The Life Penalty

Interesting discussion at Zippy’s regarding the death penalty (DP).

I don’t have an issue with people being abolitionists regarding the DP generally speaking (with the caveat that I believe the Church has taught that the DP is not intrinsically immoral). But I do have a problem with this proggy notion of “well we moderns know better now. We moderns know that innocent people are sometimes killed, and therefore the DP is wrong. We moderns are more compassionate.” Was the possibility that innocent people could be erroneously killed by the DP unknown or unconsidered previously? I don’t know – seriously, I don’t and have not done due diligence here – but I’m very skeptical of any claim that DP is wrong or should be abolished simply because modernity is smarter than prior societies.

It is entirely likely that previous societies were well aware of the possibility that innocents could be erroneously killed by the DP.  This should be fairly obvious given that Catholic societies generally exercised the DP even though a central tenet of Catholicism is that our Lord – totally innocent – received the DP.  (I suppose the argument could be made that our Lord – though innocent – wasn’t erroneously killed.  But I think the false witnesses brought against him mitigates against that argument.)  What is more likely, however, is that modernity’s compassion is nothing more than modernity’s arrogance and ignorance.  That prior societies exercised the DP despite accepting the possibility that innocents could be erroneously killed just shows that prior societies had a more profound understanding of life, society, and Ultimate Ends.

In other words and despite the scandal it causes to modern ears, there are far worse things than death.

Anecdote is Not Evidence

John Bugay is a poisonous mushroom who has been anecdotally castigating the Holy Roman Catholic Church for years. We get it. You were once Catholic – actually a few times and something about Opus Dei don’tcha know – and therefore you have real insight into the Beast.  Same verse same as the first for those who have unfortunately read his writings for years and years.

Might as well have the token convert on the team I suppose. But, Dear John, which of your many children would you have contracepted and poisoned into oblivion had you been a cradle Protestant?  Since we’re speaking anecdotally.

War of the Worlds

Moby Dick – I won’t spoil the ending. But the older I get the more it pains.  But the type of pain changes. Old Yeller stories hurt as a kid because the dog had died. Old Yeller stories hurt as an adult because the boy has experienced death and is, therefore, no longer boy. I imagine Old Yeller stories would hurt, say, my parents because it highlights the inevitable ending of certain worlds. That world of being young parents sheparding hordes of little kids at birthday pool parties and the like has ended.  It highlights that all such worlds will eventually end.

There is so much pain and suffering from people clutching at their “worlds.”  There is so much lying and madness-disguised-as-happiness as people sail the world over in search of the Great White Whale.  Just a little further – if I don’t see him I’ll turn the ship back.  Oh, just a little further.

Agony is not whining.  Old Yeller dies, and worlds end. That’s life in the valley of tears. There is nothing wrong with agony at a particular world’s end.  There’s nothing wrong with grief and bereavement and agony.  As long as that agony leads to the Cross.  The Cross is acceptance of Providence and that the Lord’s will WILL be done. The Cross reminds us that worlds will end.  They must end.  And yet there is World Without End.


Chicken Changes Everything

Money changes everything
Money, money changes everything
We think we know what we’re doin’
That don’t mean a thing
It’s all in the past now
Money changes everything   – Cyndi Lauper


Reading different exchanges on the internet about usury is always helpful.  It’s helpful because nearly always the usury apologist will pronounce that the nature of money has changed – money is different now than it was in the dark old horrible days before the moral sanity and tranquility we all enjoy in modern society – and therefore mutuum lending for profitable interest is morally licit.  As Cyndi reminds us, I suppose, money changes everything.

But the usury apologist is wrong.  Whatever is to be said about what money is and how money has changed, this has nothing to do with the moral prohibition of usury. Usury is regarding the nature of the contract of the loan itself – not the nature of money that may be tied up in the contract of the loan.  Usury can occur whether the loan is of money or chickens.

For the record, there’s nearly always more truth nuggets in Cyndi Lauper lyrics than the writings of usury apologists.  And to some extent, money does change everything.  Our relative safety and prosperity (with all the usual caveats) has blinded us for the most part to the immorality of usury.  In fact, most moderns rather desire it.  I once did, and I thought I was most felicitous and precocious to ratchet up my credit score to hit the big loan someday. Sadly, however, one simply cannot contain the beast of sin – the situation with usury shows us exactly where we are heading.  And lies about how modernity has changed the nature of all sorts of things abound.  Felicitous, precocious moderns are now stockpiling condoms and pills, poisons and abortions all in an effort to ratchet up another credit score of sorts.  Hoping to hit the big loan someday I suppose.

