January 27, 2008

Priestly sex scandal

Most people are familiar with media reports regarding sex abuse by Catholic priests. I have no sympathy for any bishop who conceals such priestly misconduct in his diocese or otherwise responds in an inappropriate manner to verifiable reports of such misconduct. Clearly though, many innocent priests have been hurt by false accusations. And the media reports do not lend themselves to the reader putting sex abuse by priests in a proper perspective. In fact, media reporting, for multiple reasons, has actually skewed the public's perspective on the problem.

For example, few people know what the actual percentage is of priests that are abusers; how abuse among the Catholic clergy compares to abuse among leaders of other denominations; what percentage of abusers among Catholic clergy are actually homosexual, or why this sudden outbreak of sex abuse over the last several decades. In a subsequent post, I will present some statistics in these matters, which contribute to a better understanding of the problem.

My main purpose here is to introduce the fact that as tragic as the priests' scandal is, it pales in significance to the sex abuse problem among public school employees. To understand the far greater problem in public schools is not to minimize in any way the problem among Catholic clergy, but to gain a more accurate perspective on the problem of child sex abuse in American society.

Also, if what I am saying is true about public schools, and I have no doubt that it is, then one needs to ask why this fact should come as a surprise to anyone who has kept up with daily news reports. I will let an AP report from Yahoo News stand as an introduction. The original article, reproduced below, can be found here:

Lawmakers crack down on abusive teachers

By ROBERT TANNER, AP National Writer
Sun Jan 27, 2:28 PM ET

Heeding a steady drumbeat of sexual misconduct cases involving teachers, at least 15 states are now considering stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who take advantage of their students.

Lawmakers say they are concerned about an increasingly well-documented phenomenon: While the vast majority of America's teachers are committed professionals, there also is a persistent problem with sexual misconduct in U.S. schools. When abuse happens, administrators too often fail to let others know about it, and too many legal loopholes let offenders stay in the classroom.

Advocates include governors, education superintendents and legislative leaders.

"We've got to be on a bully pulpit with our school districts," said Missouri state Rep. Jane Cunningham. The Republican's legislation would eliminate statutes of limitation for sexual misconduct, allowing victims to come forward and bring charges against abusers no matter how many years had passed since the crime.

The ideas emerging in state capitals come at a time when U.S. media have been reporting steadily on individual cases, along with more in-depth examinations of the problem.

A nationwide Associated Press investigation published in October found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. Experts who track sexual abuse say those cases are representative of a much deeper problem because of underreporting.

There are roughly 3 million public school teachers nationwide.

In eight states, leaders pushing changes said the AP investigation had inspired their proposals. Others said they had grown concerned from individual cases of abuse in their states, or other news reports that looked at the problem locally or in their state.

In New York, Gov. Eliot Spitzer supports automatic suspension of teachers convicted of sex crimes, which now requires lengthy hearings. In Maine, Gov. John Baldacci hopes to share the names of abusive teachers with other states, which a 1913 confidentiality law there prohibits. In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed federal legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, a Florida Republican, to create a national databank of abusive teachers, a hot line for complaints and federal funds for state investigators.

Some states are looking to increase penalties, expand background checks or broaden their ability to police charter schools for abuse, like Indiana, Massachusetts and Utah. Kentucky and South Carolina are considering making it illegal for teachers to have sex with older students.

Several states are tackling a major problem — the loopholes that allow problem teachers to move from one school district to another, or from one state to another. The AP investigation found that what education officials commonly call "passing the trash" happens when districts allow a teacher to quietly leave a school, or fail to report problems to state authorities, or fail to check with state authorities before hiring a teacher, among other glitches.

In eight states, legislators are pursuing changes to close those gaps, including California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Washington state and West Virginia.

"Despite acts of misconduct that were threatening and dangerous in schools, there is a track record of people going on to another school district and finding employment," said Missouri state Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons. "The new school district may get the truth, but they don't get the whole truth about this person's background. They may find out the dates of service, they may find out this person was dismissed, but there really is no other information forthcoming."

His legislation aims to get school employees and districts to share all information about job-hunting teachers, including whether those educators sexually abused their students, by granting administrators civil immunity from lawsuits.

Other states approach the same problem differently. A Colorado measure being drafted would penalize school districts and state officials that fail to report problem teachers, while a West Virginia proposal would open school officials themselves to punishment. Florida would bar any confidentiality agreement between districts and teachers, and require districts to report every firing to the state.

