Showing posts with label double standard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label double standard. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2022

It’s Iimi! Hobgoblins!

Ralph Waldo Emerson made a quote that gets paraphrased as “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” (The actual quote is “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”) Whenever someone points out that behavior is inconsistent, this gets dragged out as a strawman fallacy trying to claim that the person objecting is being small-minded. You may have seen a bumper sticker variant of this, saying “If you won’t change your mind, do you even have one?” 


But the real hobgoblins of “foolish consistency” is partisanship that assumes that whatever benefits me or harms my foes is good, and whatever disadvantages me or helps my foes is bad. That’s dangerous if left unchecked, and must always be opposed.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

It’s Iimi! Busted!

It was bound to happen. Kismetta lacked prudence when she asked her questions and ended up offending everyone at the mosque by her aggressive tone. When the Mosque calls to tell her mother about her behavior, how will Kismetta respond to being BUSTED.

Preliminary Notes: While the arguments presented here are ones that I have seen Muslims use online, I don’t want to have cartoonish villains as foils for the main characters. So, in portraying the annoyed reactions to Kismetta’s questions, I asked myself how those attending a Catholic youth group might respond to a Catholic youth asking those kinds of questions in a similar tone. 

Zara (Bahrudin’s second wife probably needs her name explained for Western readers. The naming conventions of the UAE would be her given name (Zara) + bint (daughter of) her father’s name (Raziq) + ibn (son of) her grandfather’s name (Daaood) + her family name (Aslam). So formally we’d have “Zara bint Raziq ibn Daaood Aslam.” However, except for formal documents, the “ibn Daaood” and often the “bint Raziq” would be dropped. I’m told that the practice for Muslim women in the Middle East is to keep their own family name and do not change it to their husband’s. So, in America, she might simply be known as “Zara Aslam.” Sumeja, marrying Bahrudin in the United States followed the American custom and does use her husband’s last name. Kismetta is simply Kismetta Dhumzur from the American convention, though in the UAE she might be formally introduced as “Kismetta bint Bahrudin Dhumzur.”

One unexpected thing that happened during the creation of this comic was the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler (nominally since his stroke) of the UAE. The country is currently undergoing 40 days of mourning. I found this out after I completed the comic on 5/13/22. I had to re-edit dialogue on the last two pages to reflect this change.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

It’s Iimi! The Riddle

After a classroom discussion in logic class on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Iimi must face accusations of intolerance. She hopes that a riddle in a lesser-known book by CS Lewis can help her attackers understand that whatever they try to argue can be applied to them too… so it’s better to be consistent and logical.

Monday, September 27, 2021

It’s Iimi! Storm Brewing?

All Iimi and Krysta wanted to do was meet up with the others and hang out after school. All Krysta wanted to do first was to drop out of the Social Justice club, which she had strong moral reservations over. Unfortunately, Mrs. Otios saw the resignation as based in intolerance. Iimi reluctantly led the challenge to her assumptions: If imposing beliefs on another is wrong because values are relative (think about that for a moment), then doesn’t that make imposing values on Christians wrong? And if objective right and wrong exist, then what makes the attacks on Christian teachings right?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Breaking the Golden Rule

In my time, I have been accused of cynicism, of false equivalence, or of making excuses for immoral factions. The reason people seem to think I am guilty of these things is because I see a serious problem with both major factions in the United States. That problem is, in a dualistic political system, we are seeing each faction condone in themselves what they condemn in the other side… often to the point of arguing differences which are not differences but similarities.

This kind of behavior—used by both major political parties—is less concerned with correcting wrongdoing wherever it occurs and more concerned with using what the other side does to attack and discredit their enemies for political gain.

From the Catholic perspective, this cannot be justified. Whatever is morally wrong cannot be justified. Whatever one tries to condemn in “the other side” while ignoring or explaining away in their own party without carefully explaining why the differences matter is hypocrisy. As The Lord taught us:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).


Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.  (Matthew 7:3-5)

If we want “the other side” to reform, we need to reform ourselves. If we want “the other side” to treat us justly, we must treat them justly. These rules of course apply to us regardless of whether they do it themselves.

Of course, people try to justify this double standard. They say X is worse than Y for example. That may be true (abortion comes to mind here). But what people forget is the fact that, even when X is worse than Y, this does not permit us to do or justify Y ourselves. People are much better at seeing hypocrisy in others than in themselves. So, if we do evil—no matter how we justify it—those we disagree with will notice it and dismiss what we validly say. No, they are not justified in doing so. But we are causing scandal by our own behavior all the same.

If the reader is tempted to say but what about…? at this point, then please stop. Do we think that Catholics who supported Trump or Biden are guilty of worse than what our own party has done? That may be. But that does not excuse us from looking at ourselves and turning away from the evils we have been silent over or even supporting.

Do we look at the words issued by bishops or the Pope as “intruding” into the political domain when it goes against us? That is a clear sign of a double standard, because we can be sure we would not object if the other side’s policies were so targeted. The Catholic teaching is not “Left” or “Right.” It is about the Greatest Commandment: 

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

When the Church speaks out on an issue that goes against a political platform, we can be sure that said political platform is violating the Greatest Commandment. We should want to change it. Obviously, Democrats are the ones who can change Democrat platforms and Republicans are the ones who can change Republican platforms. So, if we are looking at Catholics in the other major party and asking, “Why aren’t they doing anything to change their party?” we should first look at our own behavior. Are we striving to change our own party’s faults when it goes against Catholic teaching?

