February 28, 2013 § 11 Comments
… here is your opportunity.
For every dollar one of you donates to The Little Sisters of the Poor before Easter I will donate two dollars, up to a maximum of $10,000.
This will work based on the honor system. Send your donations directly to the Little Sisters, and let me know by email or in the combox the amount you sent. After Easter I will send a donation which is double the total or ten thousand dollars, whichever is less.
UPDATE: Completely anonymous donations are fine, just use a throwaway handle or email to let me know the amount. I trust you.
UPDATE 2: If you already donated to the Little Sisters during this lent, before you saw this post, that amount counts too. Feel free to let me know, and triple your money.
UPDATE 3: I made this post “sticky” so it stays front and center. New posts will hit below.
UPDATE 4: We are on track to use up about half of the matching fund by Easter, if my in-box keeps lighting up at the same rate. One donor asked to substitute the very worthy Dominican Sisters of Hawthorn. I agreed, but the match will still go to the Little Sisters.
I’ve decided to add prayer contributions as well, since prayer is if anything more important than money. Every ten minutes of dedicated prayer for the Little Sisters (not a pledge, but already accomplished) is worth $10 in match. As with monetary donations, this will be based on the honor system: just let me know the amount.
Total cash donations: $1,835, earning a $3670 matching contribution
Total prayer time: 40 minutes, earning a $40 matching contribution
Total matching contribution of $3,710 will go out this week
Great job, folks!
February 22, 2013 § 10 Comments
Those who sincerely desire to bring those outside the Christian religion to the correct faith should be earnestly engaged in displays of courtesy, not harshness, lest hostility drive far away those whose minds a clearly thought out reason could challenge. For whoever acts otherwise, and wants to keep them away from their customary practice of rites under this pretext, is shown to be more concerned with his own interests than with those of God. For the Jews who live in Naples complained to Us that some people have unreasonably sought to prevent them from celebrating some of their solemn feast days, so that they were not permitted to celebrate their solemn festivals, as they, up to the present, and their ancestors for a long time previously, were allowed to observe or honor. If such is the case, these men seem to be engaged in a useless pursuit. For what advantage is there when, contrary to long practice, these have been forbidden and it serves no benefit toward their faith and conversion? Or why are we setting up rules for the Jews on how they should celebrate their ceremonies if in doing so we cannot persuade them?
This, then, is the agendum: by being encouraged more by reason and gentleness, they are to wish to follow, not flee from us, so that by showing them what we affirm from their Scriptures, we may be able, with God’s help, to convert them to the bosom of Mother Church. And thus, Your Fraternity, as far as possible with God’s help, should awaken them to conversion by admonitions and not allow them to be further disturbed in their celebrations. But they should have complete freedom to observe and celebrate all their feast and holy days as up till now … they have possessed.
Pope St. Gregory I The Great, Qui Sincera, November, 602 AD (Quoted in Denzinger)
Although We have no doubt it stems from the zeal of devotion that Your Nobility arranges to lead Jews to the worship of Christendom, We have nonetheless thought it necessary to send you Our letter by way of admonishment, since you seem to do it with a zeal that is inordinate. For we do not read that our Lord Jesus Christ violently forced anyone into his service, but that by humble exhortation, leaving to each person his own freedom of choice, he recalled from error whomsoever he had predestined to eternal life, doing so not by judging them, but by shedding his own blood. …
Likewise, the blessed Gregory forbids, in one of his letters, that the said people should be drawn to the faith by violence.
Pope Alexander II, Licet Ex (to Prince Landolfo of Benevento), 1065 AD, (Quoted in Denzinger)
February 20, 2013 § 336 Comments
And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. – Luke 12:48
In my previous post on chivalry we learned that there are two quite distinct traditional concepts of chivalry. The Catholic Encyclopedia takes a dim view of female-focused “court” chivalry: I’ve attempted to put this dim view in contemporary terms by expressing it more or less as “don’t be a beta orbiter, not even just for a day”.
However, chivalry as a warrior code of honor still echoes down the centuries, and what it represents is a basic moral relationship between the powerful and the powerless: between strong men and the weak and vulnerable. Powerful men have a moral obligation to use their strength to defend the weak and vulnerable. Powerful men who use their strength purely for selfish advantage, neglecting the vulnerable, condemn themselves:
There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, 21 Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. 23 And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: 24 And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame. 25 And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazareth evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. 27 And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, 28 That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. 29 And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.31 And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead. — Luke 16:19-31
Our world is filled with weak men, men without chests; and “empowered” women, harlots of Babylon. The problem with chivalry, real chivalry, is not that it is dead. The problem is that it brings into sharp relief how many modern men and women are in rebellion against what they are supposed to be.
 Actually more than two; but two which are of interest in the current post.
February 20, 2013 § 12 Comments
For some reason, people come to the Internet with high expectations of finding solutions to their problems.
