Category Archives: Logic

Symbols mean things

I’m a big supporter for formalism/”New Criticism.”  I always forget who said which, but often, when writers are asked what things in their books “mean,” they say things like, “I wrote a poem, not a puzzle,” (pretty sure that’s TS Eliot) or “If I wanted to write an essay, I’d write an essay.  I wrote a story” (Flannery O’Connor, paraphrased).

Racism, Hatred and Bulverism

I read a cartoon twenty-some years ago: Two guys are sitting on a bench. One is reading a newspaper and says, “African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans; I’m glad to be a simple White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant.”
Guy #2 says: “You look more like a Jute to me.”
In the US, we group “Hispanics” or “Latinos” into one category, yet the term “Latin America” was coined by the French to counteract the Monroe Doctrine, arguing that American countries/colonies predominated by Romance-language, Catholic peoples. Even the predominantly Spanish-speaking cultures in “Latin America” see huge differences among themselves.
On the biology side, there are really only three “races,” a distinction the Bible suggests with the three sons of Noah. I read an article once about the biology of “race,” and how the similarity of Asian/Semitic peoples—modern anthropology having proven that Columbus wasn’t too far off in identifying Native Americans as “Indians”–is evinced by the existance of a relatively isolated tribe of cannibals in southern Africa who descend from Asians who migrated back into Africa about 10,000 years ago or so. Their language categories two kinds of animals–“food animals,” and “people”. They have no other categories of zoology or race/ethnicity. When they see people of Asian, North African or Native American descent, they recognize them as “people.” When they encounter darker-skinned Africans or Europeans, they categorize them as “food.”
One of the motivations behind “White Privilege” seems to be a desire to refuse to acknowledge that the so-called “WASPs” have brought suffering to lots of people they consider “Other”; not just darker sinned peoples. But to point this out is itself called “racist.” I keep seeing preemptive comments by angry African Americans about how the don’t want to hear about the suffering of the Jews, the Irish, the Italians or whomever, that “their” suffering is all that matters.
Suddenly, it’s “white privilege” because most “white” ethnic groups supposedly have more acceptance in mainstream American culture, or do not suffer the kind of persecution that “blacks” do. Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous post on this topic, this has not been the case in my own family’s experience. The upper class “whites” and the “minorities” of all socioeconomic levels tend to look down on us. Some people see freckles as a disease–there is a _Barbie_ book called _Freckles_ (1997), in which Barbie “helps” a little girl who’s embarrassed about having freckles by teaching her that, essentially, freckles are something to be ashamed of. People would be justly outraged by a book about how a darker skinned woman could be prettier if she made herself look more “white”, but if a “ginger” points out such kinds of bigotry and discrimination, that’s still somehow considered “racist” or a distraction.
We’re told that “white privilege” matters because of a “racist system” that is resulting in the violent deaths of thousands African Americans around the country a day, but pointing out that the minority of those are at the hands of officers, and the vast majority are at the hands of other African Americans, that’s dismissed as “racism.”
I’m told that if I check my car locks or clutch my wallet when somebody walks by, even though I do that when almost anybody walks by, I’m being a “racist,” if the person who walks by happens to be black.
I’m told that if I insist on overcoming racism by not being racist, that makes me a racist.
“Racism” is a perfect example of the logical fallacy C. S. Lewis calls “Bulverism,” a kind of ad hominem which he exemplifies by a scenario where a man says, “1+1=2,” and the woman says, “You just say that because you’re a man.” Person B doesn’t care whether the proposition is true or not, factual or not, but whether it fits the preconceived ideology, so some psychological or ideological presumption about Person A.
Bulverism is an offshoot of moral relativism. The most objective truth can be dismissed by saying the other person is delusional, or, in this case, “racist.” Emotion overrides logic. Logic itself becomes part of “white male patriarchal hegemony,” or whatever.
That is essentially the entire narrative of postmodernism.
And it doesn’t fix anything. It just perpetuates the cycle of hatred and violence, as the assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos this weekend demonstrates.
True racism involves hating people because of their skin color. It involves doing violence or oppressing people because of their skin color. What is the point of labelling a person’s every action, thought or word as “racist” just because of, well, the person’s race? How does that build community, understanding and love?

On Melancholy: the Physiological aspects of depression and bi-polar

Last night, I posted a semi-defense of certain controversial comments made in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide and a general suggestion of how Matt Walsh, Rush Limbaugh, Bryan Kemper and others might have done better.

Part of Matt Walsh’s appeal is that, like the early Limbaugh, he uses sensationalistic packaging to get people’s attention to pieces that are usually very thoughtful. In this case, which backfires horribly because his piece isn’t as thoughtful as he thinks, he emphasized the notion that “Robin Williams didn’t die of a disease; he died of a choice.” At one point, he says, “First, suicide does not claim anyone against their will.”

He anticipates this response a few paragraphs above, but that is precisely the problem. Mental health issues, addiction, etc., reduce or remove culpability. Now, the mentally ill person may remain culpable for what is done while sane, but the question–which none of us can answer in this life–is whether the person who commits suicide truly has control of his or her will.

People like causes. They like to have someone or something to blame, especially if it isn’t themselves. “He was depressed because his career was in the tank” is an easy target versus “He was depressed because he had a genetic condition that made it difficult to control his emotions.” That gets into a mess of problems about free will versus determinism. Then there’s the controversial, “He was post-abortive,” which I want to discuss in a separate post, but while guilt, financial troubles, or frightening medical diagnoses may contribute to mental health issues, we cannot deny that there are physiological components. Matt Walsh is right that there are spiritual components, but wrong to dismiss “chemical imbalances” as modernist mumbo jumbo. Physiological understandings of depressive disorders are nothing new at all.

It is precisely “He was depressed because of XYZ” that is “modernist mumbo jumbo,” originating with Freud’s era.  Back in the old days, instead of “chemical imbalances,” people talked about “humors.” Melancholy is usually associated with depression, though the “melancholic temperament” would be what we now call “bipolar” and possibly include even autism. The melancholic is concerned about the troubles of the world, prone to mood swings, etc. Literature’s most notorious melancholic is perhaps Prince Hamlet from Shakespeare’s eponymous play. Three major movies made of the play within a decade demonstrate different psychological interpretations of the character:

The Zeffirelli/Gibson film (1990) depicts Hamlet as bipolar, mostly manic or “rapid cycling.”  
The Branagh/Branagh (1996) version depicts Hamlet as almost sociopathic (choleric), with the melancholy a complete facade.
The Almereyda/Hawke (2000) version depicts Hamlet as straight-up clinically depressed.  

Either way, all effective writers are natural psychologists and write their characters so well that they can be readily diagnosed (always baffles me that people insist you can’t “diagnose” fictional characters because a particular health problem or mental health issue wasn’t named: people still had problems).  Shakespeare drew from the psychology of his day and also left the character open to interpretation because he was aware of the debates that existed even then.

One of the concerns Walsh, and many others raise in critiquing a biological interpretation of mental health, is the spiritual component.  Fr. John Corapi would compare it to any physical disease: you might have a genetic predisposition to something. Then you add in the component of an actual physical trauma, poor nutrition, etc. Then bacteria come into the wound and infect it.