In California, one proposal would close a loophole that bars the teacher credentialing commission from revealing the reason teachers lose their licenses if they plead no contest to an offense.

Under no contest pleas, defendants are punished as if they pleaded guilty, but retain the right to challenge the charges against them in lawsuits and other proceedings. Such deals have meant public records were unclear about why educator licenses were sanctioned in dozens of cases, the AP found.

"You should not be able to plead no contest to a sex offense just so you can continue teaching," said state Sen. Bob Margett. The measure means teachers who plead no contest would immediately lose their license, and the reason for the revocation would be public record.

Some say the latest legislation is just the beginning.

South Carolina has created a new committee of parents, teachers, social workers and prosecutors to study the problem and come back with new ideas.

Though small statistically, the number of abusive teachers is too high, South Carolina Education Superintendent Jim Rex wrote after reading the AP report.

"I am nonetheless outraged by any incident in which an adult entrusted with the care of one of South Carolina's students violates that student. The ramifications for that student, his or her family, and the community as a whole are painful and long lasting," he wrote.

In Utah, the numbers of abuses flat-out shocked state Rep. Carl Wimmer. "These things happen a lot more often than parents would think," he said. "It seems we do have an unacceptable high amount of children who get violated in the classroom. One is too many."

January 13, 2008

Rush Limbaugh

Is Rush Limbaugh a conservative, as he so often claims? He also claims to be right 99.9% percent of the time. Well, does that settle the matter? If we use his own statistic, there remains a possibility, albeit a very small one, that he could be wrong. In addition, I read somewhere that 56.7% of all statistics are bogus.

I can remember my days of listening to Rush Limbaugh, almost religiously so, as he nearly demolished the liberal Democratic Party single-handedly. I had hoped that he would be able to go all the way. The downside for Rush and his devotees is that if he had succeeded, he would have put himself out of a job. He would be like a cancer researcher who discovers the ultimate cure for cancer, or a government program for the poor that ends up eliminating poverty.

It seemed that everyone considered Rush, that very entertaining gladiator fighting in his virtual political arena, a conservative. However, as I continued to study political philosophy and American history, especially the Founding Era, my views began change about Rush, and contemporary American politics in general. Rush appeared to me less and less a true conservative. What? To say that Rush is not a conservative is heresy! Bring on the Republican Inquisitors! I doubt the legitimacy of Rush Limbaugh’s conservative credentials. I am denying the faith. I will gladly sign a confession.

Now it is time for the kicker: Rush, in so many words, has admitted to not being a conservative.

Several years ago, during one of his radio broadcasts, Rush said he was “not in favor of returning to Constitutional government.” He said such an idea is unrealistic. “It’s never going to happen.” My suspicions about Rush’s political position had been confirmed by the man himself.

If someone claims to be a political conservative, but does not support Constitutional government, what is it then that qualifies him to be a conservative? What is it that he is trying to conserve? He is not trying to conserve the highest civil law in the land, the U.S. Constitution. He is not trying to conserve what is best in America’s political tradition, the ideas and ideals of the Constitution.

Concerning economics, Rush is not trying to conserve sound economic policy, or the environment. Witness Rush promoting his consumption-oriented idea of an ever-expanding pie. This is poor economic theory and, in practice, it unnecessarily exploits the environment. Environmental exploitation is ultimately bad for the economy.

Neither is Rush promoting a sound foreign policy such as America had in its earlier days. Instead, Rush promotes an un-Constitutional interventionist foreign policy. This too is fiscally irresponsible.

Unfortunately, in light of the current political and cultural climate, excepting for an economic catastrophe, a return to Constitutional government is a long way down the road. This is especially so when there is hardly a politician these days who takes seriously his oath to uphold the Constitution. In Congress, we have but one exception, Ron Paul.

Is Rush Limbaugh, then a liberal? The term “liberal” is ambiguous at best. We need to look at political language. Many people often use many political terms without investing much thought in their meanings. We often label either a person’s view as “liberal” or “conservative”. We think we know what we mean when we use these terms. However, if we wrote down what we think we mean, we could see the vagueness of our own ideas. Neither do we realize that the ideas of the person we are talking with are equally vague. Awareness of this problem in communication ought to motivate us to clarify, first of all to ourselves, what it is we are trying to say.

Is "liberal" anything more than a euphemism for socialist? Certainly, modern liberalism has little in common with classical liberalism and much, if not everything, in common with socialism.