Yes, there is a risk of encountering hypocrites who have no intention of changing and only want to use the charge of hypocrisy to bash their opponents. But, given Jesus spoke harshly against hypocrisy, we certainly should strive to eliminate it from ourselves regardless of what others may do. As the angel told John in the book of Revelation: Let the wicked still act wickedly, and the filthy still be filthy. The righteous must still do right, and the holy still be holy (Revelation 22:11).

That verse does not mean “don’t try to convert others away from their evil.” It means, “the fact that others do wrong does not excuse us from doing right ourselves.”

We should keep that in mind the next time we are tempted to explain away our own inaction while condemning others for not acting.



(†) Yes, minor parties exist. But their effect on our system is normally negligible unless they play spoiler and split the vote for one of the major parties.

(‡) I list it as us and them because as soon as I name one party, someone is going to stop there and think that only the XX Party is guilty (or innocent) when this is really a “bipartisan” problem.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Digging Ourselves a Hole: Misunderstanding Catholic Moral Obligation

That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. (Luke 12:47-48)

The “Seamless Garment” is viewed with suspicion by some Catholics. The reason for this bad reputation is because it is twisted by other Catholics who misuse by arguing that we can overlook failures on certain teachings if your preferred ideology ticks enough boxes in other categories. For example, the Church teaches that the right to life is the primary right on which all others depend. Yet those who misuse the “Seamless Garment” treat it as if a candidate can get a failing grade on abortion and still be morally acceptable so long as they are all right on other (lesser) issues.

However, before the suspicious faction gets smug, we need to remember that they commit similar evasions. In their case, they think that if they are right on the primary issue, they can freely ignore lesser evils. The result is both sides present a perverted view of the Church where people see and comment on the behavior of both sides as being hypocritical. That would not be so bad if those witnesses realized that the fault was only with those hypocrites. But that is not how it works. They see these antics as part of the whole and think the entire Church is hypocritical.

To step back from that, all of us need to recognize this: If we are finding excuses to set aside or pay lip service to a Catholic teaching, we are also bad Catholics regardless of what others do wrong. This is not my own assertion. Our Lord spoke to the Pharisees about this:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)

I do not say that any of the moral teachings of the Church are insignificant like the tithes Jesus mentioned. But doing right before God means we cannot excuse ourselves from doing right. Yes, we are all sinners. But our attitude to sin should be one of repentance, not excusing ourselves for our failures. Repentance includes a firm purpose of amendment. To go and sin no more (cf. John 8:11). Yes, we may fail over and over, atoning over and over. But when we start making excuses for why we do not have to be sorry for our failures in an area, we have become corrupted.

Do you think that abortion is worse than the other sins currently being justified by secular law? You are right. The Church has made clear it is the primary right. But it is not the only right. If you decide that you do not have to worry about other evils if you oppose abortion, you are no longer in the right. It cuts both ways. If you think that if your campaign against a string of injustices means you can tacitly turn your back on the sin of abortion, your work on that string of injustices does not avail you.

Yes, all of us need God’s grace to be saved. But God has included us in His saving of us. We are to work with Him to do good and make known to others how to live (cf. Matthew 28:20). We have a Church which we profess has been established by Christ and teaches with His authority. So, we are without excuse if we fail to live according to how the Church teaches. As the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium #14 teaches:

He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.

I am not advocating any sort of “works based salvation” that anti-Catholics falsely try to tar us with. This is not a matter of “if I do X number of deeds, I am owed salvation.” This is a matter of relationship. If we are looking to avoid doing right in one area with the excuse of doing right in another are, we are not living the Great Commandment (cf. Matthew 22:38-39). And if we are not living the Great Commandment, our souls are at risk.

Facing the question of “how do we get out of a hole we have dug ourselves,” the humorous but true answer is, “Step One: Stop digging.” In terms of salvation, we need to stop digging and start asking questions about how we reached the state we are in. We need to ask ourselves if our focus on evil X has led us to giving our allies a free pass on evil Y. And if we discover this is so, we need to stop this hypocrisy and change. Moreover, we need to do this regardless of what others do. Our goal must be more than the political advantage of our preferred faction. It is turning back to Christ and helping others to see that His way is the right way to live.



(†) Some context is needed. Cardinal Bernadin’s 1984 speech was inspired by the specter of nuclear war and the morality of the Arms Race. He did recognize that Catholics needed to be consistent. Unfortunately, some of the language in his speech could be twisted into thinking we could pick and choose other issues over abortion. But I do not think that giving anybody a free pass on one evil so long as he was good on another issue was the Cardinal’s intention at all. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

This Time We Have a Farce

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. 

—Karl MarxThe Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

Whatever the reader thinks of the results, after all the yelling and shouting is done, we have a new President, installed on January 20th. The 22nd brought us the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the March for Life (rendered virtual by the coronavirus). Watching the usual two factions squaring off once again, I am reminded by the quote of Karl Marx. We are seeing history happening twice. The first was tragedy. This is farce.

The tragedy was watching a certain faction of American Catholics deny the authority of the bishops when they spoke out on the injustice of immigration policies and the application of the death penalty. They accused the bishops of supporting the Democratic Party. The other major faction of American Catholics pointed to this defiance as a proof that the first faction was committing political idolatry by rejecting or downplaying those teachings.

