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A blog intended to cover things I have no intention whatsoever of rehashing at any time at Rerum Novarum
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:: Thursday, March 13, 2008 ::

Clarifying My Use of Various Jurisprudence Terms:

I have over the years used a variety of terms as they pertain to jurisprudence and court interpretation interchangeably not only on my weblog Rerum Novarum (RN) but also in other public mediums and private correspondence. Here are a variety of the terms and the frequency of their use in blogging according to the archives at RN:

--Constructionist (10 blog usages: 1 in 2003, 8 in 2005, 1 in 2008)

--Constructionists (14 blog usages: 3 in 2003, 4 in 2004, 7 in 2005)

--Originalist (5 blog usages: 4 in 2005, 1 in 2008)

--Originalists (3 blog usages: 1 in 2005, 2 in 2006)

--Originalism (2 blog usages: both in 2006)

--Constitutionalist (1 blog usage in 2003)

--Constitutionally (20 blog usages; however, of the ones pertaining directly or by implication to the issue in question here 16 of them apply: 2 in 2002, 5 in 2004, 3 in 2005, 4 in 2006, 2 in 2007)

The purpose of this note is to make it clear at the outset that I have always viewed the terms listed above as meaning one and the same thing where they are used to discuss matters pertaining to constitutional law/jurisprudence. However, it is also possible that what I mean is not what many would have in mind with the same usage of said terms. Nonetheless I will delineate with greater precision what I mean by their use in an upcoming posting to Rerum Novarum in the coming months.

:: Shawn 11:55 PM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 ::
On A Key Principle Pertaining to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Incidents From 1945:

The purpose of this posting is to clarify a point which I have noticed gets overlooked constantly and which I am tired of having to correct; ergo this posting is the last time I intend to do so.

First of all, there is a mistake when discussing the subject of warfare with classifying people simply as "military" and "civilian." I will admit to having done this at times in the past but I also did so under the assumption that people would properly understand the murky nature of how these categories really existed in wartime Japan. However, since this has not happened as I had hoped, it seems appropriate in lieu of a recent dialogue challenge on the subject in question to tend to this key point; ergo the reason for the post you are now reading.

There is not in many circumstances the fine line in this area that people may like. For example, there is the talk about the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as "civilians" when in fact most of them were conscripted{1} and thus properly recognized as "military." But even with those who were not conscripted, does that make them immediately a "civilian" which by its very usage implies non-combatant status??? For those who are familiar with the situation of wartime Japan, the answer to this obviously is no.

Indeed I use and have used the following principle as an acid test of sorts to know if a person I am discussing these matters with should or should not be taken seriously:

--Is a little child with bombs strapped to it who is instructed by their parents to walk up to a soldier and detonate the bomb a "civilian"??? How about if they are trained to roll under and try and blow up a tank???{2}

The brief answer to these questions is "no", the long answer to them is "hell no." The proper distinction to be made here is not "military" and "civilian" but "combatant" and "non-combatant." And the examples above as well as others which could be noted{3} coalesce to paint a reality about the situation there which the overwhelming majority of commentators on this subject do not get.

It is one thing to miss the above distinctions because they are often not brought out when this subject is discussed. It is another however when they are pointed out to default back to a mentality that acts as if this is not an important factor in the entire moral and ethical matrix on this issue as not a few have done in my presence. As far as I am concerned, those who are corrected on the matter and continue to not acknowledge that variable in the overall equation, they are immediately disqualified on the matter in question.


{1} All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.”

This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate –a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [William Manchester: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 510-511) as quoted in a Rerum Novarum posting (circa September6, 2005)]

{2} See footnote one.

{3} See this link which was appended to a footnote in my August 17, 2005 posting on Hiroshima. (It is in footnote six and reviewing my accompanying commentary on it for the context in which it was used would also be advised.)

:: Shawn 8:35 PM [+] ::

:: Monday, November 27, 2006 ::
Defining the Term "Apologetics Oligarchy":

To start with, I really hope that someday I will be able to sunset this term as one which is no longer applicable to objective reality with regards to those I have primarily in mind when defining it. Having noted that, consider for starters the definition of the term "oligarchies":

a. Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.
b. Those making up such a government.

Once you do that, then the definition of the term "apologetics oligarchy" should be self-evident. In a nutshell it is this:

A consortium of self-proclaimed apologists for a particular weltanschauung -be it secular or religious- who have a greater interest in fostering intellectual dependence by others on them and their supposed "wise sayings" than they do in being charitable or otherwise ethically and rationally consistent. This is done as a way of building in a dependence constituency of sorts for their own personal fame and/or financial benefit from the aforementioned consitutency and the advancement of truth is secondary to the aforementoined aim if it exists at all.

Such persons as I noted above have no interest in the foundational tenets of logic and reason and have no problem controverting them when it is convenient for them or when such disclosure somehow detracts from their standing amongst others. Similarly, concern for basic ethics and charitable treatment of others takes a backseat whenever said critics presume to be critical of someone in the aforementioned "oligarchy."

More could (and may) be noted but that will have to suffice for now.

:: Shawn 4:11 PM [+] ::

:: Saturday, November 18, 2006 ::
Defining the Word "Torture"
(Since No One Else Will)

It is unfortunate that some intellectually dependent agenda provocateurs who like to call themselves "apologists" continue to casually throw around terms they do not bother to explain viz. what they mean. The problem with this is that it results in a nebulosity and a bunch of wasted type while these sorts blather on ignorantly and castigate those who do not subscribe to their simplistic and (dare I say it???) fundamentalist approach to these and other matters.

I have tried to place some borders of sorts around many of the threads that make up the mosaic of this subject and provide a viable hypothesis with which to cogently explain them. This was done in an attempt to stimulate the thinking mechanism of more people and help in overriding the kinds of illogical hyper-emotionalist approaches that more complex issues often generate. Thus far, that attempt has been to little if any avail.

With not a few people -including this person- recognizing the problem that a lack of definition involves here, I am going to propose at this time a definition of torture that harmonizes with everything I have written thus far on the subject of torture and does not do damage to the collective wisdom of the ages in the name of a novel and magisterially positivist mentally-dependent outlook.

With (i) those things in mind, (ii) in the interest of providing a lynchpin to everything I and others of similar frames of mind have written on this subject, (iii) attempting to deflate the kvetching of those who pontificate on matter of which they know so little, (iv) in the interest of clear-cutting all the reams of rubbish and circular-speak permeating certain sectors of the blogosphere, and (v) because I am beyond sick and tired of these kinds of public displays by the Jerry Springeresque clique of self-anointed "apologists"{1}, here is a working definition for the term "torture" since the agenda provocateur pundits who call themselves "apologists"{2} continually refuse to do so:

Torture: A method or methodology of seeking to obtain confessions of guilt and/or other information from someone both without just cause and against their consciences by (i) methods which can reasonably be ascertained to cause the aforementioned person the loss of bodily limbs, (ii) methods which can somehow irreversibly imperil their life, or (iii) methods which would result in a loss of their life.

Now then if the contingent of whining agenda provocateurs have a problem with this definition, then I challenge them to provide a definition of their own contra the definition so framed above. If they cannot, then they should have the decency to admit it. If they can though and yet refuse to, then frankly, they (i) are blowhards merely interested in attention and not a seeker of truth and (ii) should shut the hell up on this issue once and for all as they forfeit by their negligence in handling this matter any credibility to speak on it whatsoever.


{1} And the accompanying silence and/or public attempts to defend such garbage by the apologist oligarchs.

