October 7, 2013

What Justice Scalia really means when he says he believes in the Devil.

About halfway her wonderful interview with Justice Scalia, after some discussion of homosexuality in legal and in Catholic doctrine, Jennifer Senior pushes the old judge to worry about how history will look back on his era of the Court. The first prompt — "Justice ­Kennedy is now the Thurgood Marshall of gay rights" — gets merely a nod. She tries again, with another non-question: "I don’t know how, by your lights, that’s going to be regarded in 50 years." He says doesn't know and he doesn't care:
Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. 
Some might hear "standing athwart" homosexual rights and get an amusingly unintentionally sexual picture of Scalia straddling gay men. But I assume it's an allusion to William F. Buckley's famous 1955 mission statement for The National Review: "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." The topic was history, you know. And who else says "standing athwart"?

Scalia has shifted from the topic of Kennedy's legacy to his own and — declining to guess what the people of the future will think — he says: "When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy."

That is, he pulls Senior back to the perhaps-more-comfortable topic of religion. She obliges, asking him if he believes in heaven and hell, which he does, and they go back and forth about who goes where, and then, as she proceeds to a new topic — "your drafting process" — he pulls her back again: "I even believe in the Devil."
You do?

Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
He's already connected his Catholicism to the accession to the authority of Catholic doctrine. The devil is in the doctrine, he's Catholic, and ergo, he believes in the Devil.

Asked for evidence of the Devil lately, Scalia says:
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore....

What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
Later, he asks Senior if she's read "The Screwtape Letters," and not having read "The Screwtape Letters" in decades, I'm not sure if he's lifting these nifty observations from C.S. Lewis or not.

Senior wants to know whether it's "terribly frightening to believe in the Devil." He says:
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
He seems to be trying to get a reaction out of her, because she defends with: "I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it." He says:
I was offended by that. I really was.
She doesn't grasp his statement or at least what she says next indicates that she didn't. She says: "I’m sorry to have offended you," as if he was an ordinary person taking offense, when in fact, he's cracking a joke. The joke is to point at her surprise at his bold expression. It was a subtle way to say: Hey, I thought I was famous for bold expression! But he's not so bold — or so bad a comedian — as to redo a joke to drive it home. Either you get it or you don't. He moves forward. Here's where he brings up "The Screwtape Letters," which she says she's read. He says:
So, there you are. That’s a great book. 
That suggests all the interesting things he's throwing out about the Devil are ideas in or closely tracking that book he likes.
It really is, just as a study of human nature.
And there you are. He believes in the Devil not just, perhaps, because he yields to the authority of a religion of dogma and authority, but he believes in the Devil because the Devil is a literary device for exploring human nature, and how can we not believe in human nature and literature?

61 comments:

Terry said...

Both Lewis and Tolkien came from a philosophical tradition that viewed language, not matter and energy, as the foundation of reality. From that point of view, the devil as a metaphor or a literary device makes him very real. How could the devil be made out of only atoms and molecules?

Glen Filthie said...

I am not religious and I have no dog in this fight. Nor am I impressed by the contemptuous liberal and atheist cretins that will soon weigh in with derisive laughter about 'imaginary friends and devils'. I have seen such people perform the most perverted, sick and self destructive behaviours in pursuit of their personal rights and freedoms. Sod the lot of them!

A few truths:

- devout Christians ARE capable of dispensing justice. Some are damned good at it.

- gays are no friends of people that believe in freedom. Up here in Canada they got out of their bedrooms and now want to get into the courtrooms, the bathrooms and classrooms to push their alternative healthy lifestyle. They have authored and established absolutely insidious 'hate laws' to enforce their agenda that should be an offence to anyone that can think critically.

As for me, I know how this will shake out and have given in to the inevitable. When offered a choice between the high road and the low, marginal idiots will demand we take the low road because they are incapable of any form of decency or ethical conduct and are offended by it. Sod them too.

Evil walks among us and if a Christian wants to claim such animals are possessed by the devil I am just peachy with it. As a lawyer I would think you would too, Ann...

Bob Boyd said...

"No one believes in the devil any more. Yet his smell is everywhere." – Baudelaire

Ann Althouse said...

"As a lawyer I would think you would too, Ann..."

