Saturday, December 13, 2003

Points to Ponder:

I think anyone who doesn't believe that the creation of a human community requires, not one miracle but thousands and thousands of them on a daily basis, knows very little about humans and human communities. I dare say he tends to think that the manicured campus is the ordinary environment of human events; that the polite maneuvering one sees on faculty committees is the human soul's default response to frustration; and that the whole elegant construct of civilization is just the spontaneous manifestation of "right reason" and human nature. He will go on thinking like that until his daughter-in-law shoots herself in the head, driven by guilt because she and he have been making the beast with two backs for nineteen years.

Any man can put trousers on an ape, but only God can create the difference between an ape and a man. Unless we subordinate our lives to adoring that miraculous event it won't matter whether we're living the trendy-left romanticism of Relais or the trendy-right decency of Hillsdale -- our ignorance of the divine mystery will leave us with nothing better to do than sit around and pick nits off each other until our "community" goes up in an explosion of disordered passion. [SecretAgentMan (c. 12/11/03)]


Friday, December 12, 2003

"Tales From the Mailbag" Dept.
(Aka "More on Moloch Hillary")



In regards to your latest Rerum Novarum post, I wanna say two things. Number one, as the subject line suggests, Gephardt's ship was sunk before it even left the docks.

Are you referring to the Geptanic metaphor???

Besides his last two failed presidential bids, the House has been placed firmly in the Republican hands under his tutelege, which is why he had to hand the baton over to Nancy "I've never met a facelift I didn't like" Pelosi. For him to think that he could mount a serious run at the Democrat nomination. Pretty ballsy of him I must admit.

He will still be a factor if for no other reason than trying to hold their failed alliance together. There is also the possibility that he will be aiming for a cabinet post in the administration of the Demo nominee if that person should win.

Number two, you are way off base when you suggest even the possibility of Hillary being a VP candidate.

I disagree.

Ol' Shrillary ain't gonna play second fiddle to nobody, much less to any of the nine who are running now. The only time Hillary's name is going to appear on a Democratic presidential ticket is when it is in the #1 spot. You can count on that!

Well it was said in 1990 that there is no way that undefeated wrecking machine Iron Mike Tyson was going to lose to a certain 42 to 1 underdog by the name of James "Buster" Douglas.

The idea that America could possibly stalemate or lose (depending on your view) in Vietnam when we had the military might to crush them in less than a year would probably have received 70 to 1 odds in -say 1957 when the first "advisors" were sent over to assess the situation. (And at least 50 to 1 odds in the period from 1964-1968.) But we all know what happened there. Whether we "lost" or merely fought to a stalemate, we certainly did not "win" by any stretch.

It was also said that there is no way a bunch of ragtag farmers from the colonies could possibly defeat the mighty forces of the empire where the sun never set. (Referring to Britain.) If there were Vegas oddsmakers back then, they probably would have given 100 to 1 odds against what actually happened. (If not 1000 to 1 odds.)

So the idea that there is no possibility of Hillary being someone's VP is probably a very strong bet. I would say roughly 25 to 1 odds in your favour at this time. But if the right candidate offered the right package, do not think she would refuse it -particularly since it is a win-win situation for her as I noted before.

Well, that just about covers it for now. God talkin' at ya.

Likewise :)

[Note: In response to my above comments, the following email was sent by the same individual. My response to it is noted below. -ISM]



If Hillary does indeed decide to so humble herself and accept the number two spot on the '04 Democratic ticket, it would be a miracle that ranks up there with the '69 Mets.

Well, it is a longshot certainly but remember, she has nothing to lose in doing so as I noted back in August or so when discussing her political options. And if she is not involved in the 2004 campaign to some extent -either as VP or an announced cabinet position of a hypothetical administration by one of the Demo candidates- she then has to use the 2006 Senate campaign to launch her bid for 2008. And in that situation, if she loses, she will be like Nixon in '62 losing the California governor's race to Jerry Brown's father.

Remember that Nixon after losing by a gnat's eyelash as a result of voter fraud in 1960 was forced to remain viable by seeking elective office in 1962 after losing his VP position in 1961 when Kennedy was sworn in. He did this by running for governor of his homestate in 1962 where he lost to Emmit G. Brown after which he delivered the famous "you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore" line. This loss to Brown killed Nixon's chances at running again for president in 1964 much as Hillary losing her Senate bid in 2006 would kill her chances to run for president in 2008. My guess is that Hillary will do what Nixon did in some respects.

Nixon campaigned heavily for Goldwater in 1964 -whom he did not agree with in many respects- in order to resurrect his political stock. Then, when Lyndon Johnson was a weakened candidate, the Republicans in considering various people remembered Nixon's loyalty in 1964. This gave him the front runner status for the 1968 primaries and subsequent election -which he won. Now let us apply this example from political history to Moloch Hillary and consider the similarities involved.

