Thursday, August 12, 2004

On GK Chesterton, Red Wine, and Cigars:
(A Response to Some Email Inquiries)

Readers of this weblog who have been tuning in since the beginning are aware that your host is a fan of GK Chesterton. It was noted in this weblog early on a favourite quote of this writer's which is credited to GKC. Indeed, not long after the above post was added to the weblog,{1} I received an email from a member of the Chesterton Society both about the quote as well as the comment that I was a promoter of Chesterton -that "Apostle of Common Sense" for sainthood. I had to point out to them that a cause for sainthood can only be originated by the local ordinary in the dioceses in which the person died in;{2} ergo wherever Chesterton died, the ordinary of that dioceses is the only one who could initiate the process on his behalf.{3} Upon doing that, the subject of the authenticity of the quote itself was the next subject to arise.

With regards to the quote in question, I received it originally third hand from what I believe is a reliable source.{4} The Chesterton Society was wondering if I could authenticate it for them. As I could not, I told them this; however I will continue to leave it up as is because it is a quote that is so Chestertonian that I see no reason to doubt its authenticity in the absence of evidences for or against it.{4} Consider that Chesterton was a lover of fine cigars much as your weblog host is. And his enjoyment of red wine{5} also lends credence to the quote being properly attributed to him if not in word than at the very least in spirit. However, if it is reasonably shown that Chesterton never uttered these words{6} then I will adjust the attribution accordingly.

Notes:

{1} It was added to the margin above the links sometime in September of 2002.

{2} Except for the cause of a deceased pope which can only be originated by a successor pope.

{3} And of course if anything this weblog says about the matter helps in expediting that process, then of course that is fine by Us.

{4} Though obviously, if it is found in the works of another writer, the quote will be adjusted accordingly. Until then, I will have rare recourse to the traditional Jesuit principle of probablism on the matter.

{5}Some of my rare weblog utterances on red wine can be found HERE and HERE courtesy of the weblog archives.

{6} See footnote four.

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Evidences Against the "Right Wing Media Conspiracy" Theory:
(Miscellaneous Mutterings of your weblog host at Rerum Novarum)

It is strange that the California Supreme Court striking down the gay "marriage" situation in San Francisco (ruling that mayor Gavin AnyTwoSome Newsom overstepped his authority in allowing this abomination is virtually unreported in the media. I say this because in contrast to the front page stories of Newsom's allowing this sham to take place --where there was no shortage of media coverage-- this lack of media "balance" is contrary to the notions of a "conservative media bias" that so many who call themselves "liberals" or "progressives" assert.{1}

If there is a "right wing conspiracy" in the media, then they are asleep at the switch on this one. But then again, when the media spends minimal coverage on the serious assertions of the Swift Boat Veterans against Senator Kerry's credibility and continually hammers again and again at the stupid Abu Ghirab story, what do you expect I suppose.

Let us be frank: if it was not US soldiers doing this and if President Bush was not presiding over a war effort, putting panties on someone's head would be trumpeted as "liberating", "kinky", "constitutionally protected free speech", or some other ridiculous titles of presumed nobility by the same people who are supposedly "outraged" by these same actions taking place at Abu Ghirab. Anyone who doubts this can recall the media forcefeeding the masses the Maplethorpe "piss Christ" exhibit and the later "artistic expression" of the Virgin Mary portrait smeared with elephant dung while later on claiming that Mel Gibson's movie The Passion was not to be recommended because of its "gratuitous violence." Yup, that is a real media "right wing conspiracy" there folks.

Finally, if one more piece of incontrovertible evidence of blatant contradiction was needed to confute the theory of a media "right wing conspiracy", the mere fact that a movie such as Fahrenheit 9-11 is allowed to be so heavily promoted as a viable expression of a valid opinion despite countless examples of blatant errors, malicious fabrications of the evidence, and manipulating news accounts in his film to promote an agenda founded on obvious prevarications of the truth is the clincher.{2}

In summary, We for Our part find the media's continual promotion of Michael Moore while failing to give equal time to his critics to be a telling piece of evidence against the notion of a media "right wing conspiracy." And as a theory to be valid must avoid a violation of the Law of Non-Contradiction, the liberal theory of a media "right wing conspiracy" has at least three serious problems that undermine its credibility which are noted in this post.

Notes:

{1} The reader should ask if promoting gay so-called "marriage" is part of the "right wing conspiracy" or if opposing it is not more in line with "right wing" philosophy. (And from there consider the media's silence on the latter and unability to shut up about the former in the context of that musing.)

{2} If a so-called "right winger" made a film or wrote a book with a tenth of the errors that Moore's pseudo-"documentaries" contain, it would be dismissed as "partisan propaganda." Yup, a real media "right wing conspiracy" we have on our hands my friends.

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Amazon Book Review Update:

For some reason, the review I sent to Amazon on the Reagan book did not get listed. I therefore resent a word for word copy of the original review back on the sixth of August and it finally posted. Intersted readers can go HERE to see the review posted. I only ask that the angelfire email address listed under "nickname" not be used to send responses -as that email address is no longer in existence.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

On "Liberty", "Equality", and Christian Culture:
(A Dialogue With Charles de Nunzio)

This post is in response to some of the comments Charles posted to Jeff Culbreath's weblog in one of the comments boxes. While the text before you was originally intended as a brief response, as usually happens when responding to individuals of no small amount of intelligence, what starts out as "brief" ends up being anything but. Nonetheless, the reader can take solace in the idea that what is noted here is but a smattering of the points that could have been covered if not for this writer's conscious intention to be more economical in his utterances.