What is a conservative these days? Is it just someone who stays to the right of center? What does this mean if the center shifts with every new political trend?

“Liberal” and “conservative” have become basic animal terms. They are not precise or meaningful terms any longer. Hence, I have hardly used either term in many years, except to throw an interlocutor into a tailspin by asking what he means by the term he just used.

In the sense that I have tersely described conservatism, I have no qualms with saying that Rush Limbaugh is not a conservative at heart. To a certain degree Rush has statist and interventionist leanings in common with the political left. I think Rush, at heart, is a liberal. Yet, he is a liberal who obviously despises liberalism. And perhaps his liberal disposition is what made him incapable of dealing the final death blow to the liberal Democratic Party.

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Elsewhere, it seems the Bush Coins, designed for the newly proposed petroleum based currency, include a coin dedicated to Rush Limbaugh. See the recently released video, New Bush Coins

January 12, 2008

Lies and War

Bush administration lies, neocons, and ‘just war’ doctrine; a look in the rear view mirror:

Bush Administration Lies for War
Mega-links page by Americans Against World Empire, Inc.

Ron Paul slams Bush "demented philosophy of conquest (video)

Patrick J. Buchanan: “A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interest."

What Is Bush's Agenda in Iraq?

Juan Cole: “The Lies That Led to War

Canadian News Documentary/ The Fifth Estate: The Lies That Led to War (video)

SourceWatch: Bush administration lies that led to war

Lie by Lie: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline (8/1/90 - 6/21/03)

BUSH WATCH...BUSH LIES...............

The Mother of All Lies

War Lies and the 2004 Election

Australian Bishops Conference: Doubts of Just War

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.: Catholics, Iraq, and Just WarJust War?

How Famous Catholic Conservatives Avoid Applying 'Their' Theory


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"The concept of a 'preventive' war is ambiguous. 'Prevention' does not have a limit; it is a relative term and is subject to self-serving interpretations. Objective criteria must be applied with intellectual rigor. The threat must be clear, active and present, not future. Nor has the American administration shown that all other options before going to war have proven "impractical or ineffective."
(Cardinal James Francis Stafford, 02-01-03)

January 8, 2008

Priestly Abuse

Vatican official proposes plans for reparation for priestly abuse
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A leading Vatican official has proposed a worldwide program of eucharistic adoration to seek spiritual reparation for the damage caused by the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, said the initiative would involve dioceses, parishes, monasteries, convents and seminaries in a prayer movement to support priestly holiness.

In a particular way, the initiative will ask reparation "for the victims of grave situations of moral and sexual conduct of a very small percentage of clergy," Cardinal Hummes said in an interview Jan. 4 with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

Continue reading this article here

This is a very good, no, it is a superlative proposal! I just had to post something about it

January 5, 2008

Ethics of Shadia B. Drury

Shadia B. Drury is a writer at the University of Regina who has received attention for her critique of the Straussian neoconservatives. (For example, see Drury's Saving America: Leo Strauss and the neoconservatives). I am inclined to disagree with much that Drury says on that subject, but my present concern is to briefly discuss her views on abortion and homosexuality, with an emphasis on her misrepresentation of St. Thomas Aquinas on abortion.

Regarding abortion, Drury stated,

"I agree with St. Thomas Aquinas about abortion: it is wrong after quickening i.e. when the cells come to life and begin to move... about the fourth or fifth month... then you have a living thing...but prior to that I don't think it is wrong. But in any case, it is not the business of government...but of individuals and their conscience." (09-13-03)

Even though Drury claims familiarity with the middle ages and the writings of St. Thomas, she has significantly misrepresented the thinking of St. Thomas on abortion. So, let us take a quick peek into the high middle ages and see what facts Drury has failed to present.

Medieval biological science, following Aristotle, mistakenly believed the male pre-natal child was not sufficiently developed to be 'ensouled', and therefore human, until 40 days, while the female took about 80 days.

The position of St. Thomas is that the nutritive and sensitive souls precede the presence of the spiritual or intellectual soul. The intellectual soul, which contains within it the powers of the lower nutritive or vegetative and sensitive souls, is created directly by “God at the end of human generation, and this soul is at the same time sensitive and nutritive, the pre-existing forms being corrupted” (
S.T. Ia, q. 118, art. 2, reply 2).