Hillary if she lost in 2006 for reelection would not have a gnat's eyelash of a chance in 2008 anymore than Nixon had in 1964. Thus, much like Nixon had to wait until 1968 to be viable again, she would have to wait until at least 2012 to run for president and do so viably. Of course if you think she wants to wait that long to have influence, well then I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.{1}

For that reason -the fact that she does not want to have to wait- she either has to pin all her hopes on winning her reelection in 2006 for Senate or she can somehow be involved in the 2004 campaign of one of the Democratic nominees. My money is on the latter but unlike Gore,{2} Hillary will wait until it is pretty clear whom the nominee will be before she commits.{3} That way, no matter what happens, she does not lose in 2004 and even could help set herself up for a better shot at reelection in 2006. And if she wins in 2006, I will give you 20 to 1 odds that she runs in 2008.


{1} Or in some of the words of country music legend George Strait:

If you leave me
I won't miss you
And I won't ever take you back
Girl your memory
Won't ever haunt me
Cause I don't love you
Now if you'll buy that

I've got some ocean front property in Arizona
From my front porch you can see the sea
I've got some ocean front property in Arizona
If you'll buy that I'll throw the Golden Gate in free...

{2} Remember, he is supporting Dean now but Dean has not won a single primary yet.

{3} I would figure on her to be the VP if Wesley Clark wins. I would have originally said if Clark or Dean wins but Gore's endorsement of Dean means that Dean will have to go more conservative to avoid being McGovernized in 2004. The best candidate for avoiding that would be Senator Lieberman if Lieberman cannot win the nomination on his own.

I have a hunch that Lieberman and Kerry would choose one another as VP for some reason; therefore, Hillary would want at least a cabinet post or a significant role in a Democrat 2004 Administration. (Perhaps playing the role for the hypothetical Demo president that Condi Rice plays for President Bush.) If John Kerry wins, figure on her being probably Secretary of State. If Lieberman wins, she would be an advisor or (possibly) the VP though I think Lieberman would pick Kerry if Kerry did reasonably well in the primaries.

While Kerry would do something similar in the case of Lieberman but also as I noted out of a sense of balancing the ticket. (Let us face it: the Democrats running are for the most part a hyper-liberal marginalizing bunch. There is no other candidate that can be a balancer better than Senator Lieberman can. And I have a hunch that Dean would not get Lieberman's services in that role if he wins simply because Gore already supported Dean over the guy who balanced his ticket in 2000.)

Furthermore, whatever Hillary does here, we both agree that it will be for furthering her own ambitions. And if she feels that Bush will win in 2004 no matter what, she might elect to be someone's VP if only to enable herself the excuse to go all over the country and campaign for herself but subtly disguised as a campaign for the candidiate she runs with. She loses nothing in being on the losing ticket in 2004 because (i) she can always blame the loss on the presidential candidate's strategy or some other preceived foible and (ii) she would merely return to the Senate having sowed the seeds for a strong re-election probability in 2006 as well as getting her name out for 2008. It also gives her the opportunity to promote her recent book as well.

That is the long and short of it viz why she might actually do what you think would be a "miracle" if you will. Remember my friend, this woman is no dummy by any means: if anything your humble blog host would be a lot more comfortable if she was an idiot. But it is because she is not that I felt the need to weigh in on this subject recently and build on the thread with what I see as potential strategies she may take.

I have a vested interest in her crashing and burning like the Hindenburg. Hence these blog threads on her and possibly more if she does begin to take the steps towards 2008 that I sense she may take.

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Thursday, December 11, 2003

Clarification on Arthur Jones:

I literally just realized that there is an Arthur Jones affiliated with the National Catholic Reporter (NCR). For this reason, I want to make it clear that I am not quoting him at all. Perhaps I will discuss the influence of Arthur Jones on my intellectual formation later on -though indirect for the most part his role was nonetheless crucial. But again I reiterate: this is not the same Arthur Jones as the fellow at NCR.


Points to Ponder:

It's no accident that parishes with vital liturgies also tend to have soup kitchens, shelters and so on. [John Page from National Catholic Reporter]


Guest Editorial on the Death Penalty:
(By Greg Mockeridge)


I Object, Your Honor! Your Verdict on Evangelium Vitae and Church Teaching on the Death Penalty is Wrong

In the March 19, 2002 issue of The National Catholic Register, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia responded to letter to the editor that appeared in the February 17-23 2002 issue that took him to task regarding his dissent from the teaching on the death penalty contained in Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae. I found his response shocking in that it demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of not only the teaching of Evangelium Vitae on capital punishment and traditional Church teaching on capital punishment as a whole, but also (and I think most importantly) the degree of assent that the faithful owe to magisterial teaching.

Below is a point by point analysis of some of his comments.

