The Temple Mount is God’s Jewish Footprint

Observations by Stephen L. Golay

My Islamic Thoughts #2

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Calling on the Carpet a Catholic Critic of Salvation is from the Jews

The issue is not what Roy Schoeman says about the mass conversion of Jews, but what St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans.

Why is Paul’s exposition so clear to some and of such befuddlement to others? Any reading of Scripture has its challenges, but it is not that difficult to read Romans as Paul wrote it: knowing his background, his mission; knowing his readers; knowing the centrality in Scripture of the Old Covenant (especially its stark physicality, something Paul never discounts nor dismisses). Put all that together with Paul’s pain-of-heart, Romans 9-11 leads to one reading: the salvation of his own, and the promise of their final redemption as a PEOPLE (nation, dare I say?).

Where did Paul get this promise? We all know its source! If there is a mystery about Israel, there is none about that. The reception of that promise by Paul – and his thrusting of it as a gift into the Church – roots the promise securely in the present and into the future. The promise of Israel is refracted through Paul’s apostolic mission and authority?

Of course, this leaves several questions open, especially the large wounded one: the continuing relationship of that Christ-recalibrated promise to its never revoked two-sided physical nature – the people and the land (and how that fits into the things to some).

[Have noted, of late, how Roy Schoeman and his book have been bandied about on several Catholic sites and blogs. Some of it has been quite nasty. Roy never steps in to defend his positions. Don’t even think he has a blog on his own site. Somehow, that’s to be admired.]

ONE MORE TIME: Nullifying Jews

Yes, it’s true (glory be) the Old truly is fulfilled in the New. What more does one need to say?

Yet, still, the notion of nullification is bandied about and gets in the way. Even among Catholics.

‘Extreme nullifiers’ (is that what we should call them) take up a legal/judicial vocabulary into their argument: lifting for themselves the same mode of argument they accuse Calvinist of using in their battles over judicial justification. Anyway, the point is, what do they wish to do with all this nullifying?

Extreme Nullification of the Old Covenant can too easily meld into the nullification (literally?) of the Jewish People whom St. Paul would have given his life for.

For the Christian, this whole discussion about Jews and Jewishness comes down to Romans 9 thru 11 – does it not? When Paul wrote these chapters did he have nullification in mind? Would he even recognize our bandied about word?

This does toss down a few outstanding questions.

Neither Old nor New stands alone, both footed on the bedrock of fulfillment. This is also the standing of any discussion. So, what enters?

The Old comes packaged with the Land of Promise. Foremost, the Covenant People are defined by their obedience to God; but that relationship was lived in view of the Land of Promise (even in exile). This cannot be easily dismissed or dissolved into deconstructed spirituality. Doing so would nullify so much.

Even Christianity.

The Incarnation is the knot that ties Old and New. The Incarnation is rock-solid for us because our grasp is patterned on the Old Covenant’s relationship with the Land: it is that physical.

This is the pattern that accompanies us as we grasp every act of God in the Flesh: God footed in Death, rock-solid in Resurrection, and up and physical in Ascension.

Not left at that. The pattern descends into the physical agency of grace: water, bread, wine and the laying on of hands. Covenant (Old & New) . . . Promised Land & New Jerusalem . . . mark well, it all fits.

Israel is God’s first pattern of stepping foot on soil. The why and how of it is forever physical, though it remains, like Israel (like the Jews) a mystery.

Anti-Semitism comes down to this, disgust toward God for his particular affection for something as physical as the Jews.

If for the Christian that particular physical affection of God’s was, in the time of Rome’s Caesars, made complete in & by the Incarnation of himself (in Birth, Bloody Sacrifice, Resurrection and Eucharistic gift) one cannot partake of anti-Semitism without giving oneself over to the disgust of the God who once so loved.

By day’s end all this impinges, somehow, upon our politics.



Two Testimonies

Andrew Bostom may have called the Pope’s Regensburg lecture as the most important speech of the anniversary of 9/11, but Spengler over on Asia Times has deemed it to be one of the “. . . most controversial utterance in living memory . . . comparable to Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech at Fulton, Missouri in 1946”.

Daniel Pipes’ in his memorial to Oriana Fallaci inserts a remark she made before her interview with Benedict 16th: “I feel less alone when I read the books of Ratzinger”. I have been struggling to summarize what fell upon me after I read the Pope’s lecture at Regensburg. Oriana Fallaci (thanks to Daniel Pipes) had already expressed it for me (that atheist! that Jew!).

After Regensburg “I feel less alone”.

“Appreciating Oriana Fallaci”


On to Regensburg

Reader “SV2” responded on The Ratzinger Fan Club/Blog: “To reason about Islam you need to be steeped in its culture.”

