Interesting Discussion with a Reader

Interesting Discussion with a Reader August 27, 2016

He writes:

I share a quote that you probably know well:

“It is not for us to guess in what manner or moment the mercy of God might in any case have rescued the world; but it is certain that the struggle which established Christendom would have been very different if there bad been an empire of Carthage instead of an empire of Rome. We have to thank the patience of the Punic wars if, in after ages, divine things descended at least upon human things and not inhuman. Europe evolved into its own vices and its own impotence, as will be suggested on another page; but the worst into which it evolved was not like what it had escaped. Can any man in his senses compare the great wooden doll, whom the children expected to eat a little bit of the dinner, with the great idol who would have been expected to eat the children? That is the measure of how far the world went astray, compared with how far it might have gone astray. If the Romans were ruthless, it was in a true sense to an enemy, and certainly not merely a rival. They remembered not trade routes and regulations, but the faces of sneering men; and hated the hateful soul of Carthage. And we owe them something if we never needed to cut down the groves of Venus exactly as men cut down the groves of Baal. We owe it partly to their harshness that our thoughts of our human past are not wholly harsh. If the passage from heathenry to Christianity was a bridge as well as a breach we owe it to those who kept that heathenry human. If, after all these ages we are in some sense at peace with paganism, and can think more kindly of our fathers, it is well to remember the things that were, and the things that might have been. For this reason alone we can take lightly the load of antiquity and need not shudder at a nymph on a fountain or a cupid on a valentine.” – G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

We agree on many things:  Healthcare should be free.  Education should be free.  There should be common land and other safety nets for the impoverished. Unfettered capitalism is not the mind of the Church.  The justification for a ‘just’ war has a much higher burden after the technological advancements of WWI.


We disagree that all torture is a always clear cut case (I have seen your online spat with Feser, so I don’t doubt you are aware of the counter arguments).

I don’t argue that torture is always clear cut for the same reason that I don’t argue that we all know exactly how many beans make a heap.  What I argue is that the Church never ever encourages us to try to get as close to torture as possible without crossing the line just as she does not urge us to get as close to the hot secretary as we can without technically committing adultery.  To even attempt it is already proof of a bad conscience.  What the Church says is “treat prisoners humanely”.  Do that and you need never fret yourself about whether an act crosses the line into torture.

While I understand the need to limit the death penalty, I also understand the traditional Catholic position, and that Catholics of goodwill can disagree on the issue.

I’m glad you concede the need to limit it.  I think valuable time and energy can be saved by just ceasing to fight the Magisterium on this point and then spending it elsewhere, such as fighting abortion.

I’m confident you know that there once existed a society where many of these things were realized, health care, education/common land etc.  These things were pillaged away from the citizens of Catholic England by a corrupt representative democracy.  Is it triumphalism to note that these things can only exist, in a virtuous manner, inside a Catholic society?

I don’t know if it’s triumphalism or not.  I’m just not confident that claim is true. 🙂

When Europe was Christendom, and united in the Faith, open borders were no issue.  I lament the rise of nationalism, but recognize it as a natural fruit of the reformation.  Seeking subjective experience instead of objective reality, leads to worship of self and the nation (or political party) is merely an extension of self.

In the absence of Christendom–socialistic policies and the secular borderless super state is an evil oppressor. (The only true path to freedom is through the Incarnation…)

We agree on the centrality of the Incarnation.

Trump has few redeemable qualities and is certainly a boorish ass.  However, the DNC has gone from seeing sacrificing babies on the altar of convenience as a necessary evil–to something that should be shouted and celebrated as a positive good.  This has happened in 8 years–one wonders what the country would look like 8 years from now.   This isn’t hiding behind the unborn, this is a lamentation of the ultimate evil.

I hold no brief at all for the Left’s commitment to abortion.  it is a grave evil.

Carthage had many redeemable qualities outside of worshipping Ba’al with the blood of their babies (they were civilized, prosperous etc), Pagan Rome had few redeemable qualities…

The analogy does not hold since Trump is quite content with abortion.

I agree that people should conform themselves to the mind of the Church.  But the mind of the Church is thousands of years old–it isn’t decades old.  You often talk about this, and maybe you mention this on your podcast, but I have yet to hear (from you)  a call to fight for the restoration of Christendom.

Because I don’t believe that is what the Spirit wants anymore than he intended to restore the political kingdom of David when he sent Messiah.

The GOP is extremely flawed and devoid of worthwhile virtues.  But by going on your crusade against those in the Pro-Life movement,

I have not gone on any Crusade against the prolife movement.  I have called it to be more prolife, not less.  There are many in the prolife movement who *long* to do that: to uphold the Church’s insistence on protecting human life from conception to natural death.  They are bitterly opposed by a leadership and a heavily politicized majority demographic that regard any attempt to do that as a threat to right wing political interests and who have no problem at all pitting the unborn against the pope himself as some kind of Marxist foe.  I regard that as rubbish.

and openly touting the DNC, you are cheering for Carthage.

I do no such thing.  I oppose the DNC’s abortion zealotry, its sympathy for euthanasia, and its support for gay marriage.  I acknowledge the grownup fact that in the real world, for Trump to lose means Hillary must win.  But I greet that prospect, as I say, with the white hot passion of a thousand shrugs.  For myself, I will be voting for the American Solidarity Party since I have that luxury.  But I regard the election of Hillary as merely much less evil than the calamity of a Trump win, not as a good.  And after that, my primary focus is on arguing that the prolife movement needs to listen, not to the DNC (God forbid) but to the Church.  That will, it is true, involve paying attention to things the Church says that sound “liberal” to a conservatism that is now inured to the outrages Trump spews, but I think people have to recover the capacity of listening the Magisterium.

  If you take the time to read this, please don’t lash out in anger, please ponder the comparison, I think you would find it to be multi-layered.  God has already chosen the winner of this fight before…and for good reason.

Christ will be the winner ulimately.  Our task is to stick with him.  I hope you don’t take my reply as lashing out in anger.  I’m not.  I’m simply arguing for putting the Magisterium first.

I will pray for you.  I thank you for passion and your writings that have led many to the Church.  As I said, we agree about many social goals, but enriching the secular super state is not the way to achieve them.

I have no interest in (or great fear of) a secular superstate.   The Church was, after all, born in one.  My interest is in a Catholic laity that, at long last, puts the Church’s teaching first and tribal loyalties second (or dead last).  Thank you for your love for the Faith.  Let us pray for each other.


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