The farce came when we had a change of Presidential administrations. Then, Catholics of that second faction did everything they denounced the first faction of doing. Though instead of downplaying or rejecting Church teaching on immigration policies, they downplayed the Church teaching on abortion and the need to end it legally. They accused the bishops of supporting the Republican Party. Meanwhile the first faction pointed out their own double standards.

If both factions can point out the fact that their opponents were doing wrong, it testifies to the fact that they both know right from wrong. And, if they both know this right and wrong, they are without excuse when they do what they condemned in others. What they are doing is causing scandal by leading those outside of the Church to think that Church teaching is whatever we want to be. They will not take us seriously and not believe our claims of Apostolic succession and the binding authority when, at any one time, half of the American Church is condemning and refusing obedience to the bishops when they teach.

These people will not listen to correction. If you point out that the Church has taught contrary to their assertions, they will accuse the Church and you of being in error or being a political shill for their enemies while they claim they are being faithful to the Pope (they are not) or Sacred Tradition (again, they are not) as a higher loyalty of obedience. Of course, it is always their owninterpretation of these things. Using the No True Scotsman fallacy, they insist that whatever contradicts their own interpretation is not truly Catholic, regardless of who taught it. 

It is too late to undo the original tragedy. I do not see any evidence that participants in the farce will change their views to obedience either. So, all we can do is work to engage people of good will and help them understand that our beliefs are not only reasonable, but the only way to live rightly.

Unfortunately, we will run into a lot of trolls out there in the process. We will run into people who calumniate us as giving “comfort to the enemy.” On the Left, we will see claims that standing up for the right to life against abortion makes one guilty of every wrong an anti-abortion politician should commit. On the Right, we will see the same thing directed against those who remind us of the Church teaching on the death penalty and immigration. We will see lots of spurious logic and special pleading as people try to explain why their own failings are “different.”

We will have to stay consistent. If a person is tempted to say, “You’re not pro-life, you’re only anti-abortion,” that person claims he has knowledge about the full teaching on the Right to Life. The Church has taught enough about the evil of abortion that someone claiming to be knowledgeable about what the Right to Life really means. And, when the Church makes clear how to apply the timeless teaching for the conditions of today on the death penalty and immigration, we cannot claim to be faithfulCatholics if we refuse obedience.

Since both sides are claiming to be faithful Catholics, they have an obligation to obey when taught. And if they do not understand the teaching, they have an obligation to seek out the meaning. If they do not, they contribute both to tragedy and farce.



(†) Of course, I do not approve of Marx in any way. But this quote does seem to effectively describe the situation that partisan Catholics put the Church in.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Partisan Trap

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Every time Americans change Presidential administrations, there are laments and cheers from Christians based on the fears of what the new administration will do or hopes that we will finally be free of the old administration. Since every administration has moral and some immoral planks in their platforms, both reactions are understandable.

The danger is failing to recognize that one’s own side has immoral planks and failing to stand up to them. We tend to treat those failings as “unimportant.” We might use evasive language to make it sound like we care about those issues while neither saying nor doing anything meaningful about them. Instead, we focus on the issues the other side fails on, elevating them to unforgiveable sins while we “criticize” our own side by “praising with faint damns.”

Think of it. When is the last time you have seen a Catholic who supports Democrats who condemns his party’s support of abortion with the same anger as he condemns the Republicans for other violations of social justice? When is the last time you saw a Catholic Republican denounce his own party for violations of social justice with the same vehemence he uses for his political opponents over abortion?

Instead, Catholics of both factions come up with excuses and evasions to justify their inaction. The other side is worse! “The stakes are too high right now!” “Why don’t you say anything about X?” “That’s just a prudential judgment!” “This is the worst evil out there!” These things ignore the fact that we are called to convert the world, turning them away the things that damn souls. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) existed before the existence of the Democratic and Republican parties and will continue to exist long after the two parties have been forgotten in the dust of time.

The failures of Catholics to stand up to past administrations do not excuse us from standing up now. Repentance means turning away now once we realize we have gone astray. If others have played the hypocrite, it does not justify our playing one now

And that is the partisan trap in a nutshell. Convinced of our own righteousness, we think only the sinners of the other side need to repent and turn away. Tactics we condemn when used against us, we willingly take up and use against our enemies. But our Lord Himself told us, “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matthew 7:2).

That warning makes perfect sense. If we know that X is wrong, and judge others for doing X in favor of their cause, do we really think God will give us a free pass for doing X in favor of our own cause? God will not accept “Whataboutism” as a valid plea. If we know something is wrong when used against us, we are without excuse if we use it when it benefits us. As St. Paul wrote (Romans 2:21-22), “[Y]ou who teach another, are you failing to teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who forbid adultery, do you commit adultery?

On January 20, 2021, one Presidential administration will end, and another will begin. Regardless of how we—or others—responded to the last one, we all have an opportunity to act rightly to this one, putting God and obedience to His Church first and standing up when the government acts wrongly. If we are silent, after all our angry words against others, we have fallen into the partisan trap and need to change, asking for mercy.


(†) As always, I list these dichotomies in alphabetical order to avoid accusations of bias.