Suppose you mean the tried & true dialogue tool of stepping into someone’s shoes and boots: seeing the issue from their point of view, and so on.

Quite reasonable!

Think ‘steeping’, here, is a bit too steep! Steeping is not a reasoned response; its subjective – a going into a culture laying all else aside. But when the house so entered is a religious one that comes close to a conversion.

The prospects, once past the door, of such a sit-down, I am sadly, unlike the Holy Father, a bit down in the mouth.

But this morning I was encouraged. Lee Harris, over on The Weekly Standard, posted an article (“Socrates or Muhammad?”) on the Pope’s lecture that, for me, clarified the manly and Christian way of knocking on Islam’s door. At Regensburg, the Holy Father was quite clear: the start of any conversation begins with giving Right Reason its place and due.

[If right reason, in part, came from the Greeks, it was Christianity that, over time, exercised its proper wielding.]

The big (maybe ugly) question still remains: is Islam willing (or capable) of such tabletalk? In reasoning together, is there something Islam must put aside or massively reinterpret?

As I see it, for any conversation to sputter beyond the gate, Islam must take off the table its understanding of God’s Oneness – Allah as Totalitarian Will. All those secondary issues cannot be discussed until that is whisked onto the floor.

The issue (the one that feeds Islam’s violence) is not God’s Oneness but the notion of his Totalitarian Will.

Regarding God’s Oneness, has common ground been staked among Islam, Judaism and Christianity? How can that be when Islam holds not to God’s unity but to God as Arbitrary and Capricious Will – a being (if such a tag is even apropos) that never, never, never crosses Creation’s great divide into our space, our time, into our flesh?

For a being that never passes beyond the garden gate, how does one call Allah compassionate? Doing so is a contradiction? To give such care (freely given, freely received) Allah must attend to what he abhors: the particulars of creation, its boundaries and distinctions.

Even this way of speaking won’t do. How does one speak of Totalitarian Will, of Oneness that, to be true to character, must abhor all particulars, all distinctions, all boundaries? In worshiping such a God, the only perfect liturgical and moral act would be one that reflects that Oneness in its Totalitarian Will: the holocaust of consuming all our particulars, all our distinctions, all our boundaries – and, to be sure, those of “the other”.

This is the theology of Jihadism.

However one fiddles with its definition, Jihadism is Islam perfectly expressed. Bottomline, Islamic ethics must participate in Allah’s Totalitarian, Arbitrary Capricious Will: every thought and deed must reflect Allah’s suffocating Oneness.

Why should Oneness (Totalitarian Will) give any thought or care over the nature or effect of any moral act, as long as total submission is gained? If Totalitarian Will ever became concerned with anything less, that would yank it over the great divide and “steep” it in the affairs of mankind.

Islam must guard against that at all cost.

Jihadism is the only sure moral act since it corresponds to Allah’s own Jihad: the Oneness of Totalitarian Will consuming all particulars, all distinctions, all boundaries.

What can Islam say at tabletalk: “Sit down Pope Benedict, take a chair. Christian West, Christian East (South) – Allah is One. That said, there is nothing you can add, except how speech and deeds reflect the oppression of Capriciousness, of Arbitrariness, of Totalitarian Will; and if not, what should be done to get the neck and knee bowed. There is nothing for reason to mull over except the shape of your conforming behavior.


Nothing Inventive about Islam

Where did Islam pick up this notion of Allah’s Oneness as Totalitarian Will? Not from the Archangel Gabriel!

(There’s one small key in the 13th Conference of John Cassian’s conversations with the Desert Fathers. Augustine, with an eye on the Vandal horde descending from Spain, saw the sad prophecy of it. That, for another time.)

Like Mormonism, Islam is not a creative or inventive religion. It simply gathered up its bushel of habits and notions from the desert sands: bits and pieces scattered about from the schisms of Christianity and the leavings of Judaism. From that basket Muhammad strung the beads of Islam.

I know, I return to this question frequently. I think its key. But if Christianity had been unified, healthy and rooted in the population (more Wiggish and less monastic) Islam, when it stormed from the desert, would have been defeated.

How did the world fall upon such a disaster? Why did Islam sweep so quickly, so widely, and, yes, so deeply across the map? Oh to think of history’s would-have-beens! Yet, still, there is something to be learned here: even useful at those sit-down tabletalks.


