Wednesday, November 2, 2016

More on Voting

My last post might give some the impression that I think Catholics must not vote for Trump. I did not mean to give that impression. Rather, I meant to encourage consistency in those who will not vote for him. Voting for someone who advocates grave evils is not necessarily wrong. The principal of double effect applies to voting as it does to all other moral questions. If, to the best of your ability, you prudently weigh the good intended effects and unintended evil effects of different electoral results, it is fine to vote for whomever you consider to be the better candidate, even if that candidate openly supports some grave evil.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Be a Consistent Voter

It may be reasonable to not vote for Donald Trump. However, some NeverTrumpers, though their decision to not vote for Trump is fine by itself, exhibit inconsistencies in their professed philosophies of voting. 

Jonah Goldberg claims that he would vote for Trump if his one vote decided the election but otherwise his conscience prevents him from voting for the small fingered vulgarian. This leads one to ask why Goldberg has ever voted for any Republican presidential candidate. After all, his vote has never decided an election, nor could it, and there are doubtless better options than someone like Bush, McCain, or Romney. In fairness to Goldberg, it would not seem that his conscience would prevent him from voting for those former candidates as it now prevents him from voting for Trump. However, there isn’t much reason to vote for an inferior candidate if the only thing that would compel one’s vote is the knowledge that such a vote would decide the election. Goldberg could have submitted whomever he wanted as a write-in candidate and had no less effect on the outcome of those elections. 

Catholics who take a Goldbergian position should be subject to greater scrutiny because past Republican candidates have supported evils that we must oppose. Catholics are inconsistent when they endorse evil-doing Republicans in past elections but then claim that a Catholic cannot vote for Trump simply because he supports grave evils. McCain, and Romney both supported at least some level of embryonic stem-cell research, and conservative Catholic favorite Rick Santorum supported waterboarding. Even Republicans like Paul Ryan who hew closer to a moral course tend to adopt foreign policy positions that are difficult to reconcile with Just War Theory. If one wants to argue that one should never vote for a candidate who endorses any grave evils, then not many options are available. 

It is entirely acceptable and may even be best to simply not vote or vote for some obscure third party candidate rather than pick the lesser evil among candidates. However, such a position should be held consistently and not adopted only when the GOP candidate is especially distasteful.

There are certainly good reasons to not vote for Trump. Someone might reasonably think that he is not any better than Hilary. (Though it is hard to see how he is worse). A citizen who truly never votes for anyone who supports grave evils would naturally refuse to support the orange skinned torture enthusiast. A Catholic monarchist who doesn’t want to encourage all this democracy nonsense might never vote for anyone as a general principal. It may be an excellent idea to not vote for Trump, but if you decide to join the NeverTrumpers, be sure that your reasons for doing so are rational and consistent. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Nicolas Tournier, 17th Cent.

I have been trying to come up with something profound to say about Good Friday but my failure to do so gave me an idea about what to write. The crucifixion is such a deep and solemn mystery it is difficult to contemplate. We cannot fathom the weight of sin that Christ bore nor can we truly appreciate the glory of salvation. Much can be said and has been said about the Crucifixion, but all falls short. The best we can do is kneel at the foot of the cross in adoration.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Some Guy Named Jorge

The Holy Father deserves our respect, but not our total agreement on all matters. That shouldn't be a controversial statement but it would seem like it is considering all of the popesplainers out there. My reluctance to deal with this issue is one of the reasons for my lack of blogging, but I feel like I have to say something. Come on people. You don't have to think that Pope Francis is a secret freemason or an anti-pope or whatever to recognize that some of his statements are at best silly and at worst could lead people into error.

The next time the Holy Father makes some pronouncement, do the following. First, imagine that it isn't the bishop of Rome speaking, but just some Argentinian guy named Jorge. Consider the statement, then accept it or reject it. Then, remember that Jorge Bergolio is in fact Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ; maintain a respectful attitude toward his office, and reconsider your previous assessment of his statement in light of the limited charism of that office. I suggest this two part approach because it should prevent the person using it from constructing a nice safe National Catholic Register approved conclusion to which he can then fit the facts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

De Wod Come fa be a Man

The Gullah people of Georgia have a unique creole language. Perhaps the most famous Gullah speaker is Justice Clarence Thomas, who grew up speaking Gullah and learned standard English as a second language. 

