Month: May 2005

Memorial Day – May 30, 2005

Their service came not as a burden but as a duty. The Daily Demarche on the origins of Memorial Day:

In 1918 Moina Michael penned “We Shall Keep the Faith” in response to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field” (both poems can be found at the end of this post) launching the idea of wearing a poppy on the 30th of May in remembrance of our fallen warriors. While Memorial Day has existed as a federal holiday since only 1966, the practice of honoring America’s war dead dates to at least the Civil War . . .

Also in the post, details on the petition to move Memorial Day back to the 30th of May. (Seems like a good idea to me) .

  • Via Michelle Malkin): has set up a moving tribute page to honor service members who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company set up the site free of charge and launched it in March. The Guest Book sections are must read. Well over 19,000 Guest Book entries from readers have been posted since the site opened.

  • God & Man on the Frontlines, Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of the American Soldier, on religion in the military and the necessity for a ‘faith-based warrior code’:

    NRO: What does honor mean for the American on the battlefield?

    Mansfield: Honor on the battlefield results from living by a code that rescues the warrior from barbarism and elevates the profession of arms. It means understanding soldiering as a spiritual service as much as a martial role. Honorable soldiers are devoted to the moral objectives of their nation in war, are willing to lay their lives on an altar of sacrifice, are courageous in subduing the enemy yet compassionate to civilians and prisoners, are devoted to a godly esprit de corps, and are eager to master the art of arms by way of fulfilling a calling.

    NRO: How important was it that the Iraq war be addressed in theological just-war terms?

    Mansfield: It is vital for a government to establish the morality of a war before sending soldiers into battle. The traditional just-war concept has to be satisfied. Soldiers don’t want to fight simply to defend a nation’s vanity or to support a corrupt vision. They want to know they are doing good. This is essential for them and for the nation that is going to welcome them home again. I have talked to hundreds of soldiers during the research of this book. Almost every one of them mentioned his or her need to believe in the goodness of their nation’s purposes in war.

    And this interesting background to the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal:

    NRO: Is Abu Ghraib a symptom of a non-faith-based warrior code?

    Mansfield: The Abu Ghraib scandal has a faith backstory. The chaplain who was at Abu Ghraib during the scandals was told not to be in the way but to let the soldiers come to her. There was no moral presence and little spiritual influence during the time of the scandals. Chapel attendance was low and many soldiers later said they did not even know who the chaplain was. When that unit was replaced, the chaplains of the new unit were told to be present at prisoner interrogations, at shift changes and in the daily lives of the soldiers. The entire atmosphere changed. Chapel attendance reached into the hundreds and the prison became a model operation. This makes the case for continuous moral influence upon soldiers at war and for a faith based warrior code as a hedge against future abuses.

  • Josh Trevino @

    There is little to be said about the dead of our wars that has not been said either as great rhetoric or cliche. We honor them, and in doing so we induct them into a mythos that is at once truth and lie. It is truth that in serving this nation, they died well and in a noble cause. It is a lie that they were, broadly, supermen of virtue, with that virtue made manifest by the circumstance of their deaths. They were like us: men and women of American cities, towns, and countryside who were called — sometimes as volunteers, sometimes as draftees — and who thereby found themselves in the most terrible of experiences on this earth. Some of them died differently from the others: their deaths were marked by such tremendous valor that we honor them in remembrance with medals or tales of great deeds. But the most common deaths are the inglorious ones: the errant mortar fragment in the heart; the broken neck in a crash. Those are the ways in which my two erstwhile Army friends recently died in Iraq. Neither had time for the final gesture or the blaze of glory, because death came for them as it usually does in war: swift, unexpected, and unchosen. We honor them nonetheless, and not just because they chose their perilous profession. Even if they had been draftees, even reluctant draftees, they would still be the embodiment of our nation at war: and in our republic, we are that nation. Not the king, as in earlier times, nor the party, as in latter-day autocracies, nor a malevolent god, as in the polities of our present foes. Literally and symbolically, because of what our country is, our soldiery fights and bleeds and dies in our stead. Not for us — as us.
  • The CommandersNational Review Online May 27, 2005. Jim Lacy profiles General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other officers in our Armed Forces, countering the stereotype of “cold, unfeeling officers who callously send young soldiers out to die while sitting safely in the rear”:

    Those with no familiarity with America’s warriors might say they just like fighting and killing. Those people have never spoken to an officer who has been in a hard fight. They have never heard the cracking voice as he relates the difficulty of looking at people, whether enemy or ally, killed as a result of his orders. They have never heard the anguish of a leader replaying for the thousandth time the loss of one of his own. They did not hear an armored company commander answer a question about how he felt about having his soldiers rebuild schools after fighting to seize Baghdad literally days before. He said, “I cannot tell you how great it feels to be able to stop killing and start helping people.” Such is the overwhelming compassion of those who fight our wars.
  • Lexington Green (ChicagoBoyz) would like us to become acquainted with Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith — “the first and only Medal of Honor recipient in this war, so far. He died on 4 April 2003. His sixteen men were attacked by over 100 Iraqi troops . . .”

    Smith not only died heroically, but lived and led with intense professionalism. He trained his men hard, caring only for their lives and not whether he was popular. His life was an example self-sacrificing leadership which everyone in America should know about.

    The news media would prefer to treat such men and their lives and sacrifices as “not news” — or as mere numbers in a body count which can be publicized to defeat the cause they died for.

    To them, a lie about a Koran in a toilet is news.

    A Medal of Honor for a heroic American soldier, husband and father, leader and warrior, is not news.

    What is important is not what is reported in the MSM. What is reported is not all the news there is. Seek it out. Be aware. The Internet has destroyed their monopoly.

    Never trust these people. They lie by commission, and even worse by omission. What they choose not to talk about is where the real news is.

    You can read more about him here.

  • Opening the Gates of Heaven – blogger Blackfive explains the meaning of TAPS:

    When Taps is played at dusk, it has a completely different meaning than when Taps is played during the day. No soldier really wants to hear it played during daylight. For when the bugle plays Taps in the daylight…that means a soldier has fallen . . . There is a belief among some that Taps is the clarion call to open the gates of heaven for the fallen warrior and letting them know to “Safely Rest” . . .

    For those who wish to convey their appreciation for those in service to our country, Blackfive also provides a list of organizations who “work dilligently to support our military personnel in many different and positive ways.”

  • Hugo Schwyzer, “a progressive, consistent-life ethic Anabaptist/Episcopalian Democrat” learning to love the uniform after encountering a young soldier at a gas station:

    . . . it brought back memories of the mid-1980s, when I was a freshman at Cal and participating in often-violent anti-ROTC demonstrations. (The ROTC building was actually burned down at one point, and no, I had nothing to do with that!) But years ago, I heaped my share of terrible verbal abuse at many a young cadet. I sprayed more than one young man with spittle as I railed on about whatever the issue was at the time (I think it was opposition to the Contra war in Nicaragua.) I overturned tables, ran from campus police, and took part in a variety of small acts of criminal destruction of ROTC property that seemed (at the time) to be enormously brave and today seem to me to be colossally juvenile. Trust me, folks, if I seem gentle today, it’s an act of will and a gift of grace that have made me so. I could be a vicious hothead when I was younger and filled with more testosterone.

    I wonder if I owe some sort of collective amends to the military. I don’t know how the young men at whom I yelled and whom I called names (unprintable here) reacted to what I did some twenty years ago when I was a teenager. I can’t imagine it was easy for them to remain stone-faced while I — and my fellow upper middle-class self-righteous radicals — directed apoplectic rage their way. Today, I think what I did back then was wrong and pointless. Alas, at eighteen I was at an age when I was indeed “often in error, and never in doubt.” I’m ashamed of my past behavior, even though I haven’t hurled profane opprobrium at any one in uniform since my last protest, which was fourteen years ago at the start of the first Gulf War in January 1991. . . .

    In my early years (teens/20’s) I shared a similar conception of our military as Hugo, and while never having gone so far as to verbally abuse a ROTC cadet, I confess there are things I’ve said in print in those days that I’m certainly not proud of. So I would like to extend my thanks to Hugo for his courage and honesty, and if I may second his words of remorse.

    Today’s roundup goes out to all of our brave men and women serving our nation in all branches of our Armed Forces. And especially to my young brother Nathan, US Navy, currently serving aboard the U.S.S. Kearsearge. We miss you, God bless!

