Question to Ponder

Question to Ponder March 25, 2009

Given that the United States, as a nation, has been actively involved with many intrinsic evils (unjust war, torture, the promotion of abortion, et. al), is it appropriate for a Catholic University to fly the American flag? Does that act itself give honor to a nation which supports such intrinsic evils, thereby indicating some sort of acceptance of them?

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  • I specifically made the question in relation to the university, because I think the issue would be different, and is different, when addressing a particular church. There, I think there are serious issues with flying the flag, but I don’t think there is at a university.

    Moreover, I could have asked another question, and I bring it here: What do you think of a church, or cathedral, being used as a major stop in a political campaign, where the spokesman is saying “With your help, we will win”? What if the spokesman is himself invovled with the promotion of intrinisic evil? What if the spokesman was Dick Cheney in the 2004 election? What if the parish was the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Parma, Ohio?

    Kuzyszyn-Holubec, Halyna
    Ukrainian Weekly, The
    07-18-2004
    PARMA, Ohio – The astrodome of St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral was filled to the brim on July 3, with some 1,500 Republican supporters, as Vice-President Dick Cheney kicked off his campaign bus tour in Parma, Ohio.

    Children dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothing, along with several prominent Ukrainian American Republican leaders, stood on stage with the vice-president as he delivered a speech rallying support for President George W. Bush’s re-election, American values and the war on terror.

    “With your support I have no doubt that Ohio will support the Bush-Cheney ticket,” Mr. Cheney said.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/12815856/The-Ukrainian-Weekly-200429

    What should we make of that?

  • Kurt

    1. I assume Cheney spoke at the parish hall, not the church. I hope the parish trustees rented it out at the commerical rate. I was more troubled by G.H.W. Bush’s speech at a Catholic facility in the 1988 campaign where he spoke not with the more tolerable “It is an unfortunate and serious matter, but sometimes a society has to act to protect itself by executing…” but an absolute giddiness about being able to pull the switch on the electric chair.

    2. Of course we should fly our nation’s flag. Welcoming the flag, the president, or displaying a copy of the Constitution which is deemed by its legitimate interpreter to include a right to abort is not an endorsement of any particular flaw.

    Our country and its system of government presents the greatest opportunity for the promotion of justice then anything ever designed in the history of the world. To honor our flag, our country, our constitutional officers, our Constitution is not to take sides in any internal matter of debate, but to honor the core principles we as a nation stands for.

  • Kurt

    1. I am trying to see where it took place, but it was a large crowd, and at the Cathedral; it is likely with the size of the crowd, the main sanctuary was used, though I do not know. The picture I saw from the link did not let me know either way. But it was the Cathedral itself, not just any parish; and the problems of the Iraq War were already known by then. So it is problematic.

    2. Is this your answer in relation to the university, or the church itself? For the university, I agree; for a church, I think one can make arguments against it (at least against it being in the sanctuary). But one would think, since we know what the United States currently represents are far from Catholic moral standards, there should be some who should come to conclude that it is wrong to give honor to the flag, since it is the symbol which stands for the United States and all the United States presents to the world (including, and especially intrinsic evils, like its support for abortion rights).

  • Kurt

    Henry,

    Yes, if Cheney held a camapign rally in the sanctuary (or ‘temple’, as you easterners say), it would be troubling. Following my principle that it is the actor who has the right to define the meaning of an action, if the parish trustees assert they are just renting out the social hall as a means of fundraising, I can accept that.

    I can go either way about the national flag in the sanctuary. One can see the sanctuary as a little bit of heaven on earth, with extraterritorality like an embassy.

    I would respectfully disagree that what the United States currently represents is far from Catholic moral standards. We have our flaws, as does the Church. We repersent the best opportunities for justice the world has ever seen.

  • Kurt

    Obviously I am pointing out the bad that we see within the United States currently; but that is the point to bring out the question and to use it in analogy to other discussions going on right now.

    Reading another article it was the social hall, http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-96101353.html , nonetheless it is the social hall — of the seat of the bishop. And that still says something, imo, far more, than what is happening at Notre Dame right now. But you were also right about GHW Bush. That is another such example.

