Saturday, August 21, 2004

Points to Ponder:

[T]he Sillon proposes to raise up and re-educate the working class. But in this respect the principles of Catholic doctrine have been defined, and the history of Christian civilization bears witness to their beneficent fruitfulness. Our Predecessor of happy memory re-affirmed them in masterly documents, and all Catholics dealing with social questions have the duty to study them and to keep them in mind. He taught, among other things, that “Christian Democracy must preserve the diversity of classes which is assuredly the attribute of a soundly constituted State, and it must seek to give human society the form and character which God, its Author, has imparted to it.” Our Predecessor denounced “A certain Democracy which goes so far in wickedness as to place sovereignty in the people and aims at the suppression of classes and their leveling down.” At the same time, Leo XIII laid down for Catholics a program of action, the only program capable of putting society back onto its centuries old Christian basis. But what have the leaders of the Sillon done? Not only have they adopted a program and teaching different from that of Leo XIII (which would be of itself a singularly audacious decision on the part of laymen thus taking up, concurrent with the Sovereign Pontiff, the role of director of social action in the Church); but they have openly rejected the program laid out by Leo XIII, and have adopted another which is diametrically opposed to it. Further, they reject the doctrine recalled by Leo XIII on the essential principles of society; they place authority in the people, or gradually suppress it and strive, as their ideal, to effect the leveling down of the classes. In opposition to Catholic doctrine, therefore, they are proceeding towards a condemned ideal.

We know well that they flatter themselves with the idea of raising human dignity and the discredited condition of the working class. We know that they wish to render just and perfect the labor laws and the relations between employers and employees, thus causing a more complete justice and a greater measure of charity to prevail upon earth, and causing also a profound and fruitful transformation in society by which mankind would make an undreamed-of progress. Certainly, We do not blame these efforts; they would be excellent in every respect if the Sillonist did not forget that a person’s progress consists in developing his natural abilities by fresh motivations; that it consists also in permitting these motivations to operate within the frame of, and in conformity with, the laws of human nature. But, on the contrary, by ignoring the laws governing human nature and by breaking the bounds within which they operate, the human person is lead, not toward progress, but towards death. This, nevertheless, is what they want to do with human society; they dream of changing its natural and traditional foundations; they dream of a Future City built on different principles, and they dare to proclaim these more fruitful and more beneficial than the principles upon which the present Christian City rests.

No, Venerable Brethren, We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker - the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be setup unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. omnia instaurare in Christo. [Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique §9-11 (c. August 25, 1910)]


An Anniversary and a Feast Day:

Though another anniversary of sorts is coming up,{1} today is the feast day of St. Pope Pius X among other anniversaries of note.{2} It seems appropriate to commemorate this with two tributes if you will to this pope. The first is a reference to a text of his magisterium which was promulgated on the twenty-fifth of August in 1910 -the Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique which was written to correct the excesses of a French Catholic movement called the Sillon. The text of that Apostolic Letter can be read in full HERE. A portion of the text that is particularly applicable to our age (in light of the push for gay so-called "marriage") will be quoted next in a Points to Ponder section.{3} In the meantime, in honour of His Holiness' enjoyment of fine cigars, I have decided to post the following reprisal of a December 2002 post to this weblog. Here is the relevant text:

Reading of [Fr. H's] defense of cigars as not being a vice, I was reminded of a story that a cigar smoking priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, who is now in training for the Vatican diplomatic corps, told me. When he was a seminarian in Rome, he learned that Pius X, who was the pope from 1903 to 1914, called a bishop onto the carpet to reprimand him for his scandalous misbehavior with wine, women and song, and to correct his wrongs patiently.

The pope offered the errant bishop a cigar from the papal humidor on his desk. The bishop declined the offer with the protestation, "I do not have that vice, Your Holiness," to which His Holiness replied, "If cigars were a vice, I would not offer you one, for you have quite enough vices already."

After his death, Pope Pius X was canonized a saint and is now known as St.Pius X. According to Catholic belief, a saint is a holy person who is now in heaven. Although Pope Pius X may not have become St. Pius X because he smoked cigars, smoking cigars apparently did not keep him from being a holy man who is now in heaven. Indeed, cigars may have helped him be holy.

