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Feeling Better

The spring of our discontent -- surely summer can't be far away. Also: Their corruptions. The Council of Trent reconsidered. Daily reports to Ben Stein. Plus much more.

4.13.06

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GOOD DAY FOR PESSIMISTS
Re: Quin Hillyer's Bad News Everywhere I Look:

I must confess I have been feeling down in the dumps for the same reasons as Mr. Hillyer. The Republicans, when they control the House, the Senate and the White House, turn into spineless jellyfish who are worried only about getting re-elected. Doing what is best for the country is a secondary concern. I never even thought I would see the day when Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. Well, it happened, but my wildest dreams about a government that is responsible with our hard-earned tax dollars remains tragically unfulfilled. We will never get another chance like this again. In the end, the Republicans have shown themselves to be as power-hungry and corrupt as any Democrat. Their number one priority is re-election, and they seem to think that acting more like liberal Democrats is the way to do that. They will be very disappointed this fall when they see that their "generosity" with our tax dollars does not lead to continued control of the House and Senate.

Republicans did a great job of keeping spending down when Clinton was in the White House, even if Clinton gets all the credit for it. Maybe Bush will finally raise the veto pen when Congress is no longer controlled by Republicans. If only term limits could be placed on both the Senate and House. Imagine if Representatives could only be elected once, with four-year terms, staggered so that one-fourth are elected every year, and if Senators could only be elected to one eight-year term, with state elections staggered every two years. Imagine how they could, once elected, do what is best for the country, rather than trying to please everybody and buy votes by spending other people's money. Before we all break out into a John Lennon song, let's try to imagine that a Constitutional amendment to make these changes will be put to a state vote, with our current congressman, Republican and/or Democrat, and the judicial branches do not find a way to declare it "unconstitutional" and prevent a vote on the amendment. Now imagine that three-fourths of the states pass it, and our Congress becomes full of one-timers, and our tax dollars are suddenly treated with respect.

I sure wouldn't bet my 401K on all this happening, but I am just trying to avoid falling into the great abyss of cynicism (you know -- all politicians are and always will be corrupt and power hungry, etc.)... Quick -- somebody throw me a rope! Too late!

You won't see me actively working to get Republican incumbents re-elected this fall. Why bother? Sigh... My pride will still make sure I vote, but I no longer have any positive expectations.
-- Mike Spencer
Midland, Michigan

Quin Hillyer's solution for all the ails of the world boils down to victory in Iraq. I agree. However, that might take some time. In the meantime, the U.S. must win at home and that can only be accomplished if the GOP can somehow find the backbone to adopt a strict immigration policy, which includes enhanced border security, the immediate deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records, the immediate expulsion of illegals displaying foreign flags, the promise of no amnesty, and a guarantee to the American people that citizenship and the right to vote will never be granted to an illegal immigrant. It could be presented as Contract With America II.
-- Jack Hughes
Chicago, Illinois

Sweet God in heaven, Quin Hillyer is just another example of the whiny right. The problem with too many conservatives is they've adopted the crybaby persona of the liberals. Since the temper tantrum over Harriet Miers conservatives have shown they can act just as juvenile as the left. It's time to suck it up and act like adults.

To reverse the "bad news," "negative polls" and BS of the left it is time for so-called Reaganite conservatives to adopt President Reagan's 11th Commandment not to speak ill of other Republicans. In a rush to prove their "independence" conservatives are trashing President Bush and Republicans with ferocity only slightly less intense than the left's. How does such knee jerk "me too" behavior prove anyone's "independence?"

There are also needs to be some historical honesty and integrity in the conservative movement. Ronald Reagan, the conservative icon, was not perfect, nor were the 1980s the lost golden age of America. President Reagan for all his conservative rhetoric and true greatness actually governed quite pragmatically. Let's not forget he granted blanket amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, raised taxes to accommodate Democrats, adopted a Democrat scheme to supposedly "fix" Social Security that merely pushed the problem off on future administrations, grew the Energy and Education Departments, appointed moderates to the Supreme Court and refused to punish terrorists when they murdered hundreds of U.S. military personnel in Lebanon.

