Wednesday, February 25, 2004

On Debate and Existence

This Voegelin essay is quite thought provoking. I'm still trying to decide if I agree with him that Thomistic/Aristotelian categories of being, which once clarified, now only obscure.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

The Materialistic Curtain in Higher Education

The Open Society and Tyranny

There are some who see the excellence of modern civilization in a tendency toward the "open society," that is a society in which the organic view of social life which makes for a "closed society," is overcome by a new individualism, which makes it possible for men to associate as equals, and having been freed from the older ties, to enter into free relationships of a more "spiritual" nature. Man, by a kind of "naked" reason, uncorrupted by the customs and traditions of his forebears, decides the quality of his life; he is, in this view, an end in himself, and recalls the old Protagorian expression that "man is the measure." Thanks to technology and education, man can free himself from nature, which he now sees as a hindrance to be dominated, and which no longer serves as a guide to his activities. He will now shape the world to his image, and anything which obscures his goal or directs his view to those things which should measure him in his activities must be eliminated as obstructions to his dignity, rooted as it is in the extension of his own proper personality. Marx, in fulminating against religion, sees it as "but the illusory sun which moves around man as long as he does not move around himself."

According to this view, all previous societies contained ways by which some men have dominated others, the remedy for which is a new society, which permits each man to choose his own kind of life, to exercise a myriad of ever-growing rights all severed from the trace of duties, which have become superfluous(for there are really no duties we owe ourselves).

The aim is to make possible the exercise of the tyrannical life for all men. Remember that the tyrant rules, not for the sake of the common good, but for his own private good. The state is merely an extension of himself, to be ordered peculiarly to him as to its end. He is not a part of it, and therefore subject to its laws and customs, but is rather beyond them, and his own appetites and desires have taken their place.

[...] man is superior because he is indeterminate, because he can choose his own way of life, and hence is not limited to any kind of existence. There is no consideration here that the man who is unformed is inferior to the good man, that the peccability of his liberty is a precarious "dignity," a lack to be overcome by the acquisition of the virtues which perfect his powers and their exercise. In short, man is considered perfect insofar as he is, not insofar as he is good(which entails, as we have seen that he order his life to things other than himself). What in fact Pico [della Mirandola] does is to speak of man much as if he were God. God, using St. Thomas again, is by his very being good and perfect, but man, insofar as he merely is, cannot by virtue of this be called good; the powers of his being, in fact, are directed toward other things, and he will be called good if he orders his soul the way it is created. God, on the other hand, is His own end: His liberty, the measure of all things, is impeccable; all its consequences good.

But if man were as God is, he in his own being would be his own end, anything he desires would be good by the fact of his desiring it, and the distinction between the good man and bad man would vanish.

-"Tyranny, A Private Good" by Ronald P. McArthur, Intercollegiate Review January-February 1966

Friday, February 20, 2004

A Strauss-inspired reading of Locke

The so-called right of self-preservation, upon which Locke builds his entire politics, is nonsensical--because it is evolutionary not only against the traditional teachings of philosophy, but against philosophy itself. It has no status philosophically. Its status is ideological, not philosophical. The proposition that asserts it is born out of defiance of the norms of philosophical discourse, because it claims a right that has no correlative duties. Philosophy knows no such right; it is incapable of knowing any such rgiht. To put it otherwise, right-of-self-preservation political theories are all ideological, and recognizable as such because they owe their survival, in large part, to their habit of stealing terms from philosophy, giving them without due warning a new and philosophically illegitimate meaning, and using them to mobilize for political purposes the respect and reverence that philosophy, using them in their correct meaning, has won for them(as the Communists use words like "freedom," "justice," etc.). The proposition that asserts the right to self-preservation is adopted by those who appeal to it not because of the cause that can be made out for it philosophically, but because of its potential value as a weapon. And make no mistake about it: the "right of self-preservation" is the weapon that the modern politics has used for the overthrow of the traditional politics.
-Willmoore Kendall, "John Locke Revisited," Intercollegiate Review January-February 1966

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Civil Liberty vs. Civil Liberties

Jim Kalb links to this article, Is American Democracy Safe for Catholicism, by Professors Gary Glenn and John Stack arguing that "civil liberties" is a vastly inferior version of "civil liberty." Here's their main argument:

The Transition from Civil Liberty to Civil Liberties
In the 1940s, while Father Ryan was both restating the Church's traditional objections to the secular liberal state and arguing that they could be prudentially accommodated to American democracy; the Supreme Court began intensively to secularize American democracy. The rubric was a new reading of the establishment clause which in principle, and eventually in practice, rendered all revealed religions, including the Protestantism which it partially resembled but which it displaced, incompatible with any significant place in public life. By "secularism," we understand "the doctrine that morality should be based solely on regard to the well-being of mankind in the present life, to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God or in a future state."(n23) This is today thought to require excluding public support from religious schools and prohibiting both religious practices in public contexts and moral teachings based on revelation when those teachings cross secular morality or secular ideas of freedom. Post-1940s democracy, thus authoritatively articulated and fashioned by the Court, appears to regard secularism as the sine qua non of liberal democracy.

