Showing posts with label government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label government. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

It’s Iimi! What is Good Government?

Ms. Baculum was just expecting the students to to emulate Biden v. Trump in a debate when she set the topic as “What is good government?” and barred any discussion of religion. Iimi-tan takes it in a different direction. (Rick’s personal attacks are ones I’ve encountered frequently since I reached voting age)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Government is not God: Wanting the State to Do What Only God Can Do

When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone for me to cure him of leprosy? (1 Kings 5:7a)

More: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And if it is round, will the King’s command flatten it? (Bolt, Robert. A Man For All Seasons)

Everybody wants the quarantine to be over. As it drags on, more people are getting more forceful in insisting the government end it. Others seem perfectly willing to declare that if only the Government had done X or if we had elected Y, we wouldn’t be in this state. Both of these groups seem to be forgetting that governments do not have power over disease. The best a government can do is implement policies in response that justly protect the common good.

The people protesting the quarantine seem to be forgetting is that the necessity of the quarantine depends on the reality behind the coronavirus. Both sides partially grasp this: If the threat remains high, ending the quarantine does not serve the common good. But if the threat is low, strict quarantines do not serve the common good.

Likewise, the arguments over what the government should have done in preparation, or what candidate should have been elected does not serve the public good. Regardless of what should have been done to reduce the impact, it’s clear that governments by themselves could not have spared us from the existence of the pandemic. Countries with both more and less government than the United States have been impacted by the coronavirus, and—regardless of what role you might think government should play in health care—countries with one form of government or economic system were not spared the pandemic compared to another.

That’s because governments are made up of human beings and human beings are finite in both knowledge and power. Even when served by competent people of good will, it is not guaranteed that they will be able to respond as needed. 

Government is not God. It cannot perform miracles. It can only respond to the crises as they emerge, trying to limit the threat as they become aware of it. We can pray to God to deliver us and to provide insight to scientists and leaders so they might find cures and more ways to mitigate the harm. But the debates over when to end the quarantine or who would have prevented the pandemic from beginning is to confuse Government with God.

Until we remember that fact, there will continue to be a lot of wasted debate over things that are actually uncontrollable. 


(†) Personally, I have no way of knowing whether the COVID-19 virus will be curable or not. I certainly pray that it is.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Rethinking the All or Nothing Approach to Government: A Reflection

American Catholics tend to fall into extremes about our Presidents. We tend to either think of them as pure villains or national saviors because of their policies or personal behavior. In doing so, we tend to downplay, or even ignore, the policies or behavior that go against our assessment. 

That’s a bit of an aberration. The Church in different times and places throughout history had a different perspective: that rulers and governments can be morally bad and still benefit the Church in some way, or live by a lofty moral code and still do great harm to the Church.

Take the quote to the top left of this article. It’s from Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History. The emperor, Commodus (reigned AD 177 [*] to 192) lived a morally dissolute life and ran a corrupt government. He was strangled in the bath, rumor has it his assassin was a homosexual lover. Whether that’s true or not (historians are divided), he was not a praiseworthy person. But a few of his policies brought about good and, whether by intent or distraction, he stopped the general persecution of the Church. The Church could recognize this good while not approving of his life in doing so.

In contrast, his father—Marcus Aurelius (reigned AD 161-180)—was a Stoic philosopher known by historians as the last of the Five Good Emperors. He lived by a strong moral code and was a good governor. However, under his rule, the persecution of Christians greatly increased—historians debate about whether this was done with his direct support. The Church recognizes the harm he did despite his other actions.

If we were to judge these two emperors by the standards of American Catholics, some would say that Commodus was the greatest emperor ever and his “moral failings” were unimportant in comparison. Others would say that the first group were partisan and we would need to go back to the policies of Marcus Aurelius, ignoring the evils he did as a cost of the “greater good.”

Both groups would be wrong. The moral wrongdoing and the unjust government policies must both be opposed by Catholics. But the good that a government does should be encouraged. Both would have to be part of the Catholic assessment and we could not say that one was unimportant compared to the other.

This is how we need to respond to the policies of our government and those who rule. When our government does good, we support it. When it does evil, we oppose it. If we do this selectively, ignoring the good of those we dislike, or the evil of those we support, we are not acting as Catholics ought. We are acting as partisans who bring up or set aside things depending on how they benefit our worldly views, not on their objective good or evil.


[*] From AD 177-180, he co-ruled with his father, Marcus Aurelius.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Thoughts on Church Teaching Encountering Politics and Business

One common objection to the Catholic moral teaching is the accusation that the Church is involving herself in politics and attempting to control the state. What is assumed in this accusation is that the Church, in her teaching, is seeking to dictate laws to the governing body of a nation and impose her teachings on those who do not believe she teaches the truth. The other side of the coin is this: When the Church teaches on moral obligation which is in opposition to the individual's preferred political view, she is accused of siding with the opposing political view.

In both cases, the Church is speaking on a topic on which the listener does not want to be told he or she is wrong. Therefore the Church is accused of interfering in business that does not concern her. While it is an understandable error, it is an error nonetheless. What gets overlooked is the fact that governments and businesses are not merely impersonal autonomous beings. They are made up of men and women who have to make moral choices when setting policies which will affect other men and women. Such choices can be morally wrong.

Untitled(King Herod’s Massacre in Bethlehem)

The purpose of the Catholic Church is to carry out the mission that Our Lord tasked His apostles with, to go out and bring the message of salvation to the whole world. In doing so, she calls each person individually and each nation as a whole to turn away from the behaviors which separate them from God. The Greatest Commandments, which Our Lord gave us...

37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

…apply to our civil laws and business policies as well. A human law or business policy cannot go against what God has commanded us to do or avoid, and it cannot be harmful to the well being of the individual. Thus, when the Church speaks out against abortion or same sex “marriage” or the contraception mandate, she is speaking out against laws which violate what God has commanded and violate the dignity of the human person. This is why she also speaks out on ecological responsibility, treating illegal aliens justly and other policies.

These are not “merely political” issues where the Church is interfering. These are moral decisions with moral responsibility. When the nation or a business chooses a policy which violates what God commands, the Church has an obligation to speak to the individuals who are part of the government or business who make these decisions. She must tell them, “If you do this thing, you will place yourself in opposition to God."

However, in doing this, the Church does not say “You must vote for this party, candidate, program.” She speaks out against wrongdoing, but does not endorse a party or an economic system. If a specific political position or a business has staked out an odious position, it logically follows that we must oppose the position, and as long as the business or party holds that position, the relationship with the Church will be strained.

Ultimately, this is a case where people only want the Church to speak in a way which they agree with. If they disagree with the Church teaching, they want the Church to be silent. When they agree with what the Church teaches, she is praised. When they disagree, she is being “political.” But that’s being partisan, using ad hominem labels to negate arguments they dislike.

