Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mr. Mackay on morality and society

I was dismayed, but not surprised, to read this in an opinion piece by Mr. Hugh Mackay in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Perhaps we sense the fondly imagined community is under threat, and the consequences might be serious. The consequences could hardly be more serious: our moral sense is a social sense. Only by learning how to live in a community do we acquire our sense of right and wrong, and more subtle values such as tolerance, compassion and respect for others.
(my emphasis)

Nothing here, sadly, to suggest that the individual’s moral sense is a Divine imprint upon him or her; nothing here to suggest that it is by the individual’s rational examination of the objective natures of things that he or she tells good from evil, right from wrong. It’s a shame that Mr. Mackay embraces what sounds like a recipe for relativism, because he actually makes several good points in the first half of that article, offering observations on the rise of divorce, the rise of single-parent families, the role of children as what he calls a “social lubricant”, the fall in the number of housewives, information technology, population mobility and shrinking households.

Via a Google search I found out a bit more about Mr. Mackay’s ethics. Apparently he wrote a book, published in 2004, on the topic, and there is an Anglican review of it here. Mr. Mackay says in his book that

The moral sense is a social sense. Personal relationships are both the wellspring and the lifeblood of morality. Our moral sensitivity is heightened when we feel connected with the communities in which we exist. When communities fragment, shared values are the first casualty ...
The reviewer observes that
Mackay writes that the only purpose for the book is ‘to help you achieve greater clarity in your quest for an understanding of what’s right and wrong for you, in your own particular circumstances’.
For Mackay, ‘right’ equals what is ‘right for you’, and ‘wrong’ equals what is ‘wrong for you’.
And Mr. Mackay appears not to understand that religion comprises faith and morals, not just faith. He says that
… it can be dangerous to confuse religious faith with a moral code, as if you can’t have one without the other. Religion addresses the metaphysical question: ‘Why are we here?’ Morality tackles a more practical question: ‘How should we live together?’
For some people those two questions seem to merge; religious believers often claim that their moral code is directly linked to their religious faith. Yet religion and morality can be treated quite separately: one is about making sense of your very existence; the other is about how to live your life. Religion does its work in the interior, spiritual realm, whereas morality is an exterior, social construct.
Morality a ‘social construct’? It is a pity that Mr. Mackay subscribes to this kind of relativism, because, as in the Herald article, he sometimes has some surprisingly wise thoughts mixed in with the nonsense.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin, A.D. 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another secular pseudo-Messiah elicits an amusing response from a Herald reader

Here's an amusing letter from one Norm Neill of Darlinghurst, published in today's Sydney Morning Herald under the title "Bravo Iceland":
It's hard to know which aspect of Johanna Sigurdardottir's expected election as Iceland's PM("Iceland tipped to elect first openly gay PM", April 25-26) gives greatest cause for celebration: the fact her humanity has gained widespread support; the fact that Icelandic voters are taking a woman seriously as a contender; or that her sexuality is apparently irrelevant to the election result.
(my emphasis)
Her 'humanity has gained widespread support', then, has it? Did Icelandic voters have a history of discriminating in favour of Martian candidates or something?!

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Peter Canisius, Confessor, Doctor of the Church, A.D. 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mr. Muehlenberg on the origin of the State

Unlike many Catholics, Mr. Bill Muehlenberg, a Protestant, is under no illusion as to the origin of the State, as is clear from this excerpt from a comment that he made at his blog:

Biblical Christians cannot argue for no government because God created the institution of the state.
(my emphasis)
Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Martyr, A.D. 2009

Fr. Dresser on religious education

Here is a letter from one Peter Dresser, presumably Fr. Dresser, of Coonamble, published under the title “Religion the problem” in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

A pox on teaching any religion in schools, Caleb Owens ("School opponents need a lesson in tolerance", Letters, April 23). At a time when Christianity is in disarray doctrinally and disdains or ignores much scientific, medical and historical data, maybe any contemporary religious studies, Christian or otherwise, should be undertaken only with extreme caution by suitably qualified, mature persons preferably under the guidance of a good agnostic psychiatrist.

Peter Dresser Coonamble
(bold type in the original)
Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Martyr, A.D. 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy St. George’s Day!

To Englishmen and women and Anglophiles alike I wish a happy St. George’s Day. (I see at H.M. The Queen’s website that The Most Noble Order of the Garter’s membership is full, so don’t expect any related announcements today.)

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. George, Martyr, A.D. 2009

An update from Msgr. Williamson on the Vatican-S.S.P.X. doctrinal discussions

His Lordship The Right. Rev. Richard Williamson F.S.S.P.X. has the following information at his blog:

From Bishop Tissier de Mallerais speaking in Paris we hear that terms have been fixed for the doctrinal discussions due to take place between the Society of St. Pius X and the Church authorities in Rome. The discussions are to be in writing, which is wise, insofar as there is less room for passion and more time for careful thinking. Also they will not be made public, a provision which at best eliminates "grand-standing" by either party, otherwise known as playing to the gallery, because there will be no gallery present.
Also, I saw the following in yesterday’s V.I.S. e-mail bulletin:


VATICAN CITY, 22 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

- Fr. Charles Morerod, dean of the faculty of philosophy at Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and professor of dogmatic theology, as secretary general of the International Theological Commission, and consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
What bearing might this have on the discussions, I wonder?

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. George, Martyr, A.D. 2009

Fr. Dresser: sowing doubt about the Resurrection at Easter time

Here are some of the latest ravings to come from Rev. Fr. Peter Dresser, deep in the bowels of Catholica’s discussion board:

[…] Having investigated the biblical evidence particularly regarding the evolution of the empty tomb narratives, [Raymond] Brown found that it was the insight of faith that shaped the narratives of the discovery of the tomb. He judges that Christians can and indeed should continue to speak of a bodily resurrection but not as a bodythat we know bodies, bound by the dimensions of space and time. He sees the resurrection as some kind of spiritual rather than a natural phenomenon. By way ofconclusion he states that the biblical evidence contines to favor the idea of a bodily resurrection although at the same time it serves to correct a notion popular in the past that would equate resurrection with physical resuscitation.
It is important, I think, that we do not accept resurrection in a literal sense as being a resuscitation - with Jesus literally coming alive and dancing on the tomb! Those who insist on interpreting Jesus' resurrection as his physical restoration have perhaps never considered the difficulties raised by such a view. Sadly, for many and perhaps most Christians the resurrection is simply the reversal of the death of Jesus. Jesus somehow resumed his corpse and physically emerged from the tomb. It is the meaning and significance of resurrection that are the important issues. In practical terms the resurrection means that the community (of the Church) lives in the awareness that the dead Jesus is alive and with his community. In other words the focus or locus of resurrection was in the minds and hearts of the followers of Jesus. For the disciples to have reached the conviction that God raised Jesus from the dead, some process of conversion, a growing faith must have preceded this point. The Kerygma or the teaching proclamation of the early church was that Jesus was alive and well but this assertion does not rely on evidence about an empty tomb. Thus was have scholars such as Rudolph Bultmann clearly stating that Easter is not a fact to be cited as evidence for believers; Easter is itself an object of faith.
It is my suggestion that the bodily resurrection of Jesus should not be taken literally in any way except in the spiritual sense that I have outlined above. In this respect it is interesting to note that the so-called appearances of Jesus after the resurrection are invariably vague and shadowy. Jesus was sometimes recognised but usually not. His appearances were sporadic, elusive and evanescent and were experiences which lay on the extreme edge of normal human experience. Usually they are in the context of a shared meal (breakfast on the beach, Emmaus, etc) that represents the Eucharist which is of course the memorial of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
I am no Scripture scholar and so I present the above comments with due acceptance of that fact and am nowhere near Ian with his Scriptural insights and particularly his Pauline analyses...but I do feel that to see resurrection in the literal sense of something like the resumption of a corpse is to do a great violence to any intelligent person and certainly impoverishes one's Christian faith. Can I suggest that even now we share in the resurrection of Jesus insofar as we respond to the action of God in ourselves and in others. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus was in reality a resurrection of and for his followers! What Paul saw in Christ was the full realisation of sharing. We are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are part of each other in the world and are linked together with Jesus in his new closeness with his God.
Just a couple of thoughts....Happy Easter!
(italics in the original)
In response to a comment from Dr. Ian Elmer, Fr. Dresser says:

Many thanks for your reply.
Like yourself I have great problems with any kind of dualistic thinking and for this very reason there has to be some aspect of corporeality involved with the Resurrection. And so, like fellow Catholics I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. It would not make sense to say that Jesus or anyone of us would rise as human beings without some kind of corporeality. It is through our bodies that we join with each other and commune with each other and so forth. But I would make the point that even if the bones of Jesus crucified were to be found, I would still believe in his bodily resurrection because his resurrected and glorified body is not bound by space or time and in his new bodily existence he is universally present in a far more beautiful and expansive and comprehensive way than ever he was during his earthly existence.
My point was to stress this new awareness in the minds and hearts of his followers that he was truly risen and alive with them and they with him in all their hopes and joys, griefs and anxieties.
I believe he is preeminently the prototype of our own resurrections which must involve, quite obviously, some kind of corporeality. And hopefully, like Rilke's swan, each of us will, one day, like Jesus has done, swim majestically and beautifully in that great river of Resurrection...with trumpet blast!
(italics in the original)
What a confused individual. While it is true that spirituality, or subtility, is one of the attributes of the risen and glorified body and that, by virtue of this subtility and another attribute, namely agility, the risen body is not bound by space and time, and it is true that the resurrection, whether of Christ or of the Elect at the end of time, is not merely the revival of and resumption of one’s corpse, it is still the revival and resumption of the corpse in which one perished, its newly glorified state notwithstanding. But if, as Fr. Dresser says, Christ did not resume the body in which He was crucified then this clearly raises huge problems.

1. So Fr. Dresser thinks that the hypothetical discovery of Our Lord’s remains would not harm his belief in His bodily Resurrection. But if the Resurrection were bodily, as Fr. Dresser maintains, then what was this body? Was it just an apparition, a sort of optical illusion? If so, then what was the point of all this? Presumably Fr. Dresser does not dispute that Christ’s soul did not perish at His death, so what is achieved by a mere display?

2. Or, if not just an apparition, presumably Fr. Dresser would think that Christ’s Resurrection involved the infusion of His soul into the substance of a body. But then why not the same body in which He caused the remission of sin? If God can create a new body ex nihilo, or fashion a body out of pre-existing matter, then surely He can use a ‘ready-made’ body. All else equal then, and given the fact that a resumption of His crucifed body would have been more fitting than the assumption of a different body, then why not the restoration to life of that crucifed body?

3. If Christ’s Resurrection involved the abandonment of His crucified body in favour of another body, then what does this make the Apostles? If they thought that there was a contradiction between their announcement of the Resurrection and a non-empty tomb, then it makes them deceivers. And if they did not see any contradiction, then why not keep the remains as relics, or, if not thinking it necessary or desirable to venerate them, then why not at least acknowledge them?

But all these scenarios are fictitious. The truth is: at His Resurrection Christ resumed the same body in which He had been crucified, that is, His soul was restored to that same body (from which His Divinity had never departed); this body rose, by His Own power, to a glorified state characterised by subtility, clarity or radiance, impassibility and immortality, and agility, and it is this kind of resurrection which we hope to attain ourselves. And it is whatever convoluted reasoning that Fr. Dresser might invoke in support of nonsense like points 1. to 3. that does “a great violence to any intelligent person and certainly impoverishes one's Christian faith”.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. George, Martyr, A.D. 2009
P.S. Does anyone know whether Fr. Dresser is still a parish priest?

Mr. Coyne on sexual ethics

Here are some curious observations from Mr. Brian Coyne, editor and publisher of the endlessly fascinating Catholica Australia website (it is not clear whether he uses ‘we’ consistently here to mean either himself and his wife, or as the editorial pronoun, or as representing people generally, or whether it’s a mixture of one or more of these uses):

Like most people we have friends, even members of our wider families, who are dealing with their sexual identity and some in same-sex relationships. Frankly we no longer see either the relationships, or what people do in those relationships as "sinful" — or any more "sinful" than what can occur in heterosexual relationships. Rape is just as grotesque and sinful in a heterosexual relationship as it is in a homosexual relationship. It can occur in both relationships whether they are "blessed" by a church or not. How do we ourselves learn — and teach others — that moral behaviour is about "an attitude of mind and spirit"? It is not primarily about what we do with our pink bits. It's what goes on in our mind when we are playing with our pink bits — and the pink bits of our partners. Didn't Jesus himself share that piece of wisdom with us?*
(his emphasis and asterisk)
Who knows precisely what this means; the words ‘offensive to pious ears’ come to mind, though. It sounds like error and blasphemy rolled into one, and reeks of relativism. And I can’t even begin to imagine which of Christ’s teachings Mr. Coyne could possibly invoke in support of these ravings (the other asterisk is not provided at the forum post). Even an atheist and homosexual like Mr. Matthew Parris, who had been brought up, apparently, as an Anglican, can acknowledge that

… though the New Testament says little about sex or marriage, nothing in the Gospels suggests any departure from Judaic wisdom on such matters, a pretty robust sense of which we gain from the Old Testament.

