Saturday, April 28, 2012

Musings on Freedoms and Attacks on Freedoms


I see things in the news, on Facebook comments and other sources and see our nation is in deep trouble because it cannot discern the difference between true freedom and false freedom.  True freedoms are infringed upon.  False freedoms are trumpeted as "rights" and challenges are ignored.  This article is a sort of reflection on the current danger to true freedoms that the Obama administration is inflicting.

The Syllogism

Let's start out with a logical syllogism.

  1. Major Premise: It is [unjust] to [compel people to do what they think is evil] ([B] is a part of [A])
  2. Minor Premise: The [HHS mandate] [compels people to do what they think is evil] ([C] is a part of [B])
  3. Conclusion: Therefore the [HHS Mandate] is [Unjust] (Therefore [C] is a part of [A])

The major premise is a foundation of America ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.").   To deny it is to deny the basic principle of freedom we hold as Americans. 

The Minor premise is also true.  Catholics will have to pay for contraception and abortion coverage, and believe that providing such coverage is sinful.

In logic, when the premises are true and the argument is valid, the conclusion is proven true.

And it is proven true.  We can make use of a Euler diagram to show this:

Euler ABC

As we pointed out above, [A] includes all things which are unjust, [B] includes all things that compel people to do what they think is evil and [C] is the HHS mandate.To deny the HHS Mandate is Unjust ([C] is a part of [A]), one has to deny that forcing people to do what they think is evil [B] is unjust [A].

Reductio ad absurdum

If one wants to deny that [B] is a part of [A], one has to admit that a government has the authority to compel people to do what they want them to do regardless of what people may think.  Now supporters of abortion rights and the like may think this sounds great.  But under such a principle, a government could reject conscientious objector status in times of a draft.  It could force reporters to reveal their sources.  It could force doctors to violate doctor-patient confidentiality, lawyers to violate attorney-client privileges, force wives to testify against husbands and so on.

The point is, if the principles behind the HHS mandate are upheld, then the next administration could easily use these principles to force their own views.  Liberals may favor these principles when used by the Obama administration, but are they willing to let these principles be used against them by a conservative government?

I strongly doubt they would.

Recognizing the between Compulsion to do evil and Refusal to give aid.

Some may attempt to address the Catholic protests by claiming that Catholics are trying to force their views on others and using the government to force them.  Pelosi for example made this argument.  She is either ignorant or dishonest however in doing so.  There is a difference between compulsion and refusal to assist.

Freedom is violated in saying, "You must pay for contraception and abortion coverage, even if you think it evil."  It is not violated in saying, "Pay for your own damn contraception!"

What is the difference?  The first forces others to comply.  The second simply refuses to assist wrongdoers.

It is similar to the abuse of the term "Censorship" whenever the discussion of cutting funding for the NEA comes up.  It is censorship when the government says, "You are forbidden to do art on Topic [X]."  But if the government says, "I'm not going to pay you to take photographs of crucifixes in jars of urine," it isn't making any kind of restrictions on what the so-called artist can do.

In other words, to confuse "I order you to do [X]" with "I refuse to assist you in doing [X]" is to be irrational indeed.  Yet it is this argument which is being made by those who would force this mandate.

Do Bishops Force Catholics?

It may be argued that Catholic bishops force Catholics to do what they think is evil by telling them certain things are wrong and must be opposed.  Doesn't this violate the freedom of dissenting Catholics?

This would be a false challenge.  The Catholic Bishop, speaking to his flock, says that being faithful to God requires the rejection of certain behaviors, and to do these things is to estrange oneself from God and the person who does these things must be considered as doing evil.  In doing so, the Bishop is speaking to people about what is true and essential.  Catholics believe that Jesus is God and willed to establish a visible, hierarchical Church under the authority of the Pope in Rome for the purpose of bringing God's salvation to the world.

If one accepts that as true, it is reasonable for people to take heed to what the Church teaches.  If one rejects this, then why the hell are they in the Catholic Church to begin with?

Cruel Heartless Physicists!

To call the Catholic Magisterium cruel, heartless or bureaucratic – to call them anti-woman or homophobic – because they say that perversions of the sexual act are harmful to the person in this life and the next is pretty irrational.  Catholics believe the Church teaches what God has passed on to us through the Apostles to the present day.  If our beliefs are true, then her teachings reflect the reality of existence.  To demand that the Church change her teachings is as ridiculous as demanding that physicists change the laws of physics to prevent people from hurting themselves in a fall.

A physicist could not change the law of gravity.  He or she can only explain how reality works.  Likewise, the Church cannot change her teachings on morality.  She can only teach what this reality is.

A person can of course ignore a bishop's teaching, just as a person can ignore a physicist's explanation of the law of gravity.  However, the person who ignores the law of gravity and steps off the side of a building will suffer harm, and so will the person who ignores the Church teaching on issues of morality.

A Common But False Argument

Some may say, "Well your beliefs may say [X] is wrong, but mine do not.  Therefore you are forcing your beliefs on me!" 

