Daily Archives: April 20, 2012

How “Arrest Bush” People Promote a Catholic State

I think everyone in our culture, if they know anything about Catholicism, know that the Catholic Church used to have an Inquisition. Now, much like Bishop Sheen’s statement about people hating not the Catholic Church but what they *think* that Catholic Church is, those people often think they know what the Inquisition was but know little about it.
First, there were technically two sets of entities known as the “Inquisition.” On the one hand, there was/is the entity that worked within the Church to enforce orthodoxy and investigate heresy and other issues. It still exists, though some of its methods and organizations have changed with its name. Its name was later changed to the Holy Office, and it is now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
The other side or form of the “Inquisition” was the internal agencies of local countries where Catholicism was the state religion, which enforced violations of Catholic teaching as criminal offenses. Sometimes, quite rarely, that meant “witchcraft” or “heresy,” but it also included moral offenses. The different state Inquisitions would use different methods, and the exact methods of the Inquisition would vary with different officials like any organization. Sometimes, it used torture. In some cases, it was actually closer to modern notions of justice than the criminal and civil courts of those times.

Sometimes, it would be over-zealous.

When Joan of Arc was sentenced to death by the Inquisition, her trial was overseen by substitute officials because the Grand Inquisitor was in Rome during the whole affair, and as soon as he came back, he reviewed the trial and found it to be unjust, though it took another 50 years to fully reverse the verdict and 500 years for Joan to be canonized.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who united Spain after centuries of wars between Christians and Muslims, instituted the Spanish Inquisition, which was notoriously harsh and overzealous in trying to keep the Muslims from retaking the country, and trying to keep Protestantism from overtaking Spain as it had so many countries in Northern Europe. The Spanish Inquisition was overzealous to the point that Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, two of the greatest saints of all time and both later deemed Doctors of the Church, lived in fear of the Inquisition, and at least one of Teresa’s books was “lost in the shuffle” as the Inquisition investigated it.

Yet in spite of these offenses that everyone knows about, the Inquisition did a lot of good. Back in those days, there were priests who committed sexual abuse (Holy Mother Teresa writes about one in her _Life_), but the Inquisition punished them. In World War II, the Holy Office used its network to assist Allied spies and as an “underground railroad” to help Jews and Allied POWs escape the Nazis.

The abuses had more to do with the local state-affiliated Inquisitions than the overall Inquisition of the Church, which is why the Church changed the name and reorganized it. On the other hand, a lot of what is “commonly known” comes from anti-Catholic propaganda and is actually historically inaccurate.

Thus, I find it ironic that, on the one hand, the Church is criticized for having the Inquisition. On the other hand, the *contemporary* Church is often criticized for things that the Inquisition used to handle. The extensive problem of sexual abuse by priests in this century could be blamed, in part, on the absence of an Inquisition. The insistence of bishops on emphasizing reform and forgiveness in dealing with sexual abuser priests was due, in part, to a mentality of “We don’t want to be like the Inquisition.” If the Inquisition was still active, and was a government agency, there would have been a clear avenue for punishing priests who engaged in sexual abuse or embezzlement or other offenses. But since the US insists on separation of Church and State, and the Church says, “fine; we’re separate, so stay out of our business,” the problem arose that we are all aware of.

Dr. Charles Rice points out that people are opposed to the notion of Natural Law until it’s convenient. Suddenly, at the Nuremberg Trials, people were talking about Natural Law. Then it was moral relativism all over again. People will tell me that they don’t believe in Natural Law, then say that BP needs to be punished for the oil leak in the Gulf–a form of Natural Law.

Earlier, I posted about uncivil political rhetoric and noted that I believe Barack Obama should be impeached and prosecuted for a number of things, including war crimes, violations of the Constitution and defrauding the people.

I figured an automatic reply from some would be, “Prosecute Bush,” and in one sense, I agree. Anticipating that response inspired *this* post.

