Friday, January 24, 2003

Canadian Bishops' letter on war against Iraq
Here is what they said and what I think about it. I think a bishops' conferences should be more careful in their composition of such letters.

Canadian Bishops' Statement on Iraq Crisis "War Will Not Deliver Lasting Disarmament"Prepare for Peace in Iraq We believe that war is not the answer.

War is never the answer. It's only legitimate use is to stop an evil. It cannot create good.

Twelve years ago a UN-mandated and US-led coalition went to war against Iraq. Tens of thousands of children, women, and men were killed.

I'd like to see the data. Also, were they killed because Saddam Hussein, in violation of the Geneva convention, left them in harms way?

The destroyed infrastructure and subsequent economic sanctions together with continued bombing contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more.

I'm not in favor of the sanctions, but remember, the exception allows food and medicine in.

Now, just when UN inspectors have begun to work effectively,

How do they know how effective they are? Even the inspectors themselves haven't claimed that their work has been effective.

we are on the brink of another war. We believe that renewed war on Iraq will not deliver lasting disarmament.

I agree. See above.

War is most likely to deliver more of what it always does -- lost lives, environmental destruction, physical and psychological damage for both victims and aggressors, wasted resources

[only wasted if the war is unjust or unjustly executed],

threats of widened political instability and increased terrorism, more hatred, and re-energized extremism.

If a war is waged and is successful, and if in consequence we found out that Hussein in fact is doing what the administration says he is, this will not happen. Only in the case of a Geraldo like "empty vault" scenario will this likely happen. We believe that peace is more than the avoidance of war.

So do I.

We also know that simply avoiding war will not solve the fundamental problems of Iraq -- an unrepresentative regime that violates human rights and may not be in compliance with its obligations related to weapons of mass destruction. Peace and justice require more than the absence of war. Outlaw regimes that still retain or aspire to the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction cannot be allowed to stand, in Iraq or anywhere else. Indeed, we believe that durable disarmament and accountable governance are closely linked.


We believe that peace is linked to human rights and the will of the people.

What if the will of the people is evil?

Iraqi governments will be most likely to permanently forego the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction when the Iraqi people have the means to define and mandate alternative national priorities.

And just when and how is that going to happen? And how do you know?

If Iraqis were free to choose, it is unlikely that they would support a nuclear weapons program that wastes resources and brings them only crushing sanctions and ongoing pariah status.

U.S. citizens are free to choose and they choose to continue the program. So how do we know the Iraquis not? I don't get this.

Government that honours the will and rights of the people, and that is built on an empowered civil society, is key to the reliable rejection of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq.

Okidoke. So, how do we bring that about? Say to Saddam, "Would you mind stepping down, please. And have fair and open elections also?"

Responsible government of this kind cannot be installed by war.

No, but war may be necessary to remove obstacles to a more just regime. See, for instance, the U.S. Revolutionary War, War, WWII.

Iraqis must be authors of their own change.

Agreed. Saddam won't let them be.

Yet for many decades Western policy has undermined the pursuit of democracy and relentlessly disempowered the very people of Iraq on whom constructive change depends. The West's active military and political support for the regime of Saddam Hussein until 1990, as well as comprehensive economic sanctions since then, has left the tyrannical regime strengthened and enriched and the people demeaned and impoverished.

I agree with the first accuzation but it is irrelevant to the question of whether we should wage a war right now. We certainly can and ought to repent of our previous support. As for the second, I don't think the sanctions kept Saddam in power. I think his own will and his internal terror have. Although, as I've said, I'm against the sanctions. Keep in mind that the people would have been impoverished whether there had been war and sanctions or not. Hussein doesn't give a damn about the people.

We reject the increasing resort to military means to resolve entrenched conflicts.

What does the word "increasing" mean?

We believe the arms race in the Middle East must be ended.

What arms race?

United Nations Security Council resolutions require that Iraq verifiably destroy and end its pursuit of all weapons of mass destruction and medium to long-range ballistic missiles. But these same demands are repeatedly placed in the context of the objective of establishing the Middle East as a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. As long as some states in the region retain or pursue such weapons,

[Read: Israel. Oh, so this is Israel's fault. I should have known.]

others can be expected to attempt to obtain them as well.

