The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Church Militant Headlines — July 31, 2019
Anti-Catholic to figure prominently in revamped (destroyed) John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute, Stupich blames 'unfulfilled pledges' for missing $190M+.
A Bit of Monarchist Humour
H/T to a member of the Facebook group, Catholic Monarchist League.
Republicans: In order to preserve tradition and culture we need, ...
Monarchist: A King, a Queen, a royal bloodline and the Catholic Church
Republicans: In order to preserve tradition and culture we need, ...
Monarchist: A King, a Queen, a royal bloodline and the Catholic Church
Apropos My Last Post
Why the Death Penalty Teaching Change Is a Perfect Doctrinal Trojan Horse
If Francis can change the Infallible Magisterium on the death penalty, EVERYTHING is up for grabs, Christology, sexual morality, all of it!
From One Peter Five
By Steve Skojec
From One Peter Five
By Steve Skojec
I’ve already written at length about the longstanding Catholic teaching about the death penalty and why Pope Francis is wrong in his attempts to change it. I won’t, therefore, rehash those arguments here.
For the purposes of this particular debate, what matters most is for Catholics to understand that the authority for civil powers to use the death penalty exists, that its proper use is not intrinsically evil, that this truth has been divinely revealed, and that it has also been magisterially affirmed. This is, therefore, an infallible, irreformable teaching of the Church.
For those who would like to see more theological substantiation, Dr. Edward Feser, who co-authored a book on this topic with Dr. Joseph Bessette, argued persuasively in an article last year at Catholic World Report with specific reference to statements made by Pope Francis. Dr. John Joy, who wrote the best explanation I’ve ever read on the proper understanding of the modes and exercises of the Magisterium, also wrote in support of Feser’s argument.
And even the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, who was opposed to the death penalty, wrote in his essay, “Seven Reasons America Shouldn’t Execute”:
If the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice, he would be overthrowing the tradition of two millennia of Catholic thought, denying the teaching of several previous popes, and contradicting the teaching of Scripture (notably in Genesis 9:5–6 and Romans 13:1–4).
None of this is to say acceptance of the teaching requires that Catholics be enthusiastic about the application of the death penalty.
Within the context of the Church’s teaching, there’s room for debate about the prudential application of capital punishment. There are valid arguments to be had about when it can be licitly used, and in which circumstances. What is not permissible, however, is to deny the truth of the matter: God has affirmed that the state has the right, in principle, to use lethal force against individuals in retribution for crimes and in defense of the common good — and that, as some of the saints and doctors of the Church have taught, acceptance of that penalty by him who is to be executed can serve as the means of expiation of temporal punishment due for his sins.
This is why it is so troubling that Pope Francis has attacked the death penalty, calling it “always inadmissible” and “contrary to the Gospel.” He has condemned his predecessors in the papal office for allowing it, accusing them of ignoring the “primacy of mercy over justice,” and has commanded that language representing his view be inserted in the Catechism, replacing the prior teaching.
The implication of the term “inadmissible” is that use of the death penalty is forbidden by the moral law, for in what other instance could a pope say an action permits no moral exception but the case of intrinsic evil (cf. Veritatis Splendor 82).
And yet, as Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has said he opposes the use of the death penalty in most cases, stated in 2005 (emphasis added):
The death penalty is not intrinsically evil. Both Scripture and long Christian tradition acknowledge the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances. The Church cannot repudiate that without repudiating her own identity.
So what are we to make of this?
A Doctrinal Trojan Horse
Whatever Pope Francis believes about the death penalty, he is powerless to change the teaching. He is the inheritor and guarantor of the Deposit of Faith, not the originator or arbiter of it.
Some have argued that he is not making the case that the death penalty is intrinsically evil, or he would have said so. Space does not permit a re-examination of our pope’s penchant for weaponized ambiguity, but suffice it to say I believe he has been very, very clever here in both what he has said and what he has not.