We argue this mandatory public secularism is part of a new constitutional regime which the Court instituted at this time. The new regime is verbally indicated by the Court's introducing, for the first time in our constitutional history; "civil liberties" in contrast to the traditional "civil liberty."(n24)

"Civil liberty" is the language of Blackstone, common law and The Federalist. The latter speaks of it in the context of the problem of maintaining "the order of society."(n25) WESTLAW first finds "civil liberty" in a Supreme Court opinion in Marbury (1803),(n26) but not until the Slaughterhouse Cases (1872) is it given explicit judicial definition. There, Justice Field refers approvingly to Blackstone's definition, given by Senator Trumbull in the debate on the Civil Rights Bill of 1866. "Civil liberty is no other than natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws and no further, as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public."(n27) Field quotes Blackstone's editor's gloss on this definition: "that state in which each individual has the power to pursue his own happiness according to his own views of his interest, and the dictates of his conscience, unrestrained, except by equal, just, and impartial laws."(n28) Thus, "civil liberty" did not privilege individual power to the extent of requiring the laws to grant it as much latitude as possible. The laws only had to be "equal, just and impartial," thereby giving as much emphasis to the restraints of such laws on an individual's power as to his license to exercise that power. The modern idea that "rights are trump" is alien to "civil liberty" but is the cutting edge of the new "civil liberties" regime.

Under the old "civil liberty regime," religion was permitted in public life, including ritual public prayer, which survives to this day in the opening of each day of Congress and the Court, and the public school Baccalaureate Service and graduation prayer, found unconstitutional as late as Lee v. Weisman (1992).

The grounds for the old 'civil liberty' regime's solution to the problem of the relation of religion and government was publicly advocated at the Founding by James Madison.

In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests and in the other, in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government.(n29)

This Madisonian regime publicly assumed that "religious rights" included influencing public policy through truck and bargaining among the multiplicity of sects. Speaking for the Constitution's advocates, he argued that this system would so limit any particular sect's influence as generally to produce "justice and the general good."(n30)

This public religious pluralism permitted legislatures to work out pragmatically the relation between religious belief, churches, and government without conforming to a constitutional theory of what the outcome should be.(n31) This regime, constitutionally in place from 1789 until the 1940s, also permitted public schools to have a character forming function which warranted "impartial governmental assistance of all religions."(n32) Thus McCollum's publicly supported religious instruction was consistent with the old public religious pluralism.

It was this traditional "civil liberty" regime which Murray in 1960 thought compatible with Catholicism because that democracy both permitted and presupposed "the coexistence within one political community of groups who hold divergent and incompatible views with regard to religious questions-those ultimate questions that concern the nature and destiny of man."(n33) Murray further denied that the First Amendment religion clauses embodied any theory. Rather, he maintained that they are better understood as "articles of peace," that is, practical formulations the concrete meaning of which is negotiated from time to time in legislatures and school board meetings, and renegotiated as circumstances change--democracy as government by the people as one might once have conceived of it.

In contrast to this "civil liberty" regime, which permitted widely differing views of what religion is, as well as what its relation to government should be, the secular regime the Court began instituting in the 1940s attributed 'to the religion clauses a new substantive theory that seems to require all Americans to understand religion as a private matter lacking either public encouragement or consequence.(n34) The seed of this secularism was planted by the Court's declaring in Everson v. Board of Education (1947), without evidence or precedent, that the establishment clause mandated government neutrality between religion and nonreligion.(n35) The first blossoming was finding unconstitutional government sponsored religious instruction in public schools as a means to combat growing juvenile delinquency in McCollum (1948).(n36) The mature fruit became visible for all to see in finding unconstitutional publicly sponsored prayer and Bible reading in public schools in Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington v. Schempp (1963), respectively.(n37)

The Court's replacement of constitutionally permitted public religious pluralism with constitutionally mandatory public secularism is part of the new "civil liberties" regime which the Court began instituting in about 1940. The novelty of this regime is indicated superficially by its name. Although now a preeminent category of constitutional law, WESTLAW shows "civil liberties" first used as a term of art in a Supreme Court opinion only in 1940.(n38) It first occurred in a Supreme Court case as the proper name of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1938. However, "civil liberties" was not yet an accepted term of legal art, according to then Professor Felix Frankfurter. It was only "a very loose expression" used in communication with "the laity."(n39) "Civil liberties" appeared only twice in Supreme Court cases prior to 1938 and in neither is it the Court's language. In the first case (1892),(n40) it is part of a 1701 quotation from William Penn. In the second case (1904),(n41) it occurs in a military order which was part of the evidence in the case.