The Bible has been translated into the Gullah dialect. Check out this Christmas appropriate reading from the Gospel of John in Gullah while following along with the Revised Standard Version:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Friday, May 29, 2015

For a War Memorial

Traveling and starting a new job prevented me from marking Memorial Day on the blog. Below is my belated contribution

For a War Memorial
by G.K. Chesterton

(Suggested Inscription probably not selected by the Committee.)

The hucksters haggle in the mart
The cars and carts go by;
Senates and schools go droning on;
For dead things cannot die.

A storm stooped on the place of tombs
With bolts to blast and rive;
But these be names of many men
The lightning found alive.

If usurers rule and rights decay
And visions view once more
Great Carthage like a golden shell
Gape hollow on the shore,

Still to the last of crumbling time
Upon this stone be read
How many men of England died
To prove they were not dead.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Wanna Be in the Cavalry

When my dad was in the Army he started as an infantryman and ended up as a tank commander. He said he was tired of walking.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Surrender at Appomattox

Surrender at Appomattox by Tom Lovell

Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia 150 years ago today. The terms of the surrender were drafted by Gen. Ely S. Parker, seen second from right in the painting above. Parker, a Seneca Indian and an attorney, served as an adjunct on General Grant's staff. The terms were those contained in this letter from the surrender correspondence between Grant and Lee:

April 9, 1865
General R. E. LEE:
In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by U. S. authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Saxon Easter

The Heliand was a 9th Century Saxon language poem retelling the Gospel narrative in a Germanic context. The following is from the Resurrection narrative in the Heliand as translated into English prose by G. Ronald Murphy S.J.
Warriors were picked from the Jewish battle-group for the guard. They set off with their weapons and went to the grave where they were to guard the grave of God's Son. The holy day of the Jews had now passed. The warriors sat on top of the grave on their watch during the dark starlit night. They waited under their shields until bright day came to mankind all over the middle world, bringing light to people.
It was not long then until: there was the spirit coming by God's power, by the holy breath, going under the hard stone to the corpse! Light was at that moment opened up, for the good of the sons of men; the many bolts on the doors of Hel (Hell) were unlocked; the road from this world up to heaven was built! Brilliantly radiating, God's Peace-Child rose up! He went about, wherever He pleased, in such a way that the guards, tough soldiers, were not at all aware of when He got up from death and arose from His rest.
Fr. Murphy's commentary points out a couple of interesting inculturation elements in this account. The grave is described as dug into the ground and covered by a stone upon which the guards sat. This style of grave is similar to the mound type burials familiar to the Saxons. Light emanating from the tomb creates a road to heaven. This is an allusion to the bifrost, the shimmering bridge that allowed the Germanic gods to travel between Earth and Asgard.

I like to read the Heliand and imagine Saxon warriors hearing its recitation in their mead halls. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt.

Happy Easter!
Christus Resurrexit!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'm too tired/lazy to write a proper St. Patrick's Day post right now, but I encourage you to check out the excellent St. Patrick's Day linkfest at Lamentably Sane.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Law School at Notre Dame

I haven't been blogging much since I entered law school. These have been some of the highlights of my experience at Notre Dame.

The class of 2017 has around 200 students which is somewhat larger than many of us expected, but is certainly not too large. Our mandatory 1L classes fill up the lecture rooms but the students don't feel anonymous. It's actually rather nice to have a full classroom because it decreases the chances that any individual will get cold called by the professor.

The law school experience is quite different undergrad. The main classes on legal doctrine require only reading casebooks and taking notes during lectures before one final at the end of the semester graded on a curve. In undergrad, there were many assignments, tests, and quizzes throughout the semester, and finals were often not especially challenging nor did they form the basis for a student's entire grade. Law school is less stressful during the bulk of the semester but gets intense at the end as finals approach.

Law students are not however entirely free from assignments throughout the semester. Our first semester we were required to take a one credit Legal Research class and a two credit Legal Writing class. The former required easy but somewhat tedious weekly quizzes and the latter included a number of writing assignments including an Office Memo, and a Motion for Summary Judgement. The legal writing assignments were good confidence boosters. It is nice to see a real working document of the kind that we will be producing in our legal careers with your own name on it.

