Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Fundamental Rights of Man Revisited:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

This is a necessary companion if you will to the post located HERE. Please read that short post before perusing the text of this one so that the full picture which I endeavour to provide with the two posts can best be ascertained.

One of the three fundamental rights of man that I constantly make reference to is the right to life. With regards to Terri Schiavo, I have made it clear on many occasions that what is needed and needed badly is not just a rally for the preservation of Terri's life. No, what is needed at the same time is a consistent line of argumentation on these issues if we are to triumph in the long run on them. That means that we cannot focus only on the issue of life as if the other fundamental rights are not interconnected with them -as prolifers have been so often prone to do down through the years. Life is the first of these fundamental rights to be sure; however the others are based directly on it and cannot be separated from it without dire consequences resulting. As Claude Frederic Bastiat astutely noted over a hundred and fifty years ago:

Each of us has a natural right--from God--to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? [Claude Frederic Bastiat: Excerpt from The Law (c. 1850)]

This is why I have noted on not a few occasions (most recently HERE) that the myopic nature of most pro-lifers is counterproductive. You cannot stand up for life and then allow for faculties and production (each of which are extensions of life) to be compromised. Our faculties are an extension of our life and they must be safeguarded if life is not to be undermined.{1} This is why when an example contemporary to Terri's situation cropped up last year (referring to fellow Catholic blogger Jeff Culbreath's business rights being undermined), I set forth on this very weblog a carefully written defense of his right to property which was being denied by those who sought to make him conform to their whims against the dictates of his conscience.

That post{2} and its followup{3} were important because they were defenses of a fundamental right that was being overlooked in the entire Terri Schiavo situation by those who (however noble their intentions) could not see the forest for the trees. And frankly, I am still not convinced that they can in all honesty. That is a shame certainly but it is not beyond correction if the supporters of various single-issue movements actually wake up and start paying attention. Unfortunately, Santayana's dictum about history indicates that they most likely will not -except perhaps for a noble few who might take the ball and run with it. However, even at that point I am left asking myself if these are seeds which will actually take root and produce fruit or if instead they will have initial reactions of a positive nature only to die out because of a lack of proper rooting ala the Bible parable of the sower and the seeds.

This is not an easy prescription by any stretch my friends. Instead, it takes time to learn the concepts and then effort to apply the tools of logic and reason consistently to see the underlying framework of it all. However, the end result is a consistent approach to all social and economic issues of the sort that the various groups out there who agitate for changes in these areas (for good or ill) do not possess. And those of us who do possess them are significantly in the minority -often lone voices crying out in the wilderness to use another biblical parallel.

To put it bluntly, I am beyond tired of seeing movements with good intentions to them go awry because of their constituents' generally myopic tunnel vision and intrinsic inconsistencies. (Which along with a kind of issue zenophobic approach inevitably results in them being incapable of looking past the present and into the future on events.) Terri was in the process of having a fundamental right of hers denied last year -of this I do not doubt. But where was a similar concern on the part of the St. Blogs' contingent for the plight of Jeff Culbreath??? I am hardly going to argue that Terri's is higher on the "hierarchy of truths." Nonetheless, to allow Jeff's fundamental rights (faculties and production) to be undermined is to likewise undermine Terri's situation. And the converse of this likewise applies.

For those who would defend Jeff's fundamental rights and ignore Terri's (read: "Libertarians" and "Capitalists" respectively here) would undermine not only Terri's rights but also Jeff's rights.{4} This is why Libertarianism is so patently self-defeating and why Capitalism separated from morality also contains the seeds of its own destruction.{5} However, this is also why the prolife movement is itself self-refuting: each focuses on one fundamental right and ignores the others which require as stout a defense as the one (or ones) that each particular group places their special focus on.

Part of the reason I recently set forth a defense of the Catholic Answers voting issues without recourse to theological argumentation was to point out the important matrix through which all of those issues must be viewed if a consistent principle of argumentation is to be achieved. However, these principles are not limited only to life issues and those which are proximate to life issues. They also apply to those rights which are grounded in the right to life -indeed by logical extension this must be the case.{6} I am left wondering how much longer this will continue to glide past the radars of those who are zealous for the defense of one particular fundamental right while ignoring the other rights from which the right they focus on cannot logically be separated.{7} I have a strange feeling that this post will also fall on mostly deaf ears which is unfortunate -particularly if Terri ends up dying because her supporters continue to fail in accurately focusing their lenses to see how they impugn her cause. They do this by not defending with equal fervour the other fundamental rights that all people received from God -and for which laws were developed by man initially to protect.


