January 19, 2018 § 132 Comments
Apparently an attention starved Catholic mommy blogger wrote a hit piece against Christendom College. I won’t link to the two part article itself because I’m not interested in driving traffic to trolls; but what follows is easily verifiable. As usual with hubbubs like this I have a few specific things to point out, and no intention of addressing everything that everyone is saying on the subject.
The central ‘stage setting’ incident in part one of the hit piece took place in 2009. Apparently a young female student drove herself (she was the driver with the car keys) and her boyfriend away from the college, past the local town with its hundreds of businesses and thousands of residences, deep into the Shenandoah mountains, to an isolated location in a national park. A year and a half later she was talking about it with a professor and claimed she now realized that she was raped, in a classic “he said she said, long after the fact” scenario.
I find this story perfectly plausible. It is also manifestly unverifiable.
By all accounts the college did everything it could do in as professional, compassionate, and (nontrivially) legal a manner as anyone could reasonably expect. The young man was investigated and punished for actually verifiable behaviors on campus, etc — the details (putative and otherwise), again, are available elsewhere so there is no need to rehash them here.
At least one of the individuals cited in the article series claims, in the combox, that the blogger’s citation is a tendentious misrepresentation of what was said in the interview. So the veracity and fairness of the article is publicly disputed by one of its own sources. But even if we grant the entire factual situation as reported, the articles are a complete hash of emotive nonsense. The young woman who claims she was raped explains, as paraphrased by the blogger using her as clickbait:
But several former and current students say the school’s sheltered, highly structured campus culture actually facilitates sexual assault …
She says that the rules against romantic public displays of affection were so restrictive, it drove couples off campus.
So the central point of the article (its very title is “Are Women Safe in Christendom’s Bubble?”) seems to be that the College does such a great job enforcing decent behavior on campus that this forces students to go off campus to drink, engage in sexual debauchery, etc. Horrors! Christendom is so well-governed that it is virtually impossible, certainly in comparison to most colleges, to sexually assault women on campus!
And apparently in this specific case the mere proximity of the campus was so oppressive that it was necessary for the alleged victim herself – again she was the driver – to motor, not just a few miles into the nearby town, but to far off in the isolated Virginia mountain wilderness. How else to fully escape the aura of moralistic oppression at Christendom and make possible the campus rapeyness that everyone in the Current Year has come to expect?
The logic doesn’t get any better as the lengthy articles progress. The young woman’s father complains that students are punished for being drunk on campus but are not punished for “being a rapist” on campus:
“I always find it interesting they always try to punish students for drinking off campus, if you come back to campus drunk,” [the father] said. “I say, if you rape off campus, when you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.”
In case the category error isn’t obvious, consider a different situation — streaking, say. Nobody would fault the college for punishing a student caught running around naked on campus. Everyone with any modicum of sanity would fault the college for punishing Student A with no evidence other than that Student B unverifiably claims to have seen Student A streaking deep in the Shenandoah wilderness after she drove him there. (“But women very rarely lie about streaking” come emotion-laden shrieks from the Estrogenic Cloud).
A commenter suggested that the risk men bear of being falsely accused of sexual assault or rape is analogous the risk that women bear of getting pregnant: that this somehow balances things out (which is the important thing). The obvious difference is that a man can be falsely accused of rape even if he did nothing wrong at all; whereas pregnancy only comes about in a very specific, concrete, well understood way. No woman needs to adopt the (at this point well vindicated) Pence rule to refrain from sexual intercourse and avoid pregnancy. But any man who doesn’t follow the Pence rule is taking on the risk of being falsely accused of sexual harassment or worse.
The question of actual evidence and its relation to “victim blaming” gets to the heart of the matter. If this young man in fact legitimately raped this young woman, as demonstrated by actual solid evidence, by all means punish him in the harshest manner as a rapist. There is no statute of limitations on rape, and nobody is responsible for an act of rape itself except the rapist.
But punishment in this case – indeed public rendering of the truth at all – is not (as reported at least) possible, because there isn’t any evidence. The only people who actually know what actually happened are the two people who were there at the time: he said, she said.
A more pertinent question then is, who is responsible for there not being any evidence? Who put us in this situation? Was it Christendom College with its overbearing and oppressive institutional success, when compared to pretty much all colleges everywhere, in keeping rapeyness and even consensual debauchery off campus; or was it someone else?
The most proximate person responsible for the impossibility of determining the truth in an objective, public way is the person in the literal driver seat who chose to drive the two of them, alone, deep into the Virginia wilderness. And in close proximity to that person – perhaps carrying the greater responsibility, because responsibility comes along with age, wisdom, and authority – are parents who give driver’s licenses to young women and send them off to college hundreds of miles distant without any inkling that a seventeen year old driving deep into the wilderness with a random boyfriend is every bit as imprudent as a ten year old getting into a car with a stranger offering candy.
Close behind are trolling mommy bloggers who write self-serving hit pieces against an obviously well managed Catholic college precisely because of that college’s undeniable success, versus all of its peers, in keeping rape at the status of an off campus problem rather than an on campus problem.
