A Weapon of Mass Destruction

Today, the Feast of the Transfiguration, is also the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Usually, it’s people on the left who are on the wrong side of morality. But in the case of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, it’s usually conservatives who are wrong here.

It’s interesting that Sherman’s burning of Atlanta is considered a vile act of barbarism, although Sherman merely burned property and spared civilians. Truman did not spare civilians. Indeed, no second thought is given in the fire-bombing of German and Japanese cities. Sherman is quoted as saying, “War is hell,” but the problem here is whether we will place any moral restraint in our war effort. Surely, war should never be entered into war lightly, and nations do deserve, and are obligated, to defend themselves. War then, is a not necessarily evil, but can be morally neutral. Yet, war crimes are possible during war. After World War II, the Nuremberg trials charged Germans with crimes against humanity. These crimes against humanity were based on natural law. Excuses such as “I merely followed orders” or “it was not against German law at the time” were unacceptable excuses. It seems that the moral calculation is one which says that it is a crime when you do it, but not a crime when I do it (or when my side does it).

The focal point of these discussions is whether Truman made the morally correct decision in bombing Hiroshima. Defenders usually invoke the position that this bomb spared us a costly Japanese invasion. The problem is that although we think we can foresee the short term consequences, we actually can’t foresee all the consequences. The World War I soldier who regrets not shooting Hitler during that Great War has no idea what the alternate World War II might have brought. Supposing that Hitler had killed a Jew who, if he had lived, would have developed a virus which wiped out all of humanity. Would that be considered a defense of Auschwitz? Of course not! We cannot base a morality upon the consequences, because we can never weigh all the possible consequences. We don’t have that knowledge. We can only judge whether the act, at that moment in time, is morally evil or not. If it would have been a war crime if the Germans had dropped the atom bomb on Boston, we can not turn around to say Hiroshima was not morally evil.

We live in these days, in fear that a dirty nuke will devastate a major American city. Such fears were brought about as a reason to go to war. They are weapons of mass destruction. So was the bomb at Hiroshima a weapon of mass destruction. Are we to trust Americans with such weapons? Why should the world trust us, since we’ve messed up on that moral question already?

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“Preach the Gospel Always…”

“… if necessary, use words.”

Suppose there is a car speeding down the street, and in front of the car, there lies a baby in the middle of the street. If you could, wouldn’t you take action and run to scoop the baby out of the way?

Suppose further, that you aren’t capable of saving the baby, but someone else is capable of saving the baby, but he isn’t, either because he is ignorant, or because he doesn’t care. Wouldn’t you at least shout out, “Hey you! Save the baby!”

If we would do these things in the physical realm, why wouldn’t we do these things in the spiritual realm? Converting the example above into an analogy, the car speeding the street is Satan, and the baby is a sinner enslaved to sin.

Christianity isn’t an arm-twisting religion. We cannot force people to love Christ or to love their neighbor. But Christianity isn’t a “live and let live” religion either. While secularists would love it if we were to remain silent and passive, this is not what we are called to do (Matt 28:19).

We’ve many labels which divide the world. There are Democrats and Republicans. There are whites, blacks and orientals. There are liars, thieves, murderers, fornicators, adulterers, and homosexuals. But we’re united under one label. We are all sinners. As Christians we are called to help out other sinners, either by word or by deed. This is called love of neighbor. We are to help out other sinners in their physical needs. But most importantly, we called to help other sinners reach Heaven. We sometimes do this by pointing out that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Or perhaps we do this by example of our radical love for Christ. Always, we pray.

Sometimes the sinners will reject us and hate us as Christians. Jesus pointed out that He (and as judge, it is only He) would divide the world (Matt 10:34). While we might prudently approach those we expect to be hostile to the Gospel, doing nothing is not an option.

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A Fight for Religious Freedom

We’ve come a long way in learning how to transition governments. One way of changing a government was to assassinate the ruler. Another way of changing a government was to wait for the ruler to die. Aristocrats could rebel and demand that a king agree to their pick for successor to the throne. In 1215, the problem for the barons in England was that there was no obvious alternative king that their rebellion could rally behind. So instead of demanding a new ruler, the barons demanded and received some concessions from King John which was affixed with his seal in Runnymede. That agreement or charter is known as the Magna Carta.

In those days, kings depended upon the consent of the aristocracy for their rule. In England, a Great Council would be called in order to discuss the affairs of the realm. Eventually, the Great Council evolved into Parliament, the mother of all parliaments. One of the concessions in the Magna Carta was the principle that the king could only raise taxes with the consent of the aristocracy. This principle was expanded in Parliament in that taxes could only be raised with the consent of the governed.

