Friday, May 2, 2014


If this is what I see when I am preaching, I think I would be driven to distraction!

One county above my parish in Macon, Georgia in the Savannah Diocese is the Archdiocese of Atlanta, where a goodly number of my illicit parishioners who are registered in my parish live. Their archbishop, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, has decreed that guns cannot be brought onto church property by rank and file Catholics even if the State of Georgia allows them to do so.

Thank you Archbishop Gregory for common sense in this matter. Here is what he wrote in the Georgia Bulletin, the Archdiocesan newspaper and at the end of the article is a link to the new Georgia State law on carrying guns to church:

Decrying the state’s new gun law

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published April 30, 2014  | En Español
A new gun law has now been enacted in Georgia. I regret that legislative action more than I can possibly express in this brief column. I publicly supported and continue to endorse the objections of many of our religious and civic leaders as our elected officials were weighing this measure. And before this legislation takes effect in July, I will officially restrict the presence of weapons in our Catholic institutions except for those carried by the people that civic authorities have designated and trained to protect and guard us—and those who are duly authorized law and military officials.

The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those places frequented by children and the vulnerable. I do not want to suggest restricting firearms in places where they are needed, to protect one’s home and property or to defend the public by officials who are entrusted with our protection. Yet this new legislation de facto makes firearms more available in places where they may allow violence to escalate.

Churches and other places of worship are intended to be sanctuaries—holy sites where people come to pray and to worship God. In this nation of ours, they have seldom been the locations where violence has disrupted the otherwise peaceful atmosphere. Yet even those occasions—rare as they may be—are not sufficient reasons to allow people to bring more weapons into God’s house.

The new legislation makes weapons more readily available in places where alcohol is served. Most jurisdictions have rather specific laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), along with many similar related organizations, continues to remind the public that operating a vehicle always demands a sober mind. How can we who seek to keep our highways safe from people driving under the influence of alcohol justify allowing the presence of firearms in bars and saloons? Are not the same potential dynamics present when people with guns may be imbibing alcohol and less capable of making prudent decisions? Are we in the era of the fictionalized Wild West where people wore guns on their belts and settled disagreements with shoot-outs?

I trust our public agents and police officers to secure our safety. We may very well need more of them in some areas, and we should support legislation that honors those public servants and adequately provides for their civic duties and needs.

We obviously do live in an increasingly violent society. The long list of places where human carnage has destroyed lives and families is shameful:  Newtown, Connecticut; Fort Hood, Texas; Virginia Tech; and Columbine High School, Colorado, to mention only the more recent ones. Each one of those sad situations identified a person or persons with serious mental illness as the perpetrator. Often they may have been under some form of clinical treatment but obviously not sufficient to avert their brutal behavior. We need more professional mental health officials with the necessary resources to care for those whose unbalanced personalities can flare up into violence in public places.

Will more guns halt the violence that so terrifies us with increasing frequency? Is there no relationship between the violence that masquerades as entertainment and those who act out their rage in our midst? Does the world of communications not share some responsibility for broadcasting violent language, hate speech and brutal diatribes under the guise of First Amendment rights? What is the relationship between mental health and uncontrollable rage against other people or classes of people? These are serious questions that demand serious discussion and effective response and should not be swept under the rug.

During the recent past, we have witnessed the antics and heard too many of the diatribes of some personalities that brimmed over with hate against a race, a religion, those of gay or lesbian sexual orientation, the undocumented in our midst and those with differing political opinions. The language and sometimes even the behavior of these personalities are despicable and vile. Sadly, we know that such individuals do exist and their opinions garner far too much public attention. They become celebrities of the media and thus spew their hatred far too widely and too often firearms become part of their persona. Rather than more guns, we clearly need more facilities to help these types of people to at least control their rage and thus make us all safer.

Misuse of firearms is certainly not by any means limited to those suffering mental illness as we see guns used in the heat of anger in domestic situations, in suicides during fits of despair, in accidents resulting from inadequate training or negligence in securing weapons, and in blatant criminal activity.
Rather than making guns more available as a solution, we need leaders in government and society who will speak against violence in all aspects of life and who teach ways of reconciliation and peace and who make justice, not vengeance, our goal.

Read the Georgia Bulletin story on the new gun law here.


Gene said...

FR, do not join the anti-gun nuts in their attacks on freedom. People carrying properly concealed in Church are neither a threat nor a distraction….and, one of them may save your life one day.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I've been in downtown churches now for 29 of my 34 years as a priest and another year in a difficult neighborhood parish as a deacon. We have strange people coming in at times who can be disruptive but have no intention of shooting or killing anyone. To have a vigilante in the congregation with a gun who misinterprets what the street person is doing and then shoots him thinking he protecting the priest or congregation is not what we need and if done in church is a sacrilege and the church building has to be reconsecrated by the bishop when this type of violence takes place.
If there is a threat of some kind, the parish should hire a security officer and allow him/her to take care of security needs. We don't need vigilantism at Mass.

Gene said...

Legal concealed carry is not vigilantism. You are being hysterical.

Gene said...

PS If the Giddens girl had had a pistol on her night stand, she might still be around and that scumbag wierdo would be in the ground.

qwikness said...

Do you need to put a sign outside the church or in the bulletin saying, "No guns allowed?"

Catholic said...

The problem with this freedom to have guns everywhere is that it is comes in conflict with my freedom not to be shot. That's the problem with any freedom: yours is in conflict to one degree or another with mine.

I think it's an interesting law to discuss, though.

Gene said...

Catholic, my right to carry a pistol insures my freedom not to be a victim. The freedom in question is only in conflict with the criminals "freedom" to do me harm. Besides, it is not "guns everywhere." It is licensed or legal carriers allowed to exercise their constitutional freedom anywhere…with a few understandable exceptions. "An armed society is a polite society." H.G. Wells

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The law allows each congregation to allow or disallow the presence of guns on church property. For Protestants this is usually a congregational decision after a democratic sort of process.

For Catholics, the bishop is the pastor and as all know we aren't democratic. The Archbishop of Atlanta has made his decision and in keeping with what is allowed in the new Georgia law, he is banning them except for some who are in law enforcement or the military.

