Today we are joined by dom Noah Moerbeek, CPMO of the Milita Templi or Poor Knights of Christ. Noah talks about his order, what it is and what it is not as well as its spirituality. Moreover, Noah, has been a benefactor of this website, as well as the one who commissioned my translation of the Life of St. Galgano, which is now the only account in English of this saint who is one of the patrons of the Poor Knights of Christ. Continue reading
Today Bill Jasper, the senior editor of the New American, joins us to talk about a pending trade deal that you have never heard of called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it could effect you in a dramatic way, from internet freedom, to your pensions, jobs, wages and many other things that you simply have not been told by the politicians of both parties. We discuss the details from leaked drafts of how the TPP fundamentally means the end of the little freedom we currently enjoy, and what you can do about it. Continue reading
There are lots of quotes running around from Pope Francis, which cause fulminations on Facebook, or other places. Now what Francis actually says is troubling enough, but too often, and perhaps because of his unprepared speeches where he confuses people, it is more believable when hoaxes appear as though they were what he had said. Continue reading
Bishop Genethlius declares: As was previously said, it is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God as well as the deacons, those who are in the service of the divine sacraments, observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also also keep. 1
-Council of Carthage
In the midst of the clerical abuse scandal, one finds increasingly the call for an end to clerical celibacy. According to those claiming that celibacy should be optional, they argue that it is unnatural to be celibate and the requirement is too hard and that’s why we have the problem. Or, that celibacy psychologically unbalances the priest, and that is why he cannot keep away from young boys or women.
Of course we know at a purely natural level, these arguments are false since the percentage of those who molest children are as high (though under-reported) in religions where the clergy are married, and double or triple in education, law, medicine and social work, places where people can get married and there is no requirement which could psychologically unbalance them with respect to marriage. Now in law there are things which would psychologically unbalance anyone, but that is for another day. Thus it is not the mere fact that priests are as a class unmarried.
That however only illuminates what is not the problem. It tells us nothing of its source or its solution. There is something which you will find in common with teachers, lawyers and doctors who molest children and priests, namely it is an unmortified body, or more particularly addiction to sexual sin. The people who commit heinous acts like this are not suffering from a lack of sex, but from too much involvement in it!
There is a false belief today, that once you are married you can have at it and it is perfectly fine. Of course it is true that once married acts ordered toward the procreation of children, which are conducted with due regard for the end (i.e. no heterosexual sodomy) are good, but the failure to commit adultery does not constitute the virtue of chastity. Chastity is rather an interior virtue that mortifies your interior desires and frees one from the attachment to sexual pleasure. It doesn’t mean it is bad, but it means you are not attached to it, as should be the case with other things. The reason for this should be understood by any man who gets married, the desires don’t stop for other women just because you are now lawfully able to engage with one. Neither do attractions, affections, or the potential to be caught in pornography and self abuse. This is because the concupiscible appetite (that part of us that desires food and sexual relations) continues to move the will in that direction, until we have brought that part of us into line by mortification and detachment. When one does not engage in any sexual activity that is called continence, not chastity. Even spouses are required to remain chaste. Chastity simply has a different meaning for them because of their state in life.
Due to the fall, our concupiscible appetites are out of control. As Chesterton said, after the fall we are like a man who jumps on a horse and runs in all directions. Concupiscence, the inclination of our body toward sin, dwells objectively in the body. Grace may remedy it over time, if we are faithful, but it is not automatic. This is the principle error of Mr. West’s Theology of the Body, it gives one the idea that grace will conquer nature through the act of license with one’s spouse and constantly focusing on sexuality, in reality it is the opposite, we conquer concupiscence in this area by focusing on this only when it is proper and suitable. It does not mean you must live a Josephite marriage, but that you must be detached from the goods of marriage. The secondary end of marriage in the old manuals and catechisms was called “The Remedy for concupiscence”, and this did not refer simply to being able to engage in relations, because by itself that does not solve the problem. Rather, it refers to the whole course of married life which serves to mortify the senses of the spouses and move them toward holiness. A man in a state of matrimony is just as capable, if not more so, of committing heinous and evil sins against the 6th and 9th commandment. Now that you are allowed to consider your spouse under this aspect, it becomes tempting to judge someone who is not your spouse by this aspect. If the man is disordered, then this becomes a real problem. That the majority of sex abusers in history have been male should also serve to tell us something.
Now if we look to the clergy abuse crisis, let us also apply this. They say that the priest who has been chaste will not struggle in this area, because he does not have material in his imagination to fuel the flames, that is the fomes peccati. If he fails in this regard, he is going to have problems. If he has already come in with disorders, such as homosexuality or pedophilia, he is going to tend toward disordered behavior even if it never manifests itself. Due to the breakdown in the piety of the faithful prior to Vatican II and the lowering of standards even before the Council, plenty of unhealthy men entered the seminary. They were unhealthy for more than one reason, it is not just the abusers, but those who married their housekeepers and asked to be returned to the lay state (as in the case of one particular ex-priest I knew). The problem that caused the clerical abuse scandal, as well as all the scandals in this regard within and outside the Church, is too much sex, rather than not enough.