Let us salute not only Fr. H but also St. Pius X, whom we may regard as the patron saint of us cigar aficionados. [Courtesy of the "Out of the Humidor" section of Cigar Aficianado (circa March/April 1997)]


{1} I refer here to the two year anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Also, lest I forget to mention it, my parents were wed thirty eight years ago yesterday. Please remember them in your prayers -my father for the eternal repose of his soul and my mother who does not well handle such anniversary days anymore.

{2} As well as the anniversary of one of my writings -the stem cell piece which is three years old today. (With at least three other writings having their third anniversary within the next three weeks.)

{3} It should be obvious that any text should be read with attention paid to its proper context. In light of how the latter so often does not happen, it is noted here in brief as a kind of antecedent monitum of sorts for the benefit of the readers.

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Friday, August 20, 2004

On the War, Moral and Constitutional Principles, "Supporting the Troops", Etc.
(A Dialogue With SecretAgentMan)

Our good friend and legal eagle SecretAgentMan recently weighed in on a Points to Ponder segment posted to this humble weblog last month. It is the intention of this writer to respond in a reasonable manner to SAM's post at this time. His words will be in black font with any additional sources from him quoted in dark spring teal. My sources will be in dark violet blue font.

Since I "oppose the war," I thought it might help if I tried to write an answer.[1]

The footnotes will be noted in sequence to avoid detracting from the flow of the response.

Just for the record, I have three reasons for opposing the war.

Each reason given by SAM will be responded to in sequence.

First, I oppose it because I do not think it a just war.

To deal with every possible contingent point of the "just war" thread would be to write a book. That is not the intention of this response which will touch briefly on each point raised. For a bit more context viz. SAM's position, the following is a quote from one of SAM's sources. Presumably we would get a reasonable encapsulation of his view from that interview source:

I guess I need to start out by distancing myself from the"Oh God, we're so corrupt and evil, how dare we defend our society so long as one child remains hungry" bunch who oppose the war...I don't think the war was "just" inasmuch as a just war has to be conducted according to lawful authority, and the only lawful authority the United States has, by treaty, is the UN Charter which authorizes the use of military force only with the consent of the Security Council or when a threat to national security is so immanent and direct that it is unrealistic to consult the Council.

Okay, this is a reasonable ground to start the argument from. I made my position on the war known eighteen months ago and I still adhere to that position. If SAM rereads that thread, he will see that the legitimate authority as he sees it (the UN) already sanctioned war with Iraq through previous resolutions that they were now unwilling to enforce. And of course the reason for this is only more obvious than it was then: a point that will be dealt with shortly.

I never heard anything -- including Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council -- which convinced me Iraq posed that kind of dire threat to the United States.

For the record, my position on the war did not take into account Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council at all for reasons that have proven to be wise on my part. And despite how it would appear to sound by noting this point, I had an intuition of sorts that it would weaken my case to include Powell's testimony at the UN because (i) the solid arguments for war I intended to present did not need them and (ii) unlike the evidences I focused on, the Powell testimony was more tenuous by its very nature.

It is never wise to base a fundamental position of any kind on tenuous information; instead the information that forms the foundation of a significant position taken should be solid.{1} Many who did not do this on the war subject were left with egg on their faces later on. However, that is not infrequent for those who are out to try and "scoop" a story -yet another reason why we at this humble weblog are not inclined towards pontificating on issues that we have not mused over for some period of time first. But I digress.

I heard proof that Iraq had an evil and murderous regime, which harbored nothing but malice toward its people, its neighbors and the United States, and that it might have had weapons of mass destruction. If that's enough for us to invade Iraq, then it's enough for me to shoot my neighbor if he's a mean, wife-beating son-of-bitch who hates me and owns a gun.

It is true that the above points are in and of themselves not enough reason to invade another nation. There has to be more and I submit that there was significantly more reason than what SAM notes above -though what he notes are additional evidences to support the fundamental reasons of course.

And the Security Council refused to authorize our attack.

As I noted in my position on the war, it is not true that the Security Council refused to authorize military action on Iraq. They were more than willing to issue the strongest statements when there was only rhetoric involved. However, when Bush went to enforce the UN's own Resolutions on Iraq, then France, Germany, and Russia balked. Those paying close attention know now why this was so. But I digress.

That about did it for me; I'm not in love with the United Nations. I think it's an insidious organization in many ways. But as long as we're publicly binding ourselves to the Charter then we ought to abide by the Charter.