Friday, January 15, 2021

If We Want Justice, We Must Not Be Unjust Ourselves

As I watch the aftermath of the mob that stormed the Capitol building, I am struck by some things being proposed in response that seem to be rather dubious. Let me be clear: That act was rightly condemned, and justice does need to be done in response. However, some of the angry proposals made in response seem to be unjust in themselves. Some seem to disproportionate demands made against people who did not take part in the mob attack itself. Others seemed to be taking advantage of the outrage to simply target political opponents for short term (and shortsighted) gain.

This article is not going to dissect those actions or identify the people I think might be guilty of them. That would turn the article into a political argument and would distract from the point I want to make. It could even be rash judgment if I am mistaken in my assessment of their motives. What I want to do is look at the demands of justice in a way that would be true regardless in the past or present, regardless of whatever events or information might come up later, with no need for me to offer retractions.

Justice can be described as giving to others their due. That can be positive in the sense of making things right to those who were wronged and negative in the sense of exacting proportionate consequences for wrongdoing. A failure to do make things right for the wronged or failing to exact no more or less than proportionate consequences to the wrongdoers is injustice. However, punishing people for something where involvement in wrongdoing is remote or non-existent is also injustice. For example, a person who sells gas at a gas station is not considered guilty of aiding and abetting if he sells gas to the driver of a getaway car used to commit a crime unless it can be established that he knows and condones the action it enables.

That means we cannot target a person whose ideas we dislike, punishing him or her for the actions of others, unless we can show a direct cause-effect link between Person A’s ideas and Person B’s actions. Nor can we charge person A for anything greater than what he or she intended to do or could have reasonably foreseen as arising from those actions. Vincible ignorance is a sin, while reckless behavior and criminal negligence are actionable.

Therefore, we must be careful not to mete out injustice in response to injustice. When passions run high—especially when we have been personally hurt by injustice—it is easy to respond in anger and act unjustly ourselves even while being convinced of our own righteousness. If we assume that our foes are reprehensible and a crisis is one good way to remove them from power for the greater good, we are also acting unjustly by doing evil so good might come of it.

As Catholics, must show the way by making certain that we do not support injustice against our foes because we dislike them or think it is the only way to stop them. As Socrates pointed out, being just is not doing good to our friends and evil to our enemies. We must do good—which is not necessarily the same as being nice—to everybody. We need to make sure actual cause and effect is established before we seek to punish a person for something. We need to make sure that only the wrongdoers are held accountable, and only for what they have done.

That is hard to do of course. People on both sides of our dualistic system can point out unjust responses from “the other side” while ignoring the injustice on their own side. They are both right when they point out the double standards of others. The problem is, they are both wrong when they explain away or ignore the double standards on their own. People are good at pointing out the hypocrisy of others.

History should be our guide: It is not only immoral, but dangerous to have a double standard of justice depending on the leaning of the wrongdoers. For example, Weimar Germany, during the period of 1918-1933, did have cases where police and judges were sympathetic to the Nazis and handed out exceptionally light sentences compared to those whom they were antagonistic towards. That was an injustice and helped the growth of Nazism from being a fringe movement to becoming a major power in German politics prior to 1933 when Hitler came to power. However, a past failure of justice must not be used to justify allowing a similar miscarriage in the present. We cannot remain silent on past injustice but we cannot use “Whataboutism” to justify ignoring the present injustice either.

My adaptation of an old political adage might help here. “He who says we must do something in situation A, must be prepared to support doing the same in situation B unless it can be shown that the different conditions in situations A and B merit a different response.” That means we must be careful in how we form our demands and in the parallels we draw. If we are unwilling to have a standard being held against us, we should be extremely cautious about applying it to our foes. The balance of power will always shift and those who were targeted while out of power will invariably use the same tool once they are back in power.

We can either apply real justice to our foes or we can continue the cycle of injustice. The Catholic belief requires the first. Modern politics always chooses the second. With this in mind, regardless of what happens in the world, we who profess to be faithful Catholics must start by acting justly in what we do and what we say.


(†) The original, “He who says A, must say B,” was formulated by one James Burnham. I know nothing of his politics or beliefs. So, please do not associate me with anything he said that might be offensive.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Double Standards: Not All Injustices Are Viewed as Equal, But They Remain Unjust

“When you see a nation, an entire nation simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

—Bill De Blasio, Mayor of New York City

“However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. We can show that support by facilitating safest protesting practices without detracting from demonstrators' ability to gather and demand change. This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders.”

—Open Letter of 1200 health care professionals

One thing that shows up during the protests#—just as they have any other time there is injustice—is the attitude of “But, what about X? Why are you focusing on Y instead of X?” Alternately, we see “Why are you focusing on this now when you were silent all these other times?” These comments usually spark internet brawls, where the people who think Y is more important than X respond with anger, thinking that these objections show that the people who say them “don’t care” about injustice.

It’s true that some people do say these things because they don’t care. But others have legitimate concerns about injustices that others either don’t care about or don’t understand. I think the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12a) is important here: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. If we want others to care about the injustice we suffer, that shows caring about the injustice others suffer is a moral imperative. Saying Y is more immediately urgent than X is one thing. But holding a double standard based on one’s own biases of what is important and what is to be guilty of injustice as well. 

In other words, before you say, “That’s different,” remember that some people think the same way about your cause. If you don’t want others to dismiss your cause, don’t dismiss theirs, even if you think one cause is in more urgent need of correction than another.