It’s important to remember that the moral obligations that come along with being a Christian are not relegated to the private sphere. People act publicly and so they can sin publicly in enacting unjust laws or corrupt business practices. When they do so, the Church must oppose their actions, denouncing the laws which go against what God commands.

Some people might object, saying this is an imposition of values on people who don’t share them. But that is a double standard—for they are doing the same thing by trying to push through laws which are in opposition to Christian moral teaching. If it is wrong for us to do this, it is wrong for them to do it. But if they insist that they are seeking to promote what is right, we claim the same motive.

Ultimately, the attack against the Church—that she is “interfering” in politics or trying to “control” the state—are merely an attempt to negate a moral challenge to their actions. Rejecting the challenge on the ground that it is “religious,” is an example of the genetic fallacy…by attacking the source of the challenge, it attempts to ignore the truth of the challenge.

But the fact remains—the Church is speaking against a legal or business action because it goes against what God calls us to be, and in choosing such a law or policy, one is rejecting God. Since the Church is concerned for both the individuals and for each group, she must speak out against wrongdoing…even when done by government or business.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thoughts on Catholicism and Human Law

I would like to expand on something I wrote a few days ago concerning the concept of legitimate and illegitimate law. I hope in this day and age (unfortunately, you never know) most people would recognize that governments can and do create unjust laws (whether actual laws, judicial rulings and executive orders) which are made binding through force—not just in totalitarian nations, but right here in the US as well.

Realizing that even in the Western Nations (which are always held up as the paragon of freedom compared to the rest of the world, fair or not) the governments can and do create unjust laws is important. It shows that no state government is impeccable in creating laws (human laws, to distinguish from Divine Law and Natural Law)—even if our own party of preference is in command.

I think that with this understanding in mind, the Catholic perspective should be explored. A lot of accusations have been made about us, and we need to have a basic understanding on how the Church views the authority of the state and the human law it creates.

We're not anarchists. We don't hold that the adage, the government that governs best governs least. Nor do we hold that government is a necessary evil. When it works as it ought, government justly holds authority and must be heeded. On the other hand, Catholicism is not a proponent of Big Government. The authority of the state certainly has limits as to what it can do.

In the Catholic perspective, the purpose of government is ensuring the common good. However, the government is not itself the common good. It can only be a means to this end. The government does not have the authority to redefine what the common good is, and the burdens of the law must not be unequally proportioned—such as favoring your friends and harming your enemies. (See Summa Theologica I II Q 96 a4). Finally, the laws passed cannot exceed the authority of the lawgiver.

This last point is important. While certain views of government exalt the power of the state, when the government decrees something it has no right to decree, the law it passes has no authority—much like if I were to pass a law that all the houses on my block have the obligation to pay me a 20% tax on their gross income. I would have no right to make such a law because I do not have the authority to even make a law. Maybe if I had my own private militia I could get away with it, but the law would have no authority on its own.

A government may decree a thing, but if the thing decreed goes beyond the authority of the government to decree, then the only way that the law can be binding is if the government uses force to carry out the law. There would be no moral  obligation to follow such a law.

When you see these principles, it becomes clear that sometimes the Church must necessarily be in opposition to certain acts of government but is not acting in a partisan manner in doing so.

The Church rejects the claim by a state that it can decide to change the definitions of what is good or evil. Thus when the state creates such legislation, she denies that the law has binding authority. If the law interferes with the ability to do good and avoid evil, then it is not a law at all. It is merely an act of coercion.

Thus the Church will challenge the state that decrees that it can make marriage anything other than between one man and one woman. The Church will challenge the state if it decrees that abortion is a "right." The Church will challenge the state if the state demands that employers violate their religious faith by paying for contraceptives.

When the state decrees such things, these laws lack the morally binding force that valid human law possesses. The government can use force to demand compliance—do it or be sued, locked up or dead.

Now while that threat of coercion may work on individuals within the Church, it doesn't work on the Church as a whole. The Church that recognizes the witness of martyrdom (which is not to be confused with the perversion of the term by those who blow themselves and others up to make a point).

Martyrdom in the Catholic sense says that it is better to suffer evil than to do evil—even to the point of dying rather than doing what God forbids. The Catholic faith, which says, " I would rather suffer as an innocent than to be guilty of doing what God forbids," does not accept the claims of the state to have the right to make good evil or evil good.

The reasons above also explain why the Church—contrary to the hopes of the media—will never permit abortion, woman priests, "gay marriage," contraception, or remarriage when the spouse of a pervious valid marriage is still alive. The Church is not an institution which arbitrarily makes up rules for Catholics to follow and can undo them whenever she likes. When God teaches us what is good or evil, the Catholic Church knows she does not have the authority to change that teaching.

When one understands these things, it becomes clear how the Church can be in opposition to the human laws of a government without being partisan. The Church can accept a government which seeks the true common good and does not seek to elevate itself to the greatest importance and does not seek to make laws it has no right or authority to make.

But it must seek to convert the government that seeks partisan gain for its supporters, that seeks to pass laws it has no right to pass.

This then is why the Catholic Church must sometimes be in opposition to our government.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Just a Pinch of Incense...

In ancient Rome, there was an obligation to burn a pinch of incense before the statue of the emperor. Doing so was essentially an act of worship of the emperor as a god. The monotheistic Christians could not do this without denying their beliefs in one true God... or give scandal by appearing to do so. But if they refused, they would suffer consequences for standing up for what they believed.

To the morally lax pagans, the Christians doubtlessly were viewed as intolerant. However, by insisting that the Christians burn this incense and do what they believed was morally wrong, the pagans were the intolerant ones. They thought the Christian beliefs were either a threat or something so insignificant that the Christians shouldn't make a fuss about it.

Fast forward some 1700 years to the present. The Christians who, because of their belief in one God, find themselves in a dilemma. Either let your business acknowledge the so-called "gay marriage" (or cause the scandal of appearing to do so), or suffer the consequences.

Again, to a good many people, the Christians are viewed as either intolerant or fussing over something "not important."  Laws seeking to protect Christians have been proposed, but they have been portrayed as discriminatory laws.

What makes it so sickening now is the First Amendment was intended to prevent the state from coercing someone into doing what they believed was morally forbidden. But now, it is the defense of these religious rights that is considered unconstitutional.

Once again, Lincoln's words have shown themselves prophetic:

"As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it, "All men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read, "All men are created equal except Negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some other country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

I first posted these words in 2007. Each year, they seem more amd more reflecting our government.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fallen America

It is such a quiet thing to fall... but far more terrible is to admit it.

--Kreia, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords


I hear people debating from time on if America will lose its freedom. My take is to say, "What do you mean If?"

I don't say that to be facetious. I say it because it is true. Certain groups of Americans have lost their freedoms of expression if it goes against the behaviors which the government and media elites have decided to support.

Now loss of freedom does not automatically mean 'totalitarian dictatorship.' There are certainly degrees of infringement. A military junta will behave in a different manner than a nation which imagines itself to be a democracy under the rule of law.

