Saturday, January 24, 2004

Points to Ponder:

Eating and sleeping are the only activities that should be allowed to interrupt a man's enjoyment of his cigar. [Mark Twain]

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Luke Duke
You are Luke Duke. You are sensible and charming. You rarely get to drive, but you are okay with that. You are hard-working and honest.


What Dukes of Hazzard Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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"None Dare Call it a George W. Bush Conspiracy" Dept.

Why must conspiracy theorists passively accept the conspiracies of the left viz. George W. Bush??? Now they no longer have to thanks to Jennifer Bishop Fulwiler and her George W. Bush Conspiracy Generator. Select the ingredients yourself and let the conspiracy generator manufacture for you your own Bush conspiracy.

WARNING: Not for the use of children under twelve or liberal whackjob Democrats - the latter of which's reasoning capabilities often make it darn difficult to distinguish them from the former.

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Spiritual Instruction on Charity:

It has been a while since this weblog ran a spiritual instruction thread. The previous series was a fourteen part series on obedience. The ones prior to it in order from most recent to most ancient include (i) a seven part series on prayer (ii) a two part series on zeal, and (iii) a single installment on the subject of spiritual direction.

Though it has been a long while since I ran one of these instructions, it seems right to run one now and the subject of charity seems appropriate because (i) it has not been covered yet in the series and (ii) the instruction is short. And since every instruction I have done except the one on obedience involved me handtyping the text out, as time is short right now I had to pick a shorter theme to cover here. Like the first thread, this will likely be a single installment unless it seems expedient to make it a two parter. But without further ado, let us get to it now.

By this all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for one another. (St. John, c. XIII., v.35.)

He who saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, he is in darkness even until now. (St. John, Ep. I., c. II., v. 9.)

1. Our divine Lord has said that His disciples should be known by their love for one another. This christian virtue of charity makes us love our neighbour in God, the creature for the sake of the Creator. Love of God, love of our neighbour,--these virtues are two branches springing from the same trunk and having but one and the same root.

2. Assist your brethren in their needs whenever you can. However, you should always be careful to consult the laws of prudence in this manner and be guided by your means and your position. Supply by a desire to do good for the material aid you are unable to give.

3. When your neighbour offends you he does not cease on that account to be the creature and the image of God; therefore the christian motive you have for loving him still exists. He is not, perhaps, worthy of pardon, but has not our Saviour Jesus Christ, who so often has forgiven you much more grievious offenses, merited it for him?

4. Observe, however, that we can scarcely avoid feeling some repugnance for those who have offended us, but to feel and to consent are two distinctly and widely different things, as we have already said. When religion commands us to love our enemies, the commandment is addressed to the superior portion of the soul, the will, not the inferior portion in which resides the carnal affections that follow the natural inclinations.

In a word, when we speak of charity the question is not that human friendship which we feel for those who are naturally pleasing to us, a sentiment wherein we seek merely our own satisfaction and which therefore has nothing in common with charity.

*"Charity makes us love God above all things; and our neighbour as ourselves with a will not sensual, not natural, not interested, but pure, strong, and unwavering, and having its foundation in God....A person is extremely sweet and agreeable and I love her tenderly: or, she loves me well and does much to oblige me, and on that account I love her in return. Who does not see that this affection is in according to the senses and the flesh? For animals that have no soul but only a body and senses, love those who are good and gentle and kind to them.

Then there is another person who is brusque and uncivil but apart from this is really devout and even desirous of becoming gentler and more courteous: consequently, not for the gratification she affords me, or for any self-interested motive whatever, but solely for the pleasure of God, I talk to her and love her. This is the virtue of charity indeed, for nature has no share in it." --St. Francis de Sales. (Read St. Luke, C. VI., vv. 32-33-34.)

The literal and exact fulfillments of the evangelical precepts is often found impracticable. How, we say, is it possible to have for all men indiscriminately that extreme sensibility we feel for everything that touches us individually, that constant solicitude for our spiritual or temporal interests, that delicacy of feeling that we reserve for ourselves and certain objects specially dear to us? -- And yet it is literally aud pied de la lettre, that our Lord's precept shall be observed.

What then is to be done? An answer will be found in the following passage of Fenelon, and we shall see that it is not a question of exaggerating the love of one's neighbour, but of moderating self-love, and thus making both the one and the other alike subordinate to the love of God:

"To love our neighbour as ourselves does not mean that we should have for him that intense feeling of affection that we have for ourselves, but simply that we wish for him, and from the motive of charity, what we wish for ourselves. Pure and genuine love, love having for its sole end the object beloved, should be reserved for God alone, and to bestow it elsewhere is a violation of a divine right."

5. But although it is forbidden us to show hatred or to entertain it voluntarily against the wicked and those who have offended us, this is not meant to prevent us from defending ourselves or taking precautions against them as prudence suggests.

Christian charity obliges and disposes us to love our enemies and to be good to them when there is occasion to do so; but it should not carry us so far as to protect the wicked, nor leave us without defense against their aggressiveness. It allows us to be vigilant in guarding agains their encroachments, and to take precautions against their machinations.

6. Always be ready and willing to excuse the faults of your neighbour, and never put an unfavourable interpretation upon his actions. The same action, says St. Francis de Sales, may be looked upon under many different aspects: a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable person will just as certainly choose the worst.

* "Do not weigh so carefully the sayings and doings of others, but let your thought of them be simple and good, kindly and affectionate. You should not exact from your neighbour greater perfection than of yourself, nor be surprised at the diversity of imperfections; for an imperfection is not more an imperfection from the fact that it is extravagant and peculiar."*

7. It is very difficult for a good christian to become really guilty of rash judgment, in the truest sense of the word, -- which is that, without just reasons or sufficient grounds he forms and pronounces in his own mind in a positive manner a condemnation of his neighbour. The grave sin of rash judgment is frequently confounded with suspicion or even simple distrust, which may be justifiable on much slighter grounds.

8. Suspicion is permissible when it has for its aim measures of just prudence; charity forbids gratuitously malevolent thoughts but not vigilance and precaution.

9. Suspicion is not only permissible, but at times an important duty for those who are charged with the direction and guardianship of others. Thus it is a positive obligation for a father in regard to his children, and for a master in regard to his servants, whenever there is occasion to correct some vice they know exists, or to prevent some fault they have reasonable cause to fear.

10. As to simple mistrust, which should not be confused with suspicion, it is only an involuntary and purely passive condition to which we may be more or less inclined by our natural disposition without our free-will being at all involved. Mistrust, suspicion, rash judgment are then three distinct and very different things, and we should be careful not to confound them. [Fr. R. P. Quadrupani: Light and Peace - Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Ally Their Fears pgs. 146-152 (c.1795)]

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Various Quizzes of the Past Year Plus:
(A Rerum Novarum Recapitulation Thread)

After The SecretOne discovered which twentieth century pope he was today, the idea of actually doing something thought about for a while emerged. For many quizzes have We at Rerum Novarum taken - quizzes that may cast some light on the multifaceted nature that is Us. So consider this a recapitulation thread where all previous quizzes are categorized for your amusement. These will be listed in order from newest to oldest:

Which Handgun Are You?

Which Cigar Are You?

That one was SAM's own quiz.

Which Beer Are You?

For those who are conspiracy theorists out there, it is a mere coincidence that the last three quizzes I took dealt with alcohol, tobacco, and firearms...

Which X-Men Character Are You Most Like?

Which Casablanca Character?

Which Greek Mythological Hero?

Which Old Movie Do You Belong In?

Which Alice in Wonderland Character Are You?

Unlike the three that preceded it, the Alice in Wonderland result was rather surprising to me. (As was the X-Men character.)

Which Holy Grail Character Are You?

Which Norse God Are You?

Which Ionian Pre-Socratic Philosopher Are You?

The above one was for my friend Albert. Of the two above it, only the Holy Grail result was a surprise.

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?

Which Political Stereotype Are You?

Which Book of the Bible Are You?

Which Cocktail Are You?

Which Theologian Are You?

Of the five above, only the cocktail and book of the Bible were not what I thought they would likely be. (The cocktail one was spooky for reasons I note at the link.)

Which Beatles Album Are You?

Which Founding Father Are You?

What City Are You?

Also at the above link are the results of the "Which Villain Are You?" and "Which Magical Style Are You?" Quizzes. The city one was a pleasant surprise and the Founding Father quiz downright spooky for its accuracy of me. The Beatles album was a bit of a surprise too but not earthshaking when all the tests above come together for evaluation...

