Monday 12/5/16

  1. Full Circle
  2. The ban on Catholic Marriage
  3. Butcher, Baker, Calligrapher
  4. Maximizing Personal Power
  5. Inevitable?

First Things


Men think they may do as they please.

In order to limit them, among other things the law of Moses prohibits disproportionate revenge:  One may take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but not a life for an eye or a limb for a tooth.

To men who have been successfully shaped by that wise law, Christ explains that in fact, the God Who gave it does not desire men to take revenge at all.

Some centuries later, theological revisionists argue that if revenge is really wrong, then the law of Moses is defective.

Still later revisionists conclude that if the law of Moses is defective, then Divine Revelation is illegitimate.

In that case the revelation of Christ is illegitimate too.

Men think they may do as they please.

(J Budziszewski, The Underground Thomist)

Secondary Things


Back when we supposedly were debating same-sex marriage, a tendentious phrase was everywhere in the press and on debaters lips — including some debaters who were undermining their own opposition to SSM by using it. That phrase was “laws banning same-sex marriage.”

One might just as well say that Catholic marriage is banned in the US:

[T]he debate in the United States over SSM is not about either making SSM legal or banning it. It is about legal recognition of certain same-sex relationships as marriages. This is a subtle distinction, although an important one …

[U]nder such an understanding of what constitutes a legal prohibition, other alleged matrimonial arrangements – not so obvious at first glance – must be described as “illegal” as well. For example, in all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia – which all now legally recognize SSM – no Catholic couple can obtain a legally recognized Catholic marriage …

According to the Catechism, a Catholic marriage consists of five elements: consent, conjugality, indissolubility, exclusivity, and openness to children. There is no jurisdiction that confers legal recognition to a marriage in which these five elements are necessary conditions. (Louisiana does have a provision that allows couples to enter a “covenant marriage,” but it is still not quite Catholic marriage.)

Although two American Catholics may be legally married by a Catholic priest, no U.S. jurisdiction will legally recognize or enforce the contours and conditions of Catholic marriage as understood by the Church. Thus, there are no provisions in any state law that require family court judges to defer to the authority of ecclesial courts and canon law when confronted with a case involving two parties in a Catholic marriage. No American state court, for example, would ever issue an order requiring that the parties of a Catholic marriage (even if it includes a non-Catholic) agree to raise their children as Catholics, even though that is precisely what the Church teaches. Consequently, given the fact that the government will not recognize Catholic marital unions in all their canonical fullness, is it fair to say that the government, by excluding them from such legal recognition, is denying them “equal dignity in the eyes of the law?” Perhaps. But it is still not banning such unions.

(Francis J. Beckwith, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith)

The last chapters of this book persuasively describe why opponents of same-sex marriage will be facing hardships after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell same-sex marriage decision, and why those hardships will be unjust under the same principles of Justificatory Liberalism that formed the basis for the legal attack in favor of SSM.

The Wikipedia article on Beckwith, a well-regarded philosopher, focuses on him as a proponent of Intelligent Design (ID) theory. That was true, but he is now a critic of ID, and not a supporter, as this book makes clear. It appears that he became disenthralled with ID sometime after his surprise conversion from Evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism in 2007. I will leave questions of cause and effect to others, but Beckwith himself now sees Evangelicalism as especially susceptible to the promise of ID.

Tertiary Things


The offenders (or potential offenders–see below) in this case are calligraphists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski. They are represented by (who else?) the Alliance Defending Freedom. (I keep saying: If you really want to do something effective to fight the culture wars and defend the innocent, how about this? Instead of becoming a despicable troll and hating conservatives like David French, support the ADF. For which French has worked. End of digression.)

