Monday, September 29, 2008

Comments on the death penalty and paid maternity leave

Here are two comments that I have submitted to The Daily Telegraph's website:
"I do not want retribution from the justice system I simply want justice"

The illogic of this statement is breathtaking. Justice means each person getting what he is owed, such that good deeds are appropriately rewarded and bad deeds are appropriately punished. So as far as the 'bad deeds' side of the ledger is concerned, justice is retribution.

"i do not think that is what we get today"

You're right about that! We get ham-fisted attempts at deterrence and rehabilitation, but justice is a big non-no. The justice system is now nothing more than an arm of the welfare system.

"There's nothing wrong with the current system which also provides relatively instant closure for the friends and family of the victims."

Every time Bryant attempts suicide or makes some protest and it's reported in the media the horrors of that day are brought back for the families of his victims. There will be no closure till he dies.

"There's also something intuitively wrong to me in taking away somebody's entire existence for a single act, no matter how wrong"

Please explain this intuition. And you aren't taking away the person's whole existence, just the earthly existence of which he deprived another.
What paid maternity leave advocates have failed to demonstrate is why it is that taxpayers should pay mothers to take time off to be with their children. Let me put it this way: I agree with the proposition ‘that mothers should have time off from work in order to be with their children’, but there is a step missing in the logical sequence from this proposition to the proposition ‘that taxpayers should pay mothers to have time off from work in order to be with their children’. I have only ever seen pro-paid leave commentators assert that mothers should have time off from work and then assert, as though it followed from this, that this time off should be taxpayer-funded. You do this throughout your article, Ms Dunlevy. But this is a non sequitur. Is it not the father’s duty to earn the money to cover this time off from work? If it is about love, not economics, then why is any additional financial support necessary?

Or, to look at the matter from another angle: Sex Discrimination Commissioner Ms Elizabeth Broderick asserted recently that “There is no question that legislated paid maternity leave is a basic human right” and we know that she is of the opinion that this leave should be taxpayer-funded (source). Presumably you would agree with this, Ms Dunlevy (please correct me if I am wrong). Now a human right is something that someone is owed in justice. I agree that a mother has a right to financial support while she is out of paid work caring from her children. I think that this right should be fulfilled by the husband. The paid maternity leave advocates think that it should be fulfilled by the taxpayer. But since taxation is the expropriation of resources, how can a mother be considered to have a right to other citizens’ property?

Furthermore, a right is implied by and dependent on a duty. A right to paid leave implies a duty of taxpayers to fund this leave. Certainly a mother without an husband to support her is entitled to expect that the community will support her, but this is an obligation pertaining to the virtue of charity, not a duty pertaining to justice.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

More on paid maternity leave

Rather less pleasing, though, was Ms Sue Dunlevy’s piece in the same paper last Friday. The article’s headline was ‘Are children about love or economics?’, yet Ms Dunlevy reported on paid maternity leave without seeming to recognise that it is her and those of her ilk who fail to realize that if children are about love then there should be no need for such paid leave. Furthermore, she failed to explain how new mothers can be considered to be owed, in justice, pay for discharging their maternal duties. I would love to see someone explain how, in Ms Elizabeth Broderick’s words, paid maternity leave can be considered a ‘basic human right’. The closest Ms Dunlevy comes to such an explanation is in the following parts:

Unions NSW says women need at least six months off work so they can breastfeed their baby to World Health Organisation standards.

Agreed. But why should the taxpayer pay for this? Covering this time off is the husband’s duty.

And the NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People Gillian Calvert says a parent should be paid to stay at home with the child for the first two years or the baby’s brain won’t develop properly.

I agree that the mother should stay home with her child for (at least) the first two years. But there is a step missing in the logical sequence from ‘mothers should have time off’ to ‘taxpayers should pay mothers to take this time off’.

fathers as well as mothers need paid leave to make a contribution to their child’s upbringing.

Again, I agree that mothers should be with their children. That taxpayers should pay for this has not been demonstrated. As for fathers, they contribute to their children’s upbringing by working a reasonable number of hours per week.

[Families Minister Ms Jenny Macklin] sees it as a way of honouring children, of giving back to parents some time to do the things that really matter in life _ [sic] bond with their children.

Please Ms Macklin, explain to me why it is other taxpayers who should pay for this.

Economists might consider such practices economically sinful but every parent knows the rewards of building a strong relationship with a child takes longer than 14 weeks and is much more valuable to society than the tax a parent would be paying if he/she was at work.

Agreed. But the same step in the same logical sequence is still missing.

And at the risk of giving the impression that I have a one-track mind, I could not help but transpose into the context of abortion some of the statements in the report:

If we settle for a minimalist scheme we’ll be short selling our daughters and our granddaughters.

Killing 50 000 of them in utero each year does much worse than this.

[Families Minister Ms Jenny Macklin] sees it as a way of honouring children

An even better way of ‘honouring children’ would be to shut down the abortion industry.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Mr. Linnell on the death penalty,22049,24401719-5001030,00.html

An article by Sydney Daily Telegraph editor-at-large Mr. Garry Linnell appeared in last Friday's issue, dealing with the death penalty. It was a timely piece, reminding us that the majority of Australians support the death penalty’s re-introduction. There is a difficulty with the following portion, though:

Revenge is a visceral impulse that is hard-wired into our DNA. It's why we have a justice system in the first place - to extract retribution against those who offend against us.
It is good that he recognises the primary end of the justice system (not rehabilitation or deterrence, but justice), but I would quibble over his use of the word ‘revenge’. Revenge and retribution are virtually synonymous, but the former tends to evoke rather more unsavoury connotations than the latter (but then again, the ‘restorative justice’ crowd regard retribution and vindication as dirty words too). Revenge tends to imply a personal ill-will, while retribution implies something more abstract and impartial. As Our Lord demands, we must forgive our enemies, but clearly this pertains to the individual, not the State, and in any case the individual, as far as his status as a subject of the State is concerned, is entitled to desire that justice and the common good be served.

Mr. Linnell also pointed out the moral élitism of the anti-execution advocates:

But apparently [the pro-execution stance] is a "simple" and "primitive" view - the same disdain the opinion shapers in this nation have for the rest of us whenever the subject that dare not be spoken about in public is raised.

[…] Argument is stifled because the anti-death penalty lobby cloaks itself in such a secure shroud of moral superiority that no middle ground can be found.

[…] So here's a moral question for all those on the high ground. If we hold human life to be so sacred then surely those who snuff it out - particularly in the most heinous cases - deserve a penalty that recognises the true severity of such a crime.
I suppose that the problem, though, is that there is, one expects, a high correlation between those who regard society as having ‘outgrown’ the death penalty and those who have no compunctions over abortion i.e. the value they put on life is subjective and inconsistent. And they are so deeply utilitarian in their outlook that they refuse to admit that justice involves the meting out of punishment as an end in itself, or they will even, absurdly, argue that the justice system should not concern itself with justice, and instead should behave as an arm of the welfare system.