I began reflecting on this when New York City mayor De Blasio announced that he was going to tolerate protesters violating quarantine rules but keep them in place for religious services, because these cases were an exception to the rule. Since the (presumably) peaceful right of assembly is included in the same amendment as the freedom of religion, we have a clear-cut case of the double standard. If the laws of health are so important that religious groups cannot hold services because of the risk of increasing the spread of COVID-19 then, logically, the risk of thousands of people gathered in close spaces to protest must be held to the same standard. And health experts are expressing grave concern over the rioters spreading contagion. Some “health professionals” have apparently signed a letter saying that the need to protest outweighs the need to quarantine, but it’s the same double standard. What determines a “need” is based on what the person considers important and what others consider a need is not.

But that’s precisely the attitude behind the injustice that is currently being protested—the recognition that the treatment of certain people and issues are being handled unjustly based on what those in charge think is important and what they don’t care about. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the protestors’ perception§, they resent that what they have seen as injustice for decades was dismissed as not important or not as bad as they thought. 

This is why the Golden Rule is important in all times and all circumstances. If we want to have people treat our cause justly, we must make sure we treat the causes of others justly. That doesn’t mean “give in to everything.” Justice is giving to others what is their due by right. A human being must be treated like a human being in all circumstances. But when a demand unjustly harms others, giving into it is not just. For example, we cannot give into the demands of a manifestly unjust group like Planned Parenthood in the name of “justice,” because their promotion of abortion harms other human beings, treating them as less than human.

Having one standard of treatment for one group, and a different standard for a second group is unjust, regardless of whether the second group is treated better or worse than the first. If seeking the public good is a requirement of good government, it cannot be selective in making or enforcing laws out of sympathy for one group or antipathy for another.

In dealing with the quarantine laws, regarding the protests and the freedom of religion, we must not have different standards for different people. If the conditions of contagion bar large groups from meeting, we must apply that to all large groups. But if the conditions do not bar all large groups, then we need to make clear what differences make one group safer than another.

Otherwise, especially if it becomes clear that the different standard is based on indifference or antipathy to one group, we’re guilty of injustice.    



(‡) At the time of my writing this article.

(#) When I speak of protests, I am of course speaking of peaceful and lawful protests, not rioting.

(†) For example, I find it sad to see some people are angrier over the symbolic actions taken to protest the death of George Floyd then they are over the actual death of George Floyd.

(§) I’m more inclined to think now that they have a valid objection than I was ten years ago. That’s because I have ten more years of experience in what goes on in the world and ten more years of studying Church teaching than I had before.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Do We Act as We Believe? The Double Standard Trap

There’s a saying, falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach always. If necessary, use words.” Sometimes mocked by people who don’t understand it, it actually means we should realize that our behavior will show others how seriously we really take our faith. As Tertullian described the words of persecutors seeing the behavior of Christians: 

The practice of such a special love brands us in the eyes of some. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’; (for they hate one another), ‘and how ready they are to die for each other.’ (They themselves would be more ready to kill each other.)” (Apology, Chapter 39).

Keeping this in mind, Catholics have to beware giving a bad witness by the tendency to condone in an ally something which they absolutely will not tolerate in an opponent. So, you might see the gaffes of politician A treated as proof of senility, while similar gaffes by politician B is treated as a simple mistake. You might see a Catholic blogger condemn voting for Candidate X on grounds of limiting evil while advocating voting for candidate Y on the same grounds. This can also happen within the Church. You might see a Catholic denouncing other Catholics dissenting against the teaching of one Pope while rejecting the authority of his successor.

I call this “Okay for me, but not for thee.” It’s not limited to Catholics of course. But since we’re supposed to be the light of the world, the city on the hill, the salt of the earth, the witness we bear should be consistent. If a thing is wrong, we are supposed to bear witness to the truth in both our words and actions. But if we turn a blind eye to the sins of our allies, the witness our actions bear shows that we don’t really act from love and justice. Rather we act hypocritically from partisan motivations. And if the person who sees this and is repelled by it ends up facing judgment for rejecting the call from God, we are likely to face judgment alongside him or her.

This doesn’t mean we treat our friends like enemies, harshly judging their actions (cf. Matthew 7:1ff). Nor does it mean that we treat wrongdoers with laxity. It means we act justly and mercifully to friend and foe alike. We refuse to ever justify evil, but we act in a way that seeks the good of the wrongdoers and not driving them away from seeking salvation.

That is the witness we want to show by our actions: behavior that leads the other to ask, “what guides these people to live in this way.” Then our words will be recognized as sincere, that we really believe and practice what we call them to be.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Bizarro World is Here: Reflections on Catholics Deforming the Defense of Life

Imagine a world where Catholics who are devoted to the right to life saying that the US Bishops who condemned the failure in Congress to pass a law against infanticide were “played” by people with political agenda, while those members of Congress who want to expand abortion are praised as being “really pro-life.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the humorous “Bizarro World” from DC Comics where what we consider good is wrong and what we consider bad is right. This is the real world of Earth, 2019 where this is happening right now.

In case you somehow missed it, the Governor of Virginia made a statement that if a child was aborted alive, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” In response, Senator Sasse submitted a bill (text HERE) that declared in part, “If an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States, and entitled to all the protections of such laws.” 

