Disagreeing with Amy and Mike

Mike disses the Latin conception of law and exalts the Anglo-Saxon conception. I think they’re both very useful. The Latin conception basically says “Make rules about everything and then list all the exceptions.” The Anglo-Saxon conception says, “Make as few rules as possible and then stick to them to the bitter end”. Obviously the first conception can breed bureaucrats who are adept at figuring out ways to elude the law (it also explains Italian drivers). Equally obviously, the second conception breeds stupid zero tolerance policies that punish kids with expulsion for drawing Star Wars blasters on their homework (it also explain why Anglo-Saxons stop at stop light in the middle of the Mojave Desert when there is not another car around for 100 miles).

Just today, on Steve Ray’s board, I was arguing with a reactionary guy who (despite his advocacy of schism since JPII is not a Pope to his taste), nonetheless appeals to canon law (or rather the 1961 document on ordaining gays) to argue that all homosexuals, even celibate ones, should be expelled from the priesthood. When I said that this was merciless (not to mention hypocritical), his reply was telling: “Sad to see you count your mercy above church law”. Um, yes. I do think Mercy outweighs this sort of crazed Anglo-Saxon legalism. So does the Church apparently, since canon law is riddled with escape hatches to the effect it applies “in most cases” or words to that effect.

In moments of drastic sin, it is easy to start screaming for inflexible law. In most ordinary times, what we need is a law that takes into account human weakness and failure and does not crucify us merely in order to maintain some weird scheme of inner rectitude. The law was made for man, not man for the law. That entails risks, but zero tolerance thinking entails many more.


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