"Civil liberties," as it developed after 1940, differs decisively from traditional "civil liberty" by intensified license to individual choices and desires as against other constitutional goods. "Civil liberty" had privileged "the general advantage of the public" (Justice Field [1872] citing Senator Trumbull [1866] quoting Blackstone [1776]) or "justice and the general good" (Federalist, No. 51 [1788]). "Civil liberties" privileges individual rights and that probably generates constitutional secularism. "Civil liberty" permitted governmental support for religion and relied on the competition between, and compromise among, the multiplicity of sects to prevent injustice. It did not define justice as requiring constitutional equality between religion and nonreligion. When the Court instituted that equality in Everson (1947), it redefined injustice to something like exposing an individual to government supported religious activities with which that individual did not agree. Thus one atheist's right not to have to listen to the traditional Baccalaureate' prayer is constitutionally superior to the community's determination that such prayer is for the "general advantage of the public" (Lee v. Weisman, 1992). If an individual's choice constitutionally trumps the legislatively determined "general good," then public secularism apparently, or at least plausibly; follows.(n42)

Secularism may even more sharply contrast "civil liberties" with "civil liberty" than does the intensified individualism from which it springs. For while Professor Tribe thought "extraordinary" Clarence Thomas's reasoning politically on the basis of the Declaration's theological content, under the "civil liberty" regime even Jefferson thought it proper to state for America that we are "endowed" with rights "by our Creator." And elsewhere he asked "can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?" And because slavery violates them "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . . . The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest."(n43) Nor did Lincoln think the Declaration's theological argument "extraordinary." Indeed, at Gettysburg he declared that America was dedicated to the Declaration's proposition "under God."(n44) Similarly; Frederick Douglas cited the Declaration and quoted Psalm 137 "By the rivers of Babylon . . . ," declaring "The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie."(n45)

The "civil liberties" regime transformed secularism from at most a common social opinion(n46) into a constitutionally obligatory theory.(n47) Tocqueville had foreseen that, as equality becomes more absolute,"trust in common opinion will become a sort of religion, with the majority as its prophet."(n48) However, "Christian morality" was still the common American opinion of his day and still "the first of their political institutions." Yet he foresaw that if Christian morality ceased to be an "impediment, one would soon find among them the boldest [moral and political] innovators and the most implacable logicians in the world."(n49) He did not foresee that the justices of the Supreme Court would become the hierarchy of the new equality-inspired religion,(n50) or so far mimic Catholicism as to claim "infallibility" in teaching doctrine. "We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final."(n51) Tocqueville may have foreseen better than he knew in finding Catholicism even more compatible with American democracy than is Protestantism.(n52) Catholics' faith in papal infallibility need only be transferred to faith in the infallibility of "common social opinion" and the Supreme Court.

By 1960 the original Madisonian regime had not yet been completely overthrown by the new judicially created secular regime. The Court, in particular, had backed off from its 1947 McCollum decision under attack from many religious sectors, and even the New York Times. It did so in 1953 by finding constitutional an ever so slightly different plan for public encouragement of religious instruction.(n53) However, the subsequent bans on governmental encouragement of prayer (1962) and Bible reading (1963) in public schools visibly established public secularism as authoritative. Public secularism's exclusion of religious practices as such from a place in public life has now worked its way through a score of subsequent cases.

Kenneth Craycraft(see below) argues that Madison's encouragement of a multiplicity of sects was meant to weaken religion, meanign that religious is a sham. These professors make a good argument that our civil liberty was in fact part of the Amercian republic from the beginning, and only recently marred by unfortunate court decisions.

"A Very Scary Person"

Peter Sean Bradley called me that here, after I hazarded a guess at what a "stavrological concentration" was. I'm still laughing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A Couple of Links on Religious Freedom

First, Separation and Its Discontents summarizing Kenneth Craycraft's The American Myth of Religious Freedom. The author of the review essay veers towards the Lefebvrist thesis on Dignitatis Humanae, so I can't give the article my full endorsement. However,I read Craycraft's book at the very beginning of my forays into political philosophy, and I think his thesis still has some hold on my mind today. I took away two main points from his work: (1) liberalism views religion through the prism of voluntary associations; religion is good only if it is freely chosen by the autonomous individual. It is unscriptural(See Jn 15:16), pelagian, and if applied consistently would forbid infant baptism and religious education for children. (2) liberal theories of religious liberty are always state-centered: the government decides what constitutes religion and liberty, not the Church.

