Tuesday, March 25, 2003

For the benefits of those new to the debate, I'll repeat the standard response from pro-war Catholics facing criticism for dismissing the Church's position. (You can say it with me if you like. Maybe it should be set to music and made into a hymn).

The Church's position on the war is a matter of prudential judgement, not a statement of doctrine, and thus does not require the assent of the faithful.


Another problem I have with this is people measuring themselves by what is "required." Cathoics are also only required to go to confession and recieve the Eucharist once a year, but I think most of us know that we should recieve those sacraments more often in order to live a life of holiness.

One of the big things Jesus was about was calling us to a positive morality of love rather than a legalistic morality of staying withing the Law. Obeying the Commandments are important, but it's a bare minimum of what we're called to do.

A lot of the pro-war Catholics say that those who agree with the bishops and the Holy Father fail to think for themselves, and are guided by a warped sense of personal loyalty to the Holy Father that is inappropriate. But then they hide behind this legalistic statement in order to answer any objections that maybe the arguments they're using aren't all the helpful to the Church, and could cause long-term harm to the Church's ability to teach.

Who is really thinking for himself? Who is engaging his conscience? The person who uses this "prudential judgement" loophole to make broadside attacks on the Church's teaching authority, or the one who doesn't see the difference as a license to harm the Church?

Monday, March 24, 2003

Regarding faithful Catholics who are dismissing the Church's position on the war.

A couple highlights and comments:

I actually wonder if avoiding the word "dissent" is really a very smart tactic. If you don't want to distance yourself from the context of a bishop or pope's prudential judgment, and authentic discussion ought to attempt to preserve the proper context of such judgments, then why not roll up your sleeves and get dirty? Why not claim that as a faithful, good-willed, intelligent Catholic, you are dissenting from an official statement by the USCCB or pope? Using "disagree" or some such term undermines the weight of the official statement and the impact that a contrary opinion might have; and yes, avoiding "dissent" waters the position of the bishops and pope down to mere opinion devoid of wisdom or inspiration from the Holy Spirit (you see the pattern developing).

First of all, that's what the pro-war Catholics want to do, so their conscience is not as troubled.

Secondly, many of these commentators wrote themselves into a corner during the sexual abuse scandals. They wrote (sometimes rightly) that "dissent" was the root cause of the sexual abuse scandals, so they obviously don't want to be associated with it now. Which leads to the next point:

My concern from the start, when I first raised doubts about the wisdom of Catholics writing an Open Letter that seemed inappropriate, was that there have been motions, some subtle and perhaps unintended, some explicit, vigorous, and deliberate, to vitiate the Church's moral authority in secular matters. I get the impression that Catholics are being encouraged to look for loopholes, to walk within the letter but perhaps not the spirit of Church Teaching, to wiggle and squirm so they can comfortably dismiss the clear statements of concern about current events from the USCCB and the pope. I don't mean genuine, faithful dissent that may be heroic, objectively correct, and noble. I don't mean a humble, reverent shaking of one's head in disapproval. I don't mean the kind of disagreement that leaves one uncomfortable, causes one to look again for what is not seen, and hobbles one a bit by pangs of conscience. I mean the dissent of Catholics who boldly proclaim the bishops are wrong, the Vatican is wrong, the pope is wrong on an issue of utmost moral significance.

Right, and if we create an American Catholic culture where people feel comfortable to boldly proclaim the wrongeness of the Church, then we're doing real damage to the ability of the Church to teach authoritativley about anything. I dare say that such open and naked dissent from faithful Catholics does more to harm the Church's teaching authority than the abuse scandals.

And please don't come to me with this "prudential judgement, not doctrinal statement" rubbish -- yes, for the hundredth time, I know that Catholics are not required to assent to prudential judgements. But those who wish to undermine the Church's teaching on doctrinal matters aren't so particular about the distinction.

If we love the Church, and we desire it to continue to be a moral force, then we need to take her teachings seriously, rather than look for loopholes for how they don't apply to us.

And that is true even if it's a "prudential judgement."

It's not right what the Iraqi's are doing to the US soldiers. But I can't help but find some of the complaints about Iraq not complying to the Geneva convention a bit, well, unbecoming.