Our second semester was expected to be easier than the first, but a mere half-semester one credit class made it somewhat more stressful. For Legal Writing Part II, students team up with a partner to write an appellate brief and present an oral argument before a panel of judges. We finished last week. The research and writing took a while, but it was an important skill building exercise and was a cause for camaraderie as everyone worked through it together.

Law students are expected to plan for their future career from the first semester. Students are told that they should already have a good idea of the geographical location they would like to practice, if not the specific practice area. We send out applications for summer jobs from Christmas break through April, and hope to gain valuable work experience and contacts over the summer. There is less pressure to get the perfect job in our first summer than in our second. Law students hope to get their first real post-graduation job out of their 2L summer job.

The atmosphere is the law school is congenial. Students are not overly competitive and are happy to help each other. A feeling of fellowship extends beyond the law school, and many law students are enthusiastic participants in the broader university life. Sports is one unifying factor, and the law school is always well represented in the graduate student section at home football games. Going to law school at Notre Dame, one feels a sense of history, a connection to people such as Fr. Sorin and his band of Holy Cross priests who founded the university, and Knute Rockne the greatest football coach in history. A sense of gratitude to those who came before in the university's long history is shared by students and faculty alike.

Spiritual life is fairly strong at the law school. Daily masses at the law school chapel are well attended and the chapel is packed for Sunday mass. The mass is said reverently by Holy Cross priests who are often excellent homilists. The law school is better at maintaining a Catholic identity than much of the rest of Notre Dame, and law professors are often seen at mass with students. The faculty includes important defenders of Catholic life in the public sphere, most notably Gerard Bradley. If you have ever read an article about the Notre Dame administration making its latest accommodation to the enemies of the Faith, you have probably read professor Bradley quoted as the voice of opposition.

For all its faults, Notre Dame is a great place. The campus is beautiful, and a physical testament to the faith and success of American Catholics. I enjoy walking past the famous "Touchdown Jesus" mural everyday on my way to class and seeing the stained glass windows that mark the many chapels around campus.  At night, lights are shined on the golden dome of the administration building, and it is comforting to see the golden statute of Our Lady watching over campus. It is bittersweet to behold such great symbols of faith in a campus that continues to jettison its Catholic identity, but it inspires hope for the success of outposts of orthodoxy such as the Law School.

Notre Dame Ora Pro Nobis!

Go Irish!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sports Fans and Civilization

Lots of hipsterish and nerdy types like to make fun of sports fans for their devotion to teams that don't seem to have much real relation to the fans' lives.  Passion for any particular team seems arbitrary and silly to these critics.  For example, here is an ironic T-Shirt graphic from The Onion:

To be fair, this is kinda funny.

Those who mock sports enthusiasts for their loyalty may think they are simply having a bit of harmless fun at the expense of some proles.  Not so.  By condemning communities for their arbitrary nature, the ironists are striking at the heart of human civilization.  Just about every social arrangement that exists is arbitrary to one degree or another.  Even a strong family, seemingly a natural result of reproduction, involves many traditions and arrangements that do not obviously result from any "natural" process.  In the 18th Century, there were those who argued against organized religion on the grounds that it was an arbitrary institution.  A young Edmund Burke satirized the anti-religious in A Vindication of Natural Society, which carried the anti-arbitrariness argument to its natural conclusions and ended up condemning the entire government and society of England.  Sometimes people need to simply root for their king, their church, or their football team. 

You don't have to like sports.  You do however have to accept that for people to form communities around those who participate in athletics is good, even if it the formation of such communities is rather arbitrary.  Sports are  fundamentally good activities, as is the consumption of beer and guacamole while watching them.