{2} Whom I might add have shown no interest whatsoever in these most fundamental areas of moral, ethical, and intellectual honesty.

:: Shawn 10:14 AM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 ::
A Workable Definition of Hypothesis:

As I have used this term in the past and will likely do so even more in the future, it seems appropriate to give the term a working definition, which is what I will now do. Essentially, in the sequence of events, any potential explanation of reality or potential guideline for success of action starts in the realm of the speculative. Such a speculation is based or built on principles or propositions of an abstract nature which serve to embolden and strengthen said hypothesis. Such abstract ideas or principles are properly referred to as theses. As a hypothesis is worked through, a key point is to look for any contradictions in the process for (if there are any), then whatever is proposed cannot be properly seen as viable since the foundational tenets of logic and reason would thereby be violated.

When the point is reached where after subjecting what has been outlined to proper scrutiny, there is no formal contradiction in the theses presented within the trajectory of the explanation given, then said hypothesis can be said to have moved into the realm of theory. Having explained the process of reason and logic thusly, I propose the following definition for a hypothesis as I have long utilized it either explicitly or implicitly:

Hypothesis: An explanation of a subject, circumstance, or event which is advanced on tentative grounds by a proposed thesis or series of theses and is open to further examination or being potentially disproved before it reaches the stature of a viable theory.

Hopefully, this will help in providing greater precision to the readers in seeking to utilize the tools of logic and reason to come to grips with what they see around them and better enable them to analyze the facts of reality objectively. (With a mind towards providing useful solutions rather than the kind of illogical emotionalist drivel that too often is unfortunately prevalent.)

:: Shawn 1:53 PM [+] ::

:: Monday, August 21, 2006 ::
Defining the Terms "Normative" and "Non-Normative":

I have in the past year explicitly used these terms to explain key differences in how one perceives issues that confront them on a daily basis. It seems appropriate in light of such frequent reference to these concepts to provide a more delineated explanation of the distinction than the one I have customarily linked to from time to time in my postings to Rerum Novarum for the past year. With that in mind, here is the distinction in a nutshell for your consideration:

Normative: Deals with what is "better" or "worse" and therefore involves a value judgment which is properly viewed as subjective in nature.

Non-Normative: Deals with what is verifiable by the examination of facts which are capable of resolving the issue and therefore is properly viewed as objective in nature.

A lot of what passes for "logical discourse" today is anything but logical. Instead, it is often an individual placing their own value judgment on an issue, circumstance, or event, etc., and therefore it is subjective or open to various interpretations. The distinction between what is normative and what is non-normative is an important tool for the person looking to utilize the tools of logic and reason and navigate the many minefields of proposed "truth" out there with the goal of separating the wheat of truth from the chaff of falsehood.

:: Shawn 6:19 PM [+] ::

:: Thursday, May 25, 2006 ::
Defining The Term Carter Corollary For Future Discussion (and Posterity):

Something Texas Fred wrote today gave me an idea for a shorthand expression for future discussions. Basically, he was critical of the fact that President George W. Bush's immigration policy has gotten rave reviews by former president Jimmy Carter -he of the Keystone Kops Presidency (among other infamies). The summary of Fred's response was this line:

If Mr. Peanut endorses it, it has GOT TO BE wrong...

Now obviously no one is wrong all the time; however, Jimmy Carter has a trackrecord of being so wrong so often that it is a good bet to take the opposite side of him on an issue if you want reasonably sureness of being correct. With that in mind, I propose the following terms to be utilized whenever Jimmy Carter's name comes up in the news on matters such as this:

The Carter Corollary

This can serve in the future as a kind of shorthand to say with a wave of the hand "this position is wrong because it is supported by Jimmy Carter." And by taking such a position, the odds of being right are virtually certain to be higher than the .847 slugging percentage that Babe Ruth had in the 1920 baseball season.{1} Or in summary: often enough to be consider a reliable norm on these kinds of matters and thus worthy of definition.


{1} That set a record that was almost matched the following year and remained unbroken until 2001 when Barry Bonds set a new steroid-enhanced record of .863.

:: Shawn 11:15 AM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 ::
Defining Some Argumentation Fallacies:

Though argumentation fallacies are a subject that has been covered many times at Rerum Novarum (and will continue to be) it is not often that one finds themselves defining argumentation fallacies that have rarely been explicitly explained before. Nonetheless, here are a few that have been circulating in the blogosphere as of late:

argumentum ad aevum

If my Latin is correct here (and it may need tweaking) this is "argument to age" or claiming an authority for one's position due to being older and thus (presumably) via greater experience having the edge in argumentation. This could also be said to embrace another logical fallacy which I will now give a name to and it is this:

argumentum ad eventus

This is a variation of argumentum ad aevum and involves essentially the idea that an argument is not valid on the basis of lacking experience is what this one entails. It is akin to saying that no one can talk about a subject unless they have experience in it; ergo someone who has never abused heroin can never be credible in talking about heroin usage. Or on the ecclesial front, Pope Benedict XVI can never talk about a subject like sex because he has presumably never had any.

I am shocked that even otherwise intelligent people fall for this kind of "logic" but it happens often. At bottom, either what someone says in presenting an argument for a viewpoint has merits or demerits on the strength or lack thereof of the arguments made. That is where any and all criticisms of someone's arguments should lie, not on argumentation fallacies{1} such as the ones noted above.


{1} The above examples would fall under a classification of arguments that are fallacious even if valid rather than fallacious even if invalid: a distinction with a difference.

:: Shawn 2:16 PM [+] ::

:: Friday, January 27, 2006 ::
Clarifying My Policy Viz. Private Correspondence:

Strangely enough, Rerum Novarum is fast approaching its 1800th posting and the subject about to be touched on here has never been discussed in the manner it is about to be. While normally that is not a problem, in this case it pertains to a subject which involves a principle of action which has been in force for a long time. (However, until recently your host saw no reason to delve into the matter.) Nonetheless, in light of a recent breach of the private forum conversation-wise, it seems appropriate to finally clarify for the readers the extent of how The Welborn Protocol applies to Rerum Novarum and how it is generally exercised there and on all other weblogs to which your host is a contributor to. Thus, without further ado, here is the passage in question:

Any correspondence will be presumed eligible for blogging unless the sender otherwise specifies. This is referred to as the Welborn Protocol and is a policy that will be followed at Rerum Novarum. (Though name and email information will as a rule not be posted without explicit request to do so by the sender.)

What is noted above can be characterized as what I call "general norms" in how these matters are dealt with. I cannot recall offhand blogging stuff that senders have asked not to except in the case of certain venomous sorts who have requested confidentiality in order to insult me in private while acting another way in public. It has been a long time since I have blogged some of that stuff to fisk but on occasion I will do that as a way of keeping those sorts apprised that what is kept confidential is only kept so because of my good graces if you will.

There is another principle I have always followed and essentially it is this: if someone sends me a note requesting confidentiality on a particular subject matter, I almost always consider all subsequent emails sent on that subject matter from that emailer to have the same promise of confidentiality that I make when responding to the first note in the series. The reason for this should be obvious: they had already requested the thread to be private so by logical extension subsequent installments are also covered by that cloak unless or until the sender consents at some point for that material to be posted. As a result of this, I get emails from time to time from people who would be considered (by the casual reader) "public enemies" of mine where they do not specify confidentiality and their stuff does not get posted. The reason for this is spelled out in the principle as noted above.{1} However, there is an exception to the above principle which in light of recent events bears noting; ergo I will do so in this clarification thread and at this time:

When a thread of discussion is started and someone requests privacy, confidentiality, etc. to the thread and then takes the thread itself or the conversation subjects contained in that thread public.