Using your status as a lawyer to bolster your opinion of what you think I should think? Why would that be persuasive? Or is it bad grammar you're trying to impress me with, Mr. Filthie (which would be a good name for a devil)?

Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inga said...

"Evil walks among us and if a Christian wants to claim such animals are possessed by the devil I am just peachy with it. As a lawyer I would think you would too, Ann..."

10/7/13, 11:47 AM

Yeah, because lawyers go around looking at people and thinking, "Wow, they are posessed by the devil!" Everyone knows lawyers are kind of like fundamentalist preachers?

Freeman Hunt said...

I'd say he believes in the literal Devil. Everything he said sounds totally familiar to my mind where resides the belief in the actual, literal, not metaphorical, Devil.

Renee said...

I'm sure people want yo believe in God. Who wouldn't? The devil? who would want to believe that! But the Devil is a part of the package when it comes to the Catholic faith.

C Stanley said...

He does seem to indicate that he believes in the literal existence of Satan, and that is Catholic doctrine. One thing he got wrong though is that the Devil is a fallen angel, not a person. Of course a lot of people don't realize that angels and humans are two separate types of beings.

YoungHegelian said...

Senior wants to know whether it's "terribly frightening to believe in the Devil." He says:

But, of course it's much more comforting to believe that all those awful & terrible things that human beings have done to each other over the centuries are not the works of the Devil, but simply arise within the wretched hearts & wills of all-too human malefactors. I'm sorry, exactly how is that a more comforting view of the human condition?

Terry said...

C. Stanley-
In the Christian sense, being a person is not the same as being a human. A person is a being with intelligence (capable of reason), emotion (capable of feeling), and will (capable of action). Whether the being is material or not, it is still a person.
I can't remember where I read the above definition . . .

Henry said...

The best part of The Screwtape Letters are Screwtape's comic asides. Such as when he reports that one of Hell's great victories is getting women to not like beards. It's a great book with deep insight into human nature, devil or no.

Matthew Sablan said...

"I'm sorry, exactly how is that a more comforting view of the human condition?"

-- If it was all humans, humans could change it. If, as many non-theologians/people who haven't studied theology, you think that theists see the devil as a sort of prime instigator, who forces people into evil, then it seems horrendously more terrifying. Of course, most theologies [even talking ancient myths, here], rarely give that sort of power to devil figures. They are tricksters, tempters, etc., more often than a malignant force that invades your mind to force you into evil.

The problem is that, as with any doctrine/philosophy, things get odd quickly, especially as ideas get transmitted back and forth. Most theologies/philosophies are easy to understand the theory/reasoning behind, even if you disagree with the way it reaches that conclusion. But, a lot of people assume when one says "That is a valid thought/belief," to mean that one is also saying "Therefore, I agree."

SallyParadise said...

As I understand it, Buckley was a staunch Catholic. The “athwart” comment is a reference, I am sure, to Buckley.

The devil: sure there is a real Satan (not made of atoms but of spiritual ‘stuff’) who does tempt and destroy, lie and deceive. It is our choices, though, that Scalia I think means, that are beyond his jurisdiction.

And it sounds like he has his destiny settled through his faith in God. Homosexuals have their destiny secured in their faith in sensuality.

Besides the Screwtape letters, The Great Divorce by Lewis would be an excellent read.

We may tell God “Thy will be done.” Or God tells us “thy will be done.” We may choose joy or not.

BarrySanders20 said...

Jagger, singing from the Devil's perspective, acknowledged he was in need of some restraint.

Scalia knows all about judicial restraint, though I suspect that's not the kind Jagger's Lucifer was citing.

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
Cause I'm in need of some restraint


And the leftists might think this applies equally to Lucifer and Scalia:


So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste

I've met Scalia in person and he didn't, as far as I know, lay my soul to waste. He was very short and very charming. Gregarious in a way similar to Cardinal Dolan. I bet those two would have a great time togther. Never did ask about the devil though. Just didn't come up in the conversation.

Christopher said...

He believes in the Devil not just, perhaps, because he yields to the authority of a religion of dogma and authority...

I don't think Scalia would focus on the yielding part here--as a traditional Catholic I think he would emphasize he believes in the devil because it's true. The truth precedes everything else. It precedes yielding or not yielding to a Church that teaches the truth, and it precedes using the devil as a literary device for exploring human nature.

