Posts Tagged ‘George Weigel’

Nigel Biggar’s In Defence of War

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

On the recommendation of George Weigel’s First Things review I took Nigel Biggar’s book In Defence of War out of the library.

Prof. Biggar’s ethical method appears to have a gaping hole, and that is his rather glib dismissal of jus post bellum considerations as such, since he maintains that post bellum considerations are already implicit under the ad bellum requirement of “right intention.”

Translated into less technical speech, Prof. Biggar discounts considerations about what happens after a war, such as the moral obligation to rebuild the war-torn society, based upon the convenient assumption that those who have the right intention to go to war already include in their decision-making such intentions as rebuilding the society after the war.

For someone who begins his book by inveighing against wishful thinking, Biggar displays, in such arbitrary bracketing and assumptions a caricature of ivory tower lack of realism. In this particular instance of the dismissal of post bellum as a separate category, Biggar’s decision-maker dwells within the old Rational Man paradigm, which trumps history on the weight of his a priori assumptions and good intentions. Prof. Biggar’s weakness as a thinker is his very strength — he’s brilliant at bracketing.

Prof. Biggar’s assumptions weaken his argument because governments often do not fulfill their promises or carry through on their stated intentions. Their priorities change. Post bellum commitments are rarely kept, thus greatly affecting the sixth criteria of just war, “prospect of success.” A military victory can still lead to an historic cataclysm of epic proportions if an incompetent victor “loses the peace” after the war. It is all too convenient to stop the moral time-clock and make the just war determination at the point hostilities end, but before recovery.

Many governments are indeed incompetent, and cannot deliver on their commitments. This question should shout out: Can an incompetent government that cannot realize its intentions and commitments to “win the peace” even make a just war, despite the prospect of military victory?

The historic reality of incompetent government–which cannot be wished away–justifies the inclusion of jus post bellum considerations as a separate category in just war theory. Despite post bellum being implicit in “right intention” (I agree with Prof. Biggar on this technical point), for the “prospect of success” to be met, a government must be competent both in war (in bello) and in peace (post bellum). Inclusion of the post bellum category forces consideration of the question of competence. But Prof. Biggar blithely waves away post bellum considerations in his first pages. The rest of his arguments, despite his brilliance and scholarship, therefore fall short. Tellingly, there is no reference to the Marshall Plan in Prof. Biggar’s index. His arguments would have more suasion if he reported visiting as many historic wartime recovery sites as he reported visiting historic battlefields.

Modern wars are won and lost after hostilities end at the post bellum stage. Rebuilding society and “winning the peace” have everything to do with the “prospect of success.” Post bellum considerations cannot be bracketed, assumed, or waved away.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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HHS Mandate Accommodation Update

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

On 3/16/12, HHS announced an update of the “accommodation” on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception, which unfortunately still does not respect religious freedom. This document is slated to be published in the Federal Register on 3/21/12. The draft is here, for prior public inspection.

Here is the official 3/21/12 posting of the revised HHS accommodation.

Here are related CNS News stories from 3/21/12 and from 3/16/12.

For a recap of related recent events leading up to 3/16/12, see George Weigel’s 3/17/12 article.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Douglas Kmiec on “The Fictitious War on Religious Liberty”; George Weigel’s Differing View

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

I attended the talk entitled untitled, “The Fictitious War on Religious Liberty,” by Prof. Douglas Kmiec on 3/14/12, sponsored by the Catholic Studies Program of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Kmiec is presently the Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University.

Prof. Kmiec, a leading Catholic supporter of Barack Obama’s 2008 candidacy for U.S. President, had released a letter criticizing the President’s original HHS mandate on contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients on 2/6/12, but had backed away from this position after the 2/10/12 “accommodation.”

Prof. Kmiec said several interesting things on 3/14/12, but did not connect the dots to show how the current HHS mandate controversy involves a fictitious war on religious liberty. He claimed that prior to the HHS mandate being announced, he advised the Administration to grant the widest possible exception or accommodation to Catholics, but his advice did not prevail.

It is hard to make a claim that a war on religious liberty is fictitious when the very person making the claim had himself advised on broader rights and was rebuffed.

Kmiec took up, but never completed his answer to the question: Since the government must respect religious liberty, is there a reciprocal obligation on the part of religious believers to moderate their views for the public good?

Sometimes conversation supersedes formal argument in turning history. Prof. Kmiec’s asides and digressions were therefore quite revelatory. His aside on the unfunded mandate for contraception: a suspension of the rules of Adam Smith?

Prof. Kmiec also reported that in an early conversation with then Senator Obama, the Senator asked Prof. Kmiec if he was happy when he found out that his first child was coming. When the Professor said yes, the Senator said that some single mothers, alone and afraid, do not have Prof. Kmiec’s benefits and resources, and see abortion as the only option.

This point made by the Senator was the classic “bourgeois morality” argument made by George Bernard Shaw in his plays and by a long line of Marxists and progressives: that only the well-off can “afford” morality. This point is disproved by millions of very poor Catholics worldwide every day. I recall especially the lines in Matthew 11: 2-6:

When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

Although Jesus fed the poor, the “signs of the Kingdom” reported by Jesus to the Baptist’s disciples put the Gospel message first. Jesus preached the Gospel to the poor before he fed the poor. The miracles of the loaves and fishes, the only miracle stories to be contained in all four Gospels, show the feeding second or contemporaneous to the Gospel proclamation and healing (Matthew 15: 32-38, Mark 8:1–10; 6:31–44, Luke 9: 11-17, John 6: 1-15).

