A Very Long Lent

As Catholics and Americans, it’s clear from recent events that we have just embarked upon a long and dangerous Lent. It’s a secular Lent, with no resurrection promised, with tempting spirits aplenty, and no guarantee we will refuse their bread transformed from stones, their angels to cushion our fall, their kingdoms on offer for kneeling before the world. The hungrier we become, the more reckless we will get, more likely to worship would-be “saviors.”
The liturgical season itself drags on long enough, and if you take it seriously it can seem to last forever. But it has a definite ending, set down in black and white — the black vestments of Good Friday, the white dawn of Easter lilies and candles. As hard as we try to recapture the grief of the apostles and Our Lady on Good Friday, to join ourselves to Jesus as He cries, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?,” there’s always a cushion in the back of our minds: We know the story’s ending. As we watch with Christ an hour this Thursday, or meditate upon His seven last words on Friday, at the very lowest point in this bleakest, hostless liturgy. . . we can’t quite forget that “death is swallowed up in victory.” We have that advantage over the apostles.
Not so in worldly affairs. Societies, even Christian societies, really have collapsed. Catholic missions to pagan empires that came achingly close to mass success — in Japan, in China — have failed thanks to human mistakes, to hubris or corruption, and ended in massacres. More tragic than those who died horribly as martyrs are those who succumbed to fear, who traded (as most of us would) the integrity of faith for a few more years of “quantity time.” Catholic nations have lost the Faith, as the English did, under slow, relentless pressure from their governments. Still others have weathered persecution nobly, then greeted the dawn of freedom with a yawn. The faith that sustained my Irish ancestors through the Famine in time of feast seems childish, a bogeyman of the past that adds local color — like the leprechauns.
As Americans we like to think that we’re exceptional, that our nation is some unique, divine experiment, immune to the laws of history. (We’re not the first nation to think so, and we’re unlikely to be the last.) The events of the past eight years have disproved this charming theory. It turns out we really can’t impose modernity and liberalism on a civilization of a billion through either force or farce; neither the Pentagon nor Hollywood seem likely to turn the Dar al-Islam into one more interchangeable piece of a globalized, peaceful McWorld. Nor can we live in prosperity forever without making anything — trading for cheap imports our cleverness at finagling finances. One needn’t think all lending at interest sinful, nor even reject the market economy, to see that the hucksterism that passed for investment wizardry on Wall Street amounted at last to usury. Nor can we count on the order and stability of a society that has undermined its very building block — the family — through sexual revolution, incessant contraception, and easy divorce. Anarchy begins at home.
American Catholics think that we too are exempt; at no point since the Nativist riots of the 1850s have we endured any serious persecution. The closest thing to an organized attack on our nation’s Catholics was the passage of Prohibition — for which we repaid America by supporting Franklin Roosevelt. To be fair, our bishops helped infuse the New Deal with pro-family policies, and for a few decades there it looked like we might well make the Democrats into Christian Democrats. Indeed, it seemed to as jaundiced an observer as Evelyn Waugh that the fusion of Catholicism and Americanism might well form the wave of the future. There were no other Christian creeds that made a serious bid to provide America’s civic conscience; our country’s founding Puritanism was so inhuman that it dissolved into Unitarianism. Evangelical Protestantism had plenty of heart but seemingly never grew a brain. Mainline Protestantism degenerated via the Social Gospel into a weak-tea progressive politics — temperance, eugenicist, and assorted Wilsonian meddlings.
From the apex of our influence as part of the Cold War anti-Communist coalition, it must have seemed in 1960 that Catholics really were on the verge of assuming the mantle as America’s new leadership class. The Kennedys, in their support of the Cold War and their efforts on behalf of Civil Rights, seemed to serve as the voice of steadfast political prudence and abstract moral principle — the very fusion favored by great Catholic statesmen over the centuries, from Constantine to Charles V, from Lord Acton to Adenauer. Could Catholics step in and teach America how to balance order and justice, tradition and innovation, the common good and individual freedom?
We know now it was all a mirage. As Philip Lawler has revealed, at the same time the Kennedys were following Catholic teaching by opposing segregation, they were also gathering liberal theologians to prepare the way for Roe v. Wade. This didn’t set them apart from the rest of the Catholic elites; instead of serving as America’s moral conscience, discerning which causes of social “reform” were just and which were groundless, our leadership class in the universities was signing on with a leftist social agenda across the board. Hence, when the main goals of the Civil Rights movement had been achieved, our leaders with few exceptions signed onto the next “reform” movement, “Women’s Liberation,” which borrowed its central demand — legal abortion — from the population controllers and eugenicists.
The Catholics who said “Heck no!” — including the most fervent and faithful — were frozen out of the schools, thrown out of seminaries, and reduced to attending Wanderer conferences and homeschooling their kids a few blocks from the Catholic academies they’d helped build. This faithful, angry “remnant” would soon find itself in hock to Republicans disdainful of other Catholic principles — such as just war theory. When the hype machine that lied America into the Iraq war started churning, it was all too easy for most of us who’d found our aid and comfort from secular nationalists and fideistic Protestants to convince ourselves to support the war — if only out of political expedience. “What harm could it do? WMDs or no WMDs, even if ‘preventive war’ violates some non-infallible encyclical, we’ll give them their war in return for the next three Supreme Court justices,” I remember people saying — under their breath.
Now “the Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.” The unpopular, hideously expensive Iraq war helped destroy the fortunes of pro-life candidates in every branch of government. It elected a president who will surely have the chance to stack the Supreme Court, rendering the life issue moot for a lifetime. The money poured down that Middle Eastern hole would surely come in handy right now — as we weather an economic collapse of bipartisan provenance. Meanwhile, gay marriage has spread from Massachusetts to the Midwest, and the taxes our children must pay for our current spending spree will make it ruinously expensive to procreate and educate. And the leaders of our “trademark” Catholic university are cringing before the power of the newly anointed prince of this part of the world. “We adore you, O mighty sultan, and beg for your protection.”
A long Lent, and more to come..

John Zmirak

By

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    The vestments on Good Friday are red. (In the Ordinary Form.)

  • Joe H

    John,

    I must say that this time around you managed to hit several notes that do resonate with me. Though I imagine we will always disagree about immigration – sharply disagree – I’m with you on Iraq and usury, all the way smilies/smiley.gif

    What I am less sure about is the “muscular” Catholicism you seem to promote as the alternative. I think it really is time for Catholics to approach society with an understanding that it is far closer in resemblance to pagan Rome than Christendom. Accordingly we cannot take lessons from the Crusades, but from the early Church.

    I was quite disheartened by the development, for instance, of the town of “Ave Maria” in Florida. It looks like a carbon copy of Scottsdale AZ, only snootier. Catholics must once again prove that their challenge to the secular pagan world does not primarily emanate from how much weight it can throw around in a political campaign, or by threatening to withdraw into our own version of Mormon Utah, but by the lengths we are willing to go to love and care for all those who are thrown away or forgotten by our pagan society.

    It means getting over the middle class fears and prejudices that separate us and keep us distant from the impoverished, the criminals, the elderly, even the immigrants. It means in short doing exactly those things that Christ clearly explained would place us in his right hand on the day of judgment; getting our hands dirty among the lowest of the low. I think history proves that whenever Christians have done this, God has rewarded them – and when they have not, well, it seems He lets the world have its way with them.

  • John Jakubczyk

    Joe, H,

    why are you picking on Scottsdale? for those of us who live in Scottsdale, there is more to it than the stereotypical slanders that address a certain part of the new city. Indeed the concerns you raise are borne by the real work of such parish groups as St. Vincent de Paul and the Knights.

    So allow me to defend those of us who live and enjoy the old part of town.

  • Joe H

    Of course there is a difference between south and north Scottsdale smilies/smiley.gif

    But if north Scottsdale isn’t snooty, then no place is.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    I think the prophecy of Joseph Ratzinger is being borne out: Believing Catholics in the U.S. are already a small minority, among a great many “Catholic” groups: Irish Catholics, Hispanics, Catholic bishops…

    The non-believers among the bishops and priests HAVE to give Communion to the Kennedys, Kerrys, Pelosis, and Bidens, precisely in order to remain in communion with them.

