Friday, October 31, 2008

Notice: "A comment on Holy Communion" updated

I have updated my post entitled "A comment on Holy Communion" with a clarification. Please follow the link above here.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
All Hallows' Eve, 2008 A.D.

Notice: deletion of “Woodward, Bernstein, Coyne: yes, Coyne is still the odd one out”

It has come to my attention that, according to at least one source, the Pontifical Secret under which the Vatican questionnaire obtained by Catholica was distributed “binds recipients [of such documents] to maintain the secrecy 'under pain of mortal sin'”, so I have decided to delete my post on the questionnaire and recommend that anyone who read the questionnaire repent of having done so.

Please contact me if you have any questions on this or the original post.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
All Hallows’ Eve, 2008 A.D.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A comment on Holy Communion (updated)

(Updated, October 31, 2008, approx. 0300 hrs.: here is a subsequent comment that I made in order to clarify the first one:


In order to eliminate any ambiguity in my answer to Nickname’s question at 11:59 p.m., October 29, let me re-phrase the first part as follows:

“By the personal act of receiving Holy Communion worthily (or the personal act of offering the Holy Sacrifice worthily), one merits increase of grace and glory, but does not make satisfaction for sin …”

A footnote to the section on Holy Communion in the 1923 McHugh/Callan translation of the Catechism of the Council of Trent mentions this.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Comment by Cardinal Pole — 30 October 2008 @ 10:59 am


(Here is my original post.) Here is a comment that I made at Rev. Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf’s blog:


Nickname, you asked

“would receieving Holy Communion in reparation for the sins and offenses of priests (for example this priest’s blasphemy) be something I can do? Or would it be a sin to do that?”

By receiving Holy Communion (or offering the Holy Sacrifice), one merits increase of grace and glory, but does not make satisfaction for sin. See the Catechism of the Council of Trent’s section on Holy Communion.

Instead, we must offer up prayers, fasts, watches &c. in reparation for these heresies.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Comment by Cardinal Pole — 29 October 2008 @ 11:59 pm


Reginaldvs Canvar
30.X.2008 A.D.

Mr. Quayle and Ms Parke on the death penalty,25197,24575376-2702,00.html,22049,24573604-5001021,00.html

Mr. Quayle gets it; Ms Parke doesn’t. In an article in today’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, a Mr. Simon Quayle, who lost seven team-mates in the Bali bombing, said that

I don't have any anger or need for revenge […] I'm more about the signs of justice. If justice would've (meant) a sentence of life imprisonment and it was carried out, I would've been satisfied. But I still think terrorists should get the death penalty.
So Mr. Quayle sees that the death penalty is not a matter of revenge, but of justice. If a non-lethal punishment could balance the scales of justice then let it be imposed. But the case of the Bali bombers is clearly not such a case. And there is not even a shadow of a doubt that the right men have been convicted, so there is no chance of wrongful execution.

Meanwhile, Ms Melissa Parke, a Federal Labor backbencher, fails to understand that imposing the death penalty is not a violation of human dignity. The Australian mentioned the

recent furore over WA Labor MP Melissa Parke's warning that the execution of the Bali bombers "will only decrease our human dignity" - a claim that angered victims' families.
We need firstly to distinguish between human ontological dignity and human operative dignity. The former is man’s orientation towards a transcendent goal, namely God, and cannot be extinguished, not even in the damned, so there can be no question of this being ‘decreased’. Man’s operative dignity, though, increases or decreases according to what he does. Clearly the Bali bombers lost their operative dignity through their heinous crime, by which they also forfeited their right to life, but a just executioner will suffer no loss of operative dignity for carrying out the death penalty, since he acts on behalf of the civil authorities, “to whom is entrusted power of life and death” (Catechism of the Council of Trent,

Reginaldvs Cantvar
30.X.2008 A.D.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Unethical, immoral, Kafkaesque; and what about the baby?

Last Sunday’s episode of Compass, entitled “The Decision”, examined the appalling case of the killing of a baby thirty-two weeks into the pregnancy, on the grounds that the mother was “acutely suicidal”. The episode failed, however, to probe into why it was supposed to be necessary that the child be killed rather than just removed:

The medical team went ahead with its collective decision: to end the woman’s pregnancy.
Dr de Crespigny
The procedure for terminating a pregnancy beyond around 24 weeks is a 2 stage one. The first step is to do a foetal injection so that the foetus is not born alive.Obviously it's never an easy process. People do find it difficult, as I do, particularly at this late stage and the second step then is to bring on labour. So I carried out the injection and the patient then went to the labour ward and had labour induced. I didn’t see her again after that.
So the medical team decided to end the pregnancy. Why, though, did they need to end the child’s life as well? If a woman were acutely suicidal from post-natal depression, no-one would propose to kill her baby in order to avert her suicidal tendencies; the baby would be removed temporarily and the mother treated.

Furthermore, the episode leaves the viewer unclear as to how fully Dr. de Crispigny has considered the morality of killing a baby who was well past the twenty week mark that is widely accepted as the threshold for ‘viability’.

Bizarrely, anti-abortion activist Sen. Julian McGauran is the one presented as behaving unethically or immorally, for sending details of the matter to a health professional from whom Sen. McGauran would have been entitled to expect confidentiality:

Beth Wilson, Health Services Commissioner
It was shocking to me that somebody, especially a politician, would distribute the name of a patient in those circumstances. He makes no secrets of his beliefs, he is anti-abortion, that’s fine. He can have his own particular views but to breach a patient’s privacy in those circumstances is, I think unethical and immoral.
And perhaps even more bizarrely, Dr. de Crispigny poses as the victim:

Dr de Crespigny
Forever on Trial was a reference to Kafka’s book, the Trial, in which somebody is charged with a crime they don't know what it is. And their whole life gets filled with this case. So it increasingly there's no time for anything else. And this was very much the way I felt this case was.
The Victorian Government, as we know, subsequently resolved the legal ambiguities involved:

Beth Wilson, Health Services Commissioner
This long slow sorry saga which in my view should never really have happened did have some good outcomes as well. The government responded by recognising that we need to have good clear laws to guide everybody.
(my emphasis)
Yes, good clear laws indeed: no such thing as child destruction anymore, so anything goes. Instead of being penalised for killing, physicians now have a duty to kill, which they must discharge regardless of any scruples of conscience. If these are to be regarded as “good outcomes” then we are in a pretty desperate situation here.

The episode ends on another confusing note:

Dr De Campo
[Dr. de Crespigny has] been an advocate for change even in adversity actually, he has contributed to the debate by being public about it when he could be…. [sic] maybe it took a lot out of him to achieve reform and he feels exhausted…[sic] But I think he could look back at the reform proudly… [sic] if not this case.
(my emphasis)
Whyever not that particular case? His actions in that situation are no longer regarded as criminal, but as mandatory!

What a disgraceful episode, by which I mean both the Compass episode for its betrayal of the memory of the real victim, namely the baby, as well as meaning the actions of Dr. de Crispgny and all his apologists. Contrast this Compass episode with the post-WYD08 episodes, the former produced on the abortionists’ terms, while the latter were produced on the A.B.C.’s own terms and according to its own agenda, and it is clear just how dismal the state of A.B.C. religion/ethics reporting is.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Memorial of Alfred the Great, 2008 A.D.

Woodward, Bernstein, Coyne: yes, Coyne is still the odd one out (updated)

Important update:

It has come to my attention that, according to at least one source, the Pontifical Secret under which the Vatican questionnaire obtained by Catholica was distributed “binds recipients [of such documents] to maintain the secrecy 'under pain of mortal sin'”, so I have decided to delete my original post on the questionnaire and recommend that anyone who read the questionnaire repent of having done so.

Please contact me if you have any questions on this or the original post.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
All Hallows’ Eve, 2008 A.D.

Mr. McMahon on ‘gay marriage’ and concubinage

Not content with undermining the Sacrament of Orders, speaking of “that bogus Last Supper ordination” and thereby appearing to incur the anathema imposed by the Council of Trent:

If anyone says that by these words: "Do this for a commemoration of me" [ Luke 22:19;1 Cor. 11:24], Christ did not make the apostles priests, or did not ordain that they and other priests might offer His own body and blood: let him be anathema
(Council of Trent, Session XXII, can. 2
Dz. 949,
Mr. Tom McMahon has taken the opportunity in his latest post to undermine Christian Marriage. In an article on so-called ‘gay marriage’ in which he fails to develop any coherent argument, preferring instead to throw around wild calumnies, he reveals his radical historical materialism:

the Roman Church's interest in marriage was mainly in royal and political unions. With the coming of the industrial revolution and ownership of private property by a budding middle class, the Catholic church moved in to take advantage with its laws and prohibitions ……. [sic] follow the money trail.
Then, rather than explain how ‘gay marriage’ could possibly be anything other than a legal, natural and moral absurdity, he asserts that “[t]he issue is medical and scientific and yet because it relates to sexuality the Roman stand pathetically brands it all as an evil.” Well, I’m not sure what to call something that tends to anal fissures and genital warts (not to mention A.I.D.S. and syphilis if one is particularly unlucky) other than an evil.