  • Good question. Just to take one example: all political leaders remain committed to non-negotiable nuclear weapons, suggesting that the international image of the American flag cannot be be separated from the embrace of the weapons.

  • It is theoretically possible. I wouldn’t fly a Nazi flag at a university. So the question is whether the American flag concretely stands for abortion, torture, etc in the way that Barack Obama concretely stands for abortion and ESCR.

    Has flying the American flag come to just mean (among other things) support for (say) torture, the way Barack Obama supports abortion? I think it pretty obviously has not, and torture is the ‘closest’ one might argue — people who fly the American flag tend on balance to be against abortion, euthanasia, etc. But if it had come to mean that, the way the Nazi flag means genocide of Jews, then I would definitely object to flying it.

    Barack Obama means genocide of a particular form, in much the same way that the Nazi flag means genocide in a different form. So all the Obama support around Vox Nova is a lot like flying the Nazi flag.

    • Zippy

      Your one post here has shown your real problem; you have reduced what Obama is and what he stands for exclusively to those elements you find wrong, all the while you do not allow it to be done to the flag of the United States. Yet, that flag now STANDS for Obama, among other things. To honor the flag is to honor the president of the United States. Obama is president. To honor that flag is to honor Obama. Of course, not necessarily for all that Obama stands, but then again, neither is bringing him to Notre Dame to speak doing that. But your reductionist tendencies are made clear here.

  • you have reduced what Obama is and what he stands for exclusively to those elements you find wrong, all the while you do not allow it to be done to the flag of the United States.

    No I haven’t. It isn’t a question of only, it is a question of what is essential. If torture were essential to what the American flag stand for (as Jewish genocide is essential to what the Nazi flag stands for), then I would be against flying it at Notre Dame. Abortion, ESCR, and euthanasia are in fact essential to what Obama stands for as a politician. The particular facts distinguish the particular cases.

    And waffling tergiversation about abortion and euthanasia is essential to Vox Nova, which purports to be a Catholic blog, which is why Vox Nova is similar to flying a Nazi flag on the Internet. Much as the Coalition for Fog was also, in its support of torture, like flying a Nazi flag on the Internet. You guys all make nice bedfellows.

    • Zippy

      Your misrepresentation of VN will stop here. There is no waffling about abortion. There is a disagreement in methodologies as how to deal with the problem, perhaps; but that is not a disagreement about abortion. If you can’t be honest, you won’t be welcome here.

  • David Nickol

    Barack Obama means genocide of a particular form, in much the same way that the Nazi flag means genocide in a different form.

    Even granting for the sake of argument that all abortions are deliberate killings of innocent human beings, that still does not make legalized abortion “genocide.” I suppose one might make a case that legalized abortion permits “genocide” of Down Syndrome individuals, since they might be considered a well defined group. But it is stretching meanings beyond the breaking point to define unwanted babies as a “national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

    On December 9, 1948, in the shadow of the Holocaust and in no small part due to the tireless efforts of Lemkin himself, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes “genocide” as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide as:

    [G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    As with calling abortion infanticide, calling it genocide is classifying it as something it is not in order to make a rhetorical case against it more emotionally compelling.

  • David Nickol

    Is there any basis for claiming Obama supports euthanasia other than the fact that he said he regretted his vote to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case?

  • Kurt

    Zippy proclaims: “I wouldn’t fly a Nazi flag at a university.”

    That’s reassuring, my friend. Though even on my worst days, I didn’t really think you would. It is no longer “No enemies to the Right.”

    Henry writes: “the social hall — of the seat of the bishop.” The Catholic church is not very forthcoming as to how church property is held. I understand you people still have a lot of lay trusteeship. So are we sure it is the bishop’s social hall or the parish lay corporation’s hall? 🙂

  • I think the Cheney at a Catholic Church even should not have happened, hall or church. I don’t like Churches being used for political purposes even by good politicians (as I think the Vatican is, judging by the ban of politician priests).

    I find Henry Karlson’s argument that the flag stands for Obama difficult. If it stands for Obama, then it also must stand for Bush? For Sen. David Vitter? For all political leaders, at least on the federal level? This could create a situation in which the flag stands for two opposing things (“abortion and pro-life,” for example).