Jesus was never reluctant to challenge received wisdoms that He wanted to change. He gives no impression that He came into the world to revolutionise sexual mores. Even our eye, if it offends us, must be plucked out.
Curiously, Mr. Coyne seems to contradict his relativism in the next paragraph, in which he appears also to case doubt on the ex opere operato efficacy of the Sacraments:

Sacrament is not some "magic ritual" where, like some witch doctor, we call down some mystical incantations that shower "grace" or "Divine good fortune" into our lives — or to cure our illnesses and relationships. Sacrament is, or should be, part of the process of "learning to intuit the will of the Divine" in our lives. It's part of the "memory and learning process" through which we learn to "think and act like God" — to think and act with the objectivity and detachment of God. My personal view is that all relationships are in some way "sacramental" — they grow out of the Divine imperative to "love one another" and are sacramental in nature. They are THE learning curve within which we learn the "Way" of Jesus — the "Way" of thinking and acting like God would act, detached from our ego, and pains, if God were the one being called upon to make the decisions we have to make if we are to successfully navigate our way through life.
(His red bold type, my bold black type)
What does any of this mean? Only Mr. Coyne knows, I suppose.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. George, Martyr, A.D. 2009

Cardinal Pell in The Sydney Morning Herald, writing about condoms and H.I.V.

Graciously, The Sydney Morning Herald has given His Eminence The Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney the opportunity to reply, in that paper’s op-ed pages, to Mr. David Marr’s criticism of the support that Cardinal Pell offered H.H. The Pope in an interview for Sky News the other week. Cardinal Pell cites several reputable sources—including Science, The British Medical Journal and even U.N.A.I.D.S.—to substantiate the Holy Father’s much-disputed remark. Of particular interest was Cardinal Pell’s quotation from The British Medical Journal:

Earlier this year, the British Medical Journal reported: "In numerous large studies, concerted efforts to promote use of condoms has consistently failed to control rates of sexually transmitted infection", even in Canada, Sweden and Switzerland.
Cardinal Pell also makes the following observation:

To blame Catholics and Pope Benedict for the spread of HIV/AIDS requires proof that while people are ignoring the first, essential Christian requirement to be chaste before and within marriage, they are slavishly obedient to a second requirement not to use condoms. I doubt anyone thinks that is realistically the case.
But Cardinal Pell’s citations did little to placate correspondents to the Herald’s letters pages. One Peter Foster began thus:

It appears George Pell ("Choice, not condoms, makes the difference with AIDS", April 18-19) has forgotten about duty of care and responsibility for harm minimisation being part of the traditional Christian ethic.
‘Forgotten about duty of care’? What nonsense. And as for ‘harm minimisation’, I’ll say it again: the principle of lesser evil (or, in words that Mr. Foster might prefer, minimal harm) is that one may permit the lesser of two evils—that’s permit, never do, because in natural law it is axiomatic that one may never do evil, even when it’s in order to procure a greater good or avert a greater evil.

In the next paragraph of Mr. Foster’s letter he says

Condom use helps prevent/reduce infection transmission among people who are active sexually. Therefore it is responsible to encourage condom use to help minimise harm.
Non sequitur; unconditional encouragement of condom use necessarily implies encouragement of sex with, presumably, someone who either has H.I.V./A.I.D.S. or whose sexual history is so suspect that one ought to presume that he or she has H.I.V./A.I.D.S., and this is hardly responsible advice.

Then Mr. Foster says that

While total abstinence may be zero risk, it is not effective if people do not feel able to take it up as an alternative.
But, for the umpteenth time, abuse does not detract from use. By the same logic one shouldn’t bother to promote condom use because, for whatever reason, paramours might not end up bothering to use them.

Another letter, from one Peter Robinson, began just as badly as Mr. Foster’s, but is worth reproducing here for the bizarre analogy that it contains:

Cardinal Pell cannot rest the papal condom case on scholarship or evidence. His claim that sexual abstinence or fidelity reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS does not imply that condoms increase it. If the Pope is right about condoms' effectiveness, surgeons will have to abandon latex gloves to reduce the likelihood of transmitting bugs. If latex won't work on a lone phallus, what chance does it have against 10 digits with nails on the tips?

Peter Robinson Ainslie (ACT)
So Mr. Robinson simply asserts that “Cardinal Pell cannot rest the papal condom case on scholarship or evidence”, despite the fact that His Eminence cited several pieces of scholarship or evidence!, and Mr. Robinson fails to provide any counter-citations. And his strange analogy, presumably some kind of attempt at wit, is invalid because the risks involved in surgery are (one expects) proportionate to the expected benefits, which cannot be said of sex, whether condomised or uncondomised, with H.I.V.-positive people.

A contribution to the next day’s Herald’s letters page proved no more damaging to Cardinal Pell’s case than the two letters already cited here, despite the fact that it came from Prof. Andrew Grulich, of the H.I.V. Epidemiology and Prevention Program at U.N.S.W. It begins amusingly enough:

The Catholic Church has long held a doctrinal position forbidding condom use. However, Cardinal George Pell now attempts a scientific justification ("Choice, not condoms, makes the difference with AIDS", April 18-19). His review of the science of the efficacy of condoms in preventing HIV was one-sided, partial and biased.
(my emphasis)
And how does Prof. Grulich rectify this imbalance? With a little one-sidedness, partiality and bias of his own. He asserts that “Condoms are the most effective real-life response in HIV prevention.” So abstinence and fidelity aren’t ‘real-life’ responses? What condoms are is an effective white-flag response: run up the white flag and encourage people—not just permit, but actively encourage people—to put themselves at risk of contracting a fatal disease.

Prof. Grulich goes on to cite a curious body of research in support of his views:

There are dozens of studies that follow initially HIV negative people for years. The best of these have been of young couples, often married, in which one is HIV positive and one is HIV negative. In these studies, HIV negative people who use condoms consistently and correctly rarely become HIV infected. In other couples, a large proportion become HIV infected.
But if one is H.I.V.-positive then the last thing that a decent human being would do is put one’s own spouse at risk of becoming H.I.V.-positive too. And the very fact that the H.I.V.-positive status was known means that there can be no excuse. Prof. Grulich finds it necessary to point out that “[i]n other couples, a large proportion become HIV infected”. Well, yes, you have sex with H.I.V.-positive people, you’re going to become H.I.V-positive yourself; no surprises there. But neither Cardinal Pell nor H.H. The Pope have advised anyone to have sex with H.I.V.-positive people at all, so that is an irrelevant basis for comparison.

Prof. Grulich concludes by citing the pro-condom views of the World Health Organisation. Nowhere in his letter, though, does he challenge the findings of Harvard senior research scientist Prof. Edward C. Green that support the contention of Cardinal Pell and the Holy Father.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. George, Martyr, A.D. 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

On the Catholic confessional State

A reader of this blog asked me about how I would envisage a Catholic confessional State. Here is how I responded (this is a recapitulation, possibly with some additions, of some things that I have discussed on this blog in the past, so it might already be familiar to you but might be interesting to revisit nonetheless):


1. Sources for my opinions: my opinions are based on the teachings of the great Popes of social doctrine, chiefly Bl. Pius IX and Leo XIII, in documents such as Quanta cura (a document handed down ex Cathedra), Syllabus Errorum, Libertas, Immortale Dei, and Sapientiæ Christianiæ. These documents are available at several places on-line; some are quite lengthy but are well worth reading nonetheless.

