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More of the same from Archbishop Chaput

February 25, 2009

As M.Z. noted, Archbishop Chaput visited Toronto this past Monday and offered some post-election reflections for a decent-sized turnout (certainly not an “overflow” crowd, as some reports stated) at St. Basil’s Church on the campus of the University of St. Michael’s College.

I don’t have time for a full critique of Chaput’s lecture but I will note a few points.

First, the things I appreciated. Chaput began by insisting on his “non-partisan” take on the election and on american politics in general. This is certainly easy to say, and I’m certainly glad he said it. In reality, though, the rest of his lecture speaks for itself (more on this in a sec). Indeed, he spent a few minutes challenging the tendency Catholics have toward unquestioning party loyalty, which was also appreciated. Another good point he made was that Catholics not only need to vote in keeping with their Catholic consciences, but that they need to own up to the consequences of how they vote (there is also more to be said on this point – more later). Lastly, he criticized the often-invoked argument that abortion should not be considered a “litmus test” for whether one is a good Catholic or not. He argued that it should be, as honoring the sacredness of life is a core mark of Christians. So far, so good.

The problems I see in Chaput’s approach are these: Chaput is an unflinching believer in the american project, linking too closely Christian discipleship and “good citizenship.” This is not Chaput’s problem alone. It permeates the documents of the american bishops as well as the thinking of most american theologians and commentators. But in Chaput’s version, the americanist assumptions are amplified. Not once did he question the legitimacy of the american political system, assuming that it simply works as-is. And since he takes the act of voting oh so seriously, I am surprised that he did not mention, as his brother bishops did in their latest round of the Faithful Citizenship document, the option of abstaining.

Despite his claim of non-partisanship, and his critique of Catholic party loyalty, he wasn’t fooling anyone in that church. He began his lecture with a crack about how his “partisan roots” were in the democratic party, working directly on democratic presidential campaigns. “That was a long time ago,” he joked, implying not that he now feels politically “homeless,” but that he had simply switched loyalties. Despite his insistence that Catholics must own up to the “consequences” of our votes, and his self-congratulatory narration of how he “made people mad” by speaking the truth so forcefully during the campaign, such statements clearly upheld the american partisan boundary. I have seen no evidence that Archbishop Chaput had angered any republicans for insisting that they own up to the consequences of voting for the “pro-life” (former) president Bush and his anti-Christian, anti-human, and anti-life policies. No where have I seen Chaput warn about the possible consequences of a vote for John McCain.

Finally, Chaput’s partisanship came through in his insulting treatment of Catholics who voted for Barack Obama. According to Chaput, those Catholics who voted for Obama are 1) secretly pro-choice and they should stop lying to themselves and to God about it, 2) bad/”non-participating” Catholics, or 3) stupid for falling for his “hope” rhetoric and for placing their hopes in a political candidate. (Chaput also said at the start of his lecture that it is dangerous to forget history. Perhaps Chaput could recall the countless anti-life activities dreamed up and supported by “good, practicing,” Mass-going Catholics over the last two thousand years.) Not once did Chaput seriously consider the real crisis of conscience that american elections present to the Catholic voter, nor did he deal at all with the possibility that quite a few pro-life, practicing, intelligent, GOOD Catholics voted for Obama for some very good reasons. No where did he attempt to represent these views with any charity or sympathy. These Catholics were no where to be seen. No, for Chaput, the choice should have been easy. All it took was a little “courage.”

Two more positive, yet ambiguous, points regarding Chaput’s fielding of questions. One person asked Chaput what he thinks of liberation theology, that movement that has “brought so much division to the Church.” (LT shines a light on division that already exists, pal. It does not create it.) Chaput started his answer by insisting that the fellow need not be afraid of liberation theology because the fullness of liberation is indeed the heart of the Christian gospel. Good. He finished his answer by promising that Cardinal Ratzinger “dealt with” liberation theology’s dangerous elements and observed that liberation theology “isn’t much of an issue anymore in North America” and “might be” an issue in Latin America. (The latter observation shows a bit of ignorance on the seismic shift caused by liberation theologies as well as its continuing influence throughout the Americas both in the Church and in the theological academy.)

In another question a member of the faithful asked if excommunication of pro-choice Catholics was the answer. Chaput shut him down, and quite clearly, essentially saying that the Church no longer resorts to such authoritarian line-drawing tactics. Yet, as I pointed out, his lecture was riddled with comments about “bad Catholics” and how he “just can’t believe” that pro-choice Catholics present themselves for communion in his archdiocese, but adding no further comment or reflection. Such people, he suggests, are simply not Catholic. Perhaps the authoritarian tactics are not going anywhere, but taking other, more polite forms.

In short, this pro-life, practicing, educated Catholic found very little insight in Chaput’s lecture, no useful reflections on the election in retrospect, and no authentic challenge to ever-deepening partisan Catholicism. In short, I merely found a reinforcement of americanist Catholic terms and assumptions and a word of encouragement for the handful of Canadian Catholics who admire such terms and assumptions.

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111 Comments
  1. February 25, 2009 4:09 pm

    I guess after reviewing his speech again I am having a hard time seeing Americanist type heresy in it. I mean it is pretty straightforward stuff that seems akin to what we see in the Catechism or for that matter the Compendium of Social Doctrine as to Catholics and the poltical life.

  2. February 25, 2009 4:37 pm

    I don’t recall discussions of america in the Catechism or the Compendium.

    Insofar as the Catechism and the Compendium also assume the legitimacy of the nation-state (which is a recent development in human history) and assume an uncritical view of the virtues of “good citizenship,” I am critical of those resources as well.

  3. February 25, 2009 4:44 pm

    [comment deleted]

  4. February 25, 2009 4:51 pm

    Geez. I see you still have no sense of humor.

    [If you have an actual comment, you are welcome to post it.]

  5. Magdalena permalink
    February 25, 2009 5:35 pm

    Doesn’t the Americanist heresy refer more to adulation of specifically American cultural and economic forms? I mean I don’t think the archbishop got into that…

    He is right about liberation theology’s waning influence, however. Unfortunately. In my (certainly incomplete) experience it is a dead letter outside of the academy, and even there it is not as popular a field of inquiry as it might have been.

  6. February 25, 2009 5:43 pm

    jh and Magdalena – Please note that I did not use the term “americanist heresy.”

    Magdalena –

    adulation of specifically American cultural and economic forms

    Could be that. It could also refer to american political forms which is what I see Chaput doing.

    He is right about liberation theology’s waning influence, however.

    “Waning” influence, sure. In his comments he implied liberation theologies have all but died out which is not true. Plus, there are ways in which liberation theology is also gaining influence, especially in light of the “turn to the Left” in Latin America. Also, he neglected to explicitly show how Catholic social teaching has been directly influenced by Latin American liberation theology.