Such a statement is essentially an enthymeme (an argument in which one premise is not explicitly stated according to the Oxford English Dictionary).  To make such an argument a valid syllogism, we would have to state their argument as such:

  1. All [Morally Binding Obligations] are [Things Held Universally] (All [A] is [B]) (This is the Enthymeme)
  2. [Belief (X)] is not a [Thing Held Universally] (No [C] is [B])
  3. Therefore [Belief (X)] is not a [Morally Binding Obligation] (Therefore No [C] is [A])

("X" would be whatever belief is under dispute)

Since I placed the first syllogism in a Euler Circle, I will show the Euler Circle for this argument as well:

False Argument

In this diagram, [A] would be [Morally Binding Obligations], [B] would be [Things held universally] and [C] would be [(Belief [X])] which is under dispute. 

So what's wrong with the argument?

The argument assumes the unstated major premise that All [Morally Binding Obligations] are [Things Held Universally].  We can demolish this by a reductio ad absurdum by changing (Belief [X]) to a more repellant belief.  For example, we can say that the condemnations of slavery, forced deportation, segregation, subjugation of women, lynching etc. was not universally held.  This is not a hypothetical – these are sad events from American History.  In fact these things could happen because at one time a majority at the least tolerated these things as legal.

Thus, if we accept the above argument as to why Catholics have no rights to "impose our beliefs" on others, we must recognize that [Treating People Equally] was not part of [Things held universally], and therefore [Treating people equally] is not a [Morally binding obligation].

But that is absurd!  the concept that slavery, segregation, forced resettlements etc., must be tolerated because they were not held universally means that one can justify anything they can convince people to accept and people who try to oppose them are accused of "forcing their beliefs on others."

Since this is absurd,  the major premise is also shown to be absurd and must be rejected.  Thus that argument cannot be said to be prove its point.


I Hope to explore more about moral obligations and truth in a future article, but I hope these musings will show that the HHS mandate is certainly a mandate against truth and freedom.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Propaganda and Lies: Accusation that the Catholic Church wants to force its teachings on all women

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it

—Adolph Hitler

The propaganda used by the Obama regime and their supporters since the beginning is the accusation that nobody is trying to impose their views on the Catholic Church, but rather the Catholic Church is trying to force their views on women. 

As HL Mencken put it, "Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel."  Mencken is right in this context if we let [A] be the government, [B] the Catholics and [X] being "Reproductive Freedom."  It is false if one argues [A] is the Catholic Bishops, [B] is women and [X] is religious freedom.

That the Catholic Church is NOT injuring the freedom of non-Catholics

This can be simply demonstrated. If the Obama regime withdrew its HHS mandate tomorrow, and things went back to the status quo of January 19th, women would have nothing different than they have today. Catholics, however, would be much better off when it comes to their schools and hospitals; when it comes to the individual Catholic business person.

In other words, the Catholic is constrained by this new mandate, and this imposition is justified by claimed benefits to others.  Women would not be constrained if the mandate was repealed.

It is thus demonstrated that the accusation that the Catholic teaching is trying to impose their views on women is false.

That the Obama regime IS injuring the religious freedom of Catholics

On the other side, it can be definitely shown that the HHS mandate is an imposition on Catholics who believe contraception is a moral evil.  The mandate declares that any institution or business which is not explicitly religious in nature (hiring and serving Catholics exclusively) cannot be considered protected when it comes to the free practice of religion.

Such a decision is certainly an imposition on Catholics telling them that, if they hire or serve non-Catholics, their business cannot be considered to be protected under the First Amendment.  The problem with such a claim is that Catholic individuals have rights to establish businesses which they run in conformity with their Catholic faith.  The Catholic Church certainly has the right to run hospitals and schools – hiring those best suited for the job and serving all without concern of their beliefs – which they run according to what they believe to be in keeping with their service to God (see Matt 25:31-46).

A person who chooses to work at a Catholic university or hospital is not forced to do so.  We don't have a draft which compels people to work for us.  If a person freely chooses to work for a Catholic employer, it stands to reason that the institution or place of business will be run by Catholic beliefs and that the person hired should be willing to tolerate those beliefs if they want to work at this institution or place of business.  The person who chooses to work at a Catholic institution or place of business, but demands that the Catholics set their beliefs aside for him or her, is in fact the one who is guilty of trying to impose their beliefs on others.

That the government sides with those individuals who try to impose their views on Catholic businesses and institutions in the name of a "greater good" shows that the government is injuring our Constitutional right to practicing religious freedom in public and private.

The Question of Whether Americans should follow the Catholic Teaching is a separate issue

Now Catholics do believe that contraception is intrinsically (in all times, places and circumstances) wrong and that all people should recognize this.  However the Church also recognizes that a majority of Americans – including many American denominations – do not accept what we teach.  Under such circumstances, the most the Church can do is to insist that those who call themselves Catholic live in accord with what they claim to be, while trying to teach others why the Catholic view is true and not merely a preference.  Perhaps, eventually if enough Americans accept the truth about the nature of human sexuality, laws could be passed recognizing the truth.  However, the bishops are not trying to secretly implement a "Sharia" type law on all Americans.