Our bishop hasn't spoken yet on the topic, but he usually goes along with Archbishop Gregory's direction.

I have never seen anyone at St.Joseph with a gun except those in law enforcement. That doesn't mean that guns are hidden somewhere. But bringing a gun to Mass (except those I've listed)or church property offends my Catholic sense of piety and reverence for the Church as a sanctuary.

Catholic said...

I've met a lot of criminals, Gene. Not all of them knew in advance that they were going to be criminals. Among many others, I'm concerned that the ready access to guns will only exacerbate certain situations.

Moreover, in some segments of the population, everyone has guns. I don't think you would define that as a polite society.

On the other hand, I agree the criminals do have guns and that's a problem that I don't know the solution to. I think it might start with posting police better so that more qualified people enter the field.

Anyway, it's a complicated problem. Frankly, in my experience, the majority of people are too stupid to be handling something like a gun (or even driving a car for that matter).

John Nolan said...

I haven't yet got the figures, but I suspect that more men were killed in duels in France in the latter half of the 19th century than in the USA. Cardinal Richelieu forbade duelling and even had a nobleman executed for defying his ban, but the custom persisted and was still prevalent in early 19th century England (three Prime Ministers, Pitt, Canning and the Duke of Wellington fought duels).

The US obsession with firearms and acceptance of a high murder rate therefrom is strange for Europeans to understand since the right to bear arms as an individual was never associated with the right to use these arms against legitimate authority, whereas this seems to be at the heart of the gun debate in America.

I did carry a sword in Brompton Oratory at my brother's wedding in 1978 since I was an officer in uniform, but I unbuckled it and left it in the pew before going up for Communion.

Nate said...

ABC News did an experiment back in 2009 with concealed carry and whether they could stop an attack... (Part 1) (Part 2)

Dirty Harry said...

John Nolan; re your "the right to bear arms as an individual was never associated with the right to use these arms against legitimate authority": I think that the pro-gun demographic, minus the actual clinically disturbed, would argue that the rationale for guns is in case the authority becomes _illegitimate_. True, that raises a lot of practical and philosophical questions regarding who gets to make the decision as to when the line has been crossed, and what/where exactly that line is, and even whether that's a valid philosophy of government, but the origin of the very notion of American nationalism is based in the idea that in the 1760s and 1770s government became the bad guy and therefore is capable of doing so again.

Catholic social teaching permits legitimate self defense (and I know o at least one catechumen who dropped out of RCIA because he could not square just war theory with Christ's call to turn the other cheek), and the fact that some people may illegitimately use force doesn't change that. I do think that it is a reasonable idea to hold that if the police are unable to guarantee public safety, then self-defense is a legitimate option. The problems aren't theoretical but practical: how to give responsible people effective means of self-defense while keeping dangerous persons lacking either capacity or good judgment (or good aim for that matter) from shooting up the joint. For better or worse, the traditional American approach has been to risk the danger of a crazy defender rather than to risk the danger of a crazy assailant. The increase in rate of fire, accuracy, and magazine capacity perhaps should change this calculus, and for the Left it has, but for the rest of us it hasn't.

In other news, your reproof of PI regarding his shameful dismissal of the altar cloths was well-put. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Gene, with your keen interest in martial arts and FORTY YEARS experience in Japanese karate, I can't imagine why you would ever need a gun. Guns are for sissy liberals...not men like you, whose bare hands are lethal weapons. Fr. McD, if I were you, I'd require him to wear oven mitts to church.

Keyser Soze said...

This reminds me of a joke:

A man walks into the middle of Mass carrying a machine gun and sprays the ceiling with bullets. Everyone turns around, horrified. He shouts out: "How many people here wanna follow Jesus?" Most of the people stampede out of the church except for a few faithful and the priest. He then drops his weapon and looks at the priest and shouts: "I got rid of all the hypocrites for you. Carry on, Father!" and walks out.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father, thanks for posting Archbishop Gregory' article.

The day the GA senate passed this absurd and dangerous law, I wrote to Bishop Hartmayer, asking him to ban guns in all Catholic churches in our diocese. I suggested he contact +Wilton and that they make it a statewide Catholic response.

I think he will ban guns in our diocese, uniformed/on-duty law enforcement being excluded. Giving into LaPierre's demonic, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" will not result in greater security - for anyone.

Taking the prophetic stand against guns and gun violence won't make our Church popular, but it will make us right.

Anonymous said...

"Dirty Harry" must be one "bad a**" dude.

Here's a project for you...Google "dirty harry quotes". Read the one where somebody asks Harry why he's called "Dirty Harry".

Is that you?

It's just a joke, right?

Gene said...

Anonymous, no one wants to be the guy with the best
front kick at the gunfight…

Fr. and Catholic, When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Catholic said...

Gene, as you know, you'll get no argument from me with regard to police competence or lack thereof.

I think it'd be a great idea for you guy's bishop to ban guns in the Church. Right after he fixes the liturgy and boots out all the heretic priests in your diocese.

Anonymous said...

BUT...if Gene "Quick Draw McGraw" and the other hundred, or so "CCCs" (Concealed Carry Catholics) at Mass that day all drew and started firing....what could possibly go wrong?

Rood Screen said...

This is a case were I agree with Gene. This isn't a gun issue, but a question of who we trust more: the common man or the state. Violent men and the state will always be armed. This being the case, the common man must also be armed.

John Nolan said, "The US obsession with firearms and acceptance of a high murder rate therefrom is strange for Europeans to understand..." Indeed. If every Pole, Frenchman and Englishman had been armed in the '40's, perhaps the lives of many Americans could have been spared the cost of the Second World War. In the USA, the high murder rate is not due to the common man owning guns, but to the actions of thugs, who will always be armed. Let Europeans go a century without dictators and intra-continental warfare, and then they can show us the path to peace.

Gene said...

Wow, JBS! Tell it!

Gene said...

Anonymous, it isn't about fast draw. It is about smoothness and economy of motion. There is a Japanese saying, "The sword that moves fast cuts nothing." So, relax, make no wasted motions, everything moves toward the target from the draw to the trigger pull. Smooth equals fast. As Doc Holliday told Wyatt Earp about how to get good, 'Take your time…quick." And, just look at the success they had at the OK Corral (which is a misnomer because the fight actually took place in the alley by Fly's Saloon).