    How much our society is “Christendom” and how much “Pagan Rome”–I think it is much too early to tell.

    Obama seems determined to find out.

  • Ann

    Thumbs up.

  • Justin in Ohio

    Good article. As far as societal attitudes toward deep faith in general and Catholicism specifically, it truly seems that we’re living in a modern Rome/Babylon.

    It is now more important than ever for those of us with true, deep, abiding faith to practice it each day; to pass it along to our children and grandchildren; to work to evangelize and convert non-believers and other non-Catholic Christians to the truth of our faith.

    It’s the only way our timeless beliefs will survive and flourish in this modern world.

  • Austin

    The foolish Iraqi War cost the Republican party, which with its many, many faults, is still much more pro-life, majorities in both Houses of Congress, many Governorships and of course, the White House. Not to mention over a trillion dollars, which should have been spent on our infrastructure. We actually had a chance at overturning Roe v Wade in the next few years, if we had a pro-life President and Senate, but foolish Republicans squandered this opportunity. It’s very unfortunate, when you think of what could have been.

  • Nick Palmer

    Yes, the fall of the US Republican Party is a serious disappointment. The loss of fiscal discipline, the belief in government over personal initiative and choice, the corruption of the Ted Stevens’s, all awful.

    Yet John, Austin, and others continue to thrash “Rules” #1 and #2 above with respect to many people. Something called a “hype machine” is somehow a liar based on a 2003 article which is largely bunk or insufficient in scope. Let’s recap. First, the case for invading Iraq was based on far more than the ten items cited the referenced Alternet article. Can you say more than a dozen UN (you know them, the world’s conscience) resolutions threatening all sorts of calumny in the case of non-compliance.

    Second, a the article itself is showing signs of age. Let’s grant point 1 that the tubes were not a threat. Okay, does that, by itself, eliminate the case for attack? Point 2 has since been debunked decisively — Joe Wilson was a liar, attested by the US Congress. As to 3, Clinton, Kerry, Gore, and many others also believed that Saddam had a nuclear program, and even if it was not yet full-blown, he had intentions of driving one. That none was found is not evidence of a lie (or are all those nicey-nicey little Dems liars?), but of poor intelligence. Oh, and SH certainly was playing a bluffing game. Now 4 and 5 seemed true in 2003, but subsequent finds show clear contacts and support between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda. The drone point, 6, is silly. No one suggested a Revell model plane flying from Iraq to the US. Guess what, naughty people from the Middle East didn’t try to board a plane in Baghdad to crash into the Trade Center, they… came to the US! Point 7 — oops — we did find chemical weapons, not lots but some. And we know there were weapons, to #8, as Saddam used them on his own people. And past the use-by date, be serious. Would you feel safe? Did they turn from sarin to water (reverse Cana)? Again to 9, weapons and traces of them have been found, and the a priori belief in them is at issue, not the ex post learnings. Finally, 10, again, mistake or lie?

    We are left with a complex, multifaceted argument for the invasion (see, e.g. Colin Powell at the UN). An outdated article that addresses only a small fraction of the case for invasion, and which is, in hindsight, far weaker than it seemed in 2003 somehow obviates all other facts. Yes, subsequent events have also shown that other parts of the case were weaker than those making the decision had believed. Yes, the planning and operation of the invasion were seriously flawed. Yes, with hindsight many who supported the invasion would now try to get that toothpaste back into the tube.

    John, Austin, and others continue to both name-call and assume ill will from many, many people. They refuse to believe that anyone might have had a legitimate belief that the many transgressions and threats of the Saddam regime might possibly have justified military action. Frankly, anyone who believes otherwise then they do is either a dupe or a liar himself. There is not a sentient being who might think that RC just-war theory might possibly have provided grounds for attacking Iraq. Nope! Dopes and demons.

    Well, I’m off to sharpen my pitchfork!

  • Jay S

    The last writer mentioned the alleged corruption of Ted Stevens. But recent developments show that he was innocent. Indeed, the prosecutors are being investigated now. The judge in the case stated he never saw a weaker case.

  • Austin

    Note to Nick: I am not name calling or assuming ill will, but I do believe that Bush & Co. were wrong to invade. Yes, the situation with Iraq was complex, but invasion was not the best option. I don’t believe that the Iraqi war was a “just war” in accordance with the Catholic Just War theory. This can be argued, but I think that to try to depict the Iraq War as anything but a disaster is intellectually dishonest. Yes, the Democrats went along for the most part, but the Iraqi War was mainly a GOP venture, as we had a GOP President and GOP majority Congress.

    George W Bush, the Neocons and many people in the GOP pushed for this war, and they got it. Unfortunately, it did not turn out as expected, which wars rarely do. This is why you only go to war, when you have no other choice: the consequences of being wrong are too catastrophic to proceed with a war when you have other options and are not directly threatened.

    I do not believe that Bush is “evil” or should be hauled before a war crimes tribunal. I do believe that he was wrong. very wrong.

  • Nick Palmer

    Austin, well put. It was John using “liar” not you. And I wholly agree with “foolish” as a fair word, and would acknowledge a bias toward “action” by the Bush administration.

    The fact that wars rarely turn out as expected is beside the point, when considering appropriate versus inappropriate. The Revolution, the Civil War, WW I, WW II, heck, even Grenada didn’t turn out as expected. Von-someone-or-other may have even commented on this.

    As for “anything but a disaster” I’m not convinced. I believe that were SH still running the show, Iraq would become an increasing threat to the US and Western interests, not to mention to other Muslims and Arabs, his own people, and the Middle East in general. The impending nuclearization of Iran is a clear example of the direction in which SH was heading. And, let’s not forget the context of the 2001-2004 period. The Bush administration was being increasingly isolated in its support of sanctions against SH, our planes were being shot at daily, and clearly innocent Iraqis by the thousands were being tortured and oppressed not as “collateral damage” but by as explicit regime policy.

    The slate of options was not attractive. Your perspective, Austin, is reasonable and defensible. It appears wiser, however, with the benefit of what we now know.

    Oh, and Jay S, Stevens was not found “innocent.” The case was inadequate. Look at the man’s record if you’d like to see a true modern-day politician showering favors on those around him. Can you say, “bridge to nowhere”? I’d call him a dirtbag and embarrassment to the species, but that would be name-calling! The purpose of DC should not be to take money from all (as much as possible) to then redistribute wherever our betters see fit.

  • Francis Wippel

    Good article, but the logic about the Iraq war destroying the Republican majority in Congress is faulty. Many aspects contributed to the downfall of the GOP, and as we saw during the last election cycle, the economy was front and center. Throw in the weak-knee Katrina response (government failure at all levels), the failure to reign in deficit spending and put the clamps on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sub-prime mortgage loans, and you have a recipe for political turnover. There are also trends that held true, such as a second term president whose party loses seats in his final midterm election, and a political party rarely holding the White House for longer than two consecutive terms.

    As for the Iraq war qualifying as just or un-just, I don

  • John Zmirak

    I’m not going to wade into the endless farrago of the Iraq war. Those who lied were a small elite of irresponsible policy-makers in the Bush administration. Follow the details of the Niger uranium memo for lavish evidence supporting this.

    Most Americans who supported the war believed them, and had every reason to. Nevertheless, even if everything the administration irresponsibly claimed HAD BEEN TRUE, there was no justification for pre-emptive war based on the development of weapons. Declaring that we as a nation have a right to intervene in any country we deem tyrannical, or any land that’s developing weapons that might threaten us, is a recipe for endless war… and is far too open to abuse to meet the Just War criteria–which weren’t drawn up by fools or naive pacifists, but by the greatest theologians in the Church, who understood human nature. In other words, they had seen men like Dick Cheney and David Frum in action, and they wanted to safeguard against them.