So yeah, he believes. The wide-eyed response (by Senior, I don't know you well enough) is standard for the Acela bubble.

Simon said...

Belief in the devil is a universal constant—everyone, perforce, realizes it eventually; the trick is to realize it before it's too late.

yoobee said...

Ann, you seem to argue that Scalia only believes in the Devil for one of two reasons (it's Catholic doctrine and it's useful metaphor). But considering that entire portion of the interview, including the explanation and references to the Gospels, I think a third (more plausible) reason is that Scalia believes it is reasonable to believe in the Devil. That is, it is consistent with his personal faith.

I suppose I take issue with the assertion that Scalia's belief is either a) unthinking or unsophisticated (in the case of doctrinal adherence) or b) convenient as a metaphor.

Publius the Clown said...

In my mind, the interesting parallel here is between Justice Scalia's judicial philosophy and his religion. He's kind of an originalist in religion as well as constitutional interpretation. He's saying, "Hey, this is what we've always understood Catholic doctrine to be. You can't just arbitrarily change that doctrine because of 'evolving standards!'"

I'm not religious, but I am an originalist, and if I were religious, I'd think the same way as Justice Scalia.

Simon said...

I mean, you can believe what you like about the existence of the automobile, but for your sake, you'd better figure it out before you walk out into the road at 42nd and Broadway with nary a sideways glance.

Simon said...

Freeman Hunt said...
"I'd say he believes in the literal Devil. Everything he said sounds totally familiar to my mind where resides the belief in the actual, literal, not metaphorical, Devil."

Well, he's a Christian. So I should hope so.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, you seem to argue that Scalia only believes in the Devil for one of two reasons (it's Catholic doctrine and it's useful metaphor). But considering that entire portion of the interview, including the explanation and references to the Gospels, I think a third (more plausible) reason is that Scalia believes it is reasonable to believe in the Devil. That is, it is consistent with his personal faith."

I'm going on the text I'm presented with and doing the best I can. I don't see the textual basis for something you're simply asserting as something that could be true, like it could be true that there is a man in a red cape standing on the corner 2 blocks from where I'm sitting right now.

I'm not interested in that possibility.

Henry said...

I don't see the textual basis for something you're simply asserting as something that could be true

The devil's in the details, not the penumbras.

Simon said...

Publius the Clown said...
"I'm not religious, but I am an originalist, and if I were religious, I'd think the same way as Justice Scalia."

And also a Catholic. I can tell you with the benefit of hindsight that the Scalian Cannon, the intellectual convictions, analytic approaches, and habits of mind that I developed as a disciple of Justice Scalia on questions of law, when turned upon the questions of religion, leveled every citadel against which they were arrayed, save only the Catholic Church. There was, in the end, only one option, and I think that Scalia, had he not been born a Catholic, would likewise have fled to her.

C Stanley said...

Terry- I think you are correct and I thought of that right after I posted. Still, perhaps important to consider the distinction between believing in the reality of a spiritual being and believing in a cartoonish human personification of evil.

Henry said...

Belief in the devil is a universal constant—everyone, perforce, realizes it eventually; the trick is to realize it before it's too late..

You can pretty much substitute any noun in for the word "the devil" in that sentence and not make it disprovable.

C Stanley said...

I'm going on the text I'm presented with and doing the best I can. I don't see the textual basis for something you're simply asserting as something that could be true, like it could be true that there is a man in a red cape standing on the corner 2 blocks from where I'm sitting right now.

Inferring that he believes in Catholic doctrine on this and other matters because he has examined and found it reasonable, is hardly the stretch that you are making it.

Simon said...

That is, we might do only slight violence to Cardinal Newman if we say: "To be deep in Scalian theory is to cease being protestant."

hombre said...

Althouse: "Using your status as a lawyer to bolster your opinion of what you think I should think?"

Is that what he did, or was he referring to your status as a lawyer?

C Stanley said...

Tolkein asserted that mythology is as real, or more, so, than physical reality. Mythopoeia is the poem he wrote after arguing this point with CS Lewis- who was later persuaded to agree.

http://home.ccil.org/~cowan/mythopoeia.html

Peter said...

