instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, April 19, 2010

God indeed hath set some in the church

It's often said, "The Church is not a democracy," when disputes arise over the Church's moral teachings.

That's true enough, but there's another, perhaps more fundamental, sense in which the Church is not a democracy: The source of authority in the Church is not the consent of the governed.

And thank God for that. If the Church's authority rested in the Church's members, then the Church would be a merely human institution.

Is it possible that, on the whole, non-Catholics understand this better than Catholics?

For the most part, non-Catholics don't think authority in the Church comes from God. They may not believe in God, in which case authority couldn't come from Him. They may not believe in Christ, in which case whatever authority God might give wouldn't be given to the Church. They may not believe in the indefectability of the Church, in which case either authority was never given the Church or it was lost at some point along the way.

I wonder, though, whether there might be a significant number of Catholics who don't think authority in the Church comes from God, except perhaps in some remote sense.

This would be bad. It's not a "liberal Catholic" or "progressive Catholic" or "American Catholic" position; it's a position that is radically contrary to the Catholic faith. To the extent it is advanced from within the Church, it causes scandal and lasting damage to the Church and to her mission of preaching Christ to the world.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

We're Number One!

In a two-country race to kill as many foreign babies as possible:
The head of the World Health Organization signaled Wednesday the United States -- not Canada -- was on the right track over the question of supporting access to abortion services amid an international bid to improve child and maternal health.

Dr. Margaret Chan ... described abortion as a "very complex, difficult and sensitive" issue, but went on to praise U.S. President Barack Obama for his position that women have a legal right to the procedure.

...she added: "I am very pleased to see the change in President Obama -- this is really wonderful; sometimes ... it is not easy for outside people to tell them what to do."
Which is odd, since some clown named Ambassador Kmiec, Eleventh Baron Rich of Leez, assured us all that Barack Obama is pro-life.

While I'm at it, let me make note of the fact that the World Health Organization is the kind of organization that has a director general who considers killing babies "really wonderful."

(Link via, via Catholic Edition.)


Following up

In a comment on the post below, John McG wrote:
I think that Mr. Ponnuru would respond that opposition to abortion and opposition to ACA are intertwined, and that they are one and the same.
When I asked if that was a plausible view during the first two-thirds of 2009 (the period Ponnuru was considering, and a period when the specifics of the health care bill were undetermined), Zippy responded:
I know that some folks think that any broad expansion of government power in the medical arena in our present context is pro-abortion, pro-contraception, and pro-euthanasia. This would be the case because of what government is and what health care presently is understood to be.
I'm not sold on the soundness of this view, but I suppose if Ponnuru held it and thought others should too, then he may have been thinking of ad campaigns that promoted it, and I wouldn't object to such campaigns on the basis of dishonesty.

It also occurs to me that Ponnuru may have been thinking of ad campaigns that insisted on the need for any health care bill to be robustly pro-life, which may have persuaded pro-life Democrats to insist that they would only vote for a robustly pro-life bill, which would have prevented them from voting for the ACA as it was finally presented to them. That, too, would have been an honest pro-life effort, although it doesn't seem to account for the possibility that recommitted pro-life Democrats would have produced a robustly pro-life health care bill that the Republicans would have hated. (Which brings us back to the question of doubting the possibility of a robustly pro-life health care bill.)

Let me add a response to this statement from Zippy:
I do agree that pretending to oppose abortion as a means to the end of opposing massive expansion of federal power over health care, when one in fact does not oppose abortion, is wrong; because it is a species of lie.
Yes, but I'm going further, to say that it is a species of lie to pretend that opposition to abortion entails opposing massive expansion of federal power over health care, when one in fact does not think that it does, even if one is opposed to abortion.



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Invocation must imply intention

In this week's Spanning the Globe, T. S. O'Rama quotes a bit of political hindsight from Ramesh Ponnuru:
Most Republicans spent the first two-thirds of 2009 underestimating how big a problem pro-life resistance would be for the Democrats. If they had run ad campaigns based on the issue in the districts of pro-life Democrats, it would have made it harder for those Democrats to back the bill in the end. Those Democrats could well have been the decisive holdouts. Here, again, Republicans were on the popular side of an issue — even many supporters of legal abortion don’t want government funding — but failed to press their advantage.
I took exception to this in the comments, and rather than further abuse TSO's hospitality I'll put down a fuller treatment here, beginning with this principle:

Those who see that abortion is a grave evil should not allow the Republican Party to get away with invoking the abortion issue merely as the means to other, unrelated political ends.