Again, I refer you to my previously enunciated position on the war and also on additional information which seriously undermines your appeal to the UN on this matter. To quote from the latter link on this matter:

The United Nations opposed the war in Iraq despite Saddam violating UN resolution after UN resolution. Germany, France and Russia were heavily involved in oil-for-food?and all opposed the war in Iraq. Even though that wasn't the only factor involved, it's impossible to ignore the obvious conflict of interests.

I submit that the latter factor undermines your argument that a just war has to be conducted according to lawful authority, and the only lawful authority the United States has, by treaty, is the UN Charter which authorizes the use of military force only with the consent of the Security Council or when a threat to national security is so immanent and direct that it is unrealistic to consult the Council... Setting aside the second reason for a moment, I outlined in my position on the war more than adequate argumentation to sustain the first argument for war. Let us now consider the merits of the second point before moving onto the additional reasons SAM opposed the war.

The argument about "immanent threat" could be adequately sustained if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence{2} that there was a connection between Iraq and Al Queda -the latter being the known organization behind the September 11, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center. I would argue that the latter constituted the worst terrorist attack on US soil in our nation's history and that anyone who (i) headed up a sovereign nation with (ii) adequate resources who (iii) used said resources to aid those who orchestrated the attack would (iv) reasonably be considered an immanent threat to the United States. Let us now consider the evidences that presented themselves prior to the war to sustain the above points.

We already know that Saddam Hussein was Supreme Dictator for Life of Iraq, a sovereign nation. Furthermore, we also know that Iraq possessed a lot of oil and Saddam was a very wealthy dictator who built his fortune through terrorizing his own people and starving them out of their rightful share of the nation's resources. The first two points noted above are well established beyond debate. Therefore, to sustain the fourth point of the sequence (the "immanent threat to the US" argument viz. Iraq), we must present adequate evidences to buttress the third point. That will be done at this point; however with the caveat that the evidences presented below may have more or less weight in sustaining this position.

Exhibit A - Exhibit B - Exhibit C - Exhibit D - Exhibit E - Exhibit F - Exhibit G - Exhibit H - Exhibit I - Exhibit J - Exhibit K - Exhibit L - Exhibit M - Exhibit N - Exhibit O - Exhibit P - Exhibit Q - Exhibit R - Exhibit S - Exhibit T - Exhibit U

Unfortunately, many of the threads I wanted to link to from The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The New York Times, and NewsMax are no longer available.{3} Nonetheless, the above evidences -some more so than others- all contribute to the theory that ties existed between Iraq and Al Queda -the latter being the group credited with the attacks on September 11, 2001. I trust that SAM will notice that only one of the links above (the last one) can be said to be blatantly partisan towards Bush. I however assert that we have to consider all potential sources -though of course those most partisan can be weighed less in the tally than those which are not so obvious. For that reason, while I would expect SAM to consider the merits of the last piece of evidence, if he chose to weigh it less than the others, that would certainly not be unexpected.

Now then, without the knowledge of hindsight that we now have which may mitigate some of those points,{4} there is evidences from a variety of sources above to point to ties between Al Queda and Iraq in several significant ways. The threads above may not in and of themselves be definitive proofs justifying a military action; however, some of them provide justifications for a military approach and possess varying degrees of probability. Furthermore, you realize I am sure that to achieve moral certainty does not require definitive proof; ergo what is noted above can supply for many people such moral certainty to justify the action of going to war with Iraq as well as with Al Queda.{5}

If both criteria as outlined by SAM have not been met by what is noted above, the first at least has viz. the UN authorizing the war in Iraq through its resolutions - a point I outline in detail in my public position supporting the Iraq war and why peaceful solutions were pointless by early 2003 if not earlier. If any more evidence is needed, then I suggest perusing this thread and this one. I would submit that taken in toto, the twenty-four threads above are sufficient evidences taken together for someone in good faith to see that the rationale for supporting a military effort in Iraq are hardly lacking -even by those who either are not conservative or who have a dislike for President Bush personally.

Second, I oppose it because my knowledge (however limited it may be) of Catholic theology on the subject of just warfare has not led me to the conclusion that all "just causes" require that war be fought, or fought immediately, or fought by direct recourse to violent arms.

