Friday, December 16, 2005

I just realized five minutes ago that the last "points to ponder" installment was the 200th in the history of this weblog...mainly by intuition but I counted from post 140 in the series (with the help of the search feature). Once again (as it usually is) my intuitionometer was correct.

Now the "points to ponder" feature is easily the longest running series in terms of number of installments at this weblog. And the 200th installment seems worthy of being mentioned because that is no small milestone by any means. So I note it here briefly for that and a few other reasons including (i) to show that I can post things briefly at Rerum Novarum in non-"points to ponder" format lest anyone actually doubt that, (ii) for the sake of my own recordkeeping, and also (iii) for the benefit of the Internet historical record; ergo all three reasons are met with this posting ;-)

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Points to Ponder:
(On the Sanctity of Human Life and Nazi Atrocities)

The previous installment of this series can be read HERE. To start from the beginning, please go HERE.

If it is once accepted that people have the right to kill 'unproductive' fellow humans--and even if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally ill--then as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become old, frail and therefore unproductive.

Then, it is only necessary for some secret edict to order that the method developed for the mentally ill should be extended to other 'unproductive' people, that it should be applied to those suffering from incurable lung disease, to the elderly who are frail or invalids, to the severely disabled soldiers. Then none of our lives will be safe any more. Some commission can put us on the list of the 'unproductive,' who in their opinion have become worthless life. And no police force will protect us and no court will investigate our murder and give the murderer the punishment he deserves.

Who will be able to trust his doctor any more?

He may report his patient as 'unproductive' and receive instructions to kill him. It is impossible to imagine the degree of moral depravity, of general mistrust that would then spread even through families if this dreadful doctrine is tolerated, accepted and followed.

Woe to mankind, woe to our German nation if God's Holy Commandment 'Thou shalt not kill,' which God proclaimed on Mount Sinai amidst thunder and lightning, which God our Creator inscribed in the conscience of mankind from the very beginning, is not only broken, but if this transgression is actually tolerated and permitted to go unpunished. [Cardinal Clemens von Galen (circa August 3, 1941)]

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On the Subject of America's Founding:
(With Christopher Blosser and David Jones--Part III of III)

The previous installment of this series can be read HERE. To start from the beginning of this thread, please go HERE.

It seems appropriate at this time to review some basics on laws in general and what is required for a violator of a law to be punished needs to be considered. Among the sources to be used in exploring that point is the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia and its article on canon law:

Laws in general, and irritant laws in particular, are not retroactive, unless such is expressly declared by the legislator to be the case. The publication or promulgation of the law has a double aspect: law must be brought to the knowledge of the community in order that the latter may be able to observe it, and in this consists the publication. But there may be legal forms of publication, requisite and necessary, and in this consists the promulgation properly so called (see PROMULGATION). [Catholic Encyclopedia: From the Article Canon Law (c. 1913)]

In other words, a law must be brought to the attention of those who are expected to comply with it. This is done by promulgating the law locally and this is a function of a diocesan or metropolitan bishop for their particular area. For this reason, a law is not considered binding until it has been promulgated. And since a law requires promulgation to be valid (and further, as bishops back then had more autonomy than they do now on these matters), David's interpretation of these events shows an evidently anti-historical perspective. And of course in the event of a doubt as to the applicability of particular laws, Bishop Carroll's practicing of the Jesuit probabilism mentioned earlier{1} would be utilized and be considered morally permissible by the Vatican.

Because of the confusion on this matter which was still present in the Church in the late 1700's, the bishops would have to assess the matter to the best of their abilities taking into account the circumstances involved, etc. To remind David and others of the span of authority of the diocesan bishops:

Bishops, Jurisdiction of. Bishops are the successors of the Apostles and by divine institution rule their dioceses with ordinary power under the authority of the pope. They have legislative, juridical, and executive power... [A] bishop can enact those laws which he considers for the good of his dioceses and he is a judge in the first instance in all ecclesiastical trials; he can punish lay people with censures and clerics by deprivation of offices or censures (qv). He has supreme direction of the clergy, the conduct of divine worship, administration of ecclesiastical property, building of churches, etc. [Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary: Donald Attwater General Editor, tenth edition, pg. 62 (c. 1941)]

As the first bishop on the American continent (and probably for a time the only bishop),{2} John Carroll would have had to make sense of the conflicting approaches to masonry on the continent as well as the lack of recent papal statements on the matter making it clear that the ban was intended to be universal. There is also the subject of prudence and if Bishop Carroll in taking a hardline approach in America (where the nation was in its infancy) would not have caused more problems than less. This was after all not a case of dealing with masonry in a well-established nation as in France, England, Germany, Spain, etc. For this reason, prudence was even more important because as noxious a weed as masonry was, things would only have been compounded if it was handled too rashly by the ecclesiastical authorities. Or as the spiritual masters note on the difference between prudent and imprudent zeal:

In every home there grows some thorn, something, in other words, that needs correction; for the best soil is seldom without its noxious weed. Imprudent zeal, by seeking awkwardly to pluck out the thorn, often succeeds only in plunging it farther in, thus rendering the wound deeper and more painful. In such a case it is essential to act with reflection and great prudence. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent, says the Holy Spirit. (Ecclesiastes III., 7.) Prudent zeal is silent when it realizes that to be so is less hurtful than to speak. [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Spiritual Instruction on Zeal Part I (circa September 29, 2002)]

Perhaps Bishop Carroll judged that it would have been more hurtful to the Catholic cause in America to enforce the masonry ban in the decades after America's founding. Certainly, as long as the ban itself was not universally recognized at the time, his hesitancy on the matter cannot be faulted him. Or (to rephrase it), a Catholic with a proper approach to spiritual matters would not fault him. But that point aside, there is more to consider about Bishop Carroll.

For example, John Carroll's non-promulgation of the masonic ban in America did not prevent Pope Pius VI (r. 1775-1799) from appointing him Bishop of Baltimore in the 1780's and Pope Pius VII (r. 1800-1823) from raising him to Archepiscopal standing in 1809. David by his comments would presume to judge John Carroll in a fashion not judged by the popes of his time. More could be noted but that suffices for now to shoot some holes in the bottom of the boat of David's theories on these matters. Hopefully it is clear that once again there are complexities to these things of no small detail that fundy readings like David's do not take proper stock of. And (as always) God is in the details often overlooked.

"Meanwhile, Chris Burgwald writes an interesting post. Would be curious as to your thoughts or possibly even your participation on this thread, especially since nothing is prohibiting you from commenting.

Chris' thread reads good.

it does touch on the David Schindler vs. Fr. Neuhaus debate, if you haven't read the relevant links I can provide them.

Please do. In the meantime, these threads will be wrapped up with a final citation from William Walen's article on papal condemnations of the lodge:

It is correct that Daniel Carroll, brother of Bishop (later Archbishop) John Carroll of Baltimore was both an active (and devout) Catholic and Mason. While this might seem an impossible contradiction, it is important to know the details of the Church's condemnation of Freemasonry in the 18th century. The first official Grand Lodge was established in London in 1717, and membership spread gradually throughout Europe and even more slowly to the British Colonies. The Church made its first official statement about Freemasonry only in 1738, when Pope Clement XII (r. 1730-40) condemned the practices of the Lodges that were then multiplying in Catholic lands. His condemnation was followed by that of Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) in a 1751 bull. The pontiff also persuaded Empress Maria Teresa of Austria to close the lodges in her empire.

It took many years for the full weight of the papal condemnations to reach every diocese of the Church. The bulls were sometimes never promulgated by some bishops who saw no need; others never understood their import; and still more never received the decree. In Ireland, for example, priests and laypeople were members for decades after the bulls were promulgated out of ignorance of the condemnation. Indeed, a Catholic, Lord Robert Edward Petre (d. 1801) was grand master of the English Lodge as late as 1772. In the Colonies, a similar situation existed, so it is possible to see how Daniel Carroll might be a member without being aware of the prohibition. In the early 19th century, starting with Pope Pius [VII] (r. 1800-23), the popes issued numerous condemnations and made much more clear the Church's opposition to the secret society. [William J. Whalen: Excerpt from the Article Papal Condemnations of the Lodge (circa 1955-1958)]

The third papal pronouncement against masonry was made by Pope Pius VII in 1821 and made it eminently clear that the ban was to be universally applicable. Subsequent confirmations by Pope Leo XII (1826), Pope Pius VIII (1829), and Pope Gregory XVI (1832) were made along with popes subsequent to them. However, there was confusion on this prior to Pius VII's time viz. the scope of the ban. Someone who was honestly seeking to learn from history rather than involve themselves in ideological anachronistic interpretations would approach these things with care. And in fact, that is the underlying thread that permeates all three of these posts -something your host will touch on briefly and then conclude this series.

Unfortunately, David has failed time and again to account for numerous threads in the mosaic of the history of the period under discussion (circa 1775-1815). For this reason, he has made no small number of errors in his reading of the historical record. But then again, if he was familiar with how history should be approached, he would not act in this fashion.{3} In the latter subject, some words from Pope John Paul II on the one hundreth anniversary of the death of Pope Leo XIII come to mind which will be used in concluding this thread.