    It seems to me that the flag stands only for what is intrinsic to America. As of right now, I don’t see anything intrinsic to America that would merit a refusal to fly the flag (I might be wrong about that and would be willing to listen to objections). Most of America’s trouble spots today (foreign policy, lack of care for the poor, abortion, escr, etc) don’t seem to be intrinsic and can be change, even if with great difficulty.

    Now, if say abortion rights were codified into the American identity (say a Constitutional amendment), then I think one could have an objection to waiving it. This could cause problems for waiving state flags with codified rights to abortion in their constitutions.

    That’s not a strong answer, but maybe that would help people think about the issue. For what it’s worth, the only flag I really want in front of my house is a nice golden Vatican flag.

  • ari

    Henry,

    You are attempting to engage once again in the same fallacious reasoning as before in a previous thread.

    You are attempting to deflect the indisputable guilt of one man, Obama, as regarding his fierce support for the pro-abortionist agenda onto an entire nation.

    Needless to say, such a specious analogy fails completely.

    It would be like saying that all Catholics who dare pay their taxes to the American government (which, in turn, dedicates such monies to stem cell research and federally funded abortion causes) should be found guilty of promoting abortion.

    If, however, this is what you in fact mean, then I should like to know if you do pay your taxes so readily and so complicitly, knowing full well that this is indeed the case; and if you do, you yourself are to be found guilty of such an act and are as pro-abortionist as the very President you herald & defend time and again.

  • I’ll also agree with Henry that VN hasn’t waffled on abortion.

    That said, “not waffling” is not equivalent to “providing a strong witness against.”

    I think VN could do a little more on that front (which admittedly only requires RCM to post a little more and MM to chew Obama out just once, resulting in the most universally celebrated blog post in Catholic blogosphere history).

  • Flag-flying in one’s own country is rather idiotic to begin with. On an embassy, sure. I guess it caters to some atavistic instinct like a baboon’s red tush, but other than reminding people with dementia what country they’re in, what’s the point ? Let alone in a church that claims universality ? Let alone in what Catholics consider sacred, ie the sanctuary.

    Gott, Kaiser, Vaterland went out of fashion pretty much anywhere else in the West. I don’t really recall flags in European churches. Flags are usually confined to government buildings and hotels. An Austrian flying an Austrian flag at his house in Austria would be looked at with, at best, bewilderment.

    Politicians should be wearing Gm, Exxon etc. lapel pins.

  • ari

    Gerald A. Naus,

    I suppose that such sentiments to do not extend to the secular universities that fly the American flag.

    I find this kind of reasoning ridiculous.

    It is like protesting against the clergy casting votes in an election — aren’t these first and foremost citizens of the universal Church?

    Yet, people simply cannot comprehend the fact that in addition to these being ecclesial members of the Catholic Church; they also happen to be citizens of the United States as well.

    So, too, when it comes to the Catholic Universities, I should think.

  • Your misrepresentation of VN will stop here. There is no waffling about abortion.

    Quite right. Everyone at VN consistently and reliably denies supporting abortion every time they defend Obama and lambaste “pro-lifers”.

  • Kurt

    That said, “not waffling” is not equivalent to “providing a strong witness against.”

    I think VN could do a little more on that front (which admittedly only requires RCM to post a little more and MM to chew Obama out just once…

    As far as I can tell, MM is in accord with the Catholic bishops on public policy issues and states so when each issue comes up (abortion, universal health care, labor rights, torture, etc.). And he is a bad Catholic because someone does not like the frequency the abortion issue comes up or feels it is required to issue general broadsides against the President rather offer an opinion issue by issue?

    That is what this whole ND issue comes down to. The freak show that is the pro-life movement is not content for a Catholic to say “I strongly disagree with the President on abortion policy. I agree with him on universal health care. I disagree with him on vouchers. I agree with on minimum wage.”

    No, unless you will proclaim “The President is a jerk. The President is an evil man. The President is dishonorable. His whole personage is disgusting” you have betrayed the Catholic faith.

    I am so looking forward to 80% of the ND student body, faculty, and guests at the commencement wildly cheering the President and 20% of them increasingly understood by the American public to be exactly the type of people they really are.