When judging W's Presidency honestly by Reagan's real record it is amazing not only how similar they are, but how much more conservatively Bush actually governs. Maybe there is a three-fold problem in the modern conservative movement -- (1) some conservatives prefer losing to governing (it's easier being on the outside complaining than actually having to do something), (2) recognizing leadership in D.C. requires compromise and incremental victories to change the governing culture in the U.S. and (3) they can't handle the truth that Ronald Reagan was a pragmatist first and a conservative second.

The time has come to quit thinking like losers, fixating on the polls and allowing the old media to set the agenda. Republicans and conservatives need to begin accentuating the positive and when disagreeing doing so with a modicum of civility. We're winning the war in Iraq with an incredible low casualty rate (compared to all other major U.S. conflicts), the economy is the best in the last 50 years, tax rates are lower, government revenues are up, aside from defense and entitlement spending discretionary spending is flat (according to Senator Rick Santorum), tax freedom day is earlier than during the 1990s and America is still a great country.

Quit "b_ _ _ _ _ _g" now, because things could get a lot worse -- Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Pelosi and President Mrs. Bill Clinton.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

Seems to me the problem with ethics could be helped greatly by TERM LIMITS on both houses. Two terms is good enough for the President and should be good enough for them also. Just think maybe in that short time they would do the work of the people that sent them and not have time to get into the pockets of some lobbyist.

I love the private account in Social Security; at least some of your money would be yours and not the government's. My friend was looking forward to getting her first SS check and died that month, what did her family get from all she had paid in? Zip, nada, zero. Well let me change that a little, is it $255 you get for burial now? What a joke.

I am so disgusted with the immigration bills in the Senate, I think a term used on Rush yesterday was "voter amnesty." All the Democrats are after are votes, legal or otherwise. If we don't do something soon about making sure voters are citizens our way of life will be going down the tubes. Just how many ILLEGALS do you think signed up to vote Monday? We can carry privacy just so far. We need a national ID card that can not be copied. When I go to cash a check I have to show some kind of ID, why is that different? There has to be a better way than just saying "yep, I'm a citizen."

When 9/11 happened I said, "Thank You God for Bush instead of Gore." I still think he did the correct thing in Iraq, but he is a disaster when it comes to border control and sending lawbreakers back home. In fact this Republican has not been a happy camper for a couple of years, seems my President is turning into a RINO.
-- Elaine Kyle

Winning in Iraq? The Democrats define winning in Iraq as not being there. To them the effort is more important than the results. Some have called for "cut and run" since we have made the "good" effort. I call it surrendering without a fight like a Frenchman. We were officially occupying much of Germany and Japan for a decade after officially winning WWII. We were still there in some force even while trying to throw together another army for a "conflict" in Korea. We still have forces in Germany and Japan 60 years later because we are part of their defensive forces now. The Korean War never ended; we just stopped shooting at each other in my birth year. We still have forces there and a large number committed to go there on short notice. Why? Because we didn't win the Korean War and the enemy is still in place ready for war on short notice. We haven't won a war in the military sense since WWII. Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War were all loses even though we won all the big battles. Our current efforts in the second Gulf War are the result of not winning the first. We set all sorts of battlefield records in winning the battles of the first Gulf War but still left the enemy in place. Why?