    Regarding “the middle class fears and prejudices that separate us and keep us distant from the impoverished, the criminals, the elderly, even the immigrants”…. Where to start?

    The father of a family is morally bound to use the virtue of prudence to protect the lives of the children he and his wife bring into the world. Those “fears and prejudices” are in fact rational inferences drawn from the dark reality of moral and civic disorder in our country, which is enabled at once by the reckless consumerism goaded by the corporate “right”, and the moral libertinism and nanny-state socialism of the left.

    Should the Church become simply a pro-life, gay-squeamish chaplaincy to the left wing of the Democratic party? Are intact, hard-working families to be treated as wretched pharisees, their interests forever disregarded in favor of endlessly prodigal, dubiously repentant sons of our dysfunctional culture?

    No, Joe H. Not here, not in Mexico. Mexican fathers who move out of dangerous neighborhoods, who want tough enforcement of the law, who wish to protect their own children FIRST, before worrying about the interests of strangers who have wrecked their lives through drugs and crime… they are behaving as good Catholics. The same with American fathers.

    If the Catholic faith is incompatible with the most basic, God-given drives of human life–nurturing and protecting your young, encouraging their success, providing for their future and your own–then it ISN’T TRUE. Or good.

    Nietzsche wasn’t entirely crazy. The “slave morality” does exist. In fact, that is the best description possible of the Christian left. It is as ugly a caricature of Christianity in its own way as the haughty imperialism of conquistadors, indeed it’s the mirror image of it. Must we jump from one false extreme to the other, without even pausing in the middle?

  • trp

    Another home run for JZ. He’s the only author to whose work I have a non-treatable addiction. He’s like the Catholic Theodore Dalrymple, except that he’s Catholic and a better writer.

    One quibble. Many of the faithful remnant were not on board for the Iraq adventure. In fact, the Very Faithful Remnant like to refer to the pro-war, pro-GOP Catholics–Weigel, Novak, etc.–as “neo-Catholics” or “Novus Ordo Catholics.”

  • Austin

    I have tended to vote Republican, because they are pro-life, but given the errors of W Bush & Co. this has become difficult. The Democrats are much worse, and not just from their pro abortion platform, but with regards to other issues as well, such as their bizarre love of gay marriage. This leaves many of us with no political party to call home. Those of use who are pro-life and anti war [not just Catholics], are politically homeless. I wish I had an answer, but there is none right now.

    Perhaps we need some sort of “Christian Democrat” party, which accurately reflects our views?

  • Joe Marier

    You could just as easily say that the candidacy of Bob Dole or a thousand other things was the downfall of the pro-life movement, considering that we lost the presidency and lost seats in 1996, lost seats in 1998, and lost seats and the popular vote in 2000. In fact, the only year we decisively won since 1994 was when we ran on Frum/Gerson’s “axis of evil” platform in 2002…

    …but never mind. We are only to be blamed to the extent we were duped by Cheney and his “small cabal of elite advisors” (grrrrrrrrr…). Otherwise, we are pure as the driven snow.

    Never mind.

  • Mark

    The Democrats are the “party of death / dude on dude action” and it’s all the Republicans’ fault!

    Well done.

  • Joe H

    John,

    Have you read the Gospels lately? Or for that matter, what our Church has said about its preferential option for the poor? If you don’t want to be treated as if you are a Pharisee, perhaps you could remember what Christ said to the ones that admonished Him for keeping company with sinners: the healthy do not need a doctor, but the sick do – go and learn the meaning of “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”.

    There is another thing Christ said, more than once – those who seek to save their lives will lose them. I don’t think this was a call to mass suicide, but I do think it means we shouldn’t be preoccupied with securing our “lot” to the point where it drives us away from our neighbor, where it causes us to see in other people and particularly those who resemble Christ per Matthew 25 as some sort of social “problem” that has to be dealt with or eliminated.

    This siege mentality you seem to be caught up in IS indeed more compatible with Nietzsche than Christ. What do you think is going to matter in the end? And why do you think we are here to begin with? Is there eternal life? Will we face a heavenly judge? If so, what will he care about? The Gospels tell us. There is no ambiguity!

    If our purpose is just to maintain a safe and secure family unit in the midst of a crumbling civilization, then no one in the ancient Roman world would have had cause to join the Christians. I can imagine the stern “pater familias” looking at this new rabble called “Christians” in the same way you want to look at those you derisively label “the Catholic left”. Preserving Rome comes first – what gods the rabble wish to worship is a secondary matter, and a potentially dangerous one when it threatens to undermine beloved secular institutions, some harsh conception of “law and order” where mercy is forgotten but vengeance is appeased.

    I’ll repeat what I said before – I think it is clear that God rewards those who follow His commandments in full, and who are ready to lose their lives – not to mention their things – for His sake. We should be ready at the drop of a hat to forsake everything and everyone for Christ. No one wants to hear that, and like the rich man whom Christ told to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow him, many will hear the message and go away sad and depressed.

    For me it brings a sense of joy and hope, because this Way really does conflict with materialistic “life drives” or whatever you want to call them – it is a divine Way, a road to eternal union with perfection.

  • John Zmirak

    The Spiritual Franciscans were condemned as heretics for imposing on all Christian laymen the Evangelical Counsels on pain of sin. St. Thomas, among other theologians, reconciles such fallen but still God-given natural drives as the particular love for one’s OWN children (which he calls “pietas”) with the universal call to charity of the Gospel. Catholic laymen operated on that synthesis of fallen nature and Gospel mandates for most of the history of the Church. Indeed, I doubt very much if even the fabled early Christians would have willingly put their children in dangerous schools, or housed them unnecessarily in crime-ridden neighborhoods, or spent all wealth not needed for nutrition and basic education on foreign missions. The old Catholic Encyclopedia says in its article on “Parents”, “A father who is idle or unthrifty so that his family is left without fitting maintenance is guilty of grievous sin.” Likewise, I would argue, a father who embraces Evangelical poverty not suited to his state of life, or who in the name of social solidarity moves his family from a working class neighborhood to a landfill in a Third World country. Embracing policies that harm the Common Good of one’s countrymen, like open borders, out of a partial and sentimental misreading of the Gospels is a sin against the virtue of patriotism. Or do you think that a father of nine should sell all he has, and give it to the poor? If he doesn’t, is he violating the Gospel and becoming a neo-pagan? The Church’s teaching on these matters expanded and became more sophisticated when Christians went from being hunted criminals to the stewards of civilization–just as our architecture changed from that of catacombs to basilicas. Insisting on primitive Christian “communism” in matters economic is parallel to stripping and defacing churches, or denuding and vulgarizing the liturgy, in the service of the “antiquarianism” condemned by Pope Pius XII in “Mediator Dei.”

  • Nick Palmer

    John, for “not going to wade into the endless farrago of the Iraq war,” you have done just that. Two points. If I concede the Niger uranium story, which I don’t, that still does not refute the much broader case for war. The burn marks are from flames around me and my fellow demons who, by your reasoning are either warmongers or deluded fools. How many Democrats, given the same information as the president, supported the invasion? I noted that given what I know now, I might not have supported the invasion, or only supported it with better planning. But, I (and no one else) knew it then. I still contend that a reasonable person could have supported the invasion back then without being a Bad Catholic. As many did.

    Second, as for “liars” I took your advice to “Follow the details of the Niger uranium memo.” I found, among others, a Slate piece from 10 April 2006 by Christopher Hitchens, no friend of Bush. Here’s an excerpt (there’s plenty more in the article). Joe Wilson and wife are a pair of Democratic political operatives who play spy-and-handcuffs when the Victoria’s Secret box arrives. He is known liar.

    “In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency

  • Dan H.

    Joe H,

    I don’t understand your disagreement with Mr. Zmirak. It seems to me that both you and he are making fantastic arguements for two different callings in leading a faithfully Catholic-Christian life. Mr. Zmirak is simply saying that if one is to lead an authentically Catholic life and raise a family, one must take adequate care in looking out for their family. This doesn’t mean that they can’t also give to charitable causes and do acts of mercy during their daily lives, as all Christians are called to do. But it also means that they probably won’t be able to do as much social/charitable work as a Catholic who is spending their full time doing so, for the simple fact that the Catholic mother or father has a family to raise.

