Saturday, April 22, 2017

Items of Interest: Bright Week

Divided We Fall
by Ganesh Sitaraman (New Republic). «The Founders shaped their new republic around its economic parity. Nothing short of ‹equality of property,› declared Noah Webster, could ensure the social stability and national solidarity that any constitutional system needs to function properly. This, Webster added, was ‹the very soul of a republic.› Our Constitution, in short, was literally founded on an egalitarian distribution of wealth. Without property being ‹pretty equally divided,› the anti-federalist Samuel Bryan warned during ratification, ‹the nature of the government is changed, and an aristocracy, monarchy, or despotism will rise on its ruin.›»

Historical Interviews: Oriana Fallaci interviews Dom Hélder Câmara
by Oriana Fallaci (Socialista Morena). Google Translated from Portuguese (Original here). 1970 interview of Dom Hélder, in which he lays out his real vision for justice. «Justice does not mean to assign all the same amount of goods in the same way. That would be awful. It would be as if the whole world had the same face and the same body, the same voice and the same brain. I believe in the right that everyone has to have different faces, different bodies, different voices and brains. God can take the risk of being considered unfair. But he is not unjust and wants neither privileged nor oppressed, he wants each one to have the essential to live - while remaining different. So what do I mean by justice? I mean a better distribution of goods, nationally and internationally. There is an internal and external colonialism. To demonstrate the latter, all you have to do is remember that 80% of the resources of this planet are in the hands of 20% of the countries, in the hands of the superpowers or the nations that serve the superpowers. Just to give two small examples: in the last 15 years the United States has made well over $11 billion in Latin America - that figure is provided by the statistical office of the University of Detroit. Or simply to say that for a Canadian tractor Jamaica has to pay the equivalent of 32 tons of sugar ... On the other hand, to demonstrate internal colonialism, all you have to do is think about Brazil. In the north of Brazil there are areas that, being generous, may be called sub-developed. Others still remember the prehistory: the people there live as in the time of the caves and are happy to eat what they find in the trash. And what can I say to these people? What do they have to suffer to get to paradise? Eternity begins here, on earth, not in paradise.»

Response to “Hillbilly Elegy”
by Ivy Brashear (The Young Kentuckian). «‹Elegy› has no class, no heart, and no warmth. It's a poorly written appropriation of Appalachian stereotypes that presents us as a people who aren't worthy of anything but derision and pity, and who cannot be helped because we refuse to help ourselves. It ignores the systemic capitalist oppression that encourages persistent poverty. It assumes there is some special sect of the working class that is especially dedicated to white people. It is rife with fragile masculinity that actively diminishes the critical role that Appalachian women play in the culture, the resistance, in the workforce, and in the new economy...Misrepresentation of Appalachia matters for several reasons. It obscures and intentionally eclipses the pride and dignity of being Appalachian. It has told us we should be ashamed of who we are, where we come from, and the people in our blood. It says to us that we aren't worthy or deserving of anything more than being the butt of a joke. It hits us hard in our guts because the truth is way more complicated and way more real, and nobody likes tales to be carried about them.​»

who’s listening when we talk about abortion?
by Rebecca Bratten Weiss (Suspended in Her Jar). «Most women who end up opting for abortion do so because of pre-existing pressures. And one can hardly call it a ‹choice› when they are given so few other options. A sad irony is that many in politics loudly clamor for an end to abortion while at the same time trying to deprive women of realistic opportunities to make better choices. When someone cuts your health care, cuts your access to cash or food benefits, pollutes your air and water, does nothing to protect you from workplace discrimination, dismisses rape accusations, votes for a sexual predator – then says ‹don’t have an abortion!› – it’s hard to think of that person as genuinely pro-life.»

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Items of Interest: Passion Week

Christian populism and the Western Fathers
by Matthew Franklin Cooper (The Heavy Anglo Orthodox). «It is with a Chestertonian apology that I write this article. It’s as if I am setting out to sea in search of some long-lost and uncharted land only to discover not only that many people have come thence before, but in fact it is the very same beloved home town I set sail from. Naturally there is a strong and deliberate connexion between the Russian Slavophils and the earliest of the Western Church Fathers—a connexion which indeed ought to be shared by Christendom in the main—and this modest contribution likely amounts to little more than a restatement of it. But it is still worth showing forth, again and again. Christian West and East are perhaps not as foreign to each other as one might be led to believe.»