  7. February 25, 2009 5:51 pm

    I guess I just do not see the Americanism in his speech. Unless the bar is now so low that an American Bishop talking about Catholics and Politics must go into a extended discourse on the faults of the American system. I am guessing that a largely foreign audience would not be interested in that

    His main thrust was that Catholics cannot be demaded to dovrece their faith fromt he Public square. I don;t think that is Americanism at all

  8. j, edwards permalink
    February 25, 2009 5:51 pm

    It sounds like Chaput is out of touch when he suggests that LT is “not much of an issue”. Feminist and Queer liberation theologies are hot topics right now, especially with the recent disciplinary actions taken against Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Do you think there is a chance he is unaware of women or homosexuality? Homosexuals of course could not possibly be among the faithful. :)

  9. February 25, 2009 5:52 pm

    “I don’t recall discussions of america in the Catechism or the Compendium. ”

    Uh Michael the main thrist of hsi speech was not about America

  10. February 25, 2009 5:53 pm

    “It sounds like Chaput is out of touch when he suggests that LT is “not much of an issue”. Feminist and Queer liberation theologies are hot topics right now, especially with the recent disciplinary actions taken against Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Do you think there is a chance he is unaware of women or homosexuality? Homosexuals of course could not possibly be among the faithful. :)”

    I don’t think he is out of touch. Compared top the late 80’s when I came into the Church these issues and advocates have no near the influence that did then

  11. February 25, 2009 5:59 pm

    Uh Michael the main thrist of hsi speech was not about America

    On the contrary, the “main thrist” (sic) of his speech was SO centered on america, he and the people introducing him and responding to him continually noted it and apologized for it. Many in the crowd apparently were wondering why he felt that telling a bunch of Canadians how american Catholics who voted for Obama are “such bad Catholics” was a good route to take for the lecture.

    “Out of touch” is exactly what I was thinking through much of his speech, and indeed during that part of the question and answer period.

    Compared top the late 80’s when I came into the Church these issues and advocates have no near the influence that did then

    You should get out more, man!

  12. j, edwards permalink
    February 25, 2009 6:03 pm

    jh–

    I was an 8-year-old evangelical protestant in the late eighties, so it is hard for me to imagine that LT was as big an issue for the North American church then as homosexuality and feminist issues are now.

    I would be interested to hear otherwise.

  13. February 25, 2009 6:06 pm

    “jh–

    I was an 8-year-old evangelical protestant in the late eighties, so it is hard for me to imagine that LT was as big an issue for the North American church then as homosexuality and feminist issues are now.

    I would be interested to hear otherwise.”

    Well I converted in the late 80’s and the retreat house and the Catholic College conferences (mainlyu through radical Religious)was all the rage. It appears from what I am hearing that not every other talk is opriented to this. Perhaps because those people that advocated are dying out

  14. February 25, 2009 6:14 pm

    “he and the people introducing him and responding to him continually noted it and apologized for it. Many in the crowd apparently were wondering why he felt that telling a bunch of Canadians how american Catholics who voted for Obama are “such bad Catholics” was a good route to take for the lecture.

    “Out of touch” is exactly what I was thinking through much of his speech, and indeed during that part of the question and answer period.”

    He actually he started out his speech by saying

    ” Obviously I’ll be speaking tonight as an American, a Catholic and a bishop — though not necessarily in that order. Some of what I say may not be useful to a Canadian audience, especially those who aren’t Catholic. But I do believe that the heart of the Catholic political vocation remains the same for every believer in every country. The details of our political life change from nation to nation. But the mission of public Christian discipleship remains the same, because we all share the same baptism.”

    Now I am not naive and I know how much the Country up North is just overwhelmed with American Poltical coverage. So he gave thoughts that I suspect being his past statements his audience might be interested to hear.

    But it appears to me that the main part of his Speech was of a much more broader range.I guess people can disagree in good faith. THe main thrust seemed to be Catholics are not obligated not to to sivorce their faith from the public square. Last time I looked that was not a particular “American” Concept or gosh I hope not. If so we are much more trouble than I thought world wide

    He ends his talk by saying:

    “We serve Caesar best by serving God first. We honor our nation best by living our Catholic faith honestly and vigorously, and bringing it without apology into the public square and its debates. We’re citizens of heaven first. But just as God so loved the world that he sent his only son, so the glory and irony of the Christian life is this: The more faithfully we love God, the more truly we serve the world.”

    Is that Americanist?

    Compared top the late 80’s when I came into the Church these issues and advocates have no near the influence that did then

    You should get out more, man!

  15. February 25, 2009 6:16 pm

    “Compared top the late 80’s when I came into the Church these issues and advocates have no near the influence that did then

    You should get out more, man!”

    Sorry I dont how this ended up in my post to Michael it was a part of something else

  16. j, edwards permalink
    February 25, 2009 6:19 pm

    Sorry to that I was only commenting on comments and had not read Chaput’s statement. It really bothers me, a mennonite now, that he would say

    “We serve Caesar best by serving God first.”

    So troubled by this concept. I have seen it lived but I never thought I would hear anyone, any minister or bishop, that we serve those in power by serving the Almighty. Yuck!

  17. February 25, 2009 6:25 pm

    Do you think that believing in the legitimacy and maybe even the goodness (qualified of course) of the American political order is a heresy?

  18. j, edwards permalink
    February 25, 2009 6:29 pm

    Sorry, is that for me or Iafrate?

    I think its a heresy to think that serving God is a way to serve the one who had God’s son put to death for insurrection.

  19. j, edwards permalink
    February 25, 2009 6:34 pm

    Of course we could define “legitimacy” all day, but I do not believe in the legitimacy of the American political order no matter how entangled I find myself in it. I “believe” in the kingdom of God. Ever read John’s Revelation?

  20. February 25, 2009 6:59 pm

    j edwards,

    for whoever felt like answering :)

    belief is not just confined to the truths of revelation. we believe or disbelieve all propositions, hopefully dependent on their veracity.

    I don’t think it’s a heresy to participate in public life. But to “serve” the state, which I take you to mean worship the state, is of course wrong.

    do you believe any political orders are good or legitimate?

  21. j. edwards permalink
    February 25, 2009 7:33 pm

    That is a fair question, but it is one that I will have a real hard time answering. I think there can be “legitimate” localized political orders. These seem less likely (although they are by no means immune) to be concerned with power for the sake of control or profit. I think people can feel a real connection to a city or people group and seek to act for the good of all its people.

    We could wrestle over the definition of “public life” as well. Ideally, I believe that Christians, like Jesus, have nowhere to lay their head politically. Not only because they refuse partisan politics, but because they are to be with those who are left out of popular politics and the power game.

  22. February 25, 2009 7:40 pm

    jh – I have no idea what you are talking about when you say this: “the retreat house and the Catholic College conferences (mainlyu through radical Religious)was all the rage. It appears from what I am hearing that not every other talk is opriented to this.”

    Perhaps because those people that advocated are dying out

    Again, what?

    He ends his talk by saying:

    “We serve Caesar best by serving God first. We honor our nation best by living our Catholic faith honestly and vigorously, and bringing it without apology into the public square and its debates. We’re citizens of heaven first. But just as God so loved the world that he sent his only son, so the glory and irony of the Christian life is this: The more faithfully we love God, the more truly we serve the world.”

    Is that Americanist?

    The idea that we “bring” our faith “into” the “public square” is indeed americanist. So is the statement “We are citizens of heaven first, but…” So is, I think, the sentence j. pointed out.

    Do you think that believing in the legitimacy and maybe even the goodness (qualified of course) of the American political order is a heresy?

    Not necessarily.

    do you believe any political orders are good or legitimate?

    Yes. Real democracy (not the u.s. version) is good and legitimate.

  23. February 25, 2009 8:02 pm

    What is “real democracy?” Please explain.

  24. February 25, 2009 8:28 pm

    Lizzy – Think about all the things that prevent u.s. democracy from being a real democracy. That’s a start.

