TAC Down Until Sunday Evening, November 14

Saturday, November 13, 2010 \PM\.\Sat\.

Dear TAC readers,

The American Catholic is going through an upgrade this next week in order to better serve our readers and engage the world.

This means we will be down for roughly a 24 hour period and will return tomorrow evening, November 14 around 6pm Central time.

Thank you for your patience!

TAC Editors

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Profiles in Fecklessness

Saturday, November 13, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

By now most are familiar with the story of the boy whose school told him to remove the American flag from his bicycle.  If not, here is the story at Creative Minority Report. After the public outcry reached a fevered pitch the school reversed its decision.  But of course no decision to ultimately do right can be made without a lame explanation.

Ed Parraz, the Superintendent of the Denair School District told us a school supervisor asked Cody to take down the flag. The supervisor will not be fired or face repercussions. Parraz says the supervisor had information that Cody Alicea’s safety was at risk because of the flag. Some students had complained about it and had apparently made threats.

“The last thing we wanted was to deny Cody his rights,” said Parraz speaking about the boy’s wish to fly the American flag.

Parraz said national flags were banned from campus after a Cinco De Mayo incident when tensions escalated between students displaying the Mexican flag and those waving the Stars and Stripes.  Recently, several students complained and there was even one threat.

“I think it would be irresponsible of us if we kind of shined it on and let him have the flag and he got jumped or something like that and got hurt,” said Parraz.

So the proper way to respond to threats is to cave in to the people doing the bullying?  Is that really the lesson we ought to be imparting to our children?

Of course, this rationale is probably a poor attempt by the school to cover its, err, behind.


Rocky Top

Saturday, November 13, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

Something for the weekend.  I have never been particularly fond of Country and Western music, a musical genre that my late parents perhaps overdosed me on as I was growing up.  However, I have always been fond of the rollicking Rocky Top.  The video at the beginning of this post melds the song with pictures from the Volunteer State. Read the rest of this entry »


A Question for Our Readers

Friday, November 12, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.

This may seem somewhat ridiculous, but I’ll ask it anyway because I’m curious what people think. What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a couch? At what point does the expense of the couch become an excess? How does the quality of the couch and the time that you will be able to use the couch affect the legitimate magnitude of the expense? Is it absurd to buy an all-leather sectional?

I ask because I want to know what Christian discipleship looks like in all things in life. And because honestly, I’m not sure. Sometimes, it’s easy to know what Christian discipleship looks like. For example, I know that willingness to die for the faith is very Christ-like. I know that prayer is an essential part of Christian discipleship. And I know that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is our highest good as human beings. But these are high and holy actions for our faith life; what about things not as obviously related to our faith life, like putting furniture in a house or apartment?

I look forward to hearing what you may think, or not think if the question totally bores you. So please let me know – am I the only one who asks these types of questions? Should I just chill out? Or what? In the meantime I think I will try to ask God in prayer.


MacIntyre on Money

Friday, November 12, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the greatest living Catholic thinkers, was featured last month in Prospect Magazine. The piece, entitled “MacIntyre on Money,” is well worth the read. Here’s a snippet:

MacIntyre has often given the impression of a robe-ripping Savonarola. He has lambasted the heirs to the principal western ethical schools: John Locke’s social contract, Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Yet his is not a lone voice in the wilderness. He can claim connections with a trio of 20th-century intellectual heavyweights: the late Elizabeth Anscombe, her surviving husband, Peter Geach, and the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, winner in 2007 of the Templeton prize. What all four have in common is their Catholic faith, enthusiasm for Aristotle’s telos (life goals), and promotion of Thomism, the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas who married Christianity and Aristotle. Leo XIII (pope from 1878 to 1903), who revived Thomism while condemning communism and unfettered capitalism, is also an influence.

MacIntyre begins his Cambridge talk by asserting that the 2008 economic crisis was not due to a failure of business ethics. The opener is not a red herring. Ever since he published his key text After Virtue in 1981, he has argued that moral behaviour begins with the good practice of a profession, trade, or art: playing the violin, cutting hair, brick-laying, teaching philosophy. Through these everyday social practices, he maintains, people develop the appropriate virtues. In other words, the virtues necessary for human flourishing are not a result of the top-down application of abstract ethical principles, but the development of good character in everyday life. After Virtue, which is in essence an attack on the failings of the Enlightenment, has in its sights a catalogue of modern assumptions of beneficence: liberalism, humanism, individualism, capitalism. MacIntyre yearns for a single, shared view of the good life as opposed to modern pluralism’s assumption that there can be many competing views of how to live well.