2. Definition of and rationale for the Catholic Confessional State: the Catholic Confessional State is simply a State—the juridical and moral person that exercises God-given civic authority over a given populace connected to a given territory—that professes the truth of the Catholic religion and pays homage to God according to the forms of the Catholic religion. This profession and homage are necessary as a matter of justice, since the State receives its authority—its purpose for existence—from God and so is completely indebted to Him, and is further indebted to Him for whatever blessings descend upon the State.

That is what one might call a ‘top-down’ explanation for the necessity of the Catholic Confessional State. What one might call a ‘bottom-up’ explanation would be as follows: the Social Kingship of Christ is a dogma of the Faith. Now the State is, by its very nature, society taken at its highest (natural) level (I say ‘natural’ because the Church is a society at the highest supernatural level)—that is, it is what is called a ‘perfect society’ (a society that has within itself all the means necessary to reach its end, the State’s end being the common good). For the Social Reign of Christ to be fully realised requires not just that everyone in a society acknowledges Christ’s Kingship, but that everybody as a society acknowledges Christ’s Kingship. And since the State is society personified, the State itself must acknowledge Christ’s Kingship—it must confess Christ, not only in its constitution and laws but in the homage that it pays through the rites of the Church.

3. Activity of the Catholic Confessional State: one way to summarise the activities of the Confessional State is with what I call ‘the four Ps’ (based on the work of a mid-twentieth-century scholar and priest whose name I can’t recall, but who is cited in Mr. Michael Davies’s The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty): profession, protection, promotion and prohibition. Profession: the State must profess the Catholic religion, the only religion that is true without any admixture of error. Although the State is not a human person, and therefore cannot receive the virtue of Faith and the unshakeable certainty that that entails, it is still a juridical and moral (or rational—morality is an aspect of rationality) person, so it can examine the truth-claims of the Catholic religion and come to a moral certainty of their veracity. Protection: the State must protect Christ’s Church, the Catholic Church.

Now it seems to me that the first two ‘Ps’ are non-negotiable; the extent to which the other two ‘Ps’—promotion and prohibition—are to be exercised, if at all, is for the State to adjudge according to political prudence, that is, according to how well they would serve the common good. If non-Catholics are a sizeable minority then clearly it would be imprudent to promote the Catholic religion except by relatively gentle means, and when non-Catholics are numerous it is clearly also imprudent to prohibit offences against the Catholic religion. (One might raise an objection: what if it is the Catholics who are in a minority and a non-Catholic State judges that it would serve the common good to prohibit Catholic religious activity? This objection is resolved by pointing out that one cannot do evil in order that good—even the common good—may come of it.)

So to sum up: there are three relationships to consider:

3.1 The relationship between Christ the King and the State: this requires the State’s public and official acknowledgement of Christ’s Kingship and that it renders to Him the homage that is His due by reason of being the Principle of the State’s authority and well-being.
3.2 The relationship between Christ’s Church and the State: this requires that the State unite itself to the Church and co-operate with her (the extent of this co-operation is for the State to judge according to political prudence, but the principle of its desirability is not to be denied).
3.2 The relationship between offenders of the Catholic religion and the State: the State may tolerate offences against the Catholic religion if it judges that such tolerance would serve the greater good or avert a greater evil, but it is the State that has the right to tolerate, not the offenders who have the right to be tolerated. And when the populace is united in the Catholic Faith and desires to persevere in this unity—which is the ideal, and under which circumstances offences against the Catholic religion would harm the common good even if they do not contravene the natural moral order—the State can and ought to restrain, by enacted penalties, offenders of the Catholic religion.

4. Requirements for the Catholic Confessional State to be implemented: presumably, for the State to profess the Catholic religion and unite itself to the Church would require the Catholic proportion of the populace to exceed fifty per cent.; as for restraint of offenders of the Catholic religion, this could never occur without damage to the common good until non-Catholics are a tiny minority, and even then, given the expected international repercussions of such actions, it is unlikely that it would be prudent until a long time from now.

5. Further information: as well as the writings of the Popes that are available on-line, I had a post at my blog not long ago listing some points of Catholic doctrine in these matters:

and another post from the same time discussing how to explain these teachings, especially with reference to Scripture:

Also, if you view the posts collected under the ‘Confessional State’ and ‘Social Reign of Christ’ tags at my blog you will find more information.


Reginaldvs Cantvar
Friday in Easter Week, A.D. 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

‘The Cracked Crystal Ball’ revisited (and as foggy as ever): MgS on S.G.M. &c. (yes, all those initials mean something)

MgS is up to her old tricks again, folks. I paid her my first visit in several months and left a few comments, and at first she seemed open to discussion, but now she has shut the discussion down and blocked one of my comments. Here is that comment (the topic was a slanderous comparison that MgS made between H.H. The Pope and the leaders of a religious sect some of whose members allegedly starved a boy to death):


"Two religious leaders make statements and decisions which ultimately will lead to the death of others."
I already addressed this, beginning in the sixth line of the fourth paragraph of my previous comment, but here it is again: the Holy Father has not advised anyone to have sex with H.I.V.-positive without using a condom; he advises them simply not to have sex with H.I.V.-positive people at all. If people reject his advice then he can hardly be held responsible for this; abuse does not detract from use. And, importantly, if they reject his advice and have sex with H.I.V.-positive people, then given that the lesser evil is condomised sex in that situation, that's the course of action that they should take if they want to sin but sin relatively little. But obviously His Holiness never will--and nor should he--advise people to do evil in order that good may come of it (regardless of whether the evil is the lesser of two evils--being the lesser evil doesn't make it good), and you will not hear him advise murderers to make sure that they kill their victims as swiftly and painlessly as possible; he'll just exhort them to observe the Fifth Commandment.

So if that's the cornerstone of your analogy then the analogy doesn't just limp (as all analogies do), it's crippled.


Now here’s a comment that I might have made, had MgS not disabled further comments (the topic was the similarity between what MgS calls ‘S.G.M.’--‘same-gender marriage’, since ‘same-sex marriage’ is apparently not politically correct enough—and polygamy, and in the combox I took upon myself the role of Devil’s advocate, arguing for legal recognition of polygamous relationships, in order to show the inconsistency between MgS’s support for ‘S.G.M.’ and her opposition to polygamy):


“Once again, you're busy putting words in my mouth.”