  • Parting Thoughts on the Hand/Mockeridge Debate, Conditions for Dialogue

    This past week, Stephen Hand had posted a rant to his blog (‘TCR Musings’) which was directed at yours truly. TCRNews isn’t exactly high on my reading list, and the text of the rant was emailed to me by a reader. You won’t find it there any more, as it was since removed. But as said removal does not in itself constitute an apology, I will take the liberty of responding to a few of its criticisms. (After all, this is not the first occasion he has made such remarks):

    . . . You know, the fellow who used to run the stupidly named “Ratzinger Fan Club” even as he praised works in reviews which bludgeoned that same Cardinal, and who today opposes that same man—now Pope—on this war (Blosser went out of his way to say John Allen’s “biography” of Cardinal Ratzinger was essentially –ahem– fair, though Allen now repudiates his own work saying it was bad reporting and that he made Ratzinger out to be a “villain”! Christopher didn’t have a clue.)

    Stephen’s referring to this review of John Allen’s book, Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican Enforcer of the Faith. Readers can judge for themselves my assessment of his book. I never said it was “fair” — in fact, I disagreed with Father Greeley’s endorsement of it as “cautious, objective and fair”; but, neither did I think it was a “hatchet job” or a “partisan indictment masquerading as a biography” (to quote another reader). Having followed Allen’s work in the National Catholic Reporter, I thought it was a genuine and yes, laudable effort on his part — howbeit not without its deficiencies — to get beyond the ‘Grand Inquisitor’ stereotype of the Cardinal.

    At any rate, John Allen Jr. had in fact has “repudiated” his early work — something which Stephen and I have both noted (“John Allen Jr.’s Turnabout” April 26, 2005), and which I agree is a very good thing indeed. So, there’s something Stephen and I can agree on.

    . . . Well, we used to think Blosser was at least trying to be a serious “America First!” Catholic. But in the last year or so he has has gotten more and more oddly, and given to succor the most crass blog “writers,” war apologists, and all around pretentious blogheads out there on the Internet; the ones who write like high school student paper reporters, crude debaters with Protestants in a style more appropriate to 1612 AD, etc.

    Stephen refers here to my recognition of an editorial by Greg Mockeridge and I. Shawn McElHinney back in April, in which they confronted Hand/TCRNews on his unfair misrepresentation of the positions of those who disagreed with him on various issues. The substance of their editorial was not an ‘apology for the war’, or capital punishment, or a defense of capitalism and the free market, but rather the challenge to Stephen to recognize that good Catholics could, in fact, hold different positions on such matters, even going so far as to disagree with the positions of certain Vatican curia, and yet remain “within the bounds of orthodoxy.”

    Furthermore, it was a caution against wrongful identification of personal opinions with the magisterial teaching of the Church (and likewise, failure to properly distinguish between different levels of Catholic teaching). Being in completely agreement with their criticism, I joined Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong and blogger Lane Core, Jr. in publicly concurring with Greg’s editorial. Suffice to say Stephen didn’t take kindly to this challenge.

    But this was not merely the concern of a few “pretentious blogheads.” As Catholic laity took sides in heated public debate over the war and other controversial issues, a number of well-known Catholics judged this to be a lesson worth reiterating — among them: Oswald Sobrino, Karl Keating, James Akin, Russell Shaw, George Weigel, Fr. Michael Orsi (Ave Maria School of Law), Cardinal Avery Dulles, Archbishop John J. Myers, and Pope Benedict XVI — to dismiss this legitimate criticism, then, as the motivation of “war apologists” would be futile.

    . . . One gets the impression Blosser pathetically pretends to high-brow culture (a carefully studied above-the-fray pose while calling in his dogs) but will sell any Cardinal or Pope down the river who opposes the men he hopes will—we must say it—notice him (Weigel, Novak, Fr. Neuhaus). Sad stuff. His attacks on the Zwicks through the years (“poor apologists for Dorothy Day”)—seasoned with faint praise— at his blog and his parroting of the Neo-con style is simply embarrassing.

    Regarding the Zwicks, see “The Zwicks vs. Fr. Neuhaus & Michael Novak” (August 19, 2003) — which, to my knowledge, has yet to receive a response or retraction. I admire Dorothy Day, and reading her biography was an instrumental part of my conversion, and while I appreciate the witness of the Zwicks in their works of charity at the Houston Catholic Worker, I do not think Dorothy Day would have taken kindly to some of the unfair tactics they’ve used in attacking Neuhaus, Novak and Cardinal Dulles.