People like Sun Tzu, Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz, and many, many others have written on war and what it takes to win one since the beginning of recorded history and still politicians invent ways to "win" wars without winning them in tangible terms. The principles of war as practiced over the centuries would fill a good sized building but you couldn't find a shred of this in the policies of LBJ and his Vietnam adventure. Vietnam was winnable in military terms if the principles of warfare had been followed. Iraq is winnable, both in military and political terms if the correct polices are followed and the proper effort made. You don't win wars in any sense of the term by waging a defensive war of attrition. The long term goals of our current policy are noble and more hopeful than the do nothing policies of the past but the means to that end may require that the "killer angel" instinct be let loose in order that we may destroy the enemy's will to fight before we try to make peace with them. We were killing the Japanese 10-20 to 1 in the latter stages of the Pacific campaign and they didn't get the message. When we upped it to 100,000 to 0 back to back, they paid attention to what we had been saying to them by other means. Our current efforts are looking a whole lot like Cold War containment than actual war. Winning in Iraq? We will achieve that as soon as the Democrat Congress cuts off funds for our efforts there and we bring the troops home. If you want to win in tangible terms, we as a people must first agree to be at War. The desired result will follow that. I want to win but be careful for what you wish for. The French way of winning is easy and takes little or no effort at all; having it mean anything is another story.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

Thank you for the "right on the money" article. I've re-read it three times and still find nothing to disagree with. But, I'm forced to ask, "How can we get any elected official to do the right thing?"
-- unsigned

Quin Hillyer replies:
The unsigned reader asks a very good question. The answer is: moral suasion, backed by thoughtful and energetic political action. Easier said than done, I know, but I do think these solons will respond if they hear from enough people often enough. Good luck to all of us in trying!

To Mr. Bateman: By "win" I mean a real victory, not a cut-and-run victory. I agree with you that we must define victory the right way, as Sun Tzu and Clausewitz would define it. Which means the enemy must be vanquished, not accommodated. Thanks for a very appropriate warning, and thanks for writing.

THAT'S WHOSE
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's Whose Culture of Corruption?:

I think this is what some of the more perceptive GOP strategists think needs to be reversed -- the Democrats need to be painted as causing the "Corruption of the Culture" and it has to stick.

To whit:

* Which party backs -- either openly or tacitly -- same-sex "marriage"?

* Which party backs unlimited abortions?

* Which party backs nearly unlimited amnesty for "undocumented workers"?

* Which party has been primarily responsible for petty name-calling, vituperative partisanship, and using bureaucratic procedures to shut down government as we knew it when things go against their will?

* Which party checks the press for polls and which way the "intellectual" winds are blowing before making a statement on an issue?

* Which party feels that public service is not an honor and a privilege, but a birthright, not to be interfered with by such things as laws?

* (Realize I am from Maryland) Which party thinks felons deserve the right to vote no matter what?

* (Again, Maryland) Which party thinks it has the right to override gubernatorial vetoes and run roughshod over the voters of its state? (See point six above.)

Also somebody needs to point out that when GOP members are caught off base, they hang their heads, admit guilt and head for the dugout. Which party yells, "Prove it!" (See WJ and HR Clinton, 1993-2006.)
-- Cookie Sewell
Aberdeen, Peoples Democratic Republic of Maryland

ON THE YANQUI DOLE
Re: Doug Powers's From Si to Shining Si:

This is funny, just wait until all these ILLEGALS become citizens then you will see how fast they decide they don't want to do these "low" paying jobs any longer and we have a larger welfare class that we do now. I mean really why work when you can set around and let someone come and hand you money?

I think sometimes of just getting rid of my retirement money and letting the government take care of me, free health care instead of the $164 a month I pay now for a SS supplement plus they will throw in the drug and cost I am now paying for Medicare part A and B. Believe me I have thought of it, but it just goes against my grain to depend on other people's money. Remember, the government does NOT have money it is OUR money.
-- Elaine Kyle

ORTHODOXY'S SLIM PROSPECTS
Re: Mark Gauvreau Judge's Catechism's Comeback:

While it is commendable to write -- and hope and pray -- that there are significant and positive changes, grounded along traditional lines, taking place in the Catholic Church, I suspect that Mark Gauvreau Judge's enthusiasm about these changes, albeit understandable, is not well founded. For what Signor Judge takes to be a "fait accompli," I take with several grains of salt. Previously, I have written in these pages, regarding another matter, that it is my wish, "to provide a realistic overview of what is happening in contemporary Catholic...life." This I hope to do, but first the good news.