I wish to say from the outset that I do not enjoy making such criticism of someone who I think is the most eminent Justice on our nation's most august court. He, Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist have done much to fight the judicial activism that has infected the court. But when someone who is not only regarded as a great Justice, but also as a great Catholic, publicly errs on such fundamental points of Catholic theology, it cannot go by without comment.

"I am being a jurist when I ask whether the performance of my job (I participate in imposition of the death penalty) is forbidden by authentic Catholic doctrine."

Here, Justice Scalia is absolutely correct. One does not check his Catholic faith at the door of his workplace, especially when that workplace is the most powerful legal institution in the world whose decisions have real impact on real lives.

"Or do you think that authentic moral imperatives announced by the Church have no real-life consequences?"

Here again he is correct. As I myself am wont to say, if one does not see the truth of the Catholic faith in real life circumstances, he doesn't see it all.

"Perhaps so, because I cannot imagine any other explanation for your acknowledging that disagreement with Evangelium Vitae is permissible, while simultaneously criticizing me for voicing such dissent...."

Before we can determine to what extent, if at all, we can dissent from this encyclical, we have to understand what it really says. As we will soon see, Justice Scalia doesn't.

" response to a student at Georgetown who asked (quite reasonably) "How, as a Catholic judge, can you participate in the process of imposing the death penalty, which the Church says is immoral?"

The question may have been asked in a reasonable tone and the questioner may have been sincere, but its premise is erroneous.

"You say that my response - to the effect that I do not believe immorality of the death penalty to be authentic Catholic doctrine - was "an example of a powerful man persuading a crowd of people that the Church is wrong."

He is right again when he says that the immorality of the death penalty (at least in the abstract) is not authentic Catholic doctrine. Thus far, he is in agreement with Evangelium Vitae.

"What was I supposed to say? "I am a judge, not a theologian"?

Given the lack of understanding Justice Scalia demonstrates in this letter of basic moral theological principles, particularly in regards to this issue, such a response would have saved him a lot of face.

"(In any case, I was of course not asserting that the Church was wrong, but that the Church in fact teaches the opposite of what recent, non-ex cathedra, pronouncements have said.)"

This parenthetical remark fails "Theology 101" on two grounds. The first of which is that there is a conflict between the teaching in Evangelium Vitae and perennial Church teaching. Evangelium Vitae in no way teaches that the State does not have the right to impose Capital Punishment on those guilty of the most serious crimes commensurate with its grave duty to protect the common good. I will explain this necessary condition more fully when I expose Justice Scalia's misunderstanding of St. Paul.

He then blunders badly when he falls for the "if it is not defined ex-cathedra it is not binding" error. He would do well to read the following from Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:

In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. (Lumen Gentium 25 Emphasis Added)

Also Pope Pius XII taught:

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me" (Luke 10:16); and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. (Encyclical Letter Humani Generis #20 August 12, 1950)

"Perhaps you do not appreciate the moral dilemma that the new teaching has forced upon Catholic judges, prosecutors and jurors because you do not understand the new teaching."

This is no "new teaching." It is a fuller explanation of what the Church has always taught and is applied to modern circumstances. If this "new teaching" is a departure from what the Church previously taught infallibly, and by logical extension wrong, as the good Justice asserts, then it should pose no moral dilemma for Catholic judges, jurors, prosecutors, or elected officials for that matter. It is Justice Scalia who doesn't understand this teaching and is perhaps projecting his difficulty here as a moral dilemma for others. If anything, this "new teaching," as he is wont to call it, should actually relieve them of such dilemma (if there is one to begin with) because it sets out more clearly what the Church actually teaches on this matter, thus giving them a better understanding of the moral obligations that weigh on their decisions. Should they not have this clearer understanding as they assume their grave duty as not only as Catholics, but also as citizens?

If the moral imperatives announced by the Church have the real life consequences that Justice Scalia correctly asserts, would not one of those consequences be that their decisions, especially one as weighty as to whether or not to put someone to death, have a significant effect on society? And should not this effect factor into such a decision?

As I am sure the Justice is well aware, the questioning of the morality of capital punishment originated as much in the secular world as the Church. The rather recent development of Church teaching on the matter is, to a great extent, a response to those questions:

On this matter [the death penalty] there is a growing tendency, in both the Church and civil society, to demand that it applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed of the context of a system of penal justice more in line with human dignity and thus, with God's plan for man and society. (Evangelium Vitae #56)

"The encyclical says that the death penalty is only justified - only moral - "in cases of absolute necessity: In other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent." In other words, the death penalty is rarely, if ever, morally permissible."

Here, Scalia is mixing apples and oranges. He apparently cannot distinguish between a doctrinal teaching and an opinion that is not germane to faith and morals per se.

