House Cleaning

I had a bit of a backlog of blogs I’d saved for future comment. I tossed many for having passed the sell-by date, but some problems and idiocies are perennial:

    1. Religion and Worldview
    2. The “The Thorn Birds” Precedent
    3. The continuing irrelevance of the ancients
    4. Bigotry on display


“It’s no coincidence that three of the four dissenters in Hobby Lobby were Jews with limited attachment to their religious heritage. Such Jews have always been uncomfortable with public displays of religion in the United States, and are especially hostile to the sorts of evangelical Christianity that motivates the owners of Hobby Lobby to seek religious exemptions from providing their employees with certain types of contraception. It’s also not surprising that three of the dissenting Justices are unmarried women, two of whom have never had children, because they see pregnancy as a disease in need of ‘preventive care’ rather than a blessing.”

That’s really reductionist and offensive, right? Yet my Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with equally reductionist and offensive blog posts talking about the Catholic male cabal on the Supreme Court …

(David Bernstein) I’m late to the dance passing this along, as it’s a July 8 blog by Bernstein.

This is not a “shut up, he explained” blog, nor is it an admonition not to mention inconvenient truths in public.

Rather, it’s an admonition that one truth (that a lot of the Hobby Lobby majority was Roman Catholic) is irrelevant, because conservative legal voices all support the Hobby Lobby outcome, with one exception, whether they’re Catholic or not. Likewise, liberals tend to oppose it regardless of religion.

And, through it all, the point I also try often to make in various ways, “I’m not one to deny that one’s general worldview affects one’s constitutional views,” with religion tending to be a big influence, if not an absolute determinant, of worldview. That’s why most cries of “separation of Church and state” hit my ears as efforts to disenfranchise those religious people whose worldview is conservative.


Late to the dance on this one, too, but I was glad to see my memory was playing tricks on me and it wasn’t a Russian Orthodox Patriarch who said it:

In a personal dissent, which no other member of the court joined, the Russian judge, Dmitry Dedov, argued that mandatory priestly celibacy was itself a human rights violation the court should not tolerate.

Mandatory celibacy has been a “well-known and serious problem” in Catholicism for centuries, Dedov wrote, citing Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds. It had caused a great deal of grief and led priests to abuse children “in many countries.” One could not justify holding people  to a vow of celibacy, even a voluntary one:

The Convention protects freedom of religion…. But it does not entitle religious organizations, even in the name of autonomy, to persecute their members for exercising fundamental human rights. If the Convention system is intended to combat totalitarianism, then there is no reason to tolerate the sort of totalitarianism that can be seen in the present case.

“I believe,” he concluded, “that optional celibacy is the best way out of this problem and that it could also–I hope–serve as a preventive measure against clerical sex abuses of children in the future.”

I suppose Judge Dedov, who attended a Soviet university in the 1980s, is in a position to know something about totalitarianism. But, really, his dissent is an embarrassment. No one asked Judge Dedov for his views on clerical celibacy. The merit of religious doctrine is not a matter for secular human rights judges to address, and certainly not in a simplistic and gratuitously insulting way. (The Thorn Birds? Really?) And to assert, without offering evidence, that Catholicism’s rules on clerical celibacy have themselves caused the sex abuse crisis–a crisis that has, no doubt, many causes–is not what one expects from a judge.

(Mark L. Movesian)


This one’s fresh:

The wisdom of nominalism is in the realization that the ancients had nothing of value to say to us. Knowledge of the human condition begins with Machiavelli. All that was before him is useless.

A Facebook friend, with whom I heartily agree, characterized this as “Today’s quote that makes me want to stick freshly-sharpened pencils in my eyes.” I’d link to the Machiavellian who wrote it if I knew the source.

C.S. Lewis referred to “chronological snobbery,” which was, more or less, the bias that what’s new is better. I suppose the opposite is also possible: the bias that what’s old is better, but Lewis, again, recommended reading an old book or two for every new one to avoid newish fallacies.

I’m not sure, though, that a statement so dogmatic qualifies as a bias. It may be a tragically wrong and stupid conviction, but conviction and bias are not the same.


Speaking of bias, I’m reminded again of Chesterton’s comment about the real bigot not being the guy who think’s he’s right, but the one who can’t imagine how the other guy went wrong. Blog commenter Tim Payne strikes me as a bigot, on that and more familiar grounds.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.