Enjoy the Super Bowl!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Stille Nacht

100 years ago today, a truce between British and German troops on the Western Front briefly interrupted the butchery of the First World War.  The men celebrated together the Incarnation by which God became man for the salvation of those on both sides of no-man's-land.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pvt. Button

On Veterans Day we remember those who have served in our country's military.  One man I want to especially honor risked his life for his family and country though he never saw the enemy.  My ancestor, Montgomery Button, served as private in the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican-American War.  The Mormon Battalion was the only officially religious unit in the history of the US military.  It was formed by Mormons who wished to prove their loyalty to their country while pioneering on the Western frontier.  From the website of the Mormon Battalion Association:
In July 1846 under the authority of U.S. Army Captain James Allen,  and with the encouragement of Mormon leader Brigham Young, the Mormon Battalion was mustered in at Council Bluffs, Iowa Territory.  Allen was to take command of the unit as Lt. Colonel and appoint his staff. By the 16th of that month, over 500 men had enlisted in the Mormon Battalion.  The Mormon Battalion left Council Bluffs to begin the first leg of its historic journey to the traditional marching tune of American soldiers, "The Girl I left Behind Me."
Their orders were outlined in the following Letter of Instructions dated June 3, 1846 from William Learned Marcy (Below), Secretary of War to Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny, commanding the United States forces at Fort Leavenworth:
“... It has been decided by the President to be of the greatest importance, in the pending war with Mexico, to take early possession of Upper California. An expedition, with that view, is hereby ordered, and you are designated to command it." .... "It is known that a large body of Mormon emigrants are enroute to California, for the purpose of settling in that country. You are desired to use all proper means to have a good understanding with them, to the end that the United States may have their cooperation in taking possession of and holding that country. It has been suggested here, that many of these Mormons would willingly enter into the service of the United States, and aid us in our expedition against California. You are hereby authorized to muster into service such as can be induced to volunteer, not, however to a number exceeding one-third of your entire force. Should they enter the service, they will be paid as other volunteers, and you can allow them to designate, as far as it can properly be done, the persons to act as their officers. It is understood that a considerable number of American citizens are now settled on the Sacramento River, near Sutter's establishment, called Nueva Helvetica .....”
Church and military leadership recruited for days to gather the necessary enlisted personnel.  Each individual, like so many before and after them, had to make a conscious decision to enter service for a war they likely misunderstood.  These individuals prayed for insight and strength in their decision to serve a government, which until now, had shunned and mistreated them.
The makeup of the command was unlike any other body of volunteers ever to serve into the U.S. Army.  Age requirements of 18 to 45, first specified by Lieutenant Colonel Allen, were shattered by a number of the volunteers.  The oldest soldier was 67 year old Samuel Gould.  The youngest recruit was Alfred Higgins, barely 14.  Also accompanying the battalion were approximately thirty-three women, twenty of whom served as laundresses, and fifty-one children.  In all, about six hundred individuals started the journey to Fort Leavenworth.
The battalion marched from Council Bluffs on July 20, 1846, arriving on August 1, 1846 at Fort Leavenworth, where they were outfitted for their trek to Santa Fe. Battalion members drew their arms and equipment, including a clothing allowance of forty-two dollars each.  Battalion members took cash in lieu of uniforms, using the money to support their families and their church's move west. Consequently, they did not wear uniforms.
The march from Fort Leavenworth was delayed by the sudden illness of Lt. Colonel Allen; Capt. Jefferson Hunt (right) was instructed to begin the march to Santa Fe and received word en route that Colonel Allen was dead. Allen's death caused confusion regarding who should lead the battalion to Santa Fe. Lieutenant Andrew Jackson Smith was chosen the commanding officer by the vote of the regular army battalion officers. The volunteer officers and enlisted men were not consulted and this caused some confusion during the leadership transition.
Smith  and his accompanying surgeon, Dr. George B. Sanderson, have been described in Battalion member's journals as the "heaviest burdens" of the Battalion. Smith had a dictatorial leadership style and Dr. Sanderson's remedy for every ailment was a large dose of calomel or arsenic. The men soon learned that the supposed cure was invariably worse than the disease. The men often spewed out the medication when out of the doctor's sight.  Excessive heat, lack of food, and forced long-distance marches were additional plagues the unit suffered on its way to Santa Fe.
The Battalion arrived in the captured Mexican territory of New Mexico in October of 1846, and established camp in Santa Fe.  The Mormons then came under the command of Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke, who would later become a noted cavalry tactician and the father in law of J.E.B. Stuart.  While there, the Mormons met the Western adventurer, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whose mother Sacagawea had brought him on the Lewis and Clark expedition when he was a baby.  Jean Baptiste joined the Mormon Battalion as a scout and would guide it to California.