This & That

  • Another reader on Ratzinger Fan Club/Blog: “Intellectual debate in Islam was on a very high plane in the classic periods”.
  • Thanks to the dhimmitude! For now, I’ll let that be.
  • Dipping into Eastern Decline . . ., was much impressed with Bat Ye’or’s documentation of Islam’s vast ecological and cultural devastation over hundreds of years – a wreckage that required the massive enslavement and movement of captive peoples for any recovery. Not only did Islam conquer the map it also denuded the land. I’ll let that pass also.
  • Thomas Merton was mentioned. Recommend Jacques Maritain’s The Peasant of the Garonne, chapter 4, “The True New Fire, Christians and Non-Christians”.


Iran goes to the Pope

This itch for concordats with Islam – I’m baffled. For starters, to resolve things, to make things stick, who signs off on behalf of Islam?

Regarding today’s meeting in the papal summer residence, are the right Muslim representatives showing up, ones whose comments and signatures will make the crucial difference? The session is not a theological forum; but what is the anticipated result, beyond a lowering of the heated atmosphere. Will the world’s Muslims take it as a turn towards good will?



I can place some hope in my Muslim neighbor, but question why Iran so quickly jumped on that plane to Rome. Iran is playing a dangerous game at very high stakes. It is betting on a war with Israel/America that (no matter the battlefield outcome) they will be triumphed as the winner. The war prize is not battlefield victory but the tithe of fear – and what that fear can purchase.

When I heard that Iran was so quick to respond to the Holy Father’s invitation, I became sick of heart. Not for him, or even the Church, but for the game being played out using this crisis as a pawn.

In addition, Iran has noted the Pope’s quiet but more positive stance towards Israel. The Vatican’s diplomatic aloofness towards Israel (and Jews) can no longer be counted upon. That concerns them. Consistently, Iran has stated that the resolution of any hostilities with America includes the removal of Jews from the Holy Land. (Why do we fail to take them at their word?)

That is the ultimate war prize regardless of the number of Iranian deaths or the destruction of their nuclear capabilities. Can’t help but think that that’s what jetted the plane off the tarmac in Tehran. Can’t, for the life of me, imagine that the regime’s man simply had a heart’s desire to resolve the “Pope’s problem”.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m much aware of all the consultations, conferences, dedicated institutes and exchanges over all these decades. That is progress of sorts. But this is no longer the field where resolution and conclusions will be made. It is too late for talk and documents. Hopefully Islam has caught death’s reviving wind breathing down upon violent dogmas. It cannot, in the end, repulse the stormy onslaught of secularism. That creeping enemy of us all will empty Islam of its force and belief, preserving what remains only as a folk memory.

Maybe Islam’s preservation truly requires such a ‘dark night’. Maybe it must endure this trial to rid itself of its irrationality and violence. One would hope not. One would pray that Islam could do the necessary squeezing work: take a good look around, pick up the courage and the needed tools.

What will Islam be (the heart and face of it) after it has passed through that dark night? Will it become a better neighbor, something more like a brother?

Still insist that what needs to be squeezed out of Islam is any notion of God as Totalitarian Will – for that sullen horror is contrary to the heart’s desire to want Him always to be compassionate. Divine unity in Islam is not a simple “repeat of what Judaism and Christianity teach”. Putting aside the politics, the violence, and the cascade of crises, here is the central issue: Islam’s ideology tapping into the theological root nourishing its politics, the violence and this month’s crisis.

I know this is not a happy view, and one gladly relinquished if shown wrong.

I ask, is there anything we, as Christians, can do to assist? Can we comfort Islam by telling the Great Story of how God, in his divine unity, stepped across the chasm and onto our path. Or is the founding soul of Islam incapable of accepting both assistance and correction?

The trial ahead will tell soon enough. It must never be forgotten that the Holy Spirit has His ways and means none of us can fully fathom. I like a surprising God!

Yet, if we (pray not) have truly crossed that tipping point then Islam’s trial by dark night will be a bloody one.


The Torture Debate: “Guy at the Lunch Counter” responds to the raging debate about torture (coercive interrogation) on the Catholic Blogs

Won’t take it – the time – to summarize the debate. Do highly recommend reviewing the four part summary on Christopher Blosser’s blog “Against the Grain”. The debate has interest not only regarding the subject but as an exercise in Right Reasoning. What one gains in that is more important than notions about torture (so called). Shows, again, the priority we must give The Natural Law in Public Square conversations.

Torture Debate, Part One (“Against the Grain”)

Torture Debate, Part Two (“Against the Grain”)

Torture Debate, Part Three (“Against the Grain”)

Torture Debate, Part Four (“Against the Grain”)

What’s a little waterboarding! Just kidding.

But if, on the other hand, it is the notion of ‘torture’ we’re strapping down that will take some hefty muscles.