Before we see exactly how this is so, let's look at the pertinent passage from Evangelium Vitae addressing the subject at hand:

The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offense." Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behavior and be rehabilitated. It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. (Evangelium Vitae #56)

Here is the extent of the teaching of Evangelium Vitae viz. that the state's right to inflict capital punishment is dictated by the purpose of punishment, which is delineated by what is necessary "to redress the disorder [which would include alleviating any further threat] caused by the offense." Theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles takes the position that the necessary defense of society includes vindication of the moral order. This would stand to reason, since the wound to the moral fabric of society inflicted by the offense adversely affects its safety proportionately. I agree with his Eminence here and it seems so does Evangelium Vitae:

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means..." (ibid emphasis added)

While the public order and the moral order may not be identical, they are interdependent.

Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent. (ibid)

This statement is the Pope's opinion as to the state's ability to protect society without resorting to lethal means, and therefore not part of the teaching itself. Justice Scalia again errs badly by trying to include this statement as part of the teaching of Evangelium Vitae. First of all, it is clear, based upon the way this statement reads, that it is an expression of an opinion, having no necessary connection with the doctrine itself. As a jurist, Justice Scalia should know that the Church has no competence to authoritatively decide whether or not, or to what extent, the state is able to protect society by non-lethal measures. That is left to the competence of those responsible for the administration of criminal justice for any given state or nation. The Pope's authority is restricted to setting the moral parameters within which the state must make its determination.

"This represents a fundamental change from the (infallible) universal teaching of the past 2,000 years, because it proceeds from the premise that the only justifiable purpose of the death penalty is to "defend society" in the manner that prisons defend it - that is, to disable the offender and deter future offenders. "

Here Justice Scalia argues against his own criteria stated above (i.e. ex-cathedra pronouncement) about as to what constitutes binding teaching. You will find no ex-cathedra pronouncements on the death penalty, or any other moral teaching for that matter. These teachings are binding by virtue of the universal ordinary magisterium. Evangelium Vitae is an encyclical. And encyclicals do require assent, as Pope Pius XII points out in the statement I quote above, because they have the character of ordinary teaching authority based on the words of Jesus Himself, "He that hears you, hears me. He who rejects you rejects me and the one who sent me." (Lk. 10:16) Justice Scalia has the same obligation to submit his private judgment as to the correct understanding of Tradition to ecclesiastical authority, especially that of the pope, as any other Catholic. This is a fact that he had better take seriously.

Now in submitting our own judgment to the Church, we do not renounce our right (I would go so far as to say duty) to understand for ourselves, to the best of our ability, how the Church's interpretation is indeed the correct one. Such submission safeguards the private judgment of even the most intelligent among us from being taken in by ideas that are fundamentally unsound--like those adopted by Justice Scalia.

From this we must conclude that since the ordinary teaching authority demands such adherence, it is self-consistent, despite seeming appearances to the contrary. This would put lie to the claim of a fundamental change "from the (infallible) universal teaching of the past two thousand years" posited by Scalia.

I'm curious as to how Scalia would argue how John Paul II's teaching is a departure from the following from the Roman Catechism, published by the Holy See shortly after the end of the Council of Trent in 1566:

Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord. (Roman Catechism Fifth Commandment Execution of Criminals emphasis added)

Notice that the Tridentine Catechism lists two reasons for the just use of the death penalty, to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Also, in recognizing that the just use of capital punishment is not only not a violation of, but "an act of paramount obedience" to the Fifth Commandment, it states that "preservation and security of life" is the end of the Commandment. John Paul II just takes the next logical step, as popes are wont to do.

Seeing as how Justice Scalia is confused about some of the more elementary points of Catholic doctrine and the degree of assent owed, it is not surprising that he is unable to see how that doctrine develops. While what is taught in a later age may not look identical to what was previously taught, it is organic to it, as the comparison between the Tridentine Catechism and E.V. clearly demonstrates. Such development of doctrine is propelled by the challenges posed to it by a given age, which can take many forms. In the case of the death penalty, the questioning of its use was prompted by the development of modern penal systems that are better able to achieve the purposes of punishment for such crimes without resort to lethal means. To wit, in ages past, the penal systems were not designed and therefore not able to humanely incarcerate offenders long term.

Perhaps I am reading something into Justice Scalia's remarks (i.e. " in the manner that prisons defend it) that is not there, but I think he takes issue with the pope's trust in the ability of modern penal systems to protect society by bloodless means. Such a disagreement, as I pointed out above, is a legitimate position from the perspective of Catholic moral teaching, since the Church has no authoritative competence in deciding this particular issue. As a jurist who holds a seat on the highest court in the most powerful country in the world, this is an area that Justice Scalia can definitely speak competently on. I think that he has a right and a duty to make his views on the effectiveness of penal systems known to Church authorities and Church authorities, likewise, have a duty to listen. But it is unbecoming of a faithful son of the Church to publicly call into question the pope's interpretation, expounded in an encyclical letter, of the traditional Church teaching regarding the moral use of Capital Punishment, whereas an act of obedience here would save much confusion and embarrassment.