Clearly, he isn’t issuing a simple prudential judgment on this matter. In the first place, the pope is not omniscient. He cannot say with certitude that he knows the situation in every prison in every nation, state, and city, and that what was once considered a moral recourse can no longer be considered so because of a universal change in conditions. The reality is manifestly different. Focusing only on the ability to nullify the threat posed by violent criminals, a glance at the prison systems of just the First World shows we’ve not come close to eliminating the dangers posed by those we have incarcerated. Prison rapes, riots, assaults, and murders remain a serious problem. If we turn our attention to less advanced and prosperous nations, we find prisons in utter disrepair, with deplorable conditions where extreme violence is hardly uncommon. We have unquestionably not reached a moment in time when we can declare an end to the need to render the worst criminals harmless for the sake of the common good.
Logic dictates, therefore, that the pope must be advocating an absolute moral principle. This is what the language he uses implies. Fr. George Rutler agrees:
Pope Francis uses the term “inadmissible” to describe the death penalty, although it has no theological substance, and by avoiding words such as “immoral” or “wrong”, inflicts on discourse an ambiguity similar to parts of Amoris Laetitia. The obvious meaning is that capital punishment is intrinsically evil, but to say so outright would be too blatant. He also calls all life “inviolable,” a term which applies only to innocent life and has no moral warrant otherwise. Then there is the ancillary and unmentioned consideration of the role of punishment and hell in all this, conjuring a suspicion of universalism, which is the denial of eternal alienation from God.
The pope’s phrasing manages to be just vague enough to narrowly avoid direct charges of heresy while being obvious enough in its intent to make clear exactly what this is: a direct refutation of Catholic doctrine.
I don’t believe that the choice to attempt a reversal on this particular issue is at all accidental.
In fact, it is a perfect opportunity to do something critical in the advancement of his “reform” agenda.
The death penalty is unpopular, even in a society steeped in moral justifications for abortion and euthanasia. Pope John Paul II helped make it so with Catholics — including many conservatives. If you support the Church’s traditional teaching on this issue, you will wind up on the receiving end of accusations like this:
Fr. Horan is a noted progressive thought leader in the Church, but you can count on hearing this exact sort of language from other, less ideologically driven Catholics, too.
This particular deck is stacked, and that’s an advantage the pope is making use of.
By selecting a teaching a majority of people — including many in the hierarchy — are at least prudentially opposed to, and then changing it in the Catechism, Francis has signaled something extremely significant:
We can change this teaching, because the Church was wrong about it in the past. And if the Church could be wrong about this moral issue, she can be wrong about any of them. That means we can change those, too.
If the goal here is, as I suspect, to dismantle the teaching authority and credibility of the Church on matters of faith and morals, the death penalty teaching is the perfect vehicle to accomplish that. It is a custom-made Trojan horse designed to carry the forces in support of doctrinal and dogmatic relativism into the heart of the Church for a critical victory.
The fact remains that a change in the Catechism isn’t truly a magisterial act, but many will see it that way. It’s also not anywhere near rising to the level of an ex cathedrastatement, but when we rely on legal distinctions such as these to console ourselves, it feels like splitting hairs.
It may be technically true that the pope didn’t violate the protections of infallibility, but it is practically true that the vast majority of Catholics will believe that this unchangeable teaching has nevertheless been officially changed. It’s not just an interview or a homily this time. It’s in the one book most Catholics have been taught to rely upon with certitude for the better part of the past 30 years. We will see the revised Catechism cited against us when we attempt to defend the perennial teaching. They will even call us schismatic for “refusing to obey the pope” and not accepting this new “truth.”
And we already know where else logic like this might take us in the near future.
Remember Fr. Chiodi, the priest from the papally revamped Pontifical Academy for Life, who said in a 2016 lecture that there are “circumstances — I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 — that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception”?
That argument hasn’t been advanced any further yet. But now there’s precedent.