  • Kurt:
    No, unless you will proclaim “The President is a jerk. The President is an evil man. The President is dishonorable. His whole personage is disgusting” you have betrayed the Catholic faith.

    Yeah, I didn’t say that. I do think his strong advocacy of abortion makes him unworthy of honor, but said nothing about him being “an evil man.” But if you keep putting words into my mouth, maybe eventually your preconceived image of me will magically come true.

    I am so looking forward to 80% of the ND student body, faculty, and guests at the commencement wildly cheering the President and 20% of them increasingly understood by the American public to be exactly the type of people they really are.

    I’m glad popularity determines truth for you. It is very likely that many will cheer at ND. It is also likely that many of them will come to regret that cheer.

  • JB

    Sigh…This conversation had such potential, but it seems to have deteriorated in another name-calling thread.

    Attempting to get back on point.
    Henry, I definitely agree with you about the sanctuary and I think I agree about the university, although I recognize flag flying in America as an odd phenomenon.

    Previously the question came up as to what the flag represents: US, torture, Obama, etc.
    The flag is a symbol. A symbol can really only be given meaning by the community which claims it. Is the flag a symbol of the American nation-state or the American people? What implications does the answer have on our discussion?

    Question: What about a Catholic teacher in a Catholic high school pledging allegiance in the classroom? Or refraining from doing so? What example is he setting?

  • To further JB’s question line, if the flag is a symbol of the America nation-state, which aspects of that nation-state does it symbolize? Does it symbolize only its core ideas as expressed in the Constitution? Or does it also symbolize current policies and politicians?

  • alex martin

    Since when is universal health care a doctrine of the Cathoic Church. I searched the Catechism for it, asked several Catholic theologians, and they can’t seem to understand where some of you are getting that.

  • Harry

    One thing that us Lutherans have that Protestants, Roman Catholics and others don’t have is the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. The United States flag should still fly because the university is under the protection of the United States. Whether any flag except in your case the Papel flag should be in the chancel is open to debate.

  • ari

    “Whether any flag except in your case the Papel flag should be in the chancel is open to debate.”

    It’s just a matter of time when a modern version of praemunire will be imposed upon American Catholics (Vox Obamans excepted, of course).

  • There is no waffling about abortion. There is a disagreement in methodologies as how to deal with the problem, perhaps; but that is not a disagreement about abortion.

    Gerald is pro-choice. He opposes pursuing legal restrictions on abortion currently. That may not be waffling, but it’s certainly in tension with the Church’s position. I believe that qualifies as a fairly significant disagreement among VN contributors.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/2009/03/20/obama-to-speak-at-notre-dame/#comment-51278

    • John Henry

      That is not exactly Gerald’s position. Even if he were pro choice, that would not make him pro-abortion, or not against it. Remember that. However, he is not pro choice. He has said many times what his position is, and it is more complex than a simple gotcha with him. His point is that at this point in time, the United States just can’t immediately go from where we are to the forceful laws against abortion; to do so would do violence to the system and indeed requires a tyrannical use of force (Tolkien connection: why Galadriel and Gandalf avoid the Ring, though they would do good). In this way he has said the thing is to prepare the people to get them against abortion themselves, which is better; it is better to have no laws and no abortion and laws with abortion constantly going on despite the laws (which he believes would happen). Which again is why it is about method to the end, not the end itself.

  • What kind of thought process would a person have who would answer your question in the negative?

    He would say: America is evil by nature, and its symbolism perpetuates the evil system.

    I don’t think that’s a very reasonable position, but hey, that’s me.

  • Henry,

    I did not say he was pro-abortion. I said he was pro-choice. Being pro-choice simply means a person currently opposes legal restrictions on abortion. The question of why he is pro-choice is another matter. But to deny that the position outlined above is pro-choice, is to alter the meaning of the word in the manner of Humpty Dumpty (if we’re doing literary references):

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

  • Kurt

    I am so looking forward to 80% of the ND student body, faculty, and guests at the commencement wildly cheering the President and 20% of them increasingly understood by the American public to be exactly the type of people they really are.

