Thursday, February 23, 2006

On Zeal, Nature and Ecclesiology, Dale Vree and New Oxford Review, Etc.
(Aka "From the Mailbag" Dept.)

The text below comprises about 99% of an email correspondence from last week with only minor adjustments made to the text (including the removing of the name of the party in question pending their permission to use it of course).


A nice, closely reasoned and judicious piece on Vree.

Thankyou XXXX.

I like the Mentzer quote.

I owe a debt to Mike Mentzer in more ways than I can count. (He was a non-Catholic and an Objectivist interestingly enough.) It is a long story but I have had in mind for many years a project that would be the first of its kind anywhere. Since it may be something you would find of interest, here in a nutshell I will touch on it.

Essentially, I would seek to apply Mentzer's theories in the realm of exercise science --after demonstrating and substantiating the theory that there is and can be only one valid scientific theory of resistance training and that Mentzer's refining of Arthur Jones' basic theory is it-- to ecclesiology. I would then by the same methodology seek to demonstrate objectively that there is and can be only one valid form of ecclesiology and it is the Catholic understanding.

This has been on my mind for a long time...indeed before I ever wrote an essay for the web I entertained the idea of writing on these subjects.{1} However, as well read as I was in those fields many years ago, I realized about two years ago that I still needed to learn more and to field test a few things first to refine my previous understanding. In that sense it is a good thing that the essay I have had in mind had not up to this point been written because I would have had too many lacunas in my knowledge at that time to have handled it properly.

The ecclesiology stuff has been filled in serendipitously in recent years as has almost all of the lacunas I had in precise applications of certain theories of stress and adaptation which will be part of the project when I get around to starting it. Some of what I will be doing in the gym this year after I drop another twenty pounds will be to field test these principles in the way I refined them in 2004 and the one year gym sabbatical interim where I thought a lot about these matters and how to best approach them upon my return to training later this year. (Thus far I have done only cardio for the most part except working muscles that often get overlooked or short shrift like forearms, lower back, abs, and calves.) If things go according to plan, I will be able to start drafting the piece in either late 2006 or in 2007 time-willing with some field tested theories to substantiate what I know via reason and logic (and my experience from years back) to be true. Of course 2007 will be roughly eight years after I originally conceived of the idea{2} but heck: sometimes ideas take time to round into shape.

Though I used the term "neocon," I can't claim to know anything about them. I use it to represent conservative Catholics who aren't rad-trads. Vree had an interesting historical analysis that traced "neocon" to disaffected Trotskyites, but that's another matter.

Yes, that was not what I was referring to.

You're analysis of zeal, culling from St. Francis de Sales, is well-taken, with the importance of erring on the side of charity and patience and mildness, avoiding pride that slips over into imprudence, presumption, injustice, and bitterness.

The quotes were from a book titled Light and Peace the author of which was Fr. R. P. Quadrupani, a barnabite priest. It was first published in 1795 and has gone through about twenty-five editions (ten or so in English). And though I have problems with recommending stuff from Tan Books as a rule, you can find this book there and trust is a very good investment of about $8.

Imprudent zeal, you say, drives others away, rather than drawing them in. Good points with which few would disagree.

Perhaps but in application it is a different animal than assent abstractually as I am sure you would agree.

You also are careful to add the caveats (note 7) that there are (of course) times when it is necessary to take a harsher or less irenic approach to dealign with people and situations ... though as a rule this should not be the approach taken.

Yes but rules do have exceptions to them and sometimes people need to be slapped around. You may know that I was recently pretty brutal to XXXX XXXXXXXXX for example but I had good reasons for it. I exhausted myself last year trying irenic reasoning with them as well as setting out in detail privately what the problems were earlier this year when it appeared we might actually be able to reconcile. But their decision to take that conversation subject public{3} to preen for the peanut gallery was what triggered it primarily...though there were also issues of scholastic integrity{4}, egregious violations of basic rules of logic and reason{5}, and in general a manifested lack of respect for the discipline of the dialogue{6} to say nothing about general norms of theological interpretation.{7}

All of this was coupled with their public prevarications on the matter made it necessary for me to really take the cudgel out. In short, I recognize that there are times to take a harsher approach to people but this should not (in my view) be done lightly or too often.

You also state that your critique isn't intended to imply that DV's work as a whole is without merit, but that essentially he is perhaps taking the wrong approach for (oftentimes) the right reasons. Well-put in each case.

Thankyou. There is a problem I think in a lot of people dismissing a writer because of certain stylistic factors without considering if the arguments they are making have merit to them or not.

The hard question that remains is how to discern when and where and how to meet the culture of death properly -- when an irenic, patient, genteel, respectful, approach that wouldn't disturb the "wine and cheese" set just wouldn't cut it.

True. It is not easy to do but it seems to me that we should err on the side of caution here.

Jesus was merciful, but never patient or compassionate to unrepentant hypocrites.

True but as God Incarnate, He could read souls and we cannot.

Nor were the prophets.