Or how about Bishop Erwin Kräutler, a primary architect of the Amazon Synod, who has argued that Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which definitively precludes female priests, “is not a dogma and does not even have the weight of an encyclical”?
Do we really believe that this is an issue that will be left alone indefinitely?
Close papal ally Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has indicated that he agrees, to some extent, with both of these men. Schönborn allowed his official diocesan website to publish articles that signal favor for overturning Humanae Vitae, without offering a defense of the traditional teaching. He personally proposed that the ordination of women is still possible — though he later backtracked after significant outcry, saying he was only considering the ordination of female deacons.
Only ordaining female deacons…which would still mean including them in Holy Orders.
This is how the game appears to work: propose an idea that pushes the envelope, test the response, retreat if the opposition is overwhelming. Often, even in retreat, they wind up much farther along than they started. “Oh, I didn’t mean female priests, just female deacons! And obviously we need to abandon priestly celibacy, too…” It’s a perpetual Hegelian dialectic, always pushing to take two steps forward, still advancing if they have to take one step back.
It’s unclear how far open the “official” position change on the death penalty kicks the door, but we’d be foolish to think other unchangeable things won’t be following it through at some point in the not too distant future. The Amazon Synod is almost certainly the next place they’ll try it.
BREAKING: Apple News Bans LifeSite Without Warning: ‘Shows Intolerance’
PLEASE SHARE!!! More censorship! Please sign the petition!
Respectfully ask Apple to reinstate LifeSite’s Apple News channel. Sign the petition here.
Respectfully ask Apple to reinstate LifeSite’s Apple News channel. Sign the petition here.
July 31, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A little over one week ago, Apple approved LifeSiteNews’ application to publish our news on their Apple News platform.
Today, without warning, Apple News abruptly reversed course, telling LifeSite that they had deleted our channel and all of our content from their platform.
Apple claimed that LifeSite’s channel “didn't comply with our Apple News guidelines.” Specifically, they stated that LifeSite’s “[c]hannel content shows intolerance towards a specific group.”
Apple’s e-mail provided no details about which content they deemed offensive, or which “specific group” LifeSite’s content allegedly showed intolerance towards.
LifeSite has reached out to Apple News for further details about their decision, which we intend to appeal.
Apple News is an app that is available on all Apple devices. It aggregates news content from thousands of publishers. Apple users can “follow” their favorite news sites and receive customized updates.
Conservatives have expressed alarm in recent years that a small number of large tech giants, often located in predominantly left-wing jurisdictions, are acting as gatekeepers to an increasing amount of the world’s information.
“We don’t yet know the reason for Apple’s decision to delete our channel,” said LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen. “However, at a time when there is growing evidence that tech juggernauts are engaging in concerted censorship against even mainstream conservative viewpoints, Apple’s decision – made unilaterally, and without opportunity to appeal – is frightening.”
“It goes without saying that LifeSite would never promote intolerance or hatred against any group,” Westen continued. “However, in our current divisive political climate, even mild expressions of common conservative viewpoints are often written off as de facto hatred and intolerance. We certainly hope that this is not what Apple is doing. However, we urge our readers to contact Apple, and to respectfully demand that they reinstate LifeSite’s channel.”
LifeSiteNews has created a petition that people can sign to express their opinions to Apple about this decision. Sign the petition here.
LifeSiteNews first applied to publish on the Apple News platform – billed as a neutral news aggregator – last November. It took over six months, and dozens of follow-up requests, before LifeSite’s channel was finally approved earlier this month
The Catechism of the Summa - The Second Part: Of Man (Who Came from God and Who Must Return to God) FIRST SECTION: General outline of Man's return to God. I. OF MAN'S RESEMBLANCE TO GOD IN THE FREE ADMINISTRATION OF ALL THAT CONCERNS HIM
I. OF MAN'S RESEMBLANCE TO GOD IN THE FREE ADMINISTRATION OF ALL THAT CONCERNS HIM
Has man any special likeness to God in his actions?