So, in writing on this loss of freedom, I'm not equating what goes on here with what goes on in North Korea or the Middle East. Rather, I am pointing out that, compared to what our Constitution professes, our nation is now interfering with religious freedom.

Also,  I'm not dealing with non government attacks. Individuals favoring unconstitutional laws are foolish, but not doing something illegal -- it's when they become law, or executive order or a Court ruling that they become relevant to this article.

Understanding Freedom

One of the problems is understanding what freedom means. In modern thought, it is taken to mean I may do what I wish without any restriction. But the problem with this concept is it means too much. It means a law which interferes with my whims restricts freedom... regardless of what my whim may be.

That's not freedom. That's called anarchy.

Freedom is the ability to do what we ought to do without being hindered. If I believe I am obligated to live according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the government does not have the right to hinder this.

It's stupid to say "I'm not free" if I can't have public access to large quantities of drugs and women of loose women." Nobody is entitled to that.

But it's not stupid to say "I'm not free" if the government can tell me that I or my business must go against that which God commands I must do or must not do.

The first example says "The law must sanction my wants." The second says "the law cannot interfere with my obligations before God."

That's an important distinction. Nobody's conscience tells them "I must abort my child" or "I must engage in homosexual activity." It does tell them "I must not murder," or "I must obey God."

So if the law tells a person "you must support that which your conscience forbids," the law is unjust. And really, the first amendment seems built around the right of the individual not to be forced to do what is evil and to speak out in defending that right.

What the Constitution Says

When the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We see that the Government cannot mandate a State Religion that others must follow. Nor can it interfere with the free exercise of a religion. If the government interferes with how a person carries out their religious faith,  they are violating the certain unalienable Rights (Declaration of Independence) which no government can bestow or take away.

A religion holds members to following a certain moral code, where refusing obedience is sinning against God. So it follows that laws which prevent the following of that moral code do prohibit the free exercise of religion.

Laws and Court Decisions Violate the Constitution

But it is this free exercise of religion which Federal and State governments do violate. The HHS contraceptive mandate decrees that schools and hospitals attached to a church do not have the right to refuse providing contraception to employees who demand it -- even though that interferes with the free exercise of religion of the religion that established them.

Religion is not merely worship or ritual. It involves doctrine and moral teaching. It involves obligation for those who confess it to be true. The government cannot interfere with the individual who believes their religious beliefs says they cannot do a thing...

...But the government does interfere. They say that the man who refuses to participate in providing services recognizing "gay marriage" by making a cake or providing photographs can face legal action. The business that refuses to pay for abortion services out of religious conviction can face ruinous fines. The religious pharmacists who refuse to distribute abortifacients can be fired.

Schools run by churches, which have a right to be concerned about the moral example set for students by teachers, get sued if they fire a teachers who creates a scandal by public immorality.

Let's not forget that in San Antonio, a proposed city ordinance seeks to bar people from city government those who "demonstrated bias" against people with a same sex attraction... something so vague that it can exclude who say they think so-called "gay marriage" is wrong.

This not only violates the 1st amendment by interfering with the free exercise of religion, but it violates Article VI of the Constitution by imposing a religion test:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (Article VI).

Because the government (via Justice Kennedy) has decreed all opposition to homosexual behavior is based on intolerance, the City Council of San Antonio can decide that religious beliefs disqualifies one from city service.

It is quite clear that the US Government in its laws, executive orders and court decisions is violating the Constitution.


America is not in danger of losing freedom. No, our government has taken away freedom already -- with the support of many who short sightedly hate us for speaking against evil, and the tolerance of those who are either ignorant or apathetic about what is being done.

The fall was quiet. But admitting it is the terrible thing... and I think many would rather deny it than face the reality and have to do something about it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Modern Morality Leads to Tyranny (Part 1 of 2)

Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church.

—GK Chesterton

As we see our civil rights in America eroded, some people have speculated on the cause.  Things like "Obama is a secret Muslim" or "Obama is a secret Communist" for example.  We hear similar things about media conspiracies.  The basic premise is that the reason our freedoms are declining because of some special efforts by some groups to bring down the country.

I think these things are distractions.  We don't need to bring conspiracies into the equation at all.  What we actually seem to have is that a certain influential group of the American population tend to think in a similar way and, when they receive political power, approach lawmaking in the same way they approach moral obligations.

In other words, we don't have a secret cabal of People against Goodness and Normality.  We have people who have bought into certain errors as a way of thinking and are making that thinking into the law of the land.  It has six steps.  Three which are concerned with individual morality and three in which the individual steps are made law.

Looking at the First Three Steps

These first three steps are the framework, reflecting on how certain individuals view morality and how such individuals view challenges to their moral views.  Such persons reject the idea that there are moral absolutes that may not ever be transgressed when it comes to such rules requiring them to restrict their behavior.

The First Step: Reducing Morality to Not Harming Others

The basic form of this modern morality is the concept that anything that does not harm others is permissible.  Thus drug use that is not harming others is permissible.  Fornication is permissible.  Also, the emphasis on harming others is important.  Under this view, we can be self-destructive so long as this destruction does not harm others.

We can see the roots for this kind of thinking in Utilitarianism.  John Stuart Mill describes the basic view as:

the ultimate end, with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable (whether we are considering our own good or that of other people), is an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments, both in point of quantity and quality; the test of quality, and the rule for measuring it against quantity, being the preference felt by those who, in their opportunities of experience, to which must be added their habits of self-consciousness and self-observation, are best furnished with the means of comparison.

If it causes happiness, it is good.  If it causes unhappiness it is not good.  However, we do see a early warning sign here.  The standards of distinguishing good and harm is arbitrary, and as society has moved forward in time have become more individualistic.  The individual is expected to decide for himself or herself what amount of pain is acceptable in the pursuit of pleasure.  The "habits of self-consciousness and self-observation" are replaced by the slogan, "If it feels good, do it."

The problem with this view of morality is it is too short sighted.  It focuses on the pleasure of the moment and ignores how long term effects of these behaviors can be harmful. 

For example, the loose sexual morality requires contraception to avoid pregnancies.  However, the laws of averages means eventually there will be unexpected pregnancies, and the demand for abortions.  Therefore abortion becomes classified under the category of "anything that does not harm others is permissible."  It's considered a minor inconvenience which should be legalized to remove consequences from sexual behavior as a pleasure.

But abortion does harm.  The obvious harm to another comes from the fact that the unborn child is a person.  Prior to Roe v. Wade, this was pretty much accepted as fact.  Only after the Supreme Court ruling do we see medical textbooks stop talking about this.  Moreover, in modern times, it is recognized that abortions cause mental and emotional harm to the mother who has an abortion.  But since this harm challenges the basic premise of modern morality, it has to be somehow removed from consideration.  This brings us to our second step

The Second Step: Denying the Harm Exists and Explaining It Away

The response of the modern morality is to either deny the harm exists or explain it away as less than the action defended.  Often it tries to argue both, leading one to ask, "Well, which is it?"  Either the harm exists or it does not.  If it does, it has to be acknowledged and dealt with.  If it doesn't, then why try to explain it away?

