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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Them Dang Commies

In case anyone thinks Francis is breaking new ground.

h/t Mark Shea
Now according to the natural order established by Divine Providence, inferior things are ordained for the purpose of succoring man's needs by their means. Wherefore the division and appropriation of things, which are based on human law, do not preclude the fact that man's needs have to be remedied by means of these very things. Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor.
-- S. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, II-2 Q 66 Art 7, resp.
Secundum autem naturalem ordinem ex divina providentia institutum, res inferiores sunt ordinatae ad hoc quod ex his subveniatur hominum necessitati. Et ideo per rerum divisionem et appropriationem, de iure humano procedentem, non impeditur quin hominis necessitati sit subveniendum ex huiusmodi rebus. Et ideo res quas aliqui superabundanter habent, ex naturali iure debentur pauperum sustentationi. 
No wonder the Moderns were so anxious to get rid of Natural Law! Thomas goes on to say:
Since, however, there are many who are in need, while it is impossible for all to be succored by means of the same thing, each one is entrusted with the stewardship of his own things, so that out of them he may come to the aid of those who are in need. Nevertheless, if the need be so manifest and urgent, that it is evident that the present need must be remedied by whatever means be at hand (for instance when a person is in some imminent danger, and there is no other possible remedy), then it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another's property, by taking it either openly or secretly: nor is this properly speaking theft or robbery.
Sed quia multi sunt necessitatem patientes, et non potest ex eadem re omnibus subveniri, committitur arbitrio uniuscuiusque dispensatio propriarum rerum, ut ex eis subveniat necessitatem patientibus. Si tamen adeo sit urgens et evidens necessitas ut manifestum sit instanti necessitati de rebus occurrentibus esse subveniendum, puta cum imminet personae periculum et aliter subveniri non potest; tunc licite potest aliquis ex rebus alienis suae necessitati subvenire, sive manifeste sive occulte sublatis. Nec hoc proprie habet rationem furti vel rapinae. 
Hence, Jean Valjean was guilty of no sin when he stole a loaf of bread to feed the children of his widowed sister, though the secular state (with the post hoc blessing, we assume, of Ayn Rand) chased him his entire life.

35 comments:

  1. The great business men of the 19th century would seem to have been in general consensus with Aquinas. Rockefeller Sr. (not Jr.), a devout Christian, held that it was the duty of the strong to aid the weak and to be charitable. P.T. Barnum, also a devout Christian, made public speeches in support of abolitionism. Andrew Carnegie thought it was shameful for a man to die wealthy, because it meant he hadn't spent it for the betterment of his fellow man. My how times have changed.

    That point aside, a good Thomist might clear his throat and ask how "utmost" is to be defined. Is it by some means of policy to adjust economic conditions, so as to increase the likelihood of employment? Is it the promotion and coordination of private charity? Is it an arrangement for utilizing their labor, in exchange for assistance? Or is it through the direct transfer of public funds to the poor? What controls and limitations will there be, so that public funds are not abused? At what point do the disposal of public funds pose a moral hazard, affecting the spiritual warfare of the poor or adversely affect other members of the community?

    In the case of Jean Valjean, a number of questions have to be answered: Could he have found some other means to alleviate the hunger of his family members? Did he first request the bread? Did he need to break the glass of the window behind which the bread was displayed? Given the exigencies of the situation, it may not be theft, but the claims to that bread which the baker has are not eliminated either, so that a debt may be rendered through Jean Valjean's use of the baker's property, so that the law may justly require a restoration of equity, and disciplining so as to maintain public order. That being said, it's still only a loaf of bread. A few hours indenture, perhaps?

    I'll grant that Francis is not breaking new ground, but he does insist on using language that is historically associated with socialism, making it even easier for the media to distort his statements (which they like to do with Popes anyway) and alienating those which might otherwise be allies.

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    1. One notes that glass was not cheap at the time. Doing extensive property damage in pursuit of the bread is -- less than ideal.

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  2. Just curious, what news on Pope Francis are you referring to?