They had divine inspiration too. I am not saying that we need to be God Incarnate or have divine inspiration to reprove others in harsher tonalities; only that the further removed we are from those advantages the more carefully we should tread. Barring a trackrecord indicating habitual tendencies of obvious obstinateness on the part of those involved, erring on the side of caution is wise.

I think you set a clear example. I think it can be done.

I agree it can be done. I also think that none of us are going to do it perfectly without some kind of divine inspiration which we should never presume to have. Too many Catholic writers act as if they are divinely commissioned if you know what I mean and that is the source of many problems.

I'm not sure what you mean by your comment that Vree may have been "another one of those converts who merely swapped dogmatic contents when they became Catholic but did not attain a proper Catholic mindset." What's a Catholic mindset?

A Catholic mindset is one that recognizes the proper degree of diversity in the unity of the profession of the faith. It is a mindset that seeks to approach people and situations charitably and give the benefit of the doubt whenever it can reasonably be done. It is a mindset that recognizes that Catholicism is universal and thus embraces a broad spctrum of viewpoints and thus transcends their own personal opinions. While certainly we can argue passionately and persuasively for our views (and this is just fine as far as I am concerned) in the end we have to recognize that the locus for determining the boundaries of our assent is the Magisterium and not the opinions of others however learned and saintly they may well be.

One that's firm but polite and statesmanlike, like Billy Graham's? You couldn't be speaking of doctrine, could you?

Not doctrine but certainly there are applications of doctrine where differences of opinion can exist. A Catholic mindset (as I call it) recognizes this even sometimes reluctantly whereas someone without it seeks to either elevate their own opinions on matters with the mantle of magisterial sanction or denigrate the views of others by implying a lack of congruity with the magisterium. In that series on zeal, one of the paragraphs (not in the posting you read though originally it was: I cut it out for the sake of economy) explains this well:

Again there are pious persons whose zeal consists in wishing to make everyone adopt their particular practices of devotion. Such a one, if she have a special attraction for meditating on the Passion of our divine Lord or for visiting the Blessed Sacrament, would like to oblige every one, under pain of reprobation, to pass long hours prostrate before the crucifix or the tabernacle. Another who is especially devoted to visiting the poor and the sick and to the other works of corporeal mercy, acknowledges no piety apart from these excellent practices. Now, this is not an enlightened zeal. Martha and Mary were sisters, says Saint Augustine, but they have not a like office: one acts the other contemplates. If both had passed the day in contemplation, no one would have prepared a repast for their divine Master; if both had been employed in this material work, there would have been no one to listen to His words and garner up His divine lessons. The same may be said of other good works. In choosing among them each person should follow the inspirations of God's grace, and these are very varied. The eye that sees but hears not, must neither envy nor blame the ear that hears but sees not. Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum: let every spirit praise the Lord, says the royal prophet. (Ps. CL, 5.)

The principle outlined above with devotions also applies to an individuals personal views on theology, philosophy, history, liturgical matters, disciplinary protocols, etc. As you noted, it is a fine line certainly but one we must seek to walk and with care. With Vree's stuff I only noted a pattern I had seen in what I had read of his stuff. As to the extent of the pattern, I do not know as I have not read nearly as much of his stuff as you and ZZZZZ have.

Anyway, a fine piece of writing. I appreciated it.

Thankyou XXXX. Btw, I got your email on the Vree neo-con article. As I noted in the "Blosser vs. Blosser" posting, it is next in line for examination in the "tracking the elusive so-called 'neo-con'" series whenever I get around to finishing it. Whatever one wants to say of what Vree says in it, at least he actually sets out an explanation for what he means by the term. If only Stephen Hand and others of that ilk (who use the term often but shirk from explaining what they mean by it) would act as honourably but I digress.


{1} I touched on this a bit here if you are interested.

{2} It was applying what I knew of Mentzer's theories to ecclesiology which is what in retrospect is what brought me out of radical so-called "traditionalism." However, it is one thing to consistently apply a particular theory and another to claim and attempt to substantiate that a given theory or idea is objectively the only correct one. Btw, the definition of "theory" I used in my essay response to David Palm two years ago (and which I posted to my Miscellaneous BLOG at that time) was taken virtually verbatim from Mentzer's writings.

{3} I wrote on this subject in light of this person's mishandling of private correspondence in this thread to my Miscellaneous BLOG.

{4} Manifested in two ways (i) their quoting sources out of context and (ii) failing to disclose to their readers certain biases in their sources which were essential. I was particularly incensed to see them misquoting something I wrote three years ago in a different context to try and buttress their shoddy arguments.

{5} There were many argumentation fallacies utilized by this person but the most prevalent one was argumentu ad veridunciam a subject I have written on before several times including HERE.