Philosophy Test (The "Ethical Philosophical Selector")

Which Dead Russian Composer?

Which Beatles Song Are You

The Beatles Song answer is no longer there. For that reason, I will note here that it was "Strawberry Fields Forever."

Which Muppet Are You?

The Muppet Quiz results are no longer there so I will simply note here that it was "Fozzie Bear"

Which MASH Character Are You?

There may be others in the archive too{1} but the twenty-two listed are all that a one minute search and thirty minutes of formatting in chronological order will produce. If you want more, feel free to search the archives.

Note:

{1} I can think of at least two or three which are not up there but I cannot remember if I actually posted the results or not. (Ones such as where I stand on the political spectrum and "Which Dallas Character Are You?" come to mind in that area.)


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Friday, January 23, 2004

Points to Ponder:

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'." [Galatians 5:14]

What's the difference between a lawyer and a saint? A lawyer spins the 10 Commandments out till they are as vast and impenetrable as the United States legal code. A saint takes the whole of the law and boils it down to one command. Of course, some lawyers are saints, such as St. Thomas More. But he got to be that way by devoting himself to the one command of God, not the zillion words of human cleverness. Today, seek holy simplicity and love. [From Catholic Exchange courtesy of Gary Gubinski]

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A Urgent Plea To My Readers:

I notified you earlier this month about my mother's Uncle Mel and requested your prayers for his recovery. As of this morning I heard from one of my aunt's by phone and he is in the stages of dying now. Please see the link above for information on him as a man and please pray that he makes it into the vineyard before work ceases and receives the gift of the denarius of eternal life. He is not expected to make it a month so any prayers you can offer for him over the next month would be appreciated more than you can know.

Thankyou in advance for your generosity.

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen. [Divine Mercy Novena: Prayer From Day Four (For Those Who Do Not Believe In God And Those Who Do Not Know Him)]

[This thread has been updated. Please go HERE for details. -ISM 1/29/04]

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A Clarification:
(Viz. Certain Points of Our Previous "Joint Declaration")

We have received, and hereby reply to, several comments from two readers about our Appeal to the Warring Houses of Montague and Capulet. The comments are in blue, our replies in black.

"[I h]ave read the two sides for a long period of time so understand why you wrote what you did. But one thought crossed my mind in reading it--that being, if I recall correctly, The Capulet is a full-time student and also works. While The Montaque does his writing not as an avocation, but as a full-time vocation which is how he supports himself and his family. If I have those facts correct, it seems to me that The Montaque would have more reason to sustain his form of apologetics in the hopes of maintaining his job and income. In other words, he sees his livlihood on the line. Do you see this as a possibility SAM?"

Our criticism was directed only at how he handles discourse with (and about) the Capulet and vice versa. Nothing more and nothing less.

I was just curious: Shawn has described (Catholic webmaster & apologist) Gary Hoge as (paraphrasing): "a model in behavior that we should all emulate." Yet Gary cannot get along with Tim Enloe. They had pleasant dialogue for several years & called each other "friends." Now he is one of the myriad Catholics that are in Tim's doghouse. So how do you explain exceptionally-amiable, mild-mannered Gary's failure with Tim?

Our criticism was directed only at how our Catholic friend handles discourse with (and about) the Capulet and vice versa. Nothing more and nothing less.

We think the reader's line of argument is inapt, because the person conducting it will unintentionally and unavoidably appear to be "dead agenting" the otherby saying in effect "See, he had a fight with someone who's beyond reproach. So that's proves it's all his fault between us." If our criticism has made nothing else clear, it is our belief that neither the Catholic Montague or the Protestant Capulet are beyond reproach in this situation.

"It is a great fallacy to generalize our own (successful) experiences and conclude that others have not learned what we have . . . ."

Unless, of course, we happen to be right about that. :))

". . . which is why they can't get along with individual x. In short, I regard psychological or temperament analysis alone as far too simplistic to even have much explanatory value. Therefore, I look forward to your answers to my questions above, because I can't say that I totally "get it" yet, as regards your theory.

That's why we're sure the Catholic Montague and our Protestant Capulet will profit from our "joint declaration"; it does not rest solely on "psychology." It rests on all kinds of things, like manners and common sense, which can be applied without reference to psychology.

"But you have not explained in enough depth. Why would Gary be a target of "dead-agenting" and not y'all? If the theory is personality-based, it makes no sense to me that Gary would be relegated to the "stupid" category, since he is not all that different intelligence-wise from you and SAM. So what do you think accounts for the radically different reaction?

Our criticism was directed only at how our Catholic friend handles discourse with (and about) the Capulet and vice versa. Nothing more and nothing less.

As noted, we think the reader's line of argument is inapt, because the person conducting it will unintentionally and unavoidably appear to be "dead agenting" the other by saying in effect "See, he had a fight with someone who's beyond reproach. So that's proves it's all his fault between us." If our criticism has made nothing else clear, it is our belief that neither the Catholic Montague or the Protestant Capulet are beyond reproach in this situation.

"Do you believe I possess any of the following traits: intellectual dishonesty, extreme untrustworthiness in dealing with sources & citations, lack of rudimentary understanding of my subject matter, "anti-Protestant" bigotry, insincerity, Jack Chick-like apologetic abilities, martyr complex, deliberate historical revisionism, & a belief that all non-Catholic opinions are worthless & not to be taken seriously?"

We view the prospect of weighing every scrap of potential data on this matter an endeavour that would waste a lot of our lives in light of how long this acrimony has been publically manifested. Even if it were possible for us to do so, we would still decline out of a conviction that it would be an example of "paying tithes on mint and anise and cumin and having left undone weightier matters of law."

Again we must note that our criticism was directed only at how our Catholic friend handles discourse with (and about) the Capulet and vice versa. Nothing more and nothing less. We are sure that our Protestant friend has dealt uncharitably with our Catholic friend during their interactions. We are also sure that our Catholic friend has dealt uncharitably with our Protestant friend during their interactions. We sympathize with both of them, and so we do not entertain the false hope that we can or should adjudicate their prior interactions and current grievances.

Instead, in view of our convictions about our friends' mutual difficulties, we prefer to declare all prior conflicts between them as moot and point out that the definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result. For this reason, we exhort our friends to make a new beginning here and -if they must dialogue- do so without the tactics each used in past correspondence. If this is not possible to do, then do not dialogue at all.

"2nd, would such false accusations towards either of you, relentlessly for 4 years (never being corrected or retracted), make YOU a bit angry, & possibly lead to overly-angry replies at times, & ugly, unedifying exchanges?"

Our criticism was directed only at how our Catholic friend handles discourse with (and about) the Capulet and vice versa. Nothing more and nothing less. We can, however, without departing from our theme point out that our Catholic and Protestant friends' decisions to interact with one another forover four years in a mutual climate of bitterness, bickering, and bloody-minded bombast have done nothing to remedy the situation of which they both complain. We suggest only that their heads will immediately feelbetter once the wall-banging stops.

"Btw, I have NEVER EVER made these charges myself, excepting the understanding one, & that only in a very limited, specific application."

We are glad to hear it. Our criticism, however, was directed only at how our Catholic friend handles discourse with (and about) the Capulet and vice versa. Nothing more and nothing less.

"Oops, I forgot one more trait I have been accused of very recently. I'll quote this directly, lest someone think that I exaggerate in describing it . . . . "

See our previous comment.

"Do you and SAM believe this is a true judgment of me . . . .?"

See our previous comment.

"And of course (it should go without saying) I have also NEVER said this about my critic, nor WOULD I ever . . . ."

We are glad to hear it. However, we must again point to our previous comment.

I consider it a severe condemnation of one's heart & motivations, & quite sinful.

Again, our criticism was directed only at how he handles discourse with (and about) the Capulet and vice versa. Nothing more and nothing less.

"And nothing needs to be said by me about Mr. Armstrong's comments here. Perhaps SAM or Shawn will step in and mediate."

Indeed we shall. Here is our first ruling:

With apologies to them both, we hereby prohibit further comments by the Capulet or the Montague on this blog about one another or the "joint declaration." The reason is simple: y'all are starting to mill around like two motorcycle gangs in a parking lot. Therefore, as any competent law-enforcement authority would order dispersement in such a situation, we in like manner do so with our two readers on the subjects we have previously enunciated.

