Saturday, June 27, 2015

An Actual Coherent Thought I Had

I'm no actual philosopher, but anybody remember the case Loving v. Virginia? This, if you are unaware, was the case that prohibited state bans on interracial marriage. The details aren't super-critical. It seems to me that you can look at that case one of two ways: The muddle-headed liberal way, or the Thomist philosopher way. (Incidentally, the muddle-headed liberal and the Thomist will agree on the practical outcome.)

The liberal way is to look at that case, and the one yesterday, and yell, "You can't help who you love! WOO!!! [Waves rainbow flag]" You're done thinking. Must be nice. Wish I could, but I don't want to end up on the wrong side of history. I digress.

The Thomist looks at the whole thing and says something like:

Reply to Objection: The conjugal act is intrinsic to the nature of marriage. It is sensible for the civil power to regulate in some manner the conduct of marriage, since the results of the acts proper to spouses are children. Now, marriage is a common good, since marriage benefits the whole society, viz. it confers benefits to others besides the spouses. Conversely, the dissolution of marriage, if that were possible, has negative effects on others besides the spouses. So, a common good is that which does not diminish when participated in, however remotely.

I answer that, the substance of marriage consists in two persons, one of each sex, joining in conjugal, indissoluable union for the purpose of the generation and care of children, and the unity of the spouses. Because of the gravity of the obligation, and its obvious relation to the common good, the civil power ought to use all appropriate power to prevent the attempted dissolution of marriage, or to the imitation of marriage by acts common to spouses in the absence of assuming the duties proper to marriage, viz. fornication, or the abandonment of spouses and children, or other heinous acts.

It can be seen that skin color is accidental to personhood, since male and female alike are persons, and yet, a man from Ethiopia may marry a woman from Norway under the conditions above, freely, and, performing the acts common to spouses, bring forth children, blessing the society with them, and  with the benefits of their permanent union. This is especially so on the order of grace, since the Apostle says, "This is a great mystery, but I am speaking of Christ and the Church." And elsewhere he says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Therefore, it is improper for the civil power, on the order of nature--for it has no power above nature-- to prohibit marriage on the basis of accidental characteristics. Now, the order of grace perfects the order of nature, but does not destroy it. That is, that which is good on the order of nature bears witness to that above, and that above confers even greater dignity on that below.


I was going to say something about Bruce/"Caitlin" Jenner, but I got lost. Surely I'm not one to notice the irony though, in some saying that sexual preference is part of the essence of a person, but the biological reality of sex is not. If male and female are changeable, gay "marriage" is completely unnecessary; you could just change your sex. Food for thought. Transgenderism is a tacit admission that homosexuality is wrong, and that certain characteristics common to "gender" are not culturally conditioned.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fr. James Martin, SJ, Call Your Office!

And that's all she wrote.

The Political Liberal Evangelical Christian Fantasy

It's just the basic idea that whatever the society's liberal social change of the day is, it only happened because those "conservative" Christians--who are probably too allied with the Republican Party, obviously--were hypocritical about something else. Heaven knows, I barely have known a more hypocritical bunch than conservative Republicans, which is probably why that's where I belong.

But in reality, you are chasing a ghost. In the final analysis, you will never say the hard things just the *right* way. We did not arrive here because Dr. Dobson was mean.

Sexual ethics is even worse. Romans 1 talks about homosexuality directly, but it says plainly that the root cause is idolatry. Guess what, left-of-center Christian? They'll hate you, too. Might as well just tell the truth, and take your medicine.

By the way, I have the freedom to be what seems to be a haphazard clash of conflicting political imperatives, because I know that our whole political anthropology, left and right, is the wrong one. This is why progressives cherry-pick the Holy Father, and conservatives who happen to be Catholic are praying for the end. (And doing their own picking.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

More Hopefully Not Self-Indulgent Thoughts

I preface this by saying that I am not (yet) a writer of history books; I am a guy who has learned a lot of things, more oral than written, and I remember most things more or less correctly. Any defects herein can be attributed to my teachers failing to learn broadly, or my failure to heed them.

In a sense, though the American president emerges as a contrast to the British de facto head of state which comes from the legislature, the American president in effect works to enact the legislative priorities of whichever party has selected him. This was certainly true of Abraham Lincoln. He was the compromise choice of the party nominally dedicated to the abolition of slavery. There were those within who wanted to go further and faster, affirming civil rights almost as we know them today, and there were simply those who thought that dividing this grand American experiment was a fools' errand.