    I’m glad popularity determines truth for you. It is very likely that many will cheer at ND.

    I don’t believe popularity determines truth. I simply reject that it is a matter of “truth” that the President’s speech at Notre Dame is statement of support for his abortion policy.

    Listen, we all win. The students, faculty and guests will make a choice if they think the President is worthy of honor or not. This adds to my side a substantial number of people, always helpful when we operate under a system of electoral democracy. And for your side, it puts the hard-core, “orthodox” element more in control of the pro-life movement, advancing you and your fellow travelers into greater dominance of the movement. Happiness all around.

  • Mark Shea

    One of my basic tests for the honesty of a site is whether the owners shout down a guy like Zippy and shut him up rather than engage him. Vox Nova has just lost the last tatters of respect I once had for it. The Coalition for Fog has undergone a reincarnation. Welcome to the ideological echo chamber, Henry. You and MM and the other excuse makers can spend the next four years making excuses for the inexcusable and calling it “nuance”. You’ve lost me as a reader.

  • M.Z.

    Um Mark, you banned Zippy at one point. When Zippy starts engaging in tantrums of name calling, I don’t blame anyone for deleting his comments. Whenever Zippy has had a substantive comment, it has been addressed.

  • I’m on for 5 mins before I have to go.

    Mark Shea, what a hypocrite: you have banned me on your blog and deleted my posts. Interesting is it not, what you say here and do otherwise?

    More importantly, Zippy’s continued behavior, which is never accurate in presenting the views and positions of others, went way beyond the call of duty in this thread, and properly earned his exile, when he has to continue to lie to make his point. He isn’t into truth. Nor, Mark, are you.

    There you have it.

  • MZ

    Mark has banned me, deleted my posts, and misrepresented them before. But it’s ok when he does it. But if Zippy is taken to task, not for a position, but for his childish inability to be accurate about the one he is insulting, then I am the bad one here.

  • captain4wkward

    blah vablah blah

    have you guys heard they’re talking about advertising abortion on the teevee here in england?

  • Kurt

    I guess by now everyone has heard the sad news that yesterday the Greek Orthodox Church reversed its previous pro-life position. It came as quite a shock to many.

    Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of N. & S. America for the Greek Orthodox Church attended festivities at the abortuary known as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He clearly expressed support for the murder of innocents by bestowing honors on Barry H. Obama, handing him a certificate on behalf of the Orthodox “Church”. He even called Obama “Great”.

    I am attempting to schedule a meeting with William Donohue of the Catholic League to coordinate a petition drive by faithful Catholics demanding that the Pope stop all ecumenical relations with the Greek Orthodox Church. It would be a scandal if this “archbishop,” so tolerant of baby-killing, were to be invited to any Catholic facility. If Donohue raises the issue of re-launching the 4th Crusade, I am willing to hear him out.

  • Steve Weatherbe

    The question here seems to be one of degrees and is therefore a matter of prudential judgement for a university. If the United States is judged to be predominantly evil, then the university should be taking down the flag at the very minimum. But I think the U.S. represents many good things too, and its government does many good things. Does the good outweigh the bad? I think so. At a tactical level, a school could take down the flag on a particularly germane day to mourn the aborted unborn or the making of war in Iraq or whatever.
    On the question raised about the use of the term “genocide” for abortion, it is at least appropriate when one considers the scale of the two events. And, as well, when one considers the implications for the birth rate in First and Second World countries, widespread abortion seems to mean these nations are self-destruction, or self-genociding.
    Ironically, I heard pro-lifers at the local public university accused of genocide recently: the group they are accused of attempting to exterminate: all women.

  • George Crosley

    Yet, that flag now STANDS for Obama, among other things. To honor the flag is to honor the president of the United States. Obama is president. To honor that flag is to honor Obama.

    That’s pretty much the definition of fascistic thinking.

    The flat doesn’t stand for any politician. ANY. It stands for the nation. I guess the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals identify the nation with its government while conservatives do not.

  • David Nickol

    Back in the 1960s, when some on the left were staging protests against the Vietnam war (among other things), some on the right were fond of saying, “America — love it or leave it.” Maybe now the left should be saying it to the right.