As for his unsubstantiated assertion that

85% of women in the 700-year period of the Middle Ages never experienced marriage, subject to the ancient Roman practice of consortium wherein a father leases/sells his daughter to another man for the purpose of childbearing; marriage existed for the royal and political families so as to assure proper blood succession
although it is noted in the Catholic Encyclopedia that

[t]he clandestine marriages which gradually came to be tolerated in the Middle Ages, as they lacked the formality of a public sanction by the Church, can be considered as a species of legitimate concubinage
it must be conceded nonetheless that things are not as straightforward as he might like us to think, as a cursory reading of the rest of the encyclopedia article would have informed him.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Memorial of Alfred the Great, 2008 A.D.

Mr. Ackland on criminal justice

Mr. Richard Ackland had an opinion piece in last Thursday’s Sydney Morning Herod on supposed public misconceptions about matters of criminal justice. He writes that

In fact, the proportion of people being sent to jail in the major serious crime groups has been rising for seven years.

Just take a few examples. In sexual assault and related cases, 16 per cent of those convicted went to prison in 2000. Last year it was more than 24 per cent. In robbery cases 25.8 per cent of offenders were imprisoned, and last year that had risen to 45.3 per cent.
but fails to mention what sentences were handed down and whether those sentences were intended as punishments for the satisfaction of justice, or whether the punishment was merely a means to deterring or reforming the offender. But even if we just examine it as the bare question of whether or not a conviction was achieved, one has to ask: conviction for what crime? For another way in which the so-called justice system has institutionalised injustice is by the system of ‘plea bargains’ whereby one may plead guilty to a lesser crime in order to guarantee the prosecution a conviction, any conviction. A better way to balance the need to economise on court costs with the need to punish the offender as fully as retribution requires would be the following offer:

Plead guilty to the charge of which you know you are guilty and you will receive the penalty that fits that crime. Plead not guilty and if you are found guilty then you receive the penalty for your original crime, plus you will be prosecuted for the crime of perjury and thereby receive an additional penalty.

That way a differential between the penalty for a guilty plea and the penalty for a not guilty plea that fails, or, if you will, between the pay-offs for compliance and non-compliance, is maintained, while justice will certainly be satisfied in the case of an unsuccessful not guilty plea according to my proposal, whereas it might not be under the equivalent outcome in the prevailing method.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Memorial of Alfred the Great, 2008 A.D.

Sen. Brandis on the Liberal Party,25197,24537827-7583,00.html

An edited extract from an essay by Sen. George Brandis in a forthcoming book appeared in last Thursday’s copy of The Australian. I reproduce the key paragraphs here, though I encourage you to read the article in full:

JOHN Howard is a bundle of contradictions. An economic liberal, he was the first important leader of the Liberal Party to describe it as a conservative party. A social conservative, he once described himself as a "discerning radical". A person who prided himself on his pragmatic approach to policy-making, he saw politics as primarily a battle of ideas. A believer in social stability, he took Australia down a path of economic deregulation that, while immensely beneficial in the long term, removed traditional protections and created uncertainty in the short term. An apostle of social cohesion, he staked his leadership of the Liberal Party, and arguably lost the prime ministership, by pioneering fundamental industrial relations reforms that, on a few occasions such as the waterfront dispute, provoked acute social conflict. The leader of a party that he held to be the custodian of the tradition of John Stuart Mill as much as that of Edmund Burke, he all too often subordinated the individual to the mainstream.

As a social conservative, he too often lost sight of a core value of Menzian liberalism: a philosophy that makes paramount the rights of the individual and demands that those rights be defended in the case of every individual, not merely weighed in the balance.

At the heart of the Howard paradox is the fact that, by attempting to blend economic liberalism with social conservatism, he was seeking to reconcile values and attitudes that are sometimes irreconcilable.

[…] Howard's attitude reflected not indifference but a conscious preference for social order above personal freedom, for the attitudes of the "mainstream" above the concerns of the marginalised. Given that the philosophy of the Liberal Party - in particular as articulated by Menzies in the 1940s - is ultimately built upon a belief in the primacy of the rights of the individual, this was a profound shift in emphasis.
This comes as a timely reminder that the Howard years were really an aberration, an attempt to wed two incompatible world-views to each other. The longevity of this aberration, though, means that most Australians would indeed think of the Liberal Party as Australia’s conservative party, when it is nothing of the sort. The founding and sustaining influence of Sir Robert Menzies K.T. (a Knight of the Thistle and, moreover, a Freemason) might seem to imply that one might indeed reasonably think of the Liberals as essentially (or at least potentially) conservative, but this would only be sustained by judging him according to the present-day characteristics of conservatism, when in fact, as Sen. Brandis points out, he was an heir to nineteenth-century classical liberalism. It is only because of the ever-worsening slide into libertarian debauchery that he appears conservative; indeed, by present-day standards the classical liberals would be Blimps.

Fortunately, Mr. Malcolm Turnbull, with his libertarian inclinations and support for so-called ‘gay marriage’, is returning the Liberals to their roots. I say ‘fortunately’ not because I approve of liberalism, but because I despise it and want Australians to see just how insidious liberalism is when stripped of its façade of conservatism.

One correspondent in the letters pages reiterated that economic libertarianism and social conservativism are incompatible, while another reiterated the tension between individual rights and the public good. The latter tension, though, only arises from society’s loss of the real meaning of terms like ‘human rights’ and the distinction between liberty and licence. Any natural right is, by definition, compatible with the common good, since its object can only ever be what is true or good. The correspondent Mr. Frank Pulsford was very insightful, though perhaps unwittingly so, when he wrote that “[i]t is pathetic that the touchstone of liberalism should be so-called “gay marriages”.” ‘Gay marriage’ is not liberty; it is licence, it is enslavement and misery.

So I, for my part, am certainly no liberal, and not a conservative either, strictly speaking, since I see very little left that is worth conserving in the Commonwealth of Australia. I am a reactionary, and my views on the foundations of the State are summed up quite well in an extract from His late Grace Msgr Lefebvre They Have Uncrowned Him which appeared in yesterday’s Sydney S.S.P.X. Parish Bulletin for the Feast of Christ the King:

…..the Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ must be brought about with the help of civil society, and the state must therefore become, within the limits of the temporal order, the instrument of the application of the work of Redemption.

….all has been created for Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore for the accomplishment of the work of the Redemption: everything including civil society, which, is itself a creature of the Good Lord. Civil society is not a pure creation of the will of men; it results above all from the social nature of man, from the fact that God has created men so that they will live in society; it is written into nature by the Creator. Therefore civil society itself, no less than individuals, must render homage to God, its author and its end, and serve the redeeming design of Jesus Christ.

….Jesus Christ is therefore the centre of all history. History has one sole law: “He must reign”, if he reigns, true progress and prosperity also reign, which are goods more spiritual than material! If He does not reign, it is decadence, decay, slavery in all its forms, the reign of the evil one. This is what Holy Scripture promises besides: “the nation and the kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish, those nations will be entirely destroyed”.

….there is a goal of history, it is the “recapitulation of all things in Christ” it is the submission of the whole temporal order to His redemptive work, it is the mastery of the Church militant over the temporal city, which prepares the eternal reign of the Church triumphant in heaven.
Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Memorial of Alfred the Great, 2008 A.D.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mr. Marr still doesn’t get it

Mr. David Marr’s latest piece in The Sydney Morning Herod on the Henson controversy indicates that he still does not understand that children should not be made to pose naked for the cultural gratification of the arts community. Again, his focus is on the artistic merits of the product rather than the means by which they were produced. Once upon a time it might have sufficed to point out that the end does not justify the means, and therefore it is the means that is the primary issue. But even if we are to debate the matter according to the secondary issue of ‘art vs. pornography’, Mr. Marr’s assertion that “all the authorities who looked at Henson's controversial pictures agreed they were not remotely pornographic” is far from satisfying, since those authorities presumably judged the photos on a presumption of innocence, asking themselves whether Mr. Henson intended those photos for the titillation of prevents. Perhaps Mr. Marr should pay a visit to the isolation wing of Long Bay Gaol and ask certain of the inmates whether they regard it as art or pornography?

Reginaldvs Cantvar
27.X.2008 A.D.