Funny how you say this often, yet I’m scrupulously careful to make sure that my extrapolations are strict logical inferences from the principles that you espouse (and which I’m always happy to demonstrate in greater detail, which I would if you didn’t keep blocking me).

“Equality is a legally enshrined in rights law”

To what extent? Canada’s laws forbid people freely to enter into contracts in which they agree to submit to the authority figure, do they? Are, say, firms forbidden to have hierarchical management structures?

“The statement about reproduction as a function of marriage is not enshrined in the legal definition of marriage - anywhere that I am familiar with.”
I didn’t say it was, and it doesn’t need to be. In your other post discussing this topic you cited “social norms”, not just laws, as being a reason for your objection to polygamy.

“Since we are discussing the legal construct of SGM and the legal construct of polygamy, you are comparing apples and oranges.”
No, it’s certainly apples and apples (or maybe that should be lemons and lemons—I reject them both, of course). Presumably S.G.M.s would be able to have a submissive ‘partner’ and a dominant ‘partner’—see, for instance, this amusing quotation (from a page on ‘myths and facts’) from an Australian pro-‘gay rights’ organisation’s anti-domestic-violence website:

Fact: BDSM is a negotiated sexual activity that may involve hitting, slapping, pain, coercion, or dominance. Some people may adopt long term roles of dominance or submission. These are conscious and consensualactivities where all parties agree to their roles as well as the time and place for a particular scene. In a domestic violence situation the abused partner does not consent to the abusive activities.
(my emphasis,
If a two-spouse marriage can have a submissive spouse and a dominant spouse, then why not a three-, four- or five-spouse ‘marriage’? You see what I’m saying? By your lights, two-spouse and three-plus-spouse ‘marriages’ differ in degree, not in kind, so it is perfectly legitimate to compare the two directly and ask why you are inconsistent and reject the latter but not the former.

So you reject polygamous relationship recognition, but are all in favour of so-called S.G.M., despite the fact that I have shown (and you have failed to refute) that they have the same logical foundation. You say that you reject polygamous relationship recognition partly because they might involve a spouse or spouses playing a submissive role, but do not reject monogamous relationships, whether opposite- or same-sex, that involve the same roles. You also reject them because they violate ‘social norms and laws’, but are all in favour of changes to laws and social norms in other areas when it suits your own tastes and preferences. So you remain, MgS, as ever, a mass of contradictions and inconsistencies. (I mustn’t single you out though, MgS; it’s to be expected from all those who embrace the absurd liberal tenet that truth and error should have equal rights.)


And here’s another comment I might have made, if not for the disabling of further comments (the topic here is the condom controversy again):


“(1) I cannot find a citation for Green's comments outside of opinion pieces …”

Surely it occurred to you check Harvard Uni’s website first? It took me a couple of minutes to find his contact details. His e-mail address is

I seriously encourage you to e-mail him; say something like ‘I’m skeptical of your comments and would appreciate it if you could cite some peer-reviewed, journal-published articles that back them up’. (I’d do it myself but I don’t have easy access to scholarly journals, so there’d be no point.) But really, MgS, do you think a Harvard professor and senior research scientist would put his career and reputation on the line in order to be a mouthpiece for the Pope?

“(2) With respect to the use of condoms, remember that it is not uncommon for people infected with HIV to not be aware of their infection …”
Naturally. But since the safe presumption is that anyone whose sexual history one cannot verify has H.I.V., this doesn’t change the reasoning involved; the reasoning for deciding whether or not to have sex with an H.I.V.-positive person is the same as for deciding whether or not to have sex with a presumably H.I.V.-positive person.

“(3) I continue to hold that the church's position on condom use is deeply flawed, in part because it leads the church to prohibit even talking about them …”
People can talk about it all they like but the natural law isn’t going to change; it’s always going to be a bad idea to have sex with H.I.V.-positive people. (And what about the irony of you complaining about the silencing of discussion … and then silencing this discussion by disabling comments!)

“4) Lastly, as much as you can jump up and down, demanding that everybody be ideally celibate before marriage and entirely faithful within marriage, that is dogma, not reality …”
For the umpteenth time: abuse does not detract from use. Consider the following:

‘Lastly, as much as you can jump up and down, demanding that everybody use condoms when having sex with strangers, that is dogma, not reality—people don’t particularly like using condoms.’

Sound familiar? Same logic, same logical fallacy, which you would be quick to pounce on if I had put it forward as my own opinion.


Reginaldvs Cantvar
Tuesday in Easter Week, A.D. 2009

On the reaction to Cardinal Pell’s entry into the latest condom controversy,25197,25319105-2702,00.html

Firstly: Happy Easter, everyone! Now on to the reaction in the media to the Sky News interview in which His Eminence The Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney backed up (along with Harvard School of Public Health senior research scientist Prof. Edward C. Green) H.H. The Pope’s recent observation to the effect that “condom distribution isn't helping, and may be worsening, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa” (source). Let’s begin with the nonsense spouted by homosexual activist and naked-kiddies-as-art supporter Mr. David Marr in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herod. As I recall reading in an article by Mr. Piers Akerman some time ago, Mr. Marr left his wife in order to lead the so-called gay lifestyle, so it came as no surprise to see him downplaying the importance of fidelity in impeding the advance of the H.I.V. epidemic. Mr. Marr began by portraying Cardinal Pell as nothing but a mouthpiece for the Holy Father:

In a contest between showing slavish support for the Pope and putting people in the way of disease and death, Cardinal George Pell chose loyalty.
Now firstly, one has to ask: how does advising people not to have sex with H.I.V.-positive people put the former “in the way of disease and death”? Surely it is those whose focus is entirely on so-called harm minimisation—i.e. whose focus is on condom use—who are putting people at risk of catching H.I.V., the fact that the risk is lower relative to completely unprotected sex notwithstanding?

Mr. Marr goes on to quote His Eminence as saying

"They encourage promiscuity," the cardinal told Sky Television. "The idea that you can solve a great spiritual and health crisis like AIDS with a few mechanical contraptions like condoms is ridiculous."
Note that Mr. Marr fails to provide any evidence to refute Cardinal Pell’s main contention: that promoting condoms encourages promiscuity, with the corollary that, since the overall “sex supply” (as the likes of Ms Bettina Arndt might put) increases, the net effect could be an increase in the infection rate. That is the consequence at the level of society of the individual-level problem of ‘risk compensation’, whereby, as Prof. Green explains, individuals cancel out the net effect of any potential for harm minimisation by increasing the frequency of the harm-generating activity.