I try to imagine what this must look like to an outsider, and I came up with a basketball analogy (yes, another, hey, it's tournament time, too!). Imagine a local YMCA team started yapping about how terrible the Los Angeles Lakers were, and that they could beat them. Initially, the Lakers ignored them, but the trash talking got louder and pouder to the point that they could no longer ignore them, and they decided to come to their gym and show them what's what. After taking a big lead, the Lakers gave up a basket to make the score 20-2, and then complained to the officials that the YMCA team should get called for a technical foul for celebrating the basket too much. It seems to me that's what we must look like.

Of course, this situation is much more serious than a basketball game -- soldiers' lives are being played with, and I can't imagine the anguish these soldiers' families must be going through. And Iraq poses a bigger threat to the US than a trash talking basketball team poses to the Lakers (though the world may not yet have come around to this point of view). Nevertheless, what did we expect? We are going into this country to oust the regime. What, exactly, is their incentive to follow the Geneva Conventions? Especially since our rationale for going to war is that this is a regime of lawless thugs that thumbs its nose at the international community. And then we have the nerve to act surprised when they don't follow the Geneva Convention?

InstaPundit has been taking the "I eagerly await the protests" tack, that I took on below The US should accept, and in fact welcome a higher standard of behavior than is applied to the Iraqis. If we aren't willing to do that, then we have no busineess there.
I don't have links to any videos, and you probably misspelled "Al-Jazeera" in your search.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Joanah Goldberg writes:

Of all the wars and conflicts all around the globe, this is the one that has caused them to spill out onto the boulevards in rage. This is the one they've decided warrants human shields and boycotts. There were no human shields boarding buses to defend the Kurds or the Kuwaitis from Saddam Hussein — but they're falling over themselves for the opportunity to get in our way when we try to defend or liberate them. The useful idiots didn't rend their clothes and gnash their teeth when the Soviets invaded Kabul, but they were out in force when we liberated it. In short, these people don't hate war or care for the innocent nearly so much as they hate America.

Earlier this week, Mickey Kaus pointed to acolumn by Heather MacDonald that included:

Four days after the executions of two undercover officers in Staten Island this week—they were shot point-blank while trying to buy a semi-automatic weapon from a gang of gun hustlers—Barron, Sharpton, and the rest of the city’s cop-haters have preserved a perfect public silence. There will be no demonstrations outside the courthouse when the murderers of Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews are arraigned, unlike the protests that Sharpton organized outside the Bronx courthouse to scream at the four New York officers who mistakenly shot Amadou Diallo in 1999. Nor will anyone be parading coffins outside the homes of the lowlives who blew out the brains of the two Staten Island detectives, as New York’s anti-cop bigots did outside the homes of the Diallo officers.

These "where are the protests and demonstrations against the thugs" arguments are viscerally satisfying, but ultimately empty. Another way of phrasing this is, "why don't the protestors hold thugs and criuminals to the same standards as cops and the US government?" The answer is simple -- because they're thugs and ciminals. Put that way, you can see how ridiculous this type of argument is..

Protestors demonstrate against cops or against the US because they believe they have some chance affecting change. Protesting against street criminals or Saddam Hussein has no hope.

The protests and demonstrations are a sign that the US does at least listen to its people, and that it is held to a high standard. That should be good news.
I've been filling out NCAA tournament brackets for at least the last 15 years, and I've never heard the term "chalk" used in reference to picking the higher seed. Now it's all over the place, especially at ESPN's DailyQuickie

Does anyone know where this came from? Does it have anything to do with KU's equally mystifying "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" cheer?

Help me out here.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Kentucky, Duke, Texas, Syracuse.
Texas over Kentucky in the final game

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

I predict this will be the next great meme of the Blogosphere (itself meme coined by Bill Quick), and it comes from Mark at Minute Particulars.

It's a pattern of argument you see a lot. Rather than stand their gorund, the debater flops, and hopes for a "foul" to be called on his adversary. Depending on the argument, the "foul" can be questioning someone's loyalty, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, insensitivity, or anything else that's not socially nice.

I invoked this in a discussion on the Fray, involving the flag and the anti-war movement. Rather than protect the flag, they flop and claim that the pro-war movement has "co-opted" the flag by assosciating it with the pro-war movement. We're supposed to think this is a terrible offense.