So we see people facing an unexpected pregnancy, denying the unborn child is a person; denying that such mental harm to the mother exists or explaining the harm away in the name of "a woman's right to choose."  But if the unborn child is a person, then the "woman's right to choose" is causing harm to others and cannot be permitted under modern morality.  So they have to deny that the unborn child is a person while also saying that whether or not the unborn child is a person, it doesn't outrank the "freedom of choice."

The danger is, this modern view of morality focuses on what the individual thinks, as opposed to what is true. So if the person decides they should not worry about the harm caused to another, they are deciding for themselves whether the harm done to another has any meaning.  As we will see later, when people with this mindset receive political power, their self-focused determination on whether those harmed have value or not will impact the laws they pass.

The Third Step: Shooting the Messenger

In a reasoned discussion, people would attempt to objectively consider the issues and attempt to discover the reality.  Behavior would then be changed in order to live in accordance to what is true.  Unfortunately, in modern times we do not see this.  It is one of the greatest ironies that people who claim that beliefs in objective morality and absolute truth are labeled "irrational" and "illogical" when the response to people who challenge modern morality is to verbally attack them and make no attempt at refutation.

The denial and explaining away can be (and often is) challenged by rational argument, but people don't like to be shown to be in the wrong, and this leads to the third step: Hostility to those who point out the modern morality is causing harm to people. 

When it is pointed out that certain behaviors are NOT morally permissible and DO cause harm, there are no attempts at a reasoned refutation.  What we have instead is a lashing out at those who point out the behavior is harmful.

It works this way: People standing up for absolute morality creates a challenge that puts the follower of modern morality into a dilemma.  If what challengers say is true then it indicts the act as wrong and the person who performs the act must choose between renouncing the act or continue the act, knowing it is wrong. 

Very few people deliberately want to be evil-doers in the sense of the character Aaron in the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus who dies regretting he had not done more evil.  Rather, many people are inordinately attached to certain behaviors and are unwilling to give them up.  They also don't want to be in the wrong in not giving them up.

So the defense mechanism begins.  But since the justification for modern morality is the individual decides that the act doesn't harm anyone in a way the individual considers important, they cannot defend their position as being right.  So what often happens is to avoid being wrong, they seek to denigrate their challengers, trying to portray them as being in the wrong.

This is why we see so many ad hominem attacks: "War on women."  "Homophobic."  "Judgmental."  These attacks make no legitimate claim against the truth of the defender of absolute morality.  It merely attacks the person who challenges this form of thinking.  It is as if they think if they can discredit the messenger, they can justify ignoring the message.

It's a sort of begging the question.

  1. If they were good people they would agree with [X]
  2. They don't agree with [X]
  3. Therefore they're not good people
  4. Why does not agreeing with [X] make them bad people?
  5. Because [X] is good.

[X] is the issue being disputed whether it is good or not, so to argue that people are not good if they do not agree with [X] merely assumes what has to be proven.

Once we get to the point where a person being good or not depends on whether he accepts the position of modern morality, it becomes easier to label the person who challenges modern morality as people who don't matter.  Once that label is bestowed, it will have relevance in a society which adapts the modern morality to law.


Now the first three steps are individually focused, but when numbers of individuals who share the same view group together, we can see political influence grow from them.  Voters who hold these views are going to tend towards supporting candidates that share their views ,or at least favor leniency towards the behaviors.  Members of the media who share these views are going to report things in terms of promoting the modern morality and denigrating the concept of moral absolutes.  Politicians who hold these views are going to pass laws which reflect these views of morality.

The next article will take a look at how we go from this individualistic view of morality to what happens when we elect people who hold to this view of morality.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Movies Worth Watching Before November 6th

As we get nearer to election day, I've found certain movies resonating with me because they remind the viewer that the obligation to do what is right calls people to make a stand in the face of government intrusion – even at the cost of mistreatment.

Three that come to mind are:

  1. For Greater Glory
  2. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
  3. A Man for All Seasons (Both the 1966 movie and the 1988 Charlton Heston version are well done)

In all three movies, we see the theme of a government which behaves in a way that people of conscience cannot accept.  In all of them, we see characters who are told that if they just "compromise a little" and accept the government intrusion, all will be well with them.  In all of them, these characters make the decision that stands up for doing what is right and suffer the consequences – consequences the government has no right to impose because the government had no right to create such laws in the first place.

Another good movie is After the Truth.  A German movie from 1999, it takes as the premise, What if the infamous Nazi Doctor Josef Mengele came back to Germany to face trial with the intent of justifying his position?  The trial points out that the callous Nazi medical experiments and euthanasia did not arise in 1933, but before with German doctors questioning whether a human life is really worth living in the case of the insane or the deformed.  As the movie progresses, we see that Mengele's positions are not born in the extreme ideology of the Nazis, but instead can be found in the assumptions of pro-euthanasia and pro-abortion supporters – that some life is not worthy of life and should be ended.  When we realize that some people in modern society who are definitely not Nazis have a similar mindset and are promoting these things in the name of "compassion," it makes one realize that evil is not simply done by tyrannical regimes, but also by governments and individuals who think their ideas are "merciful."

I think in all of these movies, we should be brought to asking why such government injustices were permitted to go so far as they did that they ended up doing such injustice.

Of course the members of the government in each movie have their own responsibility, but every one of us should be asking questions about governments and individuals who make policies that force or encourage people do do wrong and to ask questions about what it means when a government makes use of its power to coerce people who say "I will not comply with this evil."

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?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Apologia: Religious Faith Free of Government Interference


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

—The First Amendment (Emphasis added)

America was founded with religious freedom recognized as a primary right.  The state can neither compel people to belong to one faith, nor to persecute a faith because of what they believe.

Vatican II Document, Dignitatis Humanae, speaks of religious freedom in this way:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The two stances are remarkably similar – the State does not have the authority to force a person or a group to do what they believe is morally evil.

Unfortunately, the modern stance of the US Government and the political elites is one which seeks to compel the Catholic Church and the institutions affiliated with her to participate in behaviors she finds contrary to what she believes to be right.

CREDO: Right Belief and Right Practice

Doctrine is what is professed by the Church as believed, and denial of the doctrine is to deny what we believe to be true.  A person who denies the Trinity cannot be said to believe what the Catholic Church believes, even if he or she is a part of the Catholic Church.  Indeed, throughout the centuries, holy men and women have been martyred because they would not deny what the Church professes to be true and would not agree with what the Church teaches is false.

This point must be understood.  Even under the threat of punishment, we cannot go against what we believe.

In the Catholic view, we can know of God through Divine Revelation and through reason.  Through reason, we can grow in understanding about why the commands of the Lord are as they are and understand what reasonably follows from what we believe.