Mr. Linnell deserves to be applauded for raising this issue, and I look forward to seeing the reaction in the letters pages. (As of Saturday there were no letters on it.)

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Friday, September 26, 2008

On this day in history: when credible commitment fails

From the Sydney Daily Telegraph:

1983: An electronic glitch on a satellite sends the Soviet Union a false report of the US launching five missiles against it. Colonel Stanislav Petrov decides against instant retaliation, averting the risk of a nuclear war.
Reginaldvs Cantvar

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Summorum Pontificum

Rev. Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf has posted a brief piece on the upcoming clarification of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. But I’m not sure what needs to be clarified; the Old Mass was never abrogated, so what more is there to say on it? What we really need is a pointing out of in which documents Paul VI made the New Mass obligatory. Its botched promulgation in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum has been noted not only by the S.S.P.X. but also by non-partisan observers like Prof. Romano Amerio.

Reginaldvs Cantvar.

Confutation of some objections to the death penalty

From the combox of my post entitled “Discussion on the Inquisition”:

… it corrodes and endangers the soul of the executioner. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
This is an entirely subjective and emotional argument. If we substitute ‘soldier’ for ‘executioner’ then we have one of the arguments of the pacifistic humanists. As for ‘casting the first stone’, it is the State that ‘casts the stone’, justly and with God’s authority, though carried out through the medium of persons.

To kill someone in combat is one thing. To judicially murder a helpless prisoner another, regardless of their sin. To do so when the person is innocent may be pardonable on an individual level, but a state that does so commits a mortal sin for which there is no forgiveness, since the state as a person is incapable of contrition.
The notion that “a state that [executes an innocent] commits a mortal sin for which there is no forgiveness, since the state as a person is incapable of contrition” is one that is new to me. We might speak of the State as sinning if it kills an innocent knowingly (and only by analogy to human mortal sin, of course), but to say that it sins by following it properly-formed conscience (again, by analogy) seems quite illogical. Furthermore, if we extend the analogy to the wrongful imprisonment of an innocent man, which would presumably, according to this line of reasoning, be at least a venial sin, then we should abandon the pursuit of justice altogether, since one must never sin even if as a means to a worthy end.

Assuming someone is so mired in sin they will get instant damnation at death, one should in fact keep them alive as long as possible, hoping for their repentance.
This seems to relate to the notion that, once a sin is committed, the sinner is somehow entitled to a reasonable period of time in which to have the opportunity of repentance. But one’s moral state exists and is payable at any given point in time. To put it bluntly, the sinner was never entitled to sin in the first place. Furthermore, Scripture furnishes us with examples of the Lord willing (not merely permitting) the death of some individuals who were still in the state of sin.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent

From Part II: Sacraments—Matrimony:

“married persons who, to prevent conception or procure abortion, have recourse to medicine, are guilty of a most heinous crime - nothing less than wicked conspiracy to commit murder.”
Reginaldvs Cantvar

When agnosticism passes into moral cowardice

Rev. Fr. Frank Brennan S.J. A.O. had another good piece on Victoria’s abortion laws the other day. In it, we read that

Section 48 [of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities] provides that 'Nothing in this Charter affects any law applicable to abortion or child destruction'. It was included in the Charter to accommodate the concerns of Professor [George] Williams and his colleagues that the Charter not purport to resolve the question of when life begins for the purposes of defining the right to life.
What good is a charter on human rights if it fails to decide which humans get the rights?! This kind of indifference is an example of how agnosticism passes into moral cowardice.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

To fisk or not to fisk?

Since my attempts to register for participation in the Catholica Australia forum appear to have been rebuffed, I am going to start offering critiques of that website’s nonsense here at my own blog from time to time.

As I read the drivel coming from the likes of Tom McMahon and Kerry Gonzales, it is clear that the only way to do them justice would be with a ‘Fr. Z’-style fisking, since the heresies seem to pile up line by line. (Kerry Gonzales’ situation seems particularly sad, since it seems like a straightforward case of loss of faith:

Ultimately, however it was the "creed" that was my undoing. There came a time when I could no longer say the words. I could not, in good faith, profess things that I had probably never believed.
One is reminded of the words of St. Paul in Romans 10: 10—"For, with the heart, we believe unto justice: but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.") But since I prefer not to use that style, I am going mostly to confine myself to the writings of Mr. Coyne himself, since he is considerably more subtle and poses a better challenge for rebuttal. Here is the first installment:


In his commentary Exploring Creed, Mr. Coyne appears to offer an unusual perspective on theological minimalism. We know that theologians speculate about the minimal truths that a person must acquire in order to be saved (given that the person enjoys the use of reason). The very barest minimum, some say, would be belief in God and in a reward or penalty in the next life. Nonetheless, Christians must strive to grow in knowledge of God’s Revelation. And furthermore, we know that, whatever a person’s level of spiritual knowledge, he or she must assent to whatever he or she knows the Church to have proposed definitively as belonging to the Deposit of Faith. Hence Mr. Schütz said, quite rightly, that the answer to the question of ‘what must we believe?’ is ‘all of it’.

But here is Mr. Coyne’s view of the matter:

I was using the term [‘minimum’] more in the sense that self-evidently there are "out there" myriad self-understandings of what different people have in their minds when they describe themselves as "Catholics".
No doubt there are many ‘self-understandings’ (whatever that means), but not all will be right. Given that there is, as it were, a chain connecting ideas, thought and language it is possible to evaluate these understandings as to their conformity with the Articles of Faith.

He then asks these questions:

is there some minimum set of beliefs that unifies us, or defines us as Catholics in a fairly precise way? And I was wondering if at the institutional level there is any "official thinking" on a question like this?
Well, the answer to the second one is plainly ‘yes’—presumably that’s why the Creeds were promulgated! Remember that the word ‘symbol’ (another word for ‘creed’) signifies not only a collection of articles but also a mark by which one can tell a believer from a non-believer. Next he goes on to denigrate conservatism in matters of faith. The problem is that, by his own admission, he takes a very political view of the term ‘conservative’, when in fact it is a perfectly reasonable way to identify the manner in which the Church conserves and hands on the Deposit of Faith in contrast to a spirit of constant innovation. He says that

The conservative side of our nature just loves categorising our neighbours into "them" and "us". Creeds are an important part of the process of doing this. But, is this what Jesus — or our Creator-God — are really on about?
But the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church, not of mankind as a race. If there is no distinction between believers and non-believers, then that brings us back to the question of what, if anything, it even means to believe.

In the next part, though, is where Mr. Coyne appears most obviously to flirt with error:

I really do wonder if it is not the symbolism of the Baptimal [sic] Sacrament that is the real "defining" event, or portal, that delineates our "membership" of "the Body of Christ"
One might have thought that it was the real sacramental grace imparted that incorporates one into the Body of Christ rather than the outward sign, which signifies the grace communicated. But Mr. Coyne appears to be prepared to entertain other possibilities.