St. Thomas followed the latter-day Aristotelian theory, which held that the fetus is not sufficiently developed until about 40 or 80 days for the intellectual soul. Yet, he considered abortion in the earlier stages of either the nutritive or sensitive states to be counted among those “the evil deeds” that “are contrary to nature”, (IV Commentary on the Four Books of Sentences of Peter Lombard, dist. 31, q. 2, art. 3 Exposition). Thus, for St. Thomas, abortion is a grave moral evil in the early stages of development, and clearly murder during the latter stages.

St. Thomas made reflections based on the science of his day, yet his conclusion that abortion is always a grave moral evil, is a position that remains independent of the state of science at any particular time in history. If accurate biological knowledge had been available to him, he would have considered abortion to be murder at any stage of pre-natal development.

Oddly enough, Drury’s depiction of “quickening” during “the fourth or fifth month” does not reflect the scientific knowledge of the Middles Ages, or of the present-day. And certainly, one will not find any support in the writings of St. Thomas for Drury’s assertion that abortion is morally permissible before “quickening”.

Homosexuality

Concerning homosexual relationships, Drury stated the following:

"As to homosexuality...I think there is so much hate in the world that any love at all is a good thing as long as it is not the exploitation of minors." (September 13, 2003)

I hope that Drury will not someday pretend that her inane view of homosexuality is in agreement with the ideas of St. Thomas. Nonetheless, in the interest of being forearmed, let us compare Drury’s view that homosexuality is “a good thing” with the teaching of St. Thomas on the subject.

In the Summa Theologica (
II, II, Q. 154, art. 12) St. Thomas cites St. Augustine, who said that of all "the sins belonging to lust, 'that which is against nature is the worst.' St. Thomas continues:

"In every genus, worst of all is the corruption of the principle on which the rest depend. Now the principles of reason are those things that are according to nature, because reason presupposes things as determined by nature, before disposing of other things according as it is fitting...In matters of action it is most grave and shameful to act against things as determined by nature. Therefore, since by the unnatural vices man transgresses that which has been determined by nature with regard to the use of venereal actions, it follows that in this matter this sin is the gravest of all. After it comes incest, which...is contrary to the natural respect we owe persons related to us. With regard to the other species of lust they imply a transgression merely of that which is determined by right reason, on the presumption, however, of natural principles.

"Just as the ordering of right reason proceeds from man, so the order of nature is from God Himself: Wherefore in sins contrary to nature, whereby the very order of nature is violated, an injury is done to God, the Author of nature. Hence, Augustine says (Confessions III, 8): "Those foul offenses that are against nature should be everywhere and at all times detested and punished, such as were those people of Sodom, which should all nations commit, they should all stand guilty of the same crime, by the law of God, which hath not so made men that they should so abuse one another. For even that very intercourse which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature, of which He is the Author, is polluted by the perversity of lust.""

Ms. Drury’s characterization of homosexual acts as "love" and "a good thing" is tantamount to repudiating all objective ethical standards in matters of human sexuality. The same rationale she uses to justify homosexuality easily applies to adulterous relationships, and so on. This is little more than a libertine ethic.

So, if Ms. Drury ever says she agrees with St. Thomas on some matter, just beware. Ms. Drury and St. Thomas have nothing in common.

January 4, 2008

God, Science and Logic

Can science prove that God Does not exist? is the title of a magazine article posted on the Council for Secular Humanism web site. The article is one of those articles you might read out of curiosity but soon regret that you did. The odd thing is the author, Theodore Schick, Jr., argues his points solely by the use of logical fallacies. Schick’s schtik employs the age-old trick of the ‘straw man’ fallacy. He sets up a position that misrepresent what we mean by the name “God’; he attributes that position to others, and then attacks the contrived position.

Schick begins with the following argument:

“"No one can prove an unrestricted negative" is the reply usually given to those who claim that science can prove that God does not exist. An unrestricted negative is a claim to the effect that something doesn't exist anywhere. Since no one can exhaustively examine every place in the universe, the reply goes, no one can conclusively establish the non-existence of anything.”

Contrary to what Schick asserts, the reply, “No one can prove an unrestricted negative" is atypical. It would be difficult to find a single person who holds to the position Schick is criticizing. The position assumes a false conception of God: “Since no one can exhaustively examine every place in the universe [for God]…” The statement is irrelevant to the question of God’s existence because God is an incorporeal being. And an incorporeal being cannot be in a place. Nor can we see a non-physical entity with the eyes of the body.