Combing through the excellent material in the above links we need to pay attention to our betters: Scripture, universal and local councils, the definitive documents and living tradition of the Church, and the Natural Law.

Would help, as we read, if we had a handy go-by guide: call it something like Reading Rightly. Suggested chapters:

  • How to Read the Scriptures.
  • How to Read the Earliest Fathers.
  • How to Read the Later Fathers.
  • How to Read the Universal Councils.
  • How to Read the “Local” councils.
  • How Read Church Documents. (This one will have several subheadings.)
  • How to Read the Church’s Teaching Authority.
  • How to Read to The Natural Law.
  • How to Read the Praying and Worshiping Church.
  • How to Read the Crossover, Interlocking Overlaps.

This Torture Debate, bottomline, is about the tension between man’s free will and the right (or duty) of the State (and its agents) to move, change or coerce the will of another

The raging debate pits the Absolutist Party against the Prudent Party.

To this Lunch Counter Guy, the argument is a no-brainer. One goes forward as soldiers with battlefield victory as the goal. A definitive victory fizzles out the enemy’s ‘will to wage’. The weak (and immoral tending) notion that ‘torture’ may be an important tactic is pushed forward by the low-grade battles of this war of ours.

Even this stuff about human free will is no stumbler. ‘Will’ is very much grounded in the physicality of our existence with its limits, consequences, attractions, draws and mesh of choices.

Justice (as both Right Order and Guardian) requires (compels) certain movements of the ‘will’ for Right Order to be maintained – and, equally, for ‘will’ to receive its greatest freedom of movement. To move freely, the ‘will’ needs the surety of security. (Freedom is defined as the right harmony between will and act: The Natural Law roaming freely.) None of this is ‘coercion’.

When the individual or corporate ‘will’ repulses Right Order (kicking the pricks) it puts on the cloak of totalitarian rebellion. Right Order then (through degrees of Just Defensive Acts) must protect itself – and mankind that it shelters.

“Torture”? Which slot, if any, does it fill in those degrees of Just Defensive Acts? Is that the case? And if Right Order refuses to take up any Just Defensive Act, could it be accused of failing justice?

In going along with the Absolutist Party in saying never, never, never to any particular degree of Just Defensive Acts, are we giving place to “intrinsic” evil and its totalitarian designs?

(Here’s a stray thought: In this conversation about ‘torture’, and the Church’s past and present response to it, can any assistance be had from the duty and practice of exorcism – rightly held?


The Absolutist Party (AP) locks mankind’s will in a total prohibition against any coercion.

(NOTE: coercion does not equal torture. The AP is disingenuous about this.)

The Absolutist Party also, naively, conflates the mandate and duties of the State with the doctrine of God’s refusal to coerce man’s will to accept his gift of salvation. True, the Church, and its Gospel Commission, is never coercive. Here’s an instance in which ‘never’ should never be omitted. But the jump from that to the State is faulty reasoning. It assumes that the State (its nature, duties and limits) must imitate the Church and its commission.

It’s a dangerous leap. Does not the State (within the mandate of Creation and Eden’s Fall) have its own “sphere of sovereignty”? I know my duty and limits as a member of Christ’s Body and as a citizen? Do I possess the right to insist that the State imitate those duties and limits? Does the State have duties and limits within its sphere that are not mine?

Yes, man’s will is free (which is a gift) whose freedom reflects God’s image. But man’s created will (as gift) is not without limits, boundaries; it does not forget its creatureliness. Its freedom is exercised within its finite creaturehood. In short, man’s will (to be true to the Creation’s Natural Law) never forgets Christ’s Resurrection and the promise therein of its own.

Now, there’s a limit for you! Christ’s bodily Resurrection and Ascension is the definition and upper limit of the range and movement of man’s will. The Flesh of Christ defines its freedom. Without the Great Boundary of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, the notion of man (his will) in possession of limitless freedom is a fearsome thing. Nothing of Creation is called to be God’s absolute imitation. But, then, that may be an uncalled for, lonesome anxiety. God, through his Right Reason, never reflects upon us what we cannot bear.

Yet, overall, however man’s ‘free will’ is to be defined, great harm comes whenever we cease to remember the GIFT of it. (When it comes to choosing between Augustine and John Cassian, I always take sides with the Old Man from Hippo.)

Enough of this!




Have you ever been to Bora Bora (fought that is) where your enemy, across the field or two caves down, were 12 or 15 year-olds with rocket launchers and such; then say to your commander, I refuse to shoot because it is never right and always wrong to shoot 12 year-olds? Yes, you would; you would shoot, and shoot dead.