It is no secret that the pontiff wishes to re-establish ties with traditional Catholics, whose growing numbers are an embarrassment to the Church's hierarchy. As such, Pope Benedict XVI is to announce this week that "the Mass of Pope Pius V," a.k.a. the Latin Tridentine Mass, will now be permitted in each parish. Since this Mass was never forbidden by Vatican II, but only by individual bishops, this may come as an unwanted intrusion to those who believe that the Mass is a meal, not a sacrifice, that transubstantiation of the Eucharist is symbolic, and that people who attend Mass can dress in culottes, flip-flops, or plunging necklines. Whatever...

But along with the good news, there is the bad, and Judge touches, albeit tangentially, on what is the Achilles heel of the new Catechism: how will this "new" catechism be interpreted by those renegades who control "Catholic" universities, and large -- and small -- dioceses? Does Judge honestly believe that Cardinal McCarrick will enforce, "...the penalty of excommunication," for those politicians who support abortion regardless of what the catechism demands? Will those who, for 40 years, have twisted Catholic theology into a pretzel and made the Church another "meals on wheels" organization, pay the slightest attention to this "new teaching? Time will tell, but if the last 30 years is any indication, I suggest that Signor Judge not hold his breath.

I believe that a notable step may have been taken, but if the USCCB is permitted by the pontiff to stonewall and/or deflect the seriousness of the situation, then, like Ex Corde Ecclesia, the 1991 document of Pope John Paul II which sought to regularize what is taught in theology classes at Catholic universities, this catechism will also gather dust on the shelves. The ball is now in the papal court, and not to act is to consign the catechism and the Church to descend further from what Judge and I accept as the Gospel truth.

Pax tecum.
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

For 40 years we have heard that the Baltimore Catechism was a poor teaching tool. Actually, even aside from its religious content, it was pedagogically excellent. The catechism laid down abstract principles. Our nuns (this was in the early 1950s, before nuns went batty) would then provide concrete examples. Learn the right first principles, apply them to real life situations. It's a powerful way to think. Of course the liberals had to do away with that catechism. They could not tolerate the first principles. And, at least when the nonsense started, they dared not offend parents by openly espousing false principles. So they taught by presenting kids with situations and then "guiding" them to the "right" answers. And now we have a couple of generations of Catholics who neither know their Faith nor think clearly.
-- unsigned

Another angle on the topic of heresy as raised by Mark Gauvreau Judge comes through The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. Roots of the word "heresy" in Greek and Latin are: the act of choosing; to choose; able to choose; that may be taken. It defines heresy for Catholics as "the willful and persistent rejection of any article of faith by a baptized member of the church." One might argue that the choosing aspect is highlighted in the "willful and persistent" part of the definition. And it's true that to be a formal, not just material, heretic, one must take a wrong position deliberately and refuse to give it up under warning. However, it seems more to the point to say that choosing is highlighted by the individual person's radically independent choice of a belief contrary to Church teaching (e.g., a belief that adapts to the times too much).

Thus, to be heretical, is to be pro-choice. In addition, to be pro-choice is to be heretical.

With the arrival of Passover, it's worth highlighting the orthodox position: solidarity of mind and will with God and the community. Out of the struggle with the Pharaoh and Egyptians, the passing over the Red Sea after the angel passed over their homes, and the journey through the desert, came the uniting of a dozen tribes into one nation, united in the covenant sealed by Moses and the Law proclaimed again by Joshua. Out of the struggle with the King and the English, including what historian David McCullough described as the miracle of Valley Forge and the crossing of the Delaware after Washington's reassuring vision of an angel, came the uniting of the 13 states -- former colonies -- into one nation, sealed in the covenant of the Declaration of Independence, purified in the wanderings of the Articles of Confederation, and solidified in the more unifying Constitution.
-- R.L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

REMEMBER THE EASTERN CHURCHES
Re: Daniel A. Moroco's letter (under "The Resurrected Church") in Reader Mail's Modern Outrages:

Daniel Moroco writes: "For anyone who really wants to get to the 'meat and potatoes' of traditional orthodox Catholicism, I would suggest the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the result of that dogmatic council in the 16th century, which reaffirmed a millennium and a half of Catholic belief, and the Catechetical Instruction of St. Thomas Aquinas."