Rather, celibacy and clerical chastity are the crowning virtues of a priest by which he is conformed in body as well as the mark of ordination to Jesus Christ, who was perfectly chaste in this life. This is why the western discipline is superior to that of the other Churches, it more perfectly conforms the priest to Jesus Christ than a man who is married but abstains for a period before the liturgy. It can also be looked at in this way, the priest of the old testament is a type of the priest in the New Testament, and the fulfillment of biblical types is superior to what is in the old. In the old testament, the priest would be selected in a certain year to offer sacrifice in the temple, and a year prior to that he had to live apart from his wife. This is so he will be set apart to take part in the things of God. If that is true in the old law, how much more so in the new where the priest offers sacrifice every day (though in some traditions every week), that he should be continually set apart? In the Early Church, while converts who were married were ordained, the general witness is that they had to leave their wives and make a vow of continence. (a more complete treatment of the subject than can be produced here can be seen in The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, by Cochini).
Many Patristic writers note that the one Apostle who was held in higher esteem than the others was John. Peter is higher than John because of his office, but John is held higher by his purity of life. The Fathers particularly saw a close relationship between Jesus and John based on his virginity:
St. Jerome declares:
“Yet John, one of the disciples who was said to be the youngest among the apostles, and whose faith in Christ started when he was a virgin, remained a virgin, and this is the reason that he was preferred by the Lord and leaned on Jesus’ breast.” (Adversus Jovinianum, PL23, 246b-c)
St. Augustine tells us:
“Among the commentators of the Holy word, several-and those were not men whose opinions we can hold in contempt-think that if Christ loved the Apostle John with a special love, it was because he had never been married and that from his earliest childhood he practiced the most delicate purity. There are no conclusive proofs in canonical Scripture; nevertheless, what seems to support such a feeling and demonstrate its aptness is that John was a figure of the heavenly life, during which no wedding would be celebrated.” (Tractatus in Evangelium Joannis, 124, 7
St. Paulinus of Nola
“Among his disciples he chose the youngest one so as to entrust his mother, as was fit to a virgin apostle.” (PL 61, 416a)
Proclus of Constantinople
The Apostle John received the principle and most eminent gift from God, virginity. And this is why the two sons of Zebedee were called ‘sons of thunder’. (PG 65, 730b, quoted in Patrology, study of the Greek Fathers)
Lastly, chastity is called by scholastic theologians the crown of all virtues, because without it you cannot attain to clarity in this life. Even the demons who tempt men to impurity are ashamed, because they remember how beautiful their natures were and themselves cannot stand the affront to them by tempting men to such low sins. Chastity orders the other virtues to a clarity devoid of carnal affections and it is easier to attain in one who is not married than one who is. This does not mean of course that everyone who is celibate is chaste, we have the obvious example of the 15th century, pre-Revolution France or of the last 40 years, and other periods where the lack of morals of the clergy are notable. One time St. Augustine appeared with St. Thomas, I believe it was to John of St. Thomas but I’m not sure (if someone who knows can enlighten me I’d appreciate it) to give a testimony to the importance of St. Thomas’ works, and he said that they were equal in glory except that in the splendour of virginity, St. Thomas was the greater.
In a certain sense, it is true that a certain aspect of celibacy is not a doctrine, that it is something that can be modified by the Church. This however does not mean that the Church ought to, or even can get rid of a discipline simply because the world or other elements think it should. St. Basil, witnesses for us that
Among the “doctrines” and the definitions kept in the Church, we have received some from the written teaching and we have obtained the other ones, secretly transmitted, from the apostolic Tradition. They all have the same validity with regard to piety as no one would doubt if he has any experience of ecclesiastical institutions; because if we attempt to do away with unwritten customs, by claiming that they have no great validity, we would unknowingly hurt the Gospel on its very essential points. (On the Holy Spirit)
Just because it can be changed doesn’t mean that it should, as Traditionalists well know. Who now are the agents of change? The world. Everyone in society thinks that the only ones who need to get married are priests. Yet, the stuck on stupid generation as I have termed it, will pass away and what then? As we see from the quotes from the Council of Carthage which head this post, the Early Church ordained married men but required of them perfect continence. It was a time when most who came to the faith were converts, or not all who came to the priesthood were unmarried and it was necessary for some years to ordain married men. Yet the early Church maintained celibacy. The Church has always insisted on it, as a means for chastity. Not the sole means of course, because by itself it is insufficient, but as the state in life combined with interior chastity in the soul to lead the priest to true clarity and true conformity with Jesus Christ. The end to the sex scandal is two things then, the double crown of charity and chastity. Chastity as has been said above, is necessary to attain to any vision in this life. Charity however, is among the faithful, and the priest who will love God above all the things in this world. Why among the faithful, that is the laity? Their prayers and mortification will lead to holy priests. There is a quote from St. John Eudes, though I’m still tracking down the source, which says “There is no surer sign that God is displeased with His people than to send them unholy priests.” Well, with the sacrilegious communions, rampant heresy, apostasy, moral failings and hypocrisy, is it no surprise? Or as the ancient maxim goes, we get the leaders we deserve. We need charity to offer to God fitting sacrifices for worthy priests. We need celibacy, to keep the priests separate from the things of this world so they can be holy priests. We do not need more priests, we need more holy priests especially in this time. Ending celibacy does not make one move toward that goal, in fact given our culture, it will move us further away from this goal. What is needed is for the Church to stay true to her age old traditions.
1: Epigonius episcopus Bullensium Regionum dixit: Cum praeterito concilio de continentia et castiate tractaretur, gradus isti treas qui constrictione quadam castitatis per consecrationem annexi sunt, episcopus inquam, presbyter et diaconus, tractatu pleniori, ut pudicitiam custodiant, doceantur. Genethilius episcopus dixit: Ut superius dictum est, decet sacros antistes ac Dei sacerdotes nec non et levitas vel qui sacramentis divinis inserviunt, continentes esse in omnibus, quo possint simpliciter quod a Domino postulant impetrare, ut quod apostoli docuerunt et ipsa servavit antiquitas, nos quoque custodiamus.