This is a fair assessment. I would argue in response that the war on Saddam was at least seven years overdue -for reasons I noted in my position on the war back in early 2003. The rest of the puzzle -including probable Iraq connections with Al Queda- only strengthened that argument. As far as how to approach Saddam without the war option, there is more to fighting an enemy of the US{6} than simply going after them personally. There is also the subject of "aiding and abetting" and there remain strong (though not definitive) arguments that Iraq at sundry times and in divers manners did precisely that prior to September 11, 2001 -and even more so after 9/11.

Moreover, whether or not the present struggle in Iraq is consistent with Catholic teaching, I think the whole affair is a blunder of nightmarish proportions and should be opposed on that ground alone.

I strongly disagree with this assessment for the reasons noted at the above threads but also other posts to this weblog.{7} However, SAM has the right to his opinion. Hopefully what is supplied in this post can to some extent give him a reason to reconsider at least part of what he notes above. Remember, however mixed the bag is in Iraq now -and I will concede that the verdict thus far is a mixed one- no one knows in advance what the outcome of any action will ultimately entail. The question that we need to ask is if there was legitimate reason in this case prior to March 18, 2003 for war to be launched. SAM would recall I am sure that prior to March 18, 2003, I did not take the same degree of strictness on this subject that I did after that point;{8} however even then I was not without a degree of support for those whom I disagreed with on this subject.{9} Nonetheless, I ask SAM if the War between the States was not seen as a blunder of monumental proportions in the year and a half after the firing on Fort Sumter when the Union was getting its keister kicked in battles on a repeated basis and prospects of victory were looking bleak.

I believe a stronger argument can be made that Lincoln's war was a blunder than Bush's was has been if we compare the same time periods of conflict. Bush's war has spanned from March 17, 2003 unto the present day -or roughly eighteen months. Was the condition of the Union in mid October of 1862 better or worse than what we have seen thus far in this war with Iraq??? If you think the condition of the Union was better, then please explain to me why this was so without utilizing anachronistic argumentation. For the record, Lincoln himself did not think things were going well for some time. Indeed even as late as late 1864, he did not think his re-election was likely at all. (Hardly a stance to be taking if the success in the war up to that point was in his favour.) Anyway, ponder those points over please before you consider this war to be the "colossal blunder" that the media is trying to make it out to be. There is room for improvement certainly and some things could have been done a lot better than they have been. But that in and of itself does not constitute a "blunder" -particularly when you consider what (and who){10} we are up against.

So, can I support the troops?

That depends on how you go about promulgating objections to the war effort you may have. In wartime, certain activities that are perfectly legitimate in other time frames constitute sedition when conducted during wartime. In your case, I have seen no evidence of seditious conduct in your public utterances; if anything you appear to for the most part be exercising a form of "reverent silence" on the matter. I would therefore say "yes" to your question above since you appear to approach this from a kind of conscientious objector standpoint rather than from one which can be said to be an undermining of our efforts in Iraq. In my mind that is a distinction with a difference.

It seems to me that loyalty, like all good things, can be properly given unconditional scope only when it is directed to the highest good, namely to God alone. In reference to all other things or persons, loyalty must be qualified because its immediate object exists within a hierarchy of goods which God has created. To the extent a nation, an army, a lover, or any human cause participates in that hierarchy, it may justly demand loyalty and support. To the extent that something deviates from the hierarchy of good, whether in ends or means, it cannot demand or expect human loyalty.

I do not believe President Bush deserves any kind of "unconditional support" on the war effort or on any other issue. However, he does deserve if not public support of the troops and their efforts than at the very least those who find themselves objecting out of conscience should limit themselves to the kind of constructive criticism that seeks to avoid anything that can have the odour of sedition even proximate to it. If the latter cannot be avoided, then there is nothing wrong with silence on the subject coupled with prayer for a favourable outcome for our nation. I agree that loyalty must be qualified; however certain actions or statements which are okay in non-war circumstances are not okay in war circumstances. The lack of understanding this fundamental point is causing a lot of damage to this country's efforts in the war whether most of those who oppose the war{12} realize it or not.

It is a symptom of the times that what I have just written may well, and too easily, be mistaken as an apologia for treason.

I would hopefully not make that mistake.

E.M. Forester wrote, "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country." Fortunately, that's a false choice.