We believe God is all powerful, all knowing and perfectly good.  From this we recognize that His moral law is not based on an imperfect understanding of human nature and is not arbitrary (it isn't a case of "whatever God feels like is good").  God is perfectly good and His moral law reflects His goodness.  God's law also reflects what is good for persons.  He does not command us to do what is harmful for ourselves and does not forbid what is good for us.

Because our Lord has made it clear that to love Him is to keep His commandments, we who profess to love the Lord must obey Him.  It isn't a matter of merely following rules legalistically.  When you love a person, you act in a way which has the good of that person in mind.  The beloved can forgive actions done which are offensive.  However, a habitual contempt for the good of the beloved demonstrates a lack of love.

We believe that right practice (orthopraxy) depends on right belief (orthodoxy).  For example, a person who believes people are nothing more than cogs in a machine to serve a higher purpose will treat persons differently than those who believe people need to be treated with dignity and cannot have this dignity taken away for the sake of expedience.

From this we can see that Catholics – at least those with a proper understanding of the faith – believe that to love God is to behave in a way that is in keeping with what He commands, and that to act in opposition to His commands is not only to treat God wrongly but also are harmful to ourselves.

Non-Catholics may disagree with us and claim we have a wrong understanding about what God intends.  However, it cannot be denied that under the Constitution, Catholics and Catholic institutions are free to act according to what we think right.  We harm none by refusing to take part in abortion, homosexual "marriage" and other things we believe to be against what God commands.  We do not violate anyone's rights.  Rather, those who come to a Catholic group and insists we accommodate their demands against what we believe violate our rights – especially when they take us to court to force us to act against our faith.

Moreover, we do have the right as American citizens to seek to reform our nation and to reach out to others to teach them why our beliefs are true, just as every other American citizen does.

The US Government and Political Elites Are Behaving In A Way That Contradicts the Constitution and our Inalienable Rights

Now, our rights are being infringed upon.  A Catholic individual, a Catholic school, a Catholic hospital are no longer protected when it comes to living according to what our conscience demands.  Catholic institutions are told that they must take part in things we call evil or cease to function.  Moreover, members of the political elites are speaking out against us, claiming our beliefs are harmful and must be opposed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, when asked about the arguments against homosexual marriage, replied, "There is no answer from the opposition. There really isn’t.  Ultimately, it’s, ‘I want to discriminate.’ And that’s anti-New York. It’s anti-American."  He has also been on record as saying, "The laws would have to be paramount, and would have to be paramount to your religious beliefs."

That's chilling.  Either Cuomo misspoke or he is saying that law trumps religious belief.  I have found no evidence of the former (no clarifications or retractions).  If it is the latter, then it is Cuomo who is anti-American, because it is he who violates the First Amendment, not us.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.-Fla.), chair of the DNC, describes beliefs that the informed Catholic holds protecting the personhood of the unborn as, "an extreme and radical step."  She says that it is, "divisive, dangerous, and destructive laws which would cripple a woman’s right to choose, limit access to birth control, and put the lives of women with difficult pregnancies at risk."

There is no respect for our rights here.  Instead the motives for our beliefs are characterized as being motivated by hatred and by wanting to deny women their "rights."  Essentially the constitutional guarantees of our religious freedoms in America are being undermined, and the political elites are misrepresenting our motives to permit their violations of our freedom.

In the name of "fairness" we are treated unfairly.  Apparently all people are free to live out their lives in accord to what they believe to be right – unless those beliefs are religious beliefs which say certain actions are immoral.

Absolutes and Relativism

I've gone over this theme before, but it is important: If there are no absolutes, then there is nothing wrong with Catholics living as we do without interference.  However, if there are absolutes, and we Catholics are in the wrong, then we are justified in demanding that proof be shown to us that we are in the wrong and how this truth is known.

But if our accusers want to do this, they must be honest.  We are not "homophobes" because we believe homosexual acts to be wrong.  We are not "misogynist" or "anti-women" because we oppose abortion and contraception.  We believe that both homosexual persons and unborn infants must be treated as human persons with the rights belonging to all persons.

We condemn the view which says a person with homosexual tendencies may be treated as less than a person, but this does not mean we must support and promote homosexual acts as being morally acceptable acts.

Extremism, By Nature, Is Not the Norm

Our accusers must be honest and recognize that the extremist does not represent the Catholic position.  The person who assaults persons with homosexual tendencies and the person who shoots abortionists does not act in accord with the Catholic faith, but AGAINST the Catholic faith.  So it is either ignorance or dishonesty to label such persons as being inspired by our beliefs – such a person clearly overlooks the prohibition against murder for example.

The extremist, by definition, is: "a person who holds extreme political or religious views" according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  To label the Catholic position as extremist, is to declare a knowledge of what the norm is.  The norm is the standard and the further one deviates from the norm, the more extreme it is.

So to call us "extremist" means the accuser claims to know the truth (eliminating the claim of relativism) and then is obligated to prove their claim of what is the truth that we deviate from.

Our Guilt is to be Proven, Not Assumed

The fact is the US Constitution lists freedom of religion as part of the Bill of Rights.  If one wishes to argue that the Catholic faith is an ideology which is harmful to others, then it falls to that person to prove the charge.  Our rights cannot be taken away until we are proven guilty of a crime for we are innocent until proven guilty.  Yet people like Cuomo assume our guilt is proven and the state can compel us to act in a way our religion forbids.

We are accused of hatred and bigotry as our motives for opposing homosexual "marriage."  However, nobody actually looks to see if these are our motives.  In fact we explicitly reject this accusation as slander.

Our detractors dismiss our reasons and our faith, ipse dixit, as being without merit – but they cannot be bothered to learn our reasons.  They merely assume that because our views reject theirs we must be motivated by hatred.

Is it reasonable or just to condemn us out of ignorance?  Is it just to lump us together with those who commit crimes without investigating  whether we share their beliefs and motivations?

Not only is it unjust, it is actually bigotry.  The same sort of bigotry which assumes all Hispanics are "Illegals," that assumes all Jews are "misers" and all Blacks are "dishonest."  An entire group is accused of possessing a trait on account of a few people who fit that trait.


The Constitution of the United States gives us freedom to live as we feel obligated to live in the Freedom of Religion.  Yet today, the government and political elites would deny us our rights and would compel us to do things we have believed to be immoral far longer than the United States was a nation.  Not only do they infringe our rights, but they refuse to listen to our defense, insisting we must be motivated by bigotry because we believe their views to be wrong.

Americans will need to ask serious questions about justice and who is really being deprived of it.  The charge of being "anti-American" and the charge that we are dangerous because we consider homosexual acts to be immoral and personhood to begin at conception are unjust charges.

However, since the freedom of religion is enshrined in our Constitution, the charge of "anti-American" and "dangerous" does not apply to us, but rather to those who would restrict our rights to practice our faith and operate institutions according to our faith.

