Thursday, March 17, 2011

News roundup…

Maryland Lawmakers Reject Same-Sex 'Marriage'
Bill turned back in spite of support from Catholic governor, legislators.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland House of Delegates “killed” a bill Friday that sought to legalize same-sex “marriage” in the state.

The House of Delegates sent the bill back to the Judiciary Committee — a move described in The Washington Post as “an acknowledgment by supporters that it did not have sufficient votes to pass on the floor.” It was an unexpected conclusion to an intense political fight that pitted key Democratic lawmakers who are Catholic but whose votes were contrary to Church doctrine against the leaders of their Church.

Local Catholic pastors applauded the outcome, but they remain troubled by the disconnect between the public stance of the Maryland Catholic Conference and prominent Democrats like Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Meat Still Served at Jesuit College on Lenten Fridays, But Withheld Monday to Save Planet

An article on the website of the Student Free Press Association reports that on March 14 Boston College hosted “Meatless Monday” in “an effort to reduce carbon emissions.” From reading this article, it doesn’t sound like students were too pleased.

The author of the article, identified as the managing editor of the Boston College Observer, writes:

All stations in two dining halls served vegetarian entrees, much to the dismay of the student body save for a few flower children who were in support of the event. Delivery cars from local restaurants such as Roggie’s and New Hong Kong could be seen all over campus…

BC is a Catholic school yet it still serves meat on Fridays during Lent. This does not become a big deal until BC decided that an underground dirty hippie movement should merit the expulsion of meat related products while the crucifixion of our Savior does not.

Fear the Media Meltdown, Not the Nuclear One (UPDATED)
Relax: this is not another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, and I'll tell you exactly why. The only thing to fear is the sensationalist reporting that has the world panicked.
March 15, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

The March 11 earthquake off the coast of Japan has been an unprecedented disaster. Now estimated to have been a magnitude 9 earthquake — one of the top five earthquakes measured since reporting started in 1900 — it was the result of a “megathrust” in which an area of sea floor bigger than the state of Connecticut broke free and moved under the force of colliding tectonic plates. It was so strong that it literally moved the entire island of Honshu eight feet to the east. The earthquake was then followed by a tsunami comparable to the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 — but since the epicenter of the quake was only a few miles off the coast of Japan, the tsunami struck the heavily populated coast of Honshu with almost no warning, basically washing many coastal villages off the face of the earth.

The earthquake and tsunami seriously damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi (“number one”) and Daini (“number two”) in Okuma, in Fukushima Prefecture, and also damaged the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture. In total, of the 55 nuclear power generation plants in Japan, 11 have been forced to shut down, cutting power generation capacity in Japan dramatically and forcing the country to adopt a series of rolling blackouts. It would seem impossible to overstate the severity of the crisis.

The media, however, has risen to the challenge, with a combination of poor information, ignorance, and alarmism, along with antinuclear activists passing themselves off as unbiased experts.

Why They Celebrate Murdering Children
Islam is as Islam does.
MARCH 16, 2011 4:00 A.M.

Do you think the State Department noticed that no one in Arizona, Mexico, or even Mars took to the streets to celebrate the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords? No one seemed to think it was a “natural” act — the Islamic term du jour to rationalize the throat-slitting massacre of a sleeping Jewish family: 36-year-old Udi Fogel, his 35-year-old wife, Ruth, and, yes, their three children: 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and Hadas, their 3-month-old baby.

There had been about a week between this most hideous Muslim barbarity and . . . well, the last hideous Muslim barbarity. On that one, the Obama administration could not bring itself to label as “terrorism” a Kosovar jihadist’s gory attack on American airmen in Germany.

Muslims are frequently found carrying out the Koranic directive to “strike terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.” Actually, make that the Koranic theme, so often is it reiterated in the scriptures devout Muslims take to be the verbatim commands of Allah. (See, e.g., Suras 3:151, 8:12–13, 8:60, 9:5, 33:25–27, 59:2–4, 59:13.) And that is beside the hadith, scriptures in which Mohammed, taken to be the perfect Muslim role model, boasts, “I have been made victorious with terror.” (Bukhari 4.52.220 — just scroll down from here, through the glories promised to Muslims who wage jihad against the infidels.)

