Magisterium re-opens the Index Librorum Prohibitorum

September 30, 2013 § 4 Comments

The Faithful should read the motu proprio for themselves, but here is the central rationale:

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

Apparently issuing Fatwas is not enough to keep the heretics from blaspheming.  Fortunately, formation in seminaries is still reinforcing sound doctrine.

(HT commenter Maryland Bill at  Catholic and Enjoying It).

Provincialism of the present in papal polemics

September 28, 2013 § 17 Comments

I’ve mentioned before that I am watching from a distance, with a kind of bemusement, all of the various reactions to Pope Francis.  I personally haven’t read a single thing he has said that – read charitably – I disagree with; although I haven’t been reading and scrutinizing everything he says at all, so that may not say much.  For example I have seen a few snippets of, but have not read, the Big Scandalous Interview that has everyone so worked up.

Well, there is one exception.  His remarks about the Church “talking too much about abortion” do strike me as … uninformed.  I’ve been to lots of Masses of course, and the number of Masses where abortion is mentioned at all are very few and far between.  And I can understand how those specific remarks could be demoralizing to folks who have dedicated their lives to fighting abortion, which is one of the largest-scale atrocities ever committed by human beings in all of history, far outstripping anything done by the Nazis or the Communists.  I wonder if the Holy Father’s perspective on this is skewed by Argentinian provincialism, because Argentina is a Catholic enough country that abortion is illegal there[1].

But here is the thing.  Lets grant – purely for the sake of argument – that Francis is a terrible heretic out there saying and doing all sorts of scandalous things.  People who think that a pope saying and doing scandalous things contrary to doctrine undermines Catholic ecclesiology simply have to be, among other things, ignorant about some of the basic history of the Church.  They simply must be suffering from a kind of provincialism of the present.

What precisely is it that makes such people think that the current age deserves – that we personally deserve – a better pope than Alexander VI or Benedict IX?

It would be wildly out of character, but I can’t help but picture John Paul II kind of winking at traditionalists and saying “miss me yet?”


(This post is an expanded version of a comment I left at the Orthosphere).

[1] There is a “life of the mother” exception written into the law, as I understand it.  If that exception permits doctors to perform any procedure whatsoever to save the mother, no matter what that procedure entails, it goes against Catholic doctrine and the natural law.  If however it carefully delimits procedures and circumstances it might not.  But in any case the point is that abortion as a political football is quite different in Francis’ homeland than it is in the first world, so his personal view of how things are in America and Europe could be wildly inaccurate.

An Overton paradox

September 27, 2013 § 4 Comments

In the discussion below two of the things we talked about were (1) that the Overton window is right now moving in a more modernist liberal (leftward) direction, and (2) the question of what kind of political organization can influence the direction of the Overton window.

I think that a movement’s influence on the motion of the Overton window is a function of how well-aligned that movement happens to be with the current position and motion of the Overton window.  If you aren’t on the bandwagon you can’t influence the song.

With apologies to Groucho Marx, a club that was willing to have me as a member would not be an influential club.

Rescued from hijacking the Titanic

September 27, 2013 § 7 Comments

At Sunshine Mary, a commenter makes the commonplace claim that social stigma often prevents someone from seeking help with his problems from the medical establishment.

Given that only heart disease and cancer kill more people than iatrogenesis that is probably a good thing, at least statistically speaking.

Pseudonyms and the Overton window

September 25, 2013 § 39 Comments

In a comment thread at the blog Anarcho Papist, commenter Samson J. asks the following question about using pseudonyms versus real names on the Internet:

Can a pseudonymous movement shift the Overton window?

I suspect that this experiment has already been run.   The great majority of the Internet was pseudonymous before a twenty-something narcissist convinced a billion people to post all of the minute details of their lives and opinions on the public Internet under their real names.  YouTube used to explicitly advise people not to use their real names on line; now they are pushing toward it becoming a requirement under the Google+ initiative.  Heck, the Federalist Papers were written under a pseudonym, pushing the Overton window with musket-and-tricorne style.

So all you have to do to answer the question is ask yourself whether the Overton window is wider inside of Facebook or out in the blogosphere, where pseudonyms remain common, if not as pervasive as they once were.

Another argument that property taxes are intrinsically unjust

September 25, 2013 § 12 Comments

A while back I made an argument that property taxes are intrinsically unjust.  Based on my understanding of usury as taking profits from what does not exist, I argued that property taxes are levied against transactions which haven’t happened.  (That’s why an assessment is needed: the assessment is an imaginary transaction wherein the property is valued without actually being sold).

In this post I will make an independent argument that property taxes are intrinsically unjust.  This argument will not depend on any particular understanding of currencies, usury, etc.

Assume that income taxes are not always unjust, but that a 100% income tax – an income tax which confiscates literally all of a man’s income – is unjust.

Then observe that a property tax confiscates 100% of the property against which it is levied.  A 2.5% annual property tax will confiscate the entire property over the course of 40 years.

The fact that it happens in slow motion does not make it less than a 100% levy.

So in order to believe that property taxes are just, we must accept the premise that a tax which confiscates 100% of a man’s property is just.  It follows, since income is property, that a 100% income tax is just.  This contradicts our original premise that a 100% income tax is unjust.

Nixon goes to China

September 23, 2013 § 11 Comments

Pope Francis update.  HT Lamentably Sane.

Paternity testing and other DNA sacramentals …

September 19, 2013 § 5 Comments

… may turn out to be a chimera.

Even three years ago, suggesting that there was widespread genetic variation in a single body would have been met with skepticism, he said. “You would have just run against the wall.”

But a series of recent papers by Dr. Urban and others has demonstrated that those whispers were not just hypothetical. The variation in the genomes found in a single person is too large to be ignored. “We now know it’s there,” Dr. Urban said. “Now we’re mapping this new continent.”


One woman discovered she was a chimera as late as age 52. In need of a kidney transplant, she was tested so that she might find a match. The results indicated that she was not the mother of two of her three biological children.

Psychotropic drugs and mass murder, redux

September 18, 2013 § 7 Comments

So it turns out that Aaron Alexis was on prescription psychotropic medication. What a shock.

The tyranny of the subjective and “contraceptive mentality”

September 13, 2013 § 19 Comments

Hence, those many people are in error who today assert that one can find neither in human nature nor in the revealed law any absolute and immutable norm to serve for particular actions other than the one which expresses itself in the general law of charity and respect for human dignity.  – Persona Humana

Modern Christians are very enamored with the notion of doing things with a pure heart.  There isn’t anything wrong with that in proper context.  But like all truths it can be emphasized so much that it takes up all the oxygen in the room, building a tower of lies by policing the intellect and crowding out essential truths.

Thus the overemphasis on “contraceptive mentality”.  Contraceptive mentality is something that lives in the subjective world of our minds, and in the subjective world of our minds we reign supreme.  No other person can tell us what takes place there as we live our omnipotent lives in the subjective realm, projecting ourselves as the tragic hero on the IMAX movie screens of our interior existence.  Furthermore we can assume what we like about the subjective states of other people without the possibility of falsification, creating movies for them in our own minds, movies which follow our own script.  Modern Catholics and Protestants alike tend to treat subjective “mentality” as the fundamental playground for morality.  When juxtaposing contraception and “natural family planning” the subjective playground is simply assumed, and dispute rages over whether the latter can or need not be employed with the same subjective “contraceptive mentality” as the former.

This overemphasis of the subjective interior life over choices of objective behavior turns morality upside down, and the implications are far-reaching.

In this regard the Council declares that the moral goodness of the acts proper to conjugal life, acts which are ordered according to true human dignity, “does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives. It must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.” – Persona Humana

Contracepted sexual acts are not immoral first and foremost because of a subjective “contraceptive mentality”.  Contracepted sexual acts are immoral because they are unnatural sexual behaviors like sodomy: they involve using the human body in a manner contrary to its telos, contrary to the truth about Man and his fundamental nature and meaning as an embodied sexual person.

That of course doesn’t mean that subjective “mentality” (what moral theologians sometimes call the “fundamental option”) and whatnot make no difference or are unimportant.  But it means that people who attempt to separate them from the choice of specific concrete acts – and choices to refrain from acting, especially in areas where our moral discretion as rational men made in the Imago Dei is wide – are making a basic error in their moral reasoning.

In reality, it is precisely the fundamental option which in the last resort defines a person’s moral disposition. But it can be completely changed by particular acts, especially when, as often happens, these have been prepared for by previous more superficial acts. Whatever the case, it is wrong to say that particular acts are not enough to constitute mortal sin. – Persona Humana

So now that we understand that what makes contraception always gravely morally wrong – intrinsically immoral – is not “mentality” as something distinct from behaviors but rather the choice of concrete behaviors contrary to the telos of the marital act, we can conclude:

The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, “noble and worthy.”  It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.  – Humanae Vitae

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