Monthly Archives: September 2016

Non-Negotiable Valuables and the Election – Part 7

The environment is yet another issue.

On this one, I grant that Democratic policies appear much more poised than Republican to protect the environment and natural resources. I am not certain whether they would be successful and sane.

That the environment is experiencing troubles isn’t hard to see. Or rather, it’s hard to see, and therefore the environment has problems.

Fracking seems to trouble the subterranean depths. What chemicals are involved? Why all the earthquakes in unexpected places. Lots of money and jobs, yes. But cracking the rock on which we found our homes?

All in all, however, I think a vote for the Democratic party is a vote in contradiction of Christian principles. I think that staying home or voting for a nobody really is a collapse in the face of duty. I see no alternative but Trump. Play the Trump Card.

How Many “Ex Cathedra” Statements?

It is commonly stated that there have been but 2 “ex cathedra” statements issued in the Church’s history. Those are stated to be: The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.

I challenge that common reading. I contend that there have been more than 2.

Interesting: Pius IX urges Catholic thinkers to assent to all the dogmas, those taught “by explicit decrees of ecumenical councils or by the Roman pontiffs [plural!] and by this Apostolic See” (DS 2879, Ignatius Press edition). Note that he uses the plural here. He implies that there have been several such ex cathedra teachings. But the Assumption had not yet been taught in this way. Ergo, there are more than 2.

“Name another.” I’ll name two:

Boniface VIII: “We declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” This is an irreformable teaching.

Benedict XII: “By this Constitution which is to remain in force for ever, we, with apostolic authority, define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints who departed from this world before the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ….”

There are others also. With regard to some there is reasonable dispute as to whether or not they carry that ex cathedra weight. And there is a touch of irony in that.

Non-Negotiable Values and the Election – Part 6

Non-Negotiable Values and the Election – Part 6

How about home schooling? Do you think that Hilary Clinton will be friendly towards this? Are you out of your mind? “But she can’t change it overnight.” Perhaps not. Perhaps so. But the march towards its dissolution might resume or continue if she is elected. With Trump, I think it is safe. And what does the Church teach? That parents have the right to educate their children, that it is immoral for a society to allow them only to send their children to a public school that is anti-religious or just un-religious, etc.

How about state’s rights? Which party favors the rights of states that found this nation? Surely, in the present day, the Republican party more than the Democratic party.

How about the rights of employers? The rights of conscience concerning objectively evil things (abortion referral, baking cakes for unnatural weddings, etc.)? Principles of accreditation in education? On each of these issues: The Republicans are better.

Non-Negotiable Values and the Election – Part 5

Non-Negotiable Values and the Election – Part 5

(NOTE: Some glitch in the scheduling caused the 4th part to fail to publish. I just published it. It is below, on Sept. 11, and is presupposed to this one.)

Someone will object concerning evils that, while not intrinsically evil, are of great concern. E.g.: Poverty, immigration, youth unemployment, racial divides, inequality, etc.

Let us first summarily make notes concerning economics. The Church more emphatically condemns marxism and socialism than she does condemn radical capitalism (for lack of a better term). I mean the authentic Magisterium, not casual personal opinions of prelates. Marxism and socialism are unequivocally and categorically rejected. True, the Church recognizes that Marxism is a response to the false liberalism of earlier generations. Certain Catholics forget that in their promotion of freedom, freedom, freedom. However, the greater evil is Marxism, even though the generative root is liberalism.

Another note: just where do we see this “radical” capitalism? Unfettered? Unhindered? I’m not sure I know where to find it. There are regulations galore just about everywhere you look. Interesting: Local farmers, small time farmers suffer greatly under such regulations, whereas Big-Agri benefits from them because of the pain of the little guys. Here, regulation / oversight actually cripples authentic creative activity. I am thinking, e.g. of regulations on raw milk and organic beef, and organic chickens, etc. The animals are treated much better on smaller farms, yet they are burdened greatly by having to give “evidence” of avoiding aviary diseases, etc. This is crippling. One understandable response would be this: Let consumers use their brains, for crying out loud, and the market determine the rewards. Here, a bit of Austrian economics would seem much more natural and helpful for all.