He then argues that

What we are asked to do in "becoming a Catholic" or in "claiming our membership of 'the Body of Christ'" is make some sort of commitment to "follow Christ"
I suppose that that’s true enough, as far as it goes, but it certainly runs the risk of straying into an un-Catholic voluntarism that downplays the intellectual assent that characterises the virtue of Faith. (Which is ironic, given that Mr. Coyne is a partisan of the ‘primacy of conscience’ heresy, with ‘conscience’ being, of course, a judgement of reason. Or at least I hope that’s what he means by conscience.)

And he just can’t seem to restrain himself from throwing in one of his signature puerile insults:

This is not some game of "riding around like a Knight in shining armour trying to constantly 'prove' our membership" to the world around us.
Finally, he makes clear the extent of his confusion:

My membership of the Church derives not from a "Creed". It derives from a commitment of attempting to find "the Way (of thinking and acting)" modelled for us by Jesus Christ.
What a muddled ecclesiology this man is peddling.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On a human right about which one doesn’t hear too much anymore

From the Apostolic Letter Dies Domini of His late Holiness John Paul II:

It would therefore be wrong to see in this legislation [for Sabbath rest] of the rhythm of the week a mere historical circumstance with no special significance for the Church and which she could simply set aside. Even after the fall of the Empire, the Councils did not cease to insist upon the arrangements regarding Sunday rest.

[…] my predecessor Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum spoke of Sunday rest as a worker's right which the State must guarantee.

[…] also in the particular circumstances of our own time, Christians will naturally strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy. In any case, they are obliged in conscience to arrange their Sunday rest in a way which allows them to take part in the Eucharist, refraining from work and activities which are incompatible with the sanctification of the Lord's Day, with its characteristic joy and necessary rest for spirit and body.
(my emphasis)
Wouldn’t the A.C.B.C.’s latest Social Justice Statement have been a splendid opportunity to remind the faithful of these things? And note that Dies Domini does not speak of compensation, by means of penalty rates, for working unsociable hours, but only of ensuring that the civil law safeguards the sanctification of Sunday.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Monday, September 22, 2008

On N.S.W.’s abolition of parenthood

According to an article in today’s Sydney Daily Telegraph,

LESBIAN parents will be able to have both their names on their child’s birth certificate from today.
As I pointed out some time ago in a comment at the old Coo-ees blog, this development appears to be based on the idea that a mother and a father are not, to borrow the language of microeconomics, perfect complements, as would traditionally be held, but merely perfect substitutes. Hence, for proponents of this madness, a mother and a father are as good as ‘two mums’ or ‘two dads’.

But if this is the case, then why is two the optimum number of ‘co-parents’? It’s a pretty arbitrary number, really, once it’s divorced from conjugal complementarity between spouses and biological connectedness between parents and children. Why must we submit slavishly to such a dreadfully old-fashioned and ‘heteronormative’ model of parenthood? How long will it be before we are called upon, in the noblest traditions of tolerance, to ‘celebrate the diversity’ of three-, four-, five-parent mega-families? How dare we discriminate against the right of bisexuals to take both an husband and a wife?! (Perhaps we will see the pansexuals and the Muslims find some common ground here! One’s enemy’s enemy is one’s friend, after all.) The next logical step after ‘Parent 1, Parent 2’ birth certificates is clearly to have just a blank space headed ‘Parents’. (Obviously, a child with 'two mums' already has three parents, since there must have been a dad somewhere along the line, though I understand that there are scientists working to overcome this little piece of discrimination from homophobic old Mother Nature.)

So what I am trying to argue is that by abolishing motherhood and fatherhood we don’t just eliminate a ‘discriminatory’ model of parenthood (which, as usual, is a move that ignores the fact that there is just discrimination and there is unjust discrimination); in fact, we abolish parenthood itself and replace it with a notion of parents as merely long-term carers. But then, the pansexuals were never too good at teasing out all the implications of their deranged demands all at once. It’s always little by little, bit by bit.

Reginaldvs Canvar

On an abortion method that I had never previously imagined
His Eminence The Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney reports that

Medicare pays for [second trimester] abortions under the heading of “Management of second trimester labour”. This is interpreted to cover both brutal partial birth abortion, which is banned in the United States, as well as the induction of labour in which many babies are actually delivered alive and simply left to die. This was the terrible fate of 47 unborn children who were aborted after 20 weeks in Victoria in 2005.
(my emphasis)
This calls to mind the ancient pagan practice of ‘exposition’, whereby (and, as appalling as it will sound, I am not making it up) unwanted children would be tethered to some post and left to die by exposure to the elements. One can only agree with Professor Romano Amerio in Iota Unum when he writes that the legitimisation of abortion means that the contemporary West has sunk to a lower level than some of the great pagan societies of antiquity. Whenever you hear the secularists pleading, on the grounds of 'compassion', for the latest Human Right of the Month and feel tempted to sympathise, think of the forty-seven babies left to die.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

How to write an article on a matter of justice without examining too closely whether justice has been served

Ms Adele Horin shows us the way. In an article in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herod she reported the following:

IN A victory for prisoner rehabilitation, a Supreme Court judge has ordered three young offenders be removed from adult jails and returned to juvenile detention centres by Monday to complete their sentences.

Now here’s a quick concordance for you: the word rehabilitation appears seven times in the article, while the word justice appears six times, but only ever as part of a name, such as the Department of Juvenile Justice or when referring to Mr. Justice Johnson, the judge in question. The word punishment appears only once, and also only as part of a name (‘punishment cell’). So Ms Horin’s focus is exclusively on rehabilitation, which is distinct from and subordinate to strict legal justice. No doubt she adheres to the notion of ‘restorative justice’, which usually ends up being no kind of justice at all, and would have been foreign to not only the Catholic authors but also the great figures of pagan antiquity and the more clear-thinking luminaries of the so-called ‘Enlightenment’, such as Kant. And yet this mangled conception of justice has infested the judiciary in Australia and presumably much of the West.

Ms Horin also uses at least one dodgy journalistic technique. Early in the piece she says that the youngsters in question (all of whom were eighteen or over)

were transferred to adult jails in April despite court orders they serve their sentences in a juvenile facility until age 21 because of special circumstances that can include developmental delay, mental health issues, and rehabilitation prospects.
(my emphasis)
Presumably she lists them in this order so as to elicit our sympathy. Yet Ms Horin leaves the reader to infer from the following point:

[Mr. Justice Johnson] said consideration had not been given to the circumstances of the three, in particular, "the powerful body" of evidence that pointed to their progress in rehabilitation, and education and training, in the detention centre.
that in fact rehabilitation prospects were just about the only circumstances considered and that there was no question of psychological problems (which is surprising, given how liberally ‘psychological problems’ are invoked these days, especially with regard to the grounds for abortion). This is especially likely given that presumably Ms Horin would have specified any such circumstances if there had been any, in order to heighten the reader’s sympathy.