[I]n the study of history it is impossible to apply automatically to the past criteria and values acquired only in the course of the centuries. Rather, it is important first of all to make the effort to return to the social-cultural context of the period, to understand what occurred on the basis of the motivations, circumstances and implications of the period under examination. Historical events are the result of a complex interaction between human freedom and personal and structural conditioning. All this should be borne in mind. [Pope John Paul II: Excerpt from his Message on the 100th Anniversary of the Death of Pope Leo XIII (c. 2003)]

And indeed your host has borne the above advice of Pope John Paul II in mind throughout this response. Hopefully in time, David Jones and his ideological allies will learn to act in like manner.

Addendum - For Further Reading

Catholics and the Republic (Fr. Christopher Hunter -SSPX)

With the exception of a particular bit about George Washington converting on his deathbed (this by all appearances appears to be an urban legend of sorts) and one or two other minor issues (such as the organization of the SSPX itself), I recommend the above article from my former pastor wholeheartedly.

Notes:

{1} Probabilism is something Bishop John would have learned as a Jesuit and which his brother Daniel would probably be familiar with from his six years of study at the Jesuit college in Flanders.

As far as what is and is not "binding", there was a question in the eighteenth century as to whether the nature of masonry in America was the same as masonry in Europe. This matter was later clarified in the nineteenth century but during the lifetime of Daniel Carroll, it was not so clear and failure to take this into account is for David to do Daniel and John Carroll a monumental injustice.

{2} To briefly remind readers of the authority and obligations of a diocesan bishop:

The bishop [has] obligations regarding the Holy See. Throughout his entire administration he must conform to the general legislation of the Church and the directions of the pope. [Catholic Encyclopedia: From the Article Bishops (c. 1913)]

And as Bishop Carroll made it clear in 1794 that he did not see the ban as being among the general legislation of the Church, readers should be very cautious to impute evil motives to a prelate whom the American hierachy (and not a few popes) had high praise for.

{3} Two "points to ponder" threads on the role of the historian and potential biases of certain approaches to history may prove instructional on this point:

Points to Ponder on the Role of the Historian (circa October 14, 2005)

Readers can note that my approach to this whole subject has been in accordance with the proper approach as outlined by the twentieth century British historical philosopher Herbert Butterfield...the first paragraph outlines my approach to historical issues and the second one outlines the approach of David Jones. But there is more:

Points to Ponder on the Myopic View of the Whig Historian (circa October 17, 2005)

While the example Buttefield uses in the above thread to illustrate the problematical limitations of the Whig approach to history does not apply to David Jones, the method being criticized (via the examples given) unquestionably does. There is nothing authentically ressourcement oriented in David Jones' approach to the subject in question whatever pretentions his posting them on a weblog which deals (supposedly) with ressourcement methodology may appear to imply. But that is a subject for perhaps another time.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Points to Ponder:
(On the Sanctity of Human Life and Nazi Atrocities)

The previous installment of this series can be read HERE.

The Penal Code lays down in section 139: 'He who receives credible information concerning the intention to commit a crime against life and neglects to alert the authorities or the person who is threatened in time...will be punished.'

When I learned of the intention to transport patients from Marienthal in order to kill them, I brought a formal charge at the State Court in Münster and with the Police President in Münster by means of a registered letter which read as follows: "According to information which I have received, in the course of this week a large number of patients from the Marienthal Provincial Asylum near Münster are to be transported to the Eichberg asylum as so-called 'unproductive national comrades' and will then soon be deliberately killed, as is generally believed has occurred with such transports from other asylums.

Since such an action is not only contrary to the moral laws of God and Nature but also is punishable with death as murder under section 211 of the Penal Code, I hereby bring a charge in accordance with my duty under section 139 of the Penal Code, and request you to provide immediate protection for the national comrades threatened in this way by taking action against those agencies who are intending their removal and murder, and that you inform me of the steps that have been taken."

I have received no news concerning intervention by the Prosecutor's Office or by the police...Thus we must assume that the poor helpless patients will soon be killed. For what reason?

Not because they have committed a crime worthy of death. Not because they attacked their nurses or orderlies so that the latter had no other choice but to use legitimate force to defend their lives against their attackers. Those are cases where, in addition to the killing of an armed enemy in a just war, the use of force to the point of killing is allowed and is often required. No, it is not for such reasons that these unfortunate patients must die but rather because, in the opinion of some department, on the testimony of some commission, they have become 'worthless life' because according to this testimony they are 'unproductive national comrades.' The argument goes: they can no longer produce commodities, they are like an old machine that no longer works, they are like an old horse which has become incurably lame, they are like a cow which no longer gives milk.

What does one do with such an old machine? It is thrown on the scrap heap. What does one do with a lame horse, with such an unproductive cow?