    That said, like Stephen, I expect some of my other readers are probably curious as to why the maintenance guy for “the Cardinal Ratzinger fan club” publicly expresses an appreciation for Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, George Weigel, and Michael Novak, in light of the Holy Father’s prominent disagreement with ‘the First Things crowd’ on the matter of U.S. military engagement in Iraq. So, Stephen’s sniping aside, perhaps an explanation is in order.

    Nearly a decade ago I went through a period where I developed an infatuation with radical politics and anarchist philosophy (inspired by Jacques Ellul, Leo Tolstoy and Noam Chomsky, among others). I could probably have out-done Stephen and the Zwicks in my fulminations against the U.S. military-industrial complex and selfish capitalists gorging themselves on the blood of the working class. Even as a young Catholic convert, my understanding of ‘Catholic social doctrine’ was limited to what little I gleaned from the pages of the Catholic Worker and the distributism of the New Oxford Review. It was some time before I encountered First Things — and through that, discovered the writings of Michael Novak, George Weigel, and of course, Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus.

    To make a long story short, coming across Michael Novak’s The Catholic Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism (Free Press, 1993) in a library, and subsequent readings of Fr. Neuhaus’ Doing Well and Doing Good: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist (Doubleday, 1992) and George Weigel’s Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace (Oxford UP, 1987) — the latter recommended to me by my father post 9/11 — were what I consider calls to intellectual maturity, forcing a long-overdue critical assessment of my “anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-warmonger” naiveté. While Stephen might construe such a discovery as a seduction to the dark side, I call it a necessary corrective to sloppy thinking.

    Hence my public recognition and appreciation for Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, along with the likes of Walker Percy, Jacques Maritain, Dorothy Day . . . and those who Hand loves to deride as “the neocons.” Call it peculiar, but I’ve learned and benefited from all of them in the course of my spiritual and intellectual journey, and I certainly think the Church is big enough to accomodate them as well.

    * * *

    I will not rule out a return to this topic in the future, although I will likely refrain from conversing with Stephen Hand. If authentic dialogue consists in the effort to listen, to place one’s self in the other’s shoes and see from their perspective (see Shawn’s post on the conditions for true dialogue), I get the feeling that the discussion has run its course, or perhaps run aground. As indicated by his decision to publish Carol O’Reilly’s diatribe last week, together with his increasingl shrill postings and personal attack on Dave Armstrong, it seems to me the necessary preconditions for further discussion and a civil, rational and charitable exchange on this topic are sorely lacking.

    * * *

    To close with a timely excerpt from Pope Benedict XV’s encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum in 1914 — discovered just today on Stephen Bogner’s Catholicism, Holiness and Spirituality:

    “As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline – in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See — there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline.”

    Background Posts

    Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

    • Homily by Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, at Holy Rosary Parish, Houston, TX.
    • The Holy Eucharist, educational resource from EWTN, with links to articles by Fr. William Most, Scott Hahn, and relevant Q&A sections from the Baltimore Catechism.
    • More posts from A Penitent Blogger, and Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
    • Fr. Jim Tucker has great photos from his parish’s Corpus Christi Procession. (Good thing he doesn’t reside in Detroit, Michigan).
    • Benedict XVI’s homily The Lord Is Near Us – in Our Conscience, in His Word, in His Personal Presence in the Eucharist is excellent as well. July 2004 (Excerpted from God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life):