Once one of those things happens, the person in question has violated the private forum. For that reason, on those subjects they have revoked any previous promise I may have made to them for confidentiality. Furthermore, such revocations are retroactive to the beginning of that particular thread so anyone who tries to trap me in a promise of confidentiality with the mind to make public what has agreed to be kept in the private forum would be wise to not even try such schemes because it will backfire on them.

I take the private forum and its confidentiality very seriously. And while it is true that I sometimes post emails I receive on subjects; nonetheless, when I do this, I as a rule note at the beginning of the response that the material so sent may well be blogged at some point with the parties involved in the thread having their identities kept confidential. Furthermore, once a rapport has been established with someone in private, they need not worry about future threads on subjects where confidentiality has been promised as they retain the same promise as originally made to the first correspondence on the matter. An exception to this rule is what is noted in the paragraph preceding this one. With regards to the latter, it bears noting (once again) that when that kind of violation happens, all bets are off viz. any promises I have made (overtly or covertly) to keep the material exchanged on the subjects involved confidential.

In summary, I have always held that those who do not respect the private forum do not deserve to benefit from confidentiality protocols to the extent that they do not adhere to those protocols themselves. Hopefully what is noted here clarifies once again and in significantly greater detail the manner whereby your host has dealt with these matters not only from day one of Rerum Novarum's existence but even prior to its existence by not a few years.


{1} Another reason for this is my inherent sense of fair play.

:: Shawn 11:00 AM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 ::
A Key Principle For Rational Argumentation:

In the wake of the Rathergate scandal, there was a group of people who sought to argue along two lines to advance their agenda. The first was that the documents were not forged. When this line of argument did not work, they then tried to argue that "even if the documents were forged, that the allegations needed to be looked into." As this kind of argument has not gone away with Rathergate{1}, it seems appropriate to reiterate anew what should be obvious to anyone with a normal intact functioning brain and it is this:

--If the documents which make a particular allegation or assertion are false, then there is no logical reason whatsoever to continue any entertaining of what said documents contain. Period.

Any divergence from this principle only succeeds in muddying the waters of discourse and detracting from viable discussion matter and thus must (out of a proper sense of logical consistency) be avoided at all costs. Having noted this in brief, there is no logical reason whatsoever to continue with this subject of discussion.


{1} A similar line of argumentation was used with a recent so-called "memo" which pertained to the Terri Schiavo case; ergo the reason why this subject is being covered again at the present time. (As was done earlier with an audiopost on Rathergate at Rerum Novarum circa September 20, 2004.)

:: Shawn 4:55 PM [+] ::

:: Monday, August 02, 2004 ::
I have referred to the principle of McElhinney's Media Dictum explicitly in the past eight months at my weblog Rerum Novarum. This is a long-held view of mine with regards to the major media outlets{1} and it may explain to my readers why I do not jump so readily on news stories from the major press not only as fountainheads of wisdom but also as accurate dispensers of facts on issues of a complex nature. The long and short of it is that the media is the last place anyone should expect to find these kinds of issues dealt with in a manner that respects the important variables and nuances that complex subject matter usually entails.

To formulate a working definition of the McElhinney Media Dictum is the purpose of this post. Though it has been paraphrased by me in recent months, if I were to ascribe a definition to the principle, it would read as follows:

The media, particularly the major outlets of the press --their pretensions of being "more enlightened than thou" notwithstanding-- seem almost inexorably to operate on a presuppositional foundation that is equal parts irresponsible fundamentalism and an unproven (but presumed a priori) empiricist outlook. Therefore, the more complex the variables of a particular position, argument, situation, problem, etc., the less they can be trusted to be reliable reporters of said positions, situations, arguments, etc. In summary, the media's propensity for error is in direct proportion to the intricacies of the particular position, argument, situation, problem, etc.{2}

I have seen the above dictum vindicated so frequently throughout my life at sundry times and in divers matters that it has probably moved beyond the classification as a dictum and instead has attained the status of a proverb. Nonetheless, as I have referred to it by the above title for many years, the title will remain what it has been as long as I have had a conscious working notion of the phenomenon. Hopefully the above working definition provides a bit of clarification on understanding this principle and providing for the reader a glimpse into one of the elements that permeate my operative point of view.


{1} This is a view I have had implicitly for most of my life but explicitly it has formed a core part of my outlook on divers issues for about fifteen years.

{2} It should go without saying that this principle also applies to many of the major media outlets of any particular weltanschauung. Generally the more "mainstream" something is, the more simplified and bereft of essential details or nuances it inevitably is or will become. And as they say "God is often in the details."

:: Shawn 2:24 PM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 ::
The Process of Attempting to "Refute" a Theory or Thesis in a Piece of Writing:

Often do we hear of a person or party who is beholden to a particular paradigm of thought declare that they are going to write a "response" or a "refutation" of a particular viewpoint -expressed in either essay or other written form. To note a particular example of this, I point to some comments by David Palm in Mark Shea's comments boxes viz. my brief comments on David's Novelty article.{1}

As readers of Rerum Novarum well know, I responded in detail to David's article in December of 2003. Though far from perfect,{2} the text was finally posted to the web and a public notification was published on January 14, 2004.{3} I want to focus at this time on the aforementioned article and the initial responses by the person addressed in that article. (Made upon becoming aware of the latter article's existence.)

To start with, David professed a lack of knowledge about this article HERE when it was brought to his attention earlier in that day. David on the following day noted that he would "have a look" at the article in question. Then, the following day, he manifests the intention to "address these matters in more detail in a formal reply to Shawn's critique of my article (for which I am grateful, by the way.)" There is a lot to take into account here so I will unpack it a bit so that the reader can see where I am going with this posting.

At the outset, it is hopefully obvious that there is nothing wrong in principle with responding to a reply someone else has written to something you have written. Indeed I have done this myself on numerous occasions. However, there should be a degree of caution in doing so. Far too often it seems that there is a game that is played (or made) of endless responding back and forth. To everything of course there is a season and sometimes this is appropriate. Othertimes it is not.

One of the reasons I wrote a commentary on the intricacies of dialogue was to help my readers in making this kind of discernment.{4} For there should also be a viable purpose for any response and such purposes should be genuine. They should in other words transcend any personal ego in the equation. This unfortunately does not usually seem to be avoided by people regardless of their particular weltanschauung.{5} And that is a shame because it if it was tended to, there would be a lot less (and greater quality) discourses out there. But I digress.

Though I will not provide the proofs that I have on file, I could demonstrate that David emailed me and others in private to respond to his essay a few times. Upon that request, I did give his essay a complete read through. With regards to responding to it in writing, I was initially quite hesitant to do so because I do not by nature tend to respond to articles halfway.{6} However, after the request for a response was made a couple more times by David, I decided to consider this situation again. The time lapse between initial reading of David's essay and reconsideration of a response was about three weeks. And in that time frame, I read the essay again at least once.

Upon reconsideration, I proceeded to again read his article through completely before beginning to check his usage of sources starting with the patristics. Only upon finding his usage of patristic sources to be profoundly problematical (to put it mildly) did I decide to at least address that point in writing. That was the first step towards what was going to initially be a very targeted response.