It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism. No doubt it might have been Communism, if Communism had ever had a chance, outside that semi-Mongolian wilderness where it actually flourishes. But so far as we are concerned, what has broken up households and encouraged divorces, and treated the old domestic virtues with more and more open contempt, is the epoch and power of Capitalism. It is Capitalism that has forced a moral feud and a commercial competition between the sexes; that has destroyed the influence of the parent in favor of the influence of the employer; that has driven men from their homes to look for jobs; that has forced them to live near their factories or their firms instead of near their families; and, above all, that has encouraged for commercial reasons, a parade of publicity and garish novelty, which is in its nature the death of all that was called dignity and modesty by our mothers and fathers. It is not the Bolshevist but the Boss, the publicity man, the salesman and the commercial advertiser who have, like a rush and riot of barbarians, thrown down and trampled under foot the ancient Roman statue of Verecundia.
Three Foes of the family
Since Obama won his second term, conservatives, religious conservatives in particular have had to lick their wounds. Some reactions go to the extreme, such as the pregnant woman who ran over her husband for not voting, as if his vote really mattered and he is the reason why Obama won when he lives in a state that went for Romney any way. Others blame Catholics who voted for Obama, while others bemoan those who voted for a 3rd party or could not bring themselves to vote for “Mittens”. All of these and the countless string or reactions and “if only we had gotten out the vote” etc. indicate amongst religious conservatives and pro-lifers an underlying problem, why aren’t we winning? The answer is that the movement has failed.
Is the pro-life movement really successful?
In one sense certainly. No other organization has consistently brought several hundred thousand people to the capital every year for over 40 years, not that I’ve ever heard of anyway. Moreover, the Pro-life movement in particular offers real solutions for women, through crisis pregnancy centers, post-abortive counseling, gifts, donations, adoption etc. In my estimation these are the real successes. I should also add before I criticize the movement that I am 100% pro-life, but I am dismayed by where the movement comes up short.
The successes, alas, sadly don’t overshadow the striking failures of the movement politically, and these are due to two factors: 1) A faulty grasp on the real nature of the problem and 2) absolute dependence on the Republican party which does not care. Thus we can say that the pro-life movement is successful socially with all of the good it is able to do for women in need, but not politically.
In the first place, we must correctly realize why abortion in this country (let alone in Europe) came into being. It did not come in with the legalization of contraception 6 years earlier, nor did it come in because of Margaret Sanger, who was a socialist and a Nazi supporter. It did not even come from Eugenics. These are all secondary causes; they are all involved, however, they flow from a primary cause.
Abortion came from Capitalism’s betrayal of the family. The assault of liberalism always realizes itself as economic before it does as political. Until the pro-life movement comes to the realization that abortion is wedded to our economic system, it will fail each and every time. Moreover, as long as it is beholden to the Republican party, which by and large is a party wedded to free market capitalism (the source for abortion) then the movement to end abortion will never be realized.
How Capitalism Causes Abortion
Why is this? Firstly, let us consider the assault on the family resulting from Capitalism. Most are aware of the 18th and 19th century realities, families forced into a small room which is all they can afford, children working and losing limbs in factories, etc. Since the 20th century most of the horrid conditions had been extirpated, at least for the time being. Thus many say we’ve cleaned up our act economically, so how does Capitalism cause the break-up of the family?
In the first place, we operate from a novel notion of “family”. In the past, the family is not only the husband, wife and children, but the extended family as well as those close friends and servants who are considered like “family”. We are all familiar with Hillary Clinton touting: “It takes a village to raise a child”, and Rick Santorum’s response with: “It takes a family to raise a child.” The truth however is both, but in their proper sense. When Clinton uses that African proverb, she means by “village”, something the Africans do not mean with the saying. She means it takes the government to assist parents financially and materially. In the case of the latter, Santorum means to defend the western, particularly American status quo of the nuclear family which should be able to work and provide for all of its needs on its own. This is of course the family created by American Capitalism. The problem lies in that it is not enough.
The term “familia” is an ancient Roman legal derived from the word “famulus” which means, well a slave or a servant. In Roman legal terms, the familia is the unit of the Erus, or Dominus, his wife, his children who are denoted as liberi, (the same word as the adjective “free”) namely the free offspring, and the famuli who vary from slaves who work in the fields, the house, their children, or scholarly foreigners in his retinue. Its name in Latin implies a group of people who are not the blood relation of the father, mother and their offspring. This composition of the family was similar in the Greek world, and in the Germanic cultures which ultimately took over the Roman Empire in the west. This particular conception of family only changed with the outlawing of slavery from slaves to servants, domestic servants attached to the family either by duty or for pay, and until the advent of capitalism this changed very little. Jane Austen for example, refers in one of her works to a family so poor they could only afford one servant. (Today due to taxes and bureaucracy, even a well to do family could scarcely afford to pay one, even well). Why did people have servants? As fathers of large families can affirm, having children, tending to a house and the normal course of female biology take their toll on women. A woman who works in the home often works much harder than a woman in the workplace. In short, women needed (and still need) help that the husband cannot provide while he is earning a living, irrespective of whether this was on the land or at his own business, or working elsewhere for a wage. All of these occupations in the past were sufficient to provide an income to employ a servant or two, until work in the city, the factory, the shop became paramount and because of the centralization of ownership, wages could no longer support a servant.