Yes, man in his actions has a special likeness to God.
In what consists this special likeness of man to God?
It consists in this, that just as God disposes of all the universe which depends upon Him, at His will and in all liberty, so in the same way man disposes at his will and in all liberty of all things that depend upon him (Prologue).
(This is no longer being shared from the Kindle edition. I'm now sharing from the Jacques Maritain Center, at the University of Notre Dame.)
The Catholic Case for Sticking a Fork in the Jesuits
Last November , Mr Foye wrote In Defense of the Jesuit Order (Sort Of), for One Peter Five. He takes it all back.
From One Peter Five
By Ken Foye
From One Peter Five
By Ken Foye
As I write this piece, I am wearing around my neck my St. Francis Xavier medal. I wear it almost always. At home, at work, at Mass, even while working out at the gym or playing hockey, it is always there near my heart, literally.
While I admire and venerate all the saints, Francis is my personal patron saint. After all, he brought Catholicism to Japan, where I have lived for the majority of my adult life, and where I reverted to the Faith after having fallen away during much of my early adulthood. For my wife, an adult convert to the Faith, Japan is also her homeland.
St. Francis Xavier was a dynamic and courageous bearer of the Catholic Faith to Japan and other faraway lands. He was one of those people who took Matthew 28:19–20 ever so seriously and dedicated his life to its divine command.
St. Francis Xavier was, in short, a spiritual giant. He was also a Jesuit.
Last November, I wrote a OnePeterFive piece on the Society of Jesus and how, despite the lack of adherence to Catholic teaching on the part of so many of the order’s current members, we should pray for them and for the Jesuits’ spiritual and catechetical renewal.
I wrote how — despite the errors and heresies commonly pushed by Jesuits these days — we owed it to the legacy of the great Jesuits of the past to encourage and pray for the Society’s return to authentic Catholicism.
Now I take it all back. The Society of Jesus needs to be done away with, and fast.
I’m sure there are more than a few “good Jesuits” — that is, men within the Society who actually believe in the entirety of the Catholic faith and make sincere efforts to advance it. Fr. Mitch Pacwa leaps to mind, and no doubt there are others. But even one drop of arsenic can cause an entire bowl of soup to become fatally toxic — and with the Jesuits, we’re dealing with not just one drop of figurative poison, but many.
The latest drop of spiritual arsenic is this: the Jesuit magazine America has published a feature opinion piece called “The Catholic Case for Communism” by its Toronto correspondent, David Dettloff.
That’s right: the Society of Jesus’s pre-eminent periodical has decided to run a propagandistic screed, whose author gushes and fawns all over the most oppressive and blood-shedding socioeconomic and political system in the history of the world.
That does it for me. Whatever soft spot I held for the Jesuits on account of their noble and faithfully Catholic past, inspired by the great faith and heroic activities of its past saints and martyrs, has just gone out the window.
When it comes to Catholic doctrinal, moral, and social teaching, these guys are, as a group, incorrigible. Giving a voice in the Society’s magazine to a guy who defends and excuses world history’s most totalitarian and violent system of government is just the latest evidence of that.
Dettloff is not a Jesuit himself, but that the Jesuits who publish America gave his powder-puff treatment of communism a platform makes them guilty by association.
The editor of America — Fr. Matt Malone, who unlike Dettloff actually is a Jesuit — is, not surprisingly, defending the publication of this pro-communism propaganda piece on just-encouraging-discussion grounds. Dettloff’s piece was published, Malone writes in a separate why-we-did-it piece run on the same day, out of what he calls a “willingness to hear views with which we may disagree but that we nonetheless think are worth hearing.”
Wrong. Some views and ideas are not worth hearing or discussing. Some ideologies are so pathological and morally warped that they do not deserve being listened to or paid any intellectual attention — and communism is one of them. “It should be as discreditable to say that you’re a Marxist as it is to say that you’re a Nazi,” says University of Toronto professor (and internet star) Jordan Peterson, adding, “We’ve got 100 million corpses stacked up to demonstrate that.”