Mr. Jenkins on the debate over prayer in Parliament,22049,24554498-5005941,00.html

Originally I had intended not to blog on the latest attempt to banish even the mere invocation of the Lord from the corridors of power, but then I read this remark by the Hon. Harry Jenkins M.P., Speaker of the House of Representatives:

"One day we'll get to the level of maturity where this can be discussed without being divisive," he said.
Is he saying, then, that to be fervently for (or for that matter, against) the Our Father is to lack the ‘maturity’ to move in the enlightened, genteel circles where all are glib, syncretistic irenicists who don’t really feel too strongly one way or the other? The glaring contradiction in his remark, though, is that any debate with clear-cut affirmative and negative sides will be, of its nature, divisive.

Reading the comments at the on-line edition, I was interested to see secularists speak of Christian belief in a ‘sky-god’ (Zeus, perhaps?), like MgS’s resort to puerile talk of a ‘cloud being’ when it became clear that she had no clear idea of what justice was. Obviously these childish little outbursts of name-calling are intended to belittle Christian belief, but it’s interesting to look a little more closely at these terms. They reveal the humanistic immanentism of the secularists, whereby there is no deity ‘out there’, and so with humans the closest things to gods ‘in here’ we can strut about like the Giants and Titans (reference to Iota Unum intended) and create our own morality; thus MgS spoke for her fellow secularists when she said that “I do not reject metaphysical constructs as a way to frame thought”, while rejecting them in truth and picking and choosing according to her whim, case by case, which of these concepts she wants to borrow. Sadly, it is clear that thinkers (such as they are) like this exert a great influence on social, political and judicial outcomes.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
27.X.2008 A.D.

Mr. Verrecchio on the death penalty

I have been consistently impressed with Mr. Louie Verrecchio’s Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II column in the Sydney Catholic Weekly, which is a pleasant surprise given my adverse opinion of the proceedings of that Œcumenical Council. Yesterday’s installment, provocatively entitled “Human dignity via the death penalty” was no exception. Now Mr. Verrecchio writes from a mainstream-conservative perspective of the purported ‘true spirit of Vatican II’, and accordingly I expected him simply to echo and elaborate on the opinions of recent Popes on the matter. Indeed, for the first half of the article it seems to be going that way, beginning with some quotations from John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, and offering a curious examination of the death penalty in the Old Testament. But around the midway point Mr. Verrechio changes direction, acknowledging the disturbing connection between opposition to the death penalty and support for abortion, and he writes that it is possible that rather than being “a victory for the culture of life”,

it may very well be more accurate to consider [prohibition of the death penalty] the result of the kind of humanistic narcissism that sees man as the ultimate goal and master of all things; including determining the value of human life, not to mention choosing who shall live and who shall die.
He concludes by suggesting that

Perhaps we should consider that the truth of man’s unique dignity may be best communicated when the infinite value of a human life taken is demonstrated by applying the only penalty that can ever reflect the value of what was lost; death.
How refreshing to see a partisan, as it were, of Vatican II acknowledging what Traditionalists had defended all along (and what I have been arguing since my first post on the death penalty), namely, that there is simply no other earthly penalty that can satisfy justice in the case (at least) of murder. Mr. Verrecchio’s article was not perfect—its leisurely lead-up to its main point, its timid assertion of that point (“it may very well be more accurate …”, “[p]erhaps we should consider …”), and its use of the word “infinite” for the value of human life when a word like ‘inestimable’ might have been more apposite are among its shortcomings—but it was most pleasing nonetheless to see a bit of balance in a paper that is usually (or rather, always) uncritically anti-execution. The reaction in the letters page should be interesting.

What a sad irony it is, though, when a defender of Vatican II condemns as “humanistic narcissism” the view that “man as the ultimate goal and master of all things”, when in Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes we read the startling assertion that man is “is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself”.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Friday, October 24, 2008


My apologies to the readers who have e-mailed me; it has been a couple of months since I checked my account. I will respond to you soon and will check this account at least once a week in future.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Raphael, Archangel, 2008 A.D.

Mr. Gardiner on the Vatican Secret Archives

There is a delightful rejoinder in today's Herod letters page to yesterday's letter regarding the Vatican Secret Archives:

Patrick St George (Letters, October 23) makes a good point. Why doesn't the Vatican allow historians access? While we are at it, we can get Israel to let us check on the city of Dimona and all their documents about the relocation of people who used to live where Israelis now call home. The US can let us loose in the Pentagon and I am sure old Vladimir will let us stroll around the Kremlin.

Daniel Gardiner Camperdown
Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Raphael, Archangel, 2008 A.D.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Letters on the death penalty

Two letters have appeared in today’s Sydney Morning Herod, both written in opposition to the execution of the Bali bombers:

The crime of the Bali bombers is heinous ("Rudd faces pressure on death penalty", October 21). Their lack of remorse is (to us) a shocking indictment of their religious beliefs. They need to be imprisoned at least until they are no longer a danger to anyone who happens not to be a Muslim. But it would still be wrong - and bad public policy for Indonesia - to execute them. Indonesia and Australia both need governments that are better than murderers.

Geoff Mullen McMahons Point

The impending execution of the Bali bombers will achieve nothing. Australia is opposed to the death penalty, even when fundamentalist Muslims slaughter our families and friends. An eye for an eye is not justice. Let's solve the problems that created these crazed jihadists, and not condone state-sanctioned terrorism.

Michele Grant Ocean Shores
The first one’s assertion that “[t]hey need to be imprisoned at least until they are no longer a danger to anyone who happens not to be a Muslim” is very telling. Clearly Mr. Mullen sees no place for punishment as an end in itself. Most people, one suspects, would not yet be infected deeply enough with utilitarianism as to think that the terrorists ought not to be gaoled for life, even if people oppose the death penalty. But one infers from his letter that Mr. Mullen views imprisonment as nothing more than a means to ends such as crime prevention.

The second person’s assertion that “[a]n eye for an eye is not justice” is most curious; does he or she really not think that there is a due relation between the crime of putting someone’s eye out and the punishment of having the offenders eye put out? Let me hasten to add that I do not approve of such disfigurement as a punishment in the present day, but ‘an eye for an eye’ is certainly true in principle. Furthermore, this person’s utilitarianism is made clear in his or her plea to “solve the problems that created these crazed jihadists, and not condone state-sanctioned terrorism”. So for him or her all that needs to be done is to prevent such crimes from happening in future—a principle that it at the heart of the insidious ‘restorative justice’ ideology.

Unfortunately, neither letter writer elaborates much on the logic underlying their opposition to the death penalty. (For what we are always assured is a ‘principled position’, there sure seems to be a lot of emotionalism involved.) So let me do their work for them. As far as I can tell, there are four possible reasons to oppose the death penalty (though none of them stacks up, of course):

1) One’s definition of justice: the essence of justice is that each person gets what he or she is owed, so that good deeds are appropriately rewarded and bad deeds are appropriately punished. Thus punishment is an end in itself. But the ‘restorative justice’ crowd tries to re-define justice, smuggling into it things that are distinct, indeed separable, from it e.g. rehabilitation, deterrence. But such ends, though worthy, are not essential to justice, hence the death penalty is not opposed to strict justice, but is in fact the very satisfaction of it.

2) The ranking that one accords justice in the hierarchy of virtues: traditionally, justice is one of the cardinal virtues—a virtue on which all other virtues hinge. Death penalty opponents invert the traditional hierarchy and demote justice to a subordinate goal, if indeed it is even any goal at all for them.

3) The due relation between crime and punishment: this is another serious weak point for the death penalty opponents. It is absurd to deny that there is a due relation between taking someone’s life unlawfully and having one’s own life taken in consequence. And the problem is that whereas one need not observe ‘an eye for an eye’ literally for other crimes, in the case of murder there is simply no other combination of temporal punishments that can balance the scales of justice. Though of course, an extreme ‘restorative justice’ supporter would deny that a due relation between crime and punishment is even necessarily desirable.

4) The nature of the act of execution: one might try to argue that, even if execution satisfies the first three criteria, there is something intrinsically wrong about taking someone else’s life. But it is not intrinsically evil to will to take someone else’s life and to carry this out, so long as one does so in one’s capacity as an organ of the State rather than in one’s capacity as a private individual. Otherwise it is inconceivable that there could be any such thing as a just war, though extreme humanistic pacifists do indeed deny this. Execution is not ‘state-sanctioned murder’ or ‘judicial murder’, since the State has the rightful authority to execute its subjects.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
22.X.2008 A.D.

Mr. Linnell on technology and silence,22049,24531160-5001031,00.html

There is a good opinion piece by Mr. Garry Linnell in today’s Sydney Daily Telegraph on society’s enslavement to technology and aversion to silence. He writes that

[…] There are billions on this planet right now who would prefer to go home tonight and find [television celebrity chef Mr. Gordon] Ramsay in their kitchen, eyeballs popping, mouth spitting, ready to deliver a tirade about the state of their fridge rather than face a quiet evening alone.