With mental health, you may have a genetic predisposition to bi-polar, depression, schizophrenia, autism spectrum, etc. You experience traumas that other experience but they hurt you more because of your predispositions. Things that might cause a brief situational depression for anybody are devastating (or, conversely, one thrives in a crisis). Then the demons, like bacteria in a wound, come along and whisper “You’re unworthy.” They infect the emotional wound and refuse to leave.  That certainly needs to be dealt with, and most treatment programs acknowledge it.  

“Madame has moments of melancholy,” says Max in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).  Norma Desmond, also clearly bipolar (mania demonstrated by her literally insane, rambling “script” that she’s been working on for years), has made several attempts on her life, and Max has removed all the doorknobs in the house, as well as all knives and razors (“Madame got the razor from your room, and she cut her wrists!”)

If Robin Williams had shot himself, certain people would be calling for restricting the ability of mentally ill people to own guns. They cite statistics on gun deaths in America, more than half of which are suicides.  It is noteworthy that these same people objected to “politicization” of his death when some pro-lifers pointed to his status as a post-abortive father (post-abortion syndrome contributing to many suicides), or when Rush Limbaugh, ironically or inadvertently “politicized” his death by complaining about the media politicizing it.  Yet the same people would have readily “politicized” it if it had been a gun suicide.

That’s another easy cause, though, that  people look for.  They try to say, “It’s guns,” except when it’s not guns.  Nobody is talking about legal action to restrict ownership of ropes, or belts, or plastic bags, or knives or razors by mentally ill people.  The real issue there is why people must rely on the government for everything. 

A desperate person will find a means.

One last observation under this topic is the question of medication.  Some people will say, “See?  This proves meds don’t work!” or “This proves meds make things worse!”  One of the reasons it’s important to nail down the right diagnosis is that the wrong medicine really can be disastrous.  Someone with bipolar needs to be on bipolar meds, not necessarily anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, which can cause a horrible mania and, in turn, drastic behavior.  

Accurate diagnosis is so very important, as are accurate treatment methods.  

False convictions and DNA: “Guilty until Proven Innocent”?

This is kind of off topic, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while. We often hear, especially in reference to the death penalty, that people convicted of crimes and later “exonerated” or “proven innocent” by DNA evidence. The following statistic gets to what I’m thinking:
“In almost 50 percent of DNA exoneration cases, the actual perpetrator has been identified by DNA testing.”
This is a perfect example of phrasing. One could just as easily say, “In less than 50 percent. . . . ”
The only way to “prove someone innocent” is such “Perry Mason” type situations: DNA cannot “prove someone innocent” unless it proves someone else guilty. Showing that DNA samples found at the crime scene do not match the suspect doesn’t mean he or she wasn’t there; it just means they found no samples to verify his presence. I read somewhere that, at any given time, there are probably hundreds of DNA samples on a shoe. DNA evidence is based upon matching up the random samples of hair, skin, bodily fluids, etc., to the suspect. A lack of DNA or other evidence means legally “not guilty”; it does not mean “innocent.”
However, on the other hand, it speaks to how the theory is supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty,” but in practice most of us think the opposite.

Why “Gay Marriage” Matters

Even many who profess faith in Christ insist that “gay marriage,” even as a civil entity, doesn’t hurt anybody.  Examples like “husband” and “wife” being changed everywhere to “spouse 1” and “spouse 2” should be enough for starters.  Then there is the increasing persecution of those who oppose the homosexualist political agenda: CEOs being fired from companies they co-founded,

Brendan Eich, who helped invent Java and Firefox, fired from Mozilla for a $1000 donation made 6 years ago.

and nuns being persecuted by the Church.

Should be speaking everywhere, not silenced

Of course, the latter was justified by “Catholics” bearing false witness against the Holy Father by saying his statements that homilists must talk about more than a few disjointed moral teachings means that none of us is supposed to talk about the specific examples, ever.

It all goes back to my old saying that we lost the Culture Wars before they began, at the 1929 Lambeth Conference.   The slippery slope that  led us to the current gay marriage debate started when the Anglicans became the first Christians to permit birth control, as Pius XI and Paul VI predicted.  Anyone who has tried to teach Catholic morality even in CCD, much less Catholic school, in the past generation or two knows how awkward it is to tell kids divorce and remarriage is a sin when their parents are divorced and remarried, that swearing is a sin when even their mothers cuss like sailors, or that birth control is a sin when everyone else uses it.  I went to high school with kids whose parents were NFP instructors, and even *they* would say things like, “It’s a sin for us but not for other people,” or “It’s better to tell teenagers to use birth control than to have them get pregnant or STDs.”

I think the persecution of Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, has as much to do with her speaking about the negative consequences of divorce as anything else.  Indeed, the claim of Aquinas College that Sr. Jane is outside her academic credentials by talking of anthropology negates the traditional hierarchy of academic disciplines that a Dominican should be the first to recognize.

Soon-to-be St. John Paul II, who doesn’t mince words in Evangelium Vitae about the Conspiracy of Death, writes in Theology of the Body that the entire of Catholic anthropology is based in the Creation Account: indeed, that is the whole point of TOB.  From man being made male and female in the image of likeness of God and to be “one flesh” to the fact of Original Sin, JPII’s explication of the first three or four chapters of Genesis and Jesus’ teachings on marriage shows how everything else in theology stems from those passages.  He argues that the danger of Darwinism, and its importance to secularists, is that without a Creator, without teleology, without man being a soul/body hybrid, without Original Sin itself, then man is not a moral creature, and ultimately anything goes.

Something similar is at work in the Culture Wars in the contemporary West.  From contraception at one end to “marriage equality” at the other, advocates of “most favored sins” tend to promote each other’s cause: nobody wants to be perceived as a “hypocrite,” after all.  If some “bossy” Thomistic nun wants to start talking about sexual morality, then so much for “voices of women in the Church”!

And that’s the ultimate agenda of the Culture of Death (and, yes, Pope John Paul himself states repeatedly in Gospel of Life and elsewhere that it’s a conspiracy).    It’s even the agenda of those who, in the name of preventing child abuse, expose children to graphic “sex education.”  Obviously, Satan wants everyone in Hell, and Satan’s agents, whether they realize they are or not, need to encourage others to sin so they can feel justified in their own filth.

The 1988 Don Bosco film that used to run on EWTN before the 2004 version came out has subplots involving a brothel next door to St. John’s Oratory.  In one scene, there’s a commotion outside the brothel: two prostitutes get into a “cat fight.”  The boys stop their play and study to see what’s going on.  The Saint cuts through the crowd and pulls the two hookers apart.  “You people can drown in your sins, if you want!” he cries.  “But if a single one of my boys is lost because of you, not one of you can be saved!”

Harsh, you say?  Remember Our Lord calls for anyone who causes a child to sin to be drowned (Matthew 18:6).

That’s what’s at stake in “gay marriage.”

When I can no longer watch Wheel of Fortune with my kids because of a contestant introduction like, “So you’re getting married? . . . You found some nice young lady to marry you?” “Gentleman, actually,” that affects my family.
When we’re watching The Middle, and an ad comes on for Modern Family with two men talking about “their wedding,” and a cake topper with two men, that affects my family.
“Why?” asks the person who actively or passively supports same sex marriage.  “Are you afraid of them?  They’re nice people.”
“Do you think you’re kid’s going to be gay?”
Every child at some point wants to know why boys can’t marry boys or girls can’t marry girls, and “because they’re not supposed to” is usually a sufficient answer.

If society isn’t going to back that up, and if “the Church” isn’t even going to back that up, then one is left stranded explaining Natural Law.  It’s hard enough having to gloss over other issues.