  25. February 25, 2009 9:32 pm

    Michael…”Real” doesn’t exist in reality ;o) But yes, the deck is extraordinarily stacked in the USA.

    favoring corporations over employees to an hilarious extent, party donations (quite frequently a crime in Europe), lobbyists, de-facto two party rule – an immense scandal, gerrymandering! districts rigged so much that frequently there isn’t even anyone else running, winner takes all system, electoral college that makes it necessary to sing the praises of freakin’ Ethanol on a quadrennial basis. Primary system that caters to the very base of the parties and indulges in idiotic, quaint rituals to decide who the next guy will be to screw with the world. Aw, a straw poll, how folksy. The list goes on forever but the madness never ends.

    There’s no need to read volumes on the USA. Just consider this: This country doesn’t have the metric system and creationism is widely regarded.

    As far as Chaput goes, he sounds like one of the old dudes from the Muppet Show re: Obama. It’s embarrassing.

  26. February 25, 2009 9:33 pm

    Michael,

    If you are going to think about the things that prevent the U.S. from being a “real democracy”, you have to know what a “real democracy” is to make the comparison in the first place.

    What is a “real democracy”? Do you mean simply the strict rule of the majority?

  27. February 25, 2009 9:39 pm

    Sidebar

    One thing that prevents the U.S. from being a pure democracy (by which I mean simply majority rule in all cases) is that it is a republic. Really it is a special form of a republic where the government is constrained by other governments (we are states within a state).

  28. February 25, 2009 10:05 pm

    Do you mean simply the strict rule of the majority?

    No.

    One thing that prevents the U.S. from being a pure democracy (by which I mean simply majority rule in all cases) is that it is a republic.

    The united states claims to be a democracy or a democratic republic. It boasts of its ability to instruct the rest of the world on what it means to be a democracy, not what it means to be a republic.

    There is no one definition of “real democracy.” Like the word “justice,” you can’t define it, as the ideal is always beyond us but able to be concretized in more or less perfect ways.

    Real democracy, at the very least, means authentic communities having a real say over what their life together should look like and control of the means of making it more and more possible, free of authoritarian power relationships. This is why real democracy must include not only formal “political” democracy but economic democracy. The latter is clearly lacking in the united states, and yes, this is an understatement.

  29. digbydolben permalink
    February 26, 2009 12:15 am

    I agree STRONGLY with Michael’s last comment and would like to add that the poet W.H. Auden said that “real democracy” was actually a culture and an ethos whose most salient feature is a certain type of language–that is, an elevated discourse carried on between the people of the “community” and their Legislator or legislators regarding political choices and decisions which must be made for the good of the community.

    By that standard–which, as a monarchist, I believe is absolutely correct–many monarchies and “republics” of the past were much more “democratic” than the contemporary United States has been recently, and had much more of the egalitarian spirit hinted at in Auden’s definition. On the other hand, the United States BECOMES more of a “democratic republic” when her leaders speak to their constituents like adults and not children. I think it is safe to say, judging by Obama’ recent speech to the Congress, or, at least, by what snippets of it I’ve been able to read on the Internet here in Europe, that he, unlike so-called recent “conservative” leaders there, IS actually interested in building the kind of community that supports the “democratic” or egalitarian ethos that characterises a “democratic” culture.

    Notice, please, too, how profoundly CHRISTIAN Auden’s and my definition of “democracy” is: any form of government may sustain it, so long as the profound RESPECT of individual CHOICE and self-determination that is at the core of the Christian message is colouring that “elevated conversation” between the governed and their Legislator or legislators. Some kings have been far more “democratic” than a lot of republican “legislators.”

    And, conversely, I believe that the notion that “true democracy” is characterised more by the republican form of government that you Americans have than by this particular “spirit of respect” made manifest in the LANGUAGE of the political discourse is, indeed, an aspect of the “Americanist heresy” that earlier popes were talking about, and I also believe that Archbishop Chaput is, indeed, a partaker of that heresy.

  30. February 26, 2009 12:19 am

    Maybe my reading comprehension is slumping but did you just say you were a monarchist, digby ? ?

  31. February 26, 2009 12:31 am

    “We serve Caesar best by serving God first. We honor our nation best by living our Catholic faith honestly and vigorously, and bringing it without apology into the public square and its debates. We’re citizens of heaven first. But just as God so loved the world that he sent his only son, so the glory and irony of the Christian life is this: The more faithfully we love God, the more truly we serve the world.”

    Is that Americanist?

    The idea that we “bring” our faith “into” the “public square” is indeed americanist. So is the statement “We are citizens of heaven first, but…” So is, I think, the sentence j. pointed out.

    Michael

    How is bringing our faith into the public square Americanist? IN fact is that what we do at Vox Nova all the time. Applying our faith to current poltical problems?

    That is we have no need and in fact oppose a fully seculor Public square that people like Linker at the New Republic advocate?

    What alternative do you propose

  32. digbydolben permalink
    February 26, 2009 3:23 am

    You read that exactly correctly, Gerald; I strongly support the idea that constitutional monarchy is the safest, most orderly, peaceful political order, and, paradoxically, the form of government that best supports a “democratic” culture.

    I’ve been telling folks here regularly, for quite some time, that, despite my support for Obama (a “conservative” politician in temperament, and statesman-like qualities, if I’ve ever seen one!), and despite my theological liberalism and despite my protectiveness of the sexually “different,” I am a “wet Tory” in terms of real political commitments. I do not believe in “democracy” with a small “d.”

    • February 26, 2009 7:42 am

      Digby

      Too right about the relationship between monarchy and democratic culture.

  33. February 26, 2009 9:17 am

    Sweet Lord. I think Digby may have just written something that I agree with. I must go now and reconsider those views. ;)

  34. February 26, 2009 10:18 am

    Okay. So you were asked if any political orders were good or legitimate. And you said “real democracy” is.

    According to you, real democracy is, at the very least, “authentic communities having a real say over what their life together should look like and control of the means of making it more and more possible, free of authoritarian power relationships. This is why real democracy must include not only formal “political” democracy but economic democracy.”

    I’m wondering if there are any forms of government, present or past, that measure up remotely to your definition. I can’t think of any. Which means I guess that at least the vast majority of governments throughout time have been evil and illegitimate?

    Can you name any “real democracies”? Or is it just a theory? What qualifies as an “authentic community?” What does having a “real say” mean exactly?

    I mean that is a wonderful ideal to have, but I’m wondering if it has any practical application.

  35. February 26, 2009 10:57 am

    How is bringing our faith into the public square Americanist? IN fact is that what we do at Vox Nova all the time. Applying our faith to current poltical problems?

    As I tried to convey with my use of quotes, it’s not the idea of “public” faith that I have a problem with. Indeed, I argue here at VN regularly that the Christian faith, in fact all religious faith, is political. What I have a problem with is the way in which Chaput describes the movement “into” the “public square,” as if faith is first private and then that we need to figure out how to “apply” it when we do things like voting. Christians believe we should love our enemies. It does not take any effort to figure out how to make this “public,” how to “apply” it. We are simply to do it. The idea that this is a private value that needs to later be “applied” is precisely the manner in which “just war” types (that is, those who claim to take just war teaching seriously) end up justifying Christian participation in war – the idea that we can have the same “private” “values” but come to different “public” judgments.

    I’m wondering if there are any forms of government, present or past, that measure up remotely to your definition. I can’t think of any. Which means I guess that at least the vast majority of governments throughout time have been evil and illegitimate?

    Can you name any “real democracies”? Or is it just a theory? What qualifies as an “authentic community?” What does having a “real say” mean exactly?

    Indigenous forms of social organization tend to have many of the characteristics that I mentioned. Perhaps they don’t register in our historical consciousness all that often.

  36. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    February 26, 2009 12:54 pm

    Interesting discussion. Thank you.