[…] There is no silence and no escaping a world ablaze with white noise and the all-consuming grind of technology.

[…] who could ever have foreseen a future like this: People huddled in McDonald's, bowed before their laptop computers, slaves to technology, and doing anything to escape the one thing that strikes terror into Ramsay's heart.

That sound of silence.
As one observes the iPod zombies, the families switching the T.V. on as soon as they come home and leaving it on non-stop till bed-time, the blind drunk partygoers at the weekend, it is clear that there is an emptiness and insecurity at the core of present-day society that these distractions cannot conceal. Hence the aversion to and contempt for silence, contemplation and introspection.

And I liked this comment left by a reader at the on-line edition:

Most people don't like themselves--which is why being alone is scary----they would rather burden someone else with all their flaws and annoyances
Reginaldvs Cantvar
22.X.2008 A.D.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On ‘negative brainstorming’ at Catholica

Mr. Frank Purcell has done a bit of ‘negative brainstorming’ for Catholica Australia, offering some predictable counter-recommendations for remedying the present malaise in the Church in Australia. Firstly: “Ensure only male celibates ordained”. Mr. Purcell raises the possibility of a connection between celibacy and child molestation:

Meantime, as the paedophilia scandal continues to grab headlines, let the Bishops continue to postpone any serious review of the possible relationship between compulsory celibacy and the incidence of paedophilia among our celibate clergy. That continuing scandal really helps to slow vocations to the priesthood and maintains the .momentum of the collapse.
(bold type in the original)
But I have never understood the causality that would have to underpin this argument. Would those who posit a connection between celibacy and child abuse be happy to have pædophiles ordained so long as they are married? What happens if the wife pre-deceases the husband? And dare I suggest that it might avail Mr. Purcell more to investigate the connection between homosexual tendencies and priest pædophiles? Well, I’d better not, or someone will haul me before the Human Rights Commissar (though celibates have no such avenue for redress, of course).

Secondly: “Refuse to allow any debate about the possibility of ordination of women”. Now the arguments against this are more or less well-rehearsed, so I’ll look at this from a slightly different angle: 99.9% of men will never be Priests. What of those men who want to become Priests but in whom the Church does not find such a vocation? Should they simply keep hounding the seminary until they get their way? Of course not (though the pervasive sense of entitlement among the Catholica crowd would probably lead them to disagree). They should consider another vocation. And so it is a fortiori for women, since it has been the constant teaching and practice of the Church that women cannot receive Holy Orders.

Thirdly: “Continue to focux [sic] on sexuality as the key doctrine of Christianity”. But this alleged pre-occupation is only apparent; it is really the pre-occupation of the Catholica crowd, stemming from their cultural and historical myopia. In an age when the masses flout Christian sexual ethics, it is incumbent on Holy Mother Church to remind her children of them. In other words, if the Catholica crowd and their fellow-travellers didn’t keep bringing the topic up, we wouldn’t have to hear about it so often.

It is curious also, and perhaps telling, that Mr. Purcell includes abortion under this heading, denouncing the Magisterium for calling “any woman who has an abortion a murderer”. Yet once a new human life has been conceived, it is no longer a matter of sexual ethics, but of life ethics. No doubt there are many who would regard abortion as a sort of retrospective contraception, but embryology tells us otherwise. What else is the abortionist but a hitman, and the infanticidal mother a conspirator who takes out a contract on her own child’s life? Mr. Purcell wants the Lord Bishops to

show a bit of compassion and uncertainty and join in a search with other Christians and people of good will for ways of handling this difficult issue.
(bold type in the original)

Now there is indeed an element of uncertainty at the heart of the matter. But if we don’t know whether any given fœtus has a rational soul or just a sensible soul, then it’s a classic case for the ‘deer hunter’ principle: if you’re out hunting deer in the forest and you see something rustling in the bushes but don’t know whether it’s a deer or your shooting buddy, then don’t shoot. Indeed, official Church teaching appears to have referred to this when it condemned the following error:

It seems probable that every foetus (as long as it is in the womb) lacks a rational soul and begins to have the same at the time that it is born; and consequently it will have to be said that no homicide is committed in any abortion.
(Moral error no. 35, condemned in a decree of the Holy Office, March 4, 1679
Dz. 1185,
So the mere probability of human personhood at any given point during the pregnancy suffices to make abortion illicit; any uncertainty is not a mitigating circumstance or reason for sympathy in an abortion. If you’re not sure whether or not he or she (the child’s sex is given at conception) is a human person, then don’t, as it were, pull the trigger.

Fourthly and finally: “Ignore the fact that Australian culture is democratic”. But we belong to a universal Church; is Mr. Purcell’s idea of authentic inculturation that the Church should adapt to the prevailing governmental structures of the culture that it evangelises? What of the authoritarian, patriarchal nations that are yet to be converted? Here again is the cultural myopia of the Catholica crowd, along with the arrogant delusion that liberal democracy is the best possible way to choose a government and thus signifies the post-Cold War ‘end of history’, as Prof. Fukuyama put it. Perhaps here we see something of a convergence of Modernist and liberal-democratic eschatologies. Also linked to this arrogance and cultural myopia are Mr. Purcell’s confused notions of accountability and authority:

Representative democracy is a form of hierarchical authority. But the heart of democracy for Australians is that anyone with authority is accountable to the community.
He might be quite right as regards the second sentence, but the first one is a contradiction in terms: an hierarchy is literally a ‘holy rulership’, ‘holy’ as in ‘of God’; hierarchs exercise their authority as delegated to them by God, not delegated by the populace as in democratic political theory. If Church authority emanates from the faithful, then what need have we for God in this life? The Church becomes a self-sufficient closed circle, turning the symbolism of versus populorum worship into a reality in Church leadership. As for accountability, Bishops are indeed accountable: they must render an account to God for everyone under their authority. Does this not satisfy the Catholica crowd?

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Ss. Ursula and Companions, Virgins, Martyrs, 2008 A.D.

On the rubbish being peddled at Catholica Australia

Are you tempted sometimes to think that perhaps Catholica Australia is basically just a benign forum for greying, ‘highly educated’, ‘forward-thinking’ Catholics to let off a bit of steam? Distracted, perhaps, by seemingly innocent articles like that by Dr. Ian Elmer that “looks at the inner spiritual and life journey through comparison with the popular television series Star Trek” (not that they’re stuck in 1965 or anything)? Well read Mr. (Fr.?) Tom McMahon’s latest piece and think again. In it, he writes that

The people of God have been sorely cheated by so called bishop educators who continue to claim direct decendence [sic] from Jesus (that bogus Last Supper ordination) and a magic power of salvation in ordained clerics
So Mr. McMahon appears to be of the opinion that the Institution of the Priesthood was a sham. And it appears that his objection to ‘womenpriests’ is based not on the ineligibility of women but on the inefficacy of the Sacrament even for men:

As to women being ordained priests I have a reservation. I have never considered myself a genuine priest of Jesus because a bishop laid hands on me in a Roman ordination; I have seen men ordained in ceremony and in no way did they change to be followers of our Christ. I have seen many ordinary people priest their lives in service to others and they wore no clerical collar or had no title; this I learned from my priest uncle and from the Worker Priests of Paris. People ask me today "Tom, are you still a priest?" and I smile responding "which kind of priest are you asking about?"
(italics in the original)
One can just imagine Mr. McMahon’s smug little smile.

Catholica Australia is toxic.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Ss. Ursula and Companions, Virgins, Martyrs, 2008 A.D.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How to get politicians to honour their obligation to serve a full term

I was delighted to read two suggestions from Mr. Michael Duffy in The Sydney Morning Herod on Saturday for getting Members of Parliament to take seriously their obligation to serve a full term, or at least to exact a just penalty from them when they don't:

If we are to continue to allow politicians to cut and run, I suggest the introduction of one of two measures in the public interest. The first is that the politician involved repay the cost of the byelection. It could be withheld in annual instalments from their $130,000 per annum pensions, like HECS, with the cost being recovered over say 10 years.

If this is unacceptable, another idea would be to redress the imbalance in the present arrangement, which allows a politician to withdraw from their contract with the electorate, but doesn't give the electorate the same power. I'd suggest some sort of arrangement whereby a byelection could be called by voters, as well as by the politician, if they became unhappy with the way things were going.
But it’ll never happen, of course; politicians regard themselves chiefly as representatives of their respective parties, and electors seem satisfied to choose representatives chiefly for party allegiance rather than personal qualities, so we can hardly complain when the politicians behave accordingly.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. John Cantius, Confessor, 2008 A.D.