      Saint Thomas Aquinas took up this saying in his reflections for the Feast of Corpus Christi.[1] In doing so, he showed how we Christians in the Church of the New Covenant can pronounce these words with yet more reason and more joy and with thankfulness than Israel could; in doing so, he showed how this saying, in the Church of Jesus Christ, has acquired a depth of meaning hitherto unsuspected: God has truly come to dwell among us in the Eucharist, He became flesh so that he might become bread. He gave himself to enter into the “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands”; thus he puts himself in our hands and into our hearts. God is not the great unknown, whom we can but dimly conceive. We need not fear, as heathen do, that he might be capricious and bloodthirsty or too far away and too great to hear men. He is there, and we always know where we can find him, where he allows himself to be found and is waiting for us. Today this should once more sink into our hearts: God is near. God knows us. God is waiting for us in Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us not leave him waiting in vain! Let us not, through distraction and lethargy, pass by the greatest and most important thing life offers us. We should let ourselves be reminded, by today’s reading, of the wonderful mystery kept close within the walls of our churches. Let us not pass it heedlessly by. Let us take time, in the course of the week, in passing, to go in and spend a moment with the Lord who is so near. During the day our churches should not be allowed to be dead houses, standing empty and seemingly useless. Jesus Christ’s invitation is always being proffered from them. This sacred proximity to us is always alive in them. It is always calling us and inviting us in. This is what is lovely about Catholic churches, that within them there is, as it were, always worship, because the eucharistic presence of the Lord dwells always within them.

    Christianity, Democracy, and the American Ideal

    Some Americans claim we should exclude Christian values from the public square. On the contrary, argues philosopher Jacques Maritain, good Christians make good citizens.

    They live by gospel values: honesty, integrity, and compassion. They obey the law. They resist the selfishness that unbelief and materialism breed. And they subordinate their own interests to the common good.

    No wonder, says Maritain, that American democracy — which arose from a Christian people — has served so well and lasted so long.

    Here Maritain shows that in a society unleavened by religious ideals, an enduring democracy can never take root. And once a religious people abandons its faith, even the greatest democracy must wither and die. Untethered from transcendent values, democracy becomes little more than a struggle to be won by the most powerful and the ruthless.

    The hour is late. Too long have we stood by while politicians promise never to let their religious beliefs influence their political judgments. Too long has a false understanding of democracy cowed us into laying aside our Christian values when we vote.

    As Maritain demonstrates in these lucid pages, Christians are vital to democracy. Good Christians make good citizens, and good citizens make strong democracies. If America and her ideals are to endure, says Maritain, Christians and their values must not be excluded from public discourse, but eagerly welcomed into it.

    In looking at the contemporary relationship between Church & State, the compatability of the ‘American Experiment’ and liberal democracy with Catholic Christianity, the role of religion in public life and education, one is likely to encounter the Jesuit political scholar John Courtney Murray. Less recognized, but rather more substantial in my opinion, is the Thomistic philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) — without consideration of whom no discussion of these issues is complete.

    As Michael Novak said in his “salute to Jacques Maritain”:

    In political and social thought, no Christian has ever written a more profound defense of the democratic idea and its component parts, such as the dignity of the person; the sharp distinction between society and the state; the role of practical wisdom; the common good; the transcendent anchoring of human rights; transcendent judgment upon societies; and the interplay of goodness and evil in human individuals and institutions. Indeed, in the thrust that this body of thought gave to Christian Democratic parties after World War II, Maritain gained the right to be thought of as one of the architects of Christian Democracy both in Europe and Latin America.

    Against the secularist philosophies of his day, Maritain espoused an “integral humanism” — that is to say, a fully Christian humanism which “considers man in the integrality of his natural and supernatural being” — which he believed could, if embraced, rescue modern democracy from the materialist spirit by properly orienting it to the ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ dimensions of mankind:

    The end of political society is not to lead the human person to his spiritual perfection and to his full freedom of autonomy; that is to say, to sanctity . . . Nevertheless, political society is essentially destined, by reason of the earthly end that specifies it, to the development of those environmental conditions which will so raise men in general to a level of material, intellectual, and moral life in accord with the good and peace of the whole, that each person will be positively aided in the progressive achievement of his full life as a person and of his spiritual freedom.”

    Having authored over twenty books, Maritain’s writings on these topics can be rather daunting. Hence I was pleased to discover Christianity, Democracy, and the American Ideal, a “Jacques Maritain Reader” by Sophia Institute Press. In the space of a hundred or so pages, James P. Kelly III — President of the Solidary Center for Law & Justice and Director of International Affairs for The Federalist Society — compiles small nuggets of Maritain’s thought on a diversity of subjects, arranged by pertinent themes as “The Limits of Social Planning,” “Christianity and the Common Good,” “Faith-Based Initiatives,” “The American Experience”, and “Christian and Democratic Evolution.”

