Friday, July 30, 2010

from the Audio Archives - A Good Man is Hard to Find Pt 4

Continuing with Gil Bailie's 1989 reflections on Flannery O'Connor's story, A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From the Audio Archives - A Good Man is Hard to Find Pt 3

Continuing Gil Bailie's 1989 reflections on Flannery O'Connor's story, A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Monday, July 26, 2010

This is also how it happens.

Freedoms essential to our human dignity and a healthy democracy are being curtailed, not only in Europe by the force of Islamic intimidation, but here in this country as well by sundry partisans of the sexual revolutionaries.

Here's another eye-opener from my friend Bill Saunders, entitled:

What Happened to the First Amendment?
In case you missed it, the Supreme Court turned the old adage, “Save the best for last,” on its head when, on the last day of its term, it announced a decision that is surely one of its worst ever, and one that could prove deadly for religious freedom on campuses.

In the case of Christian Legal Society v Hastings, the Court decided that the Hastings College of Law could deny registration to a student group as a CLS chapter because it required morally upright behavior of its members and adherence to its statement of faith. Pause and consider that. “Conservative” evangelical students – unlike over sixty other associations of students – may not be recognized as an official student group because CLS wants its members to agree with the theory and practice – the raison d’etre – of the group, that is, to be good and proper evangelical Christians.

Can one imagine requiring the “animal rights” group to admit unrepentant, proselytizing fox hunters? While the majority opinion claims one can not only imagine it but that Hastings’ policy actually requires it (under an “accept all comers” policy), the dissent makes short work of that claim. This is not the place to rehearse the whole lay of the land, but suffice to note that no other group has ever been similarly treated by Hastings and that Hastings only announced the existence of this “policy” when it filed its legal brief in the case. Do you smell something fishy? Well, so does the dissent. (“Only religious groups were required to admit students who did not share their views. An environmentalist group was not required to admit students who rejected global warming.”)

The votes in the case were divided along now-familiar lines between four “liberals” (the majority in this particular case) and four “conservatives” (the dissent), with Justice Anthony Kennedy the key swing vote between the two (more or less solid) blocs. And this time he swung with the liberals (as he often does in “social issue” cases). The dissent was composed of Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito, with Alito writing the dissenting opinion.

The dissent demonstrates that the majority upholds a policy by Hastings that really never existed, but was invented to provide a post hoc justification for the discrimination against CLS that had already taken place. This is clearly shown, for instance, by the fact that the dean with whom the students met, following an initial rejection by the same dean of their application to register, told them nothing about an “all-comers” requirement, but instead objected because their statement of faith was not compliant with Hastings non-discrimination policy that includes, most importantly, sexual orientation.

It’s clear what is going on. The conservative evangelical students were disfavored by Hastings because they disapprove of non-marital sexual activity, including homosexual acts. After all, what could be more offensive in the modern culture, based as it is upon the god of sexual freedom, than such a viewpoint? What could be more “offensive” to the majority of students at a liberal law school (or to the tenured faculty and administration) than those who do not equate any other sexual behavior with that between one man and one woman within the bond of matrimony?

While the majority protested (too much) that this was a “neutral” policy by Hastings, the dissent saw more clearly: “Today’s decision rests on. . .the wrong-headed] principle…[that there is] no freedom of expression [that must be respected if it]…offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.”      

Didn’t we have contentious debates about “free speech” on campus during the 1960s and 1970s? Indeed we did, and there is a case from that era that is right on point, Healy v James. That case involved a highly disfavored group, Students for a Democratic Society. When a proposed student chapter refused to disavow violence (as the national SDS refused to do), they were denied registration by a college. In deciding Healy, the Court held this was an impermissible infringement on “association rights” protected by the First Amendment.

What did the majority make of this inconvenient precedent on association rights? As the dissent notes, it ruled, in essence, that “the effects of this discrimination [which are the same in this case as they were in Healy,] were really not so bad. . . .that a little viewpoint discrimination is acceptable…” In layman’s terms, they held the constitutional infringement was not too bad.

This is rather ridiculous on its face. However, it isn’t funny because it shows what entrenched elites, both in colleges and on courts, are up to. They are determined to vanquish their most hated foe, those who adhere to traditional religious points of view, and they will bend, perhaps break, the Constitution to do so. Which is another reason, by the way, to be careful about whom we confirm for the Supreme Court.
William Saunders is Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs at Americans United for Life. A graduate of the Harvard Law School, he writes frequently on a wide variety of legal and policy issues.

Bill's article appeared in today's The Catholic Thing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

From the Audio Archives - A Good Man is Hard to Find Pt 2

Continuing Gil Bailie's reflections on the Flannery O'Connor story, A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This is how it happens.

 LEERDAM, The Netherlands - 23/07/10

Three paintings depicting pigs have been pre-emptively removed from a hospital in Leerdam because they might offend Muslims.

One patient, not actually himself a Muslim, made a complaint about the paintings because he wanted to avoid Muslims having confrontations with the pigs. The leadership of the healthcare institution, the Linge Polyclinic, thereupon decided to remove the paintings immediately, Algemeen Dagblad newspaper reports.

The artist, Sylvia Bosch, is astounded. "One week earlier, I had an e-mail from the clinic saying that they were getting nice reactions. After a single complaint, they had to be taken away immediately."

The Linge Polyclinic has stated that the pictures were removed because "all visitors must feel comfortable in the institution".
Thanks to (who else?) Robert Spencer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From the Archives: A Good Man is Hard to Find - Part 1

Over the next while I will be posting sequential excerpts of Gil Bailie's 1989 reflections on Flannery O'Connor's short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find. A few weeks ago I posted the introduction to this in which Gil gave an account of his vocation at that time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Courting Disaster

From my friend Bill Saunders:

America Needs to Wake-up About Kagan

Now it is time to pull back the curtain and demand that Elena Kagan receives appropriate scrutiny from our senators, or the trick will be on us.

An episode from Kagan’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings shows us exactly where we need to look.

Engaged analysts already know that Ms. Kagan will be an agenda-driven judge, perhaps the likes of which we've never seen. She has a long record of supporting and admiring agenda-driven judges, people who at times rejected the law to advance their personal views.

But in a Perry Mason moment during her confirmation hearings, Kagan herself tugged at the magician's curtain when answering questions about events surrounding her political work advising President Bill Clinton on partial-birth abortion.

On June 15, Americans United for Life attorneys released a legal memo that discussed Kagan's work on partial-birth abortion. The memo first raised the issue of Kagan's attempt to lobby the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to change its position statement on partial-birth abortion to reflect her preferred language as debate on the heinous practice heated up on Capitol Hill.  A month later, ACOG's final policy statement contained Kagan's edits.  

And it didn't stop there.

On June 28, AUL attorneys released a second memo examining Kagan's efforts to lobby the American Medical Association (AMA) on the same issue.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) asked Kagan at her confirmation hearing about this chapter in her career as a political operative. In an otherwise sleepy and scripted two days of hearings, it became clear from her tone and evasiveness that Hatch was on to something.

While working in the Clinton White House, Kagan wrote that ACOG's initial statement on partial-birth abortion, which stated that experts "could identify no circumstances under which [the partial-birth] procedure ...would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman," would be a "disaster."  During the hearings, Kagan "clarified" what she meant by calling ACOG's statement a "disaster."

Kagan told Hatch "the statement did not accurately reflect all of what ACOG thought.... That it was both not the only procedure [to save the life or preserve the health of the woman], but also that it was in some circumstances the medically best procedure."

That statement does not pass the straight-face test.

Kagan essentially told senators that she wasn't trying to influence the ACOG language, rather she was working to ensure that ACOG had the opportunity to paint the whole picture. This explanation doesn't square with her 1996 White House memo where it's clear that the "disaster" in question was ACOG's scientifically based view that partial-birth abortion is not medically necessary.

"I'm really stunned by what appears to be a real politicization of science," Sen. Hatch said, responding to her testimony. "The political objective of keeping partial-birth abortion legal appears to have trumped what a medical organization originally wrote and left to its own scientific inquiry they had concluded."

There seems to be a clear difference between what Kagan told the Senate and what may have actually taken place. William Saletan, hardly a conservative-leaning columnist, called Kagan's explanation "bogus" in a July 3 piece.

Americans United for Life President and CEO, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, called for a formal investigation into these discrepancies during her Senate testimony. And while the July 4th congressional recess temporarily paused the nomination process, it allows time to reset the proverbial stage.

Act Two is set to begin. As the Senate returns for business this week after the recess, the brewing storm over Kagan's partial-birth abortion scandal is certain to intensify. But this storm, some may be surprised to find, will not necessarily be a partisan one.

Kagan's apparent alteration of science raises serious ethical questions for both Republicans and Democrats. With so many outstanding questions about a political activist and advocate poised to sit on the highest court in the land, how could the Senate possibly vote on Kagan's nomination without further inquiry?

A magician's trick cannot withstand close scrutiny, and Americans are beginning to see the real Elena Kagan.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Authority and Criminal Power

"Authority is progressively being destroyed by criminal power," wrote Philip Rieff at an earlier and calmer moment in the decomposition of Western civilization. In confirmation thereof, this video, a portion of which was posted earlier.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Fourth of July

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

Friday, July 02, 2010

From Notre Dame University

 The Colloquium on Violence and Religion
Notre Dame University

If one has to be taken to the woodshed, it's a privilege to be taken there by a giant in his field, which is what happened to me today. My old friend, Fr. David Burrell, who held the Hesburgh Chair of Theology and Philosophy at Notre Dame and who is a man of extraordinary gifts and a lifetime of accomplishments in the fields of philosophy and theology, took the opportunity of our meeting at the COV&R conference to try to convince me that my concerns about radical Islam were overwrought.

I hoped he would succeed, for I would love nothing more than to cease being a source of irritation to my friends who see the world much as David does. We had a most animated conversation and we parted better friends than ever, but -- alas -- he did not succeed. But I have promised David that I will let his words continue to resonate and, Mary-like, bear all these things in my heart. 

Meanwhile, the conference has been a delight, filled with formal and informal opportunities for rich conversation and mutual exploration. Randy was able to attend the conference as well, which gave us a chance to do some Cornerstone Forum planning. The upshot of our conversations is what I hope will be an interesting new addition to what we are doing.

More of that anon.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

From the Audio Archives: 2003

Since Gil and I are at the annual COV&R meeting being held this year at the University of Notre Dame I thought it might of interest to read about a response to an earlier conference held some years ago. You will hear a familiar refrain from Gil's work and also hear one of the sources of that refrain in Rene Girard's comments.

An introduction by Gil Bailie, June 22, 2003, Innsbruck, Austria:

I am writing from Innsbruck, Austria where the Colloquium on Violence and Religion has just concluded its 2003 annual conference. The conference was a rich one, with more than 70 papers delivered. The discussions both formal and informal were wonderful. It was only at the very end of the conference that an issue arose that seems to arise everywhere these days where serious attention is paid to the Gospel and its cultural consequences. In so many places today, pluralism is besieged by people who ardently feel they are defending pluralism. In fact, pluralism is being redefined as the value to which all other values must defer. But in the topsy-turvy world of postmodern thinking, it is precisely postmodernity's supreme principle of pluralism which cannot be exported to other cultures without violating the multicultural premises upon which it is currently based.

One needs to be reminded that pluralism is not a "truth," rather it is the social arrangement most suitable to the charitable quest for truth. When and where a doctrinal pluralism censures that quest, it becomes --- like so many other late-modern and post-modern "good intentions" --- a parody of itself. I say this, all too quickly no doubt (I am pressed for time in these last few hours in Austria), in order to introduce a few remarks that René Girard made at a panel discussion at the end of our conference.

One of the panelists expressed discomfort with the distinction Girard has always made between "myth" and "revelation," suggesting that by privileging "truth" Girard and Christians generally set up a conflict with those who might not affirm that truth, thereby contributing to the very violence which they purport to be resisting. René's interlocutor said that "The message of the market has become the market of the messages," implying that the free flow of this information-age exchange would be jeopardized by attempts to privilege any one message the way Christians privilege the Gospel and insist on its universality and uniqueness, and the way Girard privileges the mimetic theory as both the product of the Gospel revelation and, in turn, its best anthropological explicator.

René responded with remarks that lasted slightly over four minutes. The recording I was able to get of his response is not of the very highest quality, but I think you will find its mediocre audio quality a small price to pay for the profound but perfectly simple and obvious truth to which he calls our attention.

Rene Girard:

"You know I find this debate very interesting on a certain level, but unconnected at all with the mimetic theory at other levels To put, in a way, all these messages more or less on the same level without asking the question of truth and falsity is the basis of our entire culture today. So there the mimetic theory is totally misunderstood in the sense that the mimetic theory is entirely about the question of truth or falsity. Therefore it has to disregard, in a certain way, the question of whether it’s going to cause controversy or not. I think one has to take a scapegoat example which would be modern enough to still be meaningful to us in terms of being for or even against injustice, and in those cases I always take the Dreyfus case.

"In the Dreyfus case you can see that the anti-Dreyfus argument which triumphed in France for years supported by the government and so forth was a perfect myth in the sense that there was a victim who everybody thought was guilty and who in reality was innocent. The first people who said that this victim was innocent suffered for it in the same sense we might say that the prophets suffered for the truth, Christ suffered for the truth. In the Dreyfus vision of mythology is the exact counterpart of the anti-Dreyfus…they resemble each other extremely. But there is one little difference the importance of which we don’t see in the case of religion and we see very well in the case of Dreyfus. Was the victim really innocent? Did he deserve to be punished or not? The only question is that. Oedipus is supposed to be guilty ? this is a myth. Judaism and Christianity always call myths lies and they are right! And Judaism and Christianity say that the opposite, the vindication of the victim, is true, period. Nothing else matters. And that’s all. See what I mean? If you get away from that you’re off course. We are all trying to get along on avoiding the question of truth, and in a way it is very understandable and it’s still the philosophical way. We should avoid talking about religious violence; you know-- the Platonic way. We are all for it because our instinct tells us, in a way, it is the only way you can have peace today. But I think at the same time it’s false in the sense that the account of the passion, if you read it, is exactly the truth of these myths which these myths do not give you. I think there is one man who understood this Christological sense, paradoxical, of the Dreyfus case and his name is Charles Peguy and he saw it as a Christological affair, which is very mysterious to a lot of people ? ‘vindication of that Jew’ and so on ‘shouldn't we be anti-Semitic’, ‘we’d be better Christians’ and so forth….no, only the truth counts. This is it.

"Either the mimetic theory has nothing to do with what I have just said, in that case its pure bunk, and has no interest whatever, or it has something to do with it. And of course I think it has a lot to do with it, that it is really the same thing."