{1} This happens to be as solid an argument against cloning as you are going to find in case you are unaware of it: the right of the clone to its faculties and not to be deprived of them. The same principle applies to the case for euthanasia against those who have diminished faculties: yes it is a taking of life but the latter is justified by an appeal to diminished capabilities in a utilitarian manner. Therefore, defense of the person's faculties (however diminished they are) is an important subtext to defending them as people.

In fact, it is possible that the best defense against euthanasia is to address it from the standpoint of faculties. There are two approaches here: one is that the person with diminished faculties has a right nonetheless to them. The second is that because their faculties are diminished they require assistance for survival -this ties into the subprinciple of society's common good.

Obviously we do what we can to protect ourselves against the ravages of aging but the latter nonetheless is a fact of life that catches up to everyone at some point or another. A society that does not look out for the common good of its people is a society that is doomed. And there is no way that euthanasia can do this unless somehow it can be argued that depriving people of their fundamental rights can somehow benefit society: a self-defeating proposition if ever there was one but I digress.

{2} "Traditional Moral Principles" Dept.
(With Additional Musings From Claude Frederic Bastiat, Walter Williams, and Rerum Novarum on the Rights that Precede Man Made Laws)

{3} Miscellaneous Mutterings and Clarifications

{4} I did not explicitly have the Terri Schiavo situation in mind; however note if you will that the defense of Jeff with altering a few particulars also functions as a defense of Terri. The latter was serendipitous by my own admission but a grounded logic on these matters is easily adaptable to other situations where fundamental rights are violated. In Jeff's case, the fundamental right was to property or production. With Terri Schiavo, the fundamental right was the right to life.

This is why I have focused in the past year on fundamental rights and grounding them in a consistent rationale. If we are to turn the tide on the culture wars, it will be by a strong and consistent rationale as well as the kind of heroic front line stances taken by those in the Shiavo and Culbreath situations. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa October 26, 2003]

{5} A given culture reveals its overall understanding of life through the choices it makes in production and consumption. It is here that the phenomenon of consumerism arises. In singling out new needs and new means to meet them, one must be guided by a comprehensive picture of man which respects all the dimensions of his being and which subordinates his material and instinctive dimensions to his interior and spiritual ones. If, on the contrary, a direct appeal is made to his instincts — while ignoring in various ways the reality of the person as intelligent and free — then consumer attitudes and life-styles can be created which are objectively improper and often damaging to his physical and spiritual health. Of itself, an economic system does not possess criteria for correctly distinguishing new and higher forms of satisfying human needs from artificial new needs which hinder the formation of a mature personality. Thus a great deal of educational and cultural work is urgently needed, including the education of consumers in the responsible use of their power of choice, the formation of a strong sense of responsibility among producers and among people in the mass media in particular, as well as the necessary intervention by public authorities. [Pope John Paul II: Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus Section 36 (c. May 1, 1991)]

{6} Hopefully my readers will now realize that all three fundamental rights of man must be defended as a unit or else they all fall. And hopefully my explicit exhortations in developing a consistent philosophical ethic to combat these evils over the past year -and implicit in the year plus preceding it- will finally start gaining some traction in the blogosphere.

All of the hair-pulling, all of the ranting about violations in these areas have to be addressed systematically my friends and from the same core premises. This will require learning a new hermeneutic of argumentation to some extent but if we want to actually win this culture war -and not merely receive constant "stays of execution"- it is something that all of us who care about these issues must learn to do. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa October 30, 2003]

{7} With prolifers and so-called "social conservatives" it is usually the right to life which is the focus of their tunnel vision. With libertarians and capitalists it is the rights to faculties generally speaking while with capitalists it is the right to production -though the latter two oftentimes selectively apply the rights of the other to the extent that it helps them of course. The same is the case with those who promote increases of federal spending as the "solution" to society's problems, it is a violation of faculties and production -though most of them also support abortion which is a violation of life.

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"Culture of Life and Fundamental Rights" Dept.

I received the following email this morning marked "urgent." The text is reproduced in full for reasons which I hope will be obvious.

Kangaroo Courts Are Killer Posts


Our fight to defend Terri Schiavo and her brothers and sisters targeted by the Culture of Death must redouble in the face of Thursday’s judicial infamy.