But if the anti-war people were willing to yield the flag in the hopes of having a foul called, then what does that say about how much they value it? And then why should I be all upset that the pro-war movement "co-opted" it, when they were willing to let it happen?

Sometimes the referee is looking the other way, and sometimes the referee is on to your tricks. Other times, there is no referee. And in those times, you need to stand and defend your ground, rather than hope that the other side will get called for a foul.

I suspect even Bill Laimbeer knew that.

Side Note: I probably find this even more interesting, since as a tall white kid who often played basketball in the playground in a racially mixed neighborhood, I was tagged with the nickname "Bill Laimbeer." Probably mostly because of physical resemblance, but I'd like to think also because of intensity of play.
Readers know I have my misgivings about this war, but now that it is starting, I hope and pray that it will be a swift victory, helped along by surrendering troops, and that it does lead to true peace.

I'm not sure this is the best way to achieve true peace, but it is nevertheless my hope that it comes about.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Mark at Minute Particulars has a thoughtful post concering those who, as seem a bit too happy to declare the Holy Father and the US Bishop's position on Iraq a "prudential judgement," and thus not at al binding on their conscience.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Kairos Guy has been confronting the "war is always a disaster" statement put forth by, among others Cardinal McCarrick.

And what is so terrible about war, as opposed to all the other fundamentals of the fallen human condition, anyway? We all die sometime, but in war, those who die are more prepared for the possibility than most of us. Heroism is rarely possible on my morning commute, but in war, sometimes "uncommon valor is a common virtue." The disruptions to our complacency that war brings are nowhere to be found in most corporate boardrooms, judging by the financial news of the last couple of years.

The opportunities for heroism points says more about our culture's warped sense of what heroism is than anything else.

Would it not have been heroic for someone in one of those corporate boardrooms to stand up to malfeasance and dishonesty rather than go along with it?

Is it not heroic for a young person to commit to and live a life of chastity in today's sex-saturated world?

Is it not heroic for someone to move past their comfort zones and go into our nation's roughest neightborhoods in order to minister to the poor?

Is it not heroic to maintain one's faith in the Church despite the scandals?

We don't need war to have an opportunity for heroism. We have such opportunities every day. We just don't recognize them as such.

And as for the "more prepared to die" point, we're talking about mostly young men. Some with wives and families, others who hope to have them one day. Others who might want to come back to other productive jobs in their home countries. They may be "prepared to die," but that doesn't mean that having them die now is preferable to having them die after they've accomplished all they set out to do.
Interesting discussion over at HMS blog about how political conservatism aligns with Catholic social teaching.

I've always found the notion that liberal differences with the Church (e.g. women's ordination, sexual teachings, etc.) are always considered diffrences on matters of faith and thus illicit, while conservative differences (on capital punishment, war on Iraq, social justice) are considered differences on prudential judgements and thus licit a bit too tidy and convenient for conservatives. I have some more research to do on this, but I suspect it's not nearly so cut and dry.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I'll take a break from definding the Vatican's anti-war position to deal with other matters for a change.

There's something that's been bothering me about the coverage of Barrett Robbins, the Raiders' center who was unable to play in the Super Bowl because he was dealing with a bout of depression stemming from his bipolar disorder.

It is unquestionable that he let his team down. His team was about to play the biggest game of the year, and he couldn't answer the bell. Since the Raiders got blown out, and the backup center didn't allow any sacks or blow any snaps, most think they wouldn't have won anyway, and that may be true.

But at the minimum, this created a distraction, and it may have totally disrupted their game plan. Offensive line play in football, more than anything else in sports, relies on cohesion, on several men working together as a unit. While the center wasn't a particular vulnerability during that game, the Bucs' defensive line had a dominant game. I recall one particular two point conversion play where the left tackle blocked inside, allowing Simeon Rice to run free for the sack. Would that have happened if Robbins was in the game? I don't know.

But those who criticize Robbins asre chided for their ignorace and lack of understanding. Dr. Jerry Punch writes:

The last thing Robbins needs is additional pressure from his teammates. Once they understand the whole story, those teammates likely will regret their critical statements. The last thing he needs is for people to walk away from him right now. Indeed, now Robbins needs his teammates, friends and family the most.