To aid in following the sequence below, Charles' words will be in shale font. This writer's words will be in regular font with all sources in darkblue font. Without further ado, let us get to it.

[O]ur ancestors bought into a lie that made "liberty" and "equality" into absolute, first-rank "virtues," not seeing the intrinsic contradiction with Christian social order induced by such deification.

All errors of one extreme beget errors of an opposing extreme. In the case of our ancestors, they reacted to the extreme of viewing people as "superior" or "inferior" by virtue of a class (or caste) system. In doing this, they took the basic truth of people being equal to one another in a manner that transcends such distinctions and overemphasized certain points to where they were removed from their proper context with certain additional truths. (The latter of which by necessity accompany and balance out those they chose to place an emphasis on.) The scale has shifted too far from one side to too far to the other now and needs to be balanced. However, that is difficult to do when you have people unnecessarily polarizing one another.

Liberty properly conceived is among the first rank of virtues.{1} However, it is usually not properly conceived by people who (as is not uncommon) ignore the parts of the equation that they do not like and overhype those which they do like. For example, with liberty properly conceived comes responsibility. However, most who are claiming a "right" to liberty envision a complete liberty without proper boundaries or the incumbent responsibilities involved. This is obviously a pseudo-liberty and was rightfully branded as an "insanity" by Pope Pope Pius IX of blessed memory and by his predecessor Gregory XVI.

All errors of course have certain truths that they embrace and in the case of the nineteenth century libertines, it was the understanding of liberty as an intrinsic right even though they did not properly conceive of all the incumbent parameters involved in this realization. The more fruitful response to these people is not to diminish liberty but to raise up a properly balanced conception of the principle and then endeavour to persuade people of good will to accept it. This writer happens to believe that the latter can be done but to succeed at it means to appeal to the better angels of our nature.{2} To do this is to require carrying the person outside of themselves and to view their wants and preceived needs as requiring subordination to society's public order as well as its common good.{3} In short, liberty cannot properly be seen as a nebulous subjective conception; therefore there has to be some objective standards by which to determine whether one is dealing with legitimate or illegitimate liberty.

Anyone who doubts the soundness of Jeff's reflections isn't living in the real world, or else just isn't grasping the underlying truths about what is driving current events.

That is a rather universalist assertion is it not Charles??? For the record, this present writer doubts the soundness of Jeff's reflections in some areas and he is (i) not living in some other world than the present one and (ii) he understands reasonably well the underlying presumptions that govern so much of what we see today.

Sun Tzu once noted that "to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." I see Jeff coming very close to that point in his reflections. If not for a reasonable grasp of history, then I undoubtedly would view things generally as Jeff does because when one looks at the surface, things look very desolate indeed.

Now I would be remiss in not noting that I have my days where I view it as a lost cause too.{4} But the problem with having that approach generally speaking is that it insures that the enemy will win physiologically speaking of course. However, we are not fighting a battle of purely empiricist proportions but instead one with supernatural and eschatological proportions.

For that reason, a Christian should always see things through the lens of victory already being achieved because it has been.{5} That does not make for smooth sailing all the time of course but in the most difficult of times, the hope of partaking in that final victory can sustain us.

If we attempt to meet people halfway in our elucidations and provide a degree of rationalism to contemporary events, perhaps we can illustrate this with sketching out in detail here some principles that are intrinsic to the natural order. I speak here of the principles of intensity and duration which properly understood can assist us. Many people strive to go at matters with white-hot intensity all the time. Physiologically this is not possible to do and the reasons for the kinds of burnout by people who take this approach are not infinite; instead you will find the reason in what I am about to say.

Intensity and duration in the natural sphere are inversely proportionate to one another. The problem with that to some extent is that it means one cannot go at things with maximum intensity for long periods of time. There has to be reprieves or a reduction in emphasis at times in a battle of duration if total exhaustion is not to be reached in short order.{6}

With a long-distance endeavour, one must hold back some of their capabilities if they want to finish the race and finish strong. As grace builds on nature, we do well to learn these lessons from nature and from what is built into the human organism by God: as we learn of what is invisible to some extent from what is visible (cf. Wisdom xiii,7-9; Romans i,20). Grace of course can extend someone beyond their normal natural capabilities{7} but it is God's prerogative to give His grace as He sees fit.{8} We must not anticipate it in our approach to issues as we are in no position to claim it as a right.

Our society has been de-Christianizing for a long time — look at the "Name That Philosopher" post below for Orestes Brownson's mid-19th Century observations about the decomposition of the family that had already begun in his day!

You can always find writers of past eras talking in this manner. Everyone who lives through a period of crisis thinks that theirs is the worst ever seen. That is the value of historical perspective above all else: it helps us have a truer sense of proportion in our assessments of the contemporary age.

I remind you of the theories of motion as discovered by Sir Isaac Newton. If an object in motion will remain in motion, then attempts to stop that object will not succeed without a greater or equal force being involved. In light of the manner whereby intensity and duration are inversely proportioned, an intense reaction cannot sustain itself for very long in opposing an object in motion -particularly if that object appeals to the lower levels of our nature from which there is continual struggle against anyway.

What must be attempted is to reverse the direction of the moving object but the approach taken has to be one focused on success over the long term. For that reason, the intensity behind such an approach has to be by logical necessity of lessor import if there is to be a conceivable reversal of trends that will be more than illusory.

