June 27, 2016 § 287 Comments
Warning: in this post I am kind of talking out of my hat, just sharing something I recently discovered. I haven’t done the sort of due diligence that would warrant a strong view on my part. This is just one of those things that make me go “hmmm.”
A personal admission: I tend to get bored out of my mind when I start to read sedevacantist material (articles expressing and attempting to justify the view that there is presently no Pope of Rome, and that the man who presently appears to be Pope is not in fact the Pope). In my experience, the folks advancing those arguments tend to be completely unaware of their own metaphysical baggage. At the very least their metaphysical baggage remains hidden and unacknowledged — perhaps because acknowledging it would weaken their arguments, or perhaps because they simply suffer from a limited imagination and are unaware of all of the questions they are begging.
Life is short, and when writers issue too many promissory notes of which they seem utterly unaware themselves I tend to lose interest in what they have to say.
It was interesting to discover though that sedevacantist arguments seem to draw heavily on the Jesuit School of Salamanca: the same “Georgetown of the Middle Ages” that (arguably) brought us Jesuit economic anti-realism and waffliness on usury.
June 24, 2016 § 39 Comments
I hold Aquinas in very high esteem. In fact it is in part my high esteem for him that makes me especially careful when some writer or commentator starts playing the game of “Aquinas says”. “Aquinas says” is frequently a way for a writer to try to spin a subject to make it appear that his own (the writer’s) views are being spoken in Aquinas’ voice.
Sometimes this is done maliciously, and other times it is simply a kind of wish-fulfillment or prejudice-fulfillment expressed hermeneutically (think of the faction of ‘manosphere’ protestants who are always trying to read permission for ‘Christian polygyny’ and other sexual license into the Christian Scriptures: they are probably sincere enough at a certain level, but their reason is ‘bent’ by conscupiscient arrogance and several layers of metaphysical error).
What I am suggesting in the previous post, consistent with what I have suggested many times before, is that a kind of Hegelian dialectic is often taking place among Catholics (and others too, but my focus in the previous post is on Catholics in particular). It goes something like this:
As a more liberal view of some particular moral question takes hold in society, progressive theologians start showering thinly disguised contempt on Aquinas and explaining how dumb he was about (e.g.) money and finance.
At first this is resisted by ‘conservatives’. But eventually people get old and die. Ideas, on the other hand, live on and develop in a social context.
New generations of ‘conservatives’ start to engage in Aquinas revisionism: rather than rejecting the progressive principles which have taken hold (e.g. that “the nature of money has changed” – which is another way of saying that money has no nature – and therefore charging a ‘reasonable’ amount of contractual profit on a mutuum loan is acceptable in most circumstances today), — rather than rejecting progressive error they argue that the Novus Ordo Pecunia brought into being by modernity was compatible with Aquinas all along, and anyway at worst Aquinas was not infallible so it really just takes a few tweaks of his views here and there to morally justify (e.g.) contractual profits on mutuum loans, whether of money or of shoes.
This has all already happened with usury: the progressive victory was complete before any of us were born. Doctrine was banished into a vault behind an impregnable translucent glass wall, where it remains as a kind of barely visible decoration which is not permitted to touch on practical real-life ‘pastoral’ matters. And the most traditional of traditionalists will often argue that the nature of money has changed, that contractual profit from mutuum loans is at least sometimes morally permissible, and that in any event it is impossible to avoid interest on ‘loans’ (understood equivocally).
And this very same process is happening right now, before our very eyes, with sex and marriage.
June 14, 2016 § 37 Comments
I’ve noticed a tendency in cafeteria traditionalist or conservative commentary to treat the opinions and selective saint-citation of dead clergymen or scholars as authoritative simply because those scholars are long dead.
That is just how I expect the cafeteria traditionalists of the future to treat the opinions and selective saint-citation of Charles Curren, Walter Kasper, and John Noonan.
June 13, 2016 § 6 Comments
It is a fairly common misunderstanding to invoke the Parable of the Talents as a kind of ‘gotcha’ against the Church’s universal and constant condemnation of usury, that is, of any and all profit from mutuum loans. As is the case with most modern pro-usury apologetics, this rests on an equivocation which studiously fails to distinguish between mutuum loans (personal IOU’s) and other agreements: an equivocation which uses the same label “loan” to refer to fundamentally different kinds of contracts.
Here is the money quote from the parable:
Therefore, you ought to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received my own with interest!
But of course someone who has familiarized himself with what usury is and is not knows that loans to the bank or deposit accounts are not mutuum loans in the first place. Loans to the bank are claims against the balance sheet of the bank: against the aggregation of all property in which the bank itself has claims. They are not personal IOU’s from bank employees.
Studiously avoiding clarity on the essential differences between mutuum loans for profit and other contracts is like studiously avoiding clarity on the essential differences between marriage and other sexual relationships.
June 5, 2016 § 32 Comments
Reader GJ uses the term “weaponized ambiguity” in the comments below, as a cognate of what I have called weaponized nihilism and of what others have referred to as the motte-and-bailey strategy. These are of course all forms of the venerable bait and switch, with the psychological feature that the person doing the arguing may be unaware of his equivocation.
Weaponized ambiguity strikes me, not without irony, as a very clarifying term. It captures and clarifies the way in which the execrable hides behind the banal and tautological.
Examples are always helpful.
Feminism is just the acknowledgment that women are people too … when it isn’t instigating mass murder.
Game is a toolbox of techniques which empower a man to be socially dominant … so pay no attention to the fact that the reason you will only learn it from the male equivalent of sluts is that it is the male equivalent of sluttiness.
Usury is charging unjust interest on loans … pay no attention to the fact that usury is any contractual profit at all on mutuum loans, and that even unjust interest charged on non recourse loans is not usury strictly speaking. The main thing we need to do is to avoid moral clarity.
Contraception involves a purely subjective feeling that you want sex but do not want a baby right now. Pay no attention to the minor matter of choosing objectively mutilated sexual behaviors versus abstinence.
And adultery is sex outside of marriage. But of course you can marry whomever or whatever you want whenever you want, and marriage lasts only as long as you want it to last.
Which is how Humanae Vitae becomes Vix Pervenit.