Saturday, May 07, 2005

Points to Ponder:
(On Legal Plunder and How to Identify It)

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law -- which may be an isolated case -- is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system. [Claude Frederic Bastiat: Excerpt from The Law (circa 1850)]

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Points to Ponder:

From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. [Benito Mussolini]


Miscellaneous Threads Worth a Read:

"Little Eichmanns" and "Digital Brownshirts"

Look And Listen

The above articles from Victor Davis Hanson are on the erroneous (and arguably Orwell-like doublespeak) slurs of antiwar pseudo-"progressivists" and the claims that America is in decline from an economic standpoint compared to other nations and Europe.

Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein

The above project (to which Victor Davis Hanson was a contributor) looks to be a much-needed response to the insular and irrational public rantings of the "anybody but Bush" crowd.

Vicar of Heterodoxy: Andrew Sullivan's dogma is a circular system that's immune to reasoned query

Dr. Philip Blosser's parody and analysis of Andrew Sullivan's recent Time Magazine whine about Pope Benedict XVI is well done.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Points to Ponder:

Men who are plunged in the pursuits of active life, are no judges of its course and tendency on the whole. They confuse great events with little, and measure the importance of objects, as in perspective, by the mere standard of nearness or remoteness. It is only at a distance that one can take in the outlines and features of the whole country. [John Henry Newman (c. 1835)]


"Reactions Without Reasoning" Dept.

The following is the response I noted yesterday would be posted soon. I am aware that Stephen has written more in the meantime but first things first...

Stephen Must Have Gotten Wind Of It........

Take look at this

By "this" was meant (of course) a link to TCR's Letters/Musings page where some hastily thrown together bits were posited as a kind of indirect "response. This was actually quite predictable and underscores why I referred to Bill Moyer's observations about ideologues "embrac[ing] a worldview that cannot be changed because they admit no evidence to the contrary" in my commentary to Greg's editorial. The reason (of course) is that I knew Stephen would respond (if he did at all) in the very manner he did. The readers are asked to notice that he did not link to the guest editorial or the commentary. The likely reason for this is that he does not want others to see what was *actually said* because it would make mincemeat of his weakreed caricatured responses. But let us review them briefly at this time.

In Greg's editorial, he noted that Stephen had not provided any magisterial citations to defend his obvious position that anyone not embracing the pope's presumed view on the war was somehow "less orthodox" than people such as Stephen. (Greg's position was one that I concurred with in my commentary.) Stephen responded to this with more non-magisterial texts which (of course) only solidifies the veracity of Greg's observations in the editorial. To tally up the points we made which Stephen actually interacted with would (thus far) register as follows:

---Greg and Shawn: 1 Stephen and his Allies: 0

Both Greg and this writer referenced Cardinal Ratzinger saying that there was permissible freedom on the subjects of the application of the death penalty and the application of just war criteria -and Greg noted what the CCC says on the matter. Stephen responds with a citation from Cardinal Ratzinger (sans a reference) where he supposedly says that "preventive war is not in the Catechism." Now of course I am unaware that Greg took a position on the war based on the idea of pre-emption and I certainly did not do so. So Stephen's response there was another shameless attempt to dodge the issue as he continues to ignore what Cardinal Razinger said in his magisterial capacity which is what is really the binding position. (Not offhand comments uttered in private capacity which fail to address the actual issue that we raised.)

---Greg and Shawn: 2 Stephen and his Allies: 0

Stephen in responding completely ignored what Greg and I noted on the inconsistency and blatant illogic of people such as Maggie Hall and the Zwicks castigating Karl Keating, Michael Novak, and George Weigel for taking the exact same position as Cardinal Ratzinger did viz. the legitimacy of varying prudential judgments on how the death penalty or just war theory was properly applied. He responds instead with an article from the Houston Catholic Worker where he gets plenty of his prooftexts. But prooftexts are nothing but texts absent a proper context. I have made this argument innumerable times in response to various ideologues -including against ideologues of the so-called "traditionalist" fringe. Stephen had no problems with those criticisms -indeed he even ran some of those essays on his site. In criticizing him for the exact same thing, I am being perfectly consistent whereas he is being anything but consistent.

After all, if it is wrong for the so-called "traditionalists" to parse magisterial sources absent proper context to defend their interpretations on matters, it is *at least equally as wrong* for Stephen to act likewise by parsing non-magisterial sources and passing them off as authoritative. In fact, Stephen in doing so violates the "lessor to greater" Scholastic principle so he is more in error by his actions and statement-parsing than the so-called "traditionalists" he wrote against in years gone by.

---Greg and Shawn: 3 Stephen and his Allies: 0

In attempting to discredit Fr. Neuhaus of First Things, Stephen again posts a Houston Catholic Worker article which is replete with omissions and evasions. One that is particularly interesting is that it tries to tar Neuhaus with arguing that the war in Afghanistan is just while ignoring that the Pope and the US Bishops actually supported military intervention in Afghanistan!!! The Houston Catholic Worker -who has probably never seen a war it did not want to protest- apparently would prefer to ignore that crucial FACT because it undermines their entire case.

The bottom line is, if enough people had listened to the kinds of antiwar arguments posed by groups like The Houston Catholic Worker during World War II, we would all be speaking German or be lampshades. And (of course) the same is true today whereas with these militant religious islamo-fascists who are interested in either the West's conversion to Islam or its death. To listen to The Houston Catholic Worker is to give us a choice between wearing headscarves or being

Now perhaps Stephen likes the fit of an Islamic headscarf but neither this writer nor Greg does. And we are no less orthodox in taking this view in support of the war effort than Stephen does in opposing it. But as long as Stephen continues to publicly prevaricate on this issue, it will need to be reiterated not for the sake of an ideologue like Stephen but for those who may be deceived by the attempts Stephen makes to declare that his position on this is the only legitimate one. He does this implicitly by ignoring statements of prelates speaking authoritatively (i.e. Cardinal Ratzinger as CDF Prefect) which confirm the legitimacy of the position Greg and I have taken and which Stephen has opposed. Apparently, Roma locuta est is in this case (and not the only one mind you) being selectively applied by Stephen and his allies.

---Greg and Shawn: 4 Stephen and his Allies: 0

It is also interesting that Stephen likes to reference sources like The Houston Catholic Worker which uses phrases such as "Neuhaus and the neo-conservative crowd at First Things" while ignoring what Pope Benedict XVI's predecessor said about these kinds of labels. This is something that I linked to in my commentary but here is the text in full:

As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline-in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See- there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline. [Pope Benedict XV: Encyclical Letter Ad Beatissimi §23 (circa 1914)]

Now once again, Cardinal Ratzinger made it clear in his capacity as CDF prefect that the subjects of application of the death penalty and application of just war criteria were areas where there was no authoritative judgment from the Holy See: something else that Greg and I noted in our respective pieces which was conveniently passed over by TCR. Again, apparently, "Roma locuta est" is yet again selectively applied by Stephen and his allies.{1}

---Greg and Shawn: 5 Stephen and his Allies: 0

And with regards to labels such as "neo-conservative" being applied to Catholics such as Fr. Neuhaus and Michael Novak, I remind the readers of the paragraph following the above one from Pope Benedict XV in his first encyclical:

It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as "profane novelties of words," out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: "This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved" (Athanas. Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim "Christian is my name and Catholic my surname," only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself. [Pope Benedict XV: Encyclical Letter Ad Beatissimi §24 (circa 1914)]

Readers who wonder why I almost always refer to people who refer to themselves by particular appellations as "so-called", "self-styled", or "pseudo" with the appellations themselves put into quotation marks now have their reasons. This is another area where Stephen and his allies fail to heed the teaching of the Popes, so again it bears noting that "Roma locuta est" is selectively pplied by Stephen and his allies.

---Greg and Shawn: 6 Stephen and his Allies: 0

With regards to the death penalty, Stephen quotes an anti-death penalty site which references Evangelium Vitae as if Greg and I have not taken the latter into account with our positions. Now at the very least, the site he references does reference the entire relevant passage and that is to their credit. But a careful reading of what Pope John Paul II says makes it clear that part of the text is prudential judgment and part of it is doctrine: a position endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger in his authoritative capacity as CDF prefect and which both Greg and I referred to and which Stephen and his allies (predictably ignore) ecause it does not serve their ideological agendas to acknowledge it.

---Greg and Shawn: 7 Stephen and his Allies: 0

From that point, Stephen addresses the subject of Ultramontanism by linking to past material at his site on it. This is a subject that I dealt with in the commentary but in Greg's case it was done more indirectly. Nonetheless, Stephen attempts to pass off my comments as a "red herring" when in reality they happen to pertain *directly* to what he is doing with his irresponsible prooftexting of non-magisterial statements of our late Holy Father and Cardinal Ratzinger from his days as CDF prefect.

In Stephen's case, he states the following at his link of material:

One of the signs of an Integrist (whether whole or half-baked), or
some ultra conservatives, is that when a Catholic defends the Holy Father against scurrilous (or at least ignorant, disrespectful) attacks, the defense is sometimes called an "Ultramontanist" (as Rod Dreher referred to yours truly at one silly "blog").

This attempted "response" is quite revealing because both Greg and I have been quite respectful of the Holy Father's position on the war. Indeed I even went so far as to defend him against scurillous attacks by many whom I normally have substantial
agreement with.
The proof is linked to my commentary and is in the recent "war recapitulation thread" from Rerum Novarum from over two years ago. So that part of the text could not be wider of the mark if Stephen had deliberately sought to shoot in the opposite direction of the target.

---Greg and Shawn: 8 Stephen and his Allies: 0

But it continues...

Of course it is almost always true that, as in Dreher's case, the one who hurls such pejorative terms around is unlikely to even know what it means in its historical or etymological context. Somewhere the poor soul heard ---absurdly--- that it means attributing infallibility to every action or utterance of the Pope today; and so they keep it handy in their pseudo-theological lexicon to be used, they think, as demolition against those who abide by papal teachings, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Greg went over the teaching on just war criteria (and which parties make the determination if they have been met) from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Stephen has shown in the past couple of years that he either has not read those passages or that he misunderstands them. As far as the actual statements made on the subject of "Ultramontanism", I challenge anyone to find me referring to Ultramontaines in the manner Stephen refers to above. My comments were carefully crafted and based on no lack of familiarity with the nineteenth century controversies in question. What I *actually said* was this:

Stephen Hand and his allies unfortunately have an eerily similar view with regards to the pope's statements on their pet issues: elevating his offhand comments to the status of magisterial (and hence binding) doctrine.

And not only has Stephen failed to interact with that point but indeed his entire response is one giant affirmation of precisely what I was saying in the commentary!!!

---Greg and Shawn: 10 Stephen and his Allies: 0

Now if this was a game of euchre, the game would be over and it would be a shut out. But of course this is not euchre nor is it a game. Instead, it points to some very disconcerting facts that can no longer be denied by those of us who may have sought to do so previously and they are these:

---Stephen Hand has taken on all the trappings of an ideologue and therefore cannot be considered a serious Catholic commentator on the issues dealt with above any more that certain parties I will not name are no longer considered serious Catholic commentators on certain questions (among them ones pertaining to science).

---Stephen Hand has taken on at least some of the trappings which he used to oppose in those he calls "Integrists."{2}

But by no means though is that all that could be noted at this time. For you see, Stephen goes on in his response to address the material on the late President Reagan with a url to his site filled with the same kind of rationale as those so-called "traditionalists" who accuse Vatican II of "causing the problems in the church today." He presents one absurd argument after another including an interesting hypothesis on the Cold War that no one with any pretense to a decent historical acumen would dare advance. And as there is nothing in this part of his response that actually interacts with what Greg has written (or what I have written in the past), there is no need to comment on it or even to demonstrate (yet again) the profound failure on Mr. Hand's part to interact with our work.

In conclusion, it should be common sense that if you intend to critique a piece that you should actually READ it first and (from there) seek to enter into the arguments of your adversary. That is one of the fundamental requirements for a genuine dialogue as I have noted in past writings.{3} That Stephen so clearly did not do this -either with Greg's editorial or my commentary on Greg's editorial- cannot be more evident in how he responded to the arguments advanced with bits and pieces that completely missed their targets. Indeed, Greg to some extent had some pretty prescient remarks about what Stephen would do in his editorial and I will close by quoting them here and a further indictment of his attempts to respond to what Greg and I have written:

Now, one of the most basic rules of journalistic ethics is to make a painstaking effort to ensure the credibility and veracity of one's sources. This is especially true for one who is Catholic. Stephen egregiously violated this principle by assuming that the claim made by a rabidly anti-Bush website was true when even Bush's most ardent detractors in the Democrat party did not make such a claim at the time. And since he is an experienced journalist, raising questions about his objectivity and integrity is certainly within the realm of fair play.

Though I will later address Stephen's most recent Letters/Musings offering pertaining to these subjects, at the present time, this is all that will be dealt with.


{1} After all, neither Stephen nor his allies make this admission at all but indeed try to give the impression otherwise: which is no small prevarication indeed.

{2} To quote from some of Stephen's writings on this subject:

It is not Protestants alone who arbitrarily attempt to reconstruct a new church and wrongly pit traditions against Tradition. Schismatics and zealots have always quoted Church Father against Church Father or Pope against Pope from the beginning, just as we see schismatic groups today who claim to be Catholic absurdly quoting Popes against Popes, employing in so doing an essentially Protestant hermeneutic to the extent that they put "private interpretation" above the magisterium. When this happens one immediately sinks into the quicksand of a selective and arbitrary Christianity wherein the individual chooses (the root meaning of heresy) what parts of Tradition and revelation he will accept and what parts he will reject.

Other than appearing to equate every statement of a Pope as magisterial, the above observation is precisely on target. In fact, it diagnoses well the root and matrix of the issues that Greg and I have raised with regards to Stephen Hand and his allies. Unfortunately, Stephen's approach to the war and the death penalty issues fall precisely into the very "quicksand" of placing "'private interpretation' above the magisterium". Until he addresses these problems, let it be recognized that he is indicted by his own words as the aforementioned guest editorial, my commentary on it, and yesterday's followup thread made abundantly clear.

{3} On the Intricacies of Dialogue -A Commentary (c. 2003)

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Small Note of Thanks:
(And Other Miscellaneous Bits)

It would be inappropriate if at Rerum Novarum gratitude was not shown for the public solidarity that Christopher Blosser, David Armstrong, "Greg the Obscure", and Lane Core Jr. have displayed for the recent guest editorial by Greg Mockeridge (and my follow up commentary). Three of the above persons actually wrote some comments of their own on the subject matter Greg and I covered and I encourage you to review the links above to read what they had to say.{1}

I have also heard in recent days from a couple of additional friends who will support this endeavour whose names I will not mention at this time. The support of both of them will be appreciated when they are able to comment publicly -particularly one of them for reasons I will briefly note below.{2} Stephen's response to the work of Greg and your humble servant was sadly predictable and will require a followup thread to deal with -but that will not be too long a thread I assure you.

With regards to the public rebuking, Greg can vouch for the fact that I have been very delinquent in directly addressing these issues for a long time. Part of the reason for that is that these kinds of public confrontations always end up scathing the parties involved and also can result in friendships diminishing if not ending outright. Another is admittedly because of a personal affinity for the individual involved -an appreciation for so much of what they have done over the years. But despite those reservations, at some point a failure to speak up can be viewed as either an unwillingness (or inability){3} to adequately respond.