    The book itself is deceptively small. Most of these selections are no more than a paragraph long — just enough, in my experience, to whet the reader’s appetite. But Kelley has skillfully arranged the work such that one quickly picks up connections from one chapter to another, and is moved to carefully ponder what Maritain is saying in one passage before moving along to the next.

    Those who really want to benefit from Maritain will avail themselves of Kelly’s recommendations for “further reading and reflection” at the end of each chapter, conveniently listing key passages from Maritain’s numerous works, as well as related papal encyclicals and counciliar documents.

    This would make an excellent gift for any student of political philosophy or Catholic layman interested in the social doctrine of the Church — and, perhaps, to many a political legislator as well.

    Related Links

    About Maritain:

    Maritain’s True Humanism, by Richard Francis Crane. First Things 150 (February 2005): 17-23.
    The Faith of the Founding, by Michael Novak. First Things 132 (April 2003): 27-32. (defends Jacques Maritain’s assertion that modern democracy of the American type cannot be understood apart from the inspiration of the gospel of Jesus Christ).
    Nature and Grace: The Theological Foundations of Jacques Maritain’s Public Philosophy, by Eduardo J. Echeverria. Associate Professor of Philosophy. Conception Seminary College. Markets & Morality Vol. 4, no. 2 Fall 2001.
    Jacques Maritain: Integral Humanism, by Michael S. Joyce. First Things 101 (March 2000): 49-50.
    The Christian Personalism of Jacques Maritain Faith and Reason Summer 1991.

    By Maritain:

    Jacques Maritain Center , University of Notre Dame. Directed by Ralph McInerny. A treasure-trove of readings and resources, including a number of selected “Readings for philosophers and Catholics”.

    Fr. Thomas Williams on the application of Catholic Social teaching

    In an October 2003 talk on foundations of Catholic social doctrine, Father Thomas Williams, Theology Dean at Regina Apostolorum, closed with the following practical guidelines regarding the application of Catholic social teaching:

    1. Education — Read and have good, precise knowledge of the Church’s social teachings, to be able to expound them with assurance and clarity, and make sure that what we teach in the name of the Church is effectively what the Church teaches, and not our own personal opinions.
    2. Humility – so as not to have to jump from general principles to definitive concrete judgments, especially when expressed in a categorical and absolute manner. We should not go beyond the limitations of our own knowledge and specific competence.
    3. Realism – Realism in assessing the human condition, acknowledging sin but leaving room for the action of God’s grace. In the midst of our commitment to human development, never lose sight that man’s vocation is above all to be a saint and enjoy God for eternity.
    4. Caution – [So as to] avoid the temptation of using the Church’s social doctrine as a weapon for judging “others” (entrepreneurs, politicians, multinational companies, etc.). We should instead concentrate first on our own lives and our personal, social, economic and political responsibilities.
    5. Cooperation – Know how to closely cooperate with lay people, forming them and sending them out as evangelizers of the world. They are the true experts in their fields of competence and have the specific vocation of transforming temporal realities according to the Gospel.

    Fr. Thomas Williams on the application of Catholic Social teaching

    In an October 2003 talk on foundations of Catholic social doctrine, Father Thomas Williams, Theology Dean at Regina Apostolorum, closed with the following practical guidelines regarding the application of Catholic social teaching:

    1. Education — Read and have good, precise knowledge of the Church’s social teachings, to be able to expound them with assurance and clarity, and make sure that what we teach in the name of the Church is effectively what the Church teaches, and not our own personal opinions.
    2. Humility – so as not to have to jump from general principles to definitive concrete judgments, especially when expressed in a categorical and absolute manner. We should not go beyond the limitations of our own knowledge and specific competence.
    3. Realism – Realism in assessing the human condition, acknowledging sin but leaving room for the action of God’s grace. In the midst of our commitment to human development, never lose sight that man’s vocation is above all to be a saint and enjoy God for eternity.
    4. Caution – [So as to] avoid the temptation of using the Church’s social doctrine as a weapon for judging “others” (entrepreneurs, politicians, multinational companies, etc.). We should instead concentrate first on our own lives and our personal, social, economic and political responsibilities.
    5. Cooperation – Know how to closely cooperate with lay people, forming them and sending them out as evangelizers of the world. They are the true experts in their fields of competence and have the specific vocation of transforming temporal realities according to the Gospel.