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  3. How does the TOF (or Aquinas himself if he does) reconcile this with the precept that you may do no evil that good may come of it? One assumes that stealing is inherently evil (one of the ten commandments after all). And this seems dangerously close to the arguments that various pro-torture advocates use. I assume (and trust) that Aquinas considered this, but I see no evidence above. Thanks.

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  4. I assume (and trust) that Aquinas considered this
    Summa theologica, II-2 Q 66 Art 7
    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/SS/SS066.html#SSQ66A7THEP1

    An example: your daughter is attacked along a country road at night and tears a stake off of Ayn Rand's white picket fence to use in defense against her assailant. Was it lawful for her to steal Rand's fence-stake for her own use?

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    1. In reading St. Thomas's argument, boiled down one might simply say that "ownership" is a fluid concept when it comes to things of basic need, food essentials (that provide basic nutrition, but not perhaps caviar or champagne) and clothing (that provide hygene and warmth, but not perhaps Coach purses and mink stoles). Those things cannot truly be "owned" even if your labor was essential in acquiring them. So since you do not own them in times of great need they are not stolen by someone who has that great need or is stealing for someone in great need (ala Le Miserables). Is that correct?

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    2. "In reading St. Thomas's argument, boiled down one might simply say that 'ownership' is a fluid concept when it comes to things of basic need..."

      No. Rather, a person who owns his property has certain rights over that property, but those rights cannot be absolute, as in the case of owning a gun, which I may have a right to use in self-defense, but not for murder.

      Rights exist to fulfill our ends as human beings, stemming from our human nature. To fulfill our capacities as individuals, we have need of resources individually, and from this need the right of property arises. But properly speaking, I cannot have a right to impede someone from fulfilling their own human ends, such as living. Let's say a man is crawling through the desert, dying of thirst, and I have the only fresh water well for a thousand miles. Do I have the right to deny him access? Through "initial acquisition" (finding the water) and impressing my personality upon those resources (digging the well), I may have a more ultimate claim to that property than the thirsty man, but given his need, his claim is more immediate. In this way, it is not so much that ownership is fluid, but limited. If you want to read a good article on the issue, I would suggest Edward Feser's "Classical Natural Law Theory, Property Rights, and Taxation." Here: http://tinyurl.com/mwdvjxh

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    3. Wonderful clarification. Thank you.

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  5. Interesting. TOF would you consider taking up the topic of 'lying' as well? I take the same stance as Peter Kreeft on the issue etc. That it is a lie when we owe someone the Truth according to Justice but not in a 'Nazis at the door while hiding Jews' situation.

    Irish Thomist

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  6. Thomas addresses the Nazi at the door in Objection 4 and its reply: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3110.htm#article3 Briefly: lying is *always* a sin for Thomas. Kreeft, curiously, does not address this at all.

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  7. In short, you can evade, withhold information, change the subject, equivocate and so forth ("Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.") But you cannot lie. Ever. There is zero room in Thomas for saying that it's okay to lie to people with no right to the truth. And that hole was likewise plugged in the second edition of the Catechism too. The Church, following a tradition in moral theology that runs from Augustine through Aquinas down to the present says that lying--all lying, to anybody, even Nazis--is "by its nature" to be condemned.

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    1. In other words, you can deceive but as long as you don't deceive in a very very specific way, it's ok. Sort of like how Jesus said that you can hate and be angry at people all you want, just as long as you don't go ahead and murder them. Or how you can lust at someone as much as you want, just don't go all the way to adultery.

      Oh wait...

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    2. Not giving out information is not "decieving". It's permitting people to draw conclusions. As has been famously said a million times, the Gestapo is not entitled to know about the Jews you have living behind the false wall in the attic. So you give him a hearty welcome, compliment the Fuehrer on snappy uniform designs, offer them coffee and cigarettes, invite them to search, and never quite get around to mentioning that architectural detail. No lies told. No lives lost. Unless you want to say Jesus was a liar for neglecting to define what temple he meant.

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    3. Not giving out information is not "decieving". It's permitting people to draw conclusions.

      I must admit this is the first time I've ever heard of any kind of theologian arguing that there is no such thing as a lie by omission.

