Little Systems of Order

As we begin Advent, the Church confronts us with Jesus’ teaching about the Second Coming. His disturbing warning is well-known in our post-Protestant culture:

As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. (Mt 24:37-42)

It’s a text known not only to every reader of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind series, but to millions of other people, Catholic, Protestant, and unbeliever. And the way in which it is commonly read, not only by Evangelicals but even by many Catholics, is that those who are “taken” are the blessed, while those who are left are accursed or otherwise abandoned to their fate by the Lord of the Harvest. I have even heard sermons from Catholic pulpits that take this for granted.

Only, here’s the thing: As Scripture scholar Michael Barber points out, this is exactly backward from the Old Testament backdrop to which Jesus Himself is pointing.

Now, according to the standard rapturist interpretation, when Jesus says, “one is taken and one is left,” he is teaching that the righteous one will be “raptured” while the wicked, unbelieving heathens will be “left behind.”

The problem with this view however is that it seems to contradict what Jesus is actually saying.

The larger context of the passage is an analogy: Jesus is describing the time of the coming of the Son of man in terms of the flood judgment.

What is often missed is this: according to Jesus, in the days of Noah it was the wicked who were “swept away” (Matt 24:39). In other words, in the days of Noah, the wicked were the ones taken.

Hence, it would seem that in Jesus’ analogy, it is desirable to be among those left behind — i.e., those not swept away as the wicked were in the days of Noah. A careful reading then would suggest that the righteous are those who are left behind, not those taken.

I realize that the view that Jesus here links salvation with those being “taken” is very much entrenched, no doubt in part due to the influence of the rapture interpretation. Yet such a reading does not seem to flow naturally from the text. In fact, such a reading in fact reverses the imagery so that the days of the Son of man are unlike the days of Noah, contrary to what Jesus himself seems to teach.

So much for worrying about being “left behind.”

In other words, appealing to this passage as a basis for some Rapture is rather like appealing to Thomas Jefferson as a witness to the glories of monarchy. It’s the opposite of what Jesus is saying.

 

Does Barber mean to suggest that those who read it as a reference to the Rapture are deliberately deceptive? I doubt that. Certainly, Catholics I’ve known who have read it to mean the saved will be taken have no intent to deceive. In fact, the people I have heard reading the passage this way actually reject Rapture theology. But by a sort of mental habit, they have nonetheless gone on reading the passage in a sense contrary to what the words themselves actually import. Why?

To answer that, let us consult with noted theologian Qui-Gonn Jinn.

As a general rule, I discourage people from getting their theology from Star Wars because, well, it’s a dumb thing to do. However, understood rightly, there is a bit of Jedi wisdom to be had here and there — rather as fortune cookies sometimes make a good call by dumb luck. For instance, consider Qui-Gonn Jinn’s remark to Anakin Skywalker, “Your focus determines your reality.”

That statement is lunacy if you take it to mean, “Things are only as we think them.” Such insanity pervades every crank solipsistic philosophy on earth, from the people who tell you that your leg is only broken because you believe it to be, to the lunatics who believe that “will power” is the sovereign solvent for walking through brick walls.

On the other hand, Qui-Gonn’s remark can also be understood to mean that we tend to interpret (and filter) facts to fit our predetermined ideas. That’s just common sense — and it’s why we often miss facts that are staring us in the face. It’s a principle every magician relies on in misdirecting our focus to one thing as he does something else to create the illusion. Indeed, properly understood, “your focus determines your reality” is a statement about the power of the human mind, not to create reality, but to radically misunderstand it.

And so, in our Protestant and post-Protestant culture, we drink in with our mother’s milk certain cultural assumptions about how to read certain passages in Scripture, much as we drink in certain pieces of “common knowledge” about the movies, or history, or other fields. Everybody knows the Constitution guarantees “separation of Church and state” (except it doesn’t). Everybody knows Humphrey Bogart said, “Play it again, Sam” (except he didn’t). Everybody knows Darwin wrote about “survival of the fittest” (except that Herbert Spencer did). And everybody knows that Jesus teaches that the good will be taken and the wicked left. So, even though not one of these things can ever be documented, we go on seeing them in the text — even when the text says something that directly contradicts “common knowledge.”