Konami Coding Western Civ

Thank you, Mario
But our princess is in another castle.
In the dark ages of the Nintendo Entertainment System, a rather rogue piece of equipment – known as the Game Genie – was developed and marketed to the nerdiest of the child nerd.  It’s a bit humorous (or scary) to think of little kids as budding coders, but that’s sort of what was going on with the Game Genie. After connecting the genie to a game and turning on the system, you were brought to a screen that let you enter “code.”  Codes were game-specific. Certain codes could make the player invincible, have a gazillion lives, etc. The interesting thing is that the codes were really just suggestions. You could change a part of the code – say a code to give you 50 lives – here or there and some rather bizarre changes would occur.  Press the bizarre even further, and the game would no longer even be playable.
Adult usage of words and communication is much like those old fashioned game genies.  And everyone has a favorite code.  “Western Civilization,” “white supremacy,” “Judeo-Christian morality,” perhaps even spheres of orthodoxy – these are all just different codes of the same game.  But no one wants to “just” play that old stodgy game with its old stodgy rules.  And let’s be honest.  The game out of the box isn’t just boring; it’s also rather hard.  Boring challenges (or challenging bores) are the quickest way to kill an awesome sleep-over party.
My siblings, local neighborhood buds, and I would have a late night contest: figure out a game genie code that made the game the absolutely most bizarre, but still playable.  And we see that contest all the time.  Maybe we can get to a higher level by playing orthodoxy with an additional 50 lives of heresy.  So you beat Level 1 – or was it Level 4? – with some “Western Civ’ing Judeo-Christian Pre-Enlightenment orthodoxy”?  Uh huh.  So very sorry, Mario, but our Princess is in another Castle.   You can code all you wish, making things ever more interesting and bizarre.  What is ultimately our goal?  Is our goal to win that old stodgy game?  Or is our goal to code up Christ and His Holy Catholic Church in ever more new and interesting ways in order to have more of the neighborhood kids over at our house?  As they say: to each his own.  Just please don’t be surprised when the game becomes unplayable.

That Day

“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended.”  George W. Bush 9/11/2001

After 9/11 I remember many folks in my sphere of life at that time saying things such as, “Thank God at least we have a strong President – a good man as President who will do the right thing and who will go after these guys.”  I understand the sentiment.  A strong leader, during events of panic and confusion, can be comforting.

It can also be terrible.  On that horrible day – and it was horrible.  It has continued to bother me even though I barely remember the specifics of that particular day anymore and I never directly knew anyone killed.  It bothers me mostly, I think, because this most successful and dramatic terrorist attack the modern US has suffered accomplished – for the terrorists – relatively little.  Our country was wounded, to be sure, but in a way that one is wounded by a wasp sting.  I don’t mean that as flippant as it may sound; quite the opposite.  Our nation as a whole was never going to be in peril in any significant way by two buildings crashing to the earth.  It seems the main point was to spectacularly kill, kill, kill.  – anyway that day was horrible.  On that day the main players became (apologies for the term) iconic to me: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice – icons of that era.  When I think back on them at that time or hear their voices or even watch them currently, I now viscerally respond with loathing and dread.

Its a sense of loathing not because of any conspiracy theories.  Not because Bush and Cheney were conspiring against the US.  Please.  Its a sense of loathing because I actually do believe Bush wished to be a good man in those horrible times, wished to do the right thing by getting the bad guys, wished to comfort his people and show the world the strength of the US, believed people hate us for our freedoms.

It’s loathing because we have seen evil and wickedness perpetuated by good intentions and strong will marching forward from a foundation of moral error.  It’s loathing because I find it hard to point to anything that has changed for the Good.

And it is dread – maybe residual Protestant apocalyptic sensitivities – because I have a growing wonder that the heavens are opening and the rains are starting to pour.  It’s entirely possible the Immaculate Heart will triumph precisely because the Good Lord has determined – as the waters rise and rise – we are unworthy of a Noah.

Of Cruxes and Converts

A roustabout writer over at a little rag caused quite the stir recently by suggesting that certain converts to Roman Catholicism from non-Catholic faiths had developed “convert neurosis.”  The malady apparently manifests itself in vitriolic criticisms of Pope Francis, Vatican II, doctrinal changes, etc. etc.  Perhaps, it was hinted, these converts – particularly because they are converts – should be a bit more circumspect in their writings and opinions of the state of the Church.

For their own part, many self-styled traditional Catholic converts responded by getting their feelings hurt and freaking out.  “We have as much right as anyone to speak out on modernist abuses!!”  I suppose such is life when every conceivable discussion must only occur after dispersion through the right/left prism.

But the irony is telling.  See, even speaking solely in terms of conversion is giving away the store.  Conversion to Roman Catholicism from non-Catholic Christianity is a repentance of sin – the particular sin for most people of formal heresy.  The sorts of spurned converts who find themselves among the more so-called traditional Catholic blogger-writers are the very sorts of people who were – often by admission – quite devout in their former non-Catholicism. They were quite devout in their heresy:  they were quite devout in their sin.

Sin wounds.  Often very, even if imperceptibly, deeply.  Traditional Catholic teaching is that though the eternal punishment of sin is forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance, the temporal punishment – the temporal effects – remain.  And yet those traditional Catholic converts – so quick to (often quite rightly) point out heresy, so quick to point out sin and its devastating consequences – seem to forget this when applied to their own former heresies.  Some converts see conversion as a bizarre street cred – a cred that emboldens instead of humbles.

There’s no need to descend into modern psychotalk by labeling certain converts neurotics. There’s no need to see the alternative to convert neurosis as passing out Laudate Si tracts at the nearest TLM.  But there’s also no need for tradition-minded converts to think that by repenting their fornication they have somehow retained their purity and may safely arbitrate the rules of chastity.  They’re the traditional convert version of those annoyed with St. Maria Goretti.

We all have our trials.  And our repented grievous sins can at least remind us what our own particular temptations and susceptibilities are.  Converts are no different, and by acting otherwise they are arbitrarily selecting which sins “really matter.”

I write this as a convert.  St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.