If they wish to ignore our advice, they have their own internet venues in which to engage in an(other) unsightly feud. We note, however, that they are simultaneously attempting -- at last report -- to reach some sort of modus vivendi and we commend them for those efforts and encourage even greater undertakings by them both in that direction.

Nonetheless, we issue this judgment jointly, declaring furthermore that it is to remain intact, stable, and valid in perpetuity all things to the contrary notwithstanding. So it has been written. So let it be done.


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More on Political Theories, Etc.
(Dialogue with Kevin Tierney)

This is a continuation of the dialogue located HERE. In this continuation, my previous words will be in dark faded cyan, Kevin's previous words in black font. His current words will be in dark violet magenta and my current ones in regular font. Any sources I use will be in dark blue font.

Greetings Shawn:

Hello Kevin:

"We will have to agree to disagree here (at least in part) because communism is simply a more developed version of socialism -socialism carried out to its logical end if you will. Hence, while communism as we knew it is currently by all appearances dead, as long as socialism remains and gets stronger, communism will again arise in the future. "

In part perhaps, but agreeing to disagree has never seen to be our M.O in our dialogues. ;-)

Well, our dialogues have at times gone into areas where this is difficult to do. This is not one of those areas in my view for reasons I do not want to delve into at this time.{1}

Even with the Chinese model, there have been some divergences (a wierd attempt to mix some capitalism with outright communism is attempted at times) Expect something off that model to go in the future with Russia.

Remember though, what preceded the Chinese model though was the Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 -which was preceded by The Great Leap Forward of 1958-1962.{2}

The latter was intended to squelch criticism of the former in some respects. Sandwiched between the two was the Social Education Movement which bears a discomforting resemblance of what has happened in American public schools since the 1970's. But I digress.

Essentially, the Chinese model you refer to -which came about after 1978- was an attempt to salvage the miserable failure of the older policies with a prudent use of capitalism. However, remember my previous notes about how all socialism naturally degenerates into a form of communism.{3} China is where they are now rather grudgingly and that may change again in the future and quite likely not for the better. (Barring another revolution which overthrows the entire government of China of course.)

"I expect it to shift a little bit, keep some central tenets of communism, but redress them.

Hmmmmmm...along the lines of appearing to be what it is not essentially???"

Try to look pro-western, try to look captialist, but essentailly communism in a nutshell.(indeed, many on the far left today in America I believe attempt to do this.)

Indeed. Among the problems I have with the Democratic candidates in this race is that most of them are such whackjobs that a garden variety socialist candidate actually looks sane by comparison. And if Bush does not shed the rovehaze, one of them could be elected - something that this country does not need at this critical time. (Or at any time really but especially at the current time.)

"I agree with you on Putin. Perhaps the only divergence in our views would be that I argue that he is not acting inconsistently within the purview of socialist thinking. But then as you now know, I firmly believe that all socialism naturally develops (or degenerates if you will) into communism when carried out to its logical end. This is a hypothesis that I have held for a long time and also defended in different forms. And it is for that reason that I take the firm stance against socialism that I do...."

I'd have to agree with that, totalitarainism has to flow out of such a system, the kind the communism meshes with very nicely.

I would smile here (indicating agreement) but this is not a subject one can smile about -particularly in light of how few people seem to realize this. It is not for a lack of economic "prophets" down through the centuries either{4} that is for sure.

"I presume since you have already referenced Diuturnum in your commentary that you are asking about Kulturkampf. (And I presume that you probably have Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf in mind which sounds similar.) Kulturkampf was not a book but a civil governing program of Otto von Bismarck...

Sorry it was late(for me with no sleep and with all the problems I've had as of late in the previous e-mail I disclosed to you, things have been not well lately.)

No problem, such oversights even happen to me at times too. (Believe it or not.)

"I believe that Diuturnum (written in 1881) was written as a response to Bismarck's policies and to reiterate the proper understanding of separation of church and state....By 1887 (when Pope Leo declared the Kulturkampf conflict over) most of the anti-Catholic legislation in Germany was revoked. And as the major problem of the time was not church-state conflicts but instead socialism and the subjects of capital and labour, Pope Leo would issue Rerum Novarum to deal with those subjects.

Bismarck's error fundamentally was a reiteration of the error of Thomas Erastus (Erastianism) which itself was based heavily on the ancient Caesaro-papism that hamstrung the Orthodox Churches for centuries. It was Erastianist philosophy which undergirded Bismarck's policies and Hitler was heavily influenced by Bismarck in this area. Hence, Diuturnum was an anticipating of Nazi and Communist totalitarianism to some extent."

Perhaps a combination of that, and the blatant errors of the French Revolution "philsophers" and their false liberty of man, which led to a false liberty of Church-state relations.

Oh the French Revolution is not to be excluded by any means from the equation. That was an example of Erastianism taken to the extreme. Not to cause an ecumenical fissure here but Erastianism -though the ancestor of Caesaro-papism- was I believe based directly upon Fr. Martin Luther's "two swords" theory of complete power of the state in civil matters apart from the Church.

Though I think this encyclical, and a thorough reading of his work on Americanism, probably would benefit not a few in my camp who think the Ameircan form of government is what it is (as they fundametnally misunderstand the notion of a Republic I feel.)

The sad thing with many of them is that they will accept it uncritically because Leo said it and not extend the same kind of courtesy to what John Paul II has to say. But I digress.

"I would argue in light of Islam's origination and rapid expansion through military means that it was initially a political ideology at least as much as it is a religion. If my view on that is correct, then what we are seeing today is perhaps integral to the very concept of Islam. "

Perhaps, but with the modern advent of facism, and a new anti-westernism with false pretenses(the fact that many of these men got their fortunes off the west, as most Militant Islamists are not the poor Muslims in the Mecca ghetto.) made the current development a significant change.

True. However, capitalism taken to the extreme becomes its own totalitarianism. Once that happens, communism is inevitable.

While I have some disagreements with Dr. Daniel Pipes overall thesis on the issue, I do find myself closer to him on the area of Militant Islam.

Interesting...

(Can't shake the fact his views are closet Zionism.)

"Zionism" is a lot like "slavery" in that it is a term that encompasses many different forms. If you could clarify what you mean by "Zionism" it would be helpful.

"When you consider that all but one or two of the twenty-five odd conflicts worldwide are Muslims who cannot get along with their neighbours, it certainly leads one to wonder if the reason is not something integral to Islam itself. This is not to denigrate those Muslims who are devout and civilized people of course; however we can only go on what we see here and worldwide Islam is not making a good accounting of itself."

I would agree it is a central problem of Islam itself, it's just that central problem has machinated itself in a different way with the Militant strand of late with(starting with the Iranian Revolution)

But was the Iranian Revolution simply an attempt to return Islam to its former prominence -return to its own roots if you will??? That is the question that I have about it.

"True, however he was the John Paul II of his era and was very prescient. The current pontiff has made similar criticisms of extreme forms of capitalism being their own "thinly veiled totalitarianism".

You mean the Leo XIII of our era. ;-)

Six of one, half a dozen of the other... :)

While certain pastoral approaches might give me anxiety, the similarities between Leo XIII and His Holiness are obviously there, especially with the "rights of man" which while some may take far too man-centered, the principles I feel are dead on solid.

I believe the "man centered" view is overlooking the fact that Pope John Paul II has sought to assimilate secular humanism and counter it with an authentic Christian humanism. View his approach through that prism and some of that anxiety will hopefully dissipate.

As far as the similarities between JP II and Leo, there are a lot more of them than most people would assume. See this link for an outlining of many of them.

(Indeed, I re-read many of those encyclicals after reading Leo's treatment on the issue, and the results were interesting to say the least. I never suspected the Pontiff's teachings on the issue in error, but there is more clairty after reading Libertas, Immortale Dei, the one you offered comments on Church and State, and Rerum Novarum.)

I have found that thus far, practically every time I have had problems with the pope's view on something that a careful rereading of it -and related sources to it- clears that up for me.

"Well, We at Rerum Novarum are humbled at such a gesture ;-)"

Will have to make sure my readers understand that for once I'm not commenting on Shawn's writings, but the actual work Rerum Novarum. :-)

Tell them that it was a case of my tongue being firmly planted in cheek there.

"Indeed. I would look forward to such a site and [will] post it here should you build it."