Peterson’s figure actually understates things — the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation puts the death toll at over 100 million. When we consider the total number of lives ruined by the direct acts of communist regimes, we’re talking thousands of millions.
And how long did it take communists to rack up these historically unparalleled levels of death and oppression? Only about 100 years.
Dettloff doesn’t let his readers in on that inconvenient historical truth. Neither do the Jesuits who put out America. The closest Dettloff comes to acknowledging communism’s horribly violent history is to write (almost in passing, as if he’s just “checking the box” so as to avoid complete denial) that communism has made “mistakes.”
How this sort of twisted logic can be allowed expression on the pages of any so-called Catholic publication — or indeed, in any publication run by anyone with even a modest number of ethical molecules in his body — is beyond me.
I wonder if America Magazine, in the name of “hearing views with which we may disagree,” would allow publication of an essay that attempted to justify, in whatever way possible, some other sociological and ethical train wreck, such as racial segregation.
Would Fr. Malone ever accept a pro-segregation essay for publication, while distancing himself from its contents by playing the “we’re just encouraging discussion” card? Of course he wouldn’t. That’s because some ideas and opinions are simply too twisted and morally unacceptable to even consider. If racial segregation is one such idea — and it is! — then communism clearly qualifies as one as well. As horrible as racial segregation was, at least it didn’t result in the deaths of scores of millions. Communism did.
One could write a book detailing everything wrong with Dettloff’s propaganda piece, but his attempt to present Communism as compatible with Christianity is particularly loathsome.
Acts 4:35 and Acts 11:29, the two Scripture verses cited by Dettloff in order to justify communism from a Christian view, are clearly talking about voluntary charitable giving. Does Dettloff really think those verses justify the idea of a central dictatorial government forcibly commanding the redistribution of wealth and resources at the point of a gun?
The Jesuits have to go. Communism is an impersonal, exploitative, murderous ideology that has been flatly condemned by every pope since the 1840s, all the way up to, yes, even Pope Francis. Pope Pius IX denounced the ideology more than six decades before it was ever even implemented anywhere. Even back then, the Church saw how sinister it was. In 1949, Pope Pius XII declared support for communism in any way to be an excommunicable offense — and no pope since has ever lifted that sanction. As such, this ideology deserves no intellectual courtesy — and for America Magazine to give it such treatment is just the latest act of Jesuit moral and spiritual incorrigibility.
It’s long past time to stick a fork in these guys. They should be done.
I mentioned the great Jesuits of the past. I detailed in my November 1P5 piece that we owed it to their memory “to support not the Society’s destruction, but its spiritual and doctrinal rehabilitation.” Disbanding the Society of Jesus, I wrote back then, would be a “mistake.”
Again, I take that back. That was nine months ago, at a time when I never imagined that the Jesuits’ flagship publication would “grace” its pages with a pro-communist screed.
This gush-and-fawn piece of Dettloff’s isn’t just the work of some or independent columnist or blogger writing on his own. It was written by one of the America Magazine’s regular correspondents; submitted to the Jesuit editors for review; and then not only approved for publication, but even placed under the category “Faith Features.”
And then consider the headline: “The Catholic Case for Communism.” The Jesuit powers that be at America Magazine actually entertain the idea that a “Catholic case” can be made in favor of something for which, technically, at least, Catholics can be excommunicated for supporting.
Take a minute or two to really let that sink in.
At this point, it would actually befit the legacy of the great Jesuits of the past to do away with this smarmy, heretical bunch. The current crop of Jesuits — a great many of them, anyway — have chosen to continually stomp on the very faith that Francis Xavier and all the other great Jesuits dedicated their lives to living and to spreading. Putting a stop to it would, at this point, be the best way to honor their memory.
