Wednesday, 6/24/15

  1. Chuck Colson: Menace or Fiend?
  2. Laudato Si I
  3. Laudato Si II
  4. Legacies at Stake
  5. Roxaanne Gay’s failure of imagination
  6. Exiting the Echo Chamber
  7. Epitaph sub-Beta 0.1


Makarius then asks if I’ve read any Charles Colson before. I’m a bit surprised by this. How does he know Colson? Yes, I tell him, I do know Colson; I remember reading Loving God many years ago.

Makarius hasn’t read it, but knows something about Colson’s life. In crisp English, Makarius notes that “when Colson was in office, he was Nixon’s hatchet man. He was extremely ruthless.”

And so the two of us discuss Colson’s role in the Nixon scandal, his time in jail, his work with inmates.

“Colson had integrity,” Makarius tells me. “He was a good man.” And this might be the first positive thing I’ve heard about a Protestant.

(Josh Jeter, To The Holy Mountain – pay wall) Frank Schaeffer, the left-wing nut-case, in one of his bouts of kiss-and-tell, excoriated Colson as a right-wing nut-fiend, as best as I can recall (maybe it was James Dobson, a somewhat more plausible candidate for nut-fiend, but I think Scheffer anathematized both). I’ll trust Monk Makarius, and my own observation of decades of post-repentance rectitude, on this one.


Moral realists, including Catholic ones, should be able to worship and emulate a God of perfect love and still appreciate systems, like democracy and capitalism, that harness self-interest. But Francis doesn’t seem to have practical strategies for a fallen world. He neglects the obvious truth that the qualities that do harm can often, when carefully directed, do enormous good. Within marriage, lust can lead to childbearing. Within a regulated market, greed can lead to entrepreneurship and economic innovation. Within a constitution, the desire for fame can lead to political greatness.

(David Brooks, expressing disappointment with Laudato Si)


“While the Holy Father has spoken eloquently about the present genocide of Christians in the Middle East,” writes Fr. George Rutler in his inevitably elegant way, “those who calculate priorities would have hoped for an encyclical about this fierce persecution, surpassing that of the emperor Decius. Pictures of martyrs being beheaded, gingerly filed away by the media, give the impression that their last concern on earth was not climate fluctuations.”

I normally read Fr. Rutler with pleasure, but this, I’m afraid, is a cheap shot. None of us, should we be blessed to be awake as we’re dying, will be thinking about the weather, but those we love and leave behind will care about it a great deal—especially if it gets worse, as the majority of scientists seem to say.

(David Mills, expressing satisfaction with Laudato Si)


Obama’s Legacy Is at Stake in Supreme Court’s Health Care Ruling,” reads the headline on a New York Times story. A lot of Republicans seem to think that, and to eagerly anticipate the busting of his legacy. But I’m not so sure.

Yes, a holding that the federal subsidy is not available where the feds, not the state, run the insurance exchange would be one more mark of how overreaching and hasty the ACA stampede was. But I have a hard time ignoring those four pesky words, “operated by a state” (or something to that effect). I think Obama’s bluffing (or deluded, again, as the ConLawProf-in-Chief has been so often before) when he says it’s an easy case; it may be a dumb distinction, but it seems to be one the law makes. But this legal area is outside of my expertise, so we’ll just have to see.

But I don’t think I’d like to be a Republican legislator in a state that does not run an exchange and where people lose their subsidies in a week or less. Some states are relenting and setting up exchanges though they declined at first. The politics of not doing so, maybe with an emergency special session, could be very dicey, I think, as my impression is that the ACA has become progressively more popular, not less, so far.

It may be the Republican legacy as much as the Obama that’s at stake – a “lose-lose” proposition.


The New York Times top Op-Ed Wednesday is from Roxanne Gay, Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof. The long and the short of it is that she can’t forgive because her personal, idiosyncratic Catholicism obliges her only to forgive what she can imagine doing:

The one prayer that stayed with me was “Our Father” and the line “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I always got stuck on that part. It’s a nice idea that we could forgive those who might commit the same sins we are apt to commit, but surely there must be a line. Surely there are some trespasses most of us would not commit. What then?

But this being the New York Times, that’s pretty much all the religious angle there is. The sub-headline is more accusatory and incendiary: “What people are really asking for when they demand forgiveness from a traumatized community is absolution.” And indeed the Op-Ed closes that way:

What white people are really asking for when they demand forgiveness from a traumatized community is absolution. They want absolution from the racism that infects us all even though forgiveness cannot reconcile America’s racist sins. They want absolution from their silence in the face of all manner of racism, great and small. They want to believe it is possible to heal from such profound and malingering trauma because to face the openness of the wounds racism has created in our society is too much.

But who are these white people “demanding forgiveness”? What I see is people of all colors marveling at forgiveness.

Nonetheless, knowing my counsel will be rejected if it’s seen, I recommend forgiveness, and not just for the sins one can imagine oneself committing. Because, just to start with, you in all likelihood are capable of committing sins far worse than you have ever imagined.


I have re-subscribed to the New York Times, by the way. I found I had gradually succumbed to the temptation of the internet echo chamber, exposing myself to too few voices I might disagree with.

Now the besetting danger will be starting to think that the New York Times tells it like it is. Truth is, they’re selling left-liberal nostrums just like some sites beloved of some of my friends are selling right-liberal nostrums. The pure faith is found only at some authors on the American Conservative’s payroll. Yup.

Roxanne Gay’s insinuation that white racism is an unpardonable sin is one of those nostrums, as is the delusion that banning the Confederate Battle Flag (forgive me, please, if I called it the “stars and bars” in public) will accomplish much. When confederate flags are outlawed, only outlaws will have confederate flags.

At least the grievances of African-Americans are satiable in principle, unlike some grievances.


Occasionally, inspired by the memory of some self-help book (“Begin with the end in mind”), I try to come up with a fitting epitaph. How’s this one: “I tried to tell you. Now you’re just gonna have to figure it out on your own.”

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.