 

This has other implications than simply how we will read a rather mysterious passage concerning the Judgment. For instance, as an Evangelical, my eyes fell, for years, on passages like, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). I didn’t “reject” such passages. I simply . . . didn’t see them. It was one of those weird things St. Paul said. Nobody knows why. If I read similar words in any other context (i.e., from a Catholic writer), then there was a place in my scheme of reality for it. It was “Romish works salvation adding to the finished work of Jesus.” But when I read it in Paul, it was simply a blank.

It wasn’t until some Catholic writer pointed out that Paul’s remark actually fit into the Catholic understanding of our sharing in the work of Christ by uniting our sufferings to His in penance that I actually began to incorporate it into my thinking and “see” it. This applied with other passages as well, such as Paul’s remarks about “holding fast to tradition” (1 Cor 11:1; 2 Thes 2:15). Until you begin to grasp the fact that sola scriptura is inadequate for dealing with reality and start looking for some other way to explain the world, you can go for years with your eyes falling on these passages but never actually seeing them. Your system has no place for these facts.

We constantly construct what Evelyn Waugh called “little systems of order” and tend to feed into it those facts that fit the system in some way or another. Facts that do not fit the system tend not to be seen, or are interpreted in such a way as to preserve the system of order we have created. Sometimes this is perfectly legitimate, sometimes not. Medievals very sensibly valued the Duck Principle: If it walks, quacks, and looks like a duck, odds are it’s a duck. This doctrine was known by the more starchy term “saving the appearances.”

And so, for instance, geocentrism was a little system of order that worked well enough for ancient scientists who came up with epicycles and so forth to “save the appearances” of a sun and stars that sure looked like they moved and an earth that sure felt like it didn’t. Then heliocentrism came up with an explanation that covered the same facts more elegantly (and incorporated more facts the earlier system had not dealt with well). Appearances, while nice, could still be deceiving after all (as medievals, steeped in the doctrine of Transubstantiation, also knew well). Then Einstein came up with yet another explanation that covered the same facts (and more we had not been able to fit into a Newtonian universe). Eventually, the older systems of order had to incorporate more and more facts (and, who knows, may yet have to incorporate more). So little systems of order gradually give way to larger systems.

In the same way, the American founders could grasp that all men were created equal, yet could not incorporate into this picture of the world the fact that “men” included black men and red men (and women). The little system of order would simply not see these inconvenient facts for quite some time (and not without great violence). Indeed, at this hour, millions of our countrymen still fail to see the unborn child. Their little system of order can’t cope with the fact of the humanity of the unborn. Facts get sacrificed accordingly.

 

The principle can be seen everywhere. For instance, a little system of egalitarianism from the recent past insisted that everybody was equally at risk for AIDS, despite the fact that AIDS is, overwhelmingly, a plague afflicting those who swap body fluids outside the bounds of committed heterosexual marriage. It was a fact that could not be admitted, because the system of order decreed that we not acknowledge that sexual promiscuity and drug use were the main transmission vectors. Facts were sacrificed. In much the same way, we have, in this country, a little system of order that declares everyone equally at risk for being a terrorist. Those in the grip of it persist, against all the blandishments of common sense, in treating nuns in wheelchairs as being every bit the threat to passengers that a radical jihadist is. The system of order decrees which facts are admissible for consideration and which are not.

Little systems of order often grasp part of a larger truth yet prove stubbornly resistant to embracing the whole of reality. For instance, a system of order that opposes the abortion of children in their beds on August 6, 1945, for the purpose of ending a war of aggression can enthusiastically approve of aborting them in the womb for the purpose of fighting crime or poverty. Likewise, those committed to the proposition that innocent life can never be deliberately taken in the womb can be passionate defenders of deliberately murdering it on a Japanese playground in Nagasaki.

The littleness of little systems of order is what periodically causes them to smash against their own internal contradictions — as happened, for instance with the attempt to maintain slavery in a republic founded on the doctrine of human equality. In the same way, we read story after story after story of abortionists who, like Paul, find it impossible to kick against the goads and who wind up becoming ardent pro-life activists (ever notice that one never hears of pro-lifers who are converted by conscience to become ardent baby killers?). All that rhetoric pro-aborts spout about “freedom” finally sinks in, and they realize that you can’t be free if human life is cheap. The little system of order gives way to a completer view of human beings and their dignity that does not need to sacrifice human life to human freedom.