I don't recall being taught that being thankful for the defeat of a rival nation (albeit composed of our brethren) explicitly dedicated to white supremacy meant that such people, to a person, were devoid of all virtue and humanity. Yet I fully understand black American unwillingness to sit on symposia devoted to the virtues of Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. The Japanese fought with all manner of courage, tenacity, and devotion to family in World War II.

In both cases, thank God they lost.

To me, this isn't hard. The principles for which wars are fought largely determine their justice, or lack thereof. Only a nation with noble principles can coherently judge itself as having fallen short of them, or to have chosen immoral means to achieve them.

What noble principle was South Carolina defending in 1962, when it hung that odious flag over the capitol? Do you really think Ben Carson's neighbors just coincidentally had an urge to honor courage in battle when he moved in? In Maryland? Granted, some of us are inculpably ignorant; perhaps we've seen Gone With The Wind too many times. That nostalgia melts away when you have to look into the eyes of a black friend or brother and tell him you don't mean *that*. Good luck. It'll go about as well as trying to say the "n-word" doesn't have to apply to black people. In some weird universe, maybe not. But you're still saying you don't expect much out of whoever that is. You know how "they" are. Which was the dehumanizing point of the word (and countless other ones) in the first place.

If I want to be human, if I want to love, I say, "Take my 'heritage' away from me, if in so doing, we make a new one together." Wasn't the enduring power of the Civil Rights Movement the fact that black America shared its heritage with us? I'm not transfixed by "I Have A Dream" because I have been cowed by a liberal mob; I'm transfixed because people of love decided that it was time I saw the greatness of America through their eyes; that without them, my highest ideals are just empty words. That is a conversation I want to have.

The Only Thing Worse

...than having a flag stained in innocent blood is founding a country dedicated to the shedding of more.

The only thing worse than overrating a president who won a war is revering a statist who started them, and putting his face on a mountain. The Roosevelt presidents could be on a game show or history special called, "The Lesser Of Two Evils."

I don't think George W. Bush will be ranked by historians as among the worst presidents 20 years from now. In 40 years, he may crack the top 20. Historians are just as influenced by irrational perceptions as average people are; they just have more letters after their names.

Nixon was just a Greek tragedy. Never has being cast as a villain left out so much. You can thank Nixon you were not annihilated by Communists. Blessed are the peacemakers, until they break into hotel rooms, looking for ultimately unnecessary information, and then lie to cover it up.

A sobering thought: If JFK had lived, we'd have despised him by this point, too. The people are never kind in Year 7.

A few reckless opinions for your consideration.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Living Years

This song has always meant a lot to me. It came out right around the time I lost my father. I faced something of a moral dilemma earlier, and I saw this song. I couldn't help but wonder what my Dad would do, and then the test was over before it started.

I was never estranged from my father, as though we had something to reconcile, though I suppose if I wanted to assign blame to my parents for divorcing, I could. Anyway, he was taken from us when I was still young enough to think he was perfect. Quite honestly though, if you knew his surviving brothers and sisters, talked to his friends, their friends, and countless others, you might begin to believe the hype. A Kettinger is the type of person you want to count as a friend. The bar is set pretty high. I might even be the worst. Pardon the rabbit-trail.

When you get to, "I wasn't there that morning/When my father passed away..." you've hit the part where, if I haven't already begun to cry, it will occur. I usually don't mind a little chatter in the car, even when music I love is playing. Not so in this case. I'll be dead quiet, and I'll be looking at the floor. It just means too much to be another song on the radio. I know that I'm one of those crazy, "Music is the soundtrack to our lives" kind of people, and you may mock me if you wish. The truth is the truth.

I suppose that there are different kinds of people who are optimistic about the Lord's mercy. There is a flippant sort of sinner, who confesses the Lord's mercy as a kind of psychological shield against his own guilt. Like playing Russian Roulette with your soul. Others are so convinced of the reality of Heaven and Hell, counter-intuitively enough, that while they cannot confess universalism, they'd argue that mercy and justice aren't contrasts, the way lovers of wrath seem to suggest.

I could just be a son who loves his father.

Dad didn't practice his Catholicism the way I do; in other ways, he practiced it better than I do. Every time I think of my best self, I think of my father. He might not even deserve that. But such is the knitting of hearts between fathers and sons (and daughters, for that matter). This is the weight of being "Dad." I will be a living picture of God for my future children; woe to those who fail gravely, who choose themselves over their families! Dads are supposed to be heroes. If they say, "We are unprofitable servants; we did our duty," God sees this as especially meritorious, and he sees no contradiction when he will shower them with crowns of glory.