Morally, Bush is responsible for a lot of offenses. I don’t think he’s responsible for everything that the Left claims. The assertions of WMDs in Iraq, for example, were made under the Clinton Administration, and again, proving a negative is impossible. We’ll probably never know for certain whether the WMDs were there or not. There are Iraq veterans who claim they found WMDs but the media didn’t report it. There are various conspiracy theories about the WMDs being sent off to other countries before the invasion. Who knows? I think that Bush was sincere, though, in acting on the intelligence he was given. I suspect something like what happens in the movie _Wag the Dog_, however.

I still think Bush also did a lot to violate the Constitution, and to violate human rights, but he did it with the support of Congress, and there is nothing in US law that would directly impeach him. Even if the Supreme Court were to rule the Patriot Act, or NCLB, unconstitutional (it already ruled McCain-Feingold unconstitutional), that still wouldn’t be grounds for prosecution. You can’t prosecute someone for passing a law that’s later overturned.

Of course, the Left would argue that he should be arrested by some UN agency, but of course that’s not an option I would support. The UN goes against everything I believe in, starting with the principle of subsidiarity, and including the fact that it’s basically a Masonic entity.

To this, I note how many Papal documents, such as Caritas et Veritate, that seem to support the UN are actually undermining it. When the Vatican says something like, “There needs to be a global entity overseeing the morality of the banking industry,” the Church is saying, “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge”; “There needs to be an entity to oversee global morality. By the way, we’re a global entity that God established to oversee morality.” It’s saying basically that the Church should be running the UN.

That gets us back to the Inquisition. Just as a modern day Inquisition would have stopped the sex abuse crisis in its tracks, so too would it give us something to do with Bush.

Obama is clearly guilty of constitutional crimes. Bush is guilty of grave moral offenses, many of which he shares with Obama, but he did them all with the protection of the institutions we have in this country. We don’t have an entity that punishes violations of Natural Law that are not also part of the criminal code. That’s what an Inquisition is for.

So, that’s how the Occupy Wall Street Left, which would reflexively say “Inquisition” as a response to any pro-Catholic statement, is actually arguing *for* an Inquisition.

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Can we please NOT feed into the other side’s characterization of us?

OK, I have had it.

Yes, satire, polemic, sound bites, etc., are part of rhetorical debate and discourse. Yes, the reason our country is so ideologically divided is that we’re facing such crucial issues that people have disparate views on. I don’t understand how anyone can deny the humanity of an unborn child or the right of a disabled person to live. I also don’t understand how anyone who supports those rights can deny that the vulnerable need some help from society to live, and part of that includes some level of government assistance. Yet at the same time, I don’t understand how people can stick their heads in the ground about the fact that our government is already bankrupt, and this spend-spend-spend with no budget cuts or tax increases mentality will only lead to self-destruction (personally, I think officially adopting state capitalism is the only way to really get out of the mess we’re in). I understand that people are still afraid from 9/11, but I also don’t understand why people who profess to be devout Catholics can refuse to honestly interpret the Church’s teachings on Just War. I don’t understand why people who claim to be pro-life can fail to recognize that Blessed John Paul II, John Cardinal O’Connor and even Fr. Frank Pavone have all taught that war and the death penalty are just as much pro-life issues as abortion. At the same time, I can’t fathom how people refuse to recognize that the vast numbers of children killed by abortion compared to those other issues, and the fact that the Church teaches the state sometimes has to use them out of extreme necessity, mean that abortion should be our top issue in terms of voting. OK, I get why our country is so hotly divided.

I also think Barack Obama is a monster. His position on Born Alive Protection, that letting babies who survive abortions starve to death is “necessary to protect the right to abortion,” an issue which even NARAL won’t take a position on, which Alan Keyes pushed in the 2004 Illinois Senate election, ought to be enough to discredit him. I think the damage he’s done to our economy is offensive, and the fact that his supporters think that trillions of dollars in corporate welfare is equivalent to FDR’s New Deal shows how ignorant most of his supporters are. I’m a “birther” in that I don’t think Obama is eligible, whether or not he was born in Hawaii, because of his Indonesian joint citizenship, and his possible criminal activity. I certainly think he has nothing to hide, as he has refused to release, and instead suppressed, records which most presidential candidates have shown to the public. I think he should be impeached for his unconstitutional invasion of Libya, for his other gross violations of the Constitution, and now for his own lawyer’s admission that the “Long form birth certificate” published by the White House in April 2011 was actually a forgery meant to deceive the American people.