Similarly, those committed to the notion that the State requires extraordinary powers to subject human beings to “enhanced interrogation” in order to keep us safe are now experiencing the beginnings of the contradiction of their own little system of order. As long as it was Maher Arar and other foreigners being abused by the State, defenders of “enhanced interrogation” were fine with it, because they lived in the illusion that it was keeping them “safe.” Indeed, not a few have adopted the philosophy as they trembled in fear before the all-justifying “ticking time bomb scenario.” But now that the Transportation Safety Administration is stripping Americans of their human dignity on precisely the same rationale that has been used to justify stripping foreigners of theirs (and sometimes stripping them of their lives in the process), torture apologists like Charles Krauthammer are suddenly discovering that the two phases of history are “What could it hurt?” followed by “How was I supposed to know?”

The longer this goes on, the better the chances are that former enthusiasts for “enhanced interrogation” will find a place for inconvenient fact like “due process” and discover that folding the punishment/humiliation phase of the justice system into the investigative phase could have negative effects, not just for faceless foreigners, but for lots and lots of innocent men, women, and children in public places all over the Security State of Big Sis. Suddenly, the lie of “safety” through contempt for human dignity is becoming a reality. Experience is a great engine of paradigm shift.

Little systems of order are not bad things by themselves, so long as we recognize they are human and provisional. Our lives are filled with them. We drive on the right side of the road, not because it was decreed by God on Sinai, but because that’s how we do things around here. We celebrate certain holidays, go here, do that, observe this custom, and take it for granted that X is so because our lives are greatly helped by these widely accepted rules of thumb about how things are supposed to go. And generally, we rub along okay by doing so.

But now and then, a little system of order reveals its weaknesses and we reconsider and even change it. So we pass from being a geocentric to heliocentric culture. We opt to give women the vote. We pass dry laws — and then, realizing our folly, repeal them. All of this is part of the normal give and take of human history. None of it means that the bedrock of reality changes — merely that our very imperfect understanding of how we are to navigate the river flowing over that bedrock should be lived out.

 

This has everything to do with the pope’s recent remarks about condoms and the kerfuffle it has engendered in our beer-and-shampoo-selling media. The hope of our Manufacturers of Ephemeral Culture is, as ever, that the immutable truths the Catholic Church teaches — that God Almighty is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Love from Everlasting to Everlasting, and that the human person is made in His image and likeness — will melt before the onslaught of Money, Sex, and Power. And those who focus on that false trinity have their reality determined — that is, distorted — by it.

Thus, the pope makes a perfectly obvious remark founded on the mercy of God, which sees even the feeblest attempt at consideration for another in the light of charity. Result: The press, acting under the influence of what the Curt Jester calls the Ginger Factor, hears, “Blah blah blah condoms blah blah blah” and concludes, “The pope approves of condoms.” Their little system of order can admit no other interpretation of the data, and whatever else the pope says in all his voluminous teaching about human dignity and rightly ordered sexuality simply bounces off, because there is no place to put those inconvenient facts.

What to do? In brief, keep doing what Pope Benedict is doing: stating the full-orbed truth of the Catholic faith. Because the media’s little system of order, like so many others, is merely of human make and design and will sooner or later conk just as all the others eventually do. To paraphrase a wise man: “If the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God” (cf. Acts 5:38-39). My deep confidence is that, throw however many lies at it as they will, the MSM will discover that their little system of order cracks and the Church’s teaching will still be standing. For the Faith is not of human make or design and so will sooner or later carry the day. The MSM will be taken, and the Church will be left.

Mark P. Shea

By

Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • Carl

    Never mind the hypocrisy of the anti-torture heroes on the left who only removed waterboarding from the enhanced interrogation techniques and only when applied to terrorists—SERE training still exists. Also no journalist or others experimenting with waterboading were ever arrested for torture.

    Three ticking time bomb terrorists who spilled the beans on al Qaeda operations did not open the flood gates to murder to about one million unborn children in the U.S per year. And it hasn

  • AT
  • Pammie

    Heretofore puzzling Biblical passages explained in a way that makes sense to me, reference to the uber-writer Evelyn Waugh, cultural commentary that is actually useful and easy to understand (due to my own little systems of order I expect)—thanks for the early Christmas present Mr. Shea! I’m going to have to read this over many times because it’s so very,very good,and explains a great deal about our thought processes and resulting behaviours.

  • Sue Sims

    …is one that every evangelical must have experienced when being drawn to the Church. Mine was 1 John 5:17: having pumped out the standard evangelical line for nearly 30 years, that all sin separates from God, and thus no sin is worse than any other sin, and thus the Papist doctrine which distinguishes mortal from venial sin is unBiblical, I read that verse for the hundredth time and – well, read it: “All unrighteousness is sin: but there is a sin not unto death.” Ah. Yes. Venial sin. Whoops.

  • MikeS

    I’m not trying to help the Rapture folks, but couldn’t Noah and family be considered the ones “taken” when they entered the ark?

  • maiki

    AT — did you just refer to the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, a gift of the Universal Church as the “Schonborn Catechism” as if it were on par to a local catechism? If you want to compare catechisms, compare “The Catechism of Trent” to the CCC, or the Baltimore Catechism to the US Catholic Catechism for Adults.

  • AT

    So how is tradition defined in the The Catechism of Trent?

  • sibyl

    All those inconvenient facts Mr. Shea talked about in the first part of this excellent article are what Jacques Barzun called “thought cliches.” They’re the shorthand that we use to assign things in our little systems, to make them fit, but that obliviate thought, rather than result from it.

    I urge everyone to read “The House of Intellect” by Barzun. It’s appropos.

  • Andrew

    A good article, but coming from a man who thinks evolution has a shred of scientific evidence for it means your little system of order needs help enlarging it to include the truth. As for the obviousness of the pope’s remark, I think he is unaware of how promiscious people think…. condom never help. They do not make someone more moral and they certainly would not be a first step towards anything. I can understand the pope’s reasoning for why he thought that, but it simply isn’t so. Fortunately, as Catholic’s we understand that a pope’s private opinion can be wrong, even if he is very, very intelligent.

  • Mark Shea

    Andrew:

    What is The TRVTH when it comes to the origins of human life? Yes, God is the Lord, the Giver of Life. But beyond “then a miracle occurs”, when it comes to scientific accounts, since you propose to sweep away the immense and converging lines of evidence for evolution, what do you likewise propose to put in its place. Let’s hear it.

  • Mrs. F

    Mark, have you ever checked out http://www.creationscience.com ? The author, Dr. Walt Brown, proposes an alternative theory to the popular theory of evolution. It also points out some of the disparities in the ToE and places where circular reasoning has been applied. His main theory supports (scientifically) how our modern geology, including the fossil record, could have been created by a cataclysmic flood–y’know, like the one mentioned in the story of Noah you referenced at the beginning of the article. smilies/smiley.gif

    He may not convince you, but since evolution is just a theory, and one that really cannot become proven fact (without a time machine), there is room for scientifically supported alternative theories.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Mark Shea, you’ve done it again–yet another article of yours that I felt compelled to print out and tack to the wall. At this rate, I’m not going to have any wall space left by Easter.
    I myself have never had problems with skimming over Scriptural bits that didn’t agree with me, although, this reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago–a while back, when I was about eighteen, I was dating this girl from a neighbouring town. She was quite pretty, which probably explains why it took myself forever to realise that we had absolutely nothing in common. Sure, occasionally she’d say things like “All reality is subjective”, or “I really can’t see why anyone would subscribe to all that religious dogma the Church is peddling,” but I just. . . didn’t hear her. In fact, this girl had been my sweetheart for about four months, when she said (as she had already said twenty times), “All religions are equal, because they all lead to God.” I stopped, stared at her, and said, “Wait, what?” She repeated herself, and, finally, I said to myself, why am I dating this person?
    So, you see, blind spots can crop up in all different areas of life, from Scripture to girlfriends.

  • Jason

    You have a point about how the scriptures are read.

    Then, OMG you have to put in you latest nonsense about bombing the Japanese and torture. I think you are disrupting your little systems of order with the equating abortion with a litany of “liberal attacks on conservatives dedication to life”. To use a movie quote “For every action there is a equal and opposite reaction in nature, as in man” the priest from ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. When we were attacked by the Japanese, we reacted, now decades later we look back and reason what should have been done but we can’t change it.

