The Biological Solution

Rorate Caeli reports here that Bishop Michael Olson (age: 47, ordained 1994) of Fort Worth, TX has banned the Traditional Latin Mass at Fisher More College.  This decision appears plainly to violate the law of the Church.

It illuminates a larger point.  One of the characteristic slogans of conservative Catholics is “the biological solution.”  In theory, because younger priests are significantly more orthodox than are older priests, soon the hierarchy of the Church will become more orthodox.  The orthodox priests will rise through the hierarchy, you see, becoming bishops and cardinals and someday popes.

This is a dumb idea.  There are about 5000 bishops in the world and about 400K priests.  Thus, there are about 80 priests for each bishop.  In 80 randomly selected young priests, there are going to be several very liberal ones.  Young priests are better, not uniformly good.  Thus, if the hierarchy wants heterodox or disobedient bishops, it will have little difficulty in finding them.  There tend to be around 100 voting cardinals.  That’s one cardinal for each 4000 priests.  Making sure the guys with the red hats are mostly or all liberals is very easy.

Personnel is policy, and selection is a very powerful force.  Just because Chinese are, on average, quite short does not mean that Chinese professional basketball players are, on average, quite short.

Rumblings on the Catholic Right

Several recent news stories indicate a certain impatience among Conservative Catholics.  Perhaps they are signalling that they are not going to be quite as quiescent for this Pope as they were for Paul VI.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the radical traditionalist SSPX, gave a homily recently in English in which he criticized Pope Francis quite harshly.  He accused the Pope of being a modernist, of making the situation in the Church 10,000 times worse, and of dividing the Church.  Strangely, the Vatican apparently felt the need to respond to these criticisms.  Cardinal Pell, a ConservaCath member of Pope Francis’s new-fangled privy council, got the job and said:  Continue reading

How To Argue Against Radical Freedom?

In a comment to Alan Roebuck’s recent post, Why You Need Traditionalism, Ita Scripta Est raises an excellent question:

[Hostility to radical freedom] distinguishes us from liberals and modern conservatives alike[, but t]o question radical freedom is to fundamentally question liberalism: something that good liberals simply cannot acknowledge.

What are effective techniques to argue against radical freedom?  Traditionalists generally argue from things like deontological moral theories, metaphysics, tradition, and biblical interpretation. Alan argues in the linked post from natural law and from divine command, for example.

Since deciding to try to give up being a modernist, my attentiveness to these modes of argument has risen. Back when I was a happy modernist, though, these arguments looked like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

However, arguments claiming that liberalism had bad consequences bothered me.  Especially annoying were arguments to the effect that liberalism had bad consequences for vulnerable people but good consequences for me and people like me.  That my embrace of liberalism was about thieving and looting the weak. Continue reading

Patronage and the Way Forward for Liberalism

James Heckman, Nobel Laureate and vaguely liberaltarian economist, had an op-ed in the New York Times recently on his proposals for early childhood intervention.  He concludes:

Quality early childhood programs for disadvantaged children . . . foster human flourishing and they improve our economic productivity in the process. There is no trade-off between equity and efficiency, as there is for other social programs. Early investment in the lives of disadvantaged children will help reduce inequality, in both the short and the long run.

The early childhood interventions he favors involve government and quasi-government employees visiting poor people’s homes; giving parents advice, encouragement, and parenting classes; putting children in special “enriched” daycare; and etc.  These interventions are to start at birth.

Much could be said about these ideas.  The evidence for their effectiveness is substantively weak, and they are sure to have unintended consequences.  Furthermore, they are a foreshadowing of the liberal order’s intent to continue its advance into domains previously reserved to parents.  And there is something off-putting about an economist claiming a program has “no trade-off.”

One thing is for sure, though.  There is an elite push for this kind of program.  None of Heckman’s many other ideas during his long and impressive career generated the kind of buzz this one is generating.  Taking for granted that the proposed program will not work, what is the elite’s motivation in putting it forward?  Why are we going to do it? Continue reading