Now, there’s one oddity about this case, and I hope to make this clearer eventually. Some versions of the story say that Joanna and Breanna actually have refused to create invitations for a homosexual “wedding” and are now “facing” the penalties of the ordinance. But a search of the ADF web site gives the impression, rather, that they are going out and taking the fight to the City of Phoenix, filing a state pre-enforcement challenge to the ordinance on First Amendment grounds. If so, that’s quite brave, because most wedding vendors just hope quietly to fly under the radar. Instead, these two ladies are willing to make theirs a test case and thus make themselves sitting ducks for the malice of the shrieking harpies of tolerance.

(Lydia McGrew, What’s Wrong With the World?) I’m pretty sure the case for these calligraphers is indeed a pre-enforcement challenge and that reports to the contrary are from lazy reporters glossing the story to make it conform to script.

It strikes me as a smart case to bring because it’s hard to argue that calligraphy is is not a form of artistic expression. The caselaw against compelled expression is very strong, and this case likely is emotionally stronger than those of florists, bakers and photographers, whose work may feel a little more like a commodity, less like art.


The effort to understand Donald Trump — and not incidentally to prevent his becoming a despot — continue:

Mr. Trump also recently inflated his election performance, claiming — without evidence — that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This, too, is nothing new. Authoritarians often exaggerate their popular support to increase the perception of their legitimacy. But the deeper objective is to weaken the democratic institutions that limit their power. Eroding confidence in voting, elections and representative bodies gives them a freer hand to wield more power.

As a C.I.A. officer, I saw firsthand authoritarians’ use of these tactics around the world. Their profound appetite for absolute power drives their intolerance for any restraint — whether by people, organizations, the law, cultural norms, principles or even the expectation of consistency. For a despot, all of these checks on power must be ignored, undermined or destroyed so that he is all that matters.

Mr. Trump has said that he prefers to be unpredictable because it maximizes his power. During his recent interview with The New York Times, he casually abandoned his fiery calls during the campaign for torture, prosecuting Hillary Clinton and changing libel laws. Mr. Trump’s inconsistencies and provocative proposals are a strategy; they are intended to elevate his importance above all else — and to place him beyond democratic norms, beyond even the Constitution.

In our nation, power is shared, checked and balanced precisely to thwart would-be autocrats. But as we become desensitized to the notion that Mr. Trump is the ultimate authority, we may attribute less importance to the laws, norms and principles that uphold our system of government, which protects our rights. Most dangerously, we devalue our own worth and that of our fellow Americans.

We cannot allow Mr. Trump to normalize the idea that he is the ultimate arbiter of our rights. Those who can will need to speak out boldly and suffer possible retaliation. Others will need to offer hands of kindness and friendship across the traditional political divide, as well as to those who may become targets because of who they are or what they believe. Those who understand the cause are called to the work, which I hope will unify and bless our nation in time.

(Evan McMullin, former Independent candidate for President) I’m not sure this nails it, but I appreciate the effort and wouldn’t share it unless it seemed plausible.


Regarding Standing Rock:

In fact, a few days later, in an extraordinary exchange before the U.S. Court of Appeals, the company admitted that the process was incomplete. Judge Thomas B. Griffith asked: “Why not wait until you see whether you’re going to get the easement?” asked Judge Thomas B. Griffith. “To a neutral outside observer, it looks like you’re forcing their hand … So it’s a gamble. You’re gambling you’re going to win.”

And why not gamble? The easement was inevitable. A done deal.

But “inevitable” blew up Sunday night.

On the same weekend when thousands of veterans showed up to support Standing Rock, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it will not grant the easement to go under Lake Oahe. Additionally, the Army Corps will now require an Environmental Impact Statement.

So what now? That invincible force known as the oil industry is still out there, saying the project is inevitable.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said: “Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country. Roads, bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, wind farms, and water lines will be very difficult, if not impossible, to build when criminal behavior is rewarded this way.”

(Remember, it was the company that was proceeding without an easement.)

(The Real Standing Rock Victory Is This: “Inevitable” Is Not What It Used to Be, from Trahant Reports via Reslience)

* * * * *

“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.