Now, if you could spend just a couple of hours a week for, say, a few months and maybe a hundred rounds per session, you can get good, too. Now, the other thing is knowing you will do it if the time comes. But, you had better be sure because if you hesitate the street thug is ruthless and will kill you. No fancy aiming or trying to "wound"…that is nonsense. A double tap (that is two quick rounds) to the center of the mass is usually sufficient if you carry a decent caliber. 9 mm is nice, but anything that begins with "4" is even better. Just practice to handle the recoil...

Rood Screen said...

I think some of this has to do with the difference between rural and urban living. Where I live, police response time in emergencies can take 20-30 minutes, with back-up taking a few minutes longer. There's little notion here of police intervening directly in robberies and other assaults. The police investigate after the incident has already occurred. Here, it is often the case that if you want to stop such crimes while they're occurring, then you have to stop them yourself.

rcg said...

What is Hartmeyer's concern?

Anonymous said...

freedom not to be shot............... shot.......what? did you just make that up? totally absurd!

Anonymous said... do not have a clue regarding my knowledge of or my proficiency with firearms. If I could think of a way to do it without having to actually meet you in person, I'd challenge you to a shootout...a duel if you'd rather.

Think of the CCC idea though. You could be the CHIEF (maybe call yourself "The Cardinal"). It could be like a St. Joe's Christian gang. (In a GOOD way) You could have secret "signs" maybe a handshake..."colors"... have meetings...wear hoods. I can imagine that you're getting pretty excited by now. The chicks would love y'all.

Gene said...

Anonymous, nothing would give me more pleasure…LOL! I got my firearms training in the USMC, where did you get your's?

Gene said...

Anonymous, I said freedom not to be a victim…not freedom not to be shot. An awkward construction, granted, but you get the point, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Semper fi dude. Your desperation to be a bad-a** is touching. Were you picked on when you were a kid?

Gene said...

Now, Anonymous, just where do you get the idea that I am desperate to be a badass? I am merely responding to questions you raise. There are a number of people on this blog that know me and I doubt seriously if any one of them would describe me as a "badass." I doubt if many of them know my background at all or the fact that I go armed everywhere…except to Mass and that is only because there was some doubt, even before the new law, as to whether guns were allowed in church by CCP holders.
I am just a regular guy, Anonymous. You would not think otherwise if you saw me on the street. Which does give me a nice element of surprise...

John Nolan said...


I take your point, and having been trained to fire everything from a 9mm Browning pistol to the Divisional artillery I am no stranger to firearms. Indeed, at the age of 13 I was on the range with a Lee-Enfield No.4 .303 rifle.

Switzerland is a fairly law-abiding country and all adult males are required to be in the reserve forces and keep an assault rifle at home. However, the homicide rate involving military firearms being used in a domestic context was so alarmingly high that ammunition now has to be kept in secure depots.

The unbalanced youth who used his mother's legally held firearm to shoot up a school had access to a vast quantity of ammunition. Unless the poor woman was expecting an attack from Al Qaeda there was no justification for her keeping this amount of ammunition at home.

Catholic said...

I have met Gene. I would consider him a bada$$. I fear him whether he is armed or unarmed.

If the crap ever hits the fan, my first task will be to find Gene.

(This is not sarcasm.)

Gene said...

Now, Catholic, you are not helping my case with Anonymous…LOL! I do not want you to fear me. I am harmless…unless you call on me to deal with some scumbag and then I can probably produce some violence.

John Nolan said...

Also, JBS, the idea that war can be averted by arming the civilian population is absurd. In the 1850s there were no restrictions on individuals owning firearms in Great Britain, yet we went to war with Russia. Between 1861 and 1865 in the United States three quarters of a million died in the bloodiest conflict in American history. Gun ownership didn't make much difference.

Carol H. said...

Anon at 5:50,

What makes you think us "chicks" aren't armed?

Catholic said...

I meant it as a compliment, Gene. I trust you with a gun far more than I'd trust myself!

Gene said...

John, Guns may not prevent war on any international level, but an armed citizenry is a deterrent to tyranny within our own borders and to uprisings from foreign and undesirable elements within. Guns are good. Live with it.

Gene said...

Carol, will you marry me….oops, scratch that…I am already married. But, hey, I love chicks with guns!

Anonymous 2 said...

Gene (and others who support the “Guns Everywhere” law):

You must not have seen my reply of April 28 on the thread “SSPX Schismatic or Not” (April 23). I was replying to your statement the evening before:

I love the "Guns Everywhere Law" if for no other reason that it just drives libs bonkers." An armed society is a polite society."

So, let me adapt and expand upon my reply at that time by making ten points.

First, it was not H.G. Wells who said “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” It was Robert Heinlein in his 1948 sci-fi novel “Beyond This Horizon.”

Second, would you bring back dueling too (earlier comments on this thread suggest that you might)? How about the other aspects of Heinlein’s utopia/dystopia?

Third, I would respectfully suggest that supporting the new gun law “for no other reason than that it drives libs bonkers” is not an adult reason.

Fourth, as a pre-Thatcherite British conservative, I believe in law and order and not vigilantism. So, it seems, does the Georgia Association of the Chiefs of Police in their opposition to this new “wild west” gun law. I am with the Chiefs of Police. Why are you not?

Fifth, I have no doubt that you are very good at martial arts, handling firearms, etc. and that, as Catholic suggests, you would be an excellent person to have in one’s corner if there was a “spot of bovver” as we say in Britain. But all that is rather beside the point. To begin with, we are talking about guns in church, not in other places. In addition, I suspect we do not need to be concerned about you. Despite your linguistic bravado, and although I have never met you in person (your choice), I have little doubt that you are a responsible citizen in these matters. Instead we need to be concerned about people who have less ability, training, and sense of responsibility.

Sixth, far more sensible is to restrict permission to carry guns in churches to law enforcement officers and, as Father McDonald suggests, to hire a professional security person if there is any reasonable safety concern.

