Archive for September, 2006

Not for nothing does "Caleb Steagall" potentially rhyme with "Steven Seagal." Read the increasingly insufferable George Will on Wal-Mart, then Steagall’s response from the–dare I say it?–conservative point of view.

Maclin Horton

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Voting for Democrats

Thought I would start a new thread based on the new comments today on the "Where Did the Party Go?" post, since the original post is a month old and doesn’t show in Recent Posts.

Daniel says he’s voting for Dems for Congress this fall and quotes this piece by Tom Storck to justify voting the not-ostensibly-pro-life party. Without..ahem… necessarily agreeing with everything Daniel says, I have to say, as a two-time Bush voter and someone who has in general voted for Republicans as the lesser of two evils for a long time, that I don’t see a terribly strong Catholic argument against voting Democratic at this point. The floor is open…

Maclin Horton

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Though the Heavens Fall

New movie about an old story.

Maclin Horton

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Good words from the signoff:

As we have written previously, we believe that to suffer
one’s place and one’s people in the particularity of its and their
needs is the only true basis for finding love, friendship, and an
authentic, meaningful life. This is nothing less than the key to the
pursuit of Christian holiness, which is the whole of the Christian
adventure: to live in love with the frailty and limits of one’s
existence, suffering the places, customs, rites, joys, and sorrows of
the people who are in close relation to you by family, friendship, and
community–all in service of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is
best experienced directly. The discipline of place teaches that it is
more than enough to care skillfully and lovingly for one’s own little
circle, and this is the model for the good life, not the limitless
jurisdiction of the ego, granted by a doctrine of choice, that is ever
seeking its own fulfillment, pleasure, and satiation.

Taking that charge seriously, The New Pantagruel has, essentially, argued itself out of existence….

There’s also a very fine poem ending in a great couplet.

Maclin Horton

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Snapping the Thread

Maclin Horton

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In the End, One Choice

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his
soul? –
Mark 8:36

While inferior in most ways to a printed journal, there are things unique
to the internet that I do enjoy about this weblog. Chief of these is the
conversation that follows the initial posting of an essay. When writing for
Caelum et Terra, the magazine, I did not think twice if a bit of
writing did not generate a letter to the editor. When writing for Caelum et
the online entity, however, if a post does not spur a vigorous
discussion I think I must have done something wrong. Indeed, I must resist the
temptation to be deliberately provocative.

But there is one recurring response in these conversations that has long
bothered me and which I would like to now address.

That is, when we, the usual suspects, are offering our various
philosphical, theological or prophetic critiques of some act or other, sooner or
later someone demands that the critic produce some sort of practical policy
statement: "So; you think torture is wrong. Just how do you propose to
effectively interrogate suspected terrorists?" Or "So you think warfare which
kills large numbers of civilians is immoral? Do you have an efficient strategy
for victory that you do consider moral?"

Usually the response to these demands is a restatement of general moral
principle, which seems to confirm the challenger’s opinion that these Caelum et
Terra wise guys have no real-world answers and little right to criticize.

In fact this misses the point.

This is a place for cultural, moral, and political commentary and
conversation. It is not a public policy center or a think tank.

The one who offers philosophical or theological analysis- or the more
direct and intuitive prophetic witness- is bound by fidelity to reason or to the
Word of God. He is not necessarily bound to prescribe means to achieve worldly
ends, however noble. He needs to be faithful to his vocation, not necessarily to
aspire to the vocation of others.

Was Moses to be dismissed if he could not offer an economic model that
would minimize the social disruption that freeing the Hebrew slaves would

Was John the Baptist to be ignored as irrelevant if he could not offer
Herod’s paramour marital counselling?

It is, however, the obligation of those whose vocations involve public
responsibility for the common good- or the common defense- to make sure that
both their ends and the means chosen to attain those ends are in conformity to
the moral law.

This may mean rethinking things rather thoroughly and creatively and it
may, perhaps, even mean at times acknowledging that ther may be no moral means
to achieve a particular good end.

Note that I am not in principle admitting this to be true; indeed it seems
evident to me that evil means reap evil, if unintended, ends. Sin begets sin,
violence begets violence. Think of the near century-long playing out of the
ramifications of World War I: the resentment of the German people led directly
to World War II, and we are only beginning to see the results of the destruction
of the Ottoman Empire and the subjegation and division of the Muslim world that
followed that war.

To choose sinful means is often the first choice of sinful man, and it
always comes back to haunt him.

To paraphrase Chesterton yet again, perhaps virtue has not been tried and
found wanting; rather it has not been tried.

But what if we admit for the sake of argument that sometimes victory over
some evil cannot be attained without resorting to evil means?

We are Catholics, and thus not seperatists who believe that the Church
exists in a different dimension than "the world". Nevertheless we admit that
there remains in the end a tension between Church and World, between the City of
God and the CIty of Man.

By nature holistic, Catholics believe that faith forms culture and informs
political and social life.

At the same time we acknowledge the primacy of the spiritual.

Our Lord did not guarantee us success in this life, and if the choice in
fact must be made between some worldly end, however noble, that can only be
attained by evil means, and failure, there is only one choice to be made.

Daniel Nichols

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Eventually, Like Napoleon: My 9/11 Column

Maclin Horton

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The Ugly Side

America is beautiful, but She has an ugly side.- Neil Young, from
Living with War

I am currently reading Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of its Enemies since 9/11.

In the book, Mr. Suskind mentions two instances of American strategy aimed at getting suspected Al Queda operatives to talk. Almost in passing, he tells of a successful attempt, which involved not torture, but FBI interrogators plying suspects with Chinese food and pornography.

In the other account, high-ranking Al Queda member Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
was subjected to death threats, water-boarding, exposure to hot and cold
extremes, and sleep deprivation- the whole array of treatments that the Bush
administration has insisted are not torture- and still he held fast. Then,
according to several former CIA agents, he was told that his children, ages 7
and 9, and in American custody, would be harmed.

Mohammed said, in effect, that if the Americans killed his children they
would be with God.

He didn’t talk.

Darth- er, DIck- Cheney famously said shortly after 9/11, that America now
had to work from "The Dark Side".

Apparently he meant it.

Using pornography to weaken a man, ensnaring his soul in carnal sin, is a
wicked act, one that makes me doubt that the behavior of our troops at Abu
Ghraib was really an aberration.

And threatening a man’s small children?

Beneath contempt, even if there was no real intent to harm them.

George W. Bush consistently claims the moral high ground in what he calls
his war on terror. repeating like a simplistic mantra that his enemies are evil
men and that America is good.

It is clear that Al Queda, which violates several Islamic principles with
impunity- the moral prohibitions against killing civilians, killing other
Muslims, and suicide- is evil. It is less clear that this administration, using
moral corruption as a weapon, threatening children, torturing its enemies, is on
the side of the angels.

In the war of jihad vs. pornocracy, of Hitler vs. Satan, of Antichrist vs.
Babylon, the follower of Christ is by definition an outsider, a

Daniel Nichols

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Daniel is right, this is a really good movie. There are a couple of things that I thought were maybe a little off, but I would have to give away too much of the plot to describe them, and besides, they don’t make that much difference. Daniel’s comparison of the Hasidim (is that the right noun?) to charismatic Christians is apt, judging by this portrayal. I was very surprised to find that there is, apparently, a Hasidic counterpart to contemporary Christian rock music.

Maclin Horton

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Betjeman, Slowly Strolling Back

Probably of interest only to poetry fans.

Maclin Horton

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