    As for torture it is a bad reaction to an attack but you point of view has resulted in the TSA patting down nuns and toddlers. The point of view you are advocating would be to not single any group out for special observation but be humane by reasoning anyone could be a terrorist. Now I think torture is a bad idea on many levels, but to use your reasoning, what would you suggest we do instead of torture?

    And why is it that non scientists always feel the need to defend evolution? Its a bad scientific theory with less evidence than everyone knows. Having studied evolutionary biology and read the writings of Darwin I can say it is a bad theory. And why do I need to come up with an alternate? Can’t something be a bad idea? Like torture?

  • Mark Shea

    now decades later we look back and reason what should have been done but we can’t change it.

    Nobody says we can change. What we can do is stop defending it and learn from it.

    Now I think torture is a bad idea on many levels, but to use your reasoning, what would you suggest we do instead of torture?

    How about “treat prisoners humanely”? You know, like we did up till 9/11/01? The ridiculous notion that our sole choice is torture prisoners or do nothing whatsoever is beneath contempt.

    And why do I need to come up with an alternate?

    Because the legions of real, you know, scientists are under the strong impression that it has immense explanatory power and that sweeping it away in favor of “then a miracle occurred” is not, you know, science.

  • Mark Shea

    God bless you mate. You sound like a very good egg to me. Some gal’s going to see it and make a place for you in her little system of order, even if she has to re-adjust the system! Guys like you don’t come along every day.

  • Mrs. F

    On EWTN today, a priest was speakinga bout miracles. He said that there are physical miracles, which are what most of us think of as miracles, but there are also moral and intellectual miracles. An abortion doctor becoming passionately pro-life would certainly count as a type of moral and intellectual miracle, as would the conversion of a militant Muslim. This was what first occured to me on reading the article, though I got a little sidetracked by the evolution issue.

    I think things like torture and the bombing of Nagasaki become such issues among even Orthodox Catholics because people can see some good coming from them, whereas someone would need to be rather twisted to think good comes from abortion (one person is killed, another is wounded emotionally, and possibly physically. The only one who benefits in the doctor, financially, but at such a cost to his soul).

    Fr. John Laux’s book Catholic Morality, which is intended as a text for HS students, addresses the question of an action which produces both a good effect and a bad effect. The act itself must be good or indifferent; the evil must not be intended, but can be permitted; there must be weighty reasons for permitting the evil; the good must follow as immediately as the bad; and the good must outweigh the evil. On these conditions, a person may harm or kill someone who is attacking them or innocents they are trying to protect (the good action is defense of self or others). If the act is torture, though, I can’t see how it qualifies, since torture itself wouldn’t qualify as a good or indifferent action.

    That said, if I knew children were in imminent danger, especially my children, I would probably find myself not at all squemish about torture. After perhaps.

  • AT

    Mark, I like your blogs, but not so much this entry. To illustrate the concept of

  • AT

    make that evolution of philosophy,smilies/grin.gif

  • Jason

    I think you missed my point.

    1 Evolution is a bad theory much like torture, it ignores fundamentals of reason. A scientist is forced by the current culture with in science to accept some facts over and above other facts. Is this not your point?

    2 To come up with an alternative one must be able to have a free exchange of ideas (come let us reason together) and more importantly have the input of different fields of science. Before Darwin and his anti-Christian cohort bribed the support from Lord Kelvin this process was proceeding. Then the false either/or of creation verses evolution was imposed. The process was never again allowed. So your question of what is the alternative is ignorant of the process and relegated to the either/or mentality.

    3 My question about alternatives was ment to illistrate my later point of evolution, though it was done badly.

    4 To treat people humanly is a foundational requirement of our faith. But how are we to get information from someone who is determined not to give it to us is a difficult question and is at the heart of your constant questioning of torture (though it is getting tiring). We do this by trickery and deceit, which is that any better than physical torture, to play with ones emotion or mental faculties? Isn’t this very close to psychological abuse? This isn’t a defense of torture but it is a something WE as Catholics must come to grips with. Physical abuse or psychological abuse is still abuse! Then do we argue about which wounds heal quicker to justify our decision? The point remains how do we get someone to give us something they don’t want to give us?

    I hope this clarifies my statement. And please for the love of all that is holy and stop equating abortion and torture.

    Thank you for your time.

  • Neil

    Great article. I think you managed to hit every major heresy in our current public discourse.