UPDATE 1/21/2018: Added the sentence “So the veracity and fairness of the article is publicly disputed by one of its own sources. ” Corrected the word “estrogenic”.
December 20, 2017 § 170 Comments
In this post I will present an argument that it is immoral to sell digital pornography and/or bitcoin.
Premise 1: It is immoral to sell property for an unjust price.
Premise 2: Context can make particular property more or less valuable; for example, water is more valuable in the desert than in a mountain lake. Call this a context multiplier.
Premise 3: Personal preferences or needs can make particular property more or less valuable to a particular buyer. I like whiskey but I don’t care for wine. Call this a subjective multiplier.
Premise 4: It is possible for particular property to have zero or negative intrinsic value: for particular property to be literally useless or harmful. (Alternatively, it is possible for the typical and intended uses of a particular kind of property to have zero or negative intrinsic value. Call this “Premise 4 light”).
Premise 5: When property (or its typical use case: call this “Premise 5 light”) has zero or negative intrinsic value, neither a context multiplier nor a subjective multiplier can make its just price greater than zero.
Digital pornography has negative intrinsic value: its typical use case is destructive to the user. Unlike paper pornography it has no useful material substrate which enables atypical uses: paper pornography might be used as fuel for a fire, for example, but digital pornography cannot even be burned to produce heat. Purchasing copies of digital pornography might be justifiable when doing so is part of a plan to destroy it or to attack its production; but this limited warrant to purchase-for-destruction does not justify the sale of digital pornography to purchasers who are likely to use it for its intended purpose.
Pornography has negative intrinsic value because it promotes vice, a false picture of reality, and other disorders in relation to the truth about the good.
Bitcoin is also a digital product which promotes vice, a false picture of reality, and other disorders in relation to the truth about the good.
Therefore selling bitcoin is immoral. (“Light” version: therefore selling bitcoin to buyers who are likely to use it for its typical use cases, is immoral).
Obviously Premise 5 is doing the heavy lifting here, though Premise 4 may also be controversial.
November 20, 2017 § 1 Comment
Re-posting this since the Parable of the Talents was yesterday’s Gospel reading.
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 fundamentallydifferent 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 loansin the first place. Loans to the bank are claims against the…
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November 15, 2017 § 7 Comments
Cane Caldo recently objected to my contention that violence is the besetting sin of incontinent men, citing federal prison statistics. One problem with citing federal prison statistics — even stipulating the veracity of official methods which categorize various crimes proximate to violence (e.g. burglary) as as nonviolent — is that the federal prison population is not representative of the prison population in general:
Obama made this a key point in his NAACP speech: “But here’s the thing: Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. And that is the real reason our prison population is so high.”
This claim, which is widely accepted by policymakers and the public, is simply wrong. It’s true that nearly half of all federal inmates have been sentenced for drug offenses, but the federal system holds only about 14 percent of all inmates. In the state prisons, which hold the remaining 86 percent, over half of prisoners are serving time for violent crimes, and since 1990, 60 percent of the growth in state prison populations has come from locking up violent offenders. Less than a fifth of state prisoners — 17 percent — are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.
In other words, for all the talk about nonviolent offenders, a majority of our prisoners have been convicted of a violent act, and even more have some history of violence.
November 14, 2017 § 49 Comments
The basic principles behind the prohibition of usury are simple. Financially, usury is any contractual profit for the lender stemming from making a “loan for consumption“: a loan which authorizes the borrower to consume or alienate the actual property lent, while personally guaranteeing that he will restore to the lender the amount lent. Morally, personally guaranteed loans are only licit as acts of charity or friendship made to a borrower in need: they are never licit under any circumstances as acts of financial self-interest on the part of the lender.
Intuitively, charging rent for the use of collateral property owned by the lender – actual alienable property which is later returned to the lender intact or ultimately bought out by the borrower – is not intrinsically uncharitable.
Intuitively, charging a man rent for the use of his own person, for each breath he takes from his own lungs, is intrinsically uncharitable. Interest on a personal IOU is a charge of rent against a man for the use of his own person, since his obligation to repay simply is personal.
It is also intrinsically uncharitable to make a mutuum borrower responsible for the lender’s changing circumstances. In general with a mutuum loan the borrower is not responsible – cannot be made responsible – for all of the circumstantial changes which occur in the universe during the duration of the loan.
People use terms like “inflation” in economic theory to refer to aggregate indexes of relative price changes over time. An index is just a representative sample of statistically aggregated spot prices of particular goods and services, measured in some particular unit (US dollars, McDonalds Big Macs, etc). There are as many possible relative price indices as there are discrete combinations of goods, services, transactions, and time periods. But folks tend to treat “inflation” as if it were a basic feature of reality as opposed to a particular heuristic/statistical guesstimate about certain historical circumstantial changes in relative prices (measures of who in fact bartered what in exchange for what) for certain goods and services (and only those goods and services, etc).