I'm still thinking about how I want to do it. For reasons I wish to not disclose publicly, catholicdefender.com is on ice for the time being, and I've found my writings on the traditional aspect, with the exception of a few(a work on Hell being empty with Apolonio) are really just both sides shouting at eachother. The Protestantism essays are still what I want to keep, and being I had written at length on politics there also with the Defenders Political Action Forum, I'll have to do some planning, so stay tuned.

Ok.

"I firmly believe that any attempt to succeed in confuting these errors on a large scale will involve a new hermeneutic of sorts but -in true ressourcement fashion- it is a new hermeneutic which applies old principles to the problems of today...It is that approach to issues as employed by Dr. Williams that most appeals to me because he and I are in that way birds of a feather. But I digress."

I happen to like Dr. Sowell merely because he covers a far more broad area, and in my view, easier to understand language, since economics is certainly not my forte.

Understood. I think you would like my series on Claude Frederic Bastiat then -except for a few small swipes at certain self-styled "traditionalists" of course- because Bastiat while being a genius nonetheless wrote not in textbook fashion but in a style easily accessible by anyone. Dr. Williams does not always do that by my own admission; however he also tends to be more of an academic stylist in that regard. And thus, it may reach academic elites easier than something that someone such as myself might write.

In that series, you will read a foreword by Dr. Williams expressing his debt to Bastiat as well as a prologue where I do likewise. Dr. Williams expressed HERE the belief that as an advocate of liberty Bastiat "easily outranks any one of the founders of our nation." I have to agree with that which means giving props to the French!!!{5} My defense of the three fundamental rights of man is grounded heavily on his theories.

I would highly recomend the Quest for Cosmic Justice by Sowell, as I believe it has not only profound implications for the civil rights movement (of which everyone ignores him, Dr. Williams, Armstrong Williams, Larry Elder, Ken Hamblin, Star Parker and the like) but indeed, I think much of it also captures that spirit of the age that so many cling to.

I will have to look into that work.

I would agree with your 3rd footnote, yet I would say a new shift in Church-state separation occured far earlier, though to a less degree, after the civil war. If Church and State do not work together, the State will try to drown out the Church. As government increases, the Churches influence must decrease, therefore, we saw the beginnings of a new offensive on Christianity I believe in America. (Which flawed as it was,buckled far more quickly I believe once the likes of FDR's socialism encompassed America.)

Yes, I too lay the problem at fdr's feet. (Omission of capital letters not unintentional.) As far as the problems of American's Christianity, my former pastor (SSPX) was a history teacher and he explained in a manuscript for a book he wrote in the 1980' the debt that the Founders had to the Magna Carta and other Catholic institutions. (Including some that might shock people at first glance.)

His superiors for over twenty years have forbid him to publish his manuscript because it completely shreds the SSPX lies about "Americanism" and the idea that America was founded on Freemasonic principles rather than Christian ones.{6}

"{5} I find this assertion so commonly made and accepted to be ludicrous on its face in all honesty."

Many government classes I found myself in toruble in for disputing the idea that facism and Nazism were really machinations of the far right. Indeed, a very interesting column by libertarian Vox Day entitled Are you a Nazi(1) demonstrates the fallacy of this thinking quite nicely.

I hear you, I was actually docked grades on papers for that kind of confrontation -not only in high school but even in college. (Though in college it was not as severe in my view as it was in high school.) But then again, my arguments in college were much better than the ones I used in high school so maybe that was part of it.{7}

Part of me wants to discuss the idea of a republic in relation to Catholic principles, but I think, perhaps sadly, me and you are in agreement in that area, so a discusion is tough, because it would be where we agree for once. :-)

There is nothing sad about agreement. Indeed when there is general agreement, it enables a subject to move from generalities and into greater specificity. This allows for a potential refining of positions on all sides. But as this thread is long enough already, that is all I will say on the matter except someone who agrees a lot with Thomas Sowell is not going to disagree with me more frequently than they agree :)


Notes:

{1} Lest this thread get offtrack right out of the starting gate.

{2} These are perhaps the quintessential economic examples of "ready, fire, aim" communist methodology of recent times.

{3} Due in some respects to the corrupting influence of unfettered power. Barry Goldwater speaks of this in his seminal work The Conscience of a Conservative and Claude Frederic Bastiat pioneered the theory in his magnum opus The Law which has proven itself time and time again.

{4} To name a few of them briefly we have (i) Cardinal Bellarmine (ii) the Founding Fathers (iii) Frederic Bastiat (iv) Barry Goldwater (v) Ronald Reagan.

{5} But worry not, this was a Frenchman who lived 150 to 200 years ago.

{6} Hopefully I can draw him out of that organization in the new year in part because of what the SSPX is but also because he was an influence on my own intellectual formation in these areas.

{7} It was a case of seizing on what I knew was a weak argument but not enunciating an alternative as clearly as I could have. Some of the reason for this was lack of intellectual refinement but a lot of it was that I was trying to find a kind of "via media" ala Libertarianism. I did not realize until a bit later in school -my junior year of high school actually- that Libertarianism was intrinsically flawed.

It took toying with a Libertarian senatorial candidate in class to bring that point to full realization. I was admittedly finding myself at the time politically and -though I had already read Goldwater's magnum opus- I did not give it its due until after the incident I refer to above. But that is another story altogether.

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On Church/State Conflicts of the Present in Light of the Past, Political Ideologies, Etc.:
(Dialogue With Kevin Tierney)

Kevin's words will be in black font and my previous words will be in dark hard azure font. My current response will be in regular font with any sources quoted in magenta font.

Hello Shawn:

Greetings Kevin:

In the comments boxes I promised an e-mail, as some of the things you raised weren't neccessarily relavant to the focus of Lidless Eye.

Indeed you did. As far as that weblog goes, Lidless Eye has a very specific purpose and a limited scope of applicability. It is also more apologetical than it is ressourcement oriented{1} by design. By contrast, this subject is quite clearly a ressourcement oriented subject. Hence, I blog it at Rerum Novarum.

I would reword that a bit because Leo XIII did confute many of the fundamental tenants of socialist theory in his 1891 Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum -anticipating in advance much of what later happened. (And Diuturnum which you quote set the table for Rerum Novarum in some respects.) For despite many who espouse conventional wisdom, I do not believe communism and socialism are dichotomous of one another -or that "communism is dead" if you will."

I've been musing on this theory, and I've come to believe it is dead, at least as we know it.

We will have to agree to disagree here (at least in part) because communism is simply a more developed version of socialism -socialism carried out to its logical end if you will. Hence, while communism as we knew it is currently by all appearances dead, as long as socialism remains and gets stronger, communism will again arise in the future.

Blatant communism cannot survive, just as blatant modernism under St. Pius X was in essence driven underground.

I would be interested in your definition of modernism -and how it differs from what you refer to as "blatant modernism"- but we can go over that another time.

I expect it to shift a little bit, keep some central tenets of communism, but redress them.

Hmmmmmm...along the lines of appearing to be what it is not essentially???

A perfect example is how Vladimir Putin started out, though I believe he is now firmly moving towards a Communist Russia again. Yet it should be interesting.

I agree with you on Putin. Perhaps the only divergence in our views would be that I argue that he is not acting inconsistently within the purview of socialist thinking. But then as you now know, I firmly believe that all socialism naturally develops (or degenerates if you will) into communism when carried out to its logical end. This is a hypothesis that I have held for a long time and also defended in different forms. And it is for that reason that I take the firm stance against socialism that I do.{2}

"And Diuturnum was written to respond to a particular cultural phenomenon of that time: Otto von Bismarck's Kulturkampf. If you consider that Adolph Hitler saw himself as a kind of "heir apparent" to Bismark, the relevance of Diuturnum to the later totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century becomes more apparent..."

When was that work written, I can't seem to remember, I actually did read the book awhile back, but can't remember the year.(working midnights gives you tons of free time.)

I presume since you have already referenced Diuturnum in your commentary that you are asking about Kulturkampf. (And I presume that you probably have Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf in mind which sounds similar.) Kulturkampf was not a book but a civil governing program of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the founder of the German Empire.

Kulturkampf was Bismarck's reaction to the definition of papal infallibility in 1870. Bismarck had never trusted the Catholics in Germany and the definition of papal infallibility resulted in him seeking to submit the Catholic Church in Germany to state controls. The period it was most influential ran from 1871-1878.

Bismarck was opposed by the Catholics in German parliment on this and eventually gave in for the reason that he needed them to oppose the Socialist influence which was growing. However, the anti-Catholic legislation imposed in that period was still on the books when Pope Leo XIII ascended the papacy and would not be rescinded until later on.