They do not think parents have the right to teach their children morality or even to protect their children’s mental purity at a young age.   Then there are the increasing accounts of children at young ages becoming addicted to porn or committing sexual abuse because of things they’ve seen online.

When that stuff is literally everywhere, there comes a point when parents are forced to explain certain things to children that are not otherwise age appropriate–and that’s exactly what these demonic perverts want.

People Don’t Understand the Point of Adjectives

It just dawned on me that many “misunderstandings” and debates arise from the use of adjectives: does the adjective make the noun more specific or emphasize a quality?
When a _Wheel of Fortune_ contestant says, “I am married to my beautiful wife [X]” [I sometimes wonder if they don’t have a kind of MadLibs script: pick a living situation, pick a family member, pick an adjective, pick a name.], does he mean, “my wife is exceptionally beautiful,” “All wives are by definition beautiful and I’m just emphasizing it,” or “she’s my ‘beautiful’ wife, as opposed to my ugly one”?
The thought dawned on me just now reading the current issue of the _Carmel Clarion_, in which an article refers to the famous quotation from St. Teresa of Avila, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, Lord deliver us!” If she were alive today, the mainstream media promote the headline: “Mother Teresa of Jesus, foundress of the Carmelite Reform, calls Devotions ‘Silly’ and Saints ‘Sour-faced.'” Then many sour-faced would-be saints would start arguing in comboxes about what she “really meant,” or whether she’s a heretic, or a modernist, or whatever, when it’s perfectly obvious that she means “saints who are sour-faced,” not all saints, and that she means “devotions that are silly,” not all devotions (and, further, that she means devotions that are practiced in a silly manner).

It doesn’t just happen in the “new media.” T. S. Eliot has been forever labelled an anti-Semite because of one sentence in a book (which he subsequently refused to have republished) that referred negatively to “free-thinking Jews.” The media jumped on it and said that Eliot wanted Jews to be slaves, when he was clearly, within the sentence, within the paragraph, and in his responses to the media, talking about “liberal” or “progressive” Jews–in the context, he was speaking favorably of Judaism and criticizing Jews who don’t appreciate or follow their faith, comparing them to Christians who do the same thing.

The basis of the sedevacantist movement is the claim that Vatican II teachings on religious liberty contradict the condemnations of “religious liberty” by Pius IX and Leo XIII, yet each of then condemned “a kind of religious liberty that . . . ” then used very specific terms to describe what we call “wall of separation” or “freedom *from* religion.” You can read them as saying, “all religious liberty is like this,” or “some approaches to religious liberty are like this and we condemn those.” That’s what hermeneutics is about. The former is the basis for the “hermeneutic of rupture” (on both the “Right” and “Left”); the latter is the basis of “the hermeneutic of continuity.”

“I didn’t say you stole my money.”

Some people have their knickers in a twist over the fact that radical pro-death philosopher Peter Singer has been invited to speak at Georgetown. Now, the circumstances are very important: is he being presented as an “esteemed” philosopher? Is he being presented in some honorary fashion such as a graduation speech? Or is he being presented as a speaker whose views need to be heard, even though we disagree with him?

Pro-life Catholic Robert George is often pitted as Singer’s arch-rival because they both teach at Princeton. They are often presented on a “joint ticket” debating with each other.

The purpose of a debate in the fields of rhetoric or law/political science is to win over public opinion and possibly change the other person’s mind.
The purpose of a debate in the field of philosophy is to take an opinion and strip it down to the person’s first principles.
That’s why George says he ultimately doesn’t have much to debate against Singer about. Singer is at least honest that the entity in the womb is the same as the entity out of the womb. He only differs from us in *how* that entity is to be treated, so from a philosophical perspective, there is little to debate with him about. He is clear on the logical connections between his first principles and his conclusions. Changing his first principles is a matter for prayer. Other pro-choicers would do well to at least learn Singer’s consistency, and hopefully hearing his views will change the minds of people who think they’re “pro-choice” but fail to realize the implications of that viewpoint.
George says that Singer’s views *need* to be heard because they expose the truth of the “pro-choice” viewpoint that most “pro-choice” people are in denial about.

Why Religious Pluralism is Stupid

I have been taken to task by some commentors on this blog and elsewhere for my assertion that atheists are stupid. I wish to recant that statement. Referring to my post on Invincible Ignorance, anyone who isn’t Catholic or Orthodox is stupid–and it’s just a question of whether it’s invincible ignorance or just lack of education.

If a person insists on saying that the earth is flat, in spite of the scientific evidence to the contrary, we rightly call that person stupid.
If a person insists on saying the Sun revolves around the earth, in spite of the scientific evidence to the contrary, we rightly call that person stupid.
If a person insists on a literal interpretation of the creation stories in Genesis, in spite of both the scientific evidence to the contrary, and in spite of the fact that the Early Church Fathers didn’t interpret all aspects of the Old Testament literally, we rightly call that person stupid.

Yet if a person refuses to recognize that life begins at conception, in spite of the scientific evidence, we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.
If a person insists that same sex attraction is normal, in spite of the fact that it is biologically impossible for people of the same sex to have sexual intercourse, and in spite of the fact that a genetically favorable trait should favor reproduction, we say that person has a right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that there is one God, despite the fact that logic dictates the existence of one God (see Augustine, Aquinas, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, etc.), we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that the one true God revealed Himself to Israel through numerous miracles that are historically documented, we say that person has a right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that the Divine Word became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, revealing Himself by numerous well-documented miracles, culminating in His own resurrection from the dead, we say that person has a right to his own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that Jesus Christ established seven sacraments, as documented in Scripture and the Apostolic Fathers, or that He established His Church through the Apostles and their Successors, as documented in Scripture and the Apostolic Fathers, we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.

The truths of the Catholic faith are as objectively true and as well-proven as any scientific fact or theory. The Church employs thorough methods to document miracles, and there is plenty of scientific observation and evidence to validate numerous miracles, from the sun dancing at Fatima to St. Pio’s stigmata to the Shroud of Turin and the tilma of Guadalupe.

That people refuse to accept the truth of these miracles is pure ignorance, or a refusal to accept plain fact as obstinate as the refusal to accept that the earth is round.

I’m sick to death of pussy-footing around the issue. When we, as Catholics, refuse to assert the absolute truth of our faith and concede it to be one option among a plurality of opinions, we do a disservice.

Now, no one should be killed for refusing to accept the Faith, just as no one should be killed for refusing to accept Darwinian evolution. It should not be a criminal offense to be ignorant of or refuse to accept the Truth. However, it *should* be a criminal offense to refuse to *teach* the truth. Just as schools are required to teach certain curricula about history and science, and just as parents are required to get their children educated about the basics of math, language, history and science, so too must children be educated in the historical and scientific truths of the Catholic faith, simply because they are true.

A Parable

I’m borrowing this metaphor a bit from the folks at Creative Minority Report, just making it a bit more direct to the case:

A man’s wife and children are put into protective custody pending an investigation of an abuse allegation (note, of course, that the law protects the claimant in such allegations).  Technically, the accuser has the right to anonymity in such a case, but in this case, the abuser has contacted several authorities, and the man has learned who the person is.