The preservation of life is therefore not a luxury item. No matter what our station, we are called by God not to kill just as we are called by God to feed the hungry.

I’ll continue to add to this post with more detail over the next few days.


BTW, George Weigel’s 3/14/12 essay, his 3/12/12 essay, and his 3/8/12 essay are worth a look.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


E.J. Dionne, Jr. Beats Up the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Then Cedes Their Point

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Washington Post and Commonweal Magazine columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr., one of America’s most humorously self-contradictory of pundits, has done it again with his partisan attack on the U.S. Catholic Bishops on 3/12/12, which followed his attack on President Barack Obama on 1/29/12.

As many have learned over the years, the best answer to Dionne is usually a previous Dionne column, or sometimes Dionne later in the very same column. He confirmed this “Dionne rule” again on 3/12/12.

After flailing the bishops on 3/12/12, Dionne then wrapped up his column by conceding their point on the HHS mandate:

The bishops have legitimate concerns about the Obama compromise, including how to deal with self-insured entities and whether the wording of the HHS rule still fails to recognize the religious character of the church’s charitable work.

Nevertheless, Dionne angrily demanded that the Bishops end their protests based simply on a non-existent concession from the President.

Dionne, then agreeing with the Bishops on substance–just like the anonymous Jesuit America Magazine editorial writers–further went on to criticize the U.S. Catholic Bishops on style.

Not a single bishop would give even an anonymous quote to Dionne in support of Dionne’s analysis. Dionne’s contrived attack on Cardinals Dolan and George therefore lacks credibility in trying to frame the U.S. Bishops’ unity on this HHS mandate matter as partisan.

As even Dionne conceded the Bishops’ point, the Bishops are not about to accept an empty promise from the President when he has already put the HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception as originally framed into law. The President also promised a “sensible conscience clause” in 2009 at Notre Dame, and has yet to deliver on that promise either.

It is therefore not the U.S. Catholic Bishops who lack credibility on this matter.

Ever since the President announced the HHS mandate “accommodation” on 2/10/12, the President’s Catholic health care team has been trying frantically to execute a political Zavanelli maneuver–to push, as it were, the anti-religious freedom monster baby back into the womb–and to start the question of conscience protection for religious institutions all over again. It’s not working. They might as well try to unfry an egg.

I fully expect that desperate reporters will begin making up false anonymous quotes from non-existent dissenting bishops in their panic to break the unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate.

The unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate has been remarkable.

Please see George Weigel’s 3/12/12 response to E.J. Dionne, Jr.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


George Weigel on “HHS and Soft Totalitarianism”

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Leading Catholic public scholar George Weigel made quite an emphatic statement on 2/15/12, with not a few bon mots, in his essay on HHS and Soft Totalitarianism.

Please see my earlier post on “shirt movements” and their role in the rise of totalitarian governments, and also my mention in this blog on 2/5/12 of the jeopardy in which “mediating institutions” are put by the HHS mandate, a point very strongly made by Mr. Weigel on 2/15/12.

The thousands of Planned Parenthood supporters who waged an intimidating Internet campaign against the Susan G. Komen Foundation recently functioned in a similar way to shirt movements of the past, sans the street violence, to muscle the Komen Foundation into reversing an earlier decision not to fund Planned Parenthood. Normally beneficial civic engagement is in danger of morphing into systematic and overwhelming intimidation of civil society and mediating institutions. Mr. Weigel’s phrase, Soft Totalitarianism, is thus very apt. Let’s hope this phenomenon stays “soft,” and moves away from “total.”

Fascism was powered by radio, film, and print as society adjusted to these combined media. Our own age now has its own struggle for freedom in light of our own new media.

More on this media topic soon. . .

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Daniel Henninger on Popes, Atheists, and Freedom

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Worth reading:

Daniel Henninger’s 12/30/10 Wall Street Journal article, “Popes, Atheists, and Freedom, Secularists should recognize that the pope’s fight is their fight,” which draws from George Weigel’s new book, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II, The Victory of Freedom, The Last Years, The Legacy.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Recalling the just war and Christian pacifism

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

The influential Catholic writer George Weigel recently revisited the just war question, critiquing the work of the late Roland Bainton on the history of Christian thought on war. Mr. Weigel cited a recent article in the Catholic quarterly journal Logos by theologian J. Daryl Charles.

Disputing Bainton’s three-part narrative of Christian thought on war from pacifism to just war to Crusade, Weigel turned to Charles to argue that early Christian writers were not univocally pacifist, and reconsidered the grounding of the contemporary Christian “presumption against war.”

Paul J. Griffiths also spoke to this presumption against war when we discussed the question of the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002.

For a robust discussion of George Weigel’s article, see the First Things blog.

In reading these above texts, I returned to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2308:

“All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.”

This catechetical imperative is, strictly speaking, not an intellectual or moral presumption against war as a single, stand-alone decision. Rather, it is a positive and comprehensive command to take action to avoid war. Such an obligation to act is much more than a presumption.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved