Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dawkins & Chesterton

I was reading about Richard Dawkins' latest foray into Cluelessness and vaguely recalled a Chesterton quote on insanity and reason. So turning to Google, I found this:
Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic; I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.
I respect Chesterton a lot, but I'm no cult follower. And here he's at his most annoying. Poets don't go mad? Maybe if all you read is Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton. Modernist and Beat poets aside, G.K. certainly was not oblivious to the Romantics, was he? Onto the next Google search result:
The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.
OK, there's the Chesterton I know and love.
It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, "Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? Are they not both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?"
Somebody, please give Dawkins a Chesterton book!
If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgement. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
Poor Dawkins. All the more so after watching him wet himself in Ben Stein's Expelled.

Interview with a Vampire Judge

The Nov08 issue of St. Anthony's Messenger has an interview with the chair of the National Review Board, Judge Michael Merz. It's an eye-roller. Eye started to gravitate upward with this section on bishops in non-compliance with the Charter:
Q. Can anything be done to compel them to participate? Is it that the eparchies do not feel that they must respond to directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since they represent Eastern Catholic Churches?

A. No, I don’t think it’s that. Audits are not cheap. Eparchies cover a lot of geographical territory, which makes the audits more expensive. The 2007 audit was accomplished by having one or two auditors on site in each diocese/eparchy, under the direction of the Gavin Group.

The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, is a case unto itself. They don’t participate either in the audits or in providing data to CARA. Bishop Fabian Bruskewicz says he is observing the canonical norms, as he is obliged to do by the law. [Bishop Bruskewicz says that following the Charter is optional.] I suppose he thinks he is answerable to only the pope. Why would anyone insist on his personal prerogative when what we are dealing with is the protection of children? I don’t understand.

In my letter which accompanied this report to Cardinal Francis George, the president of the bishops’ conference, I said that Bishop Bruskewicz’s refusal to participate, “though undoubtedly within an ordinary’s canonical power, scandalizes the faithful.”
The judge makes a good distinction with Eastern-rite eparchies' logistical difficulties in completing audits and achieving compliance. But beyond that it doesn't take much for him to reveal his managerial impatience and bias. Clearly, he believes the Charter to be a near-flawless piece of ecclesiastical legislation when it's not even particular law. He doesn't distinguish between the Charter and the Essential Norms (intentionally or ignorantly?). I'm already starting to smell that "I'm a John XXIII Catholic, not a JPII Catholic" attitude. As for "scandalizing the faithful," so is moralistic politics. The Judge already starts to lose objectivity here. All positive law, especially one as hastily drafted and politically forced as the Charter, is imperfect and demands caution. I don't think we should be told that a bishop is a scandal simply for refusing to comply with the Charter. Show me, don't just tell me. Otherwise, respect the episcopal office.
Q. Was it the seminary training they had?

A. The preponderance of offenders reported in the “Nature and Scope” study are priests who were trained before Vatican II. Nobody coming out of the seminary immediately began abusing. There’s a lapse time for everybody. And we’ve got to figure out why.

That is why it is really important to do a serious social-science study of the pattern, instead of accepting people’s off-the-cuff explanations, like suggesting that the sexual revolution hit Catholic priests the same as everyone else, but 10 years later. Or suggesting this all could have been avoided if Catholic priests were allowed to marry. Or suggesting gay priests be eliminated. None of these things will explain the data we now have.
Alright. Judge Merz is now coming off the rails. First of all, it says everything that he believes more social science is what the Church needs. The Linacre Centre publishes an entire book on the effects of the Church's evaporating asceticism after Vatican II, which everyone, including the National Review Board of primarily liberal Catholics, ignored, yet Merz would lump such approaches in with all those "off-the-cuff explanations." The greatest flaw of the Review Board was that it is composed of secularized, technocratic, Americanist Catholics who know nothing about the Catholic Tradition (but presume to know everything) and who place ultimate faith, hope, and love in the triumph of Science and instrumental rationality. Judge Merz's comments here only corroborates my impression.
Q. Is that the reason for the upcoming “Causes and Context” study?

