Critiques & Controversies: October 2004 Archives

More on Posting Less

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It turns out that I am not posting less, just less original stuff. And I got myself to thinking, "Why is this particular election so very difficult?"

I think I find two reasons--one is greater maturity on my part, the other is the essential intractability of facts and reason. The first of these--I am more aware of what my faith requires. I am also more aware (largely from being in the blogosphere) of what the Church teaches--which points are negotiable and which ones are not. Greater information leads to less comfort in some cases.

The second reason is by far the more difficult. There are a number of questions that must be answered in the course of this election that admit of no easy resolution. Probably the greatest of these for me is the question of whether or not the war in Iraq is a "just war." Being doubtful of the theory of just war at all, I find myself at a disadvantage in this determination. But a secondary question does arise. Assume it is not a just war--was it unjust from intent or unjust from misunderstanding. That is, did the president entering it knowing that he would not find what he claimed to be the reason for it. I don't know the answer to this question, so I will assume in his favor. Thus we have by the postulates given an unjust war entered into with the idea that is was somehow just. Does ignorance provide enough of a "shield" as it were?

Notice that there is not question at all about Mr. Kerry. There need not be. He has two major strikes against him, as well as a myriad others. Bad enough is the fact that the man would out-Herod Herod in his desire to push an utterly evil agenda to its furthest extent. But worse yet is that this man then teaches a mostly ignorant public that his own stand is compatible with Catholic Church teaching. Both of these are crimes against humanity in a fundamental way. There is no excuse that can be given for Mr. Kerry on either count. As a public figure, he is, de facto a teacher about what the Church IS in reality. Many people look at him and see a "Catholic in good standing." Now, I suspect that many of us harbor notions that may not be completely reflective of Church teaching. For my own part, those ideas that I hold, I hold largely in ignorance, or I hold them, in battle. For example, above I questioned the validity of the notion of a "just war." I don't know what standing this has in Catholic teaching--doctrine, dogma, opinion, somewhere in between these things. But I fight with it--I push against it. I do this in full knowledge that when I have done so before, I have been shown to be wrong in short order, I expect to be shown so now. However, there can be no question about the Church's teaching on abortion and life matters. As such, there is no wiggle room. There is one truth the Church teaches that admits of no variance.

Hence, I struggle with the question of whether or not I face two more or less equally immoral candidates. Engaging in an immoral war (question 1) with full knowledge (question 2) is unquestionably immoral. The difficulty is that there is no chart to show me, no quantifiable data. I have a mass of the opinions, informed and otherwise, of other Catholics. I am grateful for this data, but it is insufficient to determine the reality to the degree that would allow me to vote comfortably.

Here in Florida, we can vote before election day. Given the "irregularities" already "observed" in such voting, perhaps I would do well to hie me to a voting place and cast my ballot. Perhaps it will be invalidated, challenged, or litigated over. Then, at least for the president, it would little matter how I voted. (Sorry guys, I don't buy the statistical argument that one vote doesn't matter. It does, to the person making the vote and to the integrity of the fabric of democracy. Whether or not it affects the outcome of the election we can debate--I believe it does and that it matters.)

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The Hideous Machinery of Death


Our corrupt and duplicitous legal system once again fails to protect the innocent. I do not understand why, when there is any doubt whatsoever about a person's wishes, actions like this can be enforced. See here for the details.

And a special thanks to Mr. Appleby and to all others who have been and continue to be advocates for those whom our society and legal system would destroy out of hand. Each step toward death makes the future a little less bright. I sure hope Samuel really likes me as well as loves me.

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On Stem Cell Research


This gentleman says all that I would say, have tried to say, and have to day on the matter. It's so wonderful when someone obviates the need for my own work.

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To Be Completely Fair

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to both St. Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics (contra another comment at Disputations) I quote:

One of the favorite things to ridicule is the supposed debate among the Scholastics on the question of "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?". Apparently, however, none of them put things in exactly these terms, as those concerned to rescue the reputations of Aquinas and the others are anxious to emphasize. The Scholastics could have very reasonably focused on this funny question, however, for it does concentrate several of their points of dispute, including whether "angels" have a corporeal (bodily) or merely spiritual existence.

And in fact, some of the Scholastics, such as Aquinas, did dance quite close to the precise question, as this little taste from his "Summa Theologiae" shows:

Q. 52, a. 3 - "Whether Several Angels Can Be At The Same Time In the Same Place? There are not two angels in the same place. The reason for this is because it is impossible for two complete causes to be immediately the causes of one and the same thing. This is evident in every class of causes. For there is one proximate form of one thing, and there is one proximate mover, although there may be several remote movers. Nor can it be objected that several individuals may row a boat, since no one of them is a perfect mover, because no one man's strength is sufficient for moving the boat; the fact is rather that all together are as one mover, in so far as their united powers all combine in producing the one movement. Hence, since the angel is said to be in one place by the fact that his power touches the place immediately by way of a perfect container, as was said (Q. 52, a. 1) there can be but one angel in one place."