Who were the types of people employed as servants? They were not all like Jeeves of Wodehouse’s famous novels. Rather, they were widows, poor women, poor landless men, etc. Namely, people who today are on welfare. What could they receive for that? Some pay, no doubt, but also room and board which is no small cost either. They wouldn’t have lived like kings, but they also didn’t suffer a hand to mouth existence dependent upon the government handouts of Hilary Clinton’s “village”. With the ruin of the middle class culturally and economically in the 18th and 19th century, servants became the domain of the rich (enter Jeeves!). Today there is a finishing school in England where women spend a lot of money to be trained to be domestic servants and are thereupon hired by the wealthy. The old virtues had specific etiquette for how to treat servants, how long they might be expected to work, etc. Today these have been lost, so one frequently reads about foreigners recruited to be servants in Europe then treated like slaves. None of this is thought of when speaking of the older virtues of servants. They were not employees, they were family from nannies to those helping with dishes. The point is all these factors added to peace in the home, for the most part, by helping mothers during difficult periods. As I myself have experienced, while women have maternity leave men often do not have paternity leave. Who is going to cook and clean while the mother is recovering? It is a necessary thing for women to be able to relax after having a baby. Birth is a difficult thing, it is a wonderful thing but very painful and trying on a woman’s body. Older children still need to be cared for, fed, etc. Houses still need to be cleaned, as any parent of a large family knows, dirt builds up! True, older children can do quite a bit of work, but what if you are a mother of toddlers? There are people who do hire nannies and domestic servants, but to afford it both parents must work unless the husband is in a high paying job, which today is not most people.
Yet this is only one facet of the problem. The other is the fierce individualistic spirit of capitalism which yields so many bad effects in society. Since capitalism focuses on individual material happiness, grandparents become a drain on modern notions of privacy, not only for children who don’t want irritating elders around, but even for grandparents who want to maintain independence themselves! Thus nursing homes came into being, a place for people to stick their unwanted elderly, and on the other side elderly who don’t want to give up their independence and prefer to go to a nursing home. There is a good bit of both. Another factor is that elderly must work later into life. This is not just because of corporate CEOs raiding their retirement accounts, or social security not paying until later, but the obscene cost of health care and the inability of retirement or social security to pay the rising bills thanks to the effects of inflation. In 2010, the biggest single cause of bankruptcy was individuals with health insurance who could not pay medical bills. Thus grandparents are increasingly unable to help young families manage. Other relatives must make ends meet themselves and the assistance which in the past was there is not now.
The Political Failure of the Pro-life movement
The Pro-life movement politically speaking is similar in its nature and its conduct to the Populist movement of William Jennings Bryan. The Populist movement brought together many people of different backgrounds and opinions, who had one basic premise: take the power from big banks by freeing us from dependence on gold for currency. In this they were right of course and many Americans at the time agreed, but in the end they failed politically. The reason for this is that they were not able to get an effective grass roots movement going and their third party presidential candidates failed. Why did they fail to get an effective grass roots movement? There are several reasons for this, but primarily they didn’t have enough grasp on the plurality of issues effecting government. The left for instance always talks about a one issue voter and how this is bad. There is a sense however in which the charge is correct, they are simply applying it wrong. The left uses the “one issue voter” slogan to say abortion is not a big issue. That is false, it is. Yet they are right in that it is not the only issue and to have a coherent platform one needs to be able to address a plurality of issues. The populists had no grasp of this locally or statewide, and they got eaten up between loyalty to the established parties.
The exact same thing is true for the pro-life movement. The movement itself has almost nothing to say about economic policy, the environment (in its proper sense), healthcare, the war on terror etc. As a whole the movement is shortsighted politically, and it is generally owned and run by the Republican party. Abortion is the biggest gift to the Republicans, because never could a more incompetent party manage to stay alive in modern politics without a major issue to keep people voting for them. For this reason, among many others, the Republicans will never end abortion, nay more, they have, continue to and will in the future continue to run pro-abortion candidates. We even saw the specter of pro-life Rick Santorum defending a pro-abort candidate from a pro-life candidate to maintain the “party interest”.
They will talk, they will stir people up, or offer their token resistance and there are even sincere Republican politicians who want to end abortion, however, in the end the party will never end it. We should not forget that an allegedly “good, christian, pro-life” conservative Republican, George H.W. Bush, while Nixon’s ambassador to the UN helped the Chinese craft the One Child Policy. As a congressman in 1968, George H.W. Bush used every opportunity to praise Planned Parenthood, and offered amendments with fellow Republican Herman Schneebeli to give “Family Planning Services” priority. During the hearings for these amendments, Allen Guttmacher, the successor to Margaret Sanger and equally a protegee in her support of NAZI eugenics and racism appeared as a witness in favor of the amendments. After discussing the problems that Planned Parenthood faces due to its inherent goal of wiping out blacks through contraception and abortion, George H.W. Bush said: “I appreciate that. For the record, I would like to say I am 1,000 percent in accord with the goals of your organization. I think perhaps more than any other type of organization you can do more in the field of poverty and mental health and everything else than any other group that I can think of. I commend you.” In the 70’s, Republican President Richard Nixon’s state department, with the aid of Henry Kissinger, drafted National Security Memorandum 200, a document which decried the rise of African birth rates, because as Africans developed their resources, America would be less able to steal them. (!) In the 90s, as a senator for Pennsylvania Rick Santorum supported Title X funding which went to Planned Parenthood in order to bolster other legislation. John McCain, who so many told us we should support in 2008, has met with Al Qaeda leaders in Syria who have kidnapped and killed little children on youtube to bolster support for his Syria policy. Pro-life over here, not in the middle east apparently, if we could even say he is pro-life at all. No Republican leader has been any different. They will talk but they will not do. The democrats of course have no interest in ending it either, and religious conservatives who make up the pro-life movement are just a political group to be wooed for votes by parties who do not share their interests. The pro-life movement makes no attempt to address the economic and social antecedents of abortion except in the area of personal morality. No one stops to ask the question, why was birth control attractive to modern women?