I agree on both points.

One's dilemma isn't who to "betray," but how to live the universal truth of charity with respect to everyone -- to one's country and one's friends. The alternative, which is to determine which human cause requires unconditional adherence or unqualified rejection, is ultimately idolatrous because it gives human allegiances a place in the moral landscape which only God can truly occupy.

I am sensing that you see this in too dichotomistic a way SAM. One does not have to in supporting a particular position give it "unconditional adherence." Even the Catholic Church in requiring religious submission to her ordinary teaching authority does not mean that someone has to accept every jot and tittle of rationale behind a particular position espoused. One can well give proper adherence to a teaching while rejecting some of the arguments advanced to support the teaching.{13} If one can do this in the ecclesial sphere, then one cannot expect a lesser right in the secular sphere of things.

Let's take the worst possible opinion of the war -- its moral equivalence to Roe v. Wade. That's not an opinion I hold myself.

Good because it is an example of a poor sense of proportion in one's argumentation.

To begin with, the moral issues surrounding abortion are sufficiently clear to anyone with the use of right reason as to be undebatable. But the morality of the attack on Iraq is less clear, all the more so because the government insisted that it had secret information that justified the choice for war.

True. However, we are then left asking if the government is expected to reveal all of its cards to the citizenry before making a judgment on how to respond to certain situations. Such a view would be suicidal to just public order, the common good of the citizenry, and the security of the nation. Therefore, it could not be viably tolerated.

When President Bush claimed -- and I do not brook casuistry on this subject, because the Administration's position was quite clear in the days before the war -- that Iraq posed a dire, direct, and immediate threat to the physical security of the United States, the manuals of moral theology on my shelves say that one may presume that he is speaking both truthfully and accurately.


But when a physician points at a human being inside her mother's womb, noting the eyes, lips, fingers, etc., of a human body, observing the human being try to avoid the instruments which are pulling it to bits and says "See that? It's not to be respected as though it were a human being," one doesn't have that benefit, because the situation is clear enough to anyone with eyes and a conscience.

Agreed. There is a need for a proper sense of proportion in argumentation.

But let me assume that such equivalence exists anyway, and ask Shawn a question, not to avoid his own, but to illustrate my point.

Assuming proportionality where it does not exist is not a good foundation for an argument; nonetheless, I will in this instance (and for the sake of argument) grant you your premise.

Is it patently illogical, sheer sophistry, to support our country while opposing one of her most basic constitutional rights, the right to have an abortion?

In all honesty, anyone who thinks there is a "constitutional right" to an abortion needs to be institutionalized for mental disorder as I see it.

It is no use answering that abortion is not a basic constitutional right, whether or not that answer is based in the natural law or the history of American jurisprudence.

I disagree. Pointing out something that is not constitutional with concern for proper context (including the views of those who wrote the Constitution -none of whom can be shown to have supported abortion) is not an insignificant detail by any means. Indeed failing to do this is to overlook the sitz im leben of the Constitution itself.

Natural law[2] is not and has never been recognized by the American legal order, which is (and has largely always been) firmly dedicated to the moral primacy of secular power exercised according to the "consent" of the enfranchised.

I am not sure I completely concur with this. The Framers of the Constitution were influenced by many sources some of which were Catholic ones. For example, the Framers were all English and were acquainted with many Catholic traditions in jurisprudence or law which were either antecedent or subsequent to the so-called "reformation".{14}

Inquiring into jurisprudential history would only lead us on a merry chase through the obscurities of constitutional theory and history, neither of which are at all clear that a constitutional decision on the subject of Roe v. Wade is an illegitimate exercise of the sovereign power.

I disagree. The US Constitution presupposes the Declaration of Independence and the right to life is the first right enunciated in that text by which all men are equal under God. Furthermore, not a single one of the Framers to my knowledge saw abortion as anything less than murder; ergo the idea that the enshrined this as a "right" in the Constitution is among the most heinous of prevarications. Indeed, so grotesque of an example of calling evil "good" are the so-called "pro choice" people that there will be a place in hell reserved for them if they do not repent of this before they die.

Moreover, it is an undeniable fact that every American grants abortion the status of a constitutional right de facto if not de jure -- even those of us who oppose abortion condemn responses which one would naturally and ordinarily make to an illegal attack on life of another.