"Prior teaching, from St. Paul forward, was that retribution is a valid objective."

Justice Scalia seems to be confused as to everything retribution entails. He seems to be laboring under the idea that it is a "tit-for-tat" "eye-for-an-eye" system of justice. Retribution includes what is needed to heal the wound caused by an offense.

"Whereas, St. Paul says, individual Christians must "give way to wrath," the government "carries the sword" as "the minister of God to execute vengeance upon him that doeth evil."

This playing Scripture off against papal teaching, as Justice Scalia is doing here, reflects not a Catholic way of thinking, but that of a Protestant. It is true that governments "carry the sword," as Justice Scalia, citing St. Paul, points out. It is, of course, within the competence of the state to decide within the moral parameters defined by the Church, whether or not to execute an offender guilty of a serious crime. It is only once those conditions have been satisfied that Christians "must give way to wrath."

The state not only has the right, but the duty, to execute God's vengeance on evil-doers. But the operative word here is "God's," not man's, vengeance. God exercises His wrath for the good of His people, not for the purposes of self-satisfaction. Without understanding this, the God of the Old Testament looks like a bloodthirsty, murderous, and genocidal deity, as opposed to being a God who is "slow to anger abounding in kindness"(Ps.103:8). In other words the state, in deciding whether or not to execute, must do so with a view to good of society, not to satisfy a desire for a payback.

To be sure, a similar flaw in logic exists on the other end with those who call for an end to capital punishment on the basis of a distorted sense of mercy. Such wrongful, albeit understandable, desires for revenge are what motivate many of those who support the death penalty. This is not, however, the criteria by which we can judge whether or not someone should be put to death.

In the days leading up to the execution of Timothy McVeigh, we saw such an emotionalism that smacked of barbarism when his execution was anticipated with glee by those who are otherwise very clear thinking people. This plays right into the hands of those who promote the error that governments need to govern according to popular pushes without regard to moral limits.

But the next time Justice Antonin Scalia wants to publicly take issue with the pope over an interpretation of a traditional Church teaching expounded in an encyclical (which as a Catholic layman, he has no business doing in the first place), he ought to at least better familiarize himself with both the encyclical and previous teaching. His dissenting opinion of Evangelium Vitae on capital punishment shows not only a lack of obedience to divinely established authority, but also an embarrassing lack of understanding of Catholic teaching.


All that will be noted here as a postscript is that your humble servant at Rerum Novarum has weighed in on this subject a couple of times -most notably in a discussion with Professor Kevin Miller. Those threads can be read here and here if the reader is so inclined to review them.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"One From the Vault" Dept.
(From the pre-Rerum Novarum days)

The following is a continuation of sorts from the thread located HERE. This one is from August 21, 2002 and was composed for the same discussion list as the aforementioned thread was. It was around this time that your humble servant finally decided to launch the weblog you are reading (after a while of reflecting on the idea) so keep that in mind as you read this (if you want to of course).

I decided to expand a little on a few points that were originally touched on only in brief. The words added in those points at this time are in purple font -as I recall considering similar additions to those points but deciding at the last minute not to do so. Other than this consideration, my words will be in regular font. The words of the so-called "traditionalist" will be in dark green with their sources italicized while the words of the third party will be in black font with quotes again italicized.

Okay, fine then, YYYY. So, "Paul VI thought the Novus Ordo was a departure from Tradition and thus sanctioned a heretical Liturgy." Yeah, that makes **perfect** sense.

*If* that's what I was saying (i.e., that the Novus Ordo is heretical), I would not be out of line to suggest that,

Yes you would be.

unless you're going to defend the proposition that Papal Infallibility extends to liturgical documents which are neither formally declared nor solemnly defined.

The Church is infallible in all that pertains either explicitly or implicitly to the central mysteries of the faith - as well as her universal practices connected with faith and morals. This is where the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church flows from and all infallibility - papal or otherwise - derives its efficacy from this core reality.

Any attempt to undermine the secondary truths that uphold the primary truths is an attack on the indefectibility of the Church. And the assertion that the pope could impose on the universal church a defective liturgy is just that: an attack on the indefectibility of the Church and (because of that) is defacto proximate to heresy.

But since that's not what I'm saying, let's clear this up: the Novus Ordo, while not being explicitly heretical, is inadequate.

You are treading on *very* dangerous theological water here YYYY. The Revised Missal contains no errors in dogma either explicitly or implicitly. If you claim otherwise, you are proximate to heresy and need to repent and get your keister to confession pronto. This is a serious spiritual sickness and not to be taken lightly.

A lesser good, if you will.

There is nothing "good" about something which is implicitly heretical.

A problem of the pope's prudential judgment.