Since I've never been Roman Catholic I can't speak (authoritatively or otherwise) for the Church. But, I thought their position on homosexual behavior was that it was "disordered," in that it was not part of God's Plan. Which is certainly not praising it, but perhaps some distance from condemning it as evil?

In any case, I don't see how anyone who's looked at 20th century history (or 21st, for that matter) who can deny that evil exists in the world. Whether or not one personifies that evil as the work of the Devil seems beside the point.

Caedmon said...

I take it His Honor has in mind when he refers to Screwtape

"I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics."

Chapter 7.
(http://readanybooks.net/fantasticfiction/2010/139/5908.html)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Seconding SallyParadise's recommendation of The Great Divorce. The Screwtape Letters is far better known, and very good, but it has the disadvantage of being written entirely from the perspective of Hell. The Great Divorce is set mostly on the outskirts of Heaven.

I'm reminded of the distinction Chesterton makes between Bunyan's religion and Dante's, that Pilgrim's Progress, great though it is, ends at the gates of Heaven, while the Commedia doesn't stop there, but goes ever upward, right to the Beatific Vision.

Smilin' Jack said...

He believes in the Devil not just, perhaps, because he yields to the authority of a religion of dogma and authority, but he believes in the Devil because the Devil is a literary device for exploring human nature, and how can we not believe in human nature and literature?

It doesn't have to be that complicated. I'd believe in the devil too if I saw that in the mirror every morning.

Scalia still hasn't answered the most famous question he's been asked, concerning whether he sodomizes his wife. Which is odd, since he's on record that we have a right to know.

C Stanley said...

Since I've never been Roman Catholic I can't speak (authoritatively or otherwise) for the Church. But, I thought their position on homosexual behavior was that it was "disordered," in that it was not part of God's Plan. Which is certainly not praising it, but perhaps some distance from condemning it as evil?

The evil is in man's attempt to put his own will above God's in redefining that which is disordered, as good.

Simon said...

Peter said...
"Since I've never been Roman Catholic I can't speak (authoritatively or otherwise) for the Church. But, I thought their position on homosexual behavior was that it was "disordered," in that it was not part of God's Plan. Which is certainly not praising it, but perhaps some distance from condemning it as evil?"

Homosexual conduct—i.e. amorous activity with people of the same sex, not owning Jonas Brothers records or something like that—is held to be intrinsically-disordered ("suapte intrinseca natura esse inordinatos") and contrary to the natural law ("legi naturali contrarii"). CCC ¶ 2357. Homosexual orientation, however, is morally-neutral, just as alcoholism is morally-neutral, and a fierce (heterosexual) libido is morally-neutral. Screwtape has been invoked frequently above, and Screwtape—my oldest and dearest companion—wants you to believe that there's no difference between inclination, temptation, and action, that to feel temptation is to succumb. (He has convinced the world of this proposition, by the way; the world assumes that a homosexual is one who has sex with men, and is therefore deprived of the capacity to comprehend the notion of a call to chastity—it is an unthinkable thought, like a swimmer who does not swim or a drummer who does not drum.) Screwtape knows what the Joker knew in The Dark Knight: Sin is like gravity. It's always there, always grasping, awaiting any opportunity. Screwtape knows that all you need is some encouragement to let go, even for a moment. For some people, the encouragement is that they're tired; simply induce that feeling of falling and they will all-but welcome it. For others the better appeal is to their pride: Screwtape scratches their nose and says "it's okay, you've got this, you can still hang on with one hand and still scratch that itch, you'll be fine.

What God (and Lewis) wants the Christian to know is simply this: Hold on.

Renee said...

@ Peter

We teach that anal sex isn't how you show love to another person, and that applies to heterosexuals as well. This applies to oral sex, masturbation, porn... and the list goes on.

Now there can be love between two people of the same-sex, and I have no problem acknowledging that love. But it is different, not the same.

Yet I understand there is pain from unjust discrimination, that pain is being misdirecting towards marriage and even people like me. I don't like being called a bigot, but I take it as a cross and hopefully there can be more dialouge. No doubt marriage has been crippled well before this debate, but before this debate the Church teachings are based on the individal's need and right to be raised by kin and not hate towards those who are gay.