For reasons too numerous to note here, society has been de-Christianizing for some time as you correctly note. However, the approach of the Counter-reformation to try and stop this phenomenon not only did not succeed but was in fact failing. The decision of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council was to try and essentially reverse the trend with an approach more offensive-oriented, more integral in its approach, and more long-term oriented. I have argued elsewhere that the authentic ressourcement methodology that permeated the weltanschauung of the Second Vatican Council was more faithful to the methods and principles of the Angelic Doctor himself than the neo-scholastic approaches advocated by the Roman school manualists. That is a subject that is beyond the scope of this response to deal with adequately; however I will note this in brief for the benefit of the readers.{9}

But with the Church's surrender (I can't really think any other word appropriate) to the modern world at Vatican II, the agents of evil have become emboldened and increasingly confident of refashioning civilization to their Satanic mold.

I can think of a word far more appropriate and it is this: the Church's assimilation of what is good in the modern world. This was done to properly appropriate it for the purposes of preaching the Gospel to the world in a manner more readily perceptible to the contemporary mind.{10} This is little different in substance than what the Church has always done in eras when she actively engaged the world in the arena of ideas. I have summarized the purpose of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council many times -usually under the rubric of ressourcement. Here is one example from a recent essay writing that you may find of interest:

[I]n light of many unsavoury elements that had been prevalent in various sectors of Church for a long time --such as an acute anti-intellectualism, a profound suspicion of science and scholarship, a loss of the sense of the local church and local customs, and also an unhealthy and untraditional legalistic outlook-- the credibility of the faith to anyone whose head was not buried in the sand was clearly at stake. For these and other reasons, it was long overdue for the Church to once again interact with the world - to engage critically and credibly the philosophical trends that had for a couple of centuries been undermining society. This kind of critical engagement was something that --with few notable exceptions--had been neglected in the Church for some time. (Particularly since the so-called "enlightenment" period onward.)

To use the words of St. Augustine, it was necessary "either to change what was done amiss, or to appoint the doing of what had been neglected." This was the purpose of the Second Vatican Council: it was convoked to "trim the boat" to use the words of Cardinal Newman. (When he spoke of a future Council correcting the perceived imbalance of the First Vatican Council on some points of doctrine.) And as such a correction was akin to some extent to taking the cap off of a radiator in ninety degree weather after a lengthy car trip, the lessons of history for those who have eyes to see are not surprising. [I. Shawn McElhinney: The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard Introduction Section (c. 2004)]

I would argue (and have) that far from a "surrender... to the modern world" at Vatican II, what we have is the Church again taking up a practice that during the Counter-reformation was more the exception than the rule: engaging the world and seeking to assimilate and purify non-Christian strains of thought for the sake of speaking the Gospel in an idiom more comprehensible to the people of this epoch. And with the latter, there is the situation of dealing with people who in general are more practical than theoretical, more personalist than abstractual. I explained this situation in a different place using the following words:

One of the predominant tasks of [the Second Vatican Council] was to move the Church out of the garrison posture taken in the Counter-reformation period --a posture which intensified in its isolation after the French Revolution-- and situate her once again firmly into the role of engaging the modern world. This engagement was to be in as much a proactive role as a reactive one.

The landscape had in some ways changed drastically from the days when the Church withdrew from engaging the world. The most significant differences in that interim were (i) the increasing degree of literate people with secondary education (ii) the ever-increasing mobility as a result of technological advances as well as (iii) the ability for the average person to acquire information to an extent previously unheard of. In a sentence, the era of the illiterate, immobile many with few resources being at the obvious disadvantage of the literate, mobile, and heavily resourced few was over. And therefore, a paradigm shift had taken place that needed to be addressed. [I. Shawn McElhinney: A Commentary on the Intracacies of Dialogue (c. 2003)]

Hopefully, it is clear why I do not see the term "surrender" as being an apt analogical word for the Second Vatican Council.{11}

With due respect, ... I doubt your proposed solution is all that practical. When in my 20s, I thought as you do. I have discovered, however, that logic and intellectual argument appeal only to the small minority of people.

That has always been the case Charles.

Besides that, there is one other problem, which is a correlative point of my blog post for today. Go read that, and then understand this as well: not only does the contemporary Church crisis rob us of what would be the best rallying-point for an organized resistance, the current authorities' persistent refusal to reaffirm the integrity of Catholic tradition robs the argument for the same of that authoritative aura that, not only by rights it should have, but more to the point here, is more assuring to the greater number of people of its rectitude, people who will not be moved by the force of cold reasoning alone.

I wonder sometimes when reading statements like this if Charles and I are referring to the same "authorities." Not being able to speak for him on this, I will simply note here that the problem (as I see it) is the bulk of the episcopate's unwillingness to implement the corpus of the teachings of the present pope much as they did with his predecessor. It is to be hoped that the recent episcopal scandals will shame them into doing the right thing but thus far even that appears to be a mixed bag{12} - perhaps because the worst of the scandals are probably not fully exposed yet.{13} For that reason, perhaps they will have to hit rock bottom before they will get the backbones needed to deal with the problems that confront them and their flocks.

For whose word are most people inclined to take as to what constitutes that which is a "distinct Catholic worldview"? Any of us mere individuals with our journals, blogs, and such — or, rather, whatever the Pope happens to be saying at the time?

The problem with the notion of a "distinct Catholic worldview" is that depending on who is applying the concept it can often be made to encompass a lot of external elements that are not intrinsic to the Catholic profession. The one thing that is quite "distinct" about "the Catholic view" (to the extent that one exists) is that there are a lot more points unsettled than actually settled. This was not a popular admission to make during the Counter-reformation when the myth of the "unchanging Church" and artificially inforced notions of "uniformity" held sway. But those of us who are reasonably well read and are aware of the variegated nature of the Church throughout most of her history are not about to buy into that notion for a moment.