In the 19th century early feminists like Susan B. Anthony advocated laws against birth control and abortion because these were seen as being used by men to control and use women, thus the laws came on the books which became an issue in the 20th century. Why was Margaret Sanger able to appeal to modern women to use birth control and have recourse to abortion? It wasn’t her NAZI sympathies, it wasn’t her stated goal to get rid of the “morons” and “black babies” that inspired them, no it was the exigencies of modern life. Birth and raising children is difficult, oh here is a way to keep me from being pregnant, why is that illegal? Providing said services is also big business. If you convince the population it needs little rubber sheaths and it needs pills, or doctors trained to murder babies in the womb, there are a lot of people who will buy them, and given our modern culture, quite repeatedly. Capitalism is on the side of abortion. Entrepreneurs want to convince people to buy their products, why should government interfere? Is there force? no. Is there fraud? no. Therefore what’s the problem? Arguing against it on the basis of morality, or even psychologically and sociologically is to import a foreign philosophy to the individualistic spirit of capitalism. As we have seen, pornography, in spite of study after study showing its bad effects, is still legal (See my article of several years ago the Market and the Moral Man). The failure of the pro-life movement to effectively deal with the moral problems of capitalism and how it has transformed the family will always leave it handicapped when dealing with abortion.
Furthermore, let us look to two significant failures of the Pro-Life movement politically, the Partial Birth Abortion ban and Obamacare.
With respect to the Partial Birth Abortion ban, many in the Pro-life movement hailed it as a great victory, or the first chip at Roe vs. Wade. This however, apart from being shortsighted politically, this view is also incorrect legally. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated that the ban was constitutional, because it upheld the principles in Planned Parenthood v Casey. That is to say, because the 2007 partial birth abortion ban upheld abortion law in general (adding further precedent to its constitutionality) it was fine. This is not a victory, it is a defeat. The high court essentially said this law is good because it continues the support of abortion on demand. It is not a victory either because it got rid of partial birth abortion, since if you kill a baby by sucking is brain’s out with a vacuum, or do so by dismembering it or boiling it in saline, what is the difference? An innocent child is still dead. Then there is Obamacare. Conservative democrats hailed the Stupak amendment and Bart Stupak’s party of eight resisting Obamacare, and many said this was a victory. Yet in the end when Nancy Pelosi demanded, Stupak accepted the promise that the president would not force abortion to be funded by taxpayers, which is completely ludicrous not only because Obama is not trustworthy, but how can he simply say this bill funds healthcare, and deny funding to something the Supreme Court calls healthcare? Then comes the HHS mandate, the complete support of the Obama regime for Planned Parenthood, and the fact the US Catholic Bishops were compromised while trying to argue against it. Pro-lifers, and Catholics in particular, had virtually no counter health care plan. They only came up with a free market argument in the face of Obama trying to provide a corporatist plan that in reality is nothing more than a bail-out for insurance companies. Where were they all this time prior on health care? It doesn’t matter if now we say abortion is not healthcare, the upholding of the partial birth abortion ban was done under the understanding that it is, it is law. Was everyone blind to this?
Hope for the future?
There are only three ways in which the Pro-life movement could be successful. Firstly, the issue of Capitalism and abortion needs to be addressed. Leaving it out is nothing more than ignoring the elephant in the room. The fact is, abortion clinics are simply made of of entrepreneurial individuals responding to a market demand, and a value free, market based economics such as that of the Austrian School has no means of stopping this, since the claim is that the government exists only to stop theft or fraud. Abortion clinics offer a service, people want to pay for said service, what more is there? (Or at least, someone wants to pay for it, since many times women are pressured or even forced to undergo the procedure). Once the positive law outlawing abortion was struck down, there were plenty of entrepreneur’s responding to market demand. Moreover, it expanded with universities and medical companies paying for the finished product (i.e. a dead baby) to pursue research. How can the Austrian school stop that? It can’t. Furthermore, capitalism in general supports the whole mindset which goes into abortion, from using sex to sell products, to increasingly cheapen human life itself and the destruction of the family which results.
Second, start a 3rd party that does not run for president for a period of at least 5 years. This party would necessarily have to be holistic, though while abortion would be the chief of all issues on the platform, there would also be a well thought out policy addressing a range of issues. It is necessary to participate in government in meaningful ways, that means at the local and state level. Running presidential candidates is a waste of time. It does not engender serious attention to issues no one talks about, it does not advance a message, it just wastes money and gets ignored by the media. I would turn the phrase attributed to Nathan Rothschild on its head, namely “give me control of the currency and I care not who makes the laws.” I would say instead: Give the people control of local and state government, and I care not what Wall Street goon runs a regime in the White house. But this is a longshot, since, if the voting system is not positively rigged, then at least most people do not care. There are higher voter turnouts in under-developed countries in Africa than there is in the “beacon of freedom”. My general opinion is that voting actually doesn’t solve anything anyway.
