Monday, February 28, 2011

Arrested Spiritual Development

Msgr. Charles Pope writes,
Consider a young adult, say 25, who had gone on to physical maturity, and even earned a college degree. Perhaps he has just landed a job in a cutting edge field and is both technically smart and talented. But, despite being a highly trained expert in his secular field, his spiritual development is arrested and he has progressed little since second grade. In some ways he has even gone backward since, in second grade, he still knew his Act of Contrition and the Hail Mary.

Now, though thank God, he still goes to Mass, he is incapable of expressing much of anything about his faith. He knows there is a God and has heard about Jesus but does not know for sure if Jesus is God, he thinks so but he’s not sure. He is aware of the Bible’s existence but cannot name all four Gospels and would not even be sure exactly where to find them in the book. He’d eventually find them but it would take a lot of time.  Names like Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, Peter, Judas, et al., sound familiar to him,  but he cannot tell you much about them, except that they are in the Bible. He has heard the word sacrament but cannot give an example of one and is not sure he’s received them or if that is just something priests and nuns get.  Every now and then he thinks to pray but he really does not know what to say or how to do it. Sometimes he remembers a prayer from Mass, but when he tries to say it, he gets stuck since there aren’t other people around him saying it and helping him along. He DOES know the Our Father though! We have to give him that.
Read the rest here.

My generation has had advantages in terms of formation that our parents lacked.  However, I fear that most young Catholics and indeed most Catholics in this country are in a state of arrested spiritual development.

"Cool" Youth Ministers

My buddy Sean is not a fan of Christian youth leaders who try to be cool.  He writes,
“I don’t know, man, like I have a lot of trouble sometimes, just trying to reach God, and keeping all of these temptations out of my head…”

“Oh, that’s great, man. Praise God, you know? He’s given us so much in this life…”

“Man, today was amazing. God was just helping me out, and it was so great, and He just gave me a great day….”
Ever heard a teenager (or a youth minister) say something like that? I tried to replicate it, but you have to hear it. It’s as if the speaker wants to sound like a reformed Crip coming into Christ.
Read the rest here.

Sean's post reminds me of this video.  Watch, cringe, and enjoy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The White Cockade

Jed Marum based this song on an old Gaelic poem about the last Jacobite uprising.  The song calls on Irishman to fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie and restore Catholicism in England.  The camerawork on the video is a little weird but it's a great song.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Don't get the wrong idea from my previous post on the Live Action controversy.  I think highly of Lila Rose and her associates and while I find their methods to be questionable, I believe they have the best of intentions.  There is legitimate disagreement among pro-lifers as to the morality of the video stings and a lot of people have expressed that disagreement over the last couple of weeks.  Now we need to unite and use the videos to fight the Culture of Death.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Can You Lie To Fight Evil?

Apologies for the delay in posting.  A cold knocked me out recently and I have devoted my energy to schoolwork or at least thinking about doing schoolwork, thus neglecting the blog.

The LiveAction undercover videos have sparked a debate among pro-lifers over the morality, or rather the immorality, of lying.  Pretty much every Catholic blogger in the Federation of Planets except for me have weighed in on the issue.  It's time for me to submit my two cents of moral theology and examine the morality of lying for a good cause.

First, the facts.  Lila Rose and another Live Action activist posed as a pimp and a prostitute at several Planned Parenthood clinics.  While hidden cameras recorded their conversations, the "pimp" asked an employee at each clinic about services for underage sex slaves.  The PP employees responded positively to the inquires and gave instructions on skirting the law and avoiding government oversight.
In the light of Church teaching on lying, it would seem that Lila Rose and Co. may have sinned by deceiving Planned Parenthood.  The Catechism declares, "By its very nature, lying is to be condemned."  The CCC defines a lie as "speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving."  Does this mean that Live Action was wrong to deceive Planned Parenthood?  Is it always wrong to lie, even to defend innocents?  Thoughtful Catholics have tried to answer these questions and have come to different conclusions.  I will critique several of their arguments and then give you my thoughts on the morality of lying.

I am only producing one anti-Live Action argument because they are all fairly similar, while there is more diversity among the Live Action supporters.  Mark Shea writes,
Believe me.  I’d love to find a loophole here because my loathing for PP is intense.  But, well, I can’t get around the fact that what I’m desperately looking for is a loophole in much the same way that every other clever person who wants to dodge the bleedin’ obvious meaning of clear language does whenever they want to do something they know perfectly well is wrong.  So I’m forced, even in the attempt to bend language out of all recognizable meaning, back to the fact that I know what “lying” means, I know what the Church says, and I know this is lying for a good end, which is as wrong here as it is when faking up a miracle to save somebody’s soul.
It's hard to argue with Mark's literal interpretation and application of Church teaching, though many have tried, some more successfully than others.
On the CatholicVote website, Joseph Bottum writes a defense of Live Action's methods.
But as long as wolves exist, as long as the world remains fallen, we are also called to be as wise as serpents, even while we strive to be as harmless as doves. We are called to govern a world that is imperfect, and thus, for example, there will be war. The canons of just-war theory exist, in fact, to insure that we wage such war for good and sufficient reasons in the defense of the weak and the innocent.
Now, in the realm of naval warfare, there are recognized tricks—each a ruse de guerre that the international laws of war do not condemn. Sailing under false colors, prior to engaging in battle, for example.
Bottum is right about the laws of naval warfare but wrong about their application.  It is true that a ship can sail under false colors during time of war as long as the crew raises their true flag before engaging in combat.  However, this is not at all analogous to the  Live Action scenario.  The laws of war are acknowledged by both sides.  Naval forces recognize that a ship's flag conveys the probable or possible nationality of a vessel but not necessarily its true one.  There is no undercover video sting code of conduct that pro-lifers and abortionists both understand and assent too.  Besides, Lila Rose is not a battleship and Live Action is not at war with Planned Parenthood.

Peter Kreeft's argument in favor of Live Action is also less than compelling.
When [my students] are confronted by a moral legalist like Kant who holds that all lying is morally wrong, they instinctively sense that he is wrong, though they cannot explain why. 
Similarly, when we discuss Kant and the issue of lying, most of my students, even the moral absolutists, are quite certain that the Dutchmen were not wrong to deliberately deceive the Nazis about the locations of the Jews they had promised to hide. They do not know whether this is an example of lying or not. But they know that if it is, than lying is not always wrong, and if lying is always wrong, then this is not lying. Because they know, without any ifs or ands or buts, that such Dutch deception is good, not evil.
The core of Kreeft's argument is one based on moral intuition.  Decent people feel that it is right to lie in some cases, therefore it must be right to lie in some cases.  I love Peter Kreeft but I have to reject his reasoning here.  In his own works such as The Unaborted Socrates, Kreeft rejects the fallacy of appeal to popular feelings.  Just because most pro-lifers support Live Action's deception, and nearly every human being in the world supports the Dutchmen's, that doesn't prove anything.  I will come back later to the Jew hiding analogy.

Kreeft advances a side argument that I find more appealing.
The Pharisees could put up strong arguments for a literalism and legalism about the Sabbath and against Jesus’ apparent disregard for it. I think we should have the same reaction to the critics of Live Action [as we do to the Pharisees.]    
The idea that Live Action's critics are being overly legalistic is worth considering.  In the technical sense, Jesus did violate the Law of Moses on several occasions.  However, Jesus is God and in a much better position to judge the proper application of divine law than we are.  Besides, by "breaking" the Law, Christ was pointing to deeper theological truths that had been forgotten by the legalistic Pharisees.  That's not the same as declaring that the law of God only applies when we really feel like it should.  Also, the Magisterium is infallible, and the Sanhedrin was not.  That being said, I do find the anti-legalism argument intriguing, though not entirely convincing.

Like Kreeft, Zmirak accuses Live Action's critics of Pharisaical legalism.
When we speak to each other, conveying accurate information back and forth is one legitimate goal, but it is neither exhaustive nor absolute. When a wife asks her husband, "Do you think I look fat?" she isn't always even asking for a literal answer to her question. What she wants to know is often, "Do you still love me? Am I still attractive?" A puritanical, legalistic answer to such a question is often an act of cruelty, masked by self-righteous "honesty."

If we viewed information as a good, one that must be traded fairly like any other, we would see that a question asked by someone with no right to the truth -- like a Nazi murderer, or a professional abortionist -- is like a demand made at gunpoint by a robber.
He justifies "lying" on the basis of mental reservation and right to the truth.  Telling your overweight wife that she doesn't look fat would be an example of a mental reservation.  That is, you only express part of the truth, or speak the truth in an ambiguous way while you keep your full opinion or information mentally reserved.  Of course, the husband's perception of his wife's attractiveness is more subjective than the dichotomy of being a pimp and a hooker or pretending to be a pimp and a hooker.  The mental reservation argument is one well worth considering and I will come back to it in a bit.

When Zmirak writes about the right to the truth, he implies that a lie is only told to someone who has a right to the truth, and that the Planned Parenthood employees do not have that right.  There is actually some limited Magisterial support for his first assertion.  The 1994 edition of the CCC defined lying as "To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth."  This sentence was changed for the second edition of the catechism to the version previously quoted.  Even if you accept the definition of lying contained in the first edition of the CCC, Zmirak's assertion that abortionists do not have the right to the truth because they are equivalent to an armed robber is rather dubious.  Live Action initiated contact with Planned Parenthood of their own volition and their actions produced no immediate live-saving results, a situation hardly analogous to a man with a gun to his head.

My opinion about the morality of deception has been informed by several writers, including those referenced here.  However, not content to simply listen to those that are wiser, I have come up with my own particular theory.

First, it is important to make the distinction between a deception and a lie.  All lies are deceptions but not all deceptions are lies.  The Church teaches that actual lies are always wrong.  However, there are morally licit deceptions such as Mr. Bottum's false flags, that are not technically lies but could be referred to as such using the colloquial use of the word "lie."  This serves to confuse thing quite a bit.  Suffice it to say, a hypothetical "good lie" is not, indeed cannot be, a lie as defined and condemned by Church teaching.

I find myself breaking up the issue of lying for a good cause into two moral quandaries, the Live Action stings and the Gestapo at the door.  Each scenario has its own set of circumstances and choices.  I will try to apply Church teaching to both situations and see what, if any deception can be justified in either case.

Like Zmirak, I believe that the two strongest arguments in favor of "lying for good," are mental reservation, and right to the truth.  A distinction should be made between strict and general mental reservations.  In the case of a strict mental reservation, someone tacks on silent thoughts to their own speech.  An example of a strict mental reservation is someone saying that he hasn't seen someone when he really means that he hasn't seen that person in the last 5 minutes.  In the case of a broad mental reservation, someone says something that is ambiguous though not untruthful, in order to mislead someone.  St. Anthanasius of Alexandria provides an example of broad mental reservation.  St. Anthanasius was fleeing from imperial troops.  When the soldiers caught up with him he hid himself.  His companions told the soldiers that Anthanasius was "close to you."  The soldiers continued on, thinking that they were on the right track.  Strict mental reservation was condemned by Pope Innocent XI in 1679.  Broad mental reservation has not been condemned and is considered legitimate by Catholic theologians.

It would not seem that the Live Action activists were engaging in broad mental reservation by claiming to have underage sex slaves.  I don't detect any ambiguity in the story they told the Planned Parenthood workers.  If there was mental reservation it was strict, not broad.  Mentally adding the word "hypothetically," to a false statement is the same as simply saying the false statement.  I really don't think that the sting videos can be justified based on mental reservation.

Let's modify the Gestapo scenario a bit.  If the Nazis suspected that you were hiding Jews they would probably search your house and not bother asking you about it.  To make the scenario more realistic, lets say you happen to know where some Jews are hiding and a Nazi asks you if there are any Jews on your street.  You say "there are no Jews living on this street," with the mental reservation that the Jews are not technically living on the street, but in your neighbor's attic.  This sounds like a broad mental reservation to me.  But what if you weren't clever enough to think of something like that and simply said no?  Perhaps if you consider the Nazi's real question to be "will you help me murder some Jews by pointing out their location?" then a simple "no" might really mean "no I will not help you kill Jews, you Nazi bastard."  Is this a strict or broad mental reservation?  I honestly don't know.

Is it lying to tell a falsehood to someone who does not have the right to the truth?  It depends on which Catechism you consult.  Obviously, the newer edition is more authoritative and the Vatican must have modified the definition of lying for a reason.  However, the fact that the passage was changed without necessarily rejecting the essence of the previous version does create some ambiguity.  If the Pope released an encyclical tomorrow that defined lying the way that the first edition of the CCC did, everyone would accept that definition.  It would develop, rather than contradict, the teaching found in the current edition of the CCC.  The question of exactly how ambiguous the definition of lying is would be better answered by a canon lawyer than by myself.  Still, I cannot say with any certainty that the first edition definition of lying is not true.

If it is moral to "lie" to someone who does not have the right to the truth, are the actions of Lila Rose and her associate moral?  Hard to say.  On the one hand, the Planned Parenthood employees are engaged in the business of murdering babies.  This would seem to put their right to the truth in doubt.  On the other hand, the Live Action activists were not doing any immediate good by lying, and it could be argued that the Planned Parenthood workers have the right to know the identities of the people in their evil but legally sanctioned business.  Do people have the right to the truth in regards to the identity of an undercover police officer, and if so do they also forfeit that right to citizen investigators like Lila Rose?  I can't say for certain, but I would be very cautious about deciding who has the right to the truth.

If the "right to the truth" definition of lying is valid, then it is certainly moral to "lie" to the Gestapo when they ask if there are any Jews around.  The Nazis have no right to take the life of the Jews, and thus no right to the knowledge of their location.  The moral ambiguity in this case arises from the uncertainty about the true definition of lying.

Neither the Live Action nor the Gestapo scenarios can be resolved with absolute moral certainty, at least not by this blogger.  However, it is still possible to make some prudential judgments.  There are other, less morally questionable ways to fight Planned Parenthood than undercover video stings.  In this case, I would advise erring on the side of truth.  However, when the Gestapo question you, there is innocent life in immediate danger.  When the Nazis come knocking, I would be happy to tell a fib and err on the side of life.  Of course, self-defense is also an option.  If you want to be as absolutely truthful as possible, cheerfully tell the Nazi where the Jews are, then shoot him in the head.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Getting Rid of Extraordinary Ministers

Fr. Rick Heilman writes,
H/T: Fr. Z
This past weekend I made one of those decisions in my two parishes that was very difficult, only in the sense that my own silly pride seems forever inclined to seek the approval of others. It was one of those decisions that I could’ve waited on … to see if many other parishes were doing this first, but that stupid “integrity” thing wouldn’t let me wait for that.
This weekend we made the move to refrain from the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  Thanks to this internet age in  which we live, the appropriate teaching on this was hard to escape. Up to now, I hid behind my “ignorance”, but once I received the truth, the culpability of my dissent became more grave. I could no longer cower behind my lack of knowledge. My conscience got the better of me as I realized my dissent would now be direct. 
In my larger parish, with the church about 90-95% full, it took only 8 minutes 45 seconds for me to give everyone Communion (also, like the Holy Father, I place a kneeler in front of me to give our people the option of kneeling or standing). There just isn’t a case for “unduly prolonged” Communion.
Oh, how I wanted to hang out in my ignorance.  Besides, look what happened to some of the priests who did this? (here) … I mean c’mon … national news? But, they inspired me to be join our Holy Father’s vanguard in reeling in some of the abuses which have crept into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Of course, I spent the weekend giving our people the teaching (with love) on this, and the response (so far) has been anything from, “Thank you, SO MUCH, father … we have been waiting for years for this” to “I’m leaving the parish.”
There are wonderful teachings out there in “Google Land,” but this one cuts to the chase pretty well (here).
I’ll humbly take your prayers that I remain strong and full of God’s love and patience as I move from the easy “wait and see” position to the bloody front lines on this issue.
God bless Fr. Heilman!  It's too bad that his actions are a strange exception to the general rule.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

There's a Goat Stuck to My Bumper

Jimmy Akin writes:
This was done by a friend of mine based on lyrics written by his 9-year old niece when she was asked to pen a song about a goat.
 Someone should get Kelsea and her uncle a record contract pronto!

Teen Pregnancy and the Death of the American Family

Gerry Garibaldi writes:
Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy. This year, all of my favorite girls are pregnant, four in all, future unwed mothers every one. There will be no innovation in this quarter, no race to the top. Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch.
Read Garibaldi's essay "Nobody Gets Married Any More Mister"
H/T: Burke to Kirk

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fun With Alliteration

Some words to describe the Michael Moores of the world, who pontificate on the evils of capitalism out of their multimillion dollar mansions:
(The first two I have read elsewhere.  The rest can be blamed on me.)

MasterCard Marxists

Limousine Leftists

Rolex Reds

Caviar Commies

Penthouse Progressives

Silver Spoon Socialists

Truffle Trotskyites

Bourgeoisie Bolsheviks

If you think of any more, post them in the comments!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mark Steyn on Gosnell and Moral Decline

Mark Steyn writes:
This is a remarkable moment in American life: A man is killing actual living, gurgling, bouncing babies on an industrial scale - and it barely makes the papers. Had he plunged his scissors into the spinal cord of a Democrat politician in Arizona, then The New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC and everyone else would be linking it to Sarah Palin's uncivil call for dramatic cuts in government spending. But "Doctor" Kermit Gosnell's mound of corpses is apparently entirely unconnected to the broader culture.
Why? Well, because it's all about a woman's "right to choose".
Read the rest here.  (Warning: Disturbing Content)

H/T: Pundit & Pundette

Joe Biden: France Will Own Your Kids

Political Punch reports:
H/T: Weasel Zippers

In support of President Obama’s bid to “win the future,” America’s most famous Amtrak rider, Vice President Joe Biden, issued a stern warning about U.S. competitiveness in the high-speed rail game: “If we don’t get a grip, folks, they’ll not only be teaching us, they’re gonna own our kids.”
The “they” Biden is talking about are all the other countries in the world who are developing or expanding high-speed rail systems, including China, Japan, Spain and France.
Of these countries, it could be argued that China will own us because the U.S. Treasury owes it a lot of money, but not because of trains.  France will own our kids?  Seriously?  If the Obama administration knows what's good for it, it will keep the cameras away from crazy uncle Joe.

Feast of St. Scholastica

St. Scholastica is the co-patroness of my school, Benedictine College.  St. Scholastica pray for us!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Miraculous Healing Sign?


Sex in Heaven? Who Cares?

When modern theologians discuss heaven, they often speculate about the existence or nonexistence of sex there.  On the Catholic Answers forum, I read someone declare that if there is no sex in heaven then few people would want to go to there.  Honestly, I couldn't care less about conjugal relations in the afterlife.

Now I cannot speak from experience.  Between obedience to Church teaching and a lack of social skills, I have managed  to remain celibate my entire life.  But I do know that the Beatific Vision and the New Jerusalem are going to be way better than the best... um.... marital experiences.

That's not to say that I don't have an opinion on the subject.  It seems pretty clear to me that there will be no sex in heaven.  In Luke's Gospel Jesus says, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels."  If marriage does not exist it follows that the marriage act won't either.  Not that it should matter to us.  We should look to heaven with joyful hope, not anxiety about what it is like.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More Linkage

I am busy/lazy at the moment so I shall direct you to writers who have a better grasp of comma rules:

Newsbusters reports on a hilariously bad piece by Erin Burnett about the "Confession App."

In case you haven't seen the recent LiveAction videos, Is Anybody There has a great post that combines some of the undercover videos and media interviews with Lila Rose.

Left Footer writes a poignant account of working with the London homeless.

CMR on ObamaCare and the Commerce Clause.

Acts of the Apostasy mercilessly dissects a NCR editorial that denies the existence of Hell.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In Search of the Tree Octopus

The Daily Mail reports:
H/T: AotA
When it comes to the Internet, it seems kids will believe anything.
But it was thought that something as absurd as an octopus that lives in a tree might be enough to cast some doubts in their minds - it wasn't.
A creature concocted in a research 'laboratory' has exposed shocking Internet illiteracy among students, with a leading expert warning it could mean a learning crisis in schools.
Donald Leu, a researcher from the University of Connecticut, conducted a study among the Facebook generation of students - deemed 'digital natives' due to their online savviness - to try to prove they will believe anything they read on the internet.
He directed students to the website, where they found details about the fabricated endangered Pacific Northwest tree octopus in order to test students’ ability to evaluate information they find online.
It detailed the creature's appearance and habits, including how it uses its suckers to move along tree branches in a form of 'locomotion' and steals eggs from the nests of birds.
It even claimed that it was endangered mainly due to the penchant of wealthy 'fashionistas' to use the tree octopuses as ornamental hat decorations.
The students not only believed all of the fabricated information, but also insisted on the existence of the octopus, even when researchers explained all the information had been made up.
Mr Leu, founder and director of the New Literacies Research Lab at the university, warned that students were unable to discern between fact and fiction online and said this would lead them to graduate without the proper thinking skills needed to meet college and workforce demands.
He said: 'Most students simply have very little in the way of critical evaluation skills.
The generation that lacks critical thinking skills happens to be overwhelmingly liberal.  Methinks there be a connection.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The President's Prayer Life

The Washington Examiner reports:
President Obama inhabits a largely secular presidency, rarely blending his religious beliefs with his public duties, and spending more Sundays shooting hoops than going to church. So it was a notable shift when Obama went deeply devout for last week's National Prayer Breakfast, telling attendees the role daily prayer plays in his life. 
"When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people," Obama said. "And when I go to bed at night, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to forgive me my sins, and look after my family and the American people, and make me an instrument of His will."
A cynical interpretation would note Obama's intensely religious rhetoric -- even for a prayerful event -- coincides with the unofficial start of the presidential campaign season.
I certainly hope that Obama prays every day, but actual prayerful people usually don't talk about how prayerful they are.

Communion Line OCD

At Mass today, the Communion line I was in slowed down because the the priest ran out of the Eucharist.  As he went back to the altar for more, several people went to the other line where the extraordinary minister continued to hand out the Sacred Body.  I considered changing lines but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  "It's on the wrong side of the aisle!" I thought.  Also, leaving the line that I started in seemed disloyal.  It took an extra few seconds to receive the Eucharist but it was totally worth it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Full Auto Airgun!

Is this the coolest thing you've ever seen or what?

Framing an Issue

Black Adder has written a great post on the American Catholic about the way in which issues are framed.  He shows how easy it is to describe the conservative Fair Tax in such a way that it sounds very liberal.
Read it here.

Random Thoughts

  • The "evils" that the media tells us to fear, like video games and obesity are replacements for actual sin, which is ignored.
  • Politicians who don't know what assault weapons are shouldn't be allowed to ban them.
  • In cases of conception by rape, if you have to kill someone, kill the rapist.
  • The humans in Battlestar Galactica are polythiests, but at least they believe in deities that aren't glowing balls of energy.
    • Sometimes loving your enemies means giving them a proper burial.
    • Show me a materialist who's beliefs about morality are self-referentially consistent and I'll show you a Hobbesian sociopath.

        Thursday, February 3, 2011

        Wednesday, February 2, 2011

        Worst Media Moments in 2010

        The Media Research Center has announced awards for all of the dumbest things said by liberals in the media over the last year: MRC Notable Quotables

        Tuesday, February 1, 2011

        Uprising in Egypt

        The lesson we should draw from the imminent ouster of Egyptian president Mubarak is this:
        Don't support dictators!  It's a really bad idea!

        The United States has earned the enmity of the Egyptian people by propping up Mubarak's regime, and now the Islamic fundamentalists who replace him will have access to millions of dollars worth of ordnance courtesy of the American taxpayer.