    Regarding Lib Theo: From my experience in Latin America, it (LT) is still VERY alive and well.It shocked me when I first encountered it because I had studied the then Ratzinger’s letter in Catholic Social Teaching at UD. I had heard the criticism and studied and believed it. Then I lived in Latin America and worked for the Church and was surprised to see LT alive and working and NOT at all like what I had read. The Church in LA also felt very alienated from John Paul II. In America every Catholic I knew loved him. In Latin America, it was. . . not the same reaction. I wonder how they feel about Benedict? Anyway, getting out of America, is a good way to get feel for GLOBAL Catholicism.

  37. Magdalena permalink
    February 26, 2009 1:01 pm

    RCM, I don’t know when you lived in LA, whether it was recently or what. In the 80s and 90s LT was a lot stronger than it is now. My impression is that the people have been tired out and are sick of all politics including Christian politics. Interestingly LT’s decline in some ways matches the rise of the “sects.” I wonder if there is a correlation.

  38. February 26, 2009 1:30 pm

    Magdalena, what makes you think Latin Americans are not interested in politics? http://upsidedownworld.org

    I think it is also a mistake to reduce liberation theology to “Christian politics.”

  39. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    February 26, 2009 1:46 pm

    Magdalena,
    I was in Latin America 1999,2000-2001 (South and Central America).

    From your comments, I can see that you don’t understand how Latin Americans see LT. It is not political for them. It is the Church’s teaching impacting their lives in a real way. Many of them, in one community, lived a Communal lifestyle. It was, for me, absolutely radical, and yet, so Scriptural. They literally shared everything they had. And they were in a Base de Comunidad. You can’t get more LT than that!

  40. February 26, 2009 2:48 pm

    Digby and Henry, feel free to address me as “my lord and liege”. Gott, Kaiser und Vaterland!

    The notion of aristocracy is as absurd as its weird remnants (talk about a shallow gene pool) in Austria. We abolished that nonsense in 1919. Regular authority is bad enough, but to give them bombastic titles, pluralis maiestatis and heredity makes me sing the Marseillaise :) While visiting Versailles last year I had flashbacks to a prior life as an angry torch wielding peasant heh. God shave the queen.

    A supposed intrinsic superiority (sex, race, sexual orientation, nobility) warranted by nothing really is against my l’homme se fait and my “who died and made you boss” approach. If someone were to say, “I am your queen!” – assuming we’re not in the Castro – I’d say, “Great, then make me a royal sandwich.” :)

    Granted, the whole “hail to the chief” business elicits the same Va fangool response from me.

  41. digbydolben permalink
    February 26, 2009 3:15 pm

    Oh, I’m not talking about allegiance to some “aristocracy,” Gerald, as in l’ancien regime.

    I believe that the kings of France, for example, began to betray their people AND the notion of a God-anointed sovereign when they first began to consider themselves les premiers seigneurs de leur royaume and thereby sided with a “class” AGAINST their people and against their people’s common interests. In so doing, they merited the guillotine. The Brit royals deserve dethronement and replacement by the Stuart claimant (in Italy) because they refuse to exert a political influence and batten off the taxes of their poor subjects, to whom they have no allegiance. Contrast THAT with the behaviour of the noble Spanish sovereign who said “Democracy dies in Spain over my dead body!”

    Even though I occasionally excoriate the memory of Elizabeth Tudor, drunk with the blood of her Catholic subjects, I recognise the greatness and nobility of her commission to her ministers, when she warned them continuously, “Take care with my people, my lords!” (As she didn’t; Philip of Spain was actually MORE conscientious as a Legislator.)

    There has never been a perfect Christian sovereign, just as there has never been a perfect “democratic” Legislator.

    Nevertheless, I think that Christian aspirations to sanctified living are more realizable in a socially democratic, caste-consciousless society whose “natural aristocracy” have chivalric, rather than mercantile or “entrepreneurial” ideals. Such a society can afford to make “politics” a DISTRACTION from what’s important.

    In the kind of political culture we moderns have, the imperative to sanctify our politics becomes so absolute an imperative that building a Christian commonwealth–a near-impossiblity–becomes the duty of everybody, when it actually shouldn’t have to be the duty of any but those consecrated to it.

    And now I guess you know what a true “romantic reactionary” I am, right?

    My “conservatism” is far, far more “romantic” and “reactionary” than that of any of these nation-worshipping “Americanists” writing here, I guess.

  42. Magdalena permalink
    February 26, 2009 4:27 pm

    I guess everyone has a different perspective – I have never even set foot in Latin America so I’m definitely not as well-informed as you are!

    However I don’t think anyone can deny that liberation theology is very much on the decline in LA. You reference base communities, well, base communities are not exactly flourishing any more. True liberation theology is not reduced to “Christian politics” but to be honest, that is the form it took in many places including in LA. That can be marked up more to the flaws of its leadership than any problems in LT itself. I think the current decline in LT is directly tied to the view (overwhelmingly held among the average Maria and Jose) that it is just another political program, one of so many that has been tried without finally bringing the people of LA justice and peace.

    A few years ago I read an article which quoted Cardenal, I believe, “the fight is over and the capitalists have won.” Not an accurate analysis of the situation but that’s how he feels about it. I read something by Malik Chaouch on this topic last year; he also pointed out that when you look at the sociological data the LT movement was actually smaller than it seemed in many ways. This doesn’t mean that it didn’t have important contributions to make to the Church but that like all theologies it is ultimately inadequate in describing man’s relationship to man and to God.

  43. digbydolben permalink
    February 26, 2009 4:50 pm

    Magdalena, are you paying any attention to the current recession–due almost entirely to radically unrestrained “liberal” economic theory in the financial sectors?

    Have you noticed that Obama has just offered the most radically redistributionist federal budget that has been served up in America in MORE THAN FORTY YEARS?–a budget premised almost completely on “redistribution” away from the plunderers of the last 15-20 years, as well as upon the hope of offsetting defecits with the profits of “cap and trade” as a means of protecting the environment?

    The neo-Marxists of “liberation theology” may not have won, but I’d sure reckon that the “trickle-down” capitalists of the era of “Reagonimics” are fast going onto the dustbin of history. America is entering the mainstream of Western-style social democracies.

  44. Magdalena permalink
    February 26, 2009 4:53 pm

    I’m not saying the liberation theologians were wrong.

  45. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    February 26, 2009 4:56 pm

    “You reference base communities, well, base communities are not exactly flourishing any more. ”

    How on earth do we know that? From what I can see and read, Latin America is completely ignored in Church blogs/newspapers, etc. The only way to really know that is to either A) go there and find out B)hang out with immigrants here and ask them about their experiences.

  46. February 26, 2009 4:59 pm

    However I don’t think anyone can deny that liberation theology is very much on the decline in LA.

    “Very much” on the decline? How would you possibly even measure this? On the contrary, LT has been incorporated in many ways into the Church’s social teaching both in LA and universally, so it’s puzzling why you would say it’s on the decline.

    You reference base communities, well, base communities are not exactly flourishing any more.

    I’m not even sure if they ever were “flourishing.” It was certainly a significant ecclesial movement, but it was (and is) stronger in some places than in others.

    True liberation theology is not reduced to “Christian politics” but to be honest, that is the form it took in many places including in LA.

    On what are you basing this claim?

    That can be marked up more to the flaws of its leadership than any problems in LT itself.

    The flaws of the “leadership” of something called “liberation theology?” Who were the “leaders” of liberation theology?