    There are many different “hats” one can wear in being authentically Catholic. There’s no point in quibbling about which one is “more authentic.” As long as one is staying faithful in their calling and daily duties, there is no superior calling.

  • Michael

    That anyone would at this late date still try to justify the invasion and conquest of Iraq is stunning. Hey, you know what? It was supposed to have been a cakewalk and if it had been there never would have been the recriminations and political fall-out we have experienced. Funny thing is, I remember lots of people, predicting a not so rosy outcome, making the case not to invade before hand to only be tarred with the brush of being “unpatriotic conservatives”. That was a contemptible smear for which the neo-con spin machine has never apologized.

    Regarding the attempted refutations above: Please remember that the Niger Uranium documents were proven FORGERIES! True, there has never been an investigation into their origins but you can be sure that the office of the vice-president was in some way involved. Any subsequent smear of Joe Wilson simply sidesteps this central fact.

  • Joe H

    John

    I really don’t want to go down the list of all the things you assume I am calling for or insisting upon.

    No, I don’t believe people must do any of the self-destructive things you seem to think I said they should do. You’ve taken what I clearly described as a mental and spiritual disposition and transformed into a series of policy propositions.

    We must have the mindset, the overall attitude, of the early Christians – that doesn’t mean they must be copied in every regard, in every detail of their living arrangements.

    What I do believe is that there is absolutely no justification for turning away a person in need because it upsets some delicate social order you are trying to preserve. If you still think that we Christians are the “stewards of civilization” you are wrong.

    From the tone of your rhetoric on a regular basis one would think we are on the verge of becoming, as you say “hunted criminals”. Unfortunately, while I don’t think it has come to that quite yet, it is certainly true that we are marginalized and sidelined, that it is open season on Christians and particularly Catholics in the mass media and popular culture, and that there are parts of the world where, as Pope Benedict recently said, the faith is “dying out like a fire that has run out of fuel”.

    If these are the facts we begin with, and not some assumption that we are still in Christendom and we’ve just lost a little ground, then it is entirely logical to return to an early Christian mindset. It means that once again we must be leading from the front, not the rear, we must be inspiring the heathens with acts of incredible faith and sacrifice, love and charity, and not attempting to impose some fabled “Judeo-Christian” legal ethos on the rest of society.

    “mbracing policies that harm the Common Good of one’s countrymen, like open borders, out of a partial and sentimental misreading of the Gospels is a sin against the virtue of patriotism.”

    So I guess we missed that part of the Gospel that says, “blessed are the patriots, for… God blesses them?” Where was that again? Do you honestly believe that patriotism is a higher virtue than charity (true charity?) Do you honestly think Christ the King is going to judge you, judge US, on how patriotic and civic-minded we were?

    It is absolutely wrong to assume that we cannot care for our families and welcome the stranger at the same time. It is because we live, think and act like pagans in all things economics that we can’t envision a society where we make room for everyone. No, we don’t need early Christian subsistence communism, but we do need to start thinking about rebuilding the economic foundations of Christendom. God did not draw lines on the map, we did. God did not say “these resources belong to people called Americans, these here, to people called Mexicans” – we made these decisions. We can unmake them.

    Should a father of nine bear the burden of this? Of course not. But we aren’t a nation of fathers of nine – we are a nation of smaller “nuclear families”, 1.5 children in the suburbs, with access to a glut of consumer goods produced by Asian slaves, and in many cases already living well beyond our means. Yes, it is a sin to live that way, and to make that out to be the exception and not the rule of modern America is naive at best. Americans want living standards that always go up and never come down, and they don’t want to share their bounty with anyone. That is sinful. What man finds important, Christ tells us, is an abomination to God. If ever it were true of anything, it is true of the “American way of life” and all the suffering and ecological destruction in the world it takes to maintain it.

  • Kevin J Jones

    Zmirak writes: “It elected a president who will surely have the chance to stack the Supreme Court, rendering the life issue moot for a lifetime.”

    Not too fast. If I recall right, the most “liberal” justices are also the oldest and most likely to die or resign from office. If the anti-Roe justices can hang on another 3.7 years, the balance will remain the same.

    Nick Palmer: “We are left with a complex, multifaceted argument for the invasion (see, e.g. Colin Powell at the UN).”

    I watched his whole presentation on C-Span. He persuaded me for a day or two until I gave it further thought. Its flimsiness and “Made for TV” staged moments should have been obvious to us. Even France saw through it.

    We were scared into “doing something” when we should have remembered another’s words:

    “Be Not Afraid.”

  • Joe H

    Dan,

    I think there is a hierarchy values that we all must adhere to, and that it is no longer wise to act as if we are, as John says, “the stewards of civilization” when it is obviously not the case any longer.

    I don’t think we all have an obligation to abandon material goals, but we have reached a point where, I believe, we are confusing the hierarchy of values – failing to put God and neighbor first, and putting some ideal of a political community first instead.

    There are limits to what we can ethically and morally do to defend material possessions and a standard of living. There are limits to what God will tolerate from us in the way of indifference to the suffering of others. Its easy to take what I am saying and twist it into an argument for total asceticism, but I’m not. The preservation of society and the maintenance of one’s family, even patriotism are good things, virtues even, and I don’t dispute that. But they have a place in the hierarchy and it is not at the top. It would be better to lose all of these things for the sake of another – and Christ identifies himself with all needy people – than it would to hold onto them at the expense of another.

    Simplifying and downsizing our consumer needs and wants, and extending opportunities and jobs to Mexican workers, does not amount to a vow of poverty and destitution. That’s a fallacy. Not being able to live what some people call “The American Dream” is not an injustice. If we can have it without sacrificing higher virtues, then that is fine – I don’t say it is immoral or unlawful or an abomination to God. But if we can’t, and I think it is pretty clear that we can’t, then I believe it is.

  • Theodore Van Oosbree

    The “urban renewal” of the 1940s and 50s surely should count as an assault on Catholics. Much of the so-called renewal was really an attempt to destroy or disrupt Catholic neighborhoods and disperse their population to the suburbs, there to be “Americanized” and secularized. An added bonus was the disruption of labor unions (heavily populated by Catholic workers) in the interests of big business.

  • Steve Skojec

    John brought up the encyclical for another reason, but I just wanted to point something out:

    The vestments on Good Friday are red. (In the Ordinary Form.)

    This is true, but really shouldn’t be. See Mediator Dei, #62 (to which John also referred, incidentally):

    But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See.

    Where is black used in the Ordinary Form? I’ve been attending the Extraordinary Form for five years now, but prior to that I NEVER saw a black vestment.

    I’d like to think that may be one of the traditions the Holy Father restores.

    Now, back to the poor, Iraq, and wondering what Joe H. will think if he ever has children… smilies/wink.gif

  • Nick Palmer

    Read today’s article on conspiracy theories.

    It’s good to know that you can home in on something called “the office of the vice-president.” Is that like “the office of the president elect”?

    And finally, the President’s speech noted that we had received reports of this attempt. Subsequent investigation showed that indeed, we did receive reports. He did not say “they did it.” Can you refute Hitchen’s article? What was Zahawie doing in Niger? Drinking tea with friends like Wilson did?

    You can take off your tin hat, now. Moveon.org is a poor source for “facts.”

  • Joe H

    What to make of this?

    “This is the culture which is hoped for, one which fosters trust in the human potential of the poor, and consequently in their ability to improve their condition through work or to make a positive contribution to economic prosperity. But to accomplish this, the poor

  • meg

    I love your passion Joe H. but don’t be too hard on Catholic families. When you have children you may be surprised at the protective feelings that surge not just for your childrens physical well-being but for the state of their souls. I have gone to much greater lengths to keep them innocent than I ever imagined I would when I was single. I would have scoffed at the current me – but then at that time I didn’t realize it was my job to get them to heaven. Christ in His perfection could sit among sinners safely; not so our children.