Postscript: Can This Apologia Be Applied Against Us as Well?

Some may argue that we do not practice what we preach, that we demand rights for ourselves and deny them to others.  We would reject this as a false charge.  We do not argue that homosexual persons should be denied the rights due all human persons.  We do not demand they be denied the rights they possess in the Constitution.  Rather we say certain actions are not rights to be recognized (abortion, homosexual "marriage") but the demand of recognizing a self-gratification now in vogue by misusing titles.

Homosexual persons can of course marry a person of the opposite gender.  But if our beliefs (that marriage is between a man and a woman) are true, then the whole concept of Homosexual "Marriage" is an oxymoron.

On the other hand, religious freedom is not a self-gratification in vogue, but a right which the Constitution recognizes that all people are entitled to.  Denying us this right is not denying us a privilege but denying us what is our due.

In other words, we deny nobody their rights by saying homosexuality and abortion are wrongs and refusing to accommodate these wrongs by having our religious institutions take part in them.  But people who do force us to accommodate what we believe to be wrong or else close up our institutions are denying us our rights. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thoughts on Freedom, Rights and Responsibilities


The modern view of freedom tends to look at it as if any attempts to restrict what we want to do as a sin against our "rights."  Thus pornography and violent video games become "artistic" and any attempt to restrict access to these things become a "violation" of our rights.

The view that we have a "right" to do whatever we want is insanely self-destructive.  If freedom is to be understood as the "right" to do whatever we want without restrictions, it means we have no right to object to whatever we might view as harmful or repugnant because it "forces our views on another person."

Yet most people would recognize things like child pornography to be offensive and most people would see this as something which nobody has a "right" to.  (Those who say otherwise are not considered to have a reasonable opinion), which indicates that not all rights are "acceptable," and some restrictions are reasonable.

"Consenting Adults" is a phrase which Shows Restrictions

The term "consenting adults" for example is a term which shows there are restrictions on "freedoms."

  1. The people involved must have reached the age of majority where they are considered competent to make responsible decisions and consider the consequences.
  2. The people involved must freely consent.

Neither a willing minor nor an unwilling adult can take part in such an act.  The minor is not considered competent to be able to give informed consent and a person cannot be coerced to do something which they find offensive.

This means we have an absolute restriction: A person's freedom to do a thing is limited if the subject of the act is unable or unwilling to give consent.  Pedophilia then would be condemned because even if the child should consent, we do not consider the child to be able to give consent as required.

However, once we recognize this, we can challenge the principle of abortion.  If the unborn is a human person, he is unable to give consent to being aborted.  Thus, "Consenting Adults" is a clause which indicts abortion.

Defining Persons Selectively

Some say in response to this, "Well the fetus is not a person."  This leads us then to ask, "Who defines what is and is not a person?"

We have, in history, some examples of the government defining some as being less than human.  Pre-Civil War America considered African Americans as less than fully human and less capable than whites to reason and think clearly and thus could be enslaved.  Nazi Germany treated certain groups (Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and others) as subhuman who could be enslaved or exterminated and practiced the extermination of those who were considered mentally or physically unfit.

We can now look back on these times with disgust and with horror, recognizing that a government does not have a right to decree certain Homo sapiens as being less than human, and such a law cannot change what a person is.  A law which denies the personhood of the Homo sapiens goes against reality, against nature.

Human Rights and Gender

Of course there are some differences which are unavoidable.  All human persons are male or female regardless of race, age, belief or sexual preference.  Both are fully human and both have the rights of a human being, but the two are not the same.  Because both are fully human, one may not be treated as superior or inferior to the other on account of gender.

Gender is not inconsequential however.  Human biology impacts how each interacts.  The woman can give birth.  The man cannot.  This leaves us with two principles:

  1. Differences in gender does not mean that this is all they can do.  (A woman is not limited to ONLY being a mother for example)
  2. BUT since these functions are a part of nature, they cannot be ignored or suppressed.

Race and sexual preferences are not the same as gender.  Race does not change the fact that one is a Homo Sapiens.  Sexual preference does not change the fact of the actual gender.

Marriage, Gender, Race and Sexual Preference

Biologically, the sexual act involves the reproductive organs of two persons, one of each gender.  Acts which do not involve both the male and female reproductive organs is nothing more than sodomy.

Marriage, until the latest usurpations by government, has always been recognized as a family unit joined together by a man and a woman in a permanent sexual relationship which has at least the potential for future offspring and is formed together for that intent (If the man or woman is infertile is irrelevant.  Offspring is accepted as a natural part of the married life.  Infertility caused by age or infirmity cannot be helped but does not make the man any less a man or the woman any less a woman).

Restrictions on marriage due to race (or ethnicity) is an unnatural restriction.  A Homo sapiens male of one ethnicity and a Homo sapiens female of another ethnicity are able to form this permanent sexual union with the potential of having children.

However, sexual preference is NOT an unnatural restriction.  Between people of the same gender, there cannot be a sexual act, only sodomy.  There cannot be the potential for future offspring and such a union cannot be formed with acceptance of this motive.

Thus we can see it is a false analogy to compare the restriction of "gay marriage" with the unnatural laws forbidding people of different ethnicities to marry. The fact is, governments have no right to declare an ethnicity "less than human" and have no right to deny the difference between gender.  Marriage predates government as a basis for society and a government which attempts to change what marriage is through law goes outside of their authority.

Truth and Law

Aristotle defined Truth and Falsehood saying:

To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.

This is a principle which demonstrates that since a thing is what it is and cannot be what it is not, truth cannot be relative.  If a living being is a male, it is true to say this being is a male and false to say it is not a male.  If it is wrong to murder, we speak falsely if we say it is not wrong to murder.  We cannot abolish the laws of nature, such as the law of gravity.  Nor can we abolish biology.

That which IS cannot be declared IS NOT by a government.  That which IS NOT cannot be declared IS.  This is not a case of "forcing beliefs on another."  It is recognizing reality.  A government which attempts to pass laws contrary to what is true is in fact the one which is trying to impose their beliefs on another.

Legal Positivism

Legal Positivism is the concept that the only legitimate sources of law are those written rules, regulations, and principles that have been expressly enacted, adopted, or recognized by a governmental entity or political institution, including administrative, executive, legislative, and judicial bodies.  In other words, what man defines as law is the only source of law and truth, morality, natural law and other sources are irrelevant.  The problem is of course that whatever laws man invents on his own authority man can undo.  So if man creates the freedom of speech, he can undo that freedom.

This is why the Declaration of Independence states:

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.

The rights which all men possess do not come from the government but from the Creator – which means they are rights which come from outside of us and cannot be taken away from us.  Quite frankly, legal positivism is inimical to the concept of rights and freedoms which our nation was founded on.