For instance if my son was looking at gay porn, I would treat it the same way if he was looking at straight porn. Find him a new hobby.

Simon said...

Renee, at risk of lowering the tone, I don't think that the Church has an explicit teaching on oral sex, or even, for that matter, on anal sex; both are subject to implicit restrictions (i.e. they can't be a form of onanism—they would have to take place in the context of "foreplay"), but they don't seem to be in the same category as masturbation, pornography, and homosexuality, all of which have been expressly and categorically ruled beyond the pale. Perhaps I've missed something, I don't know, but I don't seem to recall running across such a teaching.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Ah, but does the Devil believe in Antonin Scalia?

When Scalia says "believe" in this context, it suggests adherence. That's what you would take away if he said "I believe in Catholicism" or "I believe in Jesus Christ."

Glen Filthie said...

Forgive my poor humour Ann.

As you are clearly my moral and intellectual superior...perhaps you can explain to me then, how it is that these supposed demons work. Take your average garden variety serial or mass murderer for example - what is it that motivates them to kill on a scale like that? And how is it that they get ordinarily intelligent human beings to go along with them en masse? Or the social engineers? How did Fat Al Gore make a fortune selling nothing to stupid people AND get the 'scientific community' to go along with the global warming scam? Or the gay agenda...how many mentally distressed homosexuals do you have to see at a pride parade to understand these people have mental problems - yet most will make excuses out the wazoo for them?

If at least some of this idiocy doesn't involve black magic...then it has to be something else like crack cocaine.

Enlighten me, O Goddess Of The Grammar...

Andy Freeman said...

Scalia isn't standing "athwart" homosexuality. He's merely pointing out that the constitution as written and amended doesn't protect it.

He's pointed out that there's nothing in the constitution that prohibits laws protecting homosexuality, so the legislative option is open.

It's curious how some folks argue that it's such a popular right yet are so rarely willing to go via the legislature and/or referendum. (MA is one counter-example.)

Of course, thanks to last session, we can't assume that referenda will be defended in court. That's going to work out well.

MaxedOutMama said...

I think when Scalia says he believes in the Devil, he means he believes in the Devil, aka Satan, the Lord of Lies.

Anything else is a strained interpretation of what he says, and all the rest of his dialogue on the topic appears to be pointing out that many people believe in the Devil, or profess they do.

The entire point of The Screwtape Letters is that the Devil is real and active, so I don't think you can take his recommendation of the book as an endorsement of the utility of such belief for exploration of human character.

Renee said...

@Andy

Because people don't value marriage, so this new meaning filled the void.

And who isn't against equality? Are you?

There has been so great articles on the effects of fatherless, you just can't use marriage to alieviate the problem.

I'm not offended that someone is openly gay and wants society to honor their relationships, but was that really the point of our marriage laws?

I only get upset when you want to deny one of the biological parents, which was the basis of Gooderidge in MA and a new case in Nevada that gives a child two moms, but no right to the factual dad.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Mick Jagger on how the devil views us poor humans:

"But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game."

Yes indeed.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Mick Jagger on how the devil views us poor humans:

"But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game."

Yes indeed.

AlanKH said...

Both Lewis and Tolkien came from a philosophical tradition that viewed language, not matter and energy, as the foundation of reality. From that point of view, the devil as a metaphor or a literary device makes him very real.

Can't speak for Tolkien, but...

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight" - The Screwtape Letters, p. 3.

Kirk Parker said...

Yes, that business is right out of Screwtape--plagiarized, almost. (See not just the main work, but the afterward "Screwtape Proposes A Toast".)

YoungHegelian said...

@Simon,

Church teaching is basically that whatever happens along the way is licet, as long as the proper end of the procreative act is not thwarted.

So, even if the Mrs is latexed-out to look like a seal, and the Mr is in fishnets, bustier, and heels, as long as Brother Peter ends up in Sister Mary Vagina for the big bang theory, the proper τέλος will have been achieved.

Here endeth the lesson.

Please don't make me translate this in Canon Law Latin. Please.

Crunchy Frog said...

they can't be a form of onanism—

Of all the things that the Church has gotten wrong, this has got to be up towards the top of the list.

The sin of Onan wasn't masturbation - it was denying his brother's widow children, and by extension, stealing his brother's inheritance.