It’s a bill that people should recognize as obvious truth. Regardless of the legal status of abortion, once the child is born alive, you don’t have the right to kill it, even if the intention was to abort it. But 44 Senators filibustered the bill to prevent it from becoming law. The chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities responded saying:

There should be no bill easier for the Senate to pass than one that makes clear that killing newborn babies is wrong and should not be tolerated. That even one senator, let alone 44 senators voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, is an injustice that should horrify and anger the American people and commit us to decisive political action. A vote against this bill is a vote to extend Roe v. Wade’s license for killing unborn children to killing newborn babies. The American people, the vast majority of whom support this bill, must demand justice for innocent children.

It is comprehensible that people who are dogmatically in favor of abortion will refuse to allow anything that might threaten it to interfere—no matter how humane the bill might be. But how is it possible that a group of Catholics who claim to be “truly” Prolife responded by saying that the bishops were deceived by politicians with an agenda? Especially when they cited these same bishops’ teachings on other issues, denouncing their opponents for disobedience.

To understand this, we have to understand that in the movements defending life there is something of a schism with multiple factions. Among these factions, there are two prominent ones. One side that says abortion is so important of an issue, that any other issue can and must be sacrificed in order to ensure that the party seen as opposing it will get elected. Another faction says that the defense of life involves more than just abortion, and that a politician who supports abortion rights is actually more prolife than the politician who only opposes abortion. These two factions are known as the OPLM [*] and the NPLM [§] respectively.

The OPLM operates under the assumption that because one party supports abortion, a necessary part in fighting abortion is voting for the other party, even if that party’s platform is also at odds with Catholic teaching. The NPLM operates under a broader understanding of what the defense of life involves. But it also involves a moral calculus that decides issues implementing A+B+C+D has greater importance in defending life than the ending of legalized abortion. Therefore they tend to defend the party that supports A+B+C+D even though that party supports abortion. The defense of A+B+C+D is seen as “more” important in being prolife.

I believe both are perversions of the Catholic teaching, reducing it to opposing the political party they demonize most. The OPLM errs in thinking the other issues don’t matter until abortion is ended. The NPLM errs in thinking abortion is only one issue among many...often becoming the only issue they will compromise on. Both are wrong when they hold a position at odds with what the Church teaches.

The Church holds that the right to life is the fundamental right that all others depend on. Whatever violates that right—from conception to natural death—is to be condemned. Both factions ignore aspects of the defense of life that coincidentally work against their political views. The OPLM tends to have more “conservative” views politically. The NPLM tends to have more “liberal” views. The problem is, both tend to equate their political views with Catholic teaching. Thus, the teachings in line with the political views are emphasized. The teachings that go against their views are downplayed or written off as proof of political “biases” of the bishops.

Before anyone think this article was written in support of one of these factions, let me say this: The Bizarro World of the infanticide bill shows one example of wrongdoing. But it’s not the only one. It can be traced back to a bigger one: Bizarro World Catholics saying they are faithful Catholics because of their rejection of the Pope or bishops establishing what is authentic against them. If the bishop opposes them, it must be because the bishop is biased, not us.

Life issues, social justice, war and peace, sexual morality, etc. The Church teaching involves what we must do to be in right relationship with God. If we won’t listen to the Church, we are not listening to God (Luke 10:16). So let’s not use this failure by this faction to say, “those people are reprehensible.” Let’s use it as a teaching moment: if we know that they are wrong to do X, and we do X in support our own politics, then not only have we done the same wrong, but we have done what we condemn in others, adding hypocrisy to our guilt.

So, if we know they do wrong in explaining away the Magisterium when they don’t like their teachings, how will God judge us when we condemn them and then do the same things ourselves?

[*] “Original/Old Pro Life Movement”
[§] “New Pro Life Movement.”

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"I'm Shocked... Shocked!" Reflections on Rebellion in the House of God

The other day, on Facebook, I saw a Catholic cheer that a Catholic candidate for President was given the highest rating in the field concerning the position of immigration according to a website. Going to the website, I saw that the issue in question was immigration, and that the views that the site saw as “good” was actually against the Catholic views on the subject. In other words, while the highest grade being held by a Catholic candidate was a sign of his being a conservative, it was not a mark of his Catholicity. So, what we were seeing here was a rejoicing that a Catholic candidate Catholic agreed with his or her position, and not a rejoicing that the Catholic position was the most widely embraced.

I was struck by the irony of people thinking this way and, at the same time, being shocked—shocked that 62% of the Irish voted to reject the teaching of the Church, when they were in fact guilty of thinking the same way.

(“I’m shocked—shocked to find widespread disobedience in the Church!”)

Now I’m not going to accuse that person of malice or willful hypocrisy. I don’t even know the person, let alone the state of his or her conscience. However, the trend today that troubles me is I see Catholics quarreling over the Church, the Pope and what teachings they have to follow. The fact is that many seem perfectly complacent with their own standing before God and His Church, even though they put themselves first and obedience to the Church is contingent on whether or not they approve of the teaching in question. If they do not approve of it, they find excuses to justify disobedience. In the meantime the rebellion of others is promptly pointed out and denounced. If anyone dares to point out that their own views are incompatible with the teaching of the Church, the response is to...
  1. Deny that their actions are sinful.
  2. Claim that the actions of others is worse and the Church should go after them instead.
Thus, we see a Church that is hated by both extremes and accused of sympathizing with the worst of the other side. For example, because the Church stands up in defense of sexual morality, she is accused of being “right wing” by liberals. Because she stands in defense of the poor, she is accused of being “leftist” by conservatives. Under such a view, the Church is seen as being in error—and therefore not to be obeyed—in every area where people dislike the teaching of the Church.