I played Nintendo with my brother shortly after Mom gave us the news. I have learned not to beat myself up about this. Two boys, all of 9 and 8, won't be able to feel what people learn to express. When we saw a family friend at my father's visitation, the gates of my heart flew open. I could have flooded the Earth, if that were possible. I skipped the Mass, but went to the burial. That's where I heard Psalm 23 for the first time. That was the moment, I think, when I first believed in God. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and God does not turn away even the smallest heart who desires Him! May we have even the smallest renunciation of evil, and true hope. One breath of love can move a mountain. Faith, you say, and that is right. In the heart of God, however, it all ends up the same.

You, O God, shall be praised for ever and ever, when death is thwarted for the last time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

He Jumps Off The Page

I have always loved William Jennings Bryan. Bryan is the type of guy that people who love politics hope for, but he was real. Ardent, zealous, and pious, he sticks out. Pick up any serviceable history book, and he gets more "air time" than you would think, and rightly so.

I probably couldn't vouch for him in economics; I probably would have been a Cleveland Democrat back then. But I picture all the common folks in America; I can see why a man like this would inspire a young Harry Truman. Where have these Democrats gone?

We have this funny habit of letting presidential candidates speak in churches, and we should probably not. It's always some tendentious appeal to a certain Scripture, for the sake of some policy that he hasn't been able to convince people to adopt. Gore did this once, and I wanted to punch him.

But I have always dreamed of taking that opportunity, and saying, "Forget the politics; this is a church, and this is a sermon." Jesus, grace, sin, faith. Maybe on national TV. Because that's what Bryan would do. (As a Catholic, this would be really odd, especially in a Protestant community, but I can't say I wouldn't try it.)

You'd never get away with it, of course. We long since decided that faith can't actually matter, unless you are a Democrat, and it doesn't really change what you'd do, anyway. C'mon, you know it's true.

As a Catholic, I might say that Bryan's religiosity represented an unhealthy fideism. If Darrow did anything, he showed us the limits of Sola Scriptura, and the goodness of reason in dialogue with faith. But are you kidding? When I open the Bible, I know acutely that I am more with Bryan than against him. That testimony in the Scopes Trial was, in many ways, big time hero stuff, as I like to say.

Read It Like This, Part 2

Just a little something to hold you over, until I write the next post. Let me say clearly that I don't think Jorge Mario Bergolio (now His Holiness, Pope Francis) has ever been a socialist. No, seriously. Making some American Republicans uncomfortable is not a sufficient condition for having advocated socialism.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Read It Like This, Part 1

There is so much in the Holy Father's new encyclical that even picking through it seems like an injustice. I thought it would be most helpful just to ask a few questions pertaining to terms that Pope Francis uses, to help us see where he is coming from. A big problem I see from Catholics is that we ask, "Am I bound in conscience to this? As a matter of divine faith? No? Then I will ignore it." We can't do that. We are Catholic. We have an all-embracing gospel that is supposed to touch every aspect of life; thus, the Holy Father as the Successor of St. Peter has an important role to play in reminding us of the principles of the faith we profess. The Church never agrees with the common sentiment you hear in the world: "Well, religion is religion, and politics is politics, and each should stay clear of the other." Anything that affects the dignity of the human person, and how she relates in this world, and how she seeks God within it, is fair game. I don't have to agree with everything the pope says, but I'm bound by a lot more of what he says than most people realize. The Sacred Tradition has much more to say about living the Christian life than just abortion, sex, and whatever else Obama is wrong about. The upshot of that, friends, is that even when the pope is giving a private opinion, it still counts for more than ours does. This is very humbling and challenging. So even if the social doctrine didn't exist--but it so totally does--I'd still need to listen, to a degree that I do not listen to any other person. We do more than respect the office, as they say. The pope is our spiritual father, and the first guardian of the deposit of faith. I wouldn't say there is an abundance of this awareness out there. Even "faithful" Catholics treat the pope like a president they don't like.

I digress. Here we go:

What is the "common good"? (CCC, 1905-1912, 1924)

What 3 essential elements comprise the common good? (CCC, 1925)

Why should the common good be pursued? (CCC, 1926)

What is the Church's position on the existence of an international community? Why is this important? (CCC, 1927)

Let's stop for now, and we'll pick it up later, eh?