Next, John C. Rao's article Why Catholics Can't Defend Themselves argues that pluralism is a fideism.

Finally, a quotation from the current First Things:
Liberalism was originally a theory of the state based on representative democracy and individual rights--a theory that was compatible and even harmonious with religion. There can be powerful religious justifications for such a system. But contemporary liberalism is much more than a theory of the state and its limits. Whereas the older liberalism required the state to allow individuals to pursue, within certain bounds, their differing understandings of the objective good for man, the newer liberalism requires individuals, at least in their role as citizens, to be entirely subjective in their understanding of the good. That is, in the newer liberalism, the supreme good, at least for all public purposes, is personal autonomy--a person choosing for himself, without any objective constraint, what shall be good and what shall be evil.
-Robert T. Miller, "A Jury of One's Godless Peers"

Craycraft and probably Rao would argue that this subjectivism is inherent to the liberal project, dating back to Locke. A reconsideration of that argument is in order.

The House of Habsburg, Defended

Archbishop Chaput Praises Marcus Aurelius

And declares the necessity of being open to wisdom:
The more secular we become - both as individuals and as a country - the less we care about the true, the right and the lasting. And here’s the reason: We don’t really believe these qualities exist. Philosophy today is an ailing discipline because our idea of "wisdom" has detached itself from higher, permanent truths about the human person. Wisdom has shrunk down to mean "common sense based on experience." But wisdom is much more than that. It’s the moral memory of a culture. The more we reinterpret the past according to this or that political agenda, the less coherent our memory becomes… and the more irrelevant "wisdom" (like the content of the Bible) seems. Our moral vocabulary becomes confused. We begin to see and judge everything in terms of its utility right now. In other words, what’s useful and productive is seen as good. What isn’t, is seen as bad.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Speaking of Beauty

Take, for example, the line of another Marxist critic, Frederic Jameson, now plying his trade at Duke University, who asserts that "the visible is essentially pornographic, which is to say that it has its end in rapt, mindless fascination." Now it is true that pornography is the premier sign of the decadence of late capitalism, and the fact that liberalism can offer no moral or legal objections to it is a sure indication that liberalism is far more complicit in capitalism?s dynamic than are non-libertarian schools of political conservatism, paleo-, neo-, or whatever. But only a Marxist utterly hung up and scandalized by disinterested contemplation could equate all gazing with consumption of pornography.

-Edward T. Oakes, SJ

What is not forbidden is mandatory!

From the Boulder Valley School District:
Many American schools have sponsored pro-gay speakers, allowed pro-gay art displays, and sanctioned clubs called "Gay-Straight Alliances." But Colorado's Boulder Valley School District is going a step further, advancing new curriculum standards that would require students to "demonstrate" their acceptance of homosexuality.

Among the skills the district has proposed as essential to a proper education: Students would have to demonstrate they can "provide peer support" for homosexual classmates; students would also have to demonstrate they can "advocate for a school environment free of ... homophobia."

Other standards would require students to explain the health consequences of "heterosexism," and identify "diverse groups in American society ... by culture, ethnicity, age, sex, religion, sexual orientation ... "

-World Magazine

Thomas Molnar on Existentialism

Let us note that already in The Seven Storey Mountain Merton spoke of the culture of our world as "rotten, spurious, empty... not worth the dirt in Harlem's gutters." The point here is not whether these violent denunciations are justified or not: it is, rather, that the American authors quoted, Jewish or Catholic, couch them in the language of Hegelian-Sartrian dialectics, and speak of guilt not in terms of personal responsibility, but, true to their masters in thinking, as if guilt were a collective burden,l borne by a class or a race before the judgement of History.

Existentialism and the American Intellectual, Intercollegiate Review, September 1965

Be still, my beating heart

Intercollegiate Review Archives are now on-line!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Friday, February 13, 2004

Litigation and Natural Law

Russell Hittinger on Judicial Interpretation of Natural Law:

"[...] preoccupation with judicial appeals to natural law can easily fall into the trap that Aquinas himself discussed. Recall that in the passage cited earlier Aquinas pointed out that insofar as a judge proceeds case by case the laws are apt to be disconnected. The business of a judge is litigation, and, on the whole, litigation is not the best context for taking stock of what the natural law requries: (1) litigation gives the judge little time for reflection; (2) it moves along according to adversarial procedures, which are not the best way to develop a systematic position on the moral quality of laws; and (3) the interests of the various parties are usually narrowed so drastically that it is difficult to find generalizable principles for the common good.

-Russell Hittinger, "Natural Law in the Positive Laws," The First Grace

Thursday, February 12, 2004

A Soldier's account of the destruction of Monte Cassino Abbey
The monastery was not responsible for all the calamitous things happening to the Allied infantry and machines of war moving about in the valley or on the slopes around it. But the men over whom it held so much sway, firmly believed that the Abbey indeed was being used by the enemy. Nothing could convince them otherwise. It was the ideal artillery observation post and the Germans would be stupid not to use it as such, so they thought. Setback after setback finally influenced General Bernard Freyberg, Commander of the 2nd New Zealand Division into believing that the only way to throw the valley wide open was to destroy the Abbey from the air, to obliterate the enemy observation points there. He was sure that every move his men made, the Germans observed from their vantage points in the Abbey, and so after much wrangling in the caravans of the mighty it was finally agreed that the only way out of the impasse was to bomb Cassino and the Abbey.

On the cold, but clear windy morning of February 15, 1944, 143 B-17 Flying Fortresses came over at 18,000 feet, followed a quarter of an hour later by waves of Mitchell and Marauder medium bombers. In the short span of no more than twenty minutes 576 tons of bombs rained down on the huge building and on the surrounding slopes and also on the town of Cassino itself. For all of its massive construction of stone the Abbey was blasted and churned into a smoking hell of rubble and dust. It was learned not long after, that there'd been only a dozen monks and close to 1000 civilians inside its walls. The Italian peasants and Cassino inhabitants still remaining, had sought refuge from the fighting going on around their homes. Not a single German soldier, it was found, had been inside the Abbey. When the last bomb had fallen and the last numbing blast's echo had faded away into the hills and valleys, over 300 people lay dead beneath the huge mounds of rubble. The wounded exceeded three times that of the dead.

It has been proven since, that the few Germans who had entered the Monastery in the weeks before the bombing, had gone in to arrange for the transfer to Rome for safekeeping all art works, books, and religious documents. It was only after the Monastery had been reduced to rubble that the Germans took over the ruins and utilized it in their defence system. And as those of us who've read the books about the battles fought here know, the enemy utilized it to the utmost. In retrospect, they'd gained through a great Allied high-level blunder what proved to be an outstandingly strong fortress position. Once the building was destroyed the Germans had no qualms about using the ruins for defensive purposes. In the months that followed, the Allies were bled white trying to dislodge the enemy from the ruins and the surrounding heights, with little to show for their efforts. Only in the fourth and final battle which began one hour before midnight on May 11th did success finally come. Even then, the Monte Cassino Abbey, or the ruin thereof was not wrested from the paratroopers until seven days later when the Poles firmly planted the Polish Eagle flag in the rubble.

von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is much more skeptical of the allies' account of the abbey's destruction than this soldier. See below.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn on Monarchy and War
We spoke already about the indoctrination of draftees, which,
naturally, becomes important in a time of war. An even greater evil
is the fact that, since the recruits are taken from the population at
large, the people itself has to be indoctrinated, in other words,
made to hate the enemy collectively. For this purpose, modern governments
invoke the support of the mass media, which then inform
the populace about the evil of the enemy (with little or no regard
for the truth). The attack stresses the wickedness and inferiority of
the hostile nation and the evil deeds committed by its armed forces,
which consists of cowards, a low breed recruited from a fiendish

* * * * * *

Curiously enough, it was the Third Reich (although planning
aggressive wars) which desired to ban aerial warfare except on
well-defined battle fronts. In 1935, the Germans, wanting a pact
outlawing war on civilians in the hinterland, suggested this to Great
Britain, which at that time had a Labour government. However, the
offer was rejected on the ground that all efforts to humanize war
would make wars more acceptable, and would thus be a blow to
the noble cause of pacifism.

* * * * * *
One of the worst and most idiotic feats was the U.S. army’s
destruction of the ancient Italian monastery of Monte Cassino. The
Allies had been informed that there were no German troops inside,
but since the building remained intact, a hue and cry was raised in
the United States that to spare the monastery would be yielding to
“Roman Catholic interests” at the cost of American lives. “Our
Boys” would have to die to please the Pope! Finally, the military
yielded to bolster the “home front.” The vox populi should not be
thwarted, and a political decision, not a military decision, was made.
The old building went up in flames, thus making it safe for the
Germans to occupy the ruins, whereas to defend a huge building
under artillery fire would have been suicidal. Now the American
soldiers faced an enemy much better entrenched and more fully
protected by the rocks of the destroyed abbey. No falling walls
could bury them. The Allied losses became much bigger, as did
those of the poor betrayed Poles who had to fight with them, but
public opinion was satisfied: the war was fought democratically.