Muslims, in fact, are more often exhorted by their scriptures to brutalize non-Muslims than Christians are urged by the gospels to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. Yet, though we assume the latter are meant to take the message to heart, we are somehow sure Islam doesn’t really mean what it says — that when Muslims strike terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, it must be Israel’s fault, or America’s, or something, anything, other than Islam, the only common denominator in these attacks.

Catholic priest who finances abortions remains unpunished by bishop
Fri Mar 11, 2011 19:47 EST

BARCELONA, March 11, 2011 ( - For three years, the Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona has refused to act against a priest in his diocese who boasts openly of having financed abortions.

Now, the priest is a subject of a new book in Catalonian, “Fr. Manel: Closer to earth than to heaven”, which describes the ever-growing popularity of his charitable work with Spanish celebrities. In addition to repeating his claim of having paid for abortions, Fr. Manel Pousa says he has performed “blessings” of homosexual unions, and endorses the creation of female “priests”, according to reports in the Spanish media.

He also states that he regards clerical celibacy as optional, and says he has a girlfriend—but claims that their relationship is celibate.


djr said...

I am not going to believe some guy who tells me that the situation in Japan isn't a problem when everyone else I can find who is in a position to know tells me that it is potentially a pretty serious problem. Why not? Because the claims of one journalist do not provide me with good reasons to reject the authority of the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. When that journalist pretty clearly has ideological commitments to dismiss the environmental impact of certain forms of power, I have even fewer reasons to believe him. Even when real scientists say that the fears are greatly exaggerated, I have three responses. First, it's pretty obvious that it's being exaggerated; it doesn't follow that it isn't actually bad. Second, when the World Nuclear Association tells me that exposure to 100 millisieverts of radiation a year can give me cancer, and the Japanese tell me that they have detected levels of 400 millisieverts per hour, the last thing in my mind is "was Chernobyl that bad?" If that's how it is, it's bad. Third, I am a pessimist. When things like this happen, it is more reasonable to believe trustworthy authorities who tell me that it's bad than it is to believe wishful thinkers. We'd all love to believe that it isn't bad; we should therefore be suspicious of anyone who tells us that it isn't.

Much like the media discussion of global warming, it's one thing to point out that the prospects might not be quite so, oh, apocalyptic as some people would like us to believe. But that's a far cry from showing that there's nothing to worry about.

In other news, I am not sure that it is contrary to Catholic teaching to vote for a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage. It is certainly contrary to Catholic teaching to endorse homosexual acts. But why can't a Catholic vote for such a policy on libertarian grounds? Is libertarianism contrary to Catholic teaching? I know plenty of Catholics who would say that it is, but I'm not so sure (and I know plenty of libertarian Catholics who would virulently disagree!)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...


I'm also generally a pessimist, believe it or not, so I agree too rosy a prognosis for Japan is just as unfounded as too grim a prognosis. But that's why I found such news interesting: I'm also a pessimist about pessimism! I think it's safe to say that virtually everyone has some kind of political interests, so even the most "sober" and "chilling" prognoses need to be taken with a grain of salt, precisely because they may just be the wrenching sound of unseen political gears.

As for libertarian allowances for gay marriage, I don't think a Catholic in good standing could actively endorse a measure that promotes values/policies opposed to clear Catholic moral teaching. It follows for many that, without a grounds to support such measures, Catholics in good standing should oppose such policies. I think all libertarian Catholicism could get you is the liberty to refrain from openly opposing the policy, not the dispensation to support it for "para-Catholic" reasons. Actually, someone much better suited to address the topic is Edward Feser, a former atheist, turned libertarian Christian, turned post-(ex-)libertarian Catholic.

djr said...

I think Ed Feser has become a rather anti-libertarian Catholic rather than a post-libertarian Catholic. At least, he certainly seems to endorse strongly coercive state action promoting behavior that he deems to be morally upright, or at least to prohibit behavior that he believes to be morally opprobrious. So I don't think he'd be the best person to ask. It would be rather like asking left-wing Catholics whether a Catholic can support the death penalty.

That said, I don't see why a Catholic would have to dissent from any really (as opposed to presumptively) authoritative Church teachings in order to conclude that the modern state is in principle incapable of possessing the political legitimacy to promote and defend the common good through coercive legal sanctions, and therefore ought to be limited to protecting citizens' negative rights. Even Alasdair MacIntyre, who is in no way a libertarian, thinks that the modern state is incapable of possessing genuine political authority. Though he seems to prefer the demise of the nation-state altogether, it would hardly be crazy to think that a minimal state could still be justified and to prefer it to anarchy. Peter Simpson comes to a similar conclusion in his essay 'Liberalism, State, and Community,' and John Haldane seems to offer a qualified 'yes' to the question of his article, 'Can a Catholic be a Liberal?' These guys are hardly heterodox.

I do wonder, though, whether the most a non-dissenting Catholic could get out of this would be a justification for privatizing marriage, rather than a move to expand the currently state-sanctioned institution to include same-sex couples. It would certainly seem to be more consistent with a libertarian position to reduce the legal recognition of marriage to the status of property contract and/or legal responsibility for children. But since those kinds of contracts need to be available to and enforced for non-traditionally-married couples on any sane account of the matter, there seems no problem with that much.

I suppose the question might boil down, as you suggest, to which kinds of support for which kinds of policies amount to endorsing or promoting same-sex relationships. It would be a mistake, I think, to conclude that any failure to oppose them amounts to an endorsement (at least any failure to oppose them legally). But I'm still not sure that even the current proposals to recognize same-sex civil unions can't be legally supported by non-dissenting Catholics (after all, the civil union more or less just is the kind of contract that the libertarian thinks all kinds of marriage should be).

I have only a sort of quasi-academic interest in this argument anyway, since I don't think there are any good arguments at all in favor of categorical moral prohibitions on homosexual acts (if there are, they must rest on revealed truths that could not be known by reason). Even still, a heterodox Catholic who took that view would still want to distinguish legitimate same-sex couplings from marriage on sacramental grounds. But one hardly needs to be a libertarian to think that the state has no business legally enforcing sacramental theology.

Perhaps I ought to be an Anglican, then, eh? ;-)

djr said...

Or perhaps not:

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I was going to say, "You're still using a modal verb about your Anglicanism!?" heh

Two points:

1) The popular acceptance of anti-ecclesial positions is notoriously not a strong factor in Catholicism. "Not a Democracy" etc. You can find data that many Catholics also endorse legalized abortion, but that hardly serves as an argument that Catholic teaching itself endorses it. I think the cases are parallel. And the same holds in spades for contraception. As Sullivan would have it, "The RCC lost that argument in the developed world long ago." And yet, yet––! Clearly it hasn't, in so far as there is a live debate to which firm teaching can be and is applied.

2) I also think the "via media" would be to strip marriage of any legal status, i.e., not make it something the state can legislate/stipulate. That, however, seems very unlikely to occur. As it stands, I think there is some logical slippage at play. (L) "Since a Catholic can support the libertarian a-legality of marriage qua purely social operation, therefore a Catholic can endorse same-sex marriage."

As Joseph Wood Krutch said, "Logic is the art of going wrong with confidence."

djr said...

Oh, I had no intention of using that polling data to support an argument about what an officially acceptable position would be. Supposedly a great number of American Catholics said that the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was "just a symbol"; obviously that doesn't change the Church's teaching on transubstantiation. I was more interested in using it as an amusing tag to my last comment about Anglicanism. And yes, I tend to use only modal verbs when it comes to theology.

That logical slippage is exactly the sort of thing that I'd hoped to avoid. Of course, one of the things that frequently drives me insane about libertarians is that they slip from "no legislation against X" to "approval of X" or at least "no negative judgment of any kind against X." But it's precisely the difference between legal restriction and moral opposition that I'm interested in here.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

The news link was an amusing follow up, I'll give you that. And I loved your lament about the libertarian slip from legal capaciousness to moral opprobrium. Christopher Ferrara (sp?) has a book about the Church and Libertarians and agrees the latter accord with the Church as far as subsidiary goes, but I think certain issues (such as abortion and marriage) are in the ecclesial order matters of justice, not just polity, but that is the heart of the debate, I realize, a resolution of the problem, as it were, and not a simple solution to it.