No, I do not want to continue the comparison to the end--however fearful the justification for it and the symbolic force of it are. We are not dealing with machines, horses and cows whose only function is to serve mankind, to produce goods for man. One may smash them, one may slaughter them as soon as they no longer fulfil this function.

No, we are dealing with human beings, our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters. With poor people, sick people, if you like unproductive people. But have they for that reason forfeited the right to life?

Have you, have I the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are recognized by others as productive? If you establish and apply the principle that you can kill 'unproductive' fellow human beings then woe betide us all when we become old and frail! If one is allowed to kill the unproductive people then woe betide the invalids who have used up, sacrificed and lost their health and strength in the productive process. If one is allowed forcibly to remove one's unproductive fellow human beings then woe betide loyal soldiers who return to the homeland seriously disabled, as cripples, as invalids.

To be Continued...

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On the Subject of America's Founding:
(With Christopher Blosser and David Jones--Part II of III)

The previous installment of this series can be read HERE.

It is important in starting the second part of this thread to note the issue of the extent of the ban so promulgated as well as the situation in America being different in many respects from Europe. For example, the 1738 pronouncement of Pope Clement XII (In Eminenti ) was sent to certain royal leaders who had actively sponsored Masonic lodges. A year after it was promulgated, it was extended throughout all the papal states by an edict of Cardinal Ferrao on January 14, 1739.

As far as why this announcement was not immediately apparent to the Catholic world at large, there are a number of reasons why. For example:

Communications in 1738 did not encompass the daily newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and motion pictures of today, and hence the Catholic world did not immediately know of the contents of the bull. According to ancient Church practice a bull was not promulgated in a given diocese until it is posted and means are obtained to enforce it. Where Masonry was not yet a problem or where secular authorities prevailed upon individual bishops the promulgation was delayed for many years. To add to the confusion a bogus bull was circulated which asked the faithful to support the lodges whenever possible! [William J. Whalen: Excerpt from the Article Papal Condemnations of the Lodge (circa 1955-1958)]

In light of what was noted above including (i) the lack of certainty as to the scope the bull of Clement XII and (ii) the presence of a bogus bull asserting a contrary position, this created a climate of confusion. And in light of that fact, the aforementioned probabilistic approaches could be undertaken without concern for disobedience to ecclesiastical authority.

To remind David what probabilism is, the Catholic Encyclopedia explains it as follows:

Probabilism is the moral system which holds that, when there is question solely of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an action, it is permissible to follow a solidly probable opinion in favour of liberty even though the opposing view is more probable.

The view in favour of liberty in this case would be the freedom to join the lodges. Indeed this was not uncommon in Europe throughout the eighteenth century. As William Walen noted in his article on papal condemnations of the lodge:

Consequently we find that some Catholics, particularly in Ireland, continued to join the lodge after the papal pronouncement. Some served as Worshipful Masters and some lodges were composed entirely of Catholic priests and laymen. Even the Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell served as Master of Dublin Lodge No. 189 after his initiation in 1799. In 1837 he testified that he had renounced the lodge some years before. Lord Petre, a prominent Roman Catholic, became Grand Master of the English lodge in 1772 and served in this capacity for five years. [William J. Whalen: Excerpt from the Article Papal Condemnations of the Lodge (circa 1955-1958)]

If such situations could happen in a country like Ireland (which was long known for its solidity in the Catholic faith) why would someone expect something differently with the upstart American republic which was in the process of struggling to be born from British tyranny???

As in some European nations, there were Catholics in America who became involved with the masons...one of which was Daniel Carroll who was among the Framers of the US Constitution. William Walen freely admits to this in the aforementioned article on papal condemnations of the lodge:

Daniel Carroll, brother of the first American bishop, was active in Masonry and apparently Bishop Carroll did not consider the papal ban applicable to this country until sometime after 1800. For example, the bishop discussed the various censures of the Holy See on the lodge question in a letter to a layman in 1794. He added, "I do not pretend that these decrees are received generally by the Church, or have full authority in this diocese." A convent of nuns in Nantes sent a Masonic apron to George Washington as a present. Masons laid the cornerstone for St. Mary's church, first Catholic church in Albany and first cathedral of that diocese. Catholics in the Louisiana Territory were likely to be members of the lodge and Father Sedella, pastor of the New Orleans cathedral, was buried in Masonic regalia. [William J. Whalen: Excerpt from the Article Papal Condemnations of the Lodge (circa 1955-1958)]