Americans have shot 12 year-olds on the battlefield, as they have loaded bombers on English airfields before they lifted off for Dresden. There is sadness in that, and certainly sin, but where is the evil?

In these blog/combox conversations about ‘torture’ we have blinkered the dialogue to everything but totalitarian evil – it is sucking in our judgment, and at times our charity. We have forgotten about sin, and certainly sadness.

We’re Americans; prisoners are treated humanly. But our humane look about the world insists on asking the remaining question: What is our duty to those under the TORTUROUS thumb of evil ones? If we do nothing to lift that thumb do we participate in their torture, secure the straps on the “waterboards”?

If lifting that thumb requires a bit of “waterboarding”, personally . . .

Nations, as much as individuals, will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “And, what did you do about lifting that thumb”, we will be asked. “For the sake of perfect preciousness we did nothing for the sake of precious perfection”, we nswer – as the thumb screws tighter, squeezing out a pile of human debris , the higher to lift up our preciousness.




Still gnawing on the grit of this torture conversation.

What’s the practical thing to do? Certainly not the Church insisting that the State submit its judgment and decisions for review and approval. Or is it just a matter of the State modifying its behavior under the pressure of the Church’s prophetic witness, that sort of thing?

If it’s the second that is possible and desirable then (to put the bust foot forward) both the State and Church must operate within the confines and definition of representative/capitalist democracy.

So where does that come from? Not from the Church, completely. Not totally from the State. Such a place is the making of the Middle Kingdom, that Public Square where Christianity, the history of nations, original sin, salvation, and the mandates of rightful government get mixed together: the creation of a new foundling from all the bits and pieces tossed in the mix. This Middle Kingdom seems worth understanding – and defending.

The Middle Kingdom, pondering in its Public Square (upon the precepts of Creation and The Natural Law) knows what to do. Its prudent act is its understanding put into practice: a practical wisdom that it opens always as gift.

The fullness of such prudence and practice can only be had upon that public square (it has no other habitat). Its citizens, and each of the parties upon it, do not possess that fullness fully. Parts and parties can speak, contribute, even prophesy – but the Public Square retains rights and duties that only its corporate person can exercise.

So what is it? What is the first obligation of such prudent practice?

It is the duty of the Middle Kingdom to defend itself: protecting and securing all those parties that make up the squares of its public space. (The State is its agent in this.)

So how should the Public Square go about doing the work of obligation? It’s enemies are all about: intent, hateful, envious. But secure and protect it must. What an awful burden to load on its back – all the way to the judgment seat of Christ.

How the State carries that burden will be the first object of God’s gaze upon the lords of the Middle Kingdom. That sheep-and-goat judgment, of all Middle Kingdoms and Public Squares, is the invitation to enter God’s Great Public Square – or not.

If I were a vassal lord of such a Middle Kingdom, I would (by God) see to it that the wolves had been kept at bay and that, above all, any torturous plan afoot was beheaded outside the gate. “And how many wolf heads do you have on stakes outside the gate”, the Great Lord will ask. “Enough”, I would say, “to show you, my Liege Lord, that I protected all the parts and parties under my care”.

“Such a torturous way to enter Heaven”, he’d say, “but do. By the way, were you pleased I made you vassal lord of a capitalist Middle Kingdom? I see only wolf heads upon the stakes, and the sword cuts are nice and clean. Only lords of such Public Squares can spot a nasty beast and swing the right cut.

“Sorry to have burdened you with all that. Pick up the servant’s clock and rest. There are no Middle Kingdoms in my Fathers. And thanks to good and faithful servants, as you my son, there are no wolves.” ­­­­­­­­­­­­




It is all about the “spheres of sovereignty”. The State, disciplined upon the public squares, has mandates and duties that we as citizens and Christians do not. The State’s moral duties and limits are not completely analogous to ours as individual citizens and Catholic Christians. It has always been so since lawful government was given to us to ward off, within its sphere, the effects of Original Sin.

And if it’s duty takes a little bit of ‘waterboarding’ (to protect my sleeping son) so be it.



Regarding Public Squares, we cannot post the thumb-rule: “Since God does not coerce man’s will for his salvation, therefore . . .”

There is no argument that arrows straight from that to notions about “coercive interrogation methods”. But any hint of such an argument is flawed in on its very terms.

Regarding our redemption, God may not coerce but He certainly does hound. To get a grasp of God’s way (in this ‘will’ thing) the story of the First Covenant cannot be ignored: Israel’s God was not passive in pottering the will of His people. In Egypt, in the wilderness, in Judea, in Babylon, God molded and shaped the vessel of his affection. If, in this conversation, we must straight arrow from salvation’s gift to “torture” we must pack along the nuances, humility and right reasoning of God’s own history of this question.