Yet, what did the American soldie rs think of such irreparable
losses of architectural beauty? An officer stationed near
Benevento, asked whether he had any misgivings, replied to an
American journalist, “There’s nothing what can be done about it.
Italy is just lousy with clerical monuments.”

* * * * * *

One of the worst results of the democratization of wars was—
and remains—the difficulty in terminating a war by peace, or, at
least, by lengthy periods of peace. In a partially or fully democratic
order, having fought with conscripted soldiers, one is governed
largely by representatives of the people who do not think historically,
but politically. Of history, economics, cultural mentalities, and
geography, they know nothing. Moreover, they think “personally,”
not dynastically. What do they have primarily in mind? The weal of
their grandchildren and great grandchildren? Or the winning of the
next election? Furthermore, the returning soldiers, if they have been
fighting on the winning side, want to see the fruits of their suffering,
so they yearn for a “peace” with maximum gains for their country.
(Mercenaries thought otherwise. They had their next job in mind.)

* * * * * *

Yet, to make people happy (after one’s own fashion), sometimes
requires a little and occasionally even a lot of pressure. In
February 1914, Mr. Wilson thought that the Mexicans would be
much happier if, politically, they imitated the United States, which in
turn had imitated France.71 This worried Sir Edward Grey, the British
Foreign Minister. Between him and American Ambassador
Walter Hines Page, a curious dialogue developed. The theme was
Mexican reluctance to adopt a full-fledged democracy, which the
United States, after all, had fostered and abetted in Mexico even
before they had supported Benito Juarez, the murderer of Emperor
Maximilian.72 The exchange of opinions went as follows:
Grey: Suppose you have to intervene, what then?
Page: Make ’em vote and live by their decisions.
Grey: But suppose they will not so live?
Page: We’ll go in again and make ’em vote again.
Grey: And keep this up for 200 years?
Page: Yes. The United States will be here for 200 years
and it can continue to hoot them for that little space till
they learn to vote and rule themselves.

* * * * * *

Monarchy had several great advantages. First of all, one could
expect a monarch to be psychologically88 and intellectually prepared
for his task. Considering the intellectual preparation of some
leading politicians for their task, we can only throw up our hands in
horror, as often their looks and their gift of gab alone got them into
office. A second asset is (or rather was) their international rela-
tionships and their lack of local ties.89 Number three is the fact that
they owe their position to no party, faction, interest group, estate, or
class, but only, to use the words of Bossuet, to “the sweet process
of nature.”90 The fourth advantage is that monarchs had the
chance to act historically. In democracies, where the primary task
is to win elections, and where instability with nicely spaced changes
is even a matter of pride, a constructive foreign policy is well-nigh
impossible.91 Monarchs were in office until they died, at which time
they left their realms to their sons or nearest relatives. They could
act historically, not politically, in a way without a time limit. Hence,
their various “Political Testaments.”

This has been aptly demonstated by Professor Hans-Hermann
Hoppe in an essay which likens the democratic procedure to a
small child wanting his wishes fufilled immediately, and protests in
tears if there is a delay or a negative reaction. A monarch, as a
member of a dynasty, can plan for the distant future, even for generations.
92 Yet, it would be most erroneous to believe that a return
to monarchy, even a Christian monarchy, would solve all of our
problems. Recall the praise the great monarchist Charles Maurras
bestowed on this form of government: “Le moindre mal. La possibilit√©
du bien. (The least evil. The possibility of something

Still, a monarch as member of a dynasty can plan for the distant
future, even for generations. In our times, in which the globe
has been transformed into an immensely complex scene, the abyss
between the Scita and the Scienda, the actual knowledge of voters
and candidates compared with the necessary knowledge, unavoidably
widens all the time. And since the required knowledge among
those active or passive in the democratic process is minute, only
sentiments, sympathies, and antipathies, pleasing and unpleasant
factors, are now effective. Hence, democracies act like rabbits
jumping in all imaginable directions, into unwanted wars,93 idealistic
crusades, and undesirable, fatal peace arrangements. From childhood,
monarchs were prepared for their duties. They “inherited”
their profession as traditionally as craftsmen did theirs. The son of
a tailor became a tailor, and so forth. These tailors produced sometimes
bad garments, occasionally excellent ones but usually passable
ones. So, too, with monarchs. Yet dentists, lawyers, cobblers,
farmers, or plumbers could not have produced any clothes whatever,
only monstrosities. Hence, the decline of Europe, already lasting
more than 200 years, which also means that one should not forget
the already mentioned fact that monarchy compromised with
democracy during the nineteenth century, and thus acquired merely
a psychological role in the twentieth.

94We have to bear in mind that democracies boast of their instability and
their dislike for expertise. The real “hero” in democratic folklore is always
the “successful amateur,” not the expert, which implies that knowledge
and experience have no value.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

JPII on Suffering

Man " perishes" when he loses "eternal life". The opposite of salvation is not, therefore, only temporal suffering, any kind of suffering, but the definitive suffering: the loss of eternal life, being rejected by God, damnation. The only-begotten Son was given to humanity primarily to protect man against this definitive evil and against definitive suffering.

* * * * * *

Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.

* * * * * *

Those who share in Christ's sufferings have before their eyes the Paschal Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, in which Christ descends, in a first phase, to the ultimate limits of human weakness and impotence: indeed, he dies nailed to the Cross. But if at the same time in this weakness there is accomplished his lifting up, confirmed by the power of the Resurrection, then this means that the weaknesses of all human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested in Christ's Cross. In such a concept, to suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man's weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self. This also explains the exhortation in the First Letter of Peter: "Yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God"

* * * * * *

Suffering as it were contains a special call to the virtue which man must exercise on his own part. And this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life. And indeed this meaning makes itself known together with the working of God's love, which is the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit.

* * * * * *

[...]It only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering.

* * * * * *

A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering. This feeling not only consumes the person interiorly, but seems to make him a burden to others. The person feels condemned to receive help and assistance from others, and at the same time seems useless to himself. The discovery of the salvific meaning of suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling. Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person "completes what is lacking in Christ's afflictions"; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of Redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. In the Body of Christ, which is ceaselessly born of the Cross of the Redeemer, it is precisely suffering permeated by the spirit of Christ's sacrifice that is the irreplaceable mediator and author of the good things which are indispensable for the world's salvation. It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption.

* * * * * *

The parable of the Good Samaritan, which --as we have said--belongs to the Gospel of suffering, goes hand in hand with this Gospel through the history of the Church and Christianity, through the history of man and humanity. This parable witnesses to the fact that Christ's revelation of the salvific meaning of suffering is in no way identified with an attitude of passivity. Completely the reverse is true. The Gospel is the negation of passivity in the face of suffering.

-Salvifici Doloris

Friday, February 06, 2004

Roger Scruton on Communitarianism

Conservatives would agree with the burden of Etzioni's message. But they would point out that much of the damage to the sense of community in America has issued from liberal reforms that Etzioni and his followers seem to endorse. Communitarians regard sexual conduct as a private matter and liberal legislation on such matters as essential. They are "caring" people who do not wish to disturb or interfere with anybody's chosen life-style or to take an "authoritarian" attitude toward the problems that freedom creates. Although they are wary of the attitude that places me and my wants at the center of the universe and regards others in terms of their potential contribution to my own fulfillment, they are equally wary of the spirit of community as it tends to show itself in ordinary people. For the spirit of community is vigilant. It stands in judgment over the acts and omissions of individuals and seeks to impose a common morality, a common culture, and a common respect for basic social norms. Human beings may need to live in communities, but there is a cost attached to doing so--a cost that the modern liberal is not always prepared to pay.

Communitarian Dreams

Of course, the Constitution doesn't have to be a liberal fiefdom. But it becomes so just as soon as its interpretation is detached from the tacit endorsement of the community that first invented it. Judges like Robert Bork, who interpret the Constitution in terms of the civic aspirations of the Founding Fathers, restore it to its true place, as the foundation of American society. Such judges give to communities their true and deserved place in our scheme of things. And that is why every effort is made to keep them out of the Supreme Court by those for whom the purpose of the Constitution is not to safeguard the inherited community but to protect the modern urban solipsist.

Community, Yes, But Whose? A Reply

Suffering is Good?

For the real issue here is not so much the plurality of religions and the heightened sensitivity to cultural and religious imperialism. Much weightier is what church proclamation says validates the claims of the historical Jesus: that he plumbed the depths of the world's sufferings. That is today's Provocation. St Paul says, "this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4: 17). But as Balthasar readily concedes in the fifth volume of the Theo-Drama, "To someone who is really suffering, Paul's words on the relationship between earthly suffering and heavenly joy are hardly to be endured." And yet, with St. Paul, and based on his own theology of Holy Saturday, Balthasar will go on to claim that suffering is something good. In a modern utilitarian world, whose ethic is largely based on a pleasure-pain calculus, such words will provoke outrage. But Scripture does not flinch from boasting of suffering. "I consider that the sufferings of this present age", says St. Paul, "are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8: 18)

-Edward T. Oakes, No Bloodless Myth
Imaginative Origins of Modernity: Life as Daydream and Nightmare by Catholic University's Claes G. Ryn
At 4am on November 12 1915, a woman named Anna Bollinger gave birth at the German-American Hospital in Chicago. The baby was somewhat deformed and suffered from extreme intestinal and rectal abnormalities, as well as other complications. The delivering physicians awakened Dr Harry Haiselden, the hospital's chief of staff. Haiselden came in at once. He consulted with colleagues. There was great disagreement over whether the child could be saved. But Haiselden decided the baby was too afflicted and fundamentally not worth saving. It would be killed. The method: denial of treatment. Catherine Walsh, probably a friend of Bollinger's, heard the news and sped to the hospital to help. She found the baby, who had been named Allan, alone in a bare room. Walsh pleaded with Haiselden not to kill the baby by withholding treatment. "It was not a monster - that child," Walsh later told an inquest. "It was a beautiful baby. I saw no deformities." Walsh had patted the infant lightly. Allan's eyes were open, and he waved his tiny fists at her. Begging the doctor once more, Walsh tried an appeal to his humanity. "If the poor little darling has one chance in a thousand," she pleaded, "won't you operate to save it?"

Haiselden laughed at Walsh, retorting, "I'm afraid it might get well." He was a skilled and experienced surgeon, trained by the best doctors in Chicago. He was also an ardent eugenicist. Allan Bollinger duly died. An inquest was convened a few days later. Haiselden defiantly declared, "I should have been guilty of a graver crime if I had saved this child's life. My crime would have been keeping in existence one of nature's cruellest blunders." A juror shot back, "What do you mean by that?" Haiselden responded, "Exactly that. I do not think this child would have grown up to be a mental defective. I know it."

After tempestuous proceedings, the inquest ruled: "We believe that a prompt operation would have prolonged and perhaps saved the life of the child. We find no evidence from the physical defects that the child would have become mentally or morally defective." But they also decided that Haiselden was within his professional rights to decline treatment. No law compelled him to operate on the child. He was released unpunished, and efforts by the Illinois attorney general to indict him for murder were blocked by the local prosecutor. The doctor considered his legal vindication a powerful victory for eugenics. "Eugenics? Of course it's eugenics," he told one reporter.

Haiselden became an overnight celebrity, known for his many newspaper articles, his speaking tours and outrageous diatribes. In 1917, Hollywood came calling. The film was called The Black Stork. Written by Jack Lait, a reporter on the Chicago American, it was produced in Hollywood and given a massive national distribution and promotion campaign. Haiselden played himself in a fictionalised account of a eugenically mismatched couple whom he advises not to have children because they are likely to be defective. Eventually, the woman does give birth to a defective child, whom she then allows to die. The dead child levitates into the waiting arms of Jesus Christ. It was unbridled cinematic propaganda for the eugenics movement; the film played at movie theatres around the country for more than a decade.

Hitler's Debt to America

That's an utterly surreal line about the film's victim levitating into the arms of Christ. Either a terribly confused Christian wrote that scene, or it was a deliberate ploy to sway Christians into the eugenics fold. Probably both.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

When the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem, every Yom Kippur the priests would take the crimson thread that held the scapegoat and tied it to the temple door. When God accepted the atonement sacrifice, the thread would turn white. Look what the Babylonian Talmud says about the last years of the temple:

"Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves"
-Babylonian Talmud, Soncino version, Yoma 39b

The temple was destroyed in 70 AD, Christ was crucified in 30 AD.
"Democracy cannot exist when [people] prefer ideas and opinions that are fabricated for them. The actions and statements of the citizen must not be mere automatic "reactions" - mere mechanical salutes, gesticulations signifying passive conformity with the dictates of those in power."
- Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Monday, February 02, 2004

Memo to all entertainers: taking off your clothes isn't remarkable for anyone over the age of 2.
The November 8 bombing took place in a Lebanese Christian neighborhood of Riyadh, and of the seven publicly identified Lebanese victims, six were Christian. Lebanon's newspapers are replete with photographs of Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox victims. Daleel al Mojahid, an al Qaeda-linked webpage, praised the killing of "non-Muslims." The Middle East Media Research Institute quotes Abu Salma al Hijazi, reputed to be an al Qaeda commander, as saying that Saudi characterizations of the victims as Muslims were "merely media deceit."

Misunderstanding al Qaeda
What you weren't told about their targets in Saudi Arabia.