Interestingly enough, the charters for each of the thirteen colonies in America were granted by the king. For the most part, the colonies were ignored (usually due to political crises and revolution in the home country), and the colonists were afforded quite a bit of self-rule. Wars happen, and of particular interest to this story is the Seven Years War. In America, this war is known as the French and Indian War. Wars are expensive affairs, and since the home country had sent troops and supplies to protect the colonies, the home country figured that they could tax the colonists for the defense of the colonies. It was only fair, or so they thought.

The problem was that the colonies were not represented in Parliament, and they had their charters from the king. They did not recognize the power of Parliament to impose taxes on them. Which Parliament did anyway, and the colonists developed a sinking feeling that the deal had gone sour.

 

The reason for the American Revolution was based on a simple principle, “No Taxation without Representation.” The Americans saw that unlike other British subjects in the homeland, they were being taxed without their consent. The charter, or the deal was being changed. They stated their grievances to the king to little avail, until they saw that separation from the home country as the solution for retaining those rights they should have had as British subjects. And they expressed this eloquently in the Declaration of Independence.

It’s interesting that the first clause in the Magna Carta was about religious freedom, and that the first clause in the amended American charter, the Bill of Rights, is also about religious freedom. One of the amazing features of the American experiment is its religious pluralism. Fed up with the European fighting over religion, American Christians agreed to tolerate each others deviations in doctrine as a result of a Great Awakening, and this found voice in a constitution which would be secular, not because they disbelieved in God, but rather they wanted a government which would not interfere with their religion and religious beliefs. In the animating public square, religious people did participate. Christian voices were visible in the debates over the abolition of slavery, prohibition of alcohol, and most recently the civil rights movement.

However, slowly the right of the religious voice in the public square has eroded. Far from maintaining a neutral position with respect to religion, the our government has become increasingly hostile toward religion. With the HHS mandate, and an aggressive push toward a redefinition of marriage (with not-so veiled threats intended to silence those opposed to the redefinition) there is this is sinking feeling that the deal has gone sour. We can no longer take our religious freedom for granted.

 

This is our test.

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It’s a matter of conscience…

I think that most of us would agree that a pharmacist should take action if he suspected drug abuse. In particular, there is a huge problem in FL with doctors giving away scripts for pain meds. Maybe there are some who are doing it out of altruism, but I think it’s fair to say that some doctors are in it for the money.

Well, some CVS stores stopped honoring scripts from high prescribing doctors.

CVS could have just raked in the profits and said nothing (or perhaps they feared liabilities, but that doesn’t seem to be the case from the article). I prefer CVS’s commitment to prevent drug abuse of a highly addictive drug.

Someone, or several people running the local part of the national chain of pharmacies decided to act on their conscience, rather than honor a doctor’s script.

Is that right or wrong?

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Opposition to Abortion and Party Politics

Mark Shea has written a guest post over at American Catholic, entitled Opposition to Abortion Does Not Take Away the Sins of the World. He has made an important point about the current political tendencies of conservatives. Just this past Saturday I listened to a local radio show where the host and a guest suggested that the social conservatives shut up and help the Tea Party advance fiscal conservatism. That is, they’re willingly to take my vote, but social issues such as abortion (and gay “marriage” and the HHS contraceptive mandate) aren’t important to them. This is nothing new. I’ve been arguing with fiscal conservatives over the priority of issues for more than a decade. But there’s something new in my relationship with fiscal conservatives, and that’s the sense that they’re embarrassed to have social conservatives hanging around. And if a social conservative is also a fiscal conservative (such as I am, as well as many other social conservatives), it’s not enough to erase the weirdness felt by the more socially moderate fiscal conservatives. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that the fiscal conservative will welcome our vote this November and will promise us something, but after November they will still want us to shut up,

So I agree with Mark that conservative Catholics shouldn’t sell their souls or their faith to such a party or ideology. But I do part with Mark, not with what he actually said, but with the implication of what he said. Mark correctly said that our faith does not end with abortion, and that our politicians (that is, politicians of our particular tribe) should also be concerned with the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy. Good stuff. However, even though Mark did not say that he endorsed the federal government’s take over of the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy, one could easily walk away with the impression that he favors some sort of government involvement. As for me, I’m a big proponent of the idea of subsidiarity.