I ask you to please bring CURE’s statement in the wake of this outrage to your readers’ attention and to consider adding a permanent link to CURE’s blog Life Matters!

Pray and act for Terri! Let us not join those abandoning her by our indifference.

Gratefully yours for Life,


The text below the email read as follows:

Caring When Care Is Critical

Earl Edwin Appleby, Jr.
Director Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia
303 Truman Street
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411

Email for Life Matters
Life Matters
tel: 304-258-LIFE/258-5433

Certainly I will not refuse any request to help uphold a fundamental right that all people possess. However, there is a connection here that most prolifers do not realize and which I refuse to let go unnoted whenever this subject comes to the forefront here at Rerum Novarum. For that reason, an adherence to this request will occasion (of course) a necessary followup post on my part to explain why the pro-life movement (in its monolithic approach to the issue of fundamental rights) is tacitly undermining not only other rights that are by logical extension inseparable from the right to life issue but also the right to life issue itself.

Until I see major promoters of pro-life recognize this and take the necessary measures to insure that there is a consistent foundation of argument for all fundamental rights -with proper delineation of what is a real right versus a merely preceived one- the prolife movement will continue to lose traction as a result of its internal contradictory approach to societal matters at large. Nonetheless, to do my part in rallying support for Terri Schiavo I have added the weblog to my Ecumenical Jihad list of sites and blogs as requested where it will remain in perpetuity. (All things to the contrary notwithstanding.)

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Friday, September 24, 2004

Minor Weblog Adjustments:

It is the custom of this writer to cloak in anonymity responses to emails from readers of this weblog (if they are blogged) in three main situations. To note them briefly, (i) there is not an established pattern of dialogue interactions between them and this present writer in the public sphere{1} and (ii) if your host elects for the sake of the discussion to keep individual names from the mix to keep it focused more on issues.{2} And of course (iii) those who request anonymity for a particular post or thread almost always get what they request. Your host will not say that he always follows these patterns;{3} but as a rule they are faithfully followed.

However, this writer would have to request the reader to take his
word for this since if the assertion was demonstrated publicly (which could easily be done) then We at Rerum Novarum would not be true to the rule We endeavour whenever reasonably possible to follow. Anyway, those are the main reasons names are not posted for some dialogues and yet for others they are.

Up to this point in the history of Rerum Novarum your weblog host had never reversed a single decision on this matter viz. the posts that have been put on this humble weblog: the parties were or were not identified in various posts remaining as they were initially posted whenever that happened to be. But that will change today friends because there is a situation that is unusual here: a person who previously requested anonymity who later changes their mind and releases Us from a previous promise made if you will.

This happened about a week ago when Charles de Nunzio notified your weblog host in private correspondence that he could reveal the former's identity on past dialogues or references where We had cloaked his identity. The changes have been made to the respective posts that We were aware of where confidentiality was kept. For the benefit of the readers, those posts are the following ones from the archives:

Notification of Four Upcoming Weblog Responses (c. April 8, 2004)

Charles was the "unidentified 'traditionalist'" referred to in that post.

A Brief Digression on the "Scylla/Charbydis" Conundrum of American Political Parties, Etc. (c. May 24, 2004)

This post preceded to some extent the one at the link that follows. As in the previous link, it was decided to use the strike feature to line out the original text and replace it with Charles' name to preserve as much as possible the integrity of the original text.

On Marriage, the Supreme Court, Law in General, Etc. (c. June 2, 2004)

This was the post referred to in the April 8th and May 24th posts. We are not about to change the indirect references in this post for lack of time; however Charles' name was added the address of his weblog was linked to it for those who want to contact him about Our usage of his words for whatever reason. It also seems appropriate to note that We at Rerum Novarum remember making a cloaked reference in later posts or audioblogs or but which ones they were it is not possible for Us to recall at this moment.{4} Nonetheless, of those which We are aware of, the identity has now been revealed.

In closing, We realize that those who continue to have a wrong impression of this writer's sense of decorum and fairplay will probably not be swayed by this but so be it. If not for Charles releasing Us from Our previous promises of confidentiality, this post would not be written and that is all that doubters on this score have to know on the matter.


{1} The distinction here is important because there have been many more dialogues conducted behind the scenes if you will which never make this weblog for various and sundry reasons -most of which are noted above.