Mr. Marr invokes the purported success story of Australia’s response to the emergence of the A.I.D.S. catastrophe:

It's hardly news but in the face of this ridicule it has to be said again: Australia waged the world's most effective war on AIDS by ignoring the Catholic Church.
‘Most effective’ relative to what, though? One wonders how much more effectively Australia might have combated the spread of this disease if, instead of relaxing its anti-buggery and anti-prostitution laws (and let’s not forget, in Western countries the problem was chiefly among sodomites, drug addicts and prostitutes unlike in Africa, where it is also a major problem even among those who otherwise obey the natural law) at the very time—the 1980s—as A.I.D.S. was hitting the so-called ‘gay scene’ it had instead redoubled its effort to stamp out these vices.

Mr. Marr cites some figures indicating that many nominal Catholics in Western countries happily defy the natural law as taught by the Magisterium and juxtaposes these figures with those for third-world countries, whose citizens apparently have a good deal more humility than the ‘affluent’, ‘highly-educated’ aCatholic-type Catholics of the West and hence are more reluctant to flout Divinely-protected teachings.

Mr. Marr also provides some figures on comparative infection rates: he says that

It was as the Pope was flying into Cameroon - infection rate 5.5 per cent, compared with 0.1 per cent in Australia - that he reaffirmed the doctrinal hard line against condoms a few weeks ago.
Interesting comparison, that. Given that in Africa A.I.D.S. is as much, or possibly more so, a problem among heterosexuals as in the so-called gay community, the 5.5% figure shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. But while at first glance Australia’s infection rate seems miniscule, one wonders how much of that percentage belongs to the similarly-miniscule 1.6% of the population that identifies as homosexual.

Mr. Marr goes on to delve, rather superficially, into the basis for the Church’s teachings against contraception. He says, of the Holy Father’s remark that “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life”, that

Christ didn't lay down that rule. You won't find it anywhere in the Bible. It crept into church teaching in the second century via Clement of Alexandria who came up with a formula - based as much as anything on Greek philosophy - that the only sanctified sex was sex within marriage for the purpose of procreation.

But as a correspondent (though himself not sympathetic to Catholic teaching) in yesterday’s Herald’s letter page noted,

Jesus didn't say many things. He didn't say, for example, "Thou shalt not manufacture weapons of mass destruction" but we know that doing so is wrong and so does the church.
Mind you, even if Our Lord had said this quite explicitly, presumably Mr. Marr would just denounce this as more “slavish loyalty”, so as always, one can never win with these secularists. And while it might not be explicit, in the form of words cited, in the Bible, one finds nonetheless in the Old Testament the condemnation, without exception, of the interruption method and sterilisation, the only two methods of contraception mentioned (source). Mr. Marr attributes the origin of the Church’s opposition to contraception to Clement of Alexandria; curiously, I could find no mention of this at the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia, while at Wikipedia the closest that we come to Mr. Marr’s contention is where it says that Clement “pronounces definitely against the sophists and against the hedonism of the school of Epicurus”. At the already-cited E.W.T.N. web page Clement of Alexandria is indeed listed as the first of the Fathers to teach what Mr. Marr contended, but one must note also that that web page provides a veritable who’s who of Church Fathers who taught against contraception. And as Mr. Marr notes, “With that, the church and Western civilisation set off down a very odd track for a couple of millennia.” So in other words, we have an abundance of Patristic teaching, and a strong continuity, over hundreds of years, of Magisterial teaching, both of which are in themselves good indicators of the veracity of the Church’s teaching in these matters—good indicators if we are to take seriously Christ’s promise to be with us always, protecting the Church’s teachings from error.

Nowhere in Mr. Marr’s article does he make any attempt to understand the natural-law basis for the Church’s condemnations of contraception and voluptuousness. Which is unsurprising, given that Mr. Marr seems to find nothing wrong with sodomy or whatever unspeakable things he does, and does, most sickeningly of all, in the name of love. Note also that contraception is actually a bit of a side issue here, a useful diversion for Mr. Marr to throw up, perhaps, but the key issue here is whether it is ever ethical, with or without a condom, to have sex with an H.I.V.-positive person. And even in proportionalist ethics, sex with a risk of catching H.I.V. cannot be recommended, since the expected evil (catching a lethal disease) will always be out of proportion to, will always outweigh, the expected goods of the unitive and procreative ends of conjugal relations.

Mr. Marr continues this digression with a cursory glance at the state of the question in the twentieth century, in the course of which he notes that

By the time the Second Vatican Council met in the 1960s, the pill had been discovered. A commission of theologians and medical experts concluded after five years of study that there was no good reason for the church to ban it. But Pope Paul VI did exactly that in the infamous 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

But crucial to Paul VI’s rejection of the majority opinion was what Mr. Marr himself noted: the strong continuity of Catholic teaching in the matter. As the Papal Commission’s minority noted:

One can find no period of history, no document of the church, no theological school, scarcely one Catholic theologian, who ever denied that contraception was always seriously evil. The teaching of the Church in this matter is absolutely constant. Until the present century this teaching was peacefully possessed by all other Christians, whether Orthodox or Anglican or Protestant. The Orthodox retain this as common teaching today.
So Mr. Marr can refute neither the natural-law basis for the teaching, nor its coherence and continuity over almost two thousand years. But for him, the natural law and the Church’s Divinely-constituted Magisterium are virtually irrevelant anyway: it’s all about power, you see:

Demonising contraception remains, as much as anything, an issue of papal authority. It's about power.
No elaboration on this contention is offered, though he’s by no means alone in asserting it, as we see with the usual suspects at The Australian’s letters blog:

How that man [Cardinal Pell] can say what he does on this and other issues is beyond comprehension - unless it is all a part of the power play that organised religion is.
Mulga Mumblebrain:
The Roman Catholic Church is always and invariably interested in one thing alone. Total control of its adherents.
Stephen Morgan:
He’s interested in getting his own way, and he and his Church will lie, dissemble and obfuscate in any way possible to do so, even at the cost of millions of lives.
Lewis Winders:
it isn’t about HIV, or humanity. It’s about power.
Someone needs to explain this for me. So Churchmen, it is alleged, give up marriage, family and the pleasures of worldly life in order to wield ‘power’ arbitrarily over people for their own sick amusement—only to have vast numbers of those people ignore them or defy them, or even join with the secularists in reviling them? This is really just gutter-level character assassination, but what is most sickening about it is, as I suggested, that nominal Catholics like those at the inaptly-named Catholica website go along with it, and even surpass the fervour of the secularists.

As Mr. Marr continues, he gives further indication of his inability to grasp the natural law:

There were glimmers of hope a few years ago when a great prince of the church, the former Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, began to argue that wearing a condom was less evil than infecting your partner.
But Mr. Marr seems not to understand the doctrine of lesser evil: the doctrine is that if one must permit one of two or more evils then one ought to permit the lesser evil. That’s permit, not do: one may never do evil in order to procure a greater good or avert a greater evil, even if the lesser evil seems trifling and the expected greater evil seems catastrophic. (And that, Mr. Marr, is clear from the Bible, and the New Testament in particular: see Romans 3:8.) But furthermore, condom use will never be the lesser evil, because there is always a third alternative: just don’t have sex.