      As has been famously said a million times, the Gestapo is not entitled to know about the Jews you have living behind the false wall in the attic.

      So there is a truth: Jews are in your house.
      If you hide them, how is that not a deception? The appearance of your house is contrary to the truth. Hmm... contrary to the truth... isn't there a word for that...

      But, you say the gestapo is not entitled to know this truth. Yet somehow I'm not allowed to lie in word, but am allowed to lie in deed, even though the gestapo isn't entitled to the previously established truth.

      I'm pretty sure that's the same logic which says it isn't adultery if you're not caught.

      So you give him a hearty welcome, compliment the Fuehrer on snappy uniform designs, offer them coffee and cigarettes, invite them to search, and never quite get around to mentioning that architectural detail. No lies told. No lives lost. Unless you want to say Jesus was a liar for neglecting to define what temple he meant.

      It's your logic that's saying Jesus was a liar and that we can lie in action, just never in word. That's rather like saying I can commit adultery as much as I want, as long as I never tell the other girls that I love them. Silly me, I was probably mistaking that deception was deception. Let's just go double check the thesaurus over there under it...
      http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/deception
      "lying"

      Huh... look at that there.

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    4. Or an even better example.

      So per Shea, 3-card monty and similar street "games" are NOT dishonest. After all, they never tell you that the ball is missing or the lady has shifted, they just permit people to draw conclusions.

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    5. So was Herman Melville lying when he wrote, "Call me Ishmael?" Or Mandy Patinkin when he said, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya"?

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    6. Mike, that's rather like asking if someone's lying if they tell you beforehand they're about to lie. A book labeled "fiction" or a person who is clearly "an actor" are informing the audience "the following is a lie" before proceeding further. What that has to do with deception is beyond me, I'm just pointing out the irony in Shea trying to argue that convincing someone something that isn't true is somehow not lying.

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    7. Mike, let me ask you: do you believe mute people (whether deaf or some other cause) are at least fortunate in being able to never commit the sin of lying?

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    8. To lie is to speak contrary to what you hold in your mind to be true. The language may be sign language.
      +++
      It is not a lie to deflect.
      Angry boyfriend at the door: "Did my woman come here?"
      You: "You're trespassing, and I have called the cops."
      Where is the lie?
      Angry boyfriend at the door: "Did my woman come here?"
      You: "Why would she come here?"
      Where is the lie?
      Angry boyfriend at the door: "Did my woman come here?"
      You: "I don't know where she is right now." (i.e., she might be in the kitchen or in the bedroom or in the basement...)
      Where is the lie?

      "That a person intends to cause another to have a false opinion, by deceiving him, does not belong to the species of lying, but to perfection thereof." S.Theol. II-2, 100

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    9. Where is the lie?

      Are you in any way keeping someone from finding or knowing the truth? (in this case, a victim is at your house)

      If yes, how is that not a lie? How is acting contrary to what you hold in your mind to be true exempt from the standards of speaking what is contrary to what you hold in your mind? When Jesus was tempted, was there anything the Devil actually said which was a lie? Were the words he said to Eve not deflection (and not technically lies)? It is strange to run into religious folk who seemingly argue that Satan is not a deceiver.

      Likewise then, if I just really really REALLY hate someone (maybe even hoping they die so), I might ask "where is the murder?" All you and Shea have proved is that a person isn't TECHNICALLY lying - which I never disagreed with. I merely pointed out the person would be lying/deceiving in their heart, something neither of you have even attempted to disprove or counter (for example, that the person who only hides Jews has a different intent in their heart than the person who says to the gestapo "Ain't no Jews here").

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    10. Now, Mike, kindly do me the exchange and answer my example: street games.

      Where is the lie? Just to quote from when MST3k did a sketch of it (episode: Hamlet),
      "Find the Lady, Find the Lady, nothing to watch, a dollar to play."

      So as you asked: where is the lie?

      (hint: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0428.html)

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    11. Are you in any way keeping someone from finding or knowing the truth?