As far as the statement that [a]ccording to ancient Church practice a bull was not promulgated in a given diocese until it is posted and means are obtained to enforce it goes, it will be addressed later in this response.{1} In the meantime, it bears noting that on the European continent, the practice of Catholics involving themselves in masonry continued after 1738. This can either be chalked up to deliberate disobedience or as a result of an unfamiliarity with the papal constitution containing the ban or the intended scope of that constitution (along with other elements touched on above). Let us touch a bit on the latter as the more probable of the two in most cases to avoid imputing evil motives to the Carrolls as some seem intent upon doing for (apparently) ideological purposes.{2}

Pope Benedict XIV's 1751 papal constitution Providas (which included within it the 1738 constitution of Pope Clement XII) was published at the request of a couple of European kings (Spain and Naples). Because it was published by their request, the possibility of confusion as to the extent of the ban continued. It does not hurt to point out that Pope Benedict XIV noted in his constitution that some had argued that Pope Clement XII's ban had lapsed because Pope Benedict XIV had not himself confirmed it. And in reiterating the policies of Pope Clement XII, Pope Benedict XIV noted in his constitution Providas that this was a problem in some areas:

[T]here have been some who have not hesitated to declare and to boast openly that the stated penalty of excommunication imposed by Our Predecessor, as is shown above, no longer carries any force, because of the fact that the very Constitution before introduced has not been confirmed by Us, as if in fact, express confirmation of a Pontifical Successor were required for the continuation of Apostolic Constitions published by a Predecessor. [Pope Benedict XIV: Constitution Providas (c. 1751)]

Those who would find this puzzling need to remember that there are differences between papal letters and papal epistles. The latter do not necessarily involve the universal church -particularly on papal directives. And as the delineation between the two was not made as commonly in earlier periods of church history, this needs to be accounted for as well.

Church history shows that the papal condemnations of masonry took some time to become known throughout the Church. Certainly they were not universally observed in Europe in the eighteenth century. But to understand part of the reason why, a short review of laws in general and what is required for a violator of a law to be punished needs to be considered. That is what will be dealt with next.

To be Continued...

Notes:

{1} It is important to remember that prior to the nineteenth century, bishops had a greater degree of autonomy in governing than they later had...though not as much as bishops of the earliest periods of time (read: first millennium). David also fails to take this into account and therefore engages in errors of anachronism in his reading of history yet again.

{2} This approach is undertaken to be in conformity with the instructions of the spiritual masters of the Catholic tradition viz. how as a rule the controverted actions of someone else are to be approached:

Always be ready and willing to excuse the faults of your neighbour, and never put an unfavourable interpretation upon his actions. The same action, says St. Francis de Sales, may be looked upon under many different aspects: a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable person will just as certainly choose the worst. [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Spiritual Instruction on Charity (circa January 24, 2004)]

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On the Subject of America's Founding:
(With Christopher Blosser and David Jones--Part I of III)

It is inevitable that when this subject is discussed that the subjects of the so-called "enlightenment" and elements pertaining to that particular weltanschauung will be brought forward by certain quarters. And while your host is debating on whether or not to write on the subject of conservatism, republicanism, and democracy before the end of the year{1}, at the moment he wants to briefly deal with common misperceptions of America's founding. The words of Christopher Blosser will be in blue font. The words of the party who questions the American founding (David Jones) will be in black font and any sources referenced by your host will be in darkblue font. Without further ado...

Tim delivers a necessary correction to David Jones on Masonry and the American republic:

This is an interesting bit from David:

First, the Masonic Lodge is a secret organization, a secret society.

So was the Catholic Church prior to Constantine. If being part of a secret society is ipso facto a problem, then we as Catholics are in heap big trouble.

For a Catholic to be an active Mason is to incur automatic excommunication.

We know that now beyond any shadow of doubt.

Therefore secrecy in this case is especially necessary. His resistance to apply this automatic excommunication in the United States is evidence of the close relationship Masonry had with the Carroll family. It would have resulted in his own brother being excommunicated…

This is a surprisingly uncharitable reading of things by David.{2} If he was not approaching this in such a facile and anachronistic fashion, he may realize that the Carrolls were both influenced by the Jesuits and thus were following with all likelihood the moral system of probabilism.{3} This well explains why if they actually were active Masons that their approach to the mason question was in line with probabilist moral principles. The popes have never condemned probabilism -indeed as the Catholic Encyclopedia noted, they have actually implied it at times:

The prevailing theory amongst Probabilists holds that if five or six theologians, notable for prudence and learning, independently adhere to an opinion their view is solidly probable, if it has not been set aside by authoritative decisions or by intrinsic arguments which they have failed to solve. Even one theologian of very exceptional authority, such as St. Alphonsus Liguori, is able to make an opinion solidly probable, as we know from the official declarations of the Holy See. All moralists agree that mere flimsy reasons are insufficient to give an opinion solid probability, and also that the support of many theologians who are mere collectors of the opinions of others is unable to give solid probability to the view which they maintain. [The Catholic Encyclopedia: From the Article Probabilism (c. 1913)]

The same article makes note of two moral approaches to subjects which the magisterium has condemned - rigorism and laxism:

Rigorism, or, as it is frequently called, Tutiorism held that the less safe opinion should be most probable, if not absolutely certain, before it could be lawfully put into practice, while Laxism maintained that if the less safe opinion were slightly probable it could be followed with a safe conscience.[ibid]

Hopefully, some of the intricacies involved in the subject matter under discussion are becoming clearer to the reader with what is noted above.