But of course abstinence is anathema to the likes of Mr. Marr:

It's true that condoms don't prevent all transmissions of HIV/AIDS. Aspirin doesn't cure every headache either. And we know in our hearts - and every reputable study confirms - that the church's call for abstinence is useless.
He might ‘know’ this in his own buggery-addled heart, but “every reputable study” does not confirm it. Name them all then, Mr. Marr. And let’s have a closer look at his aspirin analogy. It’s a pretty pathetic one, but let’s adjust it so that it can offer some meaningful comparison. Now a headache is an evil, and taking aspirin is not intrinsically evil. Let’s suppose, though, that the patient has some medical condition that means that it will be potentially fatal—let’s say, hmmm, that there’s a 15% risk of a fatality. Now would anyone ever dream of recommending that he take aspirin for a headache? Even if we take a ‘harm minimisation’ approach and require, say, that he have someone with him when he takes the aspirin so that this other person can call for help? I certainly wouldn’t advise any such thing, given that the evil of death pretty clearly outweighs the evil of a headache.

Mr. Marr finishes on the following note:

But how many good Catholics will die in Africa and the Philippines before they learn that in the 21st century disobeying the Vatican line is a matter of life and death?
So again he brings up the Philippines. But what do the empirical data tell us?

AIDS victims in 1987: Philippines 135 / Thailand 112
In 1991 the WHO predicted the Philippines would have 80,000 to 90,000 cases and Thailand 60,000 to 80,000 AIDS victims.
Thailand promoted the use of condoms in massive campaigns where Catholic Philippines promoted ‘Abstinence’ and ‘Be faithful’.
The prognosis of the WHO was wrong for both countries:
1999: Philippines 1,005 / Thailand 755,000 AIDS victims

Source: British Medical Journal, volume 328, April 10th 2004
Maybe abstinence isn’t ‘useless’ after all, Mr. Marr? And let’s not forget that most opposition to abstinence as the cornerstone of public health policy on H.I.V./A.I.D.S. is based on a logical fallacy anyway: opponents say that we shouldn’t emphasise abstinence and fidelity because people might fail to live up to these ideals, but this clearly defies the principle that ‘abuse does not detract from use’. By the same logic we ought to abandon the ideal—which is what it is, after, all, just an alternative (and absurd) ideal—of universal condom use, especially since in the throes of passion it’s all too likely that paramours will throw caution to the wind and not bother with so-called protection, not to mention that once trust, whether justified or not, has been built up the paramours aren’t likely to stick to a ‘safer sex’ (note how even the pro-condom crowd backs away from the notion of ‘safe sex’ these days) régime for long.

So that’s the secularist line; what do our ‘separated brethren’ in the Protestant communities have to say? Although Mr. Muehlenburg had a sympathetic post at his blog back when the original controversy broke, the reaction from a spokesman for the Sydney Anglicans to the latest flare-up wasn’t terribly heartening:

The Anglican Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen, lent his support to Cardinal Pell's criticism of society's increasing promiscuity, but not to the banning of condoms.

"We don't oppose the use of condoms," he said. "The Catholic Church has opposed condoms. We haven't.

"We have no problem with birth control that includes condoms."
Dr. Jensen goes on to say that

there was more to modern promiscuity than just the ready availability of condoms.

"In terms of adultery, in terms of divorce, yes, we are in big trouble as a society because of the sexual revolution," he said.

"It's a century-long movement that has happened. In my view, it's a disaster. It has ruined lives. It is ruining our society."
Now to start with, I don’t think that the sexual revolution has been underway for fully one century yet. More like eighty years, I’d say. I’m alluding, of course, to the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which endorsed (albeit in a limited way) the separation of the unitive and procreative ends of conjugal relations, opening the floodgates to the widespread Protestant rejection of God’s plan for (as reflected in the natural law’s implications for) the propagation of the human race, so that today the Anglicans can say unequivocally that they do “not regard contraception as a sin or a contravention of God's purpose” (source) (who ever said slippery-slope arguments were logically fallacious?). Yet are Dr. Jensen and the Anglicans, along with the other Protestants, so blind as not to see that the very things that they deplore—as Dr. Jensen mentions, adultery, divorce, the sexual revolution and the very ruin of society—are linked inextricably with (or can even be the very consequence of) the separation of the unitive and procreative dimensions of human sexuality? (And that’s not to mention the Protestant denial that marriage is a true and proper Sacrament.)

No meaningful support seemed forthcoming from the Uniting Church either:

A spokesman for the Uniting Church said the use of condoms had led to improvements in people's quality of life. "They have obviously stopped people from catching life-threatening diseases," he said. "The Uniting Church is not opposed to the use of condoms."
Meanwhile, the President of the A.I.D.S. Council of New South Wales (visit its website,—it’s just a front for the Sodomites’ League), Mr. Mark Orr, had this to say:

"Abstinence is one method of preventing the transmission of HIV, but we need to live in the reality of people's lives and their decision making. And often people choose not to abstain."
So, as I explained earlier, presumably we shouldn’t bother with condom promotion then either, since we can say that ‘often people choose not to use condoms’. Abuse does not detract from use, Mr. Orr.

It’s fascinating also to see just how badly people fail to understand what the Catholic teaching on these matters actually is. Listen to the following rhetorical question from one Kevin Poschelk in a letter published in yesterday’s The Australian:

How does the modern Church interpret the teachings of Jesus Christ to mean that the practice of unsafe sex is the Christian thing to do?
Where have Cardinal Pell, the Holy Father, or any Catholic theologian or pastor ever advised anyone to have sex, ‘protected’ or unprotected, with H.I.V.-positive people (or people whom one would presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to be H.I.V.-positive)? The Church advises the only reasonable course of action: don’t have sex with H.I.V.-positive/presumably H.I.V.-positive people AT ALL. No-one in his right mind would advise people to have unsafe sex, and as for ‘safe sex’, even if one assumes for the sake of argument that condom use is not intrinsically evil, it is still clearly evil in these circumstances because the risk of death outweighs the expected benefits. (I explained this briefly earlier, and here’s a little analogy to illustrate it: suppose a house were on fire and there were somebody trapped inside. If there were a reasonable prospect of success then one could risk one’s life trying to safe the trapped person because the potential evil of one’s own death is in proportion to the potential evil of the other person’s death. But one couldn’t very well risk one’s life in order to save, say, some furniture, regardless of what ‘harm minimisation’ measures might be available. And so it is in the case of sex with H.I.V.-positive people.) So the Church advises neither ‘safe sex’ nor unsafe sex; she advises no sex, and to do otherwise would be manifestly and gravely irresponsible.