What I learned about justice from Dorothy Day
by Jim Forest (U.S. Catholic). «Hers was a day-to-day way of the cross, and just as truly the way of the open door. ‹It is the living from day to day,› she said, ‹taking no thought for the morrow, seeing Christ in all who come to us, and trying literally to follow the gospel that resulted in this work.›»

How the Catholic Worker showed me what it means to be Catholic
by Shannon Evans (America: The Jesuit Review). « Catholicism had offered deep communion with a crucified God, a God who became man to suffer with us, a Christ who would go on to Resurrection but could first sit with me in my pain and understand. Because our incarnated Lord communed with me, I, too, could commune with human beings quite different from me. And not only that but I could receive the touch of Christ through their hands; I could see my suffering in theirs and we could both be healed just a little bit more. Because Christ became human, all humans belong to me and I to them.»

Two Chapters from Fr. John Ryan's 1916 book Distributive Justice: The Right and Wrong of Our Present Distribution of Wealth, republished by Daniel Schwindt on Catholic Front
The Principal Canons of Distributive Justice «The canons of distribution applicable to our present study are mainly six in number: arithmetical equality; proportional needs; efforts and sacrifices; comparative productivity; relative scarcity; and human welfare.»
The Legal Limitation of Fortunes «The sum of the matter seems to be that the reduction and prevention of great fortunes cannot prudently be accomplished by the method of direct limitation; that these ends may wisely and justly be attained indirectly, through the imposition of progressive income and inheritance taxes; but that the extent to which these measures would be genuinely effective cannot be estimated until they have been given a thorough trial.»

David B. Hart, ‹The Future of the Papacy,› and Ecumenism
by David Bentley Hart (The David B. Hart Appreciation Blog). «Moreover, our need for one another grows greater with the years. It is sometimes suggested that the future of society in the West—and so, perhaps, the world—is open to three “options”: Christianity, Islam, and a consumerism so devoid of transcendent values as to be, inevitably, nothing but a pervasive and pitiless nihilism. The last of these has the singular power of absorbing some of the energies of the other two without at first obviously draining them of their essences; the second enjoys a dogmatic warrant for militancy and a cultural cohesiveness born both of the clarity of its creed and the refining adversities of political and economic misfortune; but the only tools at Christianity’s disposal will be evangelism and unity. The confrontation between the Church and modern consumerism will continue to occur principally in the West, where a fresh infusion of Orthodoxy’s otherworldliness may prove a useful inoculant; but the encounter or confrontation with Islam will be principally, as it long has been, in the East. It is impossible to say what peace will be wrought there or what calamity, but it may well be that the Petrine office, with its unique capacity for “strengthening the brethren” and speaking the truth to the world, will prove indispensable.»

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Items of Interest: Fifth Week of Great Lent

Inequality and Redistribution in Catholic Social Teaching
by Daniel Schwindt (Catholic Front). «Central to the Biblical concept of the Jubilee is the redistribution of property to alleviate accumulations and dispossession. Such concentration occurs very naturally in many economies, since none are perfect, but it becomes greatly exaggerated in industrialized nations: ‹The development model of industrialized societies is capable of producing huge quantities of wealth, but also has serious shortcomings when it comes to the equitable redistribution of its fruits and the promotion of growth in less developed areas.› There is an overwhelming amount of time spent in Catholic Social Teaching exhorting authorities and private persons to act against rising social inequality. Pope Francis has gone so far as calling inequality ‹the root of all social evil.› And if we grant the interdependence of political and economic power, which implies that inequality of property necessarily implies imbalances in political power, then it is not difficult to see why this is so.»

«Alt-right» vs human rights: What happens to us when we disengage from Christianity
by David Mills (Aleteia). «This shows where man without God winds up: in wishing some people will die so the world will be a better place for people like you, in which you buy the ‹truly great life› at the cost of others’ lives. Those of us who, believing in the God who so loved the world that he gave his only son for it, value every human life? Radically dysgenic, egalitarian, multi-racial human rights thumpers. But then we follow the radically dysgenic, egalitarian, multi-racial human rights thumper who said ‹Let the little children come to me.›»

Justice in Economics is not Socialism
by Mark and Louise Zwick (The Distributist Review). «Today, the danger is not large Communist meetings; they do not exist. It is, rather, what Pope John Paul II called a new feudalism. The Middle Ages and feudalism are usually criticized as a horrible time, when serfs had little materially and had to give their allegiance to a landowner. One of the strongest criticisms of that age was the enormous gap between rich and poor that existed. In the present global economy large numbers of workers are in a position similar to that of serfs from an earlier time. We are speaking here of those who labor in maquiladoras or out-sourced plants and make a pittance, of those who lost their farms in Mexico to multinational agribusinesses when NAFTA and other ‹free trade› agreements took force, and now only have seasonal work in the fields or even work on the land they previously owned as hired hands. Undocumented workers in the United States are often underpaid or even cheated out of their meager wages.»