(And, predictably, Ms Horin managed to smuggle a purported ‘human rights breach’ into the article, when she quotes a psychoanalyst saying that

it appeared young offenders' rights had been compromised due to management putting pressure on psychologists to change their reports.
Someone who is not afraid to ask the hard questions of justice, however, is Dr. David van Gend in yesterday’s Sydney Catholic Weekly.

In connection with the imminent Victorian abortion free-for-all, he wonders

[b]y what wild superstition do legislators believe that a 24-week baby is a citizen deserving of all protection when wrapped in hospital blankets, but mere human waste when wrapped in the womb? I have held a baby born at 24 weeks, and if somebody attempted to assault her I would defend her. By what principle of justice do legislators conclude that there should be no restraint on adults who would assault the same baby when trapped in the womb?
I wonder whether the abortionist who was trying one minute to kill Miss Gianna Jessen and then signing her birth certificate the next ( asked himself these questions?

Reginaldvs Cantvar

On the moral fibre of people and of pigs

A couple of letters to The Sydney Morning Herod’s Good Weekend magazine last Saturday expressed disgust at a previous issue’s story on pig shooting. I could not help but compare the sentiments displayed to the kind of sentiments that one might hope that open-slather abortion would evoke. One reader said that

[u]ltimately, the article could be seen as an argument for the moral superiority of pigs over humans

But I would have thought that the fact that pigs do not attempt, as far as I know, to kill their young in utero for reasons of inconvenience to provide a stronger argument. Ironically, the readers seemed particularly aggrieved at the cruelty to little piglets:

Or even worse, shoot a piglet not much bigger than a hand.

What about some of the obscene abortion methods used against babies who are not much bigger than a hand? The same reader concluded by saying that

[i]t is so wrong that we allow some in our society to indulge their most base urge to destroy.

Hear, hear. So how much longer will we indulge the abortionists as they refine the techniques invented by Nazi physicians like Mengele?

Now I have no problem with people protesting against cruelty to animals. I just wish that more people could see the sickening symmetry here.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two notices: weekend break, and Sydney University’s BookFest 2008

Firstly: this blog is not usually maintained over the weekend. Feel free to read my posts and make comments, but I shall not respond till Monday.

Secondly, I see that The University of Sydney’s BookFest 2008 begins tomorrow.

There’s nothing quite like the joy of perusing good, cheap books amid the Gothic Revival splendour of Edmund Blacket’s Great Hall. And if you’re there on Monday morning you might even espy a certain young Traditionalist blogger …

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On ‘social justice’

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference 2008 Social Justice Statement A Rich Young Nation: The challenge of poverty and affluence in Australia is out now. I have read it and I’m afraid I was not impressed. It seems to me that the big problem with this, like much in post-Conciliar thought on ‘social justice’, is that the term ‘social justice’ appears to confuse the cardinal virtue of justice with the theological virtue of charity, or even to conflate the two. Now I know that there is a close, harmonious relationship between all the virtues and that, if I recall correctly, St. Thomas described charity as the mother, mover, form and root of all the virtues. But nonetheless, justice is, though not separate from charity, still distinct from it. To put it simply, justice is about giving to someone what he is owed, whereas charity is giving to someone of what is one’s own. This appears to have eluded my Lords the Bishops despite the fact that they quote H.H. The Pope saying, in the Chairman’s message, that “The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” The Bishops quote St. Basil the Great saying that “the acts of charity you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit” yet I wonder whether ‘injustices’ was the best translation; perhaps ‘wrongs’ would have been more apt.

Another problem in the document is the concepts of affluence and poverty that it uses. The document quotes Prof. Clive Hamilton on the problem of ‘affluenza’ saying that

When people see wants as needs, it is not surprisingthat two thirds (in a Newspoll survey) say they cannot afford everything they need. And their feelings of deprivation are real, since thwarted desire is transformed into a sense of deprivation.

Similarly, the characteristics that the Bishops assign to the condition of poverty are heavily based on ‘feelings’ and evade the distinction between absolute and relative poverty. Yet if poverty is sentimental and relative then those suffering from ‘affluenza’ can be considered legitimately ‘poor’!

I would be interested to hear readers’ opinions on the matter.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Monday, September 15, 2008

Salvation by grace without faith?

I was catching up with some of Mr. Muehlenberg’s latest posts when I read something surprising in his comments section. A non-Christian commenter asked Mr. Muehlenberg about the fate of unbaptised infants. This was Mr. Muehlenberg’s answer:

Thanks Chris

It is a good question. The general reply from Christians would be yes, they do go to heaven. Similar questions are raised about the death of infants, etc. The normal line is they are certainly covered by the grace and mercy of God, and they not have yet reached an age of accountability, wherein they would then have to get right with God.

So while their eternal destiny is secured, there is still the major ethical issue of killing innocent human beings, and depriving them of life in this world. We treat animals better. Or at least we seem to make more of a stink about whales or baby seals, than we do our own unborn.

Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Other commenters backed Mr. Muehlenberg up on this. I found this surprising because I thought Mr. Muehlenberg was a Baptist, and that Baptists thought (like Catholics) that the cleansing away of original sin was necessary for salvation. Now it could be that, just as some conservative Catholics might say (wrongly) that, in general, the unregenerate still go to Heaven, so might some conservative Baptists. But given that it was the Baptists who gave rise to the term ‘Fundamentalist’, one might have hoped for something better! Furthermore, Mr. Muehlenberg is himself a theology lecturer.

It was ironic, then, that it took a Catholic, Mr. Michael Webb, to set them straight. Ironic, since Protestants would tend to disagree with the the Catholic belief in salvation by faith joined with good works, yet these Protestants seem not even to belief in the necessity of faith with or without good works!

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Breaking news: Dr. Nelson toughens up

According to The 7.30 Report, Opposition Leader Dr. Brendan Nelson M.P. has called a leadership ballot. He is going to stand again for the leadership as a new, tougher leader who intends, among other things, to advance the cause of same-sex ‘marriage’. What an odd cause on which to stake one’s leadership. But in any case it was the decriminalisation of adultery and the legalisation of serial polygamy that was the death blow for marriage as a social institution; ‘gay marriage’ is just the punch-line to the whole sick joke.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Discussion on the Inquisition

After some comments in a previous post and a subsequent suggestion to allow a discussion on the much-maligned Inquisition, I have decided, for whatever it’s worth, to direct the discussion, if anyone’s still interested, to this combox.

I’m more interested in discussing the matter at the level of principles, but if people need to get something off their chests then this is you opportunity. Never mind, of course, that the number of victims of Protestant witch-hunts, the liquidations and genocides of the totalitarian states, and the ongoing liberal industrial-scale abortions might exceed by several orders of magnitude any ‘victims’ of the heresy laws. Never mind, either, that any justice system is going to have its excesses and errors. But go right ahead anyway.