In your subjective opinion. (And not a very well informed one at that.)

And I can prove it.

We shall see...

How many of you would defend the Novus Ordo as being equal or superior to the Tridentine Rite in terms of its preciseness, it's clarity, it's lack of ambiguity when it speaks of doctrine?

Depends on the particular doctrine you are referring to. It also depends on if you are referring to the Missal or to its vernacular translations. I am no fan of ICEL. However, all of this talk about "preciseness" and "clarity" is a joke since (i) most of the prayers are recited either inaudibly or quietly and (ii) most of the prayers are recited in a pace that we would consider irreverent if they were intelligible to anyone outside the sanctuary. Let us move from the ivory tower here and into reality -the only context which matters here.

I have been an altar server, a sacristan, and an attendant of the older liturgy. Indeed in one of these capacities I was a regular attendee for nearly fifteen years. I mumbled many a fourteen second jumbled breakneck "Confiteor", five second unintelligible "Misereatur", and of course the seven second warp speed "Sucipiat" (sp) when I served at the older liturgy (or even when I was in the congregation). And this was not some degenerated 1950's twenty-five minute Sunday low mass we are talking about here but instead it was with the Society of St. Pius X who prided themselves on doing "precisely" what they were doing in 1962 or earlier.{1}

There was no "clarity" whatsoever -either to us servers or to those in the congregation who were busy praying rosaries or other devotions and disconnected with what was actually going on at the altar. Only when I or another server rang the first of three bells for the Sanctus did the people basically start paying attention for the most part to what was going on at the altar.

But unfortunately even then it was not uncommon to see people go back to praying other devotions all the way up to the single bell ringing as the setup for the consecration. (Followed of course by the six bells -three bells per- as each species was transubstantiated.) But after that, it was back to not paying attention for many of them. I saw this when I was not serving so I doubt it was any different when I was serving.

Therefore, I kindly request that you can this "precision" and "clarity" schtick. After almost fifteen years of attending Tridentine liturgy I do not buy it for a minute. Whatever problems there are with the revised liturgy (and there are some) one of them is not lack of clarity. As for "precision" again that boils down to translations. However, the intention to pray in accordance with the missal suffices in that regard for those of us who have problems with the translations that have been used.

Many of you have already said that it is inferior, ambiguous, "crappy," and so on.

Yes the vernacular translations of the Latin typical edition are ambiguous in spots. That is one reason why in the Protocol of Agreement that was originally signed by Archbishop Lefebvre (that he welched on) all that had to be professed was the solidity of the Latin typical edition of the Revised Missal, not its vernacular translations.{2}

The new language of the New Mass is very ambiguous, and not the same kind of language that the Church has always used. XXXX, you called this "semantics."

Theological language is often equivocal YYYY. Furthermore, in light of the way things are mumbled at warp seven and inaudibly most of the time in the older liturgy (even today), these statements on your part are laughably anachronistic.

Consider the following:

"In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith *explicitly and openly*, not only by the celebration of the mysteries, and by offering the holy sacrifice and administering the sacraments, but also by saying or singing the credo or Symbol of the faith." (Mediator Dei 47)

Correct. But the liturgy is not a theological treatise. And the liturgy does not stand on its own without catechesis. It never has and it never will. Until people like you realize this, you will continue to tilt at windmills.

There is not a single dogma or doctrine that the Revised Missal in any way denies. And kindly do not mention "transubstantiation" because that is a medieval theological term which was coined five hundred years after the Roman Canon was supposedly last revised. (Prior to the twentieth century adjustments of Pope John XXIII.) So if you want to claim as some do that the newer canons "do not explicitly mention transubstantiation" then you are in a quandry because the old Roman Canon does not either. Indeed one could argue that there is terminology after the consecration which is ambiguous and appears to the inbiased eye to not affirm transubstantiation. To those who recognize that the liturgy is not a theological treatise and that "a text without context is a pretext", this is not a problem. However, for your thesis this *is* problematical and not in a minor matter.

"For the liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need. *There is thus a close connection between dogma and the sacred liturgy*, and between Christian worship and the sanctification of the faithful." (Pope Pius XI, Divini Cultus)

Sure, His Holiness makes my case for me. It is precisely because the liturgy is so intimately joined to dogma that the Pope in promulgating a Missal to the universal church acts in his capacity as Supreme Pontiff. As such he cannot promulgate a dogmatically deficient liturgy. For if he could then the faith of the Church lex orandi lex credendi could be compromised. And the doctrine of Church indefectibility does not allow for this possibility.