Seventh, permitting others to carry guns in churches, bars, etc. may not deter or protect. It may just tempt the mentally unstable or anti-social types even more. If so, the law is self-defeating.

Eighth, it has been my observation during my 35 years in the United States that there is a readiness, even an eagerness, to resort to violent solutions in domestic policy (as in the “Guns Everywhere” law, capital punishment, etc.) and foreign policy (Iraq anyone?) that others find perplexing. As John Nolan observes, most people in Britain and Europe (and indeed many Americans, too) find such behavior and attitudes very hard to fathom.

Britain and Europe have every reason to be grateful to the United States for helping to defeat the Nazis and for the awful sacrifice of American lives involved. But JBS, I respectfully suggest that not only does your historical “what if” assumption require evidence but you cannot continue to hide behind American intervention in World War II to deflect all possible criticism for another 30 years (and please note that Western Europe has already gone 70 years without a civil war). Moreover, perhaps those in America who are so keen on violent solutions would feel differently about it if they too had suffered on American soil the incredible devastation that Britain and Europe suffered on their soil.

Ninth, therefore, as Archbishop Gregory intimates at the end of his Commentary, isn’t it time for America to engage in some serious national soul searching about its ready tendency to opt for violent solutions and indeed about the prevalence of violence in American society, including in the media?

Tenth, regarding the “Guns Everywhere” law (aka the “Stark Raving Bonkers” Law), as in so many other matters in this country: “Follow the money.” Do I need to say more?

Православный физик said...

At my friend's parish, there was a shooting, I definitely side with being safe than sorry. Rather the parish be armed and never use the guns, than not be, and need them.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 2 - Regarding your #8 - Yes, we Americans are inclined to violence because, I think, we are yet a very young, and in many ways immature, society.

The romantic notions of our founding, the pioneers with their Winchester rifles (Model 1873 is "The Gun That Won The West") and their Conestoga wagons, the "savage" natives they encountered and nearly destroyed, all contribute to the spirit of violence that still captivates many Americans. I hope we can grow out of it - and believe we will, one day.

Regarding #9 - An immature people have a very hard time engaging in any form of "serious soul searching." We have made attempts to do so regarding race relations and the role of women in our society, but the results have been meager, to say the least.

Rood Screen said...

John Nolan,

I certainly agree that civilian possession of firearms does nothing to prevent international warfare, but it does deter foreign occupation. As for the US war in the 1860's, it was fought between two armed forces acting under their respective governments. Further, it is the history of racial slavery, international imperialism and ethnic genocide that recommends the need for civilian populations serving "en masse" as defensive militias.

Anonymous 2 said...

Pater Ignotus:

Thank you for your response. In October 2011 we held the annual Law Review Symposium on the theme “Citizenship and Civility in a Divided Democracy: Political, Religious, and Legal Concerns.” The first panel addressed the topic “Our Divided Democracy: The Fracturing of the Republic and The Deterioration of Political Conversation.” One of the two papers on that panel, by David Lyons of Boston University, was entitled “Violence and Political Incivility.” Its survey of violence in American history makes for sobering reading and I think directly speaks to your point about the historical evolution of societies and where America is on the continuum:

Perhaps self-awareness is the first step in the national soul searching we need to undertake.

Anonymous 2 said...


I should add that at the end of his paper David Lyons identifies some of the virtues we need to engage in this soul searching:

“I will now turn briefly to the last point in our charge: the virtues we require are those that enable us to face those deep divisions squarely. I suggest that these include open-mindedness, a willingness to learn from history, a commitment to the honest appraisal of facts and policies, a sense of mutual responsibility, and, not least, empathy and courage.”

But, as you suggest, these require a certain level of maturity.

John Nolan said...


Interesting point about foreign occupation. The best course for the civilian population is to reach a modus vivendi with the occupying forces, which has benefits for both sides. Regular soldiers don't view kindly civilians who take pot-shots at them. The main aim of resistance groups (like the French in WW2) is to goad the occupiers into taking disproportionate and indiscriminate reprisals against the civilian population, which is in my view immoral.

I wonder how the American army of occupation would have reacted if faced with widespread armed civilian resistance in post-war Japan.

Gene said...

So, John, how'd you guys do in 1776 with civilians taking pot shots at the Redcoats? You Brits did not get it then, and you still don't. Too much government is bad…we have far too much government in this country. The states need to re-assert their rights, as they seem to be doing in places, and combat this giant, creeping Leviathan that the Left has unleashed in this nation. The government should defend our borders, maintain the US highways, and deliver the mail. The states can manage the rest.

Anonymous 2 said...


This could be an interesting and fruitful discussion about government and federalism. Let’s see how it goes.

You seem to make a distinction between “government” and “the states.” But of course the states have governments too. So, is your point about government or is it about federalism? Put another way, assuming the federal government is restricted as you advocate, just how much state “government” should there be? More specifically, how much state “government” should there be in Georgia?

rcg said...

John, I think that is the point. America was an occupying power and the Japanese, from their perspective would want weapons. The very valid comparison is that the US government did not trust the Japanese and it does not trust the American public today. In that same period Americans could form clubs and apply for an ammunition stipend from the federal government. The murder rate from guns was very low. In modern times the government remains in a perpetual campaign mode with "wars" against all sort soof things from poverty to hunger. But what they have settled on is that Balkanising the American people and legitimizing enmity is good politics and helps elections. The bishop of Savanna and FrAJM have fallen for this and react in fear of their flock. Whenever has someone cried out during the petitions that they long for a gun? Why would they suddenly yield to these urges? Couldn't they simply return to their car after Mass and blast away while departing for brunch? Maybe the bishop and our host are afraid that the Liturgical Council will reach menacingly for their coat if the priest proposes ad Orientem; or maybe the coetus fidelum is really a posse comitatus?

Gene said...

Anon 2, It is about Federalism and, as you well know, goes back to our very founding. I am not qualified to get into a Tenth Amendment argument with a law professor, but it does seem that the amendment has become meaningless.

Now, how much government…even that is a somewhat subjectivistic and impressionistic question. But, as I understand it, Jefferson and others of his mindset viewed the nation as a confederation of relatively independent states with not necessarily uniform governments among them.
You still see vestiges of that in places like Louisiana, but it is pretty meaningless since our Federal government increasingly trumps any state law.

Let me ask it this way, why should the Federal government tell me I have to wear a seat belt or drag a rubber mat behind my lawn mower? Granted, I believe people should wear seat belts
and be safe cutting grass, but the presumption of government is a cynical one that people do not have enough sense to care for themselves AND that individuals cannot handle a high degree of freedom. States are capable of making and enforcing their own regulations regarding everything from pollution control to vehicle safety.

It seems to me from my reading of American history, that the initial presumption of the Founders (mostly) was that people function best when granted the highest degree of individual freedom. I believe that to be an optimistic and humanizing presumption and, despite the fact that there will always be those who take criminal advantage of the presumption, the States can deal with that, as well.

Now, I agree that there are certain things the government has to do or no one else will, but defining and limiting these things is the rub. And, no, I am not a Libertarian because I think too many of those people are anarchists.

Gene said...

PS Anon 2, state governors have a lot of powers that they rarely use. I have often wondered what would happen if a governor of some state decided to use all the powers of the office and, say, declare martial law, call out the state militia, and go into a known criminal area and "clean up" violently or otherwise…or, less dramatically, nullify Federal laws regarding such things as seat belts and dragging rubber mats behind lawn mowers. We are beginning to see some of that as states begin to reject the socialist inroads of this administration and with the debacle at the Bundy ranch and some states' reaction of support for the citizens. I hope to see more of this as I believe it is a necessary corrective in the ongoing Left/Right oscillation of the political spectrum in this nation.

I wonder how many more confrontations such as the Bundy ranch debacle (and the issue is not the red herring of whether Bundy is racist or not) will occur before there is a violent outcome? This administration is invasive and provocative and very bad things can happen in such an atmosphere.

Fun thought experiment, what if: a group of a thousand or so citizens (I am not talking about fanatics here) with military or paramilitary training and well-supplied gradually filtered into DC and, in a coordinated and well-planned maneuver, took over the Capitol while Congress was in session? Or, more extremely, such a group could easily thwart WH security measures and take over the WH. I am sure these scenarios have been worked and re-worked by security organizations, and I'll bet they wet their pants when they consider the possibilities. So, just how far will citizens allow the government to go?

Anonymous said...

Of course you're "talking about fanatics here", and you're one of them. When the black helicopters land at your house and the "jack-booted thugs" haul you away for sedition. there probably wont be a thousand or so citizens there to defend you.

Semper fi, jail bird.

Gene said...

Anonymous, LOL! It was a thought experiment. Books have been written about such scenarios. Would you call the Founders or the Minutemen fanatics? I'm sure the Brits did. BTW, YOU are the one talking about black helicopters. Leaving now to put on my tin foil hat...

Gene said...

Speaking of sedition, and getting back to Anon 2, I always found it interesting and instructive that Jefferson refused to sign the Alien and Sedition Act that Adams wanted so badly for him to sign. An early example of the conflicts over Federalism.

John Nolan said...

Gene, when civilians fired on regular soldiers at the start of the American revolution the soldiers fired back. However, since the said civilians were 'under the King's peace' the soldiers could be arraigned for murder. In 18th century England there was no police force and a standing army was regarded with deep suspicion. When the Riot Act was read the magistrates could call on aid to the civil power, but troops who were ordered to open fire on rioters risked being hanged for murder or shot for disobeying orders. The same applied in the colonies.

As a lifelong Tory I hate the 'nanny State' and believe there is too much government (and those who are in power are self-serving and incompetent). Free speech is as much under threat in the US as it is in other developed countries, despite your liberal firearms laws. The whole idea of 'political correctness' originated on your side of the pond. There are worse threats to liberty than a prohibition on citizens stuffing their homes with enough guns and ammunition to start a small war.

The Germans, alone in Europe, cherish the freedom to drive at 250 km/hr and are prepared to accept higher casualties as a result. Their obsession with automotive technology is analogous to the American obsession with guns.

Gene said...

We have a saying here that the Second Amendment insures the First. Touche' on political correctness.
Glad to hear you are a Tory.

Anonymous 2 said...


Thank you for your response. As I had hoped, this is an interesting discussion. I plan to reply later today.

Anonymous 2 said...


In an ideal world, I tend to favor the Catholic principle of subsidiarity in allocating “governmental powers” to the individual and then to the various levels of government (local, state, and federal). Thus, government should only act when the individual or the lower level of government cannot adequately address a perceived need or problem. So, in principle, I would support leaving as much power as possible with the individual or with state and local governments. But then the practical question becomes: Just what_is_in fact possible?

To be sure, the question of how to allocate power as between the individual and any level of government raises fundamental issues of individual responsibility and political philosophy. But the question is complicated by the reality that the power allocation is not just between the individual and government but between the individual and those quasi-governments in the so-called private sector, some of which have vast concentrations of wealth and power (I use the word concentration deliberately to evoke Tocqueville in this context too) and within which so many of us live our working lives and which affect us in so many other ways.

Thus, how much power do over their lives can hard working individuals really have when they do everything right but then see their jobs, savings, and even their homes destroyed by the greed and irresponsibility of the so-called private sector “masters of the universe” (admittedly, probably in combination with irresponsible government behavior)? Perhaps, in the spirit of checks and balances, some reasonable government regulation is needed to tame these corporate beasts, just as checks and balances are needed to keep the government Leviathan in check. The problem is further complicated because government itself is captured by the very same forces of wealth and power it is supposed to tame. Why else is Obamacare such a tangled mess? And why else do we now have a “Guns Everywhere” law. Whom does the NRA really represent? Again, in these and other cases I tend to apply the principle: Follow the money.

Assuming that some government action is necessary, however, the question regarding which level of government should act is also complicated by various factors. You state that “States are capable of making and enforcing their own regulations regarding everything from pollution control to vehicle safety.” Again, in principle I agree. But here is my worry (and please remember that I am no expert in economics): How would you prevent a “race to the bottom” as states with less regulation attract business into them and away from Georgia?