I once bought a house by selling some stock, paying for the house with the proceeds. When I sold the house it had “lost value” in terms of US dollars but had “gained value” in terms of the stock I sold. Whether the house had inflated or deflated in price over the period I owned it depends on what measure we use for price. If I had sold the stock, rented a place to live, and made an interest free mutuum loan of the remainder of the proceeds I would have been financially better off still, assuming the mutuum was repaid. If I had rented and not sold the stock at all I would be worst off of all, in terms of financial outcome.
This all would have been the result of changing circumstances. In general it is not the responsibility of mutuum borrowers – it cannot be a mutuum borrower’s responsibility in justice – to compensate lenders for changes in the lender’s circumstances.
Inflation is a heuristic measure of aggregated circumstances in the economy, crafted and reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if inflation were a measure of the actual concrete and personal changing circumstances of the actual lender, which it isn’t, it remains intrinsically unjust to charge mutuum borrowers rent for the use of their own persons simply because of the changing circumstances of a lender.
November 5, 2017 § 94 Comments
Since 1999, I have directed a pastoral counseling agency that conducts over 12,000 [hours] of pastoral counseling per year. That means that, over the last 18 years, I have either personally conducted, or been directly responsible for, over 216,000 hours of pastoral counseling, which is all about asking how one can apply the teachings of our Catholic faith to some of the most complex situations one could encounter in life. Our agency’s services are delivered in English and Spanish to Catholic couples, families, and individuals across North and South America, Europe, Asia (primarily Hong Kong and India), Australia, and Africa, which has given me a uniquely multi-cultural lens through which to view this question of pastoral practice. I am a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and I serve as the Chair of the Education Committee for the Catholic Psychotherapy Association, which is responsible for the professional development of the next generation of pastoral psychotherapists. I also direct a graduate program in pastoral studies which is forming the next generation of pastoral ministers. I have written over 20 books and programs on a host of serious, practical, faith-based topics that have been translated into at least 7 languages.
The idea that the laity are doomed to be spiritual also-rans strikes me as a particularly pernicious failure of pastoral practice. I am, frankly, appalled that what appears to be driving the progressive advocacy of an interpretation of Chapter 8 of AL that supports communion for Catholics who are remarried without the benefit of annulment is that lay people are just too weak to live holy lives. It seems to me that some 50 years after Vatican II, lay people deserve a little better than “we think we have to lower the bar because, well, you suck.”
… I happen to work with an awful lot of people who have been heroically bearing the cross of living faithfully in their irregular marriages for years and who are a testament both to the fact that the current teaching bears real personal and relational fruit AND the fact that heroism is for the average Christian (thank you very much). On their behalf, I can only say, “How dare you.” to anyone, who out of their misguided approach to pastoral practice would seek to demean the witness of such faithful, courageous, godly, and yes, heroic people.
(HT: LMS Chairman)
October 25, 2017 § 71 Comments
Now and then you’ll encounter the claim that although usury (contractual profit from a mutuum loan) is morally wrong as an agreement between individuals, it becomes morally licit when it is authorized by the positive law, sometimes referred to as “the law of the Prince”. Various rationalizations were suggested for this proposed title to interest – German positive law at the time enforced contracts charging up to 5% interest on mutuum loans – as within the legitimate power of the Prince, starting with the theories of Adam Tanner (SJ) of Ingolstadt in 1620. Tanner and his pupil Christopher Haunold argued that:
This custom … was morally justified, even though the lender had no title to interest. The State validated the custom by its power of eminent domain, transferring the property of the borrower to the lender [in the form of interest]. The State, it was generally admitted, had the power of eminent domain to dispose of private property for the common good. — Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, page 353.
According to Noonan this purely positive law argument gained no traction outside of Ingolstadt (a two and a half hour drive from Cardinal Kasper’s see today) until 1736, when Vitus Pichler (SJ) and Francis Barth worked it over into a theory. Noonan describes the theory:
The premium paid for a loan in such a situation was not usury in a strict sense, but a reward to a lender which the law allowed on the occasion of a loan. … As in the conferring of property rights by adverse possession, a private person was given the right, which he would otherwise not have, to take the property of someone else, in order that the general welfare be promoted.
No surprise that this is yet another case of selective, willful amnesia. Because centuries beforehand the constitutions of the Council of Vienne had ordered the excommunication of government officials who craft statutes asserting such a title:
Serious suggestions have been made to us that communities in certain places, to the divine displeasure and injury of the neighbour, in violation of both divine and human law, approve of usury. By their statutes, sometimes confirmed by oath, they not only grant that usury may be demanded and paid, but deliberately compel debtors to pay it. … We, therefore, wishing to get rid of these pernicious practices, decree with the approval of the sacred council that all the magistrates, captains, rulers, consuls, judges, counsellors or any other officials of these communities who presume in the future to make, write or dictate such statutes, or knowingly decide that usury be paid or, if paid, that it be not fully and freely restored when claimed, incur the sentence of excommunication.