I agree that, as people and friends, Robbins's teammates ought to be supportive. But as teammates and an employer, the Raiders ought to hold him accountable for his actions.

The alternative is to blame the disorder, and thus taint everyone else who suffers from it. Dr. Punch writes elsewhere:

In fact, the stress of a Super Bowl would be the ultimate challenge for someone with bipolar disorder, especially if he wasn't taking his medication. It's important for a bipolar patient to regulate the pressure in his life and and, if possible, to avoid prolonged periods of stress. When there's added stress, combined with lack of sleep and mental/emotional fatigue, and then if alcohol is stirred in -- that's a potent and potentially dangerous mixture.

Fine, but dealing with Super Bowl pressure is part of Robbins's job. Surely, Dr. Punch wouldn't suggest that it's OK to discriminate against those with bipolar disorder on this basis. That's illegal.

Maybe I'm thinking about this the wrong way. Maybe nobody needs to be accountable. We shouldn't blame Robbins or the disease, we should just accept the unreliability of people with this disorder as part of the price of living in a discimination-free society. And ao, when the bipolar person in our lives goes AWOL, we should cheerfully pick up the slack or take the hit and be grateful to live in a country that doesn't discriminate.

I'd be curious to see how such a theory would be received in the Raiders' locker room on Super Bowl Sunday.

Barrett Robbins let his team down in the biggest game of the year. It seems like there should be some accounting for that, and it seems unfair to me to spread that accountabulity to every bipolar person in the country who shows up to work each day, and doesn't let his fellow workers down.

But I allow that I may be writing from some ignorance.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Mark Shea passes on some of Mr. Dreher's reponse to the criticism:

Anyway, one point of my Journal column was to draw attention to the fact that the Church has pissed away a great deal of its moral authority by its mishandling of the sex-abuse crisis.

I can accept this, but I have to ask whether writing such a column in the Wall Street Journal would help build up or tear down the Church's moral authority. To whom was it neccesary to point this out? Dissenting Catholics? Church leaders?

What good comes from pointing this out?
I've decided that "consistency week" pobably wouldn't be the best use of the time God has given me, so I've deleted that post.

Also, I should note that Justin Katz was right -- Glenn Reynolds has not parlayed his anti-Semitic smear against the Vatican into other criticisms of the Church. So I was wrong.
Action: Rod Dreher takes a cheap shot at the Church
Reaction: You go, Rod! That needed to be be said! Thanks so much! Your critics are morons! etc.

Action: Victor Lams takes a cheap shot at National Review
Reaction: Hey, not so fast!

Who's our God again?

Sunday, March 09, 2003

As I mentioned below, Mr. Dreher has long been putting forth the notion that "dissent" in the Church contributed to the scandals, and any effort in dealing with the scandals would be incomplete without "rooting out" this dissent.

But then, Mr. Dreher pretty much lays out a blueprint for dissenting from the Church in the post-scandal Church:

One cannot help wondering, though, how much more seriously American Catholics would take church leaders if not for the sex-abuse scandal, which is still very much with us.

This type of argument could be applied to anything:

  • "Church Anuls Homosexual Marriage; Defrocks Presiding Priest": It's interesting that the Vatican feels the need to move so swiftly to prevent two consenting adults from committing to each other, when it was so slow to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
  • "Church Excommunicates Bishop Who Ordained Women": Is it any surpries that the all-male Church hierarchy places a higher priority on keeping women out of thier circle of power than in preventing girls from being raped by priests?
  • "Bishop Speaks Out Against Pro-Choice Politicians: Why is the Church more concerned about a politician allowing women to choose abortion than it is about protecting chidren in its care?

All of these arguments are, of course, nonsense. But people who cheerlead arguments like Mr. Dreher's would have a hard time dismissing them (especially since they say they're looking for consistency. ) And the people inclined to make and be persuaded by arguments like the above aren't likely to be versed in the differences between purdential judgements and matters of faith; they'll just know that an orthodox Catholic commentator used a similar argument, and won much approval for it.