The issue of the "better liturgy" in my opinion is purely subjective. For the accidents of the liturgy are not comprising of its essence. They are instead colourful garments over which the brutality of Golgotha are clothed. The Mass is Golgotha made present. Every Mass is Golgotha made present. And if people remembered that when they were attending Divine Liturgy they would realize how petty it is to gripe about the occasional sappy song or some other incident if you will and focus on what the liturgy conveys: the brutal death of Our Lord Jesus Christ so that we need not have to die. Seen in this context, all the pseudo so-called "traditionalist" sniping is a classic example of "straining the gnat and swallowing the camel" (cf. Matt xxiii,24).


{1} Not that they were consistent in this regard of course but that is a subject for another time perhaps.

{2} And which was later incorporated in the charter for Ecclesia Dei and governs the use according to the Indult.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Some Analysis on the Al Gore Endorsement and the Democratic Party Situation:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Let me tell you 'bout a story of a man named Al
The Internet's inventor and Bubba's loyal pal
Who three years after he lost with Leiberman
Has come back to endorse a much bigger kook than him
Dean that is
Pompus ass...and camelion-skinned...

Next thing you know 'ol Al's back in the news
The media comments on how he overlooked the Jew
Although they said so little 'bout his lies viz Chinagate
That he would support a man who would compromise this country's fate
Dean that is
Metrosexual...and conspiracy theorist...

Y'all come back now y'ahear...

Though We at Rerum Novarum tend to not delve into politics too often, it is not because We are wallflowers on the matter by any means. We are not The JunkYard BLOG essentially and do not intend to be. However, just as Bryan Preston occasionally discusses religious matters,{1} We occasionally discuss political ones here. And with 2004 coming up, you can expect Us to get a bit more political though we will not be Blog from the Core in that regard either. Nonetheless, without further ado, let Us discuss this endorsement of Howard Dean -the man who claimed in one breath to be a "metrosexual" who then right afterwards admitted that he did not know what a "metrosexual" was.{2}

This humble weblog writer noted earlier the kinds of balancing that goes on in politics so let us consider for a moment what the Gore endorsement will mean to the Democratic candidate landscape.

Recent Zogby polls reveal that Dean is leading handily in New Hampshire and has been leading there for quite some time.{3} History tells us though that while New Hampshire is important -and that a candidate must have a strong showing in New Hampshire- they need not win New Hampshire to win the nomination. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that whomever is lower than third in NH will not succeed in getting the nomination. And with the lead that Dean has in NH, everyone else is fighting for second and third at the moment.

Those worried about Dean should bear in mind that in 1992 Clinton lost New Hampshire to Paul Tsongas but won the nomination as well as the presidency thanks to Perot. Republicans should remember that Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary in 1996 and several other primaries only to lose to Dole in 1996 by a pretty handily delegate vote count. I note those two races because they were the non-incumbant opposition in the major parties those two years.

Besides, this writer is getting the intuition that Dean is going to peak early and win New Hampshire handily. However, he does not seem to have the kind of qualities that denote staying power. I hope I am wrong actually and I may vote for Howard Dean in the primaries much as I voted in 1988 for George McGovern. (If there is any way the Washington one has any say in the matter by that time -which is doubtful.) I am sure my readers are saying "but I thought you only voted Democrat once in your life."{4} This provides me the opportunity to clarify what some may preceive as an inconsistency in past statements. I at times vote for Democrats in primaries but not in general elections.

My rationale is as follows: if the race is close, I want a Democrat that is likely to appear solid but in a general election will most likely get walloped. Longtime readers know that I have a vested interest in destroying the Democratic party for personal reasons as much as philosophical ones. As far as Dean goes, I hope he does win in NH and gets the nomination.{5} The reason is that he is to the Democrats what I believe Dole was in 1996 for the Republicans: the guy who can probably win the nomination handily but is among the most incapable of winning the presidency.

In 1996 I noted that any Republican candidate except Dole could have beaten Clinton if they could get past Dole in the primaries. And I still believe that was the case even these many years later. In Dean's case, he is not the biggest wacko of the bunch -indeed when you are running in a field that includes Al Sharpton, Carol Mosley-Braun, and Wesley Clark, Dean actually comes out looking a bit more moderate. But if it was to be stripped down to -say Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt, and Dean in a close contest, it is difficult to see Dean coming out ahead there. Which reminds me of another thing.

If the Democrats still have at least one intact functioning brain in the strategy-area, they have to know that Joe Lieberman's stock has just gone up with Gore's endorsement. I say this because all parties need to give at least the illusion of balancing the ticket to draw from those outside the hardcore constituents. Lieberman can still win this nomination and will be keying in on another state other than New Hampshire -which Dean will win and Kerry will place second. Lieberman needs to aim for third in New Hampshire and (since he apparently is not going to campaign in Iowa) aim to win either South Carolina or Michigan (and at least runner up in the other if he does not win). We also have to hope that Wesley Clark commits fully if only to take votes from Dean -because that is where they will come from.