My point in noting it here is that I did not read David's article and immediately go "okay, gotta refute the article." That would not have been fair to the theory that he was seeking to establish and sustain. There is too much passing over of the foundational premises that undergird respective paradigms of thought both in the blogosphere as well as in other forms of cyberspace and the arena of ideas in general.

Even upon that decision, I took about a week to read the sources in context and briefly sketch out what was to become the second url of the eventual response. At that point, the project was shelved for a while until news about the "brilliance" of the response was touted on certain sites of dubious repute.{7} At that point, I begin reconsidering for the second time the usefulness of undertaking a response to that article.

Indeed, it was realizing that such a targeted response as I initially thought about doing would leave too many stones unturned{8} that the decision to respond to the entire essay was made. I had already reviewed all the essay sources that I could readily find and realized that the same degree of questionable citation permeated them all. And it was obvious to me that any response would have to underscore this fact heavily since it was a significant weakness to the overall theory being proposed (and the corresponding theses used in sustaining it).{9}

Another factor that would have to be heavily underscored is how often I had covered these issues in past writings -many of which were a couple years old or older and none of which had been adequately interacted with by anyone of David's particular weltanschauung in that timeframe. So there were a few good reasons to interact with that essay at long last -not only the rather interesting (and novel) implications which David's essay underscored. Hence the project was undertaken in November of 2003 and mostly completed prior to my leaving for Puerto Vallarta on December 23, 2003.{10} Upon returning, the project was retouched a bit and then shelved to be taken up again two weeks later after I had had some time away from it. Once it was retaken up -and some more minor tweaks were made to the templates- it was released on January 14, 2004.

I relate this process to highlight the kind of care I went through in composing that response. This is how anyone proposing to respond to a piece of writing -or to a particular theory that the writing espouses- needs to approach doing so. This is why I find it interesting that someone in less than a day of knowing of the existence of a writing sees fit to try and form a rebuttal. Such an approach would be one that appears to disqualify in advance the merits of an adversary's response.{11} How this kind of approach can at all be conducive to authentic dialogue is a mystery to me.

Furthermore, how someone can appear in less than three days after being notified of a very detailed and somewhat intricate response to a piece of their writing to properly grasp what is being said -as David attempted and failed to do HERE and HERE- again baffles me. Granted, I did previously note that "that list in the essay is not the most prevalent argument against your theory. Instead, the examination of the context of all the sources you cited that I could verify -which was most of them- is the strongest argument in my favour."

One would think that someone seeking to interact with a proposed theory and its corroberative theses would try to get to the root and matrix of the particular paradigm of thought they are examining. To do that requires time and attention and cannot be discerned in a day or even a matter of days if the writer of the article pays any attention to such key elements as nuance and also various distinctions that clarify a particular viewpoint from the kind of caricatures of which are commonly advanced.{12}

In short, when it appears that someone is not taking a reasonable amount of time to digest a piece of writing before they begin drafting a response -or even contemplating a draft response- it makes one wonder if there really is an interest in truth being displayed. Or rather, is the manifested intention of such a display simply to defend one's personal agenda.

I honestly hope that it is not the latter with David Palm. Based on what I have discerned in the threads above, I must confess that I am not too optimistic that my intuition on this matter is wrong.{13}And in light of how detailed my response to David was -and how I not only interacted with virtually every point he made in that essay but also allowed him via his own writing to establish what he was trying to demonstrate,{14} I hope that David will approach my essay with the right disposition: one of seeking the truth at all times and being willing to modify one's own particular weltanschauung if necessary in service of the truth.


{1} To the extent that Haloscan holds out without crashing, these examples can be shown in their original form from approximately one month ago.

{2} The essay admittedly needs some HTML tweaking. I hope to tend to this sometime in the summertime.

{3} And on that same day, a small portion of that writing which provided working definitions for certain key terms was posted to this subsidiary weblog.

{4} Though it would not be untrue to note that part of the reason that commentary was written was to serve originally as an appendix section to my longer response to David. (Because problems understanding the principle of dialogue as the Church understands it was one of the hallmarks of David's essay in The Remnant.)

It became obvious after that commentary was completed -as it was in early December- that it would best be utilized not as a particular url of the response to David but instead as a universally directed piece of writing which could then be referenced or linked to as needed in the response to David. Ergo, that is what I decided about mid December of last year to do.

{5} Though it has as a rule been how I have always approached essay writing and blogging, I will not of course claim that I have been completely free of this weakness myself.

{6} As any reading of my past essays or prolonged dialogues on my weblogs will manifestly display without ambiguity.

{7} The cathinsight site was one example of this occurrence. Another was (of course) the Remnant site.

{8} If anything, I have been criticized by good friends for this tendency because it is not one that is conducive to print mediums such as periodical publications. Hence I have had a lot fewer articles published than I could have had if I had a greater sense of economy of prose. (And while I have improved in this area in recent years, there is still a lot of room for improvement by my own admission.)

{9} But before pointing this out, it seemed appropriate to supply working definitions of those terms in the essay as I have long used them in discourse. This was probably the hardest part of the essay to write.

{10} The writing was about 98% completed at that time and could have been released in that form. I decided though to wait until sometime in January to release it so that I could review each section several times and made minor adjustments as they seemed warranted.

{11} Or at the very least it appears that the person in question does not seek to see something from the opposing point of view.

{12} By those who do not pay close attention to what those they seek to interact with are actually saying rather than what they think is being said based on some form of incautious scanning of the texts.

{13} However, as David has surprised me before, I will respectfully presume the best here as that is the authentically Catholic (read: Traditional) approach to be taking.

{14} [I]n order to anticipate and avert the "straw man" accusation which may be thrown around later on, the introduction of David's essay will be allowed to establish the theory he seeks to propound and its corroborative theses. Because of the amount of material covered in this essay, the first part of DP's essay will not be dealt with in the manner that subsequent sections of it will be. (Excluding comments necessary to highlight the aforementioned theses and encapsulate the probable theory being advanced.) [I. Shawn McElhinney: The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard from the Introduction (c. 2004)]

:: Shawn 2:42 PM [+] ::

:: Saturday, February 07, 2004 ::
I used the term a couple of times on my main weblog so it seems appropriate to add it to the defined terms if you will. The term being referred to is solipsism and I noted the following in a weblog entry about it:

[The] epistemological phenomenon of solipsism [is one] whereby the self knows nothing but its own states and their constituent modifications if you will. This is a core philosophical flaw of modern day liberal political views.

I had a footnote to this point and fleshed it out with the following text:

This is why certain kinds of people of the extremist liberal mindset such as the Deanings cannot be reasoned with. You can throw all the facts in the world at them and reason until your gray hairs fall out but they will not budge because so much of what you would say does not pertain to them personally.

This problem infects not only people in liberal extreme political viewpoints but also some people of more peripheral theological or philosophical viewpoints as well. Those who follow Rerum Novarum are aware of a couple of these viewpoints to which I refer so I will not belabour this brief weblog entry with examples.

:: Shawn 5:21 PM [+] ::

:: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 ::
Defining the Terms "Theory" and "Thesis":

Though I have utilized these terms in this manner before, I have never explicitly set them forth in writing prior to my most recent essay. Quoting from that source, I want to provide here definitions for two key terms of discourse: the definition of a theory and the definition of a thesis. Without further ado, here they are within the context of the introduction to my most recent essay:

[W]hen one is dealing with a theory, they are dealing with both abstract notions as well as coordinating dynamic principles of action. One of the author's intellectual mentors once defined a theory as "a set of non contradictory abstract ideas (or as philosophers like to call them 'principles') which purports to be either a correct description of reality or a guideline for successful action."...