Another note: Democratic economic policies again and again prove painful and crippling for the economy. And that pain translates into greater poverty for the poor. These are lamentable facts for the party that presents itself as servant of the poor. Really?

How about immigration? It is most lamentable that some prelates are using the issue of immigration either to undermine national sovereignty or else approaching the issue with the greatest of cluelessness and imbalance. There are two sides to this issue. First, it is just and right and even necessary for a nation to preserve itself from chaos. That preservation requires monitoring of borders and control of influx. If you let in lawless criminals, all suffer. In fact, if you let in lawless criminals, you are guilty of rape and murder. All over Europe women are being raped and assaulted by so-called helpless refugees. In fact, they are able bodied young men seeking to live in ways that no human society should find tolerable.

Is it Christian to build walls? Centuries of good Christians have thought so. When we begin to face barbarians, full on, and if they are outside our borders (we may pray they are outside): Then I imagine we will find that walls can be Christian too. In short: It is not intrinsically evil to build walls.

Second, on the other hand, helpless persons do have claims on us. We must try to meet their needs. Justice demands as much. The mercy poured out upon us demands as much, if we are to remain in that mercy.

How to negotiate between these two principles? Very difficult. But do not make it simplistic by denying one of the poles. And all who reject moderation and caution concerning immigration necessarily reject the first pole. But not all who propose caution and moderation – even walls – necessarily reject the second pole.

I am not speaking definitively about a particular wall – that on our southern border. That is beyond my pay grade. Would it be helpful or a waste? Would it solve the chaos issue or not? Help solve or exacerbate? These are matters that could intelligently be considered.


Non-Negotiable Values and the Election – Part 4

Non-Negotiable Values and the Election – Part 4

Pragmatically, we have a binary system. For better or for worse, that is the only realistic option for any particular election we face (for now).

Question. Just what is the “moral object” of voting?

If you say, “The moral object is placing your endorsement on the candidate as such” then you couldn’t vote for any candidate that backed any intrinsic evil. I think it very contestable and false that this is necessarily the moral object of voting.

Voting for the “lesser” of two evils has, I think, this as its moral object: to block the greater evil. I think that that is indeed a possible moral object of voting.

So, if we were only to consider this present darkness, I would say that one has an obligation to vote for the lesser of two evils.

I can understand someone who objects, who points out the bigger picture of world history. Someone might say, “If we vote for this or that independent, we set precedent for a possible change in the whole system, so that down the road a solid candidate can actually serve and right many of the wrongs.”

The tricky part is this: So long as such a prospect seems quite distant, so long do I think such a move costs us more than we can afford in the short run. On the other hand, those prospects will never emerge unless some slide in this direction.

However, there is more than one way to skin the cat. One can, for instance, donate in ways that ‘nudge’ people towards this newer, better approach. To vote or not to vote is not the only political act. One can get involved in various ways. One can begin a movement or participate in one, a movement that leans in a better direction than the alternatives but that “supports” one candidate as practically expedient for the short term.


In the end, I think that the binary situation does dominate and ought to inform our action. So, what about our alternatives?

I do think it unarguably clear that what the Catholic Magisterium lays down as intrinsic evils are supported much more by the Democratic party than by the Republican. Thus, in terms of absolute evils, the Democrats simply lose, in my opinion.


The Great Joseph C. Fenton – 3

Regarding the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus, Fenton is most illuminating.

For one thing, he shows that the dogma is quite precise and emphatic. It regards fact, and not just “objective ideal.” He writes,

“No man can enjoy this fellowship apart from the Catholic Church. Those who enjoy the Communion of Saints either are actually members of the Catholic Church or really intend to become members. Thus those in the state of grace, the persons who derive the full benefit from their association with the Church triumphant and the Church suffering, possess that charity which demands the love of the brotherhood. Every person in the state of grace intends to live and to die within the unity of the Catholic Church, even though, for want of proper instruction, his intention should be merely implicit” (Essay entitled “The Communion of Saints and the Mystical Body.”)