This is true. However, a lot of it is probably because there would be greater damage to the public order of society if abortionists were treated as the murderers that they are. What is needed is a definition of the three fundamental rights of man one of which is life and when it begins. Those are definitions that need to be embodied into the legal code of the United States. Once that were to take place, the strictest measures against abortionists could be undertaken without concern for damage to public order.

It is pathetic that we have fallen to the degree to where such a definition is needed but my emphasis on -and inculcation of- these principles on occasion at this weblog where it seems warranted to do is in part to help set down a foundation to eventually see that take place.

We condemn such responses because, though abortion is evil, violent repudiation of the law also traduces moral imperatives which are equally, if not even more, significant than the simple right to life...We are strange ducks, us pro-lifers. We "pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic for which it stands" even though the republic's laws make a mockery of her claim to exist "under God."

Why do you think I emphasize the subjects of the three fundamental rights of man and the role of law in a just society so much SAM??? It is precisely to chart a course against this odd tendency by supplying the kind of order to the thought process that is lacking by so many who consider themselves "conservative" or "prolife." I have sought to provide through ressourcement a template for us to ground our arguments on which is consistent. Because it is consistent, it is feasible with the proper promotion to persuade people to accept the fundamental premises involved. Once that is achieved, a lot of what falls under modern "conventional wisdom" is repudiated by logical extension.

Essentially, this is a backdoor approach that aims at foundational presuppositions that govern the weltanschauung of the so-called "rights" advocates. I do not believe frontal assaults will succeed in changing societal perceptions; ergo I have opted to try to do so under the radar in a way by setting forth consistent principles of thought and challenging my adversaries to confute them in a manner that does not canonize relativism or make truth subjective. Because at bottom, no one really believes that truth is subjective even if many act as though it is.{14} But I digress.

My support for our troops is, I suspect, somewhat similar to Shawn and I saying the Pledge of Allegiance in its (present, but temporary) theocentric form. We both promise loyalty, but we do not mean thereby to step outside the hierarchy of good which God has ordained for ourselves, our country, her laws, or those who enforce them.

Such a proposition is one that never would have entered the minds of America's Founders; ergo the Pledge itself came along over a century after that in its original form (which did not include "under God" by the way) and was not inconsistent with the principles of the Framers by any stretch.

In that respect, the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge is a saving clause, a thing which makes it possible for a Christian to recite the pledge at all. And we are glad of that.

Are you saying that prior to 1954, a Christian could not recite the Pledge at all??? This is an odd notion and (as history shows) inaccurate to say the least.

We do not look for chances to "betray" anyone or anything. We seek to witness God's charity and truth to everyone -- America's soldiers and lawyers, her armies and her courts.


I can't say I approve of our troops having conquered and occupied Iraq, but I don't think that means I must wish them to be harmed, or even to fail in the goals of our occupation which are, broadly speaking and without reference to their institution, in general accordance with the natural law.

As I have noted already, you approach this issue from what I can tell is a position similar to that of a conscientious objector. I did not have this kind of objector in mind when I jotted those notes a month ago. Those that were in mind at that time are those who publicly seek to undermine the war effort either through (i) words, (ii) actions, or (iii) affiliations with those who act in like manner who at the same time claim to be "patriotic", "supporters of the troops", etc.

I presumed that in light of my trackrecord of utterances on the war issue -some of which is inculcated in this post- that this distinction would be somewhat self-evident. Nonetheless, I have undertaken this response to (i) hopefully clarify those points more explicitly, (ii) inculcate certain root and matrix issues that pertain to the subject matter in the area of foundational presuppositions, and (iii) develop other coordinative points proximate to both sets of points as well.

Certainly Shawn needn't say that he hopes that disaster will strike our country because it permits -- indeed, encourages -- the slaughtering of innocent children as a form of moral and political triumph.


I can wish for all our troops to come home safely, successfully, and unharmed, just as Shawn may wish for all our lawyers, legislators, and judges to shake off the chains of error and come home to the teachings of the Church.

The ecclesiology of return notwithstanding,{15} yes the above paragraph encapsulates what I would like to see happen in this country and throughout the world.

In neither case must we choose who to betray, who to reject and who to damn. That isn't required, because God is in His Heaven and all's contingent on His word.

True enough.