This rift between economics and ethics, says MacIntyre, stems from the failure of our culture “to think coherently about money.” Instead, we should think like Aristotle and Aquinas, who saw the value of money “to be no more, no less than the value of the goods which can be exchanged, so there’s no reason for anyone to want money other than for the goods they buy.” Money affords more choices and choice is good. But when they are imposed by others whose interest is in getting us to spend, then money becomes the sole measure of human flourishing. “Goods are to be made and supplied, insofar as they can be turned into money… ultimately, money becomes the measure of all things, including itself.” Money can now be made “from the exchange of money for money… and trading in derivatives and in derivatives of derivatives.” And so those who work in the financial sector have become dislocated from the uses of money in everyday life. One symptom of this, MacIntyre contends, is gross inequality. In 2009, for instance, the chief executives of Britain’s 100 largest companies earned on average 81 times more than the average pay of a full-time worker.

MacIntyre’s After Virtue was a pivotal text for me, as I suspect it is for most. Its trenchant critiques of conservative and liberal liberalism, as well as of libertarianism, are as forceful now as they were 30 years ago. If you haven’t read any MacIntyre, get off the blogs, put away the computer, and do yourself the service of remedying that deficiency.


Jihadists, Truth and Father Raymond J. de Souza

Friday, November 12, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

The appalling murder of dozens of Christians at Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral by Al Qaeda on October 31, gives us another opportunity to look into the minds of these butchers.

Al Qaeda released a statement on the Internet claiming the attack.

“Upon guidance issued by the Ministry of War in the Islamic State of Iraq in support for our downtrodden Muslim sisters that are held captive in the Muslim land of Egypt and after accurate planning and selection, an angry group of righteous jihadists attacked a filthy den of polytheism,” according to the statement, which was obtained by The Long War Journal. “This den has been frequently used by the Christians of Iraq to fight Islam and support those who are fighting it. With the grace of God, the group was able to hold captive all those in the den and take over all its entrances.”

Based on the statement, it appears that al Qaeda in Iraq had hoped to hold the Christians in Baghdad hostage for at least two days, as a deadline for “the release” of Egyptian women supposedly being held in Coptic churches in Egypt was issued.

“The mujahidin in the Islamic State of Iraq give Egypt’s Christian and belligerent Church as well as its chief of infidelity a 48-hour ultimatum to disclose the status of our sisters in religion, who are held captive in Egypt’s monasteries of infidelity and churches of polytheism,” al Qaeda demanded. “The mujahidin further demand the release of all of them together with an announcement of the release via a media outlet that the mujahidin can access within the deadline.”

Al Qaeda said that if the demands were not met, “the lions of monotheism [al Qaeda’s fighters], who wore their explosive belts, will not hesitate to kill the militant Iraqi Christian captives.”

Al Qaeda in Iraq also threatened to carry out attacks against Christian churches across the globe.

“Afterwards, various attacks will be launched against them inside and outside this country, in which their lands will be destroyed, their strength will be undermined, and they will be afflicted by the humiliation that God ordained for them,” al Qaeda said.

The jihadists want us dead because we are Christians.  They have absolutely no compunction about slaying Muslims who oppose them, and in their eyes Christians are fit only to be killed or to be slaves.  The alleged reasons given by Al Qaeda for the attack on the Cathedral are completely delusional and demonstrate yet again that to them the murder of Christians is, in itself, a positive good. Read the rest of this entry »


The European Union: A Disaster for Equality, Etc.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.

A lot of progressives seem to be afflicted with a weird form of ADHD. Try as they might, they simply can’t talk about poverty for more than 30 seconds without lapsing off into talking about inequality. Progressives claim to have a special care for the poor, but what really gets them animated is talking about the rich, and in particular how much more the rich have than anyone else (including their very not poor selves). Inequality, though, is not the same thing as poverty. A society where everyone is starving to death is highly egalitarian.

Should we care about equality as such? A lot of progressives say that we should. Here, for example, is a bit from Tony Judt’s posthumously published Ill Fares the Land (helpfully provided by my former co-blogger Morning’s Minion):

“Inequality, then, is not just unattractive in itself; it clearly corresponds to pathological social problems that we cannot hope to address unless we attend to their underlying cause. There is a reason why infant mortality, life expectancy, criminality, the prison population, mental illness, unemployment, obesity, malnutrition, teenage pregnancy, illegal drug use, economic insecurity, personal indebtedness and anxiety are so much more marked in the US and the UK than they are in continental Europe.

The wider the spread between the wealthy few and the impoverished many, the worse the social problems: a statement which appears to be true for rich and poor countries alike. What matters is not how affluent a country is but how unequal it is. Thus Sweden, or Finland, two of the world’s wealthiest countries by per capital income or GDP, have a very narrow gap separating their richest from their poorest citizens–and they consistently lead the world in indices of measurable wellbeing. Conversely, the United States, despite its huge aggregate wealth, always comes low on such measures.

Of course, if inequality leads to crime, mental illness, and so forth, then you might wonder: why the crime rate is higher in Finland than the U.S.,? Why is the suicide rate higher in Finland and Sweden than the U.S.? Etc.

I suspect that deep down progressives do not care about inequality. Read the rest of this entry »