    It’s not wrong that Catholic parents want their families to be safe and comfortable. But what many don’t realize is that it actually takes very little to achieve this. Simpler lifestyles make for happier children and allow families to give more. Maybe this should be promoted from the pulpit: the very real danger to our souls that becoming acquisitive poses. It hinders charity without a doubt.

    I’m currently reading The Story of a Family about the family which produced St. Therese of Lisieux and four nuns. Even back in the 19th century Saint Therese’s parents had to be fiercely protective of their children and what they were exposed to. They considered their modest prosperity born of much hard work and sacrifice (and tremendous suffering) to be a necessary component of that protection. At the same time they had an extremely simple and beautifully pious life and were incredibly generous to the sick and needy – in a word, they were saintly. The parents provided the example and protected the children at the same time with good results to say the least. It’s a fine example of close to perfect Catholic parenting.

  • Joe H

    “It’s not wrong that Catholic parents want their families to be safe and comfortable.”

    Did I say that? Did I even imply it?

  • Baron Korf

    Steve,

    Come and see St Therese in Sugar Land, Tx and see black vestments in the Ordinary Form. From my understanding, the liturgical colors in both forms follow the same rules, but since not all parishes (anymore) have black vestments, they use alternatives (I think you can substitute white for anything, but only with a good reason like travel or hardship.)

  • meg

    Huh? I thought that paragraph actually supported your position. Maybe it’s poorly worded. Got a lot going on here.

  • russell sherry

    From what I can tell about true Catholic teaching about a Catholic responding to the call of military duty:unless one is called to do something that is a manifest sin,one has an obligation to the state.Exceptions would be for priests actively killing in most (all?) cases due to their office, and guidance by the Holy Spirit to do otherwise.
    God does to make known to us that he might have moved the will of the leader/leaders. And although the leaders may have other reasons,even giving false reasons to us,does not relieve us to our duty to the state. I believ the lives and guidance of the saints of our Church shows this to be such.
    Even if after the fact it turns out to seem to have been unjust(do not see why this would be seen in the case of Iraq), still we should not forget we have our duties as a Christian.

  • Kaylee

    After reading Johns article and the comments which followed I find it difficult to believe that Catholic/Christians have gotten so far off course. I have yet to find in the New Testament where it mentions that all we need to do is elect the correct Senators in Rome, ones that will promote our agenda and all will be well. All governments rule through force and having them force our beliefs on people will never be the answer. It will only serve to make us part of the problem not the solution. We were told that we should be

  • John Zmirak

    I will address all the well-meaning misunderstandings in Joe H’s piece in my next column here, so stay tuned till Easter Wed. For the moment:

    He suggests that I think that “patriotism is a higher virtue than charity”. This is just silly. Anyone who has read The City of God, or studied St. Thomas (perhaps through his excellent popularizer, Josef Pieper) would understand that lower virtues are BUILDING BLOCKS and STEPPING STONES to higher ones. They are necessary but not sufficient conditions for them. What is more, natural virtues (such as justice, which implies patriotism) are not destroyed by Grace. Grace builds on nature, right?

    In order to practice Charity, you must have already mastered and internalized Justice. Or else, you’ll think it’s fine that in your role as treasurer of a corporation, you divert funds from shareholders to a worthy cause you know about… say starving children in another country. Now, if I were a juror in the trial of such an embezzler, and Joe H. were the attorney, I have no doubt he would attempt the argument that “charity is a higher duty than justice.” And he just might get the guy out of prison. But it wouldn’t make his argument any less specious.

    So, one MAY NOT practice “charity” that violates natural obligations to one’s family or country. One may NOT cheat on his taxes in order to send the money to a much more worthy cause–say, the Fraternity of St. Peter (to pick my own favorite). Not even if your own country funds abortions with taxpayer money. Right?

    Nor, if we follow what St. Augustine wrote in The City of God, may we disregard the commonweal of even a pagan community of which we are part, seceding from it and refusing obedience to just laws, simply because we’re sick of trying to baptize it. We don’t get to be anarchists, or terrorists, or scofflaws, just because the Emperor is pagan, or the King became a Protestant. When ALL law is essentially suspended or politicized, for instance in a totalitarian state, then things may be different…. For instance, in Communist Poland, where property rights have been suspended, it would be moral to trade on the black market. And of course, it is always moral to flout unjust (e.g. non-existent) laws, such as the Nazis imposed on racial minorities.

    Now, the Catholic Church does NOT teach that it is immoral for countries to control immigration for prudential reasons. It doesn’t say that national communities are unimportant, or that our citizenship in the Church allows us to disregard our duties to our ancestral or geographical communities. Quite the contrary. Read the Catechism, and its section on immigration, which maintains the classical Catholic balance.

    Again, more on this later.

  • I am not Spartacus

    and extending opportunities and jobs to Mexican workers, does not amount to a vow of poverty and destitution.

    The Catechism (#2241)2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

    Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

    Calling one who illegally sneaks into a country a “guest” makes as much sense as calling the man who breaks into your house and steals valuables a “shopper.”

    Illegal immigration definitely does depress the wages of the working man who is trying to care for his own Catholic family. It also represents a de facto policy of importing the poor, ignorant, and ill and I fail to understand how that advances the common good.

    I guess allowing illegal immigration is the sole answer to the many problems existing within Mexico.

    Prior to 1965, America had a sensible immigration policy and I don’t recall The USCCB or The Magisterium castigating us for it back then.

    Loyalty and charity begin at home and moves outside in concentric circles in ever diminishing amounts of intensity.

    Now, if John H wants to move to Mexico and tell them to let illegals from the south of Mexico to move in as “guests” at will, have at it.

  • Joe H

    I am truly honored smilies/smiley.gif

    If you don’t believe patriotism is a higher virtue than charity, then why must the practice of charity fall within the boundaries of patriotism and not vice-versa?

    I’m not going to totally disagree that for some people, the “lower virtues” are not only stepping stones, as you say, but as high as they will ever get. You and I, however, should be well past the first few stones, as educated adults, as practicing Catholics.

    Leaving aside the rather dubious proposition as to what I would argue for in a court of law (who knows where to begin on that one), let me say about this:

    “So, one MAY NOT practice “charity” that violates natural obligations to one’s family or country.”

    This is entirely wrong.

    No one expects or demands charity from a poor person, a poor family, or a poor country.

    The fallacy here – the “specious” argument if you will – is that the United States, the middle class way of life, the “American Dream”, are all things that fall under “natural obligation to protect”. Wrong. In the US we have an abundance, made partially possible through the slave labor of millions of others, while the people in Mexico often barely earn enough to feed their families.

    This is why John Paul II made the critical distinction between rich and poor countries. You see, the Catechism and other documents can be quite generalized, but when they feel it appropriate, the Holy Fathers zero in on the specifics of a problem which make it quite clear where the moral burden lies. Once more from Centesimus Annus, par. 52:

    This is the culture which is hoped for, one which fosters trust in the human potential of the poor, and consequently in their ability to improve their condition through work or to make a positive contribution to economic prosperity. But to accomplish this, the poor

  • I am not Spartacus

    http://www.aveherald.com/ave-herald-home-page.html

    John H writes – “I was quite disheartened by the development, for instance, of the town of “Ave Maria” in Florida. It looks like a carbon copy of Scottsdale AZ, only snootier. Catholics must once again prove that their challenge to the secular pagan world does not primarily emanate from how much weight it can throw around in a political campaign, or by threatening to withdraw into our own version of Mormon Utah, but by the lengths we are willing to go to love and care for all those who are thrown away or forgotten by our pagan society.”

    Ave Maria, Fl is snooty?

    Have you ever been there? I never have but I am going there next week. (I know the very snooty Fr. Fessio lives there).

    To be fair to the snooty ones. They did give a free concert to the laborers of Immakolee. And many of those laborers are illegal immigrants.

    I am sure those without snoot (like yourself?) can document what they have personally done for the illegal immigrants.

  • Joe H

    “Calling one who illegally sneaks into a country a “guest” makes as much sense as calling the man who breaks into your house and steals valuables a “shopper.”

    And calling one who does what he can to feed his own family a “criminal” – that makes sense? Where is your mercy? Where is your compassion? What do you think God cares about?

  • I am not Spartacus

    “… or by threatening to withdraw into our own version of Mormon Utah, but by the lengths we are willing to go to love and care for all those who are thrown away or forgotten…”

    John H. Please read Fr. Vincent McNabb re moving into Catholic versions of Mormon, Utah…

    As far as America’s pre-1965 Immigration policy, I am unaware of any condemnation of it by The Magisterium.

    John H. do not be so attached to your own personal opinions of what constitutes Catholicism that you come to think of them as normative and binding on other Christian Catholics of good will.

    John. Have you ever been to Ave Maria, FL? If not, now would be a good time to take back your words about it.

  • Joe H

    I was hoping you’d figure that out on your own, but just as you are not Spartacus, I am not John!

    If there is some priest that thinks establishing a Catholic version of Utah is actually a good idea, I’ll state my respectful disagreement with him here.

    As for the rest, we don’t live in a “pre-1965” world anymore. There’s nothing more to be said. If our laws, not to mention our moral senses, can’t be adapted to new situations then they are dead and useless – throw them into the fire.

  • I am not Spartacus

    Joe. Sorry about calling you John instead of Joe.

    Because you won’t answer, I assume you have not been to Ave Maria, Fl. And I have yet to see you retract your accusation it is a snooty place.

    And even though you haven’t read Fr.McNabb you are ready to disagree with him. You have not only not read him, you don’t appear to have even heard of him.

    You appear willing to burn anything you personally disagree with and to disagree with those you have not even read – even a great champion of Distributism such as Fr. McNabb.

    Have you ever read, David Hackett Fischer’s, “Albion’s Seed?”

    Try reading it and then maybe you’d evince a better understanding of the four great waves of immigration and how those waves resulted in what constitutes a people and its common race, language, heritage, political economy, common law heritage etc etc etc and how mass immigration of non-assimilating, non english-speaking folks can lead to conflict and disintegration that threatens the common good.

    As to the pre 1965 Immigration Policies of America and its sensible practice of targeted immigration limited to the healthy, educated, employable (mainly) european people etc you may think it passe but St. Augustine, “City of God”(Chapter 19) could have been writing about the dangers of today that result from mass illegal immigration from the south:

    “After the state or city comes the world, the third circle of human society,

  • Joe H

    Well, Spart,

    You assigned a bunch of views to me I do not hold, assumed a bunch of things about me that aren’t true, and now you’re done. That’s fine with me.

    “You appear willing to burn anything you personally disagree with and to disagree with those you have not even read – even a great champion of Distributism such as Fr. McNabb.”

    I only said I disagreed with the idea of establishing a Catholic version of Utah. I believe Christians should be in and among the people. I don’t need to read a book about it. Its a pretty general idea that one either accepts or doesn’t.

    I won’t and can’t answer everything everyone writes. I’m sorry about what I said about Ave Maria town. There, happy?

  • Joe H

    I did it again. Look, Spart, I shouldn’t have even tried to address your points without being willing to give them the full attention they deserve. I get a little too into this back and forth sometimes, which is why I tried to give it up for Lent and failed miserably.

    When I address things in haste everything comes out rude. You deserve better, we all do. I apologize.

  • D.B.

    …by force? To use the government to coerce people into being “Charitable” is Socialism. It is argued that CEOs and “Corporate Fat Cats” cannot be trusted and need an eye kept on them….I would contend that government is equally suspect, and no more trustworthy. You speak of Distributism, and it is a laudible goal….but how can you acheive it without using the coercive force of government? And how is that not Socialism? I am an admirer of Chesterton and Belloc’s religious writings, but it skates dangerously close to the Welfare State mentality…you may contend that that isn’t a bad word…you may even think “Social Democracy’ is A-ok…but don’t imply a that those who reject this model are somehow “less Catholic.” You may protest up and down that you don’t do that, but your repeated mantra of the “Social Teachings of the Church” somehow imply that we haven’t, or that we are purposely ignoring them for some cheap political point.

  • Azar

    There are some good points here. Please consider the following additional ones:

    1. The Church asking us to vote pro-life is not the same as asking us to ignore the intellectual virtues. There would have been nothing wrong to support the pro-life candidate while bringing up common sense issues, such as no torture, no preemptive war, etc…It can and should be done. Just keep at it.

    2. There is a fundamentally Catholic teaching that says we are never tested beyond the remedy of available grace from God. As a corollary to this, there should be some extraordinary grace available for us at this time. Please ask for it. Especially if you are consecrated to the sacramental life.

    3. We are bordering a time that has been predicted by many Church-approved conditional prophecies, when we shall break out of the compartmentalization that the media, the state, and even history itself has mandated for the human condition. (a conditional prophecy is one that a Catholic is not bound to believe, but one that could prove helpful). This is a time when spirituality will be predominant, particularly Catholic spirituality. Among other things it will be also a time when the cities experience a down shift in importance while the family and nation regain their sovereignty.

    In Christ.

  • Joe H

    …by force? To use the government to coerce people into being “Charitable” is Socialism. It is argued that CEOs and “Corporate Fat Cats” cannot be trusted and need an eye kept on them….I would contend that government is equally suspect, and no more trustworthy. You speak of Distributism, and it is a laudible goal….but how can you acheive it without using the coercive force of government? And how is that not Socialism? I am an admirer of Chesterton and Belloc’s religious writings, but it skates dangerously close to the Welfare State mentality…you may contend that that isn’t a bad word…you may even think “Social Democracy’ is A-ok…but don’t imply a that those who reject this model are somehow “less Catholic.” You may protest up and down that you don’t do that, but your repeated mantra of the “Social Teachings of the Church” somehow imply that we haven’t, or that we are purposely ignoring them for some cheap political point.

    What vision are you talking about, anyway? Do you mean consuming less and making more room for the immigrant, the stranger?

    No, not by force. It would be worthless and meaningless if it were achieved by force. But those who don’t wish to voluntarily “make room”, to me, are really failing to meet even a minimum standard of Christian brotherhood and hospitality.

    I don’t oppose boarder control, and I don’t oppose fines or other penalties for violating immigration law. What I oppose is a militarized boarder and mass deportations. What I oppose is the general mindset that our “way of life” – sustained through slave labor in the third world and ecological devastation, two phenomena acknowledged and condemned by the Church, has an inherent right to exist.

    The poor immigrant’s right to a job that can support his family is 100 times morally heavier than our right to a home in the suburbs and a house full of neat gadgets. That is precisely what is meant not only by JP II’s quote, but by dozens of similar quotes.

    “You speak of Distributism, and it is a laudible goal….but how can you acheive it without using the coercive force of government? And how is that not Socialism?”

    How do people start businesses? All we propose is to do that, but to structure them as cooperatives, and if I have my way, to have many of them located in one area that form the basis of an urban community and perhaps a whole town. No government intervention at all is required for that, if we have a right to structure our firms as we want, placing ownership of the means of production in the hands of all the workers instead of holding onto it for ourselves. Is that not our right? Is that not what capitalism and the free market are all about?

    “but don’t imply a that those who reject this model are somehow “less Catholic.”

    When you know what the model is, and then you decide to reject it for yourself, that’s fine. But if you actively try to prevent it or disrupt it and side with those who would seek to destroy us, then what else could I conclude other than that your love of ideology has trumped your love for your neighbor?

    “You may protest up and down that you don’t do that, but your repeated mantra of the “Social Teachings of the Church”…

    Mantra? I wouldn’t have to repeat it so much if people really did start reading it.

  • D.B.

    “What vision are you talking about, anyway? Do you mean consuming less and making more room for the immigrant, the stranger?”