Ipse Dixit and Law

Yet legal positivism seems to be the philosophy of the American Government today. There is no longer a sense of understanding what IS true with government seeking to reflect that truth. Rather we have a government fiat declaring what we must do… with the only source of authority being the government saying so. Truth is no longer relevant. Rather we have coercion. Effectively the government says "We have decreed it so it is right. If you refuse to comply, we will take actions against you."

Ipse dixit is a claim which only has the fact that a person said it as its authority.  In America, we often rely on ipse dixit as the source of authority for a "right."  The Supreme Court said abortion is a "right."  Therefore it is.  However, when one realizes that the Supreme Court once ruled "Separate but Equal" was legally acceptable and accepted Internment camps for the Japanese, we can see that the Supreme Court is not a credible source of authority to justify a legally binding position as just or true.

The problem is, of course, that since governments can and do make unjust laws we can and must judge such laws based on a proper understanding of justice.  In speaking out against unjust laws which some favor, we are not attempting to "force views on others."  We are saying the government does wrong and goes beyond its authority when its laws go against the rights (with corresponding responsibilities) given us by our Creator.  If members of the public, if lawmakers believe that the Christian view of good and evil is wrong, that does not make it wrong simply by their declaration that they disagree with Christian belief.  Rather it falls to them to prove their point and not merely say "I disagree.  Therefore what I say goes."


Since we have recognized that certain restrictions do exist in terms of rights and on the other hand that the state does not have the authority to declare certain things as right we can see that the issue of right and wrong is not an issue of the government saying so, but rather we judge the acts of an individual or a government as right or wrong depending on how it matches up to the truth which we can know but cannot change.

As Christians, we believe that God is good and what is right is a reflection of His goodness and also is what is good for us by our very nature.  The government may decree something which goes against what God calls us to do, but we must repudiate what the government says which forces us to disobey God.  We believe that the government has no right to impose laws on us which force us to choose between God and our lives or livelihood.  The government which does so may appeal to force to accept compliance but we are obligated to obey God rather than men and continue to preach God's commands and message of salvation to the whole world.

We must preach in season and out of season, even if men hate us for speaking the truth of good and evil.  They may malign us, using slanders against us.  But we must recognize that God wants the salvation, not the destruction of sinners.  So we must continue to preach the truth to the world.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reflections on the Nature of Government

10 Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11).

It has been a turbulent few weeks politically and morally in terms of what our government is trying to do, and facing religious opposition to it.  The contentious aftermath about the House Health Care bill including the Stupak Amendment has pro-abortion supporters in the government wondering what to do to counteract this.

This isn't an article about health care or abortion or the Obama administration per se.  Rather, it is about the nature of government itself.  What is its purpose?  When is it a good government or a bad government.

Part I: Reflections on Aristotle's Politics.

Aristotle, in his Politics, described the difference between a good and a bad government as:

The conclusion is evident: that governments which have a regard to the common interest are constituted in accordance with strict principles of justice, and are therefore true forms; but those which regard only the interest of the rulers are all defective and perverted forms, for they are despotic, whereas a state is a community of freemen. (Book 3 Part 6)

We have here two key elements: first, that a government needs to have a regard to the common interest, and second that it has to act in accord to strict principles of justice.  A government which acts according to the interest of the rulers is a despotic government.

This need not be a willful attempt to unjustly keep certain people suppressed.  Aristotle also noticed that the human nature of self deception also has its role to play:

…all men cling to justice of some kind, but their conceptions are imperfect and they do not express the whole idea. For example, justice is thought by them to be, and is, equality, not. however, for however, for but only for equals. And inequality is thought to be, and is, justice; neither is this for all, but only for unequals. When the persons are omitted, then men judge erroneously. The reason is that they are passing judgment on themselves, and most people are bad judges in their own case. And whereas justice implies a relation to persons as well as to things, and a just distribution, as I have already said in the Ethics, implies the same ratio between the persons and between the things, they agree about the equality of the things, but dispute about the equality of the persons, chiefly for the reason which I have just given- because they are bad judges in their own affairs; and secondly, because both the parties to the argument are speaking of a limited and partial justice, but imagine themselves to be speaking of absolute justice. (Book 3 Part 9)

The disgust many Americans felt over the actions of the Supreme Court in the 1960s and 1970s seems to spring from this kind of thinking.  For example, the focus on the rights of the criminal alone without reflection on how these rights impacted the rights of the society as a whole.

Likewise, restrictions on individuals because of laws like segregation or apartheid can be opposed because they give justice to some, but not others.

I think this comes into play in America today in regards to how certain partisan ideals are portrayed as "rights" and those who oppose the partisan ideals represented as "rights" are demonized.

For example, we have in America a debate on Health Care and whether it should be universal.  The idea behind it is the belief it is not right that the poor should suffer due to the lack of ability to pay for coverage, since the costs of being able to save a life often could mean the financial ruin of someone who could not afford health insurance.  As far as this goes, it is legitimate to discuss what role the government should play in making sure that all are able to receive necessary care.

What becomes unjust however is when one seeks to force through a benefit for a special group, which benefits that group only.  Hence the debate over including abortion in Health Care. 

Abortion is generally acknowledged to end the existence of an unborn person, and the dispute is over whether the mother should have the right to decide on a whim whether or not to end the existence of this unborn person.  A certain segment of the population insists on the availability of this convenience for the mother.  Another segment argues that this is immoral and objects to people who object being forced to support it against their will.

With this being considered, the demand to include access to abortion as a part of "health care reform" is in fact promoting inequality, where all are obligated to support something which benefits only a certain segment of society (those who insist on engaging in sexual activity without considering the consequences and insisting on the right not to be responsible for the consequences).

A similar case could be made for the push for "gay marriage."  Marriage has long been recognized as an institution which is the building block of society.  It recognizes that sexual activity between males and females result in offspring, and recognizes that a bond exists between husband and wife, between parent and child.  Laws which protect marriage recognize that these bonds are inviolate, and actions which harm the marriage bond will ultimately bring harm to society ("the common interest" referred to above).

The push for "gay marriage" seeks to set this aside, allowing the rights of marriage to those who cannot produce offspring by the nature of their being.  This is not the same thing as a heterosexual couple who is infertile marrying.  While the infertile heterosexual couple could have children except for the accident of their own health issues, homosexuality simply cannot produce offspring by its very nature: Two lesbians cannot have a child.  The child is the offspring of one of the partners and another man.  Two homosexual males cannot have a child.  The child is the offspring of one of the partners and another woman.  (This is one reason why one can validly say that "gay marriage" attacks society.  Homosexual couples seeking to reproduce must necessarily violate the marriage bond to do so)

Seeking the legal benefits which comes with marriage without the framework the legal benefits are intended to support is to merely privilege a certain segment of society. This is based on the idea that since all persons are equal, all persons should have access to the same rights regardless of whether it is fitting they should have them.