But as I said, it’s the principles that I’m interested in. So I would be interested to know whether commenters agree or disagree with the following propositions:

1) The State should never put notorious public heretics to death.
2) The State should never assist the Church in dealing with matters of the supernatural law.
Or, in the language that the Magisterium has used:

1) That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.
Dz. 733, condemned error 33. of Exsurge Domine)

2) The Church is to be separated from the state, and the state from the Church
Dz. 1755, condemned error 55. of The Syllabus of Errors)

And, while as usual I will only delete comments that contain blasphemy or foul language, you’re only going to waste people’s time if you come out with silly, hysterical things like ‘so if you could you would start rounding up non-Catholics tomorrow, would you?’ The answer is: of course not, since that would be devastating to the common good. The common good is the State’s proper end, and therefore it has the right to tolerate sects as circumstances might require.

So please start your comment with

1) agree (disagree), as the case may be; and
2) agree (disagree), as the case may be.
referring to the propositions condemned by the Magisterium, and then have your say.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Mr. Costello and N.S.W. Labor: two examples of how mass-membership political parties corrode the common good

So Mr. Peter Costello M.P. is going to stay in Parliament until such time as he can quit without looking like a crass opportunist. How gracious of you, Mr. Costello. And how grateful the humble folk of Higgins must be that a man of such august stature, such towering intellect would deign to continue to represent them without the adornment of office. Mr. Alan Ramsey summed up my feelings in one of his Saturday columns in The Sydney Morning Herod:

… if the former treasurer was as diligent a backbench MP as he is a salesman for his memoirs, nobody could possibly call him the parliamentary parasite he's become since the voters got rid of John Howard and his government almost 10 months ago. While Alexander Downer, Mark Vaile and Peter McGauran gave up bludging off taxpayers in recent months and left Parliament, Costello has remained in his subsidised hammock, contributing nothing to Parliament, his party or the community. His only interest has been self-interest.
In his defence, Mr. Costello has promised to continue to discharge his duties as Member for Higgins. But he was elected as Member for Higgins, and this was not contingent on his party forming a government and him continuing as a Minister of the Crown. If he were serious about his duties he would stay in Parliament until the next election. But of course, whether he cares to admit it or not, his first duty is not to his constituency or to the common good, but to his party. And this is a most lamentable state of affairs.

Meanwhile, the same newspaper recorded, in minute detail, the events leading up to the cosmetic re-arrangements in the N.S.W. (Labor) Government. And it was not edifying. The following sentence just about sums up the situation:

It has become a Government where the mediocre and compromised are rewarded while the remnants occupy themselves in petty debauchery.
Or, if you’d like it with a bit more colour:

"The wogs versus the bogans and the bogans won," was how a caucus member described the changes.

Dare I dream that, despite all its appearances, this government might actually be trying, in some unnoticed way, to advance the Social Reign of Christ? Ha, of course not. But it also would be a futile exercise to try to identify what this pack of miscreants is doing for the common good even if conceived of in purely material terms. And despite Mr. Rees’ desire to promote himself as a breath of fresh air, he is, as Mr. Christopher Kremmer notes,

part of what one metropolitan newspaper recently referred to as "a vast network of hacks, spivs, union bosses, developers and, occasionally, sleaze merchants".
In other words, a product of a mass-membership political party.

What I mean by the ‘mass-membership political party’ is the party that, contrary to the traditions of the Westminster system in which a ‘party’ was a loose, fluid coalition of like-minded M.P.s, draws its membership from all quarters of society, levying fees from them and maintaining a massive extra-parliamentary party bureaucracy. The problem is that this bureaucracy, like all bureaucracies, has imperatives of its own quite apart from the common good. Its chief imperative is the drive to be re-elected and form a government. The cases of Mr. Costello and N.S.W. Labor demonstrate, respectively (but with some connections), two of the unfortunate consequences of this. One is that the M.P.’s first duty is owed, not to the common good or his or her electorate, but to the party machine. The other, related to the first, is that the parties tend to field careerist candidates who have spent the best years of their working lives in the party rather than in the real world.

Now I understand that the rise of the mass-membership party in the Westminster system was a complicated process, resulting in part from the increasing separation of, in Bagehot’s words, the ‘dignified’ parts of government from the ‘efficient’ parts of government and the latter’s transfer to the legislature, i.e. the Government as The Queen in Parliament, which required a stable foundation for forming a government. And I don’t mean to pretend that the days when a political party was just a parliamentary coalition were somehow utopian. These objections notwithstanding, it seems clear to me that these party behemoths exercise a quite malign influence.

And that’s to say nothing of the two-party system. The two-party system is a tidy enough way to run things if the parties are just a broad but informal division between Whigs and Tories, with some transfer between the two, depending on the issue at hand. But when an external party machine and rigid party discipline is brought into play we start to see the economists’ median voter theory apply, whereby the two parties end up being but two shades of grey. On matters of binary choice in which the division in the electorate between aye and nay is roughly fifty-fifty, then one party stands for aye and the other for nay. But where, say, ninety per cent are in favour then both parties will concur with each other to give the majority what it demands rather than making a principled stand. Quite democratic of course, but not necessarily in the common good.

So what is the solution then? Expelling their members from Parliament would be nice, but the party bureaucracies would continue as parasites, albeit morphed into lobby groups without formal influence, while no doubt they would continue to exert their corrosive influence behind the scenes. Banning them altogether would be nicer still, but unconstitutional. So in the meantime, the least we can do is direct our preferences to an independent candidate or a small but principled party, knowing that one’s vote would not be ‘wasted’ since preferences would still flow to either of the major parties (in Australian Federal elections at least), while the big parties would be denied the funding that is allocated to first-preference recipients.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

The clock is ticking: the rush to end the latest ‘injustice’

I see that

[s]enior judiciary members have urged the Coalition not to block or delay Government legislation that will give same-sex couples the same financial rights as heterosexual de facto couples
And the impetus for this? The imminent retirement of the Hon. Mr. Justice Michael Kirby A.C. C.M.G.:

Justice Kirby has become the public face of the proposed legislation. As the law stands, his partner of almost 40 years, Johan van Vloten, would be ineligible to receive part of his pension should he die first. If Justice Kirby was female, Mr van Vloten would receive the part pension.

This discrimination exists in more than 100 areas of Commonwealth law, which Labor has sought to end with two bills.
The question is: is this discrimination unjust? I say: no, it is not, since even a lawful spouse is not ‘owed’, in justice, a part-pension or other entitlements. One could make a tenuous argument, I suppose, that since a wife makes sacrifices for her husband, she should enjoy some of the benefits that he reaps from these. But this would ignore the fact that these sacrifices are part of a mother’s vocation. Also, the law has an educative function, and any discouragement of homosexual activity is a good thing. And the notion that a sinner should be rewarded for the longevity of his state of sin is quite repugnant.