I believe that Diuturnum (written in 1881) was written as a response to Bismarck's policies and to reiterate in the context of the Kulturkampf problem the proper understanding of separation of church and state.{3} By 1887 (when Pope Leo declared the Kulturkampf conflict over) most of the anti-Catholic legislation in Germany was revoked. And as the major problem of the time was not church-state conflicts but instead socialism and the subjects of capital and labour, Pope Leo would issue Rerum Novarum to deal with those subjects.{4}

Bismarck's error fundamentally was based on a reiteration of the error of Thomas Erastus (Erastianism) which itself was based heavily on the ancient Caesaro-papism that hamstrung the Orthodox Churches for centuries.{5} It was Erastianist philosophy which undergirded Bismarck's policies and Hitler was heavily influenced by Bismarck in this area. Hence, Diuturnum was an anticipating of Nazi and Communist totalitarianism to some extent.

I've always viewed the error became most relevant in 1789, and prominent "philosophers" that the footnote of the encyclicals talk about.

The French Revolution was certainly the cause of a paradigm shift in many ways. (And seldom for the better in my view.)

"As far as militant Islam goes, the Muslims were only stopped in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries after a thousand years of causing problems. The west (and Leo) were not naive enough to think that the fire that was reduced to coals was incapable of reignition again."

I don't believe they raised the truce banner with Islam, yet I think Militant Islam is the latest machination of Islam, as it's more a political ideology than a religion.

I would argue in light of Islam's origination and rapid expansion through military means that it was initially a political ideology at least as much as it is a religion. If my view on that is correct, then what we are seeing today is perhaps integral to the very concept of Islam.

When you consider that all but one or two of the twenty-five odd conflicts worldwide are Muslims who cannot get along with their neighbours, it certainly leads one to wonder if the reason is not something integral to Islam itself. This is not to denigrate those Muslims who are devout and civilized people of course; however we can only go on what we see here and worldwide Islam is not making a good accounting of itself.

Most Militant Islamists today are actually very similiar to Nazism and facism.

Oh definitely so. However, militant Islam is much worse than Nazism or fascism - the latter being a less totalitarian form of communism pace conventional wisdom that fascism is an excess of conservatism.{6} The reason for this is that it is driven by religious convictions.

While Leo confuted these troubled principles, they had yet to really come together in a coherent system of error.

True, however he was the John Paul II of his era and was very prescient. The current pontiff has made similar criticisms of extreme forms of capitalism being their own "thinly veiled totalitarianism".{7} Hopefully we will not have to see with capitalism what we saw with communism before people finally start waking up and smelling the coffee. However, Santayana's famous dictum unfortunately comes to my mind on this and that is an unsettling thought to put it mildly.

"PS Just out of curiosity, have you read my defense of the three fundamental rights of man from Rerum Novarum circa October of 2003???"

No i haven't. Can you give me the link?

Certainly. I will give you this link which links to it instead though since it also links to other related posts you may find interesting. I have others posted subsequent to it but there is more than enough there for the time being.

I'm going to be doing a commentary on Rerum Novarum soon enough(there are numerous encyclicals I want to cover on Leo XIII)

Well, We at Rerum Novarum are humbled at such a gesture ;-)

Eventually, for reader expediency I want to somehow incorporate this into a website, as understandably, those blog entries can be quite lengthy, as both of us are known to be verbose when we write lately. ;-)

Indeed. I would look forward to such a site and will post it to this site should you build it.

I saw you referenced Dr. Walter Williams as your favorite columnist.

Yes.

The agreement between us, no surprise, ceases. ;-)

:)

While i am a huge fan of Dr. Williams, I would have to say my favorite columnist is Dr. Thomas Sowell, who Dr. Williams references in his latest syndicated column on black academic success.

I am also a fan of Dr. Sowell. My admiration of Dr. Williams is not only because we agree so often but how we agree. He and I have both been schooled in the economic and social theories of Claude Frederic Bastiat on the function of law in a just society. I see this influence stamped throughout his writings and it pleases me greatly.

For like Dr. Williams, I have an agenda of promoting those theories because they are logically sound and they lay the axe to socialism root and branch. And in this era we live in -much as Bastiat's era of the early-mid nineteenth century- we see the law perverted at every turn.

I firmly believe that any attempt to succeed in confuting these errors on a large scale will involve a new hermeneutic of sorts but -in true ressourcement fashion- it is a new hermeneutic which applies old principles to the problems of today.{8} It is that approach to issues as employed by Dr. Williams that most appeals to me because he and I are in that way birds of a feather. But I digress.

Notes:

{1} It is not that apologetics needs to lack a role in ressourcement methodology of course - indeed I explain HERE why this need not be the case. However even in conscious endeavours to utilize it, often if it is at all present it is more indirect than direct for the most part.

And of course this principle is as applicable to politics as it is to theology or philosophy.

{2} Even the popular or sentimental forms of it which are usually the lure of most people who would otherwise oppose socialism.

{3} Which is not the same as the oft-misunderstood application of this term in post-1947 American parlance.

{4} This was probably his most important encyclical letter of the many landmark encyclicals that he issued over his pontificate. (Which is saying a lot actually.)

{5} Not to mention being the initial cause of the tensions that would eventually rend the Western and Eastern Churches.

{6} I find this assertion (so commonly made and accepted as fact) to be ludicrous on its face in all honesty.

{7} See Centesimus Annus (Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Letter celebrating the one hundreth anniversary of Rerum Novarum) for details.

{8} In this case a hundred and fifty plus years old.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Trained Monkey Emerges as Surprise Victor in Iowa Caucus

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A Nice Overview of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman's Life

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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Rider Reform Proposal:
(Courtesy of Rerum Novarum)

This is the clarification that I mentioned in my last post that I would address. But before addressing my solution, you need to be familiar with what a rider actually is and how they are used. Permit me to educate you on this briefly before offering my proposed alternative.

The rider process has become the ideal way for our Members of Congress to get controversial bills attached to federal spending bills. Probably the most important reason that this tactic is employed is that riders do not have to be openly debated or introduced as stand-alone bills; they just "ride piggy-back" on essential funding bills. Oftentimes, the rider is totally unrelated to the funding measure that carries it. For example, the recently passed (Fiscal Year '98) Emergency Supplementation for Natural Disaster Relief Act had riders attached by Senator Larry Craig (Republican from Idaho backed by the timber industry) and Senator Pete Domenici (Republican from New Mexico backed by the finance and oil industry). Senator Craig's rider basically nullified the 18-month National Forest Roads Moratorium, which was proposed by the Chief of the Forest Service and hailed by many citizens as a great step toward protection and restoration of our national forests (that contain more miles of roads than the interstate highway system). However, with this rider attached the moratorium is ineffective.

Senator Domenici's rider adjusted the boundary of the Petroglyph National Monument to allow construction of a multi-lane highway to facilitate the sprawl of Albuquerque suburbs. The attachment of these riders, which have nothing to do with emergency disaster relief, were savvy political moves to get special interest legislation passed while knowing full well that the Disaster Relief Act was greatly needed by people suffering from this winter's natural disasters.[Briefly on Riders]

I will avoid discussing the constitutionality of federal disaster relief acts but this serves to show how the rider is used to pass stuff without accountability. Having noted that, here are my proposals for making this process accountable to the voting public.

1) Any proposed rider to a bill must have some reasonably demonstrable congruency with the subject of the main funding bill being voted on. The current practice of attaching unrelated or non-sequitur funding proposals to major funding bills would thereby be eliminated.

2) Any proposed rider should requires a separate congressional "rider attachment vote" so that those who want it and those who do not are on the record.

3) Any proposed rider should require at least two thirds concurrence by each house of Congress insuch that anything less means that the rider initiative fails to attach to the bill.

4) Any proposed rider that succeeds in getting two thirds concurrence by each house of Congress officially attaches with the provision that the president has the right to line-item veto that rider proposal.

5) If the president vetoes such rider proposal but signs the main funding bill to which it was attached, Congress can override and permanently attach said rider to the main funding bill with the concurrence of seventy-five percent of both houses of Congress. If said seventy-five percent concurrence of both houses of Congress cannot be mustered for an override, the override fails and the rider is officially declared dead.