To summarize here, Schick misrepresents God as a corporeal being. He then attacks the “unrestricted negative” response, which is dependent on this false concept of God. None of this addresses whether science can disprove the existence of what is commonly understood by the name "God".

Supreme error…
Schick now presents a second argument:

“To prove that God does not exist, then, one only has to demonstrate that the concept of God is inconsistent. Traditional theism defines God as a supreme being—a being than which none greater can be conceived, as St. Anselm would have it. We know, however, that there is no supreme number because such a notion involves a logical contradiction. Every number is such that the number 1 can be added to it. If there were a supreme number, it would be such that the number 1 can and cannot be added to it, and that's impossible. Many believe that the notion of a supreme being is just as incoherent as the notion of a supreme number.”

There are multiple problems with this argument. For one, Schick misrepresents what we mean by the term “supreme being”. An infinite series of numbers does not contain a supreme or highest point because we can always add one more number to the series. We do not mean that God is a supreme being in this sense of highest being, but that he is that being which has no limits. For example, we say that God’s knowledge is infinite; His knowledge is limitless; His knowledge cannot diminish, and nothing can be added to it. God’s knowledge is always and forever without limit. This supreme being is greater than that which Schick can conceive.

The notion of a supreme being, one whose attributes are infinite, is “a being than which none greater can be conceived.” However, Schick equivocates on “supreme” and misrepresents what St. Anselm means by the name “God”.

Perfect justice, perfect mercy, perfectly fallacious…
Schick’s next trick is to present flawed definitions of God’s “perfect justice” and “perfect mercy”; attribute these meanings to others, and then attack the attributed notion of supreme being as internally inconsistent. He says,

“Consider, for example, the claim that god is all-good and thus both perfectly merciful and perfectly just. If he is perfectly just, he makes sure that everyone gets exactly what's coming to them. If he is perfectly merciful, he let's everyone off. But he can't do both. So the notion of a supreme being may be internally inconsistent.”

The absurdity of this argument needs no further comment.

No need for God…or Logic…
Schick continues:

“By demonstrating that God is not needed to explain anything, science has proven that there is no more reason to believe in the existence of God than to believe in the existence of phlogiston, the luminiferous ether, or Vulcan.”

This statement and the balance of the article suffer from Schick’s failure to understand and distinguish between the nature of scientific and theological knowledge. A scientific explanation cannot answer a theological question any more than a theological answer satisfies a scientific question. Natural science and theology are two distinct orders of knowledge.

The existence of God remains outside the scope and province of natural science. Science is not competent to prove or disprove God’s existence. Demonstrating the existence of God is the business of philosophy, not science. In addition, Schick’s assertion that science has demonstrated “that God is not needed to explain anything” is absolutely false. It is within the scope of the natural sciences to attempt to describe all natural phenomena. And we do not use God or theology to answer scientific questions. Neither should we use science to answer theological questions. Questions concerning the ultimate origin of the universe are not questions for the scientist to answer as a scientist.

Some cosmologists, though, e.g. Hawking and Sagan, believe their version of the Bing Bang leaves no room for God. However, this is mere speculation. Whether their speculation is ultimately intelligible is another matter. But Schick confuses speculation with demonstration, which surprises me not.

January 2, 2008

War Prayer by Mark Twain

It was a time of great exulting and excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest depths of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast doubt upon its righteousness straight way got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came – next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams – visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! – then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

"God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory – An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside – which the startled minister did – and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne – bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import – that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of – except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two – one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this – keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer – the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it – that part which the pastor – and also you in your hearts – fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with hurricanes of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

[After a pause.] "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

'Just War' and Dissent

(I wrote this article some time ago and moved it to this blog after some minor changes.)

"To defend oneself when attacked is legitimate because an unjust aggression has taken place. But a preventive war is not the same because it is a war of aggression and there is no doubt whatsoever that it does not belong to the definition of a just war, which consists of legitimate defense."
—Archbishop Renato Martino


WAR against Iraq does not meet the conditions of a just war as required by principles of the traditional Just War doctrine. Cardinal Pio Laghi, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States made it clear that this is the Church’s position on Iraq. On this point, Laghi said, “I want to emphasize that there is great unity on this grave matter on the part of the Holy See, the Bishops in the United States, and the Church throughout the world.”