If Clark can become viable, that will help Lieberman first and Kerry second. It will hurt Dean and no one else if Clark starts to appear to become viable. And with Dean and Clark trying to outwacko one another, the Blue Dog Reagan Democrats will line up behind Lieberman. It may be enough for him to pull it off but if not, Lieberman has other options that the others do not have IMHO. But more on that later in this thread.

For you see, Gore is no moderate by any means -nor is Dean- the idea of Hillary Clinton as a possible VP for Dean just went out the window if the Dems want a chance of winning in 2004. They will need a credible moderate -even someone conservative in a couple of areas if you will. (Particularly fiscal conservatism.) Joe Lieberman if he cannot build momentum and become one of the front runners for the Democrats becomes the made-to-order VP candidate for Dean if the latter starts running away with the delegate count. He is also made-to-order for Kerry or Gephardt; however I cannot see Lieberman jumping on the Gephardt team because the Geptanic is going down early in this race.

You heard it here months in advance: it will shake out eventually to be Dean, Kerry, and Lieberman in that order with Gephardt fourth or fifth.{6} Gephardt's best chance in short is to get into the White House as the guy who will ride on Air Force 2.

As far as candidates go, Gephardt has to realize that this is his third run for president and he is not doing any better than he did before. (Indeed he is doing worse.) Obviously he will hang in there for New Hampshire and try to score (i) in the top three in NH and (ii) score a big win in the Iowa primary. If Gephardt cannot place in the top three in NH and at a minimum second in Iowa (though I believe he has to win Iowa), he is finished. Mark my words.

I see the liberals as enamoured of Dean and Kerry -of which only Kerry appears to me to be potential presidential timber. Lieberman is the very viable but darkhorse candidate at this point and Gephardt is the waterboy for the three ahead of him. (And possibly for Clark.) I have a strong hunch that it will break down in one of the following three ways:

Kerry and Lieberman vs. Dean and Gephardt

Kerry and Gephardt vs. Dean and Lieberman

Kerry and Lieberman vs. Dean and Clark

I am not sure that Lieberman can get the nomination at this stage; however if he should surprise we should consider him taking Kerry as a running mate. The two of them on the same ticket in either order would be the best combination the Democrats have for beating President Bush. (Particularly Lieberman as President and Kerry as VP.) But the odds for the latter are long ones.{7}

I must admit that the first scenario seems the most likely; however if Wesley Clark actually starts making a showing, Dean may go for him as VP to give himself "military credentials." Kerry has his own military credentials and needs a moderate Democrat for balance. Hence if he can keep it close, look for him to ask Lieberman. Those who point out that Lieberman supported the war and Kerry did not, do not write with this criticism please. For while it is true that this happened, Lieberman has been a very cool cat and nuanced in his statements. For this reason, he has the best chance in a general election but he has to get out of the primaries first. I am not sure he can do that at the moment.

A year before a presidential election is an eternity in politics. For this reason, I believe that Al Gore must have cut some deal to have influence in a Dean Administration; otherwise his endorsement this early is folly on Al's part.

Hopefully this thread provides some food for musing. Oh and for the record, this Independent actually has contemplated the idea that Bush needs a fight against someone like Lieberman. But that is all I will say on it at this time.


{1} Though not nearly as competently as he does political ones.

{2} Basically this was Dean attempting to pander to the self-styled "gay" lobby. If we were to judge this thing on scorecards, Richard Gephardt publicly "supporting" his homosexual daughter on the campaign has trumped Dean in this well as if not killed his viability to win the nomination than at least put it on life support.

{3} And while I am hesitant to lend credence to any polling data, I have found that Zogby is among the few who tend to be right quite frequently in properly predicting trends of this nature.

{4} Barring of course a couple of times when a Democrat ran unopposed in local races. Usually I would write in someone else in those cases though.

{5} Clark would be ideal but he does not have a chance of winning. Dean though does.

{6} Clark may run fourth over Gephardt but I doubt it. (He is too unstable and not politically savvy enough to not shoot himself in the head politically before that time.)

{7} Think about it for a moment:

---Lieberman is at the very least comparable to Bush in the fiscal department. (You rabid Bush fans need to realize that Bush is not the fiscal conservative of the sort that he ran as in 2000. He is better than all the Democratic alternatives; however the margin over Lieberman -if there is one- is negligible at best.)

---Lieberman also has supported Bush in key areas such as the war and national security.

---Lieberman is the only candidate that is in a win-win situation on the war because of his carefully nuanced stance. For (i) if the war goes well, Lieberman supported it and can point to this as a way of neutralizing Bush to some extent on the war subject. However, (ii) if it does not, Lieberman has been sufficiently critical to allow him to break away and adjust his stance slightly without losing face. No other Democratic candidate can win in both scenarios.

With Kerry:

---He has a respectable war record and looks the most presidential of the whole bunch.

---He has down best the fake JFK vocal pronunciation of key terms that all the candidates (except Lieberman) are trying to ape.

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