As far as whom to accept on these matters -us bloggers or the Pope, well that answer should be self-evident to Catholics: it is the Pope. I remind readers of this list of the teaching of Pope Benedict XV on this subject:

[W]henever legitimate authority has once given a clear command, let no one transgress that command, because it does not happen to commend itself to him; but let each one subject his own opinion to the authority of him who is his superior, and obey him as a matter of conscience. Again, let no private individual, whether in books or in the press, or in public speeches, take upon himself the position of an authoritative teacher in the Church. All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: he, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to him reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says. [Encyclical Letter Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum §22 (c. 1914)]

If Catholics want to see the genesis of all problems in the Church today, it is the constant violation of the above teaching by numerous Catholics -be they self-styled "traditionalists", self-styled "progressivists" or even a number of those who identify themselves as "conservatives." If Catholics cannot find the fortitude to obey their superiors, then why on earth do they think that non-Catholics will find the claims of the Church to be credible???

That is why I've come to realize that no matter how compelling I find the case for a "traditionalist" understanding of our religion to be, those arguments will convince the few and not the many. And as long as there continues to be no authoritative affirmation for our sense of what a "distinct Catholic worldview" is, there's little hope of persuading the masses of anything other than the conceptual language today's Vatican is speaking, a language that some of us realize is part of the problem, not the solution.

Charles refers here to the more personalist tone of more recent magisterial pronouncements presumably. The only thing that I see that is potentially "problematical" about this style is its expository format which can lead to rather lengthy texts. This is both a blessing as well as a burden because most people do not (and never have) read magisterial texts and with the state of modern catechesis, the Magisterium has to essentially catechise as well as teach if that makes any sense -and the form must be accomodated to the predominent mindset of the target audience which is much broader today than in years past.{14}

Fortunately, we have the Catechism of the Catholic Church now which covers a lot of these matters in a more summary format than is common in encyclical letters and constitutions of the popes or resolutions of the councils.{15} And the obvious moves in recent years --particularly the past fifteen-- by the Vatican to slowly tighten the screws is working in many areas. (Though there is still a lot left to accomplish here.)

I am left thinking of how many people in America will not be sufficiently aware of the terrorist threats posed since 9/11 until another attack takes place. This seems to have an ecclesial parallel in that the local ordinaries are probably going to need to see either another scandal --or a magnification of the 2002 scandals-- before they are moved to show backbones both individually as well as collectively as a rule rather than as the exception to the rule. But I digress.

Notes:

{1} It has to be because one cannot make an authentic act of faith without having the freedom to do so. And as salvation ultimately depends on faith, liberty must if not be a first rank virtue then at the very least proximate to a first rank virtue because of the role it plays in the theological virtue of faith.

{2} Part of which involves seeking to cultivate the religious impulse.

{3} If there is a preceived conflict between the individual and society that is.

{4} I call them my "forty acres and a generator" days.

{5} Those of us who are bound by the chains of time cannot see the eschatological reality of Christ's final victory over the Evil One.

{6} The same is the case for any endeavour we can refer to but for the sake of discussion, let us focus on running.

Though I used to be a pretty good sprinter, I do not run anymore because of what running does to the knees of those who engage too often in the activity. (And in part because of a serious knee injury suffered seven years ago which makes running an impractical and destructive activity for me to engage in now even more than it previously was.) However, we can gather an appreciation of the three phases of stress on the human organism by looking at the activity of running as an example.

Dr. Hans Selye MD identified three phases of what he termed the General Adaptatation Syndrome (GAS) of the human organism. The first is the stage whereby the organism is shocked in its reception of stress. With running, one "limbers up" first to allow the body to prepare for the initial stresses of the activity. This constitutes part of the first stage which Seyle referred to as "the alarm phase." Once the alarm phase passes, there is the second stage of adaptation which is a period whereby the body can run at an efficient pace. (Selye referred to this stage as the "stage of resistance".) However, after this stage runs its course, there is the third phase which Selye termed "the state of exhaustion." On ecclesial matters, this parallel would adequately be summarized in the periods of renewal and reformation historically.

I would argue that the Church passed from the "exhaustion" stage of the sequence brought on by the so-called "reformation" to a fresh stress impetus with the Second Vatican Council. The latter stress --due to the scope of the myriad of stresses imposed on the ecclesial organism as a whole-- has taken a few decades to adjust to. If my theory on this is correct, we are in the beginnings of the "stage of resistance" and have been for about ten to fifteen years. This would give much more reason for optimism than for pessimism -particularly since we already are assured of the outcome of this battle in favour of the forces of good. (Even if we do not see it in this lifetime.)

{7} I say "normal natural capabilities" because as a rule, we make very little usage of our intrinsic capabilities in day to day living. Or to quote the early twentieth century psychologist William James on the matter:

Every one knows on any given day that there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of that day do not call forth, but which he might display if these were greater. Most of us feel as if we lived habitually with a sort of cloud weighing on us, below our highest notch of clearness in discernment, sureness in reasoning, or firmness in deciding. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.[circa 1906)]

If one considers the arguments set forth above on the polarity between intensity and duration, it is easier to understand how we get through day to day activities.

{8} Obviously grace being supernatural and from an infinite source could transcend nature and take it beyond where it was otherwise conditioned to go.