6) And of course the rider proposals -pass or fail- must all be entered into the record for perusal of the people under the 1978 Freedom of Information Act along with (i) the names of the proposers and subsequent sponsors of said rider (ii) their party affiliation and (iii) the state which they represent.

These practices would insure that riders were proposed far less often and rarely enacted if they were because it would put our representatives on the hook and accountable for *every* proposal they voted on.

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On the State of the Union Address:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

In terms of strategy I thought this was a good speech. It seemed to some extent to be an attempt to rebut much of the criticism of him from the Democratic primary opponents. Certainly as a student of The General, I can appreciate this tactically. However, I am also a student of The Economist and from that standpoint this was a mixed bag speech. I find myself wanting to snatch my copy of The Federalist Papers and shout at each federal budget proposal idea "where is this idea in principle endorsed by the Framers"???

But as Rome was not built in a day, I do not expect us in a day to be able to educate our leaders properly on (i) the Constitutional boundaries of their authority or (ii) the faulty principles that undergird the conventional thinking of not only the so-called "liberals" but also the so-called "conservatives." Nonetheless, We at Rerum Novarum shall continue to shout them out enough to inculcate them in the minds of our readers without resorting to the tactics of most of those with agendas.

The security subject and the war subjects were well done. The call for perminence of the tax cuts{1} and the support of marriage{2} were excellent. The illegal aliens proposal was predictable and profoundly disappointing except in two respects: (i) the president was clearly uncomfortable talking about it{3} and (ii) I could have heard a pin drop after the president announced it. Hopefully Bush will take the hint and shake off the rovehaze on this issue because it will be the one issue that sinks him if he does not.

Anyway, I may comment more later but for the moment these are my initial impressions. My overall speech grade if all elements are given equal weight is an A. My overall speech grade if elements are recognized as not all being equal -as indeed is the case in reality is a B-. That grade may change as I mull these points over in the coming days and weeks but at the moment that is where it stands with me.

Notes:

{1} What problems do we have when government views our money as theirs and them returning to us what is ours as some "benevolent gesture"??? We need to educate these people on the truth of the fact that federal government delegated powers are limited and we need to start respecting the Constitution in reality and not just the abstract. I have a few quick proposals for going a significant way towards doing this:

---Abolish perminently the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

---Abolish perminently the modern rider option in congressional legislation methodology and replace it with the approach I will go over next.

---Enact a law that inserts into every budget proposal and program a sunset provision. The points of sunset can be staggered to some extent so the entire wheel is not reinvented at once. However, in every presidential cycle all budget items or federal programs should have to come up for renewal at least once. My proposed point for this is of course the midterm elections. (That way, turnout will be higher and of course it will keep our officials honest.)

And if the representatives do not do the latter, then we the people need to start the Constitutional Amendment process. In fact, maybe we need to start it from the ground up here.

{2} I will not insult marriage by referring to "traditional marriage" since that implies that there are other forms of marriage than what all religions and societies have recognized since time immemorial.

{3} Indeed it was the only point of the speech where he sounded less than at least marginally confident and appeared to be stumbling a bit.

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Weblog Link Additions and Site Template Adjustments:
(Issued Motu Proprio)

I was notified by Rerum Novarum reader (and occasional sparring partner) Kevin Tierney the other day of a new weblog he has started with my Lidless Eye associate Apolonio Latar III. The weblog is titled Culture of Christ and appears to be focused on Catholic social teaching and its application in society. Readers who are stumped as to why I am adding this in light of the fact that I generally seem to oppose the self-styled 'traditionalist' agenda of Mr. Tierney should take a consideration of the cross-section of this humble weblog and what I strive to do here.{1}

I also added to this weblog margin my latest essay The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard and removed some essays from the side margin which were already on the writings page -preferring to keep in the side margin here mostly essays which are not on that page. (Such as the ante-Nicene papacy essay and the one on sedevacantism.)

I also decided it would not be expedient to give the Gruner contingent any more publicity. It is on the writings template for those who are interested - where it has been since I released it last August. Besides, the latest essay of mine incorporates some of the same elements as the last essay -even quoting it along with many of my other writings including the recent commentary on dialogue. So to avoid unnecessary repetition here, they have been removed.

Finally, as I have widened the Ecumenical Jihad category with recent additions, I also adjusted the disclaimer in the side margin on links under that heading to reflect the broadening of this category.

Wherefore, as all of these adjustments meet with my approval, by virtue of my authority as Sovereign Thane and Lord High Executioner of Rerum Novarum, I declare that these added links (and the adjustment of the disclaimer) are to remain thus affixed to this weblog's side margin -with the previously affixed links abrogated from said margin- in perpetuity all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

Note:

{1} This is a subject I will not go over at this time but instead direct you HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE for five examples among those I could note here that will give a tip of the iceberg view of the matter.

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Monday, January 19, 2004

Iowa Caucus Report:
(Musings from your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

First of all, as I predicted, the Geptanic would sink and it has. Richie did not even show in the one state that he spent the most time in. Since Senator Lieberman and Weasley Wesley Clark skipped Iowa, they are both still in play despite appearances to the contrary. John F-word Kerry winning was not as much of a surprise as the staggering percentage - thirty-eight percent!!! Anyone who tells me that they thought he would get over thirty percent of the vote is not telling the truth.{1}

Howard the Duck Dean was CRUSHED folks!!! He got eighteen percent of the vote last time I heard. This is not a good start at all for him. In fact, he may not even win New Hampshire now since he did not even place respectfully. He showed but had a bit over half of what Edwards got.

We now have a new front runner (Kerry) and I am not even sure Dean can be called the silver medalist now. He needs to win New Hampshire to stop the free-fall. Did I ever call this one folks but not even I could have foreseen a decline as early and significantly as Dean has fallen. He is not out of it but he *has* taken two standing eight counts in this round. But enough about him and onto the surprise of the night.

The biggest surprise of all is John Edwards by far. It was looking as if he might place with double digit figures but second place and thirty-two percent??? That is forty-four percent more votes than third place Dean and practically three times more votes than Geptanic (eleven percent). ANYONE who says they saw this coming is lying. Nonetheless, as the Geptanic is now officially sunk, Edwards has risen like the phoenix in this race. I need to think of a nickname for Edwards now. Unfortunately, I saw him as such a non-factor in this election that I did not look too much into him. Anyone with ideas, feel free to email them to me.

Since Clark and Lieberman skipped this caucus, there is little left to say except how much of a fool Senator Tom Harkin must be feeling like now. The guy he endorsed got eighteen percent of the vote and finished a distant third. Sad Tommy, very sad indeed. But at least one thing is clear: the New Hampshire primary just got interesting since Dean has gone from the overwhelming favourite to staggering in with haymakers over both eyes. The questions now are these:

1) Can Kerry capitalize on this and knock Dean down again -and is the "three knockdown rule" in effect here???

2) Will this mean that Dean gets even more abrasive and anti-Bush than he already has been -and will that approach actually work???

3) Will Lieberman and Clark benefit in New Hampshire (and perhaps South Carolina) from not being subjected to Iowa???

4) Is Senator Edwards (from North Carolina) now a bonafide contender -and is he now the favourite to win South Carolina???

5) Who will the Geptanic endorse and will that endorsement be the kiss of death for the candidate chosen???

Oh and lest I forget, remember folks, Gephardt ran as the "gay friendly candidate." Which brings up interesting questions since so many pegged Gephardt to win or have a strong placing in Iowa:

6) Was the crushing defeat of the Geptanic proof that the candidates who court the "gay vote" are doomed to defeat???

7) If number six is yes, what does that say for the "same sex 'marriage'" movement in 2004???


Note:

{1} I am not sure I would believe them if they even said they predicted thirty percent of the vote for Kerry in Iowa.


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An Appeal to the Warring Houses of Montague and Capulet:

In conjunction with SecretAgentMan's Dossier, We at Rerum Novarum hereby publish this Joint Declaration on a certain longstanding internet controversy which has recently flared up again.

****


In divers ways and at sundry times, events have proved to your humble servants at Rerum Novarum and SecretAgentMan's Dossier that the passionate and principled defense of one's religion can often lead to acrimony, mutual contempt, and bad blood. Among principled and passionate men, the grievances sustained seldom dissipate. Instead they develop into a Montague/Capulet struggle or, in our good American vernacular, into the feud of the Hatfields and McCoys.