In certain situations that is a reasonable expectation: if I am looking for DIY instructions about how to replace the sync/charge connector on an iPhone, or if I want to find out about concealed carry laws in Virginia, or if I need a concrete plan to taper someone off of benzodiazepines safely, the Internet will frequently provide better, faster, and more comprehensive information than what we would get by talking to an Apple “genius”, a local cop, or a doctor.
But sometimes we are talking about less narrowly scoped problems, and sometimes there isn’t a good solution. Sometimes the Kobayashi Maru scenario is real, not a simulation which can be cheated. Even if a good solution exists finding it requires that we first, without prejudice toward particular solutions, understand the factual situation. That makes agreement on the factual situation precedent to any discussion of solutions; solutions which, we must acknowledge at the outset, may not exist at all.
When everyone in the lifeboat says they want to drink the seawater and you tell them that drinking the seawater is no solution, that it will actually aggravate the problem, they’ll often ask what alternative solutions are on offer. Some might suggest what is in the gasoline cans as an alternative. Still others may propose that some people should be sacrificed and that the survivors should drink their blood.
The people on the lifeboat may not want to hear that none of the solutions on offer are both morally acceptable and actually help to solve the problem. They may even think that there is something morally questionable about a person who suggests that this is the case.
But someone with the conceit of believing that he has taken the Red Pill – which is a cultural allusion to seeing the real world as it actually is, and accepting that often painful reality – had better be ready to accept that many of the solutions on offer aren’t going to work out the way that wishful thinking proposes. The more difficult the problem, the more likely it is that the ‘solutions’ on offer are in fact impractical, will not achieve the hoped-for results in fact, and/or are morally unacceptable.
February 19, 2013 § 14 Comments
Chivalry is primarily a warrior concept, a way of reconciling religion and the profession of warrior, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1917:
In chivalry, religion and the profession of arms were reconciled. This change in attitude on the part of the Church dates, according to some, from the Crusades, when Christian armies were for the first time devoted to a sacred purpose. Even prior to the Crusades, however, an anticipation of this attitude is found in the custom called the “Truce of God”. It was then that the clergy seized upon the opportunity offered by these truces to exact from the rough warriors of feudal times a religious vow to use their weapons chiefly for the protection of the weak and defenseless, especially women and orphans, and of churches. Chivalry, in the new sense, rested on a vow; it was this vow which dignified the soldier, elevated him in his own esteem, and raised him almost to the level of the monk in medieval society. As if in return for this vow, the Church ordained a special blessing for the knight in the ceremony called in the Pontificale Romanum, “Benedictio novi militis.”
Chivalry began to lose its religious relevance not long after the end of the Crusades, in what the Catholic Encyclopedia calls the Third Period or Secular Chivalry. It speaks rather critically of the kind of chivalry in which a particular woman (not women in general) became the focus of a vowed knight’s (not Everyman’s) personal protection:
But with all the brilliance and glamour of their achievements, the main result was a useless shedding of blood, waste of money, and misery for the lower classes. The amorous character of the new literature had contributed not a little to deflect chivalry from its original ideal. Under the influence of the romances love now became the mainspring of chivalry. As a consequence there arose a new type of chevalier, vowed to the service of some noble lady, who could even be another man’s wife. This idol of his heart was to be worshipped at a distance. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the obligations imposed upon the knightly lover, these extravagant fancies often led to lamentable results.
One thing I haven’t been able to find in any legitimate historically based – that is, traditional – conception of chivalry as a part of Western Christendom is deference to and opening doors for “Girls Gone Wild”. I expect we need to apply the appropriate “Princess Bride” disclaimer to the use of the term “traditional”.
Chivalry is a universal duty of the man towards all women indiscriminately; it is a principle of ethical conduct rather than it being in response to any particular behaviors or characteristics of the woman.
This seems to be a false dichotomy, since principles of ethical conduct do not in general require us to ignore the facts about a particular person’s behavior. If by “chivalry” people simply mean that we should approach each stranger as a gentleman or a lady until demonstrated otherwise, that seems perfectly reasonable to me (though it isn’t particularly chivalry). Since men and women are different that means different things in one’s default approach to male and female strangers. But how we approach strangers is just a matter of civility, of acting civilized among civilized people; and it does not admit of universality in all circumstances nor does it maintain priority as more information comes in. As with stereotypes more generally, in individual interactions the more we get to know the particulars the less pertinent the stereotypes become.
And certainly there are many things we ought never do, period: intrinsically immoral acts. But chivalry cannot mean simply “don’t do something intrinsically immoral to a woman.”
So the notion that “chivalry” requires us to ignore certain facts about a particular person’s behavior because she happens to be a woman doesn’t strike me as chivalry, even in a modern colloquial sense. It strikes me as a repackaging of liberalism‘s insistence that reality must be reconstructed in the face of inconvenient facts.
February 16, 2013 § 85 Comments
Christ, to be sure, gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose which He set before her is a religious one. – [Gaudium et Spes, Second Vatican Council]
A common sentiment I encounter, especially from Protestants, is that they object to the institutional Church because the institutional Church doesn’t put enough energy into telling men how to think and what to do in excruciating detail. I’ve encountered this gripe often when discussing the kind of sometimes-useful pop-sociology and psychology frequently called “Game”.
And shouldn’t the churches be way out in front on this, instead of playing catchup to some dude from Dallas and a mid-level government bureaucrat living in D.C.? – [Commenter Deti]
I would suggest (and have suggested) that outrage over the fact that the Church doesn’t solve every man’s problems with women for him is rather like outrage over the fact that your auto mechanic never helps you do your taxes. The Church doesn’t exist to fill every hole in your life and teach you everything you want or need to know about everything. Her purpose is religious: She isn’t your Daddy, and if your Daddy fell down on the job of teaching you what you need to know, or if you were tragically deprived of a Daddy, the Church is – sadly, perhaps, but no less truly – not able to replace him. That isn’t what the Church is for, and it isn’t where the Church has its charism (its special competence and charter as an institution, roughly speaking).
My guess is that in many cases the sentiment that the Church should be every man’s personal Dr. Phil arises from Protestant positivism: from the intellectual commitments which undergird the solas, particularly the epistemically founded sola scriptura and sola fide. The epistemic solas require the Lollard’s commitment to fully autonomous textual completeness: the Scriptures are thought to be complete purely in and of themselves (sola), without reference to any authoritative outside sources of knowledge such as tradition and the institutional Church.
Now it isn’t my purpose here to argue against sola scriptura. In my experience that is rather pointless: either you get it that positivism is fundamentally irrational and therefore necessarily false, or you don’t.
But the notion that everything you need to know to work out your salvation is in this book – that you need this autonomous thing and this autonomous thing alone – leads to the more general disposition that all the answers you need to solve a particular problem ought to be found in this one place. If morality requires me to tend to the sick, then the Church is falling down on the job if it isn’t telling me everything I need to know about tending to the sick.
But in reality the Church has no special charism which makes it more competent than I am when it comes to the germ theory of disease or the pharmacological actions of various chemicals. This doesn’t mean that She has no special competence in the moral framing of how we are to care for the sick. But it is a category mistake to be outraged that I can’t study molecular biology at the Vatican.
 It is perhaps worth noting that many in-the-pews Catholics and even Catholic intellectuals also suffer from positivist modes of thought, since it is in the air that we breath.
February 9, 2013 § 39 Comments
Some folks seem to be under the impression that contracts are rarified highly formal agreements which occur in the presence of lawyers and detailed written stipulations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Contracts are ubiquitous in all human societies.
Any time one human being makes an offer, another human being accepts the offer, and consideration – something of value – is exchanged, that is a contract. When you go to the grocery store you enter into, not one contract, but a contract for each and every individual item you purchase. The selling company offers you a product at a price; you accept the offer; consideration (money and product) are exchanged.
Contracts are not limited to monetary consideration. Any consideration at all will do.
Now it is true that many trivial contracts never make it to the sovereign for adjudication, when there is a dispute. Sometimes people work things out for themselves. Sometimes the wronged party decides that it isn’t worth pursuing justice over a small matter. Sometimes a whole genre of ‘reality TV’ is spawned based on resolving trivial contracts. But the fact that many trivial contracts are not adjudicated by the sovereign – because the parties decide not to petition the sovereign – doesn’t mean that they are not contracts.
Steve Nicoloso was kind enough to distill the essence of the “get the government out of the marriage business” position to this:
I want contracts enforced. Period. Full stop. All of them. By the letter. Enforce, enforce, enforce! Whether its called a “marriage” or a “pumpernickel”…, I want it enforced.
Take away the fig leaf. Just let the government enforce contracts. It would be great if they enforced marriage qua marriage. But if they’re not going to do that, then at least they can enforce contracts qua contracts.
The problem with this is that marriage qua marriage is (among other things) a contract. If two people exchanging gum for a nickel is a contract – and it is – then marriage is certainly a contract. It is not possible for government to be in the business of enforcing all contracts while at the same time not being in the business of marriage qua marriage.
I should say that the fact that I highlight the precise area where (in my view) disagreement arises does not imply disagreement in other areas. I appreciate Steve and other commenters taking the time to engage with the issue, a great deal of what he says (and they say) on the subject is valuable and true, and his comments are well worth reading.
 Other recent posts on the subject of advocating “getting the government out of the marriage business” are Marriage and the death of reason, All the king’s horses and all the king’s marriages, What if only usurers could marry?, and What not to do about tyranny.
 Commenter ‘Our Heroine’ and I had an exchange over whether baptism is a contract in this thread. Qua covenant with God, baptism is not a contract. The Sanhedrin may have gotten away with taking God to court, but that isn’t something we can do. But there may be contracts ancillary to baptism which give rise to some tort action, and in any event the point is that contracts are ubiquitous and adjudicating them is part of the very essence of governance, in all societies. That is why disavowing governance becomes the other ‘bookend’ in this disputation.