The man files a lawsuit against his accuser.  Then he announces to the world, “There is no way to prove my innocence of these allegations.  My wife has treated me unfairly, and these allegations are false.  I am therefore abandoning my wife and children.  I will be seeking a divorce.  I’ll still be a husband and father, but I just won’t live with them or do anything for them, because  that would require fighting for my innocence and putting me in an adversarial relationship with them.  Just don’t call me ‘Dad.’  I’ll still visit and write to my children, even though DSS says I’m not allowed to see them right now. ”
So, DSS issues a statement saying, “We’ve dropped the investigation since he moved out and filed for divorce a few weeks ago.  His family have moved back into their home.  Plus, he’s intimidated some of the witnesses, so we can’t investigate.”
The man replies, “Oh, by the way, I am not actually getting a divorce.  It’s more like a separation.  Again, I’ll still be a husband and father.  I just won’t be living with my family, doing any household chores, or teaching my kids anything or romancing my wife or anything like that.  That stuff was really a minor part of my life as a husband and father, anyway.  Most of my time was spent earning money, and I’ll still be sending child support checks and coming over to take my kids out to the park and stuff like that. And don’t blame my wife.  It’s not her fault.  She’s still a good wife and mother.  She just never lifted a finger to help me the entire time I was being investigated.  She threw me under the buss.  But she’s a good woman.  It’s just that, when I got sick, I had to pay for it with my own health insurance and my own money.  She never gave a dime to pay my bills.  In fact, she’s never supported me in any way.  She’s always mostly ignored me while I was travelling on business all the time or staying long nights at the office.”
The wife says, “I tried asking him all the time to spend more time at home with me and less time at the office, and he kept refusing.”
The guy says, “She just wanted my money.”
The guy says, “By the way, the person accused me of abuse anonymously, so I have no way to really defend myself because I can’t know who my accuser is.  My accuser is my former next-door neighbor.  I know for a fact this person is an alcoholic.  But I can’t defend myself.”  “Oh, you found out about the lawsuit I filed?  Well, I did that on the advice of my father-in-law.  Yep, it was the only way to defend myself against these accusations. ”

What would we say of such a person?

Great, good, OK, not bad in your case, bad, evil: A Crash Course in Catholic Ethical Thinking

In 2000 years of studying human behavior in the light of the Bible and the Natural Law, and drawing from some of the greatest philosophical minds in history, the Catholic Church has developed some rather nuanced teachings about morality.

Sometimes, when issues get discussed, people have a hard time distinguishing between discussion of principles and application of those principles to individuals. Some people point out that a basic difference between how Catholics think and how Americans think has to do with our different concepts of law. Catholic Canon Law is based upon Roman law. In Catholic law, things have to be written out very precisely (though it’s interesting that the 1917 _Code_ was the first ever codification of Canon Law). No law is “absolute” in the sense that there isn’t an “exception.” Catholic teaching has worked out a very good system of how to understand and apply what, for lack of a better term, we might call “exceptions.”

For some people, these nuanced, complicated systems have given rise to a word: Jesuitical–referring to the process of thinking like a Jesuit, a synonym for casuistry.

In Roman law, the law had to be precisely worded. If a person was brought up on charges of violating the law, the judge would see if the individual’s case applied to the law as worded. If the individual’s case did not apply, that individual was innocent. However, in the Anglo-Saxon common law tradition, if an exception can be found that the wording of the law does not apply for, or if a contradiction can be found between different laws, then that law itself has to be thrown out.

A couple generations ago, American Jesuits and the young Catholics they educated apparently decided they didn’t want to be Jesuitical anymore. Instead, they decided to start applying Anglo-Saxon methods to Catholic teachings, and if they could find an exceptional case where the law seemed unjust, then not only was that exception OK, but the Church teaching itself had to be thrown out (a key example of this is contraception).

Furthermore, in a move to emphasize feelings over Truth, the kinds of distinctions I’m going to talk about became uncomfortable to people because the new kind of Jesuitical thinking didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It was not enough to acknowledge that a particular exceptional case took away the personal sinfulness of an otherwise evil action, but you could no longer call that action “evil” because it might hurt someone’s feelings.

This mentality, for a few generations, was limited mostly to “progressive” Catholics. One of the things that distinguished “progressives” on the one hand from “conservatives” and “traditionalists” on the other was this mentality: those on the “Left” wanted to emphasize this knew form of interpreting Church teachings, while those on the metaphorical “Right” of the Church reacted against it often to the point of an overly strict absolutism.

In my own case, my rejection of the inherent flaws in the “progressive” movement led me to embrace the more conservative viewpoint. I always hailed conservatives for not compromising their principles, yet, in recent years, certain rifts have begun forming among conservatives, often on these very questions. With the rise of the Internet, and lay apologetics, more Catholics are thinking seriously about day-to-day moral questions we might have previously just dismissed.

When waterboarding became an issue, it became a hot button–not just because of voting, but because it got to fairly every day situations. If “torture” is intrinsically evil, what does that say about soldiers who are otherwise faithful Catholics? What does it say about police who may use “torture” of some sort in interrogation? What does it say about parents using corporal punishment?

If “lying” is always and in every case evil, what does that say about cops? Spies? Parents? Politicians?

Personally, I think part of the problem is that, since _Veritatis Splendor_, there has been a tendency to emphasize “intrinsic evil,” and that intrinsic evil itself has become a political term. The “Right” likes it because they use it to select certain intrinsic evils as what Catholic Answers called “non negotiables” for voting. The “Left” likes it because a) it takes attention away from personal sin and b) “intrinsic evil” can be used to apply a sort of Lutheran approach to Catholic moral teaching: “See! Lying is intrinsically evil! Abortion is intrinsically evil! Bad work conditions are intrinsically evil! See? They’re all evil!”

No, that’s not how it works. Intrinsic evil has nothing to do with the degree of evil involved in an act, but merely that the act may never be good.

One of the most helpful distinctions I ever learned is suggested by early 20th century theologian Karl Adam in his book _Spirit of Catholicism_: theological truth versus psychological truth. He uses this distinction for various complex issues, and anticipates many “Vatican II teachings”. What Adam calls “theological truths” are concrete, objective theological and moral principles. They’re absolute. However, our souls are limited. We cannot live in a world of absolute, so “psychological truth” is the subjective perspective of the individual and how and whether the theological truth applies.

For example, various Church documents of the passed emphasized that a Jew cannot be saved qua being Jewish: in other words, Judaism as a religion has no power to save. This is theological truth. In principle, no one who is literally outside the Church can be saved (extra ecclesia nulla sancta). Psychological truth, however, is that people have various levels of ignorance, and may not understand, or be able to understand, the truth of the Catholic faith. A person may be a sincere Jew and sincerely think the Catholic Church is wrong but try to follow God as best as possible. On the psychological level, this person is following the religion he thinks is most true, most good, and has made a conscious decision to be a Jew–because his knowledge of the Church is imperfect (if he has chosen Judaism because he *knows* the Catholic faith and rejects it, that’s another story). So, psychologically, he’s good.

Now, I’m about as Traditionalist as one can be this side of the Society of St. Pius X (or, really, this side of the Greek Orthodox Church, because that’s the direction I’d go if I were to go schismatic). Yet I am also a huge admirer of C. S. Lewis and T. S. Eliot. I hope both men are in Heaven. I would love to meet them there. In Lewis’s case, I believe his deep set issues about growing up Protestant in Northern Ireland constitute a kind of invincible ignorance where Catholicism is concerned–though I’ve also heard rumors that Lewis, who had a Catholic view of sacraments, received his final sacraments from a Catholic priest. In Eliot’s case, Russell Kirk says Eliot’s rejection of the Church was purely cultural, part of his embracing all things English, and Eliot himself recognized the contradiction. Again, I hope that Eliot had some kind of death bed conversion, but as far as what is publicly known about him, he consciously rejected the Catholic faith for no other reason than personal choice.