What we do know (historical fact) is that his brother was a very active Mason.

As is usually the case, there are details in even the "historical facts" that such a simplistic reading as that fail to take into account.

His resistance to apply this automatic excommunication is also evidence of an early form of American "cafeteria Catholicism" to pick and choose what they like or dislike from Rome.

David's ignorance of Jesuit probabilism is glaringly apparent in the above statement. But that is not all that can be said about the comment and its evident lack of charitable interpretation.{4}

From here, David attempts to engage in non-sequitur argumentation by placing this matter on the same level as abortion and the like which have a much more unambiguous status both now as well as then. David also noted that there were about fourteen papal pronouncements on the matter but what he does not realize (apparently) is that the third such pronouncement was in 1821 after the deaths of both Daniel Carroll (+1796) as well as Archbishop John Carroll (+1815). Prior to the third pronouncement in 1821, there were two pronouncements (1738 and 1751) and they were issued decades before America's founding. Furthemore, they were issued in response to masonry as it found itself on the European continent. To transfer these condemnations wholesale to the American continent of three decades later is to engage in a logical fallacy of context-switching for reasons which will not be delved into here.{5}

To be Continued...

Notes:

{1} Whether or not this is done will depend on many factors including if there is time to finish formatting those threads for posting. (They are already written.)

{2} Always be ready and willing to excuse the faults of your neighbour, and never put an unfavourable interpretation upon his actions. The same action, says St. Francis de Sales, may be looked upon under many different aspects: a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable person will just as certainly choose the worst. [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Spiritual Instruction on Charity (circa January 24, 2004)]

{3} This is a moral/ethical approach that was once very common to the Jesuits...whether it still is or not your host is not sure.

{4} See footnote two.

{5} As far as awareness of the statements go, it was not until the nineteenth century and the pronouncement of Pope Pius VII (1821) that the position of the popes on freemasonry with regards to the scope of the prohibition was reasonably clear as prior to that, there was a degree of controversion on the matter for various and sundry reasons. But the further proscriptions by Pope Leo XII (1825), Pope Pius VIII, (1829) and Pope Gregory XVI (1832) were clearly universal in scope. This is why there were devout Catholics in many countries (including Ireland and America) who were involved with the masons at times prior to the early nineteenth century. However puzzling this may be, for one who understands the background on the matter, it is not the problem that many with anachronistic interpretations on the matter would lead people to believe.

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Points to Ponder:
(On the Sanctity of Human Life and Nazi Atrocities)

Fellow Christians! In the pastoral letter of the German bishops of June 26, 1941, which was read out in all the Catholic churches in Germany on July 6, 1941, it states among other things: It is true that there are definite commandments in Catholic moral doctrine which are no longer applicable if their fulfillment involves too many difficulties.

However, there are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one has the power to release us and which we must fulfil even if it costs us our lives. Never under any circumstances may a human being kill an innocent person apart from war and legitimate self-defense. On July 6, I already had cause to add to the pastoral letter the following explanation: for some months we have been hearing reports that, on the orders of Berlin, patients from mental asylums who have been ill for a long time and may appear incurable, are being compulsorily removed. Then, after a short time, the relatives are regularly informed that the corpse has been burnt and the ashes can be delivered. There is a general suspicion verging on certainty, that these numerous unexpected deaths of mentally ill people do not occur of themselves but are deliberately brought about, that the doctrine is being followed, according to which one may destroy so-called 'worthless life,' that is, kill innocent people if one considers that their lives are of no further value for the nation and the state.

I am reliably informed that lists are also being drawn up in the asylums of the province of Westphalia as well of those patients who are to be taken away as so-called 'unproductive national comrades' and shortly to be killed. The first transport left the Marienthal institution near Münster during this past week. German men and women, section 211 of the Reich Penal Code is still valid. It states: 'He who deliberately kills another person will be punished by death for murder if the killing is premeditated.'