      That is not what a lie is. If your neighbor is hiding Jews and you do not denounce her to the political police, then by your silence you are keeping them from finding or knowing the truth. What if your teenaged son asks you how to make nitroglycerine. Would you keep him from finding or knowing the truth?

      How is acting contrary to what you hold in your mind to be true exempt from the standards of speaking what is contrary to what you hold in your mind?

      If what is in your mind is if this sumbitch finds out where his girlfriend is hiding, he'll beat her within an inch of her life then deflecting his question or answering ambiguously is not in fact contrary to what is in your mind. It is not your responsibility if the woman-beater misunderstands what you have said. There is no obligation to tell everyone everything.

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    12. That is not what a lie is.

      How is it not? From the dictionary: "something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture".

      then by your silence you are keeping them from finding or knowing the truth.

      Yes, that would be what's called a lie of omission. Are you telling me that Catholics don't recognize lying by omission as a thing?

      (and yes I would probably keep my son from that truth unless I had heart troubles and might need him to whip me up an emergency medicine dose).

      If what is in your mind is if this sumbitch finds out where his girlfriend is hiding, he'll beat her within an inch of her life then deflecting his question or answering ambiguously is not in fact contrary to what is in your mind. It is not your responsibility if the woman-beater misunderstands what you have said. There is no obligation to tell everyone everything.

      So, again, we're establishing that Catholics believe there is no such thing as a lie by/of omission.

      I mean that's fine if you want to, we'll just agree to disagree. Though I was hoping for an answer on whether deception is intended in the person's heart (though the best I can gleam from the above quotation is an answer in the affirmative) and/or where is the lie in a shell game.

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    13. Well, I'm not inclined to lean too strongly on a dictionary for a language that did not even exist when Catholic doctrine was formulated. The word "truth" (triew├░ in W.Saxon) means to hold faithful. It is the Saxon equivalent of the Latin-derived "faith." So a man and woman might pledge their "troth," meaning they will be true to each other; hence, "be-trothed." Since we are told that Jesus is not only the Way and the Light, but also the Truth, a sin against truth is a deficit of the spirit of Christ within us.

      Sins against the truth include:
      --false witness and perjury.
      --rash judgment (to assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor)
      --detraction (to disclose without objectively valid reason another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them)
      --calumny (to harm by remarks contrary to the truth the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them)
      --flattery, adulation, or complaisance (to encourage or confirm another in malicious acts and perverse conduct)
      --boasting or bragging
      --irony aimed at disparaging someone by maliciously caricaturing some aspect of his behavior
      --lying. (to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth.) (Catechism #2483)

      You will notice the qualification. To lead into error the fabled Nazi at the door or the abusive boyfriend is not lying because the individual does not have a right to the truth in those cases. It is still wrong to flat out lie. ("She isn't here.") But there are many options beyond that. ("How dare you accuse me, a good Dutchwoman, of hiding Jews!")

      Of course, one may lie by omission. One may even lie by telling the truth. That's why the Court Oath is to tell not only the truth and nothing but the truth, but also the whole truth. ("Yes, your honor, I saw the accused push the old lady in front of the bus." [He was indeed pushing her and she was indeed in front of the bus. Although he was pushing her out from in front of the bus--I won't mention that.])

      The 3-card monte dealer lies because he deceives someone who has a right to know the nature of the game.

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    14. Of course, one may lie by omission. One may even lie by telling the truth.

      Alright! Great! We are in agreement. So let's think about this a moment...

      To lead into error the fabled Nazi at the door or the abusive boyfriend is not lying because the individual does not have a right to the truth in those cases. It is still wrong to flat out lie. ("She isn't here.") But there are many options beyond that. ("How dare you accuse me, a good Dutchwoman, of hiding Jews!")