Inevitably, a certain restlessness begins to inhabit sympathizers of the two sides, which sometimes manifests itself in various discussions about what, if anything, should be done. Those who desire intervention and those wish to remain aloof are unintentionally subjected to varying and sometimes mutual suspicions about their orthodoxy or their orthopraxis. We have in mind an actual instance, but will discuss it obliquely, covering matters with a thin veil in the hope that readers will be able to see each side afresh and without undue attention to a canon of historical events or actual personalities.

Consider on one side a relatively young and intelligent Reformed amateur scholar and, on the other, a somewhat older, intelligent Catholic amateur scholar.[1] For years, a battle has raged between them in discussion formats, message boards, chat rooms, weblogs, etc. Having stood by quietly throughout all this, for various reasons it now seems appropriate to address the issue with, if you will pardon the term, a manifesto of sorts. Let us begin with the genesis of this feud.

If the participants were to be asked when it began, each would probably give a different answer. We think they bear a mutual responsibility, for whether by coincidence or design, their "battle manuals" rely heavily on imitating Hannibal's famous "double envelopment" at Cannae. In like manner, as soon as our friends engage in conflict, they fling one division of argument toward their opponent. (Respective theories replete with corroborating theses intended to prove the superior merit of their cause.) Simultaneously, they launch a second attack on their opponent's inward self, with blistering direct assaults on his preceived intellectual shortcomings or equally-galling indirect assaults on his integrity.

When such tactics are carried out repeatedly over years, these individual conflicts have grown into a "total war" that, however often it employs the tactics of Carthage, is waged with all the determination of Cicero's famous cry, Carthago Delenda Est![2] That having been said, we turn to discussing our friends and their antagonism.

The Capulet


The Reformed antagonist has a tremendous pride in his religious tradition. When he sets it against the narrower outlines of his former perspective, he sees a "treasure buried in a field."[3] Not content with the field, he has sought to extend his enjoyment of Christ's riches through study. It is an understatement to say that he has a genuine desire to learn. And his capabilities have been noted not only by your humble servants, but by several of his acquaintances in the Catholic apologetics sphere.

Those of us familiar with his writing have for some time wondered when he would see the flawed nature of some of the intellectual company he was keeping and this has, in fact, happened. Now, after having spent time amongst the tents of other Protestant partisans who do not share his historical acumen or his passion for truth, he has begun to chart an independent course among like-minded Reformed Christians who are more interested in building bridges than burning them.

We may say this even though we are fully aware that our friend believes historical acumen and a passion for truth will eventually direct the Christian away from the Roman Catholic Church that we know and love. Despite this possibility, we are compelled to hold as Catholic doctrine that our friend is "impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek . . . religious truth."[4] We also recognize that he has been vigorous in pursuing truth even to the point of considerable personal costs at the hands of some of his fellow believers and former companions.

More to the point, we believe that despite our disagreement with his views on many signal issues, his research still must "be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth."[5] Therefore, while we see errors prohibiting us from fully embracing him as a brother in the Church of Christ, they give us no cause to reject him as though he were the kind of "false brother" so rightly excoriated by St. Paul's letter to the Galatians.[6]

Friendship neither means nor requires wholehearted endorsement. Accordingly, we must observe that our friend's dialogues often contain a lamentable rhetorical residue from years spent among the more chauvinistic and polemical members of his tradition (broadly conceived). We refer particularly to his animus towards those of our friends and brothers whom he calls Roman Catholics or, in an even more pejorative way, "Roman Catholic apologists."

Our friend is a seasoned veteran of Catholic / Reformed discussions on an astounding variety of subjects with a bewildering array of interlocutors -- including dozens of discussions with your humble servants. He has seen the garden-variety arguments, and even presentations of much greater pith and sophistication, but believes they remain "weighed in the scales and found wanting."[7]

We do not quarrel with the possibility that such a judgment is conscientious, and believe that to be the case with our friend. But we would lament the fact that he often renders these decisions by means of a methodology which is a version of what may be called "dead agenting."

Essentially, "dead agenting" is the second prong of the "Carthaginian tactic" described above, an attempt to discredit a person or an organization in order to lessen or even destroy their ability to influence others. As Catholics will be familiar with the tactic as vigorously employed by some Protestant, Evangelical, or Reformed Christians -- or, for that matter, as employed by some so-called "Traditionalists" -- we pause to point out that our friend merely uses a form of "dead agenting."

For often, the dead agenting tactic involves spreading malicious falsehoods about the persons or views which are theologically or intellectually opposed to the person or organization using the tactic. Our friend does not do these things though many of his former companions frequently employ them to their fullest extent.[8] "War to the knife," as Nathan Bedford Forrest would say, "and knife to the hilt." That is not laudable, it is not meet, and we deplore it.

And so while we admire our friend's Christian chivalry and restraint, we note an echo of the practice remains in his frequent attempts to dismiss the views of many -- if not most -- of those he calls Roman Catholics by referring to their "ignorance," "stupidity," or "blindness" with what often appears to be blithe disregard for (a) the existence of "simple faith"[9]; (b) the possibility of misunderstandings that attend written correspondence; and (c) the simple overarching fact that a devout, powerful and sophisticated theology like Roman Catholicism may for simple human reasons gain champions who, while devout, are sometimes unable to employ powerful or nuanced argumentation in their attempt to give account of the hope they have.

We realize our friend's irritating habit may be encouraged by the besetting frequency of what he preceives as deficient Catholic "challenges" to Reformed orthodoxy and his concomitant and quite understandable lack of time to stamp out every fire in the theological forest.[10] We also understand the need to decline an unworthy argument without appearing to concede any aspect of the issue, even if we may not always understand the frequency or manner with which our friend sometimes does this.

To his great credit, our friend recognizes that history, pace most people's presumptions about it, presents the serious student with complex and sometimes conflicting mosaics of fact, inference, and proof. But we suffer from confusion when he approaches superior historical defenses of Catholic orthodoxy with a dismissive manner and flaming excoriations of blinkered naivete; his universal condemnations effectively shelve in practice the laudable insights he has gained about the nature of history -- those very insights which, he justifiably points out, have led him to reject inferior "Roman Catholic" historical arguments.

The result is that while our friend derides "simpleminded," "stupid" and "ignorant" arguments by "Roman Catholics" because they claim that history "obviously" proves the divine origin and maintenance of Roman Catholicism, he simultaneously argues (and we can only hope he does not notice it) that history is so "obviously opposed" to "Roman Catholicism" that only charlatans or idiots would support their "Roman Catholic" faith by appealing to historical events.

We share our friend's belief that history is neither a vast collection of unilateral proof texts nor an unending swamp of useless antinomies; we believe Christ is present in history just as He is with us always, even unto the end of the age.[11] But we wish that his increased appreciation of the always-edifying and sometimes-bewildering invitation of history to the Christian mind would make him avoid easy and caustic dismissals of historical theses simply because they further the defense of a tradition to which he does not give assent to.

We regard his unawareness of this difference as the unnoticed continuation of a bad habit learned from unworthy and former companions who generally regard history as merely a source of fodder for chauvinistic Jeremiads and partisan polemics. That Catholics also suffer (and make others suffer) from the same vice is no justification for continuing it oneself.

We think it is not an exaggeration to say that, under the current circumstances, our friend might well see himself as among the few who are seeking to protect and advance the ideal of a Christian society against an onrush of historical barbarians -and in cyberspace certainly contra mundum if you will. And that brings us to the next individual, our friend the Montague.

The Montague


Our Catholic antagonist has, like his Reformed foil, tremendous pride in his tradition. More, perhaps, because for him (and for us) it is not just tradition, but the Sacred Tradition of the Apostles and the fathers and doctors of the Holy Catholic Church. Unquestionably overjoyed at having found the "pearl of great price," he naturally and commendably wants to shout about it from the rooftops as well as spend his own life contemplating and learning even more about its value. As a result our friend seeks dialogue with people of every conceivable viewpoint, following the daunting model of St. Paul who sought to please all men in all things, not for his own profit, but the profit of many.

This is an admirable goal indeed, all the more admirable in the eyes of your humble servants, neither of whom has the temperament or the particular genius required to pursue it. So our friend writes and debates prolifically, with what is generally a calm and amicable tone -- although every rule admits of occasional exceptions, for even St. Paul lamented that "the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."[12]

Like our Reformed friend, our Catholic friend is a veteran of debate. But his love of challenge is in some ways his Achilles' heel, particularly when he meets a likely Hector or Aeneas. We already lamented the variation of "dead agenting" which our Reformed friend is sometimes inclined to employ. Therefore, fairness bids us to consider our Catholic friend's tactical repertoire.