    A couple of passages that eluded me for years (or, rather, I eluded them) was “The Lord will render to every man according to his works,” and “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven…” So, so true.

  • CW

    Mark Shea, you did it again! As a Canadian who’s been living in the US for 10 years, I’ve come across so many of these “little systems of order” in wonderful faithful Catholics who totally buy into the whole conservative/Republican ideology (pro gun, pro death penalty, anti National Health Care, etc.). It drives me crazy! I find it so hopeful to read your articles. A real breath of fresh air. Keep up the good work!

  • Alex P

    I don’t think that Mark is saying that Torture and Abortion are equal. He is simply saying that it is also a evil, sinful thing. Is that really such a bad thing to say?

    Also, in response to all the comments about evolution, I’m pretty sure that there has been some work done on the subject since Darwin. I don’t think that everyone pushing evolution is saying that everything Darwin said is 100% correct. Kind of like what Mark was saying, that the “system of order” that is evolution has had some new things added to it over the years. So, clearly, like most of science, its a work in progress. Just sayin…

  • Alex P

    meant to put that torture and abortion are equal my bad. Also, I admit that I have not thought deeply on evolution, those are just my impressions from what I know.

  • Alex P

    now I realize that my correction could easily be taken out of context. I’m trying to say that in my first post I meant to say that “I don’t think that Mark is saying that torture and abortion are equal”.

  • Brian English

    “But now that the Transportation Safety Administration is stripping Americans of their human dignity on precisely the same rationale that has been used to justify stripping foreigners of theirs (and sometimes stripping them of their lives in the process),”

    The airport security procedures pursued by the “torture enthusiasts” of the Bush Adminstration were idiotic, but having to take off your shoes was not such a big deal.

    The champions of the interrogation techniques of the Sacred Army Field Manual are the ones who instituted the full body scanners and the grope-fests that are currently going on.

    Claiming that those practices arise from the same ideological source is absurd. I think you have to re-think your little system of order on this.

  • Brian English

    “I don’t think that Mark is saying that Torture and Abortion are equal. He is simply saying that it is also a evil, sinful thing. Is that really such a bad thing to say?”

    What he is saying, time after time, is that those who do not agree with him that waterboarding three terrorist leaders to try to save lives was a great crime against humanity stand in defiance of the Church just like Catholics who support abortion.

    Mentioning the two issues together is offensive, and shows a clear lack of understanding of the hierarchy of moral issues the Church has set forth.

  • AT
  • Mark Shea

    And please for the love of all that is holy and stop equating abortion and torture.

    What do you mean by “equate”? “Suggesting they occur with the same frequency”? I never have. “Saying they are both grave sins?” That’s just the Church’s teaching. You want me to deny the Church’s teaching “for the love of all that is holy”? I don’t think you know what “holy” means, if that’s the case.

    Brian:

    You can keep repeating the Lie of the Three Sacred Victims till the cows come home. It doesn’t alter the fact that we tortured a lot more than than and used lot of other techniques besides drowning to do it.

  • Brian English

    “You can keep repeating the Lie of the Three Sacred Victims till the cows come home. It doesn’t alter the fact that we tortured a lot more than than and used lot of other techniques besides drowning to do it.”

    We waterboarded three al Qaeda leaders. That is a fact. Your insistence that anyone who does not condemn those actions must consequently approve of every crime that took place during interrogations anywhere in the world, at any point during the Bush Adminstration, is ridiculous.

    Investigations were launched because of the various incidents you keep screaming about. People were charged and people went to jail. I know there is this shadowy CIA Agent lurking out there who was supposedly involved in one situation that appears to have been negligent homicide, but you should take that up with Eric Holder. It may be they simply do not have enough evidence to bring charges.

    In any event, I find it amazing that B16 can treat Bushitler with great respect, even meeting him at St. John’s Tower, an honor that has been accorded to no other world leader, yet you feel entitled to savage Pro-Life Catholics who refuse to condemn Bush. How did you obtain such extraordinary authority?

  • Raphael

    Your premise was great and so was the article, but then you brought in some erroneous and emotional examples. C’mon dude. (I’m 22 so i can say ‘dude.’)

    Likewise, those committed to the proposition that innocent life can never be deliberately taken in the womb can be passionate defenders of deliberately murdering it on a Japanese playground in Nagasaki.