A. Yes, that’s precisely what we’re studying. The “Causes and Context” study is ongoing, but needs more funding. The bishops pledged a million dollars for this study, and have already released, I think, $400,000. There are other sources from which we are trying to raise the money. We’ve made applications to several federal agencies that would ordinarily fund studies of this kind, like the Centers for Disease Control. And we have made some requests to various foundations and individuals who are known to contribute to Catholic causes. So at present we are not expecting to have to go back to the bishops for more money.
There are few better indicators of a secularist technocrat than the belief that throwing huge sums of money at a problem is some necessary precondition for effectiveness and success. Did you catch that? We need the Center for Disease Control to help us figure out why priests rape young men. Disease control???!!! Notice also the confidence Merz accords to our 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations to do what the Church presumably cannot do. Nonprofits are another green zone in American politics for ideologues to access the reins of the Church. With the abuse scandal, secularism is digging its claws deeper into our Apostolic Church. But Judge Merz is a graduate of Harvard College and Law School, so who cares what the Fathers of the Church and their present-day representatives might have to say about these things, especially when those reps today are abandoning their own traditions and bowing the knee to the "expertise" of "lay faithful" who drool after a "democratic" Church.
I believe, however, we need to do some serious scientific study of the effectiveness of these programs. Once we’ve got the “Causes and Context” study fully funded, that will be our next research goal. We’ve had some preliminary discussions with top experts in the country about designing an effectiveness study.

The Catholic Medical Association recently denounced safe-environment training as ineffective. I found their study disappointing. All they did was a literature review of programs in public schools in the 1980s. We had offered to collaborate with them, but they were not interested in collaboration. Their review of the literature was highly selective. If you want to find out whether a program works, you test kids before they take the program and then you test kids after and you see if there is a change in their awareness and you see over time what the changes in reporting are.

Dr. David Finkelhor of New Hampshire reviewed some of the more recent studies for us [the National Review Board]. One conclusion he reached was that safe-environment training may not prevent the first incident of abuse, but it teaches kids to call abuse by its right name and it gets them to report a first instance. Then we’ll have an intervention in the abuse career of the perpetrator and get him off the street, rather than having repetition after repetition.
So not even the Catholic Medical Association (which happens to have a good reputation of respecting Catholic orthodoxy) has enough "scientific" authority and expertise for Judge Merz. More "training" and "studies show" lingo. Catholic kids are just mechanistic objects of social engineering, not souls who may be negatively affected by premature exposure to slipshod secularist models of sex ed.
Q. Should the fact that 82 percent of the victims who have reported abuse were male and 18 percent were female send up a red flag about homosexuality as being part of this whole issue?

A. Whether the flag is red or not, it’s a data point that definitely has to be considered. It is a different pattern from society at large. Typically, we know from victimization studies about child abuse outside the Church, in society at large, that girls are more likely to be abused than boys and, in addition, that boys underreport abuse. The fact that we have such a high percentage of abuse of males is definitely something that needs explanation.

In the “Causes and Context” study, we hope to figure out the extent to which this is opportunity, the extent it is sexual orientation. When we were kids, it would have been more likely our parents would have let me, a boy, go for a weekend on a camping trip with a priest they knew, than you, a girl. That’s likely to be some piece of the explanation.

Q. Are there other things which make the pattern of abuse in the Church different?

A. This is not classic pedophilia in many ways, although there’s some of that. A few of the abusers have abused lots and lots of little kids. Almost 50 percent of the offenders that we know about offended only once—or at least we know about only one offense they committed. And the bulk of the offenses are against 10- to 14-year-olds. Most true pedophiles prefer their victims younger than that.
Ahhh, a glimpse of sanity.
Q. Is a new Church growing out of this mess?

A. I think we are making good progress. I am very encouraged in a couple of places. There are reformers saying, “We ought to watch bishops more carefully.” An important step in the right direction is serious lay involvement in the Church. The diocesan financial councilors should have been taken more seriously. Nobody in the Vatican has told the U.S. bishops, “We don’t want any more of that National Review Board—get rid of those people.” That’s a good sign.
So much for sanity. Back to "We Are Church" and "Call to Action." Not a single mention of prayer, ascetical formation, discipline, or virtue. No, lay leadership will solve all. Once the Catholic Church looks like the Episcopal or Presbyterian churches, all will be well.
Transparency in the Church has to be learned as a way of life. That is part of what Teresa [Kettelkamp, the executive director of the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection] meant in her cover letter to this report when she spoke about incorporating the Charter and its articles into the daily fabric of the Church.
Transparency, si; incorporating the Charter into my daily fabric, NO! Has the Charter really replaced the Breviary? Cuz if it has, then the Catholic Church is just a figment of Merz's nostalgia. Good for fodder in novels like Angela's Ashes or movies like Exorcist, not worth much else.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Is Kmiec a Pro-Life Dark Knight?