On the Herod's profile of Ms Broderick

A very disappointing piece of soft reporting, little better than a puff piece really, by Ms Nikki Barrowclough on Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Ms Elizabeth Broderick appeared in The Sydney Morning Herod’s Good Weekend magazine on Saturday. It revealed very little about her that one would not have been able to infer otherwise, and failed to probe critically into exactly what it is that Ms Broderick stands for. For instance, Ms Barrowclough asked Ms Broderick how well-versed in academic feminism the latter was, but she let her dodge the question so that the reader is left none the wiser as to whether or not she has any grasp of feminist theory. And needless to say, there was no interrogation of Ms Broderick on her recent absurd assertion that “[t]here is no question that legislated paid maternity leave is a basic human right”, nor did it give us any clue as to what, if any, religious convictions she might hold, despite the fact that this might have been raised in connection with the death of Ms Broderick’s mother. One might object that it’s just a weekend magazine, but if one compares this to the relentlessly critical recent piece on a visiting Creationist one might wonder why they can’t be more even-handed.

The article did, however, do readers the service of alerting us to two of Ms Broderick’s latest pre-occupations: getting men to do more housework, and getting men to consider part-time rather than full-time work, encapsulated in “her view that couples sharing more of the home duties can also lead to a change in workplace culture.” The latter shows just how out of touch she is, since there are plenty of men working both part-time and full-time, and those working only part-time probably would take full-time work if they could find it. And as for the former, a more equitable division of total work done might be achieved by encouraging mothers to do fewer hours of paid work. Nonetheless it will be interesting to see how Ms Broderick pursues this agenda.

The article did reveal one thing to the credit of Ms Broderick and her family, though: they do not have a television!

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. John Cantius, Confessor, 2008 A.D.

More on ‘restorative justice’

An article appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Catholic Weekly elaborating on the recent awarding of an honorary doctorate to Mr. Terry O’Connell for his work in ‘restorative justice’, so I thought I might elaborate a little on my own objections to this ideology. Now the article notes that

[Mr. O’Connell] has done extensive work in broadening focus for law enforcers by conferencing with all parties affected by crime: victims, perpetrators and their families, in order to achieve understanding and reconciliation on both sides.
Well and good. And the article notes further that

His work with criminal offenders has been accompanied by a remarkable decrease in repeat offences among those offenders.
Excellent. Deterrence, rehabilitation and ‘closure’ for victims are all laudable outcomes. But they are distinct from and subordinate to justice, with ‘justice’ essentially being that each person gets what he or she is owed, so that good deeds are appropriately rewarded and bad deeds are appropriately punished. There is a hierarchy of virtues, and all other natural virtues hinge on the cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude.

Now withholding adequate punishment from an offender would be an evil in itself. But we know that, as Pius XII taught in his allocution Ci Riesce, repression of evil is not the ultimate norm for the State; the State has the right to tolerate certain evils, subject to the norm that it only permit an evil in order to bring forth a greater good or avert a greater evil. So it can indeed be the case that the State might licitly forgo the satisfaction of justice through punishment, whether by incarceration or whatever, in order to rehabilitate an offender, if it judges that the value of rehabilitation would exceed the evil of the offender not receiving the punishment that he deserves.

So my problem is not necessarily with ‘restorative justice’ as a set of practices and policies, but as an ideology. That is because ‘restorative justice’ as an ideology dictates that rehabilitation always trumps retribution, so that if there is a conflict between the two, rehabilitation wins out. Yet at least in the case of pre-meditated murder, the value of rehabilitation cannot exceed the evil of withholding the death penalty, since it is a comparison of the value of one life with another life; what the offender took from the victim cannot be restored. Even as the offender might make some contribution to society through his rehabilitation, it is inconceivable that this contribution could outweigh the injustice of the offender’s on-going enjoyment of what he took from his victim. The only circumstances in which I could imagine the State licitly withholding the death penalty would be in the case of a dissident with a large number of supporters who would all rebel en masse if the dissident in question were put to death. But even in this case it is only a matter of delaying the execution until the situation has settled down. If justice is a cardinal virtue, on which both pagans and Christians should be able to agree, then the satisfaction of justice must take precedence over rehabilitation in the case of wanton murder.

(And MgS, you are most welcome to have your say here.)

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. John Cantius, Confessor, 2008 A.D.

On a curious reference to abortion

Mr. Paul Durkin, of the Sydney Catholic Education Office’s R.E. and Evangelisation team, wrote something rather startling as part of his contribution to the Sydney Catholic Weekly’s H.S.C. Studies of Religion study guide series yesterday. Now to put it in context, the definition that he uses for abortion is as follows:

Abortion is the deliberate, intentional expulsion of the human foetus at any stage after conception. (The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II, n58) [sic]
Yet such a definition does not appear in the on-line text of n. 58 of the encyclical. Rather, His late Holiness writes that

procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.
Nonetheless, even if, for the sake of argument, we take Mr. Durkin’s definition, it is still jarring to read the following portion of Mr. Durkin’s article:

The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is always wrong and immoral as human life begins at conception. Therefore, abortion is not acceptable under any circumstance except in the rare and unusual instance where the life of the mother is at real risk. Only then should an abortion be considered.
Now I want to give Mr. Durkin the full benefit of the doubt. The word ‘abortion’, strictly speaking, refers to the process of pregnancy, not to the baby’s life. Now a pregnancy can end in one of four ways: the death of the child, whether by miscarriage or by external interference, or by the child’s exit from the womb, whether naturally or induced. So one can, strictly speaking, end (or abort, or terminate) a pregnancy without ending the child’s life. Perhaps it would have been better if, following Fr. Brennan’s recent reminder of the much-neglected fact that the ending of a pregnancy need not mean the ending of the child’s life, Mr. Durkin had spoken of the possibility of removing the child when the mother’s life is in danger.

The problem, of course, is that in public discourse, abortion is used as a euphemism for the willed destruction of the child’s life. Accordingly, I expect this to generate some controversy in the Weekly’s letters page. One may never do evil in order to bring about good, so one may never kill an unborn baby in order to save the mother’s life.

(And I might add that ‘pro-choice but not pro-abortion’ nominal Catholics can hardly use my line of argument in support of, say, the recent Victorian Abortion Law Reform Bill, since that Bill makes perfectly clear that as far as it is concerned ‘abortion’ means the willed destruction of a human life, not merely the ending of the pregnancy; this is evident from the fact that it eliminates ‘child destruction’ from the criminal statutes as well.)

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. John Cantius, Confessor, 2008 A.D.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On the denigration and disappearance of Mediæval history,22049,24485159-5001021,00.html?id

From Monday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph:

Under proposed Federal Government reforms to be released by the National Curriculum Board, primary-school teachers must devote 10 per cent of their time to history lessons.

Secondary students in years 7 to 10 will have to take an average of 100 history classes a year.

Students in years 11 and 12 will not be forced to study history, but will be encouraged to do so.
Now someone tell me: what is missing from the following list:

Students will learn Australian and world topics such as the early humans, the Roman Empire, the Industrial Revolution, the Eureka Stockade, the Gallipoli campaign, the Holocaust and the Whitlam dismissal.
The 1500 years or so from the Roman Empire to the Industrial Revolution has been skipped! Now it is true that pupils in pre-senior level classes are expected to continue to receive instruction on the Middle Ages, but according to the National History Curriculum initial advice paper (section 49),

History at the senior secondary level typically offers a range of choice of more specialised units that are studied in greater depth. There should be options to pursue more advanced studies in the histories taught in Years 7 to 10. It is proposed that there should be units in Years 11 and 12 in Ancient and Modern History, and Australian History. The Modern History unit should ensure coverage of the full period from 1750 to the present.
So right when pupils are really beginning to think critically about history, the Age of Faith is removed from their consideration. And it is, of course, because the Middle Ages truly were the Age of Faith that the history intelligentsia wants to avoid them. This is already the case in New South Wales, where only Ancient and Modern History are on offer in years 11 and 12. Sadly, the Catholic schools no doubt will be only too happy to go along with this; Professor Romano Amerio described quite well in Iota Unum the denigration of the historical Church that has characterised the post-Conciliar years.

Meanwhile, one sees the Australian Human Rights Commission dismiss the era of Scholastic learning with the following piece of reductionism:

476 – 1453

Medieval Christian theology holds that infidels and barbarians are not entitled to humanistic considerations.
Whatever ‘humanistic considerations’ means; I could take this to be a classic case of the secularists viewing the religionists on the secularists’ own terms, never the religionists own terms, but that might be reading too deeply into it.