The original source in its entirety.

That said, I will point out that even the point made here by Aquinas has vanishingly little relevance to how we are to conduct ourselves as Christians, and that is the point of the mockery "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" In a sense that study becomes so abstruse that it becomes disconnected from the reality of living and hence, useless.

That said, the questions about angels comprise a minute portion of the Oeuvre produced by St. Thomas Aquinas. While some of the other questions may have similar small relevance, there can be no denial of the immediate importance of the vast majority of his work. There are probably many "hobbies" of Saints to which we could take exception were we so inclined. I don't see how speculations about angels are out of order in the enormity of the serious and focused work done.

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The contributors to Maverick Philosopher think so hard it makes my head hurt. Sample this brief discussion of Doctrine and Practice. Then continue on down to read assessments of PoMo deconstructionists and other delectable philosophical tidbits. I can't claim to grasp all that is going on there, but it makes for some highly entertaining reading at times.

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On the Debates


One of the great, wonderful things about being a Catholic loyal to the magisterium (as much as I understand it) is that it makes completely unnecessary any attention to this year's debates whatsoever. Nothing Mr. Kerry could say, not matter how prolix (on the one hand) or oratorically grand (on the other) can redeem his stance on the slaughter of the innocents. Nothing Mr. Bush has to say will eradicate his past and present record.

I had long ago concluded that no matter how I might like some social policies, it would be impossible for me to vote for John Kerry. As the issues I am concerned about are not going to be discussed in the course of the debate, or at least not resolved, that makes listening to the debates an exercise in redundancy. It little matters who "won." My only trial is to consider the candidate remaining to me and to decide where conscience really leads after serious consideration of all sides of the issue.

It is not an easy matter (the difficult part of being a Catholic loyal to the magisterium (as much as I understand it). However, the debates have not played in my house nor have I amused myself with the sound bites and recaps, which, being extracted by a media biased against our incumbent, would never show him in a good light anyway. So once again, the truth has set me free!

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"Cheer Up and Vote"

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Mentioned by TSO in a comment at Disputations, this article by Benjamin Wiker at Crisis. Excerpt below:

We won’t be judged, then, on how we would have acted if things had been perfect, nor even on how we would have acted if things had been better. We will be judged on how we acted in the midst of the actual imperfection into which we were born and under which we lived. More accurately, recalling that sins are also committed by omission, we will be judged on how we did not act, as well as on how we did. If we wait to vote until we have a candidate of the intellectual and moral caliber of Abraham Lincoln, then we will be responsible for the repeated election of a rogue’s gallery of presidents during our repeated sins of omission.

(Let us put aside the question of the moral caliber of Lincoln for a moment--which is a matter of some lengthy debate.) What is astounding in the excerpt above is its lack of recognition that refusal to vote is NOT inaction, it is action at its very highest. Refusal of moral compromise is the most important action we can take.

I won't comment on the political state at the moment, nor on my own view of what should and should not be done. However, not voting is rather like refusal to move when blocking the doors of an abortion clilnic. You get yourself thrown in jail, reviled and hated by the media, branded a fanatic, and ultimately probably don't change even a single mind that day--but that steadfast refusal is a witness to a societal evil so profound that even if you witness accomplishes nothing else it is a testament of the courage that accompanies refusal of moral compromise--it charges the world with a greater good. I read Mr. Wiker's article and it suggests that moral compromise is perfectly acceptable, that we must make do with what we have. And I think the unwillingness of many to do so is a sign of the times. Many may feel that it is the continuous chain of "making do" with what we have before us that has led us to this debacle.

I find the suggestion that we should lower our principles to vote for what is morally repugnant distressing. But I am in all likelihood mischaracterizing a small portion of what I read. This is simply what stuck in the craw. Don't take this critique to mean that Mr. Wiker said these things--just consider it the exaggeration caused by the aftertaste of reading.

Elections like this one make Erik's authoritarian tendencies look positively appealing. But I would refer to the first of the Dylan Thomas poems I posted yesterday and encourage everyone who is of the moral conviction that it would wrong to vote for either candidate--"Do not go gentle into that good night" of compromise and complacency. Democracy has its failings, but one of its virtues is that no one is compelled to support evil. Rather than compromise, it is time to start raising up morally acceptable candidates. And by that I don't mean morally perfect, but those who strive with all that is in them to walk the right path. It may be that one of the present candidates fits that bill for many readers, and for those readers it is not only right, but it is mandatory that they support this candidate. However, it may well be that it is not the case. If so, don't relax moral vigilance. Most of all, do not expect from the government what it is incumbent upon us as Christians and as the light of Christ to deliver to the world. Justice does not come from a system (witness Terri Schiavo.) It comes only with the blood of martyrs and the work of the chosen.