But since the question of human rights and discrimination has come up again, I might make a few more remarks on the topic. We know, or should know, that a right is implied by and dependent on a duty. Now a Christian can point to the Ten Commandments as the source of his or her rights, since they lay down the corresponding duties. For instance, a duty not to kill implies a right to life, a duty not to steal implies a right to private property, and a duty to worship God implies a right to hear Mass offered according to the rubrics. Christians don’t (or shouldn’t) claim too many rights that have no basis in God’s ordinances.

Or, to look at the matter from another angle: each of us has an indestructible ontological dignity, an orientation towards a transcendent goal. We have certain rights in order that we can pursue this goal.

So it is perplexing when one hears secularists like Ms Elizabeth Broderick asserting that “[t]here is no question that legislated paid maternity leave is a basic human right” or the Sodomites League’s calls for same-sex ‘marriage’. What are the new-found duties that evoke these absurd demands?

Or even when a Catholic like Rev. Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf refers to a right to vote as though it were “written into our being”. How can this be, when no-one contests the State’s denial of voting rights to the insane and to convicts, whose ontological dignity is no less than anyone else’s?

But at least with Catholics we know what ‘human dignity’ means. What do the secularists mean, though, when, unable to show the duty from which their asserted rights were inferred, they make some vague appeal to human dignity? If any secularists are visiting here (or anyone who understands the secularist world-view), please let me know!

In Iota Unum, Professor Romano Amerio links such claims to abstract rights without corresponding duties to the conflation of human nature and the human person. But then there are secularists like Professor Peter Singer, who explicitly separate out the two in their scheme of ‘human non-persons’ and ‘non-human persons’. And then one hears the likes of Mr. Paul Keating calling for a society based on the innate dignity of man according to a vague humanist conception. But when man has no goal beyond this world, ‘human dignity’ becomes a very shaky foundation indeed.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Friday, September 12, 2008


This blog is not usually maintained over the weekend. Feel free to read my posts and make comments, but I shall not respond till Monday. Enjoy your weekend,

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fr. Black’s Newsletter

The August 2008 Newsletter for the S.S.P.X. District of Australia from Rev. Fr. Edward Black F.S.S.P.X. is now available on-line. I draw your attention to the following portions:

… Bishop Fellay has asked that a perpetual Rosary Crusade be launched. The intention this time is that the “excommunication” of our four bishops incurred on the day of their consecration twenty years ago should now be lifted. Unlike the previous Spiritual Bouquet a specific number of rosaries is not requested but rather that five decades be recited daily for this intention.

Here in Australia the Crusade will officially begin on the first day of October, the month of the Holy Rosary, although of course, we may start immediately. In practice, we should make up our minds to recite the rosary daily, at a specific time if possible. If we already say the rosary each day we may offer this or recite an additional five decades for the intention of the Crusade …
I commend this initiative to all friends of Tradition, and remind you of what happened after the last offering of an S.S.P.X. Rosary Bouquet:

Our Lady was not slow to hear our prayers, for merely six months later, the Pope issued his now-famous Motu Proprio which, although not entirely unexpected, was astonishingly generous in its terms when one considers the incredibly severe restrictions on the celebration of the Mass which had preceded it.
These are exciting times for Traditionalists.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Fr. Brennan on Victoria’s impending abortion free-for-all

Rev. Fr. Frank Brennan S.J. A.O. has made some timely remarks on the imminent Victorian pro-abortion legislation. I was interested to learn that the new laws will be

requiring health professionals with a conscientious objection to abortion to participate in abortion in some circumstances, and requiring doctors with a conscientious objection always to refer a woman seeking an abortion to another doctor known not to have a conscientious objection
This is interesting, but unsurprising. A right to have one’s own child killed implies a duty of trained abortionists to do so.


Ms Maxine Morand, the Victorian Minister for Women's Affairs, has taken the view that all Charter rights and freedoms of all individuals are irrelevant when it comes to abortion because s.48 provides: 'Nothing in this Charter affects any law applicable to abortion or child destruction'.
It is interesting that, of all the possible exceptions that one might have imagined, it is only abortion and “child destruction” (it’s nice to dispense with the euphemisms sometimes) that are singled out. Abortion on demand is clearly one of the most prized victories of the abortionists.

But the most acute observation came from a commenter, one Gavan Breen:

The dictionary (e.g. the Macquarie) gives several definitions of 'viable'. In all except one, it means capable of living or functioning, which means that if something is not viable there is something wrong with it.

Only when it applies to the foetus is there the additional requirement, that it must be capable of living outside its natural environment. Only in the case of the foetus can the term 'unviable' be used of something that is perfectly normal.

It's not fair; it's like calling me unviable because I couldn't live on Mars. I couldn't live there because I don't belong there; a young foetus can't live in the outside world because it doesn't belong there. There's no suggestion that there's anything wrong with it.

At the least, the words 'viable' and 'unviable' should be used in quotes when they are applied to a normal healthy foetus.

It is good to keep in mind, then, that ‘viability’ is a completely arbitrary criterion. Take away oxygen, water, food and shelter and an adult's life isn't 'viable' either; every creature has its natural habitat. The key question is always: is the fertilised ovum a human body? Embryology tells us that the answer is ‘yes’. And since a human’s living body has a human’s soul, abortion is always wrong.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Monday, September 8, 2008

Governor-GeneralWatch: let the games begin

So Her Excellency Ms. Quentin Bryce A.C. has been sworn in as Governor-General. Now I know that an inaugural speech of this sort is an occasion for platitudes, but I have to single out this statement and ask you, my readers, whether this bears any correspondence to reality:
Our growing capacity to balance tradition with renewal is a sure and uplifting sign of our standing as a sophisticated and highly functional civilised society and member of the global community," she said
Meanwhile, it seems that Mr. Rudd has big plans for Ms Bryce:

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said Ms Bryce would bring a "very special touch" to the vice-regal office as he hinted she would be given a more prominent public profile than her predecessor. "Your excellency, you will share moments of great triumph with the people of Australia and you will be there in the most difficult of times."
(my emphasis)
Well, I say: bring it on Mr. Rudd. I, for one, will be keeping a close eye on how the final chapter in the story of Australia’s constitutional monarchy is going to unfold.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Your taxes hard at work: the human rights mafia’s latest pre-occupation

Also in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herod was a totally bewildering article by Ms Adele Horin, in which she reports on how “the Australian Human Rights Commission has undertaken a project to investigate human rights issues affecting the transgender community.” In one of those bitter ironies that this age throws up from time to time, it seems that ‘transgender’ folk are a bulwark against the dissolubility of marriage; they are aggravated that they must divorce their respective spouses in order to, in Ms. Horin’s pompous and verbose terms, “have the sex on all their documentation reflect their lived reality.”

But as far as I can tell, what these poor, sick people have might be described better as a ‘lived fantasy’. At the instant of conception, each of us has either XX or XY chromosomes, and though I am aware that one might suffer from anatomical or hormonal defects, one is either a man or a woman. Gender confusion of the sort from which these people suffer is a grave disorder. I have sympathy for them, but I have nothing but contempt for the false compassion of physicians and the G.L.B.T. intelligentsia who would co-operate in voluntary mutilation rather than advising intensive counselling. (It is another great irony that while depression, anxiety and obsessive tendencies have been elevated to recognition as psychiatric disorders, the delusion that one is trapped in the wrong sex’s body is treated as perfectly reasonable.) Furthermore, what impact do these procedures have on life expectancy? Given that there is a correlation between other amputations and reduced life expectancy, what is the effect of these bizarre procedures?