Nonetheless, those propagating the kinds of pernicious prevarications that Stephen and his allies have posited in recent years have pretty much done their damage without comment in the public arena. And in some cases a worse scenario still could have developed if I had elected to continue to let Stephen's statements go without public interaction{4} -particularly as Stephen and his allies will probably not represent John Paul II in death any more faithfully than they did in life on those issues. Nonetheless, it seemed appropriate to thank those who have thus far made a public stand with Greg and I on this and also thank in advance those whose stands will be forthcoming.

Yes my friends, it will be necessary in light of Stephen's sadly predictable response to the points in those threads to underscore the vapidity of his attempted "arguments" against what Greg and I wrote. It will also (apparently) be necessary to do so in a more heavyhanded manner in light of how more irenic approaches have failed to elicit at least an honest and substantive response from him. And hopefully, the culmination of that post (with the ones already posted) will help in persuading Stephen of the error of his ways on those issues. It is inexcusable how he expresses them and gives every impression of believing that his opinions constitute matters of binding teaching and are necessary badges for full orthodoxy. It is not dissimilar in substance to what others he was (rightly) critical of in past years did. Indeed, to quote just such a passage from TCR on one of those individuals (sans the names which have been omitted):

Neither Mr. XXXXXXXX nor TCR wishes to get into an endless debate with XXXXXX XXXXXXX, not long ago a celebrated convert to Catholicism, who has been showing an intemperate and unbalanced understanding of the Faith recently. We will not here treat [their] public views regarding the earth being the physical center of the universe and other odd developments. Once a reply has been made using Catholic principles which are certain, which Mr. XXXXXXXX has done very effectively, it is then up to the one who opposes those certain principles to work out his own salvation "with fear and trembling," as St. Paul said. Private judgment is an abyss that many have fallen into throughout history. Even if our response on this matter ends here, however, our prayers will not. [TCR Footnote to an article (circa 2002)]

There are distinct parallels here in that Greg and I made our responses using Catholic principles against Stephen who has been showing an intemperate and unbalanced understanding of the Faith recently. And though it will be necessary to dispatch in short order with his presumed "rebuttal" to those pieces, it must be noted in closing how profoundly disappointing it is to see Stephen treading the same path as the individual he referred to over two years ago in the above paragraph.{5} Hopefully the end result this will be different but only time will tell...there is still time for Stephen to turn back. And I for one hope he does...before it is too late.


{1} Some prevalent comments on war and peace were recently blogged by Greg at his new weblog Cooperatores Veritatis and are worth reflecting upon.

{2} All I will say on the person I refer to here is that they actually disagree with Greg and I positionwise but agree that these are areas where diversity of opinion is permitted.

{3} As the numerous threads on the subjects of the war, the death penalty, and the legacy of President Reagan from this weblog can attest to, this failure was not because Stephen was unable to be confuted -indeed many of those thread did just that albeit indirectly. The issue was more one of trying an indirect form of appealing to his conscience -sometimes stridently so- but it was evident by the dawning of 2005 that such an approach would not succeed. And with that in mind (not to mention some individuals privately asking me why I was not as critical of Stephen as I was of others who had acted in like manner with their pet issues over the years), a different course of action was decided upon after one of those who raised the latter question was offered the opportunity to write a guest editorial outlining some of the issues involved.

{4} In my case, having written a qualified endorsement of the particular individual and their site last year, it was important to make it clear that the areas noted above did NOT have my endorsement in any manner whatsoever.

{5} The pet issues are different of course but the principles involved -not to mention the same kind of private judgment which Stephen noted in 2002 is an abyss that many have fallen into throughout history is as applicable in Stephen's case as it was in the case of the individual he criticized in the dark blue fonted paragraph above.

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