Aristotle observed:

…political society exists for the sake of noble actions, and not of mere companionship. Hence they who contribute most to such a society have a greater share in it than those who have the same or a greater freedom or nobility of birth but are inferior to them in political virtue; or than those who exceed them in wealth but are surpassed by them in virtue. (Book 3 Part 9)

From this, it seems to follow that the rights of marriage under the law of a society must be based on the contribution of the family to society, and not on the basis of sexual intercourse between two individuals.

Unfortunately, in America we have a sense that every person must have a right to do anything they want.  Therefore we see nonsense like insisting males have the right to join the "Girl Scouts" to avoid injustice, ignoring the fact that things like gender are real things.  (It is wrong to treat a person as less of a person on account of their gender, but it does not follow from this that we must treat a person as if gender does not exist).

From this, we can consider more clearly what Aristotle had to say about the nature of good and evil in relation to government.

Aristotle pointed out:

The true forms of government, therefore, are those in which the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest; but governments which rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the one or of the few, or of the many, are perversions. (Book 3 part 7)

Those who would promote a view of government which insists on protecting private interests as a civil right are indeed perversions.

Part II: Reflections on Christian Obligation In Regards to the State

It is true that one cannot apply to the state the idea that one who is a Christian has freedoms that another individual does not.  This would make Christianity merely a "private interest," in the sense similar to legal persecutions by radical Hindus in India or the state mandated support of Islam in the Middle East.  Christians need to remember that when Christian teaching and Christian ethics form the basis of society, it must be that the ethics and teaching apply equally to all.  (It is because of this view that the Church takes a stand against secularism in government and society.  When the government is ruled in a way that benefits the irreligious over the religious, it is acting in the favor of a private interest).

However, the Christian view is that God is the center of reality, of truth and of life regardless of whether one believes in Him or not.  Their view of good derives from this.  Likewise, the one who professes a secular view, that God has no role to play in society, has to establish what is good from a secular view. 

I believe Thomas Aquinas had some good insights into what is necessary in law to be considered good:

…it is evident that the proper effect of law is to lead its subjects to their proper virtue: and since virtue is "that which makes its subject good," it follows that the proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given, good, either simply or in some particular respect. For if the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on true good, which is the common good regulated according to Divine justice, it follows that the effect of the law is to make men good simply. If, however, the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on that which is not simply good, but useful or pleasurable to himself, or in opposition to Divine justice; then the law does not make men good simply, but in respect to that particular government. In this way good is found even in things that are bad of themselves: thus a man is called a good robber, because he works in a way that is adapted to his end. (Summa Theologica I-II Q92 A1)

For the Christian, the Divine Justice is the yardstick for the good the lawgiver must follow.  If it does not, then while it may be beneficial to some, it is not good.

St Augustine speaks of the idea of the kingdom without justice in his City of God:

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, "What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor." (Book IV: Chapter 4)

If the state has impunity to place injustice as law, then the state is arbitrary like a band of robbers, and cannot be said to be just.  Since the Christian is obliged to oppose injustice, they must speak up when the state is unjust.  If the state insists that the Christian cannot speak up on the grounds of "separation of Church and State," this is unjust because it deprives the Christian the right to speak when those who speak from other convictions are not similarly deprived.

It is because of this that reports of complaints against Bishops taking a stand in accord with their beliefs becomes ominous.

Part III: Christianity and Other Views within a State

Whether or not the atheist or the non-Christian religious believer likes it, America is largely made up of people who believe in the Christian notion of God, and any discussion of a good government must take this into account, because these standards are assumed.  If one wishes to reject these standards, something must be shown to be acceptable to replace them.

The Christian, with a properly formed faith, who acts in accord with their beliefs is in fact doing what the citizen of a state is supposed to be doing: acting for the common good based on what they believe is right.  Agree or disagree, the Christian with the properly formed faith does indeed have a world view on what justice is and what it requires.

The view of one who holds Christianity is wrong, and insists on forming society in a way which runs counter to the Christian view however. is not doing this unless they demonstrate why their actions do appeal to absolute justice and the common good and not to a private benefit.  Those who would object to "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance or "In God We Trust" on our money is not objecting in terms of supreme justice, but under the private benefit of not wanting to see religious activity in public.

So if one proposes the state is to be governed by something other than the Christian view of Good, we need to be able to look at what this "other" holds, and why it should supplant the view the Christians hold on the nature of good and evil.  If such a case cannot be made, but proponents make this change anyway, then this is an arbitrary action by a group acting with impunity, not with justice.

Part IV: The Problem of Partisanship

The problem we have with the state in America today is that rather than a government acting for the public good with a clear understanding of what is good, we have a government of factions, each seeking to promote its agenda, and calling it good for the whole.  Both Liberals and Conservatives focus on material wealth, and differ on whether it is good to let the "free market" decide or the "state" decide.

Under this view, a majority in both houses and a president who shares these partisan leanings are enough to do what one wants with impunity — until the power structure shifts and those who were out of power enter power and those who once ruled are cast out.  Then that which was a majority view becomes a minority view and the formerly minority view becomes a majority view.

In this case the government veers "right" to "left" and then "left" to "right."  Those who support the government call it "good" while those who do not call it "bad" (or "a step backwards").  None of this considers what is the true good however, and I believe if Aristotle were alive today, he would have to call our governing of state a perversion.  Private interests run key.  The citizens become marginalized and our government becomes a government of few governed by self interest, with growing dissatisfaction from the faction falling out of power with each pendulum swing.

Part V: What Then Should We Do?

Ultimately if America is to be a land of justice, we need to step back and understand what it means to be an American citizen.  We need to recognize what is the source of ultimate good and justice and we need to make sure our laws follow this vision as accurately as possible.  Democrats and Republicans will no doubt differ on ways and means on how to carry it out, and not all of these views will be compatible with the ultimate good, due to the person's ability for self-deception.

However, if we are to be a land of justice, we need to understand what the yardstick is to be, and ensure that those who we bring to office are people who live up to this justice and not to partisan concerns which are made first.

Those things which run afoul of the ultimate good must be opposed.  The idea of vox populi vox dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God) is of course nonsense.  Indeed, the person who is crediting as having coined the statement (Alcuin) actually said the opposite:

Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit. (And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.)

The appetites of the individual lead people to do many things which are problematic, contradictory and focused on self-gratification.  The state exists to serve the good of the people, but the good is not the self gratification.

Therefore, we need to oppose those actions which deal with self-gratification or the reducing the consequences of self-gratification, and ask ourselves what is the greatest good?

Conclusion: The Christian Way

As Christians, we have an answer to this which guides our behavior, and is shown in two passages from Matthew:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Mattt 22:36-40).


16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. (Matt 19:16-22)

We have conditions in two areas as to what is good.  To follow God, and to treat our fellow man as ourselves.  A state which goes astray on either area fails to do what is good and just.

The Bishops and the laity who speak out against the evil of the government are not being partisan.  They are not imposing their own views.  They are in fact teaching us what we are required to do in the Light of the ultimate good.