{9} This argument was made in a few of my writings including the essay on the Syllabus of Errors. And though not as polished perhaps as the arguments of the aforementioned writing on this subject, it is also advanced in the following bit from my earlier treatise when addressing the common approach of certain self-styled "traditionalist" groups to inconsistently and hypocritically dump on the ressourcement theologians behind the methodology utilized by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council while giving a free pass to luminaries of the past whose methods echoed those of the aforementioned theologians:

If the 'traditionalists' and their allies were around in the time of the Angelic Doctor, they would have been one of the groups that called St. Thomas a heretic and sought to have his teachings suppressed. Based on what they think of modern philosophies and sciences today, ask yourself if we should doubt this in any way about the 'traditionalist' tunnel vision tendencies. (With regards to how they would have reacted to St. Thomas' teachings in his time period.) After all, St. Thomas did not utilize the "traditional" theological methods of his time. Which brings up another interesting point of consideration.

If self-styled 'traditionalists' are going to dump on people like Fr. Henri de Lubac SJ, Fr. Yves Congar OP, and other similarly influenced as they were (including Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) then they ought to be consistent. They ought to likewise dump on Ven. John H. Newman, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent of Lerens, and St. Augustine for the same reasons. (Every single one of them to some extent had innovative insights on certain theological subjects.) But of course the so-called 'traditionalists' will not do that which underscores how utterly hypocritical they really are. Sure modern philosophy and science has its secular aspects to it but Aristotle and other Greek philosophers (not to mention Aristotelian philosophers like Averros and Avicenna and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides) preceded Aquinas and influenced St. Thomas' work in not a few aspects. Therefore, according to the so-called 'traditionalist', the Angelic Doctor if he used his formulary today would be labeled a "Modernist." Ven. John H. Newman was accused of being a Modernist after the Holy Office decree Lamentabili Sane was promulgated. The fact that his thesis and personal integrity were defended by Pope St. Pius X should shut these kinds of 'traditionalists' up. As for the rest, are 'traditionalists' going to impugn canonized saints with the charge of betraying the Church for their heavy involvement in secular philosophies and the development of methods that were "untraditional" for their respective time periods??? Of course not, these will get another free pass while Fr. de Lubac and Fr. Congar continue to be treated by them in manners akin to how many in the Church treated Ven. Newman during his lifetime. (And how not a few treated the theology of the Angelic Doctor whose orthodoxy had to be zealously defended at Lyons II by his master the aged St. Albert the Great.) [I. Shawn McElhinney: A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' Part X (c. 2000, rev. 2003)]

I trust that Charles will not see the above text as an indictment of personal nature but instead as a more generalized indictment of certain methods and presuppositions common to not a few of those who call themselves "traditionalists."

{10} This is the basis for the pastoral slant of the Council: an approach which sought to rectify an evident gap between abstract notions and their application when the rubber of abstraction meets the road of reality.

{11} A source to buttress this point from an influential prelate both prior to the Council (and also at and subsequent to the Council) if I may:

The Vatican Council was held at that period of history where it was necessary to strike a balance between two extremes both in the world and in the Church: individualism and socialism. By individualism, I mean the emphasis on the right of the individual to develop his own spirituality or economically to increase his own capital without much concern for the social good. By socialism, I mean the stress on social welfate with little concern for either the individual's religion or his morals...What the Council did was to establish equilibrium or balance between these extremes--between evangelization and human progress, between soul-winning and society-saving, between divine salvation and human liberation. It made both inseparable...It was a master stroke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that bishops gathered from all over the world could see the new direction the Church must take--which actually was nothing else than the old direction that Christian salvation has an earthly and historical dimension, namely, the relation of the love of God and the love of neighbour. [Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Treasure in Clay pgs. 289-290 (c. 1980)]

{12} Since the scandals of 2002, there have been increasing traces of episcopal backbone; however they thus far have been the exception rather than the rule.

{13} I will not for the sake of brevity explain why the genesis of this scandal (not to mention a number of the priests accused of pedophilia) preceded the Second Vatican Council.

{14} When documents from the magisterium were explicitly addressed only to the clergy.

{15} Charles could (I suppose) opine that a more condensed version of the text of the CCC would be beneficial: a sentiment to which I do not disagree. And that text will be put forth at some point -much as the Roman Catechism was followed by a series of smaller catechisms drawn from its texts.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Points to Ponder:

[L]ibertarianism remains in the largest part a thought experiment for college sophomores of all ages. [Richard J. Neuhaus (circa 1997)]

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Monday, August 09, 2004

In Defense of Michelle Malkin's Theory:

This is a continuation of sorts from an earlier post which touched on Michelle's recent visit to Seattle to launch the tour in support of her new book on the subject of internment.

Readers of this humble weblog are aware that I have particular definitions for terms such as theory and thesis. As I will throughout this post be referring to Michelle Malkin's position on the internment as a "theory", it is incumbent upon me to define these terms so that readers know where I am coming from in utilizing them. The definitions I will use are ones which I sketched out earlier this year in essay form and have long guided my approach to different issues. Or as I noted shortly afterwards in parsing those definitions for posting to my Miscellaneous weblog:

[W]hen one is dealing with a theory, they are dealing with both abstract notions as well as coordinating dynamic principles of action. One of the author's intellectual mentors once defined a theory as "a set of non contradictory abstract ideas (or as philosophers like to call them 'principles') which purports to be either a correct description of reality or a guideline for successful action."...

Having established a working meaning of the term theory, it is worth noting also that the word thesis according to the Merriam Webster Thesaurus is related to the word theory. (Both of them having a foundation in the term assumption.) A good way of looking at this in the current context is to view a thesis as "an abstract principle or proposition to be advanced and maintained by argument" and a theory as incorporating a thesis -or a series of theses -with a guideline for successful action. The reason for this is because a theory by its nature must involve either (i) a correct description of reality or (ii) a guideline for successful action. For this reason, any viable theory involves several principles if you will which work together.