One might say that the Church itself has opened itself up to this, so it's not Mr. Dreher's fault for using it. But Mr. Dreher professes to love the Church. When you're in disagreement with a loved one, you don't exploit vulnerabilities so that you can win the argument. You make your case strongly, yes, but also with compassion and charity. Nobody wins if you win by scoring a cheap shot.
I should have blogged this earlier, but anyone who thinks the Church in America is dying, be it because of the sexual abuse scandals, lack of orthodoxy, or being "out of touch" with the popular culture, should get themselves to a cathedral this weekend, and see how many people want to join our Church, warts and all.

Let's say some special prayers for them, and that their hope and faith in the Church might spread to us.
Warning: This is more of a reflection on my feelings than a logical argument.

I work very hard to align my conscience with that of the Church. I am inclined to think that the Church ought to open ordination to women, I have not seen a convincing argument otherwise. Yet, I keep quiet about this as much as possible, in part because orthodox Cathoics like Mr. Dreher tell me that such "dissent" is harmful to the Church, and at the root cause of the sexual abuse scandals. So I try to keep quiet about it.

I am deeply troubled by the way our Church treates homosexuals. I think that many are puzzled and confused and feel unloved by the Church, and given few options about how to live their lives. But I am told that even the Church's current stance towards gays and lesbians is too tolerant, and this tolerance is part of the root cause of the sexual abuse scandals, so I keep quiet.

I am not sure about the Vatican's position on the war in Iraq, yet I have spent the past week in this blog defending the Church's position against smears from non Catholic commentators. Then, when I look to support from some of these orthodox commentators who have been shouting me and others like me down, I see them undermining the Church's position by comparing it to its response to the sexual abuse scandals.

Commentators like Mr. Dreher rightfully point out that dissenting from the Vatican's position on war is not the same as dissenting on issues like birth control and abortion since the former is a prudential judgement by the Holy Father, and the latter is a matter of faith. But then they feel free to compare the position on war to the response to the abuse scandals, and these seem to me to be even further apart. If comparing dissent on matters of faith to dissent on prudential judgement is comparing apples to oranges, then comparing prudential judgements on current issues to response to scandals is comparing oranges to steak.

It is very disappointing to me that commentators like Dreher who have been so quick to blame those with a hint of daylight between their own position and the Church's on sexual issues for every problem under the sun, now feel free to slam the Vatican because they don't agree with its position on war with Iraq.

As someone who is working hard (albeit not perfectly) to align his conscience and public statements with the Church, I wonder why I bother. It would be nice to feel like I was joined in this struggle with those who find themselves in disagreement with the Church on other things. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Regular readers(if there are any) have probably noticed that this blog is built around fits of activity when I get good and pissed about something, followed by a few days of inactivity.

Anyway, Tony Adragna has some posts about the things I've taken on, and he's mostly right. In particular, I went overboard with this post where I called on Prof. Reynolds to deal with his own anti-Catholicism. I could backpedal, and say it was an ironic unsubstantiated charge of anti-Catholocism in response to an unsubstantiated charge of anti-Semitism, but that would be dishonest. So, I apologize.

Anyway, my main point is that folks seem desperate to sting the Church with charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, with little evidence to support it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The more I read stuff like this, as well as the InstaPundit Vatican anti-Semitic stuff below, the more I think the Vatican is really on to something, and it's troubling people's consicences, and they're reacting to it by doing everything they can to kill the messenger.

You can read my response to that here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Justin Katz has joined me in agreeing that InstaPundit's smear is unfair.

Remember Prof. Reynolds statement was, ""This is absolutely pathetic, but no great surprise given the antisemitism we've already seen emanating from the Vatican lately." Now we're talking about crosses on graves at Auschwitz, and the Vatican being slow to recognize Israel. Sounds to me like desperation to change the subject.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Prof. Reynolds writes

I think that this stuff generates such a response because, well, it's true. And sometimes the truth hurts.

By that logic, the idiocy put out at anti-war protests must be true, since it generates such a large response on the blogosphere.

It seems we'res scraping the bottom of the barrell of self-justification. "I've gotten a lot of response from this; it must be true!" Please; I thought we were all smarter than that.
It's easy for Prof. Reynolds (or me, for that matter) to pooh-pooh concerns the Vatican has about Christians in the Arab world. After all, if I come out strongly against Israel, nobody will die.