More evidence of the desire to forget the Middle Ages is seen in The Daily Telegraph’s own History pages; seldom does one see an ‘On This Day’ entry from between about the Fall of the Roman Empire and the so-called Enlightenment, unless it’s of some significance to present-day pre-occupations, such as the signing of the Magna Carta or whatever. I suppose there’s just not enough ‘diversity’ to ‘celebrate’ in the era of Christendom.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Margaret Mary, Virgin, 2008 A.D.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The State as a mirror

I was reading the transcript of the debate on Victoria’s new abortion laws in the Upper House (downloaded via Mr. Schütz’s Sentire cum Ecclesia) when I came across this revealing little thought from pro-abortion Member Mr. Shaun Leane M.L.C.:

I think some people who want to maintain these provisions in the Crimes Act want to say to women who want to have an abortion or are thinking of having an abortion, ‘Thou shalt not’. That is what they want to say. It is not the state’s role to do that. The state’s job is to reflect modern-day conditions and to reflect what real people are actually doing and what is acceptable for the majority.
Now in the traditional Catholic theory of the State, the State is the juridical and moral person that exercises God-given temporal authority over a given populace in a given territory. The State’s proper end is the building-up of the common good, and with it the upholding of justice—it must legislate in accordance with the eternal moral law, discernible by the light of natural reason. ‘Thou shalt not’ is exactly what the State should be saying sometimes, perhaps even most of the time. But for Mr. Leane, the State wields not a sword, as St. Paul put it, but a mirror—it simply serves the populace directly rather than serving God or serving the common good directly, and the populace only indirectly. Thus the very meaning of the State’s authority is subverted. What Mr. Leane is advocating here is a naked positivism whereby the State simply indulges the populace in whatever debauchery takes its fancy, so long as a majority can agree on it.

One can hardly be surprised at this sort of madness taking root in the corridors of power, though, when many of Mr. Leane’s electors no doubt would agree with him. One suspects that this sort of positivism and utilitarianism is rampant among Westerners, and one wonders, then, whether universal suffrage is really the best way to choose a government. Look at the recent comment of MgS when I begged her to give me some clue as to what she understands by justice:

justice is largely a part of the broader social contract that is the society in which one lives.
So justice, far from being a virtue on which all other goods hinge (hence its status as a cardinal virtue), itself hinges on the whim of society. Justice becomes whatever the majority (or whatever decision rule is used) wants it to be; there is no longer any question of trying to discern unchanging moral standards against which to evaluate right and wrong. Positivism, utilitarianism and relativism are the order of the day, even to the extent of forcing people to disobey their consciences. This is what we are up against.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Callistus, Pope, Martyr, 2008 A.D.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Secular liberal democracy vs. the confessional State: which is the better defender of conscience?

[Updated, October 17, 2008, approx. 1600 hrs.: I have corrected the paragraph beginning "Now it was not" in order to make clear that one cannot force anyone to disobey his conscience, but that if someone is going to disobey it, then others must not co-operate with this disobedience except under the conditions that I mention.]
So the Victorian Upper House has passed its monstrous abortion liberalisation laws, and they now await Vice-Regal assent. (If only the Governor could exercise a ‘conscience vote’ like everyone else at the other stages of the passage of the laws.) But of course a law that contravenes the eternal moral law is no law at all. It is a mere piece of human scribbling, worthy of nothing but our defiance and contempt; the pages on which these laws are written would be more suitable as a lining for one’s spittoon than as an addition to the statute books.

Obviously, any freeing-up of access to the means to the wanton destruction of unborn human life is repugnant enough in itself. But what makes these laws uniquely odious (as far as I know) among the various pieces of anti-baby legislation floating around the unflushed toilet bowl of present-day Western ‘civilisation’ is their provision, or rather non-provision, for conscientious objectors. It is these non-provisions that elevate Her Majesty’s Government into the annals of infamy occupied by régimes, like those in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, that thought that they could trample on individual conscience at will. Fr. Brennan reported on these conscience non-provisions recently, and the Sydney Catholic Weekly reminded us of them at the weekend:
Under the legislation doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion would be required to refer a woman to doctor [sic] who didn’t. They would also be obliged to perform abortions in an emergency if necessary to protect the woman’s life.
It is a basic truth of Catholic moral theology that it is a sin to disobey one’s conscience, and that sin is a free act—no-one is forced to sin. Yet these laws attempt to do just that. Furthermore, it is wrong to co-operate in someone else’s wrongdoing, except under very restricted conditions. His late Grace Msgr. Lefebvre reminds us of these conditions in his excellent Religious Liberty Questioned. He writes that
To act against one’s honestly erroneous conscience is to sin. Thus, to force someone to act against such conscience is to cooperate in his sin; but again, we need to further distinguish between two different cases:

To formally cooperate in someone else’s sin is never permissible (in this case, willing precisely to extort from someone an act against his wishes); it is a sin against charity.

It is, however, permissible to cooperate materially in someone else’s sin (desiring that someone do willingly what at first he did not want to do without opposing the eventuality of a forced act) provided that this cooperation be remote and that there is a grievous proportional cause for such a course of action.
(emphasis in the original)
So the conditions are that the co-operation be: purely material, remote, and that it is involves a grievous proportional cause. So let’s see, then, if the Bill’s conscience clauses satisfy these criteria, examining firstly the requirement to perform an abortion in the case of an emergency:

The co-operation is indeed material—the authors of the law (presumably) do not desire to elicit disobedience of conscience as an end in itself.

The co-operation involves a grievous proportional cause—they think that the baby is just a ‘clump of cells’, a human non-person, while the mother is indeed a human person. (This is wrong, of course, since if we are to adopt a radically materialist outlook then the mother is just a ‘clump of cells’ too, and in any case, an organism is never a mere ‘clump of cells’—it is a united whole; perhaps the ‘clump of cells’ folk need to consult an elementary biology textbook.)

But I cannot see how the co-operation is remote, since it requires a direct order to perform an abortion.

Now for the requirement for conscientious objectors to refer infanticidal mothers to a neutral second doctor. Could a conscientious objector make such a referral with a clear conscience? By making the referral his co-operation would clearly be purely material, and possibly remote too, but there can be no possibility of a grievous proportional cause, since what ‘proportion’ can there possibly be between mere financial livelihood and the very destruction of human life? So the laws are morally wrong on both counts, even when evaluated on the pro-abortion crowd’s own terms (assuming, of course, that they agree that it is wrong to force someone to disobey his conscience except under limited conditions—one hopes desperately that they are not so far gone as to disagree on that point).

Now it was not for no reason that I chose Religious Liberty Questioned as my source for the conditions necessary for co-operation in evil. Respect for honestly-erroneous conscience would be one of the basic principles of a Catholic confessional State. It is licit, of course, to restrain someone from acting to obey his conscience, but one cannot force him actively to disobey his conscience, and one may only co-operate in such disobedience under the most limited of circumstances. So examination of these horrendous laws produces the remarkable result that a Catholic confessional State would be a better defender of conscience than the secularist abortocratic brutopia.

This conclusion raises two important questions, one for secularists and one for Catholics. For the secularists, how do you feel about the fact that your cherished liberal democracy is less sympathetic to individual conscience than the supposedly ‘mediæval’, ‘fundamentalist’ confessional State? It is not so long ago that you would no doubt have been scoffing at then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s warning of the rise of a ‘dictatorship of relativism’, yet now you have passed laws that encapsulate perfectly the paradox of a régime that is simultaneously relativistic and dictatorial.

And for Catholics who are opposed to the doctrine of the confessional State, how can you continue in your opposition when this vile legislation gives the decisive proof of H.H. The Pope’s words during WYD08:

There are many today who claim that God should be left on the sidelines, and that religion and faith, while fine for individuals, should either be excluded from the public forum altogether or included only in the pursuit of limited pragmatic goals. This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator. It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone. But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a world-view. If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image. When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the “good” begins to wane. What was ostensibly promoted as human ingenuity soon manifests itself as folly, greed and selfish exploitation. And so we have become more and more aware of our need for humility before the delicate complexity of God’s world.
(my emphasis)
Given that no régime is truly neutral, why continue to defend one whose agnosticism towards faith and morals constitutes a veritable Social Reign of Pontius Pilate, washing its hands of guilt while permitting injustice to fester? All States are confessional, it’s just a matter of whether they confess Christ or Belial. The ‘integral humanism’ advanced by Fr. Maritain and influential even at the highest levels of the Hierarchy has been shown to be a pipe dream; the benign phase of secular liberal democracy has now well and truly passed.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Edward, Confessor, 2008 A.D.

Friday, October 10, 2008


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

Reginaldvs Cantvar

A comment at MgS’s blog

Here is a comment that I submitted to MgS’s blog. I encourage you, my readers, to pay her a visit and let her know what you think of agnosticism and pure juridical positivism:



“It might have imagination or delusion or grief-induced hallucination or a genuine vision of God (I have no evidence for any gods, but I wouldn't eliminate the possibility).”