Supreme Incoherence: Transgender Ideology and the End of Law
by Jeff Shafer (First Things). «Transgenderism public policy advocates are not proposing a compromise at the margins, and indeed they cannot. Their program is totalistic, as its ambition is to redefine humanity writ large. If the law governing us all says Gavin is a boy and not a girl, then ‹boy› and ‹girl› no longer mean for anyone what they always meant before. We’ve then all been redefined.Transgenderism is supremely incoherent not only because it is irrational, but because that irrationality doesn’t diminish its appeal or social standing. Its irrationality is not a defect but its principle feature, its point of pride and perverse strength. Judge Niemeyer wrote in dissent to a ruling in Gavin’s case that, as against transgender policy, ‹[v]irtually every civilization’s norms on this issue stand in protest.› Well yes; that’s rather the point. For transgender ideology, the unanimous testimony of human civilization not only has no authority, but civilization is precisely the foe it aims to vanquish. Settled categories—of law, logic, or physical creation—are targets for subversion.»

Friday, March 24, 2017

Items of Interest: Fourth Week of Great Lent

The Conservative Myth of a Social Safety Net Built on Charity
by Mike Konczal (The Atlantic). «[C]onservatives tell themselves a story, a fairy tale really, about the past, about the way the world was and can be again under Republican policies. This story is about the way people were able to insure themselves against the risks inherent in modern life. Back before the Great Society, before the New Deal, and even before the Progressive Era, things were better...But this conservative vision of social insurance is wrong. It’s incorrect as a matter of history; it ignores the complex interaction between public and private social insurance that has always existed in the United States. It completely misses why the old system collapsed and why a new one was put in its place. It fails to understand how the Great Recession displayed the welfare state at its most necessary and that a voluntary system would have failed under the same circumstances. Most importantly, it points us in the wrong direction.»

Living As A People Of God In Unsettled Times
«The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee has issued the following pastoral reflection in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands. In the statement, the bishops encourage each of us to do what we can to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.»

The Lady of Medjugorje is not your mother
by Simcha Fisher (The Catholic Weekly). «This Mother of God giggles. She goes through lots of wardrobe changes. She lets people step on her robe, and then appears grubby from being touched. She moves up and down, here and there, at the behest of the seers. She shares her opinions on local politics and calls a fornicating, philandering priest a ‹saint›. And she’s a little careless about that baby she likes to drag around. And whenever she’s faced with the choice of encouraging her children to respect and obey their bishops, or appearing in the air as paid ticket holders look on, this Mother of God always goes for more ticket sales. In the Gospels, she says, ‹Do whatever He tells you.› In Medjugorje, she snickers and says, ‹ You do you. › Forty-seven thousand times.»

Private Property and the Redistribution of Wealth
by Paul Fahey (The Porch). «As an American it is difficult at times to think beyond the Right/Left, Capitalist/Socialist dichotomy that permeates our economic and political landscape. This often makes it difficult for Catholics on either side of the aisle to understand what the Church teaches about the ownership and use of property. As we should always strive to be Catholics first and Americans second, my hope with this article is to concisely share with you what the Church teaches concerning private property, the common good, and the role of government. I hope to dispel any notion of the Church being Capitalist or Socialist as She cuts through and transcends both of these ideologies.»