Indeed, isn’t this the same sort of problem we face globally as other more “business friendly” countries with less regulation attract American businesses to them and away from America? Where does it end up? Complete laissez faire? In this regard, it is perhaps worth recalling that China was only able to “invade” the American market for manufactured goods after she was granted MFN treatment and admitted to the WTO in what is perhaps the most massive exercise in de-regulation to date and WalMart happily went along for the ride. As a Catholic, I am not opposed to development efforts for other countries; I just think we chose the wrong means, again because of government capture (follow the money, again), but that is perhaps a discussion for another day.

The “race to the [regulatory] bottom” within the United States can presumably be diminished by having the federal government act instead of individual states. More globally, however, I suspect it is much more of a challenge.

Normatively, I am not an American “declinist.” Descriptively, I am. Look at where we stand in international rankings regarding everything from the disparities of income to education. In my view America needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Gun rights are a distraction to take one’s eyes off the really important issues. But I will say more on that in the next comment replying to John Nolan.

Anonymous 2 said...

John Nolan:

Your point about free speech and political correctness is well taken. As the latest example, I read yesterday that Condoleeza Rice has just withdrawn as Commencement speaker at Rutgers because of protests by students and faculty. I am no supporter of Condi Rice’s contribution to the Iraq debacle and Bush Administration falsehoods and propagandizing, and she can probably afford to lose her $35, 000 speaker’s fee (yes, you read that correctly), but these protests at Rutgers seem to be shameful (although I would want to know more before reaching a definitive judgment). They seem to bespeak a level of ideological correctness, closed-mindedness, and immaturity that is unbecoming for an institution supposedly dedicated to the ideal of academic freedom and open inquiry.

Far better to be gracious and allow Condi Rice to come, hear what she has to say, and then promote civil discussion afterwards. This could be done through responses in support and in opposition to whatever positions she might advance, in the alumni magazine, online, etc. I feel the same way about the brouhaha over President Obama’s address at Notre Dame, although it is a closer case given the Catholic identity of Notre Dame. Here is a good discussion of the point:

For goodness sake, use these events as teachable moments, instead of occasions for institutional ideological posturing. And next year invite someone of different persuasion for balance. I am proud to say that, as far as I know, and based on my 35 years of experience as a faculty member, we are more adult at Mercer.

Yes, guns are a distraction from erosion of other fundamental freedoms. And it is no answer to say that all other freedoms depend on the Second Amendment because it allows resistance to tyranny. Good luck with that in the twenty-first century. The example of David and Goliath only takes us so far in this respect, I think.

Anonymous said...

Fr. McD, did my last post scare you a little? It's true, you know.

Gene said...

Anon 2, thanks for your reply. I will respond later after I have read it again.

Gene said...

Anon 2, Re: Your first paragraph: You and I agree in principle, then.
Now, concerning corporate America, business and industry are what has made America strong and productive and given us, even our poor, a better lifestyle than most nations. It is only natural (and fitting, I think) that they should have some influence in how the country is run. Granted, corporations have many sins, but consider the alternative.
Parenthetically, the poor are not poor because the rich are rich, and if a corporate CEO makes millions of dollars a year that is not money out of mine and your pockets.
RE: Race to the bottom: Your assumption seems to be, and I believe it is a mistaken one, that government is more capable of sensible and meaningful regulation than are the states. Upon what do you base that assumption? There is much anecdotal evidence to the contrary.Look at what government has done to public education, health care, and the military. Three strikes right there. I fear that the truth is that any large bureaucracy, state or federal, becomes exponentially more inefficient the more that is demanded of it. However, I would still argue for the smaller and more local body.
I agree with you about China, etc. but am not really educated enough about those issues to discuss them. I believe the mass exodus of manufacturing from this country is largely responsible for our "decline." Service economy be damned. But, ultimately government is responsible for it because government allowed it to happen.
Do I believe that the Fed needs to ride herd on corporations… a qualified yes. Federal government, at its best, should be a check upon human nature. That is really what the "social contract" (and I do not mean Rousseau) is all about. But, alas, government is made up of humans. I would rather deal with the more local ones that I know and distrust personally, i.e. the states.
I might point out that, due too the lack of regulation and fair wages in many of the nations to which our industry has gone, many more human rights violations are taking place as a result. One only has to look at the disgusting history of Nestle and other conglomerates in Third World countries to see this. At least, if we kept our people at home we could, at a state level as well, make them behave.
I am an American declinist, but I blame the Federal government, not the states and only secondarily the corporations.
PS Tocqueville saw America as an experiment. Though it has been years since I read him, I remember thinking how prescient were some of his observations. Right now, I would say the experiment is failing and that socialism (or worse) is always the default position for lazy, tired nations without vision. There have been three Presidents within my memory whom I would call visionary: FDR (I do not agree with his vision), JFK, and Reagan…about as different as you can get. The rest have been hacks or merely competent.
So, I don't know if this has been very helpful. Federalism is a slippery slope and it tends to be self-augmenting and amoeba like. My kids can't believe some of the things we were allowed to do when I was growing up that were perfectly healthy and normal. Much has been lost in the way of individual freedom. I do not know the answer.

Gene said...

PS Anon 2, the other law professor Anonymous is who should be discussing this with you. I hope he will chime in.

Anonymous 2 said...


Thank you for a good and civil discussion. I do not have a quick and ready answer either. Too many rules and too much regulation are clearly not good. I have just begun reading Philip Howard’s latest book “Rule of Nobody; Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government” (2014) and I suspect that he will make a good case:

Part of the description of the book on the website states:

“Rules have replaced leadership in America. Bureaucracy, regulation, and outmoded law tie our hands and confine policy choices. Nobody asks, “What’s the right thing to do here?” Instead, they wonder, ‘What does the rule book say?’. . . America needs to radically simplify its operating system and give people—officials and citizens alike—the freedom to be practical. Rules can’t accomplish our goals. Only humans can get things done.”