Having established a working meaning of the term theory, it is worth noting also that the word thesis according to the Merriam Webster Thesaurus is related to the word theory. (Both of them having a foundation in the term assumption.) A good way of looking at this in the current context is to view a thesis as "an abstract principle or proposition to be advanced and maintained by argument" and a theory as incorporating a thesis -or a series of theses -with a guideline for successful action. The reason for this is because a theory by its nature must involve either (i) a correct description of reality or (ii) a guideline for successful action. For this reason, any viable theory involves several principles if you will which work together.

Or another way of looking at it would be to consider that a theory is being conceived of a series of non contradictory coordinative theses or points of presupposition. When viewed in this light, a theory clearly is only as strong as the theses which support it. [I. Shawn McElhinney: The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard Introduction Section (c. 2004)]

:: Shawn 10:47 AM [+] ::

:: Wednesday, October 01, 2003 ::
Confuting a Common Error of Self-styled 'Traditionalists':

The following is one of the very few new sections written for the third edition of my treatise when the latter was given a long-desired thorough revision last December and January. Certain boilerplate arguments have simply been reiterated too often and uncritically accepted as valid: and I have grown tired of reinventing the wheel in dissipating them over the years. I therefore decided a few years ago to address a few of them in the treatise when I got around to revising and reformatting the work. (A project that was for various reasons two years delayed in achieving.)

Now obviously with any work one has to be careful in how much they deal with subject-wise. However, the reconstituted form of the treatise onto multiple smaller urls -even recasting some previously individual parts of the work into separate urls for the sake of economy- made it easier to evaluate some points which due to the previous structure of the work could not be dealt with adequately.

Of the areas passed over previously, some of them were primary subjects and others were ancillary to primary subjects. Among the latter that I had thought for a long time about addressing was the facile distinction so often seen in "trad" circles where the authority of the Second Vatican Council was dismissed because it was "pastoral" and supposedly not "dogmatic." Such a statement indicates a serious ignorance of Catholic dogmatics; ergo it needed to be addressed properly. So I decided to do so whenever I got around to restructuring the work.

In light of how I did not explicitly frame the discussion in the form of an essay, section to an essay, or even weblog entry previous to early January of this year, obviously I cannot expect this understanding to have yet exerted much influence on the way people of good will view these matters. So I have decided today after reading another appeal to this pathetic argumentation to post here for the readers of my weblogs a hermeneutic of proper interpretation for understanding the terms "dogmatic" and "pastoral" according to the mind of the Church. But that is not all.

I hereby challenge anyone who uses these terms in the stock Integrist manner to either refute what I am about to say or cease their misuse of these terms. Without further ado, here is a new section to the Vatican II and its Authority material from that work.

The "Dogmatic-Pastoral" Artificial Dichotomy

There is some truth to the assertion that the Council was "predominantly pastoral in character" but the dichotomy made between "dogmatic" and "pastoral" - as if something "pastoral" is automatically not "dogmatic" in any sense whatsoever - is frankly a facile one. It has no support whatsoever from the Magisterium of the Church and therefore it should not be handled with the kind of smug certainty that many so-called 'traditionalists' like to utilize it. At the very least, it seems to this writer that "pastoral" and "dogmatic" as concepts should not be interpreted not in a vacuum. Instead, the meaning of the expressions should be sought in light of the way pastoral theology and dogmatic theology respectively are viewed. The following quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia article Pastoral Theology defines this concept as it applies to theology in general:

Pastoral theology is a branch of practical theology; it is essentially a practical science. All branches of theology, whether theoretical or practical, purpose in one way or another to make priests "the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God" (I Cor., iv, 1). Pastoral theology presupposes other various branches; accepts the apologetic, dogmatic, exegetic, moral, juridical, ascetical, liturgical, and other conclusions reached by the ecclesiastical student, and scientifically applies these various conclusions to the priestly ministry. [12]

Before delving into all that pastoral theology entails, a look at how it differs from dogmatic and other fields of theology would be in order as well:

Dogmatic theology establishes the Church as the depository of revealed truth and systematizes the deposit of faith which Christ entrusted to His Church to hand down to all generations; pastoral theology teaches the priest his part in this work of Catholic and Christian tradition of revealed truth. Moral theology explains the laws of God and of the Church, the means of grace and hindrances thereto; pastoral theology teaches the practical bearing of these laws, means, and hindrances upon the daily life of the priest, alone and in touch with his people. Canon law collects, correlates, and co-ordinates the laws of the Church; pastoral theology applies those laws to the care of souls. In brief, pastoral theology begins, where the other theological sciences leave off; takes the results of them all and makes these results effective for the salvation of souls through the ministry of the priesthood established by Christ. [13]

In "presuppos[ing] the fields of apologetic, dogmatic, moral, juridical, and other fields of study in its applications to the care of souls", pastoral theology would not be divorced from the other sciences. (Indeed to some extent it would rely on them.) Hence one could accurately say that pastoral theology is indirectly concerned with dogmatic theology as well as moral theology and juridical theology (canon law). Transposing these distinctions onto the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council by corollary extension, it could be logically asserted that a Council that was "predominantly pastoral in character" would nonetheless have an indirect foundation in dogmatics; consequently a "pastoral council" would be "indirectly dogmatic" and presupposing the foundation of dogmatic theology in its pronouncements. (Which by asserting that the Council unlike previous Councils was not "directly dogmatic" is precisely what Pope Paul noted in several general audience speeches in the final thirteen years of his reign.)

By contrast, most of the earlier ecumenical councils were "predominantly dogmatic" but that did not detract from the fact that most of them also issued canons of disciplinary import as well. The distinction would be that most of the earlier councils were called to resolve a doctrinal crisis and disciplinary issues were an addendum issue if they were treated on at all. (Councils such as Constantinople II and III did not treat on disciplinary matters at all whereas by contrast of the five Lateran councils only the fourth was not predominantly concerned with matters of discipline.)

With the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, it was called not to address any one point of doctrine but instead to address the application of all Church doctrine to more effectively meet the conditions of the modern age. In the process, (i) previous dogmas of the faith would be reaffirmed, (ii) previously declared doctrines reasserted and perhaps developed a bit further, and (iii) theological controversies which touched on matters closely joined to dogma would be settled. Further still, (iv) doctrine would be developed to meet the needs of the age in certain parameters, (v) the disciplinary code would be revised, and (vi) the overarching approach in all areas would lean more to doctrinal exposition and its application then to dogmatic formulations. The tools used for this process would mirror those used in pastoral theology and include the following:

Tradition and the Holy Bible...are the first sources of pastoral theology. As evidence of Tradition the decrees of general councils are of the highest moment. Next come pontifical [documents]; decrees of Roman Congregations...the various sources of dogmatic and moral theology and of canon law, in so far as they bear directly or indirectly upon the care of souls. Decrees of various provincial councils and diocesan synods together with pastoral letters of archbishops and bishops are also among the sources whence pastoral theology draws. [14]

If one reads the index of every document from the Second Vatican Council, they will see copious references to Sacred Scripture. There are also numerous references to the documents of the General Councils. (Particularly Vatican I and Trent but there is also more than thirty references to other ecumenical councils - particularly the councils of Florence, Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Lateran IV, Constantinople IV, and Nicaea II.) There are also numerous references to documents from the papal magisterium - particularly Pius XII, Pius XI, John XXIII, and Leo XIII - along with various other papal pronouncements. (Such as Allocutions and Radio/General Addresses.) Included in this mosaic are references to the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church among other sources. Finally, the use was also made of documents from plenary councils which had received papal approbation, decrees from the Roman Congregations, etc.