Those patients who are destined to be killed are transported away from home to a distant asylum presumably in order to protect those who deliberately kill those poor people, members of our families, from this legal punishment. Some illness is then given as the cause of death. Since the corpse has been burnt straight away, the relatives and also the criminal police are unable to establish whether the illness really occurred and what the cause of death was.

However, I have been assured that the Reich Interior Ministry and the office of the Reich Doctors' Leader, Dr. Conti, make no bones about the fact that in reality a large number of mentally ill people in Germany have been deliberately killed and more will be killed in the future. [Cardinal Clemens von Galen (circa August 3, 1941)]

To be Continued...

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Monday, December 12, 2005

This cartoon (posted here courtesy of The Curmudgeon) says it all about the Christmas season and political correctness as far as those of Us at Rerum Novarum are concerned...

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Points to Ponder:
(On Putting Social Principles Into Action)

There are three stages which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice. First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgment on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what in the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: look, judge, act.

It is important for our young people to grasp this method and to practice it. Knowledge acquired in this way does not remain merely abstract, but is seen as something that must be translated into action.

Differences of opinion in the application of principles can sometimes arise even among sincere Catholics. When this happens, they should be careful not to lose their respect and esteem for each other. Instead, they should strive to find points of agreement for effective and suitable action, and not wear themselves out in interminable arguments, and, under pretext of the better or the best, omit to do the good that is possible and therefore obligatory. [Pope John XXIII: Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra §236-238 (c. May 15, 1961)]

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First Draft of An Album Review:

[This is the rough draft of an album review which I plan to revise and abridge for posting at Amazon before the end of the month. -ISM]

*****

A Masterpiece of Music and Musings...

Roger Waters is given a giant share of the credit for Pink Floyd growing from the psychedelic brainchild of Syd Barrett in the mid to late 1960’s to attaining its status as a “super-group” in the early 1970’s by right-minded observers. Dark Side of the Moon (1973) was the first of a succession of blockbuster albums throughout the next ten years culminating with 1979’s The Wall and 1983’s The Final Cut. With each album since Barrett’s departure, there was some reflection of Waters’ growing influence within the group while he cultivated his songwriting talents. However, what is most evident from Dark Side on is Waters’ continuing focus on the struggles of modern society. And there are significant convergences between his view and my more ressourcement (read: authentically conservative) ones however strange that may seem on the surface. But this is not the time to go into the false dichotomies of “left” and “right” but instead to focus on this very moving (and profoundly under-appreciated) piece of work.

The horrors of war have long been a major theme of his writing along with the theme of alienation: of people from modern society, from modern technology, etc. Some of this is stuff that even amateur psychologists could discern: Roger’s father died in WWII when Roger was an infant. As a result of this tragedy, Waters grew up having no father present and no small degree of derision for government in general. This is a condition which was compounded as he came to view the promises of the postwar period (on which his fathers’ sacrifice along with that of countless others was to some extent initially justified) being betrayed by an increasingly materialistic, artificial existence. The album itself follows the pattern of every Waters project since Dark Side: having a concept to it that permeates the entire album. In the opening track The Ballad of Bill Hubbard, the album begins with a theme straight out of 1983’s The Final Cut: the sound a station being tuned in: with the latter it was a radio, on this album it is a TV.

The Ballad of Bill Hubbard is mostly instrumental and Jeff Beck plays some very stirring soloing guitar while from the “TV”, there is recollections being given by Alf Razzell about his last recollections of Bill Hubbard…having to leave him in No-Man’s Land on the western front in 1917 where he died. From there, the “TV” changes and the first part of the What God Wants trilogy of tunes on this album. Jeff Beck makes another appearance with some very strident playing while Roger sings about how God “wants” all the contrary things various people claim He “wants.” The metaphor of “the monkey” makes its debut in this along with a reference to “the alien prophet” and “the alien comic” which seem out of place but will make sense later on.

Perfect Sense (in two parts, the second is particularly striking) presents modern warfare as it is often utilized by the media” as a game. Waters underscores this by having Marv Albert “call the plays” as a submarine engages an oil rig and blows it up. The game fascination is summed up in the song The Bravery of Being Out of Range: an aggressive song, which underscores a scathing indictment of those cheer on each media exposure of war as if it is “entertainment.” The next two songs (Late Home Tonight in Parts I and II) are acoustic and look at families on both sides of the war divide -emphasizing the difference between engagement and detachment to some extent.

From there, the album moves into Too Much Rope -the weakest of the songs on the album but still containing more food for thought than anything in the so-called “pop music charts.” From there, the second part of the What God Wants set comes up and this time it opens with a tele-evangelist trying to raise funds and listing the various denominations of money that “God Wants” among other things (poverty, wealth, etc).