Over at The Catholic Thing, Peter Brown has a thoughtful essay, “The Limits of Subsidiarity.” Go over and read it, but please come back. Brown sees a battle between Solidarists and Subsidiarists. It’s interesting stuff. He claims that although subsidiarity has worked well in the past, modernity has changed things. He writes, “Subsidiarists have not yet come up with a modern model that better manages risk.” For my reply, I’d like to borrow Josey Wale’s line as he concludes a personal peace treaty with Chief Ten Bears in the movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, “That’s true. I ain’t promising you nothing extra.”

In a world full of ideologies, it’s tempting to claim that you too have got the magic key that unlocks all solutions. But proper conservative, one who knows and understands conservative principles would be more inclined to say and repeat often, “conservatism is the negation of ideology.” The Catholic Solidarist is likely to be a liberal who thinks that the magic key is Washington whereupon all solutions emanate. The U.S. bishops, if they have not learned from the bloody noses given to Catholic Charities and other Catholic programs for failing to acknowledge the heavenly sweetness of the homosexual lifestyle and for failing to introduce Abortion as the eight sacrament, are inclined toward a power sharing arrangement with Washington, something akin to Church and State happily progressing forward to a better future. Sadly, under Obama, the federal government doesn’t seem to understand this friendly little arrangement. There are no magic keys, unless we talk about Christ and his Church.

Frankly, I’m a little bit jealous of the government hiding away and hoarding all the social problems to itself. I don’t feel comfortable in being forced (through taxes) to have someone else take care of them. It de-personalizes the love I’m supposed to have for the poor, the sick and the hungry. Indeed, it seems that the government is jealous of his prerogatives, since the news regularly comes up with charities forced to fold for failing to come up with the fees or necessary paperwork. Only BIG charities can survive, and if it turns out that you’ve left-over and untouched food from a wedding (or some other celebration), don’t you dare hand it over to a charity for the poor and hungry. These acts might offend a government bureaucrat who has a job to keep.

I do believe in subsidiarity and solidarity. I do want to embrace both. It can’t possibly be that the only solidarity is through proper bureaucratic channels or as a hired social worker. One of Lord Acton’s famous quotes is “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.” We ought to resurrect the ought. The libertarian idea of a collection of individuals should sent to the firing line, shot multiple times and buried, encased in ten feet of concrete and lead. But so also the socialist/Catholic idea that we can “love” the poor. the sick, and the hungry through our votes for our party which will take someone-else’s money and have someone else “take care” of the problem for us. I’m kind of hoping that Christ’s words will be prophetic, that the poor will always be with us, not because I wish for an increase in suffering, but because I hope for an increase in love. Of course, this all depends on a government that allows religious expression beyond the confines of our skulls.

Quo Vadis, Peter?

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The problem of lying

Hat tip to Mark Shea for pointing out the problem that lying causes for those who support man-made global warming. He links to Megan McArdle’s blog entry on The Atlantic magazine’s web site. Megan McArdle writes:

After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.

 
This should be etched into the heart of anyone who ever tries to convince another about an issue, cause or religion. The success of lying completely depends upon the listener’s belief that the speaker is telling the truth. That even applies to the hard cases like the Nazis knocking on your door when you’re hiding Jews. If it were common knowledge that it is morally permissible to lie in that situation or it were commonly known that most people would lie in that situation, why should we work on the base assumption that the Nazi agent would ignorant of the possibility that people lie about the Jews hiding in their attic? Additionally, lying is a skill, and so also the ability to detect lies is a skill. Wouldn’t it be a safe assumption that knowing the atmosphere of lying, the Nazis would send skilled agents capable of detecting lies? And, personally, would you decide to become skillful at lying so that you would be successful in telling lies to skilled lie detectors? Or would you practice the virtue of honesty for your entire life?

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Pro-Life Happytalk and Not so Happytalk

Here is a recent letter by Dr. Peter Kreeft about his personal contribution to the pro-life cause. It’s unsettling because, as much as he has done, he sees his contribution as falling short of what he should have done. But I’d rather that you read his words than my interpretation of it…

On the other hand, the following Youtube video is an audio of a rousing homily given in opposition to the HHS mandate. Perhaps the slumbering Church in America has finally awakened to grave injustice. Perhaps we will hear more homilies like this, rather than the fluffy happy talk,.. Maybe, just maybe the Catholic conscience will be pricked.

 

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The Sinner, Dr. Indifference and the Thin Man

Since I live in Massachusetts, it’s my privilege to encounter “pro-life” Catholics. That is, they’re in full agreement with the Church’s teaching that abortion is a terrible evil, but they can’t see forcing their morality upon others.