The other matter is to to attack the root causes of the abortion culture socially and domestically, not only contraception, for that too has antecedents, but the pornography culture and the “me” generation. The pro-life movement would be more politically effective if we worked on the restoration of the family; this is not achieved by merely working for abstinence education and educating about marriage, but to work for families owning sufficient material wealth to survive, support for mothers both from family and community, which is to say it needs to adopt authentic Catholic social principles. This requires, in our current situation, the de-funding of public schools and the strengthening of local communities, businesses and family life at a communal level. Failing a third party this is the only option to tackle abortion. Neither political party wants it to end, nor is committed to it ending. Thus the voter is placed between the Scylla and Charybdis of democrats who want National Socialism, and republicans who want Corporatism, and alternatives from libertarians like Ron Paul who would give us Plutocracy and genocidal austerity. On the one hand the former says abortion is not as important as healthcare, while the other says the market will take care of abortion, when in reality neither is true. In the case of the latter it is actually the opposite, abortion is a market driven demand requiring a market solution, namely the service [of murder]. Working within the framework of the Republican party will never end abortion because at the end of the day it is the same world that creates the demand for abortion. Only by returning to the basic concept of what government, law, society and culture are for, preeminently what the family is, and what the end of it is can we possibly broach an end to abortion. Thus it is not enough to oppose capitalism, or to found a third party, we must work to make Catholic Social teaching happen, restore the family, restore people working and owning capital (not stocks), restore the concept of procreation and education of children, and then, not later, those pro-life goals have a chance of being realized. Until the pro-life movement figures these things out, it will continue to fail politically, in spite of its social achievements.
The Instrumentum Laboris, or working document (in Latin literally, the device of the work) was issued last month, and it foretells essentially more of the same.
The Document is riddled with programs, programs, and more programs! More this and more that! Change! Yet the only things useful for a constructive discussion on how to meet the challenges to the Family in the modern world are not surprisingly absent from the working document.
There is, as in most documents since the Council, a good deal of wishy-washy niceties, but not a lot of real content. We must bear in mind, however, that it is a document compiling the reactions of various Episcopal conferences to the issues raised as problems. It is not designed to lay down a clear teaching or instruction. What it should be doing, if it were to be effective, is to lay out the directions all discussions will go toward in order to attain a more practical solution. Instead, it just puts together what everyone is saying and says yeah, this is what’s going on, and this is what our top-guys say will fix it. That of course is what the Bishops’ conferences have said, which themselves utilized committees of talking heads to look at the problems, who themselves talked to committees of “experts” to explain the problem.
As always, not everything expressed here is bad, but is put together with a lot of things that are, and then looks to make a unity out of it, like good Hegelian dialectic which draws together the synthesis from placing together the Thesis, and the Antithesis, and boom! We have the solution.
Unfortunately, reality doesn’t work in the same way. Let’s have a look at some key passages.
The People of God’s knowledge of conciliar and post-conciliar documents on the Magisterium of the family seems to be rather wanting, though a certain knowledge of them is clearly evident in those working in the field of theology. The documents, however, do not seem to have taken a foothold in the faithful’s mentality. Some responses clearly state that the faithful have no knowledge of these documents, while others mention that they are viewed, especially by lay people with no prior preparation, as rather “exclusive” or “limited to a few” and require some effort to take them up and study them. Oftentimes, people without due preparation find difficulty reading these documents. Nevertheless, the responses see a need to show the essential character of the truth affirmed in these documents.(Instrumentum Laboris [hereafter IS], #11)
One might reckon, the difficulty in reading the documents is they are simply not clear! They introduce with tons of flowery language, they say some poorly worded propositions, often using traditional theological terms to mean something totally different, and leave one bewildered as to what is actually being taught. That is not the only problem here. The real problem is that not everyone can be a Theologian, and not everyone should. Not merely before the Council, but even in the preceding generations of thousands of years, the faithful did not by and large know the bulk of Church teachings, and they could scarcely name an encyclical. Yet, they did not have a crisis in the family as we do today. In past generations people knew what was right and wrong, even if they acted contrary to it, they still knew it was wrong. It didn’t take a pastoral program or a new encyclical for people to know in the 18th century that abortion was wrong, or that contraceptive potions and techniques, such as they were, are contrary to the Church. Why is this a problem when most Catholics are more educated in general than they were in the 18th century? The answer is you had a culture and society that itself embodied Catholic values, even Protestant societies, and had the support needed for families to survive. You do not have that today.
Moreover, there is a difference between religion and theology. Every Catholic needs to have an understanding of religion to get to heaven, but not every Catholic needs to understand theology. Religio is a Latin word, it comes from the same word as legio, as in Roman Legion. It actually means the “yoke”, like the yoke that tied oxen together. Soldiers in the legion were “yoked” by the bond of discipline, legionary laws, far more harsh than the laws of civil society, and the structure of obedience. In Latin, the prefix re- either means again, back, or it strengthens the meaning of the word. In the case of religio, it strengthens the meaning of the word. Thus religio refers to the common bond of teachings, practices and laws that every Catholic is under, high or low, great and small, clerical or Lay. By contrast, Theology, which comes from the Greek Θεός (Theos=God) and λογία (logia=saying), although some dogmatic theologians, notably Tanquery, traces the root to λόγος (logos= word), means more or less the Study of God. It is the study of revealed truths, and the truths which follow from them logically and are connected with them (i.e. the secondary object of infallibility, whereas revealed truths are the primary object). This is a fully developed science, employing a scientific language that is carried out (until recently) with precision. It has a wide breadth of subjects, disciplines, and areas of study. Theology also includes detailed study of the documents of the magisterium, the truths they contain and the consequences that affect other disciplines. Documents of the magisterium in the field of religion, on the other hand, only pertain to those issues which the faithful need to be aware of. Thus, theology informs and confirms religion, as the Church has always held, in as much as the work of theologians becomes the basis for future decisions of the Extraordinary Magisterium and the Ordinary Magisterium. The constructing and informing of their consciences takes place in the overall formation of Christian life, as we shall develop more fully.