And perhaps surprisingly, it seems to me that, in fact, Catholics and secularists agree as to how these alternatives are to be ranked from most evil/least good to least evil/most good: in ascending order of ‘evilness’, they would be:

1. No sex with H.I.V.-positive people
2. Condomised sex with H.I.V-positive people
3. Uncondomised sex with H.I.V.-positive people

(Explanation: the natural law tells us that any given person’s priorities must be firstly to perpetuate himself as an individual and secondly, to perpetuate himself as a species. So the intention to catch H.I.V.—which is what unprotected sex with an H.I.V.-positive person implies—is more grave than the intention to inhibit conception, which is what condom use implies. But don’t get me wrong—2. and 3. are both evil, and one may never do evil, ever; it’s just a question of their ranking.)

Note also that this ranking holds both for singles and for married couples, since one may refuse to render the marriage debt if there is a reasonable suspicion that one’s spouse has a serious illness. So given this ranking, why the secularist obsession with 2.? Could it be that, for all there raving about abstinence advocates being ‘dogmatic’ (whatever that means—the secularists have turned into a dirty word what they probably never understood to begin with), they have an ideology, a ‘dogmatism’, of their own, which exaggerates man’s passions and denies that he can live a fulfilled life when bound by chastity? And while the Catholic Church can—and should—only ever advise 1., given that 3. is worse than 2., a government could permit the supply of condoms if it adjudges it impossible or imprudent to crack down on sodomy, I.V. drug use, prostitution and fornication. So in fact Mulga Mumblebrain was right in his or her previously-cited comment when he or she said that

The humane position would undoubtedly be to preach abstinence, but allow those who cannot follow this admonition … the use of condoms.
so long as we stress that it can only ever be a question of allowing, never advising or exhorting, condom use; as difficult as the consequentialism-addled secularists might find it to understand, one can never do (or exhort people to do) evil, even if one expects thereby to avert a greater evil. But if the finding of an Ivy League scholar like Prof. Green is to be believed (which it should—it’s supported by articles published in Science, The Lancet, British Medical Journal, and Studies in Family Planning), then in fact all that the evil of condom promotion does is to unleash even greater evils.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Tuesday of Easter Week, A.D. 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mr. Ackland on the work of The Hon. David Levine Q.C.

Mr. Richard Ackland has an opinion piece in today's Sydney Morning Herald on The Hon. David Levine Q.C., a former barrister and Supreme Court judge who is the Chairman of N.S.W.'s Serious Offenders Review Council (S.O.R.C.), which

has the job of recommending the classification and placement of about 700 of the state's most serious prison inmates. These are people who typically have minimum prison sentences of 12 years.
Mr. Ackland reports that

After three years of SORCing, Levine questions how much good is being done by keeping a lot of prisoners locked up for longer and longer. "I fail to see the purpose that is served by any sentence longer than 20 years." There are some notable exceptions.
Only “some notable exceptions”? The problem is his rule, not the exceptions. Does Mr. Levine seriously think that it is not a fitting rule that murderers, rapists and other criminals of similar notoriety should not in general, as a matter of strict legal justice, serve more than twenty years in gaol? Indeed, for many of these offenders a custodial sentence would be inadequate retribution; in many of these cases the death penalty ought to be imposed.

Next, Mr. Ackland brings up

the case of Andrew Kalajzich, who was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to 28 years for the contract killing of his wife. He still has more than 2½ years before he is eligible for parole. "What is the point of it?" Levine asks. Will the extra years enhance Kalajzich's redemption, rehabilitation or make society safer?
So the offender is a man who has murdered someone—it makes no difference whether the instrument he uses is the murder weapon or a contract killer—and yet Mr. Levine appears to think that Kalajzich should not even serve twenty-eight years in gaol. If we as a society were serious about keeping the scales of justice in balance then Kalajzich should have hanged, yet Mr. Levine—who worked as a jurist, whether judge or barrister, for almost forty years—can see no point in Kalajzich even serving a (manifestly inadequate, but better than a lesser sentence I suppose) full twenty-eight years in gaol. Mr. Ackland asks rhetorically “[w]ill the extra years enhance Kalajzich's redemption, rehabilitation or make society safer?”, but he seems to ignore a fourth—but the most important of all—criterion (or at least, ignores the key aspect of the redemption criterion): the need for the offender to pay in full his debt to society, a debt that requires that he offers adequate satisfaction in retribution for his crime, which was clearly among the most serious of all crimes. The essence of justice is to render to each what he is owed (and clearly Kalajzich owes a good deal more than just twenty-eight years of his life when he has taken life itself away from his own wife) yet this seems not to matter greatly, or even at all, to Mr. Ackland, and whether or not it matters to Mr. Levine it seems that, if indeed it did matter, he thinks that somehow a mere twenty-five or so years for murder is enough to satisfy justice.

Mr. Ackland goes on to say that

Levine's point is that there is a growing proportion of prisoners whose departure from jail should be expedited but under the current punitive penal model, which has always been the case in NSW, there is fat chance of that.
But since reward and punishment are simply justice as applied to the doers of good deeds and bad deeds respectively, it is entirely proper that the justice system’s model should be punitive and penal. Sadly though, it is questionable how widely within the present-day legal fraternity one would find assent to this basic principle of true justice; as I have noted in other posts, the utilitarian, positivist ‘restorative justice’ philosophy is very much in vogue now. Certainly one expects that there would be much in this philosophy with which Mr. Ackland and Mr. Levine, both of whom are fairly high-profile and influential jurists, would agree.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Our Lady of Compassion, A.D. 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mr. Pearson on H.H. The Pope’s recent comment on condoms,25197,25252281-5013596,00.html

Mr. Christopher Pearson had some interesting things to say in his column in last Saturday’s Weekend Australian. You’re probably already aware of Harvard-affiliated Prof. Edward Green’s support for what the Holy Father had to say so I won’t reproduce Mr. Pearson’s quotations of the professor, but you might not have heard about what’s contained in the following extracts:

Matthew Hanley wrote in the journal of the National Catholic Bioethics Centre, Philadelphia, on March 23 about high-level suppression of inconvenient evidence.

"An exhaustive review of the impact of condom promotion on actual HIV transmission in the developing world concluded that condoms have not been responsible for turning around any of the severe African epidemics. This rigorous study was originally commissioned by UNAIDS (the Joint UN Program on HIV-AIDS) and conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco.

"Instead of welcoming the findings and adapting HIV prevention strategies accordingly, UNAIDS first tried to alter the findings and ultimately refused to publish them.

"The findings were so threatening to UNAIDS that the researchers were finally forced to publish them on their own in another peer-refereed journal." (See Norman Hearst and Sanny Chan in Studies in Family Planning, March 2004.)
Puts The Lancet’s recent editorial on His Holiness’s remark in perspective, doesn’t it?

Reginaldvs Cantvar
1.IV.2009 A.D.