    I think the current decline in LT is directly tied to the view (overwhelmingly held among the average Maria and Jose) that it is just another political program

    The only people who believe this view are people who don’t know anything about LT.

    A few years ago I read an article which quoted Cardenal, I believe, “the fight is over and the capitalists have won.” Not an accurate analysis of the situation but that’s how he feels about it.

    He’s not the only one to express this view. How could they not, when at the time it seemed as if the hope for the end to capitalism was extinguished? Fortunately, this Cardenal quote is not the last word by any means.

    I read something by Malik Chaouch on this topic last year; he also pointed out that when you look at the sociological data the LT movement was actually smaller than it seemed in many ways. This doesn’t mean that it didn’t have important contributions to make to the Church…

    Yes, it was a smaller movement than it is often made out to be. So was the Jesus movement! But from the small movement came a tremendous change in perspective for the Church that is undeniable. LT is less fashionable in the theological academy in some ways, but its influence in undeniable. And it still has important contributions to make to the Church and to the world as long as human beings continue to do all they can to fight against the coming of the Kingdom.

    …but that like all theologies it is ultimately inadequate in describing man’s relationship to man and to God.

    No school of theology knows this better than liberation theology.

  47. Magdalena permalink
    February 26, 2009 5:10 pm

    Was googling and discovered this article by Massimo Introvigne which mentions Chaouch’s essay. I have to admit I have never heard of him before. My instincts that there might be a connection between LT’s decline and the rise of the “sects” match what he references from Paul Freston, “while the Catholics were busy with their preferential option for the poor, the poor were making their massive preferential option for the Pentecostals.”

  48. February 26, 2009 5:18 pm

    Magdalena – It would be important to ask why such shifts occurred and what the “connection,” precisely, is. It is no secret that right wing groups attacked liberation movements of all kinds after their irruption in the 60s and 70s. The “religious right” emerged at this time, well funded, and ready to subvert and destroy liberation movements. The rise of non-Catholic Christian churches in the region and throughout the world at this this needs to be seen in light of these well-funded political movements.

  49. Barry O. permalink
    February 26, 2009 8:39 pm

    Hey y’all,

    Getting back to Digby’s point concerning a monarchy.
    It may not be a bad idea after all, and perhaps we all can think of “someone” who would make a perfect king? :)

    Somehow I don’t thing Archbishop Chaput would take part in the coronation though…

  50. February 26, 2009 9:47 pm

    Don King

    or

    Larry King

    Or

    Stephen King ?

    rich punks like Bush having a shoe in is bad enough but basing
    rule on being someone’s offspring by default is truly bizarre.

    Aside – one of the younger Habsburgs purposely married a “commoner”. While rule no longer is hereditary, birth defects due to “noble” incest is ;-)

    Granted, aristocracy keeps the Euro yellowpress afloat so that’s something

    Re: Obama – he’s just doing what’s common policy in civilization, now that George the Hun is gone.

  51. ben permalink
    February 26, 2009 9:54 pm

    For those of you who insist that Chaput’s a partisan, here is an editorial from 2007 where he praises a pro-choice Democrat for his work to end the death penalty:

    http://www.archden.org/dcr/news.php?e=406&s=2&a=8537

    here he is in 2002 encouraging George Bush not to go to war with Iraq:

    http://www.archden.org/archbishop/docs/9_18_02_iraq.htm

  52. February 26, 2009 11:05 pm

    “Real democracy, at the very least, means authentic communities having a real say over what their life together should look like and control of the means of making it more and more possible, free of authoritarian power relationships. This is why real democracy must include not only formal “political” democracy but economic democracy. The latter is clearly lacking in the united states, and yes, this is an understatement.”

    We can definitely define democracy: rule of the majority. And we can also define justice: giving to each what they are owed.

    You say you can’t give a definition and then you do…seems like you are trying to confuse us… for what reason? … and the definition is loaded with lots of strange terms.. a lot to unpack.

    What is an authentic community? What is an authoritarian power relationship? What is economic democracy (sounds like people being able to vote who gets how much)? How is what you are saying an understatement? It sounds like an overstatement, if anything, to me.

    Politics is about the rulers and the ruled. It necessarily involves coercive power, otherwise there is anarchy.

  53. February 26, 2009 11:57 pm

    Majority rule is a narrow definition of democracy. And I would say it’s false democracy.

    A biblical sense of justice is not simply giving to each what is owed. It is connected with mercy which is giving what is not necessarily owed.

    I’m not trying to confuse anyone. Perhaps you are confused because you assume specific definitions of these terms without stopping to think that maybe non-americans think of them differently.

    Economic democracy means authentic communities having a real say over what their economic life together should look like and control of the means of making it more and more possible, free of authoritarian power relationships.

    Politics is not necessarily about the “rulers and the ruled.” It is simply about our common life together. Nor does it necessarily involve coercion. You are a liberal through and through.

  54. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    February 27, 2009 5:52 pm

    On a triter note (maybe) Chaput needs to breathe a bit more freely, and stop abmoninishing us not to.

    Here’s a great lesson,msuically delivered, brand new:

  55. February 28, 2009 9:32 am

    Everyone assumes that words mean something. The definitions I use are the common definitions – not “American” or “liberal” – they’re just what the words mean. You can define democracy to mean something else, but you’re not really talking about democracy anymore.

    If we can’t agree on what we’re talking about, then we can’t have a conversation. You have to explain what you mean by your words, if you are using some special meaning, if you want other people to understand and learn from you.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you about Biblical justice – Biblical justice goes beyond justice because God goes beyond what is just for his creatures. Love and mercy are not
    identical with justice. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you” This doesn’t mean that the other concept of justice is now totally useless.

    For an extended take on this questin, see this lecture

    The assumption that politics is about the rulers and the ruled is not a liberal assumption. It actually comes from the ancient Greeks. It’s an Aristotelian idea – it also happens to be true. Regardless, what my particular political persuasion is is irrelevant to the truth of any idea.

  56. February 28, 2009 12:52 pm

    The definitions I use are the common definitions – not “American” or “liberal” – they’re just what the words mean.

    Common to whom?

    If we can’t agree on what we’re talking about, then we can’t have a conversation. You have to explain what you mean by your words, if you are using some special meaning, if you want other people to understand and learn from you.

    Sure we can have a conversation. We don’t need to agree on the meanings of the words at all. We just have to explain what we each mean by them. I’m not using a “special” definition of anything. We cannot have a conversation if you insist that your definitions of words are the “right” ones and refuse any other viewpoints.

  57. S.B. permalink
    February 28, 2009 1:55 pm

    michael — this is a pattern with you; you use words that have a commonly understood meaning in a peculiar and idiosyncratic fashion, and then act indignant when people think you’re talking about the commonly understood meaning. You’d have an easier time expressing yourself if you’d just spell out your idiosyncratic beliefs from the beginning — i.e., you should just say, “The United States is not a small group of anarchists living in common and not having power over each other,” rather than “The United States is not a democracy” (which most people will understand to be a claim that the United States doesn’t involve a representative system of government). Or you should say, “Jeremiah Wright is not in a position of structural power over white people,” rather than “Jeremiah Wright cannot be racist” (which most people would think to be a claim that Wright cannot be racially prejudiced).

    If you express yourself more clearly, without trying to twist common English words to mean something other than the norm, people would have a better idea of what you’re attempting to talk about.

  58. February 28, 2009 2:40 pm

    What I am saying is hardly peculiar or idiosyncratic if you would get your head out of america’s a** and consider that the meaning of “democracy” has a wider meaning than american-style democracy.

    “Common” definitions of words are often wrong or at least improperly narrow. This is hardly a controversial point.

    I have been quite clear in telling you and Zach what I mean by words like “democracy” and “racism.” You disagree with those definitions, but that does not make you right and me wrong. It means we disagree.

  59. S.B. permalink
    February 28, 2009 3:15 pm

    No, “words” just mean whatever a majority of people use them to mean. That’s what a “word” is. Words don’t have some platonic existence above and apart from normal human usage. It doesn’t even make sense to say that “democracy” really is something that most people don’t use the word “democracy” to mean.

  60. S.B. permalink
    February 28, 2009 3:53 pm

    You’re perfectly entitled, of course, to say that “the form of human society that I prefer (or think I prefer, given that I’ve never experienced it) is different from what the United States currently offers.” And if you talk about “the form of human society I prefer,” people will understand you better, and you’ll have an easier time expressing your opinions, than if you insist on hijacking terminology that most of the English-speaking world uses differently.

    It’s as if I were to insist that the word “morality” meant “consistent with capitalism,” as in “true morality is capitalistic,” and then went around telling anyone who expressed skepticism about capitalism that they were “immoral.” The result would be completely predictable: I’d have to waste a lot of time explaining to people that I didn’t use the word “moral” in the way that everyone else does, and that I was really just appropriating the word “morality” to talk about capitalism.

  61. February 28, 2009 5:01 pm

    Your definition of democracy is unclear, at least on this forum, as you never clarified your terms. For example, could you explain how there is no “authoritarian power structure” in “true democracy”? What does this system of government actually consist of? How does it differ from normal democracy?

  62. February 28, 2009 7:28 pm

    Zach – What I described above is certainly not “unclear.” It’s very clear. What you (and S.B.) do not seem to understand is that democracy is not a system of government but a political ideal. “Democracy” can take form in various political systems, and these systems can be more or less democratic, i.e. they can be closer or further away from the ideal. Certainly you would not say that the united states is in any way a perfect democracy, right? If you can admit that, then it should not be hard for you to understand that I set the bar pretty high as to what constitutes “true” democracy. That’s all I am saying when I say that the u.s. is not a true democracy — I’m saying that it is very very far from the ideal.

    It should also not come as a surprise considering the response I often get when I say america is not a democracy: many folks reply that I am right; it’s a republic.

  63. adamv permalink
    February 28, 2009 8:57 pm

    “Democracy” can take form in various political systems, and these systems can be more or less democratic, i.e. they can be closer or further away from the ideal.

    Have you been thinking about Plato recently?

  64. February 28, 2009 10:42 pm

    Have you been thinking about Plato recently?

    It need not be thought of in those terms. There is no one ideal form of democracy. I’m no Platonist. I’m an “Ellacurianist.” ;) Nevertheless, is it not true that various “democracies” can in fact be more or less democratic? Is that such a controversial point? Is it controversial to suggest that in a country whose media often borders on propaganda, where the archaic “electoral college” has not yet been demolished, and in which persons of color and women only incrementally have been allowed to participate, that we fall quite short of even the most minimalist notion of what “democratic” means?

  65. S.B. permalink
    February 28, 2009 11:43 pm

    Yes, it is controversial. Under any reasonable definition of “democratic,” the United States system of government does currently exceed the “most minimalist notion” of democracy, whatever the quality of the news media might be, and however lamentable it is that blacks were often excluded from voting prior to the 1960s. The “most minimalist notion” would be: people generally get to vote about something. And that does occur.

  66. March 1, 2009 12:25 am

    The “most minimalist notion” would be: people generally get to vote about something. And that does occur.

    Uh huh.

    It is your narrow view of “democracy” that should be seen as controversial.

  67. digbydolben permalink
    March 1, 2009 7:24 am

    “Zach” and “SB,” “democracy” was invented by the ancient Greeks–it’s THEIR word, originally, and not ours, and they meant to designate, by the term, a type of social arrangement with a particular ethos and a particular supporting culture, not a specific governmental organisation, of which there were many varieties, the most famous of which was the radically egalitarian “democracy” of ancient Athens.

    That ancient Athenian form has never been duplicated anywhere. It excluded women and slaves, and it was extraordinarily a prey to demagoguery; among its extraordinary crimes were the murder of Socrates, and the precipitation of the Peloppenisian War.

    Michael and others have every right to “clean up” the concept linguistically and to make it define something much more benign that what it has meant in the past, especially if others, like both of you, have stretched its meaning to include the plutocratic, ersatz republic that is America.

  68. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 9:24 am

    I said that voting about governmental matters would be a “minimalist” version of democracy. It might help if you look up the meaning of the word “minimalist.”

  69. digbydolben permalink
    March 1, 2009 11:21 am

    I teach my students that words have meanings only in context, and that they need to study “vocabulary items” in terms of “whole language.”

    There is no such thing as a “minimalist” definition of a word. The poets, who MAKE the meanings of words (if you don’t believe it, check out the Oxford English Dictionary sometime) are constantly expanding and contracting the meanings of words.

    Not only is all of the above true, but if we in America don’t stop narrowly defining this particular word in terms of our own cultural experience, we are going to CONTINUE to WRECK HAVOC in other parts of the world, to an even greater degree than we have in Iraq.

  70. March 1, 2009 12:39 pm

    I teach my students that words have meanings only in context, and that they need to study “vocabulary items” in terms of “whole language.”

    Yes, I think I learned that in elementary school. ;)

  71. March 1, 2009 1:32 pm

    SB’s presentation demonstrates an inherent nominalism within his thought patterns. Funny that.

  72. March 1, 2009 1:40 pm

    Words have meanings only in context? Isn’t that some form of nominalism?

  73. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 1:54 pm

    SB’s presentation demonstrates an inherent nominalism within his thought patterns.

    No, it doesn’t.

  74. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 1:56 pm

    Anyway, you don’t even know what “nominalism” is, as shown by the old thread in which you claimed that it’s “nominalist” to believe that God created life.

  75. March 1, 2009 1:57 pm

    SB

    Sadly, you don’t know the source of the debates between realists and nominalists; if you did, you would see how your words above indeed do just that. I could also say your linguistic analysis is completely faulty, too. But I doubt you have had any training in that discipline, either.

  76. March 1, 2009 2:01 pm

    SB

    You misrepresented that discussion, now, too. I will warn you. Stop now. Really. You do yourself no good. I pointed out how “Creation Science” in its various manifestations is nominalistic, and requires one to follow Occam’s understanding of God in relation to will (which, btw, has the same problem as those traditions of Islam Benedict famously criticized).

  77. March 1, 2009 2:02 pm

    Zach

    Words have real meanings and real signification; it’s not nominalistic to point that out. Even the greatest realists worked against EQUIVOCATION. Which is what SB is supporting.

  78. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 2:04 pm

    It’s kind of odd to refer to linguistics here, given that the overwhelming majority of linguists are descriptivists, which is exactly the position I took above.

  79. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 2:07 pm

    Henry, you said in that old debate that it’s “nominalist” to believe that some physical object or another is so complex that God must have designed it.

  80. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 2:19 pm

    Even the greatest realists worked against EQUIVOCATION. Which is what SB is supporting.

    Nonsense. That’s true of michael, not me. He’s the one who will constantly try to gin up a false debate by just redefining words to suit his tastes and then disagreeing with people who (as he well knows) meant something different by a particular term.

  81. March 1, 2009 2:20 pm

    S.B. – Enough about the “old thread.” Let it rest. Stay on topic.