This is extortion.

We believe we must put the people of Iraq first.

I agree.

Iraq has become a place of extraordinary suffering, and war would only add to it.

Perhaps in the short term. But don't you think the U.S. would go out of its way to offer economic support to a post-Saddam Iraq? I do.

Even without war, these hardships will remain the primary reality for the people of Iraq for the foreseeable future. The tragedy of Iraq has been decades in the making, and the road to genuine transformation will be slow and troubled. The only reasonable certainty they face is that the costs of war would be even worse than the current situation

To that I say baloney. Ask the Kurds.

and would delay, not hasten, the advent of sustainable change.

There is absolutely no evidence for this claim. All evidence I've seen is to the contrary. Saddam is not interested in the kind of change the bishops want.

We believe it is our collective responsibility to accompany the people of Iraq, not with more bombs and missiles, but with moral, political and material support.

Why either/or if a combination will better serve the end?

We believe it is time to act for peace, not war.

Is war ever legitimate? That is, just? If so, then its just use is in fact an element in the road to peace. If you don't think so, then you don't think war is ever legitimate. I can't go there.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Breakfast Club comment
Dylan at More Last than Star says, "I seem to remember, though, that no one really crashed through the plate-glass window; merely, that it was screamed to smithereens!" Perhaps. I saw it 18 years ago or whatever. Still, that must have been some scream. And the rest of my criticism still stands.
My deepest fear about a war with Iraq
First think of a postwar search for the WMDs. Then think of Geraldo and Al Capone's vault. This is my worst case scenario. Of course Bush is no Geraldo! Or should that read Geraldo is no Bush?
Peck a liberal?
A reader writes:
I don't know what Gregory Peck's stance is on abortion. That is to say, I don't know for sure. But sixteen years ago, he did make a sort of commercial warning of dire consequences if Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court was to have been confirmed by the Senate. I don't think the commercial ever aired in this particular market, but I did see it on the McLaughlin Group. A decent fellow, quite possibly. But his politics are likelier than not : liberalism, straight, no chaser.
Any confirmations?
The Scarlet and the Black and Pius XII
As much as I like the movie The Scarlet and the Black (doesn't Christopher Plummer make a great villian?), one thing that bothered me about it was that it bought into the "silence of Pius XII" myth. This news item further belies that myth. Gregory Peck seems to be a genuinely decent person. Does anyone know what his stance on abortion is?
Greg Popcak, dean of trivia, points out
in an e-mail that Dino is from Steubenville. Is that why the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie when you drive over the bridge from W.V.?
Why I hold my nose and vote Republican
Kevin Miller uncovers (as if it were actually veiled) the true face of the Democratic party.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The laughter of God
Students and other will sometimes say to me that God must be chuckling at our efforts to understand and talk about Him. I agree in this sense. He is chuckling in the same way I chuckle when my twenty month old son points at a truck and say "Guck!" Mine is not a laughter of condescension or scorn, but one of sheer delight at the fundamental, but imperfect success of my child at growing in understanding of reality.
Terrence Berres strikes again!
The next line in the Dean Martin song "Memories Are Made of This" is ""Add one stolen night of bliss... "

Which leads me to make an observation. The non-rock and roll popular music of the fifties was in some ways every bit as contrary to the Catholic moral vision as rock was, just not as pelvic about it. What can a stolen night of bliss be besides fornication? It is a very good song otherwise, in praise of family and even faith! The difference is that rock would eventually reject marriage as the logical end of romance. It would also reject romance as such.

Now how about some '70s nihilism. "Far away, across the field, the tolling of the iron bell...." Terrence, hold off for a few days....
Addendum on "The Breakfast Club"
And did you know that if you are high on pot you can break through a huge plate glass window without a) getting hurt, b) having to clean it up or pay for it, or c) getting into trouble.
Civil Rights holiday
My thoughts on a civil rights holiday in the U.S:
  • There ought to be a civil rights holiday in the U.S. The civil rights movement is just too important in our history not to honor those who struggled to achieve the equality that the Declaration of Independence invokes.

