Sunday, 11/1/15

  1. Another Red Letter Day
  2. Who are the abortion extremists?
  3. Douthat contra mundum
  4. Tipsy’s tribal loyalties
  5. Lame, lame hypocrisy hunting


Mark your calendar again, as I implausibly agree with “the enemy.”


  • As Jon A. Shields points out at the Weekly Standard, recent efforts to limit our abortion regime by banning abortions after twenty-two weeks get described as an assault on women’s rights. Pro-life extremism! A threat to the Constitution! But wait a minute. France, Germany, and ten other European countries prohibit abortions after twelve weeks. If anything counts as extremism, it’s the pro-abortion lobby in America that won’t accept any limits.
  • The 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act prohibits the killing of children who have managed to survive abortion procedures. But the politics that prevailed when it was passed prevented any penalties from being attached. Thus the legislation is purely symbolic and impossible to enforce. New legislation, “The Born-Alive Survivors of Abortion Protection Act,” drafted with the help of Hadley Arkes, the architect of the 2002 Born-Alive Act, imposes civil and criminal penalties. The House of Representatives passed the act in September. All the Republicans voted for it, along with only five Democrats. One hundred and seventy-seven Democrats voted against imposing penalties for killing children alive outside the womb. President Obama has announced that he will veto the bill if it passes the Senate.Not providing legal protection to already-born infants? That’s ­extremism.

(R.R. Reno)


This may have registered only over in my little corner of the world, but a growing list of liberal Catholic theologians want the New York Times to silence Ross Douthat on matters theological. Exhibit A: a short letter from which some of them now are vainly trying to retreat.

May I recommend the Dawkins therapy?

Oops! Douthat’s taking it back at ’em. Too late to retreat to Teddy Bears and thumb-sucking.


I should acknowledge here that my dabbling in Catholic arguments on divorce and remarriage is more a matter of tribal loyalty (Us Conservatives versus Them Progressives) than of substance.

On communion of divorced and remarried persons, Orthodox Christianity differs from the Roman Catholic magisterium, and that’s not a mere recent tendency, pitting oikonomia against akrivia, as with current Orthodox practice on contraception. It goes back a long way.

How long? Historic questions aren’t always easy to answer, and I’m no expert historian. But an scholarly article on the history of divorce and remarriage in the church appears to trace it back to roughly the Fourth Century (and to blame it on — who else? — St. Constantine).

Our position is lax only from the perspective of committed defenders of the Magisterium. Only first marriages are sacraments. Second (and even third) marriages are relatively somber and penitential. There are no fourth marriages allowed. And this, I believe, is regardless of how the first three ended (i.e., death as well as divorce).

So far as I can tell, the Kasper faction in Roman Catholicism uses Orthodox practice mostly as a stalking horse for something that is more radical in theory and likely would prove utterly chaotic in practice.


I would not even venture a stab at describing “the Protestant position” on divorce and remarriage, as I’m fairly sure there is no such thing. Rather, there are multiple opinions across a pretty wide spectrum.

So it’s dubious for critics of people like Kim Davis to say “You’re a hypocrite (1) because you’re divorced and remarried several times (unless they know more about her sect’s position on the topic than I do) and (2) you aren’t interrogating couples seeking marriage licenses about whether either of them is divorced.”

I tend to assume that kind of argument is mere progressive mau-mauing, but I suppose it’s possible that there are people out there who think the Magisterium’s position is The Christian Position even as they reject it (or think that the state is perfectly free to have a contrary position).

So, too, for the absurd contentions that if marriage were intrinsically about procreation we’d be running some kind of fertility tests on applicants for licenses, and refusing outright any marriage license where the woman was thought beyond the possibility of conception. This is just another instance of the progressive instinct that if something is good, right and true, all the power of the state should be brought to bear on it.

* * * * *

“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.