Some episcopal conferences argue that the reason for much resistance to the Church’s teaching on moral issues related to the family is a want of an authentic Christian experience, namely, an encounter with Christ on a personal and communal level, for which no doctrinal presentation, no matter how accurate, can substitute. In this regard, some responses point to the insufficiency of pastoral activity which is concerned only with dispensing the sacraments without a truly engaging Christian experience. Moreover, a vast majority of responses highlight the growing conflict between the values on marriage and the family as proposed by the Church and the globally diversified social and cultural situations. The responses are also in agreement on the underlying reasons for the difficulty in accepting Church teaching, namely, the pervasive and invasive new technologies; the influence of the mass media; the hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; the growing secularism; the prevalence of ideas that lead to an excessive, selfish liberalization of morals; the fragility of interpersonal relationships; a culture which rejects making permanent choices, because it is conditioned by uncertainty and transiency, a veritable “liquid society” and one with a “throw away” mentality and one seeking “immediate gratification”; and, finally, values reinforced by the so-called “culture of waste” and a “culture of the moment,” as frequently noted by Pope Francis. (IS #15)
Now, on the one hand, the faults of secular society do contribute to less religiosity, on the other we cannot lay all the fault at secular society. The strange thing here, is that the Vatican for 50 years has praised these same “secular societies” as a source of new riches, as a wonderful fruit of the French Revolution, as a realization of Vatican II, as… need I go on? And now they are complaining of the direction it is going! They can’t have it both ways. They want the modern conception of separation of Church and State, they want the secularized society, then it complains when a secularized society does what it is naturally going to do!
There is another fundamental disconnect here. Look at my emphasis. What are the Sacraments, except a direct personal encounter with Jesus Christ and his grace, preeminently in the Eucharist? What are the sacraments? Certificates? Status symbols? The person who wrote this point seems to think so. What kind of personal encounter can you have with Christ that is more powerful than the frequent exercise of the Sacraments? Is Penance not an encounter with Jesus Christ, where the priest in Christ’s very person and power forgives your sins, provided you have true contrition? Is not receiving his very body and blood an encounter? People need words to encounter them? The sacraments, and living the life of faith, exercising the virtue of faith with true charity, are connected. Moreover, so is the liturgy. Is the Liturgy a place where people have a true encounter with Christ? Or is it a place where people have a silly ceremony with absurd hymns, poor symbols and bad ritual to celebrate themselves? For most Catholics it is clearly the latter, in spite of the number of times that there have been “documents to end all abuses”, the “abuses” continue to exist. The reason of course is that the new liturgy is a man centered liturgy. There is in this whole document almost no mention of liturgy, which is a telling factor. Liturgical reform is nowhere on the radar of the Francis pontificate, let alone for the Bishops. The only reform for them is eliminating the Traditional Mass and restoring the primacy of the 1970’s liturgy, which is dying, and they can’t understand why. Hence the attack on the FI’s.
This “lived experience with Christ” is presented as a sort of dualism, as if this is something that happens independent of a man’s existence in Church and society. Proper doctrinal formation is a means, beautiful liturgy which hastens the senses to God is a means, Catholic society and families are a means, the will of the individual aided by grace and utilizing these means effects it. This document seems to think another army of pastoral lay workers will somehow bring this about!
We’ll close today with the following issue of Natural Law:
In light of what the Church has maintained over the centuries, an examination of the relation of the Gospel of the Family to the experience common to every person can now consider the many problems highlighted in the responses concerning the question of the natural law. In a vast majority of responses and observations, the concept of natural law today turns out to be, in different cultural contexts, highly problematic, if not completely incomprehensible. The expression is understood in a variety of ways, or simply not understood at all. Many bishops’ conferences, in many different places, say that, although the spousal aspect of the relationship between man and woman might be generally accepted as an experiential reality, this idea is not interpreted according to a universally given law. Very few responses and observations demonstrated an adequate, popular understanding of the natural law. (IS #21)
A lot of people have decried this section, and for good reason, nevertheless I think the working document is actually getting at something that is quite true and important, they are just drawing the wrong conclusions. Now, Natural Law in the Catholic Tradition is largely Aristotelian and Thomistic in its conception. In fact, St. Thomas says on this subject:
Sicut supra dictum est, ad legem naturae pertinent ea ad quae homo naturaliter inclinatur; inter quae homini proprium est ut inclinetur ad agendum secundum rationem. Ad rationem autem pertinet ex communibus ad propria procedere, ut patet ex I Physic. Aliter tamen circa hoc se habet ratio speculativa, et aliter ratio practica. Quia enim ratio speculativa praecipue negotiatur circa necessaria, quae impossibile est aliter se habere, absque aliquo defectu invenitur veritas in conclusionibus propriis, sicut et in principiis communibus. Sed ratio practica negotiatur circa contingentia, in quibus sunt operationes humanae, et ideo, etsi in communibus sit aliqua necessitas, quanto magis ad propria descenditur, tanto magis invenitur defectus. Sic igitur in speculativis est eadem veritas apud omnes tam in principiis quam in conclusionibus, licet veritas non apud omnes cognoscatur in conclusionibus, sed solum in principiis, quae dicuntur communes conceptiones. In operativis autem non est eadem veritas vel rectitudo practica apud omnes quantum ad propria, sed solum quantum ad communia, et apud illos apud quos est eadem rectitudo in propriis, non est aequaliter omnibus nota. Sic igitur patet quod, quantum ad communia principia rationis sive speculativae sive practicae, est eadem veritas seu rectitudo apud omnes, et aequaliter nota. (I-II, Q 94 A4, resp.)