Of course, Dr. Paul passes the ideological purity test. He’s opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for the same sorts of reasons he would oppose a nation-wide pro-life law. Unlike the “pro-life” Catholics above, he realizes that the overturning of Roe v. Wade (and Doe v. Bolton) would not make abortion illegal in all 50 states.

So I wouldn’t be able to have this short dialog with Dr. Paul as I would with the “pro-life” Catholics. P-LC: “Oh, I don’t want to force my morality on others.” Me: “So do you oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964?” P-LC: “Oh no. Discrimination is wrong!” Me: “So you’re okay with forcing your morality on others?” Thankfully, most Americans are not as ideologically pure as Dr. Paul.

Ryszard Legutko points out that liberals (in America, this would include conservatives and libertarians) focus on procedure. They might agree with you with an expression of empathy, but they will say that the First Amendment protection of free speech allows that a nude strip club be placed in your neighborhood. And that, they will say, is the end of the argument. And in Dr. Paul’s eyes, President Lincoln committed the unpardonable sin of ignoring the Constitution during a rebellion that threatened to destroy the union (“How dare he!”).

Suppose that there were a pond in a park. Surrounding that pond is grass. Ringing both the pond and the grass is a path for those to enjoy the park. There is a man in the pond. The man is drowning. I imagine Dr. Paul as a man who would see the drowning man, and upon seeing the sign, “Keep off the grass!”, he would start looking for a non-grassy path to the pond. As Mark Shea notes, the Constitution is sacred scripture for Ron Paul.

Ryszard Legutko also notes that liberals have a thin anthropology. While procedure would have Dr. Paul indifferent to the plight of the unborn, Ron Paul is not the thinness of the big three. As almost everyone perceives, the Thin Man is Mitt Romney. I’m reminded of this quote of Kirkegaard’s that Peter Kreeft brought up in one of his talks.

Let others complain that the times are wicked. I complain that they are paltry; for they are without passion. The thoughts of men are thin and frail like lace, and they themselves are feeble like girl lace-makers. The thoughts of their hearts are too puny to be sinful. For a worm it might conceivably be regarded a sin to harbor thoughts such as theirs, not for a man who is formed in the image of God. Their lusts are staid and sluggish, their passions sleepy; they do their duty, these sordid minds, but permit themselves, as did the Jews, to trim the coins just the least little bit, thinking that if our Lord keep tab of them ever so carefully one might yet safely venture to fool him a bit. Fye upon them! It is therefore my soul ever returns to the Old Testament and to Shakespeare. There at least one feels that one is dealing with men and women; there one hates and loves, there one murders one’s enemy and curses his issue through all generations—there one sins.

At the opposite pole, the passionate Sinner is Rick Santorum. He seems to have a passion for justice, and even when he sins, it is borne of a passion for justice. He does have a blood lust against the enemy. He’s infected with the neoconservative fever for war. I would love to ask Rick, “You’ve spoken eloquently about the human dignity of all men, including the yet to be born. What happened to the human dignity of the men you would have tortured or subjected to so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’?”

Of the big three, the Thin Man, Dr. Indifference, and the Sinner, I find myself drawn to the thickest of the three, the Sinner. It’s not that I support his sins, but that I see him to have the greatest potential for an interior conversion. Like the militant saints of St. Ignatius or St. Francis who once desired war, God has something to work with. There is meat on the Sinner’s bones.

I don’t dislike Dr. Indifference. His thickness comes from his passion for ideological purity. He would martyr his campaign for the cause. And so he is much preferred to the Thin Man.

As for the Thin Man, I don’t have much to say about him.

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Michael Voris and Amazing Grace

There is no doubt that Michael Voris stirs things up. Voris claims to cut through the clutter and expose what’s wrong with the Catholic world. Many conservative Catholics — who are figuratively dying to get the capital ‘T” Truth out and who tire of waiting for Catholic bishops to grow a spine and speak the Truth (without all the watering-down caveats) — are embracing Voris’ take-no-prisoners approach. There are other conservative Catholics who dislike Voris’ video productions on tone and substance.

In this blog post, Mark Shea takes on Voris, in the way that only Mark Shea can. It’s full of life and passion, and I respect that. Some might say that Michael Voris uses a similar style. I disagree. For one, Voris seems to enjoy creating an Us versus Them situation (in which those who support Voris are Us, and those who oppose Voris are Them). And the focus on anger and outrage (whether justified or not) creates a cartoon image, “HULK SMASH!!”

There are some revolutions, in which all control is lost.