I note also that Ms Horin is well-known as a feminist. But why, then, is she so completely uncritical of a lifestyle that amounts to identifying a woman as nothing more than a castrated, œstrogen-injected version of a man? Isn’t this transgender ideology nothing but a regression to the notion of a woman as masculus occasionatus (a defective man)?

Ms Horin concludes by saying that
The commission has set up a "sex and gender diversity forum" on its website to canvass a range of views, and [Human Rights Commissioner Mr.] Innes will formulate his recommendations by the end of the year.
I can hardly wait. And I shudder to think what might be in store after that.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Professor Egger and the atheistic neo-Malthusianism

It seems that once every two or three generations we have to put up with a recrudescence of Malthusian doom-and-gloom. If I recall my History of Economic Thought lectures correctly, Thomas Malthus, an Anglican clergyman and contemporary of David Ricardo, posited that population increases at a geometric rate while farm output (food, basically) increases at an arithmetic rate. (If you want to visualise this, imagine a graph of population over time as an upward-sloping curve and a graph of farm output over time as an upward-sloping straight line.) Hence population would increase for a while, but then famine would bring population levels back down.

In ‘The Essay’ in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herod, Professor Garry Egger, who has floated the idea of population control through financial penalties of large families in an article in The Medical Journal of Australia, rehashes some of the more hysterical neo-Malthusian arguments, and all with a predictable atheistic sub-text (ironic, given Mr. Malthus’s own beliefs, but they share similar recommendations, namely the necessity of ‘moral restraint’). Hence his reference to how “[s]pecific religions also keep the discussion [of population control] muted for purposes of wanting to increase their dominance” (which is quite preposterous) and to how “we let bigoted religious belief be mistaken for political correctness so we were unprepared to challenge anything in the name of someone's God”, which is also preposterous, since we see all too frequently that Christians are ridiculed and vilified with flagrant disregard for political correctness; in fact, atheism, or at least functional atheism, is really the dominant world-view in most Western countries, and we see the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens and Onfray making quite a profitable industry out of it. And I might add that ‘specific religions’ and ‘bigoted religious belief’ are really just code for the Catholic Church, since no-one else seems too fussed about contraception.

Prof. Egger also does not seem too clear about the economics of the question. He refers to diminishing returns and speaks of regret at “laughing at the wisdom of our elders” such as Adam Smith, but it is not clear what he is talking about here, since as the Nobel economics laureate Prof. Kenneth Arrow (who, though not a Catholic, is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and a father of six children) pointed out, Smith “did indeed have a theory of growth, based essentially on increasing returns” (Euro. J. History of Economic Thought, Autumn 2001). Therefore if Smith has any bearing on the matter, it might in fact be in contradiction to Prof. Egger’s views.

Furthermore, his treatment of the notion of a ‘replacement level’ of reproduction seems erroneous. He says that

Two children per couple, however, is replacement value only as long as parents and children move over to give room to the next generation. If parents reproduce at, let's say 20 years of age, and live till 80, two mouths have become eight by the time the original two pass on. China's one-child policy shows this, with an extra 3.7 billion people added since the policy came into place in 1979, even though 400 million births have been prevented.

But the human race did not start yesterday; there are at any given time two or three generations already co-existing—it’s not as though there is now only one generation, and then this generation produces a new generation, and so on until the first generation dies out.

Fundamentally, the problem with Malthusianism is that it ignores technological progress by restricting itself to only two variables, namely population and output. Malthusianism is plausible enough in the short run, if we take this to mean the time frame in which the techniques of production are fixed. But these techniques improve over time, so that output can keep pace with population growth in the long run. Mankind made the transition from wind to coal, then from coal to oil, and in future it will make the transition either from oil to nuclear or directly to renewables. Those transitions will always be bumpy, but never catastrophic. The humane way to avert population crises, then, is not to penalise people for fulfilling God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, but to subsidise research and development.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Friday, September 5, 2008


This blog is not usually maintained over the weekend. Feel free to read my posts and make comments, but I shall not respond till Monday. Enjoy your weekend,

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A bit of balance from CathNews

I note that Rev. Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf's blog was the featured website in yesterday's CathNews. Though I am no 'Fr. Z' groupie, it was pleasing to see a link to a man of decidedly more refined liturgical sensibilities than those to whom CathNews usually links.

But I see in the comments section that this has not pleased one Gerard Moore. That wouldn't be the Gerard Moore, Rev. Fr. Gerard Moore S.M. would it?

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A timely reminder that Pride is the root of all vices

(WARNING: this post is unsuitable for children)

We know well that pride is one of the seven deadly sins. In his spiritual writings, St. Thomas More speaks of pride as the head and root of all vices, and St. Thomas Aquinas “considers it the queen of all vices, and puts vainglory in its place as one of the deadly sins” ( This pre-eminence of pride derives from the detachment of oneself from God, his Authority and his Laws that is inherent in pride, and by which one opens oneself up to all other sins and vices (vice, of course, being basically habitual sin).

How apt it is, then, that so many ‘Gay and Lesbian’ organisations speak of ‘Gay Pride’ and incorporate this monstrosity into their titles. I commend them for their honesty. One such example is ‘Queensland Pride’, which is reporting on the ongoing St. Mary’s, Brisbane, fiasco:
(found via Mr. Schütz’s Sentire cum Ecclesia)

Pride crops up in the article itself when we learn that

The church [sic] has previously angered conservatives in the church [sic] by welcoming gay couples and allowing the Gay and Lesbian Choir [‘Choir’ gets a capital-C but not Church—C.P.] to perform there in June 2003 as part of Brisbane Pride Festival celebrations. [His Grace Msgr.] Bathersby opposed the performance and said it was “inappropriate”.
“Inappropriate”, hmmm, I can think of other words. Scandalous, perhaps? A profaning of the Lord's Temple? I wonder whether “gay Catholic activist and St Mary’s parishioner” Mr. Tony Robertson kept a straight face when he said that

“St Mary’s is a church which takes seriously its identity as a Catholic community and practices the teachings of the Catholic Church which call for homosexual persons be [sic] accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” Robertson said.

“Such acceptance calls for practical action which welcomes gay and lesbian people to the life and worship of the community.