Consistent with the understanding of "pastoral" in theology, the Second Vatican Council certainly fulfills the criteria in its usage of sources spanning the dogmatic, moral, and other fields of study. As far as the dependence of pastoral theology on dogmatic theology, the Catholic Encyclopedia article Dogmatic Theology had this to say about the correlation:

Pastoral theology, which embraces liturgy, homiletics, and catechetics, proceeded from, and bears close relationship to, moral theology; its dependence on dogmatic theology needs, therefore, no further proof. [15]

And just as "no further proof" is needed to demonstrate the dependence of pastoral theology on dogmatic theology, there is no further proof needed to refute the facile dichotomy of "pastoral" and "dogmatic" when it comes to Vatican II when compared with most of the previous ecumenical councils. It suffices to say that most previous councils were directly dogmatic and indirectly pastoral whereas with Vatican II the converse was the case. But it does not suffice to say that the predominantly pastoral character of the Second Vatican Council precluded any active dogmatic elements at all and (as a consequence) any formal infallibility. [I. Shawn McElhinney: A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" Part VI (c. 2003, 2000)]

Again, it is not enough for people to wave around terms they have not defined. Yet this is what self-styled "traditionalists" do with referring to Vatican II as a "pastoral council" while referring to other councils (such as Trent) as "dogmatic councils." (As if every syllable of Trent was of the same theological qualification.)

Now then, I have explained what the terms "pastoral" and "dogmatic" mean as they have traditionally applied to the branches of Catholic theology. These are also how to properly understand the approbation of "pastoral" to the Second Vatican Council. I hereby call those who abuse these terms and who claim to be faithful Catholics to cease doing so and properly submit to the Second Vatican Council. Otherwise, they misrepresent themselves as a "faithful Catholic" to others in violation of the commandment against false witness.

Oh, lest I forget, the footnotes in the above selection are from the Catholic Encyclopedia. The first three are from the article Pastoral Theology. The fourth footnote is from the article Dogmatic Theology.

:: Shawn 4:45 PM [+] ::

:: Saturday, August 30, 2003 ::
On the Use of Labels:

Some have inquired as to my bringing up at times the fact that I transcend being easily "categorized." Indeed, by my own admission I am rather resolute about being put in a box of any kind. The reason of course should be self-evident: that he who controls the vernacular controls the parameters of the debate. Instead, I prefer to control the vernacular myself. And if I cannot control the vernacular myself, at the very least I will not let others do so either.

For when we get down to brass tacks, all forms of engineering - be it social, philosophical, theological, political, medical, scientific, legal, or otherwise is preceded by verbal engineering. This is why I refuse to cede to the extremists of any stripe their own choice of terminology. Instead, I refer to them as they are. In the case of the "progressives" and "traditionalists" (to give two examples of many which could be mentioned) the proper terms are as follows:

"self-styled 'progressives'"

"so-called 'progressives'"

"pseudo 'progressives'"

"self-styled 'traditionalists'"

"so-called 'traditionalists'"

"pseudo 'traditionalists'"

For when we let counterfeit philosophies or outlooks coin their own noble terminology, we provide them with a shibboleth of their own to mindlessly parrot and/or cloak themselves in to with greater ease confute the unwary. Control the language and eventually they will control the terms of the battle. And to see what genuine Progressivism is - along with genuine Traditionalism and genuine Conservatism - see the dissertation on the subject previously posted to this weblog. (Or for ease of location simply click HERE.)

:: Shawn 2:26 PM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, June 17, 2003 ::
The Definition of a True Conservative:

The longer I have involved myself in dialogues, the clearer it is to me that there is a provincial nature to a lot of people. It is almost an instinctive need to not accept someone as they are but instead feel the instinctive need to dichotomize or "find a box" to stuff them into. Hence, in the Catholic arena, we cannot have simply "orthodox" and "heterodox" - the only real distinctions that are important anyway - but instead a continuing proliferation of divisions.

St. Paul angrily denounced those Corinthians whom had "strifes" among them - who claimed to be "of Paul", "of Apollos", or "of Cephas" (cf. 1 Cor. i,11-12). And the Apostle's response to this was "has Christ been divided up? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. i,13). If we believe that the Scriptures are sacred and the Word of God, and further, that the Word of God is not out of date, then this passage must have a meaning applicable to all times and places. For while Paul, Apollos, and Cephas are all dead, the problem Paul denounces in this passage is ever-ongoing.

Today in the Catholic arena of ideas, the divisions are not between Paul, Cephas, and Apollos, but instead "traditionalist", "conservative", and "progressivist." The same question could be asked today that Paul asked 2,000 years ago: "has Christ been divided up???" Based on the way different people try to factionalize things, it certainly seems that way.

Despite most reasonably-informed people understanding intuitively that there are limits to syllabus style statements, for some reason there is no hesitancy to try to apply such labels to others anyway.

Now obviously to some extent this is necessary --as one cannot have a conversation on issues without some degree of defining the terms utilized. Nonetheless, with most people, this approach is utilized far more than it is actually needed. And in doing this, the tendency towards a provincial outlook is always present which must be held in check lest authentic charity be sacrificed on the altar of an us and them mentality.

These kinds of problems persist among those who try to use political labels to describe theological, religious, or social issues.{1} For these are virtually always woefully inadequate but some people persist. It is particularly the case with those of a zenophobic bent who feel the need to justify themselves. In Our Lord's day there were the Pharisees who viewed themselves as "set apart" from others. (They viewed themselves as the true adhereres of the Law.)

While there were good Pharisees of course, there were also those who were not so good. Such were denounced many times in the Gospels by Our Lord - himself theologically a Pharisee of the School of Hillel.{2} Thus, while history has given us the term of "Pharisee" as being synonymous with hypocrisy, in truth this was because of the bad Pharisees who ruined it for everyone else. Likewise today we have terms like "traditionalist", "conservative", and "progressivist" which are in need of rescuing from the majority of their adherents who do them an injustice.

I have sought to do this with the term "Traditionalist" by making distinctions between Traditionalists (properly so-called) and "traditionalists" (falsely so-called). The reason for the quotes surrounding the latter one is because with the frauds I contest the veracity of the statement applying to them.{3} My approach is one way of dealing with this situation but by no means the only one.

Much as there are those who delude themselves into believing that they are "traditionalists" (i.e. the only *real* Catholics), there are those who claim to be "progressive" as if Catholicism is somehow anti-progress. And such people cast the distinctions as encompassing themselves as "pro-progress" -even to the expense of the essentials of the Faith- and "enlightened" while others who refuse to compromise on essentials are impugned as "neanderthal", "fundamentalist", "archconservative", or some other disparaging classification.

Caught between the two extremes (those who want to loose everything and those who want everything to remain bound) are those who are usually referred to as "conservatives". But as this term is so ridiculously misunderstood, I consider it a profound insult to have anyone apply this term to me or to my friends without quantification. Let us look at what the term "conservative" used to mean and the meaning that this expression needs to regain if there is to be any coherence with the past philosophically.

To most people today, "conservative" means what "liberal" meant fifty years ago. Further, what was meant by "conservative" fifty years ago is similar to what passes for today as "traditionalist." The problem is, what passes for today as "traditional" and what was coined as "conservative" fifty years ago are counterfeits of the historical Catholic outlook. I will get to this in a moment but first, consider the general trends of people who generally apply these terms to themselves.