I say, and shall continue to say until sufficient proof is brought to the contrary, that the Iraq war was not just.

The question that must be answered though is if the criteria of what is and is not viewed as a "just war" does not need to be revised in light of modern contingencies that were not on the radar screen of St. Augustine and others who have promulgated and developed respectively this theory over the centuries.{16} I am not sure this criteria can ever be met in all of its particulars in reality (as opposed to in the abstract); therefore, my approach to war has long been more pragmatic than theoretical.

That is not to say that I discount just war theory in toto of course. (Indeed, I do believe in any war the wagers should strive to conform as much as they reasonably can to those principles.) However, I fully expect any war effort to in some way or another fail to meet all the theoretical criteria to qualify as a "just war." And as I am not persuaded by the notion that any war can meet the precise requirements of "just war theory", I do not see arguments that a particular war can or cannot as decisive in taking a position on the war.

Another way of saying it perhaps is that there should be evidence that the principles of just war are being reasonably sought to in my mind justify a particular military action. Otherwise in today's climate of highly developed technology and easy mobility of resources, we could rationalize ourselves into being blown to smithereens if an enemy attacks and we spend more time amidst the ivory tower abstractions and not in the foxholes of reality where the rubber meets the road.{17} But I digress.

I'm not sure how that means I can't "support" our troops, unless the "support" demanded is the kind of unconditional approval referred to above.

Hopefully, I have swept aside the "unconditional approval" position with this post and given my friend ample points to reconsider his position from another angle.

Even if I thought the troops were sinning -- something I don't need to believe in order to think the war was unjust -- I could still pray for them and hope for their safe and successful return.


I can pray for the health and well-being of abortion doctors, and that they may succeed in supporting their families. One needn't wish for a person to be totally and completely consumed by all the evils of this life in order to oppose one signal sin in his character.

This argument interestingly enough supports my position on the entire "just war" subject.

In fact one mustn't do that, since God does not desire the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live. Sinners are miserable enough as it is -- nothing I'm aware of in God's plan requires me to wish that they were more miserable than they already are. "Thy will be done." God's will covers a good deal of human unclarity about the state of souls and the right way to weave the future from the present.


As I said, I don't believe there's a parallel between abortionists, pornographers, etc., and U.S. soldiers in Iraq. What I've said is that, even if there were such a parallel, one can still oppose the sin without hoping that every present aspect of every true good in the sinner's life be stripped away from him. I don't want Hugh Heffner to live in a cardboard box beneath an underpass, even if he does live in a sumptuous Babylonian hell-hole paid for with broken families, raped innocence, and ruined lives. I don't want Larry Flynt to be paralyzed, either. All I want is for them to have had their money, or met their misfortunes, while doing something honorable and good for mankind.


If I can -- and should -- wish for that in the case of abortionists and pornographers, surely I can -- and should, and do -- wish for equal or even greater good in the lives of U.S. soldiers who are, at present, struggling to preserve Iraq from the barbarity that seems to be preferred by the Iraqis themselves.


Yes, I wish they hadn't gone.

Understood. I again hope it is clear that my position prior to the launch of the war was much more accommodating than it later became. That is in part because of the belief that prior to a judgment by a superior, the maximum of freedom in deliberation that is consistent with just public order and the common good should be promoted.

I don't think it was just to have sent them there.

Fair enough. There is enough ambiguity in the "just war" theory to facilitate someone coming to varying conclusions on this point.

But I support the troops.

I believe you SAM. Hopefully this note (i) explains the intention of that post that you referred to in light of previous statements I have made on this matter and (ii) makes it clear that people such as yourself were not the intended targets of those musings.

God bless them and keep them from harm, grant them victory in battle, and success in preserving Iraq from the clutches of Satan.



{1} That is why it took me months to finally weigh in on that position publicly. Many of those who were too quick and who based their positions on tenuous evidences had to retract in a manner that caused them to lose face.

[1] There are, of course, persons to whom Shawn's point applies in full force. You can read about such people here. But I am writing to defend other people, not the John Kerrys, Jane Fondas, and Tom Haydens of the world.

{2} I will let the counselor choose the level of proof that is acceptable to him.

{3} I was shooting for a lot more than what was actually posted above; however some threads that once were accessible by major media outlets now no longer are for whatever reason.