So you have confirmed that you are not a believer, but you are proposing to reveal to me the true meaning of Scripture, concealed all these years? No thanks, if I want to hear the ‘Resurrection as metaphor’ heresy I’ll go to someone like Dr. Spong, who at least actually believes that God is real. And I cannot understand why the primitive Christians would have augmented a metaphor with claims of a real bodily resurrection (not a mere resuscitation, since it was a passage to a new life, not a return to the old), when, as St. Augustine points out, this was an even bigger stumbling-block to non-believers.


“You invoke the supernatural as the only possible explanation, but that overlooks numerous perfectly legitimate, non-supernatural explanations - ranging from a form of group hypnosis to conspiracy.”

We’re going round in circles now. I brought up those two possibilities before; you said that you did not think that the Resurrection was a fraud. And the notion of a ‘mass delusion’ (thousands of deluded witnesses) strains credulity.

You have fixated on the need for corroborating evidence, but seem to ignore the fact that any piece of evidence requires motives for credibility. I have explained what these motives would be, but you, like Véronique, try to get round this by telling me that the Apostles didn’t mean what they meant to mean (!).

“The thing you don't seem to get here is that I have no problem with uncertainty.”

That you have no problem with uncertainty is well-established. But you are capable of coming to a conclusion, even if only on the balance of probability. I can agree with Prof. Dawkins on at least one thing: agnostics really ought to make up their minds.

“With respect to your needling about 'justice' - I'm not about to waste my time arguing with somebody who has clearly got their sense of the term firmly rooted in the era of Hammurabi.”

In an earlier post you said that

“The debate itself told me a lot - fundamentally, what it boils down to is the Conservatives are running a campaign that boils down to not saying anything substantive.”

In Australian political discourse we call this a ‘small target strategy’—make oneself as small a target as possible and hope to win by default, or at least minimise one’s losses. Perhaps you have been following Mr. Harper’s doings for too long now, because you are starting to resemble him. You refuse to pin yourself down to a simple definition of the key terms. You say that you told me what justice was earlier, but then were unwilling or unable to point out where. Be honest, MgS. It’s because you don’t know what justice is. Nor do you not what is retribution, conscience or morality.

Perhaps you think that hiding behind glib one-liners you can avoid committing yourself to a definition. But suppose I am stuck in the ‘era of Hammurabi’; what has changed in human nature since then? You will say ‘the social contract has changed’. But if it’s just a matter of a social contract, then if one agrees to enter a social contract that specifies that the penalty for murder is death, presumably this is perfectly just. Presumably a death penalty for, say, parking infringements would be just too, so long as one had agreed to the contract that specified this. Basically, justice to you is whatever your tastes and preferences dictate, varying case by case. Please tell me I’m wrong.


Reginaldvs Cantvar

On ‘resorative justice’

According to CathNews yesterday,

Australian Catholic University has awarded former Wagga Wagga police officer, Terry O'Connell, with an honorary doctorate for his ground breaking work in restorative justice in Australian communities and abroad.

[… Mr. O’Connell] has done extensive work in broadening focus for law enforcers by
conferencing with all parties affected by crime: victims, perpetrators and their families, in order to achieve understanding and reconciliation on both sides.
No doubt rehabilitation and crime prevention are worthy ends, but they are distinct from and subordinate to the cardinal virtue of justice (the cardinal virtues being those on which other virtues hinge). Punishment is every bit an end in itself as a just wage for an hour’s work is an end in itself. Considerations on whether punishment can serve other ends, or whether it should conflict with those other ends and not be meted out at all, are secondary. Let the justice system dispense justice before anything else.

(And I note that Mr. O’Connell now works as “Australian Director of the International Company Real Justice”. ‘Real justice’. What a joke.)

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Mr. Mullen and the secular sense of humour,22049,24458834-5001028,00.html

I was pleased to see London Anglican clergymen Mr. Peter Mullen in a little article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, though not in the most favourable of circumstances. It is reported that he made a light-hearted comment at a blog, saying that

“Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH”
But in a reminder of what a sour bunch the secularists (or in this case, the Anglican crypto-secularists) can be, his ecclesial circumscription said that it found the comment

"highly offensive" and [the comment] did not reflect its views.

It is well-known that the Sodomites’ League cannot stand it being pointed out to them that sodomy is one of the most damaging practices in which one could ever consent to engage, even from a purely medical perspective. Mr. Muehlenberg wrote a perceptive piece some time ago in which he reported on the shift in public discourse on homosexuality from a focus on homosexual behaviour to a focus on homosexual identity/culture/life-style. This shift serves to distract us from the fact that the so-called ‘gay culture’ is founded on one of the most unhealthy activities around. Yet even the publicly-funded, untaxed GAYCON knows how damaging sodomy can be; presumably that is why they find it necessary to provide young homosexual men with “a workshop on sex and sexual techniques” (rather than, say, recommended that the same confused young men undergo counseling first). It is for the deleterious effects on health of sodomy, if for no other reason, that sodomy should be outlawed. And the Sodomites’ League could hardly complain of ‘discrimination’, since it would be imposed regardless of whether sodomite or catamite were homosexual or heterosexual.

I had a recent experience of the selective secular sense of humour at MgS’s blog. She reported on Ms Margaret Atwood writing that Canada was basically sliding towards dictatorship, based on Canadian Prime Minister Mr. Stephen Harper’s treatment of the arts community. I joked that

Wow, so Mr. Harper has despatched squads of goons to shut down all dissenting artists?
Oh, wait, he's just cut funding to overseas-based artists. False alarm.
But MgS responded with icy fury:

You clearly have no clue what you are talking about here.

It’s one thing to get a joke but not find it funny, but quite another not even to get the joke at all. Yet this same woman had spoken on another occasion of Baptism in the most light-hearted terms. Isn’t it interesting how secularists like MgS will freely belittle the Christian Sacraments, the very channels of Grace, but if one tries so much as to view their own pre-occupations in a humourous light their jocularity vanishes altogether? This is all the more lame since Ms Atwood and Mr. Harper differ not in kind, but only in degree—they both stand for basically the same political system, so why let oneself become so worked up about it?

But back to Mr. Mullen. He had an excellent article, carried in AD2000 some time ago, in which he lamented the decay of the Anglicans from a “once refined and educated, lovely and lovable national institution” to a body marked by “a mania for self-destruction”. One might hope that this latest episode will be the final nail in the coffin for his allegiance to the Anglican heresy and schism. Let him abjure his heresy, let him cast off the yoke of his anti-Christic ‘Supreme Governor’, let him abandon the notion that the British Parliament may add or subtract articles of faith, let him sever his connections with those who, with official approval, deny the doctrine of Baptismal regeneration. In a word, let him come home to Rome.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ms Spicer on abortion,22049,24455465-5001030,00.html

A disappointing opinion piece by Ms Tracey Spicer appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph. Ms Spicer wrote about her conversion from having no problems with having an abortion herself to refusing to have one regardless of the circumstances. She writes that

If I became pregnant now, there is no way I would consider an abortion.
The catalyst for this was the near-miscarriage of her now-healthy young son at about the same time as he would have been permitted to be killed in utero under proposed Victorian laws. But the basis for this conversion is unclear, since she seems to favour legalisation of abortion in some circumstances, provided the baby is young enough. It appears that her objections are purely emotional and subjective, rather than being based on the objective humanity of the fœtus. She says in the very next paragraph that

Equally, my heart goes out to women who have been raped and abused, or are simply too emotionally fraught to take on the onerous task of parenting.
Obviously only the hardest heart can fail to sympathise with a rape victim, but if the baby conceived is a human being, then how can it possibly be licit to impose what amounts to a death penalty for rape to be served vicariously by the innocent baby? And the notion of a pregnancy being ‘emotionally fraught’ is simply feeble; an unwanted pregnancy does not necessarily mean an unwanted child, and even in a case where it might, there is always adoption.

The article is also weak even when evaluated on its merits as a journalistic essay. She describes some of the recent happenings in connection with Victoria’s impending abortion law changes, but she leaves it till the final paragraph to assert that

you only need to look at a six months' pregnant woman to know that 24 weeks is too late.
So when does abortion cease to be ‘too late’, Ms Spicer? You oppose it at twenty-four weeks, but what about twenty-three, or twenty-two, or twenty-one? Or three, or two or one? What a sad evasion.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

Monday, October 6, 2008

On the Henson controversy

So Mr. Bill Henson is in the news again, with a book on the controversy surrounding his ‘artworks’ in May to be published today. Extracts from the book (written by homosexual activist Mr. David Marr) appeared in The Sydney Morning Herod’s Good Weekend magazine on Saturday. Now no-one can suggest that Mr. Henson intended to produce child pornography i.e. that he intended to produce photographs for titillation, but child pornography was what he produced nonetheless, and so these creepy pictures should be consigned to the Bonfire of the Vanities.