(Now, for those who say, “Throw Bush in jail,” I have a response coming later; stay tuned).

I am sick to death of the claim that those of us who oppose Obama do so only because we’re racists, and the ensuing debates that end up making Obama’s critics look racist in their attempts to save themselves from accusations of a “thought crime” and the effort to prove a negative.

All of that said, could we please stick to the issues and avoid making that impression? People tend to ignore the extremes of political argument that come from people they agree with. I have argued with people on the Left who insist that political discourse has only become so nasty under Obama, and that the Right is only nasty, and when I point out the 8 years of “Kill Bush” and attempts at obscene references to the president’s last name, etc., they have no idea what I’m talking about. People who never listen to Rush Limbaugh insist that he’s a hate-spewing demagogue. Then they happily listen to Jon Stewart and Bill Maher and other “comedians’ who do nothing but rip on the Catholic Church, rip on conservatives, etc.

So we keep excusing the ever-volatile rhetoric because in our eyes the other side does it worse.

But conservatives should be better. If we’re sincerely about promoting Christian values and human dignity and the Right to Life, then we need to reflect those values. Most of my political arguments with liberals the past few years have involved me fighting to prove I’m not a racist.

Then I look on my Facebook wall, and I see posts from my conservative “friends” (quotation marks referring to the Facebook term, not questioning the friendship of the individuals in question) that make me cringe: “Tar and Feather”; “Arrest Him” (again, used for Bush, took, but the pictures are the key); pictures showing either Barack or Michelle Obama with expressions on their faces that harken to anti-African American stereotypes. Then there’s the occasional outright racist reference, like the bumper sticker that plays on the N-word (in a manner that doesn’t even make sense). I saw a headline about how “Facebook censors conservative sites” that a few of my friends forwarded, apparently without reading the article. The article was actually about Facebook censoring *racist* sites, and the comments were things like, “I’m not a racist. I just believe white people are superior.” What the heck? How can anyone call themselves Christian and believe these things?

I wish to God that Alan Keyes had been the first African American president. I know one of the major reasons he wasn’t was that there is a great deal of active and latent racism among my political bedfellows–he was arbitrarily shut out of debates, for example. When Keyes and his supporters were protesting a debate he was shut out of in Atlanta, the police came and put him in cuffs, and then drove him to an African American slum and dropped him off.

I realize race is an issue, even though I think it’s stupid that people make such a big deal about it on both sides. Why should the color of one’s skin matter any more than the color of one’s hair? Oh, that’s right. In some parts of Europe, you might as well be black as have red hair (in fact, these days, red heads get treated worse than “racial minorities). African Americans argue amongst themselves about the merits of being “light” or “dark.” It’s absurd.

We intentionally put our daughters in an inner city Catholic school with a predominantly African American population partly because the school and parish are relatively orthodox/conservative/traditional, but also because we wanted them to be exposed to people of different races. While there are white children in their classes, our daughters’ closest friends are all of other “races.” Our son goes to a racially public school and in spite of his autism and severe aversion to socialization of any kind, his classmates adore him, and he seems to like them as best as he’s capable. We recently went to a birthday party for one of his classmates. We were only one of two white families at the party. It was clearly not a “we’re inviting everyone in the class” party. I think most of the guests were relatives, and it was a joint party for two sisters, so the guest list per sister was correspondingly reduced. The mother told us that, when they were doing the invitations, her daughter said, “We *have* to invite Josef!”