{6} Some Principles For Authentic Dialogue and the Proper Use of Sources in Papers (circa February 9, 2006)

{7} The subject of general norms of theological interpretation was handled indirectly in this thread:

"Dogmatic Theology Five Cents, the Doctor is In" Dept. (circa February 4, 2006)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Miscellaneous Musings:

The series of confirmation predictions posted by Us contemporary to the Judge Samuel Alito hearings have been panning like gold at Sutters Mill in 1849 it seems.{1} Having already noted the predictions vindicated by events in a posting from earlier this month, it seems appropriate to note another in the sequence which was written not without reason back in early January:

---President Bush will afterwards figure he has appeased his supporters enough and do something stupid figuring he can get away with it. (Depending on what that is, it is difficult to say whether or not he will succeed at it or not.) [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa January 10, 2006)]

Well friends, chalk Us up as 6-6 thus far since President Bush has done something monumentally stupid in agreeing to support the handing over of management of several US ports to an Arab nation.

The issue here only in part pertains to national security matters as the rest of it is perception. For even if this proposal does not pose a risk to national security (as some have insisted){2}, there is still the perception that this is a selling out of national security. The Democrats who have been as a rule quite weak on national security now have a cudgel to beat the president with and to give the appearance of being concerned with this issue for "national security reasons."

For no matter how the Bush Administration tries to spin this, the Democrats have their willing accomplices in the MSM to give their view credibility. Though it is still early and less than a year is a long time in politics as We have noted not a few times before{3}; nonetheless this does not bode well for the congressional Republicans in 2006 if they do not make a stand here.

Also, readers of this weblog for some time are aware of your host's subscription to what he calls the Syria Hypothesis viz. the subject of WMD's in Iraq. That theory has received some support recently from a former Iraqi general but that is all that will be said on the matter at the moment...other than Our position on the war (as articulated over three years ago) never was based on WMD's anyway.


{1} Not that longtime readers of this weblog would find accuracy in Our predictions to be a surprise of course.

{2} Your host must admit to having doubts viz. the veracity of this position at the present time.

{3} A year before a presidential election is an eternity in politics. [Except from Rerum Novarum (circa December 9, 2003)]

Remember, there is 44 more days until that primary and even a month is a long time in politics. [Except from Rerum Novarum (circa December 14, 2003)]

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Miscellaneous Threads for Reviewing:

I have dragged my feet for too long on not posting another installment in this category. The threads here will be mainly from fellow St. Blogs contributors and I will put together another one of these threads soon for other threads which are in draft form awaiting posting. Without further ado though...

Deus Caritas Est - A Eucharistic Encyclical (Deacon Barth E. Bracy)

A very interesting (to say the least) commentary on Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical.

The Liberation of Iraq & The War on Terror - A Roundup (Christopher Blosser)

A roundup of threads on the war in Iraq in particular and the war on terror in general.

The Chronicles of Hand

This time the absurdity is calling for the impeachment of President Bush. Careful note should be made of the implied endorsement of this viewpoint by certain parties but enough on that matter for now.

Big profits for Big Oil... who cares? (Chris Burgwald)

My views on this matter are not a secret but essentially I concur with the gist of what Chris Burgwald refers to above.

'Ideology' requires ideas (Chris Burgwald)

While I generally use the term "ideologue" in a derogatory fashion; nonetheless I agree with Chris' premise in the posting above. The problem is, most whom I refer to as "ideologues" do not generally have anything particularly original to offer. Instead, they promote certain viewpoints without concern for accuracy of facts or scholastic/personal integrity.

Bible Study on Proverbs, Part XI (Kevin Tierney)

Another meditation worth reflecting upon in light of the kinds of rancor we have seen in Catholic circles as of late.

The Mohammed Cartoons Blogburst (Lane Core, Jr.)

If this is what has the radical Muslim sorts with their burkas in a bunch then they really are a bunch of pansies. Compared to the Maplethorpe crap, this is tame stuff. Call me the next time someone submerges a picture of Mohammed in urine, or throws elephant dung at it and calls it "art" or other such atrocities. Then you will at least have some sympathies from someone such as myself but not until then.

Why The U.S. Cannot Afford to Write Off "Old Europe" (Greg Mockeridge)

In a word: give this thread a read to understand some of the underlying factors in the war on terror. I may also repost this thread (due to the importance of the subject matter it covers) in the next "miscellaneous threads" installment dealing with non-St. Blog's stuff.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Points to Ponder:
(On Double Standards)

[I]t seems to me that women want to play the old heads I win / tails you lose thing.

If a liberal wants to support a female candidate, it’s a Great Thing for Women’s Rights. If a liberal wants to oppose a female candidate — say, because she opposes abortion — that’s a Great Thing for Women’s Rights. And if a conservative opposes a female candidate that proves he’s sexist. But if he supports a female candidate, they’ll claim he’s supporting some backwards, “up with patriarchy,” docile, “she’s a nice girl, she’ll do what she tells us” candidate, and he’s still a sexist because he’s promoting “the wrong kind” of woman.

In short, “Women’s Rights” is a phrase with little real content any more. It’s just a bludgeon. A hate word. [Greg Krehbiel (c. 10/12/05)]