I mentioned the “good Jesuits” like Fr. Pacwa. Like the great Jesuits of the past, they deserve better than to be associated with this gang of spiritual arsonists. Just as I can’t imagine how someone like James Martin is allowed to still be a functioning Catholic priest, I can’t imagine how a good priest like Fr. Pacwa ever got involved with this agitating, dissident outfit in the first place.
So let’s see them broken up. Surely, arrangements can be made for “good Jesuits” like Fr. Pacwa to be taken in by other religious communities and allowed to live out their vows with them. As for James Martin and Matt Malone and their ilk, they should be allowed to sully the legacy of St. Francis Xavier and the other Jesuit legends no longer.
The James Martins of the Jesuit order are certainly not irredeemable as men — none of us is. We should continue to pray every day for them and for their souls. But the institution, the Society of Jesus, has simply departed too far from the mission with which it was charged by the very Lord and God whom its name references. It’s time to uproot that weed and toss it where it belongs.
Nine months ago, I issued a “Make the Jesuits Great Again” rallying cry right here on 1P5. I wrote that disbanding the order, something that’s been advocated by many faithful Catholics for quite some time, would be “an exercise in surrender.” But some battles must be surrendered in the short term in order to win the long-term war of Catholic renewal.
I don’t expect the disbanding of the Jesuits to happen any time soon, if ever, and certainly not in my lifetime. If it did, though, I’d continue to wear my St. Francis Xavier medal and retain him as my personal patron saint — and while I’m not one to speak for such a holy saint, I imagine he’d be glad that this dead twig of an institution was finally pruned from the tree of the Catholic Faith.
"Day With Mary" - 5 July 2014 - St Maria Goretti and the Eucharist
Fr. Giles speaks on the Eucharist during the "Day With Mary" held at St. Patrick's Basilica in Fremantle, Western Australia on 5 July 2014.
Catechism of St Pius X - The Sacraments - The Sacrament of Penance - Indulgences
124 Q. What is an Indulgence?
A. An Indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due on account of our sins which have been already pardoned as far as their guilt is concerned — a remission accorded by the Church outside the sacrament of Penance.
125 Q. From whom has the Church received the power to grant Indulgences?
A. The Church has received the power to grant Indulgences from Jesus Christ.
126 Q. In what way does the Church by means of Indulgences remit this temporal punishment?
A. The Church by means of Indulgences remits this temporal punishment by applying to us the superabundant merits of Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Virgin and of the Saints, which constitute what is known as the Treasure of the Church.
127 Q. Who has the power to grant Indulgences?
A. The Pope alone has the power to grant Indulgences in the whole Church, and the Bishop in his own diocese, according to the faculty given him by the Pope.
128 Q. How many kinds of Indulgences are there?
A. Indulgences are of two kinds: plenary and partial.
129 Q. What is a plenary Indulgence?
A. A plenary Indulgence is that by which the whole temporal punishment due to our sins is remitted. Hence, if one were to die after having gained such an Indulgence, he would go straight to Heaven, being, as he is, perfectly exempt from the pains of Purgatory.
130 Q. What is a partial Indulgence?
A. A partial Indulgence is that by which is remitted only a part of the temporal punishment due to our sins.
131 Q. Why does the Church grant Indulgences?
A. In granting Indulgences the Church intends to aid our incapacity to expiate all the temporal punishment in this world, by enabling us to obtain by means of works of piety and Christian charity that which in the first ages Christians gained by the rigour of Canonical penances.
132 Q. What is meant by an Indulgence of forty or a hundred days or of seven years, and the like?
A. By an Indulgence of forty or a hundred days, or of seven years and the like, is meant the remission of so much of the temporal punishment as would have been paid by penances of forty or a hundred days, or seven years, anciently prescribed in the Church.
133 Q. What value should we set on Indulgences?
A. We should set the greatest value on Indulgences because by them we satisfy the justice of God and obtain possession of Heaven sooner and more easily.
