Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Thursday, May 30, 2002
The Old Oligarch, husband of Zorak (see infra), has a rockin' post defending the Church's teaching on the all-male priesthood. Visit his stoa for a great mix of scholarship and polemics.

Many thanks for the link and the kind words by the beautiful, voraciously appetitive, and strictly carnivorous Zorak.

I now have a gen-yoo-ine e-mail hotlink over in my left margin, thanks to Michael, 12th century Cacciaguida's 21st century son (one of several).

By the way, "Cacciaguida" is pronounced "Catch-a-GWEE-da." There is no truth to the rumor that I have an evil twin called "Caccialeta." My only brothers are Eliseo and Moronto (Paradiso XV 136).
In real life, I have two sisters.

It may be thin postins for a few days here, as I am off tomorrow to the annual conference of the National Association of Scholars. Check this group out if you're in the teaching biz.

Start your day right with this bon mot from Mark Shea:

Catholic theology, with its vast store of spiritual wisdom encoded into impenetrable jargon, puts it this way: "Concupiscence darkens the intellect." In plain English: Sin makes you stupid. Or as C.S. Lewis once said, "The trouble with trying to be stupider than you really are is that you can often succeed."

Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Ultrasound. Interesting commercial here from GE. Thanks to Dan Moloney for alerting Cacciaguida to this. ("Dan" is short for Dante, everyone!) (Just kidding!)

Today from the Supreme Court: more on "ineffective assistance of counsel"

The Supreme Court has long held that the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a criminal defendant's right to counsel, (a) applies against the states, and (b) requires more than just a warm body with a law license. That is, in some cases a lawyer's performance may be so bad that the defendant was, in effect, denied the assistance of counsel.

But in what cases? Not very many. The linchpin is whether the prosecution's case was subjected to "meaningful adversarial testing." One way this cashes out is that trial tactics that fail to have their intended effect do not, by themselves, mean the defendant was deprived of "effective" assistance of counsel.

In Bell v. Cone, issued yesterday, the Supreme Court added one more scenario to the many that don't add up to ineffective assistance of counsel: where defense counsel foregoes a closing statement in order to prevent a more effective prosecutor from rebutting.

In Tennessee, the state may rebut the defendant's closing statement in the penalty phase of a capital trial. In this case, the state put up a wet-behind-the-ears junior prosecutor for its closing argument, saving its whizz-bang oral advocate for a rebuttal. To prevent Mr. Whizz-bang from giving his oration, defense counsel waived his closing statement. Obviously -- since the case got to the U.S. Supreme Court -- the prosecution won a death sentence even without Mr. Whizz-bang's speech; so now here's the defendant claiming this was "ineffective assistance of counsel."

With only Justice Stevens dissenting, the Court held that, since defense counsel cross-examined the state's witnesses in the penalty phase (the only phase at issue), "meaningful adversarial testing" occurred, and defendant loses.

This seems right to me. Like many before him, this defendant argued in effect that an unsuccessful trial tactic equals ineffective assistance of counsel, and therefore equals no assistance of counsel. But the drafters of the Sixth Amendment (assuming arguendo that they meant it to apply against states) could not have meant that defendants are entitled to multiple trials, with different tactics applied in each one.

Should the analysis be different because this was a penalty phase in a capital case? Cacciaguida doesn't feel like writing about the death penalty right now, beyond affirming that he wouldn't have taken the trouble to become Catholic if he didn't think the Pope speaks with moral authority. But whatever the morality of the death penalty, there is no laugh-proof argument that the Framers meant to prohibit it, or even to slow it down.

The Court also continued its developing state sovereign immunity jurisprudence today. More on that later.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002
"En arche en ho blogos."
-- John 1:1, transliterated and suitably modified

Monday, May 27, 2002
Contest: Based on the effects of dragon's blood in Wagner's Siegfried as described in the post immediately below, come up with some herbal-supplement label copy for this product. My entry (which I'll disqualify, so I can judge yours, in case there are any of you out there):

"For centuries, heroes of the dark German forests have relied on Dragon's Blood for its clue-augmenting properties, as well as for the prevention of adult-onset decapitation."

What if Joe Layman drank dragon's blood?

This one could fit under opera or Catholicism. I tried to resist it, probably should have, but didn't.

You see, in Wagner's Siegfried, which I just happened to be listening to when I found the link I'm about to describe, Siegfried slays this dragon, see, and some of the dragon's blood gets into his mouth when he tried to clean it off his hands. Anyway, ingesting dragon's blood has certain effects on him, prominent among them being that he can "hear" what people mean, not just what they say.

This sets up a very funny scene in which Mime ("MEE-muh"), the evil Nibelung dwarf who has raised Siegfried solely in hopes of using him as a dragon-slaying device, gets what's comin' to him, and it ain't the Ring. He says he's prepared a refreshing drink for Siegfried, but Siegfried hears him say what he really means, which is, "Here, drink this sleeping potion. As soon as you're out, I'll remove your head and take the Ring."