Or another way of looking at it would be to consider that a theory is being conceived of a series of non contradictory coordinative theses or points of presupposition. When viewed in this light, a theory clearly is only as strong as the theses which support it. [I. Shawn McElhinney: The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard Introduction Section (c. 2004)]

In the manner whereby the preceding terms are defined, Michelle Malkin's position is properly referred to as a theory because in her book, she seeks to put forth what she claims is a correct description of reality viz the internment. As her view is not exactly congruent with the so-called "conventional wisdom" on that subject, she will be on the receiving end of many criticisms -some potentially of merit. The purpose of this post is to respond to some of the latter criticisms. The words of the critic (a Mr. Eric Muller) will be in dark green font, quotes from his sources will be in shale font. Any quotes from Michelle's work as quoted by Eric Muller will be in blue font.

Michelle is undoubtedly aware that the two most prominently voiced criticisms of the government's program are these:

Being "the two most prominently voiced criticisms of the government's program", they are what we will focus on in this brief post.

1. The government evicted all American citizens of Japanese ancestry from their West Coast homes and placed them into camps, but took no action affecting American citizens of German or Italian ancestry. (In other words, if your name was, say Joe Kaminaka or Lou Matsumoto, you were evicted and confined; if your name was, say, Joe DiMaggio or Lou Gehrig, well, uh, you know.)

Michelle pointed out in her Seattle talk that (i) the Japanese attacked us, the Germans and Italians did not. Furthermore, (ii) the west coast of the United States was particularly susceptible to Japanese attack in a manner Germany and Italy could not remotely achieve. She has also noted that (iii) it is untrue to say that people of German or Italian ancestry were not also at times interned. And of course (iv) the impracticality of interning all Americans of German or Italian ancestry (which would represent about 45% or more of all Americans) made it necessary to be more selective in the internment of people of those nationalities than with the much smaller population Japanese-Americans. Other points could be noted but that is sufficient to answer the first point in macro form.

However, as Eric Muller attempts to answer these kinds of responses, it is only fair to interact with his criticisms. One of his responses to arguments like the above points include the following:

What's more, it was not true after early June of 1942--before a single Japanese American was transferred for indefinite detention in a "relocation center"--that Japan had the capability of launching a major attack on the United States. The decisive American victory at Midway ensured that. And folks, notwithstanding Michelle's assertion (page xxxiii) that this view of Midway's impact is hindsight, that's just wrong: Newsweek (June 22, 1942), The New Republic (June 15, 1942), The Nation (June 27, 1942), Time (June 22, 1942), and the Los Angeles Times (June 8, 1942) all opined that the Midway victory essentially foreclosed any large-scale sea-based attack on the continental United States.

Eric Muller appears to not understand the value of war propaganda and how important it was to the US Government that people believe that Midway was the "turning point" whether or not it was actually seen as true at the time. Obviously in retrospect, the Battle of Midway can be said to have been what Eric is claiming in this case. However, he has to be careful not to argue anachronistically and to consider what I noted above. For there are viable reasons for doubting the objectiveness of the reporting from the media outlets Eric Muller refers to.

After all, we are talking about a country (the United States) that waited almost a month to announce the Doolittle raids on Tokyo in order to put a good "spin" on that news.{1} That is correct my friends, rather than report immediately on what had happened, there was a delay in reporting in order to spin the news for propagandistic purposes.{2} Despite this treatment of the news scarcely a month earlier than Midway (circa May 10, 1942), Eric Muller seems to think we are supposed to believe that more immediate media stories such as the June 8, 1942 story from the LA Times on the Battle of Midway{3} were somehow objective assessments of the situation rather than cleverly utilized propaganda that the judgment of history happened to confirm later on.{4}

In light of the previously enunciated contemporary example of the Doolittle raid (and the press treatment of it), this notion of Eric Muller's viz. the US media's contemporary assessment of the Battle of Midway is not just a little questionable. Again, while hindsight vindicates his position; at the same time a student of history who is aware of the value of propaganda during wartime{5} is not quick to take such opining at face value. (But has just cause to see it as suspect at best.){6}

As far as the claim that Michelle's comments about Germany or Italy not having "[a] large scale espionage network akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages", Mr. Muller boldly asserts that this claim is so easily refuted that it's not worth the effort to spell it out. Within the sentence, he has seven links to four different sources. Let us examine them now in brief.

Among the aforementioned sources, one refers to a Tyler Kent and there is no evidence in the link of "[a] large scale espionage network[.] Another link he cites to support his contentions goes to a link on German espionage but it does not prove Eric Muller's case either since Michelle was claiming that Germany and Italy did not have "[a] large scale espionage network akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages" This statement is not the same as Michelle claiming that there was no espionage sponsored by Germany or Italy. In short, the second link fails as a refutation of one of the theses of Michelle's theory.

To resume an examination of his sources, there are another bunch of links which go to the same site at different parts. To summarize them briefly, one is to the Duquesne Spy Ring and the arrest of 33 members in 1942 who were Nazi spies. Another is to an article that starts off saying [t]he first sign of the German High Command's intention to engage in sabotage activities in the United States was disclosed by the apprehension of eight trained German saboteurs by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation within two weeks after they had landed in the country from German submarines. At the danger of sounding redundant, again it appears that Eric Muller thinks that providing evidence of German espionage -either actual or intended- equates to the same thing as (to use Michelle's words) "[a] large scale espionage network akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages."