Howard is founder of the “Common Good” organization:

Howard’s book is nicely complemented by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe’s book “Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do The Right Thing” (2010):

Schwartz and Sharpe lament our tendency to solve problems by reaching for rules and/or incentives to solve what are essentially moral problems. Rules and incentives have their place, to be sure, but must be kept in their place and not allowed to crowd out the opportunity to exercise good judgment or practical wisdom. The website describes the book as follows:

“A reasoned and urgent call to embrace and protect the essential human quality that has been drummed out of our lives: wisdom. In their provocative new book, Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe explore the insights essential to leading satisfying lives. Encouraging individuals to focus on their own personal intelligence and integrity rather than simply navigating the rules and incentives established by others, Practical Wisdom outlines how to identify and cultivate our own innate wisdom in our daily lives.”

It seems to me that this call for practical wisdom and commitment to the common good is a variation on Madison’s theme in The Federalist No. 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” So, if there is any response to your point about the need to “govern” human nature both in civil society and in government, it is advocating and promoting the cultivation of practical wisdom and commitment to the common good throughout our polity, including throughout our educational system, so as to bring about a “re-moralization” in both senses of the term. I think that this approach is quite compatible with being Catholic. Of course, it will take a long time, even assuming it can be done. As I said, some of us are committed to the project, however quixotic it might appear to be. But there is still the question about what to do in the meantime.

Anonymous 2 said...


Is there another law professor Anonymous? Is his identifier also an “Anonymous”? I would be happy to converse with him online and, if possible, in person.

Anonymous 2 said...


There is another “complication” that I should mention.

I cannot speak for you because I don’t know enough about your own life story, but speaking for myself, I have to acknowledge that I have been extremely fortunate to have been given so many opportunities in life. It is true that my parents started with nothing after the Second World War. They both worked very hard, and my father did earn his law degree although he never went to university (instead he did it the hard way, studying for an external law degree from the University of London while working full time). So, I was the first person on my father’s side to go to university (my mother and her sisters had done some university studies in Germany during the War, however). And of course, I also had to work very hard to take advantage of the opportunities I was given. But my parents’ hard work, their support and encouragement, and a good public school system created the opportunities for me in the first place.

I also have to acknowledge that many others have not been as fortunate. And when I look around me here in Macon and rural Georgia at the poverty, broken families, and indeed broken houses, I have to wonder how most people coming from such circumstances are expected to succeed in life. Some do, of course, and manage to surmount the great obstacles that face them from the start, but so many don’t. Doubtless there are many factors that help to explain the dire circumstances in which so many people seem to find themselves, and I am sure that some of these factors are controversial. But I cannot help feeling “There but for the grace of God . . .” Don’t you feel the same? Little babies are born into these circumstances and then raised in them; they are not responsible for creating them.

And if this is so, how do we respond as a society? Specifically, what if anything is the appropriate role of government, and at what level, ranging from law and order (you alluded to this in your comment), to the provision of social safety nets and adequate health care, to the creation of opportunities in the form of jobs and a decent education, including moral education. It seems to me that this is not socialism; it is just plain common sense and an essential part of promoting the common good. But how can it be achieved without some financial sacrifice from the more fortunate among us? And that is just us here in America, where many of those even below the poverty line are much better off than the materially poor in so many other parts of the world.

Isn’t Pope Francis calling us to a greater awareness of these matters?

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. By the way, Gene, I am glad you mentioned Nestle and corporate behavior in Third World countries. That would also be a fascinating, and disturbing, discussion.

Gene said...

Anon 2, In your first post, you are certainly correct and I share your thoughts that rules and petty regulations have, in many cases, replaced common sense. You are even so bold as to speak of wisdom in our current cultural context…finding that commodity in any meaningful implementation in America today would be a kind of moral alchemy akin to turning lead to gold.
Unfortunately, a representative Republic or any embodiment of democratic principles presupposes a fairly high degree of intelligence, initiative, and moral awareness on the part of the citizens to be governed. Family, school, and church used to be the forges that tempered these attributes. As the family has broken down, schools have become politicized and increasingly made tools of government, and as unbelief has swept the churches and humanist principles have replaced theological ones, our citizenry as a whole has become increasingly dependent upon government and less self-directed and creative. Socialism, or some other collectivist form, is the easiest way to attempt to deal with the result, but this only creates more problems, only new ones.
We must create a moral and social climate that supports the family, schools must teach rather than indoctrinate and should not become tools of the State and they should support the family rather than the social welfare institutions that are trying to replace it. Churches, the Church, must remain a moral bastion and resist the PC, social gospel mentality that has invaded it everywhere. See, I fixed it…LOL!
I am not ready to give up, but I am not at all encouraged that these recoveries are possible. Of course, as you know, I believe Republican (and not the party) principles are the only way to accomplish this because, when properly implemented, they leave more freedom and initiative to local bodies and individuals…I say when PROPERLY implemented.

Now, I asked you upon what do you base your apparent belief that government at the macro level is more capable of making wise decisions regarding regulation, etc. than government at the state level…if indeed that is your assumption. Is it merely because government is a more distributive body and has more power to enforce? It seems to me that only gets us back to square one, for government has a pretty bad track record. If I am a farmer in Kansas or an auto body shop owner in Georgia, does not the government of the state in which I live and that is composed of other citizens like me, better understand my needs and problems? Indeed, if I am an attorney in Georgia, does not the state in which I practice better understand the issues with which I deal?

Gene said...

Anon 2, I grew up in a blue collar family. Daddy was a warehouse foreman and Normandy vet, Mama was a housewife. To them, a college education for me was the sine qua non of life and, eventually I got there and beyond. Upon reflection, sometimes I wish I had become a brick layer or an electrician.

Gene said...

PS Anon 2, the behavior of several US corporations in Third World countries is despicable and challenges everything I believe about Capitalism and Western culture inhabiting a moral high ground. Let's not go there right now.

Anon friend said...

Gene and A-2,
Fascinating discussion starting yesterday at 3:56. It is intelligent, reasoned, and takes the communicative high-ground. Thank you. Keep it going, guys!!

John Nolan said...

The legal and constitutional arguments for gun ownership are complex, and although I am no lawyer professed (as Charles I said at his trial before running rings round his professional accusers) my limited reading of the situation would seem to favour the NRA over the gun-control lobby. Although the right of an individual to bear arms is enshrined in Common Law (and in the Bill of Rights 1689 as far as Protestants were concerned) and there was no gun control in Britain until the 1920s, the Founding Fathers believed that the British government used the Game Laws as an excuse to disarm the population. There is also the state militia versus standing federal army argument.

