Circle or Line under Most Beautiful Absolute

Remove from me then, Lord, the sadness that the love of self might give, but create in me a sadness in conformity with thine

Month: January, 2012

Obamacare’s Great Gift: Clarification

Recently we have learned that under Obamacare—that is, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—employer insurance plans must provide free non-medical contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization for their employees.

Free is as affordable as it gets; for an accountability-spurning culture, it’s just the right price, indeed. Let us pay nothing in order to beget nothing and, says this government, let us force those interfering “churchy” institutions—who keep insisting that there is something worth contemplating beyond ourselves—to pick up the tab, for good measure.

There is an odd “we are nothing” philosophy behind this HHS decision and the Secretary who made it, and the President who supports it—a chilling promise of emptiness where tomorrow should be. Humanity, cajoled away from fertility and trained in sterility, is being weaned from those thoughts that travel beyond the present moment; we are self-interested beyond reason, and thus profoundly bored; condom-strangled, tube-snipped, and detached from the essential materials of reproduction either through artificial means or artificial equivalencies, our vision of the future is as limited as a pay-telescope’s viewer: tick, tick, tick and then a resolute click!, and it is gone.

On the Square

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Douglas Murray – Israel & Nuclear Iran

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama Concerning Recent Tyranny

The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!” – Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Dear Mr. President,

I am fully aware that these are days in which the federal government is — for all practical purposes — unlimited in its power. As it stands, you — sir — can detain any American citizen without due process simply because you suspect him of being a terrorist, you have magically managed to become the Chairman of the UN Security Council without the approval of Congress — despite that awkward Article 1.9 of the Constitution — and you — along with the FCC — seem to think the Internet is thine to regulate. Now I’m sure this sudden growth in power was seen as necessary, proper and really-cool by all of your staff, and thus I join in with their applause (but with those annoying, ironically-spaced claps that continue long after everyone else has finished.)

For there are those of us — yes, even a few of your happy-happy youth voters — who are curious as to whether the Constitution continues to mean anything at all. I distinctly recall holding it as a weapon against injustice, but I am now taught to regard it with a vague sort of embarrassment, as a pubescent boy might regard his grandmother on Facebook, who comments on his attempts to attract a girl with things like “just remember chastity!”

It makes the radical claim — this Constitution — that “Congress shall make no lawrespecting an establishment of religion…” a claim which your administration has adhered to. But as it turns out, you cannot have the first part of this Establishment Clause without the second part, that is: “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (Similarly, you cannot take your wife “in health” without that aggravating precursor “in sickness”.) You are not allowed to establish a state religion, and you are not allowed to prohibit the free exercise of religion. You. just. can’t.

Otherwise, you are a Tyrant. Now, I know: Tyrant? (Quick, label the man an ultra-super-neo-conservative Tea Partier and ban him to the ranks of old men holding Ayn Rand signs so we don’t have to engage in rational debate.)

I am 18.
I own a Macbook, a blog and a sweater-vest.
I don’t even like Capitalism.

So do me the courtesy of taking me seriously. Being a tyrant is not necessarily a negative or positive thing, though I know the word is loaded with a not-so-nice connotation. It is simply a matter of definition. A tyrant, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution”. If you prohibit the free exercise of religion, you are acting unrestrained by the Constitution, and thus as a tyrant. End of story.

In case there are any doubts as to my claim, I will give it to you straight: I hold that you are prohibiting the free practice of Catholicism in this country, and that you are thus, categorically speaking, a tyrant.

What would prohibiting the free exercise of religion consist of? Obviously, it might consist of banning a certain religious practice. A man might forbid the Jews their practice of circumcision. But it is equally true that the free exercise of religion would be prohibited by a man forcing the Jews to eat bacon. Both moves would be dick-moves: The free exercise of religion is violated both by what you take away from a religion, and by what you force a religion to do. If members of a religion are forced by the government to perform actions contrary to their beliefs, they are no more free than dogs, and their religion has been raped.

Catholicism, an antiquated, dying religion without many members — oh, snap, wait, I meant the largest form of Christianity in America and the largest religion in the world — teaches that the use of artificial contraception and sterilization is wrong, and thus does not allow its institutions to provide it. Here’s where everyone flips out and loses sight of the argument, so let me be absolutely clear: I am not arguing that the use of artificial contraception is wrong. I do believe this, and firmly, but this is neither the time nor place to argue the point.

In fact, it would be best for all of us — Catholics included — to think of this particular Catholic teaching as silly, overbearing, and unfit for the modern mind to contain. Think of this teaching as you might think of the Jewish prohibition on pork, or the Hindu’s holding of the cow as sacred. Why? Because prohibiting the free exercise of religion does not become allowed in cases in which you happen to disagree with the religion, no matter how vehemently, unless that religion is directly violating an individual’s rights.

For instance, I disagree with the belief of Quakers, who will under no circumstances fight in a war. My disagreement does not give me leave — were I in a position of power — to force them to fight. Appropriately, the government respects the Quakers’ belief, as the government respects all conscientious objectors.

So why is it that the government is allowed to force Catholic institutions – including my school — to provide coverage for artificial contraception in their health insurance plans, as the US Health and Human Services have mandated them do by the end of the year? How is this anything but the prohibition of the free exercise of religion? Short answer: It is the prohibition of the free exercise of religion, and a despicable, unconstitutional, entirely illegal, embarrassingly heavy-handed and very, very stupid prohibition at that. I will run briefly through the arguments in its favor:

But it is necessary. Women need contraception.

There is no argument from necessity here: According to the 2010 Guttmacher Institute report on contraceptive use in the United States, “Nine in 10 employer-based insurance plans cover a full range of prescription contraceptives,” and Kathleen Sebelius herself pointed out that even when contraceptive is not covered, “contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support,” not to mention pharmacies and doctor’s offices. And besides, women do not need contraception. I understand an employer being obligated to cover drugs relating to health. I do not understand why employer’s are obligated to provide for drugs that grant people responsibility-free pleasure. Again, I am not arguing whether or not sex-without-consequences is good or bad, I am merely pointing out that it is not necessary.

Just don’t take them yourself.

One cannot make the argument that while Catholics have the right to choose not to take artificial contraception personally, they should not be allowed to withhold artificial contraception from others any more than one could make the argument that while Jews don’t have to eat pork personally, their restaurants must serve the meat. No man is obligated to give another man what he believes is morally repulsive, unless his not giving it interferes with the rights of the other.

Well then, not providing free contraception violates the rights of women!

No it doesn’t. Not only can women get contraception elsewhere, but there exists utterly no “right to contraception.” And why would there be? I know our world is idiotic and sexist to the point of the embarrassing belief that women cannot prevent pregnancy without pills, but as it turns out, they can. In fact, if you’re a woman reading this, chances are you’re preventing pregnancy right now. (If not, rethink your sex life.) Thus a health-care provider not providing free access to artificial contraception does not damn women to pregnancy — oh, the horror — any more than not providing diet-pills would damn them to obesity.

But everyone has to do it!

No they don’t. Ed Whelan, over at the National Review Online, notes that “employers who employed fewer than 50 full-time employees during the preceding calendar year are not obligated to make any health-care insurance coverage available to their employees under Obamacare. 26 U.S.C. § 4980H(c)(2). Like employers with grandfathered plans, they thus have no obligation to provide insurance that covers contraceptives and abortifacients, and they face no penalty for not doing so.” The government is acknowledging that there isn’t a striking necessity for contraceptive coverage, certainly not enough of a necessity to force smaller companies to cover contraceptives. Why the mad rush to force Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives then? Why is it okay for small companies with no opinion in the matter to continue not providing contraception, while institutions that absolutely and morally reject the use of contraception must? An excess of stupid? An agenda?

Now I’m sure more objections could be raised, but the Internet is short, and I must be brief. Therefore:

Mr. President, The Catholic Church will never obey this mandate, not if all the powers of Hell were to shove it down our throats. I know that moral doctrine may seem a strange and ancient thing to your administration, but understand that as Catholics, we are required to disobey unjust law. Commanded. It is our duty. Do you understand the gravity of the ultimatum you’ve made? You have placed the faithful Catholic in a position in which he must choose between obeying your mandate and obeying God. To comply with the HHS mandate will be considered a sin. Regardless of how you view your actions, do not so easily ignore how the Church views your actions — attacking her flock. Force the mandate on faithful institutions, and faithful institutions will shut down their services. Force it on our hospitals, our universities, our schools, and our convents and we will bear the consequences of looking you, Sibelius and all the rest in the eyes and saying “No.” As it turns out, the Church doesn’t give a damn what you think — She never has cared for the powers of the world — and will resist you with all Her might. To be briefer still, and to say what those bound by politics cannot: Bring it.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan noted that ‎”The Amish do not carry health insurance. The government respects their principles. Christian Scientists want to heal by prayer alone, and the new health-care reform law respects that. Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the government respects that principle for conscientious objectors. By its decision, the Obama administration has failed to show the same respect for the consciences of Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a disease.” This injustice is not something that need solely concern the Catholic Church — if the federal government can force Catholics to act against their consciences, they can force anyone to act against their conscience, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Atheist, and by the same pitiful reasoning.

Mr. President, take it back.

Yours Truly,

Marc Barnes, student and citizen.

Bad Catholic

The Secret of Kells

Legitimacy and Revolutionism, Conservatism and Reform

Democracy … is sometimes asserted to be the sovereignty of the people. If this be a true account of it, it is indefensible. The sovereignty of the people is not a truth. Sovereignty is that which is highest, ultimate; which has not only the physical force to make itself obeyed, but the moral right to command whatever it pleases. The right to command involves the corresponding duty of obedience. What the sovereign may command, it is the duty of the subject to obey [to do].

Are the people the highest? Are they ultimate? And are we bound in conscience to obey whatever it may be their good pleasure to ordain? If so, where is individual liberty? If so, the people, taken collectively, are the absolute master of every man taken individually. Every man, as a man, then, is an absolute slave. Whatever the people, in their collective capacity, may demand of him, he must feel himself bound in conscience to give. No matter how intolerable the burdens imposed, painful and needless the sacrifices required, he cannot refuse obedience without incurring the guilt of disloyalty; and he must submit in quiet, in silence, without even the moral right to feel that he is wronged.

Now this, in theory at least, is absolutism. Whether it be a democracy, or any other form of government, if it be absolute, there is and there can be no individual liberty. Under a monarchy, the monarch is the state. L’Etat c’est moi, said Louis the Fourteenth, and he expressed the whole monarchical theory. The state being absolute, and the monarch being the state, the monarch has the right to command what he will, and exact obedience in the name of duty, loyalty. Hence absolutism, despotism. Under an aristocracy, the nobility are the state, and consequently, as the state is absolute, the nobility are also absolute. Whatever they command is binding. If they require the many to be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ to them, then ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ to them the many must feel it their duty to be. Here, for the many, is absolutism as much as under a monarchy. Every body sees this.

Well, is it less so under a democracy, where the people, in their associated capacity, are held to be absolute? The people are the state, and the state is absolute; the people may therefore do whatever they please. Is not this freedom? Yes, for the state; but what is it for the individual? There are no kings, no nobilities, it is true; but the people may exercise all the power over the individual that kings or nobilities may; and consequently every man, taken singly, is, under a democracy, if the state be absolute, as much the slave of the state, as under the most absolute monarchy or aristocracy.

The effects of this doctrine, so far as believed and acted on, cannot be too earnestly deprecated. It creates a multitude of demagogues, pretending a world of love for the dear people, lauding the people’s virtues, magnifying their sovereignty, and with mock humility professing their readiness ever to bow to the will of the majority. It tends to make public men lax in their morals, hypocritical in their conduct; and it paves the way for gross bribery and corruption. It generates a habit of appealing, on nearly all occasions, from truth and justice, wisdom and virtue, to the force of numbers, and virtually sinks the man in the brute. It destroys manliness of character, independence of thought and action, and makes one weak, vacillating, a timeserver and a coward. It perverts inquiry from its legitimate objects, and asks, when it concerns a candidate for office, not, Who is the most honest, the most capable? but, Who will command the most votes? and when it concerns a measure of policy, not, What is just? What is for the public good? but, What can the majority be induced to support?

Now, as men, as friends to good morals, we cannot assent to a doctrine which not only has this tendency, but which declares this tendency legitimate. That it does have this tendency needs not to be proved. Every body knows it, and not a few lament it. Not long since it was gravely argued by a leading politician, in a Fourth of July oration, that Massachusetts ought to give Mr. Van Buren her votes for the Presidency, because, if she did not, she would array herself against her sister States, and be compelled to stand alone, as the orator said with a sneer, ‘in solitary grandeur’. In the access of his party fever, it did not occur to him that Massachusetts was in duty bound, whether her sister States were with her or against her, to oppose Mr. Van Buren, if she disliked him as a man, or distrusted his principles as a politician or a statesman. Many good reasons, doubtless, might have been alleged why Massachusetts ought to have voted for Mr. Van Buren, but the orator would have been puzzled to select one less conclusive, or more directly in the face and eyes of all sound morals, than the one he adduced. The man who deserves to be called a statesman never appeals to low or demoralizing motives, and he scorns to carry even a good measure by unworthy means. There is within every man, who can lay any claim to correct moral feeling, that which looks with contempt on the puny creature who makes the opinions of the majority his rule of action. He who wants the moral courage to stand up ‘in solitary grandeur’, like Socrates in face of the Thirty Tyrants, and demand that right be respected, that justice be done, is unfit to be called a statesman, or even a man. A man has no business with what the majority think, will, say, do, or will approve; if he will be a man, and maintain the rights and dignity of manhood, his sole business is to inquire what truth and justice, wisdom and virtue, demand at his hands, and to do it, whether the world be with him or against him, to do it, whether he stand alone ‘in solitary grandeur’, or be huzzaed by the crowd, loaded with honors, held up as one whom the young must aspire to imitate, or be sneered at as singular, branded as a ‘seditious fellow’, or crucified between two thieves. Away, then, with your demoralizing and debasing notion of appealing to a majority of voices! Dare be a man, dare be yourself, to speak and act according to your own solemn convictions, and in obedience to the voice of God calling out to you from the depths of your own being. Professions of freedom, of love of liberty, of devotion to her cause, are mere wind, when there wants the power to live and to die in defence of what one’s own heart tells him is just and true. A free government is a mockery, a solemn farce, where every man feels himself bound to consult and to conform to the opinions and will of an irresponsible majority. Free minds, free hearts, free souls, are the materials, and the only materials, out of which free governments are constructed. And is he free in mind, heart, soul, body, or limb, he who feels himself bound to the triumphal car of the majority, to be dragged whither its drivers please? Is he the man to speak out the lessons of truth and wisdom when most they are needed, to stand by the right when all are gone out of the way, to plead for the wronged and downtrodden when all are dumb, he who owns the absolute right of the majority to govern?

Sovereignty is not in the will of the people, nor in the will of the majority. Every man feels that the people are not ultimate, are not the highest, that they do not make the right or the wrong, and that the people as a state, as well as the people as individuals, are under law, accountable to a higher authority than theirs. What is this Higher than the people? The king? Not he whom men dignify with the royal title. Every man, by the fact that he is a man, is an accountable being. Every man feels that he owes allegiance to some authority above him. The man whom men call a king is a man, and, inasmuch as he is a man, he must be an accountable being, must himself be under law, and therefore cannot be the highest, the ultimate, and of course not the true sovereign. His will is not in itself law. Then he is not in himself a sovereign. Whatever authority he may possess is derived, and that from which he derives his authority, and not he, in the last analysis, is the true sovereign. If he derive it from the people, then the people, not he, is the sovereign; if from God, then God, not he, is the sovereign. Are the aristocracy the sovereign? If so, annihilate the aristocracy, and men will be loosed from all restraint, released from all obligation, and there will be for them neither right nor wrong. Nobody can admit that right and wrong owe their existence to the aristocracy. Moreover, the aristocracy are men, and, as men, they are in the same predicament with all other men. They are themselves under law, accountable, and therefore not sovereign in their own right. If we say they are above the people, they are placed there by some power which is also above them, and that, not they, is the sovereign.

But if neither people, nor kings, nor aristocracy are sovereign, who or what is? What is the answer which every man, when he reflects as a moralist, gives to the question, Why ought I to do this or that particular thing? Does he say, Because the king commands it, the aristocracy enjoin it, the people ordain it, the majority wills it? No. He says, if he be true to his higher convictions, Because it is right, because it is just. Every man feels that he has a right to do whatever is just, and that it is his duty to do it. Whatever he feels to be just he feels to be legitimate, to be law, to be morally obligatory. Whatever is unjust he feels to be illegitimate, to be without obligation, and to be that which it is not disloyalty to resist. The absolutist, he who contends for unqualified submission on the part of the people to the monarch, thunders, therefore, in the ears of the absolute monarch himself, that he is bound to be just; and the aristocrat assures his order that its highest nobility is derived from its obedience to justice; and does not the democrat, too, even while he proclaims the sovereignty of the people, tell this same sovereign people to be just? In all this, witness is borne to an authority above the individual, above kings, nobilities, and people, and to the fact, too, that the absolute sovereign is justice. Justice is, then, the sovereign, the sovereign of sovereigns, the king of kings, lord of lords, the supreme law of the people, and of the individual.

This doctrine teaches that the people, as a state, are as much bound to be just as is the individual. By bounding the state by justice, we declare it limited, we deny its absolute sovereignty, and therefore save the individual from absolute slavery. The individual may on this ground arrest the action of the state, by alleging that it is proceeding unjustly; and the minority has a moral force with which to oppose the physical force of the majority. By this there is laid in the state the foundation of liberty; liberty is acknowledged as a right, whether it be possessed as a fact or not.

A more formal refutation of the sovereignty of the people, or vindication of the sovereignty of justice, is not needed. In point of fact, there are none who mean to set up the sovereignty of the people above the sovereignty of justice. All, we believe, when the question is presented as we have presented it, will and do admit that justice is supreme, though very few seem to have been aware of the consequences which result from such an admission. The sovereignty of justice, in all cases whatsoever, is what we understand by the doctrine of democracy. True democracy is not merely the denial of the absolute sovereignty of the king, and that of the nobility, and the assertion of that of the people; but it is properly the denial of the absolute sovereignty of the state, whatever the form of government adopted as the agent of the state, and the assertion of the absolute sovereignty of justice.

Orestes Brownson

Seasick Steve – You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Vegetarian Shop Owners, and the Catholic Bishops’ Beef with Obama

Shock! Utter shock!!! The Obama Administration has mandated that all food stores in the United States selling refrigerated goods, MUST sell beef!

There is an exemption for vegetarians who only employ, and sell their goods to, vegetarians; and, for vegans who only employ, and sell their goods to, vegans.

What are the vegetarian and vegan store business owners to do?

How long will it take for these businesses to go bankrupt if the owners refuse to violate their conscience by carrying beef in their stores? How many people from the area, meat eaters included, frequent and buy some of the excellent products sold at vegetarian/vegan owned shops? Are people forced to shop and work at these places, or is it a choice?

If the food shop owner happens to be a Jain, then this mandate would not only be expecting him to violate his conscience, but also would be an assault on his religious liberty.

Te Deum Laudamus

Bach: Passacaglia in C – Leopold Stokowsky

Admonishing the Sinner

Lest we moderns gloat over the foolish Pharisees too much, however, we should note that postmodernity has contributed something new but not improved to this ancient evil of spiritual laziness. Postmoderns have added to the ancient tribalism of the Pharisee another very significant reason for the abandonment of admonishment: our rejection of the reality of sin.

Rejecting the reality of sin, we have ended up abandoning the hope of repentance. When you reject the idea of common truth, prattling that “truth is whatever is true for you,” you reject the basis for reason and argument. But you don’t (and can’t) reject the reality of your anger over sin. You can’t ignore it when somebody steals your wallet or beats up your child. But you can pretend that the sinner was an irrational animal acting solely on the influence of genes or environment and not to sin of which he can repent. So we increasingly treat sinners as we treat animals: diagnosing, caging, or killing them like rabid dogs, but never talking about sin or repentance.

The old idea of the penitentiary is almost entirely gone. It is no longer, as the name suggests, a place for penance. It is a state-run warehouse (and slaughterhouse) for human animals who have, as the saying goes, “forfeited their humanity.”

It is, of course, possible to laugh off the notion of repentance as hopelessly Pollyanna and caricature it as the naïve belief that hardened thugs will melt into saints if you talk nice to them. But that’s not my point or my claim. It is, rather, that in abandoning our understanding of the human person to the secular state instead of having the courage of our convictions as Catholics, we are laying the foundation for treating all human beings as animals and potential criminals rather than as citizens of a free society. One need only note the changes in our security state over the past ten years. Big Brother has eyes everywhere. In airports and public facilities across America, Boy Scouts, nuns, and little old ladies from Lake Wobegon are expected to endure invasive searches that, in any other context, should result in an arrest for sexual predation. An eighty-six-year-old bedridden woman is tasered (twice) while the cops stand on her oxygen hose and her protesting grandson is cuffed and frog-marched out of the house. The cops explain that it was all justified because she “took a more aggressive posture in her bed.” The idea that she was a human being never entered their heads.

The curious result of our culture’s growing abandonment of the notion of sin is (as Faustian bargains tend to be) a loss of our humanity. As we become coarser and our belief that humans are made in the image of God fades to a theory of humans as animals shaped by heredity and environment, our faith in the power of moral suasion goes with it. So, for instance, a majority of Americans (including, alas, Catholics) forget our successful use of conventional interrogation with Nazis and Communists and embrace the lie that intelligence can best be gained from enemy combatants via “enhanced interrogation” (a euphemism for torture). This is a complete rejection of the Church’s teaching on human dignity and is founded on the assertion that human beings are, at bottom, beasts. Eventually it occurs to Caesar that if “enhanced interrogation” may be used on perceived foreign threats, then why not on domestic ones too? Enhanced interrogation begins to be deployed to interrogate not merely suspected terrorists abroad but also suspected criminals at home.

In short, as a culture embraces the view that men are brutes, it is not possible to keep that genie in the bottle of a CIA black site. Caesar inevitably starts to treat his subjects that way too. He abandons the language of a ruler maintaining ordered liberty for a free people and speaks more and more like a bureaucrat barking threats at contemptible servants—or cracking whips at beasts. So, for instance, where there used to be public-service announcements saying “Every litter bit hurts,” we now get “Litter and it will hurt.” “Buckle up for safety!” has been replaced with “Click it or ticket!” “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” is replaced by “Drive hammered. Get nailed.” Threats, not admonishment, are the order of the day.

The apotheosis of such contempt-based social control in media (so far) is the infamous “No Pressure” ad sponsored by 10:10, an organized campaign to reduce carbon emissions. There was no attempt to admonish by saying, “Even if you are skeptical about anthropogenic global warming, it couldn’t hurt if everybody pitched in and cared for the environment as best they can.” That would respect human dignity. Instead the ad (which its makers actually imagined was funny) shows an elementary-school teacher urging her class to reduce their carbon footprint. When two children express reservations, the teacher mildly says, “No pressure,” and then pushes a large red button on her desk, whereupon the nonconforming kids explode in bloody chunks, splattering the other screaming children in the classroom. This revolting gag is repeated a few more times to drive home the message: Submit to the Religion of Anthropogenic Climate Change or be slaughtered like animals.

If Christ is to be believed, all this violent contempt for human dignity is foreign to what we actually are. Why do we prefer to treat people like animals when, in fact, admonishing the sinner and not stampeding the herd is truer to our nature as rational beings? Answer: because admonishing the sinner is hard. Christ did it, and it got him nailed to a cross.

For admonishment means looking somebody in the eye rather than imposing bureaucratic solutions from three thousand miles away. It means addressing a fellow human being as an equal, not a lab rat, sheep, or contagion. It means stating truly unpopular opinions, not to peers who share them but to enemies who don’t. It means the risk of losing friends, family, job, and reputation. It means speaking about things that are awkward and uncomfortable. And in our post-Christian world, it often means doing it in a grammar and terminology that members of our culture know, if at all, only in a sort of pidgin.

Mark Shea

Epic Green Fail