Cooke wished to bring only fighting men on the march to California, so he created Company D, a "sick detachment" that would consist of soldiers who were ill or had brought their families with them.  Company D was ordered to march into Colorado and make camp at Pueblo.  Private Montgomery Button left Santa Fe with Company D with his wife Mary and his children James, Louisa, Samuel, and Jutson.  Jutson Button is my great-great-great-great-grandfather.  Company D traveled to Pueblo where they established a camp and braved the Rocky Mountain winter.  In May 1847, the Mormons in Pueblo left to join Brigham Young in Salt Lake where they were discharged from the army. (I learned about Company D from this site and this one)

Montgomery Button never encountered Mexican troops, but like many pioneers, he and his family endured the great hardships of the Western trails, and Montgomery did so while bearing arms in the service of his country.  As it happens, my ancestor is not the only Pvt. Button to serve in Colorado.  Ft. Carson sits less than an hour north of the old Mormon camp at Pueblo, where it serves as a base for the 4th Infantry Division.  My younger brother Nathaniel, who joined the army last summer, serves in the 4th Infantry.  Like his ancestor Montgomery, my brother defends flag and family.  I honor them both this Veterans Day.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cruz Confusion

Credit: Jeff Malet,
Ted Cruz recently said something so outrageously stupid and unjust that I felt the need to emerge from my law school exile and write a post about it.  As many of you may know, Cruz recently gave a speech to "In Defense of Christians," a Middle Eastern Christian organization, but left before finishing because some in the crowd booed in response to his assertion that "Christians have no greater ally than Israel."  Offended by the heckling, Cruz said "“If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews then I will not stand with you" and then left the stage.

Ted Cruz is either a cynical manipulator or a dangerously uninformed man.  Perhaps he is aware of the fact that Middle Eastern Christians don't tend to like Israel very much and wanted to be booed; it was a stunt meant to impress the more illiterate sections of his evangelical base.  If this is the case, he used Mid-East Christians in an immoral fashion for personal gain, and should not be trusted with power.  Alternatively, he really could have no idea that Mid-East Christians tend to identify more with their Muslim neighbors than with Israeli Jews, and that they have good reason for doing so.  Perhaps he really thinks that the people booing him were just a bunch of anti-Semitic lunatics who somehow got into a Christian event.  If so, he is an ignoramus who has no business filling any office that deals with foreign policy. 

If Cruz is merely ignorant, then he needs to be informed of an important truth.  Israel is not the greatest ally of Christians in the Middle East.  In the large majority of cases, the people whom Christians in that region rely on for support are Muslim.  In Kurdistan, Muslim Kurdish troops die to protect Chaldean Christians from the Islamic State.  In Jordan, Christians live in peace with their Muslim neighbors and can rely on the friendship and protection of King Abdullah II, one of the greatest of contemporary monarchs.  In Egypt, where Muslim Brotherhood supporters attack Coptic Christians, Muslims have on multiple occasions stood in protective rings around Coptic churches to defend them.  In Gaza, Christian and Muslim Palestinians pull each other out the rubble left by Israeli bombs, and curse the Jewish state together for what they perceive to be unjust aggression.

Mid-East Christians tend to dislike Israel.  This animosity results from a number of factors.  Perhaps most important is the simple desire to fit in with their Muslim neighbors.  Promoting secular nationalism side by side with Muslims makes Christians part of the political world around them and makes allies out of Muslims who could potentially be enemies.  The fact that Mid-East Christians would react negatively to Cruz's praise of Israel is entirely understandable.

Christian opposition to Israel may be wrong to one degree or another, but it doesn't really matter.  Cruz's statement that he would not stand with Christians unless they stood with Israel is disgusting.  Unless they are doing something truly monstrous like massacring Albanians, we must stand with our fellow Christians around the world, even if we disagree with them on minor points.  You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family.  Israeli Jews may be our friends, but Middle-Eastern Christians are our family, and we owe it to them to consider their problems and positions with the greatest of charity, even if we disagree.  If Ted Cruz wishes to act in a truly Christian manner, he needs to apologize to the Christians he insulted and instead of lecturing them about the ways of the world, he should shut up and listen to Mid-East Christians explain things to him.