    -And how would you propose having people “Consume less”, exactly? Here is a quote from Chesterton:
    “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.”

    The thing about freedom is that it allows people to be jackasses…that is the price we pay for the freedoms we have. Not everyone walks the path of virtue, and then the question becomes…what to do? Not everyone will welcome illegal immigrants, not everyone wants to give a lion’s share of their money to good causes…does that mean we should coerce them to? I’m thinking in terms of hard, practical application of these ideals…If a large portion of the population decides to be selfish, what can you do about that?

    “No, not by force. It would be worthless and meaningless if it were achieved by force. But those who don’t wish to voluntarily “make room”, to me, are really failing to meet even a minimum standard of Christian brotherhood and hospitality.”

    -Again, we have to look at the larger picture here. You say it would be meaningless if it were achieved by force, and you would be quite correct. Call people to holiness, yes…but remember that not everyone will follow, and if enough scoff at you, than you are just wasting your time. I have no issue with illegals as people, I understand and sympathize with their plight. HOWEVER, lets look at the effects that illegal immigration has on communities in the United States…and the uneven application of said principles. Would you be as welcoming of, say….very large influxes of Muslim immigrants, who demographically would alter your community and affect it in significant and fundamental ways. I don’t use this example because of some anti-Muslim bigotry, but because this is the very situation Europe is facing….how far does tolerance go? Look at the effects on infrastructure, et al, and how that will effect the people already there. Opponents of Open Borders are not that way because they hate Mexicans necessarily…remember that.

    “I don’t oppose boarder control, and I don’t oppose fines or other penalties for violating immigration law. What I oppose is a militarized boarder and mass deportations. What I oppose is the general mindset that our “way of life” – sustained through slave labor in the third world and ecological devastation, two phenomena acknowledged and condemned by the Church, has an inherent right to exist.”

    -If they are here illegally, then they are breaking the law…period. Stolen and fraudulent Social Security numbers are no small matter. How do you handle that besides deportation? To say that you are for border control and then oppose “mass deportation” is contradictory…what should the US government do with people who come here illegally? If you just naturalize them, then why go through the proper channels when you can just be a squatter? That isn’t border enforcement. I agree that worker exploitation and careless stewardship of the environment are wrong, but what can America do about that? Not buy their products? That would hurt them even more, because instead of getting a pittance they would get nothing…and which is worse? We can’t force their governments to play nice and treat their people right…we can play the carrot and stick game, but soveriegn nations will do what they will within their own borders…America is not the world’s policeman, and we have bankrupted our country trying to be that.

    CONTINUED IN NEXT POST

  • D.B.

    “The poor immigrant’s right to a job that can support his family is 100 times morally heavier than our right to a home in the suburbs and a house full of neat gadgets. That is precisely what is meant not only by JP II’s quote, but by dozens of similar quotes.”

    -A poor immigrant needs to have the skills required for that job. I’m not an evil man if I own a business and choose not to hire someone because they are not qualified for it. I agree that workers should be respected and that there is dignity in all walks of life, but nobody owes me a job if I can’t do it…and what if there is no job for that poor immigrant? What if they are unskilled labor? Are we obligated to re-train them? Who pays for that? Who will be affected by that? Again, basic practicality…how can such a principle be applied without government coercion? High taxes? What if businesses don’t want to cooperate, do you force them to?

    “How do people start businesses? All we propose is to do that, but to structure them as cooperatives, and if I have my way, to have many of them located in one area that form the basis of an urban community and perhaps a whole town. No government intervention at all is required for that, if we have a right to structure our firms as we want, placing ownership of the means of production in the hands of all the workers instead of holding onto it for ourselves. Is that not our right? Is that not what capitalism and the free market are all about?”

    “Means of production in the hands of the workers?” How is that not Socialism? That is not Capitalism and the Free Market. If you want to form a cooperative, fine….but somebody else may have a different business model, does that make them immoral? If I start a business, why should I have to give my workers “ownership”…I offer them benefits and salary in exchange for their services…a fair exchange. They have a skill I need, they want employment. If it is a fair wage, then they have no business demanding more. And as a worker, I have the right to work for whatever wage that is offered to me. I may choose to work for less in order to get a job, because the trade off is more job security, or making myself more appealing to the employer, or using it as a experience job to get my foot in the door in a chosen trade. I don’t know how to run a lumber business…maybe I can work the wood shop pretty well, but I don’t have a head for numbers…so why in the world should I be placed in charge of one? What if I don’t want the responsibility and just like carving wood for a comfortable living? Again….practical application of lofty ideals.

    “When you know what the model is, and then you decide to reject it for yourself, that’s fine. But if you actively try to prevent it or disrupt it and side with those who would seek to destroy us, then what else could I conclude other than that your love of ideology has trumped your love for your neighbor?”

    -That goes both ways, Joe….not every business follows the cooperative model, nor should they be coerced by force to do so…because force is the only way such a scheme could be imposed large scale. Human nature cannot be negated, and people will be jerks, irregardless. I’m not of the Austrian school, but FA Hayek’s Road to Serfdom destroyed any collectivist tendencies I may have nursed in college. Think it through…How will this work in real life?

    “Mantra? I wouldn’t have to repeat it so much if people really did start reading it.”

    I’ve read more than you may think, Joe…and I am no Distributist, as much as I admire Chesterton and Belloc. (I would argue that Ronald Knox is superior in the realm of Apologetics, but that is just me…)

  • D.B.

    …To sum it up, think about real world applications. If I own a business, I hire workers for their skills to do the job. Unskilled illegal immigrant labor cannot do the job I want, so why should I hire them? How does that respect their dignity? It’s a hand out, a condescending insult. You can argue we need to retrain them, but again…is it the responsibility of the United States to provide these services to people who are not citizens, owe no loyalty or hold no loyalty to the United States, and are a strain on local communities who are having problems dealing with what they have? How is that fair to those who are already here? Is that Just? You condemn the concept of having a “Catholic Utah” but in the last post laud the idea of having a Distributist type commune, which is essentially the same principle. I hear the Social Justice types go on as you do, Joe…but then they get mealy mouthed when asked for hard, practical specifics….plans, applications, cause and effect, cost and the like…If a person doesn’t want to form a Distributist community, would they have that right in Joe’s America?
    I’m not sold on the Distributist, Leftist, or what have you vision…I am skeptical and believe that the actual application of your ideas would do more harm than good in the long run…that doesn’t make me evil or against the Church…and you would be surprised at how many disagree with you on principle, rather than because they hate the poor….

  • Joe H

    You say you don’t really care for Distributism, but you quote Chesterton to me. You realize he pretty much came up with the modern Catholic idea of Distributism, right?

    “If a large portion of the population decides to be selfish, what can you do about that?”

    Inspire them, like the early Christians did, or the medieval mendicant orders did, to not be selfish. We are not simply American citizens, in any case, but Catholic Christians. We are not subject merely to a president and a constitution but a heavenly judge.

    I wonder, is it “coercion” when God judges us for being selfish? A lot of atheists reject Christianity with the same logic some anarchists use to reject the state. They look at Christianity and see a system that says, “do this or go to hell”.

    While our faith is certainly deeper than that, there is still that reality of final judgment. And Matthew 25 tells us on what criteria we are to be judged. If we turn away the stranger we will end up in the lake of fire. I didn’t say it, Christ did. I try to keep it in mind when I approach the least of my brothers, “criminals” or not (we’ll also be judged on how we treat the prisoner).

    “Would you be as welcoming of, say….very large influxes of Muslim immigrants, who demographically would alter your community and affect it in significant and fundamental ways.”

    Yes. I don’t care about demographics. If they respect my natural rights – things that I have a valid and legitimate claim to, such as my life, my property, etc. then I have no problem with them. The vast majority of “illegals” are here to work, and causing trouble would only get them deported. A man working to feed is family is not only not a threat to me, but a brother.

    “Opponents of Open Borders are not that way because they hate Mexicans necessarily…remember that.”