Why so? Because the Church is the necessary means for salvation, contra certain erroneous readings of the dogma:

“If the way of salvation were really open to men in all religions or in all religious societies, then there would certainly be no valid reason for pouring out the best blood of the Catholic Church in the never-ending effort to plant the company of Christ among the peoples of the world. The missionary labors of the Catholic Church are expended, not to bring about a mere improvement in the condition of people who would have been in a position to be saved in any event, but actually to carry the message and the  means of salvation to those who sit in darkness. The work of converting men to the Church of Christ aims not at bringing an easier way of salvation but at bringing the very hope of salvation to the beneficiaries of Catholic preaching” (essay entitled “Theological Proof for the Necessity of the Catholic Church: Part 1” — a must read essay, in three parts.)


The Great Joseph C. Fenton – 2

In an essay on the “Doctrinal Function of an Ecumenical Council,” Fenton writes states that

“The condemnation of doctrinal errors which are harmful to the faith and which are actually current in the Church [are] an essential concern, not only of the [First] Vatican Council but of every ecumenical council within the Catholic Church.”

Well put.

The Great Joseph Clifford Fenton

Many are the great American theologians that have suffered our forgetfulness. Among these surely ranks the great Joseph C. Fenton.

Fenton wrote on many and sundry topics of dogmatic theology. However, one of his areas of focus was ecclesiology. His work is deep. Indeed, he uses Scripture with great dexterity while engaging in the theological enterprise with the acumen of the scholastics. For instance, he suggests that one ought to contemplate the presence of Christ in the Church by analogy with his presence with that early band of disciples. Very incarnate presence. Also, he wants us to read even the Synoptics with that Eagle’s eye of John, so that we realize that when Christ is speaking to this or that person as narrated in the Synoptics, we recognize that he is at once Illuminating the mind of that person, that he may receive him.

Hence, “he spoke with authority.”

Fenton also engages the very thorny, but absolutely crucial, issue of the Necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation. Here, he has much to teach us. Before future posts, I’d like to cite an important point he makes regarding the watering down of this dogma:

“As a matter of fact the lax or ‘liberal’ interpretation of the dogma concerning the Church’s necessity for salvation is essentially a screen for a tepid or non-existent missionary spirit” (essay on “Theological Proof of the Necessity of the Church for Salvation, Part II).

Precisely here, he notes, is a double problem. As a matter of actual fact, the Church IS necessary. Hence, failure in missionary activity is depriving souls of the grace God wills them to receive. We are in it together, as many say. Part of this means that we must go out, if we have been blessed. Lord, give us strength to spread your word, and your Kingdom, which is the Catholic Church.


Now, what is the political upshot of the previous two posts? We have isolated the category “intrinsically evil acts.” Such acts are always evil; they can never be good. No intention and no circumstance can render them good. They are per se evil. And what in its essence is evil cannot be made good, period. We have given one example of per se evil, a significant one in the contemporary landscape, fornication. It remains to indicate others, the chief ones that touch contemporary political debate.

What are the “per se evil” acts relevant to today’s political economy? Let us get a relevant list of them. As you run through this list, compare this list with the PLATFORMS (either stated or widely known to be practically endorsed by the party as such) of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Is one or other Party so intensely committed to so many intrinsic evils that it, effectively, automatically nixes itself as a viable party for a voter who wants to uphold Catholic moral teaching as it relates to society?

  1. Capital punishment? NO! It is not per se evil. This Means: It can be right and just to use it.
  1. Any and every control on immigration? NO! It is in the legitimate interest of peoples to keep an eye on the flux of the population. Men of virtue can disagree as to where to draw the line prudentially. Thus, it is not per se evil to control one’s borders. In fact, it is a duty of leaders to keep civil order, which can be overturned in a revolutionary manner by sloppy management of the borders. In the times of wandering barbarians, prudent Christians even built walls. Had they not, their women would have been raped and murdered. What kind of “charity” would have left women to rape and children to slavery? What kind of man would have tolerated this? Nowadays, one can debate the practicality and utility of “walls.” One also must consider the needs of helpless people. These matters can be prudently discussed. But for any nation to let within its borders, without vetting and unchecked, any and sundry persons “claiming” to be helpless, when in fact most are able bodied young men, then that nation is being wildly imprudent and setting itself up for disaster. Those who would preach to such a nation to keep open porous borders, unto its very ruin, are rebels against law, subverters of order, enablers of chaos. Self-love can be good. That is, there can be a good self-love. In fact, such a love is natural and necessary. A Christianity that preaches the opposite is no true Christianity. Only a death-cult preaches the opposite, a cult of death and gloom. There is a time for sacrifice, for suffering present wrongs, and there is a time to take up arms against a sea of troubles, and oppose them.
  1. Homosexual acts?The Church teaches and has always taught that these are per se evil always and everywhere. What’s more, The Church teaches that no rights emanate from evil acts as such; that no tendency to evil can generate any rights; that all rights a society sets up on such claims are null and void according to Catholic teaching. The Catholic Magisterium officially teaches: “There is no right to homosexuality, which therefore should not form the basis for juridical claims” (art. 13 of the CDF, Non-Discrimination against Homosexual Persons).
  1. For a sacramentally married person, who has consummated the bond, to attempt getting civilly divorced and remarried? The Church is forever clear: This is per se evil.
  1. Is war per se evil? No, for war can be justified.
  1. Abortion? Per se evil.
  2. Fornication? Per se evil.
  3. Pornography? Per se evil.
  4. Extortion? Usury? Per se evil.
  5. Contraception? Per se evil.
  6. Not having a minimum wage? Or setting it below such-and-such a figure? Not per se evil. Prudent men can disagree on the prudence of these things. In fact, it can often hurt the worker to fight for him on this front.
  1. Not having rent controls? Or letting the market largely determine matters? Not per se evil. Prudent men can disagree over this prudence of these decisions. In fact, it can often hurt renters and the housing market to enact strict laws in these matters.
  1. Pre-emptive war? I’ll leave a certain answer to this to the trusted moral theologians. Let’s say Hitler is building an army on the river bordering your country. Let’s say he shows active belligerence. Perhaps here the hostility is lasting and grave. Before he fires a shot, one might reasonably argue, one may launch an attack.
  1. A state not having socialized medicine? Not per se evil.
  1. A state not having health insurance for all? Not per se evil.
  1. Positively preventing needy persons from obtaining health care? Per se evil.
  1. Allowing citizens to possess firearms? Not per se evil.
  1. Allowing free markets? Not per se evil.
  1. Mutilating the sexual organs? Evil, per se.

What is the Upshot for us?

While the Catholic Church takes no a priori side politically, nonetheless, does not a quick glance at these evils reveal that the Democratic platform endorses numerous of these per se evils? One can think above all of abortion, which appears numerous times with utterly clarity in the Democratic Platform. Also, its notion of sexual rights seems to conflict on various fronts with the Church’s teaching.

We do have a practically “binary” system. For better or for worse. That is the present reality. (More on this to come.) So let us turn to the alternative. Does the Republican platform endorse any per se evils? At the very least, we can quickly say, not nearly as many. Which ones that are per se evils does it endorse? Well, effectively it seems to endorse (in past practice) the “pre-emptive strike” one. Whether this is is a per se evil may be debated. Further, is this one unique to the Republicans? Although Bush was the one who undertook action in this regard, was he not supported by Democrats in this decision? It is a common conception that Democrats are less hawkish than Republicans. Whether that conception is true is another matter. Clearly, to be hawkish is evil. It is evil to bomb a nation into smithereens. It is evil to decapitate a government and hope for the best for the people. It is evil to strike preemptively. I am by no means excusing any of this. I am nonetheless stating that the Republicans are not the unique supporters of these evils. Hence, this one by and large works out evenly. Further, the Democrat “pullout” of the middle east has only exacerbated matters. Bad to go in, in my opinion; but worse to pull out before the new authority was certainly and definitively in place.

How about Republican endorsement of contraception? Does this differentiate them from Democrats? Yes: Because Democrats are much more emphatic and unequivocal about this, much more committed to delivering such things to all and sundry, and ASAP. After all, Obama sued the Catholic nuns who did not want to partake in contraceptive health coverage.

Just what intrinsic evil does the Republican Platform endorse that the Democratic Platform does not endorse? I’d like to know. Perhaps one could bring up another per se evil supported by Republicans that I’m missing. I’m all ears in the Comments Box.

Working with the above, although a good Catholic should find much wanting in the Republican way of doing things, one cannot to my knowledge find any per se evil in the Republican platform that one cannot find in the Democratic platform.

Hence, what is the “cash value” of the category “non-negotiable values”? The non-negotiable values stand for the defense of things to offend which is per se evil. That is, the offense against these goods is always evil, under every circumstance. Thus, there can be no “negotiation” with those who wish to promote these evils except insofar as one is making an advance against the evil (taking a step towards defending against the evil). But there can be no negotiating to promote it under any circumstance.

The cash value is at the very least a clear vote “No” for any Democrat who endorses his or her party’s platform. There is no ambiguity here.

Those who use the a priori neutrality of the Church with respect to political parties as a reason to conclude that a Catholic can legitimately vote for a platform such as the Democratic one are either foolish, or out of their minds, or have lost touch with their faith.

The question will be: But can one vote for a Republican?


Is there an example of non-negotiable value? Of intrinsic evil?

The Church gives us one in her constant and universal teaching, which every Catholic, be he whomever, must accept and embrace with the certainty of divine faith. That evil is non-marital intercourse. The Church is very clear: Non-marital intercourse is intrinsically evil. It can never be good. Likewise, all the actions oriented towards that act are evil. They can never be good. All the “tenderness acts” that are ordered towards fornication acts are disordered as well. As the Church infallibly teaches, these all lead astray, wound; these all are evil. One cannot “extract” these rumored “tenderness acts” out of an evil life and call them “good” or “ready to be good” or “positive points”. No, they are all actually evil. They in no way mitigate the evil. As ordered to the evil act, they participate in that evil. When one is so kind and cheerful to the secretary whom one is regularly embracing sexually, one is not being good but evil.

An analogy. A master thief is very quiet. He doesn’t disturb things. Walks very cautiously. Uses great prudence. Great with tools. Plans well. Organized. Gives lots of forethought. Etc. All of these things are evil. They are not “on the way so far to being good”. They are ordered to the act of crime and thus are themselves already the crime under way. So, we should not say of the master thief, “You should tell me what he is like when talking to the store clerk, seeking to understand the various products available for say, such as the crowbar, hammer, picks, gloves, etc.” He may be very polite to the clerk, even cheerful. But these acts he orders to the act of thievery. Hence, they are evil.

Whatever is ordered to the evil deed is itself wicked as well. It is not “good” or “ready to be good”.

There may be other things, not ordered to this evil, that the one-committed-to-sin does. Those things – those that are not ordered to the evil to which he commits – can be naturally good. For instance, the one committed to committing fornication might call his mother to wish her a good day. Such an act is good. Never to call his mother would be evil. To call his mother is good. But this act is not ordered to his evil of fornication. If it were, it too would be evil. What is “ready to be good” in anyone’s life are only those things which both (a) are not evil in themselves and (b) are not ordered to things evil in themselves.

Thus, the Church bids us, in our search for what is good in an active fornicator’s life, to separate out all that is either the evil itself of fornication or ordered to this evil itself. Since most people order much of their lives around the end they have chosen – be it greed, or unnatural sex, or devotion to the poor, or helping the illiterate – this removes many things from the sinner’s life. However, not all things are so ordered, and these, if they are not evil, can be “so far good”.

We might add, finally, that certain things which are actually evil for the sinner are potentially good in relation to who we can be after repenting. Not actually but potentially good. They will be actually good when ordered to the good. For instance, the master thief is very skillful. After he repents, he can take all that skill and become a great Jesuit. (Good Jesuits are crafty in good ways.)

Thus, repentance can redeem for the sinner some of the very things that were actually evil when ordered to the evil acts of the sinner. “Redeem the time” says T.S. Eliot. Repentance is like despoiling the Egyptians of their gold. If one holds political office, for instance, and then converts from having served one’s own interests, one can thenceforth devote oneself to the duties of that office in devotion to the common good. The authority once actually used for evil, and thus evil, now becomes a vehicle for good, and thus good.