What God Wants in the third installment opens with musical and effects echoes from earlier Floyd songs (from 1975’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond and 1971’s Echoes respectively). Another mention of the “alien prophet” and several animals in the vicinity of money: some obvious and others not so. (Shades of 1977’s Animals in some respects here.) And that brings us to two of the best songs on an album of very good songs: Watching TV and Three Wishes.

Watching TV involves Tianinemon Square and how Roger was affected by it. It is acoustic and the duet (with Don Henley) is moving. Showing that history is not for fools, Roger recounts some Chinese history before moving into a list of people whom this Chinese girl is different from throughout history building up to a depressing indictment of modern soullessness. The conclusion is...well...I do not want to give it away but it really hits like a hammer to put it mildly.

Three Wishes builds to some extent on the latter by showing that the artist himself is not free of admitted selfishness. It is a testament of sorts to the human condition and how we say we want to be altruistic but (when the chips are down) we often seek our own self-interests first and then feel the guilt afterwards. Jeff Beck plays a Dave Gilmour-like solo, which eases the tension a little bit but not much. And from there, the album moves into It’s a Miracle recounting “achievements” of modern civilization by outlining the excesses in a somewhat sarcastic fashion.

The last song on the album is Amused to Death. The imagery is vivid and it is at that point where the alien figures referred to at times throughout the album are identified: they are alien anthropologists who found the remains of the human race around the TV sets and after trying to figure out why we died out conclude that “this species has amused itself to death.” The fadeout finishes with the voice of Alf Razzell again recognizing finally the humanity of his fallen comrade many decades ago: no longer a nightmarish image to him for reasons too numerous to deal with here.

The album as a whole as well as in its individual parts (the songs) paint a very vivid picture that provide plenty of food for musing. Much as Johnny Cash's final video Hurt showed vividly what an artist can do with pictures, Roger Waters with music, sound effects, and various spoken voices paints a similarly compelling picture with this album. I cannot recommend this album enough for those who like music to have some relevance to reality rather than being merely an escape from it. For those who do not fit the latter description, this album is not for you: go back to listening to your mindless Top 40 drivel and leave masterpieces such as this for those who can truly appreciate them.

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I have not discussed the amazing 2005 season of the Seattle Seahawks on this weblog yet. In fact, I have rarely discussed the Seahawks at Rerum Novarum in a long time if ever.{1} The main reason for this is that they have a history of marring my usually accurate predictions by doing worse than they should do...and I prefer to not make predictions on them anymore as a rule because they tend to backfire. A perusal of my trackrecord the past seven years with them should suffice to show what I am talking about.

---In 1999, I was very excited when they signed Mike Holmgren as head coach. Holmgren was the architect of the West Coast Offense for San Francisco when they won two of the four Super Bowls with Joe Montana as quarterback. He had moved onto coaching and had taken Green Bay to two Superbowls winning one and losing the other to John Elway (long believed by your host to be the greatest quarterback of his era, period). I predicted they would go 10-6...possibly as well as 12-4 and they started out 8-2 that season. However, they then nosedived as was their wont in past seasons and finished at 9-7. So much for my 10-6 prediction that year.

---In 2000, I predicted that they would finish if not 10-6 then at least 9-7...the Kingdome being leveled and their playing home games at Husky Stadium having some affect on the record. But they went 6-10 once again meaning I mispredicted how they would do.

---In 2001, I was again optimistic that they would go 10-6 and they went 9-7 missing the playoffs.

---In 2002, I was less optimistic but still figured they would win at least half of their games. The result: 7-9.

---In 2003, I predicted 10-6 and they went 10-6.

---In 2004, I predicted 10-6, possibly 11-5 and they went 9-7 blowing some serious leads in a few games they should have won (and not only to vindicate my prediction mind you).

---This year, I predicted they would go at least 10-6 but possibly as good as 12-4 and make it to at least the second round of the playoffs: easily my most optimistic prediction in years. Thus far, they are 11-2 and look to exceed my predictions for once. Assuming they actually do, my record the past seven seasons will be 2-5: very unShawnlike certainly but I cannot be right all the time now can I???

Anyway, after the crushing of San Fran last night by a wider margin than I had predicted (I said 44-12, they won 41-3), I feel confident enough to note my preseason predictions for 2005 not only because I am on the verge of being right again but to point out that NostraShawnus sometimes has a fuzzy magic ball...albeit not with geopolitical stuff of course.{2} But everyone has their weaknesses prediction-wise and in my case it is sports; ergo the reason you do not see sports discussed much here at Rerum Novarum ;-)


Notes:

{1} I may have touched on it in 2003 but certainly not last year or even this year thus far.

{2} But with sports stuff enough to make me not bet on sportsteams.

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