134 Q. Which are the conditions necessary to gain Indulgences?
A. The conditions necessary to gain Indulgences are: (1) The state of grace (at least at the final completion of the work), and freedom from those venial faults, the punishment of which we wish to cancel; (2) The fulfilment of all the works the Church enjoins in order to gain the Indulgence; (3) The intention to gain it.
135 Q. Can Indulgences be applied also to the souls in Purgatory?
A. Yes, Indulgences can be applied also to the souls in Purgatory, when he who grants them says that they may be so applied.
136 Q. What is a Jubilee?
A. A Jubilee, which as a rule is granted every twenty-five years, is a Plenary Indulgence to which are attached many privileges and special concessions, such as that of being able to obtain absolution from certain reserved sins and from censures, and the commutation of certain vows.
Next - Catechism of St Pius X - The Sacraments - The Sacrament of Extreme Unction
Pius X, Pope St.. Catholic Catechism of Saint Pius X (1908) (pp. 89-91). Kindle Edition.
Word of the Day: Patriarchal Theory
PATRIARCHAL THEORY. Political rulers are divinely designated leaders in civil society because of their natural endowments. The theory arose in modern times to counteract the excesses of the French Revolution and avoid the pitfalls of the divine right of kings, without admitting the democratic basis of civil government. Espoused by, among others, D'Azeglio Luigi Taparelli (1793-1862), it seems to have been more a description of how many governments are formed (from the top down) than a theoretical analysis of the origins of political authority.
Communities of Those Who Have Nothing in Common or How Long Do Liberal Societies Last?
The contrast between Jefferson's atomistic, individualist view of society and Fr Luigi Taparelli, SJ's Catholic view, rooted in the sociability of man and subsidiarity.
From Philosophy at AMU
By Joseph G. Trabbic
From Philosophy at AMU
By Joseph G. Trabbic
I borrow the first part of this post’s title from a book of Alphonso Lingis (save for the fact that I have pluralized “community”). But my use of the phrase has nothing to do – has nothing in common, you might say – with Lingis’s book (which is a series of reflections on his travels in south Asia). And, to be honest, I don’t particularly like Lingis’s work. But let me get on with what I do want to talk about…
Unity is a transcendental, that is, it is convertible with being. This means that to exist is to be unified and vice-versa. The degree to which something tends to disintegrate, to the same degree it tends toward nothingness. This seems obvious: a vase that falls and is smashed to pieces on the floor ceases to exist; there is no longer a vase but a thousand pieces of what used to be a vase.
There are different forms of unity; unity is not necessarily homogeneity. The vase is fairly homogeneous but the human body, say, is not. But there does have to be something in common among the constituent members of the thing in question.
Liberal societies – societies that emphasize freedom and equality as the fundamental goods – are designed to hold together groups of people who have diverse beliefs and lifestyles. Of course, a liberal society need not, in fact, be composed of such diversity; the point is that it is meant to permit such diversity and still continue in existence. Liberal societies are designed to sustain becoming, as it were, communities of those who have nothing in common although any given society that is de jure liberal may be composed of citizens whose beliefs and lifestyles do not differ radically.
But how diverse can liberal societies become before they fall apart? After all, liberal societies, no matter how much they may desire it, are not exempt from the laws of being.
Let’s ask a more particular question along these same lines. How diverse can the beliefs of the citizens of a liberal society (or, I guess, any society) become before they can no longer peaceably live together?
Thomas Jefferson, at least in some remarks in his Notes on the State of Virginia, seems to think that this is not a serious question. He appears to feel that this is the genius of a liberal society, namely, it does not matter what my fellow citizens believe; everyone is free to believe what he or she wishes. “But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg,” writes Jefferson (Notes, Query XVII). What he says in the sequel to this statement makes it evident that he is not only thinking of freedom of religious belief but freedom of opinion in general.
Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere: the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. This error however at length prevailed, the earth became a globe, and Descartes declared it was whirled round its axis by a vortex. The government in which he lived was wise enough to see that this was no question of civil jurisdiction, or we should all have been involved by authority in vortices. In fact, the vortices have been exploded, and the Newtonian principle of gravitation is now more firmly established, on the basis of reason, than it would be were the government to step in, and to make it an article of necessary faith. Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them. It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter (Query XVII).
Jefferson’s point here is that government should not be in the business of regulating the inquiries of reason. And of course there is a sense in which he is right about this although it is a complex matter. Jefferson thinks that the free market of opinions will regulate itself. Thus, in connection with religion, he observes:
Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves (Query XVII).
While it is undoubtedly true that civil (and sometimes uncivil) discourse does normally function as an arbiter of the true and the false and that many people adjust their beliefs according to evidence and rational persuasion, there is still the question of how long a society can survive as diversity of belief in it grows. Again, this question seems to be a non-starter for Jefferson.
Let’s consider a somewhat different point of view. In his Saggio teoretico di dritto naturale the famous Jesuit critic of the Italian Risorgimento, Luigi Taparelli, writes:
No one can deny that man’s moral action is guided by his beliefs; that, as a consequence, diversity in beliefs leads to diversity in action; that this diversity, when it develops to a certain degree, damages and ruins a society (I, §890).
Taparelli’s claim would seem almost too obvious to require articulation. Don’t my beliefs always guide my actions? It is not just a matter of my beliefs about important things. If I believe that I have some gin left for a martini I will open the liquor cabinet to get it. If I believe that my car is low on oil, I will get it changed. As for more important things – if I believe that the Ten Commandments set down moral truths, I will live according to them.
But, it will be objected, I don’t always act according to my beliefs. I may announce or imply that I hold the Ten Commandments to be normative, but in my practice this may not be borne out.
Well, I don’t think Taparelli is talking about what we profess to believe but what we really believe. And surely we do act according to the latter.
It might be further be objected that I don’t always act on beliefs but just as often, and perhaps more often, I act on knowledge. I see that there is gin in the liquor cabinet, so I get it for the martini.
In the above quote Taparelli uses the term credere, which we would normally translate as “to believe” or “believing.” But he is using credere in a very broad sense since in the above remarks there is a parenthetical reference (which I left out) back to an earlier part of the Saggio (§100) where he uses the term conoscere (“to know” or “knowing”) in place of credere as that which guides our action. I believe that we can conclude, then, that what Taparelli is saying is that we act according to our understanding of things, whatever term you want to use for “understanding” (“belief,” “knowledge,” “grasp,” etc.). He is not here concerned with an epistemological distinction between what is known and what is merely believed. And this is how I am using “belief” in this post, and I think Jefferson would go along with this too.
We could continue with the objections, but I don’t want to get too far off course. What Taparelli is proposing is simply this: since our beliefs guide our actions, what we believe will not be an indifferent matter, socially speaking. We know that people believed different things about slavery, for instance, in the U.S. in the nineteenth century and this was not without consequence.
Is Jefferson not naive, therefore, when he supposes that the beliefs of his fellow citizens will have no ill effect on him? Indeed, it depends on what those beliefs are. But to assume that belief – our understanding of things – will not affect how we live, what we do (to others and ourselves), seems quite stupid.
So, to answer our question – How long can liberal societies survive diversity of belief? – I would suggest that they can survive for as long as the citizens’ beliefs don’t lead to lifestyles that are too radically different. To put this another way, I don’t think it is practically possible for liberal societies to realize the dream of surviving as communities of those who have nothing in common. There is a breaking point. People will, intelligently, not wish to live together with others whose lifestyles are so antithetical to their own.
This is not a refutation of liberal political theory (although I am, admittedly, very skeptical of it). Much more than this elementary reflection would be needed for that. Nor is it an argument against social and political toleration of erroneous beliefs or morally questionable lifestyles. No human community could survive without a sufficient amount of such tolerance. You might say that what I am engaged in here is merely an “exploration” of the limits of liberalism.
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