McCain made an excellent point during the Hofstra Debate comparing himself on the Breyer & Ginsberg Senate confirmations to Obama on Roberts & Alito. McCain clearly has not voted ideologically pro-life. Obama on the other hand has been nothing but ideological on judicial appointments. He lied on national TV with his cheap talk about "No Litmus Test" when everything else he's said and done on the matter testifies to the contrary. Make no mistake, Obama will only nominate Roe v. Wade absolutists to the bench in lockstep with NARAL, with one possible exception.

I've been wondering whether this is precisely how Kmiec may be trying to play the Trojan horse. Perhaps this is where Kmiec's seemingly disingenuous apologetics for Obama can serve not only his ambitions for judicial enthronement but for the pro-life agenda. The more ire Kmiec can draw from Christian pro-lifers, the more insulated he becomes from pro-choice suspicions that he is just a recruit for Carhart and the Catholic Five; and the more Obama can appear to be the bipartisan aisle-crosser by appointing Kmiec, that is, if Obama takes his own bipartisan rhetoric seriously.

The probability of success with this Dark Knight strategy is slim if not null when you consider the number of worry-free pro-choice jurists who have been waiting over eight years for judicial advancement. Then there's the problem for Kmiec of a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, which considerably devalues his strategy. The more conservative the Senate, the greater Kmiec's value to an Obama presidency. That doesn't look likely. On the other side, Dark Knight strategy has tremendous downside risk. Kmiec risks further confusion of the Catholic community on the Number One ethical issue on the Church's bulletin board. He risks ennobling Obama for being a principal architect in a Machiavellian mindgame with the electorate.

But now that an Obama presidency seems to be a foregone conclusion, Kmiec's position may be the pro-life movement's best hope. Obama clearly has no affection for those who have not coddled and played defense for him. His remarkable ability to emote temperance and generosity is a testament to his discipline. But he has been clearly frustrated by how the pro-life movement has not leaped en masse into his beneficent arms. He clearly believes he has bent over backwards to move the ball forward for the pro-life movement. He probably wonders why pro-lifers can't see it his way and chalks it up to GOP propaganda enslavement machines. He clearly does not understand how his substantive abortion activism could be seen as anything but moderate.

In other words, there's no way he's going to appoint even moderates like Roberts or Alito. Only Kmiecs have a slim shot, and only because they truly have taken fire from their original tribe for Obama. The more he can make a spectacle of himself as the sacrificial lamb who has been slain in martyrdom for the One by those mean, Pharisaical Communion-denying Bishops, the greater shall be his reward. There really is no rhyme or reason to the ridiculous arguments made by Kmiec otherwise.

But that's the problem with the Dark Knight -- there may be no public reward or vindication. Or maybe there will be. Maybe game theory is all there is to morality in this life.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Liberalism is the Great Combination of church & state

Smug liberal-theological Whiggery annoys the crap out me. Patrick Deneen puts some meat on my emotivist antipathy.
Lilla paints a dramatic portrait of an age of pre-modern violence born of religious warfare and a placid and peaceful condition of modern liberalism in which toleration, industriousness and prosperity govern. Left unsaid is the violent basis upon which liberalism was based, mainly directed toward a world that was viewed through a Gnostic lens of discontent and dissatisfaction, a relationship that was made possible by a “Great Combination” that put humankind in a position akin to that of gods.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Prosperity Gospel chickens comin' home to do you know what

Any of you inculturation-theology nut jobs out there care to defend this one?:
If so, the situation offers a look at how an native-born faith built partially on American econoic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market. [You know times are hard when Time's spellchecker goes so badly on the fritz]
I'd love to see O'Reilly haul Joel Osteen and Bruce Wilkinson onto the Factor for a good bitch-slapping.

HT: Rod Dreher