All that said, as much as I disagree with what I read in Mr. Wiker, I think what he has to say is well said and should be carefully considered by every person who thinks that they cannot (morally) vote for a candidate this election. Perhaps his arguments will give you cause to change your minds.

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Who Mourns for Derrida?*

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Courtesy of a friend: here

a brief excerpt:

But even if deconstruction cannot be defined, it can be described. For one thing, deconstruction comes with a lifetime guarantee to render discussion of any subject completely unintelligible. It does this by linguistic subterfuge. One of the central slogans of deconstruction is il n'y a pas de hors-texte, i.e., "there is nothing outside the text." (It sounds better in French.) In other words, deconstruction is an updated version of nominalism, the view that the meanings of words are completely arbitrary and that, at bottom, reality is unknowable.

Jacques Derrida along with Paul de Man gave us the systematic undermining of modern morality and respect for the truth. And then there is this lovely little piece of filth to deal with:

Stock in deconstruction has sagged a bit in recent years. There are basically two reasons for this. The first has to do with the late Paul de Man, the Belgian-born Yale professor of comparative literature. In addition to being one of the most prominent practitioners of deconstruction, Mr. de Man--as was revealed in the late 1980s--was an enthusiastic contributor to Nazi newspapers during World War II.

That discovery, and above all the flood of obscurantist mendacity disgorged by the deconstructionist brotherhood--not least by Mr. Derrida, who was himself Jewish--to exonerate Mr. de Man, cast a permanent shadow over deconstruction's status as a supposed instrument of intellectual liberation.

Sorry I've quoted so much, but atheistic existentialism (in fact most existentialism) and postmodernism are two hobby horses I would like to ride to death and bury them shallowly so that the more worthy vermin may pick their bones. They have done more to destroy the fabric of culture and society than anyone or anything except perhaps Margaret Sanger and the eugenicists.

May Mr. Derrida rest in peace, I pray ardently for the repose of his soul, despite the damage he may have wrought on culture in general. But may his work crumble and be consigned to the dimmest lit, mustiest, and moldiest back shelves of the library of culture along with Deism and other worthy contenders for philosophies just short of insanity. The foulness of this philosophy taints even sterlling members of the Saint Blogs' community who are accustomed to talkling about "victimization" and the "need for emancipation from the hegemony." Those who tremble in rage at the pale penile patriarchy and who go out of their way to give me inclusive language that is yet a further assault on the ears and intellect. The reach is vast--may it be eradicated. I pray never to hear another word about the "imperialism of ideas" or about the "lesbian phallus." Yes, all of these things are courtesy of Mr. Derrida and his merry androgynes et al.

* Not that Derrida in any manner compares--but the source:

Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)


              Who mourns for Adonais? Oh, come forth,
              Fond wretch! and know thyself and him aright.
              Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous Earth;
              As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light
              Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might
              Satiate the void circumference: then shrink
              Even to a point within our day and night;
              And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink
         When hope has kindled hope, and lur'd thee to the brink.

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Single Issue Voting


TSO linked to Touchstone which supplied this:

A recent convert to Orthodoxy wrote in response to Orthodox Confusion and Clarity: "I have been accused of being a 'single-issue voter,' but I firmly believe that a politician's stand on abortion and the sanctity of life can predict that politician's other values and is an indicator of how that State Rep. or Senator will vote or how that President will lead."

And while I agree with the conclusion, I find the pathway there much easier. Without life, there is no other issue. Everything is moot if there is no life.

This space was filled with vacuous maunderings on about political matters, but now has been replaced with this nondescript filler. I will leave it to others to talk in a more informed fashion about political issues. No one needs to be bothered with my diatribe again.

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On My Political Views

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It will come as a great relief to you that while I drafted an exceedingly long screed with regard to my political opinions, I have concluded that no one really needs to be bothered with them at all. You've heard enough from me about this, and it is October, too glorious to be further sullied by my meandering tortuous political musings. So, as I have granted you this reprieve, I think you should all return the favor by indulging in either fifteen minutes with the KJV (or other appropriately beautiful translation--Douay Rheims, RSV, etc.) or a similar amount of time with the 1662 BCP.

Later I note after the fact that TSO has also foresworn some degree of political blogging. Tant pis! (and yes, those are false cognates and you should get your mind out of the gutter). He fears he may alienate the 2.5 progressives who occasionally drop by to visit. I don't know where I fall in that mysterious political spectrum having few defined opinions on issues outside of "life." But no amount of political haranguing would ever alienate me from so pleasant a conversational grotto. So, TSO, I say, blog away. If it poses a near occasion of sin, avoid it but otherwise, say what's on your mind and Vive la differerance (opinionwise of course--see above comment about gutters.)!

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Critiques & Controversies category from October 2004.

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