  82. March 1, 2009 2:34 pm

    “Redefining words” means “I want them to be univocal, and won’t recognize the way they use them.” So it is equivocation. Typical.

  83. March 1, 2009 2:36 pm

    SB

    Either you are incapable of following theological discussions, or you are incapable of honestly presenting what someone says. Either way, what you said is NOT what I said.

  84. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 2:39 pm

    No, “equivocation” does NOT mean using one meaning for a word. Once again, you’ve managed to completely invert a concept. Equivocation means acting as if you’ve established a particular conclusion when all you’ve done is use a word with a second or alternate meaning. Thus, “equivocation” would be, “Black people cannot be ‘racist.’ Jeremiah Wright is black. Therefore Jeremiah Wright cannot be ‘racist'” [this argument becomes equivocation when used to disagree with someone who used the word "racist" to mean "racially prejudiced," because you can't prove that Jeremiah Wright is free of racial prejudice just by saying that he's black.]

  85. S.B. permalink
    March 1, 2009 2:41 pm

    michael — when Henry accuses me of misrepresentation, I’d like to answer:

    henry, your writing is often convoluted and grammatically unclear. Hence, any problem of interpretation is usually your own fault, not anyone else’s. In any event, you spent a whole thread arguing that “intelligent design” is nominalist . . . which amounts to saying that if someone believes that God had anything to do with creating humanity beyond just setting the Big Bang in motion, they are “nominalist.” I’m not misrepresenting anything, at least not intentionally.

  86. March 1, 2009 2:47 pm

    S.B. – You brought up another thread first in this comment. Stay on topic. Last warning.

  87. March 1, 2009 2:58 pm

    SB

    It is clear you don’t know the subject matter, which is why proper responses confuse you. Good day.

  88. S.B. permalink
    March 2, 2009 10:21 am

    At least I don’t live in opposite world, where “equivocation” means using one definition of a word, where “minimal” means something closer to “robust,” etc.

  89. March 2, 2009 10:26 am

    SB

    You continue to show 1) pure animosity without a shred of a Catholic sensibility, 2) inability to respond properly to comments or 3) to understand the point. When one suggests there is only one definition to a word, then they engage in equivocation when debating people with other definitions. That’s quite simple. That’s the point.

    As for linguistics, study historical linguistics, and you will see words mean more than what most people think them to mean. This is how language develops, and connotations within words change. What was once common becomes uncommon, what is uncommon becomes common. Clearly this demonstrates that there are other possibilities to words than just what is commonly used, otherwise, there would be no development, no change. And it is for this, “I will demand you use the word as I tell you the majority interprets it, and condemn you for that use” indicates quite clearly the condemnation you give is based upon equivocation, which is the whole point. You are not arguing with Michael in relation to the same meaning, and you know it. Now, I would suggest that this being a time of lent, perhaps you have something better to do than argue with false pretenses on here, and learn instead of speak up in ignorance.

  90. S.B. permalink
    March 2, 2009 10:37 am

    No, using one definition for a word is just not equivocation, no matter how much you think it is. I already explained what equivocation is — it’s using TWO definitions of a word to try to prove an argument’s conclusion by sleight of hand. Indeed, what I object to in Michael’s arguments is PRECISELY the habitual use of equivocation:

    Person A: “The United States is basically a democracy [meaning that we have a representative form of government].”

    michael: “No, the United States isn’t even the most minimal democracy [purporting to disagree with the first person, but not really meaning that people don't have the vote in America; instead meaning that some people watch Fox News, and that we're not all a bunch of anarchists living in small participatory communities].”

    That’s a false disagreement — or it was, until Michael, when pressed more than once by other commenters to say what the heck he was talking about, finally gave in and started to describe what he meant by “democracy.”

    Speaking of habitual animosity . . . ever look in the mirror?

    • March 2, 2009 10:40 am

      SB

      The point is the discussion is not using one definition of the word. By demanding one interpretation, when other definitions are involved, that is what creates the equivocation. Clearly that should be obvious.

  91. March 2, 2009 11:03 am

    That’s a false disagreement — or it was, until Michael, when pressed more than once by other commenters to say what the heck he was talking about, finally gave in and started to describe what he meant by “democracy.”

    Wow. You seriously must misrepresent every single encounter that you have with every single person on this blog.

    I made a, quite uncontroversial, claim that the u.s. is not a “real” democracy here at 7:40pm. I say it was uncontroversial because 1) conservatives tend to reply “yes, exactly, we don’t claim to be a democracy but a republic,” while 2) everyone else knows that we are only a “democracy” in a very very minimalistic sense. Uncontroversial.

    Nevertheless, one of our commenters asked me to explain here at 8:02pm. And another one here at 9:33pm.

    I gave my understanding of what democracy means here at 10pm. Sorry if that wasn’t fast enough for you.

    The understanding of democracy that I gave, and was certainly not hiding from anyone as you imply, is also quite uncontroversial to anyone who knows anything about politics. Unless, of course, one’s definition of democracy does not include authentic participation, or if it is permitted to include authoritarian relationships.

  92. S.B. permalink
    March 2, 2009 11:50 am

    everyone else knows that we are only a “democracy” in a very very minimalistic sense. Uncontroversial.

    You remind me of Pauline Kael’s stunned quip that Nixon couldn’t have won, because no one she knew had voted for him. You say things that you seem to think are “quite uncontroversial” to “everyone,” but you seem to be forgetting that not everyone is a radical leftist.

    I say it was uncontroversial because 1) conservatives tend to reply “yes, exactly, we don’t claim to be a democracy but a republic,

    That’s very confused . . . politically informed people say that the US is a republic rather than a democracy because they are aware of the difference between direct democracy and a representative form of government. But when they agree that the US is not a “democracy,” they don’t even remotely have in mind anything like your idiosyncratic theories (presence of Fox News, inability of women to vote 100 years ago, etc.).

    You seriously must misrepresent every single encounter that you have with every single person on this blog.

    Sorry, as I look back more closely, I do see that you did indeed begin the exchange by denying that the US is a “real democracy,” were asked to explain yourself, and ultimately agreed (you say this should have been “fast enough,” but it was hiding the ball just to tell Lizzy to “think about all the things that prevent u.s. democracy from being a real democracy” without having described what you think is a “real democracy”). Anyway, I did get the order wrong.

    But I still think your habitual style is one that seems designed to provoke people into a needless argument over terms. You take a word that has a relatively common meaning and understanding, and then use that word in such a way that leftists would know what you’re talking about but other people would find confusing. It would be more straightforward if you’d just express yourself in substantive terms (i.e., avoiding terms that you know have a different common meaning), or at the very least, explain what you’re talking about from the first, rather than waiting for the inevitable confusion.

  93. digbydolben permalink
    March 2, 2009 4:23 pm

    …Then use that word in a way that leftists would know what you’re talking about but other people would find confusing.

    Excuse me, Mr. “S.B.” but I think I’ve made it plain on this very thread that I’m anything but a “leftist”–that I am, indeed, from a European “conservative” perspective, far more “right wing” than you–a Tory “MONARCHIST,” for God’s sake–and I know EXACTLY what Michael is talking about, in terms of “democracy,” even if I would disagree with him regarding its advisability, as a strictly political system.

    You need to take a look at the history of “equivocation” as the word was used in the parlance of the Protestant persecutors of Catholics in 16th century Britain. It was all about taking a single word, “treason,” and re-defining it in a narrow, “minimalist” way, so as to defame, criminalize and eventually legally murder Catholic priests who’d only come to England to minister to “recusants.”