Note that I'm not objecting to mixed intentions. It's fine with me if someone objects to the Affordable Care Act for both abortion-related and, say, economic reasons. Such a person may advance abortion-related arguments for repealing the ACA, while regarding the economic benefits of repeal as an intended side-effect, and I won't complain (or if I do it will be for more specific reasons).

What I'm objecting to is false intentions, the advancing of abortion-related arguments in order to achieve some goal unrelated to abortion.

This is, of course, a variant of the charge commonly made against Republicans by Catholic Democrats, that they campaign on a pro-life platform in order to get elected, but once elected they do nothing for the pro-life cause. Without getting into the accuracy of the charge, or even the prudential consequences if it is true, let me say that it is bad and wrong to campaign in this way, for a number of reasons. In no particular order: it is dishonest; it leaves untouched the evil of abortion; and it brings discredit to the pro-life cause.

My contention, then, is that Ramesh Ponnuru's comment contradicts the principle that using the abortion issue merely as a means to an unrelated end is to be resisted.

Why? Because in the passage quoted he envisions the use of "ad campaigns based on the [pro-life] issue in the districts of pro-life Democrats" as the means, not to advancing the pro-life cause, but to defeating the Democrats' bill.

To those who would say those ends are inseparable, I would point out that the Stupak Amendment separated them, at least to the satisfaction of the country's bishops. And while I have no political acumen at all, I suspect a pro-life campaign over the summer would have made the House bill more pro-life and therefore more certain of passage. Who knows, maybe it would have encouraged Senator Nelson to hold out for a stronger pro-life Senate bill, with the result of... a pro-life law! As a result of a pro-life campaign! Imagine that.

Which is to say, I see nothing wrong with pro-life ad campaigns in the districts of pro-life Democrats. What's wrong, I think, is the intention of invoking opposition to abortion with no particular concern for achieving opposition to abortion.

For that matter, it has often been pointed out that the Democratic Party is so in love with abortion that it was prepared to scuttle the health care bill if it wasn't sufficiently abortion-friendly -- and by Heaven it would be nice if there were no Catholics so in love with the Democratic Party that they can't acknowledge that. Might it not also be pointed out that the Republican Party is not so in love with opposition to abortion that it didn't run pro-life ad campaigns at a time when they might have improved the health care bill? Can we wonder whether the Republican Party is so indifferent to abortion that it was prepared to allow it in a health care bill if it couldn't defeat the bill?

And while Ramesh Ponnuru has, to say the least, a solid record of opposing abortion, his vision quoted above has nothing to do with actually opposing abortion. It's merely an invocation, for purposes of achieving other, unrelated political ends.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

In Dominican News

Yay! Congratulations, Rosamundi, and may the Lord Who has begun this good work bring it to completion.


Playing the prophet

The word of the Lord has not come to me, as far as I know. But I don't think it requires any new divine revelation to see that an alliance with the world against the Pope will not end well for the Church.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Scriptural proof Jesus was a Dominican

Luke 24:41.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter largely consists of saying "Christ is Risen!" to people who never knew that Christ had died

In speaking to Cornelius of the risen Christ, St. Peter says:
He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
For this apostolic teaching to flower, the hearers must believe in
  • the existence of God
  • God's personal interest in human beings
  • an afterlife
  • the possibility of being among the living in the afterlife
  • the possibility of being among the dead in the afterlife
  • God's plan to appoint a judge of the living and the dead
  • God's intention to appoint a judge of the living and the dead
Only with faith in these tenets does it make sense to believe that
  • Jesus is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead
In practice, many Christians -- going back to the Syro-Phoenician woman and the man born blind, among others -- first profess faith in Jesus and only later understand and accept all that God has revealed of His plan for our salvation. But as a logical matter, if you don't accept the first seven points above, accepting the last point would be meaningless.

Which raises some questions. How many of those to whom Christians are commissioned to preach the Gospel accept all, or even any, of the first seven points? For that matter, how many Christians accept them all?

You won't get far preaching a Savior to people who don't know they need one.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

And remember: Easter lasts through Pentecost.