Two Essays from the New Pro-Life Movement - Rebecca Bratten Weiss (Suspended in Her Jar)
are we depending on abortion?
«When it comes to low-income women who have poor health, or too many children already, or are unmarried, or dependent on social welfare, society does not celebrate pregnancy. It is not beautiful anymore. It has intruded itself where uninvited. It is not useful. It is not productive – of the right product, that is. Poor women are supposed to produce labor. Well-off women are supposed to produce well-off, clean, healthy, beautiful, charming, dutiful citizen babies. That the Left’s answer to this is often “abortion” shows just how capitalist it is, and just how little capitalist systems value persons.»
the ever-moving goal-post of eliminating abortion supply
«The Republican party has been abusing the hopes of pro-lifers for a long time now, dangling the promise of a zero-abortion utopia, while dismantling social safety nets designed to protect the vulnerable, and enacting policies that are guaranteed to raise the demand for abortion, as poor families find themselves deprived of medical care, as parents of disabled children find themselves with no more recourse to programs that help them. An anti-life society is being created, in which the poor are free to go die, in which pre-emptive war and capital punishment are considered just and manly, and all of this is somehow excusable because they’re going to end abortion, really...
«The extent to which the pro-life facade is crumbling should be increasingly clear, as we see that Trump’s supporters from the Alt Right contingent actually, largely, support abortion, because it is eugenic...
«What is emerging is a right-wing narrative that favors eugenics, nativism, social Darwinism, and white supremacy, while remaining relatively indifferent to the plight of the unborn. Because, why would they care? Protecting defenseless life, making sacrifices for the sake of another, valuing a person for anything other than utility: these do not fit with their dominant ethos.»

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Items of Interest: Third Week of Great Lent

Minding Matter
by Adam Frank (Aeon). «The closer you look, the more the materialist position in physics appears to rest on shaky metaphysical ground...Rather than trying to sweep away the mystery of mind by attributing it to the mechanisms of matter, we must grapple with the intertwined nature of the two.»

Why Politics Is Failing America
by Katherine M. Gehl & Michael E. Porter (Fortune). «Why is the political-industrial complex flourishing while its customers are less satisfied than ever? To answer that question, we’ve applied the tools of business analysis to American politics. Our conclusion: U.S. politics is an industry—a duopoly that’s about as anticompetitive as you’re likely to find these days. The result, as a prominent 2014 study by Princeton’s ­Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page shows, is that the preferences of the average voter have a near-zero impact on public policy.»

The Great God Trump and the White Working Class
by Mike Davis (Jacobin). An extraordinary restructuring of political camps, cadre, and patronage is taking place in an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty, but we need to understand more clearly whether 2016 actually reflects, or necessarily anticipates, a fundamental realignment of social forces.

Why all Christians should oppose the ‹Alt-Right›
by Robert Christian and Daniel Petri (Crux). «The threat this movement poses to foundational American values and the key tenets of the Christian faith are so grave that Christians across the political spectrum should join together with other responsible citizens in opposing its pernicious influence and corrosion of our national character.»

6 Things Paul Ryan Doesn’t Understand About Poverty (But I Didn’t, Either)
by Karen Weese (Alternet). «There are many prescriptions for combating poverty, but we can’t even get started unless we first examine our assumptions, and take the time to envision what the world feels like for families living in poverty every day. ‹Compassion is a skill that we get better at with practice,› writes theologian Karen Armstrong. It just takes a little imagination.»

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Purim: A holiday for such a time as this

In this year we have seen the accession of a thoroughly unfit demagogue to the U.S. Presidency, with his strings being pulled by his very Haman-like advisor, Steve Bannon.

It is, therefore, a very good time to call to mind and heartily celebrate the great works of God in ages past, when he delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the oppressor, as well as both to strive for justice and pray for the mercy of the Lord to be upon us all.

The Miracle of Esther
by Yoram Hazony (First Things). «How can a work in which God is not mentioned, and in which every turn of its dense plot is the result of human decision and human action, hold the key to understanding the miraculous? This is not merely an exegetical or theological question. Contemporary readers need to reckon with the miraculous character of the Book of Esther, for it illuminates the possibilities and limits of political action, possibilities and limits we too often neglect.»

Megilat Esther
The Scroll of Esther, as read in Synagogue.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hath performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time. (Amen)

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hath granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion. (Amen)

We thank thee for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which Thou hast wrought for our forefathers, in the Days of Mordechai and Esther, in Shushan, the capital, when Haman, the wicked, rose up against them and sought to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, on the same day, on the thirteenth of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions; But Thou, in Thine abundant mercy, didst nullify his counsel and frustrate his intention, and caused his design to return upon his own head, and they hanged him and his sons on the gallows.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who wages our battles, defends our rights, avenges the wrong done to us, punishes our oppressors in behalf, and brings retribution upon all our mortal enemies.

Blessed art Thou O Lord, who exacts payment in behalf of His people Israel from all their oppressors; God who delivers. (Amen)