor speech about God.

Murray's project thus seems to lead to a privatization of religion. By this, I do not mean that Murray himself endorses privatization: clearly he does not. I mean, with Bradley, only that Murray's position contains an equivocation: affirming premises ("articles of peace") that entail privatization while otherwise defending the contrary. Recognition of nature's constitutive relation to God, in the way sketched here, clarifies the properly theoretical ground for the reservations recorded by Bradley.

Relative to Murray's distinction between liberalisms, then, my intention is not, at least not in the first instance, to call into question the legitimacy of the contrast Murray draws between nineteenth-century Europe's overt closure to God and the American Founding's apparent openness to God. The point is rather the more qualified one that America's peculiar (openness to) theism, in the ambiguous sense in which Murray interprets it, remains, for all of its explicit intention to the contrary, still consistent with a certain "a-theism." In place of the overt and aggressive atheism of Europe, America in fact (again, assuming Murray's interpretation) officially affirms a covert and more passive a-theism, the peculiarity of which lies precisely in its ability to coexist with, indeed, to dwell within, a certain intention of theism.

To clarify this paradoxical assertion, we can usefully recall the argument developed by Will Herberg, in his classic _Protestant Catholic Jew_,[20] regarding what he termed the "American Way of Life." Herberg defines the "American Way of Life" most succinctly as "secularized Puritanism" (81). According to him, religion and secularism in America have a peculiar way of turning into each other. Protestant-Puritanism, for example, and secularism both accept some significant sense of God's separation from the affairs of this world. To be sure, they do so for opposite reasons. Puritans intend to subordinate all of their earthly life to the transcendent God; but, precisely to secure God's transcendence to protect, as it were, against premature eschatology—, they are nonetheless prompted to draw a clean line between the earthly ("natural") and the heavenly ("supernatural") realms, thus breaking these two realms into separate fragments. The sincere *religious intention* of the Puritans is thus undercut by a logic of God's transcendence, which, however unwittingly and paradoxically, can rightly be seen to coincide with a *logic of secularism*—which, for opposite reasons and with opposite intentions, also keeps God distant from "worldly" affairs.

According to Herberg, in sum, America's dualism is such that the order proper to this world remains logically a-theistic. Here is where Puritanism, Deism, and secularism can all come together, albeit out of vastly different motivations: what they all share is a conception of God as first distant and hence separate from the world.

Murray's position, in my opinion, does not provide any principled protection against secularism or atheism of the sort described by Herberg; on the contrary, it provides an exact theoretical foundation for the latter. Murray's interpretation of the religion clauses as articles of peace, and his understanding of religious freedom as first a freedom *from*, under-gird a sense of God's transcendence of this world, or again a sense of a dualism between earthly and heavenly realms, that leads logically to Herberg's "American Way of Life."

Regarding the current situation in America, then, public opinion polls seem to indicate a strong continuing presence of religion in American life: over ninety percent of Americans say they believe in God, a decisive majority believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God, and so on. But similar evidence of religiosity was indicated by the empirical data of Herberg's time (the mid-fifties). Indeed, the purpose of his book was to explain just how this apparently widespread religiosity could nonetheless coexist with what were indications also of massive secularism (consumerism, materialism, and the like). His explanation is clear: religiosity and secularism in America share an inner logic or framework of reality, such that religion is disposed as a matter of principle to invert into secularism. Religion and secularism thus coexist, and indeed can grow directly rather than inversely in proportion to one another, because they are largely but different sides of the same coin.[21--a very provocative footnote -kjj]

Herberg thus differs from those today who, appealing to empirical studies, insist, in a Murrayite vein, that America remains "incorrigibly religious." To be sure, those who thus defend the thesis of America's continuing religiosity, at least those on the Right, typically acknowledge, as Herberg did, a growing secularism in the culture manifest, for example, in abortion and moral relativism. But, contrary to Herberg, they do so all the while restricting this secularism to a certain group within the culture. The majority of Americans remains religious; it is what is termed the "new knowledge class"—the educational elite which dominates the media and the academy and the court—that has become increasingly aggressively secular. The presence of secularism in this influential elite creates the impression of a prevailing secularism all out of proportion to what actually exists in the mainstream culture.

But note how those who thus "regionalize" the phenomenon of secularism in contemporary America follow the assumptions of Murray. These thinkers follow Murray in making a simple contrast between European secularism and American religiosity, without differentiating further, a la Herberg, how American religiosity itself tends of its nature toward inversion into secularism. When faced with the undeniable growth of a more overt and aggressive secularism in contemporary America, they consequently have no choice but to restrict secularism largely to a distinct (influential) group within society; or otherwise to claim that this secularism stems from moral and political pressures emergent only in recent decades. In either case, these thinkers, following Murray, interpret secularism in America to be largely an aberration relative to the founding principles of the country. My argument, in contrast, influenced by Herberg, is that secularism in America is logically linked to the founding principles of America, if and insofar as Murray's "articles of peace" and formal-negative notion of religious freedom correctly interpret those principles.

Schindler follows with an acute theological analysis of the political consequences that follow, depending on how one interprets the nature-grace distinction. He concludes his charisological section thusly:
The apparently subtle difference between de Lubac and Murray on the relation between the secular and sacred thus leads in the end to two different conceptions of the civilization towards which Christians should be working: one, a civilization wherein citizenship is to be suffused with sanctity; the other, a civilization wherein sanctity is always something to be (privately/hiddenly) added to citizenship.

And indeed his conclusion to the whole piece is a welcome request for open and honest theological disagreement:

In short, what we need to do is to invite all parties in America to bring their religious theories into the clear light of day, including especially the liberal party which would claim a religious freedom without a religious theory. This is the necessary condition for beginning a truly ecumenical dialogue among all faiths, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, secular, and all others, Eastern and Western.[44] Only a dialogue of this sort can make possible a legitimate, as distinct from hiddenly liberal, kind of pluralism: make possible, in other words, the kind of pluralism which permits all parties to be open and honest about their deepest convictions, and in this already begins to realize genuine community.

Christianity is more important to democracy than is democracy to Christianity

So writes one of the Brothers Judd in this review of Robert Kraynak's _Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World. I've been waiting for some time for David Schindler's _Heart of the World, Heart of the Church_ to be available at the local academic library. Perhaps this will be just as good a book, from the same school of "Postmodern Augustinian Thomists." Note the very informative author info link in the sidebar.