Under the law, any children resulting from the union of Onan and his brother's widow would be legally those of the brother, and would inherit the brother's property. By refusing to cooperate, he was attempting to keep that property for himself and his own (legal) progeny.

MaxedOutMama said...

Oh, Ann!

I have read your response to another reader, and I think you are making the exact mistake that the interviewer was.

Scalia WAS offended, not by a rejection of his beliefs, but by the apparent assumption of the interviewer that he was either a hypocritical Catholic or deficient of reason in his faith. Then he clearly starts to wonder if the problem isn't literal ignorance rather than sheer provincialism.

The reference to The Screwtape Letters was so that she could understand him if she cared to understand (Scalia probably clings to the outmoded belief system that an interview is about understanding and knowledge.)

He interjects the Devil because she is surprised that he believes in Heaven and Hell (a very surprising assumption to make of any Catholic, and why the Hell would anybody go to mass if he or she did not?), and then interjects The Screwtape Letters as a way that she may understand his surprise at her surprise, should she care to do so.

A great deal of The Screwtape Letters, as well as in other C.S. Lewis works, is a critique of oddly flawed reasoning when it comes to religious matters.

Chapter 1 begins:
I note what you say about guiding our patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naive? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" of "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous - that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?


If you read the book, you will understand the point that Scalia was making, and if you don't, you won't.

There is a great deal of Catholic tradition about honest doubt or disbelief being far preferable to a dishonest belief or confession. Scalia knew that; the interviewer didn't, and you are very far from understanding it. What is offensive to Scalia is not her disbelief in his belief, but her apparent incredulity that his belief is real, and he inserts The Screwtape Letters as a tactful way to suggest that she is not being reasonable to assume that.

The Screwtape Letters is a devastating critique of social - as opposed to real - faith, committed to paper for the purpose of saving souls.

Scalia's idea of the Devil is that he corrupts your ability to even understand the inconsistencies in your own reasoning.

Andy Freeman said...

> And who isn't against equality? Are you?

What's "equality"? Is it unequal that I can't marry my house, my cat, my sister, my two best friends?

You want to have {whatever} marriage? Great - push it through the legislature. I'll help.

There are very few things, and gay marriage isn't one of them, that I value more than rule of law. Feel free to disagree.

As to the rest of that message, I'm confused. Gay marriage has almost nothing to do with fatherlessness, for example. And, even if it did, that doesn't make gay marriage protected or prohibited by the constitution.

Simon said...

YoungHegelian, yes, that's precisely my understanding—I'm as squeamish as the next fellow, but to be blunt about it, magisterial pronouncements on sexual morality seem to go this far: Sex must be undertaken between spouses without posing any artificial barrier to the possibility of life. That means that there must be an intent for it to conclude with the husband finishing in his wife's vagina. How a couple gets there, however, seems to be a wide (although not unregulated) field. If the husband has problems with impotence, or the wife with having an orgasm, and if there are sex acts that are enjoyable to both partners and that help get them where they need to be, then, setting aside the problem of scandal, I don't see the problem. I just don't find a magisterial pronouncement that otherwise-moral lovemaking must be a perfunctory business, and if it's true that kissing your partner's feet is incidental to the primary function of sex, so, too, is kissing her mouth. I tend to think the former less appealing and the latter more so, but if another couple has a different preference, I have a difficult time seeing the problem.

Condoms may be another good example. The Church has a problem with contraception (re CruchyFrog's comment, that argument has been pressed and, no matter how trenchant it might be in vacuo—it happens to be my wife's view—the magisterium has rejected it). If condoms are being used as contraceptives, that's no good. If they're being used to other ends, and are discarded before the endgame, I don't know that they're a problem (again, assuming away the problem of scandal). Now, to be sure, there's a grey area here, and again, we have to get a little ickier than I'd like. If you are responsible about when it's time to unwrap, but an accident happens, that's one thing. But if you're cavalier about it, notwithstanding that you really do intend to unwrap, that's another. And I don't want to here about it; I'm not hear to judge it. But the Almighty Judge isn't a dummy. God knows what you're really up to; he knows what's in your heart at least as well as you do. If you truly and sincerely intend sex to be open to procreation and act consistently with that, you're probably okay. If not, amend your ways, go to confession, and do better.