But the bigger issue here is not the ‘pornography vs. art’ debate that dominated the mainstream media, but whether it is moral to make children pose naked for photographs, regardless of the end for which the photographs were intended. It is perhaps an indictment of how deeply utilitarianism pervades mainstream discourse that no commentators that I am aware of picked up on this. The only person I know of to have noted this in the media was a letter writer to the Herod; her Christian name was Lucy, though I cannot recall the surname. She pointed out that it was not primarily a question of whether the photographs should have been displayed, but whether they should have been taken in the first place. That is: suppose that Mr. Henson’s photographs were art, even great art; does this justify the means to this end? Of course it doesn’t.

Mr. Marr alludes to this, presumably unwittingly, when he writes that

Kids may be resilient and able to pick a phoney at 40 paces, but can they assess the impact of being his model? Won’t their naked images haunt them all their lives? Henson offers no clear-cut answer to this. He doesn’t claim that growing into adults will give these kids the complete disguise of age. He acknowledges they may be recognised, but argues that the “strangeness” and strong abstraction of his work makes it unlikely.
So Mr. Henson has no ‘clear-cut answer’, even with hindsight, but he did it anyway?! What moral bankruptcy. I suppose this is what to expect from those who fancy themselves as having ‘outgrown bourgeois morality’ or whatever pompous slogans they affect. As far as I can tell the only situation in which nude child photos might (and I stress might) be justified is when it involves capturing events as they unfold. The only three examples that I can imagine satisfying this criterion would be family ‘happy-snaps’, photography during a medical examination or surgery, or journalistic photography e.g. the famous photo of a young Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack. But even in these cases I am open to being persuaded that it is still unjustified.

Episodes like this, as well as the utter rubbish that one sees every week in the broadsheets’ art pages, make me wonder whether it is time to reclaim a term from the Nazis. That term is ‘degenerate art’. But I suspect that that has about as much of a prospect for success as reclaiming ‘gay’ from the sodomites.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

H.H. The Pope on religious liberty

According to the Vatican Information Service (V.I.S.) e-mail bulletin for October 2, 2008, H.H. The Pope told the Ordinaries of Kazakhstan and Central Asia that

the force of law must never itself become iniquity, nor can the free exercise of religion be limited, because freely to profess one's faith is a fundamental and universally-recognised human right".

Benedict XVI highlighted how "the Church does not impose but freely proposes the Catholic faith, well aware that conversion is the mysterious fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift and a work of God, and hence excludes any form of proselytism that forces, allures or entices people by trickery to embrace it. A person may open to the faith after mature and responsible reflection, and must be able freely to realise that intimate aspiration. This benefits not only the individual, but all society, because the faithful observance of divine precepts helps to build a more just and united form of coexistence".
(my emphasis)
Note His Holiness’ very careful choice of words in the highlighted portion of the first quoted paragraph. To say that “everyone has a natural right to the free exercise of religion” (call this proposition A) is not erroneous, since it does not specify the object of this right. But if one were to add the words ‘any’ and ‘whether Catholic or non-Catholic’, so that the proposition becomes “everyone has a natural right to the free exercise of any religion, whether Catholic or non-Catholic” (call this proposition B), then this would indeed be erroneous. It is the diction of proposition A, as one finds in Dignitatis Humanæ, that has got me wondering whether Dr. Sudlow was right when he said that

I see no reason why a confessional State and religious liberty, not in the Enlightenment sense but as understood by Dignitatis Humanae, cannot be reconciled
and that in fact it was Fr. Murray who was wrong when he inferred, in the commentary to his translation of Dignitatis Humanæ, that

The Church does not make, as a matter of right or divine law, the claim that she should be established as ‘the religion of the state’
and that

The freedoms listed here are those which the Catholic Church claims for herself. The Declaration likewise claims those for all Churches and religious communities.
(both quotations from The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty by Mr. Michael Davies)
One might object that the Holy Father’s reference to ‘freely professing one’s faith’ is problematic, but this need not be the case. ‘One’s faith’ can still mean either Catholic or non-Catholic faith.

Nonetheless, the problem of imprecision and misemphasis remains. It’s like saying ‘it is not sinful to do servile work on the weekend’; the statement can be true or false depending on the object i.e. it is false to say that ‘it is not sinful to work on either day of the weekend, whether Saturday or Sunday.”

As for the second highlighted portion, this is not at all in doubt, but unfortunately the straw man of ‘confessional State implies forced belief’ (usually invoked by Americanists) crops up all too frequently in discussions on religious liberty. See, for example, the following discussion at Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s blog:

If I find the time I might do a post in which I elaborate on the question of subjective vs. objective rights in Dignitatis Humanæ.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

On revenge and retribution, plus: a request to MgS

It appears that in a recent post I did not make myself clear on the meaning of revenge and of retribution. My contention was that they have the same etymological roots. ‘Revenge’, as we know, means ‘getting someone back’, while ‘retribution’ means ‘pay-back’, just as ‘contribute’ means ‘pay with’, ‘distribute’ means ‘pay among’, and so one. But just as, say, ‘terrific’ and ‘terrible’ have the same roots but opposite meanings, so it is that revenge and retribution are not synonymous. Revenge involves exacting personal pay-back, while retribution is rightly the State’s impartial imposition of a due relation between crime and punishment. A private individual might try to exact retribution, but this would be unjust, since no-one should be a judge in his own case and no-one should usurp the State's authority.

As an illustration of this distinction, consider the following example. Assume two individuals, William and Edward, with the same level of wealth, identical utility functions and a constant marginal utility of income, so that each individual values a gain or loss of $x the same as the other does. Now suppose that William steals $x from Edward. (Suppose further that he does so in such a way as not to cause any harm beyond that stemming from the loss of the $x i.e. there is no question of additional ‘pain and suffering.’)

Now the ‘restorative justice’ crowd would demand only that the $x be restored to Edward and that William be reformed. Revenge would seem to require that an additional $x be transferred to Edward (or at least that Edward be the one to exact the money from William). But retribution requires only that $x in addition to the original $x be exacted from William; to whom it goes is a matter of indifference (though arguably it should go into deterrence and rehabilitation funding. I have never denied that deterrence and rehabilitation are worthy ends, only that they are subordinate to justice.) The ‘restorative justice’ crowd could approve of additional money being exacted from William in addition to the original $x only if it could serve as some kind of behavioural disincentive.

Now retribution is a complex variable for the courts to determine. That is where it is good to know that God is just. If the retribution meted out by a judge is excessive, then the offender may offer up the excess in satisfaction for other sins. If too lenient, then the remaining temporal punishment will be exacted in purgatory. But there are at least two cases where retribution is quite straightforward. One is the simple financial example just cited. The other is the case of culpable, pre-meditated murder. Execution is the only adequate punishment. Think of it this way: a punishment can either be excessive, adequate or too lenient. Now no-one would say that depriving someone of his life for depriving another of his life is too lenient. As regards the possibility of it being excessive, to paraphrase Kant, no murderer has ever gone to the gallows protesting that ‘this punishment is excessive!’ People would laugh in his face. So capital punishment is an adequate punishment for murder.

Now the necessity of punishment presupposes that one accepts that justice is a metaphysical concept that is illustrated perfectly by the image of the ‘scales of justice’. But if one rejects this and therefore rejects retributive justice, then one ought to conclude that if punishment for bad deeds is unnecessary, then reward for good deeds is unnecessary, too. Reward is the ‘good deeds’ side of justice, while penalty is the ‘bad deeds’ side. Strict legal justice demands punishment as an end in itself and reward as an end in itself. Take the concept of a just wage. Presumably the ‘restorative justice’ crowd has no problem with workers being denied a just wage (a ‘just wage’ being the value of their marginal product, as the economists say). After all, there are solid utilitarian reasons for withholding a just wage, chief among those being the downward pressure on unemployment. But an employer who tried to rationalise an unjust wage would be dismissed as a thief. The implication for the anti-retribution crowd hardly needs spelling out. They are either consistent, and are therefore no better than thieves, or they are inconsistent, treating good deeds and bad deeds with a different calculus, and are therefore guilty of a double standard. The more I think about it, the more I understand how incoherent and unjust the ‘restorative justice’ ideology is.

So I ask you MgS (and any other anti-retribution folk): what, to you, is justice? A thumbnail sketch will do; I have avoided the jargon of commutative justice, vindicatory justice, and so on, myself. What does it mean to treat justly a good deed or a bad deed? And who are the major figures in this school of thought?

Reginaldvs Cantvar