Well, it looks like someone in Blogland got to wondering what certain pronouncements from the American Catholic bishops would read like if we were on dragon's blood when we read them. The result is this truly evil piece, courtesy of Amy Welborn. Let me add, as Amy did: it's really evil, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, May 25, 2002
Opera notes. This afternoon the Chicago Lyric broadcast Bellini's I Capulletti e i Montecchi, one of two major operatic versions of Romeo and Juliet. I should have listened, but I was grading exams (now you know a little more about what Cacciaguida does when he's not blogging), so I put on Wagner's Die Walkure instead. The Levine recording. Mmmm.

Then I knew who it was
who had greeted me in my grief.
I know too for whom alone
He destined the sword that he fixed in the tree....

-- Sieglinde to Siegmund, Die Walkure, Act I.

As a Catholic blogger, I guess I'm expected to say something about The Scandal. Actually, what needs to be said is being well said by others, such as Mark Shea and Amy Wellborn.

A couple of comments, though.

Eve suggests, referring to a book review by Garry Wills, the Penn State historian Philip Jenkins is an unreliable defender of the Church because he dismisses all large-scale moral epidemics as mere "scares" designed to serve hidden agendas. Even apart from the fact that I wouldn't believe grass is green if Garry Wills said it was, I'm not sure Jenkins should be altogether dismissed by those who wish well for the Church. There is no logical contradiction between the proposition "There is a moral epidemic of sexual sin and larcenous cover-ups within Church officialdom" and the proposition "This crisis is being exploited by persons and groups with their own agendas." Jenkins may well be wrong in denying the former, yet right in defending the latter.

Hardly an unprecedented pattern: There really was juvenile delinquency in the 1950s and child abuse in the '60s and '70s; at the same time, those facts really were exploited by the social-work establishment to gain federal money and power over people. (The book to read on this is Andrew Polsky, The Rise of the Therapeutic State, Princeton, 1990.)

So, as to Jenkins: If he's right in, e.g., his assertion that the phrase "pedophile priest" (alliteration goes a long way in public relations) was invented at the National Catholic Reporter back in 1985 or so for the purpose of discrediting celibacy and the whole notion of an ordained priesthood, that's a fact worth knowing.

Another point: not enough is being said about the priest-suicides. Why do they do it? Because a horrible crime in their past is about to be uncovered? Or because they are innocent yet they have just been told that their number came up and they are about to be put through a ringer of, at best, extreme humiliation, and at worst, jail, followed by unending sexual abuse therein? And how can we tell these two cases apart?

Also, what's up with these "treatment facilities" that these guys are sent to? The Bridgeport priest who hanged himself last week did so, not directly after being accused, but after spending a few days at the St. Luke's treatment center in Silver Spring. What's the deal there? Any investigative journalists in the Catholic blogosphere?

Let's pray for all concerned, the suicides in particular. Cacciaguida, being a Dante character, is sadly wise on this. On the one hand, we have Pier delle Vigne, in Inferno XIII. By present-day standards he had excellent reasons to take his own life; but God's love will not suffer the self-hatred of which Pier became guilty, and there he is in the Wood of Suicides. On the other hand, Cato of Utica, who as a devout small-r republican killed himself rather than submit to a tyranny, has a position of honor (though not in Heaven) as guardian of the island from which rises Mount Purgatory; see Purgatorio I. I suppose all depends on their state of mind at the least instant of life -- and of course on God's perfect justice and perfect mercy.

Interesting piece here about David Brock. One caveat: since your Cacciaguida once worked at The Washington Times (no, twice!), I object to the designation of The American Spectator as "reactionary" while the Times is merely "archconservative."

Friday, May 24, 2002
I'm having trouble creating a direct link to the article by Roger Pilon cited below, but you can forage for it at NRO.


The Judges' War

My first serious post will be about judicial confirmations.

Here -- and not in our supposedly deliberative democratic process -- is where the real hot-button issues get played out. As the ever-perceptive Roger Pilon has pointed out here, Sen. Chuck Schumer has been demanding of nominees that they make a specific act of fealty to the reasoning, holding, and spirit of Griswold v. Connecticut, or else explain in detail why not (and face the inevitable headlines, "Bush Judge Pick Would Ban Condoms").

It might be tempting for some nominees, depending on their actual views on the convoluted question of judges and natural law, to reply along the lines of: "Rest assured, Senator, I believe that some laws are JUST WRONG, and ought to be struck down even if there isn't any clause in the Constitution that prohibits them in so many words. So I disagree with Justice Black's dissent, and I heartily congratulate the Griswold majority for striking down a statute just because they deeply felt that it was JUST WRONG."

But that won't do, of course, because it lacks what Schumer -- and the cadres of staffers and activists, assuming one can tell these apart, who work for/with him -- is/are mainly after: not a willingness to be judicial activists in general, but a zeal to be judicial activists in, let us say, certain areas or certain issues. It's a sort of test oath, really -- though whether it's the kind prohibited by Article VI of the Constitution is another question.