On this particular issue, I think Voris is partially correct. I long for a Latin Liturgy to return the Chant to a pride of place. However, whether or not “Amazing Grace” should be sung by Catholics is another issue altogether. I happen to like this song, and I fear that a Harry Potter-like debate will ensue on the theological merits of the song. In this, Voris has moved the debate into a place it does not need to be. There will be emotional squabbles about the song itself, setting up two opposing camps with pitchforks pointed at each. Michael Voris is a divider.

A simpler approach, one that treads on safer ground, is to point out that “Amazing Grace” is not chant. But then again, this is America where egalitarian opinions would demand that “Amazing Grace” is in seamless artistic harmony with chant. America will probably be the last country to eliminate widespread liturgical abuse.

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Walk in the Wilderness

A Walk in the Wilderness

Today, I took a took an eight and a half mile walk from Maynard to Hudson, MA (click on the picture to the left for a more detailed map). The  first stop was at St. Bridgets, praying the Rosary and then daily Mass.

After Mass finished at 9:30 am, I made the first of many crossings of the Assabet River. While I walked, I was in awe of the greenery of New England. It would not take long for the trees and plants to over take any area which had been cut.

After the river is the Stow line, and Erikson’s Ice Cream. Unfortunately, it was too early to purchase ice cream.

Near the Stow Shopping Center is a bit of history. First it was merely Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride. Then it turns out that there was another guy named Dawes who rode too. Well, it turns out that Dr. Samuel Prescott (who happened to be out at night a little too late with a lady friend) met up with Revere and Dawes. It turns out that Prescott completed Revere’s ride to Concord (Revere was captured) and continued on to Gardner’s Inn (I’m not sure of the name here) in Stow.

I stopped to purchase a drink at Shaw’s in the shopping center. The blacktop added 15 degrees to the day’s heat. And then I passed the Stow Police Station and neighbor Union Church of Stow. It’s a plain white church with decorative stain glass windows.

The next stop was in the center of town, at the Unitarian Church of Stow and Acton. This was the fourth building that held the First Parish of Stow, and in the previous buildings, they were also town meeting halls. People tend to forget that the Puritans had no separation of church and state. Their idea of religious freedom included a combination of church and state. If I remember correctly, the parish voted to become Unitarian in 1840 (Congregational Churches would vote on doctrine). The bell, since recast, was made by Paul Revere & Sons.

Next stop was the Randall Library which does have Internet access, however I suspect their machines are severely infected with viruses because of poor performance. I sat down at the several war monuments in front of the library.

I tried to make a stop at St. Isidore’s, just past the town center, however I found the front doors were locked. I stopped at Russell’s Convenience Store for a drink and a snack and then headed toward Hudson.

This was the worse part of the trip. While the walk along Rt 117 was pleasant with trees for shade and sidewalks, the trip south (actually 62 West) on Rt 62 toward Hudson was uncomfortable. There were no sidewalks and various parts of the road were so narrow that I was forced to walk on the road. Additionally, there was a high volume of traffic (which kicked up dirt and sand).

The one point of history was a marker for Pompositticut Plantation in 1630 (what Stow was called before becoming incorporated as Stow). There are a couple of golf courses off of the road which are not visible. The Stow portion of the road has a lot of curves, but crossing over the Hudson line, there tends to be more straightaways. There is definitely less shade in Hudson, than Stow. It seems that Hudson keeps the trees and brush away from the road, while Stow is much more tolerant of growth.

Before getting to Hudson’s Main Street, I passed the Hudson Gun Club and entered the bike trail constructed over the old railway line (Assabet River Rail Trail). I ate at Main Street Pizza and Subs just off the trail and I recommend the place. Customer service is friendly, and seem to remember their repeat customers. Additionally, there are a couple of pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging near the cash registers.

The final stage of the journey was tough due to the lack of shade and the time (it was afternoon). I passed a friendly mother and her child, but it seemed that most were keeping off the trail due to the heat. I decided to avoid the planned stops at St. Michael’s, the Unitarian Church of Hudson and Marlboro and St. Luke’s Episcopal because it was close to home and because of dehydration. I made a stop at the Hudson Library to cool down and get early access to the Internet. It turned out that I needed a card number (which I don’t  have), so I enjoyed the air conditioning for a bit, before heading for Central Street Market for a drink before the final leg home.

Overall, the walk was good, except for the portion between Hudson and Stow. Both Hudson and Stow have sidewalks or trails for an enjoyable walk except that the two towns are not connected. Stow is more fun because of the shade and the points of historical interest.

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