In other words, a goodly number of Catholics—including those who profess to be faithful Catholics—are deceiving themselves into thinking the Church is in error and they are not. This isn’t a new trend of course. Our Lord gave us the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and used the image of a splinter in another’s eye and a plank in our own. The situation is not exclusive to this time, or to to a specific political faction. We’ve had this attitude all throughout the history of the Church.

I think what makes this attitude dangerous in this particular time is the fact that communications can be widespread and instantaneous. An opinion over Church teaching can be easily published by anybody over the internet, and can reach a far wider audience than in the past. For example, according to different sources, this blog has been visited by over 11,000 different individuals and total visits to the site is many times that—and my blog is fairly obscure. Other blogs or websites out there have a much wider reach than mine. But there is no oversight over what I or others publish, and a person in error or deliberately intending to teach falsehood (May God deliver me from being in either category) may come across giving the illusion of being authoritative can get away with it—especially with a person confident with their own inerrancy who is convinced by a spurious argument.

This being the case, we are seeing false arguments justifying disobedience to the Church spread like wildfire. A false argument shows up on a social network or website and soon it is widely repeated in comments or blogs. It takes on a life of its own and soon people believe this is official Church teaching and begin using it to justify their own disobedience. Thus we see the SSPX and the modernists using the same arguments to justify why they can ignore the Pope or the bishop, slightly modified to justify their position.

What we have to realize is, no blog, website, Facebook “expert" or forum has the authority to set up a counter-magisterium to the Pope and bishops in communion with him. A blog written by a Catholic can only legitimately point to the authority of the Church and try to explain it. Such a site can only be trustworthy to the extent that it accurately does this. In fact, if it does not do this, it is not at all trustworthy. Moreover, if the source claims that the official magisterium can be disobeyed, it is not trustworthy.

Because it is easy to find people to reinforce one’s rebellion without having to organize dissent, rebellion is running rampant in these times. In addition, organized dissent can use these people, encouraging them to dissent in their favor and giving the illusion that the whole Church is against the faithful Catholic who challenges them. When a number of people are making rebellious comments against the Church, it becomes harder for the truly faithful Catholic to express the truth—because forums tend to believe in numbers.

Yes, what happened in Ireland was shameful. It shows that the nation needs to be re-evangelized—as does the entire West. But it’s not surprising. So long as the average Catholic puts his or her own preferences above the moral obligation to follow the teaching the Church, it’s inevitable. Every one  of us has the obligation to spread the Gospel to all nations, bearing witness. But obedience to the Church is part of that witness—if we are unwilling to give it ourselves, the result is our witness is that this is not important.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Heads, They Win. Tails, We Lose: The Tactic of "Don't Impose Your Beliefs on Others!"


Americans have a funny way of thinking these days. We’re determined that nobody should be allowed to impose their beliefs on others. But when you think about it, there’s one slight problem… this is in itself a belief, and if nobody should should impose beliefs, then nobody should impose this belief. This is a self-contradicting idea that seems more interested giving a selfless appearance while aimed at silencing people they do not agree with.

Nobody ever tells atheists not to impose their beliefs on others. They tell Christians not to impose their beliefs on others. If pressed on this, they might say that Christianity is more harmful than atheism and so atheism need not be pressured to be silent. But… once again this is a belief, and if beliefs should not be imposed on others, then atheists cannot impose their views either.

This idea simply cannot be sustained. Every conscious behavior we do, we do based on the values we hold. Some of these values we hold contradict values held by others. Are we to tell the rapist’s victim not to impose her view on the rapist? No sane person would think of saying such a thing. They would argue that the rapist has no right to the victim’s body. But this way of thinking could leave us with a rapist who says, “don’t force your beliefs on me!” There the person who says “don’t impose your beliefs on me” is suddenly faced with a dilemma: Either abandon the belief or abandon justice.

In other words, we do recognize some moral values as being absolute—we cannot force our wants on another person, but we can insist that all people are obliged to act in a way which is moral and say we cannot act in a way which brings harm to another because it benefits our desires. If we must impose something on others, this imposition must be aimed at protecting the common good. This is why we forbid the drunkard from driving himself home from the bar—this denial of his freedom to drive is based on the public good of safety for others on the road.

The problem is, too many people do not think things through and consider who is harmed. People insist on the “right” to an abortion because it will interfere with their lives—but do not consider the lives of the unborn children who are destroyed by abortion. It is simply assumed that the mother’s convenience outranks the child’s right to exist. Ultimately, this is a case of deciding that my convenience outweighs your existence. 

So, what we have here is a Heads I win, tails you lose situation. We’re bad because we’re “imposing our beliefs on others.” At the same time, they’re imposing beliefs in opposition to Christian belief and pretending that this is not an imposition.

