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.