Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Boundaries not yet falling in pleasant places....

I'm still struggling with what to do with this, from Alberich:

Overall, I tend to agree with Niebuhr: government doesn't enforce morality so much as it follows its prime function, which is to keep the community safe and intact. That we confuse that with "morality" is our error, not government's. - RMJ

But in fact that is the argument of many a conservative interlocutor of mine: government should not and in fact cannot enforce morality, and in particular, it cannot promote economic justice. What government can do is to create an environment where people are more likely to be moral and also keep the community safe and intact (e.g. by ruthless enforcement of law and order, with an emphasis on the latter).

I don't know what Warren says or really thinks, but the argument I always hear from his ilk who claim to follow a morality in which wealth redistribution is a key factor (even if they try to avoid even thinking about the wealth redistribution aspect of their morality) is indeed that government cannot and should not be moral.

OTOH, some moral systems do place the safety and intactness of the community as a key moral good and also as a consequence of moral behavior on the part of individuals. Indeed, this is arguably the point of view of the Torah. And wealth redistribution (e.g. via the system of tithes and some of the sacrifices which serve as communal meals) is a key aspect of not only "morality" but also of ensuring the safety and intactness of the community: c.f. the many blessings and curses in the Torah relating to what will happen to the community depending on people's morality and sense of economic justice. In this view, a key part of the government's function in keeping the community safe and intact is the enforcement of morality, at least the communal (e.g. economic justice) aspects of morality.

Anyway, thank you for getting me thinking ;)
I've made several attempts a post on it, all to no avail. But for the time being, let me just say that somewhere between "government cannot and should not be moral" and this:

Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis and now the head of the Vatican’s highest court, told Catholic News Agency that he could envision a time when the Catholic Church in the U.S., “even by announcing her own teaching,” is accused of “engaging in illegal activity, for instance, in its teaching on human sexuality.”

Asked if the cardinal could even see American Catholics being arrested for their faith he replied, “I can see it happening, yes.”

In his remarks to several U.S. Bishops meeting with him Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI made similarly emphatic warnings about the U.S. The pope told the bishops that “the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated.”

He added: “The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers.”

In the interview published today, Cardinal Burke declared that “it is a war” and “critical at this time that Christians stand up for the natural moral law.” Should they not, he warned, “secularization will in fact predominate and it will destroy us.”
There is a sensible middle ground.

Now I just gotta figure out how to define it....


  1. I can understand Ratzinger not quite believing that a democracy can resist the fantasy dystopia scenario that Burke pushes. I strongly suspect that it is part of a partisan political attack on Barack Obama and Democrats in favor of Republicans. Of course, the irony of this is that it was under Ronald Reagan that an American president illegally supported governments in Central America that murdered Catholic lay people, women religious, priests and even an Arch Bishop for practicing Catholicism, with the tacit support of Cardinal Ratzinger and John Paul II. And if anyone think's that's an exaggeration, they should review the reception of Archbishop Oscar Romero in Rome when he went to beg for help in ending the slaughter in El Salvador.

    The incumbent Pope is so morally compromised, along with large numbers of the bishops he and his predecessor appointed, that what they say is bound to be morally irrelevant and open to being suspected of political corruption. I know a number of very serious Catholics who ignore them and who resent their political machinations. The scandal is what the hierarchy does, not that the people have moved away from their neo-feudal pronouncements.

  2. Well-said, Thought Criminal.

    If "the Faithful" stopped funding them, how quickly would this immoral, increasingly hysterical regime collapse, I wonder?

  3. drkrick7:05 AM

    They did have to bring the cardinal from Boston to the Vatican to protect him from arrest. To their way of thinking, that probably looks like an infringement on their right to govern themselves and fears like this are only a small step further.