  • I would think MLK is the best choice if it weren't for his philandering. I think it is a good holiday so long as it isn't a day off, or isn't, as Kevin Miller says, a canonization of MLK, or isn't just an opportunity for America bashing. In fact, it ought to be a celebration of the fact that Americans have made great progress in civil rights and interracial relations despite deeply ingrained racism and precisely because of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

  • Alternatives might be the day the Immanicipation Proclamation was signed, or the 1964 civil rights act or even Lincoln's birthday.

  • Finally, and tangentially, there is just NO justification for calling Bush a racist. He seems to be the least racist person in public life these days. His commitment to genuine and just diversity seems impeccable. I don't think he's EVER been a racist. If he is against affirmative action it is not because he is a racist, even if others are against it because they are racist.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The new image
I stole the new image from the Whole Life-Pro Life web site, an ititiative that I'll be able to endorse enthusiastically. May we be released from this scurge!
Evil movies
I don't watch that many movies, but there are a few I've seen that have been immensely popular that I have simply hated because of what I saw as the evil message that they promoted. Here are some of the worst offenders.

Grease. The message here is that innocence and purity is bad. Women ought to become sluts so they can have power over men. I've always hated it when high schools have performed this musical.

The Breakfast Club (or anything by John Hughes). When this one came out I was in youth ministry. Many youth ministers praised it as an accurate reflection of high school life. I said, "ick." Message. To be cool, you have to conform and become a punk. Or at least smoke dope. Oh, and authority figures are always bad or fools. You should be like the besotted janitor. And nerds don't get the girl, even if they do smoke dope.

Dead Poets Society. Message: If you drive a wedge between a young person and the authorities (parents, school administrators, scholars) in his life and then he commits suicide, it is not your fault, but the authorities.

The Color Purple. Don't get me started.
St. Agnes, the pallium and purity
Our rector pointed out this morning at Mass that the wool for pallium that a new archbishop receives from the pope on the feast of the Chair of Peter (June 29) comes from two sheep blessed by the pope on the feast of St. Agnes. He pointed out (appropriately) that this connects the ministry of the archbishop to the sacrificial witness of the martyr.

It might also be pointed out that this makes a connection between the authority of the archbishop and the innocence and purity of children. I hope our holy prelates are getting the message. Enough said.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Hierarchy of truths and analogy of faith
Have you ever heard anyone use the idea of the hierarchy of truths to dismiss a teaching they didn't like because it is "low" on the hierarchy of truths? The hierarchy of truths is mentioned in Vatican II. “When comparing doctrines with one another, they [theologians] should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith” (UR, no. 11). As Doug Bushman points out, it is connected to the analogy of faith. The Catechism says "Be attentive to the analogy of faith. By 'analogy of faith' we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation. " (114)

The truths of the faith have the same characteristics of any analogy. First of all, although they seem to be about disperate things, they are all in some way related to each other and maintain a fundamental underlying unity. In other words, their diversity is a diversity in unity. Second, there are primary and secondary truths. Just as in an analogy there is a proper meaning and a derivative meaning of a word, so the truths of the faith are arranged in a hierarchy of truths, some being more fundamental, others being dependent on the fundamental ones. For instance, the teaching on the Immaculate Conception of Mary is dependent on the teaching of the redemptive grace of the Cross.

Some people try to use the hierarchy of truths in order to marginalize and make less important some of the more derivative truths. In other words, if some teaching of the Church is "way down" on the hierarchy of truths, they'll feel more free to ignore it or consider it expendible. This is what a lot of people do, for instance, with the teaching on contraception. "Well, its okay to ignore it. I mean, its not like I'm denying the Trinity or anything."

This is not what the hierarchy of truths means, however. The derivative truths are no less "important" than the fundamental ones. But they can only be understood in the context of the fundamental ones. For instance, one cannot reject the Immaculate Conception of Mary and remain a Catholic. It is in a way just as important a teaching.
Song lyric context #2
The first person who e-mails me with the next line following this one gets a mention and a link! You don't even need to know the name of the song or the singer. Here goes: "Take one fresh and tender kiss."
Reading books 2
Terrence Berres says in response to my post below, "Could be worse. You could be spending too much time on the internet working on a reading list." To which I say, "I've spent hours and hours writing lists of books I want to read."

But then, after looking at Terrence's list, I realize that my meeger efforts don't hold a candle to his ueberlist.