    War has some unpleasant side effects. To expect an empire to be defeated without some icky bloodshed is more than unrealistic, it is embarressing empty-headedness that moderns try to masquerade as Christian compassion. War is about breaking things and killing people. I’ll side with the Crusaders over emasculated, squeamish, cowardly moderns anyday. What you people try to do (and what you’ll never succeed at), is to try to make it impossible for the good guys to ever win any wars. As a fellow Catholic, I say to you “man up, sir.”

    The longer this goes on, the better the chances are that former enthusiasts for “enhanced interrogation” will find a place for inconvenient fact like “due process” and discover that folding the punishment/humiliation phase of the justice system into the investigative phase could have negative effects, not just for faceless foreigners, but for lots and lots of innocent men, women, and children in public places all over the Security State of Big Sis.

    In war or peace, people from enemy nations have never been accorded the same rights as citizens of the opposing country. Generally speaking, this is not wrong in our situation. Strip-searching a suspected combatant from an enemy country is not the moral equivalent of strip searching american women in an american airport. Every conservative who supports Club Gitmo understands this. It is common sense. We are not torturing people in Club Gitmo. Waterboarding is not torture.

  • AT

    Hey Dude
    Not sure if you voted for McCain. But he was very much against torture. Perhaps a reason was that he was tortured for a long time himself. Have you ever been tortured? Have you been water boarded? Are you in the services?
    Did you see the footage from wikeleaks of innocent people being gunned down from a helicopter in Iraq? Where in the Bible is the passage about continuing cycles of hatred? I respect those in service when the do a job they need to do, but this is not allways so clear. Not so much armchair warriors.

  • Mark Shea

    …so often conflate brutality with courage. So Raphael, for instance, offers a defense of deliberately slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians (which the Church calls a “crime against man and God”) and says, “As a fellow Catholic, I say to you ‘man up, sir.'”

    Very manly. Very Catholic. And all written from some laptop at a cozy seminary somewhere, if memory serves. God preserve us from yet *another* generation of priests sowing dissent, only this time on the Reactionary side.

    I’d be fascinated, Raphael, if you would bring your views about the manliness and orthodoxy of deliberate mass slaughter of children to your teachers at seminary and see what they say. Are you aware that the famed Ottoviani condemned Hiroshima and Nagasaki? He didn’t seem to have your views on manliness.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    AT, you are so, so right. Just about everyone that’s going on about the high morals behind torture are also people who have had no experience with the horrible reality of this sort of thing.
    Myself lives Ireland, where there has always been a great deal of conflict, particularly between protestants and catholics. As a result, I personally have witnessed certain acts of violence, and pure hatred, that I would like very much to forget–but I know I never will. All the armchair warriors out there I’m sure find it awfully easy to talk about patriotism and “defending our land”, but they really ought not to speak until they know what they are speaking about; if they think torture and cruelty are such wonderful things, perhaps themselves should see a bit of it, and learn what it looks like first-hand.

  • Brian English

    “All the armchair warriors out there I’m sure find it awfully easy to talk about patriotism and “defending our land”, but they really ought not to speak until they know what they are speaking about;”

    So you think only combat veterans should decide which interrogation techniques we use? I can accept that, but I do not think you and Shea will like how that vote turns out.

  • Brian English

    “Did you see the footage from wikeleaks of innocent people being gunned down from a helicopter in Iraq? Where in the Bible is the passage about continuing cycles of hatred? I respect those in service when the do a job they need to do, but this is not allways so clear. Not so much armchair warriors.”

    Ah yes, what monsters the members of that helicopter crew were for not being able to distinguish, in the middle of a firefight, between shoulder-carried video-cameras and shoulder-carried missles.

    I bet you could have done it with no problem though. Talk about armchair warriors.

  • Mark

    Mr. Shea, would you agree with me that the indefinite imprisonment into Gulag-like conditions of innocent people, merely because they are Catholic, rises to the level of torture?

    Thanks in advance for your answer.

  • Mark Shea

    I’d say that even if they aren’t Catholic. Your point?