      Ok, let's do a thought experiment. You're a writer, I'm a hobbyist writer, surely we're both familiar with scripts even if we haven't written our own, right? So, two scenes: Gestapo at the door for the first (let's call it "nazi"). Second is a scene where a husband is trying to keep his affair from his wife (let's call it "wife"). Now the written page of both scenes can be pretty much copied from one to the other, no? One would only have to do a find/replace on some nouns (i.e. 1 has "Where are the Jews?" the 2nd has "Where is she?"). We're on the same page so far, right? (no pun intended)

      Now you had mentioned: "there are many options beyond that" so let's take those. We don't need to list out every one, let's just say there's 26 ways to deceive. Option A is "hiding behind false wall." Option B is "deflecting questions." So on and so forth all the way down to option Z which is: "Tell a lie." (1. "No Jews here!" 2. "No other women are here!") And those are deceptions, right? In both cases one party is trying to convince the other party of something contrary to the truth, right?

      Now as I said, these situations are identical except for their context. So, op.A is acceptable in scene 1, unacceptable in scene 2, correct? I think we both agree on that. And so on. B-acceptable/unacceptable, C-acceptable/unacceptable, all the way down... until we hit Z. Now option Z is unacceptable in BOTH scenes. Keep adding options. AA, AB, add a billion possibilities, and you're seriously arguing that in all the ways the the options for deception are changed because of the background context, ONE of them is not? And at no point does any of the illogical of this throw up any red flags?

      Since we are told that Jesus is not only the Way and the Light, but also the Truth, a sin against truth is a deficit of the spirit of Christ within us.

      Jesus and God are also Life ,and to kill is a deficit of the spirit of Christ within us, no? I mean, I think we all agree on that regardless of denomination, true? Yet the reality of life means that once in awhile, someone might have to be killed.

      To give you an idea on how absurd the lying thing is, even to many Christians, let's take killing a moment. Let's say there is NO change to the Church's views on killing. Don't do it unless defending an innocent, etc etc. There is ONE addition: one must never kill with a spear. ANY other method is allowed. If you have to defend a child for example, you can shoot, bludgeon, drown, choke, push out of an air plane, decapitate, stab with a knife, dagger, long sword, short sword, katana, use an axe, run them over with a vehicle, make them watch the Star Wars Holiday Special, electrocute, hang, poison, suffocate, neck snap, skull smash, dropping an anvil on them, blowing them up with dynamite, burying them alive, sending them out an airlock, feeding them to a woodchipper or a pack of ravenous squirrels. All of that (and any other you can invent) is all perfectly find and justified under conditions X, Y, Z, but you CANNOT stab, cut etc that person with a spear even in X, Y, Z. That killing with a spear is never justifiable, despite all these other methods of killing that can be justifiable.

      Again I ask, did the Lord warn against what is "technically" done, or what is the aim of the heart?

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    15. There is also a perfectly clear tradition from Augustine through Aquinas that torture is A-OK, even possibly laudable, not only in military or public-safety emergencies but in the mere police courts. Look up the history of the question. (Does anyone happen to know the logical basis for saying torture is intrinsically evil, by the way? I accept that it is, but currently on faith; I would like to be able to defend it by reason.)

      I do not say that they are equally wrong about it always being wrong to actually state untruth, although one can deceive by any other method; but I would like to see the point explained in more detail.

      Also, "How dare you accuse me of hiding Jews!" is 100% equivalent, linguistically, to "I am not hiding Jews." There are probably languages where "How dare you say X" is just the idiom for an emphatic form of "X is not true".

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    16. PS. In Navajo, you say "I singed it for him" to mean "I made him angry" and "I can paint it onto that surface in spots" to mean "I can get by in that language". You say "I caused it to go out between them in a long stiff line" to mean that you introduced people. Etc. So seriously, someone please explain to me how "How dare you say X!" is any different from saying "Not X!"

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    17. In ordinary English "How dare you say X!" differs from saying "Not X!" in that the former is an indignant accusation that deflects the conversation while the second is a flat denial. The former is closer in meaning to the statement "I don't want to talk about that." The fact that it can also be used as a form of denial, as when a husband responds to police suspicion that he murdered his wife confuses the fact that it can also be a genuine expression of outrage by an innocent man. That is why interrogators must be carefully trained.

      English also has idiomatic expressions. "Well, blow me down!" for example is equivalent to the German expression "I fell from the stalk." That Navajo has some locutions that seem odd in English is not surprising.