{2} This is usually in situations where the author feels that the arguments themselves on both sides could be affected adversely if you will by bringing personalities into the mix.

{3} For example those who conduct themselves in a rude manner privately are not about to be given the courtesy of anonymity when We deign to make examples of them publicly. The one exception is when it appears that they want their identity known if you will: then it is not Our tendency give them the satisfaction but treat them instead as a generic caricature rather than a real person.

{4} As your weblog host is at work typing this, he cannot check the mp3's to figure it out. Those posts as they are found will be linked to in updates to this post; however Our searching will be more casual than thorough -though if Charles knows where they are, he can send the links to Us if he is so inclined to do so. (Upon which they will be noted in an update to this post.)

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Miscellaneous Notes on Notable Anniversaries:

I am currently reading a book on Rocky Marciano -my late father's favourite boxer. The book is a biography of Marciano in large part; however, it goes beyond this aim and situates Marciano within his time and discusses various differences between the period that Rocky fought (1948-1956) and today. It of course makes sense in a biography such as this to discuss how boxing today is not what it was then. (And in most cases how the fighters themselves are not what fighters once were.) But the book also deals with (i) the manner whereby the media covered people who were in the public eye as well as (ii) the kinds of role models that were looked at and promoted in that time period (and even in some respects were manufactured from whole cloth). Finally, (iii) it deals with several aspects of how that time period was a kind of "deceptively simple" period if you will. There are many fine ancillary features to this book and I may well review it for at some point; however I wanted to touch on it in brief to set up the purpose of this post.

September 23, 1952 is the fifty-second anniversary of the first fight between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott. This fight is arguably the greatest heavyweight fight in boxing history. It seems appropriate therefore to post a couple links to commemorate the event which is what I will do now:



I have noted before the quality of men of previous eras when things which are easier now were much harder then. I will not say that such men of stature are not present today of course; however to say that there are nearly as many of them now as there were then...well...I cannot say I believe that for the most part unfortunately.

In summary, I can think of few who embody the kind of courage that we need in the war on terror than past titans like the great Rocky Marciano. (Or for that matter, his opponent Jersey Joe Walcott who turned in the finest performance of his career on this night fifty-two years ago in a losing effort.) May their souls rest in peace along with the souls of the many men they fought in their careers -virtually all of whom are dead now and who stand as a testament to the kind of toughness that we need to cultivate (or recover) in ourselves as a nation if we want to achieve victory in the war on terror.

[Update: I forgot to mention the second anniversary which took place on this date: Vice President Richard M. Nixon's famous "Checkers" speech which gave his political career an additional life if you will. - ISM 9/24/04 11:08 am]

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Miscellaneous Reflections on the Most Recent Beheadings and the War on Terror --Part II

this is an audio post - click to play

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Miscellaneous Reflections on the Most Recent Beheadings and the War on Terror --Part I

this is an audio post - click to play

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Notification of an Upcoming Weblog Thread:

In posting a thread recently on the nature and grace subject, after your humble servant explained the proper sense of a particular passage of Humani Generis which is frequently misunderstood, it was then posited what this writer believes (based on what he has read) was the actual position of Fr. Henri de Lubac SJ compared to what the neo-scholastics said was his position. In doing this, your weblog host noted at the time that I will send this link to a couple theologians more familiar with de Lubac's work than I am for confirmation on this. The purpose of this notification is to inform you readers that those your host contacted on this matter -two theologians who happen to be participants in the blogosphere interestingly enough- responded to the inquiries by email the other day.

The subject of the interaction of nature and grace is complex and one can easily make shipwreck doctrinally if they are not careful on this subject. We at Rerum Novarum are certainly confident in Our abilities; however when We feel that there are others better informed on a matter of this complexity than We are -particularly in the accurate summation of a renowned theologian who was previously misunderstood to an egregious degree by others who were not cautious in their attempts to understand his theology- for those reasons it is not beneath Us to solicit the opinions of those better informed than We are to best keep you the reader properly informed.

Thus, the aforementioned emails will be posted to this weblog within a few days to clarify the points where your host sought assistance as well as the views of those theologians on certain other points which were dealt with in that post as well.


Monday, September 20, 2004

Miscellaneous Morning Musings on Rathergate

this is an audio post - click to play

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Miscellaneous Musings on War and Disarmarment --Part II

this is an audio post - click to play

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Miscellaneous Musings on War and Disarmarment --Part I

this is an audio post - click to play

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