There are a couple of problems with this statement. First, one needs to recognize that the Council of Trent was not, as most Catholics of the Latin Church would have it, either "ecumenical" or "dogmatic"; it is merely one of the many "general councils" held by the Church of the West in the second Christian millennium. None of the Churches of the East were present, nor were they even asked to participate, and the issues addressed, the theological constructs and methods applied, and the decrees, acts and constitutions promulgated by that general council pertain almost exclusively to the Latin or Western Church.

Second, Trent was very much a council of reaction -- reaction to the threat of the Reformation, and in its attempt to draw bright distinctions between the Church of Rome and the various Protestant sects, the Council chose to toss out the baby with the bathwater, opposing things such as liturgy in the vernacular that were indeed part of the Catholic tradition simply because they were endorsed by Martin Luther and the other reformers. Thus, the Council of Trent really succeeded only in clarifying the differences between Western Catholicism and Protestantism by embalming the practices of the Church of Rome as they stood ca. 1565 -- whether these practices were in accordance with the Apostolic Tradition in opposition to them.

Nowhere was this more harmful than in the realm of ecclesiology, for at Trent the Church of Rome made the claim that the Catholic Church -- the One True Church of God -- and itself were entirely coterminous. There could only be one Church, it was the Church of Rome, and outside of it were only heretics, schismatics and heathens. It totally ignored the older patristic understanding of the Catholic Church as a communion of particular Churches, an understanding that was only partially recovered with the Second Vatican Council.

From the perspective of the present day, Mr. Moroco's letter also reveals the striking provinciality of a particular brand of Catholicism that has pretensions to universality. It seems completely unaware that there are, in fact, more Catholic traditions than just that of the Church of Rome, or that the Catholic Church is in fact a communion composed of 22 particular Churches (Ecclesiae sui juris), each of which is equal in grace, each of which is entitled by right to its own unique Tradition -- defined as an ecclesial patrimony of liturgy, theology, spirituality, doctrine and discipline. It may surprise Mr. Moroco to learn that the Church of Rome, while the largest, is still only one of those 22 -- the other 21 being Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the Church of Rome. Each of those Churches, many of which are in fact older than the Church of Rome, has its own unique modes of theological expression, its own forms of worship, its own doctrines (I am sure it will distress Mr. Moroco to no end that Thomism just ain't our cup of tea, for we have our own theological methods, thanks very much). This was recognized by the entire Catholic communion in the Vatican II Decree on the Oriental Churches (Orientalium ecclesiarum), and reaffirmed by Pope John Paul II many times, most notably in his pastoral letter Orientale Lumen (1996).

It is for this reason that these Churches -- for they are really Churches in the fullness of the term, and not merely "rites" or "ritual adjuncts" of the Roman Catholic Church -- each have their own catechism independent of the CCC. The CCC is a Western document, concerned mainly with Western issues, using Western theological terms and methodologies, which does not answer either the pedagogical or spiritual needs of Eastern Catholics. Thus, in my own Byzantine Catholic Church, we have a three-volume series (Light for Life) which deals with the Catholic faith from an Eastern Christian perspective, one grounded in the concept of Holy Tradition, which in turn is grounded in the Liturgy of the Church, for Liturgy is how the Church defines and manifests itself. Scripture, the Fathers, the Seven Great Council -- all of these are components of Tradition, but Liturgy is both the source and the touchstone of our theology, for Liturgy is what the Church does. In that context, Mr. Moroco's call to return to Trent has little appeal and in fact would be a return to a very pinched and narrow view of the faith. He should remember Jaroslav Pelikan's distinction: "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living."