As stated above (2,3), those things pertain to the natural law which a man is inclined naturally: and among these what is proper for man that he might be inclined to act according to reason. Now it pertains to reason to proceed from the common to the proper, as stated in Phys. i. The speculative reason, however, is considered one way in this matter, and the practical reason another. For, since the speculative reason is busied chiefly with the necessary things, which cannot be otherwise than they are, its proper conclusions, like the universal principles, contain the truth without fail. The practical reason, on the other hand, is busied with contingent matters, about which human actions are concerned: and consequently, although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects. Accordingly then in speculative matters truth is the same in all men, both as to principles and as to conclusions: although the truth is not known to all as regards the conclusions, but only as regards the principles which are called common notions. But in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles: and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all. It is therefore evident that, as regards the general principles whether of speculative or of practical reason, truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known by all.
What this means, is that while the natural law is written on our hearts, or, as St. Thomas says in a different question of the same article, “The rational creature’s participation with the eternal law”, it is the same always and everywhere, but how it is applied and deduced in individual matters will differ according to culture. For example almost all cultures have the sense that pre-marital sex and adultery are wrong, but how that is realized differed for many classical cultures. The principle is still true, but men can act contrary to their reason; additionally the passions move people to act contrary to reason.
Now, all references to the natural law, even by John Paul II, who was not a Thomist, refer to the Aristotelian-Thomistic Tradition in Natural Law. Now, the modern western world, on the other hand, works on a mostly empiricist view of natural law. What this means is that what is natural is not based on utility, or reason, but what we objectively feel about it. So, people go out for wine and cheese tastings. The object, it would appear, is the delight in company and the pleasure gained from drinking good wine and eating good cheese. I could just as well satisfy my belly with bread and water, but I don’t get pleasure. Therefore food is not about nourishment but pleasure. Likewise with sex, it is pleasurable, but children don’t actually result all the time, and can be prevented, therefore sex is about pleasure rather than procreation. Add to this the evolutionary frame work, the idea that we have “evolved” beyond an instinct for self preservation, therefore we have evolved sex to be about the individuals. In such a framework, what could be against nature in same-sex coitus, since it is about pleasure with respect to the individuals?
Obviously such reasoning is fallacious, because food is pleasurable, or sex is pleasurable, it doesn’t follow that its only end is pleasure. Yet this is a problem of first principles with respect to natural law. Modern society is based on the Empiricist viewpoint, modified by evolutionary philosophy, whereas the Catholic explication of teachings with reference to Natural Law are based on the Thomistic. The Instrumentum Laboris correctly identifies at least some element of this, when it says:
The responses and observations also show that the adjective “natural” often is understood by people as meaning “spontaneous” or “what comes naturally.” Today, people tend to place a high value on personal feelings and emotions, aspects which appear “genuine” and “fundamental” and, therefore, to be followed “simply according to one’s nature.” The underlying anthropological concepts, on the one hand, look to an autonomy in human freedom which is not necessarily tied to an objective order in the nature of things, and, on the other hand, every human being’s aspiration to happiness, which is simply understood as the realization of personal desires. Consequently, the natural law is perceived as an outdated legacy. (IS #22)
Therefore the solution would be to engage the modern dialectic as concerns Natural Law, right? Not according to this document. The reason is the modern Vatican has completely surrendered the fight on false ideologies like Evolution, and even at times the very notion of man which is its consequent, and therefore can’t, without contradicting 50 years of mis-steps, attempt to engage that fight. Instead it proposes another surrender, which, as noted in my last post, I first saw on Rorate Caeli:
The language traditionally used in explaining the term “natural law” should be improved so that the values of the Gospel can be communicated to people today in a more intelligible manner. In particular, the vast majority of responses and an even greater part of the observations request that more emphasis be placed on the role of the Word of God as a privileged instrument in the conception of married life and the family, and recommend greater reference to the Bible, its language and narratives. In this regard, respondents propose bringing the issue to public discussion and developing the idea of biblical inspiration and the “order in creation,” which could permit a re-reading of the concept of the natural law in a more meaningful manner in today’s world. (IS #30)
It is one thing to use Divine Revelation (e.g. Scripture) to assist with and illuminate the concept of natural law, however, the problem is that natural law as such is something discernible to reason, that does not need the aid of divine revelation. What this statement says, if one reads between the lines, is to eviscerate the concept and tradition of Natural Law, and reduce everything to Scripture, which the modernists have worked so hard to neuter by rendering it all allegorical, and thus to be interpreted in any way possible. Thus the closing statement of that paragraph. Re-read therefore, means surrender.
We will have more on this document to come in the future.