It’s how the Absolutist Party throws about its assumption that so disturbing. They pick up the “God never coerces” rule simply as a handy tool in nailing down an argument. In the end salvation’s gift gets tortured to death.



Side Glancing the Death Penalty

If we can take into account the *experiences* of popes, we can agree that John Paul’s life under both Nazism and Communism entered into his imagination and understandings. This must have directed his strong remarks against the death penalty. Living under regimes that gladly practice capital punishment in the 100 of thousands (if not millions) can’t help but tint one’s view.

In the Anglo-American experience this is NOT ours. In fact, we have expended much blood to take down such regimes – and, in the process, saved the lives of many, including John Paul’s.

When considering such issues as the death penalty (and this ‘what is torture’ business fall into this) we must consider the *experience* of someone like the Pope when he makes a judgment that is obviously tied to so much grief and horror.

Never would I dismiss such context. It shines bright around issues such as this. A pope’s experiential life, in this case John Paul’s, is not mine as an American. It never will be. In spite of death penalty errors in our past or present – the civil doctrine that formed our thoughts about capital punishment is in no way comparable to how it operated under the regimes that John Paul lived. Nor, (in spite of the hope of some!!) will it ever be.

I cannot dismiss that Anglo-American context. To do so would be to ‘privatize’ my judgment about such things.

The same holds in this debate about coercion and ‘torture’. Whatever this debate comes down to (and at times it enters the realm of the surreal, if not silliness) the Anglo-American *experience* is never (and will never) be comparable to the “torture context’ of Nazism, Communism, Islamism or Castro’s Cuba. Never!

Knowing that, can’t we simply deflate some of the overheated balloons and agree on some contextual basics. Sure, being the Church, there’s a dutiful desire to arrive at a universal understanding – but some of us have gone off the deep end on this issue. As evidence that we have fallen into the muck of intellectual silly putty, call as witness the constant shrill about President Bush’s “torture Gulag”.

I find that comparison repulsive. What tiny small error we have ever committed regarding coercion (and its excesses) does not even begin to measure up to the torture habit of Nazism, Communism or Islamism. NOT ONE BIT. And more, making that comparison diminishes the God-image dignity of those millions and millions who suffered and died under such regimes.

To make such a comparison, and generate claims based upon it, puts this conversation outside the bounds of reason. And to pull in papal writings or prudential judgments (such as John Paul’s on the death penalty) to support such claims insults the truth those statements proclaim.

Damn you! Damn you!



Abortion in the Torture Debate

The Absolutist Party, to shore up their notion that America cannot be trusted with prisoner interrogations (let alone acts of war) bring up our horrific abortion rate. A nation’s conscience soaked with that blood can’t help but be dulled in all matters regarding human dignity and life.

That is the case – and NOT the case. Let me make the ‘not’ one.

Sliding over (hopefully not down!) many questions and nuances, I put to you: No individual citizen (Christian or not) has the legal and moral right to acts of war, capital punishment, or the incarceration and interrogation of prisoners. These are duties and obligations of the State (delegated to proper authorities). These reside only within the State’s mandate (and, taking Scripture and Church Tradition seriously, given by God).

These duties cannot be snatched away from the State upon the whim of its citizens. The exercise of such (to protect and defend) is what defines the nature of the State – it’s primary reason for being: one that will gladly wither away in the New Heavens and New Earth!

[Of course, there’s the big hoary issue of the duty of citizens when the State goes truly bad. That for another time.]

In spite of abortion’s great sadness, and our spineless ease of accepting it, it will take more than that to excuse the State from exercising its mandated duties (in short, not to act upon its obligations). Yes, yes, I know – the State has been awful; it has more than just vacated its protection duties towards the weakest of its citizens (the unborn), it has murdered them. No quarrel there.

More than that, it has been a monstrous party in the acceptance of such evils as cloning, homosexuality, and fetal experimentation. But, we must be surefooted in this accusation. The State did not so much as create these horrors as yield to them. The first agent in corruption is the culture, the desertion of harvest and hearth by its citizens.

In spite of its enormous power (by nature and in practice) the State is amazingly awkward when it comes to the culture of its people. When the state is asked to perform on matters peripheral to its mandate it often misreads, bungles. Under certain circumstances, it can be monstrous on the periphery: those places that are more the business of the Public Square than the State. Doing so, meddling where it doesn’t belong, the State excommunicates itself from its true nature: in short it becomes dammed and dead.

On issues such as abortion, cloning and gay marriage, the State has no unique insight; it does not have the competence to be the final arbitrator. The truest understanding and judgment on these matters come from The Natural Law given free range on the Public Square. The State (confined to its own lawful nature) is not a privileged judge. The best it can do is to guarantee secure territory for The Natural Law to bring to fruit the true nature of sex, marriage and the constitution of human life. The State does its best work when it protects the ground that the Natural Law plows and seeds.

That ground is the culture of the people; the genesis of human life is born and nurtured there. Trouble comes when the people refuse to take up the hard work and relinquish the building of a Culture of Life to the State. Abortion is such a nasty sadness because Good and Godly citizens decades ago, LONG BEFORE ROE, relinquished the culture.

The Despisers of Life did the expected thing – they gladly yielded what was at hand to the State. The State, being by nature concentration of power, folded the matter of abortion into its force (it has no other makeup) and imposed the issue upon the people in the form the Despisers handed it off. Abortion is what it is because Good and Godly People deserted The Natural Law and vacated the Public Square. The State fell in to rampage through the institutions.

We gave up the fight in or around December 1910.

John Paul II correctly identified the problem as the Culture of Death – not the Death State. I find that significant, knowing his experience with the horror of Death States.

At day’s end (or is it night’s fall), abortion is the fault of the Good and Godly heading for the high grass, refusing to put on amour as Christian Soldiers. Fear and resignation yielded to the State’s concentration of power: the culture’s nature became deformed and deadened, the Public Square naked.

But (and it is an important ‘but’ for the revival of both state and culture), that Great Abdication of ours does not cancel out the obligations of the state that it holds by nature and mandate: war, capital punishment, and incarceration and interrogation. The State still must do its duty.

Regarding abortion: at his Judgment Seat will Christ lash out at the State or his hit-the-high-grass sons and daughters? Let the state do its duties, and we ours.

As for locating a direct linkage between abortion and the State’s lawful duty to “coerce” – there is none.




The objective of interrogation is to provide correct and useful information. Torture does not elicit that knowledge. Any information torture calls up is untrustworthy, a waste of time and ends up endangering the lives of others.

Interrogative methods that do the job do not fall anywhere near the “torture” images our overly heated imagination conjures up. Methods that truly perform cannot be participating in “intrinsic evil” Their effectiveness is a sign that the relationship between the prisoner and the interrogator (within the context) is a humane one. That situation makes a claim on dignity because something that truly participates in evil is prevented.

This debate’s bone-in-the-throat is not ‘torture’ but coercion of any kind, of any degree. The Absolutist Party has spoiled the conversation. Right thinking about all this has been soiled. More and more the Absolutist Party has taken a violent turn towards pacifism in all things; their sentiment is being pushed upon all interrogation methods (or, to be frank, the civil authority’s right to interrogate – period). The Absolutist Party is forcing the doctrine of the Freedom of the Will into a primacy, from which it lords, calling the shots over every turn in this discussion.

Could it be that the Absolutist Party is agitated over something more than “torture” and proper interrogative methods?

Maybe our American, Democratic-Capitalist society has truly found the key to humane use of force and interrogation (as such can be exercised in our fallen world). “Torture” as commonly imagined has not (and will not) ever be an issue. Like the Jews in their Babylonian Captivity, knowing they will never again turn to false gods, our American, Democratic-Capitalist society has crossed a critical threshold. “Torture” is not (if it ever was) a temptation; not because we have subdued our ‘evil natures’, but because nasty methods simply don’t yield the goods.

Maybe it is this success, this landing upon truth, that has stirred up the mucky mud under the feet of the Absolutist Party. Could be, the Great American Experiment (as the almost chosen people) is yielding up some definitive good (about this matter), while resolving some questions along the way.

So what if this resolution does not come exclusively from Church sources. Part of the Teaching Authority of the Church is to read The Natural Law (something it does more truly than any other institution on earth). So what if The Natural Law works itself out, in this instance, within the American experience than in the Church proper. The duty of the Church is to read The Natural Law correctly and effectively – and, by doing so, enfold the fruit of it within the counsel of its mind and practice.

But the Church can not do its duty if the Pacifist Absolutist Party hobbles the Church to its exaggerated notion of the freedom of the will.

If God (and I do say God) is exhibiting a truth(s) through the Great American, Democratic-Capitalist Experiment the Church must wise up and listen – if only for the sake of The Natural Law so exhibited. Fret all you want, but God acting within The Natural Law could be showing a greater understanding of all the issues in this debate: of the will’s freedom, of coercion, and of the common good. Pay close attention (do not sqaunder the gift of the Church) for that unfolding needs the grace of revelation for its completion.


On Torturing Just War Doctrine: let it be and wage.