John Paul II wrote that the Church has two lungs, one Western the other Eastern, and it needs to be able to breath with both in order to be healthy. Mr. Moroco's view of the Church would permanently excise one of those lungs, or at best, reduce it to a mere lobe grafted onto the other. Mr. Moroco needs to understand what that means, and one way he could do that is by jettisoning his nostalgia for the Tridentine Church -- an image that exists only in his mind, and not in history -- and by reading the document he apparently finds so inadequate, the Catechism promulgated by his own particular Church.
-- Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia

FINDING TRENT
Re: Pete Chagnon's letter (under "The Resurrected Church") in Reader Mail's Modern Outrages

There are today independent parishes offering the pre-1962 (Latin) Mass of St. Pius V, i.e. the liturgy codified by the Council of Trent; he can check the website Traditio for a location near where he lives. There you can find the two-millennia-old teaching of the Church taught and upheld.
-- Daniel A. Moroco Jr., Colonel, USMCR (Ret.)
Fredericksburg, Virginia

THAT PESKY SECOND AMENDMENT
Re: Jim Woodward's letter (under "In Like Flynn") in Reader Mail's Hope and Sanity:

I read with great interest Jim Woodward's letter to the editor. While you may enjoy your Second Amendment in the U.S., Jim, the real lack of any gun-related violence in Australia is something this country is very proud of. A month ago we mourned over the ten-year anniversary of the WORST EVER GUN-RELATED SHOOTING IN THE WORLD. In Port Arthur in 1996, a disturbed man, Martin Bryant shot and killed 36 people with an automatic rifle. Conservative PM Howard instituted further tough laws that have ensured the lack of any real instituted gun-violence. Organized criminal figures still seem to fancy guns but I thank the good sense of many Australian governments that don't buy into the claptrap that guns are a normal part of society. In a perfect world guns would only be available to the armed forces and law enforcement, as well as farmers and those in rural settings, and those who participate in gun-related sports. Guns are first and foremost a weapon of violence and with over 30,000 gun-related violent instances in the U.S. every year I hope you guys wake up and try to get rid of that pesky Second Amendment.
-- Nathan Maskiell
Victoria, Australia

LONE SUPPORTERS
Re: Ben Stein's Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

Thanks Ben. We really appreciate you kind and thoughtful words. Unfortunately, most of our fellow citizens do not feel the same.
-- Matt Lissner, LTC, U.S. Army

Hello Ben Stein ... someone sent me your editorial (ref below) you apparently wrote. Thank you for the message to our troops, telling them they are important to this nation. I strongly believe the same and will share your editorial with all the troops I write to. They need to hear that message over and over.

I do want to disagree with one reference -- Oprah. You do not know her if you feel that to her dieting and money equates to meaning. She helps a lot of people realize the path of destruction they might be on (drugs, abuse, etc), she helps the effort in Katrina and brings public attention to it, she gives many the opportunity to improve themselves -- this helps our society. She also takes it a step further and helps around the world (Africa -- building an educational center for women). I don't claim to know all that she does and I don't watch her every afternoon but she does contribute to our society.

I just felt it was unfair for you to paint her as another talk show gimmick.

I do what I can to support our troops and I end up spending nearly one-third of my day, every day, doing so. It's my small contribution to the effort.
...
AGAIN, THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS. You have the ability to reach many people and our troops need more support than they are receiving. God Bless them. Thank you.
-- Name Withheld

WAGES OF SIN
Re: Ralph R. Reiland's Political Halos:

It's a sad day when I have to rely on Hilary Rodham Clinton Rodham, etc., for scriptural exegesis.
-- Daniel A. Moroco Jr., Colonel, USMCR (Ret.)
Fredericksburg, Virginia

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