{4} It does no one any good to argue anachronistically; ergo I trust you will avoid this in any responses to this post.

{5} This also applies to some of those who either are not conservative or even (perhaps) who dislike President Bush personally.

{6} And one I might add who quite clearly wants to see us either converted or killed.

{7} There are at least sixteen threads in the archives of this weblog on the war in Iraq over the past two years.

{8} I plan to post a response to my friend Lane Core Jr. about the war from our private correspondence. I hope to do so tonight before bedtime but if not it will be one of my first blog entries tomorrow. Right now I have errands to run but after the Presidents speech, my friends our path is now clear war-wise. And since war is now inevitable (barring Hussein's going into exile in the next 48 hours) we are no longer in the realm of speculation. May the Lord protect our soldiers and also all innocent people in Iraq...[Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa (March 17, 2003)]

{9} Taking the JunkYard BLOG to Task on Iraq and the Vatican (Rerum Novarum post circa March 23, 2003)

{10} Again, I refer to the links at footnote six and also this one on the seriousness of the conflict and the enemy we face.

{11} I was not without some sympathy for those who disagreed with me provided that they did so in a manner that would not be viewed as seditious. See the link in footnote nine where I defending the pope's position on the war despite disagreeing quite strongly with him (to my discomfort) on the matter.

{12} I do not expect non-Catholics (particularly those who view reason and an empiricist understanding of the world as the highest possible truth) to understand this principle. However, as they act the same way in presupposing reason and an empiricist understanding of the world in this manner a priori, at the very least they demonstrate with their foundational presuppositions precisely what I am referring to here whether they realize it or not.

{13} For example, there is Bellarmine's writings on Church-State relations: a couple threads of which are discussed HERE and HERE. It would be untrue to claim that the Framers were carbon copies of Bellarmine's thought as some imprudent zealots for the US Constitution have asserted. However, that there are clear Bellarminean principles evinced in founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the later US Constitution (the Articles of Confederation excluded for the moment) is frankly not even debatable to the student reasonably versed in history.

To note a few key examples, we have ancient Roman law, the Magna Carta circa 1215 and English common law originating around the twelfth century, etc. There is also the presuppositions of the Framers of the Constitution which cannot be overlooked either. All of these were saturated with natural law principles.

{14} And yes I could defend this proposition pretty easily lest anyone wonder.

{15} An Outline of Various Church Models Throughout History (Parts I-V)

{16} Kevin Miller and others...have discussed the issue of the just war. I am not sure based on what I know of the subject if *any* war can meet such stringent requirements. And in that light I am more of a pragmatist on the war subject then a theoretician...

I think it would be a situation where the waging of the war was illicit but we would be in a position where at the very least external compliance would be required if the Commander in Chief made the decision to use military force. (Suspension of inner assent would seem viable to me in this situation for those who had legitimate struggles on the issue from a just war standpoint. But there would be no room for public dissent - indeed I would view such people as borderline traitors objectively speaking from a personal level.)

Having said that though, it would seem to me that a good argument can be made that most of the requirements for a just war can be met in this situation. Because of that I could support a war provided that it was properly conducted and none of the LBJ Vietnam kind of crap was employed...

...I am moved more towards a position of supporting a war effort - whether such an effort meets the criterion for a "just war" in all of its particulars or not. Anyway, that is where I currently am at on this subject: my general distaste for war in reality (compared to intellectual abstraction on the matter) being edged somewhat by an intuitive sense that a strong show of strength is required here. [Excerpts from Rerum Novarum (circa October 22, 2002)]

{17} And I for one will do what I can to not allow my family to be harmed in defense of an abstract theory which is to some extent a movable feast. (As all judgments that touch on the prudential order ultimately are.)

[2] I do not speak here of "natural rights," which is the post-Enlightenment attempt to find the law in pure, unaided, rationality, in the sheer right operating of the human mind, acknowledging at the same time that "right operating" does not require or permit any recourse to divine revelation. One can -- and many American jurisprudes have -- made arguments against abortion on the basis of natural rights. One can -- and just as many American jurisprudes have -- made arguments for abortion on the basis of natural rights.

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Monday, August 16, 2004

This is just a note to inform the readers of Rerum Novarum that Mary H has decided to close St. Blog's Parish Hall and reopen it at a different url. The new Parish Hall can be accessed HERE.