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    18. It intrinsically and always implies that X is not true, and not even worth bothering to refute, rather than simply meaning "I don't want to talk about that." It's not merely "I don't want to talk about that" but "I don't want to talk about something that's so laughably, obviously false". Nobody says "How dare you say I was raped!" when they only mean "I don't want to discuss that sensitive topic"; they only say it when it is, or at least they wish to claim that it is, ludicrous to suppose they were.

      My point, however, is that in the circumstance under discussion, "How dare you imply I am hiding Jews" is precisely the equivalent of "I am not hiding Jews". And why, when your intention is still to deceive (people who have no right to the truth), is it supposed to be wrong to tell them whatever deception is most likely to work? Mere verbal gymnastics that can technically be parsed as being a true statement are not morally indistinguishable from lying when the other party does have a right to the truth—shall we discuss Bill Clinton?—so why are they somehow suddenly different when the deception is justified?

      Besides, such weird equivocation is quite likely to give itself away, unless done just right.

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  8. I wrote a commentary on Mark She's excellent cover of your post announcing that at last Jean Valjean's conviction has been overturned by appeal to natural law and I felt duty bound to share this news with you. http://roominhouseblues.blogspot.com/2015/02/jean-valjean-conviction-overturned-by.html

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  9. The Pius XI graphic was taken out of context when it was up at Shea's and it's still out of context here.

    Normal people, when confronted with a plan book that has four plans in it, start with plan A and try to make it work, then move on to plan B, then plan C, then and only then resorting to plan D because, let's face it, plan D is going to suck in comparison to the earlier ones. That is, after all, why they put it last.

    Thus reading Pius XI about 4 paras before the quote in the graphic you get the same sort of progression of plans. Plan D is what is being quoted. This is not readily evident in the graphic and it is entirely foreseeable that the graphic is leading people astray.

    Some of us Catholics think we see a way to get to the point where we're mostly on Plan A, which if I recall was something along the lines of working, getting a just wage, and living a reasonably comfortable life. Occasional resort to Plan B or even C might be necessary but we think we can actually get by without having to resort to Plan D at all in the real world if we really work hard at it. We want to work hard at it because doing so leads to better outcomes.

    This is viewed as being a crypto-catholic secret randian in some quarters because... SQUIRREL!

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    1. Actually, the quote's not out of context—if you merely note the one word "insufficient".

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    2. The quote is from Casti Connubi, 120. I think that you get a distorted view of what Pope Pius XI was writing about if you don't start from about 117, though 116 is really short and could be included with little cost.

      When I personally form an opinion on papal writing, go back to the source material, and form a very different opinion based on reading the three paragraphs prior, I find that to be out of context.

      Lots of black space exists at the lower right of that graphic. It would have been easy to put "Casti Connubi, 120" in footnote style type to let people follow up. There was an editorial choice not to. It took me perhaps 4 minutes to hunt this down which doesn't sound like much unless you know that such a long time period on the Internet weeds out better than 99% of the mildly curious. With the addition of the reference, the search time would have been 5-10 seconds which would have weeded out perhaps a third of the curious.

      The Church teaches, and Casti Connubi is a good example, that the state is a last resort when all else fails. The big government community wants to reach for that tool as a first or second choice, not as a fourth or last choice. It is this omission of the Church's traditional caution about using government solutions where the problem develops.

      Most sane free market types allow for an appendix of a state to be a last resort while honestly thinking that in practical terms, private action can solve virtually the entire problem of material distribution.

      The fight has generally been over the order that solutions are appealed to. Pope Pius XI in the context as he wrote it, agrees with the traditional small government types. The article hints that Pope Pius is agreeing with the big government types. This is wrong and obviously wrong when you read it in context.

      Here's an url for the text:
      http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_31121930_casti-connubii.html

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    3. I find little difference of semantic content between "insufficient" and "last resort when all else fails", and that, only a difference of degree ("all else fails" is really insufficient)—so I reiterate that the quote is not actually out of context.

      Why, what did you think the word "insufficient" meant?

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