    You follow exactly in their footsteps, with your narrow, ideologically tendentious definition of the word “democracy”: you, like them, are a LIAR, and your purpose, like theirs, is not to explore the truth, but rather to duplicitously bend it, in a narrow, politically self-serving way.

    You’ve been clearly shown, on this thread, to be a duplicitous, intellectually dishonest political hack. You should go away and hide your face in shame!

  94. March 2, 2009 10:01 pm

    “You’ve been clearly shown, on this thread, to be a duplicitous, intellectually dishonest political hack. You should go away and hide your face in shame!”

    haha!

    Is that supposed to be a joke Digby?

    And I did not lie on this page, so please don’t call me a liar. My definition of democracy is not “narrow” or “ideologically tendentious” – it’s the common one taught in all political science courses. What’s ideological is to take the term and identify it with the egalitarian ideal, as has been done here.

  95. March 2, 2009 11:36 pm

    Zach – Political science courses are free of ideology? Why is the (supposedly) “standard” definition of “democracy” free of ideology while an egalitarian understanding is ideological? Why do you (or your “ideology-free” poli-sci professor) get to decide such things?

  96. grega permalink
    March 3, 2009 12:07 am

    At least Chaput’s boss had no problem congratulating our fine smart young President.
    This is not working out so great for the church frankly – I certainly doubt that the vocal catholic right wing will pick up the tap.
    Like most of the time Prof. Kueng has it as about right in my view.

    http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/hans-kung-papal-criticism-draws-vatican-ire?page=1

  97. March 3, 2009 1:53 am

    Kung’s suggestions are quite mild this time around, I think, and reasonable.

  98. March 4, 2009 9:10 pm

    I didn’t say political science courses are free of ideology.

    I don’t care if you want to dispute my definition of the term. I’m just clarifying what I mean by it so I can have a conversation with someone who will bother to consider what I say.

    If you need to write a few paragraphs to define what a single word means, I think you need to learn to be more precise with language; it’s impossible to communicate with someone who has idiosyncratic and prolix definitions of simple terms.

  99. March 5, 2009 12:36 am

    I didn’t say political science courses are free of ideology.

    Yes you did:

    My definition of democracy is not “narrow” or “ideologically tendentious” – it’s the common one taught in all political science courses. What’s ideological is to take the term and identify it with the egalitarian ideal, as has been done here.

    it’s impossible to communicate with someone who has idiosyncratic and prolix definitions of simple terms.

    It’s not “idiosyncratic” to define democracy as the rule of the people. That is the exact meaning of the word. Reducing democracy to american-style electoral politics is idiosyncratic and culturally chauvinistic.

  100. March 5, 2009 7:02 am

    I said my definition is a common one taught in all political science courses.

    This is not the same as saying political science courses are free of ideology.

    And I defined democracy as the rule of the majority. If you now define it as rule of the people, then our two definitions are very close – because how do the people rule? They rule by expressing their opinion in a vote where the majority opinion wins. How else would you decide what “the will of the people” is?

  101. March 5, 2009 7:04 am

    And I never identified democracy with American politics. I already said I don’t think America is a true democracy. I don’t, however, think this is a problem.

  102. March 5, 2009 8:59 am

    Zach, rule of the people and rule of the majority are not the same thing.

  103. March 5, 2009 7:28 pm

    Again I ask you: if not by majority vote, how then do the people rule?

    Or do you and the other academics decide what’s in the best interest of “the people” so “the people” don’t make a mistake about it?

  104. March 5, 2009 7:35 pm

    If you read what I wrote again closely, you might notice that I explicitly did not say that the rule of the people and the rule of the majority are necessarily the same thing.

  105. March 5, 2009 10:43 pm

    If you read what I wrote again closely, you might notice that I explicitly did not say that the rule of the people and the rule of the majority are necessarily the same thing.

    I did read what you wrote closely. What I found when I did so is that you contradict yourself. You say that our two definitions are “very close” (implying that they are not the same) but then insist that my definition requires yours, such that they end up being the same thing.

    if not by majority vote, how then do the people rule?

    It seems pretty obvious that social groups can come up with ways to make decisions together other than mere voting. Some groups operate by way of consensus, for example.

    Or do you and the other academics decide what’s in the best interest of “the people” so “the people” don’t make a mistake about it?

    I’m not sure what compels you to make comments like this when I have suggested no such thing, when you have probably seen no evidence to suggest that I think academics automatically know what is in people’s “best interests,” and when you know that I am committed to a particular way of being an academic — liberationist. Maybe I am presumptuous to think that you have a clue about what liberationist academic commitments look like just because you read one book by Gustavo Gutierrez (or at least claimed to). Perhaps you did not understand Gutierrez? Perhaps you have an anti-intellectual streak? Or perhaps you’re just trying to be a jerk?

  106. March 6, 2009 8:59 am

    Please show me the contradiction I spoke, because I honestly do not see one.

    And I don’t recall insisting on anything, either. I actually think I asked you a question that went unanswered.

    Also I do not think that it is obvious that “social groups can come up with [other] ways to make decisions together”. You cite consensus as an example. But what does consensus mean? I do not think it’s obvious. To my mind, it means
    that the people who disagree pretend as to make the majority feel better.

    And I guess I struck a nerve with the academics line. It’s true, I was trying to provoke you. I wasn’t trying to insult, but I’m sorry if I did. I was hoping that, in provoking you, you explain yourself in a way I can understand.

    And you’re right – I never claimed to know what liberationist academic commitments look
    like. Based on what I’ve seen from you and read from others, it seems like a combination of worship of an egalitarian ideal, a desire to control peoples lives, and despair.

    I do think that insofar as liberation commitment(s) entail redistributive economics and support for state welfare programs, it necessarily involves control. That is, when redistribution becomes the goal of the state, the city, or the political community.

    I think the great disconnect between us is that you are an anarchist, and insofar as you are an anarchist, you are not really talking about politics.

    I think you’re actually just talking about small communities of voluntary association, communities that lack any coercive force and operate by the charitable motive alone. These communities are wonderful, but they are not really political communities. And they are not wholly sufficient for the public life of man, who needs laws and protection.

  107. March 6, 2009 10:36 am

    Zach – It’s impossible to talk to you unless you consider that “democracy” and “politics” are much much bigger than you think they are. Instead, all we get are “well, that’s not democracy” and “well, that’s not politics.”

    Not sure why you are so against egalitarian social relations. And who benefits from such a view.

    At one point you seemed like a pretty reasonable guy. Now it looks like you have strengthened your pessimistic, hierarchical, capitalist politics of domination such that you are unable to talk seriously with anyone.

  108. March 6, 2009 1:22 pm

    Michael – Please consider that all you’ve done is insult me. You’ve mostly ignored everything I’ve written.

    Example: You haven’t explained how my definition is insufficient, or answered any of the questions I raised with regard to your definition of democracy.

    You might think every situation where people come together is a political situation; I don’t.

    You might think it’s useful to use terms in an expansive way. I think it renders the terms more or less meaningless and stifles conversation. Hence our present inability to talk to each other.

    Not everything is “for” or “against” – it is not simply that I am against “egalitarian social relations” (quotes because it’s your term).

    I hope we can still be friends despite this rather acrimonious conversation. I don’t think you’re evil and I hope you don’t really think I am, either.

  109. March 6, 2009 4:48 pm

    Zach, on the contrary, I have answered every question you have asked me here. You simply don’t like the answers.

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