But the Holy Father and the Vatican's words can result in much death or suffering, and I don't think it's unreasonable that they take that into consideration.

You can say that they should be more courageous, and if it were just their own hides on the line, I might agree. But I'm not sure courage demands that the Holy Father endanger the lives of millions of others in order that Prof. Reynolds might find the Vatican's position "admirable."

And I would also like Proof. Reynolds or someone else to produce where the Vatican cheerleads for the Arabs against Israel. For all the talk there's been about it, you'd think someone would have some solid evidence by now. But all I keep seeing is that picture. Maybe if we wave that around enough and shout "the Vatican is anti-Semitic!" people will believe it.
InstaPundit has posted yet another lame defense of his linking the Vatican with anti-Semitism, still offering no evidence other than some vague talk about the Church's position on Israel, and once again that picture.

I'll agree that that picture doesn't paint a flattering picture of the Church. But it is not sufficient to sustain an accusation of intitutional anti-Semitism

The prudent thing for Prof. Reynolds to do now is apologize and back off. Unfortunately, I have a feeling he's going to use this "anti-Semitic" smear to discredit the Church's teachings on other matters.

But I could be wrong.
Justin Katz seems inlcined to let Reynolds slide for his smear of the Vatican with an anti-Semitism charge. Katz writes:

I'm also trying to walk the fence between conservative Catholics, with whom I agree about most everything, and other folks with whom I often agree on separate matters, whose reactions to religion I wish to shift. Among the latter, Glenn Reynolds is far from the most intransigent, and he's a valuable conduit to others, as well.

I'm not sure if I'm a "conservative Catholic," but nevertheless I can't count Prof. Reynolds as "far from the most intransigent." I've been reading InstaPundit since we was on the Fray, back when he advertised it as, "100% Cond*t Free!" and these have been his major themes:

  • The war on terror/war on Iraq (in favor)
  • Gun Control (against)
  • Cloning and embryonic research (in favor)
  • Sexual freedom (in favor)
  • General libertarian causes (in favor)
  • Encroachments on civil liberties (against)

A typical day on InstaPundit will see a couple links on the developments on the war, a link to a story that makes the anti-war movement look foolish, the latest on the case against Michael Bellisies, a link to some campus sex stunt or sex column somewhere, a link to a column making fun of those who oppose cloning, and a story about the unintended consequences of the Patriot Act. (maybe I'm leaving something out).

That's fine -- our blogs are neccesarily about what we find interesting, but the values Prof. Reynolds espouses on his blog are hardly in direct alignment with those of the Church. In fact, his views on the italicized items are in direct conflict with those of the Church.

So when Prof. Reynolds digs up a picture from last spring of a French cardinal with Arafat in an attempt to get people to associate Catholicism (or at least the hierarchy) with anti-Semitsim, I'm not going to sit still for it. Because it seems likely that this will be used by him to dismiss the Church's teachings regarding the unborn and sexuality. After all, why should we listen to these anti-Semitic dolts?

As Tacitus wrote, there are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize the Church or its policies. Using a single picture to smear it with anti-Semitism isn't one of them.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

InstaPundit links to a story about anti-Semitic remarks from the Anglican clergy, and adds, "This is absolutely pathetic, but no great surprise given the antisemitism we've already seen emanating from the Vatican lately."

Well, that certainly would be bad; I wonder what he's referring to...

I figured Prof. Reynolds must have been referring to something he had written about the Vatican, so I searched his blog, and found nothing. Maybe on Damian Penny's blog, which the item linked to? Nope.

Maybe Prof. Reynolds should be more concerned with his own anti-Catholicism that the Vatican's supposed anti-Semitism.

UPDATE: Prof. Reynolds has posted a rather lame defense of his charge. Basically it relies on a months-old picture of a bishop wtih Arafat, and then it's just vague allusions to the Church's history with Jews and a tendency to take the side of Arabs in conflicts with Israel. He adds some e-mail about the hierarchy's statements about a possible war with Iraq, anbd some bigotry from Christians in general.

Sorry, I'm not convinced. Anti-Semitism is a serious charge, and demands more than this to back it up.