    I don’t think it has anything to do with skin color 90% of the time (there are SOME white supremacists out there, though!) It has to do with a perceived threat to a way of life and a standard of living that has no inherent right to exist. It has to do with seeing in a human person a “problem” instead of a brother.

    “If they are here illegally, then they are breaking the law…period.”

    Yes, let the punishment fit the crime. For the crime of sneaking into a country without papers for the purpose of feeding one’s family and ensuring their continued existence on the planet Earth, the only appropriate punishment would be to make restitution in the way of fines or community service at some point – to give back to a country from which one has taken. I think that is fair and just to all parties, and in my view, the only solution even remotely compatible with Christian mercy.

    “To say that you are for border control and then oppose “mass deportation” is contradictory”

    No it isn’t. We can control the flow of people coming in the future, but that doesn’t have a thing to do with how we treat the people who are here already. On the condition that the immigrants who are here pay, over time, in a way that doesn’t burden their families excessively, some fines as restitution they should be granted full amnesty.

    As for the future, I’m not at all opposed to regulating the boarder with more police or what have you, provided that, at the same time there is some plan to help the Mexican economy and reduce the need to come here in the first place.

    “We can’t force their governments to play nice and treat their people right…we can play the carrot and stick game, but soveriegn nations will do what they will within their own borders”

    We can have fair trade policies. Or, better yet, we can rebuild our manufacturing base in this country. Americans are the biggest market for many of these countries that violate workers rights. The problem is, fair trade and respect for human rights will mean higher prices in the short term, though over time I don’t think it will be a serious problem. It is a problem in the short-term because we have all gotten used to the low prices made possible through slavery or conditions that are petty close to slavery. Sometimes it is more expensive to do the right thing. But to not do it is unconscionable and for Christians, it ought to be an abomination.

  • Joe H

    “I’m not an evil man if I own a business and choose not to hire someone because they are not qualified for it.”

    Who said you were? What does that have to do with illegal immigration? If there wasn’t a demand here for cheap, unskilled labor, the immigrants wouldn’t be coming here. So I really don’t get your point here.

    “Means of production in the hands of the workers?” How is that not Socialism? That is not Capitalism and the Free Market.”

    It depends on who you ask.

    A company owned by the workers would still be a private company; it wouldn’t be owned by the state, now, would it? And it would still compete in the same market as every other company; it wouldn’t be part of a command economy, would it?

    A cooperative is “means of production in the hands of the workers”. A society based on them would be both capitalistic and, according to some, socialistic. I prefer to say it would be something that includes the best of each idea and leaves out the worst. You still have private property and markets, but the property is used in common and for the common good.

    I also have to point out to you, DB, that the exact proposition, or something very close to it – “worker ownership of the means of production” has been used by popes Pius XI, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, and I’m sure Pope Benedict, if his writings to date are any indication, is also in agreement.

    Let me be clear and please don’t misunderstand: they do not say that everyone has to do this. What they say is that we can do it, and insofar as possible, we should try to do it as much as we can. It is clearly a preferred model that satisfies all the requirements of Catholic social teaching. It goes something like this:

    Socialism = bad, unacceptable
    Social Democracy = somewhat acceptable, with serious problems
    American-style capitalism = somewhat acceptable, with serious problems
    Distributism = better than all these alternatives, but, of course, nothing is perfect

    Finally, I think you have some pretty mistaken ideas about what Distributism is, going by the series of questions you asked. Distributism is about ownership and greater responsibility, but it certainly isn’t about fanatical egalitarian leveling. I would suggest you look up the Mondragon model of the workers cooeprative. It’s more or less the one I would base a firm on.

  • Dave May

    I agree with basic outline of article except for its mischaracterization of Iraq War. After 9/11, pre-emption was the wise and courageous choice. (9/11 was a radical event that demanded a radical response).
    Simply, for the sake of national security, we needed to get a toe-hold in a region that spawned terrorism-with or without a stockpile of WMD. The nature of Saddam’s regime was a WMD. It was a dynamic threat to this country.
    Tremendous lack of perspective from those who think ensuring our national security is no different than a game of chess.

  • D.B.

    Joe H,

    I am well aware of GK Chesterton’s role in the Distributist movement…It was a good quote about the point I was making. A Free Society means that people have the privilege to be jerks to one another…because if they weren’t able to than they aren’t free. That doesn’t mean it is a good thing, it doesn’t mean it is a desireable thing…it is what it is. You claim that nobody would be forced to embrace Distributism, and yet for America to be changed in such a way would require totalitarian methods…because point blank…they aren’t going to go for it willingly, Joe…they aren’t. They never will…some will follow, most won’t…and that was the way even in the time of Christ. I believe in fair wages, good benefits and just taxation….but if I owned a business, I would not give my workers part ownership in my business, unless they wanted to buy stock…they have no right to demand more of me, and I would fight tooth and nail anyone who attempts to take my property out of some skewed reading of Church Teaching. Because, while Distributism claims to respect property rights…what if a person wanted to buy large parcels of land, or businesses….and the people who owned those things were willing to part with them…why should this transaction not be made? Not all big businesses were built by immoral fat cats….there are legitimate transactions, and legitimate trade…if a person is wealthy, why begrudge them their wealth? I don’t have a soak the rich mentality, at all…it is very very hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven…the temptations are so much greater and abundant than someone who is poor…but there are righteous rich…men of wealth and splendor who were blessed by God in Scripture, as well as today, people of high means who are generous…we have Kings and Emperors among the Saints. Not everyone is called to live the Distributist and Impoverished vocation, Joe….acknowledging that fact, why should the US government be used to impose it by fiat….Distributism is A Way…it is not THE way.

  • John Zmirak

    I think “I’m Not Spartacus” did such an admirable job of responding, that I’m going to move on along, doing my next column on something else. However, this conversation did inspire me to write something else, which (for those of you interested) is posted here:
    http://tinyurl.com/dhrqku

    Happy and Blessed Easter to All!

  • Joe H

    And here I thought we were going to have a polemical exchange. I will write something for my own little website soon.

  • Joe H

    “Not everyone is called to live the Distributist and Impoverished vocation, Joe….acknowledging that fact, why should the US government be used to impose it by fiat….Distributism is A Way…it is not THE way.”

    I already explicitly acknowledged this. Did you not read it, or did you not believe me?

  • Joe H

    Anyone interested in what I think of John’s polemic in Taki Magazine can go here

    http://tiny.cc/VS3ZW

  • I am not Spartacus

    “I think “I’m Not Spartacus” did such an admirable job of responding..”

    Imagine my delight upon reading those words written by one of my heroes. (My delight in reading those words is only slightly less than the delight I would feel were Lord Al Davis to ask me who The Raiders should pick in this year’s NFL Draft).

    Thanks, Dr. Zmirak.

    Zmirak is a national Catholic treasure. I have read his incredible, “The Grand Inquisitor” and because I am reading so many parts aloud to The Bride, (“Darlin’, listen to what Zmirak writes about the hospital at Beaune. I didn’t know that…”) she will never have to read. “The Bad Catholics Guide to Wine, Whiskey, and Song.”

    I am about to order his Bio of Wilhelm Roepke.

    Mr. Z is a national Catholic treasure. He is wickedly funny, brilliant, and he spreads before his readers an intellectual feast of authentic Catholicism.

    He studied under, among others, the great Fr. Hardon and his knowledge of authentic Catholic Doctrine suffuses his world-view and so far surpasses the pretended expertise of his critics that, at times, I almost feel sorry for them.

  • Gabriel Austin

    A major point overlooked in this [these?] discussion is the nature of the charity we are called upon to exercise. We give to the point that we can feel its exercise. We give until it hurts.

    Many of the “cases” cited are of the “suppose that” kind. Theoretical assumptions are useful in debates, but generally meaningless. We will never establish the kingdom of God on earth. Giving as much as we can – plus some – will never be sufficient to eradicate all poverty. We must depend upon the charity of God.

    All of which is to say that charitable efforts are personal.

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