I think the almost universal agreement among the Church hierarchy constitutes a moral certainty that the Iraq war is an unjust war. In addition, the critically flawed arguments of the dissenters actually serve to reinforce this position.

Despite Cardinal Laghi’s statement on the "great unity on this grave matter", various Catholic scholars such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, Deal Hudson, and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus chose to dissent from the Church and support White House plans to invade Iraq.

The efforts of Weigel and company to justify their dissenting position are occasions of scandal within and without the Church. I should add that these dissenters appear to believe in their cause, and do not intend to create scandal. (For an understanding of scandal, see the related Catholic Encyclopedia
article). Nonetheless, killing in an unjust war objectively violates the Fifth Commandment. And the dissenters’ efforts to justify a war the Church has correctly judged to be immoral misleads the consciences of Catholics and influences conduct in ways that are contrary to what is morally correct.

Unfortunately, Weigel and company are not wanting for disciples. Their devotees include
Catholics in the Military, which is no surprise. CIM has posted several articles by various dissenters. For example, you will find articles on just war thinking by George Weigel, such as Getting Just War Straight. Yet, CIM will not post articles that support the Church’s position on the Iraq war. No surprise here, either.

Soldiers that begin having doubts about the morality of the Iraq war are sure to have that small voice of conscience squelched by CIM, Weigel and company.

I was surprised to see an article by freelance writer Russell Shaw in which he said that it is not fair to call his friends dissenters. Shaw’s article was on the CIM website for some time. You can now find it here:
Iraq, Weigel and the Pope

Shaw asks,“Is it fair to call my friends Michael Novak, George Weigel, Deal Hudson and others who supported the Bush administration dissenters because they differed on this matter with the pope?"

Shaw’s question mischaracterizes the problem with his friends. Shaw's friends did not differ “with the pope” as if they were differing from the pope alone and his personal opinion. Cardinal Laghi (quoted above) correctly characterized the Church’s thinking about the war against Iraq when he referred to the “great unity on this grave matter”.

Before continuing with a discussion of Russell Shaw’s article, I should say it is to his credit that he opposes the Iraq war. Shaw gives three excellent reasons for opposing the war:

“First, U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq had been resumed and seemed to be getting some results; it was premature, to say the least, to cut that process short by going to war at this time. Second, except in the most extraordinary circumstances, regime change is not an appropriate purpose of war. Third, creating a democratic Iraq by force is a will-o'-the-wisp that the United States has no business pursuing.”

If only George Weigel and company shared Shaw’s common sense view.

Shaw next states that the pope and those who disagree with him “are expressing prudential judgments rather than matters of moral principle and Catholic doctrine.” Unfortunately, Shaw mischaracterizes the issue. Moral principles are in question, just as are prudential judgments about contingent matters. For example, Pope John Paul II clearly rejected the dissenters attempt to revise the traditional doctrine of just war. In addition, Cardinal Ratzinger addressed moral principles and Catholic doctrine when he stated that "preventive war" is not in the Catechism.

Weigel and Novak, to the contrary, promote preventive war as being morally necessary.

This is clearly a disagreement about moral principle: the dissenters attempt to justify "preventive war", while on the other hand, the Church upholds that "preventive war" is aggressive and morally impermissible.

There is no place for preventive war in the Just War doctrine. Archbishop Renato Martino rightly stated:

"To defend oneself when attacked is legitimate because an unjust aggression has taken place. But a preventive war is not the same because it is a war of aggression and there is no doubt whatsoever that it does not belong to the definition of a just war, which consists of legitimate defense."

To support favor preventive war is to dissent from traditional Just War doctrine. This is where Shaw errors by saying,

“But Novak, Weigel, Hudson and co. are, as Catholics, entitled to disagree on Iraq with me and, far more important, with Pope John Paul II.”

The first problem with Shaw's statement is that Weigel and company support their disagreement mainly with false and misleading information about Saddam Hussein and Iraq. They repeat White House war propaganda as if the statements were beyond question. For example, one only needs to read the dissenters’ articles and see how often they refer to Saddam’s WMD program and his alleged intent to use WMD. Surely, these dissenters are intelligent enough to realize there never was any good evidence for Saddam having a WMD program.

The second problem, as explained above, is that Shaw’s friends are disagreeing with traditional moral doctrine.

Shaw continues to say the Washington Times is entitled to its position on the morality of this war, "but it shouldn't talk nonsense to make its case." I agree. Similarly, I think Novak, Weigel, and Hudson are entitled to their personal opinions, but they should not mislead others by publicly expressing their nonsense. Shaw has presented us with his double standard regarding people who disagree with the pope. Friends get special consideration.