    Here and There . . .

    An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

    • These things get longer and longer with every installment: Good News from Iraq, Part 28 – a regular series on Iraq’s state of affairs — social, economic, reconstruction, humanitarian aid, and the coalition — from Arthur Chrenkoff.
    • Also by Arthur Chrenkoff: An open letter to George Lucas, taking on Star Wars‘ creator for his remark at the Cannes’ film festival that the “Evil Empire” in his films is actually the United States. (The films are good “eye candy” — pleasant to the eye — but it appears that Lucas’ politics might very well be as atrocious as his writing.)
    • Greg Mockeridge (Cooperatores Veritatus), on The Meaning of True Peace
    • If It Walks Like a Holy War, Sounds Like a Holy War and Looks Like a Holy War . . . – Benedict Seraphim of Blogodoxy on the New York Time‘s reluctance to “avoid the obvious.”
    • Displaying a great deal more optimism than many critics here at home, Foad Ajami believes that “The Middle East embraces democracy–and the American president” (Bush Country Wall Street Journal May 23, 2005):

      Unmistakably, there is in the air of the Arab world a new contest about the possibility and the meaning of freedom. This world had been given over to a dark nationalism, and to the atavisms of a terrible history. For decades, it was divided between rulers who monopolized political power and intellectual classes shut out of genuine power, forever prey to the temptations of radicalism. Americans may not have cared for those rulers, but we judged them as better than the alternative. We feared the “Shia bogeyman” in Iraq and the Islamists in Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia; we bought the legend that Syria’s dominion in Lebanon kept the lid on anarchy. We feared tinkering with the Saudi realm; it was terra incognita to us, and the House of Saud seemed a surer bet than the “wrath and virtue” of the zealots. Even Yasser Arafat, a retailer of terror, made it into our good graces as a man who would tame the furies of the masked men of Hamas. That bargain with authoritarianism did not work, and begot us the terrors of 9/11.

      The children of Islam, and of the Arabs in particular, had taken to the road, and to terror. There were many liberal, secular Arabs now clamoring for American intervention. The claims of sovereignty were no longer adequate; a malignant political culture had to be “rehabilitated and placed in receivership,” a wise Jordanian observer conceded. Mr. Bush may not be given to excessive philosophical sophistication, but his break with “the soft bigotry of low expectations” in the Arab-Islamic world has found eager converts among Muslims and Arabs keen to repair their world, to wean it from a culture of scapegoating and self-pity. Pick up the Arabic papers today: They are curiously, and suddenly, readable. They describe the objective world; they give voice to recognition that the world has bypassed the Arabs. The doors have been thrown wide open, and the truth of that world laid bare. Grant Mr. Bush his due: The revolutionary message he brought forth was the simple belief that there was no Arab and Muslim “exceptionalism” to the appeal of liberty. For a people mired in historical pessimism, the message of this outsider was a powerful antidote to the culture of tyranny. Hitherto, no one had bothered to tell the Palestinians that they can’t have terror and statehood at the same time, that the patronage of the world is contingent on a renunciation of old ways. This was the condition Mr. Bush attached to his support for the Palestinians. It is too early to tell whether the new restraint in the Palestinian world will hold. But it was proper that Mr. Bush put Arafat beyond the pale.

      Fouad Ajami teaches at Johns Hopkins University, and is author of Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey (Vintage, 1999), a fascinating study of Arab politics and history.

    • The Birth of a Bad Statistic – “Abortions rising under Bush? Not true,” says

      A number of politicians and organizations have been circulating an interesting and surprising idea: that abortions have gone up under George W. Bush’s watch. The claim is repeated by supporters of abortion rights as evidence that Bush’s anti-abortion policies have backfired, or at least been ineffective.

      But the claim is untrue. In fact, according to the respected Alan Guttmacher Institute, a 20-year decline in abortion rates continued after Bush took office . . .GET THE WHOLE STORY.