The fight that the Catholic bishops have to fight is over the government telling Catholics that they must pay for services they find morally unacceptable (the insurers naturally passing on the costs of contraceptives to the rates the Catholic employers must pay).  Accusations that the Catholics are imposing their views on women is in fact a Big Lie, repeated to the point that people accept it to be true without question.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The State Attack on Conscience is a Dangerous Thing

Preliminary Note:

It should be noted of course that conscience involves what one must do or must not do, not what one might want to do.  Freedom is the ability to do as I ought, not to do whatever I feel like doing.  It involves duty, not self-gratification.  Because of this, it would be wrong to interpret the freedom of conscience as the justification to do whatever I want to do.  Conscience tells us "I must do [X] because it is good, I must not do [Y] because it is evil."  It doesn't tell us, "I don't feel bad about getting an abortion, so I'm just following my conscience."  It is unfortunate that America confuses conscience with self-indulgence.

The Threat

The thing that concerns me most about the Obama regime and the attempts to impose their will on people who feel conscience bound to refuse to obey is not the threat to the Church.  We may end up small, poor and persecuted, but we will survive whether Obama is reelected or not.  No, what worries me is the extreme recklessness of the supporters of the HHS mandate who seem to be so short sighted as to be unaware of what the significance of this attack is.

The fact that the government thinks it can impose its views on people who are morally bound to disobey under the claim that there is more benefit than harm done shows a very dangerous fact:

If the US government believes it can set aside the conscience of an unpopular group for the benefit of "the people," then there is no limits to what it can set aside in the name of "the good of the people."  That includes the Constitution itself.

After they come for us, they will eventually come for you

Even if the reader should reject the Catholic position on the HHS mandate, they should recognize that if the attack on conscience is allowed to stand, then there is nothing to stop a future government from invoking "the good of the people" in demanding compliance with the law they see fit.

That's right.  Both political parties can make use of such a precedent to justify what they want.  Today's liberals who cheer the HHS mandate may be shocked when the wheel eventually turns and conservatives get control of the government and start using this tool to start attacking what they dislike.

This isn't speculation.  History tells us of governments which rejected conscience in the name of "the good of the people."  We used to recognize these governments as Fascist or Communist.   We used to know that these governments would steamroller the conscientious objectors, labeling them as enemies of the state for "imposing" their "bourgeois," "reactionary" attitudes on "the people."

The Fascist and Marxist governments believed the rights came from the state and the state could take away those rights.  In contrast, Americans believed that human rights were inalienable.  They couldn't be taken away by the State, because they came from a source higher than the state.  A government which tried to take away such rights was recognized as unjust and had to be opposed.

Partisanship blinds us to this danger

Unfortunately, partisanship has reached the point that the prevailing mentality seems to be, "Whatever I do to harm my enemy is acceptable.  Nothing he does to harm me is acceptable."  You can't build a just society on such a partisan mentality.  You can't build a free society on such a mentality.  Such a society must eventually become corrupted, where one faction is perceived as evil solely because it isn't a faction a person disagrees with.  Conscience is replaced by self indulgence.

It is also a danger because those people who do truly follow what is right are confused for partisans.  "You oppose abortion, Republicans oppose abortion, therefore you are a right wing Republican!"  It is also a menace for those practicing the faith.  The Church position on contraception and abortion is seen as "right wing" and the Church is denounced by the political "Left."  On the other hand, the Church position on immigration is condemned as "left wing" and the Church is denounced by the political "Right."

When a whole nation makes use of these hostile labels to attack what they dislike, we have lost the ability to look for truth.  We become blind to the fact that the Church can be motivated by what is necessary for salvation and not "increasing the Sunday collections" or "wanting to suppress women."  When we look at the world through a partisan lens, we have an obscured view.

Objective Truth Exists

However, things that are true can be known, and it is also true that moral things can be known.  Things that are true by their nature are always true regardless of time or place.  So if the concept, "slavery is wrong" is objectively true, that means it was wrong regardless of whoever practiced it in the past, and it would be objectively wrong to practice it in the future.

However, if the statement, "slavery is wrong" is not objectively true then it means that it was right in at least some circumstances in the past and might be right in some circumstances in the future.

Likewise, the principle of "We must always follow our conscience."  If this is not objectively true in all times and places, then it means there can be a time or a place where it is acceptable where one can deliberately do evil or refuse to good for a higher cause.  We've had nations which operated under such principles – nations where I would not care to live.


This brings us back to the original point, from a different angle.  Without the concept of objective right and wrong, a government can invoke anything they choose under the justification of the greater good, and can force a person to comply.  Who defines the greater good?  The government which is forcing people to disobey their conscience or suffer repercussions.

Thus every person should see the danger of tolerating a government which places itself above the freedom to do what is right.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?