Shaw rightly faults the Washington Times for "claiming editorially that they had a better grasp of just war doctrine as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church than did the pope." Yet, is the claim made by the Washington Times any more arrogant than the claims made by Novak, Weigel, Hudson, and company? Here again, Shaw presents his double standard.

Furthermore, the Washington Times only stated explicitly what it and the dissenters have in common -- the belief in having a better understanding of Catholic Just War doctrine than does the pope and the Church at large.

In summary here, Shaw’s defense of his friends has no merit. On the other hand, Shaw’s three reasons for opposing the war against Iraq are excellent reasons.

Preventive War...
Certain dissenters have tried to dodge any criticism of their support for "preventive war". They have asserted that war on Iraq is not preventive war, preemptive war, or aggression, but rather an effort to contain Saddam's ambitions of hegemony in the region. However, this maneuver is not intellectually honest. The arguments that
Saddam must be contained by use of military reveal undeniable support for preventive war.

In the following excerpt, Cardinal James Francis Stafford discusses preemptive war and preventive war:

"...The Catechism uses three significant phrases in its teaching on a preemptive war: 'lawful self-defense', 'legitimate defense', and 'damages inflicted by an aggressor.' These phrases indicate that legitimate public authority cannot decide for war unless the nation or community of nations has undergone prior damages from an aggressor or is actually under a very imminent threat. In the 'just war' tradition resort to violence can be justified only if there is an aggression in actu.

"Furthermore, the concept of a 'preventive' war is ambiguous. 'Prevention' does not have a limit; it is a relative term and is subject to self-serving interpretations. Objective criteria must be applied with intellectual rigor. The threat must be clear, active and present not future. Nor has the American administration shown that all other options before going to war have proven impractical or ineffective."

A Single Persian Gulf War...
The dissenters construe Bush the Lesser’s invasion of Iraq not as a second war on Iraq, but as the continuation of a 12-year war. The point of this single-war strategy is that now it can be asserted the invasion of Iraq does not need moral justification because it is a continuation of the original Persian Gulf War. And the dissenters assume the initial war on Iraq met all of the conditions of a just war. However, this strategy is disingenuous.

The first problem with their argument is that it falsely assumes moral justification of the initial 12-year war on Iraq, followed by almost
daily bombings and a pitiless embargo. (Why the first Persian Gulf War did not meet all conditions of a just war needs to be discussed in a separate posting.)

The second problem is the argument fails because under its own presumption that there is only a single war against Iraq, the second Iraq war is instead considered a renewed escalation of war, and a renewed escalation must be morally justified in and of itself. However, the reasons given by the Bush Administration in favor of 'renewed escalation' were exaggerated and false.

Likewise, the dissenters' arguments in favor of war are typically dependent on statements of fact about Saddam and Iraq that are exaggerated and false.

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Recommended links:

Just War
Numerous links to articles for and against the Iraq war.

The Errors of Michael Novak
by Robert Waldrop

Bush Administration Lies for War
Americans Against World Empire

Catholic Writers Recruited to Support Bush War on Iraq
Houston Catholic Worker

'Stay the Course!' – Is Not Enough
by Patrick J. Buchanan

Losing the High Road?
by Antonio Baggio (scroll down to second article)

January 1, 2008

Has global warming stopped?

'The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 and every year since 2001'. So says an article in the New Statesman:

"Global warming stopped? Surely not. What heresy is this? Haven’t we been told that the science of global warming is settled beyond doubt and that all that’s left to the so-called sceptics is the odd errant glacier that refuses to melt?

"Aren’t we told that if we don’t act now rising temperatures will render most of the surface of the Earth uninhabitable within our lifetimes? But as we digest these apocalyptic comments, read the recent IPCC’s Synthesis report that says climate change could become irreversible. Witness the drama at Bali as news emerges that something is not quite right in the global warming camp.

"With only few days remaining in 2007, the indications are the global temperature for this year is the same as that for 2006 – there has been no warming over the 12 months.

"But is this just a blip in the ever upward trend you may ask? No.

"The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased. Temperatures across the world are not increasing as they should according to the fundamental theory behind global warming – the greenhouse effect. Something else is happening and it is vital that we find out what or else we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly."

(Read the entire article
here)

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