    • The Other Stem Cell Bill, by David Schrader @ Catholics in the Public Square May 23, 2005 — on a morally-sound piece of legislation sponsored by New Jersey rep. Christopher Smith, “creating a new federally-funded stem cell therapeutic and research program for the scientifically sound collection and inventory of umbilical cord blood”:

      Umbilical cords are a rich, non-controversial source of stem cells, but currently hospitals throw millions of them away each year because we do not have the infrastructure needed to properly collect and store them,” said Smith who has been championing this legislation for three years. “The best kept medical secret has been that thousands have been successfully treated with cord blood stem cells for more than 67 diseases including Leukemia and Sickle Cell Anemia. The infusion of federal funds will make this medical miracle available to thousands more and will ensure that research continues so that this source of stem cells can treat many other debilitating diseases,” Smith said.

    In religion . . .

    • If I had met more pleasant traditionalists earlier on, I’d probably be one by now. – Dale Price @ Dyspeptic Mutterings on people who give real traditionalists a bad name:

      In retrospect, they were typical Feeneyites–loud, insecure, and not nearly as bright (not even close) as they thought they were. But they made up for these deficiencies by going “hahahaha!” a lot and calling themselves “the Hammer” and “Heretic Crusher”–things like that.

      It got to the point where I began to suspect they did actually wear homemade capes while web surfing for error to vanquish. Or at least adult-sized pajamas with the feet still in them. . . .

    • War and Capital Punishment – Can We Agree to Disagree?, by Jimmy Akin. This Rock
      Volume 16, Number 3. March, 2005.

    • Dreadnought takes on Donna Quinn and the Rainbow Sash Movement.
    • “Blogs Gone Bad” The New Atlantis on unemployment, mental/physical exhaustion, demeaning utilitiarianism and “The Darker Side of the Blogging Boom.”
    • Boston College had a panel discussion of the 2002 document “Reflections on Covenant and Mission”, with attention to the question of “Should Catholics Seek to Convert Jews (If Jews Are in True Covenant with God?)” — Bill Cork has an excellent analysis of the event. As he notes, “No alternate viewpoints were represented.” I guess Fr. Schall, Ronda Chervin, Martin Barrack, Mark Drogin, David Moss and Cardinal Avery Dulles weren’t available for further comment. Too bad, it would have been a lively discussion.
    • What’s in the box? – Mark C. N. Sullivan tears into the newly renovated — some might say dismantled — Rochester, N.Y., cathedral. “The diocesan communications director who narrates the Flash presentation says the effect is more intimate. Well, it may be, if your idea of intimacy in interior design is to cart off all the furnishings in a place and replace them with folding chairs around a steamer trunk.”
    • “How Does the Force Stack Up As a Religion?” asks Orson Scott Card, of George Lucas’ Revenge of the Sith:

      . . . the Force is just the sort of thing you’d expect a liberal-minded teenage kid to invent. There’s no God and there are no rules other than a vague insistence on unselfishness and oath-keeping. Power comes from the sum of all life in the universe, and it is manichaean, not Christian — evil is simply another way of using the Force. Only not as nice.
    • We like the chase better than the quarry – a good discussion of the Rosary by Disputations:

      A common objection to praying the Rosary is that it is frustrating. The mind begins to wander as soon as the mystery is spoken; you find yourself at the end of the decade without having formed one single thought related to Christianity, much less to the Finding of the Boy Jesus in the Temple; and you think you blew it. You tried an act of devotion, and you failed miserably. You can’t do it, it’s not for you, and if that isn’t bad enough, the local Rosarianut is sure to ask you how it went and beaddevil you into trying it again.

      Now, I am not one to argue (as some do) that the Rosary is the best of all possible devotions, always and for everyone. If the Rosary isn’t for you, it’s not for you. But I wonder whether the restlessness some feel when they pray the Rosary might indicate that something really is wrong with them — not regarding the Rosary, but regarding their restlessness. . . .

    • Jimmy Aken Counts to 34!
    • Dr. Blosser writes a letter to his bishop about a piece of catechitical pamphlet distributed at his parish promoting God as “mother.”
    • A hearty ‘Right on!’ to “Orthodox Jewish thirty-something” Sarah, who is postponing her viewing of Revenge of the Sith for religious reasons. Jews are presently counting the omer (the days from the second night of Passover to the day before Shavu’ot), and it’s her custom “not to see movies until Lag BaOmer.” . . . Being somewhat of a Star Wars fanatic myself, I can appreciate the sacrifice.
    • In case you didn’t know, The Mighty Barrister is back! =)