For one thing, he has a bold willingness to exploit the mental dimensions of struggle that implicitly accompany warfare. But this sometimes encourages him to conduct campaigns which are as relentlessly strident as the continuous play of brilliant lights and excruciatingly-loud music outside a fugitive's lair. It also sometimes results in remorseless barrages of the "shock and awe" variety which leave no opportunity for attack untaken. This is not ameliorated by the fact that our Catholic friend has a certain joie de combat which anyone experienced in the area of apologetics knows can blind one to the counterproductive result that such an approach may have.

A blaring and relentless frontal assault is not always the most effective means of dialogue, as St. Paul's abysmal failure at the Areopagus proved. Still, because it involves itself with personal factors, our friend's approach is often indistinguishable from a mockery of persons. It is in this regard a form of "dead agenting" which confines debates to a circle that is narrowly drawn around the individual, making what ought to be discussed as his argument's preceived failings into a simultaneous discussion of his preceived personal failings.

This raises an issue of prudence or, if you like, proportionality, that our Catholic friend ought consider more fully than we think he has. We have often thought, and said to our friends, that they are two people whose personalities and styles of communication prohibit the simultaneous existence of mutual peace and extensive interaction between them. Even St. Paul, who started out with the hard sell of pitching abstract principles (Cf. Acts 17:16ff and Galatians 2:11-21) later on mollified and refined his approach. (As he became more experienced and saw what what worked best in reality as opposed to in the abstract.) Examples of this more refined understanding can be found in 1 Cor. 10:23ff and Romans Chapter 14.

To the credit of our Reformed friend, he sometimes seems to concur with this evaluation. Our Catholic friend, however, sees this as at best a minor aspect of the matter. We must disagree with them. If we felt that this was a minor matter, we would not have addressed it here publicly - which we only do because private admonishments have proven to be in vain.

Our Catholic friend's motto often seems to be Farragut's, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." He goes out with his sword held aloft, swinging at windmills as though they were giants. That is essentially what it boils down to since our Catholic friend's approach to our Reformed friend seems exclusively dedicated to the "Areopagus strategy."[13]

The obvious result is that our Catholic friend relentlessly pushes certain issues without a full appreciation of their nature and consequences, thus goading our Reformed friend to wrath and he, we might add, can give as good as he gets in the "remorseless disproportion" department. Nor is that all.

For you see, after, and even during, such exchanges, our friends mutually theorize that the problem lies in the other person having a personal animus against them that exceeds anything they direct at other, similarly committed, apologists. We are inclined to agree with half of both their judgments, and say that their disagreeable interactions are predictable and foreseeable events which ought to be avoided but which are more often sought.

Regrettably, this is often done by our Catholic friend who, tossing aside his normal and customary amiability commits himself, like a Haig or Joffre, to one more "big push" in the hope that prior experience will mean nothing and that this time an all-out barrage and frontal assault on the credibility and merits of his opponent's viewpoint will gain more than a few hundred yards.

This approach by our Catholic friend leaves us wondering whether there is perhaps an element of self vindication implicit in his approach, a desire to prove that prior efforts were not amiss, that all those past opportunities for amicable friendship did not die in vain.

We think it is an unintended effect of this approach that it commits the same error we have already noticed in our Reformed friend -- its universally-condemnatory style has the effect of maintaining that disagreement can only be sustained by ignorance (willful or otherwise) and even a certain intellectual cowardice which, oddly enough, is sometimes claimed to be "proved" by an unwillingness to continue a discussion that some might find grating, unpleasant, and ultimately unprofitable.[14]

In brief: the whole thing ends up looking like the fabled Montagues and Capulets -- dueling men who have every certainty of what they are fighting for and yet very little idea of what they are fighting about.

Conclusion


There are a lot of intricacies that go into dialogue but the most foundational of them is charity. It seems to us that our friends' interactions do not properly follow that queen of theological virtues. Our intention with these musings is not to "denounce" or "shame" anyone, only to lay out the situation from the vantage point of two men with weblogs who have enjoyably sparred with both our friends over the years on many different subjects.

We enjoy our friendships with both of them and variously applaud their efforts to manifest the truth of Jesus Christ in their work, their studies, and their apologetics in accordance with the dictates of their consciences. But to the extent they fall victim to the temptations and poor choices we have outlined above, we say what was said to the Montagues and Capulets -- a plague on both your houses, we will not join either side of your frenzied war.

We hope that this declaration on our part will have some degree of influence in, if not getting these two to bury the hatchet after (at least) five years of public bickering, then at least achieving a more irenic atmosphere for the rest of us.

At the very least, we enjoin our friends in the name of friendship to read no more criticism or rebuke of one or the other in these words, or attempt in any way to accept only the most pleasing half of what we have said. Both of you have gone into battle with beams in your eyes, and it would not be meet of you to fix that beam once again by misusing or misattributing either our words or their intent.


Notes:

[1] The Catholic is a former Evangelical Protestant while the Reformed Protestant was at one time affiliated with Protestant Fundamentalism. By "amateur" we refer strictly to the informal, voluntary nature of their work for their faiths and nothing more.

[2] "Carthage must be destroyed!" During periods of truce or peace, Cicero would end every one of his speeches to the Senate with these words, to remind them that Rome and Carthage were locked into a struggle that could end only when one of them had been utterly, completely, and irrevocably ground into the dust.

[3] Not without, perhaps, some feeling of animosity toward the narrowness of his former outlook.

[4] Second Vatican Council: Declaration Dignitatis Humanae ¶2 (c. 1965)

[5] Id., ¶3.

[6] Galatians 2:4.

[7] Daniel 5:27

[8] Which is one reason why we have never spoken kindly about them at any time. (And why we deplore the actions that at least one of them is using on our Reformed friend at the moment.)

[9] We refer here to the phenomenon described with such eloquence and brilliance by John Henry Cardinal Newman's Grammar of Assent. Essentially, the Cardinal's essay demonstrates that a believer need not fully -- or even adequately -- articulate the theological / historical / philosophical underpinnings of his faith in order to actually believe and benefit from that faith.

To use a gross example, someone whose intellect is afflicted with a congenital defect may be extremely limited in his ability to appreciate the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ. That does not bar him from saving faith in our God, but it does forbid anyone to uncharitably deny him the respectful fellowship which must exist among believers or conclude that the limited understanding he expresses is all there is to the Christian faith.

Since we all employ "simple faith" on some matter or other, we trust that our example will be salutary on this point, particularly since our friend has often expressed his own disdain for a brand of "hyper Calvinism" which demands sophisticated theological knowledge as a prerequisite for salvation.

[10] As we might thus be led astray at this point from our chief point into quarrels about means and ends, it is enough to say that we understand there is not enough time in anyone's day to respond to all the challenges that can be issued and that we all must pick our discussions carefully.

[11] Matthew 28:20.

[12] Romans 7:19.

[13] Which is unfortunate particularly since our friend's tremendous experience with all varieties of evangelization and persons should clue him in that a different approach is needed here.

[14] This approach predictably is viewed by our Reformed friend as a "calling out" if you will: a need to prove that he is no coward by contributing his own impressive efforts to make the discussion undoubtedly grating, unpleasant, and ultimately unprofitable.

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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Points to Ponder:

To mollify [Alexander] Hamilton's fears about how a Bill of Rights might be used as a pretext to infringe on human rights, the Framers added the Ninth Amendment. The Ninth Amendment reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Boiled down to its basics, the Ninth Amendment says it's impossible to list all of our God-given or natural rights. Just because a right is not listed doesn't mean it can be in fringed upon or disparaged by the U.S. Congress...

How do courts see the Ninth Amendment today? It's more than a safe bet to say that courts, as well as lawyers, treat the Ninth Amendment with the deepest of contempt. In fact, I believe that if any appellant's lawyer argued Ninth Amendment protections on behalf of his client, he would be thrown out of court, if not disbarred. That's what the Ninth Amendment has come to mean today.

I believe we all have a right to privacy, but how do you think a Ninth Amendment argument claiming privacy rights would fly with information-gathering agencies like the Internal Revenue Service? Try to assert your rights to privacy in dealing with the IRS and other government agencies, and I'll send you cigarettes and candy while you're in jail. [Walter E. Williams: Was a Bill of Rights Necessary? (c. June 28, 2000)]

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