Some Hypotheticals

If you saw someone who was going to jump off a cliff... would you stop them? Assume you would prevent them from physical death, and as such their spiritual death would not necessarily be final. I think you would probably try to stop them.

Now assume you are an Archbishop, and you know of Catholics who are advocating very publicly for grave sin, and that this itself is a grave sin. Unrepented grave sin, as you know as an Archbishop, brings spiritual death. You know in your heart that spiritual death is eternal, and is God's most hated thing. You also know that this spiritual death is very real, and very dangerous: infinitely more dangerous than mere physical death. Would you not, as an Archbishop, care enough about your fellow Brother or Sister in Christ to do everything in your power to prevent further spiritual death?

And you would also know, as an Archbishop, that someone who is manifestly and publicly in a state of grave sin ought to refrain from receiving Communion, for their own sake, since receiving Communion unworthily is yet another grave sin that further wounds their soul.

And it would probably strike you, as an Archbishop, that this particular sin is a sin with a pedagogical dimension (public advocacy of sin teaches sin). Would your counsel to this person not also have a public dimension, to correct those who may have been misinformed by this person's very public advocacy (perhaps even encouragement) of sin?

Would you not see three very important things which demand your prophetic teaching voice?

Am I crazy?


Republicans are Opposed to Torture, Too

Professor R.R. Reno, writing in First Things with great style:
The principle of double effect tries to parse the goal or intention of an action from its likely outcome. Let’s say that a woman’s life is threatened by cancerous tumor in her uterus — and she is also pregnant. The principle of double effect allows us to distinguish between what the doctor intends to do as he removes the cancerous tumor, which is to cut it out, from what he foresees to be a result, which not just the removal of the cancer but also the likely spontaneous abortion of the fetus.

St. Thomas applies this principle to self-defense, not because killing an unjust aggressor is wrong, but because Jesus seems to prohibit self-defense when he tells us to turn the other cheek. Here is how the reasoning works. A man attacks me in the dark. In order to protect myself, I grab a pipe and hit him over the head. I intend to defend myself, but I foresee that the hard blow may well kill him.

There are two important constraints to the principle of double effect.

First, double effect can never be used to justify an intrinsically evil act, and for the obvious reason that intentionally undertaking intrinsically evil acts cannot, by definition, be justified. John Paul II was crystal clear on this point in Veritatis Splendor. So let’s go back to the examples. There is nothing immoral about removing cancerous tumors. There is also nothing immoral about killing assailants who pose an immediate threat to innocent life (again, the moral problem for St. Thomas rests in self-defense, not using lethal force against aggressors.)

Waterboarding? If it is torture, then it is immoral in itself. Double effect can’t change that fact.


Deneen + Tocqueville = Awesome

Tocqueville observed nearly 200 years ago that Americans - informed by a spirit of equality - would find "forms" to be unbearable. Forms - whether as "formalities," as boundaries, as rule-based distinctions, as disciplines - would be rejected as largely arbitrary limits upon the democratic freedom of individuals. He predicted that "formal" religion would decline in adherents, but that "exhalted forms of spirituality" would spring up to take their place, ones that would be noteworthy for their expansiveness, their absence of boundedness, their resistance to limits or chastening, and would manifest themselves as a kind of fanaticism. Moreover, he noted that this kind of "spirituality" would not be in contradiction to modern forms of materialism, but would exist comfortably alongside materialism.
Patrick Deneen, "Spiritual, Not Religious"


The Funniest Skit SNL has done in years

Thanks, Andy Samberg:

"I'm not a part of your 'system'.... MAAANN"


The Scandal of Professor Michael Perry

Professor Michael Perry writes at Mirror of Justice, and routinely publishes articles that call into question basic teachings of the Catholic Faith. This is in a real way scandalous and as such it needs to stop. It is a shame that this otherwise scholarly and orthodox group would entertain the views of someone who has made it his scholarly purpose to confuse and distort the truths of the faith.

(e.g. His latest post encourages an understanding of Humanae Vitae and openness to human life as something forced on the Church by the "power" of the Pope, which he puts in opposition to the love of Christ. )

The man himself is a psychological curiosity, but he is not unique. There are many others like him (Andrew Sullivan comes immediately to mind). He is someone who insists on belonging to a group to which he has no real intellectual relation. He is like a communist who insists on being part of a republican political party, or a Colts fan who insists on wearing Patriots jerseys. What is the point of forcing a relationship or pretending you have an affiliation with a group of people with which you have nothing in common?

The writers at Mirror of Justice should consider that, in providing Professor Perry a putatively Catholic platform with which to voice his manifestly anti-Catholic views, they risk doing their public readership harm.

Maybe I have it wrong; maybe the intention of the blog is not to be specifically Catholic but to have Catholic dialog with other Catholics and other people who call simply themselves Catholic. This is a different thing, and if it is the case then OK. But this should be clearly spelled out. Intellectual liberalism is a great thing but when the subject is authoritative religious teaching, some different guideines ought to apply. It is important to be clear about what is true and what is false, and Professor Perry's contributions to Mirror of Justice obscure the truth and encourage what is false.


The King Must Act

The New York Times informs us that President Obama will enact his agenda with or without Congress. Remember when the New York Times used to be concerned about the limits of the power of the executive branch of government?

Priorities and Politics

When people talk about politics they prioritize. Humans have to prioritize because we are finite creatures who live in time and are not omnipotent. Priorities have an important role in political discussions, because politics is about what we ought to do and what we can reasonably do. Prioritizing moral issues does not necessarily entail the neglect of the other moral issues which are less important, as some suggest.

There are three things that play a role in our judgment of political priorities. These are, in no particular order, (1) the nature of the moral evil, (2) the quantity of the moral evil, (3) and the practicality of the stopping the moral evil. We must know what's wrong, the extent of what's wrong, and what we can reasonably do to stop it. If our political judgments lack these three features they will be obtuse and unpersuasive.


Hipster Dogs

Hipster dogs make everyone happy!
Caution: some coarse language and cultural detritus


What's Wrong with the World, No. 3232472

Overheard on ABC's The Bachelor tonight: "I'm falling in love with more than one woman right now...I've fallen for all four women"


The Appeal of True Greatness

Christianity has a twofold challenge: to present the Good News of salvation to explain why the Good News should concern everyone. The second challenge is uniquely modern. After all, the Good News is salvation from sin, and sin is an idea foreign to most modern people. Explaining to someone that they are a sinner in need of a savior is never easy. It's easy to come off as rude, insulting, or worse: a holy roller.

A better tack to take, I think, is to propose to others the idea of moral and spiritual greatness. Greatness is very appealing, and it used to be especially so in America. Americans still have the memory of greatness, and so I think it interests them especially. God wills the moral and spiritual greatness of every human being. This is a universally applicable concept: it applies to everyone regardless of natural gifts. No one is excluded from the possibility of being a saint, of being a moral and spiritual giant.

It's also true that people like to be challenged, and thrive in the face of challenges. Christianity is life's greatest challenge, or it should be. Our time might not be a time of great war (although it is a time of war), but it is a time of great spiritual struggle, perhaps greater than any other time. And in this time, perhaps more than ever, God needs great human beings, whose truth, goodness and beauty will be a witness to His love.