Now of course, we need to be loving and compassionate when sharing our beliefs and teaching the world the way of Our Lord. We can’t bully or coerce people into belief. But we can’t be cowardly and refuse to share our faith with the world. We believe in an objective truth, and that certain behaviors are against what God calls us to be. We have no right to be silent when God calls us to speak.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Nazarene symbol ISIS

America prides itself on being a tolerant nation. When Americans see news reports of ethnic or religious hatred in another region of the world, or high handed government oppression, the general thought we have is that it is something that can’t happen here. Unfortunately, America tends to have a huge blind spot in this area and tends to think that because we don’t behave like ISIS or the Soviet Union in dealing with the people who disagree it means we are tolerant and don’t harass anyone at all.

That’s rubbish of course. America does have sanctioned tolerance of hatred of unpopular groups and tolerated behaviors of government high-handedness. The difference between here and the regions of the world that make the news is that in America they deal with their unpopular groups in a (usually) non-violent manner. But America still has her blind spots—the groups mistreated are not seen as mistreated because the targets are either not seen as being important enough to worry about or are considered to deserve the treatment they receive. Because this treatment is not brutal violence, it is argued that this treatment is not harassment at all.

Unpopular Groups are Targeted For Discrimination in America

In America today, the unpopular groups are those Christians who stand up for the traditional Christian sexual mores, especially belief in what makes a marriage—one man and one woman in a lifelong relationship accepting whatever children may come and raising them with the same values. In a world that increasingly rejects all aspects of that belief, reducing such a relationship to whatever may be sexually satisfying, a Christian who takes such a stand is seen as judgmental and intolerant towards those who live in any other way.

This is more serious than the detractors of Christianity realize, because labelling something as “intolerant” is the secular society’s version of the medieval concept of making someone an outlaw—that is, a person deprived of the benefit and protection of the law. In medieval times, the outlaw had no rights and could be targeted by anyone—the person doing the targeting not being subject to legal penalties for doing so.

Holding Christian Beliefs Unpopular Among American Elites Can Deprive One of Protection of the Law

In modern America, a Christian who is willing to compromise and accept the state’s view on abortion, contraception or “same sex marriage” can get along in America just fine. Whatever else they may believe is generally no threat. But the Christian who will not accept the state’s views on these subjects can expect trouble when they publicly state their views. We have had people who funded propositions defending traditional marriage lose their job. We have had people who refuse to provide business services that require them to treat same sex “marriage” as being morally acceptable wind up being sued or prosecuted. We’ve had Church schools successfully sued for enforcing rules that require employees to publicly live in keeping with Church teaching on morality. Catholic schools and hospitals are fighting for their right of religious freedom when it comes to the contraception against unsympathetic courts.

Basically, the situation is one where these behaviors would cause outrage if any other group was involved. Think this is rhetoric? OK, how about if a bakery owned by an African American was successfully sued for refusing to make a cake for a Ku Klux Klan event? Yet the principle would be the same—the business owner being required to do something they found offensive and sued if they would not cooperate.

The False Charge and It’s Refutation

People who try to defend this situation argue that the difference is that race is not changeable while religious beliefs are changeable. In contrast, they argue, that the religious beliefs are based on bigotry. They then equate the defense of these immoral actions with the civil rights movement in opposing racism in America. But that is to introduce a false analogy. The issue is not race. The issue is: shall a person be coerced to do something they think is morally wrong? The entire history of racism in America was not based on the belief that it was immoral to interact with people of other ethnicities. It was based on the fact that proponents of racist systems believed that non-whites were inferior to whites and had to be kept from achieving the same level as whites.

So, the Church teaching that contraception or abortion is wrong or that same-sex acts are wrong does not come from the belief that women or people with same sex attraction are inferior to males or heterosexual people and need to be kept from achieving the same level as males or heterosexual orientation (indeed the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that discrimination or mistreatment of a person with same sex attraction is not to be done). It comes from the belief that certain actions—which one can decide to do or not do—are contrary to God’s will for us and therefore may never be done. A person cannot control his ethnicity and may not be able to control his sexual orientation. But a person can control what actions he chooses to do regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The Charge of Bigotry is No More Than An Excuse To Silence an Opponent

So the “bigotry” or “sexism” or “homophobia” charges are false, and the proponents of abortion, contraception and same sex marriage are not the stalwart defenders of America against racism. They are ideologues who have a hatred of religious beliefs that call their behavior wrong and want to silence the opponents of what they want to legitimize. Christianity says “You must not do this!” The proponents want the right to do these things. So they must demonize their opponents to make their views seem invalid. Nobody wants to accommodate bigotry (not even Christians). So if they can make this label stick in the minds of people, we will see the defense of Christian belief distorted into appearing to be “hate speech."

In logic, we call this tactic Poisoning The Well. It attempts to turn the audience against a person before he or she can even begin a defense. It works this way: An unfavorable claim is made about a person or group. Therefore, any claim made by that group is not to be trusted. That’s what’s happening here. When Christians are labeled as anti-women and “homophobes,” anything they say is discounted as a defense of bigotry. The more we say in defense of a Christian moral teaching, the more they paint us as being bigoted because we defend this position.


So in this day and age, Christians who refuse to go along with the diktats of the state and the cultural elites are marked for harassment and de facto made outlaws in the sense that they are deprived of the protection of the law. The tactic is to silence us or to make us so hated that we will be ignored and written off as people who hate. Such tactics, however, are only effective to the extent that the listener accepts the claims without asking whether they are actually true.