  • Raphael

    Total war has never been won without targeting the resourses of the enemy territory. Whether it is Nagasaki, Dresden, or Georgia U.S.A.
    People, not just tanks and soldiers, are among the most valuable assets a government has. Again, war isn’t won unless the enemy’s valuable assets are neutralized. Also, cities without military factories are still prime economic powerhouses for a country. And how innocent are civilians in war? They have to bear some of the responsibility for their country being at war. Joseph de Maistre said that if a defending power should ever use more force than is necessary in defending itself, which always happens to some extent, then the sin of cruelty lies upon the ones who started the conflict and not upon the defenders. The Japanese are responsible for what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Confederate States were responsible for the destruction of the American Civil War. In any case, this certainly isn’t a ‘black or white’ issue as you make it seem.

    And experience isn’t necessary for the recognition or understanding of truths. You philosophically-illiterate hippies will never win the argument or carry the day. Good day sir.

  • AT

    …”Confederate States were responsible for the destruction of the American Civil War”, and what is that suppose to mean? If you are a seminarian, perhaps spend a little more time studying Aquinas and less time on blogs. We need good preists.

  • AT

    ..and if you are a seminarian, that must mean that you past Fr Groeschel

  • Admin

    Just a reminder from the Rules for posting: “No name-calling or personal attacks.” Let’s keep it civil, and on the topic at hand. Thanks.

  • Mark Shea

    you will be a fine chaplain for the SS someday if, God forbid, your seminary is foolish enough to ordain you. A priest defending totalerkrieg in the teeth of CCC 2312-13 is every bit as scandalous and disgusting as Richard McBrien defending abortion. Care to tell us where you are studying? I’d be very interested to alert your seminary to your contemptuous views of the catechism by sending them a link to this conversation. Or does your courage only extend to murdering children? Care to, ‘ow you say?, “man up” and have your teachers know your views on such matters?

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Well, and yourself sounds like you’ve got this all figured out. But, you avoid the main point: have you ever seen torture? Combat? A riot? Vicious mobs calling for blood? I have seen all of that, and allow me to inform you, it’s not something myself is eager to see again.
    Furthermore, some of the most fervent activists for peace that I know are veterans–precisely because they have witnessed the reality of such things. War, sometimes, is necessary and justified, but my own self can think of no instance in which torture is.
    And besides,from a purely practical point of view, just what do you expect to gain through torture? Surely, most anyone would talk–but what will they say? Suppose they don’t really know anything? Then, the unfortunate soul will randomly accuse everyone he knows, and come up with all manner of malarkey, just to end the pain. You’d wind up sending your lads off on wild goose chases, which could have been avoided if you had used humane interrogation methods to begin with.
    Aye, you or Mr. Raphael could make the argument that myself is simply a coward–not enough of a man to support torture, cruelty, and ‘defence of the nation’ at whatever cost, even if that cost includes the sacrifice of charity, love of neighbour, human dignity, and the place of a few souls in Heaven. You could call me a ‘philosophically-illiterate hippy’ (as Mr. Raphael does above), and claim that book-learning is more important than the harsh lessons of experience. You could even say that I’m shirking my duty, too spineless to fight for the right–but, when all’s said and done, myself would rather have a few names chucked at me here on earth, than have to explain to my creator why I professed to be catholic, and yet was an advocate for torture and cruelty.
    Somehow, I don’t think He would be awfully pleased with me.

  • Pammie

    Being a witness to mob violence, war etc.. does leave a lasting impression on one doesn’t it Mr. O’Shaughnessy? Quite different from watching it on televsion or debating it in comboxes, when one is staring down the business end of an uzi. Even more unforgetable when one’s relations or friends experience harm .

    I agree with your opinions. Very well put they are, although I’m afraid personal experiences don’t seem to count for much in these kinds of disagreements. For it’s very easy for most to discount torture and the unintended casualties as an unfortunate consequence of war when they have no connection with one’s family or friends. All that violence is acceptable to many as long as it is experienced by others. Human nature one might say, but not human nature that pleases Our Lord I should think.

  • AT

    Dear Mr Shea, as an aside and upon further reflexion, I must agree that “little systems of order

  • AT

    Within an hour of writing after the above post, I walked out of the hotel room to grab a bite to eat at the restaurant next door. When I arrived, I changed my mind and thought I would walk a little further to see if there was something else, past a vacant lot. There were police cars with lights flashing. As I walked closer, a police woman jumped out of the car and shouted

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