The goal, objective, use of coercive interrogation IS (rightly or wrongly)is as an aspect of war. Just War Doctrine (JWD) must bear on its definition and practice. Its use (like the declaration and conduct of war) falls within the moral sphere of the State.

You may dispute, I suppose, that interrogation methods are a legitimate means by which war is prosecuted (as much as battleplans, tanks, infantry divisions, etc.); but, as I contend, if they are part of the tactics of war then the JWD becomes supremely useful (imperative) in resolving the issues of this debate regarding definition and use.

Of course, you may also be excluding other tools of war-making: the stuff that Navy Seals and Army Rangers do behind enemy lines, spying, targeted assignations, probes into enemy territory to disable its ability to fight, and such.

You may have a very narrow (picture book) definition of war (standing armies in a field, that sort of thing) that even the JWD cannot justify.

But, you have yet to provide a coherent reason why coercive interrogations are NOT a legitimate tool of prosecuting a Just War.

[And please, don’t bother asking why I use the term “coercive interrogation” and not “torture”: see . . . well, everything else on these pages!]

Again, regarding this debate there are two separate moral agents with differing duties and mandates – the Christian/citizen and the State. Balling all this into one issue is sloppy reasoning.




Should Mr. Jihad Man live down the street (and I’ve got the goods on him) I have no moral or legal right to haul him down to my basement and put him on the ‘waterboard’. (Just joking about the WB!) My stab at prevention would not even be considered a legitimate act within the context of self-defense.

This whole ‘torture debate’ is not staked upon you or me, Christian and citizen. It is about the rights and duties of the State: and if those rights include the duty of prevention (at what cost and by what tools). The conversation gets lopsided if we begin with a gold standard standoff between the State and ‘intrinsic evil’: with the State hobbled because it cannot guarantee perfect intent and act. It is God who gives the State its preventive nature. When properly constituted and functioning, the State is a faithful steward as it prevents evil from doing its worst.

To any Lunch Counter Guy this includes the AGGRESIVE prevention of the slaughter of 781 students at some high school in Lincoln, NB.

Yes, there was an incident in Nebraska (see story posted in #3).




Just a Lunch Counter Guy, I am.

Know my contribution only skids over the surface of this conversation. The argument, though, seems to come down to our willingness to trust properly instituted authorities in the exercise of moral and lawful means to secure its citizens.

Some of us approach the State with such doubt and bitterness we’d rather forego security than see the state fulfill its God-given mandates. Yes, God-given!

Others, settling for nothing less than perfectibility in matters of government, detect only evil in any intent and action by the State. (Or prefer the State to discard its true nature and act only as a cultural tyrant.)

Both too quickly forget that, under God’s mandate, the State is instituted to suppress and prevent the working out of greater evil. From Adam’s fall, the state was placed over us to restrain, to prevent. Someday, in the New Heavens and New Earth, when all will redeem their nature in perfect harmony with God’s will and goodness, the State will have no mandate to fulfill and, therefore, will cease to exist – though the nations, as peoples, will be blessed.

Only then will the Pacifist Absolutist Party obtain their triumph. Until that day, the Lunch Counter Guys win this “torture debate” hands down, as they gladly toast this earthly victory by upending their beer bottles and coffee cups.

On their way out, their bellies full of this debate’s bounty, the guys will slap the Absolutists on the back – “God’s will was done. Glad to keep you safe, boys”.




As the Lunch Counter Guy:

This “torture debate” is getting tiresome. In my attempts to explain its central thesis over coffee, the response is usually “What’s the big deal”.

  • Is anyone talking about torturing prisoners for the fun of it? No.
  • Is anyone talking about torturing prisoners for revenge? No.
  • Is anyone talking about torturing prisoners from divine retribution? No.
  • Is anyone talking about torturing prisoners as an expression of a theology? No.
  • Is anyone talking about torturing prisoners as a tactic of conversion? No.
  • But we DO know who is doing more than talking!

  • But,
  • Are we talking about obtaining specific information known by selected prisoners, that upon its retrieval will save the lives (and Just War mission) of both soldiers and civilians.

That’s it. Something very, very limited and specific: we call this, not torture, but coercive interrogation.

Now, again, what is the torturous issue that is spiking this war among us?

While I’m in a complaint mode: why has this debate progressed with little referencd to Just War Doctrine? Thought that was the controlling factor (in addition to a proper understanding of the moral duties of separate moral agents with differing mandates – the Christian/citizen and the State).




One Response to “My Islamic Thoughts #2”

  1. […] literally? of the jewish People whom St. … From that basket Muhammad strung the beads of Islam. Times: For Children New York TimesFOR […]

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