Further examination points us to yet another link in the sequence which goes to the story of one single German espionage agent and then at the very end it ties in another agent. Presumably we are supposed to see these two agents a sevidence of (to use Michelle's words) "[a] large scale espionage network[s] akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages." If that is the case, then it would be like asserting a parity between the jaywalker and the murderer because both parties wer guilty of breaking the law!!!{7} But there is more.

For in another example from Eric Muller, we are presented with a link that notes the arrest of nine Nazi spies on espionage. We are apparently supposed to conclude that nine people equates to (again, using Michelle's words) "[a] large scale espionage network akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages."{8} The last link is another one on the Duquesne Spy Ring so we need not say anything else about it. Having noted all of these, let us recap their witness now in brief.

If this writer is interpreting Mr. Eric Muller correctly, we are supposed to conclude because of the existence of some Nazi spies and espionage rings sponsored by Germany that the existence of these espionage agents means that at least one of the theses to Michelle's theory is so easily refuted that it's not worth the effort to spell it out. Again let us reiterate: the existence of some Germany-sponsored spies and small espionage networks does not ipso facto constitute (to use Michelle's words) "[a] large scale espionage network akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages." This should be obvious to anyone with a proper sense of proportion in their argumentation.

To summarize the first example, Michelle's words can be read in a number of ways. Hopefully the above example points out why those who are quick to try and disprove the work of another should read with greater care the sources they utilize to support their contentions. So much for the "easily refutable" part of Ms. Malkin's text. Let us move onto the second "major objection" to Michelle's theory as enunciated by one Eric Muller.

2. The actions taken against Japanese Americans were absurdly disproportionate to the scope of any security risks of which the government was even arguably aware.

Michelle apparently deals with this charge by discussing the MAGIC cabels in her book -claiming that they are largely ignored by apologists against the internment policy. But even if she is wrong in her assessment there,{9} she clearly recognizes the first fundamental of the three fundamental rights of man and that is the right to life.

In the matrix of life, faculties, and production (to use Bastiat's classic delineation), though all three intrinsically stand together, the faculty of life is the fountainhead of the others and therefore must be the final trump in the hierarchy of rights real or preceived. In the "life", "liberty", and "pursuit of happiness" denoted rights contained within the Declaration of Independence, it should stand to reason that while "liberty" trumps "pursuit of happiness" that "life" must likewise trump "liberty." I focus often on the necessary concern for the public order and the common good of society as necessary points of reference in these kinds of discussions because without this recognition, no society can possibly survive longterm. Furthermore, in a time of war, there are additional restrictions that the government can take with regards to the freedoms of individuals -as the needs of the many must in the purest of logic outweigh the needs of the few.{10}

So to summarize this brief examination of the two most prominently voiced criticisms of the government's program, hopefully it is clear that at least a couple of the theses that support Michelle's theory are not as easily refutable as critics such as Mr. Eric Muller assert that they are.

[Update: Apparently Michelle has responded to many of the criticisms of Eric Muller and company. Readers can therefore see this post as a kind of complement to her responses on these subjects. - ISM 8/09/04 5:21pm]

Notes:

{1} Objectively speaking, the Doolittle raids -heroic though they were- accomplished nothing materially speaking towards defeating Japan.

{2} In this case to give optimism to the public who were anything but optimistic after the attack on Pearl Harbour.

{3} From which the stories of the other periodicals (June 15, 1942: The New Republic; June 22, 1942: Time and Newsweek; June 27, 1942: The Nation) were probably to a large extent based.

{4} This is at least as viable a theory on the contemporary view of the Battle of Midway as the one that Mr. Muller propagates.

{5} And the US's significant employment of propaganda in numerous facets of its media coverage.

{6} One of the points that Michelle's book apparently makes is that the existence of the MAGIC cables lends credence to the position that the internment was a justified measure taken at the time, assertions of racism and the like notwithstanding. (Also, this point would mitigate any attempts to turn this writer's references to US propaganda during the war around in service of those who opposed the internment measures.)

{7} Need I point out that this is the germ of the same arguments used by the left viz. the comparison of Bush and Hussein??? (Or Abu Ghirab and the murderous policies of Al Queda???)

{8} This is an unusual notion of "large" to put it mildly.

{9} Not having read the book yet, I cannot be certain on this point -though Michelle's propensity throughout her career for doing her homework provided me an ample rationale for giving her the benefit of the doubt here. (Until I do read the book of course and see how this point is treated therein.)

{10} Mr. Spock was correct.

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On Michelle Malkin's Visit to Seattle:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

This was written on Saturday and slightly adjusted today prior to posting.

Michelle Malkin gave an overview of her new book on the Japanese internment at a reasonably packed church hall last night Friday evening. (A meeting which was attended by yours truly.) It was a very informative book overview lasting about ninety munutes -part of which included a question and answer period from the audience. A signing session followed the Q and A where Michelle interacted with a number of those who came to the event. I decided that despite wanting to ask a question during the forum to let others do that since I have public outlets for my musings (dyspeptic or otherwise) and most others probably do not. I did though want to shake her hand and thank her for this book and for opening a public debate that needs to take place on this crucial issue.{1}

Michelle is even lovelier in person than in her pictures and in her live presentation there was evidence of a sense of humour which always aids in the discussion of serious issues. I cannot hope to do any of the topics she covered justice in a brief post such as this -nor for that matter do I have the kind of micro knowledge of them that would facilitate such a discourse. All of that is reason why I will be buying her book and encourage you to do so as well.

As longtime readers of this weblog know, I have a certain affinity for originality in thought.{2} However, this cannot be originality for its own sake as uncritical change for change's sake creates a climate in which logic and reason cannot fruitfully flourish. No my friends, genuine originality must consist mainly in the re-presentation of timeless truths or principles in ways that will make them easier for the modern mind to assimulate and be able to put into action.

I explained the aforementioned principle HERE in setting forth a workable definition for "conservative" that while pointed at a specifically religious context nonetheless is framed in political concepts. The reason for the latter should be obvious: if we are to avoid repudiating the Law of Non-Contradiction, we must recognize that authentic conservatism is the same in any context whereby it is categorized.{3} Michelle has the kind of authentic originality in her approach to these issues that interests me -and *not* because we tend to (from what I can discern) agree on a lot of issues.

I recommend highly that you go see her live if you can and also, buy this book. It will hopefully be the spearhead of a debate subject that needs to be waged in the public arena. As I noted earlier in the week, someone such as myself would be in very hot water to discuss the subject she has written on most recently. But that is not to say that Michelle is going to miss a media lynching of her own.{4} No, what she will go through is par for the course when you dare to challenge the "established orthodoxy" on any issue. That is when those who whine about being "tolerant" and how we all should be "tolerant" of others become amazingly intolerant themselves.

Michelle also displays the kind of integrity that goes with a genuine thinker on issues. I say this because a thinker when presented with evidences that require a paradigm shift in their outlook (at least in part) is faithful to their conscience even at the risk of public disparagement on issues not viewed as "politically correct." In Michelle's case, she went from opposing the internment concept (as recently as the year 2000) to supporting the concept (if not all of the particulars) after studying the issue with (one would presume) reasonable depth and (without a doubt) reflection upon the multiple nuances that go into this position.

It is much harder to actually think for oneself and much easier to simply accept what so-called "conventional wisdom" says on whatever the subject is. (Arthur Jones' dictum that "ninety-five percent of what is published on all subjects is hogwash" is not a principle noted at this weblog without reason my friends.) Apparently critics of this book -most of whom probably have scanned it at best if they have at all read it-{5} are already trying to go after her theory. We will address these main objections (as outlined by one of her critics) in another post. But first, a bit on the Q and A at last night's Friday night's gathering.

One of those whom Michelle mentions in her book (the UW professor Tetsuden Kashima) was present and he asked a good question which I thought Michelle adequately handled. Another man of Japanese-American ancestry tried to claim that Michelle by supporting internment was putting herself on the same side of the ideological fence as the Romans who persecuted and killed the early Christians. This is a very poor analogy and the moderator -despite attempts to get this guy to ask a question rather than pontificate with the microphone- adequately shut him down. (Though for a little while it did not appear he was going to relinquish the microphone.){6} There was also a woman who wanted to editorialize on her experiences in internment camps and to some extent dress down Michelle for being "too young" to really handle this matter properly -an extension of the "you must experience something to credibly talk about it" logical fallacy.{7} Again, Michelle handled this critic with proper tact and sensitivity.

I though the evening went well and I found myself reflecting on something that Teresa Heinz Kerry said at the Jones town Democratic Convention when leaving the gathering. Mrs. Kerry claimed to want to be considered "intelligent" rather than "opinionated" -despite her evincing no reasonable precedent for being accorded the mantra of being "intelligent." Michelle by the starkest of contrasts to Mrs. Kerry is not only opinionated but she manifests an acute intelligence in her work. I will be buying and reading her latest book for that reason and I recommend that you consider doing likewise.

Notes:

{1} If you are reading this Michelle, I was the one who asked you if you cover the subject of President Lincoln suspending habeas corpus in your book. (In response to the southern states seceding from the Union in 1861.) It would be among the understatements of the millennium to state that President Bush's handling of suspected allies of the terrorists has (by contrast) been quite benign.

{2} Indeed the title Rerum Novarum means essentially "of new things."

{3} This applies to areas of philosophy, politics, sociology, theology, economics, etc. As far as conservatism goes, so much of what passes for "conservatism" today is fraudulent. It is beyond the scope of this post to explain the reasons for this: indeed it has been rehashed at this weblog before and at the subsidiary Miscellaneous weblog.

{4} Indeed she points out at her site an article from a Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter on this matter written yesterday where the intention is quite obviously to discredit her theory on the internment.

{5} This is par for the course as any writer whose work strikes a nerve with people is well aware.

{6} Anyone who thinks this line of argumentation is solid, email me on the matter and I will explain to you why this kind of reasoning is specious.

{7} This is akin to the argumentation fallacy some utilize in claiming that someone has to manifest a certain subjective amount of "credentials" in order to discourse intelligently on a particular subject matter. Essentially we have here a premise popular in ivory tower circles as a kind of lazy expedient to avoid having to interact honestly with the outlooks of those who run counter to the "accepted" version of situations, events, or topics of discussion.

If we take this issue down to brass tacks, the assertion is essentially that one has to be learned to be logical. If this was not what was being asserted at least by implication, then the arguments would be addressed on their merits rather than by appealing to "credentials" as a presumed "authority." (This is an example of the argument from authority logical fallacy in spades.) In reality, the tools of logic and reason are available to all people regardless of their level of learning. Education can refine these tools certainly; however they can also blunt them as is demonstrated by numerous people in academia who parade about their "credentials" despite showing a profound inability to utilize logic and reason properly.

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Sunday, August 08, 2004

I am almost finished with a post which covers the visit to Seattle of Michelle Malkin. The delay is because I am not sure if the post should be divided into two with the visit information and general information part in the first post and the refutation of some of Michelle's critics in the second post. In the meantime, any Kerry supporters can make use of this image from JunkYard BLOG in support of their candidate if they so choose:

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