“Those who have concerns about our support for sexual minorities need to remember that the Catholic Church also teaches that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided …
Mr. Robertson might have been more helpful, though, if he had started from first principles, according to which human sexuality is ordered towards procreation, and that therefore same-sex attraction is rightly called ‘intrinsically disordered’. Sodomy is a mortal sin, and a sin that cries out to Heaven for justice (whether they teach that as part of their ‘social justice apostolate’ in not known to me). His assertion that “homosexual persons [need to] be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” is correct, but it must be remembered that it is the person, the subject, that is to receive respect, never the objects, the acts, of his or her disordered inclinations. ‘Compassion’, meaning ‘suffering with’, is important, since, as the C.D.F. expressed it well:

What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ.
(my emphasis)
Meanwhile, “sensitivity” must never mean ignoring or distorting the supernatural consequences (as well as the natural consequences—anal fissures, genital warts, A.I.D.S., all manner of infections; it ain’t pretty) of their sins.

Mr. Robertson’s assertion that “[s]uch acceptance calls for practical action which welcomes gay and lesbian people to the life and worship of the community” is highly ambiguous; if ‘gay and lesbian’ means ‘fully immersed in and supportive of the so-called gay culture’ then these individuals cannot participate in Catholic worship, though the Catholic character of the “worship of the community” is a moot point in this case, anyway.

As for “unjust discrimination”, ‘unjust’ is the key word. The Vatican instructed, late in 2005, that men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies or who support the so-called gay culture shall not be permitted to enter seminaries, and Catholic schools reserve the right to bar unrepentant public ‘gays and lesbians’ and their fellow-travellers from teaching (though I cannot find a citation at the moment). Clearly neither instance is unjust, since disobeying the former would involve an occasion of sin, while disobeying the latter would involve scandal to impressionable children.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fr. Zuhlsdorf, human rights and the State

Rev. Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf has posted some interesting remarks regarding human rights and the State on his blog. I reproduce them here in full:
I am irritated by something I have heard over the last couple days.

The pols and newsies keep talking about the anniversary of "giving women the right to vote" in the USA.


Women always had the right to vote.

Their right to vote was finally recognized.

We must avoid, in discussing human rights and government, falling into the trap of thinking that the state grants rights.

We have rights because our Creator made us in His image and likeness.

They are written into our being.

We grant the state its rights and obligations.
The subsequent discussion abounded with confusion; I even saw Fr. Maritain and the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights being cited. In any discussion on rights and the State we need to keep the following principles in mind:

1) All authority is from God (Romans 13:1, Douay-Rheims version: “Let every soul be subject to higher powers. For there is no power but from God: and those that are ordained of God.”)

2) The State is the juridical and moral person that exercises God-given civil authority over a given populace in a given territory.

3) The State’s proper end is the common good. (This end is indirectly subordinate to the Church’s end, the salvation of souls.)

4) The State’s laws shall conform to God’s Laws; when they contradict God’s Laws they are not binding on the citizen.

5) A natural right is the moral liberty justifiably to claim some entitlement. Therefore the object of a natural right can only ever be that which is true and good. And for every right there is a corresponding duty.

So with these principles in mind, it is clear that no-one has a natural right to vote, though it might be the case that, in certain historical circumstances, it might be conducive to the common good for the State to grant a civil right to its subjects to vote, i.e., to grant universal or partial suffrage. This will depend on things like the moral and intellectual development of the populace, the sophistication of the means of disseminating information, and so on. And man's ontological dignity (his orientation towards a higher end, namely God) is no basis for a supposed 'right to vote'; this is clear from the fact that the State can deprive convicts and the insane of their right to vote, while those same individuals can never be deprived of their ontological dignity by the State.

Note that I spoke of ‘universal suffrage’ rather than democracy. Universal suffrage is just a means for choosing a government, whereas democracy is a principle of government according to which authority is held to originate in the people (from the Greek demos, or ‘the people’, and kratia, or ‘power, rule’). According to this principle, as Leo XIII put it in Immortale Dei (though without naming it as democracy), the populace delegates to the government “not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its name.” This is incompatible with a Catholic sensibility, since the State is, whether it likes it or not, a delegate of Christ the King, not a delegate of the populace.

A theme running through the discussion at Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s blog is the notion of some kind of requirement for popular consent, whether expressed through a vote or not. But it is not clear to me that the people’s consent really has any part to play in the matter. So long as the State acknowledges Christ as the source of its authority, so long as it upholds the common good, and so long as it translates God’s Laws into civil laws and never defies them, it rules justly.

As for the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, when it states, as someone quoted it, that “[t]he will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government”, this is clearly un-Catholic when compared with Romans 13:1, and in fact it has much in common with the principles of the French Revolution. And as for Fr. Maritain, Mr. Michael Davies showed quite clearly in The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty that Fr. Maritain’s theory of the State as merely a specialised portion of society concerned with upholding public order (the theory underpinning his ‘Integral Humanism’) rather than as a juridical and moral person upholding the common good (a broader category than mere public order) is erroneous.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Experience vs. knowledge

Also in yesterday’s Catholic Weekly was a Zenit interview with His Grace The Lord Archbishop of Adelaide. I was dismayed at His Grace’s answer to the following question:

Q: What does the Church in Australia need to do after World Youth Day?

His Grace answered:

… I could give people long lectures on the theology of the Church and talk about the reality of “communio”. And that’s good and powerful, but is nothing compared to the real experience of “communio”. That’s what we have to do. We have to give young people everywhere this experience of community
(my emphasis)
What young Australian Catholics need desperately is catechesis. The strong turn-out of young adults at WYD08 catechesis sessions shows that there is an openness to this. But in the Australian Catholic schools, catechesis virtually ends with primary school and shifts to an experiential and ecumenical (bordering on the syncretistic at times) focus in high school. The post-Vatican II experience-based ‘new catechesis’ failed miserably. Youngsters can find an ‘experience of community’ in many places, most fully in the Church of course, but only the Church has the ‘words of eternal life’, the truths necessary for salvation.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Honouring Scripture by finding it similar to ourselves?

The Sydney Catholic Weekly carried a rather confused C.N.S. article in yesterday’s edition. The ambiguous title, “Events that shaped the Catholic Bible”, gave some clue as to the confusion that was to follow. In the second paragraph the author makes the breathtakingly badly-worded assertion that

the Catholic version of the Bible is actually a library of books specifically chosen to reflect Catholic teaching
(my emphasis)
If taken at face value, this amounts to an assertion that the Church determined the canon of the Bible with a view to suiting her own teachings, rather than identifying the Bible as a source of the Word of God from which (along with Tradition) she derives her teaching. The author’s mistake is reiterated later in the piece when we read that

Over time, the Catholic hierarchy, too, chose Scriptures that best reflected their interpretation of the true word of God.
The “too” here is saying that the Church chose her canon like the Protestants chose theirs, as the article describes in the paragraph that preceded this one, and thus it compounded the error still further.

Furthermore, it is not clear how it can be said that

“Today, these differences [between Catholic and Protestant Scriptural teaching] are largely being overcome,” [Fr. Watson] continued, “since more and more editions of the Bible are being published in ‘ecumenical editions’, which incorporate all the books sacred to Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians
when this is a marginalising, not an overcoming, of the differences.

Reginaldvs Cantvar