To be clear, I do not deny the competency of the magisterium to pronounce on this subject, nor assert the independence of personal opinion from magisterial pronouncements. If the magisterium has contradicted me, I yield to its judgment. I do not think, however, that I am saying anything at odds with the magisterium. There's this odd "presumption of prudishness" when it comes to Catholics and sex. I think that discussion on the point is stunted because (1) it's kind of icky and we don't want to talk about it, (2) folks confuse their own preferences, assumptions, and experiences with what's permissible, and (3) there's a fear of defending a practice for fear that one will be assumed to be tipping one's hand as to one's own proclivities or practices. For the record, on the third, nothing I have said here defends or tips my hand as to my own proclivities or practices, although I assume that my critics will think so. Meanwhile, the second is particularly strong, I think. If you google it and look around at faithful Catholic speculation on, say, anal sex, you'll see lots of assertions that I tend to share, but which are nevertheless not in evidence—it's degrading, it's painful, it's unnatural, it's violent, it's gross, etc. Is it? I tend to think so, but there's oodles of testimony to the contrary, and not all of it from people of questionable morals. It's not my cup of tea, but I hesitate to condemn someone who enjoys it in an otherwise-moral framework when such a pronouncement just doesn't seem to be in, or to necessarily follow from, magisterial teaching.

AMDG said...

I don't think he is talking about a nasty looking fella with hooves, horns, red tights and a pitch fork. He is talking about the ultimate source of sin, misery and detachment from God one can imagine. We all have a choice. What is yours?

Renee said...

@Andy

In the Massachusetts case the other mom was not granted the same rights as if she was the father. She wanted to be treated as the other parent in every form, except well she isn't.

That sounds like fatherless to me.


We don't make laws out of simple wants and desires, they hold a common good for the rest of society the benefits the whole population. The poverty rates and other socioeconomic stresses on children who do not live with both biological parents are there. Why should these ideas be deemed homophobic even hate speech by our laws?


Craig said...

I read it. I thought C.S. Lewis was the devil.

Craig said...

He wrote it to prove that T.S. Eliot was the devil.

Henry said...

U.S. Grant had the devil's own day.

Mark said...

I'm going on the text I'm presented with and doing the best I can. I don't see the textual basis for something you're simply asserting as something that could be true, like it could be true that there is a man in a red cape standing on the corner 2 blocks from where I'm sitting right now.

I'm not interested in that possibility.


Am I wrong that you're rejecting the idea that Scalia might be telling the simple truth, that he believes in the Devil and in Hell? That's at the least highly disrespectful.

Carl said...

Wow, it’s amazing your mind even went there. I ask about a triumph, and you give me another answer entirely, about the possibility of failure.

This is the heart of the good that lies within Roman Catholicism. The devil takes you up to a very high mountain and shows you all the kingdoms of the world...all these things I will give to you... and your mind goes somewhere else instead -- to the fall of Lucifer, say, or Adam. Apage satanas.

I'm fascinated by the strains of resemblance in Scalia's musings and those of some of the greatest classical Stoics, as well.

Andy Freeman said...

> In the Massachusetts case the other mom was not granted the same rights as if she was the father. She wanted to be treated as the other parent in every form, except well she isn't.

There are lots of folks who want to be treated as fathers. Some we legally recognize, some we don't.

I gave other examples. I note that you didn't bother to distinguish or equate them with "other mom". (And no, she's not another bio-mom. She's someone who wants legal recognition. Which reminds me, it's not clear why she can't adopt. Note that hetero step-parents aren't legal guardians either without adoption.)

There's nothing in the constitution that tells us how to make that decision, so the legislature gets to decide. Why isn't that good enough?

> We don't make laws out of simple wants and desires,

Actually we do. In fact, we even make laws for the personal benefit of legislators.

> they hold a common good for the rest of society the benefits the whole population.

Yes, but this doesn't tell us why gay marriage, or lack thereof, is a constitutional issue.

> The poverty rates and other socioeconomic stresses on children who do not live with both biological parents are there.

That doesn't distinguish gay marriage from my other cases. And it doesn't mean that the US constitution is relevant to the discussion.

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