We have those who because they follow every trend essentially seek change for its own sake (progressivists) and those who seek to resist any and all change under the illusion that "the Church never changes" (traditionalists). However, even prior to fifty years ago, the Church had both changed radically and also remained a bulwark of stability. Those who know this are able to be proactive in light of the circumstances of recent decades and not merely reactive. This is where the value of knowing history so that it is not repeated comes into play (cf. Santyana).

When it comes to Church history, the "traditionalists" are generally too short-sighted to realize this while the "progressivists" realize this but cannot make the distinction between essence and accidents, primary and ancillary elements if you will. Let me touch briefly on each of these for the benefit of the reader.

Another way of saying this is that the so-called "progressivists" cannot distinguish between the substance of a truth (essentials) and its application (accidents). They are continually mistakening an adjustment in application of a truth in the historical record (in accordance with the circumstances of the respective period) with a "reversal" or an "error that was later corrected."

Proceeding from that fundamental philosophical flaw, they then posit arguments for why the Church can (and they would argue, should) reverse herself on teachings that she has long taught as certain either in magisterial statements or via lex orandi lex credendi.{4} The "traditionalist" of course would not support such deviations. But that is not because they have any better understanding of the historical record - or of how to distinguish between substance and accidents - than the so-called "progressivists" do.

Indeed, the "traditionalist" usually has a worse trackrecord on historical matters. And they cannot generally distinguish between substance and accidents either; however, since they are not so quick to throw things out, they do not suffer as much from this myopia as the so-called "progressivists" do. To give hopefully a clear example of why what passes in many circles for "traditionalism" today is a counterfeit, consider the manner whereby Catholic apologists used to vary their polemic against the Orthodox and the Protestants.

With the Protestants, the approach often taken was one of the "unchangable Church" vs. "ever-changing Prot cults." Another way of saying this would be the "one unity of Catholics" vs. the "ever-desparate variations of Protestants." (With the Catholic apologists appealing to antiquity as a way of seeking to undermine the claims of the Protestants.) But with the Orthodox, the approach taken was diametrically opposite.

For in this contrast, it is the Catholic Church who would lose out in many areas of the "who is more ancient" contest. Unlike the Catholics, the Orthodox had not changed their liturgy, their predominent way of doing theology, their norms of sacramental administration, their view of Church government, etc. So a different approach was taken - one absolutely contradictory to what was done with the Protestants.

Now it was the Catholic Church who showed "vitality" in being able to "grow and develop" over the centuries while the Orthodox were "stagnant" and "arrested in development" theologically and in every other area where there was a divergence of viewpoints. And Latin scholars were not above trying to pass off late first and early second millennium novelties as "apostolic" over and against the Orthodox even when the latter's practice was in reality much more ancient. This is one of the fallacies of confessional scholarship methods.

For in this very same polemical approach, now appeals to antiquity by the Orthodox - the very *same* appeals made by Catholics against the Protestants btw - were tainted as antiquarian. The reason could not be more apparent: to legitimize every jot and tittle of Catholic orthopraxy no matter what.

Indeed it is so ironic to read some of the criticisms launched against the Orthodox by Catholic apologists a hundred years ago and how these same criticisms apply in spades to today's so-called "traditionalists." The late great Orthodox theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemann sounded remarkably like Catholic apologists of old when he criticized the "stagnant air" of the Orthodoxy of his day - basically early to late twentieth century Orthodoxy.

So in essence the Church's history shows at the same time both progress being made - sometimes rapidly so - but not in a random or uncritical way. Two threads of history used in different ways in apologetics in the so-called "good old days" of the Counter-reformation.

How do we explain both (i) the Church's ability to morph herself into every culture like the chamelion changes colours and (ii) her solidity in beliefs and principles being consistent over time??? The way my friends is by recognizing what "conservative" used to mean and what it must mean again. That is the purpose of this post and my proposed definition of the term "conservative."

Though the primary focus of the source I will draw from here is political, the same principle enunciated here over forty years ago applies to the areas of religion and social issues also. To quote from Senator Barry Morris Goldwater's essential work The Conscience of a Conservative:

[T]he question arises: Why have American people been unable to translate their views into appropriate political action? Why should the nation's underlying allegiance to Conservative principles have failed to produce corresponding deeds in Washington?

I do not blame my brethren in government, all of whom work hard and conscientiously at their jobs. I blame Conservatives—ourselves—myself. Our failure, as one Conservative writer has put it, is the failure of the Conservative demonstration.

Though we Conservatives are deeply persuaded that our society is ailing, and know that Conservatism holds the key to national salvation—and feel sure the country agrees with us—we seem unable to demonstrate the practical relevance of Conservative principles to the needs of the day. We sit by impotently while Congress seeks to improvise solutions to problems that are not the real problems facing the country, while the government attempts to assuage imagined concerns and ignores the real concerns and real needs of the people.

Perhaps we suffer from an over-sensitivity to the judgments of those who rule the mass communications media. We are daily consigned by "enlightened" commentators to political oblivion: Conservatism, we are told, is out-of-date. The charge is preposterous and we ought boldly to say so. The laws of God, and of nature, have no dateline. The principles on which the Conservative political position is based have been established by a process that has nothing to do with the social, economic and political landscape that changes from decade to decade and from century to century. These principles are derived from the nature of man, and from the truths that God has revealed about His creation.

Circumstances do change. So do the problems that are shaped by circumstances. But the principles that govern the solution of the problems do not. To suggest that the Conservative philosophy is out of date is akin to saying that the Golden Rule, or the Ten Commandments or Aristotle's Politics are out of date. The Conservative approach is nothing more or less than an attempt to apply the wisdom and experience and the revealed truths of the past to the problems of today. The challenge is not to find new or different truths, but to learn how to apply established truths to the problems of the contemporary world...

Conservatism is not an economic theory, though it has economic implications. The shoe is precisely on the other foot: it is Socialism that subordinates all other considerations to man's material well-being. It is Conservatism that puts material things in their proper place-that has a structured view of the human being and of human society, in which economics plays only a subsidiary role...

Conservatism, throughout history, has regarded man neither as a potential pawn of other men, nor as a part of a general collectivity in which the sacredness and the separate identity of individual human beings are ignored. Throughout history, true Conservatism has been at war equally with autocrats and with "democratic" Jacobins.

The true Conservative was sympathetic with the plight of the hapless peasant under the tyranny of the French monarchy. And he was equally revolted at the attempt to solve that problem by a mob tyranny that paraded under the banner of egalitarianism. The conscience of the Conservative is pricked by anyone who would debase the dignity of the individual human being. Today, therefore, he is at odds with dictators who rule by terror, and equally with those gentler collectivists who ask our permission to play God with the human race.

With this view of the nature of man, it is understandable that the Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order.

The Conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order: it is impossible for one man to be free if another is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom. But the Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its proper bounds...

[F]or the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day's overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom. As he surveys the various attitudes and institutions and laws that currently prevail in America, many questions will occur to him, but the Conservative's first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom? [Senator Barry M. Goldwater: The Conscience of a Conservative pgs. 9-10,13-14 (c. 1960)]

I have presented the above text from one of the greatest intellectual influences of my youth for a reason. For in presenting the above, I have formulated a definition of "conservative" that I believe can be used and applied to myself and to many of my friends. Here is a definition of "conservatism" and one of "conservative."