What Americans don't seem to understand is that since the foundation of the United States Britain has had to fight for her life, her trade and her empire on three occasions - against Bonaparte, against imperial Germany and against Hitler. On all three occasions civil liberties were drastically curtailed (sedition laws in the first instance, the Defence of the Realm Act in the last two) and a socialist government 1945-1951 saw no reason to relinquish control. Amazingly, the US tried to use the Constitution devised by free men to impose Prohibition. Yes, it was widely evaded, but if a British government had attempted the same thing it would have been faced with armed insurrection.

If I lived in the USA I would certainly own a firearm and keep my eye in on the range (I still have the tankard awarded to me for winning the machine gun pairs at an Eastern District shoot at Colchester in 1974). I would not carry one to Mass, since I might be tempted to shoot the music director, the choir, the serviettes, the Extraordinary Monsters, and if it were in Pater Ignotus's church, the celebrant.

The only thing that might turn me into a serial killer would be bad music and liturgical abuse.

Gene said...

Nolan, You're killin' me! Stop it! LOL! LOL!

Carol H. said...

John Nolan, thank you for that last post- it's been a while since I've laughed that hard!

Anonymous 2 said...

Anon. Friend:

Thank you for your generous comment. I have enjoyed and learned from the exchange with Gene and look forward to more such exchanges with him and with others.

I am not sure whether we are done with this topic yet. We will see.

Anonymous 2 said...


I mentioned earlier one practical worry about leaving matters to the states, desirable though this may be in theory in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity (under which decisions are made as close to the people affected as possible). My worry is that for some, perhaps even many, issues it may be infeasible in practice because states will compete with one another to attract business not only through generous tax incentives, etc., but also through de-regulation, resulting in a regulatory “race to the bottom” such as we witness at the global level. For example, a state with a statutory minimum wage of $12 an hour and tough environmental regulations will not, other things being equal, be as attractive for business as a state with no minimum wage and lax environmental regulations. Moreover, some matters, such as air or water pollution, are necessarily trans-border problems, and some states are much better situated economically than others to take care of the needs of its inhabitants. So, what does subsidiarity within a federal union call for in light of these sorts of realities?

In any event, I certainly do not assume that government at the macro or federal level is more capable of making wise decisions than government at the state level. But I would like to think, as do Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe, that trying to restore practical wisdom (which definitely includes moral wisdom) to its rightful place as the master virtue in our individual and collective lives is not a completely quixotic project and one that we must pursue even if the hoped for results will only be realized in the longer term and not overnight.

Your comments about corporate behavior in the third world surprised me. I sense a lot there but it is fine not to go there now; perhaps another time.

Anonymous 2 said...


Surprisingly, I no longer have the bottle of wine I won for winning the rifle shooting competition at the German Stundentenverein when I was studying in Germany, even though I had never fired a gun before and was competing against people who had been trained in firearms during their national service in various European countries. The comment I received from the German students was: “no vonder you von the voor.” And when I lived in London I joined the Marlyebone Rifle and Pistol Club.

So, I am not opposed to the proper use of firearms. Nor am I opposed to an interpretation of the Second Amendment that permits private possession of some firearms under appropriate conditions. Your point about the difference in national contexts is well taken. What I am opposed to is lack of moderation and any tendency to idolize the Second Amendment. For me the choice is not between unrestricted private possession of firearms and ammunition and a complete ban on such possession. The choice is between unrestricted possession and prudent regulation of such possession.

Yes, if you ever live over here, please do not bring your gun to Mass, although I have a feeling the Bishop is not going to allow it anyway. =)

Gene said...

Anon 2, I agree that there must be some limits to any state level de-regulation, however, I see no problem with states competing for business, etc. through creating a more business friendly environment. If Georgia, for instance, wanted to offer huge tax incentives and other favors to industry whereas Alabama did not, and Georgia prospered, then I see no problem with that. The question always remains, to what degree should Federal regulation intervene. I would argue to the minimum degree. Establish broad guidelines and some bottom line limits and get the hell out of the way.

RE: Race to the bottom. I am not so sure this would result, given the number of citizen watchdog dog groups and a reasonably aware voting population. I am not for a completely laissez-faire system, but I do believe the market place, as it were, would take care of some self-regulation…maybe not.

I do believe firmly that government needs to get out of education, health care, religion, and business to a much greater degree than it is willing to do.

Gene said...

Anon 2, Re: Corporations in Third World…this does create a bit of cognitive dissonance for me. Believe it our not, back in the late 70's I spent some time with Save Our Appalachian Mts, The Committee of Southern Churchmen, and did work in Appalachia helping set up community centers, saw mills, and medical clinics (a field placement for grad school). So, I was given to reading much of their literature regarding corporate behavior in Appalachia and elsewhere. I have since become as disillusioned about these activist groups as I was disillusioned by the behavior of corporations in Appalachia and the Third World, but it does not mean they were wrong about everything.
Why should not corporations hold themselves to the same standards agreed upon (or,unfortunately, imposed upon them) in this nation? The notion that business is non-moral or morally neutral is a disturbing one. Even if self-interest is the bottom line, does it not make sense that, if corporations destroy or abuse the resources and environments of these other nations they will also destroy their source of revenue and good will? I guess business savvy does not include far-sightedness.
I am as much of a free enterprise capitalist as I can be…but there is a moral limit to that. If businesses and corporations lament the inroads of government regulation, then they should police themselves and establish their own reasonable limits to avoid it. Once you force government to take action through your own irresponsibility, it is difficult for government to know when to stop.

Boston firearms training center said...

Person feeling insecure outside can carry gun for safety of his life. You can face with criminal at any time and better than nothing, and in most cased, just seeing a gun will turn away most attackers.

Anonymous said...

"Boston Firearms Training Center"...really?'re joking, right?

You could just put a big basket of guns at the door of your church....everybody could pick up one going in and return it as they leave. Surely nobody would steal a gun from the church.