All right, so what does this say about issues? Again, we tend to confuse issues with people, and vice versa. If we admire or love someone, we want to overlook that person’s faults. “My husband’s a cop! How dare you suggest that [lying/shooting weapons at people/whatever] is wrong!” “I love John Paul II! How dare you suggest it’s wrong to kiss the Koran or let pagans have sacrifices in Catholic churches!” It’s that feelings thing again. Or it may be the opposite: “You think that it’s OK for cops to lie. You’re a BAD Catholic!” or “John Paul II kissed the Koran! He’s a heretic!” These are both unacceptable extremes that cross from looking at the act objectively to judging the person who commits the act (either judging them to be “bad” or judging them to be “good”).

Jesus says, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He doesn’t say which way. I love it when I hear someone say, “My son is living with his girlfriend, but we’re not supposed to judge. And, after all, he’s a *good* man. He still goes to church, and he volunteers, and . . . . ” Judging works both ways, as Jane Austen teaches us in _Pride and Prejudice_.

Anyway, all that said, when the Church looks at a particular action, She takes three things into consideration: the act itself, the intent, and the end. All three must be good for an act to be fully good. If an act is good, it may be merely virtuous, or it may be heroically virtuous–going above and beyond the call of duty.

Our Lord establishes the concept of heroic virtue numerous times in the Gospel. For example, in the incident of the rich young man, the man asks what he must do to be saved, and Jesus tells him to keep the Commandments. The man says he does. Jesus replies, “If you wish to be PERFECT, then sell all you have and give it to the poor.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” And he talks about people who will be “greatest” and “least” in the Kingdom–this implies varying degrees of sanctity.

So, what does all this mean? Most people ought to know the difference between mortal and venial sin (though Vatican II parlance likes to say “grave” sin instead of mortal). They are kind of like mirror opposites of virtues and heroic virtues. Mortal sins completely sever the divine life in us. Venial sins, as Mark Shea says, are like “gateway drugs” to mortal sin. Virtues are good acts, but they require no special grace. They are normally in accordance with the Natural Law as commonly understood: boy scout type morality. We all know it’s a good thing to help an old lady across the street if you can. That’s a virtue. If you help thousands of old ladies across the street for no earthly reward, or if you help an old lady across a particularly dangerous street, in spite of fear, that’s heroic virtue.

I like to use the example of St. Gianna Baretta Molla. People are canonized as capital-S Saints because they exemplify heroic virtue–martyrs exemplify it par excellence.

One of the “gray areas” that comes in when we’re dealing with the psychological truth versus theological truth is what’s called “double effect.” My friend Jennifer Fitz recently wrote the best description I’ve ever read of Double Effect. See here:

There is a popular misconception that the Catholic Church sometimes allows killing. The Church, technically, never allows killing. While the death penalty is a stretch, every case of “justifiable killing” involves double effect. I recently watched a rerun of _Bones_ where the victim had brittle bone disease, and the killer technically killed him in self-defense. The two men were having a fight–the victim initiated the fight–and the “killer” (who went to prison not for the killing but for covering it up) pushed him in self-defense. The pusher was unaware of the genetic disorder, and when the “victim” fell back after being pushed in self-defense, his head shattered. That’s a *great* example of double effect.

Even in war, the Church’s teaching on Just War is extremely nuanced, compared to how it’s usually treated. Not only must the cause be just (and that’s one whole can of worms), but the way the war is waged must be just. There are weapons and methods of warfare which are intrinsically evil, and one of the Church’s teachings is that, even if the War is just because an assailant is invading another country, once the war has started, both sides have a right to self-defense. In other words, the Nazis may be evil, but the individual Nazi soldiers still retain their human rights. Any legitimate method of warfare must give both sides a fair shake at self-defense or escape.

Double effect means that you’re trying to do something good, or neutral, and something bad happens. If you don’t want the bad thing to happen, then the act is not a sin. However, even if double effect is at work, as soon as you will it, it’s a sin.

As Jen Fitz puts it, you can draw a nice warm bath for your enemy in the hopes that the relaxing bath might make him nicer to you–that would actually be very virtuous to do. However, if you set up the bath so your enemy will slip, or drown or be scalded, or if you even *WISH* for one of those things to happen while your enemy is in the bath, that’s a mortal sin.

If double effect is in play, and the action you’re trying to do is morally neutral, and you don’t intended the bad effect, it’s neutral. If double effect is in play, and the action is virtuous (such as doing something nice for an enemy), that’s virtuous.

In Gianna Molla’s case, many people think she refused an abortion to save her child. This is not exactly the case. The Church teaches that it’s OK for a pregnant woman to have a medical procedure to save her own life so long as the baby is not directly killed. For example, in the very tricky situation of tubal ligation, the baby is killed by double effect: the baby is in the tubes instead of the uterus; the tubes are damaged and need to be removed. The fact that the baby is removed with them is an unintended consequence. However, if the doctor did something to kill the baby *first*, that would be morally evil.

St. Gianna chose not just to reject evil but to reject a procedure where double effect came into play. That is what we call “heroic virtue.” It’s sometimes what people call “scruples” (and then accuse most of the Saints of “scruples). It’s choosing the option that most absolutely conforms to the Gospels and the examples of the saints, the option that is the absolute most virtuous, even if it costs material benefit or one’s own life.

A similar “gray area” or modifier of action is culpability. Like the non-Christian who really doesn’t know Christ or the Church, there are lots of reasons why a person might not make a fully informed decision to sin.

In order for a sin to be mortal, the person must fully choose to engage in the act.

If someone holds a gun to your head and says, “Renounce Jesus,” and you say, “I believe in one God, . . ..,” that’s heroic virtue. If a person holds a gun to your head and says, “Renounce Jesus,” and you say something like, “Whatever you say,” you’re not really desiring to renounce Jesus, but you’re justifiably scared for your life. So it’s not mortally sinful. It may not even be venially sinful, but it never hurts to confess something like that.

On the sin side, lack of culpability may reduce mortal sin to venial or even take away all guilt. On the flip side, if a person overcomes a lack of culpability and does the virtuous thing anyway, that becomes heroic virtue.

So, a person may not be culpable because of coercion, or because of ignorance (i.e., a woman who doesn’t know birth control pills cause abortions isn’t guilty of abortion), or because of psychological disorder or even physiological disorder (i.e., a person in extreme pain does something bad because of the pain). There are lots of reasons people may not be culpable, and it’s important to know those reasons. However, the mentality I addressed at the beginning of this piece suggests that the exceptions should be treated as normative.

Even in the case of contraception, John Paul II taught that couples who use artificial birth control because of extreme health circumstances or financial circumstances may not be fully culpable for their actions–and the greater guilt lies with society for not providing them with the support they need.

That is not to say contraception is “OK”, but merely that the sin involved is not as severe for a couple in extreme circumstances. The Church can have compassion for the person in the extreme without saying “this teaching no longer applies because there is this one extreme case, and the rest of you can go on and do whatever you want.”

When someone’s holding a gun to your head, either literally or metaphorically, and you do something intrinsically evil, you’re not a sinner. If the Nazis are at your door, and you lie out of fear, that’s not heroic virtue, but it’s also not a sin.

Again, intrinsic evil just means that the act is always evil and can never be virtuous in and of itself. It does not mean that it’s as bad as something else or better than something else.


1. Means, motive and end are all good? Act is virtuous.

2. Means, motive and end are good, circumstances are extreme? Act is heroically virtuous.

3. Means are neutral or good. Intentions are good. There are multiple ends, at least one bad and one good? This is “double effect”.

4. Means are bad. Intentions are good. Ends are bad. Circumstances are extreme or person is ignorant? The act is wrong, but culpability is reduced, possibly to nothing.

5. Means are bad. Intentions are bad. Ends are bad. Person is ignorant or not acting in total freedom; and/or matter is not grave? Venial sin.

6. Means are bad. Intentions are bad. Ends are bad. Person acts in full knowledge and freedom. Matter is grave. Mortal sin.

It is really crucial to be clear on these distinctions. To say “X is intrinsically evil” is not the same thing as saying “Y is a sinner for doing X” or even to say that “X is always mortally sinful”. It’s just to say that the using X as a means puts the action under categories 4-6 above.

So, what makes a person?

It’s the question “pro-choice” people hate to address. It forces them to examine what they really stand for. I’ve applied it, Socratically, in many an online discussion to get one of the following results:

1. The person tries to say I’m improperly using Socratic logic or analogy.
2. The person says the question is absurd and refuses to answer it
3. The person is honest and admits there are standards by which he or she would deny the right to life to a born person.

So, the question is:
“Is it OK to kill blind people?”
Presumably, the person will say, of couse not.
To this, I respond,
“Well, then, the lack of sight doesn’t deprive one of the right to live?”
“OK, well, what about the lack of hearing? mobility? and so on.”

What faculty do you believe is necessary for a person to have human rights?
At what point does the loss of some particular faculty deprive one of human rights?

After all, an unborn baby is deprived of the right to life merely because of some missing faculty. For many who support abortion, especially our president, that missing faculty is visibility. Wait–for Barack Obama, it’s not even visibility, since he says it’s OK to starve or suffocate newborn babies to death if they’re born in “botched” abortions.

And for the average person who *has* an abortion, visibility is the missing factor, because people don’t take the time to think about such things.

It’s a personal decision

Like Francis Cardinal Arinze says in his special way: “What if I said, ‘I’m pro-choice on killing politicians. I personally think killing politicians is a bad thing, and I’d never do it myself, but whom I to say it’s wrong for someone else to do?'”


Funny how oppression works

Everyone who supported slavery was free; Everyone who supports abortion has been born.

So, the Obama Administration finally “Bares All”

The Department of Health and “Human Services,” presided over by “Catholic” Kathleen Sebelius, recently completed the most extensive long-term study ever done of abstinence teaching (particularly by parents) and teen fornication. At first, the Obama Administration tried to resist publicizing the results (obviously having something to hide; that is Obama’s m.o., right?), but several appeals got the results released, and LifeSite News has a summary as well as the whole text.

As we all know, the “conventional wisdom,” pushed by the liberal establishment in the media and the educational system, is that “abstinence education” “doesn’t work,” that parents and schools alike need to teach teenagers about artificial contraception “because they’re going to have sex anyway.” I even heard these arguments in Catholic school–I heard these arguments in Catholic school from classmates whose parents were NFP instructors! (This led to my traditionalist bias against NFP). Of course, in the past couple years, Bristol Palin has been the poster girl for “abstinence doesn’t work.”

In a debate on this subject, an Internet friend of mine was responded to a comment of that sort by suggesting that the liberal in question count the number of people who are traditional minded Catholics, orthodox Jews or Evangelical Protestants whose teenagers getting pregnant compared to the number of secularist families whose teenagers are having sex and getting pregnant.

Indeed, the HHS study has shown, in summary, that abstinence education *does* work. Families with religious values or conservative attitudes are less likely to have teens who engage in sex. Teens who come from minority or less educated families are more likely to opposed sex before marriage. With the exception of African Americans, teens whose parents oppose fornication are less likely to engage in it.

You can read the full text here.

In related news, here’s a nice little blog post on the link between oxytocin and the psychology of sex and promiscuity. The importance of oxytocin (and dopamine and endorphines, which are its predecessors) to human psychological development, relationships (sexual and otherwise), addictions and morality has been a big area of interest to me for the past year and a half or so. There’s really a lot of scientific evidence that validates traditional morality, yet of course the secularists ignore the moral implications of the research, and you don’t often hear Christians talking about it, so it was nice to see this piece.

“He hit me first!”: Nations are basically Four Year Olds

It’s gotten tougher as the family has diversified, but one of my rules is the “King Solomon Rule.” When two kids are fighting, I don’t care who started it. I care who’s willing to end it first. If they’re fighting over something, and they can’t make a compromise, I take the item away.

We’ve all heard it as parents, and we did it as kids: “He hit me first!” “Because he made a face at me!” “Because he was teasing me!” “Because he took my toy!” “Because he wouldn’t let me play with it!”

Nations, whatever their pretensions, are basically a bunch of preschoolers.

Call it my liberal public school education, but one thing I have never understood, since I was in kindergarten, was why we ever refer to “good” and “evil” in international relations. As a kid, I naively thought, “Isn’t everyone basically good?” Of course, as I got older, it changed to “Isn’t everyone basically evil?”

After all, I was taught in school that, while Communism was itself evil, the people in Communist countries didn’t really want to be Communist: deep down, everyone wanted to be democracies just like the United States. I figured that, if the “Russians” didn’t really want to be Communists, and they didn’t like their dictators anymore than we did, then why did we call the Russians “evil”?

The Holocaust was an act of unspeakable evil. Invading someone else’s country is also an act of unspeakable evil. Josef Stalin killed millions more Jews and other dissidents than Hitler did, and this is an act of unspeakable evil. The United States killed and sterilized thousands of disabled people in the 20s-40s, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil. The United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasake, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil. The United States and Europe and so many other countries are aborting millions of children a year, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil.

I finally read the trade paperback of the first issues of the new IDW GI Joe continuity. In a passage I’d already read in an online preview when IDW’s series started a while back, the Joes take down a weapons shipment by a small terrorist group from Macedonia.

“They have a grievance that goes back to before Alexander was born,” says Duke.

“They blew up our buildings!” “They shot at us!” “We have the right to wipe out everyone else because everyone has been mean to us!”

Recently, famous White House correspondent Helen Thomas has gotten into hot water over comments she’s made about Palestine (one of the basic rules of Journalism is never to become the story). Indeed, she’s now been fired by Hearst after a half a century as a White House correspondent.

Thomas is Lebanese, of Melkite Orthodox belief, and has a history of favoring the Palestinians, though usually in a more subtle manner.

Well, she went a bit too far recently, apparently. When asked at a Jewish Heritage Month function what she thought was the solution to the crisis in the Middle East, Thomas said that Palestine is occupied territory, the Palestinians are under occupation, and the occupiers, the Israelis, need to go back to their home countries. Sadly, she used some profanity I won’t repeat here, and, though she listed “America” among the countries, the way she said it was “Germany, Poland, America, or wherever else they came from.”

This has been taken by many to indicate that she wants another Holocaust. Yet it seems like Germany these days is pretty darn safe. After all, with all the laws designed to prevent “anti-Semitism,” including laws against “holocaust denial” (and some of what I’ve said here can be construed as “Holocaust denial” by those for whom the Holocaust is THE WORST EVENT EVER IN HISTORY [TM]). If I could go to a country where it was 100% illegal to say anything against my religion, my ethnic background, or even to question my views on historical facts, versus living where I run a constant risk of being killed by terrorists, and I could afford to emigrate, I’d go there in a heartbeat. Indeed, if anyone can set me up with a good job teaching English in Malta, let me know.

Anyway, another of Thomas’s controversial statements is questioning why the International Community is giving Israel a pass for attacking a flotilla of humanitarian aid being sent to the Palestinians. If any other country did this, she noted, it would be immediately condemned worldwide.

I’m not a fan of Israel. I’m not a fan of Palestine. I am a supporter of my Christian brothers and sisters, and I know that Christians in Palestine–except the ones who collaborate with Muslim terrorism–get it from both sides. I also know, from what happened in the 1990s, that “peace” in the “Holy Land” means death to Christians, since the Jews and Muslims only stop fighting each other to turn their attention on their common foe.

I also don’t understand the fascination with the Holy Land. It’s a piece of dirt. I understand why Jews and Muslims are so obsessed with it, but why Christians? Shouldn’t Christians be actively working to *convert* the Jews and Muslims?

Otherwise, who cares who runs it? St. Francis of Assisi was a great devotee of the Holy Land, and yet he also realized what a mess it was in his day. So he started a great many devotions–Christmas Creches, Stations of the Cross, and the Portiuncula Indulgences, to name a few–that said you can get the same graces you’d get from going to the Holy Land just by practicing those devotions and bringing the Holy Land to you.

If the people of Israel want the land God promised them, then let them keep up their part of the covenant: offer animal sacrifices, don’t associate with Gentiles, and keep the Sabbath–not just the Sabbath day, but the Sabbath year and the Jubilee. It was failure to forgive debts and stop working for a year every 7 years, and 2 years every 50, that lost them the Holy Land to begin with. Is it anti-Semitic to suggest that they should actually practice their own religion?

In any case, “Israel” isn’t “the Jews” any more than “USSR” was “the Russians” or “PLO” is “the Palestinians.”

People are people; governments are governments, and there is no such thing as a good government. There is no such thing as a good earthly power. All earthly powers are corrupt. All are subsidiaries of the Prince of this World.

I don’t understand why criticizing the faults of a country mean one “hates” that country. Indeed, as G. K. Chesterton observes in Orthodoxy, a friend merely likes a man the way he is; a wife loves him and wants him to be *better*.

In any case, to take sides in any international conflict is really like taking sides with a conflict between toddlers. Very rarely is either party completely innocent. International relations should be handled just like parenting: “Stop fighting, or you’re both in trouble. Work it out. Make peace.”

People want to come up with all sorts of platitudes about why they favor Israel over Palestine, but what it boils down to is that there should be no favoritism. The only way to have peace is for both sides to quit being selfish, and for the world to treat both sides with an even hand, just as that is the only way to make peace among little kids.

Explain this to me: Roman Polanksi and the Catholic Church

Have Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Monica Bellucci, Tilda “the White Witch” Swinton, David Lynch, Harvey Weinstein, Whoopi Goldberg, Debra Winger, or any of the other 200 movie industry people listed on this site ever condemned the Catholic Church?

I know Goldberg has.

Yet these very people are supporting child molester Roman Polanksi, who, after evading authorities for 30+ years, is complaining that his case is too old to be prosecuted, and it’s not right to accuse him of a crime because he and his victim “were in love.”

Gee.  Didn’t Rembert Weakland say something similar?

Why don’t people see the hypocrisy of these people?????

I heard the comment the other day, regarding the Church, “Why, after all the lies, does anyone believe these people?”
Yes, after all the lies of the New York Times, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc., why does anyone still believe them??

These people are blatant hypocrites!  They condemn the Catholic Church for a small fraction of priests who do what they themselves advocate, only because the Church condemns it!

I was on some site recently where some idiot commented, “I wonder what the age of consent is in the Catholic Church.”
Someone else said, “I bet they set it really young, ha, ha”
I replied, “There is no ‘age of consent’ in the Catholic Church, since we don’t believe in fornication.  The earliest one can marry in the Church is 16.”

Which of course raises the point that many of the victims of these “child molesters” were 16 or 17.

Yet Roman Polanksi is this martyr of liberalism.  I really don’t understand.

What do atheists, child molestors, abortion supporters and wall street investors have in common?

If they don’t repent, they’re all going to end up in the same place.

And that’s true on either end of Pascal’s Wager.

After all, if the atheists are right, the final destiny of all these people is to be food for bugs, so why does anything in this life matter? Why do they pretend that it matters? Why do atheists conveniently claim moral indignance over one select matter while proclaiming freedom of lifestyle choice in regard to others?

A Parable about Christianity

There once were two sons whose father worked very hard to build a fortune. He worked physically hard his whole life, scrimped and saved, etc., to give his kids a good life. When they were growing up, they had to work hard, too, doing chores around the house and helping their father with his family business.

While the father was very strict with his rules, and extremely modest in his own means, he was always generous with his children if they followed the rules.

Eventually, the time came the father’s metaphorical “ship came in.” The family had more money than they needed, as well as a thriving corporation. They no longer needed to work hard to be successful. As long as they kept the company in business, they could sit back and enjoy their wealth.

The younger son, Luther, said, “My father did all this hard work to save me from having to work as hard as he did. As long as I lay my claim to the estate, I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor. I’d be dishonoring his hard work if I worked hard myself.”

The older brother, Peter, saw the situation the opposite way: “My father worked hard and gave me this money. I have more money than I could ever need, and I don’t need to lift a finger again. But if I really honor my father, I need to honor his example and make good use of the gifts he’s given me. I need to work hard to maintain the gifts he’s given me and share them with others. I will continue to work to honor my father’s sacrifice.”

Rape and Abortion.

I’ve been engaging in a rather long and heated, yet interesting, discussion on InsideCatholic with an alleged Catholic who supports abortion in the case of rape, but who echoes the kinds of comments made by “Operation CounterStrike.”

To sum up, the person in question has stated the following positions:
1. That we should not “force” women to have pregnancies they don’t want
2. That a baby conceived from rape is the “progeny of a rapist,” and therefore deserves to die
3. That enduring a pregnancy resulting from rape is like reliving the rape.
4. That abortion in the case of rape is self-defense.

I have made repeated attempts to get this person to explain why she thinks this, but she refuses to give the points remises that underlie these opinions or the syllogisms that connect them.

I, and several others, have asked her what guilt the “progeny of a rapist” bears that requires the death penalty, why she thinks abortion in this case qualifies as “self-defense,” and why she thinks pregnancy is so traumatic, but she refuses to explain. Instead, using typical pro-abortionist rhetoric, she accuses us of being idiots, lunatics, fanatics and liars (I’ve been accused of all four). She accuses us of lying about who we are.

She talks disparaingingly of “minor traditions” like relics and indulgences. When I pointed out that those are not optional–you can’t have a valid church without relics, and if you say, “I don’t participate indulgences,” that means you never pray, read the Bible, go on pilgrimage, etc.

Anyway, the conversation is well worn out, but it once again shows how pro-abortionists really can provide no philosophical foundations for their positions, other than vague emotional appeals. The baby deserves to die, in their view, because the poor, wimpy women can’t separate the baby from the cause of the baby.

It dawned on me last night to point out one of my usual arguments on this issue: the rape is one thing. For a conception to result, God has to step in, so obviously God intends for the baby to exist. If you believe life begins at conception (as this person claims to believe), then God created that soul at the moment of conception (and of course, the conception could occur as much as five days after the rape).

I really *would* like to know why these people think this way. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re wrong, but it would make it a lot easier to refute them. I tried to suggest some of the reasons I’d heard before, but she accused me of misquoting her.

In any case, the “forcing” thing is a stupid argument. There’s a big difference between “forcing” someone to do something and taking away the option.

It is quite interesting, in fact, that pro-lifers oppose the UN’s International Criminal Court for its provisions on “forced pregnancy”. We’re assured that this does not refer to outlawing abortion, but rather to situations like women taken captive in war and forced into sex slavery.

Yet the pro-aborrtionists have adopted the rhetoric of “forced pregnancy” in the context of making abortion illegal.

“You wouldn’t force a woman to have a baby that would traumatize her?” they ask.

So I proposed, “What if the woman was abused and had a baby that looked like her abusive husband or parent or relative; wouldn’t that traumatize her?”
I was assured that this was an irrelevant analogy. I’m still not sure why.

What about, “You wouldn’t *force* a man who’s psychologiclaly compelled to rape to resist his urges, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s psychologically compelled to murder to endure the trauma of not murdering, would you?”
“You wouldn’t *force* a person who’s desperately in need to *not* rob a bank, would you??”

It’s the most meaningless argument a person can make, and somehow they have no idea how meaningless it is. It’s baffling to me. And women say men are sexist when we accuse them of being emotional rather than logical.

Of course, another fall back in the discussion is always, “Well, abortion is legal, so deal with it.” Duh. That’s why we’re debating about whether to make it illegal.

Then there’s the Rousseauian classic, “Well, the Catholic Church is responsible for a lot of the social posroblems that cause abortion,” and “The Catholic Church facilitates rapists.”

OK, what a good, faithful Catholic you are.

Socio-economic circumstances don’t cause sin; original sin does.

Haiti, Part 3

Been doing some blog-clicking, and found some interesting posts.  It seems that what Robertson is “quoted” as saying is not quite the same thing as what he said, but that doesn’t make what he said entirely right.

First, here are the sites:

Deacon Dana: “Pray for the People of Haiti.”
Curt Harding: “Why Robertson is Wrong”
“One Catholic’s Response to Pat Robertson.”
Fr. Longenecker

In summary, what Robertson (who I think is a complete fraud, and I don’t buy the argument that a Christian’s worth should be measured by how much money he allegedly gives to cahrity) said is that he believes Haiti’s long history of witchcraft is responsible for the country’s long history of economic turmoil.

At issue are three points:

1.  Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, Hispaniola.  The Dominican Republic was originally a Spanish colony, while Haiti was French.  Both countries are very impoverished, though Robertson described the Dominican Republic as “prosperous”.  Now, as Haiti is the poorest nation on earth, any country is “prosperous” by comparison.  Robertson overtly makes that comparison.

My wife went to Haiti.  Her interest in Haiti got me interested in Haiti, and I wrote an article on Haiti a few years ago, and I’ve researched it.  And a major issue in Haiti today is deforestation.  There are practical reasons why Haiti is so particularly blighted as a nation.

a.  Like every third world country, Haiti’s progress is impeded by government corruption and rampant crime.  Foreign Aide is embezzled by corrupt officials, and direct charity from missionary groups is stolen by bandits.  Mary’s group came there to install solar panels, and they were told that the panels would only be up for a few weeks before they were stolen.

b.  Haiti, due to its small size, has suffered the effects of deforestation more drastically than, say, Brazil, but its situation is a warning to the world about what will happen if we don’t stop abusing God’s gifts to us.

c.  The United States and France have stripped Haiti of its resources.  Haiti is an embodiment of the Kissinger Doctrine: Manifest Destiny is over, so the US needs to turn to imperialism.  Every government in Haiti for the past several decades has been US-backed.  Reagan supported the guy before Aristide.  The American Left supported Aristide.  Aristide got elected during Bush Sr.’s administration.  Aristide got overthrown in a coup, and Bush Sr. refused to intervene.  Clinton came along and put Aristide in power.  Aristide, in his second term, proved to be the worst dictator in Haiti’s history.  Bush Jr. sent in troops in 2004 to put in the guy he wanted. Haiti has been nothing more than a tributary of the US for decades.

Those are the basic reasons for its poverty. 

2.  Is there witchcraft in Haiti?  Absolutely!  Haiti is the center of voodoo.  Some commentors jump in with “What about New Orleans and Katrina?” yet the obvious answer to that is, “Voodoo is rampant there, too.”
However, my brother used to work in Boston, where there is a large Haitian population, and where he had a number of Haitians in his employ, and he was well aware of the voodoo they practiced.  He also found a couple voodoo dolls on his doorstep.

Ignoring the earthquake, as Pat Robertson did not say the Haitians “deserved” the earthquake–this is how the mainstream media protrayed his comments.  Again, that’s just for the sake of truth here.  He didn’t say it, so it’s wrong to condemn him for saying it.  He expressed hope, as I did, that the earthquake would be taken as a warning from God both by the Haitian people *and* by the rest of the world.

Robertson *did* make a very fauly conclusion.

His conclusion is that Haiti’s national poverty is due to its practice of witchcraft and the alleged rejection of God involved in its revolution against France.

Question, Mr. Robertson: is the United States impoverished?  is the United States plagued by a history of poverty?

Because last time I checked, voodoo, wicca, New Age, occultism, “Satanism,” and daily newspaper horoscopes are practiced all over the United States.

Last time I checked, the United States was founded by a bunch of men who were mostly Deists, if nominally Christian, and most of the “Founding Fathers” were Freemasons.  One of the exceptions to both rules was Charles Carroll, whose writings laid the groundwork for the heresy of Americanism and the Kennedy Doctrine (“My faith has nothing to do with my politics”).

I don’t know if the Haitians made a pact with the devil, and I’m not sure whether the United States was founded on a pact with the Devil, but the United States was certainly not founded as a Christian nation. 

And what about France?  “First Daughter of the Church”?  (A very biased and racist term, by the way, as the true “First Daughter of the Church” is Ethiopia, which adopted Christianity as its official religion perhaps as Apostolic times).  France had its bloody revolution that enthroned Goddess Liberty, involved the destruction of Catholic Churches, relics, artworks, and sacramentals, as well as the martyrdom of thousands of devout Catholics.  France’s revolution led to official secularization, the invention of public education as we know it, etc. 

Lots of Catholics wear Miraculous Medals.  The Miraculous Medals was given to St. Catherine Laboure, a Vincentian nun, in apparitions she received in the Church of Our Lady of Victory, Rue de Bac, Paris, France.  Many Catholics probably wear Miraculous Medals without knowing that the apparition that introduced the medal condemned the American and French Revolutions, especially the latter, as paving the way for an era of decadence.

So, Rev. Robertson, if a history of Satanism and/or rejection of God results in a history poverty, then why  is the United States the most prosperous nation on earth?  Where is the rampant poverty in France?  Where is the rampant poverty in the United Kingdom? 

“Oh, there are many Christians in those countries,” he might respond, telling us how many prayerful and charitable people live in the US, France and UK.

OK, well, there are also many devout prayerful Christians in Haiti, as well. 

Try again.