Conservatism: An integrated philosophy encompassing religious, political, and social tenents which seeks to find ways of fruitfully applying the wisdom, experience, and revealed truths of the past to the problems of the contemporary world.

Conservative: Someone who advocates an integrated philosophy of seeking to find ways of fruitfully applying the wisdom, experience, and revealed truths of the past to the problems of the contemporary world - be they of a religious, political, or social nature.

There is nothing "preservationist" in these definitions, nothing that denotes finding new truths. It is solely in the realm of application and developing new insights from the wellstream of the accumulated wisdom and experience of the past. To a Catholic this would mean a ressourcement approach that took into account the entire well-stream of the Great Tradition and not simply small pieces of the greater whole (i.e. the High Middle Ages or the Counter-reformation period) or regurgitating uncritically the commentaries of earlier luminaries.

Conservatism is inherently ressourcement oriented. And I am ressourcement oriented. But there are no contemporary definitions of "conservative" --either in the political, social, or religious arenas-- that accurately summarizes the integrated philosophy that a Conservative must inherently have.

If such definitions as I have noted above can be agreed to, I would have no problem being called a "conservative" or having my philosophy labelled as "conservatism." But until that time, I do have a problem with it since what commonly passes for "conservative" or "conservatism" in either so-called "progressivist" or so-called "traditionalist" circles is a counterfeit conception. (To say nothing of the modern secularist (mis)definitions of the term.) But I digress...

[Update: I deleted one of the expository paragraphs from the above thread dealing with particular individuals that was no longer applicable. -ISM 10/10/05 3:45 pm]


{1} Not to mention even political ones.

{2} Others who had connections to the Pharisees were St. Paul, Nicodemus, and the rest of the Apostles.

{3} And the lowercase t is because they are concerned with superficial exteriors ala the Pharisees who "pay tithes on mind, and anise, and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the Law, right judgment, mercy, and faith...blind guides who strain the gnat and swallow the camel" (Matt. xxiii,23-24).

{4} Such as women priests, homosexual "marriages", etc.

:: Shawn 5:47 PM [+] ::

:: Sunday, January 26, 2003 ::
For those who read previous versions of the work I am about to refer to (either the one released on June 6, 2000 or the one from December 28, 2000), this is a more complete, extensively detailed, and theologically nuanced version than the previous two. (Particularly more so than the first version of the work.)

As I tire quickly of refuting the same points over and over with individuals who either (i) have not read my work or (ii) have exhibited no interest in educating themselves from reputable sources, I will from this point forward consider this version of A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' to be practically a "pre-requisite" of sorts for people who want to discuss the subject of "traditionalism" with me in any reasonable detail. (All of my other "traditionalist" writings to some extent extend and/or amplify certain subjects covered in the treatise linked to above.)

There was a previous problem with people seeking to critique the earlier versions who clearly had not bothered to read it very carefully - if at all - and therefore I have made this version of work very easy to print up and read.

This was done because the information in the work is frankly stuff that most people who claim to be 'traditionalists' do not know and yet they should know. However, there is another aspect to the equation that I might as well address here and it is this: I am afraid I no longer have the patience to reinvent the wheel with people on these topics. A classic example is the fellow I respond to here who had the temerity to insult me, call me a Gnostic, claim that I "hate" and "persecute" self-styled 'traditionalists', and then he dared to ask if I had "ever heard of Mediator Dei." Now if this clown had actually bothered to read any of my writings - particularly the ones on the liturgy, he would have seen copious references to Mediator Dei.

This is the sort of hysterical overreaction that is common to liberal Democrats - and it is not without reason that I have contemplated writing on the similarities between 'traditionalists' (falsely so-called) and liberal Democrats. But more than anything, that exchange was the final straw for my patience level with these kinds of "Know Nothings".

Such misinformed people who have the temerity to insult me and not bother to inform themselves about what I have written or said (and this has happened not a few times over the years) they are not worth me wasting my time on any longer. (As they are a manifest waste of bandwidth to continually deal with.) Such people are as useless to dialogue with as liberal Democrats who were so obtuse that they considered a decrease in proposed spending increases as a "budget cut".

I have no interest whatsoever in suffering fools. (Not that I have ever had much patience for these sorts of people but I have no patience for them any longer.) Besides, this is a good way to discern who is serious about discussing these subjects and who is not...

:: Shawn 1:04 PM [+] ::

:: Wednesday, December 04, 2002 ::
Clarification on My Use of Terms:

One thing I will not compromise on is my use of the term 'traditionalist' in the fashion whereby I use it. For I believe in being honest and there is no way any concession to these kinds of people is possible with regards to the use of the term 'Traditionalist' can be had. The reason is because they are no more Traditionalist in any way, shape, matter, or form then the ancient Pharisees who "clean the outside of the cup and the dish but within are full of robbery and uncleanliness and who are "like whited sepulchures, which outwardly appear to me beautiful but within are full of dead men's bones and uncleanliness" (Matt xxiii., 25-27; Luke xi,.,39-44; cf. Mark xii., 38-40). Nonetheless, as I added a Disclaimer to my treatise when the work was revised in December of 2000, I will quote from that same Disclaimer in the form it will read with the upcoming version of the work. (This way my usage of this term is not misunderstood.)

[Y]ou will see the use of terms such as 'traditionalist' and 'traditionalism' used oftentimes. As these terms and others like them have been so badly abused by many groups, I wish to quantify my use of them and their derivatives...I am in using the terms 'traditionalist' or 'traditionalism' going to usually preface them with qualifiers such as 'self-styled' or 'so-called' to indicate that I am referring to those who fraudulently apply these terms to themselves. In other situations I will simply refer to 'traditionalists' or some derivative in that manner and when I do that the same principle applies. Any and all attempts to refer to people or organizations who appropriate that term for themselves but who can do so honestly will be referred to either as 'Traditionalists' (note the capitalization) or as 'Tridentine Catholics'.

When I refer to 'traditionalists' I am most assuredly NOT speaking of any society or organization that has received the approval of the Roman Pontiff to offer the Old Roman Rite of Mass (aka Tridentine) and receive the sacraments in the norms which they were prevalent from approximately the fifteenth century until 1975. My reference is to those groups which claim to be ‘independent chapels’ or possess 'independent priests’ and who in schism from the Apostolic See offer the Tridentine Mass illicitly and administer most of the sacraments illicitly (and some of them invalidly). These groups are not in communion with the Catholic Church although many of them lie and claim that they are to deceive the laity. Individually those properly referred to as self-styled 'traditionalists' would be those whom it could be reasonably deduced were formally adherent to these kinds of groups. (Judged based on their actions, attitudes, and of course their words.)...

[A]uthentic Traditionalism does not depend on what rite of Mass you attend, what devotional prayers you use, what theological positions you espouse, or what disciplines you follow. Authentic 'Traditionalism' is much more integral then that and it applies to a frame of mind and a certain attitude. It is not and cannot be found in externals - even those which may have the hallowed sanction of time.

Hopefully this clarification is of assistance.

:: Shawn 2:02 PM [+] ::

:: Friday, September 27, 2002 ::
Profession of Faith:

I, Shawn McElhinney, with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the symbol of faith: namely,

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith I believe as well everything contained in God's word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the church--whether in solemn judgment or in the ordinary and universal magisterium--as divinely revealed and called for faith.

I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing that is proposed by that same church definitively with regard to teaching concerning faith or morals.

What is more, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they proclaim those teachings in an act that is not definitive.

:: Shawn 3:04 PM [+] ::


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