On the adult level, our friends are very diverse. We have friends who are white, black, Hispanic, Oriental and Arab. We don’t care about race. We *do* care that a person is Catholic and pro-life. I have a brother in law who says his standard for friends is, “Are you Catholic, are you pro-life, and do you like _The Simpsons_?” For Mary and me, it’s something similar. We dislike Kerry, Gore, and Clinton, and some of our own relatives as much as we dislike Obama, because we believe being “pro-choice” is a reprehensible position equivalent to being pro-Holocaust or pro-terrorism, but just because he happens to have darker skin tone than they do, people say we’re “racist”. It’s absurd.

But fighting that image is not helped by conservatives who consciously or unconsciously use racist language or images. I’m sick of it. You want to show Obama disrespect because he supports killing babies or he supports bankrupting our country? Fine. Then make sure your satires and images and sound bites reflect those reasons. Otherwise, when it comes to personal attacks, why can’t we as conservatives set a higher standard then stooping to the level of Jeneane Garofalo and Al Franken?

Why don’t people read the books?

The other day, I posted a slight rant about pluralism, and a certain notion that has crept in post-Vatican II. The Church rightly teaches that there is a “ray of truth” in all ideologies and religions, and that “ray of truth” is what appeals to people and ought to ultimately lead them to Catholicism. The Church, however, also holds there is a great deal of error in these other religions. Vatican II tries to emphasize building dialogue on the good things in other belief systems, but that has often manifested itself in a mentality of pluralism or indifferentism or even syncretism. So, taking for granted a great deal presuming my audience was primarily Catholics, and not intending to directly debate atheists or other non-Catholics as such, I posted a piece about how if we, as Catholics, truly believe our religion is the Truth, then that should influence how we address the issues of the Church in public life, pluralism, religious liberty, and education. We should not, in our Catholic schools even, be teaching our faith as just one option among many. In public schools, a thorough education should at least include “the Great Books,” and that includes many works of Catholic thought.

All that said, I inevitably got some spiteful replies from atheists and agnostics (or I presume so). I refused to directly engage them in a debate where I’d simply be rehashing the arguments of Catholic philosophers. I instead, per the point of my post, invited them to read some of the great texts of Catholic and Christian philosophy–some of which should be prerequisite to a proper education. The person accused me of committing the fallacy of appeal to authority. I tried to explain that I was not appealing to authority but rather referring the reader and/or interlocutor to the texts that explain things better than I could. There’s a huge difference. So this person posted yet another flippant response. Since I had said all I intended to say on the matter and saw no point in preceding in what would inevitably descend to a flamewar, I wasn’t sure the post required a response. Further, I’ve been quite busy these past few days and feeling particularly badly health-wise, so while I’ve been online and have posted a reflection or two since then, I have declined to respond immediately.

The person took my silence as a sign of defeat and posted yet another ad hominem about how I am supposedly “willfully ignorant” because I refuse to debate him or her. I wrote a lengthy response that I felt merited its own post:

Write whatever you want. Moderating a discussion to the audience and purpose I intended does not make me willfully ignorant. It makes me the moderator of this blog. There are plenty of threads on this blog where I’ve directly argued with atheist commentors. I just have no interest in doing so in this particular thread, because the purpose of it was to address the question of how Catholics should handle a pluralistic society. The post is not directly dealing with atheist-Catholic dialogue or apologetics. I don’t see how inviting you to actually read the books that I’m referring to, which make the arguments I’m taking for granted, constitutes “willful ignorance.” It constitutes willful refusal to have a discussion that would be inane without the proper context.
I have a thorough education, and I have an informal self-assigned Great Books education that I engaged in on top of schooling. I have never been adverse to studying world views that are different than mine, and I appreciate learning from them what they have to offer. However, as G. K. Chesterton said, “The object of an open mind is to shut it on something solid.”
Further, you hardly gave me that much time to reply. I realize that this Internet culture presumes instantaneous response, but I haven’t had that much time the past few days, and what time I have had, I have been having severe pain from the aortic dissection I live with. So I simply have not had interest in engaging in adversarial debates in the time I’ve spent online this past few days.